eight words.

i was walking across the park two mornings ago. the air warm, sticky--battling off fall's advance.

i shuffled along the cobblestones lining central park south lost in thought--lost in a mess of thoughts, a tangle of half-formed, ill-informed notions, no one clear or strong. and i was swimming. taking laps in the discomfort of it all when one surfaced, thrummed up and through. came out before i even knew what was what was happening.

clear as day and eight words.

it was a prayer.

God, grant me the courage to be happy. 

and from my body there went a little bit of air. oh. so that's my great wish. the courage to be happy. 

i didn't pray for happiness, didn't ask for the thing itself. my plea was for the courage.

the courage to pursue happiness.

sadness is known territory. it is a settling back on one's heel. it is a falling inward that comes naturally and takes little to no work. that's not entirely true, it takes a great deal of work, but the work is easy and deceptively alluring.

happiness, well, happiness demands that i be bold. demands that i say yes (most especially when i don't want to). it demands that i value myself enough to feel worthy of happiness.

ay, there's the rub. there's the tricky, unsettling part: it demands that i value myself enough to feel worthy of happiness. why is that so hard, to say, i am worth fighting for? this good thing, it's okay that i want it. and it's okay that i might get it. 

the prayer, that monday morning prayer, was an answer, an affirmation in and of itself. it was illumination.

the courage to be happy. fight for happiness.

but in riding the train home last night, clinging to my little prayer, there came a bit more.

relax into it.

fight for happiness. be bold. say yes. and then relax into it. ride the wave. recognize that this thing you think is terrifying might actually be thrilling. and you'll look back in ten years and wonder where that feeling went--that one that you're fighting so hard against right now--and you'll find yourself praying for a way to get it back. imagine that. so enjoy it. live in it. revel in the unknown and uncertain and the delicious discomfort of it.

and know that you're worth it.

(post script: know that in reading this over i started to cry. and i'm not entirely sure why. perhaps because as true as i know this all to be, there are moments where it is so very hard. to fight and not know and not understand why what's happening is happening. life is hard, you know?).

