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Sit still. Be quiet. Feel.

Now that both of my girls live miles, states, and flights away from me, I find myself transitioning into what it means to be alone. 

I have done this more than once:

  • After my divorce when the visitation schedule began. Every other weekend, the girls would be picked up from school by their dad on Friday and I wouldn’t see them until sometime Sunday. It was excruciating.
  • When not just one, but both girls were in college and I simultaneously ended a 2+ year relationship. The house was quiet (and immensely clean). I had no plans. There was nothing that needed to be done or managed or cooked (or cleaned). It was excruciating.
  • Last August when my youngest daughter, after 6 months of being back home because of Covid, returned to her life in Montana. It was quiet (and clean) all over again. And yes, excruciating.
  • Last September when I left my corporate job. From endless Zoom meetings and work-to-be-done to nothing but quiet and time and space. It was excruciating. 
  • Last November when I moved my oldest daughter from her apartment and life in Bellingham (just 90 minutes from me) to Lexington, KY (a day of flying from me). Even though she hadn’t been living at home for years, that return flight from KY to WA was excruciating – and days following, to be sure.
  • Every time I fly to visit one of the girls. Each return flight and for days after, I wonder what I’m doing so far from them. It’s excruciating. 

I should be quick to say that there is much goodness in all of the above, as well. It’s lovely to have a clean home, far fewer responsibilities, less tension, more quiet and time and space. 

But here’s the thing: when in receipt of quiet and time and space (whether that is attached to being alone, or not), I don’t seamlessly move to gratitude and appreciation. I am jumpy and distracted and irritated. I can’t settle down. I don’t feel at all myself. And I’m highly committed to distractions.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. 

It’s why scrolling IG and FB, watching Netflix or Amazon Prime, online shopping,  eating, drinking, and any number of dissociative techniques are what we default to instead of the quiet and time and space we often wish for. (Believe me: this post is hardly a critique of such; more, a confession!)

Years ago, when the visitation schedule kicked in, I talked to a very wise woman about what all of this felt like for me. I told her about how I was scattered and frenetic, frustrated and tense, “off” somehow. And this was her advice:

Sit still. Be quiet. Let yourself feel.

Uh, no thank you! That’s the last thing I want to do!

Except that I did. And it was hard. I felt a lot. It was uncomfortable and sad and often filled with grief. Sometimes anger. A long list of unanswerable questions that, when looked at more closely, led me to deep fears – which I didn’t like feeling and wanted to avoid (by getting up from the couch and making popcorn and pouring a glass of wine and turning on Netflix).

Despite her wisdom and even the years since that I’ve been following her counsel, I still lean toward the distractions. They’re always right there – like a bowl of potato chips – calling my name. (Sometimes the distraction is a bowl of potato chips!)

Thankfully though, my recovery time is getting quicker. Only because I continue to do what she said. It’s not my first impulse, even my second; but eventually I turn within, to the wisdom that resides there, to what is underneath and underneath and underneath – all of which deserves to be heard…and felt. 

do sit still. I can be quiet. And even though it often-and-still feels daunting and scary, I let myself feel. (Just so you know: it’s far less excruciating than it once was.)

I ask myself the following:

  • What do you feel, exactly?
  • Can you name it? Will you?
  • What’s underneath that feeling?
  • And what’s underneath that feeling?
  • What will happen if you let yourself stay with the feeling underneath that one instead of jumping up to avoid it?

Easier asked than answered, to be sure.

To actually feel what we feel, to give our deepest heart the gift of space and time, is scary and daunting (and potentially unraveling). 

But here’s what is more true:

You have BIG and deep and powerful feelings. They matter. And to feel them is the bravest work you’ll do in a lifetime, for your lifetime (over and over again). When you allow them, they are the very things that invite you home to yourself and into the wisdom, courage, and strength that is already and always yours. 

Yes, it’s scary and daunting (and potentially unraveling). Yes, any distraction feels far more desirable. And…self-awareness and growth and transformation and sovereignty is what we’re after, yes? Which is why these three simple steps become devotional practice:

Sit still. Be quiet. Feel.

I know. Deep breaths. I’m right there with you.

This is not for the faint of heart. As you let yourself feel, it is inevitable that you uncover places of harm and grief, emotions you’ve learned to repress, patterns you’ve developed that keep you safe – understandably! To let yourself feel – without restraint or censure – is brave and amazing. Choosing to stay present to every aspect of your story is the most beautiful and sacred work you can ever do. I promise.

May it be so.

*****

As always, I welcome your thoughts, your questions, your response, even your resistance (which I get, believe me!) I’ll definitely stop with the popcorn and cooking shows to respond!! I promise.

