Living from Abundance

I am busy. I’m working nearly full time, going to school full time, and trying to maintain my relationships, health, and happiness. In the next year, I’ll only be adding to that list: in June I’m getting a puppy, and in September I’m starting not one, but two therapy internships.

In the past few months, my days start at 2 AM, when I wake up and make mental to-do lists until I somehow manage to fall asleep again (sometimes that just doesn’t happen). I’ve been going through the ups and downs of anxiety and stress, and these have made my autoimmune symptoms worse.

It sounds like I’m dying – and really, I’m not. Every day, I’m surprising myself with how well I can function under a lot of responsibility and pressure. However, I live like I’m dying sometimes, too.

More accurately, I live like there is not enough: I run around thinking that there’s not enough time, not enough money, not enough food, not enough ways to distract myself. I literally feel like I’m running as fast as I can, but I’m never quite catching up to where I want to be.

On a walk, I had an epiphany about that: I am living as though I am trapped in an economy of scarcity. When resources are scarce, I cling to the resources that I have for dear life. I ration and deprive myself, and I often make choices that are governed by fear or desperation. I am encouraged by the culture surrounding me: in the USA, we can never have enough stuff, we never have enough time, and we are never doing enough to be truly content with ourselves.

I have decided to stop this. There’s another economy besides the economy of scarcity: the economy of abundance. When things are abundant, I can relish and enjoy them. I can prioritize my tasks and use my time how I want to. I can luxuriate in my freedom to choose what I do and when. I can be grateful that I wake up every day with so many opportunities to interact with people and learn from the world. I don’t need more stuff, and I don’t need more money. In brief, I have everything that I need.

I’ve written about this before. That has been a powerful thought for me since I first realized it. Everything I need is right here with me as I sit in my school’s psychology building, writing a wordpress blog, after taking my few spare minutes to journal, before class.

I can sit here and think about how frustrated I am that there is never enough time and I have not accomplished enough today. Or, I can revel in the fact that almost all of my reading got done. I can love that I went to work today and earned money listening to kids read their funny and creative “modern” versions of famous Greek myths. I can think about the delicious, homemade dinner and smoothie that I packed myself as a between-classes snack. And, I can look forward to going home to my amazing partner to veg out with Dexter before bed.

I found myself doing the former, so I guess I wrote this partly to remind myself to do the latter. Abundance is beautiful, comforting, and inspires me to be the best version of myself that I can be. Scarcity makes me wallow in my imperfections instead of valuing them for making me more human.

How is your life abundant?

My peaceful little kitchen with everything I need.
Living from Abundance

What is Health?

One of the ambiguities we face today is a crisis in the definition of health. What is health, anyway?

Many people describe it as the absence of disease. No germs, I’m healthy. Germs, I’m unhealthy. Concern for health is relegated to times of sickness.

Others judge health by looking. If I am overweight, I’m unhealthy. If I’m thin, I’m healthy. If my skin is breaking out: not healthy. Health is relegated to the realm of appearance.

Still others define health by movement. If I have worked out today, I’m healthy. If I haven’t worked out in a while, boo me. I’m unhealthy. Health is determined by how much I’ve exercised.

There are even more ways that we can define health. There are many more factors that indicate health. Here’s what’s revolutionary:

Focusing on any one of these things alone does not truly lead to “health.”

Health is everything. Health is how you look, but health is also how you see yourself. Health is what you eat, but health is also why, how and when you eat. Health is about how much you exercise, but it’s also about why and how you exercise and even whether or not you’re enjoying it.

There are so many articles coming out these days about how we define health. There are articles claiming that certain things are healthy or unhealthy. There is writing in defense of anything we want to defend and writing attacking everything that others are defending, too. It’s nearly impossible to figure out what is “objectively” healthy or not.

Here’s a radical idea:

You already know.

You know what feels healthy in your own life and what doesn’t. By that I mean: you know what brings you joy, what causes you pain, what obscures and distracts from your feelings. You know, somewhere, why you do things and how you could change the way you do them to be “healthier.” What’s hardest is to listen.

Some people, instead of listening, opt for control. They opt for rules that say what’s healthy and what’s not healthy so that they don’t have to think about it. I did this; the Whole30 and other programs like it are one of many ways to do this. It can be a good way to break yourself out of a rut. It is not the only way to live life in the day-to-day.

