Tag Archives: self-reflection

Backpacker Generation: Why “Leaving it all Behind” doesn’t Work.

By Lauren Klarfeld

What we carry in our backpacks is the weight of our fears.

Some backpacks are made on a swift decision. Others are planned months in advance and ticked off with a checklist. Certain backpacks are made out of choice, and sometimes others are made because we had no choice. Be it to go far or to go hide next door. When we are making a backpack, there is more to it than just physical weight.

As I laid out the remainder of my clothes on an empty table and zipped up my backpack, I knew I was trying to pack a mess. I made a decision almost a year ago that I didn’t want to be committed to an apartment, a contract, rent or a job that didn’t move me. That it had all seemed pointless after so many years to work so many hours, not only to support myself since I was 18 but also to work for things I didn’t always believe in. The home I was in, the job I had and some of the people I knew just didn’t feel like “home” anymore.

What I wanted was the freedom to go whenever I wanted to.

Go incognito and re-invent myself in every new place I was in. Dare to do those things I never felt comfortable doing before. My plan had been to volunteer from hostel to hostel paying no rent in exchange for free labour. The months that followed I walked around a city with the feeling that a weight had been taken off of me. I was alone but I had chosen to be alone. If anything I was a solitaire. And it was liberating for once to look at myself that way.

But like any backpacker, I had given up the vertical ease of a closet where all my clothes had been aligned for years for a horizontal goulash of textile wrapped one under the other. I had come with a full backpack and that was all I allowed myself to carry.

When we see things in such a constrained space or possibility, it somehow gives us perspective on the fact that one needs to be sure of their choices.

Suddenly, we cannot spend two hours trying on different clothes as we struggle with our own image—because there is just no space nor mirrors for us to do. Perfectly ironed t-shirts are a thing of the past too when you travel. And adding things to a backpack becomes a burden as it weighs heavier and heavier. And every time we pick out a t-shirt it is like rambling our hands through a lottery machine—one never knows what they’ll pick out.

The idea of leaving it all behind to live life like a vagabond has been very appealing for years in my generation. But we seldom realise that this kind of life without commitments sometimes comes at the cost of a life without the conveniences we once knew: a home to call our own, a toothbrush in a fixed place, old friends to go to when we’re having a bad day or even a home cooked meal from our mother.

See, backpacks are emblems to travelers. They symbolize the travelers’ mobile nature and our need for freedom to go whenever we want to. They are built to accommodate easy access and storage. And a backpacker needs that like he needs air: the possibility and reminder that he can move and is constrained by nothing.

But when we spend enough time on the road, whether we want to or not, our backpacks mutate. And so do we.

As I moved to this kind of lifestyle in Madrid, I realized that what was once an emblem of mobility, now became a painstaking weight to carry around. I had gone from one store to the other buying new clothes just to fit with the local’s style. I bought one colorful dress after the other and thought it was a victory for the past tomboy that I was. I hated dresses really, but here abroad I thought I could push myself to like them and no one would notice. And the summer was the worst, as this frail white skinned Belgian girl who had never experienced a real summer suddenly had to walk legs and arms uncovered.

When traveling and wanting to change ourselves, we sometimes become schizophrenic chameleons in places whose language we are still learning and borrowing. And as thrilling as it is to go incognito anywhere and re-invent one’s self—some days, we just aren’t lively chameleons. Some days, we are just lost cats that hide under cars waiting for the traffic to pass.

Little do we know that sometimes the backpacks we are carrying are in fact heavy with burdensome personal baggage already. Somehow, all the while that we pack our underwear and t-shirts, our bags are already bursting with the layers of our constant self-questioning, our fears, our inner critic, and sometimes lack of self-love.

When we travel we get rid of our old comforts and routines. And so we grow more aware of who we are and who we aren’t, and of the difference between who we want to be and who we are right now. The kind of contrast we only ever really see when we get confronted with the blank canvas of ourselves echoed by the amount of free time and liberty we have when traveling or being in a new chapter of our lives.

In the end, it isn’t just about wanting to escape what we had before, it is mostly about escaping who we were before.

We are mostly introverts that are seeking a way to grow out of it. We rarely think that growth isn’t just about pushing ourselves to become who we want to be. Sometimes, we just become who we want to become eventually, by making the choices that we’re asked not by our mind or our heart, but by our gut. Sometimes, it’s when looking back, rather than forward, that we see better today the person we are becoming.

So that day as I made my backpack again in these last seven months. I was offered a lesson on acceptance. I laid all my clothes and beauty products on a bed, and decided I’d make two bags this time.

One with all the things that I had always felt resembled me and that I needed. And another with all the things I bought that I thought I might need. And left behind only the last one.

In life or in travel, if we want to set out on an adventure with ourselves, the best backpacks we’ll ever make are those that will leave extra room for our own personal baggage.

And acknowledging this is what will allow us to carry it in the first place…

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If You’re Trying to “Get your Body Back”—Stop.

By Bailey Gehrke

We’ve all heard it before: comparison is the thief of joy.

A simple concept that is so easily forgotten. When we fall into comparison, we tend to compare our current bloopers to another’s highlight reel. We compare the aspects that we deem “Need Improvement” to something that “Exceeds Expectations.” When we base our actions and thoughts off of what something looks like, we are always setting ourselves up for disappointment. Comparison truly is a thief of joy, contentment, and self-love.

Think of a time in your life when you felt your best in your body; felt the most comfortable in your skin. More likely than not, whether it was six months ago or 15 years ago, that time is associated with a number. The number that showed when you stepped on the scale, however, many years ago, and you felt the best about it.

