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“I’m so proud of you!”

I have had conversations with clients in past weeks where a sense of self-pride showed up . . . and then was semi-quickly questioned or felt a little squirmy. I get it. We look to, deserve, and hope that others will say they are proud of us, that they see us, that they are thrilled by all that we’re doing and all of who we are. But to acknowledge it in and of ourselves? Yeah. It feels kind of odd and unfamiliar.

What if it wasn’t?

Think of an infant who begins to smile. We lather on the praise! When they reach for something or say a first word or take those tentative first steps? We cheer and take pictures and fawn all over them. Understandably! But at some point that slows, even stops. At some point in our own story, others’ enthusiasm started to wane.

In the absence of consistent and celebratory praise doubt begins to creep in. We start to wonder what we’ve done wrong, why the people in our world aren’t responding to us like they once did. Our sense of self begins to shift, dependent almost exclusively upon external stimuli; how we feel about ourselves is determined by others’ expressed feelings — or lack thereof.

Yes, over time, we mature and grow. We don’t depend on others’ oohs and aahs the way we once did. We learn to read cues and body language. And if we’re emotionally healthy, we self-soothe; we affirm ourselves. But something is lost, even damaged along the way when we stop receiving, even expecting praise. Because we deserve it!

Here’s my point in all this:

You deserve to be blatantly and boldly proud of yourself.

What runs through your mind, your heart, even your body when you read these words? When you hear me encourage (even insist) that you state them, repeat them, believe them?

Your spontaneous answer? The one that immediately sits at the tip of your tongue? It matters. What IS that resistance? What is that niggling voice nattering on about? (It would be super-helpful to write it all down…) THAT voice? The one that tells you that being proud of yourself is arrogant or egoic or nonsense or ridiculous or a waste of time or impossible? Uh…it is NOT telling you the truth. Lies. From. The. Pit. Of. Hell.

You deserve to be blatantly and boldly proud of yourself.

Listen closer. What does the deeper voice within you have to say? What is underneath all the chatter — where wisdom, courage, and hope live? What do you actually hear that allows and invites you to feel proud of who you are and all that you do?

You deserve to be blatantly and boldly proud of yourself.

Now, take a deep breath. What do you feel when you give yourself permission to float and soak and revel in just how praise-worthy and incredible you are? Think of all you have learned and let go of and said “no” to. Think of all you have invited and allowed and said “yes” to. Ahhhh. Yes. That. You! What if every evening for the next week (let’s start small, shall we?) you took just a few minutes before going to sleep to write down all the things you are proud of in the day just completed? From the minutiae to the mammoth. Some examples:

  • I got up before my alarm went off. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I made the bed. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I only drank two cups of coffee. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I didn’t eat the leftover pizza for breakfast. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I did some amazing writing today. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I drank lots of water. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I didn’t lose my temper with my kids. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I told my kids how proud I was of them. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I called _____________ and told her that she matters to me. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I sent an email to someone I’ve been meaning to reach out to for months now. I’m so proud of myself!

You get the idea.

As you read this list was there even a little part of you that rolled your eyes? It’s too much. It’s unnecessary. It seems silly.

Mmm hmm. (If so, scroll back up to the part about listening and listening some more, about taking a deep breath, about feeling…)

I can’t prove it, but there MUST be a direct correlation between our resistance to self-expressed pride and being stuck and/or afraid. And I believe there is also a direct correlation between our practice of self-expressed (and much-deserved) praise and our lived capacity and courage! ‘Seems like it’s a hypothesis worth testing out, yes?

I know how hard this can be.

I know how much effort it takes to overcome all the lies we’ve believed, the stories we’ve been told, the messages we’ve consumed, and the lack of praise we’ve often experienced.

I know all too well how easy it is to slip into self-talk that tells me to remember my place, to not be too full of myself, to definitely not be too much.

I know how trapped and straightjacketed I have felt when that self-talk has taken hold and become “true” in my own mind.

And I know just how much it has cost me when I’ve not trusted my own wisdom, demonstrated agency, stepped forward in courage, and held onto hope. *sigh*

One antidote to all of this is giving yourself permission to name just how amazing you are. Did I mention? You deserve to be blatantly and boldly proud of yourself.

