Confession: I’m Ready, I’m Listening, I’m Learning

“Let yourself be gutted.  Let it open you.  Start there.”                  -Cheryl Strayed as “Dear Sugar” in Tiny, Beautiful Things     Yesterday I took a yoga class at a different studio, with a … Continue reading

Confession: I Don’t Know What To Keep

I start with the bedroom closet.  

First going through the dresses, weeding out that black dress that is too long, the blue dress that never really hung properly.  The one with the floral pattern that still has the tags on it.  Do I even like floral patterns?  What made me buy this?  Moving onto the tops (still more floral patterns, this must stop), skirts (I can’t ever have too many), blazers (with all of the shoulder pads sloppily cut out; I hate shoulder pads).  Then the most difficult task: confronting the denim pile.  Discovering which pairs still fit, and which must be sacrificed to the greater good.  The significance of this portion of the ritual feels enormous.  The pile defines my success and my failures.  This year, it dwindles, 2 pairs leaving my closet and heading towards someone else, someone who did not eat too many Christmas cookies, or eat popcorn at the movies.  This year, I fail.

This ceremony alternates between deeply nostalgic and completely unsentimental.  I remember finding the fitted red wool dress at a vintage store in Brooklyn, imagining myself as a Mad Men-esque character, even though I had never watched the show and know now the decade was all wrong.  It makes me feel old-fashioned, sexy and ladylike, and is reserved for special occasions only (this stays).  I cringe at the shirt I wore on the final, awful date with an ex, the pain of that heartbreak almost palpable in the horizontal stripes.  The stripes which seem to mock my naïvete for not seeing the end coming (that goes).  The jeans, oh the joy and pain of those jeans.  I can’t even bring myself to look at them all.  Yet other clothing get released with no memories at all.  Maybe I loved them at some time, maybe they were the best things I ever bought.  Now they’re just strangely shaped pieces of cotton, or rayon, or cashmere that I have no attachment to, happy to relegate them to the Good Will bags and satisfied by the empty space they leave behind.
I love the empty space.
I do this every December, move from room to room in my small home, choosing what to toss and what to keep.  I love the feeling of accomplishment and anticipation that arises when I see all of those full bags, leaving my closet (my life) uncluttered and fresh.  Ready to be filled with new favorite things, new favorite memories.  But I usually keep a little too much, not wanting to face that feeling of longing for a dress given away too soon, a pair of shoes sold on eBay that would have been just PERFECT for this outfit, if only I had kept them.  It is this way for me always, wanting to make space for the new but clinging to the old.
How do I know what to get rid of and what to keep?
My astrologer & healer friend Danielle mentioned on facebook that Friday’s full moon is the last full moon of the year, and that “full moons are a time of manifesting what you want in your life” and “letting go of what no longer serves you”.  She suggested making a list of what you want to get rid of, and then ripping up that list.  Replacing it with a list of what you want to bring into your life in the new year.
I like lists.  They make sense to me, so concrete and organized.  It’s easy to start; I know many of the things I need to release this year, that I have begun to release already: 
Expectations of perfection
Freeing up all of this space in my head, in my heart, is allowing so much more to come in: empathy, support, LOVE.  
And still…it scares me.  Because where does it end?  After all of the bad habits, all of the old destructive patterns are ripped up and thrown away…what if there is not enough left?  What if the essence of me disappears with them?  How do I know when to stop stripping away, and when to just let it be, to let me remain?
Today I looked back at the journal from my first two yoga workshops, back in September, which feels like a small lifetime ago.  In so many ways it was.  I barely recognize much of what is written, as if I picked up someone else’s thoughts and cannot make sense of them.  One of the exercises strikes me though.  Titled “I Will Remember…”, it examines this very subject–when everything else is stripped away, what do we want to remember?  The repetition of these thoughts, almost identical, in both workshops makes clear to me just what I need to keep.
I am smart.
I am kind.
I am worthy.
Seeing those same words, written in New York, written in LA, then written again later in Ojai and in Bali, reassures me: there will be enough left.  Enough of what matters, enough of what is important.  Enough red dresses that make me smile in spite of jeans that are too tight.  Enough to keep.

