By Olivia Petzy-Binning (Restore Your Roar Co-facilitator and unbelievable human being)
Dear Roar family,
Hi! I’m Olivia and I am so pumped to chat with you today. I can still barely believe that Amanda and I re-connected (you can read about our history here) and that Restore Your Roar is happening in 136 days. Four months and 14 days. 525,600 minutes.
Ok so not really the last one because that’s a full year away but you get it.
There are a few things you should know about me: I love swimming in the cold Atlantic Ocean, I have been a vegetarian for 3+ years but I still eat Haribo gummy bears, and I believe we should all just do it now, whatever “it” is.
“Do it now” is truly what’s behind Restore Your Roar. Amanda and I want you to love your body now. We want you to enjoy moving your body now. We want to talk about fears and worries around eating and appearance now. We want to sit on our private patio in the jungle and look at the Pacific Ocean and connect with other women now.
Now is the only time we’ve got. Sometimes the days can feel endless, especially if we’re stuck at a shitty job, or in a crappy relationship, or just plain feeling worn out by the daily grind, but life itself is short. It’s fleeting.
Today is a perfect day to feel amazing. Today is an ideal day to do something big. Today is a great day to walk away. Today is a wonderful day to say “I love you.” Today is the day.
I want to throw a lei around your neck in Hawaii on January 15th because if not now, when? If not you, who?
I want to share a toolkit I put together for you. In the spirit of doing things and feeling good NOW, it’s 21 prompts to get you feeling fab FAST. Each one has a suggested time limit because I know you’re busy and have things to do, but please, I beg of you, don’t let your things get in the way of your life. Dive in and pick one (my personal faves are 1, 10 and 21).
Say yes. Feel good today. Don’t wait. Don’t die hesitating.
See you in Hawaii!
21 Prompts to Feel Fabulous Fast
1 MINUTE – IN & OUT
Close your eyes. (Do it! we’ve only got one minute!) Take 5 really deep breaths. Silently say “All is well” on every inhalation, and “it is done” on every exhalation. THAT’S IT. The power of the breath, y’all.
2 MINUTES – WIDE EYED
How many beautiful things can you notice in your immediate surroundings in two minutes? On your mark, get set, GO!
3 MINUTES – DANCE BREAK
Get up. Yes, now! Put a great tune on (may I suggest THIS or THIS) and dance it out. If you’re feeling down, this is gonna lift you up and if you’re already feeling groovy, this is only gonna take you higher. Endorphins, here you come!
4 MINUTES – TAKE A VACATION
Did you know you can search “virtual vacation” on Youtube and watch videos of beach scenes with relaxing music? Check out of reality for a few minutes and take a beach break while you take deep breaths (and dream of a poolside smoothie!). May I suggest this tour of Kalani, home to Restore Your Roar?!
5 MINUTES – WHO LOVES YA?
I know you know that you are always being supported by a benevolent and loving Universe. but who else could we add to your list of cheerleaders? Write out a list of every single person who is rooting for you. You’re never alone. Life itself is on your side.
6 MINUTES – EXPERT WITNESS
Write a list of all the things at which you are a straight up expert. NOTHING IS TOO SMALL! If you are the only person who can get your nephew to stop crying when he’s tired, then you are an expert! If you know an absurd amount about cheese from a stint as a server in a Swiss restaurant (ahem), you are an expert! If you can throw a football in a sweet spiral, then you are an expert spiral thrower! Don’t be shy!
7 MINUTES – LUCKY DUCK
Buy a few scratch off lottery tickets (say, five of the $1 ones). Hand them out with a penny to the people behind you in line. You can spread so much excitement and happiness for 5 bucks and 5 cents!
8 MINUTES – MAGIC 8 BALL
What do you want your life to look like in one year? Write it out and here’s the kicker: write it out with CERTAINTY. Write it as if you are POSITIVE IT WILL HAPPEN. You can do this for any amount of time in the future. Visualize, intend, and get ready to magnetize.
9 MINUTES – BLISS LIST
Write down 10 things you are grateful for, ten things you are excited for, and five BRAGS. Yes, that’s right: brag about your bad self.
10 MINUTES – FILE A COMPLIMENT
Wanna feel like a Queen? Lavish praise on someone! Receive fabulous service in a store? Grab a manager on the way out and compliment the employee. Are your garbage collectors unfailingly polite and smiling, even while they do their dirty job? Call your town and praise them. Fill out that survey listed on your receipt and leave positive feedback. Write a glowing Yelp review. Please trust me when I say this feels amazing and you will be hooked!
11 MINUTES – IDEAL DAY
What does your PERFECT DAY look like? How does it start? Where do you wake up? Who’s there? What do you do? Where do you go? How does the day wind down? Write out your perfect day and spare NO details — the more specific, the better. We’re visualizing here, people!
12 MINUTES – DREAM DOZEN
What is your dream way of spending your time? What do you never, ever, ever get tired of talking about? Listening to? Thinking about? Reading about? Learning about?
DO IT for twelve minutes.
13 MINUTES – MAIL CALL
I still get excited when I see something that isn’t junk in my mailbox, and that feeling keeps getting rarer thanks to email. Send someone a beautiful note card to let them know you’re thinking of them.
14 MINUTES – HISTORY LESSON
Where were you ten years ago? Five years ago? One year ago? How have you grown? How have you changed? Does your life look different than you thought it would? What miracles have you experienced? What lessons have you learned?
15 MINUTES – INSTRUCTION MANUAL
Often, the silver lining to mistakes we make is the lesson we learn. In the spirit of generosity (and to remind yourself what a smart genius you are), fill in the blanks:
So you screwed up and did _________. Here’s how to fix it: __________________.
16 MINUTES – TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY
You know how we all love hearing the backstories behind the successes of our favorite stars? Like how Jon Hamm was a teacher and Kristen Wiig sold peaches before hitting it big? Write out YOUR True Hollywood Story, and frame everything you’ve thought of a setback or challenge as a PLOT TWIST leading up to your overwhelming success.
17 MINUTES – SECRET ADMIRER
Write a note/email to someone you really respect and admire. Perhaps it’s your mom, maybe it’s Ryan Gosling, or your boss at your day job. Let him/her know that their skills and gifts are recognized and admired. Be specific and prepare for a contact high.
