Tag Archives: getting over fears

On Loneliness

On Loneliness

I’ve done a lot of contemplating and research on this particular post – starting in Afghanistan – I’ve written and erased and rewritten ”several” times; suffice it to say, my approach and conclusion from what I was first going to write have completely changed. Initially, I looked at the question whether or not loneliness was a choice.  But that was the wrong question, the wrong approach.  I have come to believe that loneliness is no more a choice than a sunburn is when out in the sun for too long. It’s an effect…as is the combination of the sun and lack of sunscreen. Let me explain.

Loneliness sucks. It’s a black, empty void, and a longing for love and attention and community and otherness whose absence glares and taunts us to a point of near torture. I know we’ve all felt the pang of loneliness, and I simply don’t believe someone who tells me they’ve never been lonely. People will do anything to stop being lonely – I know, I’ve been one of them and I’m not proud of the levels to which I’ve stooped, and the morals I’ve sacrificed for even a few moments of feeling less lonely. It’s like what they say about people with motorcycles…there are those who have fallen, and those who have yet to fall. So it is with loneliness…but maybe after a closer look at it, our “fall” won’t have to be so hard. 

After months of research on the topic, the most helpful explanation of loneliness was in a TED lecture on Youtube.  In his talk “The lethality of loneliness,” (from where the two images on the right were taken) John Cacioppo looks at loneliness as any other physical response and early warning system our bodies enact when some sort of adjustment is required. Our bodies feel thirst when it needs more hydration; we feel hunger when our bodies need nourishment; we feel pain when we need to protect and heal our bodies. In the same way, we feel loneliness when our lives need a social adjustment.  It’s a physical response to let us know that we’re lacking something – in this case it is more community and less isolation.  

We are a social species and isolation is like a sickness to us – our bodies let us know when we’re reaching its limit through loneliness.  In the same way babies die without human touch, we suffer and wither from isolation from others. Thus just like it would be ridiculous to ignore thirst and treat it like it doesn’t exist, so it is with turning a blind eye to loneliness.  It’s real and is not something to get used to or ignore. Our bodies are warning us that we need an adjustment – we need to fix this state and put ourselves right again.

At any given point, 40% of people feel lonely…yet it remains a hush-hush topic of embarrassment that we think if we ignore will go away. Studies now show that loneliness can actually contribute to an earlier death. In other words, this embarrassing feeling is not to be swept under the carpet and treated like a nuisance that will fix itself. Our souls need – on a survival scale – to be social with other souls…preferably other nice, kind and funny souls. Being lonely is as normal as being thirsty – and should be treated as a sign or symptom and not a blemish. Just like the image says: recognize the symptom, understand why it’s there and what it means (aka this blog), and respond by reaching out to someone. Reaching out to just one person will help. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be a little more honest and responsive with this uncomfortable feeling? Maybe now we can pick up the damn phone and call a friend…oh yeah and Facebook doesn’t count!

Powerful Beyond Measure

Powerful Beyond Measure

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Marianne Williamson

New Beginnings

New Beginnings


I have a lot to reconcile in life, but I’ve always learned from my mistakes and somehow I’ve kept going, pushing through the challenges and obstacles in life. I have come to believe that strength is in every one of us…that inner push that comes from something so unconscious in us that we don’t even know it’s there until it’s called upon.

I went to Afghanistan in search of something…a new start, some adventure, insight into this 12-year war…maybe it was a little of all of those. In many ways I identified with Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat Pray Love when she went off on a journey in search of living a fuller, more meaningful life…of course she chose Italy feasting on wine and pasta and I chose Afghanistan and war and barbed wire. Although her route was slightly more appealing, the missions were similar – to embark on a 1/3-life-crisis journey to reset and begin anew.

