People often ask me if I’m scared for my surgery. The truth is I’m only scared it won’t work. Scared my pain won’t go away but also concerned about who I’ll be if it does. Am I able to bring back the qualities of myself I thought were lost because of the pain?
Luckily I can trust myself. I know I’m a strong enough person to achieve what I set my mind to. It will be a journey, often a battle, but I know once my parts are repaired, I’ll be able to go anywhere and do anything. Once I’m able, I will put in the work to build my life around my morals. Being who I want to be and going above and beyond for those around me will be my reality again. But for now I rest. Feeling guilty about focusing on myself during this time is only wasted energy. I must take care of me as I get ready for this battle. I am under construction now but soon I'll have new foundation and the strength to take on the world again, even better than before.
Throughout my adult life there has been a phrase I find myself repeating often. “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” While these words are most popularly used in reference to hardships, traumatic events, physical challenges, and other struggles of life, it must also be applied to the rest. All of it. Anything and everything can make us stronger if we choose.
Each moment we’re alive we have the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to build strength. Our most mundane days can be transformed with the right attitude and intentions. Processing new light from the simplest times with an open mind and the desire to thrive. Until the day we die, we can either survive or truly live. New Lindsay lives by the words of this phrase because who I am now will always choose life over survival. I value strength and I respect anyone who makes the most of their time here on this earth. Those who try to be better everyday for themselves, for their community and for the world as a whole.
Of course the will to live is effort on its own. Finding purpose or a greater power to believe in. Sure, you can have faith or pray to God, whatever sources your will to live, but at the end of the day it is you who has to make things okay. You who gives life meaning. No matter what happens.
It is my choice to get stronger each and every day or to leave my fate to the universe. So whether it’s picking up tools for grief after losing someone, learning my love language through a breakup, or literally gaining strength from major weight-loss, I know I will at the least come out a stronger woman. Whether it’s having a conversation with a stranger, taking my dog for a walk or cooking a meal for dinner, I can find new perspective from these simple moments if I’m searching. Entering an almost two year journey of braces, double jaw surgery, liquid diet, recovery and rehabilitation with prosthetic joints so I can live a life free of debilitating pain might be enough to shut someone down. For me? I see an immense amount of learning, a magnitude of growth and a world of people I can help from my own change. I see even more life to live and a future where I only get stronger.
Every year around New Years I wonder about our tradition in setting resolutions. Why the beginning of the calendar serves as the only specific date we encourage each other to reflect on what we wish to change and improve on. Every year I reflect on how I can make a better effort to do this everyday.
Regardless of the date, regardless of tradition, resolutions to me are meant to be a daily reevaluation. Every day I actively choose to focus on how I want to be better, how I believe I can make a difference in the world and how I can live a more fulfilling life. So when January 1st rolls around and everyone is setting their resolutions for the coming year, I wonder how long they waited.
So instead of telling you what my resolutions are for “this year,” I will instead tell you my most recent and accomplished resolutions. One resolution I have been consistently working on and feel positive about my progress with is letting go worrying about the way I look. Putting out content on my social media that is not what others might expect to see. Bloated belly, stretch marks, cellulite, bad angles and bad lighting are not mutually exclusive with beautiful. I believe in the beauty of authenticity. Bravery in exposing the raw and real. Focusing on the way my body feels and understanding my health is the only quality I should worry about improving.
A resolution I continue to work on is refraining from arguments. Deciphering when it is actually worth it to make my point heard. Noticing when I am getting upset over a pointless conversation. Proving to myself that I can end that negativity by keeping my opinions to myself. I am never giving up power by preserving peace of mind. I don’t have children so It is not my place to teach anyone else a lesson. I prefer not to engage in arguments at all and am still working on catching myself when I don’t realize I am.
