Face Value is Destroying Us

Social media has become our society's arch nemesis. It's the thing most of us love to hate but also refuse to live without. 

We see white picket fences, the kiss after the argument, the corner of the house that's not messy, the angle of the face that meets society's standards of beauty, the filter that smooths out wrinkles and wipes away blemishes, the sucked in bellies, the flexed muscles, and the splurge masking the debt. 

We see the filtered and intellectually (most of us) know that it's there, yet turn a blind eye and are adamant and convinced that what we see is reality. We laugh and joke over the superficial and then turn around judge others or ourselves based on the face value we perceive. The result is spectrum with rage and disdain on one end, and envy and lust on the other. 

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We're conditioned to view flawless as desirable and beautiful yet we, as humans, are inherently flawed.

Even more ironic, is that perfection, flawless, and sameness is often considered boring, stodgy, uptight, and uninteresting. A double-edged sword. 

We choose the media we want to see and get a curated selection within that choice, and as a result, glean a skewed outlook of reality. 

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We see memes, images, videos, and stories conjured up portraying someone or a group of people as someone they may not be based on one characteristic. 

We see slivers of people's lives and personalities and assume we know what their all about. 

Don't assume that I'm anti-hunting because I drive a Subaru. 
Don't assume that I haven't shot a gun because I do yoga.
Don't assume that I don't support our president  because I drink green juice.
Don't assume that I'm Godless because I believe in the healing powers of crystals. 
Don't assume that I'm uneducated because I love country music. 
Don't assume that I had everything handed to me on silver platter because I'm well-traveled.
Don't assume I haven't experienced hardships because I am a white female with blue eyes, and (dyed) blonde hair. 
Don't assume I am against homosexuality because I believe in the right to bear arms.
Don't assume that my boyfriend and I never disagree because I post happy pictures of us. 
Don't assume I'm positive and calm all of the time because I meditate.

These face value assumptions don't just happen in media. They happen walking down the street, driving down the highway, passing through the neighborhood, attending a gathering, shopping at the grocery store, they happen anywhere, and everywhere. They happen in our everyday lives, in and outside of our online lives, and they are destroying our relationships with one another and with ourselves. 

With love, 

-AEB

You Did Sign Up for This

No, you did not sign up for emotional or physical abuse so let's just get that out of the way. And to be clear, infidelity, lying, secrecy, illegal activity, and otherwise malicious and/or immoral behavior would fall under emotional abuse.

I've heard people in committed, romantic, and monogamous relationships say: "I didn't sign up for this." Or worse, after the relationship falls apart, I've heard: "I didn't sign up for that."

Actually, you did. By saying yes, you signed up.

You signed up for depression. 
You signed up for tears.
You signed up for demotions. 
You signed up for less pay. 
You signed up for shitty jobs. 
You signed up for failure.
You signed up for unanticipated expectations. 
You signed up for disappointment. 
You signed up for weight gain. 
You signed up for weight loss. 
You singed up for confusion. 
You signed up for anxiety. 
You signed up for miscommunications. 
You signed up for uncomfortableness. 
You signed up for awkwardness. 
You signed up for illness. 
You signed up for struggle. 
You signed up for a low sex drive. 
You signed up for wrinkles. 
You signed up for stretch marks. 
You signed up for thinning hair. 
You signed up for sagging body parts.
You signed up for unknowns. 

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You signed up for all of it.

You also signed up for happiness. 
You signed up for laughter.
You signed up for promotions. 
You signed up for celebrations. 
You signed up for amazing opportunities.
You signed up for success. 
You signed up for reliability. 
You signed up for self-improvement. 
You signed up for surprises. 
You singed up for change.
You signed up for clarity. 
You signed up for communication.
You signed up for trust.
You signed up for connection.
You signed up for comfort.
You signed up for playfulness.
You signed up for vitality.
You signed up for break-throughs. 
You signed up for being sexually desired. 
You signed up growing older together.
You signed up for a companion.
You signed up for an adventure. 

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With love, 

-AEB

I Am Alive - My Eating Disorders are Too

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

I've written numerous posts on eating disorders  and specifically my eating disorders. And I've been debating about whether or not I should write this one. 

I'm not sure why exactly except for the fact that it's very painful for me and I have been in continuous recovery now for nearly two years. This is something I am not sure I ever thought was possible. And quite honestly, there was a time that I didn't want it to be possible. I was afraid of who I would be without my eating disorders and I was afraid of what I would look like. And most of all, I was afraid of the lack of control I would have over my eating - and my life if I didn't have my eating disorders. 

For those of you that don't know, the eating disorders I struggle with are: Orthorexia and Anorexia Nervosa. In short, orthorexia is a lesser known but increasingly prevalent eating disorder in which the person is so fixated on being healthy and eating healthy that it becomes unhealthy. 

To give you a tiny glimpse: I was in my mid-20s (5'4") and weighed a whopping 95 lbs. Mind you, prior to my eating disorders I was very healthy all around with a strong frame and weighed about 118 lbs. In the depths of eating disorders, I landed myself in the hospital twice with agonizing stomach pains and long story short - my pain was due to the fact that I wasn't eating enough food for my digestive system to function properly. I was so severely depleted of nutrients and under my "set" weight for so long that it took my body four years to regain my menstrual cycle. 

