Brighter Days | Music Monday

Turbulence continues to rock the world and 2022 isn’t the fresh start many of us hoped for.  Added stress from persistent and escalating world events is the last thing those of us with chronic illness need to add to our lives.  Stress increases my inflammation and swelling so – as much as I care – I’ve unplugged from the news for the past month.  Work is tough, my personal life is tough, and the last thing I want to think about is global doom. 

To keep stress at bay, I stick to my self-care routine as much as possible.  In addition to standard lipedema protocols such as compression, exercise, and keto, I also meditate every day.  I use Headspace and I’ve been repeating the 10-day self-compassion series nonstop for the past six months.  It walks through offering love and compassion to yourself, to someone you love, and someone you are having difficulties with.  There is no doubt that it shifts something in my energy – within a few weeks my usually standoffish cat started curling up under my arm as soon as I started.  I never thought I’d be the kind of person who meditates, but I started two years ago around the same time I got my FlexiTouch pump. Pumping and meditation were a great pair.  Meditation made me want to crawl out of my skin and my pump kept me from being able to escape!

The other way I combat stress is with music and I usually find myself scrolling through songs either before or after I meditate.  That’s how I found today’s pick, Brighter Days by Emeli Sandé.  It’s the perfect, uplifting song for stressful days and is sure to set the mood for a good week.

We’ve seen it all
The tears have fallen
And every step is on the edge
And we’re so confused
We don’t understand
It feels like this night won’t end
But there’s gonna be brighter days
Brighter Days
I’ll keep you lifted when you’re losing faith
There’s gonna be brighter days
Brighter days
Though it seems distant, know the world will change

Emelie Sandé “Better Days”

How does stress impact your health and well being, Sturdy readers?  How do you keep it under control and stay present for your one beautiful life?  Drop me a note in the comments and let me know what works for you. I’ll try it out!

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Love My Life | Music Monday

In 2011, I joined the Peace Corps and moved to Liberia, West Africa.  Peace Corps is a government program that sends Americans overseas on two-year assignments to live and work in communities around the world.  (Life Magnanimous is my blog about that part of my life.)  I was searching for adventure, but also trying to make meaning of my one precious trip on this planet.  In 2004 my younger brother died suddenly after being hit by a car.  He was 18 and I was just two years older.  While most 20-somethings were applying to graduate school and starting careers, I was trying to make up for lost time… time I’d spent playing it safe and following all the rules. 

My own mortality was a constant shadow in the corner whispering live, live, live NOW.  I responded by losing 130 pounds, quitting my job, ending an engagement, and moving to Liberia.  I’d never been out of the country so it was ballsy and brave and as close as I could get to jumping off a cliff without really doing it. 

Nothing about Liberia made sense, but everything felt right, most of all the song blaring out the window of every taxi and from the radio on every porch.  Demarco’s Love My Life was a constant celebration of life and reminder to squeeze it for every last drop – I did then and I still do today. Even now, I play Love My Life regularly to remind myself to be present and grateful for what I have, which is the daily opportunity to make different choices and show up for myself. 

This is underscored by the video.  It starts with a man in a hospital bed battling for his life. When Love My Life comes on the radio, he gets up and, still wearing his hospital gown, walks back in time through the day.  He finally climbs the stairs to his bedroom and sees himself sitting on the bed contemplating suicide.  As if visited by his own shadow of mortality, he puts down the bottle of pills and hugs his wife instead. 

As lipedema women, we often focus on the past – when things were better – or the future – when we think things will be worse.  The truth, however, is that all we have for certain is the present.  What can you do today that your future self will be grateful for?  What small thing can you do to celebrate your one precious life and feel more alive?  It could be pressing play on Love My Life and dancing with yourself, going for a walk in the sun, or putting on your favorite outfit while working from home.  You don’t have to move halfway around the world to love your life or to live it to the fullest.  Each day is a fresh opportunity to unlock the magic that’s inside you.  Sturdy readers, today is your day.    