We are already our own best critics. Most of us have no end to the judgments we can place on ourselves, especially when it comes to our health. We are not, however, our own best friends or listeners. 

Maybe health is actually just….

…being friends with yourself.

Assuming our friendships are healthy, those are often the places where we shine in our treatment of others. We are willing to be there, to listen, to pick each other up when we aren’t feeling good. We encourage each other to rest when we’re tired or sick, and to cry and wallow when we break up with someone or suffer a loss.

Wouldn’t we be healthier if we treated ourselves this way, too?


What is Health?

Paying Attention

This is a followup to my post on self-love.

How can you be loving to yourself? 

My answer is:

Develop your capacity for attention and intention. 


In my article on self-love, I talked about the strategy of taking a moment before making a choice to ask do I really want to do this? This does a few different things. Firstly, it makes you feel like you’re making a choice. 

It’s easy (and I’ve done it) to say yes to so many things that suddenly you have no time, energy, or other resources to make choices. My schedule has been so full of obligatory commitments that there’s no room to breathe anymore. It’s easy to say that I have to do all of these things that I’ve signed up for. A commitment is a commitment, right?

I realized, in taking many moments of pause, that all the things I “have” to do are actually my choice. I currently have to go to graduate school, because I signed up and paid for it. I have to go to work so that I have money to pay for what I need. I have to eat a certain way if I really want to heal my autoimmune disease. I also, as a human, need to make time for friends, family, exercise, and fun.

In other words, I am “busy.” But, wasn’t that my choice? 

I could be a prisoner to all these things, slaving away and blaming them for my lack of energy and time. Or, I could admit to myself that I chose this. 

I chose graduate school because I want to learn how to help people as a therapist. I want to keep working because I like my job and I want to be able to live the lifestyle I like living. I want to heal my autoimmune disease, and along the way I want to feel my best and have the most energy possible so I can stay happy and healthy.

In short, instead of paying attention to the bad things, I am paying attention to my why. I am consistently taking moments to appreciate that the choices are made are contributing to the life I want for myself – in the big picture.

Once I realized that everything I’m doing is a choice, it became possible to “choose” intentionally. 

All the momentary, attentive choices add up to create the life you’re living. 

My emotional-eating binges of the past occurred because I felt something, failed to realize it, and reached for food instead, consuming it mindlessly until some craving was satisfied. That describes most of my life of eating. Only recently have I brought my attention toward myself, to both my feelings and my cravings.

It only consists of gently asking myself, What am I doing right now, and why? And it has gone from the food I eat to what I wear, what I do with my 10-minute breaks, how I plan my days…everything.

Once I realized what I was doing and why, I could start making decisions about whether or not I want to keep doing it. 

Before change, we need awareness. Awareness is paying attention, and meaningful change comes from making a decision. Ideally, that decision is aligned with some bigger-picture vision: it’s a positive vision of what you want your life to look like, given that everything is a choice. 

A Case Study

I’ve had a suspicion for some time that “sugar is the devil” (my naturopath’s eloquent words), for me in particular. I’ve become increasingly aware of the negative ramifications it has for me, but I had yet to do anything about it. I didn’t really want to do anything about it, because…well…it’s pretty much the most difficult thing to cut out, and also I’m addicted. 

So, this New Year, I set an intention: I don’t want to eat sugar for 2 months. I want to see what happens.

I journaled for a while about why I wanted to do this and also what I would need in order to be able to accomplish it. Those needs included: craving-busting foods like coconut cream and other healthy fats, a self-care practice that would ground me when I was feeling emotional, a support system, and a plan & prepared food so I wouldn’t be in a food emergency situation. With all those needs in mind (attention, again), I set out to live two months sugar-free.

And then, I didn’t. 2 weeks into January, I began eating sugar again.

Here’s where attention comes into play again. Without paying attention to my thoughts, it would have been easy to spiral into feelings of failure. I know from past experience: that would have triggered a full-scale rebellion against all my food intentions, just because I failed at one thing.

