Through the Eyes of My Cat

Through the eyes of my cat, I am a provider. Provider of food. Provider of comfort. Provider of shelter.

Through the eyes of my cat, I am a lover. Lover of snuggles. Lover of playtime. Lover of blanket forts.

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Through the eyes of my cat, I am beautiful. Strong. Funny. Compassionate. I have a soothing voice and a kind face.

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Through the eyes of my cat, I can be stern. Sometimes disapproving. Sometimes bossy. Sometimes sad.

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Through the eyes of my cat, I am a protector. I am a friend. I am a companion.

Through the eyes of my cat, I am perfect. I am worthy. I am love.

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Through the eyes of my cat, I can do no wrong. I am a place of comfort. A warm body. A soft kiss. I am gentle. Thoughtful. Caring. Loving. I am home. I am mama.

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When I think of myself through the eyes of my cat, I am everything I could ever wish to be. My cat sees so much beauty in me, so much goodness, that I must accept it to be true. Therefore, I declare that I am all of these things. These beautiful things. When I think of myself through the eyes of my cat, I am enough. I am worthy enough to go out into the world and shine. To spread my love and my warmth and my kindness to those around me. Maybe we should all try to give ourselves to the world in the same way we give ourselves to our cats. Maybe we should open our hearts wide to the world, allowing all of the goodness inside of us to spill out into the streets, washing away all the pain, and the fear, and the self-doubt. Maybe we can learn the act of self-love from our feline friends. And maybe then the world will see us the same way we are seen through the eyes of our cats, simultaneously feeling the joy of being a cat and the joy of being loved by a cat. Because maybe the simple act of loving and being loved is enough to melt away all the cold hatred in this world. Maybe love, from a cat or otherwise, is the answer.

Maybe, just maybe… L O V E is all we need.

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(**Photos of Milo & Clarkson by Me)

xoxo nicol.eliz

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4 Things I’ve Learned From My Boyfriend

The beginning of a new year is always such a magical time for me. New beginnings. A clean slate. Endless possibilities. The world is a canvas just begging for me to splatter it with the paint of my soul. This year especially, I feel very deeply that this new year symbolizes a true change for me. Something new and exciting is coming, I can feel it. And in the wake of this big change, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. Checking in with myself. My desires. My dreams. This year will be a year of passion and inspiration and creativity and making my dreams come true.

One of my biggest inspirations in this area is my most favorite person in the entire world. My best friend. My partner. My love. My heart. I am so grateful for the love that we have and so grateful for the life and the laughs and the special moments that we share. I recognize what we have as a rare and special thing, and I feel truly lucky to get to spend so many of my breaths here on earth with him. He is my strongest supporter. My biggest inspiration. My number one fan.

I decided to share some of my favorite things I’ve learned from him, because although he likes to tell everyone that I’m the smart one, he certainly has no shortage of wisdom. And I believe that everyone can benefit from a little more of the following:

Say F*** It
I am someone who stresses out about every little thing, and although I tend to pride myself on my ability to be empathetic, I often throw my wants and needs aside to please others. I am constantly worrying about upsetting someone or letting others down. I have an obsessive need to please everyone around me, and I usually end up suffering myself in one way or another as a result. This need of mine tends to leave me in a crippling ball of anxiety, which in turn stresses my boyfriend out because he hates to see me hurting. Recently, he was fed up with me stressing out over something that basically boiled down to this fear of disappointing someone, and he said “You need to say ‘F*** it’ more often.” We’ve since joked around about it, but in that moment, he was 100% sincere. And it really resonated with me. He’s so right. This is my life, and it’s the only one I get. Do I really want to spend the majority of it worrying about things that don’t mean anything? Worrying about disappointing people who are most likely too concerned with their own anxieties to even be affected by my decisions? No. I have more important things that I could be focusing my energy on. So, from that point on, I vowed to say “F*** it” more often. To not let the little things get to me. To be open to the possibility of disappointing other people if I am doing what genuinely feels right in my soul. I encourage you to say “F*** it” with me, and live your life for YOU.

Be Unapologetically Yourself
One thing I’ve been working on a lot these last few years is caring less about what other people think of me. I’m still not quite where I want to be, but it’s definitely becoming a lot easier to be authentic and to let my true self shine no matter where I am or who I am around. Since I started dating my boyfriend over five years ago, I’ve learned what it means to be adored, even loved, for being 100% myself. And let me tell you, I am one strange girl. But he has seen it all, and he loves me so much. I started from that space of feeling celebrated for being myself in my own home, and I’ve begun to branch out, letting other people see the real me. It’s scary, and I have a long way to go. But it’s necessary to be authentic in this world. And it feels damn good. It’s a bit easier, too, when I see my boyfriend being himself wherever we are, whoever we are with. He’s not worried about other people not liking him. He is just concerned with being himself and doing what feels good to him. Goals… am I right?