In Afghanistan I did find adventure, saw new lands, and met new friends, but my new start came in the most unexpected of ways. I was laying in a hospital bed shivering in a surgery gown waiting for surgery on my eye – an inexplicable infection – when a nurse came in with a funny look in her eyes. She explained that while I still needed surgery, I could no longer have pain medication due to the fact that I was pregnant. I was cold, in pain, and most of all, stunned in a state of segmented and incomplete thoughts except for the one clear memory from over a year prior when a doctor told me I would need science (fertility medicine or in-vitro fertilization) to get pregnant. I’m pretty sure my confused look urged the nurses to say something soothing, but all they managed to say was, “Congratulations!” In hindsight, a hard slap to the face and yelling “Surprise!” would have been so much better.

With an additional confirmation blood test, I went into eye surgery – only there had been an attack that day and I was low on the priority list for the operating room, so I got moved to the dental clinic. The doctor fumbled as he had no choice but to convert dental cleaning tools into surgical instruments for an eyelid. Without pain medication, I was alert and gripped the vinyl chair arms with all my strength to stay still as the doctor made incisions in my eyelid with the scalpel…or whatever he was using to cut. I felt tears streaming down my face, but I couldn’t tell whether they were from the shock of the news or the pain.

The doctor finally finished, patched up my eye, and sent me on my way. I was still in my one-eyed hazy shock on the helicopter ride back to my base unable to see the hills and mud huts below or even think past each successive minute. I got out of the helicopter when it landed, the deafening sound and wind coupled with my one eye fog made everything feel like a distant dream. I shuffled across the landing area to my tiny room, opened the door, and flung myself onto my bed for three days of crying. No food, no interaction, no work (they thought I was still up at the hospital), just crying. Have you ever cried for three straight days? It was a far cry (so to speak) from my strongest moment. I was confused, ashamed, regretful, angry and scared…and nowhere in all of that that could I even begin to reconcile a baby.

I always wanted to have a baby eventually with someone I loved, but I didn’t want one like this. The dad was not someone I was even in a relationship with, and I was suddenly looking at the reality of being a single mom. It’s taken me months and months to come to grips with this new beginning, this new journey. It’s only the start of a very new and scary and unknown journey, but it’s a start nonetheless.

I never pictured my life would turn out this way, but then again when DOES it go the way we plan? I’ve heard the saying more than once and have said it even more often, but if you wan to make God laugh, just tell him what you’re going to do tomorrow. I’m pretty sure He had a good laugh with me, and I had a few choice words for Him at first too. But my actions were clearly what leapfrogged me onto my new path and I couldn’t blame God or anyone else. Well, I could blame the dad, but as I’ve been reminded by friends when I’m all fired up, it takes two to tango.

Whether I agree with Mother Nature or not, this baby is coming – I find out tomorrow if it’s is a boy or a girl. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do it, and I know I’ll probably stumble along the way as I’ve done in the past, but I’ve accepted that this is indeed my new beginning.

Listen. Dream. Go.

Listen. Dream. Go.


“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” ~Steve Jobs

As I stop in the middle of this sand and heat, I think about the lessons of life – the many lessons of life that we will at some point inevitably learn, and I ponder which one was most significant in getting me here to this place I’ve dreamt about for years. I think it’s the importance of listening to and believing in myself. When I began to voice what I wanted – which was to come here to Afthanistan – I faced some confused and strongly opposing opinions. If anyone has read prior posts, they know that I’m a default people pleaser…or as I like to say now, a recovering people pleaser…so expressing an idea that is in opposition to others took some lady balls. It took a long time to voice even to myself what I wanted, and longer yet to boost up the courage to say it out loud. At first I felt silly and I would add disclaimers like, “I know it’s a stupid idea, but I think I want to go to Afghanistan.” Thank God I found the fire in my belly to keep listening to myself and take action on doing the thing I could barely speak. I couldn’t tell anyone in my life – wait, I told my sister because she could tell something was up – and felt like I was living a deceptive life when I submitted my employment application to various companies. Then when one was interested in me, I would break out in a nervous sweat in replying back that I would like to continue forward with the hiring process – like I was committing a crime or some awful act.

