September 22, 2014
Categories: Family, Self

My life — both inside and out — is awash in adolescence. Seven years of being a teenager, then 28 years of raising them? I clearly signed THAT contract while under the spell of a milky-mouthed, heaven-scented newborn.

Imagine the bedroom of a stereotypical teenager and you’ll have a perfect picture of my inner world as of late, only if you were to risk entrance, instead of books and garbage and underwear and electronic devices, you’d trip over messy love, imperfect solutions, deep heartache, shallow arguments, glowing pride and dust bunnies of fear that — no matter how many times I sweep them out — reproduce in the corners of my consciousness whenever I’m not watching.

Thing is, about the time the prefrontal cortex of my firstborn resumes growth (re-capacitating her with the self preservation skills that came to a screeching halt around age 13), daughter #4 will take her place in line beside my other two gray matter-deficient offspring.

In other words, I’ll be treading these muddy waters for a very long time.

Raising teens, in my experience, has proven equally intense as raising littles, just a different kind of intense. While the physical load has lightened a bit, an emotional load quickly replaced the squirming toddlers, nursing newborns and pounds of pregnancy. And very much like raising littles, I can’t afford to think too much about it because while I’m sitting here trying to get everything just right, one’s likely to slip out the front door and take off down the road to God Knows Where.

I do have an advantage over some parents in that I tried just about everything you can imagine as a teenager, myself. Not exactly naive, I’m able to draw from personal, first-hand experience when the question, “what the HELL are they thinking!!??” hits me time and again.

Me, hating everything, age 16.

Unfortunately, teenage rebellion as a part of my own story does not make watching them struggle any easier, and it certainly doesn’t ensure that they’ll be spared hard knocks of their own. In fact, secondhand heartache is as much a part of the adolescent rearing experience as diapering in the early years: it may vary a little from child to child, but it always stinks and there’s no opting out.

Lately, while digging for empathy and understanding, I’ve been reflecting more than usual on my own rather wild adolescence. What was I thinking? What would have helped? What factors contributed to my angst and discontentment? Who and what made a real difference for me and why?

What I’m realizing is that, of all the risks I took and decisions I made (that rightfully scared my fantastic, loving, involved and still-married parents half to death), I’d really only change one thing if I had it to do over.  

Which means that of all the choices my daughters have made and will continue to make, and all the battles I can either engage in or attempt to diffuse, there’s really only one matter that truly concerns me, and one overarching battle I know for sure to be worthy of my engagement.

But first, here are a few others that, while concerning to many parents, I don’t actually see as problematic in and of themselves:

6 “Rebellious” Behaviors That I Don’t Regret, Nor Discourage in My Daughters  

  1. Questioning the status quo – Though my tact and tone have changed a bit since the days when etching “F*ck the Establishment!” in bathroom stalls seemed like the least I could do toward the betterment of humanity, at 36, I still question social norms and believe this to be an essential component of living an authentic, centered and ever-evolving life. And though I’m often warning them to be careful about making assumptions and judgements, whenever one of my girls spots an injustice and makes some defiant, blanket-statement proclamation, I still grin with pride, at least on the inside.
  2. Questioning the religion I was raised in – Never one to swallow “truth” that didn’t actually FEEL true to me, yet always seeking and connected to a sacred something, I’m glad I didn’t let the fear built into my childhood faith drown out the curiosity and intuition driving my quest for spiritual authenticity. Now on a path that finally feels right for me (following years of confusion and cynicism) I see the importance of having rebelled from the family faith. It wasn’t defiance for the sake of defiance, it was defiance for the sake of discovering MY TRUTH.
  3. Self-expression – Thinking back to the skater pants that two of me would have fit into, the blackened eyes and greasy hair (shampoo was SO superficial), the harsh music and dark poetry, and the brief period of (harmless) pyromania, I don’t believe I was simply attention-seeking. I think I was identifying myself as distinctly different than the mainstream and expressing that in ways that helped me FEEL. Still unconventional by many measures (if less extreme in my choice of apparel), I see self expression as brave and beautiful, no matter the age or manifestation.
  4. Taking risks — Though terrifying to parents at times, there’s simply no way for a young person to explore her world, inside or out, without a certain amount of risk taking. Given the number of thirty, forty and fifty-somethings I know who are only just now discovering or rediscovering the power and potential born of bravery, I think it’s essential that we encourage calculated risk taking among our teens. They need the practice while still in the nest (if no longer under our wings).
  5. Raging against injustice — It still makes me laugh when I think about the subjects I took a stance on (music censoring, modesty and mari…oh, never mind), but the fact is that when I saw injustice, I felt RAGE. By failing to honor our teens’ brand new, gut-level acknowledgment of the world’s many inequities or belittling their arguments as too extreme or narrowly-focused, we are essentially saying, “What you see and feel is not legitimate or important” which decreases their sense of connection, causes them to doubt their intuition and often leads to either increased angst or (worse yet!)…conformity.
  6. Challenging boundaries — Teens who seem to need to test every boundary they come up against are not always rebelling to ruffle feathers or punish parents. I think just as often, they are seeking authenticity through exploration, and that by testing the boundaries around them, they learn to navigate their inner landscape that much more quickly.

Now, let me be clear: I’m not saying that any one of these factors can’t lead to a whole host of problems. They absolutely can, and for me, they often did. What I AM saying is that they aren’t necessarily problems in and of themselves. In fact, many are actually indicators that you’ve got a particularly smart kid on your hands, or a leader in the making or a creative type for whom self expression feels as essential as air and water.

So, what WOULD I change if I had my adolescence to live over? Daughter #2 did some guessing:

“Your anger toward your parents?”

“Going to a ‘crappy’ college?”

“Having a kid so young?”

“Making all that…macrame?” 

Nope (but sorry again Mom, Dad).  The one and only thing I would change is this:

My level of self love. 

Think about it: throw self love into any one of the aforementioned rebellious behaviors and suddenly, you’ve got a built-in ruler for calculating risks, a safety on all the triggers life hands you and a way to explore the world without getting completely lost. Better yet, it’s a not a measure that requires experts or parental supervision or a fear of hell to give it legitimacy.

Had self love been my one and only anchor, I might have:

  • questioned the status quo without viewing everything through a lens of anger
  • questioned my religious roots without insults, disrespect and cynicism
  • expressed myself without dwelling on pain and darkness
  • taken risks without putting myself so squarely in harm’s way
  • raged against injustice but tapped more quickly into my capacity to contribute to change
  • challenged boundaries but not so much that they compromised people’s respect for me or more importantly, my respect for myself

“Great!” You’re thinking. “But how in the world do you encourage an already-angsty adolescent to love themselves more?”

This, like most interpersonal dilemmas, is as gray a matter as the tissue missing in our teens. I honestly can’t tell you what my parents might have done differently, and it doesn’t matter, because I know they did their best, and that’s enough. Truth is, I rebelled against order and stability and organic gardening and therapist-grade understanding. I wanted WILD and UNCERTAIN and THRILLING and FORBIDDEN. I craved darkness and pain for contrast. I had to figure things out myself. I still do. 

This is not the fault of anyone. It’s simply who I am.

But from this end of things — now that I’m the one holding the lantern lest my babies get lost —  I see something kind of essential that’s hardly even mentioned in The Manual (that none of us ever received to begin with), and it has nothing to do with how well we’re parenting.

As a whole, we’re doing beautifully in this regard: 

We love them to death, even when they’re intolerable and we’re totally spent.

We see their strengths and point them out often.

We support their interests, encourage their passions and celebrate even the smallest successes.

We mind their sleep, their food, their screen time, their friends and their mood swings.

We find ways to connect, relate, understand, empathize and forgive, over and over.

We love our children deeply and they know it. At this, parents, WE ARE DOING AN INCREDIBLE JOB. 

But many of us are a little less skilled when it comes to the rest of the rarely-mentioned reality:

Instilling SELF love in our children requires leading by example: 

  • When we, as parents, identify our OWN unmet needs and learn healthy ways to honor them, we demonstrate personal responsibility on the deepest level.
  • When we learn to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ according to our best interests as opposed to the desires of others, our teens are taught the validity and worth of their own inner knowing.
  • When we let go of perfectionism, we teach them to see beauty and joy as inherent to and available in every moment, instead of goals they may never reach.
  • When we define success for ourselves and celebrate micro-achievements, we show them that despite the deception all around them, they are, have and do ENOUGH.
  • When we forgive ourselves and openly learn from our downfalls, we demonstrate a whole new level of kindness and compassion.
  • When we dare to live the lives we know we’re here for, we give our children permission to do the same.

