Dirt in a Glass: The Beginning of a Meaningful Love Story

In my last post about not moving to Salida, I left out a fairly critical thing—quite intentionally. I chose not to mention that a couple weeks before I hit the snag with my loan, I’d met a woman.

She’s breathtakingly gorgeous, vibrant, smart, hilarious, athletic, sweet, and playful (among 80 other things I could say about her). Basically, she’s dreamy. And we’re courting—like, legit old-school courting. She’s masterful at it…and I’m smitten. At this point we’ve been dating for about 6 weeks and I’m just now to the point of ALMOST being able to concentrate on a task for 30 seconds without thinking about her and swooning.

swoon

When I was in the throes of making the to-Salida-or-not-to-Salida choice, she was insistent that I NOT be influenced by her sudden presence in my life. As far as she was concerned, it was all good either way and I should make the best choice for me. While I can’t quantify how successful I was at honoring her wish, I did my best—and that’s why I didn’t mention her in my previous post.

Another reason I didn’t mention her was because, while I’m not generally superstitious, somewhere in my brain there’s a gem of a thought that says, “Don’t write about her!! If you do, it’ll all be over!”

Looking at this in the light of day, I recognize it to be a totally ridiculous thought. And as a thought chaser, I’m intrigued. Where does this come from?

First of all, there’s the obvious: If I pour my heart out about her and then it all goes to hell, I’ll feel like an ass and there will forever be a commemoration of my adoration of her on my blog. Meh, I can live with that. There are worse things than being smitten with a phenomenal woman (such as, for example, being smitten with an a-hole woman, which has also happened).

Beyond the fear of making an ass of myself (a fear which I’m happy to report is falling more and more by the wayside as I near the big 4-0), I realize that it’s simply more vulnerable to write in the present tense because I.don’t.know.the.ending. How can I wrap meaning around circumstance to form cute little giftable bundles of story if I have no idea what’s going to happen?! It’s much easier to look back on situations and read into the signs and circumstances whatever meaning I can glean/craft in hindsight. (I think I was unduly influenced by shows like The Wonder Years and Doogie Howser, M.D.)

For example, if I HAD moved to Salida, the signs would have meant that I was called there—and that would have been true and made for a great story. If things had worked out with the woman I was dating in Salida, it would have been so much fun to tell everyone about the time when we were first dating and both had a katydid (an insect that looks like a green leaf) on our front doors on the same day (and neither of us had seen a katydid in years until that day)! Of course that would have meant that we were meant to be!

sign

I’m mocking myself and the joy I find in making meaning of things to underscore the point of discomfort I’ve achieved by realizing that nothing necessarily means anything. My current woman (I’ll call her Goddess) and I have the START of a beautiful love story—which is SUCH a fun place to be: with the flirting, the verbal banter, the playfulness, the competence of Goddess to return ANYTHING I volley into her court. And with all that, there’s the simultaneous awareness that all I can do to give this the best shot at success—whatever that will come to be—is to be present.

I am being called to be present. I am being called not to make anything mean anything.

The check returning my earnest money on the house in Salida was written with my last name as the combination of mine and Goddess’s. As it turns out, our last names are only one letter off from each other’s. The check writer obviously wasn’t sure which was correct, so she wrote the check to accommodate both our last names. The one letter of divergence was written as a W (mine) overwritten with an R. Or perhaps it was an R overwritten with a W. It was both hers and mine—almost as if to have invented a new letter altogether. And do I want to make that mean all kinds of things about our future together? Hells YES! Will doing that be helpful? Hells NO! Doing that will project me both into the future and into romantic delusion—neither of which is ideal.

I am being called to be present. I am being called not to make anything mean anything. I am being called to sit in the discomfort that being in romantic relationship can create and to allow it and to be aware of it and to use it as a chance to release that which no longer serves me.

