Promises to Myself

Originally written June 9, 2018

I’m on a flight from Portugal. Mike and I took a two-week vacation to visit more European countries that had been on our wish list- Paris, France – Barcelona, Spain and Lagos in the Algarve region of Portugal and Lisbon Portugal.

But you wouldn’t know that. You wouldn’t know either that I completed and graduated from my yoga teacher training on May 6. You wouldn’t know that instead of “getting out of marketing” like I had set out to do a year ago, I accepted in full time role in April at the company I’ve been working for the past year.

You wouldn’t have known any of that because I have been silent on the blog. I let this blog, this place that once was an outlet for me, become overwhelming and an added pressure that I didn’t need or want. Every time I wrote something “out loud here” – like “yay! like I’m going to become a yoga teacher!” I inadvertently but simultaneously put a crushing pressure on myself to accomplish whatever I just stated because I knew in my head that if I didn’t succeed at what I just said I was going to do- I’d get that embarrassed, pit of guilt in my stomach- the one that says in my head “they’re disappointed in you” – “you didn’t give it your all.”

But with the yoga training, I did give it my all. My all just didn’t become a yoga teacher. But my all learned so much more than postures and poses. My all challenged myself in ways that I haven’t in a long time, getting outside of my comfort zone. I learned about life. About ways to live healthier, about personal tools and techniques to get thru difficult times—I was surrounded for 200 hours with some of the most strong-willed, inspiring women I had ever met: they taught me so much but the biggest lesson was that you can assume all you want about someone else but you NEVER really know what inner demons they are struggling with or how their history has become who they are. Everybody has to “stuff” to deal with so it’s crucial to be compassionate even when you may not fully understand.

Today’s blog is me saying that “I have stuff too.” I live a beautiful, blessed life, but I am scarred, as we all are. Having compassion for myself takes more effort than it comes with ease. Instinctually, my brain will first tell me what I’m doing wrong or what I’m lacking—thing like how I’m not as successful as I thought I would be by this age—how I have a gross stomach compared to girls on my Instagram feed – how I’m not a good enough friend or family member because I don’t make it to every event. Although those first thoughts are what I’m not doing well enough, I am practicing noticing the negative thoughts and then proactively remind myself that even if it’s not going as expected, I am still trying my best- that I am where I am supposed to be.

During our teacher training graduation ceremony, each of us had to choose something to “let go of” or something to “move into.” I decided to let go of something—to let go of (or work towards letting go of) being worried that I’m always letting people down or living up to what I think others expect of me. I tied a red string around my right wrist and symbolically, it is said that it will break and come off when I have overcome this lesson. So this red bracelet might be with me to the end. It was when I was anxious on the plane ride home from Portugal and and thoughts were racing through my mind as I stared at the seat in front of me, unable to read my book, that I started thinking about the promise I had made to myself, and to my fellow yoga sisters. It’s time to start making progress towards that promise by trying to be more concerned with my happiness than the judgements of others.

My first attempt at that is to blog when I am inspired. And I was inspired to share so wrote this blog post I did.

This is the Inspiration Initiative, after all.

Love & light,

Jessy

p.s. here are some pics from our trip! 😍

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We’re All Warriors

During the holiday season, there was a holiday card being sold at Dana-Farber that I helped to create. On the back, they credited me as the “artist” and used my ‘cancer slayer’ term that I often called myself. I had approved it but when I saw it in print, I felt a little weird about it – I had always equated being a cancer slayer to being a warrior, and then the thought popped into my head that I was a warrior but I’m not a warrior anymore. I often look at the two years that I underwent treatment and overcame cancer to be two years of my life that I am proudest of, I feel very confident talking about my experience and am always open and empowered to share it with others. But when it comes to other aspects of my life, particularly my career, I feel very sheepish and unsure of myself- I don’t feel like I have slayed the past two years and I certainly don’t feel like a warrior very often anymore.

I had that thought and then I let it fade. But then it came back to me one afternoon during a meditation sitting during my yoga training and I began contemplating the idea that I don’t have to have cancer to be a warrior. I can be a warrior in my everyday life- with every action I take, every compassionate conversation, every day that I get up and go to work, every night when I try being a chef to make a healthy dinner for our family, every time I go to the gym instead of sitting on the couch, every time I do something to accomplish a dream. In so many aspects of life, big and small, I can be a warrior. What if I’m not a just a cancer slayer or work slayer or yoga slayer or pup mom slayer… what if I’m just a life slayer? What if we’re all life slayers?

