Regrets and Remembering

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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

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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

When I’m Driving In a Beautiful Place and See Someone Doing “The Ugly Face”

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Yesterday morning, as I drove along the winding Pacific Coast Highway singing my lungs out and smiling like a fool on my way to spend a relaxing solo day / night in Malibu, I pulled up next to a brand new silver Mercedes SUV at a stop light.

“Beautiful car,” I thought, as I shook my shoulders and wagged my head back and forth, dancing in my seat.

I inched forward to see if maybe it was anyone I’d recognize ( * True story: On this very same section of road, I once glanced to my left at the same stop light, and there in the SUV next to me was Julia Roberts. Seriously. Now you understand why I was behaving slightly creepy. * )

So, I glanced at the driver. She was a beautiful lady, I’d say in her mid-30′s, with brown shoulder-length hair styled to perfection. Beautiful earrings sparkled in her ears. Diamonds crusted her delicate wrist. But, something didn’t fit.

This beautiful woman…

she was sobbing.

And I don’t mean crying daintily and dabbing at her doe eyes with a tissue – I mean she was what I call “ugly face crying.” Face contorted, jaw quivering, mouth turned down at the sides, hand to her lips; her chest rising up and down quickly with her uneven breathing. The kind of crying you do when you’ve reached an emotional point of “I can’t contain what I’m feeling anymore,” and unleash because your heart aches too much to hold it in. The kind of crying where your soul is screaming louder than your voice. The kind of crying we usually only feel like we can do when we’re alone.

Only, she wasn’t alone. I could see her.

I quickly turned my radio down, the loud and happy noise now seeming cruel – and looked at her again. “Gosh,” I thought to myself, “this poor lady! What could possibly be making her so sad?!” I mean, maybe it was because I wasn’t in a sad place, but this woman – her sadness was profoundly affecting me! I mean, I REALLY felt for her. I could feel her desperation. I suddenly had the urge to smile at her, to offer her any kind of comfort I could. I wanted to reach out to her in case no one else did. When people cry alone in cars, it’s usually because they have to be brave and keep it together for the rest of their world. It’s a lonely cry.

The light turned green. I sped off, and she turned onto another road – only I couldn’t leave her behind.

Seeing the woman in such dire pain really got me thinking.

I’ve done the same thing many times: Cried and sobbed my eyes out in the safety and isolation of my car. (What is it about cars? Have you done this, too?) I’ve wiped my eyes, controlled my breathing, gotten myself together again, and continued on with my day – no one the wiser to my emotional breakdown. I’ve put on my braveface and made the world think I was fine. But, God, what I wouldn’t have given for someone to reach out. For someone, in my moment of complete isolation, to offer a kind word. A smile. To see that, despite how I held it together in public, I wasn’t okay. To acknowledge the suffering I was feeling. To be kind.

I wondered where this woman was going, did she have someone to talk to, why was she crying? I wondered how she’d behave when she reached her destination. Would she feign happiness and try to convince herself that she wasn’t just “ugly-face crying?” I wondered what her life looks like.

Though I’ll never get a chance to offer this woman comfort, I wanted to tell you about her. This woman was a great reminder. She reminded me that, even if people seem okay, we are ALL fighting battles that the rest of the world may know nothing about. So many of us put on a brave front, when inside, we’re crumbling. This is why it is SO important to BE NICE to each other. There have been days when I’ve been so broken and sad and lonely that the simple kindness of the cashier at the grocery store has brought me to tears.

Just because someone isn’t calling for attention and telling the world they’re sad, does not mean they aren’t suffering.

So today, I just want to extend this to you:

Sometimes we all get a little caught up in our own weird little worlds, but take notice and be gentle and be kind with the people around you, because we are all in the midst of fighting battles invisible to those around us.

- A

What Do You See When You Look In The “Mirror” ?