18 MINUTES – ADVICE COLUMN
If you need advice on something that’s holding you back or causing confusion, write it out like you’re writing to Dear Abby. Then, write the answer back to yourself! YOU are the expert on YOU.
19 MINUTES – PICK UP THE PHONE
Remember when we used to use our phones to TALK to people instead of scrolling through your various feeds? Call someone that you know doesn’t use social media etc to stay connected. Savor the thrill of filling him/her in your delicious life, and enjoy the feeling of hearing how your friend is doing/feeling straight from his/her mouth instead of a status update.
20 MINUTES – FLIP IT (this is Amanda’s absolute favorite)
One of my specialties is doing a story flip: when I feel like things are falling apart/crappy, I flip that shit around and write a new story. Here’s an example of one of mine from a particularly disastrous morning:
My old story is that I booked a perfect plane ticket to visit Rich today…except for the fact that I had to leave at 6:30 am for Newark, and I got home from work at midnight. Well, I got up so early that I was ready to go and decided to set my alarm for an extra ten minute snooze. Obviously, that was a terrible idea. The next flight to Savannah is majorly inconvenient for so many reasons, but that’s the flight I’m on, so here is my new story:
I am an amazing independent woman who figured out the best way to deal with a mess at 7:30 am on a Saturday. I made the best decision I could. I am going to fly into Savannah like the hot New York woman I am, wearing a hot outfit for the show and cast party I am attending tonight. My hair and makeup is perfect, I am a brilliant packer so I have one tiny suitcase, and my dress is hot. I will arrive in Savannah, pick up the car I rented at 7:30 this morning, and drive myself to Hilton Head Island because I am smart, savvy and independent, and I am fearless. I will arrive at the theater with ample time, and take my seat in the front row. The first time I see my husband will be when he opens the show wearing a tux and we will share a look of love and apology and humor. The show will be amazing, i will have a cocktail at intermission, and we will reunite in the lobby when it’s over. Then we have two and a half days to enjoy each other’s company. This is actually a romantic and sexy story and I am lucky to be alive and in it.
What current story of yours do you need to FLIP? Any old beliefs you need to turn on their heads? This is a fun one, and it’s addictive! Write out the junk and then get your flip on!
21 MINUTES – LEAP OF FAITH
Write a letter to the Universe. You can state your intention(s), write what you want to release, questions you have, anything goes. Put it in an envelope. Decorate the envelope so it is super gorgeous. Address the envelope to “The Universe.” Put it in the mail.
See what happens.
Want to meet Olivia in person? We can’t wait to lei you when you step off your plane in Hilo, Hawai’i this January. To reserve your spot, contact Catherine May at Kalani before September 15th to use our extended Roar Rate of $985 (after that, the rate goes up $100). Just email email@example.com and put down a $200 deposit to hold your spot – we don’t need anything else til the day you check in girlfriend! Feel free to check out our itinerary and FAQ’s, but act fast – there are only six spots left! Roar!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Feel lost. Eat chocolate. Sneak ice cream. Go back for seconds. Crave cigarettes.
Admit that you’ve taken a step backwards and maybe, you have to start all over.
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.
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.
Next week’s posting:
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.
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.
- 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.
- Falling in love again.
- Telling the truth.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
The other night, under the stars, after a boy here kissed me, he said to me that I make him so happy because I’m so alive. He said I’m so alive, and so many people in the world aren’t.
If he only knew me six months ago.
But he didn’t. He knows me now. And he’s right. I am so alive.
Now, that doesn’t mean life has been all sunshine and rainbows this month. I’m alive because I’m feeling shit. And feeling shit is a new concept.
When we have an addiction, it’s normally something that most of us turn to in order not to feel the sadness, the hurt, the anxiety, the depression, the void within us. We use our drug of choice – whether it be sex, food, alcohol, you name it – to fill the void. Whatever that void may be for us as individuals, we use our drug of choice so that we don’t have to feel it.
When we start recovering from addiction, we start to feel the sadness, the hurt, the anxiety, the depression. It’s just there, and we have to sit with it and breathe it in and…feel it. We can’t really run from it. Because we’re aware now of what we were using the food, the alcohol, the cigarettes, or the drugs to do. To fill the void. And like I said before, once we’re aware, we can never become unaware again.
So here I am, feeling all the ups and all the downs. As my fellow Pennsylvania-born-but-moved-to-New-York-to-chase-opportunity friend Matthew says, our highs are higher here and our lows are lower here and that is what makes us more alive.
So here in Hawaii, I’m more alive than I’ve ever been.
But dude, it takes a little while to get used to.
For instance, I have to look in the mirror every day and accept that I haven’t lost any weight here. It seems that my body is holding on to all that it can because it’s probably terrified that I’ll go back to starving it tomorrow. I have to look in the mirror and feel the disappointment, the disgust, the anger at myself for destroying my body for so many years. Can’t run from those feelings.
I have to see men at breakfast that look like ex-boyfriends and accept that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I have to talk to them and sit with them and feel the hurt, the sadness, the memories that I thought I had erased long ago. Can’t run from those feelings.
And most of all, I have to accept that I cannot go back to New York at my current weight and book work.
That’s the most profound realization I’ve had to date.
Like, one of those wet face, sobbing, can’t breathe, rocking back and forth on a Hawaiian cliff realizations.
And I can’t run from it. I have to sit with it and breathe it in and…feel it.
With the talents that I possess, and what I am known for with the directors I’ve worked with, and the theatres I’ve worked at, I need to look like a completely different person to continue on my own career path. The career path that I’ve worked so hard to create.
I mean, what a devastating reality to face.
All this time I’ve been taking life by the reigns and steering my way out of this horrible disorder that’s run my life for years. And I’m living life and I’m getting laid and I’m taking yoga and I’m making people laugh and I’m tap dancing under the stars next to a bonfire and I’m not thinking about my next meal all the time.
And that’s so great and so baller and I wish that for everyone.
But I’m also, still, not good enough for the career that I’ve worked so hard to chisel my way into.
What the fuck am I supposed to do?
You know, it’s great that “strong is the new skinny” and “healthy is more important than the scale” but that doesn’t apply to all of us.
I’m not saying that women my weight don’t make it in the performing arts. But for what I do – for the dancing and character work and the abilities that I possess – my current body is not appropriate.
So amidst all of this “let’s change the world and sharing is caring” stuff that I’ve been writing to you, let me just vent one second here.