These acts of self love are not encouraged in our culture. In fact, given that many of us were taught that loving ourselves is selfish, it’s no wonder that we spend so little time considering our own needs and deepest desires.

Ultimately, it’s not our job as parents to shape our teens into who they are meant to be. Our job is to love them, care for them and model healthy adult reactions to the world, both around and within us. Despite our society’s outward focus — on appearance and achievements and tangible measures of “success” — our children are receiving but a partial picture of love when we focus on the external, including THEM, at the expense of our own inner wellbeing.

In keeping with my rebellious tendencies, I’d like to suggest that our generation of guilt-stricken and perfection-pursuing parents amend the all-popular biblical teaching when it crosses our paths and minds:

Yes, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is good advice.

But first, love yourself as you do your children. 

Learning alongside you,

bethsignature

 

 

 

Ready to take self love up a notch or twenty? Check out Inner Bonding. Margaret Paul’s free 7-day e-course is a beautiful place to start (and no, I have no affiliation with her, only respect and gratitude for her work).

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August 9, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family
Crocodiles in Barton Springs?

“Are you SURE there are no crocodiles in Barton Springs?” A totally legitimate concern, all things considered.

So much has happened since we crossed the border two months ago that I’m not even going to try to recount the details sequentially. Though I’ve paid in crowded thoughts and congested perspectives, stepping away (virtually) for a minute was exactly what I needed and about the only way I could manage the (primarily emotional and secondarily physical) load of this move. When The Here and Now demands my presence that loudly, I’m learning to pay attention and let it lead.

Texas river crossing

Texas river crossing, early summer.

We’re home now!! and though I hardly know what that means anymore, these mountains ARE home for me. I can feel it. Our boxes broken down and the neighborhood full of kids, today is the first day in months that processing has taken priority over packing, unpacking, soaking in our friends and family or staring blankly in disbelief and sensory overload. (Remember the mess last summer made of my mind? Yeah, that had nothing on this season.)

The most common question asked of us is, “So, what’s it like to be back?”

In the same category as “How’s the fam?” or “Tell me about the girls!” this question requires that I…

  1. assess the actual interest vs. cordiality of the inquirer
  2. consider the amount of time I have to respond and
  3. decide what degree of honesty I currently have emotional space to offer.

And though I’m capable of the generally-expected reaction of, “Everyone’s great, thanks for asking!” it’s never easy for me, as it cues each family member to parade through my heart and remind me how complicated the truth really is.

Summer sweethearts plus a sister. There’s always a sister.

So, because a simple, “Our move has been…great!” is not necessary here (yet the whole thing still feels like a giant fuster cluck), I’ll just throw out thoughts at random, pair them with pertinent photos and trust that you understand my kind of crazy.

Feels good to be back. I’ve sorely missed writing you.

Random Thoughts Upon Reentry

Reverse culture shock is even more intense. Though moving abroad was big, returning to the U.S. feels a good deal more shocking. While this could easily be attributed to the pace alone, I think it has even more to do with having re-sensitized. After four years of living with minimal possessions, consuming less than ever and with little (and laughable) exposure to advertising, I no longer have many filters in place with which to handle the overstimulation inherent to stateside living. Even the most seemingly-benign activities (such as grocery shopping) feel overwhelming and likely will until I relearn how and what to ignore again (or lose my mind). I wonder if this is true of anyone who returns to their native soil, or if it’s a phenomenon unique to hyper-stimulating cultures such as our own. Thing is, I don’t particularly want a new set of filters just to function. Is desensitization really necessary? Or could it be, given a fresh perspective on what’s essential, non-essential and worthy of my attention, that discernment might prove sufficient to keep me sane? We shall see!

flour options galore

The flour selection I contemplated for nearly ten minutes.

There are seasons for adventuring, and seasons for rooting. Many have asked why we decided to move back, as much as we loved living in Mexico. The answer has less to do with which culture we prefer than it does what best suits our family during this season. Our girls — now street smart, bilingual and savvy travelers — also deserve the gifts of constancy, rhythm and friends they won’t soon be leaving. The heartbreak of that; of repeatedly saying goodbye to places and people we adore, was wearing on us all. Our need for community suddenly trumped any wanderlust whims.

Fortunately (and apparently), prior inhabitance is not always a prerequisite for feeling at home. My roots are eager to grow here, and conditions seem quite conducive.

at home

I think about my appearance more in the states. Most everywhere I go here (though less in Asheville than in Austin), I’m reminded of what I “should” look like, want and be striving for (as a woman, mother and “privileged” human). There are also more mirrors, more images created to elicit certain feelings and WAY more people clearly invested in what’s trending. And while I’m pretty secure in my minimal making-ready routines (throwing on secondhand standbys and tying my hair in a knot, for example), it does occur to me that without makeup, hair dye or any clue (or care) about fashion “rules,” I’m often the least put-together person in the bunch. This doesn’t bother me so much as it intrigues me. How fascinating to feel more self conscious here at home than as a gringa among latinos.

If only I had a nickel for every time I defended my clothing choices to my daughters, "But I LIKE this shirt. Why else would I wear it every other day?" and "I'm not wearing black on black. These MOM shorts, as you call them, happen to be charcoal gray."

If only I had a dollar for every time I defended my clothing choices to my daughters.”But I LIKE this shirt. Why else would I wear it every day?” and “I’m not wearing black on black. These MOM shorts, as you call them, happen to be charcoal gray.” {Here, we’re standing in front of the garden at my folks’ new home(stead), which is every bit as lovely as it looks.}

Smartphones are crazy cool and kind of concerning. Between the distraction, potential for instant connection, easy access to information and sense of obligation to respond immediately, I’m both infatuated with and a little sketched out by my new iPhone. The fact that I’ve been totally bummed a couple of times when I accidentally left it somewhere and then “needed” it (when I’ve never before enjoyed the luxury in my life) really speaks to its addictiveness. On the other hand, I rather love the accessibility of my people, camera, music and…meditation chimes (oh, the irony). But then again, am I obligated to respond every time the darn thing dings? I suppose it’s like anything else and once the newness wears off, I’ll settle into a reasonable balance. Gosh, but will our teens? How do we guide them through a world they know more about than we do?

texting teens

It’s always better to rent a bigger moving truck than seems necessary. You might be surprised by how much stuff you actually have, and mattresses generally win in wrestling matches.

moving day

There are definite dos and don’ts when it comes to leaving the country for extended stretches. For example: DO store your things somewhere you don’t have to pay, such as the corner of your garage in the house you rent out…

opening the time capsule

Here it is, for those of you who’ve anticipated the cracking into of our time capsule!!…

the wall comes down

Anticlimactic, I know, but storage can only be so exciting.

Also, DO rent your house to awesome people with common interests, if at all possible…

Our new renters (and dear friends!) are the first to restore our long-neglected garden. This makes me so happy.

Our new renters (and dear friends) are the first to restore our long-neglected garden. This makes me so. incredibly. happy.

DON’T, on the other hand, store your things in outbuildings prone to rodent invasion…

rat infested tool shed

Near-total ruin. At least you can’t smell it.

gross

Yeah, it was like that. Absolute filth and teeth marks. Fun.

I was happier without my stuff, but that doesn’t mean stuff necessarily hinders happiness. This one has been a really big deal for me since we’ve been back. As we began rounding up our things and I realized how many more of them we had than I’d remembered, I began to panic a little. WAIT! But I don’t even remember what’s IN all those boxes! Do we HAVE to open them?! I’m not sure I want ANY of it!! By the time we’d packed it all in the moving truck, driven it across the country and unloaded it into our (rather small) house, I was in a bit of a funk. Fearfully equating things with our pre-adventure stress level, it took a good deal of thought checking, deep breathing and letting go of stories to realize that though minimalism suits me, the change that matters most happened within. Now that I’ve lived without my things, I no longer feel an attachment to them. Now that I realize how much happier I am without many attachments, I’m less likely to accumulate needlessly. AND, now that the boxes are all unpacked and their contents proving more useful than scary, I’m actually quite pleased about the reunion. All that STUFF represents not a life of stress and hoarding, but years and years of good finds, careful craftsmanship, thoughtful gifts and artists supported. The lesson I was meant to learn? Possessions can’t cause us stress nor free us from it. Our thoughts about our possessions determine our reactions to them.

office in progress

As a maker and fiber arts teacher, I’d accumulated quite a hefty stock of supplies (the bulk of our boxes, truth be told). Though I’ve changed gears quite completely in my professional pursuits, I’m excited to be making again, if only for the pleasure. (Pictured is my office, pre-organization.)