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First, a note on inspiration: So often, I find that when I try really hard to think of topics to write about, I end up with nothing. I’ve learned that by paying attention to the people around me and the conversations and topics that keep coming up again and again organically, I’m left with more inspiration than I know what to do with. So, I’ve been making it a point to take notice of what’s repeatedly coming up and what the Universe is trying to tell me. Inspiration, it turns out, isn’t something you find – it’s something you open yourself up to.
That being said, this entire week, I kept finding myself in conversations about LOVE. It wasn’t like I was bringing it up – people were bringing it up to me. I knew there must be a “take-away” from all of these conversations, because it was way too strange to be a coincidence, but I wasn’t sure what / where the point of connection was. I knew eventually all of the dots would connect into a bigger message, and as I sat drinking my coffee this morning, BOOM, it slid into place (like that one Tetris block you’ve patiently waited for because it causes the whole wall you’ve built to disappear and add to your score…I know you know what I’m talking about).
The majority of the conversations about love I’ve had this week wound up being centered around the people we choose to be with, and how they’re a direct link / connection to how we feel about ourselves at any given time. I would venture to say that if you want to learn more about yourself, the best way to do that is to look at the people you choose to be with (your “type”) because they mirror back to us where we are on our path of evolution. Trust me…I have this down to a science.

Let me (attempt to) explain…..

Take, for example, the man who consistently chooses to be with attractive younger women. Sure, at first glance, it appears he’s just in it for looks – after all, what’s cooler than being 50 and dating a 25 year old (take it easy, sarcasm here, but no judgement). However, I do not believe for one moment this is simply a physical attraction. It speaks to me about how the man feels about himself; how he has a tendency to need to be a “Daddy” to women. He likes to know he’s in control and loves being needed and depended upon. It’s less about the taking care of someone and more about the superiority and power it gives him. If a woman isn’t below him in age (and usually career, income, education, etc) he isn’t quite sure what to make of her and he isn’t getting the validation he needs mirrored back to him. He wants a “little girl,” not an equal partner. This is how he feels emotionally satisfied. What is this saying about how he truly feels about himself? * I want to add that I don’t believe this dynamic is “right” or “wrong.” It’s simply where he is on his path of evolution. * He may become aware of these patterns and through a little self-exploration, unlock why he craves this dynamic, and then begin to seek out a different kind of woman because he’s dealt with his own empty space and is ready emotionally to deal with a different level of intimacy.

On the same note, what about the girl who consistently chooses the older man – or the bad boy, or men who are emotionally unavailable?

But if these dynamics aren’t particularly “wrong,” why change? Why grow, you ask?

Because it feels good. And because most of us want a true and lasting love. And LOVE feels GOOD when it’s right.

After having this conversation with a certain gentleman this week (he usually chooses submissive and quiet women and was visibly moved into self-reflection when we discussed), I dared him to consider why he chooses the women he does. I dared him to ask himself why dating a woman with a bit of a stronger personality is hard for him. “What is it saying about YOU? What are these women you choose mirroring back to you” I asked. Last night, he decided to go on a date with a woman who is outside of his usual “type,” and after speaking to him this morning, he sounds more alive and excited about someone than I’ve, quite possibly, ever heard him! Let me restate: I have never heard him this “alive” over a female. And, as he said this morning, “it’s not just the girl, it’s what she represents.”

Ding, ding, ding!!!

I am, by NO means, the final word on all of this. I simply observe the dynamic I see between people and have come to believe firmly that a true partnership is built upon two people who are at the same point of evolution coming together into an equal and healthy bond; meeting someone at the same level, if you will.

The people we choose to be with speak volumes about where we are on our own path of growth. This is why it’s unhealthy and even dangerous to “hold onto” certain people in our lives. Some people aren’t meant to stay. They’re meant to mirror back to us where we need to grow and evolve and then be set free. I encourage you to look at the person you’re with at this moment. What can you learn about yourself from them? What are they mirroring back to you?
What are your thoughts on this? Please feel free to disagree….

- A

When I Want Nothing More Than To Be Alone and Then A Stranger Talks To Me

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I’m never one to “celebrate” on New Year’s Eve. You won’t find me at a party drinking champagne and making a lot of noise. I tend to retreat inward and enjoy the ringing in of a new year with some quiet reflection and time alone – emphasis on the “quiet” and “alone.”

This year, having had to work on New Year’s Eve, I decided to wake up bright and early on New Year’s Day, drive out to the ocean, and spend some time alone, thinking about what I want this year to hold for me. 2013 was (to be honest) a pretty miserable year, and I mean that in a loving, “you really helped me to grow,” kind of way – but I am truly happy to see it go.

