Non-existent, but no less real (February 29)

My father died a year ago today.

No, that’s not quite right.

He died on February 29, 2020. That day doesn’t exist this year – or next, or the year after that.

The fact that the date itself is not on my calendar, doesn’t prevent me from remembering, reflecting, and honoring him. Still, it’s a strange phenomena: to have such a significant marker arrive and almost pass me by, to not be something I can land on, see in front of me, capture, or hold.

Perhaps because this is so, I am even more aware of him, his life, his death, and his ongoing influence on and presence in my life. Maybe it’s something being intangible that makes it all the more real, more true.

And this makes me wonder about something else equally (and perhaps even more) intangible…and real…and true.

As we develop, mature, grow, and transform, we move from reliance on the voices and seeming-wisdom of those around and outside us to an awareness of and trust in the voice and actual-wisdom we hold within. We learn to listen to our intuition. We are willing and able to hear our deepest heart. We know-that-we-know-that-we-know. 

But like February 29, there is little to validate such – at least externally. It requires that we hold onto something WE know, but that others can’t easily see, name, or acknowledge. It requires that WE be the ones to remember, reflect, and honor who we truly are. It requires that WE mark, name, and denote all the brilliance and beauty we hold within. And all of this without measure, without out-loud celebration, without any date on the calendar.

As I think about my dad, I know he’d understand what I’m talking about. Our best conversations were always philosophical in nature. Unanswerable and intangible questions that we wrestled to the ground. Endless unknowing that we attempted to lasso and hold – even for a moment – before it slipped out of our grasp. Books we’d read, things we’d pondered and perseverated on, stories we’d lived or heard that captured something nebulous, mysterious, glimmering, and true. Always heady. Always stimulating. Sometimes frustrating. And endlessly reliable: his thinking, his pushing the boundaries, his deep desire for knowing, understanding, and being, and his requirement that I do and be the same.

So, on this non-day – February 29 or March 1 – I’m holding on to three irrefutable but un-markable truths:

  1. This day, the day my father left our presence, exists and is real – whether seen and named on my calendar, or not. It’s deserving of a date. He is. And, as my mom acknowledged in his memorial service, it was just like him to die on a leap year so that we’d only have to remember him every four years. Mmm hmm.
  2. My wisdom, my knowing, my heart is as reliable (and even more so) than the wisdom that can be named, written down, memorialized, taught in institutions, praised in public forums, or canonized in sacred tomes.
  3. This is true about your wisdom, your knowing, your heart, as well.

You, me, all of us have vast and infinite opportunity to believe and trust in ourselves – our wisdom, our knowing, our heart. It doesn’t matter that it can’t be proven, that it’s different from the status quo, that it defies cultural norms, that it upsets the apple cart, that there’s no date on the calendar.

And if you’re struggling to believe this, to trust this, to be this, you can be certain that my dad is holding every bit of it on your behalf. Me, too. I am my father’s daughter, after all.

Refrigerator-Magnet Wisdom

Last month I was in a bookstore in Lexington, KY with both of my daughters. We wandered in three different directions, as we often do – drawn to different things, different genres, our own stories speaking through what we collected as we walked through the aisles.

One of the girls called out to me, motioning me over to the rounder filled with magnets. And this, now impossible to ignore on my fridge, offers me exactly the reminder and the wisdom I need, multiple times each day.

Whatever you are meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.

 

Indeed.

But oh, how we wish for different conditions…

  • before we have that hard conversation.
  • before we make that needed decision.
  • before we hit “publish” on that blog post or sales page or amazingly updated bio.
  • before we say “yes.”
  • before we say “no.”
  • before we speak our mind.
  • before we tell our truth.
  • before we step forward.
  • before we let ourselves be truly seen.
  • before we trust our wisdom.
  • before we act on our wisdom.
  • before we launch.
  • before we let go.
  • before we write that text, that email, that post, that book.
  • before we take care of ourselves.
  • before we do pretty much any number of the things we know are ours to do…

All of this is understandable.

We believe that if the conditions were different, then all of these things would be far easier and way less risky.

But here’s what I wonder – for myself and for you:

If the conditions were different (far easier, less risky) would the benefit, the impact, the “result” of doing any/all of these things be as profound and powerful?

