I’d looked in books and magazines and television specials. I’d been suckered into buying the latest greatest product on TV. I’d tried weight watchers: paying month after month so that I could go to that weekly meeting, weigh myself, and then walk into a room full of sad people who hated their bodies, just like me. Every day I was chasing this thing. This magic bullet. And every day I failed to reach that goal: To be thin. To be beautiful. I was exhausted and I was frustrated and I felt like a failure.
So that morning when I stood next to my husband looking in the bathroom mirror, I let down my guard for a minute and I asked him sincerely.
“Honey, what’s my problem? I feel like I’m a walking encyclopedia of weight loss advice, but I just can’t seem to be able to do it for some reason. There’s a disconnect, and I don’t know how to get past it.”
“Well . . . I think you need to eat less. Control your portions. You can put down a lot of food sometimes.”
It was the logical answer. But this didn’t answer my question. Not at all. Why couldn’t I grab hold of this elusive goal? Why couldn’t I “just do it” and lose the weight? I felt like if I could just do this, I would be happy.
That afternoon I had my regularly scheduled massage therapy appointment. Meggie greeted me with the same excited smile that I’d come to expect from her. “Emily! How great to see you! How are you!?” She crushed me with a tight hug that made me feel like a million bucks. It was her job to make people feel amazing, and she was a pro at it. But there was one thing about Meggie that caught me off guard. She had tattoos. And where I come from, only bikers and metal heads and people who have made bad decisions in their life have tattoos.
You see, I lived in Utah. And not just Utah: Provo, Utah. Where 88% of the population is Mormon. And yes, I was Mormon. Very Mormon. I believed that “Your body is a temple. You don’t smoke. You don’t drink. You most certainly don’t defile your temple with tattoos.” So Meggie? She was a little bit . . . exotic. And from what I was taught to believe, she shouldn’t so happy and uplifting. But she was. And I was intrigued.
While I was getting ready for my massage I saw a chart on the wall. It outlined Chakras. I’d heard of them before, but I didn’t put much faith in that kind of stuff. However, this chart caught my eye because it showed that each Chakra has a musical note assigned to it. Interesting. So at one point during the session, I asked with great curiosity “What’s a Chakra?” Meggie had been an instructor at the local massage therapy school, so she was totally ready to answer this question.
“Well, there are seven Chakras, or energy centers, in your body — running from the top of your head to the base of your spine, and each Chakra channels energy or prana through your body. Our life experiences can impact these energy centers in our bodies. We carry around emotions. And sometimes those emotions can slow down or close a Chakra. This keeps the energy from flowing through the body. It keeps us from processing situations in a healthy manner. It can keep us from reaching our goals and it can even make us sick. But if we take the time and do the work to clear our Chakras and get the energy flowing again, we can get “unstuck” and reach goals we’ve been unable to achieve.”
Wow. Talk about serendipity. I obviously needed this.
“So, what’s a goal that you’re trying to reach right now? What do want in your life?”
It wasn’t easy to say for me to say what I wanted. My weight’s a touchy subject for me. But I trusted Meggie. “I want health. I want to be healthy.”
“OK, and what’s standing in your way of that?”
“I dunno. It’s really frustrating. I know what I need to do in order to become healthy, but I just can’t seem to be able to do it.”
“What do you mean by healthy? Define that for me?”
“I want to lose weight. I want to be in shape. And I don’t want it for cosmetic reasons. I want it for my own health and happiness.”
“Yeah . . . I guess.”
“OK, let’s work with that. Go ahead and close your eyes and think about your goal.”
Meggie gently placed her hands at the crown of my head. She was quiet. Then I felt something. A warmth. A radiating, peaceful energy. And it wasn’t coming from her hands. It was coming from my head. Her hands were just . . . cradling it. Pulling it out. Helping it come to life.
“Whenever we set out to achieve something, we have to take certain steps. I like to associate each Chakra with one of those steps. If our Chakras are open and energy is flowing, achieving our goal comes easier.”
The energy was really strong at the crown of my head now, and Meggie slowly moved her hands to hover over my forehead.
