A Real Guide on How To Deal with A Friend’s Eating Disorder

I totally get it. It’s a weird thing to bring up. Addiction. Eating disorders. Depression.

But enough with the tiptoes.

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It takes balls to open up about such personal and damaging issues. Those of us who have been diagnosed or have been to rehab or who are in therapy are struggling to keep our head above water sometimes. But that doesn’t mean the whole process is a sad, tragic, terrible thing. Out of disaster can come beauty. Out of heartbreak can come freedom. And if we are lucky to have friends that stick by us in every step of the transformation, then there will come times to laugh and to reminisce and to celebrate.

Friendship is about sticking out the bad and rejoicing over the good and being there for each other even when nothing makes sense and the tissue box is empty. I know that my friends know and believe this as strongly as I do, but I have experienced a lot of tiptoeing around the topic of my binge-eating disorder since I’ve been home this summer. Naturally, New York City is where the majority of my friends are based, and where many of my bad habits formed, but my compulsive and unhealthy eating habits started long before I boarded the Bieber Bus to Port Authority. My issues started at my dance studio in Pennsylvania, and in high school, and although there are many factors that caused my issues to accelerate when I was young, my eating disorder is not anyone’s fault. It’s everyone’s fault and it’s society’s fault and it’s my fault and it’s nobody’s fault all at the same time. But it’s not YOUR fault. And that’s why I want to raise awareness on how to keep friendship as strong and mighty as it was before the eating disorder, before the addiction, before the “coming out”, before it was all real and gross and honest and nitty and gritty and on the table for all to see.

I hate preaching, and I hate speaking for a group of people. These thoughts I offer you are based on my personal experience and my personal journey. But I can bet on my pantry of Reese’s Oreos that some of your friends are experiencing the same things that I am on their journey to recovery and self-discovery. I speak for myself, but as always, I speak for all of us. So please take a deep breath in and let out an audible sigh of relief. We can move forward and frolick and eat and laugh and hail cabs at 4am just like we used to – just with a little more awareness.

After all, awareness is the salt of life. You can live without it, but it makes almost everything better.

1) To start, I know that it’s hard to understand what food addiction even is. Addiction is rarely on purpose, and I look at it as a coping mechanism that gets out of hand. It’s an unfortunate sickness that affects millions of people. Put simply, most people find themselves addicted to things that theyIMG_1933 started using occasionally to fill a void, or to distract from pain, or to find comfort.  These occasional habits escalate and become the only way the addict knows how to deal with stress, depression, or anger. Stress-eating or emotional eating are common terms associated with food addiction because they are habits that escalate beyond the addict’s control.  Food addiction and eating disorders are often very intertwined. In my case, they go hand in hand. Other times, it’s the addiction to avoiding food that becomes the issue.

Food addiction becomes a little tricky once the recovery process begins. First of all, it’s food addiction. It’s not meth. Although addiction is addiction is addiction, people can’t just give up food cold turkey – it’s our fuel and life source. Most food addicts have to completely re-learn how to listen to the hunger signals that we’ve ignored for so long. Either we’ve been dieting for so many years that we learned long ago to only eat certain things at certain times, or we eat when we’re emotional and struggling. For me, it was a combo of both. Sometimes, I would end up eating eight meals in one day. Sometimes, I didn’t eat a single one. Regardless, what I was eating and when I was eating it has had nothing to do with actual hunger for over a decade. Overcoming a compulsive eating habit of any sort requires a trust in my body that I somehow lost in the madness long ago.

2) It is completely okay if you do not understand what binge eating disorder is. The Renfrew Center defines it as this:

“People with binge eating disorder suffer from episodes of uncontrolled eating or bingeing followed by periods of guilt and depression. A binge is marked by the consumption of large amounts of food, sometimes accompanied by a pressured, “frenzied” feeling. Frequently, a compulsive overeater continues to eat even after she becomes uncomfortably full. Those identified as having Binge Eating Disorder generally do not purge. Although many who meet the criteria for  this category are larger than average, many are of average size and weight.

Binge eating can lead to serious medical problems including high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and depression.” 

This list of symptoms (also from The Renfrew Center) was the story of my life for my entire professional performing career, long before I went off to college for musical theatre.

  • Eat large amounts of food when not physically hungry.
  • Eat much more rapidly than normal.
  • Eat until the point of feeling uncomfortably full.
  • Often eat alone because of shame or embarrassment.
  • Have feelings of depression, disgust or guilt after eating.
  • Have a history of marked weight fluctuations

A lot of compulsive eaters go through periods of dieting and extreme eating limitations only to then “fail” at these impossible rules, which is when the real danger of bingeing comes into play. Bingeing alone, stealing food, and stuffing my face with it faster than I could swallow were very common habits in my late teens and early twenties. Binge eating disorder is the reason that I have gained and lost over 700 pounds in my lifetime. I share this with you so that if you share these symptoms, or know someone who does, that anyone who needs it can get help.

Moving on to more social matters…

3)  Ignoring the fact that I was diagnosed with an eating disorder last May, was severely depressed, moved to Hawaii, fell in love, haven’t auditioned in a year, started teaching dance, and am forty pounds heavier than when I left, is awkward for everyone. Especially if we are extremely close, you have seen me eat an entire ice cream cake, and/or you’ve seen that beautiful yellow purse that I ruined by carrying around a jar of Nutella with me for all of audition season in 2012. For some people, addiction and eating disorders are extremely private and a very sensitive subject. I on the other hand have been blogging about it for over a year.

If we are friends, and if we have been friends for as long as some of us have been friends, let’s just get it out in the open. Ask me the questions that you want to ask. Ask me how I would like to deal with it in our friendship. Ask me if there’s anything that’s too personal (with me? impossible) and ask me what I need from you in terms of support.

I’m speaking for myself of course, but if you are close friends with someone who is dealing with an eating disorder or an addiction and they’ve filled you in on their struggles, my suggestion is to ask them what they need from you. Maybe all they need is to know that you’re there when they have a funny story about rehab. It’s not all tears all the time, believe it or not. Things come up in therapy that you just have to laugh at, once you’re done crying over them. Friendship is friendship is friendship. Don’t let the eating disorder or the fear of saying the wrong thing come between you.

4) Asking me to lunch is not the same as asking a recovering alcoholic for a drink. Again, once someone quits drinking, they can survive without it for the rest of their life once they overcome their addiction to alcohol through rehab and counseling. Although food is my drug, I gotta eat sometime, or we’re gonna have a new issue to work out. There’s no need to feel weird or uncomfortable when you’re asking me to dinner. You can even suggest a restaurant we used to frequent. It’s okay. You won’t throw me into relapse. None of this ever was, or ever will be, your fault, and I don’t want you to fear saying or suggesting the wrong thing. Ever.

2012

Too much syrup, Hilton Head 2012.

5) Asking me to make the decision where to eat, personally, is sometimes too stressful, mainly because I’ve been away
from NYC for a year and there’s 45 billion restaurants to choose from and I get overwhelmed just picking which 99 cent pizza place to order from. As you can see, I get very overwhelmed when I have too many choices. So suggest away. I appreciate it. No need to tip toe.

6) It’s possible that something about a particular restaurant (or food truck, or bakery, or coffeeshop) will trigger something in me, which is a) very important for me to observe and b) going to happen for the rest of my life and something that I have to continue to deal with on my journey. That trigger is not normally about how they give you two pieces of chicken parm instead of one, or about how rich the chocolate soufflé is. The trigger is not about the actual food. The trigger is the memory associated with the place you may suggest. Maybe it’s the place we ended up after Stallion broke up with me, or the place where we celebrated my first off-Broadway gig. The trigger could be a devastating memory or a happy memory, but it’s important for me to experience the trigger and then feel the emotions that come up instead of eating to make them go away.

7) I’m still deciphering what it’s like to eat for pleasure and what it’s like to eat my feelings. This may seem like an insane concept, but I deal with it every day. Obviously, I’m known for my obsession with Nutella. 10492552_10102985175735699_6236263835194586242_n
I used to eat jars of Nutella when things got really bad, and unfortunately, I still associate Nutella with pain, sadness, and heartbreak. I love the taste of Nutella, but sometimes it’s hard for me to know when I eat it for pleasure or eat it for comfort. The same applies to Numero 28 pizza and Two Little Red Hens Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes and the pistachio tart at Le Pain. I overthink the process at this point.

On one hand, I’m in New York City for a limited amount of time, and leaving the city without spending time at my favorite bakeries and coffeeshops makes no sense to me. Sometimes, I can walk in to Amy’s Bread with a friend and know exactly what I want, and I order exactly what I want because it tastes good, and eating can be pleasurable, and there’s no harm in that if it’s every once and a while. On the other hand, I used to do this multiple times a day when I wasn’t hungry, when I needed copious amounts of sugar to calm me down and keep me company in times of stress, worry, or self-doubt. So even though I know when I walk into Schmackary’s with Bronson that there’s nothing wrong with getting a cookie for the sheer enjoyment and pleasure that comes along with it, I do start to second guess myself since I used to eat that S’mores cookie to deal with a bad day.

This is a really great place to be in my recovery, and things could be a lot worse, but this might help explain why I don’t always know what I want to eat when you ask me, or why I say no to our old haunts. Sometimes, I just don’t really crave that pie right now. Maybe, I never really did, but it was there in times of sorrow and it helped me deal. Maybe I’ll never crave it again. And that wouldn’t be bad or good, it would just be another learning lesson for me to take in.

8) You don’t have to filter yourself around me. It’s more awkward to listen to you talk in circles to avoid sensitive topics than it is if you just fill me in on your life regardless of what it entails. First of all, I’m not going to diagnose you with an eating disorder just because you only ordered coffee on our lunch date. Does it break my heart when you tell me you can’t eat this week because Spamalot auditions are on Friday? Absolutely. Do I understand and empathize with you? More than you will ever, ever, EVER know. It might be a sensitive subject that I left the business (for now) because I couldn’t maintain a small enough body size (without going to extreme measures) to continue on the same career path that I started. But you’re still in the business, and you have to deal with these issues, and maybe they don’t affect you the same way they affected me.