This post isn't to mull over everything that my eating disorders are and everything that they are not - I have done that several times over and you may read them in links posted above if you choose.

This post is to honor my past struggles with my eating disorders, celebrate the leaps and bounds I have made in my recovery, and stay humble in knowing that my demon may rear it's head at anytime. 

I recently did an interview with a women's health magazine on Orthorexia and was asked if I am "fully recovered." No, I am not and don't believe that I ever will be. I have not acted on my eating disorder thoughts. Those thoughts are not as strong as they once were but they are still within me. It's still something I face every day, with every meal, and I have made a commitment to myself to not allow my eating disorders to control me. 

I have eating disorder thoughts now and for the most part, I am able to see those thoughts for what they are and say "hey, I hear you, and I'm not going to listen."

I have finally come to a place in my life were intuitive eating is something that comes naturally to me. I never knew this to be possible. I was so reliant on other people's concepts and viewpoints that I lost the connection with my own body and hunger. At some point, I will write more about the how in intuitive eating because I think it's essential for me to live a peaceful life with food and I think others could benefit from more of that story - but I want to keep this post about my celebration and raise awareness about the types of eating disorders, dangers, and offer hope to those struggling.  

This week (February 26th-March 4th) is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It's always a time where I reflect deeply about the long battle I have had since 2010. Over the course of those eight years, there were times that I was in complete denial about my eating disorders, other times were I was acutely aware yet succumbed to the panic, and other times I tore through walls I never knew I had the strength to bust apart. And, it was not a linear journey - at all. I had many relapses in both my thinking and behavior. And, while thoughts may not be visible - they can be just as destructive - trapped in your mind, consumed by obsession. 

 Left: my Dad and I, winter 2012 (95 lbs) ; right: my nephew and I, summer 2017  (? lbs I don't weigh myself)

Left: my Dad and I, winter 2012 (95 lbs) ; right: my nephew and I, summer 2017  (? lbs I don't weigh myself)

Over the years, I found myself in various parts across the country and I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for the people who helped me along the way.

My dearest family and friends, I would not be where I am today without you. Thank you.

And, to my loving boyfriend who helps to keep me so grounded - you amaze me each day. You are my rock. I love cooking for you - for us and reminding myself of "oh yes, this what a wholesome meal looks like." I love you so much my darling, my sweet. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your support. 

A diet will never be able to tell you how to eat like your body can. Once you trust your body, it will teach you everything you need to know. 

With love & gratitude,

-AEB

Dissecting a Secret

My boyfriend and I recently watched "The Circle," arguably Tom Hanks' worst movie. Though not due to his performance (Hanks is always great) or even Emma Watson's - but the movie lacked substance  - IMO. 

While it was neither of our favorite movies, it did help to pass the time on the plane back from vacation, and one line stood out to me that I am still thinking about today: "Secrets are lies." 

Are they? 

In order to have this conversation, we need to get clear on what defines a secret. I'll venture to say that most people know what a lie is, but we will take a look at that word as well.

You see, not everyone looks at a secret the same way (and this in and of itself is a factor in the justification of keeping secrets). 

Keep in mind folks that this my blog. It's my opinion. There will be very little research and a whole lot of emotion. 

Let's take a look at America's most trusted dictionary, Merriam Webster, for a definition of the word

Definition of secret (as an adjective)

  1. a :  kept from knowledge or view
    b :  marked by the habit of discretion   
    c :  working with hidden aims or methods
    d :  not acknowledged
    e :  conducted in secret a secret trial

  2. remote from human frequentation or notice :  secluded

  3. revealed only to the initiated :  esoteric

  4. designed to elude observation or detection

  5. containing information whose unauthorized disclosure could endanger national security 

  6.  kept hidden from others : known to only a few people

  7.  keeping information hidden from others

  8.  hidden from the knowledge of others 

Definition of secret (as a noun)

  1. a :  something kept hidden or unexplained
    b :  something kept from the knowledge of others or shared only confidentially with a few
    c :  a method, formula, or process used in an art or operation and divulged only to those of one's own company or craft
    d secrets plural :  the practices or knowledge making up the shared discipline or culture of an esoteric society

  2. a prayer traditionally said inaudibly by the celebrant just before the preface of the mass

  3. something taken to be a specific or key to a desired end 

  4. a fact or piece of information that is kept hidden from other people

in secret

  1. :  in a private place or manner

The key here is that withholding the information is purposeful. One is deliberately not telling the other person(s) pertinent information. 

Here's an interesting piece of history of the origin: In late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin secretus (adjective) ‘separate, set apart,’ from the verb secernere, from se- ‘apart’ + cernere ‘sift.’

When someone keeps a secret, they are setting that information apart from the rest of the information so that the entire truth is not known. 