Being single is easy. I’ve mastered being single. I’ve mastered doing what I want, when I want, with whom I want. Though I’ve grown a lot in my singlehood—which those friends know who witnessed me in the years just after my nine-plus-year relationship ended six years ago—it’s now time for new growth.

I attended a training this weekend in which one of the leaders likened being in relationship to water filling a glass that has dirt at the bottom of it. As the water pours in, the dirt is disturbed and starts to churn and rise up in the glass. If enough water is poured into the glass, the water will eventually run clear—but first the dirt needs to churn and rise.

I’m in the thick of the rising, churning dirt storm. And it’s okay.

Dirty water

Every insecurity I have is being churned up. And it’s okay.

If I can see myself through to clear water, with the help of lots of love from all around pouring into the glass, I will be that much more present and that much clearer to share all of me. And then, regardless of what happens in the plot line of this love story, love will have won. And I’ll be right there to assign it all meaning…from the future…in hindsight.

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It’s Okay to Loosen Your Grip

In my mid-twenties I worked for a brief six-month stint on the graveyard shift at the local blood center. Two things remain with me from that time.

First of all, I still cringe when I stumble across Public Radio International’s The World on Colorado Public Radio. I was awakened for every shift by its theme song:

This music inspires within me a wave of adrenaline and a wave of dread—simultaneously. It wasn’t my favorite job and the overnight shift took some getting used to. Waking up at 10:00 pm to go to work? Ugh!

But there was this one night…

The back doorbell buzzed, indicating a delivery. It was common for couriers to deliver body parts at all hours of the night in little coolers (usually eyeballs, as I recall). One night while I was signing in a cooler, the courier observed, “Wow! You hold your pen really tightly when you write. It looks like you’re actually cutting off circulation to your fingers.” I said, “Oh…yeah, I do have a tight grip. That’s just how I learned to write, I guess.”

Before

Before

This launched us into a conversation about graphology and I learned that this sweet white-haired man was trained in handwriting analysis. He didn’t need to analyze my handwriting, though, because he knew everything he needed to know about me from watching me hold the pen. He left me with [something approximating] these words: “I promise that your life will change when you learn to hold the pen more loosely.”

When he said this, I had that thing happen that happens when I’m hearing deep truth. It’s a split second of time standing still with a bit of fuzzy eye focus and lightheadedness. This means, “Erin, pay attention!”

I heard him. I heard his gentle implication that my tight grip on the pen was a manifestation of my mistrust of life. (That liberal arts degree pays off when attempting to discern subtle implications!)

I didn’t yet know that I don’t have to be in control of everything—that I CAN’T be in control of everything.

I won’t lie. It took me a long time to re-learn to hold a pen after almost twenty years of using a death grip.

After

After

My handwriting suffered greatly for years but has finally found its way back to being legible. I still resort to the old way if I’m holding a crappy pen that won’t write, though I’m quick to notice it. I’m also now a pen snob and eschew any pen that’s not gel. I assume that as I grow more eccentric, I’ll one day be using an ink bottle and quill.

So why am I sharing this? Because during a recent coffee and coloring date with friends I realized I was using my old strangle-hold technique. My friends were holding their colored pencils oh so gently as we chatted, their arms and hands and shoulders relaxed…while I was overexerting and muscling and bullying. (Coloring loses a bit of its therapeutic effect when doing it the way I was doing it.) I became aware that I‘ve worked to write differently but not to color differently, which lit my mind up with questions.

In what areas of my life am I exerting too much control?

In what areas of my life am I in total allowance, trusting that I am fully supported?

Which areas of my life are in color? Which are in black and white?

What am I holding onto too tightly that I need to release (literally or figuratively)?

And, in case you’re wondering, the courier driver/graphologist was correct. There has been a pretty significant shift in my life since learning to lighten up my grip. It has lightened me up in other ways and it allows a greater flow of goodness into my life. I’ve been blessed with numerous situations in which letting go and trusting allowed just the right job/person/animal to enter my life…exactly on time.