The real riches are in the process, not the end product. I’m learning that noticing the beauty in moments such as THESE is much easier when I first slow down and then zoom in or out. By zooming in, I’m able to focus on one thing at a time, appreciating its unique role within my story. Zooming OUT allows me to see chaos as natural, necessary and relative, and peace as an INNER state of being. I can’t claim that I held true to these perspectives throughout the whole move, but I DID notice a heck of a lot of beauty amidst the madness.

chaos

unpacking 2

insanity (taos bearded).jpg

Unpacking is apparently WAY more fun while bearded and skating.

The coupling of pre and post-Mexico adornments and housewares feels quite symbolic. The best part about unpacking our things (for me) has been the melding of our two seemingly distinct lives. It’s served as a reminder that I am not the woman I once was but neither am I exclusively the woman I’ve become. Loving and honoring myself means loving and honoring every stage of my story and celebrating the continuum; the compilation.

coral and jadite and quilt scraps

Coral, jadite and quilt scraps. Treasures symbolic (to me) of growth and change.

I set up the girls’ toys for myself as much as I did for them. They’re all a little old for their kitchen, play stands and many of the toys we’ve made and collected through the years, but I kinda needed to set them up anyway. Judging from the fun being had, they kind of needed it, too.

"cosy homes make happy childhood"

My kid needs pop culture. I never thought I’d say it, but plugging into “what all the other kids are doing” seems to be exactly what Eli needs right now. Starry-eyed over all she’s been “missing,” she’s beside herself over the chance to develop friendships in English within a culture she identifies with. My hope is that she’ll also soon realize that Mexico was a gift, not a four-year punishment. Oh, the irony. One of our kids swears she’ll never leave the U.S. again.

they wanna be

It is possible to adventure while rooting. Given the fact that we’re both now self-employed (doing things neither of us have ever attempted), our adventure has really only just begun. (What’s that? You sense fear and trembling? Nah, must be the chilly mountain air.)

are you my restaurant?

Are you my restaurant?

I don’t have to miss and yearn for Mexico in order to fully appreciate our time there. It’s easy to get lost in sadness. It’s easy to let it convince us of life’s injustice, pain’s relentlessness and the fleeting nature of joy. But when rooted in a mindset of sufficiency, it seems, sadness has a greater purpose: it points us toward the abundance we’re overlooking. This summer it also occurred to me (much to my relief) that either way — whether steeped in scarcity or in-tune with abundance – life is still heavy. The difference is that we either fear or love the loads we shoulder.

Our last breakfast in Mexico.

Our last breakfast in Mexico.

Having all my girls together, no matter how complex and chaotic, will never again be a gift I take for granted. There’s a satisfaction I feel when this happens that rivals no other sensation I’ve known. And anytime I’m looking to practice my new sadness-within-the-context-of-sufficiency theory, I’ve always got my girls for skill refinement.

girls 2

Living in the flow is simply slower goingPutting my book (and blog) on the back burner this summer has not been easy, but in my experience, resisting reality never yields a better outcome (and kids don’t really allow it anyway). That said, school starts in less than two weeks!!!!!! which means more rhythm, writing and serenity soon to come.

For this and so much more, I’m immensely grateful.

organized office

My windowed, treetop alcove-office, organized! I’ve never loved a creating space more.

May late summer bring you joy and a nap in a shaded hammock,

More soon! and more often,

bethsignature

 

 

 

Make a commitment to follow the path of no resistance. This is the path through which nature’s intelligence unfolds spontaneously, without friction or effort. When you remain open to all points of view — not rigidly attached to only one — your dreams and desires will flow with nature’s desires. Then you can release your intentions, without attachment, and just wait for the appropriate season for your desires to blossom into reality. You can be sure that when the season is right, your desires will manifest.

–Deepak Chopra

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June 7, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family

motorcycle tulum mexico

It’s so surreal I almost don’t believe it:

Our adventure in Mexico has come to an end.

We left Tuesday. Just. Like. That.

Tulum

Actually, we prepared for weeks (and months, emotionally).

We had a moving sale (our second in Mexico)…

We set up at the girls’ school and sold nearly everything we’d accumulated south of the border.

Mexico Moving Sale

The girls were TOTALLY into it and made bank while charming the locals with their unexpectedly-good Spanish.

girl.jpg

It was really sweet knowing that our things were going to such appreciative people who actually had need for them. One teenage boy was BEAMING to score a nearly-new pair of Nikes for 50 pesos.

goodbye grill

Hunter shaking hands with the guy who bought his grill.

beach cruiser

My bike was the only thing I had a hard time parting with. She was nothing fancy, but took me to some really beautiful places, both within and around me.

post-sale hanging out

Post-sale hanging out.

We wandered around daily in a daze of denial, enjoying our favorite things, places and people for the last time

Street food Mexico

Our fruit lady down the street.

Cucumber, green mango and oranges, with lime and chili, of course

Cucumber, green mango and oranges. Served with lime and chili, of course.

laundry line Mexico

The neighbor’s laundry line.

Taos Berry

Beth Berry Tulum

Tulum beach

Heartbroken to be leaving certain folks. Sigh.

Then we packed our remaining possessions…

leaving Mexico

Said many a difficult goodbye…

Estella became quite close to the Maya groundskeeper at their school. "I'm his best friend," she proudly professed. A wealth of knowledge about the plants and animals of the area, she is a man after her own heart (and vice versa).

Estella became quite close to the Mayan groundskeeper at their school. “I’m his best friend,” she proudly professed. A wealth of knowledge about the plants and animals of the area, he is a man after her own heart (and vice versa).

Their belly dancing class was incredible.

Their belly dancing class. So simple, beautiful and empowering.

Their teacher (and my dear friend) with her daughter (MY daughters' dear friend). This is not going to be easy.

Their teacher (and my dear friend) with her daughter (MY daughters’ dear friend). This is not going to be easy.

…did a bunch of dental work (cause we could – for cheap), and THEN we left.

Just. Like. That.

We were so THAT family in the airport.

We were so THAT family in the airport.

Hopping on that plane (ok not hopping, exactly, considering the fifteen suitcases we were wrangling) concluded the single most transformative, eye-opening, humbling, expanding and soul-revealing four years of my life. Not an easy chapter to put behind us. Not an easy gift to speak of in the past tense. Ugh, here come the tears again.

Ariel silks in the schoolyard

Ariel silks in their schoolyard

Falling in love with a place and its people; allowing an experience to change you quite completely; watching your kids grow in exotic and mind-boggling ways  –  then up and leaving – is heartbreaking. The fact that we’re pros at it by now doesn’t make it any easier, it just means we now know it’s possible to scatter bits of your heart all over the globe and still survive, if forever scabby and scarred and likely to share stories with anyone who’ll listen.

sweet friends in Tulum

Now what? Well, the crazy-making has only just begun, truth be told. We’re officially homeless and will spend the next month couch surfing in Austin (of all places that feel nothing like small town Mexico), rounding up all our things we loaned to and stored with friends and family (first call for Berry junk! {Don’t worry, we don’t even remember what we own, much less who we loaned it to.}), house/neighborhood/school searching in Asheville (our soon-to-be new home), wandering, dazed and confused over ALL THE OPTIONS in this country and trying to sort sadness from love from disbelief from utter elation. Never mind my book or the business Hunter’s about to start because, well…I can’t even go there right now (soon! but yeah, not now). It could be a while before our lives feel “normal” again (not that we’d know such a thing if it landed in our laps).

We’re happy, though. Happy and full and slightly insane and overwhelmed with gratitude.