getting to the good part

when the impulse for a binge came i could feel it travel through me. a slow, steady, steam-roll of  progression.
first came the thought.
that was all. an idea. a whisper, a promise, a strand of air. the thought: binge, it would say. go ahead, make your way to the store, get what you will, and eat it. all of it. 
and that was it. the thought was the beginning, middle--the end. i was helpless against it. it would slip down my throat effortlessly, burn a little as it passed through my neck and across my shoulder blades, and then it would sit heavy and pulsing at the pit of my stomach.
i was a woman possessed. there was no defense against the thought.
it was a helplessness that i'd not experienced before and God willing, never will again. it was consistent, relentless, overwhelming and at one point, near daily. and it was stronger than me. it was real and nearly impossible to describe to others.
if it's just a thought, why not ignore it? 
if only.
how to explain?
to ask me to ignore it would have been like asking the waves to ignore the pull of the moon. to stop their continuous and steady progression along the coast line.
the very first time i met with tom (head of the eating and weight disorder program at one our new york city hospitals) he so clearly and calmly said to me: it's called thought action fusion. right now your brain can't distinguish between the though and the action that will follow, the binge. it's physical and it's science. 
life raft. that information was the first life raft.
have the thought to binge. wait five minutes, and then go ahead. 
next time, give yourself ten minutes between the thought and the action.
then fifteen, then twenty, and on and on. that will strengthen that muscle in your mind. it's exercise. and it will allow you to separate the two. 
the thought is the thought. the action, the action. they are separate. apart. different. 
and so it began. and i began to accumulate life rafts. little bobbing boats that pulled me from the great, unforgiving, unrelenting tidal wave of blue.
it has been such a long, slow road to finding my way back--much of it chronicled here, peppered through the now three-year archive of this blog.
an eating disorder is a disease. an addiction. but you don't get to swear off the substance you so like to abuse. and while you, like so many others need to lose weight, every lick of leading diet information and advice will not aid you, it will not only serve to make you far, far sicker.
take a minute to imagine that, will you? if every piece of good medicine or leading nutritional information or common, popular dogma only served to make you worse, immeasurably so.
for me, the process of getting better has been one very grand experiment. and as with any scientific study failure is necessary--it provides some of the most valuable feedback.
i pretty quickly figured out some basic things: counting calories doesn't work. cutting out carbs doesn't work (but don't think i didn't try both those thing many, many, many, many times just to be sure).
the long and short of what i've learned is this: if i can't do it every day for the rest of my life, it just won't serve me.
i learned to make food bigger than myself. i became a vegetarian because it's good for the environment. and what right do i have to place the human desire for meat over the welfare of planet earth? that's not to say i encourage everyone to cut out meat. or eggs or cheese or any of that. though i do implore others to eat locally. to support restaurants that employ the farm to table model. to buy from road stands and refuse the plastic bag when you can carry the container of blueberries and bottle of water the short distance of the corner store to home without it.
i learned that (for myself) i'm happiest when i delay breakfast, when i don't worry about five square meals. a late breakfast and three do me just fine. i like eating lighter in the morning and heavier at night. i do that and i lose weight--how bout that for going against the grain?
i also worked out that sometimes going to the gym just isn't in the cards. and so i get a massage instead. because there are a million different ways we can be kind to our bodies. and because when i'm ready i do return. and the pulsing and the squats and the pain of it all--well, my body likes it, even if i don't.
i learned that exercise is best when i engage the mind.
and that the further away i get from that abysmal period in which i starved myself (six years now) the more forgiving my body is of those moments i over eat. because my body knows me now. knows i won't ever withhold again, so there's no need for it to hold onto the empty calories.
as well as i am now, and i am, i'm very well, there are pockets of time when i slip into old habits and old ways. these pockets don't usually last so long but they are unsettling and difficult nonetheless.
these last three weeks i've eaten little more than entenmann's doughnuts and ben and jerry's ice cream.
there i said it. my two great accomplices. donuts and ice cream. and of course these two things make themselves visible on my body. because those can't be your two main food groups and you not see a change. and in the throws of something bigger than myself i look in the mirror and voila! i am as big as i've ever been (not true), but so the feeling goes.
the thing about this go round, this little battle with the gods of health. well...this go round life continued on. and life was good. despite the difficulty in getting out of bed. despite not feeling beautiful. despite feeling down and low and wanting to eat just to eat, i went out at night. went on dates. sojourned out with my best gal pals. i would wake in the morning and have my coffee and play the music and attempt to live normally. and all in all, life was pretty good.
better than pretty good.
and as i separate life from the eating disorder, as the two things begin to live in different spheres, i am reminded of though action fusion and the strengthening of the muscle that separates the two.
i am strengthening the muscle of life and the more space--the more distance i can put between my life and my struggle with food, the weaker the struggle with food becomes until eventually it is eclipsed, outrun, overrun by the bounty of my desire to live well and truthfully and with integrity.
most people say that those who struggle with eating issues will do so for the rest of their life. it's a lifelong battle, a lifelong struggle. a chronic disease.
i say, what a grim diagnosis. what a shortsighted, but easy to propagate media sound bite.
i'll be damned if i deal with this for the rest of my life.
there are few things i know with great certainty in this world, but this i know (in my gut, in my toes, in every fiber of the purest form of me) i know this: i will not struggle with an eating disorder for the rest of my life. i will not even struggle with eating issues for the rest of my. because i'm dealing with it now. because i'm challenging it on every level at this very moment and so it will pass and i will pass on to better things. because i am armed with invaluable tools and immeasurable amounts of (the correct) information. and because i am slowly regaining an inner confidence stronger than any amount of weight, any number of donut boxes, any stockpile of mornings in which getting out of bed is difficult.
i'm willing to venture and say that, at this point in time, my relationship with food is healthier than the average american woman's. this is not to boast, but rather to comment on the despairing nature of food culture in this country.
there is a balance that must be struck--a balance between loving the body i have in this moment and a desire to be kind to it. and the more i love my body, the kinder i am. and the kinder i am, the more my body surprises me and the more beautiful it becomes.
i have hips. beautiful, lovely, full hips. and why shouldn't i celebrate them--just as i celebrate the inordinate number of moles peppering my skin and my almond-shaped eyes that nearly disappear when i smile?
dear kate moss, nothing tastes so good as skinny feels? what a sad and constricting way to live one's life. what a small idea to think the two mutually exclusive (dangerous, even). what a lie that's being parceled out by numerous sectors of our society.
i want to live in a world where i don't read magazines in which they suggest the best way to deal with body image issues when showering with a man is to wear a t-shirt--more coverage for you, male-fantasy for him. don't get me wrong, the whole t-shirt thing sounds kind of exciting. but really? really? the men don't care. they don't see the extra weight. they're beside themselves with giddiness. it's not the men making women self-concious--it's the articles suggesting you should be aware, uncomfortable--that there is something to hide.
someone recently asked if i regret any of what i've written on the blog regarding my struggle towards health? if it's uncomfortable to know that both friends and family read it?
i would be remiss if i didn't say there were moments it was difficult or embarrassing or even shameful. but for me it was necessary. so that other's might understand, (especially so my parents might understand) what i'd never have the courage or clarity so say out loud.
but to say i regret any of it would be to diminish the power of this life--not just my life, but the sphere of life in which all things take place. to say i regret any of it would be to dismiss humanity.
so i found my humanity in a box of donuts and an eating disorder? it's a little funny, no? and a little beautiful and little bit just entirely the way life goes.
i don't regret the past or the mistakes or my few extra pounds because they're all part of the story. and the story's still unraveling. and i have this sense that i'm just about to get to the good part.