Patience is a resolution I seem to carry with me throughout the years but in reference to different situations. I believe I have become a much more patient person in practice. Patience with people and time were struggles I used to face but feel much more at peace with now. Lately, however, I have allowed anxiety to creep up on me in scenarios where patience allows clarity. Worrying about something that will resolve itself in time. For example, I just traveled to Mexico with my dog to a place I believed was known to be dog friendly. We arrived late to our hotel and were told that he would have to stay in the room for the duration of our trip. I didn’t sleep at all the first night, overwhelmed by the fear I made the wrong decision bringing him. But the next day we were greeted by managers who assured us my dog would be welcome at all outdoor dining and adventures. Next time I’m in a similar situation, I can remember to sleep on it and wait until I get more information. Things usually have a way of working themselves out.
2021 was a year of reflecting on what truly matters. Focusing on self-care, friends and family and mind over matter. I grew stronger, regained hope and learned new tricks on how to maintain peace surrounded by chaos. I found new meaning on being and feeling good in 2021 and I plan to do the same in 2022.
I am about to embark upon a pretty gruesome surgery. Two in one, actually, with a double jaw surgery. Liquid diet for 6 weeks, poofy balloon face for 6 months, and a full year’s recovery. As awful as it may seem, the response by my family and friends has been quite the opposite. Those who know me are focused less on the struggles and more on where it will take me. Trust in my ability to get through and make the most of this situation. Not only are people excited about what this experience could mean for eliminating my chronic pain, but also what level of inspiration I will reach from enduring this journey.
Roadblocks, especially those providing a benefit I am aware of, don’t phase me much anymore. It’s not my first rodeo getting through a tough time. I’d even consider myself a master roadblock achiever by now. But to be able to face something so scary and so painful and simply see it as leveling up is a comfort unlike anything else.
There is a chance I go through this surgery and it doesn’t fix my pain, but I already have a perspective for that. Even if the surgery doesn’t work, I KNOW I will come out of it stronger. Like my family and friends have said, I will have a new outlook to share. Perhaps new liquid diet recipes or a guide on getting through this type of experience. There will be a new Lindsay once again. Stronger, wiser, more capable and confident. No matter what I face, I choose to see everything in the light of opportunity. What good can come from this? Because that is what I choose to focus on.
I have digested a lot of words from a lot of different people about the changes we all may have seen during the pandemic. From newly developed social anxieties to newfound hobbies. Self-reflection and the changes those discoveries inspired to loneliness and in a lot of people, depression. I think we can all agree this time has been intense to say the least.
There is an odd comfort in being able to share a trauma with the rest of the world. Whether you were hit financially, emotionally, with grief or unwanted change, we all experienced hardships this year. But the ways in which we come out will be different. The ways in which we respond to a year of lockdowns, protests, spikes in violence, hate crimes, challenging discussions on racism, sexuality, health, politics, and everything else we endured will determine how this year molded us. As always with life, how we choose to respond to suffering will determine our success. I want to know what you learned about yourself through this pandemic. And what goals, if any, you have set coming out of it.
While we all lost during the pandemic, some of us were hit harder than others. Losing friends, family members, dignity, homes, food security, even opportunities to grieve in a way that might have offered comfort. I was lucky enough to be free from these life-altering losses this year. Privileged to come out on the other side of this pandemic gaining more than I have lost. The way I process all hard times is with their silver lining. Things happen to me, and then I happen to them. A skill I luckily learned pre-pandemic and has definitely come in handy. With all that being said, I am able to focus on what I’ve gained and who I’ve become.
I’ll start with what I believe to be the most important addition to my everyday life. I have become quite a social activist. It seems impossible to live in these times and not speak out. Far too many people burdened, suffering, dying because of circumstances out of their control. Ignorance, white supremacy, and hatred seem to be drowning innocence, equality and love. Skin color, race, sexuality, gender identity, we’re all human. What will it take for us to support one another? To encourage happy and healthy lives for all of our neighbors. I have felt a pull stronger than ever to make sure I help lift this weight. This heaviness simply doesn’t need to exist, but those burdened by these hindrances certainly should not be carrying it alone.
I have studied, researched and filled my brain with new knowledge. Listened more and argued less. Fought harder to demand what is right. I have become a more compassionate and understanding human being. I have learned how to pick and choose my battles wiser. How to protect my energy & balance empathy with my own well-being. The bare minimum won’t cut it. Donald Trump gave voices to damaging, discriminatory people. Voices of inclusivity and kindness need to pour back into this country. The only way to drown out hate is with love. Speaking out on matters of justice is urgent and necessary. Being good in silence simply isn’t enough. Social activism is not a movement or a phase, it is my calling and my duty.