*****

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About the quiet and silence.

 

So often, I talk about a woman’s voice and courage and sovereignty. Yours. Mine. Ours. It matters. It is what I’m passionate about and committed to. And. All of these realities, these ways of being, are profoundly strengthened when we choose, revel in, and allow silence.

I was inspired to write about this via an article in the Atlantic and this quote:

“In a world of so many traumas and terrors, I am desperate for silence. It is not escapism, not always. It is about meeting oneself. The way you might encounter yourself in the silence of, say, journaling, is distinct from how you reflect in the public arena. In silence, a certain veil is lifted. We might realize that the rage we feel in public is born from fear or despair in private. Healing is a very quiet thing. In the silence, we can wrap our wounds. There are times when taking shelter is a noble thing to do.” ~ Cole Arthur Riley

(I immediately downloaded her book: This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories that Make Us)

Silence “not as escapism,” but about “meeting oneself.”

How beautiful are these words? 

“In a world of so many traumas and terrors, I am desperate for silence. It is not escapism, not always. It is about meeting oneself.”

We often fear that if we’re not taking a stand and speaking up and constantly talking about all of the “traumas and terrors,” that we must be trying to escape; we are evading what requires our attention and looking the other way. And though that may sometimes be true, more times than not, it’s not.

There is a lot going on: the stories happening in our world and the oft’ excruciating stories in our own personal world. As I’ve named before, it can be difficult to let ourselves feel all of it — to name what we feel, to give ourselves permission to feel, to believe that the sky will not fall when we do. It is far easier to stay busy, to distract ourselves, and to allow “noise” to overtake the quiet.

But in such times, silence is what we need more than anything. It’s how we hear ourselves think. It’s how we name — with honesty and courage — what we truly feel and why. It’s where we actually feel — at least in part. It is, indeed, about “meeting oneself.”

And it is not escapism when you allow this, when you choose this, when you prioritize this. It’s intentionalism. It’s sacred. It’s necessary.

Why journaling matters and why, for me, it gets prioritized above nearly all else.

Again, let’s return to Cole Arthur Riley’s words: “The way you might encounter yourself in the silence of, say, journaling, is distinct from how you reflect in the public arena. In silence, a certain veil is lifted. We might realize that the rage we feel in public is born from fear or despair in private.”

Exactly. We MUST have a place that is ours alone, quiet but for our own voice; safe, secure, and completely vulnerable — with no risk at all. 

Oh, that we could know this in relationship with others, that we could trust that our every thought would be allowed, welcomed, not “fixed,” argued, or requiring defense. I used to believe that such a thing was possible…even mine by right. I also used to believe that it was for-sure my fault that I didn’t have relationships like that. It didn’t occur to me for a very long time that I was the one to give this to myself. 

*****

There was a season in my marriage where I picked journaling back up after a hiatus of a few years because I needed a place to process all that was hard, everything that made me so angry I could hardly see straight (but never acknowledged out loud), the long list of things I wished was different.

I kept a 3-ring notebook just under my side of the bed. College ruled paper. My favorite pen. First thing in the morning, before the girls woke up, I’d pour myself a cup of coffee, climb back into bed, pull it out and write. It never occurred to me that my then-husband would ever read it. But one day, in the midst of another painful conversation, I realized that he had been. I was furious. I was exposed. And most of all, I was ashamed. Ashamed that I had any thoughts or feelings that I wasn’t willing to let him see and know.

I know better now. I know that every one of my thoughts and feelings were legitimate and allowed. I know that the shame never belonged to me. And I know that were it not for that silent-and-sacred space (sans it being violated), I wouldn’t have been able to hear me, to make hard choices, or begin to see — with increasing clarity and strength — what was calling to me.

*****

Now, almost every morning, after pouring a cup of coffee, I sit down at my laptop and let myself ramble for an hour. Sometimes it’s just that: rambling. I articulate what I did the day before, what’s coming up in my schedule, a snippet of a dream from last night. Sometimes it’s a response to my inner critic or my fear — letting them speak instead of pushing them away. Sometimes it’s something I’m worried about related to my daughters or money or any number of other pressures I feel at times. Sometimes it’s about my spirituality, my beliefs, my questions, my doubts. Sometimes it’s the way that I work out what I want to write and why I’m even doing it in the first place. And always, with about 15 minutes left, I turn over the next card in my deck and wonder what woman-and-wisdom will show up to speak directly to what I’ve just written and expressed. (It’s amazingly perfect and profound. Every time. I still can hardly believe it.)