on figuring out what to do in this life.

i get an idea. something to write about. and i let it gestate. move it around a bit. allow it to breathe.  think about it. don't. expose it to light. and then, when the the need of it becomes so immediate, when the pocket of space in which it lives, calls out, i answer. pen to paper. and through me it moves.

the thing is, that sliver of time--that sliver in which the moment is right, well, it doesn't often last long. and it certainly doesn't wait. doesn't allow me time to move through my own pockets of apathy or sadness.

and so sometimes the ideas--the very things that once lined my skin--move up and out. and i am left. alone. that's when loneliness really settles in. not when the words fail, but when they pass through unacknowledged. when i fail the words.

the terrain is shifting. the terrain of my life is shifting. and it's terrifying. terrifying because it's suddenly upon me and terrifying because it's been so long in coming. but mostly terrifying because there's a sense that if i'm not careful i'll miss this moment--this glorious sliver of time--and the ground will settle and i'll be left. standing still. same spot. my feet tethered to a place i can no longer call my own.

i've never been able to lie to myself. that's one thing i've just not been able to do.

i have spent the three years since juilliard searching for meaning. trying to figure out why i went to a school for four years to study a thing i couldn't bring myself to do after graduation. looking for a reason as to why others went on to success when i could barely get out of bed in the morning.

i have wasted hours upon hours trying to connect unconnectable dots. reading the morse code of the moles on my arms and hands. attempting meaning in a void. i have stood in restaurants and department stores and wondered when was it--when was the exact moment that i veered off course. where was the first hint of failure. at what point did i fail the expectations of others? of myself?

why was i given a talent, a gift and then unable to use it?

i am not a terribly religious person. well, that's not entirely true of course, but my religion is no longer that of my childhood. the manner in which i pray has changed, it is more impromptu, off the cuff, in the middle and on the move.

and the most consistent prayer, the most demanding wish i have arced up to the heavens these three years has been this: show me the path. please, just illuminate the way.

and now as i sit here and write this (write) i can laugh and say of course it was unfolding! and of course it continues! how silly was i to doubt.  but, you see, i am human.

it took illumination after illumination for me to stop and listen. i can trace the first one back two years. but it is only now, in the past few months, that it seem so clear, the message so abundant--little pieces of it abutting each other.  so crystallized.

now i can almost look back and pin-point, oh yes, that makes sense and oh, yes, that had to happen that way, and oh, well, that'll be terribly helpful.