 

Photo by Susan Wilkinson on Unsplash

Choosing others’ comfort OR choosing self: a false dichotomy

I have a library of personal stories in which I let others’ needs demands overrule my own. I’m not proud of them, certainly not happy about them, and aware that without them I would have never learned the lessons they taught: boundaries, self-care, self-esteem, sovereignty, and more. Of them all, the hardest one has been learning to use my voice; not speaking in and of itself, but speaking my truth without editing, censoring, holding back, or apologizing.

“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” ~ Audre Lorde

She’s right, of course. But knowing this doesn’t make it easier. It’s scary to anticipate the fallout, the misunderstanding, even subsequent isolation and still speak, still write, still tell the truth, still articulate an opinion, still stand our ground.

What’s far easier, at least in the short run, is compromising. Saying just enough, but not upsetting anyone. Hinting at what we mean and then getting angry (usually with ourselves) when we’re not intuitively understood. And worst of all, saying what others want to hear or doing what others want, even and especially at our own expense.

When I look back at my many experiences and stories of such, what frustrates me most is how many times I felt like I had no choice; that I had to bite my tongue or censure my thoughts or tamp down my desires. I could not see a way to honor myself without someone else paying a price (or so I thought). And all of this without any recognition of the tremendous price I was paying over and over again.

It’s a false dichotomy – and an untenable one: either keeping others comfortable or honoring our very self.

We should never have to deliberate between compromising ourself, no matter how slightly, or paying a price for holding fast to what we know, believe, and feel. And yet we do – over and over and over again. 

Ready for the good news in all of this?

When we inventory and acknowledge the times in which we’ve compromised, not spoken up, not told or lived our truth, not chosen ourself, these become the impetus to do nothing of the sort ever again! Our hardest experiences – past and present – are what enable us to change course; to reimagine and rewrite our story, then live into the one we desire and deserve. Our awareness is what enables choice – and change.

Do the risks, costs, or fears go away? Absolutely not. In some ways, they probably increase. But so does our strength and certainty and courage and sovereignty

Yes, in retrospect, I might wish that I’d chosen myself sooner, that I’d trusted my voice earlier, that I’d nipped any form of compromise in the bud and in the moment. But I’m profoundly grateful for the gift of perspective – to witness my own growth and transformation; to feel the surge of strength, even joy, that comes when I do  choose myself; to extend myself grace when that has not been the case – and may yet be again.

So, my invitation to you?

List out the stories you wish were not yours – the ones in which you compromised or stayed silent or said what others wanted to hear or sold yourself short or, or, or… Let yourself feel all the feels associated with each. And then stand back and look at you now – who you have become, what you have accomplished, how you have grown, what you now know and understand and believe about yourself that once felt like mist and shadow. That’s a story worth telling and living. That’s your story – complex and dramatic and challenging and amazing. And the awareness and appreciation of that story? That’s the reimagining and retelling and redeeming of stories that I’m talking about all the time. It changes everything. 

 

*****

A tiny PS: One of the reasons I keep telling the story of Eveand countless others – is because the common telling perpetuates the (wildly untrue) message that when women choose themselves, disaster befalls. It’s no wonder we compromise and comply and keep our truest desires to ourselves! This is why her story (and countless others ) must be reimagined and retold and redeemed. Ours, as well. And when they are? Yep: it changes everything.  Mmmm. Let’s do that, yes?

 

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Changing Everything

If you want to learn about a culture, listen to the stories.

If you want to change a culture, change the stories.

This quote by Michael Margolis speaks volumes. It can be thought of on a wide-scale level: our culture, as a whole. But it is equally applicable and important at an individual level.

Maybe most concisely stated like this:

If you want to change, change your stories.

 

When I began working with the ancient, sacred stories I love, I became crystal clear about what made me crazy and super-frustrated with how their stories had been told over thousands of years: Deeply-ingrained patterns layered onto the page and in between the lines that shamed women who had opinions or used their voice, that believed women to be dangerous who were different, that kept women contained so that they did not disrupt systems of (or persons with) power.

When I looked closer still, something else became crystal clear: what made me crazy and super-frustrated with their stories was exactly what made me feel the same about my own.

MY story was made up of deeply-ingrained patterned beliefs that found me withholding my opinions and quieting my voice, opting to not be different (and certainly not dangerous), to not disrupt the system or upset the apple cart; instead, to play by the rules, be good, stay inside the lines.

That had to change. had to change. Everything had to change.

 

Truth-be-told, I found it far easier to change stories that are thousands of years old, than to do the same with my own. I could endlessly talk about Eve (which I continue to do) – praising her for eating the fruit, listening to the serpent, following her desire, and honoring her own wisdom. But to do that for myself? To tell and live that story? Much, much harder. And…ongoing; a life’s work, to be sure.