None of us know what tomorrow may bring
Because the future is hours away
So I’m going to live my life today

Demarco, “Love My Life”

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Be As You Are | Music Monday

Women, especially those living with lipedema, learn to apologize at an early age. We’re sorry for taking up space, having bodies that look different, and failing at diets that work perfectly for others. So many of us internalize the message that we are failing at the DIY project that is supposed to be our bodies. Sturdy readers, that is crap. It’s a big, scary pill to swallow, but you will be the most radiant, joyful, and successful when you put down everyone else’s baggage about your body. You weren’t born hating your body – the world taught you to do that. And just like anything you learned in school (except maybe math?) you are free to take it with a grain of salt. Heck, in this case, dump the whole salt shaker on that body shame nonsense and suck the life out of it. The most radical thing you can do is reclaim ownership of your self image. Play, laugh, dress up, and dance in the mirror. Better yet, skinny dip in the ocean like the people in today’s video.

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This week I am reminding myself to let go of the body shame baggage with Mike Posner’s Be As You Are. The main refrain is “just be as you are” and that’s such a beautiful reminder at the beginning of a new week. I think I’ll post that on the wall above my desk to remind me to gently excuse the world’s toxic labels and tune into a more authentic voice.

There are moments when you fall to the ground
But you are stronger than you feel you are now
You don’t always have to speak so loud
No, just be as you are
Life is not always a comfortable ride
Everybody has scars that they hide
And everybody plays the fool sometimes
Just be as you are

Mike Posner, ‘Be As You Are’

For years I entered every room braced for and anticipating failure, rejection, and chairs that couldn’t accommodate my lipedema hips. The past few years I’ve worked really hard to put down that shield and… share the precious blossom that’s me as I am. Here’s to having an authentic week!

Everything’s Going to Be Alright | Music Monday

Sturdy Readers, it was a hard weekend.  Sunday night, when I would have normally been writing this post, I found myself sitting on the bathroom floor instead, sobbing and reorganizing the toiletries under my sink.  It didn’t need to be done, but it felt like the right thing to do.  Monday I’m headed into the office for the first time in two years. I’ll still be working from home and I’m just cleaning out my desk, but the simple thought of going there unexpectedly triggered an avalanche of confusing feelings about my “old” life and my “new” life.

The last day I spent in the office was in March 2020 and I snuck out early so no one would see my tears.  The day before I’d been diagnosed with lipedema and lymphedema – two things I’d never heard of – and at the time it felt like a death sentence.  I couldn’t focus on work because all I wanted to do was search Google and, the more I did that, the more freaked out I became.  In the weeks that followed, as COVID shut down the world, I literally had nothing to do other than Google “lipedema” and “lymphedema”. In those moments, I couldn’t have imagined the strong, confident, beautiful woman who would eventually return to the cubicle next to the office bathroom. 

Yet, sitting there on my own bathroom floor… that transformed woman was terrified of facing the ghost of her pre-lipedema self.  My file draw is full of trail mix I can no longer eat.  My bulletin board holds smiling pictures from a relationship that’s since ended. That woman doesn’t exist anymore.

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How I wish I could light a fire in the middle of the office and burn the contents of my desk, memories and all.  No thank you, I don’t need any packing boxes.  Forward.  All I want to do is move forward… but I can’t do that without cleaning out the demons.    

You probably know by now, that in moments of despair I reach for my headphones.  There, on the bathroom floor Sunday night, I put on what is usually my most upbeat Pandora mix.  After skipping a few total downers from Alannis Morissett and Sara Bareilles (what the heck were those doing in my dance mix?!) I landed on exactly what I needed.

Andy Grammer’s Lease on Life started mellow and I almost skipped it too, but I’m grateful I didn’t. The drums kick in full force, and he belts out “Everything’s gonna be alright, got a brand new lease on life.”

Like a sunrise on the longest night
Like a rescue coming just in time
Yeah, you save me when I cannot see the light
Everything’s gonna be alright
Got a brand new lease on life

Andy Grammer, “Lease on Life”

I nearly broke my cabinet door jumping up to catch the name of the song and once I was up… I couldn’t help but start dancing, tears still rolling down my cheeks.  I hit repeat repeat repeat and before I knew it, I felt better.  That’s actually not surprising.  Did you know physical activity – any physical activity – is essential for ending a stress cycle? My constant encouragement for you to dance is evidence-based!