I also know this: especially when it is not safe to name and express your deepest feelings, your truest truths, you must have a place that is. Journaling offers that. (With, of course, the caveat that it IS safe. You should know: my journaling immediately switched to a password-protected document on my computer from that point on.)

You deserve and need a place in which you can say any and everything, in which you can rant and rage, in which you can wish and hope and dream. You deserve and need a place in which you can wander without direction and process without answers. You deserve and need a place in which you can, as Riley says above, lift the veil and encounter yourself. 

It’s quiet there: silence that is blessed and expansive and healing…

How “healing is a quiet thing” and enables us to “wrap our wounds.”

Again, how beautiful are these words?

In the context of the story I shared above, it was only in silence that I could hope to heal from that betrayal. Talking about it with him (which is what he wanted) only left me feeling more raw and exposed. Stepping back, choosing silence, and giving myself permission to be quiet, to not speak, was what allowed me to heal (eventually), and, over time, what enabled me to build the strength I needed to leave.

That’s but one example. There are many, many more. But far more important than my stories, are yours.

What reality, experience, or current struggle comes to mind that deserves healing? What wound is waiting to be wrapped — with a steady hand and a generous heart…yours on your own behalf? What spaciousness and quiet are you intentionally giving yourself for all of this and then some? (These might just be questions worth journaling through.)

Inviting the quiet in, letting the silence “speak,” will offer you exactly the wisdom you desire (and deserve). It’s how you hear that know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within. ‘Promise.

Can we know when to choose silence and when to speak?

My quick answer: Probably not — at least with failsafe certainty.

My longer answer: Yes. Definitely.

I return to exactly what I named above: that know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within. It speaks to you all the time. It knows of what it speaks. It can be trusted. You can be trusted.

Your own wisdom (which you can hear in the quiet) tells you that silence is the right thing, right now: that your voice does not need to be front and center, that more healing is required (and deserved), that other voices must be given attention, respect, and volume.

Your own wisdom (which you can hear in the quiet) tells you that silence is NOT the right thing; that it is actually preventing you from being heard, seen, known, and yes, sovereign. It’s no longer tenable. It’s no longer tolerable. It’s time.

Your own wisdom (which you can hear in the quiet) tells you that your voice is exactly what is needed and the most perfect-and-powerful thing you can bring and trust and use in this very moment. Definitely.

We can know when to choose silence and when to speak when we’ve given ourselves enough silence, enough space, enough quiet to discern exactly this! I could keep talking, keep writing, but that pretty much defeats the point of what I’m attempting to say, yes?

I’ll conclude with one more paragraph from Cole Arthur Riley (definitely read the article; it’s so good!):

“Audre Lorde famously said, “Your silence will not protect you.” This wisdom has been taken to the extreme. To be silent is to be complicit, people (including myself) have said. This can be true. There is certainly a silence born of cowardice, a silence that emboldens oppressors. But sometimes to be silent is to finally become honest. To halt the theater. In the quiet, we at last hear the sound of our own interior world. The pain or numbness. The guilt. The nothing at all.

And I would add, the deepest, most reliable wisdom that endlessly dwells within. Within you.


I write you a letter every week. I’d love for you to have it. No skimming the surface. Diving deep. Vulnerable. Honest. True. SUBSCRIBE to Monday Letters.

1 quote and 3 (tiny) topics

The Quote:

Re-vision–the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new, critical direction–is for women more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival. Until we can understand the assumptions in which we’re drenched we cannot know ourselves. And this drive to self-knowledge, for women, is more than a search for identity: it is part of our refusal of the self-destructiveness of male-dominated society. A radical critique…feminist in its impulse, would take the work first of all as a clue to how we live, how we have been living, how we have been led to imagine ourselves, how our language has trapped us as well as liberated us, how the very act of naming has been till now a male prerogative, and how we can begin to see and name–and therefore live–afresh…not to pass on a tradition but to break its hold over us. ~ Adrienne Rich

Topic #1: Internalized Patriarchy

Ooooh, how this has shown up within me lately. Places and ways in which I default to deeply-held beliefs (even though I no longer believe them) and values (even though I no longer value them) that continue to wield their power in my psyche and day-to-day life. Ick. Ick. Ick!

