I Hope We Never Stop Saying “Me Too.”

me too

I hope we never stop saying, “Me Too.”

I hope we never stop believing in the force we are together. I hope we never stop defending the love that keeps us tethered.

I hope we never stop combatting the fears which threaten us apart. I hope we never stop feeling the strength of linked arms and the warmth of cleaved hearts.

I hope we never stop mending the severs and schisms this world fights to harden. I hope we never stop hearing the groans of those downcast, exploited, forgotten on the margins.

I hope we never stop raising the banner of justice, the emblem of truth, the pennant of courage. I hope we never stop exposing the bedrock of kindness where a culture can flourish.

I hope we never stop handing off the megaphone to voices muted in the uproar. I hope we never stop receiving the words from each mouth that broken systems dare to speak for.

I hope we never stop gazing at the faces a shade darker, the eyes tinged with fire and sorrow. I hope we never stop sensing the might of their stories from our bones to our marrow.

I hope we never stop braving the tension of what is and our faith in what could be. I hope we never stop declaring this shared humanity.

I hope we never stop knowing that united as one is the course we are given to see this life through…

And I hope we never ever stop saying, “Me Too.”

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Truth Found Me in the Trauma

it is well

This past year began with a march on the nation’s capital. Thousands of female voices and bodies and hearts surged together in one pulsing, roaring, fire-breathing crusade.

It ended with a hashtag. The simplest and yet most disarming of words—Me Too—which affirmed the everywhere-ness and everyday-ness of sexual trauma for women.

In both cases, the message was loud, passionate and overdue: “We’ve had enough. We are not subdued. Our faces will be known. Our stories will be recognized. Our truth will be heard. Our moment for justice and equality is now.”

I cannot think of two more rabble-rousing events to bookend 2017. But crammed right in between these cultural touchstones, a subtler force of reckoning had taken shape within the breath and bones of my personal narrative. And that is the story I must tell.

It caught no media attention, but it disrupted the rigidity, normality and predictability I assumed would keep me sane. It did not contribute to the clamor on Facebook, but it jarred all the defenses I believed would keep me safe.

 It wasn’t named among the “silence breakers” in Time Magazine, but it forced me to break the silence anyway—to scream and grieve and rage and weep.

This was my own experience with trauma, lodged in the darkest crevice of my soul.

Something primal inside of me could sense it existed, but conscious memory had chosen to forget. The idea of being known too profoundly, seen too intently, felt too strongly­­—I couldn’t allow this to happen. I refused to give anyone else that access.

I became relentless in making sure they never learned the truth—that I was tainted, undesirable, too broken for love. And so I decided vulnerability was unsafe. Emotion was weakness. Authenticity was reckless. Human contact was out of the question.

Instead I clung to the trifecta of control, independence and badass-ery. My opiates of choice.

I was addicted to the notion that I could survive alone, that I could outrun the abuse and betrayal, that I could protect this heart from being hurt all over again. And for awhile, I succeeded. I was high on self-reliance, and I managed not to hurt. But I didn’t heal either.

So when the narcotizing ebbed and the white noise faded, all that remained was me.

Still bruised. Still afraid. Still jaded. Still detached. In a solitary confinement where I had locked myself. Warden and inmate. Judge and defendant. Clutching the keys but too familiar with the chains—resisting the freedom which meant rejoining the world.

But then a different truth found me.

It was quieter than isolation, louder than fear. It sighed within my spirit: “You are not tainted, you are redeemed. You are not undesirable, you are irreplaceable. You are not broken, you are under reconstruction.” And I caught myself aching to believe.

Truth doesn’t need my endorsement. Truth is real whether I accept it or not. But I could either ignore that same truth clanging on the prison bars—or allow it to shove me toward an audacious new realm of connection and compassion outside my own angst.

So I want the truth. I want the freefall. I want the pain and mess and discomfort and grit. All those reminders I am, in fact, alive.

I want the people who kept their word and stuck around. I want the relationships that yanked me from the shadows, tilting my face toward the sun.

I want to be transformed from lone drifter into rebel with a cause—from impassive and withdrawn to crackling with fire and ferocity.

Because the truth is a springboard for radical, extraordinary, astonishing redemption. I don’t always hear the truth. I don’t always seek it out. I don’t always soften to its message. There is always a “don’t” involved. But I am learning.

And no amount of trauma can diminish that lesson.

Intentions > Resolutions

intention

So I was listening to a podcast yesterday…

(Random side-note: 90% of my sentences begin with that conversation opener. I have a podcast problem, deal with it).

But I digress…the theme of this podcast episode was all about New Year’s resolutions. Groundbreaking stuff, right? It’s not like we just entered 2018 or anything. And here’s another bombshell—more often than not, resolutions don’t even work.

*Cue the collective gasp track.*

Not that it’s a shock to anyone who’s, oh I don’t know, made a resolution at some point, but the excitement and motivation tend to fizzle out after awhile. Once that novelty of goal-setting wears off, most of us find ourselves back at the status quo with a nagging sense of regret or an “ehhh I tried” kind of attitude. We humans are creatures of habit—we resist change, avoid the uncertain, question the unfamiliar.

