Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What would you do…JUST TO FEEL GOOD?

This is a question that started rambling around for me in 2004. I was living in New York and my life’s partner had just died at age 47 from a heart attack. In what seemed like an extreme gesture of self-care at the time, I joined the brand new Equinox gym—an expensive, inspiring facility where beautiful people trained with celebrity fitness gurus. Those who know me will tell you this is NOT my usual scene, but I was desperately sad and craving beauty, strength, and inspiration. My first class was with one of the aforementioned gurus. The description read, “IntenSati—exercise to build physical, mental, and spiritual muscle.” Sign me up.

Patricia Moreno’s philosophy involves intention—using affirmations and personal mantras—combined with action, so that one feels the synergy of claiming something verbally while pursuing it actively in the moment with the body. And by the way—it’s an ass-kicking workout. I was about 20 minutes into my first class, chanting “All I have is within me now,” sweating profusely and struggling with some type of lunge or squat, when she turned to look at the class. I felt her looking right at me as she asked, “Can you be here in this moment? Can you stay with the pain, choose to be here now, choose to do whatever it take just to feel good?”

I cannot describe the feeling this invitation gave me. When one is deep in grief, the very last thing one wants to do is “be here now.” But here she was inviting me to stay with the pain, work it, and move through it JUST TO FEEL GOOD. I wept through the remainder of the class and over the next few months I returned on Saturday mornings. For that hour and a half each week, I was present for all of it. In every muscle ache and stretch, every look into the mirror, and every breath, I was proving to myself that I could live, I could be strong, and I could feel good.

It has been six years. And because grieving and healing rarely happen in a linear fashion, there have been long periods of me being unable to be present, of wallowing and hiding in food and alcohol, and ignoring the needs of my body. There have also been periods of celebration and new relationships that have healed my heart. Over the years, the question of what makes me feel good has changed and evolved. It is a very different thing to ask oneself this question when NOT in a crisis, and I find that doing so now has activated some old feelings around how much goodness I deserve.

Undoubtedly rooted in the “there are starving children somewhere” tactics of making children eat brussel sprouts, I developed a kind of zero-sum belief regarding getting one’s needs met. In other words, there’s only so much “need-getting” to go around, and if I ask for more than my share someone else might not get theirs. Worse yet, it could mean that I am selfish, narcissistic, or undeserving. But what if I’m wrong about this? What if the airline attendants have it right, and we need to strap on our own oxygen mask before attending to the needs of others?

For now, I’m going with the airline attendants. I’m strapping on my own mask and seeing what happens. It’s scary and I have way more questions than answers at this point but I suppose that is how most journeys begin. I have some sense that if I can muster what I am now referring to as the 3 c’s – curiosity, compassion and courage – the answers may be just as interesting as they are scary.

One of the scariest things is putting this in writing – on a blog post no less. But I believe that sharing this is part of my process—putting it out there and risking what comes back. Risking that what I have to say might not be interesting, well written, or relevant, but risking also that my story is enough, and that I have the same divine right to speak it as anyone else has a right to speak theirs.

And so it begins… I look forward to sharing some of my journey with you, and to your comments about your own efforts JUST TO FEEL GOOD.

--Stacey for the PGM


  1. Wonderful, thought-provoking piece. Thanks so much for sharing. MKP

  2. Stacey
    Well thought out, well written and a great reminder to us all. Stay in the moment it is what keeps us from the fear.

  3. This is so wonderful Stacey, thanks for bringing us to the present moment, for welcoming us in to your process and puttin it out there! Brave! Beth

  4. Thank you Stacey. I appreciate your story. I'm with you in that gym, bringing awareness to circumstances, as painful as they are/were. I've found it's the only way to move through....and writing is such a helpful process for this.