One of the greatest learnings that I’ve become more familiar with throughout my yoga readings and trainings is to see each human being as who they are and be okay with it. Essentially, to see the warrior inside of everyone. To remember that you never know what’s going on behind closed doors, or sometimes more powerfully, what’s going on in someone’s mind. To remember that everybody has a family that loves them, everybody has a friend that thinks they’re funny or enjoys their quirkiness. Everybody wants the best for their family and friends, their community. Everybody wants to be healthy and to live a prosperous, happy life. Everybody has the same innate quality to feel connected and be included – to “be a part of.” Everybody looks up and sees the same stars, and the same beautiful sun and moon. We all share the same home – we all have different struggles but it doesn’t matter what the struggle is because to each individual, it’s their struggle, it matters, it’s hard, and it takes work to overcome. Yoga, mindfulness, Buddhism teachings have all taught me to remember those common things about other human beings. When someone is particularly annoying or aggravating me, it’s helpful to take a deep breath and realize that I may not know what’s going on in their life and to remember that they have a mother that thinks they’re wonderful, and they probably love the very attribute that I may find annoying. They’re a human, just like me. They have worries and fears and anxiety, just like me. And in one way or another, they are slaying their life. They are slaying the worries that keep them up at night and are a warrior to the personal demons that plague their body and mind. We all are. We all are trying our best—even if to the outsider it may not look like they’re slaying or doing their best—remember that who they are, in this day, is doing their best – maybe they will do “better” in the future, but at this moment in time, this is their best self. We’re all warriors- slaying whatever life throws our way today.

Being a warrior doesn’t mean doing some remarkable achievement—it certainly can mean completing a marathon, or conquering an illness, or beginning an impactful social movement—but a warrior can also be someone that has so much anxiety that their chest hurts and they go to work anyway, it can be the mother that puts their career on pause because they believe in the importance of being home to raise their children—it can be the son or daughter that sacrifices personal growth and time with their significant other to become a caregiver for their sick parent—it can be a person who sees someone being bullied and says something about it—it can be a person who absolutely loathes their job and simply goes to work with a smile on their face because they know that’s what they have to do to get by – it can be a person who’s overweight and goes to the gym despite feeling uncomfortable. It can be anyone because it is everyone.

Everyone, in some way, is a warrior.

Respect that notion about others but most importantly, respect that about yourself. You are slaying life right this second.

Warrior on. 💪🏼

Love & light,

Jessy

p.s. Speaking of being a warrior….. here’s me slaying the winter walk to work

Never Hurts to Try

On Tuesday night at around 9pm, my mom called. I was worried at first– why is she calling so late on a work night? So I picked up a little panicky. And then she sounded panicked.

She had a teacher workshop at her school on Friday that she was running and the health and wellness speaker that they had scheduled had just backed out.

And then she said, would you be able to do it?

At first, I felt like was she calling the wrong daughter. I’m not a motivational speaker and I have a lot of experiences but I don’t have any certifications in any sort of health and wellness fields. So I told her I’d think about it and let her know the next day.

And then I thought. I thought about the oratorical contest I had signed up for in middle school and won. I thought about a business presentation I had done in college to a start-up company and won. I thought about the speech I made at my alma mater two years ago in front of hundreds of students and the speech I made last year to a bunch of golfers that work for corporate Applebees discussing the importance of raising money for Dana-Farber. Then I thought about the interview I had done on NESN before the Red Sox game. And as I thought about each of those experiences, I remembered, I actually like public speaking and just maybe, I’m not that bad at it.

And then, I got excited. I thrive off these sort of things… pressure filled objectives. But I was still weighing it in my head because the reality is, I’m not a professional speaker. I’m not a therapist, or yoga teacher or medical professional by any means so would the teachers of this school think me preaching to them about life be a little ridiculous?

But as I was going back and forth, a little birdy flew into my head and said, “what does it hurt? what do you have to lose?”

