July 2006 - I faced a scary tarantula (and quit smoking) in the desert! 2006 was a weird, lonely year. I was single, and all my friends were either living in other cities or getting engaged. I spent most nights watching American Idol. My job was boring, my boss was kind of a jerk, and even though the eating disorder *behaviors* were mostly out of my system, the eating disorder *thoughts* were a constant. Also a constant: cigarettes! I smoked the freaking things 24/7. In part it was boredom, in part it was an attempt to curtail the 60 lbs I’d put on since not starving anymore. .
But since I had the luxury of time and self-absorption, I went to a spa in Arizona. In addition to yoga and facials, I did neat stuff like meditation, photography, and stargazing. The landscape around Tucson is so magical and otherworldly that it brought me to tears. The sky, the mountains, the way creosote smells like the rain when you crush the leaves in your hand, cacti that seem to have their own personalities. .
But here’s the coolest thing that happened in the desert: I was attempting to meditate super early, like 5 am. Suddenly a tarantula came scuttling towards me. Jesus Christ. My first inclination was obviously to run, but then I realized that this was the most exciting thing that had happened all year. And besides, I was sort of paralyzed. I *couldn’t* run, so my only choice was to stay still and not be scared. It was like Julia Roberts trying to meditate in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ only instead of flies to contend with, I had a massive hairy spider. I tried to laugh. How hilarious would it be if the thing started talking? What would it say? Maybe something like... ‘hey girl. If you think I’M gross and deadly, guess what’s even grosser and deadlier? You turning 30 and still smoking like a college kid! Heh!’ .
I dunno why, but it worked 🌵🕷
August, 2005 - I learned to love my body thanks to Henri Matisse! Much of eating disorder recovery focuses on getting your weight and BMI within a certain acceptable range according to some lame chart and then leaves you to the wolves to deal with the psychological fallout. I went through a bunch of therapists like this. It sucks because eating disorders are waaaaaay more complicated than numbers (ffs!).
I did have one doctor, however, who didn’t weigh or measure me or make me keep food diaries, she simply asked me what I loved. ‘France,’ I said. ‘Especially French art. Especially Henri Matisse.’
‘When was the last time you really looked at Matisse?’ .
I didn’t know. You can’t think about art too much when you’re consumed with adding and subtracting minuscule calorie amounts.
So with that, she told me to go to the French Riviera and watch the women there. ‘You’re going to be shocked,’ she said. ‘The Mediterranean is full of beautiful women with HIPS and CURVES and they eat and they dance and they love life and these are exactly the kinds of women Matisse painted and this is exactly the kind of woman you can be if you just let your body be your damn body.’ Huh?.
It nearly killed my ego, but I went and I broke every one of my self-imposed rules: I ate pain au chocolat for breakfast, sunbathed topless, wore high-waisted pants, and spent hours upon hours at the Musee Matisse admiring the very types of bodies I’d been trying to destroy in myself. I stared at women in cafes. I kept cheese and truffles and wine in the mini fridge of my hotel. Everything was sexy and colorful and full of joie de vivre! Inner demons still loomed around every corner, and I wanted to throw up every day. But then I focused on the color and the light. Matisse’s paintings were living. Anorexia was dying. Matisse showed me that life should be full of the things that make your spirit, mind, and yes - body - happy. .
February 2005 - I had a moment of reckoning under Christo’s Gates! Many people think that Christo is a pretentious pain, and yeah, maybe. His work is definitely very WTF. But in the winter of 2005, I was 96 pounds and didn’t believe that I deserved to eat. I was in therapy for it, but I still had this pervasive idea that the world was full of beautiful things that were just out of my reach. The Gates changed that. The Gates didn’t heal my eating disorder, but the Gates were the first time that I realized holy crap, wait a minute. This belongs as much to me as to anybody else. This is 26 miles of glorious radiance in the middle of winter and it belongs to me just for being here and walking through it. There’s nothing to intellectualize. There’s nothing to feel guilty about. It’s just here and it’s mine and while I’m at it I can also put whole milk in my coffee and real sugar too and I’m not a glutton or a slob for it. .
Anorexia is a freaking dungeon. It’s an excruciatingly slow suicide. It was the darkest place I’d ever been. It took years before those terrible voices went away (if they’ve ever?) but in February 2005 I realized I could answer them back. Christo, that pretentious fool, gave me sunshine in the dungeon. .
August, 1994 - I found a secret love letter! I had this adorable boyfriend the summer between high school and college. It’s slightly awkward to write about here because we’re actually instagram friends and I’m really hoping he’s not online today but whatever - if you’re reading this Chad, you changed my life. .
Anyway, our summer had all the stuff of a teen coming-of-age romcom. We met during senior week, watched the sun rise, watched the OJ Bronco chase, got into a car accident with a stolen vehicle, made out in playgrounds and life guard chairs, got stupidly drunk, saw Forrest Gump in the movie theatre that’s now a Staples. He went with me to the funeral when one of my classmates died. We had no aspirations of staying together once college started, but a few weeks before we parted ways he made me this amazing mixtape (yes, a mixtape) that I listened to incessantly while I cried and packed. It had George Harrison, Guns n Roses, and one of my favorite songs of all time, ‘The Boxer’. Though I listened to the tape for weeks, I never opened up the liner notes until college move-in day. We’d already said goodbye and it wasn’t like we were texting or facebooking or anything in 1994. Goodbyes were more permanent then. But there inside the mixtape, folded up inside the liner, was written in tiny letters ‘JLB I LOVE YOU’ it took my breath away. 💕.