Because after all, I started this blog to talk about what no one was talking about. Eating disorders in the entertainment world.
I have been starving myself for a purpose for years. Okay? I have been skipping dinner for four days in a row for years so that I can go into a dance call looking skinny and then move on to binging all fucking weekend afterwards.
I get so frustrated here when people tell me that “this might just be your natural body weight” and “at least you are so strong” and “a body is just an encasing for the soul” and blah blah blah blah blah blah……..
They’re totally right. They’re totally right. Except…
All I can think is, “Yea! That is true for you! And that’s great! But that doesn’t apply to me! And a lot of other people in my business!”
It seems my body is sitting at this 165 pound weight right now and its just fucking SITTING there.
I haven’t lost ANY weight since I’m here.
I’ve been eating organic food and minimal meat, I haven’t binged, I barely drink, and I either dance or do yoga or work my tail off cleaning shit every day and my clothes fit exactly the same. My stomach still jiggles when I walk. My thighs are still cellulite-central.
I’m probably the healthiest I’ve been in eight years.
But still. What the fuck.
My mom thinks that my body is sort of holding on to all the weight because it doesn’t know what I’m going to do to it next. I’ve treated it so badly for so long that I think it’s so mad at me. So, so mad at me.
She’s right, I’m sure.
BUT IT STILL SUCKS.
Like, it still sucks. It SUCKS.
And I don’t know what will happen next. Which is confusing. Which is overwhelming. Which is hard to explain. All feelings that I feel here every day.
I’ve spent hours of my life submitting witty emails with my headshot and resume to directors I’ve auditioned for multiple times in order to get appointments so that I know how much time I have to lose the weight I put on last week. I’ve set up agent meetings in advance – enough time to go carb-free four days in a row so that I am thin enough to wear a slinky dress at Actor’s Connection.
And I’ve been waiting for years to be skinny to live my life.
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Ohhhhhhkay. Wait for it. That right there, that’s the key. Waiting for years to be skinny to live my life.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Slow down. That there. That’s the ticket.
Yea, basically that’s the ticket. I’m actually NOT going to wait to be skinny to live my life anymore. Sorry.
Because you know what? I can’t go home to my city and audition like this and book the work that I do best. But I’m not in my city right now. And I’m not auditioning right now. And I have time to figure out what I will do if I don’t lose any weight before I return. And I have time, to live my LIFE here in Hawaii.
So amidst all the very low lows, I will continue to enjoy the extreme highs.
Kissing under the stars.
Swimming naked at the pool in broad daylight.
Making music with brilliant, bold, ballsy people.
Uncontrollable laughter when Matthew and I are thinking something snarky at the same time over our gluten-free lasagna.
Hearing someone else’s story that is more horrifying than mine and seeing the smile on their face as they talk about overcoming larger obstacles in life than you and I could ever dream of.
Pure magic. Pure joy. Pure happy.
I’m living here.
I’m not dyin’ over here. There’s just a lot of FEELINGS happening.
So basically, it’s just…all happening.
My friend Joel says that this place is a great place to “introduce you to all your shit.”
What he means by that is, all the things you thought you let go of years ago – all the ex-boyfriends you thought you were over, all the issues you thought you had completely wiped away – have really just been tucked in a secret drawer all this time. And when you come to the big island of Hawaii to find peace and to love yourself, you have to open the secret drawer and let all that shit out, in order to find the key to the love and the peace.
And yea, it totally sucks.
Because I no longer smoke cigarettes or binge-eat to hide those feelings. I no longer have any sort of addiction to fill the void. I have to feel.
I have to feel.
But what I’ve learned is, the beauty of life and being alive is that we get to feel all these things.
Some of them are SOOOOOO HARD.
Pain. Sorrow. Grief. Loneliness. Inadequacy. Frustration. Anger.
So much anger at men from my past. Anger at myself for lying to myself, and people, all these years.
But I also get to feel joy. And unstoppable laughter. And overwhelming love. And courage. And I don’t know what the feeling is called for when you feel like a bad-ass – but that feeling too. I get to feel that TOO!
Yea, I’m living in paradise. Yea, I’m fucking living…in paradise.
But like Joel says, paradise is the place where you will be reunited with your shit.
So now what?
I don’t know you guys.
I just don’t know.
Well, that’s a lie.
I know some things.
I’ve learned some things, while living here in paradise.
I know that even on the darkest day – on the deepest, saddest day when I talk about my third date with Stallion where he gave me an Italian lesson and I laughed so hard I spit beer on the bar and how in love with him I was and how not in love with me he was, when I am crying and my heart literally hurts – that I still feel better sitting and feeling that feeling, than the feeling I used to feel after binging.
Because the binging would put that feeling off, and numb it for a bit.
But I’d still eventually feel it. And so in addition to the deep, dark, sad feeling, I was also fat, sick, and disgusted with myself for eating an entire order of Cinnastix and half a jar of peanut butter with a sleeve of Ritz Crackers.
This whole blog post is about the feelings that I used binging to hide and cover up, that are coming up NOW. It’s kind of a miracle. It IS something to be thankful for! Ten years of therapy in one month. And counting. Now, in Hawaii, the feelings are just chillin’ with me, and the ocean, and the sea turtles, and the fresh pineapple. Just coming up to the surface like the dolphins coming up for air.
And I’m so happy to tell you that I sort of feel, in a way, that every time an old feeling surfaces, that I, too, am coming up for air.
I think that the other day, on Secret Secret beach, with my friend Matthew, with the waves crashing around us while we sat in a tide pool made completely by lava…that I finally let Stallion go.
If you know anything about me, you’ll be nodding with tears in your eyes as much as I am nodding with tears in my eyes as I type this.
Jeez, I have goosebumps. Legit goosebumps.
I think I have finally let go of that man who made me laugh so hard, who had the sexiest smile, and who wasn’t emotionally available to be in a realationship with someone who loves as hard as I do. I think I have accepted that our time together was wonderful and he came along at a dark time in my life and he brought light into it for 8 months and it ran it’s course and I would never be in Hawaii had he not broken my heart and given me so much time alone to binge and hit rock bottom and finally reach out for help and be diagnosed and start living again.
I have allowed myself to feel the heartbreak and really accept it for what it is, and let it go.