Before we dissect the definition of secret a bit further, let's take a look at the word lie

Definition of lie (as a verb)

lied; lying

:to say something that is not true in order to deceive someone

Definition of lie (as a noun) 

:something said or done in the hope of deceiving :an untrue statement

Now, let's examine some of the parallels between a secret in a lie:

  • In a secret, one is purposefully withholding information (not saying anything); and in a lie, one is sharing information that is not true (saying* something)
  • In both a secret and a lie, the person** is deceiving someone
  • In both a secret and a lie, the whole truth is deliberately kept form someone
  • In both a secret and lie, the person is betraying the other person

*Saying could also be speaking, writing, doing, etc. 
** For sanities sake I will keep person, someone, individual etc. singular  but it could be more than one person

It likely goes without saying but I will note it anyway, that the person that is kept in the dark by both a secret and a lie are interested parties - the ones that wish to know the truth.  The ones that arguably, should know the truth - the whole truth (yes, I too have the solemn oath running through my head). 

The point of lie is deception. It's to lead someone to believe something other than the truth. Given this, by default a secret is a lie. By keeping a secret, and withholding relevant information, you are leading someone to believe something other than the truth. 

Both are keeping the other person from knowing the truth. 

Ah... But is keeping the truth from someone inherently malevolent?

A few weeks ago, I would have told you that yes, keeping secret or telling a lie is never acceptable. And then...my boyfriend surprised me with an amazing trip that we will be taking to the islands next year. He had this planned and kept this a secret from me for about a month. We even talked about the trip and had decided (or so I thought) that we would pass on this one... save our money for something else and/or a trip in the future. Other people knew about this and they too kept the secret.

I didn't feel betrayed. I wasn't angry or upset in any way by this secret/lie. As you can imagine,  I was elated. I bursted into tears of joy and jumped up and down at work when he shared the news with me in order to make my Monday a little better. 

So what's the difference here? Is this the quintessential "white lie?" 

Alright, we'll take a quick look at the definition of a white lie. 

Definition of white lie

:a lie about a small or unimportant matter that someone tells to avoid hurting another person

Hm.... So it wasn't exactly a white lie as he wasn't trying to avoid hurting me. He was however, keeping the information from me to bring me joy.  

There are two things that jump out of me in this example that makes it an outlier: 

  1. The intent of the secret/lie was to bring joy
  2. It was always intended that the truth would be revealed (temporary) 

Well that's a little messy isn't it?

What are some of the other reasons that people lie?

One that I think about often is the classic "I did it to protect you." 

When we begin to peel the layers off that onion it's nearly impossible to not tear up from the burning of lie within a lie. 

You are not protecting someone by not telling the the truth.

No dear, that is a lie you tell yourself. You are attempting to protect yourself from having to deal with whatever it is you are keeping from them. And, you don't trust them enough to handle the truth (yep, I too have Jack Nicholson's face from A Few Good Men in my head). 

You're lying to yourself thinking that you are protecting them when ultimately you are afraid of what you may have to do/change/say/confront when the truth is known. You don't want to have to change your behavior or uproot a status quo. 

There are few things worse than being kept in the dark about something because someone didn't trust you enough to know the information. Ultimately, the lie itself becomes worse than whatever the lie was about.  

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"Why didn't you tell me?" 

"Because you didn't need to know." OR "Because you never asked."

It's not your job to decide if someone needs to know something when they are involved in the situation. If it crosses your mind to tell them then chances are - you should tell them the truth. And when you choose to keep it a secret (lie) then chances are - the truth will come out eventually. 
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You know that sinking feeling when that happens to you? The why didn't they just tell me? The why didn't they trust me enough to be able to handle this? Why didn't they feel safe enough to talk to me?

When you don't trust someone enough to handle the truth you are making a decision on their behalf and belittling their ability to rise above your expectations. 

What if they don't handle the truth? Then you have bigger problems and you should be glad you now have the opportunity to address them. 

Infidelity and family affairs are likely on our minds at this point. I don't think this means we are all cynical humans - I think it's because it's with the people we love the most that a lie hurts the most. 

The situations like: 

  • Finding out your significant other frequents a grocery store across from town so that they can visit with their ex with the intent of seeing if they can get back together
  • Finding out your significant other and your best friend have been romantically talking and spending time together 
  • Finding out well into adulthood that you were adopted
  • Finding out you have half-siblings from a parent's affair 10 years ago

These situations happen. And whether you tell the truth or lie - there is hurt and/or confusion. The difference is when the truth is revealed, a whole lot of hurt and confusion can be spared and a conversation can be had. That doesn't mean you'll be surrounded by rainbows and flowers after the fact, but you will be able to move forward.

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There is an outlier banging at my door. I  was talking about writing this with my sister and brother-in-law a couple of weeks ago and we got on the subject of ... "ok what about ones that really are to protect someones feelings... ?"

The example of a person dying. The person dying asks, "Am I going to die?" You say: "No, you are not going to die." But you know that they are going to die. But you don't want to cause them more pain so you lie. Is this justified? Is this an "OK lie?" One that is helping them? Is this the accepted white lie? 

The natural response is that yes, of course it is OK. You were bringing them peace and comfort. You truly were protecting them. 

I'm going to challenge this a bit. 

What if... you told them the truth to bring them peace and comfort? 

"Yes, you are going to die. And I don't know what is going to happen to you but right here - right now, you are loved by me and so many others. You are not alone." 

I realize that is radical and I'm writing this while sitting on my couch with my coffee and Wille Nelson on and very from from that tragic situation. 