Work Hard
My boyfriend is one of the hardest workers I know. He is not someone to half-heartedly do anything. If he’s committed to something, he puts all of his heart into it. He strives for perfection, while still recognizing the fact that perfection is more of a general direction than a specific destination. He puts long hours into the things that he cares about, and he believes that hard work is the only way to succeed. Any time I am having a tantrum about not being good enough at something, he gets fired up. He believes that no one is good at anything without hard work, dedication, and practice. Maybe most importantly, he believes no one is good at anything without at first failing. He encourages me to read more, watch/listen to experts, and practice practice practice. If I want to be good at something, I need to get my hands dirty and put in some serious work. I need to fail at it and fail again. And then most importantly, get back up, dust off my hands, and try again.

Never Give Up
Before my boyfriend and I started dating, I wasn’t so sure about the idea of us. But he was certain from the very beginning. After he was extremely brave in confessing how he felt about me, he told me that he knew that I didn’t feel the same about him yet. But he promised to never give up on me, because he knew that we were supposed to be together. And sure enough, after months of patience on his part and months of me attempting to get my shit together and realize that he was right, he was there for me. He kept his promise; he never gave up. This is also true in his professional life. He was in a job that he hated, but he knew where he wanted to go. He was persistent in contacting prospective employers; reaching out to hundreds of companies until someone decided to give him a chance. And now he is a rising star in his industry. So, never give up on your dreams. You are the only one who can make them come true, and if you are persistent enough and you work hard enough, good things are bound to come your way. But you have to put in the work. And you can never EVER give up.

So, find people who inspire you and encourage you to become the person you were always meant to be. I am lucky enough to be spending my life with one of my biggest inspirations. He is living proof that it is possible to live your dreams. As long as you say “F*** it” to the haters and insignificant stress that life throws your way, be unapologetically yourself, work super hard, and never give up, then you really can’t go wrong.

Idea of Home

Home is a funny thing, isn’t it? Some people have a very clear, very happy definition of home. Home is family. Home is comfort. Home is that place that you can always return to. For others, home is not a place but a person. Wherever he or she is, as long as you are together, you are home. Some people can only dream of any kind of “home,” and for some others, “home” is what their nightmares are made of. Home is something that can stir anything from the darkest to the warmest memories. Sometimes I wonder how a single word, a single idea, can have so many different connotations and can evoke so many varying feelings. But then again, I wonder a lot. About a lot of different things. I spend a lot of time in my own head. Wandering into its depths. Exploring the dusty corners and dark alley ways of my soul. Sometimes I even dare to leave the flashlight behind. I guess in some sense, you could say that my mind is my home. My soul is my home.

“Excuse me.” I am suddenly thrust back into reality when a woman’s husky voice reaches my ears. I scoot to the side of the aisle I am currently occupying. I look up and smile, receiving no such reply. I sigh to myself as I watch the stranger in the green peacoat shuffle impatiently through the store. I feel a slight weight in my hands and glance down to remember once again that idea of home. That strange, strange word. A version of which sat in my very hands. The word, carved from wood and painted a distressed blue, had caught my eye as it sat on a shelf occupied with many other decor items marked with the bright red sticker: “SALE.” Ha. Home is on the clearance rack. I noticed a small chunk missing out of the upper left corner of the “H” and a crack wrinkled across the “O.” Kind of fitting, I thought. My home is also broken. I wonder if anyone would even pay the sale price for a home like mine.

I put “home” back on the shelf. As I begin to walk away, I suddenly feel home tugging me back. Is this what is feels like to be forever drawn to the place where you grew up and where your family resides? Huh. This is new. I decide to give home a chance. I grab the broken, cracked word and make my way towards the checkout counter. This word may have a few pieces missing, but everyone deserves a home. Even home itself. Clever, I think to myself. I smile. The clerk thinks I’m smiling at her, so I pretend that I am. “Hi there. How are you doing today?”

“Fine, thank you. Is this going to be everything for you today?”

“Yes, please.”

“Two dollars.”

I hand over the cash, refuse a receipt, smile again. “Thank you. Have a good day!”