I have goosebumps just thinking about the way I’ve finally been able to think through and process the way the Peruvian chef I dated in 2008 and 2009 treated me like an object. You know how I did that? There’s a volunteer here who looks, and sounds, exactly like the chef – who we shall call…The Little One. And when this volunteer was assigned to train with me in Housekeeping, I couldn’t even look at him. I didn’t want to answer his questions because I didn’t want to hear his fucking voice. I wanted to slap him across the face and go home from work that day. And when I brought it up to my English friend Robyn later that night at dinner, she laughed at me and said “yea, that’s the best thing that can happen to you here.” She’s laughing because she knows. Apparently that happens a lot here. Exes popping up in the form of someone else and you have to just fuckin’ deal with it. And I guess I’m dealing. This dude, this dude here who looks like The Little One, is so fucking sweet and quiet and asks me how I am every day. And it took my boss saying to me, “Amanda, you still have to work with him. He’s not your ex-boyfriend. I had the same thing happen to me when I first got here. And he was put here for you to be able to accept that you aren’t over that situation and it’s time to face whatever demon is still living in there.”
And it sucks so badddddddddd.
But she’s right. Everyone’s right. I’m being re-introduced to my shit and I’m feeling it. And then, after I feel it so intensely and sit with it and accept it, not only am I not hungry, but I feel a little lighter.
Sure, it would be nice if the scale would fucking REFLECT THAT, every now and then… But regardless, baby steps.
Babbbbby fucking steps.
Look, I don’t know what will happen with my career. I actually do not know if my body will ever reflect all the physical activity and healthy food I’m eating.
But I guess the thing I’m learning to focus on is loving what I have regardless of how it looks. The rolls, the cellulite, the flab, the jiggles. My humor, my grace, my courage, my humility.
At least I’m alive.
The beautiful thing is, I’ve only been here for a month. My return to New York is months away, maybe longer, and when the day comes to return, I’ll have to take it in stride and re-evaluate what I can do in this tough, tough industry that I strangely still love so much even though it’s put me through highs and lows that can’t be explained by words.
Because there might be days where I walked out of a 42nd Street call knowing that I was too big to book the job. But there’s also days when I performed for an entire audience of volunteers, at this weight, here in Hawaii, who cheered me on while I tap dance improv’d for my life. And the joy that comes along with moments like that, are enough to hold me over until I figure out where I fit into this business while still continuing to live a healthy life not controlled by addiction and disorder.
So yea, I still cry, you guys. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Hawaii or you’re in Antarctica – when you have a realization about a broken heart or an overwhelming obstacle in the career you love, you’re still gonna be heartbroken and your’e still gonna cry.
But I’ve also learned that being alive is such a gift. And I would never want to go back to the way things were. “Cuz I’m a free bitch, baby”, and I wouldn’t trade in any of the pain, or the sad memories, or the profound yet sometimes devastating realizations, for the world. I would rather feel shit for the rest of my life than ever use anything to numb it again.
So the only lesson I can offer you this week, is that it’s okay. It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to really sit with it and breathe it in and…feel it.
And if you face the pain head on, and really feel it, instead of doing something to escape it, you’ll be the most alive you’ve ever been in all your years of living.
Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could.
Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change…
I feel like it’s that time in this blog’s journey to talk about changing the world.
Dude, I know. My mind is blown at my new attitude as much as yours is.
I mean, I know there are skeptics out here who have known me for years who absolutely think that I have gone off the deep end.
Me. Amanda. Volunteering. Sharing.
It’s truly shocking. I know, you guys.
But it’s gonna make everything better!
The whole world is gonna be better.
Because I’m going to share with you what’s happening here and maybe it will hit a nerve in you that starts a ripple effect.
My volunteering here is starting a ripple effect.
When I called my mother to tell her I got accepted into the volunteer program here in Hawaii, I think the thing she was most excited about was for me to learn how to clean a toilet. Actually, I don’t think that. I know that. She said, “Thank God. It’ll be good for you to learn how to scrub a toilet.”
I was like, “Hey! I’ve always been a pretty clean chick!”
…but like, not really. My shit is always everywhere, always, all the time.
So now, I’m in Hawaii. Volunteering in the housekeeping department. And I clean a LOT of things here.
I’ve learned so many things.
And yes, Mom, I’ve scrubbed a lot of toilets.
We had a code brown this week and I had the pleasure of flushing it.
I’ve been bitten by fire ants while scrubbing the sink. (Fire ants, man, they looooooooove fat. So when I’m bent over and scrubbing a sink, my protruding stomach is in the perfect place for them to attack. #blessed)
I’ve made many, many, many beds and I’ve deep-cleaned campground showers and I’ve sorted trash.
All the humbling things are happening here in paradise, my friends.
And I like, love it.
Basically, I put in 30 hours a week with the housekeeping department in exchange for all of my food, housing, utilities, water, toilet paper (huge plus!), sheets, pool, yoga, art shed, coffee, juice, nature, stars, moon, workshops, love, community, and tattooed eye candy.
I sort of thought when I got here that the volunteering thing would be the worst part of my week but if I could just get through it, like any other survival job, I would be able to enjoy the rest of my time here.
It turns out that the people I’ve met in the housekeeping department are people that I am definitely supposed to meet in this life. People who I am meant to talk to. Laugh with. Cry with. Learn from.
Some of my days when I am working in housekeeping are my best days here. I get to have amazing conversations with people while folding laundry. I get to see the entire property. I get to meet guests that I wouldn’t have otherwise met. And I get to make things go from dirty to clean.
Something I was never, ever into before.
What’s more awesome than that is, none of us in the entire department, half-ass our work.
It’s like, we could totally get away with not sweeping the floor sometimes. We could totally not change the sheets when we are supposed to. Technically, no one would know.
But when you figure out that by making a room beautiful for a guest who is arriving, that you get so much satisfaction, you just go balls to the wall and work really hard every moment of your daily shift.
Because if guests who come here are happy during their stay here, their happy energy will carry throughout the entire property.
And then they will leave here with that happy energy. Relaxed, rejuvenated, and satisfied.
And if they go back home to their corporate job that they were taking a break from with this newfound energy, and light, and peace, they might impact someone else to retreat for a week or two in Hawaii.
And then that person will come here and experience the freedom, and leave here and spread the love.
Without even thinking about it. Without even trying. It will just happen.
And so on, and so forth, until more and more people are taking time for themselves to experience the love.
So I’m learning that by making beds and by scrubbing showers here, my volunteering is causing a ripple effect.
