Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Write This

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, author Eat, Pray, Love

This week celebrates the tenth anniversary of a book that, quite literally, changed the lives of millions of people around the world. In fact, so many lives were touched in a profound way by Liz Gilbert’s bestselling “search for everything across Italy, India, and Indonesia” that this week she released her latest book, Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It. It’s a collection of stories written by a select few people who went on to do something big and important in their lives after reading EPL. And just like them, I too was touched by her story.

I was given EPL as a Christmas gift in 2007 by my dear friend Kelly. Little did I or Kelly know at that time that she had just given me, perhaps, the greatest present I have ever received.

Shortly before Christmas, I underwent the most traumatic event of my life. The months leading up to the holidays were filled with many hard-won accomplishments. That May, I had finally graduated from college after six years of working through and paying for school out of pocket. That September, I landed my first “real” job working in my field for the Brookings Institution, a prestigious public policy think tank in Washington, DC. That summer, I started dating someone I pined over during my college years. And by December I had saved up enough money to move out on my own and into a brand new, red-line-adjacent DC apartment. Life, by most calculations, was good. I had achieved all the things I worked so very hard for.

And that’s when the other shoe dropped.

I’m not sure I want to go public with the details at this time, but it is completely accurate and not at all hyperbolic for me to say that shortly before Christmas, I lost everything. I still had my degree, my job, my boyfriend, and my apartment, but everything else was gone. And I was distraught.

My amazing, beautiful, kind, and supremely generous friends came to my rescue quicker and stronger than I could have ever imagined and without me even having to ask. These women, each of them, are my soulmates. Their support during that time is something I have never taken for granted. Their constant friendship over years tells me I have done something right in my life for me to be surrounded by such wonderful and special people. But despite the strong support system I had in my girlfriends, even they couldn’t prevent the sadness, anger, confusion, and constant rumination that inevitably sets in when trauma occurs.

Falling into a depression, I found I absolutely hated being alone. And I hated silence. Silence forced me to listen to my thoughts. Incessant thoughts. At work, I would blast the music in my earphones so loudly that my coworker would have to ask me to turn it down. I would avoid going home for as long as possible, staying late at work and even coming in to the office on weekends. I would do anything to avoid going home. When I finally did go home, I would rush into my empty and quiet apartment to turn on the television. Even just a few seconds of silence were too much.

I spent as much of my weekends as possible at my boyfriend’s house where I seldom talked about what happened. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t want to burden him. I thought if he saw me always smiling, positive, and strong –capable of handling my emotions on my own– that his feelings towards me would grow stronger. And frankly, he seemed entirely fine with not having to hold me up emotionally. He never asked how I was handling everything. Never commended me on how well I was handling it all. Nothing. My projected strength allowed him to complain to me about the trivial things going on in his world without so much as batting an eyelash at the absurdity of his coworker drama in contrast to my actual trauma. I was there to support him through the minutia of his life, but I didn’t dare bother him with the heavy trauma in mine.

Although I played the role of an impossible Superwoman, sparing him from having to be a supportive boyfriend, on Valentine’s Day 2008, my boyfriend apparently felt I hadn’t weathered enough and decided that day was an appropriate day to breakup with me. After calling several girlfriends after midnight on the 15th to cry over the breakup, and then watching The Notebook (just keep pouring that salt, girl!) I cracked open Eat, Pray, Love for the first time.

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“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, author Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love is the first book I recall ever receiving, as an adult, as a gift. It’s the first book I recall, as an adult, voraciously reading. Though it was a distraction for me, rather than avoiding reality, reading it forced me to confront it. Reading forced me to sit in silence and be comfortable in it. Reading precluded me from blasting my music or having the TV on in the background. I found pleasure in absorbing the words. The words were therapy and Liz was my therapist. But instead of me having tell her my story, she told me hers. And in reading her story, I found she already knew mine.

She didn’t know the details of my story, or, you know, me, but she knew my pain. She knew my hurt, anger, and confusion. She had a record on repeat in her head too. It was almost hard to believe I, a single woman of color in her mid-twenties just starting out in her life and career, found myself relating to a divorced white woman and successful author approaching her forties. And yet we somehow got each other.

