2009 – I was a secretary at a law firm. 23 year old me became a dog mom to Raelie. I was stuck in an abusive relationship with someone who tried to kill me and I saw no way out. I was drinking a lot to numb my pain and was on around 8-10 Rx drugs this year.
2010 – I worked at Cornell in NYC, analyzing sperm samples for their fertility department. It’s even less glam than it sounds. I was on 12 Rx drugs when this photo was taken. Was surviving on food stamps and Ensure’s that were prescribed to me that I drank as meals.
2011 – My best friend took her own life. I attempted suicide two months later. When it didn’t work, I got to the root of the problem and came off all my Rx drugs. Dropped out of college. Quit my last 9-5 job at a lab analyzing asbestos samples. Ended my abusive relationship and in October I road-tripped to Los Angeles with $300 to my name and a big dream. Started my blog, sharing about my Rx withdrawal and all the herbal remedies I was finding that were replacing the drugs I used to be on. I was throwing up 10-15 times a day, all day long. Was featured in a music video during the Occupy Wall Street march. You should watch it sometime. It’s still good.
2012 – got signed to a modeling agency. I had a residency at House of Blues LA where I played with my band every wednesday. Truly happy for the first time ever, even tho at any given time I only had a few hundred bucks in my bank account. I made most of my money working for a dispensary (weed shop) down the block from where I lived.
2013 – I traveled a lot. London, Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, Milan, Miami, NY. It was mostly for work, and I’d always end up spending whatever money I made while I was there on things like food (I mean who can say no to grabbing a delicious gelato outside of the Duomo?) I was constantly on the move, still going through bad Rx withdrawal but living my life the best way I knew how. Moved into my first house in LA. Did my first music video for my song Visual Exchange.
2014 – Dad passed away from cancer. I’ve never been so broken or so sad. I shut down my blog temporarily and on the 6 month post-funeral journey home to NY, got an email from my publishing company, asking if I’d ever thought about writing a book. From that conversation, Cured by Nature was born. Moved to San Diego.
2015- I finished my manuscript by January 1, 2015. Every day was spent working together with my editors to make the book perfect. I was able to both write the book and survive by working on a movie with Seth Macfarlane with a lot of time off set. Still barely making any $ but doing whatever I could, including tons of music videos with artists like Snoop Dogg, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, The Arctic Monkeys and more. Finally got off food stamps, which I’d been on since I was 18 years old.
2016 – Cured by Nature was published and my life was forever changed. I thought maybe my friends and family might read it. Maybe. Instead, every day I got DMs and emails from people, telling me how the book was changing their lives. News outlets took notice. That’s when I knew that I needed to keep sharing my story. I became a dog mom to Ruca. Got engaged. Started Genetix. This was the year I decided that I wanted a job in which I didn’t have to “show up made up” every day and could work from home.
2017 – got a literary agent and my book deal for WILD Habits. Spent the year working on this book. Ended my engagement. Finally started making some $ through my own endeavors, instead of working for someone else. It happened pretty rapidly that I started modeling/acting less and less and working on my blog and Genetix more and more.
2018 – WILD Habits was published in February. I went on book tour. Hired two assistants. Got serious about Genetix. Had fun as a single lady. Traveled on my book tour. Was pretty happy with the idea of never getting married and just adopting some multi-racial babies when I was ready. I spent most of the year writing and recording music. Forbes wrote about me twice. I met Andrew for lunch and my entire world shifted.
2019 – Maybe my most transformative year yet. Married my soulmate and became a wife. Traveled the world, including visiting Bali, Caymans and Hawaii for the first time. Visited the orphanages in Mexico more frequently. Made tons of new friends. Built houses for people in need. Volunteered at food banks. Released my music. Made music videos. Spoke and sang live for the first time in 5 years. Focused on giving back. Genetix was picked up by Walmart, our first retailer ever. Simon and Schuster, one of the top publishing houses in the world, acquired my first book, Cured by Nature. I stopped drinking.
2020 – I rang in the new year with my husband (!!!), our two dogs and our wonderful friends. On New Years Eve we dipped out of the party early and I drove our car to our cozy house with our two dogs and really drank in the last decade. Woke up on January 1st happy, sober, in love and in light.
Wow. To think how sad and broken I was when the first photo was taken, to how vibrant and happy I was on my wedding day… it doesn’t even seem like the same person could be writing this.
If you had told me when I adopted Raelie that ten years from then I’d be living in San Diego, married to my soulmate, with my own company, a successful blog, two books, an EP, 4 music videos, visiting orphanages, in a position to give back (with my own money!)… I would not have believed you. There was no way. I could never have seen the path there.
It happened with baby steps. Each year I went through to write this brought me back to so many feelings: feelings of uncertainty. Feelings of confusion, loss, heartbreak. A mentality where I thought that maybe I didn’t deserve anything good or anything more.
But it happened because somewhere inside me I KNEW I was capable of more. I knew I deserved more. And when people gave me opportunities, I took them.
I can see so clearly how leaving New York has shaped my entire life.