And now, as we look in the mirror or see a photo we deem as “unflattering,” a little voice in our head says, “If you could just get back to that number on the scale again, you’d be happier.” Or, “If you could get back to that body again things would be better.” We then set off, using whatever means necessary, envisioning the moment when we look in the mirror and see our 15-year-old body, or our 22-year-old body, or our 35-year-old body.

Here’s an unpopular opinion—an idea we may not like: we will never have the same body twice. We will never look in the mirror and see our 15, 23, or 35-year-old body. Ever again. That’s not to say that we can’t reach that particular number on the scale, but it is to say that even if we do see that number on the scale, and we look in the mirror, our bodies will not look as they did then.

Here’s what I know: I have gained weight, then lost it. Gained a little, then lost a little. Gained a little more, then lost a little more. Through all that time and through all those transitions, I’ve never looked in the mirror and saw the same body twice, regardless of what the scale was telling me. I’ve seen the same number on the scale at least five times in the last five years, and it’s visually looked different every single time.

Here’s why this happens: our bodies have a certain percentage of lean body mass or muscle. On top of the muscle is fat. The amount of lean body mass we have, plus the amount of fat we have, plus some organs and important water stuff, equals our scale weight. The visual composition of our body is dependent on how much muscle we have and where the fat is distributed within the body. If weight is gained or lost, the amount of lean muscle mass is going to change as well, which means the fat that we have gets redistributed. When the fat is redistributed, it will visually look different, because the amount of lean muscle mass is different.

Basically, all that science-y crap means is that one specific time you saw that particular number on the scale, that scale weight was made up of a very specific amount of muscle and fat. It is very unlikely you will ever see that very specific composition again. Meaning, you will never look in the mirror and see the same exact body composition twice. Meaning, you should stop comparing your “today” body to your “then” body.

Men chasing after their “18-year-old self” six-pack, stop. A six-pack can be obtained, but the process to get there and the end result will look different. Using what worked then is negatively impacting your results now.

Mamas trying to “bounce back” from your last baby, stop. Your internal organs literally shifted, and you grew a tiny human inside of you. That’s rad. Your body can’t go back to the way it was because you’ve not only made space for a new little person, but your personal growth has filled in those spaces.

Anyone trying to “get your body back” after many years of “letting yourself go,” stop. You’ve learned so much in this time, you shouldn’t be “going back,” there is nothing for you back there.

Instead of focusing on what was or how something looked in the past, let’s change the narrative. How can we become the best versions of our current selves? Not the second edition of an outdated self. Going one step further, let’s ask ourselves, “What would the best current version of me feel like?” Notice how I didn’t ask, “What would the best current version of me look like?”

We are always changing, always learning, always becoming better. We wouldn’t trade what we know now for what we knew then. We are always moving forward, and so should our bodies

– via Relephant

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Learning To Swim

I lie in bed for hours, a clamp around my heart, listening to the rain against the window pane. I can’t stand the grey sky, and so I turn my face to the wall and sink into a darker place. Let me drown. I don’t wish to return to the surface. – Unknown

Once upon a time until a couple of years ago, I nursed these kinds of feelings constantly, but since I was diagnosed  my priorities drastically changed; getting through the day becomes my main concern. By the end of the day, I am so exhausted physically that I have no strength anymore to entertain such thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to die but I want it to happen peacefully and preferably naturally. When I wake up in the morning – if I ever slept at all – I am preoccupied with practical personal things like getting up without passing out and dressing up without accident or consuming food without throwing it all up right after eating them. When I feel a little bit okay, I spend my time appreciating little things in life like looking up without getting dizzy and seeing what before my eyes without a flimsy curtain of clouds obscuring my vision. Funny that it takes some radical change and not for the better for me or someone to stop thinking about those unhealthy self-damaging thoughts. Is that what they call a blessing in disguise?

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Blessing in Disguise …

Is there anyone there who could relate? 

The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are. —Fernando Pessoa

I can.

My son said to me yesterday that the things I remember most from my childhood are not memories but longing and those that bordering on supernatural are brought on by psychosis. I remember them clearly not because it did really happen but because I believe they did. Memories are seldom complete he said. Most of the times we fill in the blanks and it becomes our reality.

Needless to say, I don’t believe him. I know what is real and what is not. And If I would fantasize or imagine anything it would not be one of my experiences. I will conjure up happy thoughts so I could fly away to Neverland. There are things that cannot be explained by any logical or scientific means. My son has to understand that. Other memories of mine that have nothing to do with paranormal or supernatural, I could believe there are some holes in it. But I don’t fill them up with my own imaginations, I just can’t remember the whole picture. Sometimes they are just a blank canvas, others have snatches of colors and outlines of some forgotten scenes often too vague for me to recognize.

I never have a desire to be someone else, but rather I have longings for different circumstances for myself. Perhaps being born into another family, country, situation, been given different chances in life, things like that. Nostalgia for something that never was I have experienced only once. I wrote a book about it. I sometimes still think about what could have been if what never was is a reality exactly the way I’ve imagined it but know only too well that it is next to impossible to happen. Perhaps it could once upon a time but interference from people and fate rendered my wish futile.

My painful landscapes consist indeed of the feelings that hurt most, absurd or not, but from different nature than those that had been mentioned above. They are both from memories and experience and I can sum them up easily in one word: betrayal- in all sense of that word.