Me. Just little old me.
I never thought that just one person could make an effect on humanity. But here, it happens every day.
Just look at the things that I pass on to all of you that I learned from my yoga teacher. He’s just one person. And he affected me. And I’ve shared them and affected you. And you will share them and affect your roommate. And your roommate will share them and affect his girlfriend. And his girlfriend will share them and affect her mom. And her mom will share them and affect her hairdresser. And all of a sudden my yoga teacher has reached your roommate’s girlfriend’s mom’s hairdresser and she’s doing yoga with hair-dye stained fingers.
Dude, like, we can change the world. I did not know. And I think I’m on to something here with this whole volunteering thing.
This whole concept of volunteering – what is it really?
I’ve always considered volunteering the kind of thing where I donate my time to a friend’s play reading. Or when I choreograph for a web series (for free). Or when I sing backup harmonies on a demo (for free). All these things are “volunteering time” to someone’s project.
I sort of considered this my way of fulfilling the “volunteering and being good category”. You know, the category that consists of things like “donate my fat clothes to Goodwill” and “actually pay for my Broadway Bares ticket”.
I think a lot of us think that way.
I am not here to tell you that we are wrong in thinking that way.
But when you really come down to it, we are volunteering our time in hopes of it coming to fruition in some way, shape, or form. I don’t mind donating my voice to a demo if that demo will be heard by thousands of people. I don’t mind choreographing for a friend’s new musical if there will be producers at the showing of it. I don’t mind volunteering if there is a chance of getting something out of it.
Believe it or not, there are people in the world who also volunteer just to serve the greater good.
And I think maybe, if each of us starts to think just a little bit about adding that sort of volunteering into our daily life, little baby shifts in humanity could happen.
There’s these two different “categories” of volunteering it seems. The “good” – like volunteering at the soup kitchen – and the “selfish” – like when you clean yoga studio floors in exchange for yoga classes.
I don’t think that those labels are worth a damn.
Doing good is doing good. END OF STORY. I just think it would be nice if we all had a little bit of each “category” in our lives.
When I got here, I was under the impression I would work my 30 hours a week in housekeeping and in exhange I would get my food and my loft and my electric and I would spend the rest of my days laying at the pool or climbing lava and that would be that.
But then I found out I can offer dance classes. And volunteer to help plan trips. And volunteer to help organize the the art shed. I even volunteer to help people clean gecko poop off of the floor of their A-frame hut. Just to help out. I guess this falls under that “just volunteering but not necessarily getting anything out of it” category, even though all these things benefit the entire community.
On top of that, I found out that I can volunteer to feed and brush the Icelandic horses on property. Horses remind me of my childhood. The smell of them reminds me of my weekends at my aunt and uncle’s property when I went for trail rides with them at the age of 8. So I volunteer to feed them every Tuesday and brush them whenever I want throughout the week as well. I certainly get something out of it – I truly enjoy it. And so maybe it’s under the “selfish volunteering” category. But I mean, what the hell? Who cares? I’m happy, the horses are happy, everyone’s happy.
So, here I am. Finding out that just volunteering for all the things has brought me joy. And I know that when I feel joy, it definitely spreads. I laugh more, I smile more, and I know that my joy has an affect on those around me.
The gift of volunteering keeps on giving.
SERIOUSLY THOUGH, WHO AM I????????
I’ve never been a woman of service. But better late than never I say. Because it’s the start of me putting good, good, good energy out in the world.
This whole volunteering situation leads to more opportunities to spread love. Somehow, without people even knowing that I have a blog here, people that have had issues with addictions and food have naturally found me and we’ve had deep conversations about the void that we are filling with whatever we have been addicted to all of these years. I have been able to spread the knowledge that I have gained in the past few weeks with these people who have been unaware of what their addiction might be stemming from.
Instead of the competition of “whose story is worse”, here, we just have conversations and find solace in the fact that we are not alone in our journeys.
Sort of like this blog.
Finding solace and having a conversation about real shit.
Volunteering your time to the art of conversation is a huge act of kindness too. Don’t underestimate it.
There needs to be more conversation.
Volunteer your time to listen to people when they find you because they need to talk.
Volunteering your attention and energy to a conversation is just as important as the charity work. Because it can change someone’s perspective. And amazing things can come from that.
You, too, can be a part of the ripple affect.
Let me give you an example.
I had this incredible conversation here with a man named Lino.
He overheard me saying that I was from NYC and he told me how he lived there for a bit. He’s a resident here who sometimes holds meditation workshops but he’s not around as much as some of the other instructors. Some volunteers here have never even met him. For some reason, our paths happened to cross. He asked me what I do in New York and although I had kept it from most people because I didn’t want all the questions of “what’s that like” or “will you sing for us pleeeeeease?”, I felt that it was okay to share with this man.
He went to the default question when I told him I was a performer and a dancer. “Oh, are you gonna do something here for open mic?!”
I went to my default answer. “Oh, probably not, I’d rather just enjoy everyone else. I don’t want to be defined as the musical theatre girl here. I really am, like, just, like, trying to take a break right now.”
He cocked his head and scrunched up his face a little in confusion. He said gently, “No one here will ever define you by what you did in the past. Most of the time, people forget about five minutes after you tell them. You’re here now. That was the past. You can be whoever you want to be here.”
I brushed him off. He was saying such a profound thing that wasn’t sinking in yet. I argued, “Yea, but like, I just don’t want to indulge in performance right now. It feels selfish. I’m used to auditioning and spending my time performing for the sake of promotion. Or to meet an agent. It’s a very self-involved career that I’m in.”
His face softened and he smiled at me with the most beautiful, kind eyes you’ve ever seen.
He said to me, “Amanda, you don’t have to perform here. You don’t have to put on a show for us. But it is okay to share your art with us. Art is meant to be shared. Art is changing the world every day. Please share your art with us.”
And my entire perspective changed.
Amazing things have come from that change in perspective.
Now, I hold these jam sessions at the Field of Dreams – which is this wonderful set-up they have here, away from all the guest rooms and volunteer housing so that we can make music and make noise and see the stars and just be – and people come and dance, and drum, and sing, and hum, and play guitar, and I bring my tap shoes and we just make music and movement happen.
I basically just went to the volunteer office and asked to reserve it a few nights a week and it’s become this magical thing. This magical thing. I can’t even tell you how magical it is.