And now for a quick coloring break…to practice lightening up.

A Transformational Tool for 2016 and Beyond

I paid roughly $12,000 for massage school (give or take a couple thousand) and I can’t tell you the last time I gave a massage. Despite having zero desire to be a professional in this field (except for maybe reflexology), I gained so much more than the legal right to touch people therapeutically in a nonsexual way. I also walked away with the following:

  • Lifelong friendships. Massage therapy school is like quick-drying superglue for friendships. Those of us who tracked together through the program shared laughter, energy work, insecurities, laughter, awkwardness, nervousness, laughter, physiology notes, and so much touch. Did I mention laughter? The level of comfort we developed with each other was amazing. Disrobing anytime anywhere became no big thing. I only have to think about a massage-school friend to feel relaxed…and want to get naked.
  • Many thousands of dollars’ worth of massages. I never did the math, but given how many hours of massage we each received, school was almost worth its weight in massages. And it’s safe to say that we all needed to touch and be touched as much as we were. There is little as powerful as the loving (therapeutic) touch of another person.
  • The love and wisdom of one of my favorite teachers ever: Judy Harper. She had the pleasure and responsibility of teaching the night students their first hands-on massage class. She got to cover logistics like how to get undressed privately in a room of ten other people, how to properly undrape different areas of the body while keeping the private parts private, and what to do when a client farts on the table.

Judy and Eric

This sweet goddess of a teacher was infamous for renaming people. I was Eric (instead of my given female name, Erin). In addition to Judy being oblivious to my real name, the squirms it sent through my classmates was hilarious!

Aside from points 1 and 2 above, I could have quit massage school after Judy’s class and been quite content with what I’d learned. Her class was better than any expensive self-help seminar I’ve been to (and I’ve been to many).

Here’s one golden nugget from Judy that will stick with me always:

“Cancel, clear, forgive me.”

Any time Judy thought or said something that was not supportive of herself or someone else, she would say, “Cancel, clear, forgive me.”

This is a very self-loving and self-affirming practice. It brings awareness to our thoughts and words and acts as a prompt to help us think something different when our thoughts are hurtful to ourselves or others.

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can have the biggest impact. Don’t let the simplicity fool you!! This is pure genius.


My intention for 2016 is that it be a year of transformational self-love (transformation by means of self-love). I will be using “cancel, clear, forgive me” to cancel, clear, and forgive the words of my inner trash-talker and to stop it in its tracks.

And if I choose not to stop it, I’ll choose to love the part of me that likes to trash-talk myself and I’ll find out what that part of me needs that it’s not getting. Befriending the shadow? Feeling my feelings? Whoa!! Stay tuned!!

The Journey That’s Way Bigger than Whole30

First of all, I am not going to evangelize for Whole30. It is a very well conceived program…and there are bazillions of great programs out there that can help people clean up their eating. I ended up doing Whole30 because a few people at my new place of employment were about to embark on it and I was ripe for a change—just waiting for guidance about which program to do. I had become slightly paralyzed by my stack of nutrition books because they conflicted with each other as often as they agreed. I knew the most important thing I could do was to learn about MY body—what works and what doesn’t. I’ve spent the last 20 years nailing what doesn’t work—I should win awards for figuring that out so thoroughly!—so I knew an elimination diet was in my near future. Whole30 fit the bill and I knew I would benefit immeasurably from the support of people at work.

Whole30 is an elimination diet. It is designed to remove the most inflammatory foods from one’s diet (e.g., grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, etc.) so that a) the body gets a respite and can do some housecleaning, and b) the systematic reintroduction of food groups makes it obvious which foods work and which don’t. The creators of the Whole30 have a strong grasp on psychology and they have built into their guidelines many suggestions that are really helpful. I have great respect for this program. I also like Dr. Mark Hyman’s 10-Day Detox Diet, Dave Asprey’s The Bulletproof Diet, and Timothy Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Body. All are great programs and I incorporated elements of each of them during my Whole30.