the thing is, this thing that i feel i'm meant to do--this thing pressing up against my gut, i've never done it before and i'm quite certain, there's a good chance, i won't know how to do it. and this push and pull between absolute certainty and absolute doubt has me standing still, afraid to dive into the sliver. afraid the sliver will pass.

but the push and pull is also the belief in the divine versus my own, small and pitying self-doubt.

and who am i do deny that something larger is at play? and i use that verb--play--carefully, because isn't that much of what this life is--what it's meant to be? aren't we meant to play and explore and do the very things we think we cannot?


i went out with a friend recently, one i haven't seen in ages--and by ages i mean years. it had been years. whole lives had passed between our last meeting. we went to a posh restaurant in the meat-packing district--one of those places that people say you simply must go when in manhattan. the girl who sat us wore a black dress, red lipstick, and a pill-box hat. the waiter spoke with a heavy french accent. we sat outside, at a tiny slip of a table. my dress tugged on my neck as i tried to find a comfortable (and modest) way to sit in the small folding chair. there was a garden across the street--with a large wooden table and sunflowers atop it. and the way the sun hit the stones of the patio caught my breath in my mouth.

there is always the moment, with old friends, when i must explain what i'm doing in this life.

no acting? why not? what then? writing? what kind of writing? and my answers become tedious and often vague because to answer them all well and truthfully and fully would be a whole (and pardon the language that's about to come) shit-storm of information. and some things are best unraveled slowly and carefully. so i gave some sort of (or i thought so) coy look and said, i've been learning how to be happy. i've figured out happiness for myself. and he looked at me incredulously and said, really, you figured that out? 

it's a bold statement. to say i've figured it out. i know. but i think in a lot of ways, i have.

i smiled, looked down at my latte (what else) and said, yeah, sort of, it starts with this (the latte). and a clean room--a clean room is essential to my happiness. 

i have a whole list of things. red lipstick. hoop earrings. a camera around my neck. live music. late-night conversations with my father. riding in the car beside my mother. trips to boston. sitting next to strangers on a bus. girlfriends that refuse to deal with nonsense. photo albums. any book by pat conroy (with the exception of south of broad--not mr. conroy's finest). living through fear. doing what i once thought impossible. the list is endless. or at least, that's the hope, that it should be never-ending.

but the list is only a sliver. i think what i've figured out is this: everything passes. and sadness does not negate happiness--it sometimes eclipses it, sometimes not. the two can live side-by-side. they can co-exist. there is a sadness in me this morning, as i write this, but that is not to say i'm not happy.

it's just that happiness is ever-moving and ever-changing and all i can do is be open to the possibility that every-once-in-a-while when i least expect it, i'll be so lucky to have it move through me and around me--to fill me and live there before it continues on.

do i have happiness figured out? as much as i can, right now. yes, i think so.

i've been feeling weary of my upcoming 26th birthday because i feel i've accomplished so little. i'm so near a number and so far away from any expectations i had for my life at this point. but realizing this last saturday morning that a little piece of happiness is mine, knowing i've just a wee of a handle on it? well, that's not so bad for a twenty-five year old nearing twenty-six, is it?

visiting chicago.

funny how you don't always know just how much you need a little vacation until the moment is upon you.

i've done a bit of traveling this summer--quick trips to boston and connecticut, even taking on the city as a tourist upon the visit of my mother.

but there is something about this vacation--these few days in chicago--that is entirely selfish. entirely for me. {and sometimes that's important}.

it all happened because at a family dinner just days before christmas last year i mentioned a band. and my brother mentioned liking them. so i bought tickets--got him a christmas gift. and we saw a show. and it was love. and i was in love with live music.

so i saw another show. and another. became that person always in search of the next great harmonic high. and then i got a ticket for lollapalooza. by myself. and a year ago this never would have happened.

and that's kinda what this trip is about: vacation and rest and really great music, but also that i'm doing what i couldn't have done one year ago.

life changes and it gets better.

and you wake one morning and the oatmeal you've ordered with blueberries and toasted almonds and brown sugar is better than any donut you've ever had in your life.

{well, okay, almost better}.