Her: Holistic Health

How I Love

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Print by K. Barteski

This week I have been thinking about how I love.

The monologue rolling and rolling around in my head always seems to start with what I know for sure about love.

Love is vital for human development. Studies have shown that babies thrive when they are loved. They will fail to thrive if they are not. We are born knowing how to love but often lose those skills as we grow older. The only true way to  re-learn how to love is to simply love and allow yourself to be loved. While one can read all about it, it can’t be learned from a book, magazine article or blog post (believe me, I have tried) but instead it must be experienced in the flesh.

Love is a choice.  Despite what I read in fairy tales and young adult novels, there isn’t some bolt of lighting that strikes you. There isn’t just one soul mate “out there” for everyone. Instead love is a conscious choice that we each make each and every day, a choice to open our imperfect hearts to falling in love with other imperfect soul before us.

Everyone wants to be loved. Every single one of us, whether we admit it or not, move through the world seeking love and connection through our words and actions. The problems arise when we figure out that what we want most in the world is often what we fear in equal measure – being seen and loved matters that much. I know that I have been guilty of pushing away love for fear of it being taken away.

This week I find myself questioning how I love.

For a long time, for fear of getting hurt or worse yet, looking like fool, I loved in silence, I loved in a way that it was a secret only known to me, the faulty logic being that there was no way that I could get hurt if I did not say the words. Of course, the downside of that strategy was that I often was misjudged as being aloof, cold and distant (even though, below the cool surface of things, nothing was further from my truth) there was no opening for me to experience the joy of loving and being loved in return.

After months of feeling on the outside during an intensive workshop, and with a giant shove from a kind friend, I literally made an announcement that I was open to love.  I decided to love big and to love openly, to say the words and open myself up wide. It is all still so new and I often feel like a puppy who hasn’t grown into her body, I feel all sharp elbows and wobbly legs, bumbling my way through connecting and through loving.

I stumble over my words, maybe I say too much too soon, share too much, in my earnest attempt to start with my heart and arms wide open. Like everyone else, I want to thrive in the company of those around me, and at the root I am that little girl who wants nothing more than to be loved.

If you really knew me you would know that I find myself struggling not to love in silence or to push away connection. I am struggling with how to not allow myself to be pushed away. Though everyone wants to be love, not everyone is on board with the way that I love. Not everyone is comfortable with my awkward expressions. Sometimes I feel like I am just too much or maybe not enough and that something I did or said caused them to retreat, to pull away and I am left wondering is it how I love? Will I ever get it right? I am left wanting to retreat myself, to pull it all back, to go back into the mode of keeping it all to myself. I wonder if I can still fit back into that tiny box which stored my heart for so long.

Then, out of the blue, I am reminded that I am seen and held and loved by friends I have chosen in my life. They continue to show me that they choose to love me. I will meet a friend for brunch or receive a lovely text, a funny email or have a Facebook conversation and I am emboldened to love big and awkwardly and openly again and again and again. I am still re-learning. I am always trying to remember that though not perfect, when my intention is good and pure and there is no way to ever love wrong.


Theory meets Practice

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2011 at 7:43 pm

On Saturday, I went rock climbing for the very first time.

A friend was coming to spend the day with me and couple of days earlier he had mentioned a desire to check out a rock climbing gym before coming to my house. Two little words jumped out at me:

rock and climbing

I impulsively asked if I could tag along. Rock climbing was one of those things that I had always wanted to try. Matter of fact, it was number 23 on my life list so when he said those two little words,  I jumped at the chance, and as the few days between invitation and execution passed, something slowly dawned on me.

I was going to go ROCK CLIMBING!

I began to frantically look for a way out, my mind grasping for any excuse that would allow me to back out while retaining some level of dignity. To be fair, I did mention that I had never climbed before and I believe the phrase “equal parts excited and terrified” may have been used but that did not stop me from seriously questioning my sanity, wondering how did I manage to get myself into this situation.