It seems to me, at least with hindsight, that what seemed most impossible at the time was, in fact, what made the biggest difference, invited the most change, transformed me. Had I waited until the conditions were more favorable, it might have passed me over entirely – the experience, the moment, the leap into the unknown, the bold and beautiful (and difficult and risky) choice.

Doris Lessing is right, of course: now is the time for us to do what we are meant to do. Not once things are better, easier, calmer, figured-out, mitigated, or resolved. Now.

Heavy sigh. Deep breaths. (Both are reasonable here.)

As I look at this magnet, again and again, I see my resistance and, most of all, my fear. I can call it “conditions,” but at the end of the day, fear is what I’m faced with – and what I’m invited to name, acknowledge, and heal by choosing sovereignty instead.

It’s me (and you) showing up in exactly these conditions, whether impossible or not, and…

  • having that hard conversation.
  • making that needed decision.
  • hitting “publish” on that blog post or sales page or amazingly updated bio.
  • saying “yes.”
  • saying “no.”
  • speaking your mind.
  • telling your truth.
  • stepping forward.
  • letting yourself be truly seen.
  • trusting your wisdom.
  • acting on your wisdom.
  • launching.
  • letting go.
  • writing that text, that email, that post, that book.
  • taking care of yourself.
  • (insert any and everything else that you know belongs on this list)
  • doing all the things you know are yours to do…not someday, but now.

This is why I have created SOVEREIGNTY. Because I know the “someday” and the waiting on perfect conditions is exhausting and endless…

SOVEREIGNTY is a 10-week program that acknowledges the conditions (and your conditioning). It invites you to walk straight into the truth of your life with courage and grace. And it provides the advocacy and generosity and support you desire and deserve – so that you can do what you are meant to do. Not someday. Not when the conditions are right. Right now.

And since you can’t walk past my fridge multiple times a day, let me repeat this one more time on your behalf:

Whatever you are meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.

The conditions aren’t the issue. Not really. You, being you – glorious and wise and brave and yes, sovereign – in the midst of them is what matters and makes all the difference.

Let’s do that – together!

Registration closes on 2/21. We begin on 3/1. Learn more.

What’s left on the cutting room floor?

Each morning, lately, I have been reading from a book with 365 reflections. Some I resonate with; others, not so much. And some surprise me. Like today’s… 

The author began by telling a story of having once interviewed the runner up of The Bachelor (the last one standing besides the one who gets the proposal). She asked how much of what we saw on the show was real, and how much just reality TV. Not surprisingly, the woman confirmed what all of us already knew (right?!?): she was not seen for who she was – not really. Every clip of her being anything other than how the producers wanted her dipicted (partying, disruptive, etc.) had been left on the cutting room floor. 

Ouch. 

We would be wise to name the “producers” in our world – those who are intentionally shaping the narrative, the story, the plot they want us to believe and buy – whether media, religion, politics, our family of origin, even those closest to us. We need to ask ourselves what’s being intentionally left on the cutting room floor so that we comply, stay in line, and don’t make waves.

We would be wise to ask ourselves how many women, how many stories, how much wisdom has not been ours throughout time. And we need to pay attention to how that has impacted us – dramatically and definitively. Because we’ve not seen those reels – the raw vs. edited footage of  Eve, Mary Magdalene, Tamar, Hagar, and so many more, it’s not surprising that we often feel isolated and alone (part of the producer’s plan, no doubt). We have not been given access to the legion of women who long to speak, have much to say, and stand alongside us even still. 

We would be wise to wonder about how we produce and edit our own stories. On the cutting room floor lie reels and reels of what we don’t want others (and sometimes, even ourselves) to see, what doesn’t “fit” with the story we’re telling, what feels better left unsaid, hidden, even thrown away. 

For every scene, every conversation, every part of us that’s been discarded – whether by choice or under duress – the woman others do see is not complete, not whole, not all of who we are. And that is both excruciating and untenable. 

We would be wise to consider:

  • what we intentionally cut out of our own story so that we better meet the “reality TV” ideal, the IG influencer ideal, our culture’s ideal, even the ideal of our boss, our peers, our significant other…
  • how feeling the pressure of other “producers” or “editors” in our life has translated into compromising the story we want to tell, the life we deserve and desire to live. 
  • how the reels and reels on the cutting room floor might, in truth, be exactly what and who deserves to be seen and heard.  
  • what we are most afraid of if fully seen, fully ourselves, unedited, unrestrained, untamed.