Confession: I Have An Eating Disorder

Also pronounced “fuh-TAHS”, because that somehow sounds more regal.  
Large Marge.  
Similarly, Large Marge Squared (said in a Boston accent, I don’t remember why, some vestige of my college days). 
These are the nicknames I have given myself.
I sometimes try to ignore her, this nasty voice in my head who says such terrible things.  It doesn’t usually work.  She’s very loud, insistent even.  I try to change the conversation and speak kindly to her.  She does not respond well to that.  She’s kind of a bitch, truth be told.  So usually, I just give in (me, who can argue anything, with anyone?!), resigned, and say “You’re right, I am fat.”
The first time I said the words out loud I was in Bali, about a month ago: I have an eating disorder.  I had acknowledged them, I had written them, I had hinted them, but had never come out and said them.  Before, I could somehow convince myself that it was normal to eat brownie mix straight from the bowl in lieu of dinner.  I mean, for me it WAS normal.  Like when I ate only Nutri-Grain Bars, Junior Mints and rice during my first year of college.  Or the bags of candy that I would “sneak” throughout the day in high school, although no one else was fooled.  All of those times I declined food in public, claiming to not like something, but going home and eating it in the privacy of my apartment, where no one would ever know; so many secrets.  Intense, grueling cleanses followed by sugar binges.  All or nothing, almost always; my personality so comfortable in extremes.
There have been stretches where the disorder recedes, a “remission” of sorts.  This month, this holiday season, however, has rattled me.  It started in LA, continued in NYC, followed me to NJ.  What began as a bag of candy on a long flight morphed into a brownie, followed by a cookie (3), followed by a cupcake (s), followed by wine, followed by…a seemingly endless stream of sugar and fat, of regret and remorse.  There’s no binge and starve mode happening here; it has been an epic 3 week food-fest, one hell of a bender fueled by holiday treats and year end stresses.  It has taken a toll on my body and my spirit.
I don’t see most people having these rapid downward spirals, although perhaps they do.  Maybe it is normal.
My hips used to regularly have bruises from pressing into the floor during yoga.  Faint black and blue marks that almost looked like finger prints.  There is now a soft layer of padding covering those bones.  They don’t bruise anymore.  I miss the bruises.  I mourn those missing bruises.  Is that normal?
I emailed a new friend recently and told her that I hoped to develop food poisoning, or a stomach bug.  How another friend told me to lick a subway pole, that could make me sick.  That since there is no subway in LA, maybe I would lick a yoga mat and hopefully catch something that would propel me into rapid weight loss (I was kidding–mostly.  She was aghast.)  Is that normal?
How do I know how to be normal when I don’t know what normal is?  Or if there even is a “normal”?
I can only come up with the things I do know:
-I don’t want to lie in bed, praying for sleep to come but kept awake by guilt, and shame about what I’ve eaten, and a stomachache that comes from being either too full or too hungry
-I don’t want to cancel dinner with friends because it’s a restriction day, or because I don’t trust my willpower when confronted with a restaurant menu
-I don’t want to ever again think “I wish I was able to throw up (I’m not), I’d feel so much better…” (or even jokingly utter the phrase “lick a yoga mat” again)
-I don’t want to feel this out of control, feeling like a slave to this binge/starve cycle
So why can’t I drag myself out of it?
My beautiful friend Sonia is a life coach, and explained to me that setting an intention is a great way to start making changes in your life.  You start the day with an intention, and that makes what you want clear and sets it out into the world.  It makes total sense, which appeals to my need for logic and reason.  And don’t things become more real when you write them down?
Yet one month after we had this conversation, I have not written down one intention.  No “Today I will eat healthy food that nourishes me”.  No “I will honor what my body needs”.  Not even “I will ignore the nasty voice today”.  It’s baffling to me that I cannot do something so simple.  Almost like I’m purposely refusing, rebelling.  Is it possible that I’m not ready to really give this up?
I have been asking a lot of questions in my writing, and finding answers and lessons when and where I didn’t anticipate them.  But this time, I have tons of questions, and no answers.  
I don’t know what I am holding onto here.  I don’t know why I can’t just get it under control.  I don’t know why it’s getting worse.  
There’s no answer.  There’s no lesson learned.  There’s no take away. 
There’s just….me.
I want to be able to hear only my other nicknames.  From my mom, who calls me Kate Face, or Sweet Peach when she’s feeling especially nostalgic.  Ka-elly, what my dad says when he starts with my name and finishes with my sister’s.  My friends’ variations of my name…Kate, Katie D, KD, Kitty, even K-K-K-Katie.  The nicknames from people who love me, who sustain me.  
It would really be great if I became one of those people.