I don’t even receive so much as a grunt of agreement. What is it with people today? Maybe they, too, have a broken home. Maybe they could use a wooden reminder that home comes in many shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. An ad idea flashes through my mind: “Don’t be sad, buy a new home on clearance today!”

The cold wind hits my face as I step out onto the street. March 17th. Where’s the sunshine? New York could use a little sunshine today. So could I. I make my way to my current home with my new home waiting patiently in a paper bag. This “home” thing could get awfully confusing. Good thing no one else can hear my thoughts.

LOVE (Feel it. Say it. Give it.)

Why is love so exclusive? People talk about how lucky they are when they find love. And that’s great. But when did love become such a limited commodity? My whole life, I’ve questioned the entire idea of love. Mainly when it came to romantic relationships. What is it? How will I know when I find it? What if I never do? When is it too early to tell someone you love them? How can you can tell if it’s real? I was very careful about when I said those three magic words to someone, as if once they came out, things would never be the same. Even with close friends. I didn’t say it to just anyone. Maybe it was only me, but it seems like many people struggle with this idea of love.

There is someone who came into my life recently. We spent a lot of time together over a short period, but then we parted ways and quite possibly may never see each other again outside of social media. The other day, she told me that she loved me. This struck me so profoundly. This woman, who I barely know and who barely knows me (no matter how wonderful the short time we spent together was), loves me? How? But questions aside, it felt wonderful. I immediately told her I loved her back. And I truly do. This got me thinking… Why don’t I do this more often?

We are born with such a large capacity for love. All of us. No matter where we come from, who our ancestors are, which culture or religion we are born into, love is universal. We are all capable of love. And a lot of it. So, why not share it? There is no benefit to being stingy with the love you have in your heart. Give it. Say it. If you feel a connection to someone, if you feel grateful for someone, if you simply exchange smiles or a laugh with someone. If you share a moment of any nature with another person that makes you feel happy to be alive, tell them you love them. Just say it. It doesn’t have to be so scary. And it feels so good! It’s something we all experience in one way or another, so why don’t we spread it around and use it to make our world a brighter place?

From this point on, I vow to love more. To open myself up to the wonderful feeling of connecting with other people and sharing love. To show others that love doesn’t have to be exclusive and that it feels good to express it. You will not run out of love, I promise. So, don’t worry about saving your love for that one special person. We are all special people, and we all want and need to be loved. All of us. And guess what? I guarantee if you give more love, you will receive more love. How great is that? So, let’s do our part in bringing more love into this world. Let’s open our hearts and let our love spill out onto all the people and places that need it. Love is the greatest power of all. It’s time for us to recognize it as such.

I love you.

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xoxo nicole

Don’t Be Afraid

When I was a little girl, I conquered fear. Now, if you know me, or better yet, if you knew me as a little girl, you might not believe me. I was always scared of everything. And for most of my life, I’ve let fear take the drivers seat when it comes to making decisions. But one night sometime in the mid-1990s, little Nicky conquered fear.

We had just gotten home from my Grandma’s house, and my mom realized that she had left her purse. Jokingly, she said to me “Hey, Nicky, why don’t you run up to Grandma’s and get my purse for me?” This was a joke, because although we lived in a small town and my Grandma’s house was only a five minute walk away, it was after dark, and I was very young. My mother would never expect me, or allow me, to walk to my Grandma’s house alone after dark. She continued doing whatever she was doing, and without her knowing, I snuck out of the house and began the trek to Grandma’s. Now when I think back on it, I have no idea what got into me. I’m not sure if I thought she was serious and the little people-pleaser that I’ve always been wanted to make her happy, or if I wanted to prove something to her and to myself. Either way, I was out on the street, in the dark, alone. Scared beyond belief, I’m sure. When my mom realized where I had gone, she came running out after me and found me halfway down the alley. Before she caught up to me, she heard me talking to myself. Cheering myself on. “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.”

And now, here I am, staying in a job that makes me miserable for fear of the unknown. Missing experiences that could help me discover who I am. Staying in my comfort zone. Avoiding taking risks. Hindering my growth. Where is that brave little girl when I need her now?

Oh, she’s there. She’s always been there, just under the surface. She’s in all of us. This story reminds me that no matter how afraid I may feel, I have a choice. I can choose not to be afraid. Even if I feel scared inside, I can push past it. It’s that easy. It may not feel easy, but it really is. Fear is something we’ve made up in order to protect ourselves. Sometimes it’s useful and can keep us safe, but mostly it is an obstacle. It keeps up from discovering things that make us feel alive. It keeps us in our comfort zones, and no magic is made in comfort zones. Sometimes, you just need to jump. And trust that you are capable of spreading those wings, and keeping yourself afloat. From now on, when I come across something that scares me, I’m going to remember that little girl. That little girl that believed in herself enough to keep going no matter how scared she felt inside.

