On Compassion & Healing

Lake_Jones_Trail_textI’m in the middle of an eight-week class, “Real Foods for Real Life,” and it’s been enormously helpful in many ways. But the most valuable takeaway for me has little to do with food, at least on the surface.

As I’ve shared my own story and listened to others share their unique personal journeys with admirable vulnerability, I’ve left each class with a growing and deeper understanding of the importance of compassion when it comes to healing. And most of the time, each of us is healing one part of ourselves or another, aren’t we?

I’ve been thinking about how this is part of life, part of growing up: we have to be willing to consider ourselves honestly, to look closely at past choices, however misguided we believe we were and would like to forget, in order to choose something different for our future.

If we want to cultivate new life patterns, we usually need to heal something in ourselves, and this kind of deep healing evolves out of practicing compassion for others and compassion for ourselves.

What if we each gave ourselves permission to be exactly who we are, and to be exactly where we are, no excuses necessary? No beating ourselves up for this pound here or that pint of ice cream there.

The highest challenge: while looking closely, what if we don’t place one whit of judgement on ourselves?

I mean to say, we should give ourselves permission to look in the mirror, regardless of how lousy we feel, and say to ourselves, you’re exactly where you should be in this moment; and lucky you, you get to choose your next move.

Healing is challenging. It requires courage and persistence and no small amount of forgiveness, for ourselves, and sometimes for others. Healing requires digging deep and examining our choices without guilt or shame. In order to expose our truths, even to ourselves, and emerge with grace, we need kindness, compassion.

And yes, much of the work is personal, but we don’t have to go it alone. We can and should lift each other up on our respective journeys, but too often we keep our challenges to ourselves for fear of judgement or fear of burdening others with what we imagine to be challenges distinct to us alone. Of course we do, bombarded as we are, especially as women, by media that shows unrealistic, carefully curated and smoothed over versions of humanity. Rarely do we see the complex, imperfect, many-layered, beautiful truths illuminated.

But we need each other. However independent we feel we should be in today’s world, we need our neighbors, friends, and family as much as humans ever did.

So. Let’s illuminate those truths, without apology.

We’re flawed, complex, difficult to understand. We’re also beautiful and strong and here on earth to find happiness and love. Let’s share of ourselves, and support each other in uncovering our truths so that we can heal and take on the world. We’re worth it.


To Living the Good Life

A nice walk to work

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When T and I first moved to this little island, I was in the midst of a health slump, the kind where I knew my body needed some major TLC. I was tired too often, feeling a lack of creativity and motivation for projects I wanted to feel excited about, experiencing major brain fog in the mornings, and constantly craving sugar and baked goods in a serious way. But at the same time, I was about to move from the mountains of North Carolina, (my home since I first ventured out to build a life of my own) to a quiet beach town, where T and I had the idea to start fresh together.

Not that we both didn’t love Asheville dearly, because good gracious, it’s a magical place, but in different ways for each of us, it was time to move on. We had chosen our new home, and decided that when one of us found a job, we would make our move. He quickly landed a teaching job, I found part-time work; we found a sweet beach-home, packed up our apartment; and we began our journey, moving in on July 4th weekend, according to the locals, the busiest weekend of the year.

It’s hard to believes it’s been only just over two months here, because it feels like home in almost every way. (Admittedly, the hard part has been missing dear friends, but curiously, we chose around the same time to let our dreams lead us on our own adventures, and I’m so excited to support each other and share excitement as our respective journeys unfold.)

Anyway, you guys, this summer has been a perfect blast.


A post shared by Kathryn Stewart (@kathrynfayestewart) on

Like, vying for first on a summers-of-my-life list. To recap: We live two blocks from the beach. Enough said. I could really stop there, since everything else is added bonus, but I won’t. We also live across the street from the intracoastal waterway, meaning toe-dipping docks, vivid sunsets, and those breezes only experienced so close to the water. We’ve ridden our beach cruisers nearly every day: through the neighborhoods, into town in search of the island’s best margarita, or to the state park for for marina sunsets and sundown walks. There are moonlit, quiet evening beach walks, where we climb up lifeguard stands to stargaze. I’ve gotten over *some* of my fear of big waves, either boogie boarding or just body surfing, which is the best bad-day-restart-button I’ve yet experienced in life. Ice cream. A lovely yoga studio I can bike to. Warm, friendly neighbors on all sides. The list goes on, but needless to say, this season has inspired, healed, and reinvigorated my soul.

Alas, seasons end. Even at the beach. Cool[er] nights have swept in,Β  and the island is quieting. Now that T is back at school, and I am working full-time again. those pieces of life I needed to work on before the move have resurfaced with a crackle. I can’t ignore anymore that it’s time to dig deep and figure it out. I’m choosing diet as my first venture, because I believe wholeheartedly in the healing (and hurting) powers of food. In the past few years, I’ve gotten terribly lazy with what I’ve put in my body, ignoring signs of imbalance and sickness, which are much easier to tune out than I would have imagined.

All this to say, now that I’ve nailed down the best margaritas and ice-cream sandwiches around and my truly decadent summer frolic is coming to a close, I’m choosing to commit, now, to whatever it takes to get my body back in balance. How? No sugar, no gluten, no alcohol, and limited caffeine for 30 days. Oh. Good. Gracious. I might not be very fun for a while, but damnit, I’m going to *have* fun with this. Or, I’m really going to try.

And while I’ll try not to blather on too much about all the sordid details, I will blog along the way about my successes and failures and tidbits I glean from my adventure that seem worth sharing.

So. Here’s to living the good life while taking care of ourselves, to boot! May I learn more each day how to weave those goals together more gracefully.

Insights? Advice? Warnings? Feel free to share your thoughts πŸ˜‰