How I wish there is an eternal sunset on my painful landscapes. It is preferable over the total darkness of what I am…

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10 Signs You’re Being True to Yourself

“The most confused we ever get is when we try to convince our heads of something that we know in our hearts is a lie.” ~Karen Moning

It’s painful and stressful to feel like you’re living a lie. Like you’re hiding how you really feel, saying what you think other people want to hear and doing things you don’t actually want to do—just because you think you’re supposed to.

But sometimes we don’t recognize we’re doing this. We just know we feel off, or something feels wrong, and we’re not sure how to change it.

It makes sense that a lot of us struggle with being true to ourselves.

From a young age, we’re taught to be good, fall in line, and avoid making any waves—to lower our voices, do as we’re told, and quit our crying (or they’ll give us something to cry about).

And most of us don’t get the opportunity to foster or follow our curiosity. Instead, we learn all the same things as our peers, at the exact same time; and we live a life consumed by the mastery of these things, our bodies restless from long hours of seated study and our minds overwhelmed with memorized facts that leave very little room for free thinking.

To make things even worse, we learn to compare our accomplishments and progress—often, at things we don’t even really care about—to those of everyone around us. So we learn it’s more important to appear successful in relation to others than to feel excited or fulfilled within ourselves.

This was my experience both growing up and in my twenties. A people-pleaser who was always looking to prove that I mattered, I was like a chameleon, and I constantly felt paralyzed about which choices to make because all I knew was that they needed to be impressive.

I never knew what I really thought or felt because I was too busy suffocating my mind with fears and numbing my emotions to develop even a modicum of self-awareness.

This meant I had no idea what I needed. I only knew I didn’t feel seen or heard. I felt like no one really knew me. But how could they when I didn’t even know myself?

I know I’ve made a lot of progress with this over the years, and I have a mile-long list of unconventional choices to back that up, as well as a number of authentic, fulfilling relationships. But I’ve recently recognized some areas where I’ve shape-shifted in an attempt to please others, and in some cases, without even realizing it.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who panders to popular opinion or lets other people dictate my choices. I don’t want to waste even one minute trying to be good enough for others instead of doing what feels good to me.

I want to make my own rules, live on my own terms, and be bold, wild, and free.

This means peeling away the layers of fear and conditioning and being true to what I believe is right. But it’s hard to do this because sometimes those layers are pretty heavy, or so transparent we don’t even realize they’re there.

With this in mind, I decided to create this reminder of what it looks and feels like to be true to myself so I can refer back to it if ever I think I’ve lost my way.

If you also value authenticity and freedom over conformity and approval, perhaps this will be useful to you too.

You know you’re being true to yourself if….

1. You’re honest with yourself about what you think, feel, want, and need.

You understand that you have to be honest with yourself before you can be honest with anyone else. This means you make space in your life to connect with yourself, perhaps through meditation, journaling, or time in nature.

This also means you face the harsh realities you may be tempted to avoid. You’re self-aware when faced with hard choices—like whether or not to leave a relationship that doesn’t feel right—so you can get to the root of your fear.

You might not always do this right away, or easily, but you’re willing to ask yourself the tough questions most of us spend our lives avoiding: Why am I doing this? What am I getting from this? And what would serve me better?

2. You freely share your thoughts and feelings.

Even if you’re afraid of judgment or tempted to lie just to keep the peace, you push yourself to speak up when you have something that needs to be said.

And you refuse to stuff your feelings down just to make other people feel comfortable. You’re willing to risk feeling vulnerable and embarrassed because you know that your feelings are valid and that sharing them is the key to healing what’s hurting or fixing what isn’t working.

3. You honor your needs and say no to requests that conflict with them.

You know what you need to feel physical, mentally, and emotionally balanced, and you prioritize those things, even if this means saying no to other people.

Sure, you might sometimes make sacrifices, but you understand it’s not selfish to honor your needs and make them a priority.

You also know your needs don’t have to look like anyone else’s. It’s irrelevant to you if someone else can function on four hours of sleep, work around the clock, or pack their schedule with social engagements. You do what’s right for you and take care good care of yourself because you recognize you’re the only one who can.

4. Some people like you, some people don’t, and you’re okay with that.

Though you may wish, at times, you could please everyone—because it feels a lot safer to receive validation than disapproval—you understand that being disliked by some is a natural byproduct of being genuine.

This doesn’t mean you justify being rude and disrespectful because hey, you’re just being yourself! It just means you know you’re not for everyone; you’d rather be disliked for who you are than liked for who you’re not, and you understand the only way to find “your tribe” is to weed out the ones who belong in someone else’s.

5. You surround yourself with people who respect and support you just as you are.

You understand that the people around you affect you, so you surround yourself with people who respect and support you, which motivates you to continue being true to yourself.

You may have people in your life who don’t do these things, but if you do, you understand their issues with you are just that—their issues. And you set boundaries with them so that they don’t get in your head and convince you there’s something wrong with you or your choices.

6. You focus more on your own values than what society deems acceptable.

You’ve read the script for a socially acceptable life—climb the corporate ladder, have a lavish wedding, buy a big house, and make some babies—but you’ve seriously questioned whether this is right for you. Maybe it is, but if you go this route, it’s because this plan aligns with your own values, not because it’s what you’re supposed to do.

You know your values are your compass in life, and that they change over time. So you check in with yourself regularly to be sure you’re living a life that doesn’t just look good on paper but also feels good in your heart.

7. You listen to your intuition and trust that you know what’s best for yourself.

You not only hear the voice inside that says, “Nope, not right for you,” you trust it. Because you’ve spent a lot of time learning to distinguish between the voice of truth and fear, you recognize the difference between holding yourself back and waiting for what feels right.