…what the world needs right now in order to evolve is to watch one woman at a time live her truest, most beautiful life without asking for permission or offering explanation. ~ Glennon Doyle, Untamed

That woman leaves nothing on the cutting room floor.

May it be so.

 

*****

 

Yes, Glennon Doyle’s words, but worth repeating as a clear and concise definition of sovereignty: living your “truest, most beautiful life without asking for permission or offering explanation.” This is why I have created SOVEREIGNTY: a 10-week program. It’s what I long for on your behalf – and what you deserve. We begin on March 1. Learn more.

[Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash]

Choose life – and life – and life

There is an ancient story told of a woman who did not waver when the situation demanded swift (and brilliant) action. She trusted her perspective, her wisdom and made choices in alignment with both. She stepped WAY outside the bounds of what would have ever been expected of her, even allowed. And in so doing, saved the lives of many.

It’s highly possible that your day-to-day actions do not hold quite the same level of consequence. And, I wonder…

During one of the most difficult seasons of my life, the question that my Spiritual Director kept asking me was,

“Does this bring you life – or death, Ronna?”

I could not deny the know-that-I-know-that-I-know voice within. And it moved me ever-closer to truth (and truth-telling). When I listened, the data became impossible-to-ignore:

  • Hearing that voice, my wisdom, and trusting it (no matter what that meant or looked like), led me to life.
    When I heard it and did not trust it, it led to death.
  • No, not literally. But close.

“Life” meant risk, to be sure; but I was awake, alive, and strong…sovereign. “Death” meant avoiding risk; I felt shut down, small, silenced…not sovereign. It was not at all difficult to see the cumulative effect of this (past and future). Not life-giving.

 

I’m not naive. Making these kind of choices and decisions, taking these kind of bold actions, does have consequence! (The woman in the ancient story experienced them, too!) Which is why I extend you, me, all of us massive amounts of grace as we learn to LIVE this way; as we step into the sovereignty that is ours – without question, compromise, or limit.

So, here’s some grace to soak in – inspired by the ancient story I referenced above and supplemented (just a bit) by my own story:

  • Your wisdom is worth hearing…and trusting.
  • It won’t go anywhere as you test the waters, feel it out, take the smallest of steps. It’s your wisdom, after all!
  • You deserve life and life and more life – in every single way possible.
  • You are not alone as you figure it out, as you falter, as you rise up, as you notice pink elephants everywhere.

*****

I’ve been teaching a free workshop this week in my private Facebook Group: How to Hear & Trust Your Own Wisdom. All this and then some is on the docket, to be sure (along with LOTS of grace).

It’s not too late to join in, get recordings of anything you’ve missed, and download the Wisdom Worksheets I’m making available every day. Click here.

The how-to’s of being “big” – along with the costs, the consequences, the fallout

We must learn to be big in a way we’ve never been big – we must claim our right to take up space, to say our words, to claim our desires. We must also learn to be small in a way we’ve never been small – to be in service, led not by our egos or by our desire for material goods or by our fears and aversions, but by our desire to be liberated from these things. And we must do both at the same time. ~ Holly Whitaker, from Quit Like a Woman

Let’s review:

In my last post I named the ways in which we have transmuted being small into our very DNA. This is not the kind of small that Holly Whitaker is talking about. Not even close. It plagues us, sits with us, stays with us, and is the very thing that prevents us from being big. It’s complicated.

Whitaker also wisely says this:

Perhaps before we can learn to be both big and small at the same time, we first have to learn to be big…I’ve had to learn to get big, in order to practice being small. 

What’s that how-to? How do we learn to get big so that we can practice being small? Well, using her quote above, it consists of three things:

We must claim our right to take up space.
We must say our words.
We must claim our desires.

Done and done, yes?

Or not.