I’ve seen people come completely out of their shell. I’ve seen people try things they’ve never done before. I’ve heard endless laughter that echoes way beyond the Field of Dreams.
And it all comes from this place of wanting to share. It’s not to promote myself. It’s not to network. It’s not to show off. It’s just this place of wanting to be a part of music and art and dance and love and magic and I want to help faciliate it.
For the first time in my life, I am doing things for the goodness of the group, instead of for recognition.
I am dancing to dance. Not to get a choreographer to notice me.
I am harmonizing to make music. Not to prove that I am a dancer who also sings.
I am facilitating the jam session to fuckin’ jam. Not to be praised for holding something great.
And I gotta get the word out so that y’all start facilitating shit too.
Share your art. Share your knowledge. Share your shit.
If you know how to do yoga, and you see a friend in desperate need of peace, gently offer to show them some simple poses that will help break them in.
If you know how to play the guitar, and your friend bought a guitar but is too overwhelmed by finding a teacher, offer to show them some chords.
And do it for free.
Volunteer your time for the greater good.
Look, I know NYC is expensive. Basically, the world is expensive. But donating an hour of your time to someone different every week is not gonna break the bank. I promise.
We can change people’s outlook by offering to share what we know.
As a community, as the performing/auditioning/Broadway community, share. Just for the sake of sharing.
And if you are an extended part of the community that I speak of, which is all of you who read this blog who went to high school with me, or who met me bartending, or who don’t know me but read about it by a friend of a friend who shared it on facebook, you’re not off the hook.
You gotta share too.
Everyone knows something.
Do you know how to knit? Do you know how to eat a pomegranate? Do you know how to dye hair? Do you know how to yodel? Do you speak Mandarin? Do you do energy work? Do you know how to use a SodaStream? Do you know how to make homemade laundry detergent?
Share that shit.
Or, trade it off. We also do a lot of trades here. It’s…awesome.
“If you teach me ukelele, I’ll give you a massage.” (We have a ton of massage therapists here who are licensed in other states but can’t be employed by the state of Hawaii until they are licensed HERE so they are very willing to share their gift.)
“If you teach me some French, I’ll teach you how to make vegan cheese.”
“If you shave the right side of my head, I will teach you how to paint your leather tap shoes.”
Or my favorite, the ones that aren’t really trades as much as they are explorations together.
“Hey, if I reserve the Blue Moon room tonight, do you want to go try to tango?”
“Hey, if I get us t-shirts, do you want to learn how sew them into cool tank tops?”
Like just share your knowledge with people. Or ask someone to try something new with you.
Your artistic or intellectual gift could be just the spark that someone else needs to change their whole life. Their entire perspective. You can help someone become less overwhelmed with something that they’ve been wanting to try. Something that might end up meaning the world to them.
Meaning their life will improve. Meaning they will find happiness. Meaning that they might impact another person with their happiness. Which means that you helped inspire more than just one person.
WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD PEOPLE.
WE CAN WE CAN WE CAN WE CAN WE CAN WE CAN WE CAN WE CAN WE CAN WE CAN WE CAN WE CAN WE CAN!
Sigh. Life is good.
I know it might seem like I wrote this blog post while completely stoned. But I’m stone cold sober and I just had chocolate vegan pancakes for breakfast actually. So I wasn’t high. I think I’m just slowly calming the fuck down. And realizing that spreading good shit around could help everyone, a lot.
We’re gonna be okay.
It’s all gonna be okay.
If only someone had informed me how amazing orgasms become after you start doing yoga.
Okay. Now that I have your attention, let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.
I have two stomach rolls when I sit down.
One roll starts right beneath my boobs and stops about two inches above my belly button. There is a permanent crease here on my mid-section.
The next roll starts at that crease and ends where my hips start, commonly called the “pooch”, “tire”, or “fupa”.
My belly button becomes a flat line when I sit down even though I have an “innie” that when standing up, or at 143 pounds, looks like the cutest little belly button you ever did see.
When I stand up straight, I have two small rolls that form under my armpits in my back, right around my bra line.
When I wear tight jeans, not only is there a crease underneath my asscheeks, but there is another crease about 3 inches lower than that, where my saddlebags become restricted in tight clothing.
When I run, the flab underneath my arms flaps.
So the fact that I’m writing this to you in broad daylight in my birthday suit on a lounge chair at the clothing optional pool right now is a pretty bold life choice.
But without bold life choices, there wouldn’t be this blog. There wouldn’t be Hawaii in my life. And I would always be wrapped in a towel on the side of the pool, waiting for the right moment to jump in.
My clothes do fit a little looser now that I am in Hawaii – not by much – but it’s enough. I haven’t weighed myself since the first week of May, but I was around 167 back then. So the description I just gave you of my body is of an average 165 pound body. I am 5’7”.
And I am strong as hell.
Apparently, under all those imperfections, there lies some fierce muscle mass.
Do you know how I know I am strong as hell?
I do yoga.
I literally know nothing about yoga. Like, I don’t understand the bowing to the teacher at the end of the class so I just do it anyways and I look at my neighbor to know when to come up. I don’t understand the namaste’s or the inversions or why in the world anyone wants to use those crusty blankets that are always in the studio but never get washed.
All I know, is that I sweat like crazy and I get to sleep at the end of every class.
I am 26 years old and I think I took a total of two yoga classes in my seven year relationship with New York City. When people found out I was coming to Hawaii to do yoga, they gave me an eyebrow raise and a forced “wow, that’s……………..awesome.” They were so shocked that I was leaving New York to do something so peaceful. I normally like to box. Hit things. Torture myself with hours of cardio. Pound the pavement – both literally and figuratively.
I always complained that I didn’t have time for yoga because I was too busy exercising to lose weight all the time.
If only someone had informed me that I would sweat more in downward facing dog than on an elliptical.
If only someone had informed me that there are nice teachers out there who will explain everything as they go for first timers.
If only someone had informed me that tattooed straight dudes take yoga too.
And seriously, IF ONLY SOMEONE HAD SO KINDLY INFORMED ME OF THE WHOLE ORGASMS BEING BETTER THING.
All the things, and I literally mean all the things, would have been better.