Would I lie in that situation? I'm not sure. But I will tell you that I'm going to ponder it some more. 

I'll leave you with this: 

If there is a lie weighing heavy on your shoulders ask yourself: 

  1. Am I lying to bring joy to the person I'm lying to?
  2. Am I protecting myself but hurting another by not revealing the truth?
  3. Can I trust them enough to handle the truth?
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You're Being Judged

You’re being judged. 

Everyday. 

Judged by yourself. 

And, judged my others. 

Judged by people you know, love, and trust. 

And, judged by strangers. 

We know it. 

We feel it. 

We judge others. 

And, we judge ourselves.

The other day I was fishing, across the lake from me was a man fishing. I realized a woman was in the truck on the side of the road close to him. I would see him catch and fish and then show her and then release the fish. When I heard her say “I thought we were having fish for supper?,” I immediately judged her. I thought: ‘Ugh… lazy…. It’s a beautiful day out, why aren’t you out here fishing? Why are you making him do the work? Why are you being greedy? And, ...at this lake?... Come on lady, this isn't a fishery.’

These judgements stuck with me. Why did I judge her so harshly? 

I know nothing about her. Maybe she underwent surgery recently, or is following her doctor’s orders, or is getting over an illness, or has a disability, and she cannot easily get out of the vehicle? Maybe she wants badly to be by his side fishing and for some reason - is unable to. Maybe they are living paycheck-to-paycheck and they do not have the liberty to purchase clean protein for their dinner. 

I'll offer another story:

When I was living in Philly, I worked from home (which was an apartment) and I would go for walks around my building during the day. I got to know many of the people in my building, staff, and folks that well… just kind of hung around that building (I lived right were South Philly begins). 

There was a man that would often be around the building - nice as can be and we would make small talk and chat from time to time. He would walk with me for a block or two perhaps and then we would part ways. I’d say this man was likely in his late 40s. 

Over time, I learned that he had a disability and many employers would not hire him due to his disability. When he could find work, it did not pay well. I am not sure where he lived exactly, but it wasn’t my building. I learned he had a son and paid for his college - even when he could not feed himself properly. He wanted to eat healthy and would comment on my green juice and he said that he would go down to the Italian Market and buy produce for cheap. 

One day, I was walking and bumped into him and saw that he was crying. I put my arm through his and asked him to walk with me. He told me about some troubles. Something was happening with his house and something also happened with his son and his wallet was now empty. This was not a cry for help but a cry for someone to simply listen. But, I knew that in order for me to sleep that night, I had to try and do something to alleviate some of his pain. I asked him to come with me and I went to the ATM and pulled out some cash. I can’t remember how much it was but I do know that at this time in my life I was living nearly paycheck-to-paycheck. I knew that for the next week or two, I would have to eliminate some luxuries like green juice… coffee out… lunch out for the money that I was about to give him. I was more than OK with this. He started to cry more when I gave him the money. He looked at me in disbelief. He said that it wasn't why he told me those things. I insisted that he take the money. He told me that he wasn’t sure when he would able to pay me back - or if he could. I told him that I did not want him to pay me back and told him to go buy himself some food right away before he did anything else. He had a huge smile on his face and his eyes lit up. 

If I knew nothing about this man - had never seen him before and saw him crying on the side of an apartment building, I would have felt a sadness. But I know I wouldn’t have talked to him about his troubles or helped him in any way. I likely would have been frightened of him and judged him… maybe he is on drugs… or an alcoholic (mind you this was not the case with this man), or maybe he beat his wife and they divorced and she got the house and now he is on the streets. 

Why would those judgements come to my mind? 

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The stories we tell ourselves about other people often have zero basis. They are distorted and toxic. For our close friends and family; we may know some - or a lot about them but we still don’t know what exactly has shaped them or who they will be tomorrow. When it comes to people whom we’ve never met or just met; the raw truth is that we have no idea what they have been through in their life - or what they are going through right now. We don’t know if they have had multiple neck surgeries, or battled cancer, or lost their parent(s) in an accident, or fought in a war and saw their friends die, or that they've been sexually abused, or lost their home in a fire, or a multitude of real life things that we like to think only happens to us or our family or that those types of extraordinary circumstances are only for the movies. Where do we think the ideas for movies come from?  

Why do we tell ourselves negative stories and illusions about others?

Why do we assume the woman sitting alone at a bar is cheating on her husband and not that she is taking a break while traveling and it’s less lonely to sit up at the bar than a table by yourself and she’s having soda water with lemon - not a cocktail - oh, and  she is texting her kids and husband - not the made up man who will be meeting her - and cheating on his wife. 

Why do we assume the couple next to us in a car are having a horrible fight because of their facial expressions and gestures and not talking about a movie that they saw last night? 

Why do we think the older man working as a waiter at a restaurant didn’t go to college? Or, has limited options? Perhaps he was in finance and discovered it really wasn’t for him and is now taking night classes at a Culinary Institute. Perhaps his son fell ill and he dropped everything he was doing to cover for him so that his son didn’t lose his job. Or, perhaps, he is the owner. 

