Heart Healing

“Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” ~Brené Brown

One weekend in January, two years ago, while in San Francisco for a workshop, I held a picnic for one in my hotel room. The spread was beautiful, but no matter how much I ate there was still such darkness in the hotel room and surrounding me. The next day, I completed the workshop, flew home, and found a therapist dealing with food issues, trauma and body image. At that point, I’d been a compulsive overeater and binge eater on and off for 10 years. I knew things were getting worse, and I’d never make it if I didn’t ask for help. The darkness was too much for me to fend off alone, and really, let’s face it, I was asking a lot of food to keep me functional and the darkness at bay.

A couple of weeks after San Francisco, I had the first appointment with my Rock Star therapist, and started a journey of healing, breaking open, integration and returning to myself. You see, I eat feelings and not food. How could I have a life of love, laughter, community and service, if I’m hiding and disconnected?

By now, you’ve probably heard of Brené Brown, her work with vulnerability and shame, and her fantastic book, Daring Greatly.  You may not have heard of The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. In it, she writes, “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t a zombie. I could feel, but over the past two years in my thawing, which is at times inconvenient and flat out hard, I have experienced deeper, richer emotions.

The identity I’m forging now is much stronger for having been broken. Owning all of me, the light and dark, is a moment by moment commitment. A life of radical self-love, joy and wholeheartedness awaits as I continue to show up for myself.


Brene Brown Wholehearted Living


Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’

‘But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money–booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

         Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.

          Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’

~W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951.


I couldn’t say it better. So I’ll leave it to Goethe and W.H. Murray. Begin it. Whatever it is. Watch the magic happen.




Note: Image by Jan Henderson via Google search for Goethe’s quote {link to http://www.thehealthculture.com}.

Making a Decision

Three years ago, I completed the Malibu Triathlon Olympic Distance Course, 1.5K Pacific Ocean swim, a 40K out-and-back bike course along the Pacific Coast Highway, and a 10K out-and-back run. During training I was surfing the ‘net for inspiration, and came across Rich Roll who at 40 years old transformed himself from being 50 pounds overweight and an 80 hour per week workaholic to a two-time Ultraman Champion over a period of 5 years.

I love the music and the message of the video. If you want a different life–even simpler than a life–if you want a new job, a new relationship, to learn a new language, run a 5k, walk around the block without being winded, whatever you want, it starts with you deciding you want it. Every day, every moment, you decide to take actions in line with the new value, new goal you’ve chosen. There’s strength and power in deciding. Such an exciting, empowering way of living!

Wash Your Dish When You’re Done

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”  ~Helen Keller

I have a standing appointment every Thursday at 6p almost without fail. Yet, I struggle to leave work at 5p in order to get there without feeling rushed or worrying about being late. Ridiculous!

The main reason is I wait until 4:50ish to wash my dishes. I pack food for the day, breakfast, lunch and 2 snacks nearly everyday. Dinner may be included depending on what’s happening right after work. Packing my food makes the day less stressful, and helps keep me healthy. The thing is I hate washing dishes. I put it off while dishes pile up at my desk. Breakfast container pushed to the corner. Lunch container shoved to the side. Mini snack container tossed into the lunch container. I have other tasks more important than attending to dishes! Or so I tell myself.

A few week ago procrastination put me in the middle of horrible traffic. I arrived at my appointment with 2 minutes to spare. It started me thinking about routine and behavior. The past three weeks were a struggle for several reasons. One of the  suspects is not having a routine. I was traveling, then was sick. Like washing dishes when you’re done, setting a schedule and routine provides the next indicated action. Isn’t that how anything is accomplished? By taking the next indicated action.

For example, if I’d gone shopping, prepared and placed meals in the freezer before traveling, then I wouldn’t have missed meal and been stress as how to feed myself while I was sick. No, I couldn’t foresee being sick, but I knew I’d need to eat when I got back. Preparing food ahead of time is the next indicated action, if I want to make having good, healthy food easy and readily accessible. (Yes, towards the end, I finally asked friends for help, but that challenge is for another post.)

I have this grand vision for a long, healthy life full of love, laughter, adventure, community and service. At times, the vision seems so far away. Beth Wittig, a wonderful health coach I worked with last year, taught me the rule of “AND.” Honor now AND hold space for the future. Those small tasks or indicated actions are part of a new way of being for me. Each time I complete them, I’m honoring now, and the life I say I want.

Helen Keller Small Tasks

Before or After Photo? Neither.

Today, I head back into the Crossfit box for the first time in many, many years. I had a lovely conversation with Mitch at Cirque School last week while I was sick in bed recovering from a horrible cold. The foundation for fun, active lifestyle is falling to place. This feels so much like the beginnings of a transformation that I briefly considered the idea of tracking my progress with photos. In the end, having the dramatic before and after photos to post side by side. “Ooohing” and “aaahing” at the difference once I achieved my goal. I thought of it for a moment. A fleeting moment. The thought right after–no, the feeling right after one was of disappointment in myself. This celebration of the before and after felt like a disregard for and a devaluing of who I am and have been. And, in this case, I don’t know if there is a goal. It’s a lifestyle I’m creating. Does that have a final destination?