But it wasn’t just the recognition of pain that healed me. I lived vicariously through her journey, as we all did. I found joy in her joy of eating and touring Italy. I felt calm and peacefulness while she struggled with the geet in India. And my broken heart was mended as she found love in Bali. Her words and her story allowed me to process my own circumstances in a healthy and productive way. Her words gave me new perspective. Food for my nutrient starved thoughts.

Life didn’t magically turn around for me once I read EPL. I still struggled. I still hurt. The tape still played, but not as loudly or as frequently. And sure, time does heal all wounds. But because of EPL, the wound clock sped up, and I started to see the many blessings all around me. No matter what, no one or nothing could ever take my achievements away from me. If I still wanted to have the happy life I had always been working towards, I had to relentlessly pursue it.

By spring 2008, I was volunteering a few times a week at a local yoga studio. I explored DC with friends and on my own. I learned to be comfortable in silence and by myself. I felt less anxious about being alone in my apartment. I got a library card and read book after book. I started dating again. I volunteered for an Obama phone bank that fall. And instead of spending my evenings in the office working, I started a fashion blog at the suggestion of a colleague.

None of these things I attributed to EPL at the time (maybe the yoga…). The healing is what I gained from Liz’s story. And a new soulmate.

Each year, as an homage to EPL and Liz, I make a trip to Mecca and reread the same worn copy Kelly gave me nine years ago at Christmas. This past fall, I went to a book sale at my local library where they had a copy of EPL. I bought it in hopes that someday I can do for someone else what Kelly did for me. I guess you can say Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It.

Five Month Update: Part II

Ok, now that I got the obligatory “what was so important you abandoned your brand new blog for five whole months?” guilt out the way, let’s talk about the fun stuff! If you read my last post then you saw that I am now engaged! (EEE!) My boyfriend of two and half years proposed to me on Christmas morning with a video compilation of messages from some of my closest friends and our dearest family members, and it was absolutely the most perfect, memorable, emotional, and wonderful moment of my life. I ugly cried through it all, and at the end, the man of my dreams dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him. Le sigh!

One month ago today. 😍💍 ❤️

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As an artist, it was important my fiance have a hand in designing the ring while taking into consideration the things I always wanted in a ring. My main criteria was: an Asscher cut center stone with baguettes, and sapphires–either a sapphire center stone or sapphire side stones. Sapphire is the September birthstone, and my entire life, ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted a sapphire ring. I always hoped I would get one for my birthday, or graduation, or Christmas, but alas the sapphire remained a dream. So not only did my fiance make my every dream come true last Christmas when he proposed, but the cherry on top was the ring I had longed for since a little girl. My cup runneth over!

Ok, I finally decided to do a ring shot ☺️ Happy Friday! #sapphire #TeamCoJo #CoJo2016

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Just about every proposal is a beautiful story and I believe that every good person deserves an equally wonderful proposal and love story. I plan to write a post about being ready for love and marriage versus wanting it, because I know so many women, and men, think they are the first, but are actually the second. It was something I had to learn, and boy did I learn the hard way! Being ready for that type of love takes a lot of self-awareness, which doesn’t always come easy…but that’s a story for another time.

For now, I’m excited to share this wonderful news with you all! In fact, this week we finally settled on our wedding plans! There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we know exactly how we want to get married and what type of wedding we want, and so now planning is actually becoming fun (as opposed to a burden which it was starting to feel like).

What I actually want to share with you today is an interesting story about numbers. J.M. and I went on our first date on September 25th – two days after his birthday and two days before mine (fun fact: he’s the only Libra I’ve ever dated and Libras are the only zodiac sign that is compatible with itself…IJS!). So we love our anniversary and want to keep it as our wedding date. Three months ago today, on December 25th, he proposed to me. Six months from today, on September 25th, we will get married. And October 25th, five months ago today, was when I published my last blog post. So what does all this 25 mean?

I have no idea.

But as you can likely tell, I’m a little hippy-dippy with astrology, numbers, and finding meaning in life’s little coincidences. I’m not saying this number thing means anything, but it feels special that after three frustrating months of trying to nail down this wedding, we finally have a plan, and on the 25th I am back to blogging. Something about all of this numeric coincidence feels special to me…which is all the meaning I need!