I can see so clearly now how starting my blog in 2011 lead to my book deal in 2014.
I can see how dropping out of school actually allowed me to find the perfect career.
I can see how performing at House of Blues for free in 2012 helped me to release my EP and book shows that truly paid off for me in 2019.
I can see how ending my abusive relationship in 2011 and ending my engagement in 2017 called in the person I was truly supposed to be with all these years later.
I can see how stepping away to grieve my dad and not pushing anything I wasn’t ready for gave me the clarity of mind that allowed me to embrace success in my 20’s, and work to get to a stable place in my 30’s. I can see how each step of the way brought me here, to exactly where I was supposed to be.
The theme of the last ten years?
Work hard. Don’t give up.
Whatever you want, you deserve.
Stay humble. Stay grateful.
Do what’s in your heart, not what other people tell you that you should do.
I can’t wait to see what the next ten years bring!
This week I helped one of my tribe sisters, Sahara Rose, get engaged, by working behind the scenes with her boyfriend (and a dear friend I had ONLY MET ONCE but knew for over TEN YEARS through LIVEJOURNAL!!!!!!) to surprise her in Bali. Like, what is the world?!?!? It was a truly magical, fateful, unbelievable story (you should REALLY check it out: part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here). THE WORLD is beyond magical my friends, and this story proves it. I am incredibly happy for her, as Sahara deserves all the love, security and happiness in the World, her beau Steven is a badass and the proposal was E.P.I.C.
I am already preparing myself to smile and laugh and cry and ecstatic dance through the whole gorgeous wedding.
Because I was so excited for her, of course I shared about it on my Instagram stories. And well, most responses went something like this:
Well Meaning Acquaintance: OMG this is AMAZING!!! YOU’RE A GREAT FRIEND!! WHAT A STORY!!
Me: YESSSSSS!! THANK YOU!! SHES AMAZINGGG!!! One of my favorite ladies ever and how amazing is Steven?!
Well Meaning Acquaintance: NICE! YAY!! THEY’RE PERFECT FOR ONE ANOTHER! ALSO, I heard your new podcast together!
Speaking of which, how is your wedding planning going? Aren’t you engaged too?
Me: She deserves it and so much more. I am so excited for her!
And um, no. We broke up actually.
Well Meaning Acquaintance: OMG I am SO SORRY TO HEAR THAT! 🙁 🙁 🙁
Me: Yep, that’s okay. It’s totally cool. 🙂
Well Meaning Acquaintance: [changes subject awkwardly]
And I get it. I wouldn’t know what to say either. Do you ask super personal questions? Do you talk about something else.. or is that callous? Do you google it and hope they wrote about it openly on their blog? (I see you 🙂 ).
You saw the title of this article, so… why am I sharing this? As you guys know, I don’t normally talk about relationships or write too much about my personal life on my blog. The point of this blog is about helping YOU. It’s about leveling up in life. It’s about being our best selves. …Right?
Yes. This site is about all about our health, and if you think the closest relationships in your life are not affecting your health, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. The people you spend the most time and energy on (like say, the person you’re engaged to) absolutely end up affecting you to your core: from your mindset to your language to your energy. Mental health is JUST as important as physical health, since our minds and our bodies are connected in every way.
Now, I’ll tell you why…
It’s crazy, really. I never wanted to get married, and yet I’ve been engaged twice.
My first engagement was in high-school (this story is in my first book).
Most recently, I got engaged in 2016.
It was one of the most special moments of my life.
Also, it was weird.
I never grew up fantasizing about a wedding or being a wife or having children. I never picked out a dream wedding dress or looked at or even THOUGHT about rings. I had no clue what the different styles were (or that there WERE different styles of each. The first time someone said “mermaid cut” to me in reference to a wedding dress, I actually laughed, because I thought they were fucking with me).
I had spent literally zero hours wishing this into my existence. On top of that, we had never discussed marriage. We had mutually decided on a future that was based on love and trust and friendship, and we didn’t need a piece of paper to tell us that we loved each other.
So, to say that I was completely surprised, would be a huge understatement.
Here I was. Someone whom I loved very much was on one knee asking me, in the most romantic way I could think of, in my favorite place on earth, to spend the rest of their life with them.
Why on earth would I say no?
I was ecstatic about the proposal – it was sweet and perfect and confirmed to me that he really GOT me. I was so excited about our engagement that I started to embrace the idea of calling him my husband. After awhile, I was totally falling in love with the idea of being his wife.
We took in the news of our engagement to ourselves for a few days. Then I told family and close friends. Then I announced it on social media and this little blog of mine. My eco-friendly, conflict free, one of a kind ring was featured in Brides Magazine and soon other magazines and press outlets reached out to work together to share my big day. I had every reason in the world to be over the moon and eager to start prepping.
But as time went on, something strange unfolded.
I found myself super uninspired to actually plan our wedding. I couldn’t explain it: this was supposed to be the happiest time of my life, and yet much of the time when people would ask me about the wedding, it would become clear (to both them and me) that I had put absolutely no thought into it.