As I’ve remained committed to reimagining, retelling, and redeeming ancient, sacred stories, I’ve worked to do the same for myself. And I’ve learned a few things along the way:

  • The stories we’ve been told, the way they’ve been told, live deep within us. Sometimes for good; sometimes, not so much. 

  • Those stories (and the lessons within) turn into the stories we tell ourselves – the inner-voice that constantly reminds us we are too much, not enough, potentially both. 

  • When we listen to these stories, name them, acknowledge them honestly, and choose to change them, we can then begin the work and practice of telling and living the stories we desire and deserve. 

Every bit of this is sacred practice; responsibility, privilege, and gift. It’s also the most important thing we can possibly do.

 

When we change our stories, we change everything.

 

And perhaps it’s dangerous and disruptive to say so, but changing everything is what matters most, what’s required of us, what we’re called to – for ourselves and for our world.

May it be so.

 

*****

 

The process and practice I have developed with ancient, sacred stories (and my own) is probably the most concise way for me to describe what my 1:1 work is about: inviting you to name the stories that have made you you, then helping you reimagine and rewrite them in ways that empower, embolden, and, well, change everything!

I currently have space for new clients. Book a free, 30-minute call with me. No pressure or obligation – just a chance to chat (which I’d LOVE).

 

*****

 

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

Steps that count vs. counting steps

I have an Apple Watch that I rarely wear. It enables me to count my steps which, on good days, encourages me, but on less-than-good ones has me feeling less-than-good about myself, even though I did take steps, did actually move, did get up from my desk at least a few times! Still, it’s this latter reality that keeps me from wearing the watch at all.

I don’t like feeling like the steps I have taken don’t count. 

It strikes me that courage is a lot like this:

On good days, I’m more than happy to count all the ways that I’ve demonstrated it, held fast to it, remained committed. I can see the ways in which it is moving me toward my goals…and then some. But on less-than-good days I can’t take much pleasure in any steps…even though they absolutely exist because they don’t seem like enough, I’ve not taken enough of them, they’re not spectacular or Watch-worthy!

*sigh*

We often feel like courage has to be ginormous, amazing, bigger than life, cliff-jumping-esque. Certainly, such displays and experiences of courage do exist. But if they become the standard (like the bare-minimum of 10k steps), we become disheartened by anything less; worse, we become disappointed in ourselves.

So, what’s the alternative? What’s the non-Apple-Watch version of courage?

Any step at all matters, even (and maybe especially) the tiniest and most incremental.

Tiny steps of courage make an amazing difference and enable the kind of ongoing movement, transformation, and change you desire and deserve.

An example:

I used to get super-irritated at myself when I wouldn’t just say what I actually felt, speak my mind, tell my truth. I spent an inordinate amount of time in my head – spinning about with thoughts like:

  • If I say what I actually think and feel, all hell will break loose. (But wait! This IS what I think and feel! Shouldn’t I be able to express that, no matter what?)
  • They won’t be able to handle it – or me. (If they can’t handle me, why is that my problem?)
  • It’s only going to make things worse; I need to figure out another way through this issue or problem or reality. (Why am I still deliberating about this? Really?!?)

And this spinning, this craziness? Milliseconds. The list was far longer, believe me – and endlessly on repeat.

One day I decided to experiment with something, just a little thing, the tiniest promise to myself:

Just one time today, you will tell the truth. Just one time today you will align your inner thoughts with your outer words/actions. Just once. That’s all. Nothing more is required. 

Amazingly, I did it! And miracle of miracles, the world did not come crashing down around me. Some days were harder than others, to be sure, but still, I survived them. And even more amazing? Over time I realized that I my capacity to demonstrate courage was building, getting stronger – like a muscle. Those tiniest of steps began to add up. And what at one time had looked like an uncrossable chasm, eventually just required one more tiny step to now be on the other side.

What if you experimented? What if you made a promise to yourself? What if you chose the tiniest, seemingly inconsequential step and then repeated it day after day after day?

That, dear friends, takes courage.

That, dear friends, IS courage.

Any step at all matters, even (and maybe especially) the tiniest and most incremental. 

And when you choose to take those steps, even (and maybe especially) honor them and yourself over and over again? That, dear friends, is sovereignty.

May it be so. 

Amelia Earhart. Agency. Taking action.

Amelia Mary Earhart was born July 24, 1897. In her short life, she was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and set many other records. She wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences. And she was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety Nines, an organization of female pilots. After disappearing on July 2, 1937, she was declared dead on January 5, 1939.

As if all that weren’t notable enough, there’s this quote of hers:

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.

Wow.

 

The word I use for this is “agency” – not only knowing I can choose but actually doing the choosing itself, acting on the decision, taking action.

We have agency. But oh, how tempting to believe otherwise.