It’s our struggle. And it’s real.

But now that we’ve established “resolution” carries an undertone of failure, how about a different approach? What if we used another word instead? Like “intention” maybe.

Does a shift in language matter though? Is there some nugget of nuance to extract between the lines? Umm…I think so anyway.

A resolution is expected or obliged.

An intention feels softer, gentler, more mindful somehow.

A resolution has no margin for error.

An intention creates the space to just learn as we go along.

To accept that mistakes happen but only define us if we give permission.

To honor the process of growth and renewal.

To be transformed with a loving touch on the inside, rather than browbeating ourselves into “doing better” on the outside.

One is a performance. The other is a lifestyle. One confines. The other sustains. One is action-oriented. The other is soul-centered.

I picture intention as a creative force. A conscious, dynamic burst of awakening. The genesis of every dream or desire. This might sound too meta for some, but I believe the human experience is rooted in spirituality. And we need to nourish this corner of the triangle (mind, body, spirit) before the wildest, fiercest, bravest, messiest, rawest, truest, fullest expression of ourselves can break through.

So this year, I’m issuing a new challenge to myself—acknowledge the intent behind the resolve. If my goal is to workout more often, for instance (which is an absurd goal since I already workout like it’s my job), rather than just increasing miles, weights or repetitions, I need to investigate what’s fueling this urgency.

Do I have an impulse to exercise because I want to feel active, energized and healthy?

Or could I be using exercise to “outrun” the fear that who I am will never be enough?

9 times out of 10, it’s the latter. In which case, the most beneficial strides toward self-improvement won’t take place through fitness. Resolving to workout more can medicate the symptom. Yeah, sure…of course it can. But the heart-issue will go untreated. And love, impact, art, service—they won’t sprout from a fissured heart.

Instead of focusing all my efforts on the physical, what if I tried setting my intentions on the spiritual? Choosing to affirm that I am enough without “fixing” my appearance to prove it? Now that would be a radical shift. Downright crazy. Weird and wonderful. A pattern of living disrupted. A comfort zone flipped on its head.

But hey, comfort zones are so 2017. Moving forward, I’d rather be soft and intentional. Not stiff and resolute.

So on that note…hello, 2018!

And then You Feel Alive

Sometimes it seems this wound might never heal. Sometimes it feels this pain could last an eternity and more.

Then other times, you find yourself barefoot and lounging in the bed of a rusted ’99 pickup truck, gazing at the infinite expanse of black, losing count of all the stars. There’s a warm breeze on your face, a pulse in your chest, a world at your fingertips.

It’s those quiet moments—strung together like beads of rain, prisms of light or fractals of snow—that remind you life isn’t over.

While your lungs still draw their treasured breath, while your heart still drums its velvet cadence, you realize there’s a purpose to the cosmos. You sense it’s not through random occurrence or chance encounter that you exist in one minuscule fissure of it all.

And then, you feel alive.

Eating Disorders Hate the Word “Healthy,” So It’s Time for a New Definition

weight is not worth

“You look so healthy!”

It’s a well-intentioned phrase that friends or family members use to express their approval and relief when someone they love begins to heal from an eating disorder.

There’s just one problem though. To those in recovery, “health” is not a compliment. What is meant as sincere affirmation of the positive strides being taken, the eating disordered mentality interprets and internalizes as proof of a changing body that no longer fits the ideal.

From this perspective, “healthy” equals “overweight.” And “overweight” equals “failure.” Eating disorders thrive off a need for control and rigidity. The illness requires an excessive degree of time, effort and self-restraint. It’s demanding, uncompromising, all-consuming work.

For those caught within its grasp, the eating disorder is an identity, the area they excel in, a “superhuman” strength. Their concept of health has become so distorted, they associate it with mediocrity—a direct violation of the uniqueness they crave.

Reframing the context of healthy:

In the beginning stages of my own recovery process, I encountered the “h-word” constantly which reinforced all the fears and suspicions that my “perfect body” was gone. I had grown accustomed to measuring success based on thinness and didn’t understand the reality of this new message other people were sending me.

I heard, “You’re fat.”

They meant, “Your skin isn’t rough. Your eyes aren’t hollow. Your cheeks aren’t sunken. Your hair isn’t brittle. Your posture isn’t hunched. Your arms aren’t wiry. Your smile isn’t forced. You look more alive.”

So when I reached a state of awareness and receptiveness to the truth behind that word, I began to realize our weight-obsessed culture is in desperate need of a new definition.

First of all…

Health is not a euphemism for “guess what…that ‘thing’ you used to be awesome at—well, you’re not anymore.” 

Health is not a result of losing control over yourself or the behaviors which took you such a long time to cultivate.  

And here’s what else it’s not… 

Health is not spending hours on the treadmill or in the weight-room.

Health is not eating meals that consist of just quinoa, kale and chia seeds.

Health is not allowing a number on the scale to dictate your happiness.

Health is not indulging in dessert then inflicting punishment afterward.

Health is not using exercise for the sole purpose of burning calories.