Here’s a quick example…

My book is scheduled for publication in Fall of 2023. (I know: champagne, confetti, all that!) I’ve struggled in celebrating. Why? Because I’m going a hybrid publishing route vs. traditional. And why would I have any ambivalence around this at all? Well, because of internalized patriarchy! Somewhere, despite my better judgment, I believe that being acknowledged and chosen by the powers-that-be actually matters. I want the value deferred upon me by those same powers-that-be. The potential cash-advance? Well, that validates my value even more, yes? Ick. Ick. Ick!

The internalisation of patriarchy is not a fault. Its unnecessary, unrealised legacy women are carrying. We don’t even realise when and how patriarchy has seeped into our identity so much that we hallucinate its compulsions as our choice. ~ Emila Dutta

I don’t like it! 

Here’s what I do like: 

Internalized patriarchy — when seen and named — has a definite upside: the places in which we feel the most resistance, the most confusion, and even the most shame (3 markers that signify patriarchy’s presence, to be sure) serve as powerful sources of discernment. The things we dislike and fight with/against the most are the very things that afford us opportunity to listen to and trust our own wisdom, to remember who we truly are, and to say “of course!” as we acknowledge our sovereignty and strength. 

Topic #2: Re-visioning and Assumptions

By way of review: 

Re-vision–the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new, critical direction–is for women more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival.

Rich is right, of course: When WE look back, when WE see with fresh eyes, when WE enter an old text (which includes our own personal texts/stories) from a new, critical direction, we do more than just survive: we finally and exquisitely thrive! And not just us, but all women, all of humanity — past, present, and future!

Mmmmmmm. SO much here, yes? Yes.

But wait, there’s more!

Until we can understand the assumptions in which we’re drenched we cannot know ourselves.

“…the assumptions in which we’re drenched.” I love this phrase and it weighs so, so heavy on my heart. Her words describe, in so many ways, what I am always talking/writing about when it comes to the stories we’ve been told, the ones we tell ourselves, the culture in which we live, and so much more. Naming these is what I focus on with clients and strive to consistently name in my own life over and over again. It’s definitely what I reveal (and re-vision) in my book. And every bit of this, to Adrienne Rich’s point, is so that we can know ourselves. 

And that? Knowing ourselves? It matters more than all else, is sacred above all else, is worth more than all else. 

Topic #3: (Trapped and) Liberated by Language

Again, by way of review, the final sentences within Adrienne Rich’s quote:

And this drive to self-knowledge, for women, is more than a search for identity: it is part of our refusal of the self-destructiveness of male-dominated society. A radical critique…feminist in its impulse, would take the work first of all as a clue to how we live, how we have been living, how we have been led to imagine ourselves, how our language has trapped us as well as liberated us, how the very act of naming has been till now a male prerogative, and how we can begin to see and name–and therefore live–afresh…not to pass on a tradition but to break its hold over us.

When we re-vision, when we acknowledge the assumptions in which we’re drenched, we cannot help but see and name how language has both trapped us and liberated us. Too often, this happens through language that’s been spoken for us, around us, and about us. Stories. Roles. Assignments. Stereotypes. Value. Worth. These have defined us, shaped us, and yes, (mostly) trapped us. 

Adrienne Rich is not alone in naming this. Brené Brown speaks almost exclusively about it in her latest book, Atlas of the Heart:

If we want to find the way back to ourselves and one another, we need language and the grounded confidence to both tell our stories and to be stewards of the stories that we hear. This is the framework for meaningful connection.

The key is to make language our own, to claim its power and beauty, to take agency, and to move from being trapped by it to letting it be the source of our very liberation. Ultimately and paradoxically, the very things, experiences, even people that have oppressed or bound us, when named with language, are what enable our freedom.