Choose love over fear. Every time. Because you do have a choice. Don’t let the fear take over. Choose love. Love enough to give yourself the space to fly, regardless of your fear of heights. Chase your dreams. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Bowl

Hi everyone! I just wanted to check in on this gorgeous November Sunday. Is there anything better than slightly crisp air and blue, sunny skies? Amazing. I hope you are enjoying your Sunday and not completely freaking out about having to go back to work tomorrow. Personally, I’m just trying not to think about it. In this moment, I am happy. I am content. So, that will remain my focus! Besides, this moment is all we have. Well, that is until the next one comes along… 🙂

I made a delicious fall-inspired smoothie bowl yesterday morning, and after posting a picture on my Instagram (@nicol.eliz), several people asked me for the recipe. So, I thought I’d hop on here and share it! I didn’t follow a particular recipe or measure anything out, so this is just an estimate. But, of course, feel free to adjust or add any ingredient to make it better suit your tastes! Make it yours. And most importantly: have fun with it. Your kitchen is meant to be a place to inspire and create. Don’t let it be intimidating! 🙂
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PUMPKIN PIE SMOOTHIE (Serves 1)

2 bananas (one fresh, one frozen)
3/4 cup pumpkin (I used canned pumpkin.)
1/2 cup almond milk, vanilla
1 Tablespoon almond butter
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon honey (or maple syrup to keep it vegan)
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Combine all ingredient in blender, and blend until the smoothie reaches desired consistency. Serve in a bowl topped with anything you desire! I topped mine with shredded coconut, flax seeds, chia seeds, and raw cacao nibs. It was delicious! I hope you try it, and I hope you LOVE it! And let me know what you think in the comments. 🙂

Well, I’m off to make guacamole and cookies. (Does anyone else love cooking/baking up a storm on Sundays?!) I hope you all have the most amazing week. And remember, if you start to feel anxious or stressed out during your work week or when you look at your to-do list, remember that this moment that we are in, right now, is all that exists. And you have to admit… in this moment, everything is alright. Everything is alright.

xoxo nicole

 

The Time Yoga Broke My Heart

 

About a year ago, I was nearing the end of my rope. I was holding on with all my strength, but my hands were slipping. I was starting to feel restless in a job that I had no passion for. This was complicated by the fact that I was surrounded by people who knew exactly what they wanted out of life and were well on their way to achieving it, and then there was me. Working a job that I had no interest in and not knowing where to go next. I was lost and scared. I couldn’t help but wonder… what was my purpose in life? After many tearful nights and exhausting conversations with my boyfriend, we decided to make a plan. He sat me down and asked me a simple question: “what do you love? What are you passionate about?” My immediate answer was yoga. I love yoga. Then his next question shifted something in me. “Why don’t you teach yoga?” How had I never thought of that before?

I immediately started researching yoga teacher trainings. My first thought was to go with my home studio, but I wanted to check out all of my options before making any decisions. It turned out, though, that my home studio actually looked to offer the best deal. And the training took place in a beautiful resort in a gorgeous little town on the coast of Mexico. I was familiar with the teachers, and after this intensified training program I would be “fully certified to teach” like the website said. What more could I ask for?

The saving and planning began. I started putting money away with every paycheck and as soon as I had enough money for the down payment, I pulled the trigger. This was HUGE for me. First of all, I had never been on a plane. This would be my first flight, my first time out of the country, and I would be spending a week with a bunch of strangers in a strange land. This was terrifying and exhilarating. I had always dreamed of traveling and doing things like this, but money and fear always stood in my way. I was (am?) someone who is scared of everything and who uses fear as an excuse to stop me from doing anything worthwhile in my life. Fear wasn’t going to get in my way this time, so when I hit “Submit” on my registration and downpayment for this teacher training, I was so proud of myself. Scared, yes. Excited, of course. But proud. So proud.14329955_10155084998492788_9157949201673254650_n

All the logistics were taken care of: passport, flight, tuition, supplies. All of it. I spent the next few months reading everything I could about yoga, taking notes, and practicing sequences. I was so prepared. And so ready. My fear was slowly transforming into excitement. The hard part was over. Now, all I had to do was show up and practice yoga, and that was something I could easily do.