I think yoga is quite overwhelming, don’t you? There are like 800 different kinds, there are expensive sports bras made for the 800 different kinds, and when you walk into class, everyone is sitting there, looking all meditative and shit – like they know exactly what they are doing. So I automatically get intimidated, and try to do what they are doing. And instead of resting my mind like someone told me I would automatically do when I get to class, I’m worried that my legs aren’t crossed the right way.
Regardless of all that shit, I jumped in and just went for it when I got here. Not knowing anything. And let me tell you something. Yoga has changed my life in the past two weeks.
So I’m going to do the informing now. I want to pay it forward.
You know how Lululemon has that campaign right now to get the world to do more yoga? I kind of scoffed at it when I went into the store to look at their sale stuff every day for seven days straight before I left for Hawaii.
Now I get it.
So I’m going to take the overwhelming shit that has overwhelmed me for too many years and I’m going to straighten it out for you, my people. Because whether you have had exercise bulimia, or you go to the gym to let out aggression, or you go to the gym to fit into a bathing suit, I just want to let you know, that you can get the same results by going to yoga and then laying in corpse pose for ten minutes afterwards. It’s fucking amazing.
(Um, just a little service announcement here. I didn’t Google anything. I asked a few questions of my teachers here but other than that, I’m speaking quite frankly from my own experience. Which isn’t much. I think it’s more important to give you the point of view of a normal, every day, non-meditating, newbie to yoga than to provide you with facts that you could find out on your own from Wikipedia. Below, are the things that I have learned by trial and error. Mahalo for your time.)
Yoga does not always look like this.
These people most definitely have sand in their crotch and they are most definitely getting a paycheck under the job title “model.”
You do not need to own Lululemon, Athleta, Under Armour, or a single piece of lycra clothing to do yoga. The men here do yoga in their board shorts and bathing suits. The women wear leggings, cut up t-shirts, cargo shorts, bikini tops, you name it. I realize that I am in Hawaii and New York is different. But fuck that. Seriously. If you find the right yoga studio for you, you will find that what you wear has nothing to do with it. It’s not about owning the newest built-in-bra-coral-colored-breezeway-split-racer-back-top. It’s just so not about that.
Garbagemen do yoga. Mailmen do yoga. Farmers do yoga. Motorcycle men do yoga. Mechanics do yoga. Single men do yoga. Married men do yoga. Men do yoga. Straight men do yoga. Fat men do yoga. Old men do yoga. Skinny men do yoga. Gay men do yoga. Pregnant moms do yoga. 86-year old women do yoga. Lesbians do yoga. Local Hawaiian people with dreadlocks do yoga. Recovering alcoholics do yoga. Chefs do yoga. My housekeeping manager here does yoga with his wife. The tech guys here do yoga. All these people I just mentioned are here doing yoga with me, right now. Just because yoga looks like this in magazines…
…does not mean that everyone looks like this in class. And I think that the variety is actually more beautiful.
Most yoga studios have no mirrors. So instead of going to Cardio Kickbox Trampoline Step Plyometric Impact Class and watching your arm flab bounce, you can do your yoga in peace. Nothing against cardio sweat classes. Some days they are great. But with no mirrors in sight, you only get to look at your own body doing the work. Or you just close your eyes and enjoy the moment when you reach a little farther for the first time. When your heels touch the mat in downward facing dog the first time. When you inhale and exhale through a Vinyasa flow for the first time. There’s no mirror to look at, and so you can’t see how red your face is from hanging upside down, or see the rolls that naturally form when you’re bent over. It’s nice to take a moment away from the cardio classes. And the mirrors. It’s nice to take a moment away from your own judgemental eyes. Because you know that you’re the only one judging your arm flab right?
I have always had trouble getting out of my head in the bedroom. My mind would race, my orgasm would be close but I would get distracted, and if there is a man somewhere reading this that’s been in bed with me, he’s nodding because he knows it’s true. It’s frustrating for both him, and me, at the same time. There he would be, doing all the right things, and my mind would be off in audition-land, or in ice-cream-land, or in hating-my-stomach-land.
Yoga is proven to improve your sex life. (Okay, fine, I did Google that one sentence right there). You are like, ten times more in tune with your body than you were before you started class. It does not matter if you can’t touch your toes. You are listening to your body when it tells you that you can’t touch your toes, right? So if you spend an entire hour listening to what your body wants and does not want, don’t you think that if you spend a few hours a week listening to your body that it will carry over to the bedroom? Not to mention how much farther your legs will go over your head after a few classes. And no one has ever complained about that.
Even more important than that, yoga is designed to take your focus out of your racing thoughts and into your body to prepare your body for meditation. So instead of making your grocery list while someone is trying to get you off, maybe your mind will have let go of the lists and the to-do’s and the worries when you held tree pose earlier that afternoon. Making you more present for that thing he/she does down there that you love so much.
Kissing will be different. Touching will be different. It’s just different. Trust me. I’ve been there. I’m…there.
Yoga has all kinds of frustrating names that don’t help describe it. Thanks for the ancient Sanskrit names guys. Super intimidating.
Yoga is actually designed to get the body ready for meditation. But you don’t need to worry about that yet. Baby steps, remember? Just try one class and see what it does for your entire nervous system, not to mention your brain. The meditation will come after. Just think of it as a free gift included in your class.
So which class are you supposed to try? That used to overwhelm me. Vinyasa Yoga or Hatha Yoga is your most popular option in NYC, and I recommend trying it before you go to anything with heat. Like, seriously, baby steps. Let’s try breathing through a downward facing dog before we add 105 degrees. Anything with the word “beginner” in the title is also maybe a great way to go.
All “Vinyasa” means is that it’s power yoga. Instead of holding a pose and then switching into the next one by standing up, fixing your hair, or having a moment to beat yourself up for not being as flexible as your neighbor, there is a flow to the whole class. There is a way to get from pose to pose. Connections to the next position. The breath connects all of this together. But don’t be overwhelmed by that. Just do your best to try a class, follow along, and rest in child’s pose whenever you’re over it. Seriously. A class that encourages you to rest when you need it. WHO COULD ASK FOR ANYTHING MORE???
Why do you bow?
Why do you breathe that annoying breath?
Why does the breath matter?
Why do you meditate afterwards?
I don’t know all the answers. But I do know that I didn’t do it all correctly at first and I’m still alive.