  • When you honestly name and put language to the harm of your past, you can then step into freedom from it.
  • When you bravely name and put language to your fear, you can then experience a life that is freed from such.
  • When you fiercely name and put language to your truth, you can then begin to live in uncompromising, unedited, and freedom-suffused ways.

All easier said than done. All the work and journey of a lifetime. All deeply sacred.

*****

So, to (finally) wrap things up…

  • internalized patriarchy is a real thing — which is why:
  • re-visioning matters.
  • understanding the assumptions in which we’re drenched matters.
  • naming how language has trapped us matters; letting it free us, even more!
  • doing every bit of this not alone makes all the difference.

All of this, on repeat and with constancy and dedication, is what can and will change the world. Needed now more than ever, yes? 

May it be so.

About Ukraine (and a woman’s anger)

My predominant emotion related to the war on Ukraine is anger. Which then begs a few questions:

What am I to do with the anger I feel? Where do I direct it? How do I express it? DO I express it at all?

Ukraine aside (which I only mean grammatically, not literally: that conflict and Ukraine’s people deserve to be front and center in our minds, hearts, and voices), we struggle with these questions all of the time — uniquely and painfully as women.

We are on the fence about our anger. We feel it, but are pretty sure we can’t let it out. At the very least, we just don’t know how.

There is a reason for this. Lots of reasons, actually.

We are not fluent in expressing our anger, we are afraid that we’ll be seen as too emotional, we feel it in our body but rarely let it be expressed through our words or our actions.

How many times does a woman say, “I’m so tired,” because she cannot say, “I am so angry!” How many times is women’s anger deliberately miscast as exhaustion? ~ Soraya Chemaly, Rage Becomes Her

It is rarely a question of whether or not we’re angry; rather, whether or not we express it; whether or not we feel like we can. Because, of course, the pressure to NOT do so is visceral and fierce.

It’s possible that in learning to express our anger as women — about Ukraine, about injustices, about the fact that we apparently aren’t allowed to express our anger in the first place — that we will be the ones who usher in the desperately needed change…in our own lives, our own worlds, and the world as a whole.

*****

There was a day — well, decades really — in which any “unacceptable” emotion, especially anger, would have taken me straight to certainty. The certainty that I was at fault, I was doing something wrong, I needed to get myself fixed/right/in line if I was feeling anything that was disallowed or would not be handled well by those in my world. Sheesh. It exhausts (and angers) me to even acknowledge this.

Thankfully, this is no longer my default — at least most of the time. I can see, with perspective (and the aforementioned decades), that I have moved from certainty to curiosity — and with it, into far more grace.

Now, I start with curiosity — about my experience(s), my thoughts, my spontaneous responses and emotions. No self-contempt. No “right or wrong” language. Complete permission to look closely, to wonder, to consider more, more, and more still. I ask myself questions and, without judgment, let myself answer — whatever comes, allowing all of it — allowing all of me!

Letting ourselves be curious about ourselves is one of the kindest, most compelling, and ultimately transformative things we can possibly do. It is what walks us ever-closer to healing and wholeness, to authenticity and integrity, and yes, to honestly and boldly expressing our anger.

    How might we apply this in light of Ukraine?

    • What do I feel about what I’m reading and seeing? What words describe my response and mood?
    • When have I felt these things before? How did I respond? What did I do or say? What did I NOT do or say?
    • Where do I see a lack of righteous and justified anger in my world? How does that make me feel?
    • Where IS righteous and justified anger being displayed? How does that make me feel?
    • If I were to express my anger at this situation, what would that sound like and consist of? Where might I do that? And if I can’t/won’t, what new data does that give me to be curious about?

    The value in curiosity around what we feel, what we don’t feel, what we express, what we don’t express allows us to stay in conversation with ourselves instead of dissociating or shutting down out of frustration, fear, or feelings of helplessness.

    Next, I dig deeper. I research and reach out. I want to hear the voices of other women. I am hungry to sit with more than *just* my own thinking and experience. I dive into anything I can find that helps me understand my anger better — through the lenses of culture, scholarship, history, psychology — all that will remind me that a) I’m not to blame; and b) I’m not alone.