Finally, the day before my training arrived. The fear was back in full force, but the overwhelming excitement coursing through my veins was enough to mute that fear. This was an enormous step for me and was basically going to be the beginning of everything. The plan was to slowly turn teaching yoga into a full-time career and then to eventually open my own studio. I wanted to create a safe place where people could move in ways that make them feel good, where everyone was welcome, “yoga body” or not. I wanted to create a community where kindness, compassion, and self-love are the main components. Bringing creativity and empathy into yoga and wellness is my passion, and this certification was going to jumpstart that career.

My flight went well (one big milestone down!) and then I arrived at the resort, and it felt like I had just arrived onto the doorstep of my future. This was it. I was about to change my life.

I wish I could explain how incredible this week was for me. I’m sure anyone who has gone to a yoga teacher training or a yoga retreat can understand. It’s life changing. I met people who I know will stay with me for a lifetime. We let ourselves be vulnerable and open in a way that was so foreign to me. 13315352_10154783129227788_5003027538617213756_nThe support was palpable. We became family. Quickly. The way these people let me be my authentic, true self and let me feel okay with it was something I will never forget. I am eternally grateful. And in terms of the yoga, I was so terrified that I would get there and realize that I was not great at teaching or worse that I would hate it. But neither of these turned out to be true. It was actually the opposite. I was great at it, and better yet, I felt surprisingly comfortable guiding a class through movement and breath. It was so fulfilling and came so much more natural than I expected. I felt like I was on fire. I was making friends (which never came easily for me) who truly knew the me that I wanted to be, and I found something that truly made me feel good and made me feel as if I had a purpose. I could use this gift to help people. To help myself. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so lost.

And then something happened. It turned out that there was a misunderstanding, and I didn’t receive the full certification that I was expecting. I would have to attend a second training for the same amount of money (that took me forever to save the first time) in order to be fully certified and registered as a yoga instructor. Suddenly, my dream was unexpectedly put on hold until further notice. I felt tricked and betrayed and so, so foolish. I was completely thrown for a loop. My elation and excitement and fulfillment from the week had just been smashed into thousands of tiny little pieces. And it turns out, months later, I am still trying to put the pieces back together.

After I got home, I struggled to get back on my mat. Weirdly, it felt like I was angry with yoga. Like it was yoga that had betrayed me. The one thing that had given me purpose and that had made me feel truly good about myself was never supposed to make me feel this way. My heart was broken. That purpose that I had found in Mexico among some of the most amazing people I had ever met? It had faded and disappeared. That confidence that I found and the fire that was ignited in my soul? It had been put out. I felt more lost and scared and worthless than before. Please understand that I was and am still grateful for the experience. I would never trade the laughs, the friendships, the vulnerability, the beauty, the sweat, the tears, the memories that this trip had given me. But I couldn’t help thinking that maybe this was a sign that I had been wrong. Maybe this was a sign that teaching yoga was not my purpose.

Now that I’ve had time to reflect and meditate over this experience, I’ve learned a few things. Maybe that week was more about self-discovery than actually about the certification that I would take home. I know that I was meant to be in Mexico with that group of people at that exact time. I’m certain of it. But maybe the certification I was expecting would have just been the cherry on the top of the sundae. Maybe that feeling that I discovered while sipping ginger tea with my newly found sisters after hours of yoga and meditation… maybe that was the sundae. Maybe that rare, authentic, inspiring connection to others is the purpose I was supposed to leave with. Teaching yoga is certainly something that I want to pursue in my life, but maybe it’s not my only purpose. This week taught me how to connect with people without judgement. Without envy. How to inspire others with my dreams and let myself be inspired by theirs without a sense of competition. How to cultivate a genuine compassion for those around me and how to love myself and motivate others to practice self-love as well. How to face my fears and dive deeper into the dark, dusty corners of my soul that have been guarded by that fear for years. Maybe my purpose is to create a space for all of this inspiration and compassion to grow. A space for others to join me and sit with me in this soul fire. And I realized that the perfect place for this idea to grow is right here with me. On my yoga mat.

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Even though I am still struggling with the aftermath of my broken heart and fighting to get out of the same job that I have no passion for, even struggling to get out of bed some days, I am beginning to see that light at the end of the tunnel. I am beginning to see that path that I am meant to follow and the pot of gold that awaits me at the end. So, Yoga, I forgive you. And I want to thank you for breaking my heart and for building me back up over and over again. I am forever grateful for the experiences for the feelings for the friendships for the purpose. Thank you.