The same applies for the opposite end of the spectrum. If it comes up that you got cut from an audition because your body wasn’t right, or if it comes up that your director asked you to lose fifteen pounds before rehearsals, I’m not going to preach at you to leave the business. I know what showgirls have to look like. I know what baseball players have to look like. Drink your protein powder and run your miles and just do you. Please my darling, don’t avoid any topics of conversation because of me. Everyone has a different journey. Mine is mine and yours is yours and although I’m here for you if you are concerned about your lifestyle and want to ask advice or questions, I’m not trying to be your therapist or your doctor or your mom. We can talk story just like we always have. The bottom line is, you shouldn’t have to filter yourself around me.

What I’m saying, above all, is that it’s okay to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room sitting across the table from us at Veneiro’s. An eating disorder is now present in my day to day life and it’s going to be a part of my journey forever. That’s not a morbid thing, it’s just a thing. It’s forever a part of my medical history and my emotional development and although I refuse to let it define me, it is a part of me. And as a friend, I would rather you acknowledge this and remind me of how far I’ve come when I’m feeling discouraged, than ignore it completely and pretend that everything is fine when it’s not.

Friend, I want you to know that my life up until this point has been a twisted path lined with chocolate covered obstacles and hidden speakers blasting showtunes. Yes, I’ve tripped and I’ve scraped my knees on my travels, but I’ve also belted along with the music and learned that 90% cacao is disgusting. I’ve learned and I’ve grown and I’ve fallen and I’ve always found my way back onto my feet even if my clothing is forever stained with sweat, tears, and melted ice cream. Your path might be more well-paved than mine, or you might have said “fuck it” to the rocky road ahead of you and just started bulldozing the forest to your left. If we have been friends this long, it doesn’t matter what our paths look like, as long as they intersect when we need them to. You don’t have to walk a mile in my shoes to understand what I’m going through – just tie your own real tight and let’s take a walk together. No filters, no sidestepping, and for goodness sake, no tiptoes.

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*If you or someone you know thinks they may be suffering from food addiction or disordered eating, speak to your doctor or family member.  Please visit The Renfrew Center’s “Do I Have An Eating Disorder” page if you want to do some private research before seeking help. And as always, I’m always here to answer questions at roarmovement@gmail.com.

 

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Leaving Show Business in Manhattan to Recover in Hawaii

So I have a long history with staying in relationships too long.

Long after it’s over, I’m still hangin’ out. Trying to make it work. Trying to fix it. Trying to ignore how much the bad outweighs the good.

I guess sometimes, we don’t realize that this is our pattern, until something really good comes along and wakes us up. You know, gives us a real good slap across the face.

Like for example…Hawaii.

My seven years with New York City is another tumultuous relationship to add to my very long list. The city gives me so many thrills, but really bruises my heart more than I like to accept. Like a bad boy in a leather jacket with a chain-smoking habit, I am infatuated with the city and it’s ups and downs and how misbehaved it can be.

Hawaii came along and it is just so nice to me. I mean literally, the people here are so nice to me. It still shocks me. And the packaging that this new relationship comes in, is not so bad either. Palm trees, hibiscus flowers, and the sun setting on the Pacific ocean is not really so hard on the eyes.

So basically, the question that has been waking me up each morning the past few weeks is something that a friend of mine posed to me a few weeks ago when he cheated on his girlfriend.

Can you be in love with two people at once?

I believe you can.

Because I’m absolutely in love with two places at once.

And it is the hardest thing I’ve experienced to date.

I shouldn’t say it’s hard. I am actually incredibly blessed to be in love with two amazing places at once. It’s just, extremely bittersweet.

I mean, I got New York City. My roots. My people. My passions.

New York City. Just two and a half hours away from where I grew up. My family always just a bus ride away.

New York City. Excellent bagels. Un-toppable pizza. The best fucking tap water in the world.

New York City. Where the bars don’t close til 4pm and you can get a bodega sandwich at any time of night and home is just a 35 dollar cab ride away.

New York City. Land of auditions, eighteen dollar dance classes, the best voice teachers, and an entire theatre district employing my friends and some of the most talented people in the world.

New York City. Land of auditions, eighteen dollar dance classes, the best voice teachers, and an entire population of some of the most talented people in the world who might never see their name in a Broadway Playbill because of the nature of our current world and economy.

I think that right now, I might be one of those people.

I have always defined “success” by having Broadway be the final destination. Always. I just, never ever thought that anything else would happen. I was completely confident that my dream would come true. And I was willing to basically do anything to make that happen. Give up friendships, eat lettuce three meals a day, sleep four hours a night, spend all my money on ballroom classes, you name it.

I quoted my friend Brooke in my last blog post with her words that have kept me going every year. “We knew what we signed up for.”

I have to take back my agreement with that phrase. If I really am being honest with myself, I had no idea what I was signing up for.

When I was in tenth grade, and I was playing Zaneeta Shinn in The Music Man at my community theatre, and I was hugging the gay boys and being included in a community outside of my dance studio and having my hair done by my mom for two hours before every show because there were no wigs, I was having the time of my life. Literally. My mom and I bonded in those two hours, and then I got to go put my face on and dance around a stage with people from all over town that I never would have met otherwise. It was fantastic. It was the most joy I had ever felt.

So when I found out that you could go to college for just this, this amazing joy of performing for the fun of it and twirling your skirt and wearing high heels to dance, I jumped on it. Obviously. I mean I never ever questioned that I wanted to major in musical theatre.

But truth be told, I had no idea what I was signing up for. They don’t teach the “business” in colleges. They sure do try. But they don’t talk about lists that are 500 people long. They don’t talk about how cold it is in February at five in the morning. They don’t talk about how people look down on you for getting up at five in the morning to get on the list so you can get seen before you go to your waitressing job at 2pm. They don’t talk about how audition calls ask for you to show up in a two piece. They don’t talk about how networking really equals happy hour with someone new every day of the week. That’s not what they talk about in college.

So really, I had no idea what I was signing up for. And for years, I played the game. I played along. I tried so damn hard to get to the point where I could wear a two piece to a Casey Colgan audition. I tried so damn hard to put my hair in curlers and calm that shit down instead of letting it be as big as it really is. I tried so damn hard to re-vamp my resume, and send those thank you postcards, and pick songs that had money notes.

Because that’s what I was taught in school. The resume stuff. And the thank you postcard stuff. And the 16-bar cuts of exciting songs.

I wasn’t taught how to deal with rejection. Or how to pick my chin up after nine callbacks for The Drowsy Chaperone tour without a job offer. Or how to recover from five nights in a row of “networking” aka “drinking in midtown” while still auditioning at four different buildings every day for the entire month of March.

So I figured it out on my own. I became the strong one in my group of friends. I became the relentless one who preached about not taking rejection personally. And how much good stuff was coming from auditioning for so many different theatres. And being ballsy.

I was the chick who popped down in a cooter slam in every dance call because at some point, around 2010, I stopped caring what the business thought of me. I was gonna make my name mean something. I might not be able to riff like Natalie Weiss. And I might not be able to do the opening of A Chorus Line with all the grace in the world. But I could do a little bit of everything and I was, again, never worried that I would end up on Broadway.

And then 2013 rolled around. After turning down my Equity card in February, I was sure that my hard work and networking all these years would land me exactly what I needed to finish one more year as a non-equity performer before I entered the questionable world of Equity jobs and, most likely, longer stints of unemployment.

2013. My fifth audition season in New York City. My fifth year going in for the same theatres who know me, love me, and chase me down the hall after I get cut to tell me “we love you and you look fantastic and you’ve obviously been working on your body and we just don’t have a spot for you this year but keep coming back, we will have you with us one day.” My fifth year of eating bananas and tomatoes with salt and pepper all day with two binge days on the weekend. My fifth year of happy hours after good OR bad auditions. My fifth year of putting new colors on my resume and waiting to be seen at ECC’s and preaching to my friends that, “This is the year. This is it, you guys. This is our year.”

Turns out, it was my year. My year to take a few slaps in the face, enough to be knocked to the ground actually, and re-evaluate all of the things I’ve been telling myself for years.

I have been in an abusive relationship with my career for over five years. And that career is the reason that I stayed in New York City for so long. And I stood my ground in my three inch Laducas and I fought back really hard. Really fucking hard.

But I still took a beating. And my soul is legit, bruised.

So.

When asked yesterday at the new dance studio in Kona, Hawaii, where I will be teaching tap and jazz for the next six months, why I’m leaving New York City to teach dance to Hawaiian kids, I was very honest.

I told Miss Seatree, the owner of the studio, that my soul is bruised. And while I’m here in Hawaii, caring for myself and recovering from all the beatings that I voluntarily took with a half smile on my face since 2006, why not pass on the love that I still have for the hobby that I once loved so very much?

She said, “Okay, Miss Amanda. Welcome home.”

So where does this land me in the whole scheme of loving two places at once?

Well. My people, my family, my friends, are in New York City and Pennsylvania. From Washington Heights, to Williamsburg, to Astoria, to New Jersey, to Philadelphia, my nearest and dearest are living in a place that is thousands of miles away from me. But if those people were here, in Hawaii with me, I don’t know that I would miss New York City, or the east coast, so very much.

Which made me realize that it’s okay for me to break up with it for awhile.

Because it’s not the city, or the place, that I miss so much. It’s the loving people who have literally carried me through life with compassion and light and humor since the day I was born.

And to spend a winter in the sunshine – in the ocean – on a paddleboard, instead of trudging through the darkness to the Equity building in my rainboots held together by duct tape because I spent my money on new headshots instead of Hunter boots, is the healthiest thing for me to do right now.