No surprise: I immediately go to Eve when I see this list. It’s why I talk about her – again and again and again. Her story has been told as the cautionary tale to prevent all three of these things! Look what happens when you get (too) big! Banishment. Downfall. Disaster. And a lifetime of separation from all that is good and perfect. No pressure. But that’s ONLY because that’s how her story has been told! If we want to learn to be big, we must blow it up and start again. (I’d probably go so far as to say we need to do the same thing with our own story, but that may yet be another post…)

Eve says, “Take up space! It’s your right and destiny! You are created in the image of the divine, for goodness sakes; the pinnacle of all creation!! Walk through your world as the regal, sovereign, and amazing being that you are!”

Eve says, “Say your words! Those that are disruptive. Those that go against the grain. Those that call into question every structure of power, every rule that needs breaking, every line that needs crossing. Speak what is healing, what is authentic, what is deep, and what is true. Your voice ushers the divine right into our midst, and brings a woman’s clarity, strength, and yes, her desire, to the fore – where it belongs, where it is desperately needed, where you belong and where you are needed!”

Eve says, “Claim your desires! Listen to the voice within (remembering that the snake was always seen as a symbol of wisdom) and follow it – no matter what, no matter where. Take. Eat. Devour. Be nourished by. Wipe the juice from your chin – or don’t. And look at yourself in the mirror, through my eyes, as you deserve to be seen and experienced: fully sated, rightfully fed, awake to and alive in all your desire, all your beauty, all your strength!”

Eve also says, “I get it. The costs, the consequences, the fallout: all of these are real when you choose to be big.”

 

PERFECT! That apple cart you are afraid to upset, the Pandora’s Box you are hesitant to open, the s*** that will inevitably hit the fan – this is the very evidence you need to affirm and confirm that you are moving in the right direction, making the right choice(s), doing the right thing(s).

 

Too often we see the ledger of what “big” will cost and, from an ROI standpoint, determine it’s not worth it. I believe it’s just the opposite. That ledger is an Excel sheet of data that tells you to step forward, to show up, to follow Eve’s lead, and to be as big as you possibly can be.

I am not naive – nor are you. None of this is easy. Costs are, well, costs. Consequences are real. And fallout happens. But I would be remiss if I didn’t invite you to name how hard it is to not be big, what that costs you – day after day after day, what those consequences are.

A story: By the time I was in pretty deep to the retelling of these ancient, sacred stories of women, I was also in relationship pretty deep with a man I loved. Though there was much that was good and lovely between us, he did not like the way I told these stories. He found it to be disrespectful of the original text and intention and far too disruptive. No matter my efforts to talk through textual interpretation, the ongoing evolution of theology, even the patriarchal stronghold on religion, the argument continued. And my stance? I’m not happy to admit it, but ‘here goes:

  • I would not take up space – either in the conversation itself or on behalf of these women who deserved my advocacy and care.
  • I would use my words, yes, but in twisty and maneuver-y ways that maybe-just-maybe would be acceptable to him.
  • I would not claim my desires in out-loud or powerful ways because I was convinced that I desired him more than my own integrity.

Over and over again, every time the topic came up, I would ultimately downplay the significance of my own work, my own wisdom, the value of the women themselves and their stories, and my very self. I got smaller and smaller. And that ledger? Well, the list was long of what I would lose if I couldn’t/wouldn’t somehow fit myself into his image of who I should be – and should not be. And I didn’t want to lose those things. I didn’t want to lose him. They mattered to me: laughter, companionship, his relationship with my daughters, the time we spent together, the memories we’d made, the future we could share. I was willing to lose myself. And “small” seemed a small price to pay.

Until it wasn’t small anymore; until it became way too big a price to pay.

On the other side of the ledger, revealed over time, in both tiny glimpses and dramatic-but-excruciating exposure, was my compromise and compliance, the well-learned practice of holding my tongue, the ever-present awareness that I was not being honest, not being my (big) self, not living my external life in alignment with my inner one. And at the end of the day, when I took a good, long look at the spreadsheet, I couldn’t reconcile them. Painful to acknowledge (I can feel it even still – though years have passed) . Heart-breaking to walk away from. And ultimately a simple (though not easy) choice between being big or staying small.

I wish I could tell you that seeing these costs and consequences offered me an immediate spike in adrenalin, strength, and courage; that I was able to simply. walk. away. Nope. It was messy. It took far too long. Not a bit of it went as I might have wished. Here’s what I will tell you, though: every bit of it, even (and maybe especially) the messy parts, have helped me learn what to do next time – far faster and with much more capacity and confidence – in relationships, in my work, in leaving my most recent job, and in response to the insipid and endless cultural demand to conform.

