The Hands.

time
I’ve learned that it’s easy to recall terror and trauma; that the memory of anything that’s caused us pain or damage or turmoil is so easily accessible and readily available.

I still remember this day in 2001 when our world came shattering and screeching to a halt. Time stood still. The safety we’ve always felt was torn from beneath us and images of terror and evil flashed before our wide eyes.

But, today, let us not remember the terror. Or, let’s remember, but not dwell on it. What you give thought to, you give power to. So, instead, recall the love.

Recall the faces and stories of those who were lost that day; how they were mothers and sons and aunts and sisters and fathers and brothers and children and friends and grandparents and how they were all the center of their own universe and how they were all – every single one of them - someone else’s everything.

Tell stories. Give memories a voice. Recall the outpouring of pride for our country; sympathy for our fellow Americans. Let us recall the kindness of strangers. Let us recall the bravery of our own. Let us recall how it felt to be united.

Let us not focus on the horror of how lives ended, but instead, focus on how those lives began; on everything between the day they were born and the day they died – because it’s everything in the middle that counts the most.

Let us not lose the lesson – because there is always a lesson, especially in the darkest moments. We’re all going to die. There is absolutely nothing we can do to avoid it. The clock is forever ticking – unstoppable even if we were to tear out the hands and rearrange the numbers in a futile attempt try to trick it into giving us one more day here. It shall not be tricked, for it is powered by a force bigger than us.

So, the lesson is not to find ways to live forever or to fight the inevitability of death. The lesson is to live every day with the knowledge that this is all temporary. To treat every person we encounter kindly and with gentle hands.

There will always be evil. There will always be those who seek to destroy, and spread hatred. It is dangerous to think we can stop it. We cannot explode it out of existence. What we can do, however, is realize that the only way to counteract it is with love. It may seem small and weak, because bombs and crashing planes are louder; but, trust in its power: The power of good and light and patience and love
and love
and love
and love
and love
and love.

This is my wish: anyone reading this, please do one deliberate act of good right now. Buy someone a coffee. Smile at a stranger. Look someone in the eye and ask them how they’re really doing. Hold a door. Hug someone for 9 seconds without pulling away. Serve a fellow human being. When you find anger, fight it with kindness. Practice patience. Notice each other. Let the despicable acts of this day catapult us into doing more good.

That is how we win.

I’ve been speaking my gratitude’s out loud every day and this usually includes a list that takes me about ten minutes to get through. But, today…today all I could say is “I am grateful to be alive,” over and over and over and over. It’s that simple today. I am just grateful to be alive; grateful that there is blood running through my veins and my heart is beating and my lungs are growing smaller and bigger,

smaller and bigger,

smaller and bigger.

Find love today. Be love today. Give love today.

9/11/2001

On Mastering The Art of Having A Bad Week

santabarbara

Last week was extremely challenging for me. Every day felt like some sort of test that my soul had to pass…ever had one of those? It was painful. It was hard. It made me feel like everything I’ve worked for has been useless. It felt like the world’s biggest speed bump, seeing as I’ve generally been feeling so happy and fulfilled.

But, this morning, while I pounded away on the treadmill, I came to a realization – despite my challenging week – I’m actually okay! I’d even say I’m feeling great. There have been times in the past when bad days piled into bad weeks and bad weeks piled into bad months, and…well, you get the picture – whereas, this week, that simply wasn’t the case!

“What’s different this time?” I asked myself. “What’s changed?” I feel full, not empty and defeated.

As I ran, I mentally ticked off the reasons I believe this bad week has turned out to be not so bad at all.

It’s this:  I’ve spiritually stockpiled things that can serve as a reserve of strength when life hands me challenging circumstances.

May I share them with you?

To Conquer a Bad Week, Make Sure You Have:

Soul Mates: I’ve long believed that my friends are my soul mates. Whereas romantic love comes and goes, my friendships see me through every situation that life throws my way. They are the people who stand behind me and say,

“Yes, you can.”

“One more time.”

“You’re not alone.”