I have never made any decisions in my life based on health. I don’t even know what that means.

But I think I’m getting the hang of it. Because coming to Hawaii was the first step for me in making healthy decisions.

Staying in Hawaii, is the second step.

If home is where the heart is, then I believe I will always have two homes. My heart lies with my sisters, Melissa and Brooke, on a picnic blanket near the softball fields in Central Park with paper cups of wine. My heart lies with my soulmate, Joshua, in the Washington Square diner in the third booth from the entrance. My heart lies with my best friend, Bronson, on his red couch in Washington Heights in front of a Golden Girls marathon. My heart lies with my brother from another mother, Justin, in his Cornell Medical School dorm room. My heart lies with my friends who attend my tap dance classes, and with my audition buddies, and with all of my co-workers from bars and gyms and restaurants gone by. My heart lies with my mom and my dad, in Pennsylvania, at the Railroad House, before visiting my aunt, uncle, and grandparents for some Yeungling and shooting the shit.

But my heart also lies in a deep love of dance, performance, and freedom. And here in Hawaii, where the sun shines every single day, and I can go hiking, biking, and swimming every single day, and I can wake up with the sun just because my body wakes up with the sun without an alarm every single day, I get to dance, perform, and live freely every single day.

And my heart is soaring. My heart is healing. I am literally, as my friend Beth put it before I left NYC, YOLOing, every single day.

So how, can I turn down the opportunity to YOLO every single day on an island that has the cleanest air in the world, to go back to a relationship with New York City that still has me on edge? Although my nearest and dearest are there, so is all of the root of my depression, anxiety, and eating disorder.

When it comes down to it…is it all New York’s fault? Is it all the performance industry’s fault?

No man. It isn’t. Nothing in this world happens TO us. We are treated, in this life, the way we allow ourselves to be treated. Things happen FOR us. I believe that everything that happened to me in New York City – from Stallion breaking my heart, to the rejection of the biz, to the financial distress of living in a metropolis – happened FOR me. To get me to this point, where I am about to give some little Hawaiian babies some real, city girl attitude and passion for 5, 6, 7, 8-ing.

Would I go back and change my relationship? Eh. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

It is what it is. And now I’m aloha-ing all up on the internet and spreading the love and I really don’t think it should have happened any differently.

So, like I did with all my other exes from past relationships, I am taking this moment to forgive New York City. And I will suck it up, and quote something I read on Gawker the other week that at first I totally looked at in dismay. However, now I will be really honest with y’all and tell you that for now, and I truly mean FOR NOW, not forever, in regards to NYC, “I love her, but I had to leave her.”

For the first time since moving here on August 1st, I cried listening to Sara Bareilles’ song Manhattan. I cried listening to it every day before I departed the city but since I’ve been here, living on the jungle side where we could watch the sunrise but not the sunset, and there isn’t much beach to be had, I haven’t felt an emotional connection to it.

It wasn’t until last night, when I journaled on the balcony of the apartment I’m staying in in Kona, on the other side of the island, where I’ll be moving to teach, when I was watching the sunset and planning out my day today to go paddleboarding, that the lyrics brought tears to my eyes once more.

 

Sara says:

“You can have Manhattan, I’ll settle for the beach.

Sunsets facing westward and sand beneath my feet.

I’ll wish this away, just missing the days, when I was one half of two.

You can have Manhattan, cuz I can’t have you.”

 

I was one half of a person for so many years. And for the longest time, it felt like I couldn’t have what I wanted. The whole, Broadway thing. But.

Now, as I sit here with my 100% Kona coffee blend and my apple-banana smoothie that the love of my life, Johnny, made for me this morning, while I was catching up with Joshua on the phone despite a six hour time difference, I am a whole person again. And I might not be able to have what I thought I was gonna have. Broadway might not be my final destination. A penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side bought with my earnings from starring in the revival of The Will Rogers Follies as Betty Blake might not be my final destination.

But I sure feel like this, this right here – my outline for my new dance studio syllabus to my right and my Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen to my left – is part of an ongoing journey that might take me to a new destination. It’s just so not about the destination anymore. It’s about the fucking journey y’all.

And at 26, I sure don’t mind letting go of the idea of my “final destination” in order to enjoy this moment, right now. I have so many years ahead of me to figure the rest out.

I just want to say this.

John Mayer has a song called A Face To Call Home. All of you, my friends and family on the east coast, you are my face to call home. And as I spend time here, finding new faces to call home in Kona, Hawaii, I feel like I’m not leaving any family behind – I’m just making it bigger. And I could not be happier, to have so many places, to call home.

Next Week’s Posting:

Roar


Finding Forgiveness for Show Business in Eating Disorder Recovery

This week, my best friend Melissa said the most amazing thing to me. She texted me and said, “I have to say. I was blow drying my hair today in my underwear and I looked up myself for the first time in a long time and felt really proud of myself. I’m not tiny but I love the way my body looks right now. It looks connected to how hard I’ve been working with my running and the gym. So I felt really peaceful and happy.”

“[My body] looks connected to how hard I’ve been working…”

I fucking love that.

It got me thinking about forgiveness. Melissa totally forgives herself for whatever has happened in the past with her body and she’s open to loving it for what it is right now.

Forgiving myself for what my body has been, what my body is now, and what my body will be in the future has been a really difficult part of this whole healing process. Remember the process? I said it like 18 times the other week? Recovery is a process. Aghhhhh the process. The process. But hey, listen, I feel what she’s saying for the first time in my life. And it feels so good to feel that connection to my body. And in the joy of that connection, I legit do not have time for hating myself for what’s happened in the past.

So basically, this brings me to this thing called Facebook. And, the thing about Facebook, is that its really easy to flip through your past and look at everything that’s led you up until now.

College frat parties. Throwback Thursday. Opening night parties. Ladies nights at Brother Jimmy’s. Holidays when my mother makes my brother and I take Christmas pictures in front of the tree, with the year written in sharpie on a piece of printer paper, before 8am. You know, the joyous occasions of yesteryear.

Facebook allows us to look back at pictures of ourselves like this:

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Dear God just look at that tiny waist! And this:

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No arm flab! And in turn we then hate ourselves because we now look like this:

rosie the riverter

And this:

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Curvacious. Bodacious. Bootylicious.

See the thing is, the second weight, is not actually that bad. It’s actually pretty great. I mean look at the muscles on that Rosie the Riveter picture up there – mahalo for your time. But the thing is, is that it ain’t showgirl weight. And that’s what I’ve been beating myself up for.

At the “lighter” weight, I was booking jobs, dating a rich man who used me as his toy, and being called back for Jersey Boys and Mary Poppins.

At the “heavier” weight, I’m living in Hawaii, dating a man who is absolutely in love with me (who I maybe manifested in blog post 10?), and performing tap numbers in burlesque cabarets to raise money for Hawaiian Gay Pride.

The “heavier” weight isn’t actually that bad. It’s just…different.

Two very different lives all in the span of two years.

And I have to stop hating myself for that. Each of those lives is mine, and each of those lives are different and lovely in their own way. And so this post, is about forgiveness.

It’s taken me months, but I forgive myself for not looking like that anymore.

This is me now.

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Happy, healthy, free, emotionally stable, kind of sane, and strong.

Let me say that again for my own sake.

Dear World, this is me now. Thirty pounds heavier than I’ve ever been during any audition season. More sane, and more happy, than I’ve ever been during a week where I’m starving myself for a showgirl call. Stronger than I have ever been doing any sort of Weight Watchers business where I’m consumed by points but take no time to work out. And healthier than I have been since I’m about twelve years old. This is me now. I accept it. And I forgive myself for no longer looking the way I once did while I was striving for a goal, but not taking care of myself.

“Our job…is to seek a greater capacity for love and forgiveness within ourselves. We do this through a “selective remembering,” a conscious decision to remember only loving thoughts and let go of any fearful ones. ‘To forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past, and those that were given you. All the rest must be forgotten.” – Marianne Williamson, Return to Love

UM, HELLO. MUCH EASIER SAID THAN DONE MS. WILLIAMSON.

Homegirl is telling me to let go of the anger, fear, and animosity I have for myself because I’ve gained weight back and I have to restart life and find a new way to take a stand in my career. It ain’t easy. But she’s totally onto something. Instead of focusing on those past thoughts of Weight Watchers and failure and wearing a different size pant every three days, she’s just saying that maybe it would be more helpful to let that go and just focus on the love I had during that time, even amidst the failure, and the love I have now, even amidst hardships of the recovery process.

Here’s how I’ve been working on it.

I wrote it all out. And I hope I inspire you to do the same.

Here are the ways I have been letting go, and moving on, and forgiving.

  • I cry sometimes when I think of the comfort that food still brings me. Knowing that through my recovery, I will one day be at a place where I never again fully indulge in a box of Cheez-its, a carton of OJ, a box of Bagel Bites, and a half gallon of cookies ‘n’ cream is hard. Sometimes I just want to finish a bag of Reese’s and be done with it. I forgive myself for that, even though my ego slips in and tells me it’s disgusting.
  • I forgive my friends for saying things like “are you sure you wanna eat that” and “you’re stronger than food” because they didn’t know that things like that only made me want to rebel against my own disorder.
  • I forgive the teachers in college for pretending to be brutal about physicality but not actually being brutal about physicality. As 19 and 20 year old girls, we were never really properly warned about what lied ahead in showgirl land.
  • I forgive the director that taught dance to me in college who will never be down with a curvy girl. I am so sorry that I was never skinny enough to dance in your company. I feel like you are missing out on some excellent skillz, but I finally let that go.
  • I forgive the casting directors for the looks on their faces when my weight fluctuated every time I went in to sing for them.
  • I forgive the agents at Actor’s Connection for never calling me in after my initial meeting with them. Although I come across “confident in who I am” and “completely comfortable in my own skin”, I also lied about my weight and wore two pairs of Spanx to meet them.
  • I forgive the musical theatre world for what it has done to my body, heart, and soul. It’s really not show business’ fault. I’ve been allowing myself to be controlled by it for so long and I was unaware. At the end of the day, the choice is mine. I decide where I fit in. I decide how my body type will fit in. I decide the way my career goes.

