Becoming My Own Best Friend

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The year I decided to become my own best friend, was the year people in my world seemed to scatter to the far corners of the earth, my husband became consumed in his work, new friends in town were busy, old friends were occupied with their lives, so that left me with myself.

Just me.

Now, I had always thought I was comfortable being alone – after all, I grew up an only child, I knew how to entertain myself. I would draw, or dance, or ride my bike. As an adult, I noticed I filled my time with similar activities – going for a hike, writing in my journal, doing yoga, cleaning. And yet, I didn’t just “hang out” with myself. I didn’t know how to hang out and let the moments unfold. I usually had a plan, and for much of my adult life, I crammed my weekends full of activities – meeting friends for dinner, going to shows, having coffee at new places in town.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something in my relationship with myself was missing.

I’d spent a good portion of life morphing into what I thought other people wanted me to be. I  was a consummate chameleon, making sure not to offend anyone, saying the right thing, stuffing my true opinions back inside if they were controversial. I had a hard time standing in my own center, because, in truth, I don’t think I knew myself THAT well. I’d been a people pleaser, and had gotten so many accolades from pleasing others, that my ego latched onto that strategy for a long time.

Until I declared that I wanted to become my own best friend.
That was 2014.

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When I set that intention on New Year’s Day I thought it was a lovely, supportive heart-warming and kind intention. Who wouldn’t want to become their own best friend? Little did I know I’d have to travel through some dark alley-ways of myself to integrate the bits I had dispossessed. I would have to retrieve aspects of myself that were hard to acknowledge, feel and bear witness to.

I’m talking about those bits that came in the form of anger, jealousy, resentment, judgmental-ness, shame, blame, anger and grief. There were the happy places I’d also get to know more deeply – the joyful, ecstatic, fun, playful, risk-taking, active parts of me that were pleasurable to feel and acknowledge. 

Prior to my stating my intention of becoming my own best friend, I thought I was “living the dream.” I had a husband who loved me, I lived in a gorgeous house on a park in Spokane, WA with two dogs and a cat, our furry family. I had great friends, loving parents, good health, skills to do many different things. I had resources to travel the world. The world WAS my oyster.

And yet….

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Something was missing….some deep inner contentment. I could feel how I was dissatisfied with my life, even though it presented so well. All the boxes checked off. I noticed how I wanted more of my husband’s attention, I took it personally when friends didn’t call me back in what I thought was a reasonable amount of time. I noticed how I didn’t feel like my teaching career had bloomed into what my vision for it had been.

Deep down inside, I felt a bit like a looser. It was so hard to put my finger on. Somewhere inside, I didn’t value myself. I kept myself running around at such a high speed that I never had to feel the feelings of unworthiness, sadness, insecurity. Without knowing it, I chased the words “You’re so amazing, Diane,” which I often heard from people and it was like a line of cocaine (something I never actually tried!) The “hit” of praise kept me running to the next activity to prove how great I was – for one more moment. 

It was exhausting. I was chasing my ego from here to there, running this way and that way to hear those words.

So, in the first 6 months of 2014, I was literally left with myself. No one was available to distract me and that’s when I turned back to my art practice. I’d been an artist all of my life, but had put it on hold for a good decade as I dove into studies of yoga and meditation.

Slowly, through the art process, I began to witness my patterns of thought – I’d notice how the inner critic came out to tell me what a crappy artist I was because I couldn’t draw well. I noticed how I loved the beginning part of making a painting – that free, fun zone where you’re throwing paint on a canvas to get texture and color down. But then, when something emerged on the canvas that I liked, I’d freeze, afraid I’d mess it up. Sometimes, paintings sat in my studio for 6 months, ½ finished because I was paralyzed to take them any further.

What I began to see as the dominant pattern in my life is that I was not in charge of my own life. It felt more like I was in a little dingy, out at sea, floating along with the waves that moved me this way and that. I was in a completely receptive mode, accepting whatever came my way, instead of making things happen.

Now, this is a longer conversation, because life is a dance, and we need both the ability to “make things happen” while also “allowing things to occur.” Just like we can’t live on the inhale alone, or the exhale, we can’t always “make things happen” in the way we want, nor can we allow our lives to simply float by without giving it direction.

Painting, alongside art journaling, became not only my refuge, but my way of understanding myself, my life and my mission.

I can say now, five years later, I AM my own best friend. I have traveled through every emotion I listed above, and have investigated the root of those emotions. I’ve felt them, written about them, done art around them. I’ve used my journal as a way to deeply explore my inner world as a study of humanity. We ALL have these emotions at some point in life, the question is HOW do we acknowledge them, process them and finally integrate them?

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I have found art journaling an amazing way to creatively process our lives, while developing art skills and developing confidence in our own choices.