On a personal note, I have become more vulnerable. While I have always shared intimate details of my struggles, my pain and my growth, I held back on certain matters. Social media got the best of me. Presenting my post-transformation selfies became less about sharing and more about showing. Creating an idea of who I wanted to share only meant I didn’t love myself the way I am. I got carried away with the idea that a “health and lifestyle influencer” must look the part. Just like you can’t trust a skinny chef, how can you trust a fitness trainer or nutritionist who didn’t look perfect?
That’s just it though. How can we trust a fitness trainer who does look perfect? Why do we envision flawless, smoothed skin, enhanced and edited versions of these goals when goals are made to be achieved? When did social media fry our minds to forget what’s real? While I have never photoshopped my posts, I played part in selecting only my best angles. Photographing only in the best light. I avoided sharing my cellulite, my scars, my fat and convinced myself it was for others. But real life comes first. The more these “perfected” photos circulate, the more people’s minds are rewired to believe these bodies and these faces are the norm. Real life past a screen is nothing but below average and unpleasant. We must normalize loving ourselves, in all light, in all angles, when our skin pops out of our clothing & when our scars & cellulite show. Raw and real.
Most of us would say self-reflection took a big role in how we survived the pandemic. For me, my biggest takeaway was allowing myself to be fully vulnerable. Admitting what I don’t yet know and truly putting in the work to learn. Spending less time preaching my confidence and more time getting comfortable with who I am. By stripping away the fabrications of our truths, we’re left with the freedom of being ourselves. Loving ourselves and each other more authentically. Peeling away layers of unnecessary negativity. I’ve always believed igniting more light is the key to ridding the darkness in this world. Inspiring more positive people, and in the process losing negativity. I now have a deeper understanding that unlocking insecurities and unleashing personal freedom will ultimately lead to a wave of freedom for all.
Photos taken at Boston protests by my best friend, my inspiration and my role model, Jackie Tayabji.
Growing up I always dreaded history class. I found it boring and struggled to understand its purpose. To me, it felt like a waste of time and energy to study the past. The lessons seemed unnecessary and useless. Perhaps I was just young and uninterested, or maybe I already felt the desire to leave the past in the past and move forward. I never really understood how history helps us progress, until now.
There’s been a lot of talk and connections lately to how we can draw on history for reform. The lessons we’re learning in the bigger picture got me wondering how else our past can motivate improvement. History might seem far away or a challenge to connect with, but it is also a roadmap and a diary to what works moving forward. We can find comfort in the stories before our time. Remembering the last time we thought we were stuck, but came out of the darkness. Draw similar conclusions to carry with us on these repeated issues.
Just as big picture ideas in time can be revisited to spark inspiration, so can personal experiences. While some people believe a complete lack of attachment is the key to a free life, I would argue we need to maintain some sort of connection to our past. Remain realistic about where our control lies and set boundaries when perceiving which lessons to carry forward.
Living in the moment, unfazed by the world around us, is a fantasy. Sure, a practice that allows relief at times. But not a technique we can rely on without addressing our past and doing the work around it.
While revisiting past experiences can be used as a tool for guidance and understanding, it is also a dangerous place to linger. I think of visiting these memories in a room. Collecting what applies. Choosing only what I absolutely need and closing the door. Unless investigation leads me back to that room, I leave the door closed. Separated from my existence. Some memories trigger trauma. Rooms we don’t necessarily want to visit. However, we have power over our stay. To listen and see these memories with open eyes looking forward. Like a peek in the rear view mirror. Just enough information to stay safe. Enough of a glimpse to be excited about the next destination.
So while looking back in time can be challenging, upsetting or feel like a burden, it seems to be a vital part of reformation. Necessary knowledge in finding new direction. Groups of people or individuals alone get to explore this knowledge like a puzzle. Collecting pieces and placing them where they fit. Because the puzzle doesn’t progress without all the pieces before. And some of those pieces are locked away in those memory rooms we didn’t think we needed.