Why do we look at an overweight man and assume that he is lazy, doesn’t work out, and doesn’t eat well rather than considering that perhaps he has a medical condition - or two - mixed with some genes that cause him to predisposed to obesity. Maybe he is extremely active, does workout, and eats well. Maybe he tries. Maybe he tries more than anyone you know to be fit and thin. Maybe he has tried every diet in the book. Maybe he has even had gastric bypass surgery. Maybe not. Maybe… this is simply the way he was born. Maybe… he is happy with his body.

Why do we look at a skinny woman and tell ourselves that she is probably anorexic - or addicted to exercise or drugs and hates her life and family. Or, all of the above. Oh, she is probably a bitch too and has no life other than avoiding food and exercising. Instead of thinking that maybe… maybe she was born with a wicked high metabolism. Perhaps she doesn’t even work out regularly and eats like a french woman. Maybe, she is super self-conscious of the fact that she is not as curvy  as some of her friends. Maybe she is ill. Maybe, she has tried to gain weight. Maybe, she has tried to gain weight because of the judgements that she has received. 

Why don’t we think about the fact that everyone has real world shit going on in their life just like we do? People’s loved ones die. And so, they don’t care when they run to the grocery store in their wear-at-home-only sweatpants and should-be-thrown-away flip flops to pick up a few things because what they really care about is making sure their brother’s will is honored.  

Everyone has drama and trauma. People get into accidents. They fall ill. They lose jobs, relationships, homes, and cars. They have hardships. They have others around them that have hardships - which can in turn become a hardship for them. 

I've never met anyone who was on Cloud 9 all of the time. I chat with my dearest friends and I love hearing about their joys, loves, and excitements but inevitably there are hardships, quarrels, questions, and all of the other life stressors that happen. To all of us. No one escapes stress. Stress does not discriminate. Yes, some may have it seemingly more or worse than others - but it's present. For everyone. Every single day. Most of us experience days where feel amazing, days where we’re on a high, smiling, walking with a bounce in our stride, other days  where we cruise neutral, and others where the day is massively challenging… hard… dark… days where we feel despair. 

And what about those days or moments where we do feel like we are on Cloud 9? Do we really care about what others around us think about what we are doing, saying, or wearing?

When I'm on Cloud 9, I'm not thinking about the possibility of judgements. I'll swing at the playground and laugh and run around and not care that I am a grown adult playing like a child. When I'm on Cloud 9, I'm not worried about if people are judging me at Whole Foods when my boyfriend and I are acting totally silly. When I'm on Cloud 9, I couldn't care less if my clothes match when I run to the store after a long and glorious day on the lake - kissed by the sun and high on life. 

Yet, I'm certain that in those circumstances - when I'm on Cloud 9, others do judge me. And, I'm certain that I have judged them. 

So, we can't be happy and on Cloud 9 or in despair or anything in between without being judged. 

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To try and make sense of this dynamic, I can't help but think that protection plays a fundamental role in the incessant need to judge. Judging others to make ourselves feel better about ourself isn't what I'm talking about here. It's a true protection mechanism within us. If something is marked red it likely means stop. If something is steaming -it's likely hot. If there is lightening then static electricity is likely high. If the wind is whipping and there are white caps then we likely won't put the boat out on the water. We've learned to judge situations throughout our entire lives. We judge situations. We make judgement calls. Usually we do this to protect ourselves. To literally keep ourselves safe. 

So, do we judge other people as we do situations? Do we judge other people for our own livelihood? 

Our brains seemed to have missed the fact that people are not situations. One cannot simply look at a person and know who they are and what they are about. We are each made up of approximately 37.2 trillion cells. This, is a commonality amongst a trillion other differences. There is much to learn about each-other. 

So keep your circle small if you must (I do) but may we all know that red does not always mean stop. 

Who Are You? Who Am I?

"But, that's what you have always done."

"But, you always use to like to do that."

"But, you have always liked that kind of music."

"But, you always eat those kind of cookies."

"But, you have always done [ FILL IN THE BLANK ] "

Have you ever had someone say something along those lines to you? Or, have you ever said them to someone else? 

I would be shocked if you said no to either of those questions. 

We preach that we need to grow and change yet... when it comes down to it, most people are uncomfortable when someone around them grows and changes. Particularly those that are closest to them such a spouse, parent, best friend or sibling. 

Despite the intense (and often obsessive) desire we have to change our ways, get out of our element, out of comfort zone, and live our lives just a little bit... different.. maybe a little bit... better, we are change adverse creatures. And not only that, we are often 'change blockers.' 

I am not a psychologist so bare with me as I run through my thoughts. 

We become accustom to knowing someone in one way that we have a difficult time accepting when they mature, grow, and change. When they take steps to 'better themselves,' or when they simply start to like new things,  take up a different hobbies, drop other hobbies or habits, and explore other ways of living life, we (the other person) has a difficult time accepting that change. 

Some, straight up refuse to accept the change... have you ever gone back to a place where you grew up or spent time as an adolescent and inevitably the people there still believe that you love the things that you loved and participate in the same activities as you did when you were... oh say... about 12 years-old? 