It’s all still too raw and recent and present tense to write much about just yet, and doing so would just cue the tears again (assuming there are any left in me), so I’ll just wrap it up with a little visual perspective on four years of growth…

Our first week in Mexico.

Estella, our first week in Mexico

Estella, our last week in Mexico

…encouragement to move abroad!!! don’t hold back!!! live your dreams!!! and a choked and tear-streaked THANK YOU MEXICO, for so many things, but especially for stealing, softening and reshaping my heart into something I hardly recognize from the one that led me south to begin with.

We love you, dear country, dear people. Hasta pronto, friends!! We’ll be back as often and soon as we can.

belly dancers Tulum

 

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May 3, 2014
Categories: Family, Self

In front of our house in San Cristobal de Las Casas

To say that this book writing process has challenged and expanded me would be understatement. Thrown me in a rapid stream of consciousness full of hidden obstructions and undercurrents without so much as a pool noodle is more like it.

Slow-going as the journey has been, it’s not been for lack of effort. I’m invested and determined as ever — it’s just that I’m ALSO allowing space for the fullness of life and (plentiful) lessons being offered.

One of these lessons strikes me as valuable and important enough to break from my blogging break and explore (truth is, I’ve been looking for an excuse anyway). It started with this thought:

Success is a hugely confused concept within our culture. 

And here’s where that’s taken me:

From the time we are young, we’re taught that success is the reward of earnest effort, lucky breaks, practice practice practice and the ability to outwork those around us. We’re encouraged to reach for success somewhere in the future; to set goals and anticipate greatness.

And while I recognize these attributes to be a part of what it means to “be successful,” it seems we’re missing something kind of huge with this purely achievement-based definition. Success also includes present-minded awareness; an attentiveness to and acceptance of the goodness we’re currently living

Looking back on our experiences, success often looks nothing like we thought it would. We expect fireworks!, grand rewards and a deep sense of completion. We’re disappointed when we don’t “get there,” and almost immediately seek the next challenge once our end goal is met.

I’m beginning to think that our job as heart-led humans is not to seek success, but to examine the stories we’ve been told about it (and about ourselves in relation to it) and tune in to the ways we’re already accomplished.

By defining success for ourselves, we connect with its potential as an ever-present gift. Until then, it remains an elusive treasure; a thing we hope for but never fully enjoy.

For me, redefining success has everything to do with deciphering my ego from my truer self.

My ego would have me believe I am “behind” on this book. It encourages choices based on what people might think, a longing to be published already!! and an insatiable lust for the feeling of completion. When I’m able to quiet that voice and listen instead with my heart — my truer self — I recognize that I am actually not behind at all, but that these past few months have been deliciously fruitful and I, quite successful.

Anytime we allow someone else to define our success for us (including our own egos) we are also allowing them to define our worth.

When, on the other hand, we lead with our hearts, checking our actions with our inner wisdom, we can begin to see success as inherent to being human and available to us all at the shift of a perspective.

Consider the seasons of your life when you’ve not been particularly successful by conventional measure:

While home with your babies,

While healing physical or emotional wounds, 

While uncertain and searching for answers,

While braving a major transition,

While laying foundation for the growth of a dream,

While putting one foot in front of the other when doing so was almost more than you had in you. 

None of these seasons equates to “successful” by societal standards. We invest in them anyway because deep down, we KNOW them to be worthy, which means that they are as much a part of our success story as the end reward we think we’re waiting for. 

Frustration, self-doubt and a sense of failure are often the byproducts of subscribing to someone else’s definitions. Doing so leaves us feeling disempowered because our truest SELF is not being honored.

By MY definition:

I am successful every time I tune in to abundance.

I am successful every time I make a connection, whether with one of my daughters, my muse or the taco guy down the street.

I am successful every time I choose compassion over efficiency, truth over assumptions and curiosity over judgement.

I am successful when I live at a speed dictated by the stillness of my heart and not the busyness of my mind.

I am successful when I continue in the direction of my dreams, even when they make no sense to anyone but me.

In this light, feeling successful does not require accomplishment so much as acknowledgment. It often means DOING LESS in order that I might be more perceptive to the success I’m already living.

Your version of success is for YOU to define. 

A beautiful bonus of this shift in thinking is that celebrating our present-moment successes doesn’t just enhance our present moment, it also cues The Greater Good to send more of the same.

“As soon as you start to feel differently about what you already have, you will start to attract more of the good things, more of the things you can be grateful for.” — Joe Vitale

“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” — Gandhi

“Making a dream into reality begins with what you have, not with what you are waiting on.” ― T.F. Hodge

And so, in the spirit of gratitude, celebration and clearing space for what’s to come, here are a few recent successes I proudly recognize:

1. The strengths and capabilities of my daughters are becoming obvious, and years of investment are paying off in wonderful ways…

My girls, making dinner.

2. Three of my favorite friends ever recently came to visit (one at a time). I’m still glowing from the fullness of connection…

3. Hunter and I continue to examine our relationship and move through the difficult parts, instead of skirting around them…

4. I’m learning what it is to love deeply, give plentifully and respond with compassion while both holding boundaries AND remaining flexible (talk about success without completion!)…

5. I’m balancing the needs of many ages and still managing to increase my sense of self…

6. I decided not to work during their two-week spring break and instead bus it to San Cristobal (best decision ever)…

7. I slow down for every wonder I can — like this fungus I found growing in the gravel of our yard. It popped up over night, smelled of death, seduced dozens of flies, then died within 24 hours…

8. I’m spending as much time as I can with dear friends whom I’ll soon be missing very much…

Valeria and Franco.jpg

9. I stopped blaming my heart palpitations, fatigue, sleeplessness and brain fog on parasites and hauled my skinner-than-usual self back to a doctor. Turns out, I have hyperthyroidism, which I’m now taking meds for until I get moved and have more access to holistic treatments. (Wow, what a trip THIS has been. Would love to hear from those of you with experience)…

success 14.jpg

10. But perhaps my greatest present-moment success is learning to make peace with the going and coming and going again of my firstborn. They leave holes in you, did you know that? Deep friendship, self-love and trust in that Greater Good are my soul salves of choice…

success 15.jpg

Though the lesson is simple, its implications are pretty profound:

We feel successful based not on what we accomplish, but whether our hearts are fully engaged along the journey. 

None of this is to say that I don’t look forward to the sense of accomplishment I will feel when I finally finish this book (because I most certainly do), just that there’s no less to be proud of or celebrated right now.

Love and gratitude,

bethsignature

 

 

 

“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.” – David Frost

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March 27, 2014
Categories: Family, Home, Self
boundaries

Boundary setting has taken on a whole new meaning in my life as of late. From left to right: me, daughter #1, her boyfriend and daughter #2

First of all, a sweaty-warm welcome to those of you who found me this week via A Mighty Girl or Rebelle Society. (I live in the latin american tropics. ALL welcomes here are sweaty-warm.)

A few things you might like to know as a newbie:

1. I’m writing my first book at the moment (details below) and thus uncharacteristically quiet around these parts. I’ll be back in full swing just as soon as it’s finished. (Oh wait, THEN I’m moving the family back to the states while launching my book. Ok, so you found me at a crazy time. Still, stick around and I’ll do my best to make it worth your while.)

2. In the meantime, there’s plenty to explore and discover in past posts. Here are a few favorites to get you started:

A post about your beautiful body. 

A post about your superpowers. 

A post about pollution that won’t leave you feeling hopeless. 

3. This is a kick-ass community of big minds and even bigger hearts. If you’re a change maker, rule breaker or risk taker who follows your passions and sees beauty all around you, you’ll fit right in. If you’re none of those things but kinda want to be, by all means, make yourself at home. We’re a friendly bunch, with hardly a hater among us.

Second, a huge hug (look out) to those who’ve contributed to, read and gained from the past three community-wide conversations.

It’s taken a good deal of will power on my part not to comment to your comments (which would defeat the point of a blogging break) because WOW, what a beautiful glimpse into your lovely selves!

Here are the first three conversations for those who missed them:

Feel free to chime in with your unique perspective, and definitely have a look if you’re ever in need of a little inspiration and/or empathy.

And third…about this book!

Two years and four full notebooks later...

Two years and four full notebooks later…

The first draft of Motherwhelmed is finished!

