abundance · adulthood · affirmations · change · community · isolation · self-esteem · self-support · spirituality


“Pain carves out a place in us that allows us to feel more
deeply and be more usefully whole.”
This is the kind of thing you tell someone who’s had to go
through shit and needs something to hold onto as a reason why. And I’m not
going to tell you it’s not true or that I don’t believe it to be true, because,
maddeningly, I do think it is.
But what about all the people who don’t have pain carve out a place in them? What about
those of us who haven’t have the razor of life cut into our quick? What about
those who have lived what some might call “normal” lives?
Are they not as valuable as human beings? Of course not. Are
they not as deep in thought or artistry? Well… that’s really hard to answer.
There is a pervasive ideal of the martyr in our society
(and, again, I’m not the first to write about this). There is also the
thick idolatry of those who are young, innocent, unscathed, “beautiful.”
So, we have for ourselves, as a society, a conundrum: We
both want desperately that kind of luxury and ease that calls to us from the
pages of Sunset or Dwell or GQ, but we disdain those whose lives
closely resemble them, condemning them for “having it easy.”
So, what do we really want? Do we want the life of ease, or
do we want to tear down those who actually have a life of ease? And if the
latter is true,… why, then, would we
ever want to be a person of ease, and be the object of disdain and
envy-laced judgment?
There is an affirmation in my repertoire: Life is easy for
How nice is that?
“Life is easy for
What would that be like?
Life is easy for me.
I just smiled. 
Ease. Flow. Calm. Centered. Guided. Held. Easy.
Why should it not be?
An affirmation is something you tell yourself until you live
and believe it, according to my own understanding. So this isn’t something that I
can tell you today with assurance is accurate. But I can tell you that it is something that I would like to believe and live with assurance.
“Life is easy for me.”
Pain may have carved out a place in me that enables me to
help other people who have been there. But there is a downside to identifying
with others on the commonality of pain: What happens when one of you doesn’t
want to identify with their own pain anymore?
A friend of mine inherited a sum of money
a few years ago, after the death of her mother. She, my friend, is one of the
pain-carved women. She is shorn and built and pyred from pain – she is one of
the strongest and most admired women I know.
And yet. After the inheritance, she, on her own, bought a
vacation home—she bought a second home, just because she could. She has a
husband, and two kids, and this was what she wanted to do, and could do with
that money.
It was only after the fact of the purchase, however, that we
began to hear about it. She had to “confess” to us that she had this boon, this
exciting news, this abundance. And she’d been avoiding telling people,
precisely because of that envy-laced judgment.
However, she realized that not talking about her success was just as dangerous to her well-being as
not talking about troubles, and that by isolating and hiding her good fortune,
she would certainly falter.
Not talking about success, about “what’s going on,” is just
as precarious as not talking about challenge. However, because we are a culture
that feeds off mutual exchange of stories of strife, because all of our
literature is based on triumph over adversity, or simply is an account of
adversity, we do not share about it.
We are ashamed of our success. We are ashamed of our good
fortune. We are ashamed to admit that life is easy for us—and so we couch it in
“humility”: Oh, it’s only because of the inheritance from a death; Oh, but I had to overcome such hardship to get
here; Oh, but it’s really only this one time that I’m getting a boon in my life
– I promise the rest of my life is a shit show!
SO WHAT if my life were easy? What does it impede on you?
(is a question I pose to myself as well.) What are the merits of slogging
through a desperate existence, to live to possibly be honored post-humously as
a great writer, as a Baudelaire (and the
list is endless)?
A while back, I wrote you about a poem of mine whose only line went,
who would eat the blackened one?
And I told you how I’ve come to see that the answer, which
had so long been, “No one, so I better eat it first so you won’t have to,” has
become, “No one. Period.” I’ve told you that I no longer feel as fated or
compelled to be a martyr.
It seems the other side of that action is to embrace what
our culture feels so aggressively conflicted about: Allowing my life to be easy.
Perhaps my “meta” affirmation, then, would be: It is easy to
allow my life to be easy. 

