Honesty 2016

At the beginning of this year, I skipped the typical resolutions and, instead, decided to choose a word I wanted to live by for 2016.

I wound up on "honesty"a supremely challenging word for me but which, as I look back on now, was far more beneficial than I could have imagined.  

I learned many things along the way, but the most poignant was how being honest forced me to live and be an honest version of myself.  This, of course, is not to say I have been lying about who I am. Rather that (as I think everybody tends to do to some extent) I edit bits and parts of myself depending upon to whom I speak.  

But I stopped doing that in a number of big ways this year, and while it was terrifying and difficult, the results I encountered have been something I've been reflecting on for some time.

It started just being more honest about "little" things: if I had to back out of a planned outing, saying it was due to my chronic illness or not feeling well, instead of covering up for it in some way or another. I worked on being more open with people close to me, trying to express a little bit more of my thoughts and my self than I normally would. I no longer said "I'm fine" if I wasn't, worked very hard not to say "That's okay" if it isn't, and generally tried to be more forthcoming.

As this progressed, and I grew more familiar with living more honestly, I realized it was about far more than being honest for/to other people. I had thought being honest would only be a pathway for people to get to know be better, understand more things. And while it most certainly was, the biggest thing I took away from it was the freedom it gave to myself. Being open and vulnerable showed me exactly how "comfortably" I had lived for so longwhich isn't a bad thing. It is self-survival and protection, an absolutely necessary for all people and me during that time. Before this year, I did not have the skills and the growth and the support which allowed me to jump into all of this; I have been working toward this for years. 

I thought, by the end of the year, maybe I'd be less afraid of being vulnerable and have a desire to be more honest with people. This might be true to some degree; I want to continue trying to be honest and it is still more terrifying than not. But what I never expected was to be more OK with me. Yes, most people accepted me and it feels AMAZING and, yes, some didn't really and that hurts--but, regardless of these outcomes, I had begun to live a truer version of myself. And, in doing so, I have found more peace within myselfwith who I amthan I could have ever expected. 

It's like it removed the question of it all. Can I still be loved if I am still me? If I say what I think and feel? And this is the answer: yes. And, also: no. Other peoples' love and acceptance has given me so much, but there are some who have had trouble accepting who I've become and what I believe. But now I don't have to be curious about them anymore, I don't have to wonder. It feels backwards but living honestly has helped me to  see how sad it ishow it is about them and not me. I has made me less afraid of myself and more capable of telling them I am proud of who I have become.

This little word has set me free in many ways, many of which I had absolutely no idea how, or to the extent, it could. But credit does also go to those who have not only let me speak, but also heard me. Who have understood my fear. Who saw my vulnerability under comments/texts/words that  most people would not realize were so fragile and connected to me, and met them with caring hands. It's because of your love, which continues to helps teach me to love myself, that I have the courage to keep living an honest life long past 2016.

#Booknits: THE GIRL BEFORE

Many moons ago, my fantabulous friend, Rena Olsen, wrote a book. A really good book. So good that you've probably heard of it at some point or another and, if you haven't, then this is me making you hear about it and suggesting you go read it. 

   This book! THE GIRL BEFORE!

  This book! THE GIRL BEFORE!

I'm going to take a brief moment and say that I'm lucky enough to know a lot of really cool people. Many of which happen to be really cool authors. All of them hardworking, generous, brilliant, and kind—and Rena fits all those descriptors and then some. 

When her book came out, I wanted to celebrate with her somehow. But being  miles away made that a bit difficult (at least in the traditional sense). So, instead, I knitted her a gift. If I couldn't be there in person to tell her how proud and excited and thrilled I was for her, then maybe every time she saw the Ruffled Scarf I made, that could be the next best thing!

 I have to add, I'm so proud of the yarn I was stubborn enough to find. It's difficult to see here, but it's black with flicks of red in it and matches her book cover!

I have to add, I'm so proud of the yarn I was stubborn enough to find. It's difficult to see here, but it's black with flicks of red in it and matches her book cover!

Luckily I got the scarf sent to her in time for her book release which I, sadly, can't say about this blog post. But I digress:

THE GIRL BEFORE is a truly unique book, written in the alternating timelines of "Then" and "Now". It follows Claraa woman abruptly taken from her home, husband, and daughtersand is forced to confront the possibility that her life might actually be part of something far more sinister than she realized. 

Aside from the great storytelling (which Rena is amaaaazing at. Trust me, I've been lucky enough to read a number of her drafts and short stories), THE GIRL BEFORE also deals with the important (and difficult) topics of human trafficking, abuse, and trauma. However, as a psychologist (and just an all-around compassionate person) Rena tackles these issues with equal honesty and regard. Balancing the need to give these topics the candor they need and "deserve", while also respecting them as a storyteller. 