When I invest in change, I invest with all my heart and wallet. In one of the emails I received from Whole30 (you can pay to have them send you a supportive email each day for the 30 days), they outlined the Stages of Change Model:

The idea behind the Stages of Change Model (SCM) is that behavior change does not happen in one step. People tend to progress through different stages on their way to successful change, and each of us progresses through the stages at our own rate.

The five stages of change include:

  • Precontemplation. Not yet acknowledging that there is a problematic behavior that needs to be changed. People in this stage tend to defend their current bad habit(s) and do not feel it is a problem. They may be defensive in the face of other people’s efforts to pressure them to quit. They do not focus their attention on quitting and tend not to discuss their bad habit with others. In some addiction circles, this stage is also called “denial.”

  • Contemplation. Acknowledging that there is a problem, but not yet ready or sure of wanting to make a change. In the contemplation stage people are more aware of the personal consequences of their bad habit, and spend time thinking about their problem. People are on a teeter-totter, weighing the pros and cons of quitting or modifying their behavior. Although they think about the negative aspects of their bad habit and the positives associated with giving it up (or reducing), they may doubt that the long-term benefits associated with quitting will outweigh the short-term costs.

  • Preparation/Determination. Getting ready to change. In the preparation/determination stage, people have made a commitment to make a change. Their motivation for changing is reflected by statements such as: “I’ve got to do something about this—this is serious. Something has to change. What can I do?” This is sort of a research phase: people are now taking small steps toward change. They are trying to gather information about what they will need to do to change their behavior.

  • Action/Willpower. Changing behavior. This is the stage where people believe they have the ability to change their behavior and are actively involved in taking steps to change. This is a stage when people most depend on their own willpower. They are making overt efforts to quit or change the behavior, and are at greatest risk for relapse, so it’s key that they leverage any techniques available to stay motivated.

  • Maintenance. Maintaining the behavior change. Maintenance involves being able to successfully avoid any temptations to return to the bad habits. The goal of the maintenance stage is to maintain the new status quo. People in this stage tend to remind themselves of how much progress they have made. They remain aware that what they are striving for is personally worthwhile and meaningful. They are patient with themselves and recognize that it often takes a while to let go of old behavior patterns and practice new ones until they are second nature to them. Even though they may have thoughts of returning to their old bad habits, they resist the temptation and stay on track.

I have observed myself working through the first few stages over MANY YEARS. While in Stage 1 (precontemplation/denial) I dated a woman I refer to as “Cruela” who was intolerant of my refusal to take care of myself. Instead of simply expressing her concern, she went on the attack and made it clear that everything about my body and physical appearance revolted her. (Sidebar: I would not recommend this approach for trying to get someone to change.) It hurt my feelings deeply and it has taken a long time for my self-esteem to crawl out of that gutter. (In hindsight I realized she was just mirroring back to me how I already felt about myself.)

Did I know there was a problem? Absolutely. Was I ready to do anything about it? Absolutely not. I was very consciously choosing to stuff my emotions down with fast food and sugar. My brain had been hijacked by neurotoxic foods and I was truly and deeply addicted to sugar. I felt like crap but as long as I could keep my sugar levels up with over-sugared coffee, candy, pastries, fast food, and soda…I could get through each day (let’s not discuss what it was like to have to wake up in the morning).

My bestie’s behavior during and since that time has been in direct contrast to Cruela’s. Michelle eats in a Whole30ish way every day and has for years. She’s not preachy or angsty about it. She knows what works for her and she does what keeps her feeling her best. Has she seen me struggling all these years? Yes. Is she happy to answer questions when I have them? Yes. Has she prepared me a meal full of love and nutrients once a week for the last many years? Yes. Has she ever shamed me or pushed her agenda on me? No. She has lived her life doing her thing…and in so doing she’s been an incredibly influential change agent in my food life (as have Carla and Sue).