No one tells you that when you move to a new city, you’re going to flounder for a while as you try to build a solid group of people who you can call at three o’clock in the morning – and this is marked by some  very lonely days and nights. I am so grateful that I’ve managed to find such an incredible circle of friends here in L.A. And no two are alike: I have one I can cry in front of that gives me the sweetest safety to be weak in his presence. I have one that attributes everything to the stars and mercury being in retrograde. One that keeps me laughing. One that suggests a seyonce and is my spiritual sister from another lifetime. One that is my reflection – his growth is mirroring back to me my own. They all come together in my life to form the most amazing and strong support system amid this strange city we all call home. They have saved me.

And they didn’t come my way by accident. We were always meant to be together. And with them behind me, this soul-crushing week wasn’t so soul-crushing after all – because they’re here with me, reminding me that I’m not alone. Find true friends, and hang on to them. They’re absolutely everything in this life. And I mean EVERYTHING.

 

An Art: Quite simply – Art Heals. Art is a balm we can rub onto our souls’ wounds. Often, we overlook and underestimate how powerful it can be to express how we feel through a medium. In the midst of this painful week, I woke up one day deciding I absolutely must pick up a brush and paint. I’ve been yearning to for a while (gone are my high school and college days when I was able to paint everyday) and suddenly I knew this was the perfect time to do it. There’s something so incredibly soothing about smoothing paint over a blank canvas – manipulating colors and forming shapes. Whatever your preferred art is – painting, dancing, pottery, photography, writing, drawing, singing – do yourself a favor and pick it up the next time you’re feeling like you’re flat on your back run over by life. Don’t judge what comes out…just do your art.

 

Love: Love, love, love. Love for yourself, love for other people, love for this world. Let yourself receive it wholeheartedly from those who give it to you. Give it to people who need it. Love is the gift we give others, and it comes back to us like a boomerang. The more I found myself giving love this week, the more I felt it. Love is everywhere. Open your heart to it. I lived my life for a long time closed off from receiving love and I now realize I was slowly asphyxiating my soul. It may not come from the place you want it to, but it will come from the places you need it to, if you allow it. The reassuring hug of a friend. The smile of a stranger. Simple gestures of kindness. The touch of a soul mate. Love is everywhere. You don’t have to be afraid of it because real love doesn’t hurt. It feels wonderful.

Let it in.

Let it in.

Let it in.

 

Hope: I’m not sure what lay beyond this life. I don’t know if everything we do is part of a cosmic plan. I don’t know if God exists. I don’t know if we’re all just impulses and chemical reactions.

But I do know, if we don’t indulge our souls and believe in a little bit of magic, this life can feel hopeless. I do know that if I don’t allow my soul to run free with the possibility of miracles, this winding road seems like it will never end.

Let yourself hope. Hold onto it when times get tough. It is the tiny bell that rings in your brain telling you, even when you’re back is up against the wall, that the possibility of magic exists. Believe in magic. Believe that you can and will be living a life you feel good about.

Close your eyes. Picture a pitch black night sky. Now, picture a firefly flickering in the distance. That’s hope. That tiny and flittering light. Do you feel me?

 

A Go-To Release: Working out has gotten me through my toughest patches. I remember in the aftermath of my father’s sudden death, there was absolutely nothing that soothed my aching and inflamed soul like working out. I lifted the most weight I could for the most reps. I ran as fast as I possibly could for as long as my legs would hold out. The aftermath of each session was always different: Sometimes I’d burst into tears. Sometimes I’d laugh. Sometimes I’d be so physically exhausted that I couldn’t cry or laugh – all I could do was collapse. But there was always a release.

And it always left me feeling strong. Physically and mentally.

I workout every day as it is, but I workout even harder when I have rough days. There’s something addictive in that release for me.

Find your release. Batting cages, running, lifting weights, swimming – the possibilities are endless. Strengthen your body and your soul will follow suit.

 

Gratitude: Practicing gratitude is the key to happiness, if you ask me. All of the happiest people I know are also the most grateful for everything – even the challenges. Recently, I was reading a post on Humans of New York (If you don’t know what I’m referring to, you’re going to want to Google it like, now.) and the particular photo I’m referring to was of an aging mother and daughter. The quote beneath the photo is as follows:

“What’s your favorite thing about your mother?”