Lest this proclamation conjure up any far-fetched notions of actual completion or finality, allow me to explain what this means:

1. It means I have yet another beautiful mess on my hands.

As if my children, marriage, home, body and mind weren’t enough, there are now approximately 25,000 words crammed into 12 (or 14?) chapters, a ton of subchapters and a shit ton of chicken scratches that I will now attempt to sort, make sense of, organize, do away with, beautify and bring sensibility to. (Yes, actually, it IS a lot like motherhood!)

Here’s what this point in the process feels like:

Imagine you’ve been living abroad for four years and are now moving back to the states, only to a different location than the one you first fled from. You show up to your hometown, find all the stuff you’d stashed in people’s barns and garages, load it into a moving van amidst tearful goodbyes and hit the road. You drive for what feels like forever while the kids fight and beg, requiring that you pull over about every half an hour. Though the scenery is beautiful and you love road trips, you find yourself battling a growing desire to jump out of the car and run for the woods when half your kids start singing Wrecking Ball loudly enough to be heard over the other half who are apparently marking the midline of the backseat with each other’s blood. Arriving at long last, you pull into the driveway of your new rental, announce yourselves HOME!!! and hope to God that the mattresses are easily accessible. The difference between stepping into your empty house (the point I’m at in this book) and actually feeling at home is the equivalent of what lies ahead of me, writing-wise. Unpacking, hoping for no major surprises, tossing whatever the rats ate, meeting the neighbors, settling the kids into new schools, finding the DMV office and thrifting my way back to a functioning household? THESE are the metaphorical tasks at hand.

Good thing I’m getting a trial run first, ’cause we’ll be doing all of that FOR REAL in about three months. (All prayers and peaceful projections welcomed.)

We rent this upstairs apartment (across the street from our house) to tourists by the week.  Since daughter #1 moved back home and #2 started homeschooling,  I escape to its corner porch (aka, my perch) to write whenever it's not occupied.

We rent this upstairs apartment (across the street from our house) to tourists by the week. Since daughter #1 moved back home and #2 started (temporarily) homeschooling, I escape to its corner porch (aka, my perch) to write whenever possible.

2. It means I am eating my words.

This book looks almost nothing like it did two months ago. Different subtitle, different focus and ehem, it’s no longer going to be part of a series. (Go ahead, unsubscribe. I’ll understand.)

What happened? Well, I got 14,000 words in and found myself totally uninspired. I didn’t want to write about Why Modern-Day Motherhood Feels So Frustrating (the old subtitle). I wanted to write about creative solutions and shifting personal perspectives and why today’s mothers are so totally badass and important. As soon as I rethought the whole thing and gave myself permission to change gears completely, writing it became way more fun and I no longer needed three books to cover what I wanted to say. I am now quite fond of what it’s becoming, and assuming you still want to read it (even though I’m admittedly kinda crazy), I think you’re going to dig it, too. (And no, I’m not telling you the new subtitle yet. I’ve done my share of word eating for the time being.)

My perch and writing haven. The trees in the background are in our yard.

My perch. The trees in the background are in our yard.

3. It means that our family Way is undergoing complete metamorphosis.

Because I’ve always been available and the first to drop my plans to meet the kids’ needs, this recent shift into MOM IS WORKING FOR REAL has taken some getting used to. I’m learning that it’s OKAY to say things like, “No, I can’t help you find your i-thingy/favorite pencil/earring back right now. Just keep looking. You’re a good finder!” and “I’d be happy to do that for you…this weekend,” and “Who’s making dinner tonight? Awesome. Here are the car keys and 200 pesos for groceries.”

It’s not been easy, but everyone’s slowly adjusting, and I am quite enjoying the fruits of concentrated and less-frequently interrupted effort.

The view from the other side of the apartment, into our neighbor's "kitchen."

The view from the back side of our apartment, into our neighbors’ outdoor kitchen/living area.

4. It means that SLEEP is my new best friend.

Getting enough sleep is BY FAR the most important factor in my ability to write feeling clear and creative vs. foggy-headed and frustrated. Marie Forleo (from Marie TV, which is pretty great) just did an interview with Arianna Huffington (founder of and editor in chief at Huffington Post) in which they talk about this very thing. I encourage you to check it out, AND TO SLEEP MORE, for your sake and everyone else’s. I, personally, am becoming a big fan of the thirty-minute mid-day nap. Works wonders for the ol’ writer’s block.

So, in keeping with the spirit of this (rather insane) season of my life, let’s talk boundaries!

Community-Wide Conversation #4

Q: Do you struggle with creating and maintaining personal boundaries? Have you improved in this area of your life and if so, how? Have your needs for boundary setting changed over the years? Any words of wisdom for the rest of us? 

Nice checking in with you all, I look forward to hearing from you again, and wish me luck on this second half of the journey!

Love and sweat band,

bethsignature

 

 

 

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March 15, 2014
Categories: Self

solitude 2.jpg

Today marks day one of my *first ever* writing retreat. That’s three days alone, by myself, with NO ONE, in the off-grid jungle development Hunter manages. Did I mention that I am alone, by myself, with NO ONE!!!? I can’t even begin to tell you how good this feels. Can’t. Even.

Before you begin that all-popular thought process of, “Oh yeah, lucky her. SHE gets jungle retreat but not poor little ol’ me,” allow me to clarify something:

I am super introverted. I LOVE to be alone. In my 19 years of motherhood (starting at age 17), I have never, ever, not once allowed myself the “luxury” of time away alone, by myself, with NO ONE.

And why?

Well, why does any of us deprive ourselves of the things we love? Because we can’t afford them? (This place and others have been available to me for free since we moved here.) Our babies need us? (That USED to be true for me.) We feel undeserving of them? We feel guilty when we go away? We think we owe it to those we love to slave away day after noise-filled day? 

Amazing, isn’t it? All the goodness we easily afford others but not ourselves?

Seems like the perfect time for:

Community-Wide Conversation #3

Q: What would you give yourself more of if you felt totally worthy and deserving of it? What gifts do you hold back from yourself and why?

Los Arboles Tulum

This morning, while waking up ALONE…

Los Arboles Tulum

Making breakfast ALONE…

solitude

And breathing in the soul-stirring stillness, ALONE…

Los Arboles Tulum

…it occurred to me:

I would never in a million years question my super-extroverted husband’s need for people, parties and social interaction. My need for solitude is no less legitimate or important. 

Los Arboles Tulum

Self-love has so many layers, doesn’t it? REALLY glad to have peeled away this one.

Back to the book! (which I think you’re gonna love). I sure am having fun writing it!

All kinds of peaceful and filled with gratitude (for my man, especially — what a GLORIOUS surprise),

bethsignature

 

 

 

P.S. There are still a handful of 5-acre lots for sale out here if you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of (fully titled) preserved Mayan jungle. Make sure and tell them I sent you! (And yes, hilariously, that is me in the video.)

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March 7, 2014
Categories: Culture, Self

my friend in her kitchen

Over the next several weeks while I’m focusing on my book, I’ll be offering questions meant to cultivate community-wide discussion. You can check out Conversation #1 (which was awesome) here. Your voice is valuable, much appreciate and a gift to many!

Community-Wide Conversation #2

Q: What do you wish you had known before you _____? (Got married, became a mother, pursued your profession, went to college, got into debt, bought chickens, whatever you’re feeling.)

The purpose of this question is to honor the wisdom born not of expertise but experience, and emphasize the value of shared reflection and retrospection.

Staying focused and sending love,

bethsignature

 

 

 

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February 28, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family

Over the next several weeks while I’m focusing on my book, I’ll be offering questions meant to cultivate community-wide discussion. My hope is to weave some of your responses into Motherwhelmed, as testimonials straight from the trenches. Every contribution to this conversation is valuable, much appreciated and of benefit to others. 

Community-Wide Conversation #1

Q: At this point in your parenting journey, what are your greatest sources of frustration? If you are a seasoned mother (grandmothers, your voices are of particular value!), what do you remember of your frustrations from when your children were younger and how do you see them as different from those of young mothers today?

*Please include your age and the ages of your children.

Feel free to respond to each other’s offerings, share this with your friends and check back throughout the week to read what other mothers have to say!

Can’t wait to hear from you. Back to the book!

bethsignature

 

 

 

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February 18, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family, Self

book cover

I’ve been trying to write a book now for the better part of a year.

