I chose the word HONOR.
I’ve thought about the word HONOR so many times in these last six months, but as life goes, we tend to get stuck in the muck. We get covered over by it, suffocated by decisions, bills, frustrations and we forget the vision board, the Wish List, the promise we’ve made to live a bigger, badder life.
Until this weekend when I found the answer I was looking for, but not in the way I expected.
For the past ten years I have made a pilgrimage to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City whenever I visit. It began as a way to connect with something grander, which also scared the ever-living-bejeezus out of me. I lit a candle, I prayed. It felt good. Something about Saints felt comforting. They were human. They’ve messed up. Better to ask for absolution through someone who could be like, “Look, she’s trying.”
I know my Saints, where they are placed throughout the cathedral, and they have brought me great comfort for a very long time. I prayed to one for my daughter. Another for my family. Another for my own pains and plights. As I entered St Patrick’s on Sunday, steps sure, and a calm I’ve never quite been able to explain settling over me, I found each of them to be behind plastic sheeting, covered in scaffolding. I would leave one, defeated, simply to walk behind the alter to find the second and the third all covered, kept away and under construction.
I stood in the middle of this grand place of worship, hope and peace feeling as if I’d been abandoned, how is it that only MY Saints are under construction?
Then I sat down, and while prayers were offered for peace in our current global climate, the tears came as I said a real prayer. The messy kind where something in you breaks open and you realize you’ve just been found. The prayer, the offering that doesn’t require circumvention, a team, a conduit, a guide, I get it. I don’t need to search outside of myself. I need to honor myself.
I’d allowed myself to get caught in the noise, other’s opinions and smudged words and intention. No more paralysis while I await the person, the book, the Saint or sinner to tell me where I am or where I’m going.
I am the person. I am my guide. I am my best advocate and advisor. I just forgot.
In my almost obsessive searching I was led back to…. me.
A thought leader may inspire. A friend may provide comfort. A prayer is a beautiful way to connect to that which is bigger than you.
But, without our inner compass, our compassion for our soul’s wisdom, our connection to whatever you call God, our respect for the answers within us, we are merely lost and looking, searching.
And, as the Delta Sky Cap told me today as he searched my name while checking me in for my flight home, “….And my dear, you have been found.”
I smiled, “Yes, I have, thank you.”
Be led back to yourself. Then HONOR that beautiful, alchemical self that is likely equal parts stardust and dry shampoo. You already know the answers.
The Love Letters project began a year ago with Jessica Moore’s letter to her younger self. I found that as I got to know the writers I was privy to insights and gems readers were not. I had questions about their struggles and how they overcame, which they very openly shared. I wanted to make the experience more dimensional for everyone involved and began filming interviews over the summer.
We had fits and starts as we worked through storylines and production, but the result is gorgeous. I am so excited to debut the very first “Love, Me” webisode featuring model and author, Emily Nolan. We sat down in Phoenix in August to discuss her love letter (see below) and I was taken by Emily’s willingness to be vulnerable and her deep faith in something Divine. She was a few weeks out from a breast explant and spoke so openly about her lifetime struggle with body dysmorphia and what she hopes to share with every woman and girl.
**Please see submission guidelines if you are interested in sharing your love letter**
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Emily Nolan –
You are eighteen years younger than I am and you’re already so incredibly smart, strong and beautiful inside and out. You are the greatest gift God’s ever given the world and you are perfect just the way you are. You were born to be a brave leader. And, most importantly, you’re a fierce lover. You lead with love so divinely well; it’s a special gift you’ll always had unlimited access to. Use love as much as possible.
Dear warrior, use your bravery to listen in to who you are throughout the years. There will be challenging moments that make your heart break, sadly, and you’ll need to be there to love yourself fiercely. You’ll need your friends and family, too, to lean on for help, because you can’t do everything, always. Sometimes you’ll need help. Everyone does.
