In Which I Have The Audacity To Edit Thomas Merton

“You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” – Thomas Merton

And then acting on that. <– There. See? Better. But still not quite right.

Upon further contemplation, I want to rewrite this statement altogether. Sometimes, you do have to rearrange the circumstances of your life in order to find peace.

Working backward, it seems to me that:

If you realize who you are at the deepest level, then change your circumstances to reflect that truth, you will find peace. – Tracy Clark

Go ahead, quote me on that.

I’m not just navel-gazing here. I lived this process a few months back and changed and rearranged things from every segment of my life. I called it my Total Life Course and it radically changed my life. Now I’m working hard to build a community for others to do the same.

For example, things that were at the bottom of my “Soul/spirit” list had to be moved and prioritized at the top. Meditation, for example.

In my “Emotional” area, I had to commit to not numbing out uncomfortable feelings. Instead of diffusing the fire with my compassionate attention, I’d douse it with food, shopping, sex, or alcohol. Of course those things didn’t make my difficult feelings go away, they only fueled the blaze. I had to rearrange my thinking and get brave enough to walk into the fire. I had therapists tell me about this superhero move, but I didn’t believe in it…until it worked.

Of course, the changes in what I put into my body affected my “Health” sector as well. It’s all connected.

Rearranging my life by…

  1. Listening to who I really was, and
  2. Acting on that inner truth

…had a ripple effect that flowed throughout my entire life.

I call Total Life Course a “whole life makeover” because that’s what it’s been for me. I believe that if you don’t realize the truth of who you are, then take the steps to BE that person, you will be stuck in a pattern of conflict within yourself. Peace will come when you stop the infighting and surrender to the wisdom that’s already inside of you. No one has your back like your Highest Self.

You might have to do some metaphorical furniture moving, but your space will be so much cleaner, clearer, and peaceful.

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I’m Not Telling You Not to Drink Alcohol

I’m not telling you not to drink.

Now that that’s out of the way, relax. Maybe with a glass of wine, if that’s your bag. But can we have an honest talk about alcohol for a sec?

I started drinking at thirteen when I got dangerously drunk at a party and subsequently got violently ill. You’d think that banana and beer flavored vomit would’ve purged the desire to drink right out of me, but no.

I snuck wine coolers into school dances in 9th grade. I had a fake ID at sixteen and regularly went to clubs, bars, and purchased alcohol at stores. When out partying with friends, I soon learned that (unaware of my true introvert nature) I was more “fun” and less inhibited when I drank. In the workforce, drinking at office parties was expected. Socially, there wasn’t a birthday, holiday, or BBQ where I didn’t have a drink in hand.

I remember the first time I went wine tasting in Paso Robles, CA. I was 22. My boyfriend was ten years my senior and also my boss (but that’s another post.) Wine tasting was like leveling up, an escalator from basement drinking to elegant candlelit rooftop drinking. It was classy. It made me—the girl from the trailer park—classy.

Wine tasting (or wine-swallowing, as you’d never see me spitting) was an all-day smorgasbord of pseudo-elegant imbibing. It was “refined” and the mark of the “good life” to know an excellent bottle when I tasted it and to always have good wine on hand to share with others.

I’ve taken courses on wine. I still have a bucket-list item to become a sommelier and a Pinterest board devoted to images of wine like an altar. I play games when tasting to see how accurately I can detect the subtle notes and flavors. I’m uncannily good at it. That’s probably because my sense of smell is so strong that I could have a side job in Search & Rescue. Is that berries or stone fruits? Fresh or baked? Is that vanilla I detect? Knowledge of wine is cool and sophisticated. Oh so hoity-toity and fun.

My enjoyment of wine grew to an oenophile level, relishing the varieties and complexities of it.

Of course, wine is not so complex when you’re on your fourth glass.

So, I think I’ve sufficiently laid the groundwork to convince you that I’ve had a long and passionate and loyal affair with wine. Eventually, though, my relationship with it became love/hate. I loved every drop. I hated that I had no true control over it.

Aside from my pregnancies, I could count on one hand the number of times I abstained for more than three weeks at a time. I had so much resistance to any thought of giving it up, even for a while.

Given these conflicted feelings, why did I keep drinking?

I continued because the allure was stronger than the repercussions. It’s only by some divine vein of inner-strength, stubbornness, or some genetic ability to be a bottomless sponge, that I never became the flask-toting, curb-sleeping, toe-up all day drinker that I should have become.

I lived as the kind of alcohol abuser who drank at night (Night pretty much started not a second past 5pm) to “take the edge off” or unwind, celebrate, have fun, be happy, be sad, be sexy, or be numb.

Numb. Comfortably numb.