I surprised myself, though: I didn’t believe I failed. I thought to myself, “okay – I hear you, Anne. Maybe this was too much to undertake right now. Maybe it was harder than you thought. Maybe this isn’t quite what you need.” And I let myself be less strict, keeping in mind my intention of reducing overall inflammation in my body.

I’ve found that I eat considerably less sugar than I used to. I’ve gone from a sweet thing after every meal to a sweet thing maybe once a day. Sugar tastes sweeter, and I’m satisfied by it more quickly. Strict adherence to a deprivation plan did not work. Attention paired with intention did.

I pay attention to how I feel when I eat it. I pay attention to why I am craving it in the first place. I pay attention to my emotional needs, my self-care needs, how my energy is. All of these moments of mindful attention have worked together to help me keep my intention, to reduce inflammation in my body, strong. This stuff is powerful.

Try it! What do you think?

Paying Attention

How to Develop “Self-Love”

I am surrounded by people who run themselves ragged.

Sometimes, I am even one of them.

I and everyone else need the message that I’m writing about today.

One morning last week, as I was driving to school in the rain, I felt frenetically energetic. I was writing this message in my head. It is so important. It is life or death.

Be loving toward yourself.


There are so many reasons that this is important that I could go into a whole series of posts about it. But, here’s the main one:

You can neither serve others nor yourself unless you are able to be loving.

Let’s look at what it means to take care of something or someone. We use this term for work, we use it for friendship and romantic relationships, and we use it for the things on our to-do lists. But what does it really mean? What do we need in order to be able to take care of the things and the people in our lives?

We need care.

The existentialists that I’m reading in my coursework are concerned with the fundamental question: what does it mean to be human? In an article we read recently, human beings were contrasted with animals, rocks, and objects in that we are beings that are fundamentally concerned with what it means to be. We are constantly, whether intentionally or not, trying to make sense of our lives and the things that happen to us, and we are writing narratives in our heads about the meanings of these circumstances that we encounter.

If we aren’t doing that intentionally (and no one is, 100% of the time), we are doing it automatically: we take in what we see hear, smell, taste, and experience and we incorporate it into our vast and deeply-rooted perception of ourselves. This perception of ourselves shapes what we do, feel, believe, and think.

Therefore, as humans, we care about being human. Maybe not in the day-to-day, language-world that we live in, but in a deep “existential” sense. How we treat ourselves and how we interpret the world affect our way of being in everyday life: how we think and feel about ourselves MATTERS.

This philosophical idea means that we all naturally have the instinct to care, however far it is shoved down in the living out of our daily lives. Everything affects us, whether we wish it would or not. Every daily practice shapes the way we think, feel and write our own stories.

The primary person that we need to care for is ourselves. In caring for ourselves, we learn how to care. It’s difficult to care for ourselves when we’ve never learned how, or we’ve learned ways of being that actively work against this natural caring. It’s difficult when we never pause to think about our own needs.

Caring for ourselves, in practice, is self-care. Self-love.

I was watching an Instagram live last night by one of my favorite wellness coach inspirations who I don’t actually know in real life (the power of technology)*, and she said something really important. Someone had written her a hate message, saying that nobody could realistically be “healthy” like she is if they actually have a real, 9-5 job. Lauren’s response stuck with me, because it struck me as so actionable and so important. Her first point was this:

If you truly want to be healthy, you must learn to put your needs first.

Her concrete suggestion for this was what she called “take a beat.” When someone asks you if you want to do something, take a moment and think/feel to yourself, do I really want to do that?

When you come home after a long day, and all you want is a glass of wine and a piece of chocolate, take a moment and ask yourself, what am I really looking for right now? What do I really need? 

Even if the answer is that you don’t know, it’s worth asking. One day, you might know.

In order to do this, you must become convinced that:

You are important.

You know what you need better than anyone else does.

I’m currently taking an ethics class, in which we’re discussing Levinas and his idea that being truly ethical is to serve others. In order to serve others, we must be ready and waiting to hear what they need and to respond to their call. Responding rests on our responsibility, or our ability to respond.

Now I’m thinking that the ability to respond relies on our ability to be loving.

We cannot be loving if we are preoccupied.

We cannot be loving if we are anxious.

We cannot be loving if we are mean to ourselves.

We cannot be loving if we do not recognize that there are people around us with needs, because we are so absorbed in our own unmet ones.