“I want you to picture yourself healthy. What does that mean to you? I need you to be specific. What are you wearing? Are you wearing makeup? What does your hair look like? Maybe you’re in a dress. Maybe your hair is blonde, or red, or blue! Maybe you even have a little tattoo somewhere.”
I almost laughed. I would never get a tattoo. Seriously?
But then . . . I saw Her, or rather, I saw Me. I was thinner. I was wearing a black button down shirt with cute casual jeans and good sturdy shoes. I was wearing makeup. My hair was long and curled around my face. I had a huge smile on that face. And yes, I did have a little tattoo on my shoulder. And I kinda liked it.
Meggie moved her hands to hover over my throat. “I want you to repeat after me, in your mind. I am: healthy. I am: strong. I am: beautiful. I am: at a healthy weight. I am: happy. I am: confident. Say it in your mind.
“I am healthy. I am strong. I am beautiful.”
“I can’t. I can’t say those things. They’re not true”
“I want you to say them anyway, Emily. Say them in your mind. Just say them. Don’t worry if they’re true or not. Take your time. Don’t force it. Just relax, and repeat after me. I am healthy. I am strong. I am beautiful.”
“OK. I am healthy.” (“No, you’re not,” the bully said.)
“I am strong.” (That’s true. I’ll give you that. You are strong.)
“I am beautiful.” (Whatever. Stop lying.)
I wasn’t gonna let them win. Not this time. I was strong.
“I am strong. I am healthy. I am beautiful.”
I could feel it. This Chakra, the throat — it was very closed. Saying these things was almost painful. But I kept saying them. Over and over.
I am healthy. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am healthy I am strong. I am beautiful.
Slowly but surely, Meggie’s hands moved to hover over my heart. “Keep saying the words,” she said. “Keep saying them, and get excited about them. Get excited to so healthy, to be so strong, to be so beautiful.” I kept repeating the words. I pictured myself, once more, that healthy, cute version of me. I felt my heart warm up.
“There you go! I can feel it now. I can feel your excitement. I can feel your heart! Do you feel that? You’ve got this!”
And that’s when it happened. Like a light switch was turned on, flooding my mind with one simple, beautiful realization. This thing I’d been chasing? This person I’d been to trying to become? She wasn’t off in the distance somewhere. She wasn’t in meetings or books or infomercials. She was inside of me! She’d been there all along! Covered up by doubt and fear and isolation. Just waiting to be found. It was such a beautiful moment, and I started to cry. She was so beautiful! And she . . .was me. Me inside of me. And I loved her so much.
That’s when the lessons started. The lesson that every choice we make is based off of love or fear. And I realized that I had lived so much of my life doing things not because I wanted to, but because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t do them. I remembered deciding to marry my husband because I was afraid that nobody would ever love me like that again. How sad. There were so many realizations just like this.
One day as I drove to my appointment with Meggie, I found that my heart was beating pretty fast, and I was breathing fast, and my hands were tightly gripping the steering wheel. I’d been thinking about her all day, and the night before. It was that feeling that I’d felt so many times before. The feeling that I really liked this person, and this person was a girl, and those feelings were off limits. But they wouldn’t go away. So I went into Meggie’s office and she was coaching me about something… I don’t remember what. I was too nervous. I wanted to talk to her about God and the church and about how maybe…possibly…I might be gay? And I didn’t know what to do about it. I was just sitting there, waiting for an opportunity to speak my mind, when she suddenly switched topics.
“You know,” she said “I think everybody is a little gay.”
My eyes went wide.“Really?!”
My heart started beating again. Was she bi? Was she gay? I couldn’t tell. But maybe . . . just maybe I had a chance at a relationship with her. I hung on every word, and as I sat down to chat after our coaching session, I eventually mustered the courage to say it.
“You know, I think I might be a little bi.”
Meggie smiled and laughed a little. “Oh honey, I could have told you that months ago.”
“Yeah. Totally. Let me guess. You’ve spent your whole life making friends, friends who are girls, and you get really close, but then something happens and your friendship dissolves, and you’re heartbroken. Right?”
She had just told my life story from the time I was fourteen years old. Every heart break I’d ever experienced had been over a girl.
But wait! I was married! What was I supposed to do? I loved my husband. We had our problems, but we did love each other.