Alcohol blotted out my uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, boredom, and awkwardness while clinging to a notion of reward. Pain grows in the marvelous fertilizer that is self-doubt and alcohol relieved my pain. Temporarily.

With time, I began to secretly wonder if my drinking was out of hand? (Note: if you’re wondering, it probably is.) I bought self-help books on ‘how to know if you’re an alcoholic’, ‘how to have a healthier relationship with alcohol’, and memoirs from people who’d slain the dragon and proclaimed the joys and the freedom of an alcohol-free life. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a bit of hope in their promises.

I’m not a girl who likes chains, even ones of her own making.

I secretly read and re-read books on how to abstain. I anonymously signed up on support sites. Why ‘secretly’? Because I didn’t want to announce my worries to friends or family, most of whom I presumed would be an unsupportive band of drinkers who would judge or downplay my concerns because maybe they didn’t want to face their own.

I didn’t want to be the friend who wasn’t “fun.” I didn’t want people to gossip about how I quit because I had a “problem.” I didn’t want judgey side-eyes if I did drink. I didn’t want people to turn into the wine-police. I didn’t want to deal with the scary change.

I didn’t want life to be less fun. But how much fun was I having, really?

More truthfully, I really didn’t want to be held accountable to changing if I let anyone know that I suspected I was struggling to control it.

So why did I recently force myself to stop drinking for 90 days?

For one thing, to prove I could. I was sick of breaking promises to myself. I was sick of the struggle. I was on a mission to be, as my wise friend, Caren, says, “…bigger than the voices in my head.”

I’d known for a while that I was in a tug-o-war with a powerful drug. It was time to drop the rope.

Ultimately, I think the worst pain is the separation from our highest selves. Isolation and disconnection are painful but they’re most painful when the separation is from our most authentic, most conscious, best self.

It’s important to listen to that inner voice that’s nudging you to do something, especially if it’s specific. For me, that was giving up alcohol for a while—if only to prove that I could.

The nightly crutch of wine had become a physical, monetary, and emotional hammer in my well-being. It brought down my clarity and quality of life. It derailed me from my best expression of myself.

It dulled my freakin’ shine.

During my recent Total Life Course when I went alcohol-free for 90 days, I realized that I also used wine to give myself the feelings of buoyancy, cheerfulness, and fun that I—someone who struggles with anxiety and depression—naturally lack.

Please know, I’m not advocating an alcohol-free lifestyle for everyone. This was something I had to address on my personal reset in order to course correct my life. You may not have the issues I did. But I’m sure that many of you can relate.

Want a list of the benefits I noticed over those three months? Better sleep. Waking more rested and ready to tackle a new day. I exercised more consistently (because I was better rested) and had more energy throughout the day. I was more present in my interactions with the people I love, especially in the evenings. I didn’t mindlessly snack late at night. I lost weight. My skin looked better. Eyes clearer. I was more motivated in all areas of my life.

My Total Life Course experiment had many facets and all the changes together probably account for some of the above benefits. I believe it all works in concert. That’s the power of whole-life change and why I’m committed to starting a Radical Reset movement!

After the 90 days was done, it felt like I’d given my body a real break from the toxins. Think about it; if I started drinking at 13, that’s 34 years of relentless toxicity. If you look at it like that, it would probably take much longer to truly repair my body and mind. But 90 days was a start…

My experiment convinced me that a clean body moves you through life much more efficiently, energetically, and joyously. That’s a fact. Maybe it was a fact I didn’t want to admit, but it’s a damn fact.

You want to know: Did I allow alcohol back into my life after my break? Yes. But I’d be lying if I said that my relationship to it isn’t a slippery slope. As of the writing of this, I can tell you that it’s escalated pretty quickly. I may just be one of those people who will have to someday admit that I’m not built to be a moderate drinker. I will grieve about this. But I’ll probably feel damn good after I get over it.

So hey, I’m not telling you not to drink. Who am I to do to that?

I’m asking you to look at why you do. I’m asking you if you’re telling you not to drink? Are you ignoring the urgings of your Highest Self? Listen. Then, ask yourself if your current level of consumption dulls your shine.

It’s your job to freakin’ shine.



Ignoring Your Inner Voice? Whispers and Screams

“Difficulties come when you don’t pay attention to life’s whisper. Life always whispers to you first, but if you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you’ll get a scream.” Oprah Winfrey

Chances are, you’ve heard whisperings.

Or screams.

I sure as shit have. And every year/month/day I denied her was slowly dimming my spirit and leading me away from where I instinctively felt I needed to go.

Recently, I sensed my life was in a natural state of transition but that I was actively standing in my own way. I knew I was on the precipice of an awakening yet putting the chloroform over my own mouth to go back to sleep.