You might not always make this distinction immediately, and you might sometimes be swayed by well-meaning people who want to protect you from the risks of thinking outside the box. But eventually, you tune out the noise and hone in on the only voice that truly knows what’s best for you.

8. You do what feels right for you, even if that means risking approval from the people around you.

Not only do you trust that you know what’s best for you, you do it. Even if it’s not a popular choice. Even if people question your judgment, vision, or sanity. You recognize that no one else is living your life, and no one else has to live with the consequences of your choices, so you make them for you and let the chips fall where they may when it comes to public perception.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have everything you want in life. It just means you hear the beat of your own drum, even if it’s silent as a dog whistle to everyone else, and you march to it—maybe slowly or awkwardly, but with your freak flag raised nice and high.

9. You allow yourself to change your mind if you recognize you made a choice that wasn’t right for you.

You may feel embarrassed to admit you’re changing directions, but you do it anyway because you’d rather risk being judged than accept a reality that just plain feels wrong for you.

Whether it’s a move that you realize you made for the wrong reasons, a job that isn’t what you expected, or a commitment you know you can’t honor in good conscience, you find the courage to say, “This isn’t right, so I’m going to make another change.”

10. You allow yourself to evolve and let go of what you’ve outgrown.

This is probably the hardest one of all because it’s not just about being true to yourself; it’s also about letting go. It’s about recognizing when something has run its course and being brave enough to end the chapter, even if you don’t know yet what’s coming next. Even if the void feels dark and scary.

But you, you recognize that the void can also feel light and thrilling. That empty space isn’t always a bad thing because it’s the breeding ground for new possibilities—for fulfillment, excitement, passion, and joy. And you’re more interested in seeing who else you can be and what else you can do than languishing forever in a comfortable life that now feels like someone else’s.

As with all things in life, we each exist on a spectrum. Every last one of us lives in the grey area, so odds are you do some of these things, some of the time, and probably never perfectly. And you may go through periods when you do few or none of these things, without even realizing you’ve slipped.

That’s how it’s been for me. I’ve gone through phases when I’ve felt completely in alignment and other times when I’ve gotten lost. I’ve had times when I’ve felt so overwhelmed by conflicting wants, needs, and beliefs—my own and other people’s—that I’ve shut down and lost touch with myself.

It happens to all of us. And that’s okay. The important thing is that we keep coming home to ourselves and we eventually ask ourselves the hard questions that decide the kind of lives we lead: What am I hiding? What am I lying about? And what truth would set me free?

By Lori Deschene


Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal and other books and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. An avid film lover, she recently finished writing her first feature screenplay and is fundraising to get it made now.

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Honey-Sweet May

In the deepening spring of May, I had no choice but to recognize the trembling of my heart. It usually happened as the sun was going down. In the pale evening gloom, when the soft fragrance of magnolias hung in the air, my heart would swell without warning, and tremble, and lurch with a stab of pain. I would try clamping my eyes shut and gritting my teeth, and wait for it to pass. And it would pass –but slowly, taking its own time, and leaving a dull ache behind.

― Haruki Murakami

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Find your fucking balls and reattach them

This is what I keep telling myself lately, find your old companion guts and get reacquainted damn you!

Where is the girl I used to know? The one who never stops at nothing to follow her heart. The one who didn’t let forces of nature detained her if she wants to gallivant. Now, a mere rain is enough to keep you inside? Pathetic!

You used to be fun, full of ideas and never have a qualm to put them in action. Remember the time you started hiking at four in the afternoon despite the thunder and lightning and the torrential downpour? You had to change clothes in the car because you were soaking wet. How about the time you went into the mountains to search for the missing head of a student who had been raped. You did it at one in the morning so nobody could see and stop you because an unauthorized person wasn’t allowed on the premises and they said it was dangerous. You armed yourself with a big bolo and head on. Where is that brave girl now?

Remember the cemetery? How about the collapsed subdivision where a lot of people had been buried alive. You sneaked in past the guard and spent the night there because you were convinced that where there are catastrophes and human casualties the odds of having contact from the other side are stronger and perhaps you’ll get lucky and could communicate with one of them.

And the time you rowed a boat for four hours to spend a night in an abandoned lighthouse in the middle of the ocean and got caught by a tropical storm and had to find your way to the nearest shore in the dark. How about that?

Others might say it is not bravery but foolishness and it may be so but that is not the point. The point is the fact that you changed beyond recognition. Not even the shadow of your former self which is preferable than totally disappearing altogether.

Where is the spontaneity, the passion, the drive the hunger? The hunger is there alright but you are trying to quench it with pseudo replacements. The doubt, the worry, the fear… where it is coming from?  Is it called getting old, like your daughter stated a long time ago which you refused to acknowledge? Your niece whom you adopted and brought up to keep from following the footsteps of her mother (and failed miserably) told you once upon a time when you first got together with your now second husband that you became boring as hell.  You didn’t acknowledge that too. Now, there is no choice left but to admit it.

What happened? What changed?

Okay, the situation is different so is the status and they go hand and hand with compromises but to forget who you are and become a totally different person is unacceptable. You can make loads of excuses but they will not justify what you have done to yourself. You are an embarrassment to all the free-spirited women out there. You call yourself a gypsy, a nomad? Once upon a time maybe but not anymore. Not for a long time. You become a hothouse flower, an invalid, a kept woman, boring and unimaginative the only adventures you are embarking are those that in your head. I despise you. I hate what you become. Where are your guts? Why you are existing (because I cannot call what you are doing living) against your principle and everything you believe in? For what? For security? For comfort? Bullshit! Nothing is secure in this world. You of all people should know that. And if I recall correctly, it was you who said you would rather live in the streets than be caged. Do you still think that way? Apparently not.