Saturday arrived along with a belly brimming with butterflies. As I got closer and closer to checking this item off my list my heart pounded in my chest. (Whose stupid idea was it to have a life list anyway?) I was completely unable to come up with a plausible reason why I no longer wanted to do what it was that I so enthusiastically said that I always wanted to do just a few days before.

Theory meets practice.

In theory, I am an adventurous person but in practice, I was more scared than I knew was possible. In theory, I do not live my life being terribly concerned with how other sees me. In practice, it deeply mattered what my companion thought of me and that was a huge part of why I found myself standing in front of an incredibly tall rock wall.

I am more than a little proud to say that, with some serious encouragement and gentle insistence, I didn’t back out and I did check number 23 off the list. I learned so much about myself as I tentatively climbed up literal and figurative walls but strangely the most memorable moments for me weren’t the big “I conquered my fear” ones but instead these lovely tiny ones that revolve around the way it felt to look into the warm, gentle eyes of another and see this churning mixture of fear, anxiety, excitement and bravery reflected back at me with nothing but kindness and compassion.

In theory, I am the rock.  For the people in my life, for those souls that I love, I am there for them without hesitation. In practice, it is incredibly difficult to let down my guard and completely trust those very same people. Not wanting to be a bother or a burden, I keep my fear to myself.

In theory, I have lived by the story that it is key to have a plan, to have a thought out path to get from here to there and even if it is only by sheer determination, it is imperative to stick to that plan and depend solely on myself to get to the top. In practice, it is much more interesting to stay loose without expectation, to not plan (so much) and anticipate the moment but let to it unfold, and to allow others to encourage me and hold my hand along of the way. Even if I don’t reach the top, the effort is that much sweeter by having been shared.

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I have been carrying around a line from the Mary Oliver poem, “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches.”

One of my favorite yoga instructors read a bit of this poem at the end of class and a line has resonated within me for months. It became the title of a blog post that sat unwritten for just as long and today I answered Ms. Oliver’s question with a resounding


Lately, I am breathing deeply, breathing into my body, breathing into home but most importantly, I am breathing into friendship and connection.

There was a time in my life, when I thought I couldn’t make new friends. I lived in a story that said my world would remain tiny because what I had to offer was meager and unimportant. I thought that if I slipped out of the room, no one would notice and there was such sadness in me because more than anything what I wanted was connection and friendship.

Then one day I made a simple phone call.

I had been reading through the archives of blog I had just begun to read and there was this offer for a free portrait session with the blogger. All I had to do was call and arrange a time. I impulsively dialed the number and then there were arrangements, there was a portrait session and now there is this friend. The thing about it was that she was unlike anyone else I had known in my life and I worried that I did not have much to offer in return.  Looking back, I was incredibly intimidated but I wanted connection more than I wanted to run and hide.

The thing about wanting is that wanting makes you vulnerable, it makes the connection matter and sometimes, when something matters, it is so easy to hold back, to hide, for fear that the story of meagerness is true. Sometimes I wonder how she saw me in the beginning but realize that it really doesn’t matter because now we are friends. The beginning don’t matter after awhile because it is the middle, the guts, the heart of the story that holds the promise.

Inspired by that phone call and our deepening connection, I have leapt, I have tossed, I have pushed and shoved myself into many new places and circumstances. Slowly I am prying open the bars around my heart, creating a space large enough to let myself be fully seen and in return I shattered my story and have befriended so many amazing people who I am proud, humble and grateful to call friend. Today, after a phone call with five nurturing souls who have come together expressly to become a soft place to land for one another, I look around and notice that I am no longer breathing just a little, but instead stand with my head thrown back, arms wide open, lungs filling to capacity and claiming this as my life.

So to all of the beautiful souls in my life, to each and every one of you who I have yet to meet and particularly to that friend who asked me to make a phone call and who gives me such gifts, including the sweetest surprise ever

For Valerie from Kate Swoboda on Vimeo.

I humbly say thank you, thank you for seeing me.