I’m a perfect case study.

love to deliberate, to consider all the options, to weigh every pro and con, to journal, to reflect, to be curious, to wonder if I have enough data or resources or wisdom, and to then take every bit of all that pondering (and all that it subsequently invites) as permission to keep my head in the clouds instead of landing the damn plane. 

But as long as I circle, as long as I allow myself to stay in deliberation, I don’t take action.

And why would I choose such a thing?

Easy: fear.

(I’ll keep speaking for myself, but I’m guessing you can relate.)

I fear that if I not only listen to, but actually trust and act on the wisdom that is mine (not all the perseverating, but the deeper know-that-I-know-that-I-know voice within) there will be an onslaught of risks, costs, and consequences that will show up and undoubtedly subsume me. Disaster will befall. Relationships will crumble. The world will come to an end.

Yep. That sounds about right for starters.

Of course there will be risks and costs and consequences to actually trusting and acting on my wisdom! That is always the way of it! It inevitably leads me into brand new territory, change, and transformation. (Which means that people, systems, and institutions around me will have to change, too. Yikes: more risks and costs and consequences!)

What if the awareness of risks and costs and consequences was the very thing that compelled our actions – instead of stopping them?

The best case study?

Back to Amelia Earhart. I’m thinking she was pretty clear on the risks and that those were the very things that kept her going instead of holding her back; that compelled her instead of stopped her.

Right.

So, bottom line?

Amelia Earhart invites you (and me) to choose – and then act on that choice; to decide – and then act on that decision; to acknowledge and USE the agency that’s yours.

Amelia Earhart invites you (and me) to land the damn plane. Or maybe start flying it in the first place! To push the boundaries, the limits, any and every restraint that’s kept you grounded. Say what you feel, what you mean, what you know. Trust your voice (and your wisdom), your creativity, your value, your worth. Be completely, fully, authentically you – all the time.

May it be so. 

 

Wisdom does as Wisdom says

Women hold all the wisdom they could ever need, that the planet could ever need, that the world so desperately needs.

 

With that bold a statement as start, why then, do we so rarely trust ourselves? Why do we, individually and collectively, know the pain and trauma and anger and mess-of-it-all that we do? Why is the world not already changed, or at least changing faster?

I won’t speak for you, but I am pretty clear on my own answer to these questions:

There’s a vast and painful difference between hearing our wisdom and actually trusting it, between knowing what we know and acting on what we know, between what wisdom says and what wisdom does. 

Why?

We hear our intuition, that know-that-we-know-that-we-know voice within. It’s clear. It’s decisive. It has a very strong opinion! But instead of going with it, making choices in alignment with such, saying a clear “yes” or “no,” we waffle.

And why?

Because to trust our wisdom, to act on it, will – inevitably – have risks, costs, and consequences.

We’re afraid of those.

When fear shows up, the tendency is rife to try and find other wisdom; something that does not have risks, costs, or consequences attached. Which usually means we repress our own knowing and default to the wisdom around us. We look to and lean on those people/institutions/powers (translate white and male) that promise to keep us safe as long as we don’t step out of line, don’t speak our truth, don’t speak at all.

I can type these words because they have been true about me. Decades of growing up in the shadow of the church and an authoritative wisdom that I was not to question. Self-esteem that was shaped by the glorification of self-sacrifice on the one hand and shame on the other (NOT a good combination). And a way of being in the world that was determined by anything/everything other than my own knowing and intuition.

But inevitably, a day came when the gap between what I heard/knew and who I was required to be, grew too wide. I could no longer bridge it with more comprome and compliance. I had to act on my wisdom, to trust it, to trust myself. No matter what.

And no surprise: risks, costs, and consequences abounded!

But there were benefits I couldn’t have imagined, as well: empowerment, discernment, clarity, hope. Even more, the establishment of a baseline: Oh, this is what my wisdom sounds like, feels like, looks like!

Believe me, I’m far from perfect at this. But I have come a long way, have let a lot go, have lost a lot along the way, and have gained far more.

It is a powerful thing: a woman’s wisdom. Following through on it? Life-changing. World-changing. And then some. 

How about for you? (Just a few questions to ponder, journal through, and if you’re up for it, DM me your answers! I’d love to hear: truly.)

  • What would be different in your relationships, your sense of self, your work in the world, if you could consistently hear and trust your wisdom?

  • What is compromise, compliance, and not acting on your wisdom costing you?

  • What might happen if you allowed risk, cost, and consequence to be the very discernment tools that tell you you can trust your wisdom?

  • What is the change you most deeply desire for our world? (Your wisdom already knows what to do. What if you did what it said?)

It has always been needed: women’s wisdom.

And it has always been present.

Now it’s up to us to bring the two together…

…to be women who listen to and trust ourselves. On our own behalf. On behalf of the planet. On behalf of a world that so desperately needs us to not just know, but to “be” and most of all, to do.

 

May it be so.