to the bone. 

stop waiting for the world to make you happy. go out and find your joy. stop waiting for someone to come rescue you. take action for your actions. 

those words come from an interpretation from the new netflix original To the Bone, which has finally sparked conversation around mental health. 

for those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a short film based on the story of a young girl struggling with an eating disorder. it takes you through her process of attending residential treatment, refusing it, and seeing herself sick from an outside lense, to then work towards health. 

there were moments that, while watching I felt uncomfortable, then realized it was because they were so raw. and so real. moments that aren’t “allowed” in society as a way to heal from this illness. 

it has finally ignited a conversation around mental illness, especially anorexia. which in 2017, still sadly has a huge taboo surrounding it. in addition awareness to anorexia being the highest death rate among depression, alcoholism, and drug addiction. mental illness is just that, it’s an illness. it’s not a choice. 

having my own personal experiences with mental health, I was amazed at the beauty and realism behind this well told story. 

those who have suffered will not tell you that everything happens for a reason. sometimes shit just happens. the bravery of Lilly Collins to beautifully play this role was captured. 

the world can have their opinions about the role being played after her real life struggle with an eating disorder. I hope for the sake of every women, man, girl, and boy who has ever has ever had/has this illness will use it as inspiration, as a therapeutic experience, as she has. 

hats off Lilly Collins and company. your story is an inspiration to my own story. 

you’re a person, not a number. 

To my dear Gemma, 

Tomorrow will mark a huge milestone for you. One that will help determine a big part of your future. It is important. You have spent the last 2 years and the longest couple months of your life preparing for this outcome. I don’t worry even the slightest that you’ll do amazing. You’ll do you. Tomorrow, ironically and figuratively , be big. 

What I want to tell you the most is that you are not a number. You are not a number on the scale. You are not a number on a test. You are not average. You are not, not good enough. In my mind, numbers don’t exist tomorrow. 

You are by far, one of the most inspiring beings I know. You have lived life. You have seen, felt, heard, tasted, and touched the good, the hard, the raw, and the really real. And while I don’t wish the hard and raw upon you. Ever or ever. I am grateful it has given us a beautiful place to be in life, together, during all of those times. 

Tonight I hold you. I hope the trauma. I hold the food that is hard to chew and swallow. I hope the flashbacks. I hold the anxiety. I’ve got it. I’ve got it. 

Walk tomorrow tall and proud. Because not only are you about to enter your third year of med school; you’re about to enter it while living a life that isn’t always easy. Living a life that doesn’t always happen for a reason. But you’re living this beautiful life of yours; and I’m so grateful for it. I’m so grateful for you. 

Thank you for igniting the fire in me to be an artist. Thank you for reminding me to chew and swallow food so I can be strong to ride. Thank you for holding me while I cry. Thank you for reminding me what a passion my job is, even on hard days. Thank you for loving all my parts; especially the real and raw ones. 

Tomorrow isn’t a number. It’s you. It’s you being you. It’s a beautiful thing. 

I love you more. 

Forever, 

Your Gemma 

stop taking short cuts. 

Last weekend, my trainer said slow down. So I slowed my canter down. I did the jumping course again, and she said, you didn’t slow down. I didn’t get it. It felt painfully slow. So she stopped and thought for a minute. Then she said, slow down and stop taking short cuts. The more time you have approaching the jump, the more breaths you take, the more strides he takes, will make your jump that much easier. 

She had no intention of sounding profound. Knowledgeable, wise, sure. 

I walked away and said, well shit, I run as fast as I can to everything in my life. My mentality for 29 years has been, the more I get done, the better human I am. 

I do things well, but am I enjoying the things I’m doing or am I just accomplishing them? 

I believe that painfully slow will allow me to feel all my mistakes. Maybe it will. Maybe I’m wrong. 

Tonight, she said, better but still too fast. It’s not a race. This time I realized it felt too fast, but I also realized I hadn’t breathed the entire 74 second course. Which is actually a long time not to breathe while expending every ounce of energy you have. 

She gave me a 7 jump course and told me to count outloud the entire time. 1, 2, 1, 2 approaching each jump. Then 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, land in between each jump. You have to breathe while you’re talking. 

I finished the course with my whole body smiling. Slow down. Painfully slow down. Breathe. Count your strides. Smile with your whole body. 

pause. 

The other day, a dad working with his typical child looked at me working with a client and said, “Wow, that must be really hard. You are such a good person.” 

He caught me on the wrong day. I looked right back at him and said, actually I can’t stand typical kids. Okay, okay, that was unkind of me to say and not truthful. But it was more appropriate than throwing something at you, which is what I really wanted. 

Here’s the thing. Sure my job has its hard days. I work with 10 kids who have some complicated needs. But I can promise you, my number of hard work days are no more than yours. Because this is what makes sense to me. It works in my brain. Just like being a doctor, or an accountant, or business owner works for yours. Put me in one of those roles and my reaction to that dad would have been yep, my job is tough and I hate my days behind a desk or in exam rooms. 

But working with kids who have special needs doesn’t give me an honor or a badge of excellence. I’m good at what I do. But I’m not better becatse of what I do. 

In fact, I can be pretty selfish sometimes. The student I’m working with needs a walk break (no he doesn’t… know I do). But my babes are forgiving, which teaches me to be forgiving. They teach me to appreciate really small things, because it’s so so easy to grumble about traffic and not enough coffee in a day and waking up early (which I still work on everyday). But they also teach me sometimes it’s ok to grumble and tell someone to move. 

I’m no saint. I am lucky that I found a way to spend most days happy at work, because there are a lot of moments where it just feels like life. (And the easier part of life), where I can ask for a hug and always get one, beam when we hit milestones, go on walks, cry together, oh and laugh so much together. 