We become big – not all at once, but because we practice….and fail.

We become big because we let a story like Eve’s remind us of who we actually are: here to take up space, to say our words, and to claim our desires. We become big because we choose, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, and sometimes, necessarily, minute-by-minute, to be sovereign – to trust our wisdom, to use our strength, and to soak in the grace that is inherently, always ours to receive and to give. And good news: there is so much more bigness yet to be experienced and expressed within and through us; it’s limitless, expansive, and infinite.

 

We are here to be big, bigger, ginormous! No matter the cost, the consequences, the fallout. Maybe and especially because of them! 

 

Back to Holly Whitaker’s point, once we’ve learned to be big, then we can learn to be small (in the best ways); we can learn to be both at the very same time. Because we are that amazing, that complex, that brilliant, that wise, that strong. All that and then some.

May it be so.

 

*****

Again, I am not naive – nor are you. This is hard work and it lasts a lifetime. It deserves your attention and vast, extravagant support. And it’s what I’m building, even now, through SOVEREIGNTY – an online program. I’d love for you to know about it, to experience it, when it’s ready to be birthed into the world. SUBSCRIBE HERE.

In the meantime, please join my Facebook Group – also called SOVEREIGNTY – for inspiration, encouragement, and conversation with other amazing women…just like you.
[Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash]

Unraveling “small” on behalf of “big”

We must learn to be big in a way we’ve never been big – we must claim our right to take up space, to say our words, to claim our desires. We must also learn to be small in a way we’ve never been small – to be in service, led not by our egos or by our desire for material goods or by our fears and aversions, but by our desire to be liberated from these things. And we must do both at the same time. 

I immediately highlighted this quote while reading Holly Whitaker’s book, Quit Like A Woman. I “mmm-hmm’d” out loud. And her words dropped right into my center. You’ve had those experiences, yes? You hear something, read something, see something, and you just know it is deeply, powerfully true. (This happened multiple times throughout: my highest of recommendations!)

We must learn to be big in a way we’ve never been big….We must also learn to be small in a way we’ve never been small… 

Let’s be honest. That first phrase inspires us: We must learn to be big in a way we’ve never been big. ”YES!” we shout to the Universe as we sit up a little taller and feel a little stronger. That second phrase? We must also learn to be small. I’m quite certain it’s on-purpose that it’s named after the first. I’m also quite certain that for most of us, it got our attention, our acknowledgement, and our (re)commitment. No “YES!”, but a resigned awareness, a heavy sigh, and shoulders that slump just the tiniest, imperceptible bit.

So why the different response to each? Both matter – big and small. We hardly disagree with Whitaker’s words.

Here’s why:

Being small is what we default to. It’s what we know to do. It’s what we’ve been conditioned to do our whole lives as girls-then-women. True, at its best, it is a good and lovely thing: to serve, to extend compassion, to put others before ourselves, to tamp down our own desires on behalf of something larger, better, and “other” than us. In many ways, it’s a marker of growth and maturity – this ability and willingness to intentionally choose the higher good over our own.

But…

(You knew one was coming, right?)

We are so good at this that we’ve lost sight of what happens when the “higher good” isn’t anything close and instead, we’re choosing anything and everyone over ourselves, most often without even being aware that it’s happening.

I learned this lesson well growing up and, let me be clear, with the best of intentions; nothing about it was overtly malicious or maligned. You probably learned it, too – among many other things, the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

My mom had a series of hand motions she taught me so that I could remember. It was like putting on a glove – each word being the slightest tug onto a finger until finally it was completely in place:

Do – thumb
unto – index finger
others – middle finger
as – ring finger
you – pinky finger; then turning your hand around to the other side…
would – pinky finger
have – ring finger
others – middle finger
do – index finger
unto – thumb
you – gently pull the glove down completely, smoothing it out and over your wrist

Translated: be good, be kind, be generous, put others first (because, of course, you want them to put you first…which, oddly, they never seem to do). Don’t gossip, don’t be mean, don’t hit, don’t lie, don’t hurt anyone’s feelings (because, of course, you don’t want them to hurt yours, even though, apparently, they didn’t get the same mnemonic device or memo that I did). And the outcome of this? We become small. The motivation was pure; but over time, it became the very way in which we were diminished and, too often, destroyed – one word, one finger, one glove, one “do unto others” at a time. We look up – now in our teens or twenties or thirties or forties or fifties or sixties (you get the idea) – and wonder how, where, and when we disappeared.