Your son said it is better to live and die than not to live at all. He told you that after you voiced out your fear for his safety backpacking two months in India and going on camping trips to war zones and being in the midst of a rally in Paris. That son of yours is a male version of you in every way. The once upon a time you. The wanderer adventurer fearless you. Look at you now.

Don’t cite age as an excuse. There is no such thing as too old for this and that. Age is just a number. And your condition? All the more reason to live right here and right now before you reach your expiration date. Live now that you can still walk and enjoy. Go out there and live without regret. That is what you supposed to be doing instead of being a prisoner in your own home.

You are not some caged exotic animal. You were born and brought up in the wild. That’s where you belong. Not in a fancy house with a fancy car full of fancy gadgets and designer items. Since you care about them anyway? Big houses and big cars and expensive things mean nothing. You can’t bring them where you’re eventually going. What matters is how you spend your borrowed time on this earth. I am telling you, find your fucking balls and reattach them before it’s too late.

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Lessons on Aging & the Juicy Stuff Beauty is Really Made Of.

“The self-respect and peace of mind you long for is not out there—it’s within. I hate that, I resent that more than I can say. But, it’s true.” ~ Anne Lamott

I fired a part of me the other day that has been demanding I look a certain way, weigh a certain number, and be a certain size in order to be “enough.”

It happened in my closet as I was trying to put on yet another pair of tight pants and felt a twinge of embarrassment that they didn’t fit anymore.

I heard that voice say, “See, you’ve gained weight. How could you? Hurry up and cleanse so you can drop 10 pounds fast.” For the first time in my almost 49 years of life, I finally heard myself respond differently. “No more of this madness,” I said out loud as I grabbed a different pair of pants that were a size larger.

I picked up the journal where I had written my health and weight goals for the month. With fresh eyes, I read what I wrote. The goals sounded great on paper. However, I had been so busy trying to fix what’s on the outside that I was missing the entire point.

It’s an inside job.

Sometimes the longest road we can travel is the one we make from our head to our heart. Suddenly, what I had known in my head for years finally made a direct heart landing. My goals had become barriers rather than stepping stones toward what I truly desired from the inside out.

Our bodies are not problems to be solved.

Anne Lamott once said, “One of the blessings of age is you surrender to the truth of time and life that things droop and sag and it’s fine, and if you worry about it longer it starts to argue a wasted life. You can spend your life burnishing the surface, but in the meantime, you could be on the floor playing Legos with your kids and grandkid.”

I opened a blank page in my journal, took my pen to paper, and set out to write a vision regarding my health and weight aligned with my spirit. I prayed for a bit and meditated for a while, asking God to show me what I needed to know. My hope is that what landed will be of benefit in some way to others who grapple with accepting their bodies and this thing called aging.

The Juicy Beauty Manifesto

I am not the size of my pants or the number on a scale. I am not the comparisons I make or the body I had 20 years ago. I’m not my triceps or once-upon-a-time firm ass or the before-kids flat stomach.

I’m not how I look in my jeans or whether my stomach has a roll or if my hair is turning gray. This confining version of myself that determines whether I am pretty enough or strong enough or thin enough or sexy enough or busty enough…whatever the enough is for that day, is officially fired.

From now on…

I will sincerely apologize to myself any time I want to criticize how my body looks. I will stand still and wholeheartedly soak in the apology so I can continue to really see myself and love all of who I am. The truth is I do not have the body I had in my 30s because I am not 30 anymore. I’m almost 50. I will look at my curves and rounded edges with loving eyes rather than through a critical lens.

It is a privilege to age, one that I no longer want to take for granted.

And, when I look in the mirror at my naked body, I will stop focusing on what I see as lacking, and, instead, I will be grateful for this version of me. This older me, the one who is now filled with deeper wisdom and a more relaxed spirit. I have earned the lines under my eyes and around my smile. I have lived and loved. I have fallen and risen. As a result, I am softening, easing into a gentle way of living and allowing for more grace to move through me. It’s quieter here, simpler, and far more pleasurable.

I will embrace the beauty that is staring back at me and allow it to be enough. Whispering to myself, “There is nothing here that needs to be fixed. Nothing is broken.”

When I begin to find my mind wandering, I will ground it in appreciation for my health. I will give thanks that my legs can walk, my fingers can move, my mind is still sharp, my breath is deep, my eyes see, and my heart pumps. I will mindfully and lovingly nourish my body with foods that breathe life into it. I will choose to live from a place of health and wellness. Eating will be about nourishment, rather than trying to obtain some endgame result of a certain weight or size.

If I make food choices out of love rather than fear or deprivation, the results will organically happen. I will allow my body to find its natural place at this time in my life.

I will no longer scare myself with black-and-white food beliefs or messages.

I will stop telling myself:
“I will never eat that again.”
“Once I start, I can’t stop.”
“I can’t trust myself with food.”

I will replace those messages with:
“Relax, dear one, and enjoy. You can trust yourself.”

I will move my body in ways that bring me joy. I want to do the stuff that makes my heart beat faster and eyes grow wider. I want to do those things as often as I can, creating happy, pleasure-filled moments.

The illusion that if I reach this weight then I’ll be happy or stronger or prettier is just the lie I keep telling myself. As I get consumed with that message, I start to miss all the juicy stuff that beauty is really made of. That’s a price I’m no longer willing to pay. Are you?

Starting today, let’s:

Give away the pants that no longer fit and go on a date with ourselves to find clothes we love and that no longer pinch. Life is hard enough than to be wrestling with tight pants.