The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful – the sky was stark blue, the air was perfect in that not-too-warm-but-not-too-cold way only southern California is capable of – and as I soaked in the sunshine on the drive out to my favorite spot in Santa Monica, I started thinking about things I want for this year:

I want to write more.

I want to meet more people.

I want to help more people.

I want to find a way to combine all of these things into a job.

But what I want most is to feel inspired. To feel that yearning and need to conquer the world; to look at every day, normal things and see the miracles they hold. To feel that spark. But, where to look? Where do I begin? All of these things plagued my mind.

I parked my car, fed my parking meter, and threw on my best “don’t talk to me” look (ladies, I know you’re all familiar with this). I was over-tired and crabby. I wanted to be completely alone. I was dead-set on doing some deep thinking and asking God for direction.

As I sat myself on the railing overlooking the brilliant coastline, the breeze gently blew my hair, the sun warmed my skin. I closed my eyes and turned my face toward the sky……
….and I heard a male voice to my right say, “Hello!”

“You have to be kidding me,” I thought. I had been sitting a total of ONE minute at this point, and couldn’t believe my solitude was being disrupted so quickly. I’m used to people talking to me…it happens frequently and usually I’m all ears – but just this once, I wanted peace. I begrudgingly looked over, and indeed, the voice was directed at me – the source was an older man of about 65-70. He had a kind smile, and was all alone, and even though I was being crabby, I allowed the corners of my mouth to curl up ever so slightly and say a soft “hello” in return.

This was the end of my solitude. The man walked over to me, extended his hand, and introduced himself as “Shawn.” What followed was nothing short of beautiful.

Life has a way of bringing us exactly what we need if we open ourselves up to it.

Shawn came here to the United States from Iran. In his thickly accented English, he told me he’d come here to be free. He’d come here to escape the things that made him feel like a prisoner in his own country.

In the next hour and a half, he told me so many stories – stories that made me feel such a deep sense of appreciation and adoration for our country. Stories of how limited freedom was in his country. I asked him what bothered him the most about where he came from and the first thing he said was about women: He didn’t like how women were treated and it hurt his heart that they were forced to cover their bodies and faces, hiding thier feminity from the world; remaining unheard and disrespected.

How intensely grateful and acutely aware I suddenly was that I was wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt – that I was free to feel the sun on my arms and face. How amazingly beautiful. I thanked him for reminding me of this.

He told me of a time when he applied for a job with the U.S. government to serve as a translator. In his letter to the government, he wrote of why he wanted the job and how much he appreciated this country. He then wrote about a president that he disagreed with – a president that he felt had contributed to more unrest in Iran. He didn’t get the job. The government didn’t like what he had to say about the particular president he referred to. BUT, he reminded me, he was FREE to voice that opinion. Again, what an amazingly beautiful thing. To be able to voice your opinion and not be punished for it.

He told me about a time he had been drinking with his friends in Iran, and how this was not allowed. He and his friends were stopped in the street by police and questioned for hours and hours and hours, because it was breaking the law to be consuming alcohol. How grateful I suddenly felt that I’d been able to have a glass of wine in a restaurant earlier in the week.
He spoke about his travels throughout the world and how Brazil is the most beautiful place he’s ever seen in his entire life, and Greece is the closest he imagines to paradise. Yet, he chose to live here, in our beautifully flawed United States. To call this country “home.”

Shawn now runs two small businesses in Los Angeles…because he can. The joy radiating from his eyes and his face for the life he’s free to live was alive in the air around him. This man is HAPPY.

We talked until I had to return to my car because my meter had expired. I realized that I had gotten exactly what I’d come to the ocean to get: Inspiration.

Before we left, I asked Shawn if I could take his photo and write about the things he’d told me. He proudly stood for the photo and was overjoyed at the thought of me writing about him. Thank you, Shawn, for making my day so wonderful.
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I wanted to share this experience with anyone willing to take the time to read this.

As I step foot into this new year, I want to remind myself every single day to be full of gratitude and appreciation for the life that I have. To remind myself that there is inspiration EVERYWHERE; the difference between seeing it and not seeing it lies within my own mind. What a beautiful gift I’d been given on the very first day of this new year.

Happy New Year to all of you.

Here’s to a year full of inspiration…

- A