I feel like I’m a bit all over the place this week in my writing but I’m just on fire lately. Like, dude, there is a fire under my ass that has pushed me to new edges in the past two weeks and progress is happening and love is happening and acceptance is happening and courage is happening and inspiration is happening and changes are happening and basically…

…this is what I have to say for myself.

When I return to New York City, I will actually be unstoppable. To have let go of all pent up frustration, hatred, and negativity towards show business has turned my entire world around. To forgive the business for what it is, has opened my heart to whatever comes next, and I will embrace it with open arms, a graceful bevel, and full beat. Like my sisterfriend Brooke says, “We knew what we signed up for. We just have to figure out how to be happy within the perimeters.”

There is a strong possibility that I will not be cast as a showgirl, a secretary in How To Succeed in Business…, or a chorus girl in 42nd Street for the rest of my life. But there’s also a strong possibility that after a year of healing, the passion I have for performing will be so ferocious and pent up that when I unleash it on Auditionland I will land exactly where I am supposed to land. And I am willing to let it all go, in order to see where exactly that is. The unknown is so exciting in that sense. I have no idea where I belong in show business these days, but that’s like, totally cool, because all I know is that I belong and that’s all that matters right now.

Take a deep breath and feel whatever frustration, hatred, and negativity that has been built up in your heart around what you really love to do and see if you can figure out the root of it. Can you forgive? Can you really forgive, and then completely and totally let it go?

I wrote a post about three weeks ago forgiving all my ex-boyfriends. The reward for forgiving all of them, and dealing with my emotional baggage since I’ve been in Hawaii, has been absolutely, balls to the wall, fantastically beautiful.

So I suppose this week’s post is the letter forgiving show business. Because you know what? It is what it is. And this is what we signed up for.

Either we drive ourselves crazy trying to fit the mold, or we take a step back and remember that just like any job in the whole wide world, this career does not have to run our lives. I know that it seems like it has to – what we eat, what we wear, what color our hair is, when we sleep, who we are nice to, etc. etc. etc. And most of the time, all of that is true. But the key words are, most of the time. You are allowed to be you within all the guidelines and you are allowed to take the time you need to heal yourself from whatever you may have put yourself through to survive in the biz, or in the city, or in the passion of it all.

Auditionland is always gonna be there. But your life passes by every day and no one else is going to force you to take the time to live it but you. Take it from me. Look where I fucking live right now:

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Forgiving people and events of the past has put me in the most loving, supportive place I have ever been in my entire life. Look at my fucking face dude:

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Just an average morning in Hawaii, FaceTiming with my best friends. The most supportive, beautiful, compassionate, amazing friends in the whole world. Sending me love every day and encouraging me through my journey. I am blessed. I am strong. And I am on the right path to recovery because I forgive whatever has happened in the past and I’m ready and waiting, with open (and very tan) arms, for whatever is next!

Mahalo for your time! Now go forgive someone! Ahh! Life is good!

Next week’s post:

How To Change Everything In Five Days


Falling Off the Wagon in Eating Disorder Recovery

So when I started this blog I said this would be a place to come for real talk.

So here goes some real talk.

I’ve fallen off the wagon.

See, the thing about a food addiction, is you can’t just give it up cold turkey. You gotta eat. If you don’t eat, you’ll end up at the other end of the spectrum… Which would still be a cause for a blog about eating disorders in the performing industry.

So basically what I’m saying is, I have to do this crazy thing where I learn how to live my life without food controlling it.

Which I started to do this past May. Which has been so inspiring and enlightening and wonderful.

But what I didn’t realize was that Hawaii was not gonna just cure me in the snap of a finger. Like, it was really awesome to think I was gonna come here and drop thirty pounds and be really tan and always crave kale and come back to NYC in a skimpy shirt and have people hug me and tell me how amazing I look but actually, that’s not the reality I’m living right now. So I’m gonna write about it and actually explain what happens when you come to Hawaii in hopes of healing an eating disorder.

Step 1:

Come to Hawaii feeling really confident and curvy and sexy and happy with the accomplishments that took place in July leading up to touchdown in Hilo Airport.

Step 2:

Go through the breakfast buffet and praise Jesus there’s always a vegetable with breakfast along with a fruit bar. Think to yourself “OMFG I’m gonna lose so much weight without even trying.”

Step 3:

Go without trying the homemade ice cream on property for a good two weeks because you don’t even crave it and you haven’t been hungry between meal times.

Step 4:

Start feeling comfortable in the social environment and completely forget to listen to hunger signals when you’re woofing down fresh fish and orzo with basil pineapple sauce and lilikoi cake with ten people at dinner every night.

Step 5:

Realize that you don’t even always want dessert but that you’re also being a pussy and not trusting yourself enough to know that you can live without it and also not binge later so you take dessert every night anyways.

Step 6:

Start eating when you’re not hungry just because it’s mealtime and someone else controls your mealtime and then also eating ice cream when you are hungry between mealtime.

Step 7:

Finally see yourself naked in a full length mirror and not hate everything that you see. In fact, noticing how great your legs look and your waist looks. But still thinking it’s not good enough.

Step 8:

I’m not sure what happened but I forgot everything I learned. Also, I saw pictures of myself and was completely shocked that I look like that right now. I have the opposite version of body dysmorphia. I see myself as a size 4 in my head. Pictures prove otherwise.

Step 9:

Feel lost. Eat chocolate. Sneak ice cream. Go back for seconds. Crave cigarettes.

Step 10:

Admit that you’ve taken a step backwards and maybe, you have to start all over.

Step 11:

Cry. Breathe. Cry. Wipe your eyes and be thankful for the little things in life – like living in the jungle and never wearing makeup and not having to worry about racoon eyes when you cry. Laugh a little bit. Accept that you’re not done working on shit. Breathe again. Start over.

 

So the thing is here, that in the midst of all the mental and emotional work I’ve been doing – letting go, moving on, feeling pain, and living in the moment – I’ve also been trying to take on this huge fucking project of a) not binging, b) eating healthy food, and c) trying to tell the difference between craving chocolate because I’m a woman with PMS, or craving chocolate because I’m a binger.

As I was so kindly reminded today by my beautiful friend Rachel, maybe, just maybe, I can’t do it all.

I’ve always been that girl with the huge plans. Long ass to do lists. Amazing ideas as to how I’m gonna make it, how I’m gonna do it, and how amazing life will be once I get it all done.

And I have these big plans that seem so simple. You know, like getting up at 6am and going for a bike ride before going to the linai for breakfast at 7:30. And at breakfast just having some eggs and a banana instead of granola, potatoes, eggs, oatmeal, and 8 different kinds of tropical fruit. And then journaling or practicing ballet and then also hitting yoga and then also updating my blog and then also posting a new YouTube video so New York doesn’t forget about me and then also calling my mom and then also making my bed and then also writing a novel all before 9am.

It’s like I never even heard of that fucking mantra I’m always writing about. “Baby steps.” Yea, that one? It’s like I can sure write it down. But I don’t allow it to apply to me. I want it all NOW. I want to be fixed NOW. All on my own. No help. No books. No process.

No process.

Well, see, that’s the thing. What I learned this week is this:

Recovery is a process.

Rushing the process sounds like, super fun. Like, “I beat the system” kind of fun. Like, “what’s next” kind of fun.

But rushing, is not even remotely close to being helpful.

Recovery is a process.

And so in the midst of being very (virtually) bruised from (virtually) beating myself up every single day, I took a pen and wrote “recovery is a process” on my foot today. And I did the same thing last Sunday. And I don’t know how I feel about getting it actually tattooed on my body but it is literally a reminder that I need every day. And just in case you need it every day, I’m gonna say it again.

Recovery is a process.

And if you need to Sharpie it on your mirror, or post it on your dashboard, or engrave it on your iPhone case, know that you’re not alone in needing to hear it every day too. Whatever you’re recovering from – a divorce, an addiction, a career loss, emotional baggage, an eating disorder – just please remember, to stop beating yourself the fuck up.

Recovery is a process. And you are not alone. And life isn’t always peaches and cream, says my Grandma. But that’s okay because the beauty of a life with ups and downs is that you’re reminded you’re alive. And the ups will always feel more amazing once you’ve experienced the downs. The appreciation that comes with the highs and lows of living this life that isn’t always easy, is so fucking lovely.

So. I will continue to share with you the ups and downs of my process. And I accept that it’s okay that I don’t have a positive Pinterest message for you every week full of hopeful solutions and miracles and cheery kale recipes.

I just have a lot of love to put out there in the world and I know that if I keep putting it out there it’ll come back around. And the support of all the love will help me through this journey of mine. And hopefully, by next week, I’ll be writing to you with less (virtual) bruises from less (virtual) beating myself up and I can share yet another thing I’ve learned in this crazy, amazing, awesome, gorgeous journey we call life.

We are so lucky to be able to experience all this shit, man. So lucky. Continue to feel it and process it and enjoy the fact that although sometimes painful, it’s a beautiful thing to be able to feel, let go, and move on.

I’m totally rooting for you.

Also, this:

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Next week’s posting:

Silence


How I Faced My Fears for Forty Days and Changed My Life

Dude. Yesterday, I vacuumed up a cockroach bigger than your head.

With fucking gusto.