February, 2003 - I went hiking at the bottom of the earth! This trip to the Chilean Patagonia mountains was entirely my ex-boyfriend’s idea. It was 100% out of my comfort zone. But it was stunning! Everything was shades of blue. Glaciers become blue when layers of snow are so compressed that there’s no oxygen left - did you know? We hiked for 5 days and I remember being, 6000 ft above sea level, maybe? I looked up and there was a ring of mountains towering around me and I felt tiny and freaked out and humbled and awestruck and weepy and all the things. How could I already be 6000 feet up and yet I’m still at the bottom of these humongous mountains? As above, so below. Boyfriend didn’t last. His love of jam bands, fraternity boy drinking binges, the Simpsons, and general assholery eventually made him intolerable. But he was the reason I experienced this, and this took my breath away. .
"Life comes down to a series of moments and this is one of them" ~ Bud Fox.
When you stop to look around and realise just how wonderful life is, tried to capture all my feelings of elation in this video - feeling absolutely grateful to volunteer at the British Summertime festival in Hyde Park last week and getting to spend time with some fab friends @saul.peters and co. & enjoy fantastic music by @thecure - they were amazing live! 😃❤️ Thank you!
July, 1995 - I professed my undying love to Ralph Fiennes! I met him for about 2 glorious seconds when he was playing Hamlet on Broadway. I sincerely believed that he was going to find me again and propose to me before the end of summer. I was ready to drop out of school and move into his London townhouse, and we were going to spend our weekends in a Wuthering Heights-esque country estate where we’d grow exotic rose species and sip blackberry liqueur whilst reading from my tattered Norton’s Anthology (the only relic I’d bother to save from my painful and traumatic college experience). When he was off filming, I planned on busying myself writing poetry and collecting parakeets. Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love....
I’ve been working on a different and very personal project in between collaging: illustrated autobiography! The past few months have been brutal for me and I’ve been in darker places than I care to admit on the internet. But that’s what we’re here for, right? To share our experiences and our art? To lift each other up and be inspired by life? I’ll re-post some stuff here every few days, but definitely head over to @jaimelbschell if you’d like to hear the stories behind the pictures. It’s art therapy, quite literally. And don’t worry - I’m still making collages too! .
Spring 1997 - I was a star of the stage! Not really... I was a chorus girl in a dinner theatre production of George Gershwin. This was during a nervous breakdown-induced gap year I’d never intended to have that involved leaving school, horseback riding lessons, cocktail waitressing, French classes, an internship where I had to learn to forge baseball players’ names onto sports memorabilia for charity, and twice-weekly psychotherapy sessions. I learned about the audition for this show 45 minutes before it happened, and was shocked when they called me back. I made the most creative, wacky, fun friends and gained a confidence no drug could give me. And I lost 25 pounds tap dancing! .
I’d always known that theatre could take my breath away from being in the audience, but I never really appreciated that it worked the other way around too. .
December, 1999 - I went swimming in the Great Barrier Reef (while y2k panic was in full effect on land!) It was my first time snorkeling and I couldn’t get over that this entire complex and beautiful society was happening, quite literally, just beneath the surface. If you just look at the water from your boat or whatever, you have no idea. Then you pop under and WHAT THE WHAT?! Mind blowing. The silence was overwhelming and added to the feeling of being in a different dimension.
Swimming has lost a lot of joy for me lately. I don’t like the feeling of being in a wet bathing suit, I don’t like having wet hair, and I’m always too busy trying to make sure my kids don’t drown. It’s kind of pathetic and absurd how many issues I can drum up around something so simple and natural. I’ll work on it.
Ps: This was before I saw the movie Open Water.
I’ve struggled with depression for 20 years. I’m in this bizarre place now where I’m completely resistant to medication but also need something stronger than yoga and a gluten free diet to get through my life. I have acupuncturists, psychotherapists, nutritionists, chiropractors, masseuses, and counselors currently helping me figure it out. Everything still feels kinda pointless.
But, it has sparked my latest artistic undertaking. If life is measured not by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away, then I’m collecting my most breathtaking moments. I’ll try to post a new one every few days.
It’s helping me appreciate myself and it’s giving me a little bit of my naturally joyful and optimistic self back, so indulge me!
This is a memory from spring 1994. I went to high school in a literal castle, and it was a magic castle because when I was there I truly believed I could change the world. Right before graduation there was a solar eclipse. I’m not sure why we were allowed to run outside sans glasses and look at it (hey, it was the 90s?) but I remember thousands of crescent moon shadows sprinkled all over the grounds and feeling closer to God than I’d felt in 12 years of Catholic schooling.
"żyje się tylko chwilę
a czas -
jest przezroczystą perłą
Natura to zadziwiający i niesłychany reżyser. Ile to już zachodów słońca w swoim życiu widziałam to nawet tego nie zliczę. W każdym bądź razie przyjmijmy, że mnóstwo. I co jest w tym najfajniejsze, że każdy jest inny. Nawet gdybym codziennie czekała, to tego samego widoku nie dostąpie. A jeszcze lepsze jest w tym momencie wrażenie jakby świat włącznie z naturą cały dzień przygotowywał się do tej chwili, by rozpocząć to istne przedstawienie. Na ten moment kiedy minie ostatni akt, a kurtyna zacznie opadać. I jeszcze lepsze jest w tym, że My jeśli tylko zechcemy możemy zająć miejsce w pierwszym rzędzie. Bo jak obok piękna przejść bokiem, piękno należy podziwiać 💋💋💋.