I’ll never forget when I met with Martha Stewart Weddings and they asked me, “What theme do you want for your most special day?”
I looked at them like they’d ask me what alien I wanted to clean for breakfast. Does. Not. Compute.
I justified it to myself.
“It’s hard to focus on the details of a wedding when we were both running our companies,” I told people, laughing. Which was true. It was also difficult to choose a playlist for my big day when I barely had time to turn on a playlist on a Monday and take a shower. But something larger was happening.
I stopped getting excited about it at all.
I changed the date twice. I avoided sending out announcements and then I avoided sending out invitations. I changed the year… three times. I went dress shopping alone because I didn’t want anyone to ask me any questions about my plans. I simply didn’t have any.
So, what happened? Well, let me answer some of the basic questions I get asked by some well-meaning people, which I hope can shed some light on the situation.
How long were we together?
Four years, engaged for two.
What did I do with the dress?
Thankfully, I never put any money down on a dress. I tried on dresses and I think I even found THE ONE, but because we were paying for everything ourselves, something told me to hold off. I’m glad I did.
What did I do about all the money we spent on the wedding?
It wasn’t really an issue. We spent a lot more time than money planning the wedding.
How did I tell people?
I called my family and told them the truth. They were amazing. Then I told a handful of close friends and let the word spread on its own (haha).
Why did it end?
When we met years ago, I was a (rather naïve) 20-something-year-old who was learning how life worked. I was still very much going through Rx withdrawal, and my intention was not to date. I didn’t feel like I was ready to be with someone and honestly, I felt gross all.the.time. But when he accepted and loved me – withdrawal that included me throwing up 5 times a day and all – I knew I had found my someone. And I couldn’t ignore it.
Overtime our life roles changed (as they naturally should/do/will) and I think both of us had to step up and figure out who we really were outside the context of the roles we’d assigned to one another in the beginning of the relationship.
It was, plain and simple, a communication breakdown. I mean, don’t get me wrong. We took hikes with each other every morning and evening. We both ran our businesses from home for years and somehow didn’t kill each other. Quite the opposite – we talked NON-stop all day long and were the best of friends. We enjoyed each other’s company. We laughed at each other’s jokes. We kept each other’s spirits up. We encouraged one another beyond belief. We talked through our shit.
Going furniture shopping for our ENTIRE house took us maaaaybe half an hour. We agreed on everything.
But as our businesses picked up, our communication declined. The second that we didn’t agree, all bets were off. Of course, this happened so infrequently that it became rather easy to ignore. But the less that one of us was listened to, the less we wanted to listen.
When this attitude goes one way, you’re in a tough spot.
When both parties do it, you’re screwed.
I’m sure either one of us could have begged and carried on and tried to save the relationship, and you better believe that we did a few times. But after awhile, I honestly don’t think either of us was that inspired to try to do that anymore.
When you know, you know, and I think that works both ways.
The sanctity of our relationship and specifically, of our engagement, is very important to me, and truthfully the details aren’t as important (or, IMHO, even as juicy) as the amazing life lessons. There is no one to blame for the end of our relationship. We were kind to one another always. We didn’t have a blowup. We didn’t fight. We didn’t scream or do something mean or hurt one another. I think we both just knew.
Some people just grow apart.
How did I deal?
First, I walked around my house crying about how I was possibly going to clean and clear everything out myself. I panicked about if I had enough money to carry on my life and all the bills that come with a four-bedroom house by myself. I totally freaked out about the idea of carrying all of the responsibilities that we had shared for years – all alone. I thought about moving out a LOT (it seemed much easier than re-arranging the entire house so that it didn’t remind me of him every second).
Then, I called my family. I read a lot of books. I reached out to girlfriends and then when they reached back out I often ignored them because I was afraid of crying. Then I just broke down and called them. Crying.
Some days I was fine. Most days in the beginning, I was a mess.
It wasn’t that I was moping or super depressed, but I was incredibly SAD. Life had completely changed overnight. I didn’t know where – or how — to start over.
I started at the beginning. I danced every morning. I painted. I sang and wrote songs. I laughed so hard with friends I cried and my belly hurt for days. I gave myself abs with pure, joyful belly laughs. I reached out for help… then I finally took it. I hired an assistant (who has – shoutout – saved my life)… and then I hired an intern. I hired a housecleaning service. I cried on the phone with literally anyone I got on the phone with because I couldn’t help it. I stopped apologizing. I traveled. A LOT. I went to about 12 different cities in a couple of weeks.
Then I realized I was running.
And I cried all over again.
I embraced my single-ness. It had been a long, long time
I realized, triumphantly, that this not only felt like grief: it WAS grief.
Then I felt true love. True love in the form of people who care, business associates who get it and a family who called me every single day to check in and make sure I was okay. Even his family called to check in with me a few times – and they still do. It really meant the world to me. This, I found myself thinking, is how it feels to break up as an adult.