“She loves life more than anyone I’ve ever known. I hope she doesn’t mind me telling you this, but recently she’s had some health problems. And her health got so bad at one point, she called me and said: ‘I was starting to wonder if there was any reason to go on [living]. ….But then I had the most delicious pear!”

I kept reading this quote throughout the week. Find joy and gratitude in every little thing. Even when you’re in the midst of a heartbreakingly bad day, there are STILL things to be grateful for. Next time you find yourself caught up in a spiral of defeat and negativity, take a moment and look around you and find gratitude. It’s a buoy. It’ll help you float.

I don’t hold a degree in Psychology. I can’t say that all of these things will work for you, all of the time. There is no magical formula to revive your spirit when you’re “in it.” But, these are easy things that each and every one of us has access to. You can (and should)  do them all in one day! No one is unable to access them unless they are unwilling.

 

With Love,

 

A.

Regrets and Remembering

dad
It’s been 7 years today since my father died. How it’s been this long is something I cannot understand, because on that morning, it felt like the entire world stopped spinning and all time ceased. In some ways, I suppose, it actually did. I’ll never be the same person I was before this day. Some part of me is frozen behind a transparent wall that separates me from evolving into who I would have been without this loss. I lost more than my father that day – I lost myself. Ever so slowly, I’ve gotten small parts of myself back, and yet I know there will never be a time when I get back the comfort I lost that day. Each year that passes, a new phase of loss takes over, and while it always focuses on something a little different, the feeling is the same: I’m physically and mentally exhausted and I find myself wandering aimlessly. On one of my recent wanderings, I started obsessing over things I regret when it comes to my dad. They aren’t huge regrets; luckily I have none of those (well, maybe one: right after he died, I cried for days when I realized my last Christmas gift to him had been a toaster…a toaster! I regret that damn toaster like you wouldn’t believe.)

If I Could Go Back I Would:

Take More Photographs – And by “more” I mean “way too many;” because now, I look back, and I don’t have nearly enough photos of my father and I together. We live in an age where there is a camera at your fingertips about 99% of the time – bust it out no matter how much people piss and moan – they’ll thank you later. Bonus points for taking candid’s of people you love when they don’t even know you’re doing it – when they’re being their authentic selves. Those captured moments are priceless and sadly, photographs tend to last much longer than we do.

Ask More Questions – I don’t know what age I was when I figured out that my parents were actually human beings, but now that I know they were individual people with a history of their own before I ever came into existence, I really wish I asked my dad more questions. I yearn to know him as an adult. Get to know your parents at every new age you enter – the man I knew my father to be when I was 12 years old, was different than the man I knew him as when I was 24…and I’d sure love the opportunity to get to know him now that I’m in my 30′s; because as we mature, so do the questions we ask.

Say “I Love You” More - As in, way too much. I come from a family where we say “I love you” constantly. I exchanged these words with my parents probably ten times in a day – and I STILL wish I’d said it to my father more. Tell people you love them. Say it until you’re blue in the face and they’re looking at you strangely wondering if something is very wrong with you. Just. Say. It.

Ride The Damn Motorcycle - My dad was a pretty cool guy. He hiked, he camped, he knew how to fix anything, he could cook up a feast, he knew every answer in Jeopardy, he loved riding motorcycles…the list goes on. As life goes, my dad let go of some of his beloved hobbies as he got older, riding motorcycles being one of them. As a gift, not long before he died, my mom surprised him with one. As in, went out and bought it behind his back and put it in the driveway on a beautiful summer morning. It was a completely insane gift that he never EVER would have bought for himself (You guys were a really good match, Mom…I see that more than ever now), and I will NEVER forget the open-mouthed look of surprise on his face when he saw it shining in the driveway. My regret is this: He asked me a thousand times to let him take me for a ride on it – but I always refused. I always shook my head violently whenever he’d beg, saying “It’s so frickin’ cool, Ash!” I know it would have made him so happy to take me for a ride, and there’s nothing I’d like more now than to climb on the back and bite back my fear. The point: If you can bring joy to your loved ones by saying “yes:” Just. Say. Yes. Say “yes” to being part of the things that make their heart happy.