We’ve gotten so good at these behaviors, at being small, that we’ve defined ourselves by their presence and consistency, shamed ourselves when we’ve fallen short, and lost ourselves in the process. 

 

Which is why Holly Whitaker also says this:

Perhaps before we can learn to be both big and small at the same time, we first have to learn to be big…I’ve had to learn to get big, in order to practice being small. 

practice being small.

This is what we need where small is concerned. Most of us don’t actually know how to be small in ways that don’t consume us or find us constantly complying and compromising. We need to learn.

What if small doesn’t mean losing space or strength or power or voice? What if small doesn’t mean sacrificing self? What if small doesn’t mean apologizing or taking the back burner or being patient (yet again)?

If any of these things are true (note: all of them are), then Whitaker is right: we need lots of practice.

…we first have to learn to be big.

(It’s my next blog post, I promise.)

 

I have learned that before I can even hope to step into new ways of being, big ways of being, sovereign ways of being, I have to unravel and deconstruct my known ways, my common ways, the part of me that feels like DNA. I have to look under the rug and into the dark corners of my mind. I have to be willing to acknowledge (without shame) the lessons I’ve incorporated over a lifetime – from whom and why – and then begin playing those tapes s l o w l y forward – watching each scene unfold. I must look at individual narratives (those I’ve been told and those I tell myself), watch myself within them, and with massive grace, begin-and-continue-to understand how I’ve become who I am.

I have done a lot of this in the past twenty years. It’s not been easy or simple – this thread-by-thread, story-by-story unraveling of all that’s made me who I am.

 

I go through seasons in which I take up either knitting or crocheting – another thing my mom taught me. I love the practice of it, the experience, the rhythm, the calm. It comes to mind right now – as it relates to unraveling.

If I’m crocheting and I spot a mistake I can quickly unravel to that point and nothing is at risk. The yarn and loops and twists all stay in place when you crochet. It only unravels when I unravel it – with little-to-no risk. Unlike knitting…

When I spot a mistake while knitting I now have to make a very difficult decision: do I fix it, or not? To unravel means that I have to painstakingly unloop each stitch and, simultaneously, put its predecessor back on the needle. I can’t pull too hard. I can’t stop in-process. If I succumb to my frustration or impatience, it can’t be salvaged.

Here’s the thing: I often choose crocheting because of this very reason. It’s far easier – both to fix and to finish! But were I given the choice of a completed blanket or sweater or scarf (that someone else made for me), I’d choose something knitted. It is more complex. It is more smooth. It is more elegant. It is more beautiful, at least to my eye.

My life is not crocheted. Nor is yours. We’re knitted together. And to unravel that knitting, those stories, those DNA-level lessons, is precarious work indeed, not to be taken lightly, and requires great intention, patience, and care – as well as a deep commitment to the value of the fixand the finished “product” we’re working toward.

To step into the life we long to live – to be big, we must claim our right to take up space, to say our words, to claim our desires. But that cannot happen, at least at full capacity and glory and amazing-ness, until we understand why “small” feels far more natural, far easier. We must understand why it has been required of us – even demanded (hint: patriarchy). To be big, we must unravel our stories of small. Then we can begin (re)creating; row after row of experiences and decisions and characteristics and ways of being that are informed by how small (at least as we’ve been trained to understand and express it) has not done us enough favors, what being big requires of us, and who we are when we can finally choose both.

 

*****

 

The word I use for all of this – the work of becoming all of who you are, stepping into your deep and inherent wisdom, demonstrating strength, and extending yourself (and others) grace along the way is SOVEREIGNTY.

I have a Facebook Group called by the same name that I’d LOVE for you to join. And I’m working on a program that is week’s away from being released – filled with these very processes and practices, naming truths and telling stories and unraveling beliefs that hinder; being big (and small). SUBSCRIBE to get notification of when it’s available for you. 

 

[Photo by Marina Ermakova on Unsplash]