There’s no sugar coating death. No bright side in losing a loved one. However, learning how to grieve in a way that feels meaningful instead of drowning is something that helps me cope. While this particular cloud may not have a bright side, I’m a strong believer that silver linings can be found anywhere.
One of the hardest things about grief, to me, is that missing someone doesn’t go away. It doesn’t even get easier. The more time passes, the stronger I crave his presence. Every day that passes is another without him. Finding moments of warmth in memory, instead of pain, was a transition that had to come naturally. I experienced all of the five stages of grief before I was able to transform how I felt memories. To choose to smile instead of just cry. I remain sad we lost him, but happy we knew him.
I believe in connection after life. That our loved ones find ways to communicate with us from the other side. My brother’s way of doing that for me and my parents is through rainbows. The first family trip we took without him, we were presented the most vibrant double rainbow right outside our window. Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, anniversaries and other holidays or significant dates, we get excited about rain. “Look for Jeffrey, he’s coming today.” This past Thursday was the 3 year anniversary of his passing. I was feeling that weight heavily the weekend before. But Monday, I was consumed in the most incredible rainbow experience of my life. I had never seen anything like it. A halo in the mountains with a bullseye solid rainbow at the center that followed my silhouette for a mile. He didn’t just show up for me, he was letting me know he is with me every step. To know that Jeffrey can still be with me after life is a piece of the presence I crave. To be confident in connection prolonging life as we know it is a comfort that lifts my grief so I can carry it myself.
There should never be a day defaulted as a bad one. A tough one, sure. But tough gives the opportunity for resilience. I feel good when my strength is practiced. I feel pride when I overcome adversity. I turn tough days into strong ones. September 24th will always be a tough day for me. But, September 24th will also be the day I put in extra effort to have great moments. This day is defaulted as a good one, in honor of my brother. Because I am the decider of how I treat my days, and how they treat me in return.
In my opinion, the most important thing to master in this crazy world is the ability to adapt. Adapt to new situations, unfamiliar surroundings, change outside of our control or directly inspired with a purpose in mind. Nothing lasts forever. No person, place or thing is guaranteed reliable. All we have are ourselves and our ability to live through whatever gets thrown at us. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, they say. Dodging the lemons would be a waste. Learning how to make lemonade is key.
I’ve gone through a lot of change in my 26 years on this planet. In recent years, these changes have brought me growth, strength, love. Opened my mind and my heart. Encouraged confidence in my abilities. But that hasn’t always been the case. Change used to be my enemy. Intimidating and overwhelming. I feared change. Neglected the work necessary to achieve reward. I was lazy and self-sabotaging. I didn’t believe in my future, so working towards anything felt like an exhausting waste of time.
I have since learned how to care. Why to put in work. What achievements come from growth and what consequences come from denial. I am not lazy when I think with a fit mind. I am not sad when I motivate with hopeful ideas. I am not defeated when I stay positive.
In the past decade I have overcome so much change, it feels as though I’ve lived many different lives. I’ve powered through life transformations, completely changing my mental and physical well-being. Moved to several different cities across the country. Added my dog to my family. And then there were the changes I did not choose. Surviving many losses, including the death of my own brother. Being run out of my home in Santa Monica by threats to my personal safety. Being subjected to quarantine during this global pandemic.
So what‘s different within myself that encourages me to adapt to change instead of fight it? My attitude. My understanding that life is full of surprises. So much is out of our control. Life isn’t good for good people and bad for bad people. It is an empty canvas and we don’t always choose the colors. However, we always have the opportunity to paint something pretty. We always have a say in how we interpret what surrounds us. Sometimes we’re stuck with black and grey paint, but it’s our choice to fill our entire canvas with those colors or to have confidence in the colors to come. To leave room for brightness and to use the darker paints to highlight what’s next. I don’t fight change because it’s inevitable. I embrace change and the lessons that are offered within it.