I know there are many other summaries that can better explain THE GIRL BEFORE's synopsis. However, I want to impress how it is not only a great book, but also an important read in compassion, gleaning the complexities of abuse, and shining light on the real, present threat of human trafficking. 

Simply, it is a unique, poignant story crafted by an exceptionally kind and generous person. 

 The aforementioned awesome author with the aforementioned ruffle scarf.

The aforementioned awesome author with the aforementioned ruffle scarf.

Be proud of yourself, my friend. <3

- Sarah

If you, or anyone you know, may be suffering from any of the aforementioned issues, please click on the links provided, as well as consider how therapy may help. 

National Human Trafficking Resource Center
1 (888) 373-7888
SMS: 233733 (Text "HELP" or "INFO")

The National Domestic Violence Hotline
1 (800) 799-7233 (SAFE)
For the deaf and hard of hearing: 1 (800) 787-3224 (TTY)

 Lots of people take pictures of themselves in the kitchen with good books, right?

Lots of people take pictures of themselves in the kitchen with good books, right?

My (Radical?!) Guide to Eating Healthy For The Holidays!

Every year, without fail, I see articles talking about how to "eat healthy for the holidays". And, every year, I want to throw something at my computer because they only perpetuate dangerous ideals. Mainly that some foods are "good", some are "bad", and we all must carefully navigate through the forthcoming edible minefield OR ELSE.

So, I decided to come up with my own "guide" for eating healthy during the holidays. And it goes a little something...likeathis...

Eat What Sounds Good To You
 I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.

I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.

I know this is a revolutionary idea for diet companies/food companies/basically everything. And I know the aforementioned are shitting themselves at my very suggestion of such a thing. But here's what I've learned in my years of pre-, during-, and post- eating disorder/recovery/whatever phrase suits ya best -- if something sounds good to your body, that's not a bad thing. Because, as I mentioned before, foods are not inherently good or bad. They're (oftentimes extremely delicious) things that help make our bodies go and jump and hug and throw large objects at our computers when we read frustrating articles. 

Eat a Variety of Stuff

Sure, no food is good or bad, but eating one type of food (even if it was on my "good" list during my disorder) doesn't do a great service to my body because I'm not getting all the nutrients I needed. In fact, I actually feel better and feel I am taking better care of my body when I eat a variety of foods, including foods that used to scare me. Bananas, pudding, soup, sandwiches, cookies, salad, apples with caramel dipping sauce, pizza, zucchini bread, fresh green beans, PIE and MOAR PIE, etc. Each has something to offer me. It's when I'm only eating one thing/denying myself other varieties, that makes it so my body *needs* something else (which often led to purging). 

Eat When You're Hungry, Stop When You're Full

Sounds simple, but it can be incredibly tough. The body is a pretty fantastical machine and can let you know what does/doesn't sound good, when its had enough/wants more, but I knowfirst handhow this sensation can often be lost in the throes of an eating disorder. And it took me a while to not only get it back, but also to trust it. I had to eat very slowly and very mindfullychecking in with myself after each bite. "Am I really full or is that my brain trying to tell me I am?" And then be proud of myself for stopping when I was full, and/or continue eating food if I was hungry. (Oftentimes, if I wasn't sure whether I was full or not, I would stop and remain mindful after the meal in order to see whether I was hungry still and, if so, head went back to fridge and honor that feeling.)

It's OK To Be Full

There is nothing wrong about eating to fullness. Nor is there anything wrong about having more food than you did the day before. Some days I'm more hungry and some days I'm not, so some days I eat more and some days I eat less. That's normal.

*

My list is pretty short compared to the many I've found, but I feel it covers some good basics. No part of this is easy, of course. Not for people who've struggled with eating disorders or some form of disordered eating, or anyone who has been led to think/feels that food is an enemy to struggle against. For me, getting anywhere near to these concepts came after a lot of practice and therapy, so if you aren't "there yet" that is OK! Every single step I took is what got me to this point, even the ones that didn't feel big at the time and especially the ones I wanted to skip over.

Each year I can't help but reflect upon all the Thanksgivings and Christmases that were torture, and how nice it would have been for mewithin the horrific repeats in my mind and self-hate in my heartif there was another "guide" that spoke of food so differently and showed that all the excruciating steps I was taking might lead to a completely radical (and freeing) relationship with food. Regardless of how far fetched it may have seemed at the time.

This makes me want to add one more thing to my list, actually:

Reach Out If You Need Support

There is nothing wrong with needing support through the holidays (or at any time)! For the past two years the hashtag #THX4SUPPORT has been used on social media (you can read about it here) for those who need some community on difficult days like Thanksgiving. I'm not sure if it is being "officially" run this year, but that doesn't mean people still can't use it and support each other if necessary. (Also, don't hesitate to tweet me (@SEtotheCarson) or drop me a line or whatever if you feel drawn to do so!).