I dove deep. I bought every single book anyone recommended me without hesitation – and new bookshelves to boot. I planned my book launch and my book tour for WILD Habits. I rearranged just about EVERYTHING in my house and I threw out everything (EVERY.THING) that reminded me of him. I worked on new products, blog posts and my third book. I booked a ticket to see my family. I made new friends. I went out of my way to embrace my girl tribe and found some incredible women to add to it.
I did things that were completely out of my comfort zone. I went out dancing. I went to my first sports game ever. I bought new furniture by myself for the first time in my life. I learned how nearly everything in my house worked. I went to the movies and I went to concerts. I flew halfway around the world. I hiked and swam my way to a private island. I went on dates with people who proved to me that all hope was not lost. I started working out twice a day, taking long baths, taking long walks and focusing on what’s important to me. I watched myself on TVand on stage in awe. I started processing the fact that, despite my pinnacle relationship just plain being over, I was still living my wildest dreams. My success, my lesson I had taught so many people for years, was not dependent on ANYONE but myself.
I embraced this whole heartedly.
I threw myself into my projects and my work. I went back to square one. I got back to my roots. I meditated until I could tell I was meditating TOO much. I wrote a LOT. I sang my heart out. I started playing piano again. I drew and journaled.
I embraced myself and my vulnerability as a strength, which has led to so many amazing life opportunities and made coping so, SO much easier. I watched my self-esteem, and my ability to deal with the world, grow every single day. I found myself again and the person I encountered was more beautiful than I ever imagined. I fell in love with her and I treated her the way I’d want her next partner to treat her. I became more independent, more kind and more vulnerable than I ever thought possible.
How am I coping?
Truthfully, I am doing well. It doesn’t hurt to think about anymore, which is a huge emotional step forward. And I would never go back to it, which is a huge personal step forward.
I am trying to be mindful of the fact that processing the end of four years of commitment and the end of how you pictured your future doesn’t happen overnight. I have been trying to be aware and determinative of what’s coping and what’s masking/running away/escaping. Of course, I’m young and I want to have fun. But I need to be mindful of also continuing to do the self-work necessary to really heal. So, life’s been a bit of trying to strike a balance between the two.
To accomplish this successfully, I have been practicing The WILD Method like crazy.
Well, I have the Willingness to accept that I need to grow from this. Every relationship in your life is a lesson, and so is how they end.
I’ve been using my Intuition to figure out my next steps at every turn. Even if I make plans, if my Intuition is screaming at me to stay home and take a bath, or go down to the beach and write, or make music, or simply lay in bed with my dogs when I’m feeling down, I do it.
I’ve been showing self-Love to myself every chance I get. I listen to my goodwill instincts and indulge in self-care no matter WHAT. While this is especially difficult while traveling, it’s been a wonderful lesson in practicing what I preach.
Finally, I’ve used the Discipline necessary to do these steps over and over and OVER again until I see growth in myself and the people I’m with ALWAYS reflect my values.
This will always be a work in progress… And guess what?
I’m okay with that. Because it’s been working. I’ve become grateful for all the lessons I learned from the relationship, and the more I work through it, the more answers are provided to me. I don’t regret a second of our relationship. We helped each other so much to become who we’re meant to be and I’ll always be grateful for that.
I am happy, truly. I see the place the relationship – AND the breakup – had in my life already, and I’m sure those insights will only continue to grow as I stay open to them.
What did I do with the ring?
He never asked for it back, so I kept it. Then I hid it from myself. Then I had dreams that I’d never find it again, so I scrambled to find it… annnnnnnnnnnddddd failed. And panicked and had more bad dreams. And thennnnnn!!!
My assistant found it – (I told you –she’s a life-saver!) Ever since she found it and me (and my subconscious!) know where it is, I honestly haven’t thought about it.
What did I learn?
I learned how not to settle. Could I have just ignored my Intuition and gone through with something just because I’d made the commitment to it? Absolutely. But I’m a lot happier because I did what was right for me: not what was comfortable.
I learned that when people show you who they are, believe them. That goes for yourself, too. When parts of yourself you don’t like show up during a relationship, that is a DIRECT reflection of that relationship, and to deny that is to deny yourself the life you deserve. Always listen to your intuition, especially if it’s nagging at you. Time truly does heal all wounds, as long as you work on your emotions and truly DEAL. A bandaid is only the last step: you need to disinfect and apply ointment and change the dressings on your wounds every single day, or they’ll never properly heal.
I learned that isolating yourself will only make you feel more stressed out. I have learned to accept help when I need it – no small feat for me. While this lesson is still very much a work in progress, it’s a larger message that I absolutely needed to learn: that it’s okay to be exhausted, frustrated, sad and confused. Just make sure you’re WILLING to start asking people who love you to help you pick up the pieces so you can FEEL properly.
I learned that I cannot do everything alone, but that doesn’t mean I need to be in a relationship to accept help. The most security comes from doing things you didn’t know you were capable of doing. I learned that the strongest relationships are from people who truly care about me, and those who show me they love me by helping me do things I can’t do by myself, noticing the things I’m too exhausted to do, picking up on my true needs (not what I THINK I need), giving me the drive of checking off my to-do list as well as reminding me when to relax. Real love comes from the people in your life who remind you how amazing and capable you truly are.