So, wherever you are today (hopefully not crying in the bathroom, but that’s ok too) press play on Lease on Life and move that body until the stress moves the hell out.  You got this

I Like Your Waist in Particular | Music Monday

What puts a smile on your face and makes you feel at home?  Maybe it’s a familiar meal, scent, or piece of clothing.  For me, in 2017, it was a song.  I had recently moved to Boston for graduate school, straight off six years in West Africa and I was miserable.  The people were cold, and the weather was colder.  I was deep in the throes of reverse culture shock and fighting a body that, with undiagnosed lipedema, I considered enemy number one.  In Liberia my clothes had literally been tailor-made and suddenly, back in the United States, I couldn’t seem to fit my exploding upper arms and thighs into even the ugliest clothes at Goodwill.

To boost my spirits on the frigid walk to school each morning I created a playlist called “I am strong” and blasted it while wishing I was anywhere else, in any other body.    Particula by Major Lazer & DJ Maphorisa was the far and away most played track on the list.  Not only does it feature cameos from some of Africa’s most well-loved modern musicians, but the beats demand to be danced to, and the fashions are the stuff of style dreams. If I closed my eyes and channeled equatorial sun, I could almost smell the now so distance mix of pepper dust and dried meat in the outdoor market or see the smiling faces of children gathered to dance on my porch. Passersby on the sidewalk couldn’t tell, but I was transported.

The lyrics start out smooth and cool.

They told me everybody’s
15 minutes in a different time zone
And since I have it at the moment
You’re the one I wanna shine my light on
Get your life, get your life, little mama
Won’t you get your life on

Major Lazer & DJ Maphorisa, “Particula”

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It then progresses to some of my all-time favorite song lyrics, including “ain’t nothing cooler than the wrong moves when you do them to the right song.”  Let me tell you, nothing I did in 2017 felt cool or seemed right but I could get through it with Particula as the soundtrack.  I hope, on this Music Monday, it feels like the right song for whatever new and awkward thing you are brave enough to try. 

The song continues almost immediately with “nobody’s trying to bring sand to the beach” which always sets me off and puts me in my groove.  What a great reminder to bring something new and different… which is exactly what you are when you show up as you.  And just at the moment Particula has you wondering if it’s safe to do that, it launches into a refrain that’s perfect for Sturdy Women everywhere.

I like you, girl, in particular
You in particular
I like your waist in particular

Major Lazer & DJ Maphorisa, “Particula”

The video then launches into one of the best dance sequences I’ve seen, complete with a Dance Dance Revolution battle and a synchronized performance with plastic drink crates.  If you can watch it without tapping your foot, bobbing your head, or jumping out of your chair… check your pulse.

So, my question to you, Sturdy reader, is could you dare to love your waist—your body—in particular?  What can you bring to the beach today that isn’t sand?  Could you allow yourself to do the wrong moves and trust your heart will sing the right song?  Imagine the colorful, funky, perfect dance party that would break out in your soul if you allowed yourself to feel at home here and now, exactly as you are.  Press play below and invite it in with Particula

Someday | Music Monday

Today we wrap up January, Sturdy readers.  How did it go for you?  I’ll be honest.  I haven’t written about it here, but it’s been a hard month for me.  Winter is never my season.  The cold.  The darkness.  None of it charges my batteries.  It’s no wonder, then, that over the past week I found myself listening to this week’s Music Monday selection on repeat whether walking, sitting at my desk, or dancing in the kitchen.  There are none of the horns, funky beats, or electronic hooks that I usually fall for, but “Someday” by OneRepublic is hopeful, steady, and makes me feel like I’m on the right track… all I need to do is keep going.  I’d never heard it before it popped up on my Pandora, but as soon as I realized I was bopping my head, clapping my hands, and finally breaking it down to the refrain, I knew it would be the the musical glue for my week.