“Ok, you love him. You have a choice. You can talk to him and find out if he’s OK with you exploring these feelings. But I don’t think it’s healthy for you to continue denying them. Em, you’re probably gay, and it’s OK.”
I was so relieved. A giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I went home that night, and I sat down, and I said, “Honey, I need to tell you something. I like girls. I always have. I don’t know what I’m gonna do about it, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to bury these feelings any longer.”
“I always suspected,” he said. “Some of the stories you’ve told about past friends . . . it makes sense. And I agree. I think it would be good for you to get it out of your system. I think you should do whatever you want to do. I love you and I support you.”
Wow! I couldn’t believe how cool he was about it. Looking back, I think he thought it was a phase. Everybody did. I told my family. They weren’t too happy about it. They told me I was deceived. I told them I was happy for the first time in a really long time. Oddly enough, the only person who really seemed to understand was my husband. Probably because the strict, perfectionistic side of me was no longer there. I stopped going to church, and so he did too. He didn’t like it anyways. I started writing songs again. I added some color to my wardrobe which had been pretty brown and tan and bland up to that point. I started loving myself and stopped judging myself. I didn’t really judge anybody anymore. A fire was lit under me and I was doing the things I’d always wanted to try but had been too scared to do.
All of these changes occurred rapidly. And about a month after that initial session, Meggie invited me to hang out with her an her roommate one night. I was so excited to finally get a little deeper into her world. We had a blast laughing and talking and listening to music. And then . . . she offered me a drink. I declined at first, but the thought swirled in my mind. What would it be like? I was 29 years old and this was one thing that I had never tried. I’d been told since I was born that I didn’t drink. But that wasn’t a decision that I had made. It was a decision that had been made for me.
“Actually, I will have a drink”
“Yeah. I’m ready.”
She poured me her own creation. A glass of Crystal Light with a shot of Parrot Bay Passion Fruit Rum and just a splash of Fresca. I remember holding that tall curvy glass and thinking “This is it. There’s no turning back. If I take this drink, I’ll be crossing the line. I could be kicked out of church. And what will my husband think? This is the real deal.” Looking at that glass in my hand was like looking back over my shoulder at a hallway of beliefs, and standards, and promises I’d made. And then drinking from that glass? That would be walking through the door in front of me, shutting the door behind me, and never having a chance to go back.
It was terrifying.
And I took the drink.
It was sweet. I could barely taste any alcohol at all. But after a few minutes, I felt . . . calm. Relaxed. Really, really good. And I totally understood why people did this. This was a good feeling.
One drink was all I had that night. I let it wear off and I drove home to greet my husband. With a silly, giggly smile on my face, I let him know what I’d done. He was surprised. Not very pleased. But he could see that I was happy, so he didn’t make a big deal out of it. I would find out later that this upset him more than anything I had said up to that point. Because this wasn’t just saying I wanted to cross the line, this was actually crossing the line.
As far as our marriage goes, it was all downhill from there. We were separated within a year. I was out of the closet completely within two years. My family wasn’t happy. But I was happy. For the first time in my life, I was living for me. I was following my heart. I didn’t do things out of fear or obligation anymore. I did them because I wanted to. I did everything that I could to follow my gut. And eventually, my gut led me here, to Seattle.
Before I left Utah I went to Meggie’s house and I gave her a parting gift. I handed her a small box with 3 antique keys inside. “You gave me keys,” I said. “Lots of keys. Some of them I turned, and the consequences of turning those keys were both beautiful and painful. But I chose which keys I turned, I chose which doors I walked through, and I am so grateful that you handed me those keys. That’s what you do. You give people keys. And it’s up to them whether or not they turn them.”
I like to say that the process I went through as a result of those moments in Meggie’s office was an “unboxing.” I had learned over the years to limit myself and conform to the box of beliefs and teachings that I was handed as soon as I left my mothers womb. Breaking out of that box was both liberating and terrifying. But it was one of the most beautiful, most loving, most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I am myself now. Through and through. I speak my truths. I live my truths. I base my decisions on love, or at least I try to. And every day, I’m grateful for those three simple phrases. The phrases that were so hard for me to say before? Well, they’re not so hard anymore. Because I am healthy, I am strong, and I am beautiful.