I learned to give myself a break when I need it. I’ve learned that doing nothing IS doing something. I’ve learned what I will accept in a partner and what I won’t. I’ve learned who I truly am outside the context of someone else. Something I am VERY glad I am given the opportunity to learn before I DO marry someone.
Truly, I am blessed. My basic needs are met and I have accomplished things beyond my wildest dreams – with and without a partner. I live in a beautiful home with my two-dog daughter’s, and it’s now mine to decorate how I want, live how I want and spend my time how I want. And while those may seem like little, superficial things, please trust me when I say that living in the ghost house of your last relationship for a few weeks cannot HELP but be detrimental to your mental health. It’s absolutely integral to your mental fitness to make a space your own after a relationship ends. I wish I had learned this a few weeks sooner. Every time a space or a corner looks different than it did before, you get your life back. I promise you.
I’ll continue to stay open, willing, intuitive and loving. I’ll keep myself disciplined and focused on my goals. I’ll do what I’ve always done: survive. And then thrive.
Now, I work harder. Now, I grow. When I’m met with a challenge, I think about it totally differently. Now, I bloom, I shed the old and I accept the new. I become more of myself in ways I never previously thought possible. Now? I move forward. I fall in love with myself more and more and more.
I know there will be a day where I won’t know who I would be without this experience. And I’m grateful for that day already. The truth is, I have a lot of hope. I know that while this was the end of something important, it’s also the beginning of something equally important…
The rest of my beautiful life.
[Curious about The WILD Method mentioned in this article? Learn more here.]
This month I sat down with Thrive Global, a wellness company founded by Ariana Huffington and owned by The Medium, to discuss female entrepreneurship. We talked about my backstory, my company and what I’m grateful for. I even shared who I’d have lunch with out of everyone in the whole world! Check it out below:
“I think it’s very hard for female entrepreneurs to accept help. We feel like we’re supposed to know it all, do it all — and also keep the house clean while we’re at it! I wish I had accepted help sooner. I wish I had opened myself up to trusting and empowering women earlier on in my business, because it is our main focus now and I cannot picture it any other way.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Tara Mackey, the founder and CEO of The Organic Life, a successful holistic and sustainable living platform. She is a widely recognized social media personality with over 500,000 followers and millions of blog hits. She founded the organic beauty company Genetix Skincare and is the #1 best-selling author of Cured by Nature and WILD Habits (May 2018). Mackey, who has a background in psychology and genetics, left a coveted position at Weill Cornell Medical College in 2011 to travel to California to explore natural healing, yoga and meditation. That same year she began utilizing holistic techniques to heal her chronic illnesses, going cold turkey off of fourteen daily medications, and healing herself naturally. She’s an expert on building better habits and is on a conscious quest to move humanity in a more sustainable, healthy, and holistic direction.Recognized with numerous awards and nominations for her entrepreneurship, Mackey was named “a powerful voice in the smart, sexy, sustainable movement” by Coco Eco Magazine.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was diagnosed with my first medical label and put on my first drug at the age of 13. By 24, I was on 14 different Rx drugs. In 2011, after a series of tragic events lead me to the conclusion that I needed to “start over”, I came off the Rx drugs I had been prescribed for my skin, mood, anxiety and pain and started to treat myself naturally using herbs, supplements, food, exercise, meditation and mind-strengthening techniques.
Once I found that these strategies actually worked to treat the ailments I had been medicating for so long, I started sharing them on my blog, The Organic Life. One engaged blog reader turned into a hundred, which turned into a thousand… and we now have over a million eyes on us. This turned into the inspiration for my first book, Cured by Nature, which became a number one bestseller. My second book, WILD Habits, also touches on the subjects of personal growth, self-improvement and natural healing. My blog became a company in 2015, The Organic Life, LLC.
As a bestselling author and founder of my award-winning little company and blog, The Organic Life, I’ve has been researching, testing and writing about organic living and green skincare for nearly seven years. My own journey started in my mid-twenties, when I began facing painful, cystic acne. I realized that not only did none of my dermatologist recommended products work to treat it, but I also realized that they contained high levels of toxins and fillers that further irritated my skin.
As a biologist, I knew that were better, natural way to treat my skin issues. After experimenting in my kitchen at home, I found incredible natural remedies that worked not just to treat — but they worked to cure my skin problems — completely!
I moved across the country to California and started meditating daily, educating myself on health, eating whole foods, treating myself naturally, composting, taking supplements and herbs, reading empowering books and gardening. Within mere weeks, I was looking at a completely different person and I was living a completely different life.
I am the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been and my work makes me super excited to get up in the morning. I am living in my dream home in my dream city with my dream job, after just a few years — mere months — of listening to my heart and soul. I’m very passionate about sharing what’s truly possible for others, no matter what they’re going through!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
My Dad passed away in 2014 and I decided to take a break from my blog to focus on healing. About six months later I went back home to New York for the very first time since the funeral. Because of the break I had taken from my blog to heal, I wasn’t blogging daily at the time, like I used to be.