In your forties, you find yourself in a strange, misty bog between headlines like (insert typical Cosmo youth-obsessed vapidity headline here) and “Can’t wait to get your AARP discount?” and even stranger, spam emails for “Single Seniors.” What!? I’m still bleeding every month and doing a belly flop into a vat of chocolate with a baguette in my hand like a sword the week before!

I’m not there yet! Who was speaking to me—someone on the relative edge of old? Someone closer to 50 than 40 who was becoming more and more interested in looking forward than behind? Someone who was realizing with every passing year that my old ways of coping weren’t going to do sheisse to keep me thriving or even happy?

I’ve been journaling since my early twenties when rampant stress caused severe dizzy spells and a misdiagnosis of epilepsy. That’s the power of unchecked stress, folks. To say I can deny the screaming of my body, mind, and spirit would be an understatement. I’m the Queen of “No, no. I’m good. I’ve got this.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I didn’t have it.

I only looked like I did.

You know the drill… Hustle your ass off trying to show the world how very together you are but your A-game is the business of hiding your unworthiness behind the perfect facade.

In order to really have it, I’d have to give the reins to another part of me. She’d been waiting, fingers twitching to finally be the one in control, the only person with the skill to get us where we hoped to go. She knew this. She’s been trying to tell me for a long time.

Journal Entry: 8-20-14

“I feel like I’m at a crucial crossroads in my life…I feel torn in half. There’s a higher voice (I feel like the voice of my higher self has been talking for a few years and I’ve been ignoring it.) What’s the peril of that? Be still—HS says, “The things you’re struggling with (food, alcohol, anger) you are using to cover up. Get quiet. Really listen to yourself. Do what you can to be heard. Your soul has much to say.”

After years of ignoring that voice, HS was growing impatient. I could feel it like a warning.

“Please. Before it’s too late,” she’d urge.

“What’s the rush?” I’d ask, irritated that I was being pressured. Scared I was being asked not to have fun anymore. But I knew the reason she was pushing.

Tomorrow comes at you very fast.

Tomorrow is built on what I’m doing this very day.

…Tomorrow is a maybe.

Harsh, right? Make no mistake, the end is a destination no one will avoid. If I was going to BE her, I had to quit living like I had all the time in the world to course correct.

I needed wisdom to help me through the fundamental choice I faced—to stay where I was or make the changes my heart and soul asked of me. Time had come to admit that the voice that had been whispering and escalating to a scream was my own beautiful, wise voice and it had only my best interest at heart.

The truth was that living in a state where my younger (admittedly very juvenile) self was in charge was fun but was wearing on me, killing my spark, derailing my goals, and literally making me sick. I’d finally come to a point where I was willing to rethink EVERYTHING.

To allow the woman I wanted to become to emerge from inside of me, there had to be a true retirement of the woman I’d been—a changing of the guard. My Highest Self had waited long enough.

Doesn’t this precious gift—this one wild life—deserve our best and call upon us to show up as the highest version of ourselves? Isn’t that a place from which we have the most to offer the world? Dammit, doesn’t this world need that right now?

Many books I’d read over the years alluded to a Higher Self. I understood it as an existential idea, maybe an all-knowing observer hovering above my life that could only be accessed through meditation or drugs or inherent holiness, which I was sure I did not possess.

Now I see that I was always holy enough to receive her. She was the angel on my shoulder when my devil wanted to play, she was there in the advice I somehow gave friends that was more full of grace and wisdom than I thought I possessed, and she was ever-present as my intuition. She was always there, not that I always listened. But she never abandoned or ignored me in return. Now she was asking for me to allow her into being, to walk our walk, talk our talk, and love and work and mother and create and strive as her—the highest version of myself.

It’s time.

Shhhh… Listen. Do you hear that? Is it a whisper? Or a scream?

Total Life Course – The 90-Day Plan That Changed My Life!

I want to talk about getting real honest about the course you’re on in your life.

Are you headed in the direction you sincerely want to go?

I promise you that you’re going somewhere, it just might not be a destination you’ll like very much.

We all go through phases that cause us to rethink and reevaluate our lives. Life’s not meant to be a mundane continuum. Nor should it always feel like an uphill climb where your Highest Self sits on the mountaintop waving frantically while you spin in circles, lost or stuck, with no idea how you’ll reach the peak.

For some of us, these phases of reexamination can be periods of major upheaval and change—a radical shift from who we were toward who we are meant to be. A rebirth. Not to over employ the caterpillar/butterfly metaphor but c’mon…they’re badass when it comes to transformation.

Metamorphosis is a messy, stunning business.

Two months shy of my 47th birthday, I got honest and sat (and cried) with the uncomfortable truth that I felt pressed and contorted and irreversibly breech in nearly all aspects of my life. I felt like every limb was employed in the effort to stay exactly where I was—a nice little psychic hidey-hole of my own making. The rub was, despite my obstinacy on staying put, I didn’t like where I was.