Now, change excites me. It is what keeps me most inspired. What challenges me but also gives me the most opportunity for life. Even when I suffered from depression, mundane was never a part of my personality. Change doesn’t have to be good to leave a valuable impression. I choose to seek that value. To attain positive impact in whatever way I can. To learn from my mistakes and apply them to my future. Just as pain is the feeling of weakness leaving the body, healing rebuilds strength. So whether it be a global issue we’re all tackling together or a personal life change I must endure on my own, I locate the drive to learn. Engage in growth. Make it my mission to find the best path in navigating through, no matter how many wrong turns I may take. Because in the end, I still steer my own story. Improvising around the plot twists just makes it more interesting.
This post is not a complaint post. While it could have been another post on gratefulness, giving back, hurting for those suffering worse, this is a post on allowance. Allowing myself to recognize where difficulties may stand personally, and not judging if I’m allowed to be upset or not. Pretending like it’s not possible for me to be struggling just because there are people struggling worse is an injustice to myself and honestly anyone who I tell that lie to. I believe I’m an extremely sympathetic person and I give back to the best of my abilities, but sometimes it’s okay to see what might be hard for me. Without comparison, I can evaluate my own mental state. Who’s to say someone in a worse predicament can’t find comfort in the fact that even I, free from the same struggles they face, have my own hurdles to pull through at this time.
Without my daily adventures my entire routine is left stale. Uninspired without a change in scenery or my practice of opening my mind through new surroundings, I’m left with a total writer’s block. Feeling homesick and imagining for the first time since I left Boston, that maybe I want to move back, when in reality I just miss my friends, miss my family, and have been lacking what I came to California for in the first place. Just like the rest of us, I want my routine back. The lack of control any of us have over our own lives right now truly feels threatening.
As we have been flattening the curve and preparing to reopen and acclimate back into the world, I am trying not to get ahead of myself. Remembering the good things going for me before life was put on pause. Taking this time to brainstorm ways to work through those pieces of my life that still felt unsettled and needing work. Looking forward to life on the other side and putting off those stir-crazy or dramatized thoughts coming from a place that won’t be reality for much longer. Instead of jumping to conclusions, or making decisions about myself and my life based on this unique experience, I will be patient. Wait out the storm for the rainbow. Find new ways to give back to those whose rainbows might take a little more rain and a little more light to find.
When this is over, I hope we all have new strength. We battled this fight together. No matter how committed to following the safety orders people may have been, I’ll choose to believe we all did our best. I hope to believe we all learned a thing or two. I know my growth is in my control no matter what is going on around me. When I can finally hug my friends and hug my family, I know new appreciation will be held. Exploring will taste even sweeter and errands will now most certainly feel adventurous. You can’t see light without darkness, and this dull period will provide newfound gratification in everyday activities. I look forward to what comes next.
I wouldn’t build a sandcastle longing for it to last forever. Sometimes experiences are meant to be appreciated momentarily. Time enjoyed for what it is followed with a memory that lasts forever.
Sandcastles are fun to build. Prideful to look at. Created with a time bomb, all the while appreciated for their worth. An accomplishment, a piece of work, a symbol of a successful beach day. A collection of sand and water with the help of human touch. Sometimes shared with friends, sometimes focused on alone. A practice of appreciation for the simple things. A cheers to finding and creating beauty.
When those waves come and wash it away, new sand is left in its place. The sand that built the castle gets buried, scattered, shaken around. Still beneath the surface, just reformed and replenished. More to play with and enjoy. New castles will be created. Loved and let go of. Goodness doesn’t have to stay to be valued.
As much as I can anticipate a sand castle being washed away, it still catches me by surprise when it happens. Not everything in life meant to be loved lasts forever. We must be prepared to experience love lost. Lost doesn’t have to carry negative connotation. Lost can mean no longer present. Left in the past. A piece of our timeline with a beginning and an end. Part of our story. Grateful for what it was. A moment salvaged by the ability to not ask for more. Not drain its glory by prolonging its place.
The idea of letting things flow in and out of our life effortlessly is easier said than done. However, I find it useful to understand this in simpler terms. Looking at less dramatic losses and how they impacted my life. Whether it’s a sand castle, a break up or even a death, there was once joy found together. If all we can do is hold on to that joy, let it be. Feel joyous from time spent, and hold on to those memories forever.
Camps Bay, Western Cape Town, South Africa.