Those moments of listening to yourself feel like “listening to your gut,” and choosing not to believe in a bully or someone else’s unremarkable opinion of who they think you should be or what you should look like. Later in life, you’ll know those brave moments to be God’s grace. Which is also your own divine grace.
You’re a child of God, Emily. Your parents’ divorce and the bullying at school, and other moments to come that might make you feel icky and sad inside, they do not decide your worthiness. God does. You do. And because you get to decide what a miracle you are, continue to be brave enough to listen in and honor your own inner voice that says, “I’m awesome!” This way, no one will be able to rent valuable space in that precious little noggin of yours. You are a holy vessel. Be brave enough to always believe that. It’s not arrogant to think your God’s greatest gift, its love. And remember, love is what you’re best at.
You’re strength is in being bravely unique. You’ll feel that looking like everyone else is boring and has very little divine purpose. Like, what in the world are we accomplishing here by trying to look pretty? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? Like who’s on second base and how we’re going to get the third out?
Your fierce bravery will be a rising tide that lifts all boats. Most of your girlfriends are waiting for you to make the move, to feel good enough, just the way that you are, and to allow them the same feeling by being brave enough to own it. They’ll thank you for your courage and permission to be beautiful, just the way they are. And they will support you immensely in the years to come. That bravery you own will make you feel full and good and happy. You’ll say things like, “I’ve never felt closer to God. I’ve never felt closer to myself.” Little me, you were born to be pretty brave.
Being an athlete has taught you that your body is a tool to be used for movement that’s fun and life-giving. Your body is not meant to look a certain way, it’s meant to work! To be useful! Being an athlete makes you a leader; leadership and teamwork will be as important to you as going to school and learning. All of the leadership training you’re getting now, by wearing heavy catcher’s gear every weekend, shouting directions across the field to your teammates, committing to team goals, attending every practice, calling the signals and telling your teammates what to do when the ball comes to them, conflict management with girl drama, all of these skills will be absolutely necessary in your life.
One day, you’re going to have enough courage and leadership skills to believe in yourself. You’ll believe that you can teach women and men and girls and boys that they’re great enough, just the way they are. You will share your love with them in so many kind and gentle and generous ways.
I also want you to know that you’re brave enough now, to ask Mom for help, whenever you need it. Bullies, diets, body image, questions about your body, questions about boys and friendships, ask Mom; she wants to see you win, not suffer in silence. She wants to elevate your bravery, lift you up! That’s her medicine, let her support you. Never feel ashamed to ask her questions. Talking to Mom is always going to help you and you’ll feel so good you did it. Your thirty-year-old self promises.
You are a remarkable young woman, Emily. I love your pigtail braids, dirt smeared across your chin from your catcher’s mask, and your fierce bravery, going onto the softball field shouting out positive affirmations to your teammates. You’re going to use all of these lessons in the next eighteen years as tools to inspire and motivate others to keep moving forward on their own journey until they find the light, which is essentially the love, for everything and everyone, including themselves.
You’re a complete magic trick—how could your precious, pure spirit be so perfectly tucked into that beautiful, capable Earth Suit of yours? I just love you so much. You are a miracle. How could you not be, Emily? You’re a child of God. And you are perfect, just the way you are.
I love you forever,
Emily Nolan is the author of My Kind of Life.com. She’s also a model and the founder of TOPLESS yoga. #TOPLESSbyemily is a bras on, bellies out self-confidence event used as a tool for self-love. This event is about exposing vulnerabilities by practicing radical self-acceptance.
Emily’s effort to share what is real and authentic in media was the catalyst for the #HealthyBellySelfie social media project contributing to the global conversation around body image.
Emily publicly speaks about her journey through 10 years of disordered eating, plastic surgery, body dysmorphic disorder and shame. She believes that honesty in conversation can spark individual transformation.
Emily is on Instagram and Twitter @iamemilynolan and Snapchat / Periscope @MyKindofLife_Em