Somedays I’m treading water and feel like it’s getting deep
Some nights I drown in the weight of the things that I think I need
Sometimes I feel incomplete, yeah

OneRepublic “Someday”

Do you ever feel like that, Sturdy readers?  Maybe you had some Sunday Scaries yesterday and already feel anxious about your inbox and to-do list?  Hold on.  The beat is about to pick up.

Oh, you say someday when we’re older
We’ll be shining like we’re gold
Won’t we? (Won’t we?)
Yeah, someday when we’re older
I’ll be yours, and you’ll be mine, babe, happy

Oh, you say someday when we’re older
We won’t worry about the things that we don’t need
Yeah, one day down the line
Before we both run out of time
You’re gonna see
That someday we’ll be all that we need

OneRepublic “Someday”

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Ok, Sturdy reader, who do you assume they are talking about when they say “we”?  A romantic partner?  What if the we is really more of a me?  That’s how I listen to it.  Growing up with undiagnosed lipedema, I learned to be in constant battle with my body.  Why are YOU doing this to me?  Why can’t YOU just cooperate?!  My body wasn’t me.  It was something external and insolent, something to be disciplined, fought, and ultimately corrected.

But of course, my body is me and the past year I have been on a journey to reconcile the years of abuse I waged on her.  Part of that has been reminding myself that my body and I are a we not a me and a you

With that in mind, scroll back up and re-read those lyrics. 

“Someday we’ll be all that we need.”  Take a big breath and let that soak in.  Could someday be today?  Could you make peace with yourself and your body right here and right now on a Monday?  Press play and let those beats soak in.  We are sturdy.  We are strong.  We are all that we need to light this world on fire.

Ain’t Got Far to Go | Music Monday

Small steps add up, Sturdy Women.  This week I’ve been reflecting on life and how a couple years ago–even a couple months ago–I couldn’t have imagined where I am now.  A year ago, I was feeling discouraged with keto and thinking about giving up.  A year before that, I didn’t even know the word lipedema.  I was just gaining weight uncontrollably, unable to lose it, and rapidly losing my mobility.  But even when it was hard, I stuck with keto and I stuck with my other conservative treatments and here I am, down nearly 100 pounds and feeling so good on my walks I can’t hold myself back from running.   

The emotions are a jumbled mess of bad ass, proud, and confused.  Yes, confused.  My mind simply can’t wrap itself around what’s happened in my life and I can’t begin to guess what’s around the corner.  If a fortune teller were to predict that a year from now I’ll be a famous author or that I’ll own a hip coffee shop on the beach my response would be sounds about right.  I recently finished Najwa Zebian’s book Welcome Home (separate post coming about that) and in it she talks about how we simply don’t have enough information to plan or predict what’s going to happen very far in the future.  Sticking to a rigid plan closes us off to the other amazing possibilities lurking in the wings of what we think we should be doing.  Keep following the next best thing and you’ll probably be amazed where you quickly find yourself.

On this Monday morning I am reminding myself that more good things are coming with Jess Glynne’s “Aint’ Got Far to Go.”  Regular Music Monday fans know that I am a sucker for a funky beat and Jess delivers that from the first notes.  Do yourself a favor and put this on while you get dressed this morning.  You’ll be sure to dance your way into your brightest colors and boldest prints (how great are the wardrobes in the video?!). 

You might have more you want to do in life, Sturdy Women.  That’s ok but take a couple minutes to remind yourself how far you’ve come—probably against the odds—to get where you are right now.  Then remind yourself that you ain’t got far to go before you’re living the life of your wildest dreams. Scroll down, press play, and get your dance on this Monday morning.

I know (I know, I know)
That I ain’t got far to go
‘Cause I spent forever waiting
And it’s no longer a dream
And now I’ve landed on my feet
And I ain’t got far to go

Jess Glynne “Ain’t Got Far to Go”

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Mirror | Music Monday

It was another snowy weekend in Washington, D.C. and I’m wishing I could hide my head in the blankets and spend Monday morning in bed with my cat.  In fact, many in the United States will have that option, given that it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Even though my clients aren’t working, I still need to get up, walk the 20 feet to my work-from-home desk, and make something happen.  So, I’m putting on my favorite blazer and my leopard print flats while I dance to the funky disco beats in Sigrid’s Mirror.  Sturdy Women, do yourself a favor and add this to your “getting ready for the day” morning playlist.  Don’t have one?  Now you do, starting with Mirror.