affirmations · change · healing · health · love · self-love · spirituality


When I got sick, my friend Aimee brought a photocopy from a
book she owned to me in the hospital. I told her recently how much this piece
of paper changed my whole experience, and she said she simply didn’t know what
else to do. How else to show up or help, or what to say; she didn’t know if I’d
snarl at the message it had to offer or get mad with her.
It was a page from Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, though I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t
know who Louise Hay was, and certainly didn’t know about that sickeningly sweet
The page had on it a list of ailments and diseases and
physical symptoms. Next to them was a column of negative beliefs that the
author had associated with these symptoms. In the final column were a list of correlated positive
She’d circled, “Blood Problems” and “Leukemia.” Blood meant
joy; a problem with the blood meant, in this cosm of beliefs, “Actively killing
joy,” a “What’s the use?” mentality.
During the time I was sick, another friend brought me an
audio CD of Dr. Bernie Siegel’s Love, Medicine, and Miracles, which, in part, tracked the general life pattern those who develop cancer have had. As I listened, I tracked with it–to a T. The
final period before cancer, he’d discovered, usually consisted of a period of success, a major
disappointment, followed by hopelessness.
I had just graduated with a Master’s in Creative Writing.
The photo on my graduation day shows me nothing short of radiant, beaming,
joy-fueled. I spent the summer hustling from a temp job to job interviews,
trying, demanding, aching, to get a job in a creative field. Grateful as I am
for the job that I received and am currently in, I felt broken in the weeks
following my full-time employment. I cried as I waited for the always-late bus
to take me home to a dreggy existence.
Three weeks after I was hired, I got strep throat; four
weeks after I was hired, I was told I also had Leukemia.
Call that whatever you want, but when Aimee handed me that
photocopy, and I saw that my life and symptoms were spelled out by someone who
saw this as a commonplace pattern, I also saw that there was a third column
that could help me to reverse it, or to heal it.
I showed that paper to everyone who came in (well, those who
were of the more witchy variety). Some people squawked that it sounded like I
was blaming myself for cancer. But,
that’s not what my understand was, or is. Simply, we are sending ourselves
messages all the time. We can choose to listen and alter our behavior, our
patterns, as best we can; or, we can, like me, continue to shove aspirations,
life, underneath a
mountain of I can’t, it’s not working, it’s not for me. Who cares.
At any point along this path, we can choose to listen to
what our heart is saying. And listen though I sometimes did, I didn’t heed. I
was too scared. Too scared to fail, to trust, to try thoroughly, to invest, to
change. This isn’t to self-flagellate, I don’t feel it that way; it’s simply to
objectively look at how I was treating myself.
If we don’t listen, these folks’ theory is that our body
will respond with physical messages. And sometimes, those messages will become
billboards, and sometimes those billboards will become atomic bombs.
Thinking about my cancer this way while I was in treatment
gave me hope. It gave me a foundation, a cosmology, a system of belief that I
was already attuned to anyway. (I’d personally always thought that cancer was
calcified resentment, and you can hate me for saying that and disagree if it
doesn’t jive with your own cosmology.)
But this thinking gave me a life-line, literally. If these
were just thoughts, beliefs that I’d harbored, a pattern of self-abandonment
that I’d worn so deeply into myself that my self revolted, then … they could be
changed. I could change. And, the theory
could follow, I could get well.
I needed that so badly. I still do.
There wasn’t anything more scary that I’d ever faced,
because there was no face on it. These theories gave me a name, a focus, a
target. And the target was Love.
“New and joyous ideas flow freely within me.” “I move beyond
past limitations into the freedom of the now. It is safe to be me.”
When I was home sick with a cold in October, one year past
diagnosis, I needed something to do. During treatment, someone had given me a DVD version of
the Louise Hay book, You Can Heal Your Life. I’d shoved it away, thinking it sounded like utter twaddle and too
saccharine, and much too California woo-woo for my taste. But, I was sick
again, and I was scared, and despite all the work I’d done in the past year, I
needed to re-up, reinvigorate my life-line. So I watched the film. Which was a
lot of twaddle-speak, and also a lot of what I believe. It was positivity on
steroids, but, I watched, and I wished that I had the actual book they were
talking about, since it had the full list of ailments in it, and I wanted to
diagnose everything else, and counter it with love.
I walked outside my apartment building that day to go buy
eggs. Outside the building next to mine was one of those moving-out boxes of
free stuff people leave, boxes I love to
sift through.
In it… was a copy of You Can Heal Your Life. Pristine, with the Amazon receipt still in it,
ordered in 2011, likely, by some girl just like me who in a fit of, Yes, I
can heal my life, bought it, received it, and shoved it
away, thinking it twaddle.
I picked it up, bought my eggs, went home, and devoured the
rest of it.
Again, you can call it whatever you like. You can agree,
disagree, roll eyes, think I’m anything you might want to call me. But, I used
those affirmations, and I survived a cancer that kills most people. It may not
be causation, but as I continue to use the type of thinking prescribed, I am