Friday, July 09, 2010


I've had it with epiphanies! As revelatory as these life-changing aha! moments can feel, they're often hard to sustain. A burning bush is miraculous, but I wouldn't wait around for one or have your growth depend on it. I encourage you instead to make small changes with great love -- then they'll accumulate and last. Stitch by golden stitch, you'll be sewn together, more whole.
-- from Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life by Judith Orloff, M.D. 

Waiting for a friend in the dressing room at White House/Black Market. Thinner women abound. Hands in my pockets, I lean back, trying too hard to look effortlessly casual. Directly across from me, awesomely, is a massive, wall-length mirror. I meet the gaze of mirror-me and groan. "I look huge," I think. And then, because I've been doing all sorts of reading and thinking about being kinder to myself, I reject the body snarking and reprimand myself for the thought, "I hate when I'm so negative toward my body. God, what is wrong with me." No question mark there, just a period, for it is a statement, not a query. If it's not a question, it can't be solved or put to rest. Sometimes negative self-talk in its familiarity is less scary than change. 

But it didn't end there. I studied myself in the mirror, top to bottom and back again. I decided not to wallow in the cycle of berating and critiquing. It's become too exhausting, honestly. I said simply, "It's okay. Just breathe." I purposefully sent love zings to myself, just as I'd done when, looking toward the wedding photographer's lens, I imagined Stefan there. 

It wasn't an aha! moment. I didn't feel momentous at all, in fact; I noticed the change in my thought pattern only later when reflecting on the day. It was a small change enacted with great love. A brief but crucial step toward abiding kindness. 


  1. Love this. Because I just read something that I think might resonate, I will share:

    There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

    One thing I've learned about aha moments is that they are fleeting. You forget then you remember. Then you forget again and remember again.

  2. You're so right, Karen. I think maybe that aha moments are a necessary step, but it's really the process as a whole (including the backsliding that inevitably happens) that constitutes sustainable change.

    I love that quotation, and that message resonates in so much of what I've been thinking about lately (staying in the present moment, bringing myself back again and again when I try to escape emotions, etc.) I like to think that this is why we blog, maybe: we write about these truths so that we can remember them, again and again.

  3. My mother-in-law has to teach a Bible Study this week on the Sower and the Seed (from Matthew 13) to kick off her church's Vacation Bible School. She emailed asking for any insight.

    In re-reading the passage, I was immediately reminded of this post. Jesus says in v. 20-21, "As for what was sown on the rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away."

    I shared Orloff's quote with her, and your post. In terms of Vacation Bible Study, I asked, what are they wanting to do, as a congregation? It seemed to me that they are not creating the space for epiphanies or immediate reception of a superficial knowledge. Rather, they are engaging in the slow, oftentimes tedious process of creating fertile soil. They are teaching the young "sowers" how to tend to their seeds: not only to hear, but to think, to really consider, to challenge and change in small ways, manageable ways; to understand.

    It's what you're doing too, sweet Elyssa. In these small ways, you're tending to your space of the earth, making it a place where beautiful things can grow, where beautiful things are, in fact, growing.

    Congratulations on this small change that, as it turns out, is anything but small.

  4. "I decided not to wallow in the cycle of berating and critiquing."

    I have decided.... three very powerful words, one life-altering idea. All small change comes from a decision. Deciding to love... yourself; to be kind... to yourself, to be honest with... yourself. I love how you so eloquently share the journey (and inspire me, too).

  5. I hardly know how to thank you all for these comments; I'm touched and humbled more than I can say. It's so therapeutic for me to write these posts, and hearing from you affirms that I'm not alone in the search for a more centered life. And you all offer insight that pushes me in different directions that I didn't even know were there, and I thank you for that, too.

    Kate: This is going to sound trite, but I've decided that I really, really need to get cracking on this Bible thing. I had no idea that it could be so relevant. That quotation from Matthew? That is exactly what would happen to me when I read the newest self-help book or jumped on the newest cleanse. I was looking for a quick-fix, confusing my excitement and eagerness for a sustainable shift in thinking or behavior. I'm realizing now that this shift comes later, and it's oh-so-subtle. I can feel it happening but I can't quite put my finger on it; and it's fluid, too, so I take a step backward as often as forward. But as Mary Adkins said so succintly, "It's okay."

    Rosie: It strikes me that the awesome thing about saying "I have decided..." is that it frees you from having to think; you just have to act. Thinking is often what gets me into trouble (e.g. questioning whether I should go for a swim at the Y, which leads to a million excuses not to).