    [A note: because I am talking about anger, specifically, it is important that we NOT take the blame for our inability to express it, our fears, our confusion. As we continue, you will see that this is a socially conditioned response for women. You are NOT to blame!]

    Recently, that digging returned me to the book mentioned above: Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chamaly.

    Hear her voice:

    Even the incipient suggestion of anger — in themselves or in other women — makes some women profoundly uncomfortable. In an effort to not seem angry, we ruminate. We go out of our way to look “rational” and “calm.” We minimize our anger, calling it frustration, impatience, exasperation, or irritation; words that don’t convey the intrinsic social and public demand that anger does. We learn to contain our selves: our voices, hair, clothes, and most importantly, speech. Anger is usually about saying “no” in a world where women are conditioned to say almost anything but “no.”

    That last sentence makes me angrier still: Anger is usually about saying “no” in a world where women are conditioned to say almost anything but “no.”

    She talks powerfully (and painfully) about how these lessons are internalized by young girls — preschool and even earlier. She has endless research on how a girl or woman’s anger shows up in depression, self-harm, eating disorders, sexual exploitation, and endless other manifestations. And the topic itself becomes even more complex when she adds in the necessary distinctions of gender fluidity and race.

    This looking beyond myself, taking in the wisdom and work of others, especially other women, pulls me upward to a new level of understanding. It helps me take a deep breath and recenter myself. I can see my own behavior in light of a larger world. This doesn’t make it easier. It isn’t a fix or a solve — even an excuse. It’s a reminder that the story I live in is profoundly influenced by a much, much larger one. I need to be reading that story and understanding the way in which it’s shaping my own.

    How might we apply this in light of Ukraine?

    We remain informed. We research. We read articles written by people who are articulating fair and just critique. We broaden our perspective and understanding. And we pay close attention to any ways in which we can (and must) let our anger be expressed — through action, through generosity, through money, through time, through our vote…

    Perhaps most significant of all, we “dig deep” within ourselves and choose to feel everything: all the sadness, all the angst, all the frustration, all the rage, all the anger, and all the heartbreak. Curiosity serves me — an endless inquiry into my own beliefs, behaviors, defaults, fears, and hopes. Digging deeper lets me pan out, understand better, even rage more because it places my experience into a context with far bigger and more systemic issues. The dilemma, of course, is what to do with all the information I glean from my self-inquiry process and from studying and soaking up the perspective of others.

    I turn my attention toward “how.” More is required. Which usually leads me to even more questions: How do I express the things that make me nearly insane with rage? How do I do so in ways that I’ll be heard, in ways that matter, in ways that are anything other than a rant? (And is a rant a bad thing? Maybe it’s exactly what’s needed, called for, and appropriate in this moment!)

    The list of “what” we’re angry about is long. And the longer it gets, the more we feel the weight of it all and the equally weighty demand to keep it all in check. Which makes us angrier still!

    We must find “how’s” that moves us from the watered down, edited, censored version of ourselves (the version we’ve become fluent in) to women who are potent, honest, and unrestrained.

    Chamaly finishes up her chapter on “how” with these sentences:

    The more you know, the better equipped you are. The better equipped you are, the more efficacy and uptake your anger will have. Contrary to the idea that anger clouds thinking, properly understood, it is an astoundingly clarifying emotion.

    Any how’s, no matter how “small,” become the catalysts that usher us into how’s that are yet to come. Difficult conversations. A defiant blog post. Taking a stand. Deleting “friends” from Facebook whose content makes us insane. Speaking up. Standing firm. Saying “no.”

    And Ukraine?

    I’m resisting the temptation to delete or downplay my smallest of “how’s,” my smallest of efforts. I know better. Hardly reserved for big moments like what’s happening in the world right now, it’s our micro-work, the day-in-day-out commitment to our own real-and-legitimate emotions and their expression that has the capacity to change our individual world — and the world. I’m sure of it.

    We have been led to believe that others can’t handle our anger, that it’s too disruptive, that we will be misunderstood and misperceived, that we are too much, that the damage we’ll cause will be irreparable and probably isn’t worth it anyway.

    THIS IS JUST. NOT. TRUE.