We are all here to experience this life in human form, and yet our purpose and reasons for being here are unique to each individual. We are not here to live the same lives as our friends or family, and we need a way to discover our uniqueness and VALUE who WE are rather than comparing ourselves to one another.

We need to learn to celebrate ourselves, to learn to write love letters to ourselves. We must learn to BE the solace for ourselves in life, because in the end, everything outside of us will leave – people will move away, they will die, jobs will end, our health will change, our energy level will diminish with age. It is the natural process of life.

So, in the face of finding our own center and our own answers in life, we must find the ways to nurture our inner child, to develop our strong adult, to invite all aspects of ourselves to come to the table to take part in this thing we call life.

For me the art journal has been, and is my way to love myself. I have learned to love my bright shining light, my broken heart, my scared little girl, my powerful warrior. I have learned to love the incredibly creative soul I am, my curious nature, my ability to sit with you in your joy and despair.

I have truly, learned to love myself. As I am.
Without apology.
Without an inflated ego.
Without false humility.

I have learned to simply accept and love who I am, as I am right here and now.


Starting here, what do you want to remember?

Winter Tree

Winter Tree

I want to remember the wide black wing span as you glide over the river.

I want to remember the crunch of snow under my boots with every step in the woods and the silence of snow covered trees.

I want to remember cups of hot golden milk swirled with honey and ghee soothing my insides. I want to remember the coziness of flannel sheets, my soft fuzzy blankets, and burrowing under comfy covers for a long winter sleep.

I want to remember your kind hearted hugs where you pulled me close so our hearts could touch with no words. I want to remember your yellow toothed crooked smile and the sparkle in your crescent eyes when you opened packages of home-made chocolate chip cookies.

I want to remember the wordless afternoons as we sat together in the living room, over-looking Lake Merrit – you with your thriller mystery in hand, me with my art journal – just there. I want to remember my early life with you spent navigating the kitchen together, me moving twice as fast as your turtle pace as you made breakfast for mom.

I want to remember your made up calisthenics routine, where you flung your arms up and down, right and left - your own version of yoga, juicing the joints.

I want to remember the last time we went out to the Legion of Honor to see the Impressionist show and I told you how much I loved you and how I felt that the only time I’d be uncomfortable with that love would be at your funeral in front of your biological children.

And you told me just to be myself.

And I did.
And it was.

 I want to remember all the times you trod up the ski slope when I fell to help me back on my feet.

Yes, I want to remember your warm heart, the kind and gentle man you grew into in old age. And I will remember.

I will re-write my story.
I will remind myself that I did nothing wrong.
That I just landed in the role of your daughter through marriage.

I never stole anyone’s place.
I did nothing wrong.
I simply loved you.

Proximity made it so.
You were there.
I was there.

Under the same roof, in the same house.

I want to remember the last thing you said to me on the phone in your garbled voice, and I will:

“Di, I love you. I love everyone.”


Love Potions for a Sweet Valentine's Day

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It's here!

That week that makes some light up from the inside, and others cringe at the thought.

It’s the Hallmark Holiday week. Valentine’s Day!

Remember grade school? Where we cut out hearts and gave them to everyone in the class? Or those little boxes of chalky, wintergreen minty hearts with little ditties written on them? They said things like:

“You’re the best.”
“I love you.”
“You’re mine.”

Back in grade school we were taught to be egalitarian, to love everyone, and to make sure everyone was included. At least that was the goal.

But out here in the “real” world, life is messy. Some of us are single, others partnered, some getting un-partnered. We can’t really count on anyone to give us flowers and cards, chocolates and massages. I know I’ve certainly ended up feeling disappointed in life when I waited for that “other” person to do something for me.

So, I am advocating that we all take on becoming our own Valentine and treat ourselves impeccably. Here’s the recipe I have to share with you for a FABULOUSLY Relaxing Valentine’s Day….

Valentine’s Day Prep……(done before hand)

Start by making yourself some delicious, on-the-healthy-side chocolates. (All recipes below) Do that today or tomorrow so you’re ready with your chocolates! Then make some bath salts for yourself, so you can take a luxurious bath on Wednesday night. Make sure to get candles to light up your bathroom with a soft glow. Make a play list of songs for yourself to listen to while in the bath relaxing. Check what creams and toners you have and set them out for yourself. And/or make some. Don’t forget to get yourself a card and write out what you love about yourself and why you’re so awesome! Buy or pick some flowers and put in a vase.

On Valentine’s Day….

Give yourself your card in the morning with breakfast, so you remember how incredible you are and that you ARE loved. Treat yourself to something “out” on Valentine’s day - - a fun coffee, a delicious lunch, or dinner.