We cannot be loving if we are agreeing to things willy-nilly and are not saving time for ourselves.

If we are worried, preoccupied, victimized, and unloving toward ourselves, we can only be obligated. It’s true that there are some things we just have to do. With a little awareness, we can decide which things are in that category and which things really aren’t. We can save room in our lives for the practice of loving, and that practice will make us more invested in our own lives and the lives of others.

Being loving is not a permanent state. We can’t expect to be our full, loving, careful selves all the time. Sometimes, we really will be anxious and preoccupied. We will have stressors come into our lives that make many things obligatory. We can still come back to loving ourselves through it all. That might look like patience. That might look like taking a tiny break. That might look like trying to imagine a life where nothing is troubling. That might look like sleeping and eating, drinking water: doing things to keep yourself alive.

Being loving is a practice. We practice every day, with every small decision that we make. When we “take a beat,” what we are really doing is learning how to really look deeply into ourselves and care about our own needs.

Being loving is where true, holistic health comes from. My wellness coach “friend” was right: we can’t do anything about our health if we aren’t willing to think seriously about our needs and take seriously the fulfillment of them. It’s a serious business, being loving, and it is hard.

I’ve come up with a couple more posts about this, which I’ll release later.

The important thing to realize is that being loving does not come with the fixing of all the problems or the addressing of all the life stuff.

Being loving comes first.




*Lauren’s website is here, her Instagram is pretty great too.



How to Develop “Self-Love”

What I Won’t Change (at all) in 2018

It’s that time: all the inspirational new year’s resolutions are popping up on all platforms. I myself spent two hours writing about my intentions for the new year, and I have some pretty great things up my sleeve.

But as I read through the myriad of reflections, revelations, and sentiments for self- and world- improvement, it occurred to me that there are many things that I don’t want to change at all, about my life or myself, in 2018. And that should have a space too.

What do you love so much you never want it to change?

I love my job. We have our moments, my job and I, and teaching kids isn’t glamorous. But I have the good fortune to be reconnected to a very important childhood community of mine. I get to do all the growing, changing, and self-improving with the knowledge that many of the people in my daily life have already seen it in me. I feel the love every day, and I don’t want that to change.

I’m obsessed with Seattle. Something about the way the mountains follow me reminds me that they have my back. I love driving over the brand-spankin’-new 520 bridge and searching out Mt. Rainier through the fog across the water. I’m grateful for the gray, drizzly, stay-inside-and-drink-coffee vibes of winter. I love the trees. I like the earthy people and the jazzy echoes of the Royal Room. I like the mud.

My school is great. No, the OTHER school. The new school. In which I’m learning how to be a more authentic human, comfortable in my own uncertainty and in sitting with the pain of others. I’m excited to have new people in my life, the kind that want to know everything and be vulnerable because that’s what makes us humans, and we’re all in this life together.

One of my best friends pointed out that this year will make four years of friendship outside college. That means my very dear friends and I will have had more relationship time out of college than in college. Our friendships have changed, but my love for them hasn’t. I love the way I feel full and inspired, comfortable saying whatever comes into my head. I am moved by how they process through their worlds, and I learn something new whenever I am with them. May this never change.

I spent most of this year without dairy, eggs, grains, coffee, sugar, corn, soy, tomatoes, legumes, and alcohol. I still have friends. I still go out and do things. I have more energy and less anxiety. I have more drive to change the world and more ideas and information racing through me. I am confident and clear-headed. I am a more authentic version of myself, connected to my purpose and aching to help others connect to their own.

I am hopeful. I believe more than ever that people have an innate ability to heal themselves and to find what is good in the world. I want 2018 to be a year of reconnecting people with their “guts.” When I listen, to myself and to others, with my ears and with my gut, I learn. May I continue to listen in this more holistic way.

This post, I hope, is a reminder:

You already have everything that you need. 


What I Won’t Change (at all) in 2018

How I Made Peace With the Holiday Shortbread Cookies

The holidays, for me, are the hardest time of the year to be healthy.

Last year at this time, I was at a Christmas party where a pile of those fantastically buttery delicious shortbread cookies sat in the middle of the buffet table.