I think that it’s so intimidating when you go to a class and you feel like if you don’t breathe correctly the whole time, you won’t get the same results as everyone else. What I’ve found is, I still feel like I worked my body head to toe after class. And every class, I get better with the breathing thing. The inhaling and exhaling with the special “ocean” breath makes you sweat more. That’s all you need to know for now. There is a reason for everything in yoga. But instead of trying to figure all of it out at once, why don’t we all just try to go to class and learn one thing at a time? Every class, you will retain one more tiny thing and after two weeks, you will have learned two to four new tiny things that might just add up to one big fucking thing.
About three months ago, I saw this picture:
I got so pissed. Dude, just because I’m a (recovering) binger and I have ice cream inside me, does not mean that I don’t eat vegetables. That’s fucking ridiculous.
The picture got me to thinking. Thinking about our vision of health these days. What we get out of the pictures in the magazines, on Pinterest, on Facebook. It got me to thinking about how tired I am of all the pictures. All the pictures I am always seeing of these models in Self and Women’s Health in their sports bras and their booty shorts doing these poses, making it look like only skinny, flexible people run and do yoga.
So I decided to do something about that. I called up a friend who is a photographer and we did a photo shoot in Fort Tryon Park. I wanted to prove to the world that people who look like me run and dance and can do yoga too. I am not a size two. The garbage man here is not a size 2. But he goes to yoga with me and he touches his shins when he bends over. A month ago he could only touch his knees. That’s what’s up.
So for every time you see this in Shape…
…please know that my stomach rolls and I are doing that too:
And every time you see this in Fitness Magazine…
…know that my back fat, and my cellulite, and I, are doing that too:
And know that every time you see this, in the “Yoga Poses For Belly Fat” category online…
…that my constantly racing mind and I are focusing on holding this, in order to calm the fuck down and find peace within:
Any body type can do yoga. If you take nothing away from this blog post, please take that away from this blog post.
Any fucking body type can do yoga. Thank you.
If you know me and who I am, you’ll know that I’ve always been scared of doing lifts in shows. My friend Rich had to battle my fear every day he lifted me last year in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. My friend Matty had to look me in the eye every time we danced together in Mame to see if I was going to go for the lift that day or not. I always felt too heavy. I’ve been afraid of being dropped. I didn’t grow up in a dance studio with boys to practice lifts with. I’m just scared and I don’t trust my partner enough to let him do his job.
So when Joel, the IT guy, came up to me one day and asked if I wanted to try partner yoga, and I said yes without thinking, I nearly had a heart attack.
Next thing I knew, I was letting this skinny guy lift me by one arm and one leg while in my bikini. Stomach all hanging out, thighs jiggling, ass in his face. Not in the sexy way.
And what resulted from that first day of partner yoga was a freeing feeling that I can’t actually describe in words. I can’t describe it. I just can’t.
All I can say about it is, when you go from fear to flying in twenty seconds flat, your whole outlook can change.
Now when Joel sees me before lunch we will spend ten minutes “flying”. Which is what he calls it.
We do this:
Mind you, no one’s hands are touching the ground in this picture. My hands are wrapped behind his back. I just wanted to be clear that this is all happening with just our bodies and equilibrium. BAM.
And I feel free. And trusting. And he has never dropped me once. The first time I asked him if I was too heavy. He didn’t look at me like I was crazy. He just looked me in the eye and said no. And that was that.
If you contact the following studios in New York City, you can ask a shit ton of questions and you can get free passes to try their studio for up to a week.
http://www.yogaworks.com (1 free week)
http://yogatothepeople.com (donation based classes, the Vinyasa class in Brooklyn was my first class ever in New York City and it was everything)
http://www.pureyoga.com/en/newyork/purecontracts/enquiry.php (takes you right to the page where you sign up for a complimentary class, there is a location on the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side.)
These are just the three that I tried to take advantage of right before I left. I never even got to use the YogaWorks pass but there are a bunch of people from YogaWorks here doing their teacher training and I really like them all. There are many more options all over the city to try out studios. If you’re not from NYC, take a deep breath and Google “free trial yoga [insert your city of choice here]”. Ask your friends, co-workers, and local Starbucks barista where THEY do yoga. Force a friend to go with you so that you don’t feel confused or overwhelmed by yourself. And then if you hate it, at least you know you have a buddy to complain to afterwards over a beer.
That was quite a list huh? My goal was to inform, and not overwhelm. And so if you need to re-read this in sections at a later date, I totally get it. If just one person reads this this week and goes and takes yoga then my work is done. I’m going to keep telling you how amazing I feel until all of you just go and fucking try it. Seriously.
My favorite yoga teacher here, the one who also has us sing that song at the end of class that I wrote about last week, asked us this week why we feel like we have to wait to be happy.
Why do we have to wait til we are 90 and spent, to be happy?
Why do we have to work until we are fried, to be happy?
Why do we have to wait until we understand all the yoga positions to take it?
If yoga makes us happy right now, let’s just take it. Like, let’s just take it. Let’s fuck it up. Let’s be wrong. Let’s fall out of postures. Let’s forget to breathe. Let’s let our mind race.
Because one day, maybe one of those things will naturally correct itself and you won’t even notice until you leave class and realize something is different. You can’t put your finger on it but something feels right. Different. Good. Better.
Never underestimate the power of trying something new because it scares you.
Who knows what kind of orgasm, what kind of muscle, or what kind of peace of mind it might bring you.
And if nothing else, just admire the beauty of looking at your own two feet, rooted in the ground, holding all of your weight up without the help of a treadmill or a chin-up bar. It’s just you, standing up, hands on your heart, feeling your heartbeat, standing all on your own.
Sometimes we forget that we don’t need Lululemon, or the newest Nike’s, or a trainer to help us stand alone.
Our legs are always right there. The strongest help of all. Holding all of our body weight on their own.
That’s pretty gnarly, isn’t it?
In a world where we are trained to hate our bodies, it’s a pretty beautiful thing to spend an hour in a quiet class where the only thing holding you up is your own body. Makes you pretty fucking thankful for what you got – whether it’s perfect or not.
*Photographs by Michela Imbesi (you can find her on Facebook)
**Special thanks to my Hawaiian ohana: Ellard for photographing the partner yoga; Will and Jared for their constant yoga wisdom, in and out of class; and Joel, who has given me the freedom of flying.
***Deepest gratitude to my friend Christina, who told me that she had a feeling yoga would turn out to be my form of therapy, and for dragging me to that first class in Brooklyn.