I hope my friend Rachel is reading this right now with her mouth wide open, as she remembers me calling her two summers ago from atop my bed, weeping, telling her how there was a huge roach in my 5th floor apartment and I trapped it with a glass but there was no physical way I could proceed from there because I was so terrified of bugs. I stood on top of my bed and called six friends that day to come help me, including my mother who lives in Pennsylvania, and finally resorted to calling the closest person to me at the moment – my super – who swore at me that this wasn’t his job as he came up and took it away for me.

I slept at my best friend’s apartment at Cornell for two weeks because I was so scared I would end up cuddling with a roach.

Roach-phobic.

The other day, I climbed up on top of a sink to dust the hanging light above the vanity in a bathroom here.

If you went to London with me my senior year of high school, your mouth might be agape right now as you remember me being too scared to even go to the second level of the most beautiful cathedral I’ve ever been in – St. Paul’s – because it was high and it was grated steps. So I stayed at the bottom and cried because I was too terrified of heights.

I have been scared of so much shit for so long.

Seriously. Scared and overwhelmed of the simplest things – renting a car, trying tempeh, dying my hair (gasp, what if I don’t look like my headshot?!), asking for what I want, back-ne, you name it.

When I started all this therapy for all this binging, one of the questions Geneen Roth asks in one of her books is, “what are you afraid of losing if you stop eating compulsively?”

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes and exhaled and then I wrote down, “my sense of humor.”

And that’s when I realized that fear runs everything.

Dude, fear runs EVERYTHING.

Like, everything though.

I realized that if I took care of my chocolate addiction and my binging and excessive drinking, I would also run out of “fat” jokes. No more, “if I smell a beer, I gain five pounds” . No more, “should we get an entire ice cream cake and eat it while we talk about that dance call we got cut from today?” Down to during tech for a show, no more “i’m gonna kill someone if we don’t find a jar of Nutella right now.”

My next fear came up like word vomit. “Not making it.” And then another one. “Never having a man propose to me.” WHAT?! All these years I’ve spent making fun of marriage?! Ding ding ding. Defense mechanism.

OH SHIT. Just being put in my place by my own brain.

And then the idea for this blog came along. And for the first time in my life, I didn’t think TWICE. I was never scared of putting all my dirty laundry out there for the world to see. Because I knew it could help. And I knew it was right. And I knew it was time.

The other thing I never thought twice about? Wasn’t scared about? Nervous about? Coming to Hawaii. I never, ever questioned it.

And I guess the universe was on my side. Because now I’m here just surrounded by things that scare me. Thanks universe. We’ve got gnarly spiders. Fucking gigantic cockroaches that fly. Like I can see their eyeballs, you guys. We’ve got one too many reasons to be in a bikini. There’s so many flavors of ice cream. And there’s new people that I had to meet, without the security of my self-deprecating humor.

And guess what. Despite all that, I’m doing okay. I’m doing so okay you guys.

Because when I finally sat down and had an honest conversation with my friends Eddie and Natalie – the most beautiful, awesome, compassionate couple in the world who share my loft with me – we talked about fear. They opened my eyes and I realized that fear has basically controlled my entire life up until this point.

We talked about how I am fucking scared of failure. Scared of food. Scared of calories. Scared of getting caught eating. Scared of networking. Scared of men not wanting me. Scared of taking my clothes off. Scared of not making it to Broadway. Scared of trying all the things I’ve always wanted to try.

I put words like “overwhelmed” and “mind-blowing” in the same category as “fear”. For instance, I know that it’s not scary for a typical person to plan a trip to Maui from the Big Island – the whole booking a flight, renting a car, finding a hotel – but it’s just so overwhelming to me and so I give up and just stay where I am. Same with learning with guitar. Same with trying yoga (before I arrived here.) I get easily overwhelmed and then I don’t go for it at all.

So there we are, right? Eddie on the laundry folding table. Natalie folding towels. Me sitting on top of a dryer. And I decided that I am a stronger bitch than fear thinks I am. Fuck fear.

I’m doing something that scares me every day.

I went to The Point the next day, the Hawaiian cliff I always tell you about where magical things happen and there are sea turtles, and I made a list of things that scare me.

Um. Some of it makes me giggle. Some of it doesn’t.

  • Wearing lipstick to dinner in a place where no one wears makeup.
  • Asking questions about yoga and meditation.
  • Oversleeping.
  • Riffing.
  • Going vegan.
  • Holding someone else’s baby.
  • Bringing Nutella into the house.
  • Something happening to my grandparents before I get home from Hawaii.
  • Falling in love with a woman.
  • My mother’s opinion of tattoos.
  • Fire.
  • Falling in love again.
  • Telling the truth.
  • Tofu.
  • Maxi dresses.

The list goes on and on but I will tell you that at the end of it, one of the things that spontaneously came at the end of the train of thought was “losing weight and being a sell out” in regards to this blog. Right after that I wrote “I need to go write right now.” And so I left The Point and got to my computer and completely blanked. I was afraid of addressing the list that I had just written down so I had a beer instead. See? Nobody’s perfect.

That night just happened to be open mic. I had nothing prepared and I was so against performing. I thought that people were expecting this high-class performance from me and I was like, no way, I did not come here for this. Plus, I didn’t feel like putting anything together.

And then my dear, dear friend Robert posted a tap video on Facebook. That day. I love you so much, Robert. And I remembered this memory of dancing with Gregory Hines when I was 12 and saying to my father later, “I want to be Gregory Hines when I grow up.”

I had been doing some tap improv since I got here, but always in the company of some guitars and some drums during a jam session.

No one had seen me tap improv. Like, including myself.

So I fucking took a deep breath, went to dinner, put lipstick on, and got up for 130 people completely unprepared.

In college, all they teach us is “be prepared, be prepared, be prepared.” I am terrified of going to any audition unprepared. Like terrified.

So I prepared nothing. On purpose. And I got up, and pulled this here out of my ass. Actually, let me be less crude for once. This right here, came directly from my heart and soul. And I guarantee when you hear these amazing people cheering for me as I pull this shit out of thin air that you will smile because it makes me smile and I am so blessed.

Two days later, I went stand-up paddleboarding. With all the algae in the bay. All the fish. All the unknowns in the sea. And scariest of all, I went in a fucking bikini.

There were totally straight men there. I mean look at the muscles on the instructor, people.

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Too bad. I got my ass up there and I fucking STAND-UP PADDLEBOARDED. I was terrifed that I wouldn’t be able to stand up and that I would be the weakest one who was at the end of the pack and I just wouldn’t be able to do it.

Um. I was second one in the pack to make it out there. And then, I did yoga on my paddleboard.

Most empowering day of my life. I am so much stronger than I think I am.

In between the big stuff, like open mic, stand-up paddleboarding, vacuuming roaches up like a champ, I’ve also branched off into the littler stuff that scares me. Talking to people of authority and going out of my way to get to know them. Instead of assuming they wouldn’t be interested in talking to just little old me, I sat at lunch with them instead.

I told a dude that I was hooking up with that I had an eating disorder as he was taking my clothes off. What? He told me his story. So I shared mine. I just put it out there, boldly and fearlessly. And then I was naked. And he could see the stretch marks. And the cellulite.

And then he did really, REALLY nice things to me.

I also had someone hand me their child during a day time community party and she didn’t cry. In fact, we danced together. And I didn’t cry out of fear either. All those years of teaching kids and thinking I couldn’t stand kids anymore after disciplining them in a dance studio for so long. All gone. This warmed my heart.

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And then there’s the most important accomplishment of all. Skipping dessert.

The big thing since being here is Hawaii is this fear that if I don’t eat whatever I want at mealtimes that I will go back to binging.

Like when there’s oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert, I take them anyways and eat it anyways even though I think that the most disappointing thing in life is when you take a cookie and the chocolate chips happen to be…raisins. LIKE WHY THOUGH.

But what I’m saying is, I eat the damn oatmeal raisin cookie anyway because I am so scared that if I “deprive” myself that I’ll binge later.

Basically what I’m saying is, I have given myself no credit for being strong whatsoever.

When you’re a binger, you will stop at nothing to get what you want, right?

You will leave social gatherings, you will bail on friends, you will steal food out of friend’s cabinets, you will eat your roommate’s Nutella, and you will literally kill anyone who gets in your way of you and your drug of choice – which is food.

But guess what? I skipped dessert. And I didn’t binge. At all. That night, or the day after, or the day after. I had half a bag of miniature Twix the other day at a campfire but I mean, hey, baby steps right?

So. What are you scared of?

Is it telling your mother to stop commenting on your Facebook? Is it to reach out for help? Is it to tell someone you love them? Is it to go to yoga? (Cuz I thought we took care of that one. Don’t make me come all the way home and slap you cross the head. Get your sexy booty to that damn class!) Is it to tell your roommate that she has to stop having loud sex?

Make a list. Make a list and let it flow. Let that shit flow and see what comes up. Like a long string of spontaneous thought. Write it down even if it seems silly. Let it happen and some of it might even make you laugh but that’ll be good. Laugh while you can.

Cuz I’m about to CHALLENGE you, honey. And you might not be laughing so much.

I challenge you to start conquering that list. Do it with me. Conquer your list with me. Seriously. Is it renting a car? Because we can try doing that one together. Is it to go biking through Central Park because there’s hills? Because I’ll hook you up with one of my friends and they’ll take you along with them for a ride and light a fire under your ass. What do you need? You tell me. We’re gonna make it happen.

I challenge you to make a list and start checking things off. Because if you do, you could end up with a beautiful orange head of hair like mine, since “going blonde” was one of your fears. And you might just be able to laugh at yourself for the box of hair dye not working the way it was supposed to and also feel really hot all at the same time.

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Make a list, check it twice, some of it may be naughty more than nice. But you’re gonna feel so fucking good when you start checking things off. Like climbing a mountain, one baby step at a time.