So I called my mom and said I’d do it. I might be only 28 years old but I have gone through a lot and I am confident that I could teach someone in that room something. Even if it was just one person and one thing, I was sure I could teach something.

I then spent Wednesday and Thursday writing and editing a presentation that would touch upon my cancer diagnosis and the insights that I garnered from that two year life event. I talked about different tactics that have helped me in coping with stress and healing the pain and anxiety a diagnosis brings — or any sort of emotional uprising brings. So I wrote and then I edited and then I practiced to Phoebe. I give her a C+ for her audience abilities. She doesn’t do much listening, rather more playing but she’s so darn cute, if I could win her over, I could win anybody over.

So this morning, I did it. I went to that school and I spoke about my experiences and how I think what I’ve learned can be brought into the classroom and into those teachers lives on a daily basis — like yoga, meditation, mantras, deep breathing, taking care of yourself. And it was SO fun. My hope is that the small audience I spoke in front of enjoyed the hour presentation and were able to take a way at least one thing to brighten their own lives. But even if they don’t, I know I took a lot away from this experience.

I took a chance. I said yes to something that I didn’t think I was qualified for. And by doing that, I opened a new door of possibilities to myself and met a lot of kind, loving people while doing it.

So as you go into this weekend, remember to keep your heart open. Remember to keep your MIND open to new opportunities. Sometimes, the things that scare you the most are the best things that ever happen to you.

Lots of love & light,

Jessy

Love a Little Differently This Year

love-is

Valentine’s brings up many different emotions for a wide array of people. Happiness to those in healthy relationships, saddness to those that aren’t in one, longing or loneliness for those who want to be in a relationship. It brings pressure to those in relationships to make sure they do something special. And it brings anxiety to 7th graders when they’re waiting for their name to be called signifying that someone bought them a flower. I love love. I’m a sucker for all romantic comedies and I watch viral videos of engagement proposals. But I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day (as my parents can attest, I used to color the day black on the calendar as a way to “skip it” when I was probably 14.) But as time has gone on and I’ve been lucky enough to be in relationships, I’ve ended up enjoying the day as another reason to go out to dinner and hopefully get flowers for my kitchen table. But when thinking about it this year, it dawned on me that I have no idea what the origin of Valentine’s Day is? What does it actually mean? What’s the real purpose? How did people celebrate Valentine’s Day before there were boxes of chocolates and 1-800-flowers?

So I decided to look it up, and to be up front, I really don’t like the origins of this holiday. Let me give you a synopsis of where it comes from. In the century 3 A.D., the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia by men sacrificing a goat and a dog and then would whip women with the hides of these slained animals! Young women actually would line up for the men to hit them, because they believed that it would make them fertile. There was then a matchmaking selection in which a woman could be ‘coupled’ up with a man. So romantic, right?

The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name this day after Emperor Claudius II executed two men during this same festival— both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years. This, for some reason unknown to me, was then honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day. As years passed, Shakespeare began writing about this day and romanticizing the realities of it which lead to popularity in European countries during the Middle Ages where people began creating handmade cards for their loved ones. by 1913, Hallmark of Kansas began mass producing “Valentine’s Day” cards and the rest is history.*

 

But what if we changed this day to simply a day of LOVE? Then anyone and everybody who wanted to celebrate could feel like they’re included on this day. Of course, those in healthy relationships that want to do something sweet for their partner, do it! But how about loving yourself? How about sending love out to the universe or to Mother nature? If we could all act in a loving way today– not to just those that we’re “in love” with but all those individuals, animals and things that we love, this day could be far more meaningful and positive in a world currently so divided.

Why not get a trash bag and pick up around your community? Love your mother Earth.

Why not send a letter to a friend that you haven’t talk to in a while and tell them how much they mean to you still.

Why not volunteer at a homeless shelter and show love to those individuals who very much need it?

Why not reach out to an old teacher and tell them that the love they put toward you has inspired you in someway?

Why not call your mom and dad and say thank you for all the love they’ve given you in your life?

Why not show yourself some love by getting a massage or going for a hike or doing whatever it is that your soul desires? Loving yourself is not selfish, it is actually selfless. Because if you don’t love you  then there’s certainly no room for you to truly love others.

