What you’ll think of me

I used to waste so much time worrying about what other people thought of me that I forgot how to listen to myself and what I really wanted. 

I often judged myself harshly, offering no forgiveness for mistakes. If I misspoke or made a spelling error in an Instagram post, there was little mercy. I would spiral, looking for subtle ways to punish myself for not being perfect.  I existed for outward perceptions. 

It was as if I lived a life curated for everyone else but me. 

I needed people to think my life was great, even when it wasn’t. Those closest to me have seen the seismic shift. I think I was living outwardly to protect my raw, authentic self. If people couldn’t see who I really was, what I was really feeling, they couldn’t place their judgments on it. It was a self-preservation tactic that backfired.

Now I spend my time trying to do things I love with the supportive people that I care about. As much as I try to surround myself with loving, supportive, authentic people, it’s not always going to happen. People are going to get in your way and make you feel like you’re doing life wrong. You’re not.

I’ve come to realize that no one can tell you who to be or how to feel. 

Being tuned in to what I want and what I need is paramount on this search for joy. I’m working hard to live for me and be who I am. Other people’s judgments hold no space and have no value in my authentic self.

Or yours for that matter.

ellengetsherlifetogether

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The mindful meal

It often feels like I live in a sea of “I’ll start tomorrow’s,” especially when it comes to reaching my goals. After my last post, I decided to dive headfirst into researching mindful eating and making small, attainable goals for myself. 

I’ve been slowly unpacking my body and food issues, laying everything bare and taking stock. From body dysmorphia to mindless eating, I want to drill down to what keeps me from breaking out of some of these old, unhealthy patterns. I’ve come to realize that through all the diets and programs and exercise regimens, I never felt like I was fixing the problem. I was slapping a band-aid over broken bones.

Every diet I’ve ever been on has felt restricting and unsustainable.  

So, I’m throwing diets and restrictions out the window to focus on my relationship with food.

Living alone affords me the luxury of changing up my eating practices. Though I have a kitchen table in my apartment, I eat nearly every meal on the couch in front of the TV. Eliminating distraction is a key tenet of mindful eating, so that’s my first step. It may seem small, but my only goal this month is to eat meals at the table, sans TV.

In the past, I would have written a long list of mindful eating practices here and tried to integrate them into my life all at once. Being someone who tends to obsess about food and diets, I feel like trying to tackle everything at once is a bad idea. I would be setting myself up for failure.

I’m focusing on one small goal at a time because this is not a quick fix, it’s a slow and steady climb.

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Weighed down

Every morning I walk past it, the square-foot or so of glass and metal that, for most of my life, provided a calculation of my self-worth. It wasn’t long ago that I lived for that little digital reading. A stripped down daily ritual offering a barometer for my mood.

Admittedly, I haven’t stepped on the scale since I moved into my new apartment. I’m on the fence as to whether that’s a good thing or not.

I think I’ve been on a diet my entire life. If it’s out there, I’ve probably tried it: Slim Fast, Dexatrim, Cortaslim, WonderSlim, Alli, Whole30, Paleo, juice cleanses, hypnotherapy…and the list goes on. I also have a history of disordered eating. Throughout the bouts of bingeing and purging in college, or the obsessive calorie-counting and fitness tracking in my first year of marriage, I never really felt like I’d reach my “goal.”

There was always another pound to lose, or size to shrink into.

I often used food as a drug to cure my hurt, mistaking feeling full for feeling fulfilled. I used obsessive, disordered eating as a way to gain a sense of control when things were spinning out. Over the past ten years, I’ve probably gained and lost over 200 pounds. The recent stress of moving and starting over with new routines hasn’t done me any favors. I find myself falling into old habits like reaching for food when I’m not hungry or wanting to do fifty jumping jacks to cancel out a handful of almonds I just had.

Part of my self-awareness journey needs to include mindful eating. This is probably the single most difficult practice I’ve attempted. Being someone with an unhealthy relationship to food, I know I have to work extra hard to be present when I sit down for a meal. 

I’ve conquered a lot of food and body issues over the last few years, but my work is far from done. I’m ready to start showing up for myself and work toward feeling happy, healthy, and strong in my 30-year-old body.

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Reconnecting

The other night I had dinner with a former professor of mine. I originally reached out to her for some career advice, suggesting coffee or drinks now that I was living back in the area. Though we hadn’t spoken in over a year, she was happy to meet with me. That night she arrived with the sweetest gift. The inscription in the book she gave said everything it needed to.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that this always-prepared powerhouse did a little sleuthing before our meetup. She found out I was getting a divorce and came armed with all of the love and support. We drank and ate and laughed for hours. She regaled me with tales from her career and gave me some phenomenal advice. I left that night feeling empowered and so grateful.

Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.

– John C. Crosby

At this point in my career and personal life, having a solid network of mentors feels super important. At first, I  was hesitant to reach out to potential mentors because I didn’t want to “bother” anyone. I’ve come to understand that when these relationships are genuine they are mutually beneficial. Now, I’m making an effort to reach out to folks that I respect and admire, even if it’s for a ten-minute chat session.

Though I’m working hard on being my own champion, it never hurts to have a handful of phenomenal people in your corner.