Seems 2013 had a few prerequisites for me first. Apparently, before I could gain true traction, I had to:

  • Get clear on the fact that motherhood was never going ease up on my heart (sorry to break it to you, new mamas)
  • Take self care and self-love to a whole new level
  • Reopen deep wounds acquired along my spiritual walk and tend them lovingly this time
  • Meet a human or three essential to my journey
  • Quit apologizing for the pace of life my intuition tells me is best for me and my family
  • Embrace my hopeless idealism as a gift
  • Bust down walls I’d always leaned on in my marriage
  • Learn to lose, and then find my (truer) self in silence and stillness
  • Let go of my “need” for certainty and answers
  • Believe myself worthy and capable of conveying this book’s message

I know, ruthless requirements, right?

Had you told me last February that by this time I’d still not have finished it, I’d have cried, moped about the house and probably sold my soul to a cubicle right then and there (okay, probably not).

Looking back on just how much I DID accomplish this year though — however intangible — I cringe to think of what it (or I) might be had I not waited.

I needed that time. It taught me some pretty huge lessons: 

  1. Seasons of discomfort and deep growth and intense introspection are essential to our humility, our expansion and the refining of our capacities.
  2. A willingness to be broken and a slow mend steeped in the sweetness of the sacred is sometimes the truest way through our toughest of tumults.
  3. Wisdom requires both struggle and surrender.

Check, check and…check.

My first book is now well underway.

Let me try that again.

MY FIRST BOOK IS NOW WELL UNDERWAY!!!!, and I know I did the right thing by waiting because what last year seemed a tiresome burden is now waking me up at 4 a.m. begging for attention (as do all my favorite creative endeavors), requiring I bring a notebook with me everywhere I go (okay, so this is nothing new), bringing out the kinds of self-doubt demons that only bother showing up when they know I really mean business, and urging me emphatically to settle in and start pushing. (Trust me, I know the feeling well. It’s time.)

Thing is, until recently I’d kinda been freaking out, as this book seemed impossibly (and impassably) BIG. Little did I know that all along I’ve been carrying…triplets!

Ok, enough with the birth analogy. I’m writing a series, it’s gonna be awesome and its name sums it up:

Motherwhelmed

Why Modern-Day Motherhood Feels So Frustrating

 

Though I dare not divulge too many details just yet (as this project CLEARLY has a mind of its own), I can tell you that the books will be divided more or less as follows:

  • part I: that which is beyond us
  • part II: that which is around us
  • part III: that which is within us

Giving myself permission to break it up this way feels way more fun, entirely more consistent with the life I want to live and yeah, considering that title…

So, for the next several weeks? month? month and a half? I’m entering a phase of SUPER FOCUS. My plan is to rent a beach hut with a full-time cook and no internet write as much as I can while still keeping the children alive, until the first book is out.

Meanwhile — because a. the longer I live abroad and more I learn to love myself, the less allured by (and capable of) multitasking I become and b. I now have a looming deadline (keep reading!) — I’ll be saving my voice for the book (mostly) and opening the conversation up to YOU.

Every week, I’ll throw out a question that I think merits community-wide discussion. You all can then comment away, mingle amongst yourselves and solve planetary/humanitary dilemmas as you see fit.

A couple of the questions I pose will be “anthropological research” for the book. With your permission, I may then quote some of your responses, according to their relevance and deliciousness.  

By the time I return, I will have sent Part I to my editor (are you my editor?), found a kick-ass cover illustrator (are you my cover artist?) and learned everything there is to know about self-publishing and marketing ebooks to as many people as possible.

Motherwhelmed? Who me?

Now, about this deadline: 

This summer will make four years since we moved the family to Mexico. Our goal of “one year abroad to slow our pace and learn a little Spanish” has turned into the single most influential and transformative time of our lives to-date. Mexico is in us forever and for good, I’m not the same person I was when we left, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

AND, our family’s needs are changing quickly. The girls are growing up ridiculously fast, my professional path is taking shape (and Hunter’s is changing course completely) and considering where we’re headed (hello, houseful of teenage girls!?) we need a tribe of families again, like yesterday.

So, this summer, we’re moving back to the states. Not to Austin (I know {sniff}, I’m sorry to break it you this way, sweet-friends-who’d-not-yet-heard-the-news) but to a much smaller town in western North Carolina where time spent on superhighways is the exception, not the daily norm. (Truly, Austin Tribe — it’s not you, it’s the car time.)

We’re really excited, kinda sad and a little intimidated about yet another enormous transition, but mostly…we’re ready.

(Ok, not quite, but we will be come June.)

Taking a little blogging break is gonna sting a little, given that I’m all fired up and ready to write about so many topics, but alas, I’ll just have to wait until I’ve earned the floor again, so to speak — ’cause floors in the states are way more expensive.

With so much love and gratitude for your encouragement along this journey,

I’ll be back soon!

bethsignature

 

 

 

P.S. I truly am looking to assemble a team of talent for this and future projects and would love to support friends and friends of friends. Any recommendations for amazing (professional, affordable) editors, illustrators, cover artists and graphic designers would be much appreciated. And to those of you with experience related to any of the aforementioned, consider your advice hereby solicited!

P.P.S. I’ll still be active on my Facebook page while breaking from the blogging. Hope to see you there!

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February 8, 2014
Categories: Culture

Coca-Cola Super Bowl Commercial

Dear Coca-Cola Company,

I’m writing you today regarding the commercial you recently aired during the Super Bowl and again last night during the Olympics opening ceremony. Your feel-good, multilingual “America the Beautiful” rendition sure has stirred controversy among the American public, hasn’t it?

A handful of folks were flustered by your portrayal of the US as a cultural melting pot. Don’t mind them. ALL efforts toward a more tolerant, integrated and loving society ought to be commended.

Thanks for that.

What so many seem to have missed, though, is that any time a multi-billion dollar corporation makes a multi-million dollar move, it does so strategically. And when a giant conglomerate paints itself as a lover of all races, it automatically wins favor among minorities and non-racist majorities alike.

And that’s good for business.

In other words, if most everyone in the U.S. loves you and thinks you love them back, they will continue to support and fund you. The more well-loved and well-funded you are, the more empowered and equipped to carry out your latest mission:

Rapid and thorough invasion of the global market. 

This mission is blindingly evident from my current vantage point.

You see, the U.S. is my homeland, but I currently live in southern Mexico, where your products are ridiculously popular. In fact, your popularity as a soda manufacturer is paralleled only by your growing popularity as water distributor.

Here’s where your front of interracial love dissolves into a heap of diversions and dishonesty:

  • By privatizing, monopolizing and contaminating public water supplies (as you have in many areas of the world), you create need for your products within already-disadvantaged and dependent communities.
  • By charging more for your bottled water than your sodas and sugary “juice” drinks, you encourage addiction, further dependency and deeper embed yourself within local cultures.
  • By plastering your brand on village shacks, giving handouts to build your brand as benevolent and pushing excessive sugar consumption in areas with little to no access to health education, you’ve helped solidify Mexico’s obesity and diabetes rates as some of the highest in the world.

The last time I rode a bus through the mountain villages of Chiapas (the most impoverished state in this country), I snapped a few photos through the glass-paned window. In an hour’s time, I saw not a handful, but hundreds of advertisements that show your true heart for the citizens of this planet.

To be fair, I’ll not be exclusive. Your main competitor is giving you a run for your money:

Chiapas Coca-Cola 1

Chiapas Coca-Cola 2

Chiapas Coca-Cola 6

Chiapas Coca-Cola 3

Chiapas Coca-Cola 4

Chiapas Coca-Cola 7

Chiapas Coca-Cola 9

Chiapas Coca-Cola 11

Chiapas Coca-Cola 12

Chiapas Coca-Cola 8

Chiapas Coca-Cola 14

Chiapas Coca-Cola 10

Chiapas Coca-Cola 16

Chiapas Coca-Cola 15

Interesting.

It’s almost as if you are trying to convince minority groups in Mexico of your loyalty to their beautiful country.