Though perhaps more dispiriting and often more damaging than those moments are the day-to-day moments when someone feels unable or not allowed, or unsafe to change because of the response they receive from the people around them. And not just acquaintances - these are typically the people who are closest to them. That is where the real dagger strikes - this is where the open-space of love and acceptance from a place of truth and respect turns into a closed-space of suffocation and dismissal usually from a place of denial, misunderstanding, or even jealousy. The person trying or seeking change will likely feel boxed in and unworthy, and often, unfortunately, begin to second guess and doubt themselves. 

"Well, I guess I'll just do what I have always done...Stick to status quo," they may think..."this is how I am loved and accepted right now. What would it be like if I were different?" What they (we) are not usually thinking is that when they change ourselves for the better they are embraced even more fully than we were before - yet there is that period of time that is messy... scary... disorienting... and disheartening. Sometimes, we are forced to let go of those that don't fit our new lifestyle or who won't accept our changed ways. 

I'll take diet as a relatively easy and common example of change.  

"So hun, I think I'm going to switch to low-carb diet. I really think I'm going to cut out refined sugar for a while too. And, I don't think I'll drink alcohol for some time either. I just feel I need to clean up my diet a bit. Eat more lean protein, less sugary snacks, and more veggies." 

One would think that the other would be delighted. And surely not for 'Keeping up with Joneses,' but rather because their partner is choosing to honor their body and are making an effort to give themselves a bit of self-love and feel better. They are respecting themselves. 

Yet, this is not always the response that occurs. They think to themselves... "well I do eat cookies. I do eat carbs. I frickin' love white potatoes. And beer. And thick juicy steak!"

They mistakenly think... "given their change, what will I have to change?"  What is not recognized (usually) is that the other person doesn't have to change a damn thing! The other person was simply voicing their proposed change most likely because voicing change/action makes it feel more real. That, and perhaps most importantly,  they are seeking support.

Mind you, these are not always strikingly positive or negative changes... they are simply.. change. 

"I don't really feel I want to crochet any more ... I really think that I may then take up photography. I've been thinking about taking a coarse in it." This coming from someone who has crocheted for over half of their life may come as a shock to the people that are closest to them. 

Instead of support, the other person may think, 'how will this effect me? how will our schedule change... how will I change? How will we change?' Or, 'where is this stemming from? What has happened for them to want suddenly change their ways?' And often, 'is something wrong with them?' 

 Photo by Daniel Bowman,  Unsplash

Photo by Daniel Bowman, Unsplash

On that note... 

We (people) become so deeply tied to the things we do that we identify ourselves with that 'thing' rather than being who we are separate from things that we do - who we are becomes the things that we do. 

I am a yogi. 

I am a hiker. 

I am a runner. 

I am a cook. 

I am a writer. 

What happens to a yogi when they for some reason cannot or decide to not do yoga? They decide to start kick-boxing or they injure their back. Who are they without yoga? Or a runner who has ran consistently their entire adult life has to slow their role and switch to walking because their knees cannot handle the force of the runners stride. Who are they if they are not a runner? A writer who cannot write due to a stroke... who are they now? 

Suddenly, there is an identity crisis. 

This happens many times throughout our lives. A scholar of History whose entire career thus far has been studies, enters the workforce as a sales associate at a software company. An owner of a Bed & Breakfast of 30 years, sells their property. A dentist of 40 years, retires. A horse rider of 20 years, decides to stop riding to travel and explore their growing interest in cultural studies.  

The reasons are not always clear. Sometimes, we don't even know the reason(s) for a significant life change. Sometimes, it is simply a want or desire to feed another passion. Or, the former passion no longer 'feeds our soul.' Other times, the reason(s) are more concise. Retirement. Physical conditions. Environmental surroundings such as a skier moving to Florida. 

At times, we may even devalue ourselves when we don't do the things that we use to do - because of the high value we once placed on them. 

My point, is that when we tie ourselves to what we do with such conviction that it becomes who we are, we risk an identity crisis. 

I am not a yogi.

Currently, I do yoga. 

Embracing who we are without the things that we do and knowing who we are without the things that we do has the ability to bring grounding despite the changes in and around us.

 Photo by Morgan McBride,  Unsplash  

Photo by Morgan McBride, Unsplash 

As tree (yes, I am anthropomorphizing) who weathers a storm, and has core that stands unwavering when it's branches are shaking, bending, and even breaking. And endure seasons of change, even changing of colors, and sometimes, stranding bare with no leaves and awaiting the sun of the next season where they will begin to bud and blossom once again. 

Title Unknown - That is the Title

It has been a long while since my last post. At least to me, nearly four months is a loooong time to not be writing - or rather  publishing something that is not work related (but isn't it all? More on that later...)

My life is radically different than it was six months ago.

In less than a year, I have fallen madly in love with the a humble, sexy, and strong man. And I do not mean strong merely in the physical sense. The man I have fallen in love one with is strong intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. I have moved across the country (again, making this my 6th cross-country move in three years). Not only have I moved across the country, but I have moved in with this man that I have the honor of calling my boyfriend.

 This is him.  

This is him.  

For the first time in over 6 years, I am sharing my life with someone. But perhaps more beautiful, more significant, more juicy than that - for the first time in my life, I am openly and peacefully sharing my life with another person - something that I was not sure I would be able to do (or would want to for that matter). I quite liked being single. Though something I have come to learn is that while there are inevitably sacrifices in a relationship, I still live my life the way that I choose to live my life. I still do all of things that I enjoy doing - the things that make me ... me. Things like yoga, jogging, walking, hiking, farmers markets, cooking, writing, and meditation.