Confession: I’m (Less) Stuck

I got to the office early this morning, in anticipation of a day filled with chaos and deadlines and meetings.  I wanted to ground myself before it started, so I jotted down my 5 Most Beautiful Things:   
  1. Sunshine after an overnight rainstorm
  2. My cute new sweater, with its unexpected buttons snaking up the back
  3. The smell of pine emanating from the Christmas tree in our lobby at work
  4. The angelic sound of the carolers who serenaded me while I waited for the elevator
  5. Hope
I often choose things I can see, because it’s so important that I remind myself to actively SEE the beauty around me.  I can easily forget otherwise.  I HAVE to see them.  Smells, sounds, these come naturally, with their unexpected delights.  The music in everyday sounds, like hearing my own voice echoing back at me in the amplified acoustics of my shower, or the percussive thuds of feet jumping in near unison to the front of the yoga mat.  And smells….ah, smells.  I can smell the change in the air when I cross Centinela, coming home to Santa Monica.  The hint of salt mixed with sand and sun and memories.  Of making jellyfish hospitals and bodysurfing the waves in Beach Haven, down the Jersey Shore, in 1986.  These senses of mine always heightened, able to transport me to my childhood in an instant.  It is no surprise they would be included on my beautiful things list.
What was unusual about this list today, for me, was the last beautiful thing.
I have never been able to describe myself as an optimist.  With my overly analytical, overly critical mind, I have always been quick to see the problems, the pitfalls, from miles away.  I don’t see the glass half full–I anticipate being thirsty.  I need the full glass to feel full, to be comfortable.  Always thinking one step ahead, not trusting that I won’t be thirsty at the end, not having the faith that the drink will be there when, if, I need it.  Restaurants that continually replenish my water glass, sometimes after just one sip, actually make me feel safe.  Like I will never be without.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to (consistently) focus on the positive, without questions or endless analysis?  To know that the sun always comes back out after the rain, and that it’s already on the way?  To recognize all of the good in the world without thinking that it will come to an end?  Yeah, my mind just doesn’t work that way.
And yet….HOPE.
It came out before I had a chance to second guess it.  Before I could question why it popped into my head and out through my fingers onto the keyboard.  So unlike me and still so honest.
I am hopeful.
I read all of the comments on my last post (“Confession: I Am Stuck”), and then re-read them, then again a third time.  I had written about how I was feeling stuck with writing, and that I was having the difficulty getting to the deeper core of what I wanted to write because of fear.  Same old fear that always creeps up and stops me in my tracks.  But, in those comments, came exactly what I didn’t know I both needed and craved: permission.
Permission to take my time.
Permission to give myself a break.
Permission to keep some secrets for just me.
Permission to BE me.
How beautiful that these people who cared enough to comment, most of them strangers, could release some of my stuck-ness just by giving me the permission to be stuck.  How often are we given the permission to just be exactly where we are?  To have it now, even for a few days, is enough.  Instead of dreading what comes next, I can pay attention to this moment alone.  With that, “stuck” doesn’t feel like a prison sentence anymore. It’s more of a rest stop, like those on the NJ Parkway where we stopped to get TCBY before continuing on to the shore.  Temporary, fleeting, a quick stop before we got to where we wanted to end up, toes in the sand, faces turned towards the sun.  Free.
Summers in Long Beach Island...among my best memories