I had been half-heartedly gluten free after a food sensitivity test had come back negative for gluten. However, it was also positive for dairy and eggs and sugar – all the things normally present in large quantities in delicious buttery shortbread. The cookies and I had a stare-off for a while as I circulated, aware all the while of their constant, alluring presence. Then, seemingly without any conscious decision on my part, I walked over and ate one.

I ate one more. I ate another. I ate eight after that. It was as if I had come out of  an intense period of cookie starvation, and my body was telling me how much I needed that cookie. With every one I ate, I was compelled to eat another one, on and on until the end of the night.

That’s my memory from that party last year. Isn’t that sad? It upsets me a little to think that I had more of an interaction with the cookies than with my friends. Ultimately, that night was the reason I decided to start my 2017 with a January Whole30 and never look back.

I’m proud to say that I have not had many moments like that one this year. I’m proud because it took a lot of hard work. I had to learn a lot about myself. I had to consciously become aware of my body, my feelings, my needs in each moment. I had to concede that caffeine makes my stomach hurt and sugar makes me depressed, even though I didn’t want to believe it. The whole year has been an exercise in humility and unlearning lifelong patterns. I’m creating an intentional new relationship with food, and sometimes it sucks and it’s hard.

Fast-forward to now, a new holiday season. I got just as much chocolate and just as many delicious homemade treats from my students as last year. I’m still attending holiday parties. And the cookies are calling to me.

One of the things I’ve learned this year is that deprivation is never healthy. Most fad diets, including programs like the whole30, restrict the food that you eat so drastically that it requires intense planning and forethought to follow them. Whole30 is big on the idea that you only do the program for 30 days. For a short period of time, the black and white rules make it easier to make healthy choices without reaching decision fatigue. But then what?

Back to the idea of deprivation: if I went around this holiday season saying to myself “I can’t have this,” “I can’t have that,” “sorry, kids, I can’t accept that gift because I won’t be able to resist having chocolate in my room and will eat it all in one sitting,” I would be miserable throughout the holidays. Refusing treats is sometimes refusing people’s love.

So I’ve told myself to relax. I’ve told myself that I can have a treat if I want it, but I have to really want it. I can have a chocolate on the last day of school before winter break in silent celebration of surviving a crazy quarter of work and school and personal transformation.

I’m not trapped in oscillation between the polar extremes of I can’t – I have to, like I was with those cookies.

In fact, after working so hard on my relationship with food this year, I’m more confident with treats. I know that I’ll have some if I want it, and I know that I’ll stop when it doesn’t taste or feel good. I might make some choices I regret, but I know that the choices I make tomorrow can be different.

Most of all, I know I have choices.  I’m not compelled, pulled, or unable to resist the temptation of a shortbread cookie. They’re cookies, and I can have one if I want, and I know how it will make me feel. If it’s worth it, then I go for it. If it’s not, I don’t.

It’s kind of like food freedom.

Melissa Hartwig says it best.

Food freedom also means that food is fun again. It means you feel free to play around with how much, how often, and in what quantity you can enjoy your favorite wine, a slice of birthday cake, or mom’s famous lasagna while still looking and feeling exactly as awesome as you want. You don’t obsess. You don’t get anxious. You aren’t stressed. You don’t restrict needlessly, or binge heedlessly. You make conscious, deliberate decisions around food, and sometimes you say yes, and sometimes you say no, and both are totally okay because you chose it.

You feel like you could do this for the rest of your life.

Food freedom doesn’t mean that you’re a perfect eater, however. It doesn’t mean you always make the “right” decision. It doesn’t mean you always stay on track, and never fall back into old habits. Food freedom means that when you fall off course, you don’t let it ruin your day (or your week), physically or emotionally. It means you always have a plan for returning to a place of healthy balance, gracefully. It means you recognize that life happens, but every “slip” is actually a learning experience, and your food freedom plan is that much more robust for these experiences.

Food freedom demands that you’re in this for the long haul. There is no hack for food freedom; no shortcut or quick fix. It’s you, working my 3-step program, day in and day out, every single day. There are no weeks off. There is no “Well, I’m on vacation, so I’m just not going to think about it.” You can’t disconnect from your body or your relationship with food when things get hard. Food freedom demands more attention than that.