(On a related note: Buy. The. Motorcycle. Life is too short to deny yourself the things that make your soul feel joy.)

Say “Thank You” More – I’ve always been grateful to my parents. Growing up, we didn’t have tons of money, and I saw how hard they worked to give us everything they could. Now that I’m older, I see the DEPTH of what they did for us. I can appreciate now, more than ever before, the extent of their love. For example, I now realize how completely EXHAUSTED my dad must have been, working the hours he worked, but he’d come through the front door every night, briefcase in hand, smiling – ready to play monopoly, backgammon, cook dinner, or watch movies with us. I’d love to say “thank you” not only for providing us with a home and food, but also for “man-ing up” and putting in the extra effort when I’m sure he wanted to collapse. Hell, I don’t even have three kids and when I get home from work, I can barely summon the energy to feed myself. So, find gratitude in the littlest things, which are really the biggest – and (here’s the important part) speak that gratitude out loud. I was still too young when my dad passed away to thank him for the things I’d thank him for now.

Every day that we’re on this earth with the people we love is a blessing and when you think of how fast it can all change, it becomes too big to comprehend. But, every single sacred moment that you’re in the presence of those most important to you is an opportunity to LOVE them – and I mean “love” as a verb, an action. Don’t let it overwhelm you. No act of love is too small. In fact, it’s the smallest things that end up being the biggest.

Missing you, daddy.

- A

On Cultivating A Loving and Healthy Attitude Toward Your Body

honeyloves
Here’s  excerpt from article I wrote, published on Honey Loves , about how I cultivated a healthy attitude toward my body after years of struggling with an altered view of myself.  Find the entire article, including the 5 ways to re-wire your thinking, at HoneyLoves.org Feedback and comments are welcome!

 

My body and I have had a tumultuous relationship on our journey together (I’ll share my own personal “body story” one day soon).

For about 15 years of my life, I struggled with disordered eating and an altered view of what I looked like. It was a terribly lonely struggle and, still to this day, I’ve never spoken about it to ANYONE – so you, Honey Loves, are the first people I will ever speak to about the years of darkness and loneliness that tortured and clawed at my sense of self; the demons that chewed away at the very core of who I was.

It’s been an incredibly long and lonely road to get to where I am now in regards to the love I have for my body. I say “lonely,” because, well…it was! I never spoke about my pain and self-torture to anyone – even now, as I write this, I’m finding it difficult. I held everything inside and sometimes I think it’s a miracle that I even survived it. I can’t believe I’ve gone from the person I was to the person I am today; and I did it all alone. But, you don’t need to do it alone! (And in fact, I DO NOT recommend doing it alone – I just didn’t know the resources available to me.)

Today, I am grateful for my struggle because it has allowed me to reflect and learn to love and appreciate my body. It’s given me the opportunity to do what I wish someone did for me and REACH OUT to help those around me struggling with the same thing. I will say again: You don’t need to go through this alone, beautiful girls. The hate I had for myself permeated every single area of my life – and when I say I was at rock bottom, believe me. So, also, when I say there is hope for you, Honey Loves, you have to believe me. You have to have faith. I am proof that you CAN heal. You can be a person who loves and respects your mind, body, and soul. You don’t always have to live with this heavy weight of self-hatred on your spirit.

While I wish I had, I never sought professional counseling for what I was going through. Though I don’t recommend this (and I can help you find resources to get help), it did force me to come up with little tricks to re-wire my brain that over time, really and truly worked. I figured that if my brain could trick my eyes into seeing fat that wasn’t there when I looked in the mirror, I could certainly make that work to my advantage – and slowly but surely, a new and beautiful girl started to show up whenever I looked in the mirror.

I want to share my tricks for body love with you, and I hope you’ll try them and they’ll start to work for you, too. Be patient with your journey. This isn’t a change that happens overnight. It takes consistent re-working and re-directing of negative thoughts.

 

 

 

Head on over to HoneyLoves.org to read the rest of my article!

- A