Put the scale away and start to focus on what we are feeling rather than what we weigh. It’s flat-out mean to be stepping on that thing day in and day out.

Shut down the critical voice in our heads and replace it with kindness, love, and praise, offering ourselves the same messages we would a child or a dear friend.

Stop dieting, cleansing, restricting, and beating ourselves over the head with a stick that we will never be enough unless we look a certain way. Diets don’t work anyway.

Uncover how to unapologetically love ourselves and celebrate growing older and embracing the perfectly imperfect bodies we all have a right to age in.

There’s nothing more beautiful than a woman who recognizes her own worth from the inside out. From that place she is able to get out of her own way and focus on love and service, living a life from her highest self.

Now that’s juicy beauty.

Who’s in?

AUTHOR: ANNMARIE DEVLIN

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Dead Toad Scrolls

We tend to see ourselves through other people’s eyes. We respond to how other people actually treat us as well as to an imaginary audience of people who we presume are judging us. Even living in total isolation of other people, I would construct a sense of personal identity based upon how I thought other people would evaluate me if they could only see me now.

The road to self-improvement does not begin with the realization of other people’s scorn. Personal salvation commences with the determined excavation and displacement of a crusty layer of self-denial, which defense mechanism camouflaged my intensifying sense of self-repugnance for how I acted in this earthly life.

Enforced seclusion from society and personal introspection are not the product of brilliant intellectual insight or a calculated election. Escape was necessary when reality proved too harsh.

Self-examination requires time alone spent in thoughtful study. We naturally fear aloneness, which reluctance can stifle attaining self-knowledge. In her 1942 memoir titled ‘West with the Night,. Beryl Marham spoke eloquently why we must overcome our fear of aloneness and conduct a search for our inner authenticity. “You can live a lifetime and, at the end of it, know more about other people than you know about yourself. You learn to watch other people, but you never watch yourself because you strive against loneliness. If you read a book, or shuffle a deck of cards, or care for a dog, you are avoiding yourself. The abhorrence of loneliness is as natural as wanting to live at all. If it were otherwise, men would never have bothered to make the alphabet, nor to have fashioned words out of what were only animal sounds, nor to have crossed continents – each man to see what the other looked like.

We are conscious beings always experimenting with the mystery of becoming our ultimate manifestation.

If we cleaved ourselves in half to examine our daily mind chatter under a microscope, who amongst us would daringly display the sediment of their innermost thoughts for public consumption? A tattler’s tale reporting the silted musings resembling my tarnished soul is probably the most typical scorecard. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), an English novelist and poet declared, “If all hearts were open and all desires known – as they would be if people showed their souls – how many gapings, sighings, clenched fists, knotted brows, broad grins, and red eyes should we see in the market place!” My unsavory report card is indistinguishable from the blemished masses. Etched into the end zone of my life playing field are the horrors of gluttony, greed, failure, and humiliation. Recognition of my sinful life led directly to a rash act of despondency. Commission of a ream of sins is a reflection of my weak character. Guilt from leading a sinful life, not a strong character, manufactured the overwhelming despair that caused me to seek absolution. The willingness to grade myself as less than a satisfactory human being might be my only hope of ever achieving spiritual salvation.

A self-concept is fluid; it is composed of numerous ongoing self-assessments forming an awareness of a person’s physical and mental attributes. Our perception of self comes from our interaction with all of nature and is especially dependent upon social interactions with parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and other acquaintances. Self-identity includes an understanding of a person’s personality attributes, knowledge of their skills and abilities, taking stock of their values and religious affiliations, and tallying their choices for occupation and hobbies. Identity is a mixture of our resilience and our energy; it is the product of our aggressiveness and meekness. We forge an identity with the arms we bear to protect our territory and by the gentleness that we exhibit towards other people. Identity is weaved from sunshine and shadows. It derives from good and evil conduct; it encompasses a sense of love, wonder, and loss.

A person without a crystalline sense of self lives a mythless existence; they lack a definitive path to follow in life. Deprived of a solid sense of self, dispossessed of a connection to the past, destitute of a grounding sense in the present, a person leads a leaden and aimless existence.

None of us remains invulnerable to the demands of our physical survival or stands aloof and insusceptible to the shaping influences of society. We live in a social world and the prevailing cultural norms affect each of us.

Every step in life is a testing ground. Some active and perceptive people never stop blossoming regardless of what experience they encounter while other people seem to wilt with the slightest provocation.

The human mind is the artist of our mutable state of inwardness. External action signals to other people our inner composition. We control our present state of happiness. Each personal action taken or not undertaken subtlety or profoundly alters whom we were, influences whom we now are, and amends who we might become. Our shifting self-image controls our present state of personal happiness.

A strict self-image demonstrates a predisposition to maintain a rigid explanation and definition of a person. Our self-image becomes self-perpetuating because of the tendency of the mind to exhibit partiality regarding what we attend to and preference in what we are prepared to accept as true about the world and ourselves.

― Kilroy J. Oldster

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Fighting The Battle In Silence

“How can I put this? There’s a kind of gap between what I think is real and what’s really real. I get this feeling like some kind of little something-or-other is there, somewhere inside me… like a burglar is in the house, hiding in a wardrobe… and it comes out every once in a while and messes up whatever order or logic I’ve established for myself. The way a magnet can make a machine go crazy.” ― Haruki Murakami

Only those who are in the same boat (or those who made the journey) would understand what Haruki Murakami is talking about. Even immediate family close as they are could impossibly fathom out the full extent of how it truly is unless they walk in the shoes of someone who is suffering from mental illness.