It was a scary situation for me to be there without him for the first time, and I was a ball of emotions.
The day after I landed back in New York, I opened up my laptop in my hotel room in the morning to check my emails. There, I saw one with a subject line that I couldn’t ignore: Tara, Have You Ever Thought About Writing a Book?
I opened it. It turned out to be an inquiry email from my first publisher Skyhorse, truly asking if we could get on the phone so that I could share my story. I did, of course! That conversation turned into my first book deal, and my first bestselling book, Cured by Nature.
It turns out they had found me through my blog! So, even though I had taken a “break” at the time, all of the hard work and years I had put in blogging before then actually paid off in that one triumphant moment. I feel like it was the reward I received for honoring myself and what I needed personally at the time, as well as a confirmation that hard work eventually truly does pay off!
This past year has been undoubtedly the one where all the pieces and experiences in my life have finally begun to come together coherently, and it’s also been one of my hardest without my hero. Yesterday made it officially one year since my Dad passed away. The shock of his death, the anger immediately after the loss, the incredible pain of moving on every morning without him were some of my most difficult days.
I’m the one with the super-fro with my fingers in my mouth. 🙂
Then, just a few months later, another loss: my good friend Heather succumb to lyme disease after an intense, decades long battle. Not because it had finally ravaged her body, but because she decided that the best conclusion to her life was to walk in front of a train one night to end her pain.
The day I showed Heather around the Getty Museum in LA.
It cracked my heart open all over again. It drained me completely, and left me back in that bewildered fog I had just pulled myself out of. I’ve read a lot in loss literature about “What to expect” from grief, but the truth is, our experiences are all completely different. Our losses are different. Our moment to moment feelings are different. So, instead of telling you what to expect – because I can’t – or telling you what I wish someone would have told me – because I heard it all and that really never made a dent – I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about grieving this past year. From my heart, to yours…
Take care of yourself – Putting yourself first is very important, especially in times of loss. If you haven’t figured this out by the time you lose someone you love, it can be a great time to start. Eat healthy, do some yoga, work out, get out of the house. Your loved one might be gone, but you’re still here, so make the most of it.
Get Grateful – This was one of the things I posted about when I first spoke about living my medicine a few months after Dad passed, and it’s only been more solidified for me. Appreciation will get you through just about anything. Stop to feel your departed loved ones presence with you. Smell the roses. Watch the sunsets. You won’t regret it.
Get Lively – Not Lonely – Don’t shut people out. One of the first things I did after a few days of phone-off, bed-ridden grief was to reach out to my dear friends and loved ones – many of whom I had no idea had experienced similar losses to mine! This is where I found a lot of my comfort and coping mechanisms.
There’s No Such Thing As Prepared – Did I know my Daddy was dying from cancer for 2 and a half years? Yup. Did anything prepare me for the emotional toll it took to help him in his last few months? Did anything prepare me for actually being there, watching him suffer, struggle and ultimately let go? No. Nothing could have. No matter who or what it is, nothing can ever really full prepare you for the shock to your body that comes with grief. So however you find yourself going through it, go. Go whole heartedly and with reckless abandon. Because no one could have told you about how this felt even if they tried (which they may have!)
A Distraction Is a Distraction – …. Is a distraction is a distraction. It doesn’t matter what name you call it, distracting or otherwise suppressing your grief is not helping you and certainly doesn’t help anyone around you. This tends to make us bitter and manifests itself as disease. Cry if you need to cry. Scream if you need to scream. But the sooner you face it, the sooner you can begin to heal.
When does this thing end? – I thought feeling grief was something I’d “get over”. Turns out, it doesn’t end. I’ve lost a lot of friends, in fact, so I thought I knew what to be prepared for. Uh, no. Losing a parent was an entirely different experience for me. It wasn’t long before I realized that the emptiness from losing my Dad was going to be there – FOREVER. And P.S. It’s going to get re-triggered every.single.time I lose someone else. But instead of getting panicked about it, I got grateful. I made it my mission to begin to do things not only for myself, but as a legacy to Dad. In this way, I feel I’ve accomplished more in the last year – emotionally, physically, spiritually and psychologically – than I feel I did for the 27 years he was with us. It’s given me an opportunity to grow, expand, learn and get better in a way I just never would have otherwise.
Don’t Stop Working – Pushing the pain away is, at the most, a temporary option. If you need a break, take one, but taking too much time off can lead to a depressive, loaf-tastic episode or worse, losing your job. But really, in the bigger sense, don’t stop working on yourself. Don’t let death take your life away. Keep smiling, keep laughing, and remember: the world is still spinning. I have worked more, harder and better on myself in the last year than I have ever before in my life. This is, for sure, a positive result of losing my Dad.
It’s natural – 5 Stages? I wish. Throw those notions about what grief is “supposed” to look like out the window. Grief is messy and confusing and comes and goes in waves and roller coaster rides. One of the most powerful things I learned is that grief is a completely natural response to losing a loved one. Your brain actually has to process what is notwhich is much harder to process than what is. We grieve because we loved, and the loss of love is very hard. Grief is a feeling in the process of moving onto a place of healing, but it’s not the whole process.