Do numbers, signs, coincidences etc. have special meaning to you? Do you look for a deeper meaning in life’s little oddities, or is this complete mumbo jumbo? What are some of the things you’ve found meaning in in the past?

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Five Month Update: Part I

Warning: Long post ahead!

Who starts a blog, writes two entries and then leaves it dormant for five months? This girl! I know, for shame! But I told myself when I started this blog that I wouldn’t beat myself up over a strict posting schedule…though I certainly didn’t expect to drop off so quickly and for so long. What happened to cause me to drop my blog quicker than it started? A few things I suppose. I currently have around five posts in draft. Last fall, I was consumed with writing and perfecting these posts. The ideas were flooding. The words were flowing. And I was enjoying researching other blogs, videos, and articles I wanted to link to in these “brilliant” posts of mine. The writing came so freely, as it typically does for me, that I wanted to write instead of work, which is problematic when your employer is paying you to work, not blog. And then when I got home, my brain was fried and writing, after working out and cooking dinner, was the last thing I wanted to do. Vegging in front of the TV became my outlet. While entertaining, watching TV every night isn’t how I really want to spend my free time.

Also in early November my then-boyfriend-now-fiance (!) had a three-in-one shoulder surgery (rotator cuff, labrum, and a hole drilled in his humorous with the tendon of his bicep tied through and knotted on the other side of the bone. OUCH!). Needless to say, I was playing nurse, maid, chef, and a million other jobs that seemed to be a higher priority than writing. Then the holidays came and we got engaged (!), and now planning a wedding, and you can see how my brand new blog ended up taking a backseat to life.

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And yet, through this time, I have been in desperate need of a creative outlet. I need something that is 100% mine that I don’t have to share with anyone, owe to anyone, and need no one’s opinion, approval, or support for. Something I can start and stop at MY leisure. I guess it’s a way of taking complete control of something when so many other things in life are beyond your control but are your full responsibility. When you have a career, a fiance, a wedding to plan, medical bills to pay, taxes to file, groceries to shop for, a litter box to clean, etc, etc., it’s easy – especially for women – to neglect ourselves and give everything to everything else. I don’t even know how parents do anything for themselves.

Reading through all of this, it sounds like a lot of bellyaching and lamenting over very first-world problems. I don’t mean to sound whiny – I am firm believer that anything you want to do, you WILL do. You find a way and you get shit done. That’s certainly how I’ve lived life – nothing has come easy for me but I have found a way to accomplish all of my goals so far, and I believe I’m on my way to accomplishing the next batch of goals. Never stop reaching for that brass ring, right? Still, life happens and it’s easy to get sidetracked and stressed out and neglect our creative sides. Which brings me to now.

I have been thinking about my need to be creative and return to blogging for a while…pretty much ever since I dropped off blogging. But it was my fiance’s recent return to his first love, art, that got me thinking  it’s time my art became a priority for me.

My art is: reading, yoga, writing, being social, exploring new places and new things, and really doing something, for me, that makes me happy. Sometimes it’s cooking a new recipe for dinner, but mainly it’s those things I listed above. So I’m checking off one of those boxes right now: writing.

Tell me: what’s your art/outlet? What’s your creative outlet? Is it something that you own 100%? Do you hold yourself accountable to your art? How do you balance life and art? I would really love to know your thoughts, so leave me a comment – it’ll help me check off the “social” box 🙂

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Low-Carb, High-Protein Oatmeal (or not) Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

My beau J.M. woke up this morning with a hankering for pancakes (actually, he wanted crepes, a la Ricky Bobby…so pancakes it was!). Because we’re both fairly health conscious and try to eat clean as much as possible, I went to work looking for a new pancake recipe.

I’ve made cottage cheese and egg pancakes before and we both loved them. It sounds weird to make pancakes with cottage cheese and eggs, but when blended, you can’t feel a single curd and the batter takes on the flavor of the spices. I wanted something more autumnal, so I found a great recipe for hearty oatmeal pancakes with a pumpkin spice touch from Linda at Eating Well Living Thin. I have to say, for a first time recipe, I was really happy with how they turned out! I pinned the recipe if you’d like to add it to your Pinterest recipe board!