The other day, I was in my friend Mandi’s room keeping her company while she packed to go back to home. She wanted to show me a funny Thought Catalog article and at the very top, there was a blurb about Amanda Bynes. And it was obviously making fun of her. But underneath the blurb, in italics, it said, “baby steps, Amanda. Baby steps.”

I couldn’t even handle. My mantra, popping up in the most random places. That’s what’s up. That’s why this place is magic.

So as one last fear to conquer before I published this today, on this beautiful Sunday morning, after having a breakfast of rice, eggs, and Portuguese sausage with two men here who I love so dearly, I stepped on the scale.

I have refused to weigh myself since May because the number on the scale defined me for so long. It would seriously make or break my entire day. I was so scared of allowing that to happen again.

But after living on the Big Island, the island of “healing”, for over a month now,  I’ve learned I have a choice about what makes or breaks my entire day. And I can choose to not let a number on a scale affect me.

So I stepped up on there. 160. Seven pounds less than May. I had no idea, because I’ve been too busy hating my stomach and watching my thighs jiggle when I walk to yoga class. And is that number still too high for my liking? Absolutely. But it’s also not going to define anything about today. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Or the rest of my life.

It’s my choice whether that number makes or breaks me. It’s my choice whether fear runs my life or not.

And the choice is all yours as well. Do something that scares you every day. We have no idea how much it will change our perspective, and our self-love, and our entire lives, until we try.

I wish you a week full of strength, courage, and ballsy moves.

Peace.


Discovering the Struggles in Recovery for Binge-Eating Disorder

There’s a song that we sing at the end of one of the yoga classes here. For someone with a musical theatre background, I cannot for the life of me ever remember the damn thing word for word unless I am in the class. It boggles my mind. Regardless, the song is a blessing about having the sun shine upon you, letting pure love surround you, and allowing the bright light guide you.

We sing it three times in a row. It is only three lines long. First, we sing it to ourselves – the person who walked in the door to take yoga today. The second time, we sing it to a person we love who means a lot to us. The third time, we sing it for the world, especially those who are suffering.

Both times when I’ve taken class and sung the song, I’ve gotten choked up as I picture my Mom’s face and my Gramma’s face – thousands of miles away from me – both with concerned looks on their faces as I said good-bye to them two weeks ago. I feel the energy in the room as all of us then sing to those we know, and those we don’t know in the world, who are suffering and in pain.

Both times when I’ve taken class and sung the song, the only person who I can’t sing to, is myself.

The first time, I thought that I was just unfocused or something.

The second time, I realized very suddenly in the middle of the song that although I have compassion for the world, I have absolutely no compassion for myself.

This is a heartbreaking realization to come to. It really, really is.

I preach about compassion all the time on this fucking blog. And then all of a sudden I hold a few downward facing dogs and I have this crazy breakthrough where I realize I don’t offer myself any compassion? What the hell.

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I thought that by overcoming my binging that my whole life would change. And yea, I was right. It did.

But holy fucking hell do I still have a lot to learn.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve come to the realization that although I now accept myself, and hate myself less, I still am not able to sing a simple blessing of love and peace to the person that I am.

So if you’ve been wondering what the hell I’m doing here, you’re not alone. I’ve been wondering the same thing. But I think I have an idea now.

I was so resistant to the idea of “finding myself” when I arrived here at this paradise. I left amazing friends behind, a few decent booty calls, and a sensible following in the dance classes I started teaching. I was actually sort of reluctant to leave New York City in the midst of such happy things taking place for the first time in so long.

But again, they were things. They were people. Things and people other than just me, myself, and I, causing my happiness. Yes, I’ve found out how to be happy without a job or a boyfriend. But now I’ve found that dancing and friends and Hawaii make me happy.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But I am on a constant quest to find happiness within myself. Just being myself. Just like you are. Just like we all are.

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. We’re all in this together.

And you know what? It’s okay. It’s all gonna be okay.

When I arrived in Hawaii, I immediately forgot to follow all of my own advice.

I judged others. I ate excessively. I judged others some more. And I judged myself a lot more harshly than I thought I would after all of this time.

If you ever think that just because I am grammatically correct 89% of the time, and that just because I am not afraid to talk about pouring an entire cup of sprinkles on a half gallon of ice cream, that I am living a perfect life, then let’s clarify some things right here, right now.

I am far from perfect. And I have found, that learning how to accept this fact of life, is just one reason why I am here in Hawaii.

At first, I was soooooo not down with the whole scene here. My resistance to this place totally surprised me. The resistance was strong and intense.

Like, I literally think that I had bitchy resting face for four days straight.

I mean, everyone here eats so many sprouts. Just so many.

Everyone here says “welcome home” when they meet you. Everyone here hugs you instead of shaking your hand. Everyone here says “aloha” if you run into them on the path to the dining lanai.

I despised all of that for days. It seemed insincere and so, Portlandia or something. I’m an East Coaster. We do not like to be touched.

Everyone I talked to asked me how long I am staying here. When I politely returned the question, they proceeded to tell me they’ve extended their stay and they love it here and they have found themselves and they will be here open-endedly or at least until next year and they have already gotten an “ohm” tattoo.

I judged them immediately for fleeing their lives and staying here in paradise as an escape.

Girls at dinner annoyed me by talking about how they can’t eat the fresh mango because it’s so high in sugar. How could they be so inconsiderate? There I was, a judgemental, pale and jet-lagged newcomer, recovering from an eating disorder that they didn’t even know about, shoveling pumpkin polenta into my mouth faster than you can say “can you pass the natural sea salt please?” What, do I have to wear a sign saying “please don’t assume you can have freedom of speech when I am sitting at the dinner table”? Why didn’t they just know what topics to avoid without me telling them?

Most of the men here have tattoos and are smoking hot and I just hated them for it, assuming they’ve already slept with every girl…or boy…already here.

I mean I just had a stanky, stanky attitude.

I couldn’t be my brassy, sassy self when I sat at dinner with all the volunteers who already knew each other and had established their connections and their own inside jokes already. I chose to keep what I do for a living to myself at first, because I didn’t want it to define me while I am here. But then I realized I don’t have much to say when people ask me about myself, because SURPRISE SURPRISE! I have let my career define me for all of these years! Oh. The irony.

So I silently cursed all the beautiful people around me, and I shut down, and I went to my room to beat myself up for being a mean, cold-hearted, anti-social New Yorker.

Oh, don’t you worry. It gets even better.

All the women here embrace naked face. No one here wears any makeup whatsoever. It just melts off. And they’re all fucking stunning.

So while I was alone in my room, I spent time in front of the mirror trying to accept my uneven skin and the dark circles under my eyes. I would take a deep breath, say fuck it, leave the room, full out naked face, close the door, and then change my mind at the last second and run back upstairs to apply my expensive Smashbox concealer and my $23 mascara and my paraben-free lip gloss.

On my way to breakfast afterwards, I proceeded to curse at my insecurity.

Until I got to breakfast where I had another battle to face – how much mango am I actually allowed to eat without being judged. And why do I care?

When I got hungry between meals, mostly because I didn’t eat enough mango, I snuck the chocolate that my friend Johnathan sent with me from his chocolate shop in the West Village into my bedroom and tried to binge on it.

And it was in those moments, when I tried to binge, but couldn’t eat more than two or three little squares of the chocolate, that I realized a gigantic reason why I am here.

I have healed the binging. But I haven’t taken ample time to look at all the things that caused me to binge.

You see how I keep having these tiny little “aha” moments? They are healthy. They are good. They are fucking hard. LIFE IS SO HARD.

I’m telling you though, fresh mango helps, it really does. Like, it just does.

For three days, I retreated and spent a lot of time alone. It’s not that I was shut out or made to feel unwelcome. I chose this alone time. Which in reality, was something I was so excited about when I found out I got accepted into this program! To spend time alone on purpose! Away from the honking horns and away from the pressure to be “on” all the time!

So then WHY did I feel so guilty about leaving dinner to go be alone?

Why do I feel so guilty for sleeping in until 7 some days, instead of getting up with the sun at 5:30?

Why do I feel so guilty about not taking advantage of every yoga class, every Hawaiian culture class, every meditation that is offered?

Why do I feel so guilty when I drink the fresh juice they offer at lunch instead of just drinking water with lemon?

I don’t know. But it’s a fourth reason why I’m here.

The guilt complex.

After all of the amazing revelations I have come to since May, and after all of the steps I have taken to become more kind to myself, I am still not at my final destination.

I don’t really know what the final destination looks like, and I know I’m not really supposed to worry about it, but I do know that it’s sort of a peaceful place where my guilt complex is minimized. I absolutely believe the teachers and the yogi’s when they say the journey is more important than the destination. Any good Pinterest quote will tell you that, complete with a beautiful backdrop of fluffy clouds and palm trees. But living up to that every day is not as simple as it sounds. There are obstacles that pop up, mostly in my mind, during every minute of every day.

What I do know is this.

We have to take time to remind ourselves that while on our own individual journeys, shit is gonna happen. We’re going to mess up. We’re going to make mistakes and, hopefully, learn from them. Because nobody’s perfect.

During our personal journeys, we can take time to recognize the facts. For instance, I know that the New Yorker in me does not know how to rest. I know that my upbringing has taught me that if I have down time, I should be doing something with it. I have never known how to relax.

Learning to relax and rest my mind are more of the reasons why I am here.

I also know that I have let the pressure of my friends joking that I’ll be returning to NYC as a size two get up into my head a little too much. I’ve found myself avoiding bread at dinner or staying away from the cheesy eggs in the morning when I think of all the people expecting me to show up to dance class in a bra and booty shorts because I went away to “yoga camp”.

Letting go of other people’s expectations for my success is a humoungous reason why I am here.

What are we at now – four, five, six reasons? Those are just a few biggies. There are more, I am sure, that I will find out as I go.

The final reason that I know of for the moment, is forgiveness. Forgiving myself for judging people. Forgiving myself for tormenting my body over the years. Forgiving myself for fucking up.