I have come to learn that in a relationship - perhaps one of the most paramount things that we need to remember is that what attracted the other person to us is who we are. As soon as we lose sight of the things that make us - us - OUR passions, OUR dreams, OUR goals, we begin to morph into something that neither person can recognize or genuinely and whole heartily love.

Something that I have come to learn in my thirty years here on Earth, is that in a healthy relationship, we add to one another's happiness. We do not solely create it. We are not responsible for the other person's happiness - and they are not responsible for ours. In a healthy relationship, we build more passions, more dreams, more goals - we don't let go of our own. This isn't to say that when something is not serving us well anymore - say an adolescent passion or an unreasonably lofty goal, that we shouldn't let that go. Goals that we have outgrown or evolved beyond most certainly need to be adjusted or completely eliminated. But that is an individual decision. Happiness is an individual choice. One of the things that attracted me to the man that I am with - is that, like me, he had made a distinct decision to choose happiness in his life.

As if falling in love, cohabiting, and moving across the country wasn't enough of a change, I have also started work with a new company. A SaaS technology company that is doing some seriously awesome things in the Digital Asset Management space. 

Most of us wish we could be "retired." We want to tromp around in the woods, frolic in open fields, lounge alongside open seas, and travel to our hearts to content - we talk about these idyllic circumstances with our significant others and friends. We dream of days with no plans, no schedules, no commitments, no deadlines. We celebrate "hump day," carry smiles on "it's almost Friday Thursday's," and act like kindergarteners headed out for recess on Friday's. We fantasize about afternoon siestas and exploring foreign lands and not.... working.

Yet paradoxically, most of us actually enjoy working. Not rudimentary or mundane work - actual work. Work that helps to create balance in our lives and fulfill an element of our health that nothing else can fulfill. Work that is challenging - mentally and often times also physically. Work that allows us to use our brains and our bodies. Work that at the end of the day, we feel we made a difference. Work that makes us feel that what we did all day mattered - that we are valued and provide value. 

Whether you are drilling for oil or you are taking the redeye flight after a week of international meetings, both are taxing on your body. Both require mental and physical exertion. To be meaningfully rewarded financially, emotionally, progressively - time, energy, and dedication need to be put it - with a sense of purpose and pride. Time away from families. Time away from our other passions. Time away from days with no plans.

Whether an owner of a coffee shop or an architect - a logger or a software engineer - a fishing guide or a CEO - a ski instructor or a chef, there is real opportunity to love the shit out of what they do. Each profession so wildly different yet each one has the potential to bring great satisfaction. Similar to a relationship, work that you are passionate about adds to your happiness. It does not define it.

Can you develop passion for something? I believe that passion can be developed over time through a process of self-discovery, finding your strengths, weaknesses, interests, and confusions -  and continuing to build upon knowledge and skills. I believe some things that we are passionate about come to us innately and others we have the ability to create, build, and excel in. 

I heard a quote once, that I'll end with: 

"Discover what it is that you desire to do. Listen to your body and mind as you stress it in different ways. Distill that to its essence." 
-Author Unknown

Here's to the next six months. 

With love,

AEBailey

Living in New York City is like Golf

I have come to the conclusion that living in NYC is like golf. 

Admittedly, I am not an avid golfer, yet this analogy has been spinning around in my head for the past few weeks so I decided to entertain it. 

I say that I am not an avid golfer, and this is true, but I have played the game. And that's exactly what I see NYC as - a game. 

Bear with me here. 

My Dad (an actual avid golfer) once told me a long time ago that playing golf is one of the most unnatural sports in terms of the physical positioning of your body and particularly, the swing itself. 

When the analogy of 'NYC is like golf' kept playing in my head, I Google'd to see if there were any facts or quotes about golf being unnatural.

I found a couple, which was enough for me to know my Dad is not the only one who has had this sentiment about the golf swing being an unnatural motion.   

Brad Faxon, an American professional golfer, and an eight-time PGA Tour winner, said "The golf swing is among the most stressful and unnatural acts in sports, (short of cheering for the Yankees)."

And Cindy Reid, author of, Get Yourself in Golf Shape: Exercise Drills to Build a Strong Swing...stated: "A good golf swing is not a 'natural' athletic move, like throwing a ball, or stroking a tennis forehand. In fact, a golf swing is one of the most unnatural motions in sports."

Like golf, NYC is one of the most unnatural ways to live that I have ever experienced. Actually, it is the most unnatural way that I have ever lived. And like golf, NYC is a complex beast, though may look simple - or even effortless to an onlooker.

 Photo Credit:  Edewaa Foster , Unsplash

Photo Credit: Edewaa Foster, Unsplash

Below I will make an effort to articulate the ways in which I believe golf is unnatural. 