 

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Great expectations

I came home from a fabulous weekend away to a pile of mail. Amongst the catalogs and coupons was a flimsy little envelope from the county family court. I knew what it was the second I saw it. I’d been waiting for it. I placed it to the side.

I opened my other mail and found space for a beautiful candle I’d received as a gift. I cleaned up around the apartment. Circling back to the counter I remembered the letter was there. I opened it mechanically, scanning past words like “plaintiff” and “defendant” to the hearing date in the center of the page.

Some random Wednesday
9:00am
The honorable judge whoever
uncontested hearing

Filing for divorce was not as bad as I’d originally thought. There was a good amount of paperwork to navigate, but you’re getting a divorce in New Jersey there’s a fairly useful “Self-Help Guide” floating around on the internet. And, keeping things amicable really helped.

Having made agreements about how we’d split things early on, we chose to go the “no-fault” route. All that’s left is to show up on hearing day and answer a few questions. I texted the news about the hearing to a few people and responses ranged from “okay, good” to “how are you feeling about that?”

In all honesty, I wasn’t feeling anything about it. I had no major reactions. I started searching…was I supposed to feel something? My feelings on it were the same kind of feelings I’d have about paying a bill or turning in an assignment at work.
Box = checked. Task = done.

You can’t force yourself to feel something that you don’t. I often do this thing where I anticipate how I’m going to feel about something before it happens. I make self-fulfilling prophecies about whether I’ll be happy or sad in a certain situation. All of these expectations almost always lead to disappointment. 

“Peace begins when expectation ends.”
– Sri Chinmoy

Part of self-awareness is being where you are when you’re there. If time and space allow, you make a conscious effort to evaluate how you are feeling when you’re feeling it. As I move forward in my practice to be present I’m actively pushing away superfluous expectations to make space for what’s right in front of me. 

How am I feeling about this journey with no expectations? I guess I’ll know when I get there.

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Eat. Pray. Love.

It was early this past spring when I decided I needed to get the hell out of dodge. On a whim, I booked a flight to Tampa, Florida. As I was going through the thick of it, I took solace in the fact that I had something to look forward to. I figured three days away from the mess that was my life could only help to center and ground me.

I left just a few days after the house went on the market. Armed with a journal and a couple of bathing suits, I plotted a course for self-care.

I dubbed it my “Eat. Pray. Love” trip. More than just needing to relax and recharge, I wanted to get some answers. Once the house sold I would be living on my own again. I needed to know if I could be alone without feeling lonely. In some ways, it felt like a test-drive for my unmarried life. Would I find joy in my own company? Would I feel sad and empty? I wasn’t sure what emotions would come up or if I’d be ready to face them when they did.

The airport shuttle dropped me off at a strip-mall spa across from the condo complex where I was staying. I had a massage, facial and something called a “detox body wrap” which seemed fitting.

I woke up the next morning and got ready for an early yoga class by the bay. Sherry, the instructor, welcomed me with open arms and started the practice with a  beautiful reading. Halfway through our class, some dolphins swam past and I’d never felt so at peace. I left that morning near tears. It had been a long time since I’d felt that kind of strength and clarity.

Later that day I found myself at a beach bar with my book and a beer. When I started up conversation with someone new I tried really listening to how I told my story. Was I happy? Was I excited to start this new part of my life? I figured whatever I was putting out into the universe was a part of my truth.

For the first time in a long time I was listening to myself and I liked what I was hearing.

A few days later I landed at Newark with a fresh perspective, a tan, and a great offer on the house. My little trip gave me what I needed to start packing and figuring out my next move. I’ve come to realize that as I move forward through this journey my inner voice acts as both my compass and my anchor. Now all I have to do is listen. 

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Doing my homework

I live and die by my research. I once spent two weeks investigating how to brine the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving. I weighed the benefits of dry brine and wet brine. I watched video tutorials and read foodie blogs. In the end, it was a damn fine turkey.

When it came to ending my marriage you can bet your false eyelashes I was studying up. My google searches went something like:

“How to have a friendly divorce”
“How to have an easy divorce”
“How to file for divorce”
“Can you have wine delivered in New Jersey?”

After reading a host of articles from all over the interwebs I bought a book on amicable divorce.

Splitopia: Dispatches from Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well by Wendy Paris, was an excellent resource for me. It offers practical advice for working with your soon-to-be ex-partner on splitting assets, dealing with family, and working through the emotional fallout. I was able to apply lessons from this book directly to my experience and I’m so grateful.

More than all of that, Paris’ book offered me hope. The simple fact that I was not alone in this experience, despite knowing that I would soon be alone, was comforting. I left the final pages feeling centered in my decisions, armed with a plan to move forward, and hopeful for my future.

Divorce is not just a closing-down of one life but also an opening of another.
– Wendy Paris

Diving into research gave me space to think and plan. I was able to create a narrative about what I was going through for those closest to me and set boundaries where I needed them. This research was also my first brush with mindfulness practice, self-awareness, and self-love. I started out on a journey toward finding my truest self and becoming whole again, a topic I will be touching on A LOT on this site.

For me, reading about others experiences with divorce was a great help. I believe in the power of storytelling which is why, in large part, I am here telling mine. Do you have a story to share? If so, I’d love to connect with you.

ellengetsherlifetogether

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