Summers in Long Beach Island…among my best memories


Confession: I’m Feeling Festive

The lovely Erin Haslag over at Well in L.A. is hosting a special series by guest bloggers on her awesome wellness site starting today (if you are looking for inspiration, her site is the first stop–a must-read!!!).

Her first “Giving Well Guide” includes picks from writer and yogini Mary Beth LaRue and…me!

Check it out for some fun gift ideas this holiday season.  And remember to look throughout the upcoming Friday in December for more holiday inspiration.



My 5 Top Holiday Gift Ideas


Happy Holidays!






Confession: I Chopped Off My Hair


Kristin gathers my hair in a ponytail with one hand, and asks me if I’m ready. I am.  In just three quick snips, it’s done.  She holds up the remains, a sad little remnant of the last two years of my life.  Gone in just a few seconds.  An offering of sorts, as I think about my experience with offerings in Bali.  And the first word that pops into my head…
I had wavered back and forth for months, wanting a change but not willing to sacrifice my (self)beloved hair in order to achieve it.  I actually had serious anxiety about whether or not I would be able to go through with this haircut when the day actually arrived.  Like heart racing, making-a-major-life-decision anxiety.
I realize how crazy this sounds.  I can hear what I imagine many people are thinking when reading about this.  “Is she really describing a haircut as a life decision?  It’s just hair.  It grows back.  Some people don’t have the luxury of deciding to lose some or any of their hair.  This sounds like a ‘my diamond shoes are too tight’ problem.  How shallow/ridiculous/insignificant”.
It’s not courageous, but it was for me. It’s not drastic, but it was for me.  It’s not significant.  But it was for me.
Because somewhere along the way, somewhere between New York and LA, between East Coast Katie and West Coast Katie, my hair became its own entity, my security blanket, my identity.  The first thing that most people noticed when meeting me.  The thing I could hide behind.  The first thing people referred to when talking about me, that girl with the Drybar addiction.  Not my smile, not my ideas, but this blown-out & highlighted-into-submission-by-professionals, bears-no-resemblance-to-its-natural-state hair.  I was hiding behind something that wasn’t even real.  
When did this become my identity?  Why was I so happy to go along with it?  And when did I realize that it wasn’t enough?  
Was it somewhere in Croatia, where staying cool in the ocean was more important than looking cool on the shore?  In Ojai, where showers were a luxury and spending even 10 minutes on your hair was 10 minutes you missed getting to know someone amazing?  In Bali, where hair styling was a logistical impossibility?  Or did it actually happen in LA, this realization that I wanted more?
I walked in front of a mirror after I was fully coiffed and did a double take.  I said “OH!” out loud.  I was startled to find that I wasn’t surprised at my reflection because it looked different.  I was surprised because I felt like I caught a glimpse of ME.  The me I was before the hair vanity took over.  The me who cared more about making people feel good than trying so hard to look good.  The me I want to be now. 
And hey, I’m certainly not giving up all vanity–I obviously didn’t hack off my own hair, or trust Supercuts to take off seven inches.  I am thrilled to love the way that it looks now (thank you Kristin!!!).  I can still be Drybar’s #1 fan.  I think it’s awesome how a good hair day can equal a good day.  I’m just aiming to get to the place where a bad hair day doesn’t mean a bad DAY.  Where hair is a sidebar instead of the point.
I took a before photo of my hair, a remembrance of what it had been.  But I didn’t take an after photo.  Because today, right now, it’s not just about the hair. 
It IS just hair.  It WILL grow back.  And I’ll be working on a more important legacy while it does.