    Here’s what IS true:

    This is the real danger of our anger; it makes it clear that we take ourselves seriously.

    I love this. Reframed, it could be stated like this: My anger makes it clear that I take myself seriously.

    That’s worth a meme or two, an index card on our bathroom mirror, a tattoo, and an on-repeat mantra that we actually come to believe.

    At the end of the day, our work is to learn to see our anger as gift instead of something we furtively work to control or hide. Because it is. But don’t take my word for it. I must finish things up with one more quote from Soraya Chamaly:

    Ask yourself, why would a society deny girls and women, from cradle to grave, the right to feel, express, and leverage anger and be respected when we do? Anger has a bad rap, but it is actually one of the most hopeful and forward thinking of all our emotions. It begets transformation, manifesting our passion and keeping us invested in the world. It is a rational and emotional response to trespass, violation, and moral disorder. It bridges the divide between what “is” and what “ought” to be, between a difficult past and an improved possibility.

    May it be so. May it be so. May it be so.

    *****

    Much of this content comes from one of my Monday Letters — a weekly email I send to my subscribers. Full of truth-telling. Not skimming the surface. From my heart to yours. SUBSCRIBE

    About welcoming exhaustion…

    It may sound strange, but for me, exhaustion is welcome.

    Years ago I had a job with a 90-minute commute each way. Getting there was never the issue; it was the return trip. I knew that when I finally pulled up in front of the house, two little girls would be waiting for me. They wanted my full attention; they wanted  of me. There was dinner to fix and dishes to wash and laundry to do and stories to read. On top of it all, my husband unintentionally expected me to read his mood, respond appropriately, and meet every need. (I’m tired just remembering this!)

    the closer I got to home, the more weary I felt — the  of what I wanted and needed. I began to realize that with every passing mile, I became less myself and more the person I needed to be . Bottom line: there was a huge-and-growing gap between who I  was and who he wanted me to be; and to be clear, I allowed, perpetuated, even reinforced this for a very long time.  was the exhaustion! Not the drive or the girls or the dinner-prep. I expended a massive amount of energy being someone I was not  I didn’t have to deal with my fear of what would happen if I was fully myself.

    My exhaustion became a form of discernment. It drew me toward what deserved my attention, truth-telling, and courage. When we eventually divorced, it hard, but NOT exhausting. And that was data in and of itself!

    Now, I hear myself say, “I’m exhausted” or more likely, “I’m weary” I whisper a prayer of gratitude. It’s a gracious and generous alert to acknowledge what deserves my naming and care.

    A vast percentage of what makes us exhausted is feeling like we  feel exhausted. Our efforts become fixated on  feeling the way we do, instead of allowing, even welcoming,  that we feel and discovering what longs to be strengthened, healed, let go, and more.

    • Identify and then let go of internalized beliefs and external messages that tell you exhaustion isn’t allowed (or worse, that it somehow means you’re lazy).
    • Take a deep breath and tell yourself the truth about  how you feel? Write it down. Journal it out. Click your heels together three times and say it out loud, “I feel _______.”
    • How might exhaustion be your check-engine light? What is it indicating? What relief might be yours if you could name and address such?

    When you allow your exhaustion — even welcome it — it makes room for something “more” to be seen, felt, and honored. Chances are high that whatever is, it won’t be exhausting at all; rather, honest, redemptive, and empowering.

    *****

    I write a letter every week. It’s my latest thinking, my deepest truths, and what I’d love for you to have. SUBSCRIBE.

    5 Ways to Have the Life you Desire

    Here’s the quick version of this post:

    1. Hold fast to what you most desire.

    And here’s the longer one:

    1. Hold fast to what you most desire.

    Without a clear sense of your truest, deepest desires you feel uncertain, unclear, and often unmotivated to plant a stake in the ground — fearful that you won’t get what you want anyway, even if you know what that is.

    Desire is not about its fulfillment. At least not completely. It is about risk and faith and trust and belief. And without these? Well, you wander, or worse, you feel like your feet — and life — are encased in cement. But when you DO know what you desire, everything is possible! Desire is what creates and enables possibility in and of itself. (And it is the stuff of the very best stories ever!)