I allowed the experience with Cruela to put me back years. I’ve been scared to be with someone new lest they have all the same complaints she had. Fortunately I’m unsettled if I’m not changing and growing, so finally I started seeing the light. I witnessed my friend Maureen turn her life into a radical self-love experiment and I started paying close attention to the people in my life who love themselves and act accordingly (I’m fortunate to have many such friends). I started my own self-love experiment, slowly at first, then gaining so much momentum I feel there’s hardly time to do anything BUT take care of myself and my animals. And it’s a journey. I know that soon I’ll figure out how to take care of me and include others in the process.

I did the contemplation and preparation stages simultaneously. I’ve spent the last year creating a highly functional kitchen with all the equipment I might need to be successful (should I ever get in there and start making food). Michelle was instrumental in this because she could tell me honestly which stuff was essential and which was just marketed well. She also gifted me a huge box of kitchen stuff for Christmas, rounding out what I’d already been able to purchase. Every day I am thankful for my ScanPan skillet; I use it constantly. It’s nonstick but doesn’t use Teflon or any other chemical agent that could give me cancer. We’re tight. I’ve also become close friends with my amazingly sharp kitchen knives, my lemon squeezer, my Vitamix, my salt and pepper grinders, my glass kettle, and my glass storage containers. I have a tiny kitchen outfitted with just the right mix of things to get the job done easily and healthfully.

Another fun thing I did during the contemplation and preparation stages was to take cooking classes. Michelle and I did one together, I attended a knife skills class with my nephew, and I took a pie baking class last November (all at Sur la Table—I love that place). These classes are fun and give great information about cooking fundamentals.

And then there are the books:

IMG_0645

Obsessed much?! Exactly. I am a curious one.

I give all this background to shed light on the years that have gone into the change that might appear to others to be practically overnight. Yes, I’ve lost weight. Today is day 42 and as of now I’ve probably lost close to 20 pounds (hard to say because I didn’t weigh myself at the start). Pants I couldn’t fit into at the start of the 30 days are now too big for me. The weight has come off my face, neck, back, chest, belly, ass, thighs…I’m starting to recognize myself in the mirror again. My skin is so soft I have a hard time believing it’s mine. I have more energy and it doesn’t come with big highs and lows—it’s slow-burning and sustainable. I have no sugar cravings (never really did during any of the process). I’m good at keeping my focus on what I’m choosing to eat rather than what I’m not eating. I’ve learned that I really enjoy cooking and know way more about it than I ever acknowledged knowing.

I feel empowered. I’m allowing this time of change to be about way more than just food. I’m incorporating bodywork whenever I can (reflexology mostly) as a way to give myself love. I’m getting darn close to 8 hours of sleep every night. I feel great satisfaction whenever I get 10,000 steps for the day (big thanks to my Jawbone Move and my UP partner, Suzanne). I’ve done extensive purging in my apartment to get rid of things I don’t need or use. I’m slowly upgrading my wardrobe (huge thanks to Coley for letting me raid her closet). I finally retired the Elvis purse I’d been carrying for about 5 years (MUCH gratitude to that bag) and have replaced it with something else I love. I’m exploring the world of makeup (not going crazy—just subtle touches) and I’m about to restore my hair to its natural color (read: eliminate the gray) with a nontoxic product I found called HairPrint (I’m super excited about this!). I’m moisturizing my face at night, doing mud masks for fun and to feel decadent, and dry brushing my skin when I happen to remember.

I guess this is what it looks like for me to love myself (at this moment). I didn’t do it alone and it didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a fun journey—and I’m still barely off the starting line.

The Magical Mystery Tour of Breathwork

One of my favorite things, which I’ve been oddly silent about in my blog thus far, is my passion for exploring healing modalities. You name it, I’ve likely done it or plan to do it. Everything has its time, though, so I proceed as I’m guided. And in this case I was guided to breathwork by beauty, the oldest trick in the book. “Look, Erin, a beautiful woman! Why don’t you go find out what makes her so sparkly?”