But I stuck with it. I think part of me was afraid that I’d buckle if I told people too early – that I would listen to unsolicited advice about what a dangerous idea it was and I wouldn’t go through with it – so I protectively stayed silent. But I listened to my heart when my words weren’t even there yet and pushed on. It didn’t feel wrong, but felt good and exciting and right when I pushed “send” on those employment emails.

I’m not promoting living a double life in order to do the things you want to in life in a careless fashion – that’s not the lesson at all. I’m putting out the voice of encouragement to trust in your own dreams and don’t shy away from them because of other people’s criticisms. Listen to yourself. Listen to your heart. And if you think you’ll buckle, then yes do what you need to do for you to dodge those fire hoses (that’s what my high school running coach used to call people that like to squelch dreams). Ultimately, everyone in my life got behind me and is supporting me now. But even if some hadn’t, I was prepared to ask them that if they didn’t agree with me, could they just love and trust me?

I regret that I held back on jumping off my cliff and doing this thing I’ve wanted to do for so many years. I tried to accept the life I was in before and become the person that I needed to be to make that life work, but ultimately I wasn’t very good at it because I was so restless and unhappy and living counter to my dreams…which would always seep in again and permeate my imagination. Now I can stand here and smile a smile from the inside out – a contented smile of happiness with myself that I did this – I took the steps to put me here. I finally listened to myself.

Confessions…

Confessions…

Dear readers,
I have a bit of a confession…I’ve been intentionally NOT writing that in the past couple months I decided to take the adventure of my life and go to Afghanistan for a year. I continued to blog about the feelings and issues I was going through, but in much more vague entries – partly because I didn’t know if I’d be able to pull it off and go, and partly because I hadn’t even told the important people in my life of my plans and I didn’t want them finding out from my blog. I started double-blogging by writing my own personal story into a word document which I have saved and have continued to add to all along the way – through the fear of telling my family to the preparations and in-processing and travel overseas. I woke up this morning to my first morning in Afghanistan, so I guess I made it! After this, I will post entries about my journey to this point now, and onward about many stories I have yet to experience. There have been many tears and funny moments and loving conversations and memorable times in the last couple months that have gotten me to this point now, and I would love nothing more than to share those…though there is one port-a-potty incident that my mother warned me to “clean up” before posting.

In essence, I decided to take my own advice over these last few months of blogging, and get out there and do the undoable thing that I never thought I could do. Many people didn’t understand and said, “Yes, but WHY Afghanistan?!” Of all the crazy things to do! I simply asked them to love and support and trust me…and told them to read my blog because I will try to answer that along the way.

Since I left my home over two weeks ago, I have had a soaring sensation in my heart, and I know that I made the right decision for me. Jumping off my own cliff was right for me, and now I’m off in the adventure of my life to discover who knows what!

More to follow once I figure out how to find wifi and hook up to my own computer – there’s a time limit in this internet cafe and I’m nearly out of time.

Best wishes and happy reading!
~Amy

Struggle is Nature’s Way of Strengthening

Struggle is Nature’s Way of Strengthening

I recently started watching the series “Lost” on Netflix. I know, I’m only seven or eight years behind the power curve on this one – and it’s even worse that it was filmed on Hawaii right around the corner from where I live. In any case, if anyone has seen it, you may remember that after the plane crashes in the very beginning, one of the guys is a drug user who has to face detox. Another older man decides to help him by offering no help whatsoever. When the drug addict is crashing and at his wit’s end, he screams out to the man with anger at why he isn’t helping him more. Then the older man says, “Come here, let me show you something.” …you know what? This is better if you see it yourself.

“If there is no struggle, there is no change.” ~Frederick Douglass

I love this analogy. But I’m going to be so bold as to go ahead and label struggle as something else in life…change. The moth had to struggle in order to change. In fact, most change comes about through struggle. It goes without saying then that if we endure a struggle, we will experience change, and if we desire change, we must endure the struggle.