Surviving the holidays is just like surviving every day of the rest of my life. It’s all about making conscious choices and paying attention to how I feel.

And even though, in my own words, “it sucks,” and “it’s hard,” it’s also incredibly worth it.

My life is different. I am awake, I am conscious, and I am managing my autoimmune disease. I have energy, I feel alive, and I feel free. It may be hard to believe that this all came from my food choices.

Really, it only started there, and it slowly spread to the rest of my life.

Greenlake as sun sets in Winter ❤
How I Made Peace With the Holiday Shortbread Cookies

You Have Everything You Need

This past week, I’ve been thinking about how difficult I currently find it to dive into something without knowing what will happen. I feel like I have a million ideas that are stopped before they even have a chance to progress. And it’s entirely me that’s stopping them.

I also have persistent fears that I’m not going to be “successful” at whatever I’m trying to do. I fear that nobody will give me a chance to show who I am and how I contribute to the world. I fear that I’ll try and set foot (or my ideas) into the world and people won’t respond in a positive way.

I am a lucky one – I have no evidence for these fears, no rational argument for why I should be afraid. I even have compelling evidence that I shouldn’t fear leaping into the world with reckless abandon. Yet I do.

I was standing on the corner of two streets that I walk literally three times a week on my way to school and back. I was listening to music, and the song “Midnight City” by M83 came on. It’s not really a remarkable song, but it pulled me so hard I stopped walking – suddenly, I felt like I was back in Paris.

I noticed the color of the trees. I stood up straighter. I filled up with a magical feeling of strength and opportunity. I used to listen to that song all the time as I was strutting the streets of Paris, in a pair of black boots I wore completely through, heading to unknown new destinations and recently familiar ones. It filled me then, and now, with a sense of possibility and adventure. A sense that the world is my oyster.

Even more than that, I had the sense that I was safe in the world. It wasn’t that nothing could go wrong (many things did in Paris, and they do now), but it was a feeling that I could handle whatever went. Whatever happened.

Somehow, in the past few years, that feeling disappeared. What replaced it? Anxiety, fear, uncertainty, doubt. An obsessive focus on the future and past but not on the present. I think I had those before, too. But I also had the other stuff.

Here’s what I wrote, June 1st 2013, as I was about to head back from my first adventure abroad, tired but feeling: successful, nostalgic, sad, optimistic, strong, free, hopeful.

“What I was most worried about bringing back was Paris Anne. I thought about whether or not Paris Anne could exist in a different environment, especially one that another Anne was so comfortable in. It’s absurd to think that spending 5 months in a foreign country would not change the way I look at what once was the only thing I really knew in the world- America. Redmond. Whitman. And I want to look at these things differently. I know I’ve changed, and I want to stay changed; the confidence, the new and improved language skills, the way I think about my social relationships…all of these feel different in Paris Anne, and I think I have grown more certain of who I am through my encounters with uncertainty.

But, in the midst of worrying about whether or not I would feel frustrated about no longer being in Paris, I realized that the self I’ve formed here is actually the only thing I will be able to bring back with me. I can’t bring back the city, the French ubiquity, the freedom, and I can’t bring back the same experiences. But my more evolved processes of thinking and learning and living will always be with me, and I can use them anywhere I want to. My new goal is to approach life at home like I approached life in Paris: return with the attitude that the best experiences of my life can happen anywhere, at anytime, with anyone.

So, my conclusion (in clichĂ© form): even if you take the Anne out of Paris, you won’t be taking Paris out of the Anne.”

I think that moment on the street reminded me of something important, just at the right moment.

That thing was:

I can keep learning, I can keep growing, I can keep making sense of my experiences, but I also, always, already have everything that I need.

Certainty, predictability, more degrees, more education, experience that comes with age – all are helpful. All are comforting.

But in an uncomfortable time, I find that what I need most is what I already had. What I need most is a reminder that the world is a huge, beautiful, safe and exciting place. Opportunities are everywhere. Not being certain is what enables learning, discovery, and growth. And above all, I can’t wait for my version of “success” to happen to me – I have to try things even if I don’t feel ready, prepared, or certain, at all.

Because we never know what will happen when we dive into the world wholeheartedly and embrace the adventure.


You Have Everything You Need