There are so many ways to show love– flowers and cards and chocolates and dinners are all nice– but there’s other ways to show you, your partner, your friend, your neighbor, and your world that you love them. Even if it’s just one act of loving kindness today, I dare you to do it.

Don’t let your Valentine’s Day be filled with negative emotions — sadness, loneliness, anxiety, anger– simply make YOUR Valentine’s Day a day full of L-O-V-E.

Lots of love & light,

Jessy

*source cited: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day

A Little Flailing Never Killed Anyone

That penguin 🐧 falling in this pic…that’s me. Or at least that’s how I feel. Except I feel like I’m not falling as gracefully as this little guy, I’m doing a little more flailing. 

Almost two weeks into diving off the career cliff, I’m still trying to grow those wings. I’m now past the feeling of just excitement not to be in an office everyday; I’ve organized the closets, done a lot of cleaning, laundry and cooking. I’ve even created a makeshift laundry room and office in our basement. I’m good at keeping myself physically busy but I’ve got some work to do in order to keep my thoughts and anxiety in check. I have finally begun to do more than browse  for jobs and I find myself wrinkling my nose to all of them. I read these descriptions and literally say “ughhh” to them. And then I get stressed when I’ve been looking for an hour and haven’t applied to one because they all seem dreadful. I don’t want to be snobby or unrealistic in my search but I also feel like I took this risk to find a job that I really enjoy and feel passionate about so I don’t want to just apply to anything. 

Someone recently told me, “you can’t rush the Universe” and she’s right, I can’t. But MANNNN do I want to rush it. I’m so uncomfortable in this awkward stage of life, I feel icky saying I’m unemployed, I get frustrated when I try hard to think about what “I want to do” and can’t figure it out. But then I feel happy when I’m walking along the Mystic  with Phoebe and grateful when I get to spend time cooking a nice meal for Mike & I. Someone, save me from my own wishy-washy-ness!!! 

I do know, however, that I’m the only one who can save me from me and can free me of negative thoughts or insecurities I have about myself. In order to move myself forward, I need to make a conscious effort to correct myself when I put myself down about not having a job and being a “low-life” because of it. Making this effort will help my wings grow, even if it’s just by centimeters,  I believe they’ll grow if I believe in myself.

And the reality is, we all can apply this thinking to our everyday life. It could be making a conscious effort to stop telling yourself you’re fat because you havent been to the gym recently or you’re not good enough because you don’t own a big house or you’re stupid because you didn’t get into the college of your choice. Whatever it is that you’re putting yourself down about, try to stop. Simply notice when you say these things to yourself or to others. Pause, take a breath and realize that you are good enough. You are exactly where you’re meant to be, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Grow those wings!

Lots of love & light,

Jessy 

A New Journey

Yesterday I started writing this blog post but I got cold feet to tell the world my news. My news is this…

I QUIT MY JOB.

(well, gave my notice before the new year. c’mon I’m not an ass hole who abandons responsibility) 

I quit my job and I don’t have a new one. I quit my job and I don’t even know what I want my new one to be.

I took a leap of faith, a leap far larger than I ever have in my life. I’ve taken risks and chances before but there was always a next step, always a plan; I always knew what the end goal was. This time, however, is way different. I don’t know what I want my career to be or even what I want my life to look like. My cancer experience and over a year working for people that have been given 2-5 years to live taught me one thing- life is short and you’re not promised to live till retirement. So, you’ve got to live life in the present moment, be thankful for what you have, and really try to enjoy your days, not just the weekend days. Unfortunately, I also am not an idiot and I fully realize that you need to make money to survive. And even though I love to tell Mike that I could, I have accepted the fact that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be one of those people on HGTV living in a “tiny house.” In my dream world, I would be a mom to more than just Phoebe, I’d live in a home on or near some kind of body of water, I’d have friends and family nearby that I could have glasses of Rose with on Sunday afternoons, I’d like to have enough time and energy to cook healthy meals for my family on a regular basis, I’d like a deck outside to do yoga on, and a fireplace to snuggle up with Mike on at night after a long day. That being said, I know my dream will cost money; kids, a house, a dog, frequent purchases of wine and buffalo chicken, yoga classes– it all costs money. But as of right now, I don’t know how to get to those dreams or how to contribute financially to making those dreams a reality for myself and Mike. 