Forgiving myself for not being perfect.

So. Here I am. Nine days in. At least seven huge realizations. That’s almost one for every day of the week. It’s exhausting living in paradise.

It’s at this point in the post where I point out that I haven’t been a complete and total bitch the entire time since being here. It gets better every day.

See, what I have taken away from my social experiences this week, is that from the outside, at first, everyone seems to love each other and shit. There are about 125 volunteers here and up to 100 guests all at once. But when you start observing more closely, there are groups of people who tend to hang with each other at certain times. Departments become close. Musicians become close. People who aren’t afraid to go hiking on lava tubes become close. Random friendships occur that wouldn’t necessarily make sense in the middle of New York City or even the middle of Kansas. But here, in the jungle, you find out things about people if you allow them to open up and share their story with you. I’ve found that I can relate to more people here than I thought, even if they have never sung a note or stepped foot inside of New York State.

Everyone has a story. Not just here. Everywhere. It’s just that, a lot of the people here, including myself, have stories that you don’t hear every day. That’s what’s so beautiful about encountering different people in this life. We’re always learning something new about somebody that we would have never expected.

It all goes back to my own words from the beginning of this fucking blog. EVERYONE HAS THEIR SHIT.

So every day, I am learning more about myself. Sometimes, I end up learning this through encountering others. And I write you today to remind you that yes, I write this blog for people every week, so that no one feels like they are alone in whatever battle they are facing. And it might seem brave. And it might be funny.

But I am still facing my own battles. There are a lot of people right here in the jungle with me with no makeup on and a lot of strange tattoos in places they regret who are also facing battles. We all got battles, you guys. And nobody’s perfect.

I’m not sure if my new guitar-playing, 22-year-old friend Brooke was looking over my shoulder this morning while I typed this or if she just felt the need to tell me this, but I want to close with this very important lesson she so generously offered me over her beloved dissonant guitar chords and coffee this morning.

Last night, she went to a class they offer here called Huna Healing. Huna healing comes straight to us from Hawaiian culture and consists of seven principles of something. Meditation or something. I don’t really know. I’ll get back to you on that.

I have a point though.

She shared with me how last night on the seventh meditation, everyone was instructed to picture themselves as a key.

Every key in the world is different. Think about it. Each one has it’s different bumps, ridges, and curves. Some are longer, some are tiny, some are brass, some are silver.

This key concept applies to all of us humans – both physically and spiritually.

Take a moment and think about what your key looks like.

Physically, my key has all KINDS of bumps and ridges. Like, fo’ real. It’s also probably dipped in chocolate.

Spiritually, by envisioning our “key” within us, we also choose the door that our key unlocks. Take a moment and think about what your door looks like.

Is it big and wooden like something out of a Harry Potter book? Is it tiny and colorful like something out of Alice In Wonderland? Is it an office door? A walk-in freezer? A french door with glass windows?

Guitar-playing, 22-year-old Brooke described the key to me that she envisioned last night. It was an antique. Heavy and brass with a beautiful emerald embedded in it. She also shared with me what kind of door that it unlocked – an old, heavy wooden door like you’d find inside an Irish pub. Dark, maybe paint chipping, and a big old fashioned handle. She was so deep in the meditation that she could see the key nearing the door. She could feel the excitement of being so close to discovering what was behind that heavy door.

And then, in one instant, something popped into her head and told her that the key was way too beautiful for her. Such a beautiful key with an embedded emerald and a brass color would never represent guitar-playing, 22-year-old Brooke.

Talk about a fucking heartbreaking realization. I mean, I’m tearing up just typing that. If you could see this chick, and her gorgeous curly hair and her kind green eyes and her welcoming, friendly smile, you’d be teary-eyed too.

That story, right there, is the reason why SHE is here. She must find the compassion for herself.

Just like I must find the compassion for myself.

Just like you must find the compassion for yourself.

Because my love, no one is perfect.

I don’t know what happened to us between the time we were children when the world was our playground and now, when we don’t even feel that we deserve emeralds in our dreams. But enough is enough.

There has got to be a way to help put the emeralds back into our dreams.

Can we keep complimenting our friends’ attributes and slow ourselves in judging strangers? We sure can try that. Putting the compassion out in the universe will definitely bring it back to us.

Can we look in the mirror every morning without makeup on, or without a good haircut, and still find the beauty in our eyes, our skin, our smiles? We sure can try that. It takes 40 days to build a good habit. It only takes 21 days to break a bad one. It’s worth a shot.

Can we spend an extra thirty seconds hugging a friend instead of just a half-assed pat on the back? Yea, I bet that would help too.

Because man oh man, in the past three days, have I sure as hell embraced the hugging. And the sprouts. And the no bra-wearing. And the “aloha” spirit. It is a beautiful thing to be welcomed into a geniunely, caring community made up of people who know nothing about me, but hug me anyway. I am now part of the family here. The “ohana.”

I am here to learn forgiveness and to learn how to embrace my imperfections. I am here to learn how to accept my flaws, how to calm my guilt complex, how to shrug off people’s expectations of me, and how to calm the fuck down.

And if these things apply to you too, then feel free to live your life and take solace in my journey. Know that you are not alone. You deserve to learn and accept and love all of these things too. Eating disorder or no eating disorder. Performing career or office job. Single or married. Gay or straight. Woman or man.

Let’s do some shit this week that makes us feel good inside. Shit for us. Shit that doesn’t involve significant others, promotions, or running 18 miles. Just some personal…shit, powered by love of who we are.

Because nobody’s perfect. And when you really take a minute and think about it, truly think about it, you’ll realize that you love a lot of people in your life for all that they are – including their imperfections. So why can’t you love yourself, and your imperfections, too?

Marilyn Monroe once said, “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

She spoke the truth.


Recovering from Binge-Eating Disorder in Hawaii

Today, I am writing you from here.

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I am sitting on a cliff and if I drop my computer off my lap right now the barracudas below me will have it for lunch. Not even joking though.

Basically what I’m saying is, I’m in Hawaii.

You know how I keep talking about that damn book that my friend Rachel gave me? That’s sort of how I ended up here. I opened the book and there was a round trip United Airways boarding pass inside.

JUST KIDDING NOT REALLY BUT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN REALLY REALLY GREAT.

Really though. How DID I get to Hawaii besides leaving New York City on a jet plane?

Well I hit rock bottom back in May. We’ve discussed this already – my friends left, I didn’t book a job, I was single, all that fabulous stuff.

Do you know what really is fabulous about all of that depressing stuff? What’s fabulous is that I didn’t have any of those things at my fingertips, meaning I had no strings attached to New York City for the month of May.

So when I found myself in that gray, ugly, rainy town called Rock Bottom, USA, I was like, “Heyyyyy God, how’s it goin’ up there? Hey, listen, um, all the quotes on Pinterest tell me that the only way to go from here is up. So where is up? Please help me find my ‘up’. Please.” I prayed and prayed that something would come along and help me up.

The books that I keep talking about were my “up.”

There is a woman named Geneen Roth who has written several books about compulsive eating and the way human beings use food as a drug rather than a fuel source. I was told about her books back in August of 2012 when I first realized that maybe I binge more than the average twentysomething female. So I spent 75 dollars at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square and bought three of her books plus a new journal with a bike on it cuz I really was dedicated to riding my new bike and also a medical book called “Binge No More” that to this day is way too scientific for any human being to comprehend.

Then I met Stallion. Then I got a choreography gig. So the books were shoved under my bed, unread and unopened, with my ballet shoes and my keyboard and never touched again. Very worthwhile investments, I tell you.

Holy crap, a wave just crashed up the cliff and splashed my entire computer screen with Pacific Ocean juice. I just thought you should know.

ANYFUCKINGWAYS, I keep talking about that book that Rachel gave me right? The one that started my journey back to sanity and healthy living?

It was one of Geneen Roth’s books.

See, when I went to visit Rachel and she was clearing out her apartment, she handed me two books. One was A Course In Weight Loss: 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrending Your Weight Forever by Marianne Williamson. The other was When Food Is Love by Geneen Roth. The first one, the 21 lessons and shit, was more of a workbook that you journaled in and wrote notes to yourself in. It’s intention was to make you think about what you were using food to compensate for. It kept my attention for about 45 minutes and then my hand got really tired.

The other book that Rachel handed to me, I opened gently and found all sorts of markings and highlights and underlines. Pages folded over. Messages she had written to herself. I couldn’t take that shit from her! Are you kidding?

So I thanked her and I told her that I already had When Food Is Love at home.

That weekend, when I went home to Pennsylvania for my little brother’s graduation from an accredited university where he received his Bachelor’s of Science in Landscape Architecture, I took my own dusty copy of When Food Is Love with me. I don’t know. Maybe I thought I would read some message inside that would magically make me feel better about my Associate’s Degree in Musical Theatre while watching my brother walk down the aisle in his cap and gown that I didn’t even have at my “college” graduation. It’s hard to say.

Regardless, I opened it and never put it down. I found out things in that book that I literally never knew. I never knew that I eat when I am lonely, confused, or completely overwhelmed with the task at hand. I just always assumed I had no self-control over my cravings for chocolate. I never knew that I specifically found ways to chase men and date men who do not chase me.

You might be thinking that a therapist could have told me this years ago.

Look. When you’ve been dieting your whole life and you can’t keep weight off, you blame it on your metabolism. Your genes. Your lack of self control. Your mother for never keeping Oreo’s in the house. Your grandmother for making you clean your plate. You don’t think of going to therapy. You never once think that there might be something more psychological that is causing all of this depression and anxiety in your life.

So this book, was my therapist. Geneen Roth was my personal advisor. My mentor. And probably the only person I’ve ever heard of that has come out and talked about all of the disgusting things that she, and I, have been doing, eating, or manifesting throughout the years.