What I do know is, regardless of size, my body has been a source of comfort and play for my niece and nephews as they’ve grown from infants to teenagers. Over the years, they’ve fallen asleep cradled in my arms, been comforted when scared or hurt, and warmed themselves by snuggling against my body, and jumped on me like I’m a jungle gym in play or excitement to see me. One of my favorite cousins would burst out of the front door, race across the lawn or down the driveway, leap into my arms, and I’d spin around. We performed this ritual until she was 16 or 17. There’s value and joy in strength and softness.

Twice in my life, once in 2002 and again in 2007, I had the gift of being the primary caregiver for a parent when they were dying from cancer. The strength in body, being 5’9″ and a size 14 gave me leverage as I counterbalanced to help my 6’6″ father lift himself off the couch or out of the car, and then steady himself, or pulled my mother, gently, up the stairs in her wheelchair to our 2nd floor apartment (until we moved to a 1st floor one, for which, I was grateful) and gave her solid place she could trust as she stepped weakly out of the shower. I held their hands as they napped at home or in the hospital, and the softness of my skin gave them comfort. I know that because they said so. Never once did I hear “You know, Jamila, I’m glad you’re here with me while I’m facing my mortality, but I’d appreciate it more if you were a size 6.” In fact, if I were smaller, I may not have had enough strength or body weight to do some of the physical things I did while caring for them.

My body has given joy, pleasure, comfort and safety to family, friends, lovers and even strangers. Years ago, I lived in New York. On the way home from some event, I and a few friends encountered a drunk/high woman wandering alone in the Village. Through her ramblings, I deciphered where she lived, and held her up as she teetered down the street toward her apartment. I’m pretty sure the only thing that matters from that experience is a vulnerable woman got home safe and sound.

I am a survivor of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, and recovering from an eating disorder. I’m also a triathlete, marathon runner, and a cyclist. My body has, literally, taken a licking and kept on ticking. (Anyone remember the Timex commercials? Don’t why that popped into my head.)

For me, the idea of before and after photos are disrespectful to my body, and my experiences. I will track my transformation in the ways that matter to me: the increasing number of pull-ups or sit-ups, the faster completion times of workouts, and the stronger or more efficient I am at some acrobatic trick. I think I’ll post videos of my physical feats. Oooh, I like it. Physical feats as if I’m a superhero. Perhaps, I am my own superhero.

The number on the scale or the tag on my jeans is not indication of my value, or of the amount of love and care I am worth. The thought reminded me of 3 affirmations I had forgotten.

My body has its own strength and grace. My body is beautiful and I will love and nurture it. I accept and embrace myself.



Gym Fit or Fitness Lifestyle

SPOILER ALERT: I’m in favor of a fit lifestyle. That realization has taken me time to voice. Only because I didn’t quite get the difference. In conversation with someone recently, we were discussing athletic events. I said I don’t want to spend months training for something, I want to enjoy my life now. Not that running isn’t still fun, it’s just an event months away is not enough to keep me heading out everyday.

I’m sure some of you will throw out words like discipline and will-power. Been there. Done that. I know the discipline of training for a triathlon, marathon or 100 mi bike ride. I’ve restricted and dieted, and focused on nutrition and training. In the discussion, what I realized is that most of my life has been one of endurance. I don’t want to endure my life anymore. I want to actually live an active lifestyle, i.e. backpacking trips, hiking, boxing, crossfit, swimming, and aerial class and adult gymnastics (as mentioned in the last post), and eat delicious, healthy food that nourishes and fuels my body, including decedent, rich yumminess. There’s no reason working out and playing can’t be the same thing.

What happens when fit becomes a way to be, a way to live instead of another variation to punish and control my body? I think my life broadens, and opens to new ways of moving, connecting to and loving my body. That feels right to me. It engages my curiosity and the lifelong learner in me. I’ll become part of diverse communities, be constantly challenged physically, and push the boundaries of what I tell myself I can do.

Look out for changes in the rest of my life when I free myself of old, self-limiting stories and beliefs! McFadden & Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” feels like an appropriate theme song.


Quick shout out to my new favorite FB page, the body positive group called The Body Is Not an Apology. They’re where I found the graphic below.



Out of thin air

I’ve been traveling, and, generally, loving life the past week or so. The sense of what I’m doing finally took the form of words. I’m building a life that hadn’t existed. Yes, I want to be athletic, to feel my body be strong, vibrant and graceful. That is not so coincidentally what I want from the life I’m creating.

I fell back on old ways in developing a training schedule. The schedule is in terrible need of being revised; no working out has happened in a week. Returning to old ways isn’t so bad. They worked in the past, or else I wouldn’t go back to them. This time ’round the old ways are like clothes or shoes that don’t fit regardless of how much I like the style. The life I’m envisioning is active and engaging. I’ll train if there’s an event I want, but since I started this blog, and during my vacation I realized this is about integration. Creating a whole life. Bits and pieces of old may be useful since not everything from my past needs to be thrown away, but all in all this is going to be something new to me. I want to live and be present in my body, and my life. Taking chances on new physical activities like aerial classes at Cirque School, adult gymnastics or roller derby (this one makes my stomach flip, but that’s probably the sign of being challenged) is adding color and richness to my life.

In searching for the lyrics to Foo Fighter’s Walk, I came across Ashleigh Brilliant. He’s providing today’s illustration. Check him out.