Comfort is everywhere – and it comes from very unexpected places. The first person who ever said something super comforting to me about my Dad was a stranger making a passing comment to me on the streets of NYC the day after the funeral. He had no idea what I was going through, but he said exactly what I needed to hear. Often times when we expect certain comfort from our friends or loved ones, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. This is often the time when friends and family will show their true colors, so be prepared. It’s sometimes necessary to seek out ways to grieve on your own. I’ve created meditation practices and little rituals for myself, for instance, that I do every day and especially on hard days. I also started taking (and making!) tinctures for myself specifically targeted for grief and shock, like 21 Drops Carry On blend and Dr. Bach’s Star of Bethlehem.
Focus on the big picture – Admittedly I still get peeved when people use the word ‘ grief’ haphazardly, or in relation to a breakup or the end of a friendship. I know, I know. I’m working on it. Grief is a powerful, unique, personal experience and it means something different to everyone. I’ve learned to also be careful with my own words and language. I’ve been very up on my NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). I don’t use phrases like ‘ I hate.’ Or ‘ I can’t.’; instead I’m focused on making my words meaningful and most importantly, empowering. This keeps my thoughts empowering and keeps me moving on. Getting stuck on the little things – like ‘trigger words’, sad songs, or whatever is holding us back – can be caught and changed immediately. I’d say I’ve gone from JV to Pro at this in the last 12 months. Ain’t nobody got time for tiny pet peeves.
All in good time – It wasn’t until last week that I even touched the photo album I have with all my Dad’s photos in it. It took me about 6 weeks after the funeral to listen to all my Dad’s voicemails. I immediately recorded them to have forever, but I’ve barely heard them since. It goes in reverse, and they span over the 2 years he was sick, so Dad goes from sounding young and healthy to sick and dying as you listen, which makes it creepy and also incredibly real for me. The point is, there’s no ‘ right time’ to look back, remember, or cherish memories you had with your deceased loved one. Do it when it doesn’t hurt you. I can look at the photo album of my Dad now and smile, laugh, and tell stories and jokes. It took me almost a year, but it feels incredibly rewarding. You’ll never forget them, but you don’t have to flood yourself with tough memories to ‘ get over it’.
It’s your experience – I know I harp on having a PMA (positive mental attitude) a lot, but for me there’s no other choice because it has shown such massive results in my life to keep my head and chin up, even when I am feeling down. Even if I am “tricking” my body into feeling better, the ultimate result is more love, light and miracles in my life, so that doesn’t feel very deceptive to me. I can say that, even through the loss of my friends, or my Dad, I’ve been happy. There is a saying, “ Don’t let a bad phone call give you a bad day.” For instance, you may speak with someone who puts you in a negative mood for a moment, but that doesn’t have to put you in a bad mood for the next day or the next week! This is your experience and yours completely. Life rarely hands us things like that, so make the most of it and make it empowering for your life. Think of the good times, laugh through the bad times, forgive yourself, let yourself have some inspiring a-ha moments, and then relax. There is nothing more you could have done or said. Whether you write about your experience, give back to a cause in their name, or somehow share your experience in an empowering way, make the most of what you’re going through. What feels like the end of something if often a new beginning. When one door closes, sometimes a whole other house is built, just waiting for you to stop by and make a home.
Finally, a helpful meditation for those of you who are grieving a loss:
I am so excited to share this interview with you! About.me, one of my absolute favorite social networking sites, asked me some questions on how I find balance, about my book, music, science background and more 🙂
A ritual I do every single morning consists of vitamins, oils and tea to enrich my dehydrated skin and hungry body early in the day, while I sip a fresh, home-made smoothie. This keeps me nourished and motivated while I make food and catch up on e-mails. This last week I spent on the road, driving up to San Francisco and back down to San Diego in less than a week. Between meetings, friendships, working remotely, travel, switching sleeping spots and catching up on e-mails, wellness fought hard to take a front seat. And while I did manage to take my vitamins, drink my teas, ingest my tinctures and do my little rituals, doing it in my own space again means so, so much to me!
Currently morning vitamins include True Svatsthya’s (follow @truesvasthya for more info!) Phythoceramides, which have gotten a lot of press lately after Dr. Oz said on his show that they could “take ten years off your life in four weeks!” I’ve been very eager to try them, as customer testimonials boast plumper, more hydrated and rejuvenated skin. I noticed results in about four days – most noticeably I’ve needed to hydrate my sun-loving skin way less, saving me on product. And makeup which used to get “stuck” on wrinkles and bumps now seems to glide right on and look dewey.
Life EqualsVitamin D and Omega 3’s ( follow @lifeequals for more info & get 10% off your first time purchase with coupon code ORGANICLIFE or 75% off with coupon code ORGANICLIFE75 for monthly vitamins) for my skin and mood in the morning have been killer, and were much needed on my shocking trip to Northern California, where sunshine peeks out with reservation a few times a day, a lot like it does on the East Coast, especially in January. A far cry from the 75 and sunny I’m used to in LA and SD!