Many people fear struggle because it can be painful – and like I’ve written about before, ours is a species to avoid pain whatever the cost. Pain is a funny thing though. It reminds me of a competition. When I have a big race or competition coming up, I will go around with crazy butterflies in my stomach the whole day before…it’s a sort of fear or nervousness about the pain I will be in during the race. All I have to do is think about the race and the butterflies will start flitting about. But then the craziest thing happens. The second I line up at the starting line and the gun goes off, my butterflies disappear. Once the race – or the pain as it can be paralleled – begins, there is no more fear or worry about it because you’re in it and doing it.

I guess what I’m saying is that there’s no point in fearing change because the worry and fear ahead of time don’t really matter or make any difference, and when you’re in the struggle itself, you won’t be afraid anyways; you’ll be doing the thing you didn’t think you could do and you will change into your own butterfly (I still like the word butterfly better than moth even if the moth is the prettier of the two).

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” ~Reinhold Niebuhr




Daring Feats

Daring Feats

“It’s the heart afraid of dying, that never learns to dance; It’s the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance; It’s the one who won’t be taken, who cannot seem to give; And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live.” ~Bette Midler “The Rose”

In high school I tried a front flip on our trampoline we just got for Christmas. Because it was cold, my socks slipped on the slick surface and I dislocated my ankle. That injury not only put me out of the swim team season that year, but it also instilled in me a new fear of throwing my body around in any flippy way. I haven’t tried a front flip of any kind since that day…until today. I don’t know if it was all my research, contemplating and blogging about stepping up and taking chances or if it was just simply time for me to try again. Either way, I felt a surge of courage in me and I couldn’t pass it up. I started by trying to roll into my grandpa’s pool. Once I did that without incident, I got another boost of courage and tried jumping a little higher of the side of the pool in a flip sort of maneuver. Same thing – I felt better and wanted to try it again – but this time off the diving board. And on and on went my flipping journey – each time I tried and realized I wasn’t dead (like my fear tricked me into thinking would happen), I wanted to try it a again but a little bolder. Granted, my flips are no Olympic caliber with a crooked torque to them, but I did it! At 34 I finally did my first front flip off a diving board!

I can’t help but wonder if my experience today isn’t a lot like the rest of life. I didn’t wake up imagining I would do a front flip into the pool, but with little steps, each a little more bold than the one before, I achieved something I didn’t think I could. We’re scared to go for the big thing – the flip off the board – but it can start small, and with each successive step we inevitably get bolder and bolder. And it’s SUCH a great feeling doing something you started out thinking you couldn’t do!

For my gymnast sister, doing a front flip is something very simple, and she would not have the same birth of boldness unless she did something challenging to her. So don’t compare what’s a big deal to you with other people, because it’s equally as significant and emboldening. It’s your front flip, and you can be bold and do it! Don’t listen to that voice that occupies a hunk of your brain and tells you that you’re too old, or too weak, or too ANYTHING. You’re not. I’m not. We’re not.

GO FIND YOUR FRONT FLIP AND DO IT! IT'S WAITING TO HAPPEN; YOU JUST HAVE TO OPEN YOURSELF UP TO YOUR OWN BOLDNESS!

Hear the Women Roar

Hear the Women Roar


“Training of female athletes is so new that the limits of female possibility are still unknown.” ~Katherine Dunn

In celebration of the Olympics, I would like to honor the women out there who have overcome odds and won medals through the years.


Don’t Let Being a Woman Ever Stop You2012 Olympic Muslim Women

For the first time, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei all entered women athletes into the 2012 Olympic Games. Each of them had to fight for the right just to train in their sport to get to London. They were used to being heckled and screamed at to get back to their house where they belonged. In countries where women are banned from driving and cannot leave the house without a male chaperone, let alone compete in the biggest sports event in the world in front of millions of people. Their families have been threatened and shunned, the clergy called them “Prostitutes of the Olympics,” but they fought on. Imagine what the cheers of the crowds celebrating their courage as they stepped into the arena in their Muslim-adapted athletic clothing sounded like to them.