Geneen Roth wrote many other books. Her most popular, the one that has been featured on Oprah, is Women Food and God.

I read three of her books. When Food Is Love was the first. It opened my eyes to the fact that I had a problem that needed to be addressed. Women Food and God was the third, and probably the one that spoke to me the least.

The second book was the book that saved my life. The second book helped me learn how to heal most of my personal addictions and habits. That second book was Breaking Free from Emotional Eating (formally entitled Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating.)

That book taught me to only eat when I was hungry. What a concept.

That book taught me to eat what I wanted, no matter what it was, when I was hungry. What a concept.

That book taught me to bring “bad” things into the house – ice cream, Reese’s, cheese, pesto sauce – to remind me that no food is off limits.

“Bad” foods are the ones we have deprived ourselves of for most of our life. They are different for everybody. The reason most of us binge on specific foods is because there are these “bad” foods that are off-limits to us. No one has labeled them “bad” except for us. And maybe our mothers. And the multi-billion dollar diet and fitness industry.

Geneen Roth taught me that if you bring the “bad”, off-limit foods into the house, eventually the security of knowing they are always there will allow you to live a life where you’re not thinking about them all the time. Not to mention the money you will save by bringing a half gallon of ice cream into the house for $3.99 instead of forbidding it and then spending nine dollars on Pinkberry five days a week when you are on a binge.

Geneen opened my eyes to the fact that I am not weak. I am not irresponsible. And I am not defined by my weight.

She also taught me the most important lesson of all.

Awareness.

Once you are aware of something, you can never become unaware again.

Seriously. Think about it. If I just told you that the tattoo on the back of your neck is crooked, you will always be aware that the tattoo on the back of your neck is crooked. I would never do that to you because sometimes people get drunk and get crooked tattoos and they are a part of you and that’s that and it’s also on the back of your neck so who really gives a fuck but the point is, you are now aware that the tattoo is crooked and you can never again be unaware of the fact that your tattoo is crooked.

So once I read in these books that I had a binge-eating problem, I could never become unaware again. Once I read that I used food as a drug, I could never become unaware again. And seriously, binging has never been the same.

When I first started reading the books, it was very overwhleming. 26 years of hating myself coming undone in a few pages? Insanity. Some author from California who lived a life of ups and down similar to mine, telling me that it’s okay that I have never been able to keep thirty pounds off? Crazy.

Because I was a little overwhelmed by all of this radical, hopeful information, I tried to hold on to the binging for a while. I would follow all of Geneen’s instructions and bring the “bad” foods into the house but then still eat them excessively. But not as excessively as before. Because now I was aware. I brought home those damn sea salt brownies from Trader Joe’s, the white pizza with roasted red peppers from Domino’s, the cookies ‘n’ cream, the Cheez-Its, the orange juice. Yes, you heard me. Orange juice.

What can I say? Orange juice is two Weight Watchers points for eight ounces. I gave that shit up years ago.

I brought all those foods in the house and would sort of, kind of, still binge on them. And then get full. Or just get sick of the taste. My mind was blown.

Because now I was aware. I was aware of how eating eight sea salt brownies made me feel. It did not really help my hunger and after one brownie, they actually don’t taste all that great. Now that I knew I was eating them to help mask a feeling like sadness or frustration, they meant nothing to me. Now that I knew that the brownies were not going to take away the sadness or frustration, it was almost easier to follow Geneen’s suggestions and face the sadness and frustration for a few minutes and deal with the situation at hand.

For someone who didn’t know she had a food addiction, this very simple concept of facing your feelings in the moment was very, very, very new. Strange. Uninvited. Confusing.

In the midst of all of this enlightenment and this weird thing where I was still sort of trying to binge and also this weird thing where I would only eat when I was hungry, I Google’d homegirl.

Geneen Roth. That’s my homegirl.

She’s blonde. She’s binged her whole life. She came out alive. And she supposedly holds these life-changing, view-altering, mind-blowing retreats in San Diego.

The retreats cost a mere $1800 plus travel and hotel. Since I am actually a very wealthy, successful woman, I paid to go to her retreat and everything has been fine every since.

GOTCHA. Gotcha again.

1800 what?? Right. Sure. Great.

Gave up on THAT idea.

Until a few weeks later when I was on her website again, just browsing around (like you do when you’re trying to eat a jar of Nutella that doesn’t have the same enticing quality that it used to, which is almost a really sad thing because you’re like, moving on from Nutella, and it’s a very spiritual experience) and I found out that she was doing a $400 retreat.

At Kripalu. A huge center for yoga and health in the Berkshires. Like three hours north of NYC! Holy shit, life was amazing. Right then and there I was thinking, I’m totally doing this retreat. I’m gonna kick my depression’s ass and come back and be on Broadway and tell my story at 54 Below in a very successful one woman show and make young girl’s cry and like, life is good.

Well, actually, it was $400 plus room, travel, and food. Ironic that you have to pay for food when going to a retreat about food.

Great. I continued to half-ass scroll down Kripalu’s website – beer or maybe Maker’s Mark in hand, hard to remember – and I saw a link for Volunteering.

Me? Volunteer? Shit, I won’t even cat-sit for free much less fucking volunteer.

Wait. Wait for it. You go to this magical yoga place called Kripalu, and you volunteer for six months, and everything is free. Free. Workshops, yoga, food, room, board, pool, nature, all the things.

Okay, I say to myself, it’s all happening. I’m doing this. I’m peacing out of New York and I’m going to go away for six months and save myself and get skinny and maybe get out of my head and also maybe meet a yogi husband who has tattoos on his ribs and loves to pull my hair even though he’s really calm in everyday life.

I called my mom. I explained the whole volunteering option, sans the yogi husband who is going to pull my hair.

“Hey, Mom, do you think this is crazy?” (I had finally come out to my Mom about all of my issues about three weeks prior, more on that in another post.)

“No, I don’t think it’s crazy. But you hate the winter. You grew up in Pennsylvania. Why would you not research something on the beach in warm weather?”

“Mom. Oh my God. I gotta go. I gotta go. I have to google shit.”

I hung up the phone. The next day, instead of keeping all of my plans on a Saturday afternoon like a good friend does, I sat on the couch with my new cat and Google’d “beach yoga retreat volunteer”.

You know how Google predicts shit for you?

Yea. Mine predicted this:

“beach yoga retreat volunteer in hawaii”

UM OKAY THANKS GOOGLE.

Three things we all need to know about Hawaii. I feel tied to it more than the other cities that came up after the Hawaii listing because of 1) My very amazing friend Ethan, who passed away three years ago very suddenly, who was born and raised in Kauai and 2) I almost landed a choreography gig at the Ohana Arts Center in O’ahu two summers ago but didn’t get it due to funding and flying me in from NYC and 3) it’s fucking Hawaii.

So I clicked on the website. There’s a rainbow on the homepage and it says “Hawaii’s largest retreat center” and it promises rest, relaxation, wellness, yoga, beauty, and so much more.

I found the volunteer link. I read the facts. I viewed the pictures. I felt the need to apply immediately. I spent the next hour and a half pouring my heart and soul into the volunteer application that asked me about everything from my mental issues, to my experience in volunteering (uh-oh), to where I’m from, to what makes me want this life changing thing badly enough to pick up my entire life and move to the most remote part of the Big Island of Hawaii.

The application really made me think about why I wanted this yoga retreat situation so badly. I realized it wasn’t about running away. I realized it wasn’t about getting skinny. It wasn’t actually about meeting a yogi husband. It was just a chance at something completely different, and maybe even a reward for saving myself from myself.

I submitted the application with my $50 processing fee and felt a strange sense of calm. Like I had done the right thing.

Three days later I got an email about scheduling a phone interview.

Two days after that I was having a phone interview with an amazing man named Sam who ironically enough, had been an actor in London. God works in mysterious ways, ladies and gentleman. This man understood everything that I was going through – frustration with my career, frustration with living in a city, frustration with my weight, my twenties, my everything. Who knows what would have happened had I interviewed with anyone else. Sometimes, my life kind of sounds dazzling and fabulous to someone who’s never stepped foot in Nola Studios on a Sunday morning. Our phone interview lasted an hour longer than scheduled and at the end of it, he said, “alright Amanda, I would like to offer you a place here in our volunteer program. Congratulations. We would love to have you.” Just like that.

Oh my God. Just, oh my God. I just typed that and I have goosebumps and I am crying on a cliff in Hawaii as I remember that very special day at the end of May.

Because here I am, two and a half months later, in my little sundress my mom bought me that’s actually long enough to cover my butt, sitting on my bathroom towel because I don’t have a beach towel yet, on a cliff, with the geckos, and I am living my life.

Ironically enough, after my acceptance into the volunteer program, I found out that this entire 119 acre paradise where I am living right now was founded by two gay dancers that lived in the West Village, in NYC, forty years ago. Richard Koob and Earnest Morgan. If that isn’t a sign that I am right where I need to be right now, I have no idea what is.

I definitely have a lot more to tell you about the journey since that first acceptance phone call on May 31st up until arriving at this moment, right now, where I am currently sitting under a coconut tree drinking UV-filtered rain water. But I think that’s enough for this week. I have sea turtles to see at 4pm when they come in to the rocks to be in the sun.

I want you to remember that if you live in the moment, life can take you to the most beautiful places. Even if it’s just 181st Street and the Hudson river, right after reading this, because you feel like you’re having a rough morning and you want to be near something that calms you, like the water. Go do that. Yea, it’s totally a walk. No train goes there, it’s down a long hill, okay so what? You have an hour to kill, so go do that. Do what you need to do EVERY DAY to feel like you are living your life in the moment. Don’t do it tomorrow. Do it today.

And above all, if someone hands you a book, and looks you in the eye, and tells you that they love you and they want you to read it, open the fucking book and read every word. It could be your ticket to a whole new place in life.