Bystanders will never understand. How could they if you yourself cannot make sense of what’s happening to you. It’s difficult when you cannot explain because words seem woefully inadequate to describe what’s going on inside your head which prompts those unexplainable actions that society frowns upon and made you an outsider.

How can you tell them you feel like___

You are a warrior in a dark forest, with no compass and are unable to tell who the actual enemy is, So you never feel safe.

You are in constant fight or flight mode.

I compare it with what one specialist said to me about my condition: That my body is like that of someone who is running a marathon but 24/7. I wonder what he would say if he could take a glimpse of what’s going on inside my head. I’m sure he will send me home with an instruction never to come back again.

I always have known that I would be an interesting subject for head doctors. I imagine some kind of role reversal happening. Me asking questions instead of the other way around. That would be fun I guess.

Like in real life when people always assume that I’m an open book but the truth is, I let them talk and I listen. Just listen. Without disclosing anything personal/private about myself. But they always come away with the same conclusion: That I’m an open person and we created some bond by telling each other our utmost secrets. I never correct their wrong assumptions. It is better that way.

Because___

“The majority of people dismiss those things that lie beyond the bounds of their own understanding as absurd and not worth thinking about. I myself can only wish that my stories were, indeed, nothing but incredible fabrications. I have stayed alive all these years clinging to the frail hope that these memories of mine were nothing but a dream or a delusion. I have struggled to convince myself that they never happened. But each time I tried to push them into the dark, they came back stronger and more vivid than ever. Like cancer cells, these memories have taken root in my mind and eaten into my flesh.” ― Haruki Murakami

How could I tell them the truth? How can I share to them what’s really bothering me? How can I disclose my utmost secret without scaring the hell out of them?

That’s why I never reach out to anyone and always decline offers of close friendships.

The very reason why I didn’t accept the invitations for coffee by that woman who lives across the street. I know for sure she is a good person. I see it, I sense it, I feel it. Despite my refusals when she saw that my husband hang a tarpaulin outside in honor of my becoming golden, she sent me a beautiful card and she didn’t even know my name. She just wrote Madam on the top of her message inside the card. She never failed to hand-delivered Christmas cards either. I see to it that I answered her effort and that is the only form of communication we have and she lives just across the street from me. It is a very big busy street with a lot of traffic but just across just the same.

Am I bad?

I think not.

In my eyes/mind, I’m saving her from oncoming disappointments, when I can’t/won’t deliver what expected of me. You see, any form of relationship is a two-way traffic. A series of give and take have to exist in order for the association to work out. It cannot be always coming from one side alone it’s understandable. And that’s why I have to keep a distance. To protect them from possible disillusionment.

Sometimes I wonder what she makes of me. If she takes it as a personal offense my continuing refusal to be closer to her. Does she have even a tiny inclination of how I really am? She must be aware that I like to be left alone judging by the lack of visitors knocking on my door. But I can say the same about her. At least I go out and work in the garden. I never saw her leave her place. She only comes outside to clean the windows and that’s it. Her husband is the one tending their front yard. Perhaps she thinks we are a kindred spirit. Who knows?

The truth is you never know what people think because like with every kind of illness which doesn’t show on the outside look could be deceiving.

If you are like me___

“You always look so cool, like no matter what happens, it’s got nothing to do with you, but you’re not really like that. In your own way, you’re out there fighting as hard as you can, even if other people can’t tell by looking at you.” ― Haruki Murakami

How to explain?

And even if you can, would they understand? Would they be willing to understand? Could you really open up about what’s really happening to you without being judged and your virtue torn to shreds? I think not. Our visually oriented society may not take the time to look beyond appearances. People tend to believe what they see; and if it can’t be seen, it simply doesn’t exist. Right?

Make that double when it comes to me. I made no secret of what’s going on with me mentally and physically. But I’ve warned you already about the iceberg theory. What you see is only the tip. There is a lot more going on underneath.

But that’s not for public viewing.

I’m honest about the skeletons in the closet and like I said I occasionally let them out to dance but I’m afraid you will never see them all at once having a ball. Not in this lifetime.

So what do I do with my self-imposed isolation?

Dream and fantasize.

I am a kind of expert in that. I’ve learned it early on when I want to escape the horror that is called home-where everything bad happens- done by the ones you trust and supposed to be having your back-family.

You see___

“The better you were able to imagine what you wanted to imagine, the farther you could flee from reality.” 
― Haruki Murakami

I don’t stay in my dream world. I’m too sober for that. I visited certain places in my head and talk to some people there only when necessary. Contrary to popular belief that those who are suffering from a mental disorder turn inwards because they don’t want to be cured- I do it to stay sane. To keep my sanity I have to go back to my core and get acquainted with who I really am so I can continue the pretense of being normal for the outside world so they don’t bother me too much.

And sleep.

Sleep is my cure for everything. I don’t get much that’s why maybe it becomes a sort of a treat. Everything is possible after I sleep.

But it seldom comes naturally. Most of the time if I’m lucky___

“I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. But it was not until much later that I was able to get any real sleep. In a place far away from anyone or anywhere, I drifted off for a moment.” 
― Haruki Murakami

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Low Maintenance

My father once told me that I need to marry a rich man.

When he said this, I didn’t quite grasp what he meant or what he was trying to imply. It took me five decades to understand where he was coming from but it doesn’t mean I agree with his implication.