23 year old Afghanistani 100 meter sprinter, Tahmina Kohistan, commented, “I faced a lot of challenges in my training for the London Olympics. One day I was coming to the stadium and the taxi driver asked me where I was going. I said ‘I am training, I am going to London Olympics’ and he said ‘get out of the cab, I don’t want to take you there.’ Whenever I train there’s a lot of people who want to disturb me. They say ‘just leave these things, it’s not good for Afghan females to do these things.’” She then boldly declared, “I have a message for the women of Afghanistan. Come and join me. We must be ready for the next Olympics. I’m going to do my best to be in Brazil, I am going to give reason for other athletes to follow my way.”

Although none of the women placed, they achieved a far nobler prize.


Seeing Yourself is and Inward ActionMarla Runyan
For a woman who cannot see, Marla Runyan certainly has vision. After macular degeneration stripped the runner of her sight at just nine years old, she became the first legally-blind athlete to compete in the Olympics when she placed eighth in the 2000 Games in the 1,500-meter event. Her Paralympic record is even more impressive: five times she left the medal circle wearing gold.

Her doctors told her they didn’t have many expectations for her life when she lost her sight as a young girl. She not only disproved all expectations, but she did so with grace and speed, and with the determination to live as normal a life as any other Olympic female athlete.


Your Motivation Must Come 100% From You Penny Heyns

She is a South African swimming star, who is a double Olympic gold and Olympic bronze medalist. She is the only woman in Olympic history to win both the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke events in Atlanta 1996, bronze in Sydney 2000 and by breaking a total of 14 individual world records during her swimming career.

The first thing her coach said to her when he decided he would coach her was, “If you’re willing to give 100%, I’ll give a 100%. But it’s all up to you. The commitment must come from you. I don’t want you to come to the pool because I’m standing there. You must come because it’s from you!”


Defy Others’ Expectations of YouAlice Coachman

In 1948, Alice Coachman was the only U.S. woman to win a gold medal—despite the fact that segregation prevented her from training in white-only facilities. She was also the first African-American woman to ever win a gold medal. She was so obsessed with achieving track and field success that she trained wherever and however she could, including running barefoot in fields and jumping over rags and sticks for hours each day to improve her high jump, the event in which she took the gold.

Even after she stopped competing, she continued to break records. She benefited from endorsement deals and was the first African-American female athlete to do so. In later years, she formed the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation to support young athletes and provide help for Olympic veterans. When Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympics, she was honored as one of the top 100 greatest Olympic athletes. Since the end of her career, she has been inducted into eight different halls of fame.


You Must Be Tough in Spirit Sara Reinersten
“The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them.” ~Anon

American triathlete, writer and motivational speaker, and former Paralympic athlete 1992. She was the first female leg amputee to complete the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.




Setbacks and Difficulties Must Be OvercomeNatalie du Toit

Natalie du Toit is a South African swimmer who lost her leg in a car accident. She is best known for the gold medals she won at the 2004 Paralympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games. Natalie impressively became the first leg amputee ever to qualify for the Olympics.

I say, “If I’m able to go out there and achieve a dream, then anybody can do it.”


Age is Just a NumberDara Torres

Gold Medal champion swimmer, Dara Torres. At the age of 41, Dara took home her 12th career Olympic medal in the 2008 Games as part of the U.S. 4X100-meter medley relay team. This is a remarkable physical achievement, especially given the fact that the average age of U.S. Olympic team members at the Beijing games was 26.8 years.

She has set three world records and has brought home twelve Olympic medals, including four gold. Dara Torres is arguably the fastest female swimmer in America.



“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” ~Calvin Coolidge

Some of these highlights were found from the article 5 Famous Female Athletes Reveal Attitudes Needed for Dream Achievement.

People are Amazing

People are Amazing

“The important achievement of Apollo was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that and our opportunities are unlimited.” ~Neil Armstrong



We are an awesome species – capable of reaching feats of physical achievements while also reaching deep into our emotional and spiritual cores for untouched depth of meaning and feeling more than any other creature could possibly fathom.