I tend to deviate from original recipes to make things just the way I like them  — do you do that too? So the version below is my take on Linda’s original recipe. But before I get into the directions, you should know a few things about these pancakes. They have a different texture then you’re likely used to. If you’ve ever had the Harvest Grain ‘N Nut pancakes from IHOP these have a very similar texture to that, especially since I added shredded coconut to the batter (I LOVE coconut). The texture and flavor reminded me of eating an oatmeal cookie! In fact, I might make these again with raisins in the batter to see if I can achieve a true oatmeal raisin pancake!

However if you or your family has an issue with texture and prefer the traditional pancake consistency (like J.M. does), simply substitute coconut flour (to keep pancakes low-carb) in place of the ground oatmeal.

Without any further ado, I bring you my take on Low-Carb, High-Protein Oatmeal Pumpkin Spice Pancakes! (PS – I am NOT a food photographer or food stylist, but hopefully these photos convey yumminess of these pancakes!)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oatmeal, ground (measure BEFORE grinding in a food processor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3-4 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or combination of other sweet spices you like)
  • ½ cup of shredded coconut
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Step 1: In a large bowl combine the ground oatmeal, baking soda, brown sugar, shredded coconut (optional) and spice.

Step 2: In a blender or food processor, blend together the eggs, cottage cheese, milk, and vanilla. This will smooth out the lumps from the cottage cheese.

Step 3: Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients and stir to combine. To make this super easy, throw the wet mix and the dry mix into the blender or food processor, after grinding the oatmeal, and pulse until just combined. My batter photo shows when you blend the wet mix, but stir in the dry mix. Linda says when adding all of the ingredients into the blender, the batter will have the texture and look of regular pancakes.

Step 4: Heat a frying pan over medium-low heat. Spray with vegetable cooking spray.

Step 5: Drop 1/3 cup of batter into pan and fry until golden on the bottom (about 4-5 minutes). Flip and continue cooking for another 2 minutes or until firm.

Serving: Makes 7 – 8 pancakes.

Nutrition: Per Pancake: 118 Calories; 7 g Protein; 5 g Tot Fat; 5 g NET Carbs; 2 g Sugar; 166 mg Sodium

So what do you think? Would you eat cottage cheese, egg, and oatmeal pancakes? Do you have an issue with texture or are you a little more adventurous? Leave a comment and let me know!

Maiden Voyage

Ahoy there! Welcome aboard our maiden voyage! (Don’t worry, I’m not going to speak in sailing puns the entire time). I’m excited to start this new venture, though admittedly I don’t yet know what this new venture will actually be about.

While this blog is new for me, I am not new to the blogging community. I came up during the first wave of fashion bloggers back in 2008 when I wrote at the blog District Couture. My love of writing and style led me to start a fashion blog which turned into a job blogging and managing social media for a private label clothing brand. I was one of those lucky folks whose blog turned into an actual job! Not long after blogging about fashion became my full time job, blogging about fashion in my free time started to feel like work, and poof went my creative outlet. It was a great ride for awhile, but let’s just say all that glitters is not gold. As a result, I lost some of my passion for fashion, and I let District Couture fall by the wayside, which I felt tremendously guilty about for some time. Perhaps I’ll discuss “blogger guilt” in a future blog post.

After taking a few years off from blogging — and switching jobs, and moving to two new cities — I am back in the blogosphere as Maiden September (you can learn about the name here). I’ve tossed and toiled about what this blog would be about for quite some time now. I spent so much time thinking it through that I now realize I wasted valuable time actually being creative and having fun with my blog.

I don’t know yet what Maiden September will be about. It’s a blog in search of a genre. (Right now, it’s about me doing anything to avoid doing the dishes…) I do know that I used to love writing and I need to get back to that. I’m blessed (and you’re cursed) because I can type as fast as I can think (so you may want to save yourselves now because there’s a high likelihood of verbose posts in the near future). I know that I have a lot I want to share and if no one reads this blog but me, that’s ok. I’m the only person this blog has to answer to and that actually feels pretty good!

So after overthinking it for far too long, my fingers are now in control and you and I are along for the ride. Thank you for joining me on this, our maiden voyage. Now let’s go wherever the wind blows us.

Elizabeth Goudge The Scent of Water