True, when I was young they had to coat me with baby oil before I could walk the six kilometers wasteland between our house and the only primary school in the neighborhood. I was or rather my skin was and still is allergic to grasses of any kind among so many other things. Even to these days, my naked skin cannot have direct contact with any surfaces that meant for public use like park benches, restaurants tables and chairs, buses seats and so on. I get itchy bubbles on my skin the very minute I come in contact with I think full of germs surfaces even though at first glance they look spotless. I bruise easily as well.

Oh…yeah
My skin is like a map, where my heart has been
And I can’t hide the marks, but it’s not a negative thing
So I lay down my guard, drop my defenses, down by my clothes
I’m learning to fall, with no safety net, to cushion the blow
I bruise easily, so be gentle when you handle me
There’s a mark you leave, like a love heart carved on a tree
I bruise easily, can’t scratch the surface without moving me
Underneath I bruise easily.
No, just kidding.

Prolonged contact with hard surfaces always resulted in bruises that never fade but turn into leathery skin like an elephant hide.

And I don’t know why.

I could not help our mother to wash our clothes either for I was allergic to any laundry detergent, liquid or powder. They made my hands look like raw meat. Which reminds me of the time I was on a cruise and tried Yves Saint Laurent products from the ship’s cosmetic sections. That was a big mistake. My eyes looked like someone had punched me and my lips will pass for a Botox treatment that had gone horribly wrong.

Another thing is I cannot sleep with someone next to me. Not then, not now. I always get the only bedroom in the house when we were growing up. That or I stayed awake whole night fiddling with the priceless possession of my father, the radio. Two husbands and I never managed to share a bed/room with any of them. I can’t stand the smell of another person on the pillows and bedsheets. I can’t stand them breathing next to me. I can’t stand their presence in the room. In short, I want to sleep alone.

Someone once remarked that I remind her of the story about the Princess and the Pea because I can feel every single tiny grain of whatever on the bed whether it is particles of dust or one single crumb.

How much I love working in the garden I could not do it without surgical gloves under ordinary garden mittens. I can’t stand the feel of soil between my fingers but not as much as I hate dust under my feet. Anywhere but not under my feet and between my toes.

Again, I don’t know why.

You might say my father is right. I have to marry a wealthy man, but let me tell you the other side of the story.

I am low maintenance.

Lower you cannot get.

First of all, I don’t like bling-bling or branded items. Don’t get me wrong I have them for sure but I hardly or don’t use them at all. They are given to me as gifts, from people who thought like most women, I wanted to own few if not all. I don’t go to the hair salon. I cut my own hair using ordinary household scissors that meant to be for papers. I do it in just three moves. I bend down, cut my hair straight, then trim both sides to frame my face. That’s all. I don’t wear make-up and just discovered lipstick when I was forty-eight. I don’t polish my nails, either. Heck, I don’t even shave my legs.

I don’t even need sex.

I don’t go out, rarely drink alcohol, I hate restaurants and dislike parties. I don’t even have to tan my hide, literally. I know… I know… I am already tanned by nature, so…

I don’t gamble or smoke, no expensive hobbies because my hobbies are reading, walking, writing and gardening. The last one is probably the only thing I splurge money on. When it comes to plants… I will gladly skip dinner.

So, how can my father say I have to marry a millionaire? I refuse to believe that was the (only) reason why he sold me to the highest bidder. That bidder once told me that simple things make me happy, and that is the most difficult thing to achieve because simple things are hard to come by. For him at least. When another bidder who outbid him confirmed this, I begin to consider the possibility that probably there is some truth in that claim. I am not convinced so far.

And I don’t know what to write anymore because it is a full moon and I can’t sleep and my thoughts are muddled and I want to take a bath but it’s midnight and my hair will not dry properly and I’m against using a hair dryer because it dries my hair and if I lie down with semi-wet hair I will wake up with semi-dry flat hair that is so brittle I have to take a bath again.

That’s all for now and till the next full moon.

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I am the master of my fate I am the captain of my soul

“I picked up each fragmented piece of me and studied it. Where did it belong? Did I need it anymore?”

If I start doing that, I may end up with nothing but the core.

Which is not bad I guess because that’s all we need to build and rebuild ourselves.

When I was younger, I never let obstacles bother me to the point of giving up. In fact, I never entertained the notion of throwing the towel in. Something inherent in me never allows those kinds of thoughts to even cross my mind.

Fell down?

No worries.

Get up, dust myself and walk on. Forward. Always forward and never look back if you don’t want to go that way again. I never question. I never blame.

I thought: It’s okay if I lose everything. As long as I have myself, I can start all over again.

Only when I reached a certain age I started thinking about things. Wondering about the hows and whys the ins and outs and doubts began to creep in.

I’m not anymore shoulder on charge it to experience and forget about it.

Suddenly I want explanations, justifications, and answers.

Never get it though.

I started to be scared too. Fear of the future and what it may bring.

I guess if you have nothing, you are not afraid of losing.

On the other hand, if you build and become used to a certain way of life, then you have everything to be afraid of.

You see, there is a limit. An expiration date to all you could do and tolerate before. You realized that your energy, your vigor, your optimism, and enthusiasm are not bottomless. Your ability and strength to bounce back are not that superelastic anymore. Not only the time (your time) is running out, but also your patience and perseverance. You will wake up one morning to find out that you are tired of running and want to rest, declutter your life in every way and embrace minimalism.

You are ready to settle and enjoy the fruit of your labor.

But what if life is not done with you yet?

What if it decided to test you all over again, toss you around to see if you are still as resilient as before?

Then, my friend, you got a problem.

What to do about it?

Nothing.

There is nothing you can do if fate wants to play.

Either you sign in or___

You sign out.

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