We have the capacity to be hurt by another and then to forgive them and move on in peace. Heck, we have the capacity to forgive ourselves for our own reckless mistakes, which in itself is a miracle. That we can have compassion, sympathy, understanding and curiosity are all unique and remarkable talents that should never be undervalued.

How exactly do we differ from our other animal earth-mates? We have the gift of expression of self through voice – a gift too often neglected. (How many relationships fall apart simply from lack of good communication?) We stand upright and have disciplined our bodies to do awe-inspiring physical feats – from climbing vertical rock walls to doing flips in the air on bicycles, or cars, or practically anything. We can dance, swim, jump, climb, flip, slide, soar – no movement has been untapped. We have hands that can hold and make things. We fashion tools and technology to build up our world out of our own imaginations….which leads to our brains. We have the largest brain capacity of any living being, and with that comes thought, emotion, imagination, creativity, innovation, and art. And finally, we have longer childhoods than any other animals…maybe that helps foster our talents to use later on, or maybe we just need a LOT longer to mature than other beings.

Look at the wisdom, philosophy, poetry and art that has come from people. Look at the heights and depths our one species has gone to, both on our planet and beyond. There is no inward and outward limit to what we are capable of reaching….except maybe black holes…I’d stay away from them.

It’s an element of gratitude I feel when I wake up and look at what I am a part of. Ultimately, it is a world of goodness and love, of reaching higher and further, of fighting through the valleys for the mountain tops, and of good overcoming evil. Yes there is pain and suffering all around us, and yes there are people who hurt others just for the sake of hurting them. But thank God they are the deviants of our kind. In spite of hunger and pain and loss, we still default toward the good and joyful state of living.

In spite of life’s lemons, I’m struck by the spark inside of me that won’t give up on the notion of goodness and love and risk and courage, and all that is good about us. We get knocked down so much, yet there is that unkillable drive to stand back up and keep going, fully expecting another fall further ahead. No matter how much hurt or pain you endure, you’re going to be ok, and that spark to get up and try again will always be there…it’s in our humanity.

We have the ability to do anything, to help anyone, to make changes big or small…that is ours. We intrinsically want to live better tomorrow than we did today, and strive for evolving toward that better state.

“It’s amazing what ordinary people can do if they set out without preconceived notions.” ~Charles F. Kettering

Decide What You Want

Decide What You Want

“The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: decide what you want.” ~Ben Stein

There are no magical fixes; it’s up to you. You have to pass through the “easier said than done” thought, get over your own self-imposed limitations, and decide what it is you want. It’s so easy to do something you’re good at but don’t love. I have a friend who’s worked for the same company for 13 years because she’s good at what she does and she gets paid well for her good work. But from the beginning she promised herself that she would only do this job until she found something more “her,” and now she’s reeling from the fact that that was 13 years ago. She’s one of the smartest women I know, and she could do anything she set her mind to, I know it…but does she? I’m creeping up on 10 years in my line of work and I still wonder if this is what I want…or is there something more, something greater? Not necessarily greater in scope, but just greater for me. This isn’t a challenge for you to change life courses to go be an astronaut because it’s the loftiest career out there…it’s finding the loftiest place for YOU and ME in this world.

The decision itself may be difficult, but certainly not worth stressing and losing sleep over (pointing my finger at myself on that one) – this is a good and powerful move toward opening yourself up to new opportunities because you’re stopping long enough to listen to your heart and follow what it already knows it wants. You already know what you want…it’s just the world or your family or your paycheck or other outside factors have made the picture a little hazy. It’s like suddenly seeing 50 red Toyota Echoes (do they even come in red?) the day you buy one…when you finally make a decision on what it is you want, you’ll start seeing opportunities to help you get there that have been there all along.



Here’s a great blog on HOW TO DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT.

And of course, to include my quirky humor, here’s a video on how to make a decision like a ninja. I love this guy, and if you don’t at least crack a smile, we need to have words.