Mindfully Ever After

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a fair maiden who longed for her prince to whisk her away from her circumstance and help her to live happily ever after.

OK, so “once upon a time” is really about four years ago, “a faraway land” is New jersey, “a fair maiden” is (yep, you guessed it, ME) and I never really longed for a prince to whisk me away, per se… but I did wish to live happily ever after.

I was in the depression of my life.

“Quarter-Life Crisis” hit me in the middle of getting used to being a single mom of a baby, moving across the country, having no job and living on government money, and being extremely overweight and unhealthy.  There is probably a few more details I am skipping, but you get the gist.  I was desolate, confused, hopeless and I felt like it would never change.

I tried my hardest to pick myself up.  I moved in with family, walked outside with my son as often as possible, I cleansed a lot, I did a bunch of yoga and running, I even found a fun job. Things were okay for a couple of months and then… I stopped. I don’t know why… I just stopped.  I felt the burden of the job that I was in, which took me away from my son for twelve and fourteen hours a day, I stopped making time to exercise because I was too tired, and I only found time to eat on the run so my body felt cruddy.

I wanted the change to stick but, like all the years of trying before during each of the, what I call “mini-depressions”, (all of the dieting and cleansing… all of the exercise routines…all of the feeling good) I just stopped every time I started getting the hang of the routine. I knew I had the brains to do it- I reminded myself that I am a college graduate and I worked hard to obtain that.  Yet, I could not get off the cycle.  I hated that piece of myself.  I hated the quitter in me that reared her ugly head every time I started to gain some ground and get my emotions under control.

I was 36 years old and had been doing the same things I had done all of my adult life ~ When life got in the way, I left ME behind.  I always did well at the job I was doing because that mattered more than anything else.  All the other stuff (like taking care of myself) just fell to the wayside.

It took me three more years of listing my grievances with myself until I sat in the emotion.

I stood still and listened instead of spewing out the venomous words of who I imagined myself to be.  I still hated myself for my patterns, but I was finally in a place to begin to accept my faults and move forward.  Instead of trying to control my emotions, I let them do their thing and I just… listened.

After a couple of months of this, I realized that I was ready to try again.  I didn’t know what to do, but I knew something needed to change now. I figured I would begin with food, since that would help me to feel good now. I had been eyeing an add that I kept seeing on my FB page called, “Sexy, Fit Vegan” and I decided that it would teach me how to become a vegan, which was a life-goal of mine (living in an Italian family made it tough as resisting cheese was not my strong suit). So, I reached out to Ella Magers and we talked.

Oddly, the discussion about becoming a vegan lasted about eight minutes but the conversation lasted over thirty minutes.  Instead of talking about food, Ella asked me questions about me and who I believe myself to be.

She literally said, “If you want an eating plan, I can send you a book.  If you want a life change, that’s where I can really help.”  I wanted a life change.

After a day of deliberation, I called her back and (hesitantly) told her I wanted in.  Something felt different this time, but I was still so apprehensive considering I was a quitter and I knew that about myself.  I questioned spending more money just to be back in the same place I always wound up in.

I didn’t know what could come of the program, but I figured I would trust the process. After all, the Universe has my back, right?

From day one, I decided to go in it full-force and be “perfect” about it (same habit as always).  I exercised that day… woke up at before dawn and meditated, did yoga and ran.  Then I played with my son and went to work.  During lunch break, I was tired, but I listed to all the module one videos and printed out the materials to begin when I got home.  Can you guess what happened when I got home?  Yep- I had to make dinner, give my son a bath, get myself ready for bed, prepare lunches for the next day and then… I crashed.

The exact same cycle happened for five straight days.  Day six, I skipped the morning meditation, yoga and run to sleep in.  I had already felt like a failure just six days in.  However, I believe myself to be the Queen of Reinvention, so I put my big-girl panties on and tried again.

I decided to take a breath and do it differently this time; start small to get big results.  I began focusing on what mattered instead of trying to be perfect.  This change needed to happen for me this time… not because I wanted to look a certain way or focus on my future self. The change needed to happen to focus on my current self… to be a better me now.

In the next few months, I meticulously worked my way through the modules.  I drank in every bit of wisdom like it was the last water on earth.  I listened intently to the videos, I participated in the check-ins, I did my homework and I began to let go little by little.  Along the way, so much came up that I didn’t even realize was on my heart- and I still did the work.

Along the way, anger boiled within me and sadness took over- and I still did the work.  Along the way, regret and shame came up quite a bit- and I still did the work.  Along the way, I wanted to quit and I even wavered on my ability to handle more- and I still did the work.  Moving away from perfection has allowed me to become my true, authentic self.

Fast forward through six months of letting go, understanding, accepting, getting angry, celebrating, disappointment, and just breathing and I have come to the realization that I am pretty freaking awesome!

I like me… I never really liked me before. And that woman who was always a quitter… I understand her now.

I understand that the obsessive exercising and cleansing and crash diets were simply a band aid.  I understand that waking up at 4:30am to do what “should” be done was not sustainable because she didn’t know why it mattered to take care of herself.  I understand that she was so broken inside that a quick fix was never going to be the answer.  She and I are best friends now and we work together to pick up every little piece one-by-one to weave together our beautiful life quilt.

Sure, along the way, I also became a vegan… but that was not until six months into the program, when I was at a place where I truly let go of the emotions I was holding onto so tightly.

It is only now that I realize that counting calories and weighing food and constant dieting is NOT the way I want to live… it is simply too stressful.  I like eating in alignment with my beliefs and I like feeling good about what I am putting into my body and THAT is why I am a vegan. But I had to clear out a lot of who I thought I was to know who I really am.

And so, she lives… mindfully ever after.

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Jamie Rottura

Jamie Rottura

As a Professor of Environmental Science and an Energy-Efficiency Educator, Jamie teaches her students the environmental impacts of food the global benefits of plant-based eating. Having struggled with disordered eating for most of her life, she is no stranger to feelings to inadequacy and self-hatred. Completing Ella's Plant-Empowered Coaching Program and adopting a vegan lifestyle has given her freedom from guilt, anger, anxiety and depression and allows her to enjoy living in complete alignment with her beliefs.
Jamie Rottura

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