Chiapas Coca-Cola

Photo Credit: {link:http://futurechallenges.org/local/coca-cola-globalization-inside-contemporary-mayan-world/}Future Challenges{/link}

Coca-Cola Chiapas 1

Photo credit: {link:http://mexicoretold.com/2013/05/01/chamula-chanting-and-coca-cola/}Mexico Retold{/link}

coke_doing_damage_mexico

Photo credit: {link:http://killercoke.org/nl110916.php}Unthinkable Undrinkable{/link}

Every day, I observe young children running errands for their mothers. The number who return home wobbling beneath the weight of a three liter bottle is staggering.

Every day, I see another one of your distribution trucks restocking dirt-floored mom and pop shops with your brilliantly marketed recipe for poor health and disease.

Every day, I breathe through my frustration and try my hardest to correct toward compassion, having witnessed yet another manifestation of your trusted influence.

My beef with your recent commercial boils down to this: 

  • Claiming to be in support of cultural diversity, then compromising water supplies in the world’s poorest regions is inconsistent.
  • Painting yourselves as supporters of ethnic minorities, then painting indigenous communities with propaganda for profit is dishonest.
  • Winning the hearts and trust of the American public, then marketing your products (using the resulting profits) to the developing world with power disproportionate to your level of social responsibility is unethical.

So, while I commend you for bringing awareness to the need for total cultural acceptance, let’s be honest with the diverse and beautiful American people about the singular motivation behind your message:

Money.

Coca-Cola Mexico

Because if you really cared about all ethnicities, you’d put warning labels instead of promises on every bottle.

If you really cared about immigrant minorities, you’d stop pushing poison on their far-away families.

If you really cared about racial diversity, you’d take your billboard off Lupita’s roadside shack and replace it with health info graphics or diabetes symptoms or a fresh coat of white paint.

And if you really cared about the people living in the US from all over the planet, you’d find more mindful ways to spend your money than putting up a false front during a football game.

But then, none of that would be good for business, and without an ice cold Coca-Cola in our hands, how would we remember that our country is beautiful?

Concerned U.S. (and global) citizen,

Beth Berry

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January 29, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family, Self

Beth Berry

Dear “Beauty” Industry,

I write you today, both in awe of your influence and well aware of the degree of deception with which you have obtained it. To be clear, this is not hate mail. I don’t write hate mail, because I am not a hater.

I am a lover.

The things I love most are those I see as beautiful, which might seem a bit ironic considering that beauty is what you claim to know all about, but herein lies the reason for my letter:

The “beauty” you’re selling is bullshit.

Which means you are making a mockery of true beauty; of the things I love the most.

I write in defense of this beauty.

There’s no denying that you’ve been a part of my sphere of influence since I was a little girl, just as you mold and shape every small child. Fortunately, though, I had other, more powerful influences that helped me see through your smokescreen from an early age.

Influences like:

  • Frequent exposure to nature.
  • A mother with self respect who took care of and never insulted her body.
  • A father who empowered his daughters to be anything we wanted.
  • Parents who told me I was valuable and showed me with plenty of love and attention.
  • A strong community of diverse and caring people whom I always knew I could trust.
  • Patient teachers who validated my ideas and encouraged my uniqueness.

These gifts birthed in me a strong sense that beauty is not something to be bought, but something we first tune into and then cultivate based on the stirrings within our souls.

Which is the reason I know your “beauty” to be a scam.

You have mastered your art. There’s no denying that you’re good at what you do. It’s just that what you do isn’t good:

You lie to little girls.
You confuse young boys.
You perpetuate self-loathing in adolescents.
You manipulate images of already-beautiful bodies into unachievable, inhuman shapes in order to present “beauty” as just beyond our reach.

It’s genius, really. Deceive us when we’re little, make empty promises while we’re desperately seeking to define ourselves, then contort our perceptions of what’s possible and just like that…you’ve got customers for life.

But not me. Because I’m not buying it.

The photo at the top of the page? I felt beautiful at the time it was taken.

Because I use all your latest and greatest anti-aging serums?

Because I’ve finally achieved your promises of perfection?

Because I was sporting my spanx and boosting my bust, having recently shaven myself smooth?

Not even close.

I felt beautiful when that photo was taken because I was standing against a dilapidated seaside fishing shack, windblown from dancing wildly, right smack dab in the middle of manifesting my dreams.

I felt beautiful when that photo was taken because I’d been painted by sunshine, not some “prettifying” product.

I felt beautiful when that photo was taken because the man behind the camera not only loves me completely, but finds me beautiful and sexy and mysterious because of all the “imperfections” you would have me alter, lift, tuck or smooth away.

I felt beautiful when that photo was taken because I was outside — in the womb of true beauty — claiming the oneness with creation offered us all.

But perhaps more than any of that, I felt beautiful when that photo was taken because I am aging, which means I am increasingly sure of and happy with who I am apart from your influence.

I don’t need you to define beauty for me. I got this.

Thing is, not every little girl grows up believing she is beautiful.

Maybe no one told her they liked her ideas.

Maybe the images on tv were more beautiful than the fighting in the next room, so she chose the better of the two.

And not every little boy feels safe enough to explore the beauty all around him.

Maybe he’s never been told or shown he was capable. 

Maybe no one’s ever taken him on a boat or around a mountain pass at sunrise.

These kids trust the “experts” to show them what’s beautiful, and your lies become their foundation.

As an industry, you should know that I and many others are working against you. Not with millions in the bank or through manipulative marketing, but by using our unique strengths and voices, born of the very beauty we seek to protect:

We’re empowering our daughters to love themselves and know bullshit when they see it.

We’re teaching our sons how to spot something truly stunning, whether she’s wearing heels or its branches make good shade.

We’re healing our cultural wounds, rewriting has-been stories and claiming the right to define beauty for ourselves.

You are more powerful now than you were when I was young, which means your influence in my daughters’ lives will be even harder for them to resist and overcome.

But I’m not worried about my daughters. You know why?

Because we dance wildly in fishing shacks, painted by sunshine.

Because they’ve seen ocean tides and mountainsides and sunsets for comparison.

Because we surround them with confident and caring people who love life and live it well.

And mostly, because they’ve been taught what real beauty feels like.

Grateful for your contribution to my understanding,
Beth Berry

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January 24, 2014
Categories: Self
tools of the trade: my desk chair, yoga mat and foam roller

tools of the trade: my desk chair, yoga mat and foam roller

I love yoga. And I love writing. In fact, I start to feel a little crazy when I break from either for very long.

Unfortunately, though, the two don’t seem to like each other very well. At least not in my body, and especially not after birthing four babies.

I’ve maintained a fairly consistent yoga practice for about twelve years now. (Usually vinyasa, and usually in my living room.)

I also write nearly every day, which means I sit for long stretches in one position.

Upon moving to Tulum, I picked up the pace of both. Inspired by the warm weather, a desire for daily devotion and the fact that this place is a yoga mecca, I increased my mat time to an hour and a half and went deeper into my practice than I’d ever gone. (And it was awesome…at first.)

Inspired, too, by my quiet house (kids finally all in school), emerging passions and time abroad, I upped my writing load, sitting for as many as eight hours at a time.

My mind and spirit LOVED it.

My body did not.

The pain began in my neck. Repeatedly (while doing yoga or sometimes even while sitting), I’d feel a “pop,” then experience discomfort and limited mobility for the next four days.

Then came a tightness in my lower back, which soon spread around to the front of my hips. The discomfort and tension became so great that I could hardly get comfortable in any position, whether sitting, standing or lying down.

So naturally (duh), I did MORE YOGA. It was the only thing I knew to alleviate the pain, if only temporarily. When I’d sit again, however, it hurt so much that I could hardly think about anything else.

Weeks went by before I finally admitted to myself that the yoga was making matters worse.

I got my google on, figured out that the pain was radiating from my psoas and incorporate stretches to alleviate the apparently-tight muscle. I backed off the yoga, but as soon as I’d practice again or put in a long day of writing, the pain intensified.

Aggravated and tired of hurting, I vowed to get some answers during our trip home to Austin.

{Enter…My Hero}

Jesse is a Movement Specialist who specializes in NeuroKinetic Therapy, foam roller therapy, restorative movement, personal training, and overall self-care techniques.

Within a few sessions, he was able to identify muscle groups that weren’t engaging, others that were consequently being overused, and customize a plan for correcting back to “normal.”