And, no matter what, keep fighting to know that you deserve to be happy, to feel and know you have worth, and to be free.

Love,
s.e.c

November Dandelions

I sat outside to get some fresh air and watch my pups romp. Nature always helps me to reset, if only marginally, regardless of whatever is going on. Today was no exception.

Currently, there are a lot of things making it difficult for me to feel grounded and steady. Most obviously: today's election and the undercurrent of unease, fear, and even anger emanating from pretty much everyone I come into contact with. Not to mention my own variances of those emotions with which I'm try to balance and grapple. 

But there are other things as well. Largely difficult and emotional things friends are going through, as well as some somewhat painful self-growth and deep-seated things I'm trying to sift through myself. 

So, I sat outside to get some fresh air and watch my pups romp. I thought about how interesting nature is; how, in so much turmoil—like today's and all the various turmoils and changes that have come before—nature just goes. Not actively or outwardly, really. But with a quiet strength and steadfast feeling I want to wrap around me.

And then I wondered what it must be like to be so stable, to move along without too much change between one day and the next. How, when nature does change, it is slow and deliberate. How even its changing is steadfast. 

I thought about this and smiled at my fluffballs as they sniffed around, wondering what I could do to help with all this chaos inside of me and around me. And then I found, next to my house where I usually sit, a wee dandelion.

Dandelions are my thing; I have had a long standing love-affair with dandelions for a myriad of different reasons. But in all my years, I have never seen one this late in the season.

So I sat outside with my dogs and breathed the fresh air and found this rogue dandelion and now I think: maybe we'll be OK. Maybe we'll be OK as long as we keep close. If we work to surround ourselves with people who know us and love us. People who forgive us if we act out of anger and who will listen to us when we try to speak. People who get us and root for us, who shelter us and believe in us. And the people who don't? To do neither harm nor spend too much of our energy on them if it is not appreciated.

Usually I pluck up dandelions, make a wish, and give them a blow to the wind—but I figured November dandelions are special enough to warrant a change, don't you think? So I stayed on my step, took a deep breath, and made a great big wish for all the people in my heart. All the ones I keep close. And then I smiled and went back inside, leaving the dandelion where it found me. Because, this time, it felt better to keep its little roots in, down into the earth. The earth that just goes. Not actively or outwardly, but goes. Just goes and goes with a quiet, steadfast strength.

 

 

Come Tell Me Your Story

The world has been a tough place lately. (Understatement.)

I undulate between opening up wide and trying to absorb everything, listening and trying to learn as much as I can, and just shutting down because it's too much.

I think it's important to do both. How are we ever going to grow in ourselves and in our understanding of other people if we don't listen to what they are going through or have gone through? Everyone has his/her/their stories and we must be ready to hear them. 

But in hearing them, so much evidence of hatred seeps through with it. A straight smack in the face for people who have largely been able to live outside of it, and how others can be so goddamned cruel. If I cover my ears I could just go on believing that most of the world is good, but that does not do a service to people who have been affected as deeply, daily, as they have. 

And so I keep wondering, How do I help? 

I hear so many different responses: Speak up. Say nothing. We need you. This is not your fight. 

And so I am often rooted into "inaction" because I fear doing something "wrong". That whatever path I take will inadvertently add to the clamor of instability, misunderstandings, and/or injustices. 

I have never been so worried about this before because acts of love were always so straight-forward to me. I felt most people could see that I desperately try to come from a good place. But now it seems like acting or speaking from love is harder to identify because of all this other shit going on, because maybe it isn't enough right now, or because things are just much, much more complicated than that. 

Before, I often said I don't care if you are black, white, gay, straight, Christian, atheist... and this came from a good spot. In that I wanted people to understand I saw, and still see, the humanity in them. But I understand that, because of these differences, people have had experiences I haven't. And this is important to me. It is. 

So, I just want to say I am listening. I am listening and I promise I am trying. I am trying to open myself up and hear you and understand how people can be so cruel to each other without letting it destroy me or you or this entire word. I want to believe it can get better. And maybe some day I'll have the courage or the wisdom to start speaking out, but for now, I am listening. And I care.

I do.
 

Come tell me your story.
Tell me your dark nights,
tell me your dreams. Of the
hidden scars
that live inside and
under your skin,
behind the edge of your teeth,
in that gentle place of your heart.

Come tell me your story.
Tell me how it has colored
your world,
tell me over and over, in dark-veiled conversations,
in the bright unashamed eye of day.
Tell me until you have said everything
you’ve needed to say.
Until we, all of us, are a blindingly
beautiful swirled mass of fabric and paint,
patterns and shapes and shadows
and words and hands  and hands and hands in careful graze,
together. Different, you and I,
and the same.

© s.e. carson <3