Once home, set up your spa time for yourself. Draw your bath with the bath salts, set out your candles and creams, get your playlist ready. When you have everything set up, slide in and soak, remembering how much you are loved (because you are loving yourself!). Once out of the bath, spritz yourself with your face with your favorite toner and follow up with a delicious face serum that smells divine.

Enjoy.

Here are some of my own recipes that I use regularly. This is a fun habit to get into and doesn’t have to be reserved just for Valentine’s Day!

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Chocolate Treats with Toasted Walnuts

Ingredients:
1 lb bar 72% dark chocolate (Trader Joes)
½ cup of coconut oil
½ teaspoon cardamom
1/3 cup maple syrup
¾ cup toasted walnuts chopped

Parchment paper
9X12” pan

What to do:

Melt chocolate and coconut oil in a pan on low heat. When melted, add in maple syrup and cardamom. (adjust to your taste). Line your pan with parchment paper while chocolate is melting.

While hot, pour the chocolate mixture onto the parchment paper and spread out evenly. Add crumbled nuts on top.

Put in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Break up into chunks of chocolate and eat or give as a gift! Best kept in the refrigerator.

 

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Bath Salts

Ingredients
2 cups Epsom Salts
½ cup Baking Soda
2 tablespoons Avocado or Olive Oil
10-15 drops of your favorite Essential Oil. (I like Lavender and Peppermint for this)

What to do
Mix all ingredients in a bowl thoroughly. Store in an airtight container. Use 4-5 Tablespoons in your bath. Enjoy.


In Troubling Times....

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It seems the world really IS spinning out of control with the abundance of tragedy around the world, from bombings, to shootings, to hurricanes, fires and floods.Things feel tenuous at best, and yet I can't help think that we are all being called forth to create the new world we want to live in. So, in these troubling times, when life as we know it seems to be falling apart, here are simple practices to create more love in life. 

Be kind.
Make it a point to be kind to the person in front of you in any given moment.

Play with the children and the elderly.

Make art.
Create something. Write a new song, paint a painting, write a poem, make up a new dance.

Gather together.
Get together with loved ones…family, friends. Make it a priority. Time is short and we never know when we won't have the opportunity to do so.

Gratitude.
Remember all of the small things your grateful for.

Break bread together.
Share meals with friends, family and strangers. Cook something and invite people over.

Go out of your way.
Take time to honor people who are important to you. Send a card, pick up the phone, send them a present.

Get out to nature.
Go on a hike, get on your bike, sit in the trees or by the ocean. Listen to the wind, the trees, the waves.

Love the animals.
Spend more time loving your pets, or other people’s pets. Go to an animal shelter and love up the furry ones.

Tell someone you love them.
Today.


We've been Hitched for Nine Years Now!

Setting intention as we paint Erez's study room. 2014

Setting intention as we paint Erez's study room. 2014

It’s been nine years since we tied the knot.

We’d known each other 9 months.
He was a self-proclaimed atheist, Red-Necked Israeli, who didn’t believe in global warming!
Me, I was a Berkeley yogi-artist, all about love, and the oneness of us all.

Lets just say, we didn’t meet on Match.com.

No, the Universe threw us together in one moment in time in San Francisco at a gathering about paradigms of consciousness in business. He was looking for a Lesbian wife to marry for money because he was about to lose his work visa for the 3rd time in 10 years and didn’t want to be deported, and I had a girl crush on the hostess of the party I’d met just 2 weeks before.

Yeah. It was a fluke. 
And then again. It wasn’t.

Our vows were all about freedom. 
Inner and outer freedom and helping each other get there. 
They felt loving and kind, supportive and real.

Before we got married! 2007

Before we got married! 2007

What we didn’t know then was that the road towards inner and outer freedom was going to be craggy and steep, filled with potholes, and land-mines. In fact, it was going to be a war of egos battling out the polarities of our positions until we melted, bit by bit into the essence of who we were, stripped of arrogance, pride, blame, shame, envy, jealousy and anger.

We’ve ridden through some fires, and we arrive on this 9th anniversary on the other side, having survived.

Ourselves. 
And each other.

We’ve stripped away much of the rough and shoddy parts of ourselves. To become more real. More raw.

More tolerant and kind.

More loving and open to the Other.

We’ve groked that “ours” is not the only way. That “the other” whoever that is, has a valid perspective. That anything anyone else says is not personal. It’s about them. Not you.

Wedding Day 2007

Wedding Day 2007

We arrive on this 9th wedding anniversary with a new love. With a new relationship – literally a new way of relating. To ourselves. To each other. We have freed ourselves to live side by side. Not comingled with shoulds and shame.

Oh, we don’t have it down, there are still quibbles and minor quakes. But overall, I am free to be me, as is he!