Health is a holistic fusion of the mind, body and spirit. Health is finding balance. Health is moving because the body is designed to—not because it should conform to an external standard. Health is eating nutritious foods but not being afraid to share Chinese take-out with your friends. Health is not determined by weight or appearance.

Health is wholeness.

Health is vitality.

5 Sustainability Tips for Everyday Life {Guest Post}

Even if we don’t realize it, one of the greatest threats in the world today is climate change. This environmental hazard is responsible for rising sea levels, increased temperatures and the extinction of entire species, all of which impact our future well-being here on earth.

It’s common to blame these issues on a passive government or corporate greed, but the fact is our everyday actions are just as much a factor. We tend to avoid sustainable practices out of convenience, laziness or sheer apathy.

As the inheritors of this planet, our generation’s responsibility is to protect the environment we call home. Being eco-conscious in doesn’t even require a drastic lifestyle change. Just start with small trade-offs, and you’ll notice a positive difference over time.

sustainability

1.  Cut Down on Plastic Waste

You might think it’s impossible to avoid using plastic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give it a shot. Plastic is a known pollutant, and as a scuba diver, I’ve seen firsthand its effects on marine ecosystems. Coral reefs are being destroyed, and fish are washing up ashore due to plastic ingestion. Here are some strategies to reduce your plastic consumption:

  • Take a reusable canvas bag with you to the grocery store instead of using the standard plastic bags.
  • Drink water from glass bottle and keep refilling it (empty wine bottles are ideal for storing water in the refrigerator).
  • Request no straws or plastic lids for your beverage at restaurants and take-out chains.
  • Be aware of the plastic content in products you consume and choose biodegradable options which are healthier for the environment.

2.  Go Green on Your Commute

Most people drive their cars on a daily basis, but your emissions can be reduced significantly if you make simple changes on the commute. Choose to walk or take public transportation for shorter distances. For longer distances, become familiar with road cycling safety habits, and bike around town instead of driving. When you need to drive somewhere, carpool with friends to lower your carbon footprint.

3.  Use Eco-Friendly Products

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to consumer products, but often, we pick the cheapest brand without giving much thought to the consequence of that purchase. Buying mass-produced items can leak factory emissions and pollutants into the atmosphere.

So read the labels when you’re out grocery shopping. Purchase organic, local and fair trade-certified foods. Organic practices eliminate pesticides, fair trade items promote sustainable production and fair wages, and locally grown produce bolsters farming and supports the community. Also check the labels on cosmetic products and choose brands that haven’t been tested on animals and don’t use illegally or unethically sourced ingredients.

4.  Work From Home If Possible

The average American spends 47 hours commuting through traffic each year. This equals 3.7 billion hours and 23 billion gallons of gas wasted. With more companies becoming eco-conscious and more millennials entering the workforce, some businesses allow their employees to work remotely which offers increased flexibility and benefits the environment. In fact, remote working decreases greenhouse emissions by 54 million tons annually.

5.  Practice Energy Efficiency

We often take electricity for granted and don’t realize how much energy we consume by leaving the lights on or forgetting to unplug a charger. Remembering to turn off all switches before leaving the house is crucial, but you can also swap traditional bulbs for LEDs or CFLs which use less power and have a longer lifespan. The money you would save by switching out incandescents for these greener options will make this a win-win situation.

If you can afford it, another solution is using solar power. These panels are installed on the roof and converting sunlight into energy that can fuel everything from the refrigerator to the air-conditioner. In cases where enough sunlight isn’t collected, the energy is drawn from a built-in power grid. This natural form of electricity can also save money in the long-term, and research shows that solar panel users saved between $44 to $187 during their first year alone.

 

These are just a few pointers adopting a more sustainable life that doesn’t require any profound changes. If we all took these basic strides, the collective impact on this planet would be extremely positive—and in the modern world, that’s exactly what our environment needs.


 

Akshata Mehta has a passion for traveling and exploring the world. She loves to write, and is especially interested in sustainable living. Being a foodie, she also enjoys cooking up healthy concoctions in her kitchen, recording these recipes and more on her blog With Love From Akshata.

The Gorgeous Contradiction

human heart

Dear Humans,

Let’s talk.

Let’s talk matters of the heart.

A striking paradox. A gorgeous contradiction.

Hard and Soft.

Dark and Light.

Fragile and Strong.

Timid and Brave.

Leaden and Lithe.

Tethered and Wild.

Each a fractal. Mosaic. Part of a whole.

A force resolute with the spunk of a rebel.

So let’s acknowledge the shadows and summon the flames.

The murk and the mess. The gleam and the grace.

They all beat together. They all have a place.

There’s beauty. Creativity. And transparency too.

It lives just inside, gasping for a breakthrough.

Let’s feel it. Not fear it. Let’s uncage it for flight.

The heart pants for freedom. Clamors for the heights.

It wasn’t meant to be fettered and snared.

The heart is wired to cavort in midair.

It’s poetic but doesn’t rhyme.

It’s musical but sings off-key.

It’s artistic but smears the canvas.

And within that enigma, you’ll forever find magic.

So accept the absurdities. Don’t scorn the complexities.

Because the heart was made fearless. Stamped for eternity.