Sigrid is a soon-to-be-super-famous Norwegian music goddess, who also looks and acts like your best friend who grew up next door.  The video for Mirror consists of her dressing up in wild outfits and dancing with herself, culminating in an epic dance off (you guessed it) in a mirror.  Completely goofy and playful, Sigrid is so confident in her solo dance party you can’t help but be infected.  I dance to Mirror in the kitchen while I make my morning coffee, take my evening walk, or anytime I need to lift my spirits, which can be often. Body shame is endemic in Western culture and it takes a serious mental and emotional toll on women with lipedema. In Mirror Sigrid helps remind us that we don’t have to let other people’s shame into our houses or let it stick to our gorgeous bodies. Karate chop it away in a move straight out of Sigrid’s dance arsenal and get on with your fabulous life.

“I love who I see looking at me in the mirror.

Nothing compares to the feeling right there in the mirror.”

Sigrid, “Mirror”

What outfit makes you love who you see looking at you in the mirror?  Put it on and do your best version of Sigrid’s dancing.  Monday blues won’t be able to touch you! Sign up below to receive future Monday Music posts right in your inbox.

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Rise (Sing it Loud) | Music Monday

Today is that dreaded day we have to return to work or school after the holidays. Yuck! I promise you I lingered in bed this morning. My decadent mint chocolate keto coffee usually coaxes me out of hiding each morning, but I’m doing a dairy elimination challenge for January… so best not to think about that! Check in with me in a few weeks, but at the moment I am not motivated or inspired by nut milks. Grumble.

It’s in these sticky moments that I reach for my “Be Amazing” playlist and put on something with a rollicking beat I can’t ignore. Today I’m getting that from Rise (Sing it Loud) by Caroline Jones. Like many of my favorite songs, it builds louder and faster as it goes but even the first happy beats have me smiling and dancing – not to mention that the video’s scenes of horseback riding through idyllic fields give me serious life inspiration for 2022. Because of my lipedema legs I’ve never been on a horse, but I’m channeling equine vibes this year. Let’s go for a ride, sturdy women!

Horses aside, I love Rise (Sing it Loud) for the reminder it gives me to listen to myself, trust myself, and loudly celebrate that. Each verse she returns to, “I must be quiet enough to hear the sound, the song inside my soul. I’m going to write it down. I’m going to sing it loud.” I love the idea that, not only does my soul have a song, but it needs to be shared joyfully, loudly, and unapologetically. At the end, right before she takes off on the final verse at full speed, the music takes a breath and she sings:

No matter where you land or how far you may fall

You have heart, you have hands

And the highest calling of our lives

Is to find the grace in the very place we stand

And rise

Caroline Jones, Rise (Sing it Loud)

Sturdy Women, the place we stand with lipedema, lymphedema, and chronic illness is often painful and lonely, but can you find the grace in it? Can you see yourself through eyes of love and compassion? What’s the song inside of your soul and what heights could it raise you to on this Monday? Pop in those ear buds, close your eyes, and allow yourself to rise free, even if for only three minutes. No one is watching, but we are all cheering.

Music Monday: Love Myself

Welcome back, sturdy women! I’ve missed a few Music Mondays, but couldn’t let one more week pass without sending you some love.

The short, dark, days of winter are always hard on me. My energy and motivation tank… for everything. But lipedema doesn’t take any breaks and our self-care is an everyday routine. Holiday stress and treats (even keto ones!) take their toll and those compression tights, pump sessions, and physical activities become even more important. I know many of you like to swim, but I’m a big fan of walking, yes, sprinkled with the occasional spontaneous dance move.

This week Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Myself” has me walking, and dancing, and keeping up with all my self-care. Turn up the volume, let your hair down, and sing it out loud! And, of course, if you want to make it about something else… you do you! *wink*