Life Equals Vitamin D has been coined “ the sunshine vitamin”. It can affect more than 2,000 cells in the body. Vitamin D fights heart disease, the flu and symptoms of MS. It does wonders for my mood and helps my body absorb sunshine while fighting free radicals.
Life Equal’s Omega-3’s help as a natural anti-depressant, as well as helping my rheumatoid arthritis, stiffness and joint pain in the cold. Omega’s are essential for overall health, including heart health, cholesterol, and concentration. It can maximize your learning potential, aiding in helping disorders like ADHD, Chron’s Disease, Parkinsons, Alzheimers and general brain function.
I also take MSM + Sulfur for my joints and bones. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a naturally occurring sulfur compound found in all vertebrates, including humans. MSM is already well-known for its joint health benefits, but it may be important for a whole host of other reasons as well. Sulfur plays a critical role in detoxification, and also in inflammatory conditions. For detoxification, sulfur is part of one of the most important antioxidants that your body produces: glutathione. Without sulfur, glutathione cannot work. It also reduces pain and swelling, improves circulation and improves cell vitality by breaking up unhealthy calcium deposits, which are the root cause of many degenerative diseases.
Buddha Teas (Follow @buddhateas & receive 20% off your Buddha Teas order with coupon code ORGANICLIFE at buddhateas.com) are local to my hometown in San Diego and they’re amazing! They sent me over some Chakra based teas that I have at night, but this Pure Mind tea is incredible for super early in the morning!
Pure Mind tea is great for both relaxing from stress and enhancing concentration. This awesome elixir of holy basil, rosemary, oregano, sage leaf myrtle, gotu kola, and spearmint is completely organic and tastes delicious!
I will add my spirits, and tinctures to this, like Sleeping Monk’s Mind Sharpener, which is a reishi-mushroom based tincture that helps concentration and focus ( follow @sleepingmonks to find out more!) as well as eliminates threats of many common degerative mind diseases. Loaded with powerful ginseng root (which calms, concentrates and strengthens the body), polygala root (amazing for nervous tension, memory, nerve growth), and sweetflag rhizome (relieves confusion and depression, aids in digestion, increases circulation to the brain) Sleeping Monk’s formula’s are super powerful! I add a dropper full to my tea in the morning along with some Manukah Honey for a powerful and delicious blend.
Wedderspoon’s Manuka Honey is the best of the best. I’d like to take this moment to correct a previous post I made on Manuka Honey, as the good people of Wedderspoon have given me some updated information. Though many people believe it, UMF is an inaccurate way to test quality and potency of manuka. Through a robust marketing campaign, UMF has convinced the public of this however, UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) is a company that trademarks Manuka honey and is not an official standard in any way for determining potency of Manuka. In fact, UMF sets the stage for manipulating the honey, since the testing method involves heating, which also automatically alters the contents of the honey and could affect the valuable enzymes found in manuka honey.
Wedderspoon eliminates this problem by providing raw, organic, GMO free, unheated manuka honey. It’s amazing for everything from tea, to a drizzle on a fruit salad, to DIY face masks! (Follow them on @wedderspoonusa to find out more!)
Along with my tea, I take Thayer’s Natural’s throat drops (Follow @thayersnaturals to learn more!) These natural throat drops are how I keep my voice in tip top shape! Thayer’s have been around for over a century, making natural products since 1869! Made from the inner bark of the Slippery Elm tree (ulmus fulva), these dependable demulcents soothe the tissues of the mouth and throat and restore the voice without the dulling effects of menthol. Try them – you’ll soon be singing Thayer’s praises!
To help it all go down, I apply 21 Drops Digestion onto my pulse points and inhale deeply. 21 Drops makes extremely affordable and natural essential oil blends for different ailments, like pain, nervousness, insomnia and digestion. A blend of cardamon, ginger and chamomile helps my meals go down easier and reduces the “morning sweats” that I get from nausea associated with pain and stomach problems I incurred during pharmaceutical withdrawal.
Finally, I apply Laurel’s Skin’s new natural and organic one drop wonder eye serum. While in San Francisco, I stopped by Laurel Skin HQ for an inspiring chat with the lovely Laurel & her amazing team! She was kind enough to gift me her magical new eye serum, releasing in March! It is truly a ONE drop WONDER! I was so surprised that the instructions said to use ONE drop! ? So I did! One heavenly drop is enough to cover under both my eyes with a little left over!
Deeply nourishing jojoba, borage, rosehip, pomegranate & almond seed oils go straight to work hydrating skin. It smells divine, with Laurel’s signature earthy scent, mixed with deep and pleasant tones of rose and berries. I can’t stop sniffing the ‘tester’ part of my hand. I can’t thank Laurel enough for this gorgeous beauty! This serum is perfect for travel, so I’ve found my holy grail! ( Follow @laurelskin to learn more about her awesome whole plant based organic line.)
Thanks for reading all about my morning routine this week. These kinds of posts are super fun to do and there will be more to come!