And I sure as hell didn’t like where I was going.

I’m self-aware enough to realize that my personal gridlock was a classic preference for the ‘devil we know.’ I resisted change because change is scary, difficult, un-fun, and risky. Who needs that when you can have another glass of wine, another slice of comfort-pie, and binge-watch Outlander so you can numb out from all the unpleasant truths crashing around like bats inside of you?

Despite the fact that people have described me as brave, I didn’t feel courageous in my day-to-day life. I felt gutless, stuck in my own thick quicksand, and was doing nothing to save myself. Deep inside, I knew what I had to do.

Go ahead. Try and tell me you don’t know your own deep inside truths.

For years, I’d heard (and blithely ignored) the calls of my Highest Self. I think she stopped waving and just plopped down on a rock with her chin in her hands, wondering if I’d ever get off my ass or quit putting boulders on my own trail.

I wanted to change but didn’t, if you feel me. I justified, procrastinated, denied, and lied myself out of genuine change. The more I did that, the more frustrated and lost I became.

When I learned to fly, my instructor gave me a great lesson on the importance of regular compass checks. What did she do? She let me get lost. I had no idea where we were and only a vague notion of how long we’d been off course. It can happen very fast. Imagine a compass with the directional lines fanning out from a dot in the center, much like the spokes on a wheel. At the very center, the lines are close together, but as you continue outward on any one line, the lines get farther and farther apart.

The longer it takes you to figure out you’re off course, the more off course you will be.

I realized with the bracing acuity of a dump truck-sized ice-bucket challenge that I needed a major course correction.

Fundamentally unhappy about too many aspects of my life, I was sick and tired of the fact that I’d been sick and tired of the same issues for so long.

Do you ever just get desperately weary of your own bullshit?

The bottom line is that I was suffering because I kept ignoring my Highest Self calling for change; changes only I could make. Changes that I knew intuitively would usher in a radical life shift; spiritually, physically, and energetically.

That Self—the most intuitive, honest, wise part of me—knew what to do.

I spent a weekend writing about everything that wasn’t working in my life and got real honest about why. How had I arrived here? What did I need to do to orient myself? I looked through volumes of my journals and could see that my “HS” had been talking to me for years.

That time was spent doing the most important thing I’ve done for myself since 2008 when I lost 50 pounds and transformed my health.

I created at 90-Day Plan—a whole-life plan—that I called: TOTAL LIFE COURSE.

I assessed the various issues I grappled with, divided my life into 5 sections, and created the “Course Correct Rules” by which I vowed to live for those 90 days.

My thinking was that it would need to be a significant enough amount of time to heal my body from years of carelessness. To shore up areas that were faltering such as work and finances. It would have to be long enough to truly break some self-defeating habits so that I could begin to heal my body and soul. It would need to be long enough to make lasting changes that would become a lifestyle.

Why’d I call it TOTAL LIFE COURSE? Because what I decided I had to do felt utterly radical and across the board. Some of the changes would be extensive departures from how I lived my daily life and would go against some of my very ingrained (and very enjoyable) habits. To commit to 90 days of across the board, sweeping changes felt utterly guerrilla and revolutionary in tactic.

In a very real way, I wanted to boldly wipe the slate clean. My gut told me to brush off the notion that it’s easier to make small, gradual changes because I believe that all aspects of our lives work in concert with one another. You can’t fly just by focusing on the engine of the plane and ignore the wings or the instruments. Everything works together. Every aspect of my life either supports or destabilizes the whole of me.

I knew I needed to shut the door on the old me with the old ways of coping, and gracefully step into this new phase of my life being more wholly authentic and brave.

Getting older and getting better takes guts, y’all.

The results were amazing.

My Total Life Course truly changed my health, my work, and my life!

I began to realize that I couldn’t be the only one grappling with the awareness and frustration of not being who I was truly meant to be…

Reaching out and sharing my journey made me realize how many people felt the same way. An opportunity and a challenge presented itself—to create a positive and supportive community with the goal of helping others overcome their own stalemate and move toward the best in themselves and in their lives.

This isn’t about striving for the “shoulds.”

“Should” is the gnarled stick we beat ourselves with.

It’s about what you deeply want. The core of you.

It’s about the willingness to let go of all that isn’t truly in your best interest.

The litmus test for that is a ‘no’ answer to anything that you can’t honestly say represents your best life or your highest vision you have about who you are.

If you’ve been feeling the same pain and frustration, if you’ve been putting off the necessary changes to reorient yourself on a route that will enable you to cross the gulf between who you are and who you want to be, then it’s time for a Radical Reset.

It’s never too late or too early.

Take my hand. We’ll climb that mountain together.

Our Highest Selves will be so glad.

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