I was in Boulder, Colorado, at a training that I felt guided to attend (tangential to explain here). I left the training wondering, “Huh, did I get what I came for?” and right then I realized that I needed to turn around, take my shoes off again, go back into the room, and talk to Gurpreet. Without going totally off the rails I’ll just say that she’s physically gorgeous (those eyes!), energetically gorgeous, smart, multilingual, playful, nurturing, deeply feminine in the way that’s both soft and totally badass, and she has the strongest-looking legs I’ve seen since my soccer days. She’s pretty much my dream woman, which assures me she’s unavailable to me in probably ten different ways, but that’s not the point—that’s never the point. The point is: MEET HER AND FIND OUT WHAT SHE DOES.

I almost laughed when she said she facilitates breathwork because it’s something that has long been on my list of modalities to try. There are various schools of thought under the umbrella term of “breathwork,” but as Wikipedia explains:

Breathwork is a method of breath control that is meant to give rise to altered states of consciousness and to have an effect on physical and mental well-being.

Well, shit fire, sign me up! I love altering my state of consciousness in ways that won’t get me arrested or make me ineligible for jobs!

The first thing that MUST be in place when doing work like this is trust. If I had any doubts about Gurpreet’s ability to hold the space and care for me while I’m “out there,” I wouldn’t be able to do it. Plain and simple, this work requires vulnerability—as any self-growth work does—and being able to trust the facilitator is of supreme importance. I implicitly trust Gurpreet.

The second thing that MUST be in place when doing work like this is trust. Yep, saying it again, only this time I mean trust in the process. Breathwork, like any other practice (e.g., yoga, meditation, etc.) is a practice. It’s not something to be done once and boom, you’re healed! It’s a conversation. And so far, it’s a conversation that I’m enjoying more than almost any other I’ve experienced. It’s a conversation with Source, God, Great Spirit, or whatever capital-letter term you prefer to use. Or maybe it’s a conversation with your own soul? Only you can define it for yourself. It’s the kind of thing that has to be experienced first-hand, and even then, trying to describe it is difficult. So I think it’s best to ease up on trying to understand it and instead just trust in the process and be an observer of ones’ own experience of it.

I’ve attended two group sessions and each one was completely unique. My first attempt was surely influenced by a bit of self-doubt and wondering whether I was doing it correctly. Last night I was able to let most of that go as I put my focus instead on playing with my breath. I moved it in different directions and I played with different rhythms to see what would happen. I became curious and childlike.

At one point I felt like I was being held in a lover’s embrace (as much as I can remember what that feels like)—it was deeply nurturing. At another point I felt intense heat above my feet and then it moved up to just above my knees and I realized it was the feeling of having a cat on my lap (Lexi? Miranda? Princess? Jingle? Chester?). It was as obvious as if someone had been holding a heat lamp right over that spot on my legs. I perceived many other things as well but it’s so moment by moment that it would become tedious to describe it all. I ended the session with so much energy I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt like the kid who wakes up first thing in the morning at a slumber party and just CAN’T WAIT for someone else to wake up so she can play!

I think one of the most profound things about this work is that it doesn’t require words. I love words and I know that I receive guidance through writing and I figure things out by writing and I give love in writing…but sometimes, words need to be set aside. This work allows great releases of whatever you’re willing to let go of, without having to talk it to death or experience the trauma all over again. It can be peaceful and easy or tight and uncomfortable; it can be a blissful ride on a magic carpet or it can feel like trudging through mud. The magic is in the allowing. It’s always perfect.

Information about Gurpreet’s classes in Boulder can be found on her Facebook page. And regardless of where you live, you can probably find a class via the interwebs. I, for one, am sticking with Gurpreet and look forward to more of what this healing system has to offer.