  1. You're in an outdoor setting (that is usually quite beautiful), yet you are getting from point A to point B via a golf cart rather than walking
  2. You have everything you need in a large bag, and proper shoes are essential 
  3. In a straightforward definition of golf on Wikipedia, "In golf, players use clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a course in as few strokes as possible" 
  4. Players are attempting to have the lowest score - that is get the ball in the hole in the lowest amount of strokes possible 
  5. Most golf courses have 18 holes, yet some have 9 and can be played twice-through in order to have a full round of golf 
  6. The stance. You're bowed at the waist, yet your back is straight and your shoulders are tall. Your feet are shoulder width apart yet your knees are slightly bent and the majority of your weight is on the balls of your feet and your left hip is slightly higher than your right. In what other life circumstance are you standing this way? 
  7. The swing. You have to train your body to be able to properly set up for the swing. Which is actually a simple motion. However, that is not to say that it's easy. For anyone who has played the game, this unnatural way of standing and swinging, is quite challenging. And the stance is, of course, much more complex than I described - now add in positioning of your chin, feet, and gripping your hands around a titanium/steel/graphite club (aka iron or wood). 
  8.  While there is a long list of mechanics to the game golf, one is taking this club/rod and attempting to hit a small spherical (usually white) aerodynamic ball into a small hole off a tee (a tiny stationary support for the first stroke from each hole)

The Physics of the Golf Swing: The figure above shows a strobe picture taken of Bobby Jones golf swing, in the 1940s (source: http://www.clubmaker-online.com/bj003.gif)

Cindy Reid goes on to say about setting up for the swing: 

"Does anything about that sound 'easy?' Of course not. Everything about the golf swing fights your natural instincts. You hit down on the ball in order for it to go up. You swing the club right of the target in order for the ball to curve left. You must remove tension from your hands and arms in order to strike the ball harder and hit it farther. Pros stand tall while hitting a stationary object sitting on the ground, and they rotate their shoulders around a reasonably straight spine...But accomplished golfers have trained their bodies to create these unnatural motions...The golf swing is simple, but golf is the hardest game in the world at which to excel - much less, dare I say, master." 

This quote beautifully sums up how I feel about living in New York City.   

Photo Credit: Brook Cagle, Unsplash

Let's break it down. 

Nothing about living in New York City is easy. Everything about NYC fights your natural instincts. You ride the subway down in order to go up. You walk to the right of the person in order for the other person to move left in an ongoing game of move-out-of-the-fucking-way. You must remove tension from your hands and arms in order to work harder and go farther. Pros stand tall while hitting their keyboards riding on the subway, and they rotate their eyes around to watch for shady activity...But accomplished New Yorkers have trained their bodies  (and minds) to create these unnatural acts...Living in NYC is simple, but NYC is the hardest city in the world at which to excel - much less, dare I say, master.

So to parallel the points I made about golf, below I will make an effort to articulate the ways in which I believe living in NYC is unnatural. 

  1. You are in a city setting, yet you are getting from point A to point B via a subway, taxi, or bus rather than walking or driving your own car. Yes, New Yorkers do walk a lot but the 'daily commute' is typically via public transportation. To go 6 miles takes around 45 minutes - and that's if the trains are running on time. 
  2. You carry everything you need in one or two large bags, and proper shoes for walking and getting disgusting are essential (and your other shoes are packed in one of your bags)
  3.  New Yorkers take the least amount of trains with the least amount of stops possible. It's never a mere 'let's go get some groceries.' No, it's an entire event. Getting groceries depends upon the weather, which train station you'll hop on, if there are any transfers, and how many bags you can possibly carry on your person. 
  4. New Yorkers attempt to live in the most idyllic numbers and boroughs as quickly and seamlessly as possible - that is get into the best borough in the least amount of moves possible 
  5. Most boroughs have your own neighborhood cafe, market, and park, yet some have 2 or 3 and can be frequented all in the same day in order to have a full day of quintessential NY
  6. You walk half of a block to pick up your coffee, then go down some stairs to wait for a subway that will take you to another part of the city. If your in rush hour, then you are standing there with your life on your shoulder (or back), coffee in hand, headphones plugged in blasting your most zen music, and trying to read your book, twitter feed, or local paper. On the pole that is keeping you upright, your hand is crammed up against another person's that you don't know and let's face it - probably don't want to know. And your trying to not think about how your leg is crammed up against someone's knee. In what other life circumstance are you standing this way? 
  7. You have to train your body and your mind to be able to properly set up for the swing of the NYC lifestyle. Which is actually simple. However, that is not to say that it's easy. For anyone who has played the game of NY, this unnatural way of living and not breathing, is quite challenging. And the life is, of course, much more complex than I described - now add in trying to breath in fresh air, make friends, and get to any sort of nature that is not contaminated by destruction or pollution.
  8.  While there is a long list of the ins-and-outs to New York life,  one is taking their body and mind and attempting to 'make it' amongst all of the others that have the same goal with a slightly different purpose. Trying to get their very own and uniquely shaped ball off a tee and into a corner office - in the least amount of years - with their favorite market down below and park in view so that they can get a glimpse of the natural world while they work incessantly in the unnatural.

Photo Credit: Björn Simon, Unsplash

Perhaps there is a reason why I am not an avid golfer or a 'true' New Yorker. But, I am grateful to have tried them both so that I can feel that much more belonging in my natural state - and in the natural world. 

-AeBailey
Not a New Yorker, tee'ing off for the next fairway