So I said screw it, I’m taking a chance on myself and going to figure it out as I go. Three years ago, if I would’ve heard of someone doing this, I probably would’ve judged them because I thought that being equal in a relationship means making equal money. But today I am deciding to try to think differently. I’m trying to retrain my mind to believe that making a lot of money doesn’t equal a successful life- for me. For some people that may be what they want, but I don’t think it’s what I want anymore. I want to spend more time with my family, I want to spend more time learning, I want to be outside everyday and not in an office building for 10 hours. I want to help others. I want to be creative. I want to have enough time and energy to cook a healthy meal for my family. I want to go to bed with a smile on my face.

Today, I walked with Phoebe along our favorite path and looked at the beautiful blue sky and an almost-frozen river filled with ducks and geese and thought, “what the hell am I afraid of?” I already jumped. I wrote the letter of resignation. I signed the papers. I paid the first month of COBRA healthcare. I packed up my office. I played ‘Freedom’ by Beyoncé (obviously) when I drove home on Friday. So what am I afraid of? I’m afraid of being judged by others. I’m afraid of people talking about me behind my back and saying things like “what is she doing? this isn’t a smart decision” I’m afraid of outsiders thinking I’m a leech to Mike. I’m afraid of, basically, what everyone else in the world thinks. To the point that I specifically told Mike not to tell any of his friends and family because I didn’t want them to know and judge me. Then there’s the social media aspect– it creates a pressure to feel like you need to tell everybody everything you’re doing all the time. I’m guilty of it. Shit, I’m doing it right now. And I kind of hate that. It’s the same guilt that you feel when you know you’re not being honest. And with today’s media, I get the icky feeling when I’m not being upfront on my ‘social channels’ when I don’t share what’s going on in my life. It certainly creates an unnecessary level of stress but it also helps me open up and put my feelings out there for the world, which after the fact, always ends up making me feel better. Because of this form of media, I have been able to host this blog which has proven to be a therapeutic place for me to go to put my feelings into words. I like that, if I want to ramble, like I’m doing now, it’s okay because it’s my space. 

Im anxious about what’s to come in the next few weeks and months but I’m also excited. I’m hopeful that this could be a big turning point in my life where I discover my passion and start being happier, more fulfilled and generally more content on a daily basis. An additional feeling I have at this very moment is freedom. Freedom to not be afraid anymore of the possible judgement or misunderstanding because once I hit “publish” it’s out there. Love it or hate it, embrace it or judge it. It is what it is and I’m proud of the path that I have just embarked on. I hope that you will follow along with me on this new journey – a journey of self-discovery, taking chances, living in the moments and hopefully, inspiring others to do the same.  

Lots of love & light, 

Jessy 

here’s a pic of the Phoeb’s trying to get to the ducks today. img_0307

The Beauty of Being Blind

To my amazement, over the past year and a half, I’ve continued to receive Smile Cards on a regular basis to take to the Brigham. Sometimes they’re from friends or family but more often than not, they’re from individuals or groups that I’m not associated with or know personally. Upon returning from the Cape on Saturday, I was immediately greeted with two batches of cards from different people. After we unpacked, I started reading thru them and, as I always am, I was moved by the kind words these strangers were writing to patients. But as I was reading through them, my mind wandered to the many tragic events that have unfolded in our country and throughout the world in the past month. It struck me, quite poignantly, that the many children and adults writing these cards don’t know who they’re writing to so they certainly don’t know the patients’ race or religion or gender or sexuality. They just know that they’re a human being. A human being in need of some support and so they selflessly offer their love, prayers and healing thoughts to complete and total strangers.

I wish that we could all see the world like the people who write these smile cards do…blind to the labels society puts on people. Blind to whether or not the person is voting for Hillary or Trump, blind to what kind of car they drive or what God they believe in or whether they’re gay or straight or transgender. They’re blind to it all; all except the fact that there’s a human being on the other end of that card, there’s a human being in a hospital bed that has a family and friends that love them. In the end, isn’t that all we really need to know? A person, just like us, is in need… We should help. 
It’s time we see people truly for the heart that beats within them.
Thank you to every single person who has written a Smile Card over the past year and a half. You’re making the world a more caring place. Keep them coming!
Lots of love & light,

Jessy