So, world, please think about your response next time someone tells you about their very noble job. Instead of assuming it’s hard, ask them what it’s like. 

Because it’s pretty great. 

deposits. 

In the last three months, I’ve lost. I’ve lost to people and breath that makes me feel so alive. I’ve lost to coping mechanisms that usually work. That I thought would for sure work. 

I lost Percy. I lost my daddy. And I lost my relationship. I was diagnosed with epilepsy. 

I’m reading this book right now, and one of the paragraphs says, ‘Bad days come in degrees. They are not all equally bad. And the really bad ones, though horrible to live through, are useful for later. You store them up. A bank of bad days. So if you’re having another bad day you can say, Well, this feels bad, but there have been worse. And even when you can’t think of a worse day – when the one you are living is the very worst there has ever been – you at least know the bank exists and that you have made a deposit.

I made a deposit. 
But thank goodness, the past few weeks I’m back to remembering when a day feels hard, there have been worse. Exponentially worse. It’s a hard thing to feel thankful for, but I am. 

While I may never own another horse, life has steered me right back to my barn family. I am leasing Miss Lola, one of the sassiest mares around. My body and brain are happily accepting the challenge. I’m excited to learn her personality more. I still see Percy often. He snickers when he sees me. He kisses my ear. And he holds no grudges. He’s happy that I’m finding my happiness again, my wings again. Just this morning he got very anxious, 2-3 people tried to calm him down. Anxiously (not wanted to have any strong connection yet), I stood in front of him and spoke the way I used to when he was anxious. He stopped dead in his tracks & nuzzled me. We will forever be there for each other, in some form. 

The end of my relationship meant a lot of things. But mostly the sense of teaching myself to be content again without a person near my side. I find myself wanting to pick up the phone to share something only he would understand often. But in just a few short weeks it continues to teach me to love myself for me. Not who I may be in a relationship. But just me. 

Losing my papa has been the absolute hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. The first 4-5 weeks I just felt utterly empty. It felt normal since most of my lost, big or little I avoid feeling at all, well because that’s hard. But the last few weeks, goodness have I felt. It is hard, but it’s worth it. I cry. I  cry thinking about his pain during the end of life. I cry thinking about who will walk me down the isle to get married. I wrap one of his old sweatshirts around me, that probably smells more like me than him now and cry. It’s a difficult mixture of pure anger and sadness that he’s gone. 

This morning when my alarm went off I grumbled fuck. I’m not doing today. There have been many of these days that have won. But, now I’m working to let them lose too. I have a few in the book. 

Life’s such a bitch. And it’s so beautiful. Continually searching for that balance. 

🖤

until next time. 

you fought like a warrior, as you always do, but our spaghetti dinner still sits on the shelves of a grocery store waiting to be made. 
“you found me, you found me, you found me.”

last weekend, I went to see my papa early in the morning to steal some time all to myself. he was in the dining room for breakfast when I got there, and I will never forget the look on his face when he saw me. he held onto me, squeezing and saying, you found me. 
my papa found me before I could walk, or talk. he found me as his little girl, paying no attention to society. 
that morning, I wheeled him back to his room. we sat and I started showing him pictures of my life the past couple months. he quietly listened, and gave a notorious papa laugh when I would tell a fun story. 
knowing he was fading fast, even in that moment, he put his hand on top of mine. he looked me in the eyes and said, are you ok? I nodded, stifling back tears. is michael good to you? I nodded, as one tear fell from my eyes. are you doing what you love? I nodded and he wiped his tears with the hand that had not failed him yet. 
he smiled and asked if I could help him back to bed. I sat, holding his hand until he fell asleep. right before he closed his eyes, he squeezed my hand and said, I love you. I love you too papa. 
those were the very last words I ever heard my daddy say to me. there is hope in this brokenness. 
tuesday, in the early hours of the morning I kissed him, and whispered in his ear. I love you. the words were not returned this time, as Jesus had rescued him from pain, and brought him up to heaven. a holy sanctuary that most of us in this room, learned about, and grew from, from papa. 
save me one of those unforgettable hugs. I’ll find you, I’ll find you one day where we’ll spend an eternity together without brokenness. I can see the light in your face now. 

I read this, for my daddy, in front of hundreds of people yesterday all grieving his loss. Then, my cousin, brother, and I went and drank a Jack Daniel in his honor. I bet he smiled down at us. 

Jack Daniel Taylor, you will forever be apart of our lives. 

the power of words. 

I’ve been working with kids on the spectrum for the last 7 or so years, the better part of my adulthood. I’ve worked with the most vocal (sometimes taking deep breaths after answering the same question 47 times), to kids with no communication system at all. 

I’ve always done my best to give them language. Parents and educators (including myself)  feeling hopeless after rages of aggression or hours of crying, I’ve learned both professionally and personally in the past year the power of words. 

My papa, my daddy has been struggling with brain cancer the last few months. Recently, it has taken away most of his speech. Yesterday, as I sat next to his hospital bed, he was squeezing my hand with all the strength he had left and trying so hard to get words out. After trying for long moments and only able to get one word of so many thoughts, he squeezed my hand tighter and silently cried. 

When I was about to leave, I kissed him and said, love you. He looked me in the eyes and said back, clear as ever, love you. 

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for giving us small moments of hope in the midst of helpless. 

Parents, educators, my sweet students, I see your thoughts. I feel your frustration, I promise to do my best to keep giving you language. I’m not mad when you hit me, because I know sometimes it’s the only way you can scream out to someone you trust, “I need something.” I’ve been working on that one word for months. 

The moments you spontaneously ask for bathroom or say my name out loud, my eyes well up. I know how hard you worked for that word. 

Parents, your babies love you.