By the time we left Austin five weeks later, my pain was almost completely gone. Six months later, I have resumed my yoga practice (very slowly, very cautiously), I still write for a good portion of every day and still…no pain!

I am now, however, a foam roller addict. When I feel a little tension coming on, I get out the foam roller. Before a long yoga session, I use the foam roller. If I anticipate a day in the car, I spend a good half hour working those areas I know are prone to tension. It’s truly made all the difference for me.

While working together, Jesse described mine as a fairly typical set of circumstances and explained that mothers are by far his largest group of clients.

So I thought it’d be great to ask him a few questions and help shed some light on why chronic pain has become so common.

(And no, this is not a paid promotion, just something I believe in.)

Re-wiring the Body: An Interview with One of My Heroes

First of all, Jesse, a million thanks for helping me back to “normal.” Though I’ve coined you my “hero” somewhat jokingly, the epidemic of chronic pain in our country is no joke at all, which makes people like you pretty darn heroic in my book.

So, will you describe for us what it is you do?

First, thank you Beth for offering me this opportunity. I appreciate the sentiment of being called a hero, but that is not what I consider myself. If anything, I help release the hero potential in people like you. Every one of us has an amazing gift: this human body which carries us through the world. It has the awesome capacity to serve us physically and emotionally.

When our body is in balance, we move with efficiency and grace. When we are out of balance, movement is inefficient and can feel stiff, rigid, challenged, and/or painful. Pain often brings with it anger, frustration and fear. Living in this state of pain and emotional turmoil prevents us from living our greatest potential.

This is where I (and other therapists) can help. The magnificent human body has the ability to heal itself. This power is within each of us. I help my clients walk through their emotional minefield and slowly change their relationship with pain. Through the work I do, I help show them how to bring their body back into balance.

What do you suspect was causing my pain, specifically?

Specifically, it is hard to say. I suspect that you have a history of hip and shoulder instability due to the combinations of previous injury, child rearing a brood, and computer work. With Yoga, you added mobility training, i.e. flexibility, to an unstable foundation, and your body recruited other muscles to compensate and stabilize that foundation. Over time, these compensation patterns become overworked and painful. I discuss this a bit more below.

Can you speak to some of the more common causes of chronic pain that so many face in our culture?

I believe the majority of chronic pain in our culture is purely movement based. Our bodies have an immense range of healthy movement potential. Most people do not utilize their potential on a regular basis, if ever. The old saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is very true when it comes to moving. When we don’t use our full movement potential, our functional range shrinks into the positions we utilize the most, and it must stabilize within this new range.

It’s like being slowly wrapped tighter and tighter into an ever shrinking movement box. When we suddenly attempt to move outside the box — e.g. bending over, lifting something over our heads, or reaching and turning backwards, we experience injury. The injury results from the fact that our body doesn’t feel safe moving outside of the box. Muscles strain and spasm to pull us back into our comfort zones. What the body is attempting to communicate is that we need to fully explore all movement safely, prior to injury. Unfortunately, when most people experience this pain they shrink even further into the box. An example is someone who doesn’t squat because of knee pain. Or someone who doesn’t raise their arm overhead because of shoulder pain.

What is meant by “rewiring” the body and why is it so important?

Our nervous system rules movement and is wired like a circuit board. Each circuit pathway connects to a movement pattern. As I said above, our movement potential shrinks into the patterns we utilize most and our body must stabilize within this smaller range. Our nervous system is incredibly efficient. It maintains and even strengthens the circuit pathways we use most and drops the ones we neglect. If you stop moving your arm, the nervous system removes the ability to move that arm from the circuit board. Restoring full movement function means getting out of the rigid box and exploring your fullest potential.

How are women’s bodies different post-pregnancy and how might we go about respecting this natural adjustment?

This is a simple and complex question to answer.

Simply put, you just grew a human in your body and that alone elicits a tremendous amount of change. Once born, a child spends its first several years attached externally to your body, usually in the form of being carried on one hip.

During this time, it is common for a new mom to neglect exercise and self care. Their movement potential diminishes, and this can have a major impact on their body. This is the number one reason that moms make up the majority of my clientele. I help them re-prioritize their health and wellbeing.

The complex answer is every person has a different life story, movement history, and experiences with pain and injury, as well as an individual path to recovery. Much of how a woman’s body changes post pregnancy begins months and years prior to getting pregnant. I feel that our society does not place enough emphasis on optimal physical and emotional health, prior to pregnancy. If you are experiencing movement dysfunction prior to pregnancy, carrying a child both inside your body and then outside for the next several years can wreak havoc upon your body.

The foam roller has been super effective for me. Can you explain how it works?

Foam roller therapy helps by talking directly to your nervous system. When a muscle is short, spastic, and tight, it is receiving too much neural input. With gentle pressure on a foam roller or another self massage tool, such as a tennis ball or Thera-cane, we can tone down a muscle’s neural input so it can lengthen, relax, and release. This helps reduce pain and discomfort, improve joint mobility, and increase range of motion.

I recommend foam roller therapy as general, full body, preventative self care, not necessarily to fix specific pain and injury. Foam roller therapy alone will not fix painful movement. If something hurts for more than a week or two, you need the help of a Movement Specialist.

Are there specific self-care practices you would recommend to readers?

Yes, absolutely.

It begins with practicing healthy pain-free movement. Each day, slowly explore your full movement potential. If it hurts, then move to the limit of your pain-free range–no further–then expand into fuller ranges over time. As Scott Sonnon, one of my favorite movement practitioners, often says, “Move to the tension, not through the tension.” I’ve been utilizing his simple joint by joint movement program for myself and clients as a daily practice. For help restoring movement, check out Scott Sonnon’s IntuFlow DVD Series.

The kind of work described above is different than modalities such as Yoga, which in its own right is a great practice. However, I see many injuries from seemingly “gentle” practices. This is because our structural balance comes from the dynamic interplay of stability and mobility. If you have issues of instability in the hips and shoulders, adding in mobility training such as Yoga without first addressing the instability can exacerbate these issues. The body will compensate elsewhere for stability. This is generally where pain begins. Similar to your experience.

I also recommend foam roller therapy as a weekly practice to aid in work or exercise recovery, reduce discomfort, and improve movement function. A caveat is foam roller therapy increases mobility. As I state above, if instability isn’t addressed first, adding such a practice can cause problems.

Anything else you would like to add about your services? How should folks go about finding a good therapist in their area?

Most importantly, I absolutely love what I do. Walking my clients through the process of healing and into healthy pain-free movement, changing their relationship with pain, and witnessing them grow from the process is the most fulfilling work imaginable to me. When I was young, I wanted to change the world. I feel like I now get that opportunity every day.

As far as finding a good therapist who works with chronic pain and injury, I have a few suggestions.

  1. You are not your pain. Pain is a beautiful opportunity to make significant fundamental change in your life
  2. Interview your therapists to ensure that the two of you are a good fit.
  3. Look for a therapist who focuses on how the entire body works as a unit. If you have knee pain, and your therapist only focuses on the knee, I’d suggest finding a different therapist.
  4. If you don’t see results within 4-8 sessions, don’t give up. Find somebody new. Keep looking until somebody helps you. There are many modalities of therapy out there, and each will help some. Not one of them will help everyone. And not all therapists are created equal.
  5. The therapy modality that I practice with pretty amazing results is called Neurokinetic Therapy. Check out the link to see if a certified practitioner is in your area.
  6. If you need guidance or support, join The Injury Corner, a Facebook Group I’ve created. I’ve asked some of the top movement specialists in the country to add their support and expertise. Thus far the group has proved incredibly beneficial to those seeking advice about chronic pain and injury.

Lastly, I have many articles on my website that discuss common issues in greater detail. You can also find healing and recovery suggestions, as well as other helpful self-care tips there.

You can follow me on Facebook too.

—–

Thanks, Jesse! It’s been a pleasure.

More than just a promotion of Jesse’s work, I offer this post toward increased self-awareness and holistic healing. In our pill-popping and instant solution-seeking society, it can be easy to resort straight away to the “band-aids,” but true and lasting healing always takes time.

Can’t afford most alternative therapies? Me, either! We just have to get creative. Swap services, shop around or find a therapist in training. In my experience, many alternative-minded therapists are also open to alternative methods of payment.

Be well, my friends!

Beth

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