    A Practical To-Do: Let yourself dream! What do you most want? What would you envision for yourself if you could? No editing. No censoring. No doubts. No fears. Everything and anything allowed. Do NOT get waylaid by the endlessly long list of reasons why you can’t have any of this. Let yourself be hungry for all of it. Let yourself want! Desire. Desire. Desire!

    2. Name what you want.

    There is no end to the thoughts and emotions that swirl within me. But unchecked, unarticulated, and unnamed they can, at times, become so overwhelming that I can’t see my way through to anything practical, to next steps, to any form of clarity. I feel overwhelmed and stuck.

    Thankfully, these moments, even seasons, are increasingly rare. I have learned to move the words out of me. I intentionally make them tangible, seen, and heard. I write everything down and read it back to myself. I talk to others (in discerning, appropriate, and safe contexts). I literally see and hear my desire, my longed-for story, instead of *just* being aware of it within. And it’s the same that I’m encouraging for you.

    Choose to let your words, thoughts, and emotions be named, heard, and seen by both self and others.

    A Practical To-Do: Using #1, above, as prompt, ask yourself: what do I really-and-truly desire? Then close your eyes (yes, really) and type. No spellcheck. No worries. Just go! Some aspect of the inner critic gets silenced; when you open your eyes back up and read what you’ve written, you will see and hear with more acuity than before. Truth is spoken. Themes are revealed. And clarity emerges. Not all at once. Not forever and ever, amen. But in ways that are new, revelatory, and important. You’ll discover insights that can’t help but compel your needed next steps and the story you long to live!

    Another Practical To-Do: Talk! To a therapist, coach, spiritual director, and/or trusted friend. It’s invaluable to hear yourself out loud. (An interim option is to record yourself on a voice memo. I’ve done this many times over the years and am always astounded by the words and unnamed truths I hear myself speak.)

    3. Acknowledge what’s bound to get in the way.

    When I start thinking about what I desire, I VERY quickly move to inventorying all the reasons why this isn’t going to work, why it’s going to be too hard, how I’m going to hurt others, how I’ll be misunderstood, and/or all the tension I’ll create . . . It is ONLY when I take the time and effort to articulate and name (yes, again) every bit of this that I can ever hope to move forward.

    The story and life you desire and deserve automatically comes with risks, costs, and consequences. That’s the evidence that it’s real, that it’s powerful, that it’s worth pursuing!

    A Practical To-Do: List out all the risks, costs, and consequences of your hoped-for future. What are you most afraid will happen? If those things do take place, then what might happen? And what are the risks, costs, and consequences if you DON’T pursue what matters most to you? This is not about doom and gloom; it is an honest acknowledgement of just how hard it is to move forward, how exhausting it is to lean into the wind, how challenging (and critical) it is to live what you desire and deserve. Now, of what you’ve named, what are you fully capable of handling when you already know it’s coming? What difference does it make when you’re not surprised by others’ reactions? How might paying even more attention to the costs of not living into what you most want, be the motivation you need to rise up and persevere?

    4. Take actual steps over and through the obstacles.

    I went through a long season in which there was a HUGE gap between what I felt on the inside and expressed on the outside. I made a deal with myself: “Just once today, you must tell the truth.” Sometimes, shockingly, nothing I’d feared actually happened. Other times I could see the hairline cracks extend under the facade I’d painstakingly sustained. Over time I got stronger, bolder, clearer. And eventually, bit by bit, the gap closed. I then made new decisions, took more steps, and watched myself begin to live in ways that felt aligned and sovereign. It was hardly dramatic and at times, almost imperceptible. But it was no less real.

    Too much of the time we look at the chasm between where we are and where we want to be, then instantly feel certain that we do not have the capacity to make those kinds of leaps and dramatic changes. Understandably! Which is why you’re far better served by making tiny changes, experimenting, slightly tweaking your way of handling particular situations. That’s enough. It’s significant! And over time, those single, simple, small steps WILL add up to forward movement and even more momentum. I promise!

    A Practical To-Do: Determine the very smallest step you could possibly take and take it! A “no” instead of a resentful “yes.” A beginning boundary enforced. Speaking (just once/day) instead of staying silent. Then take the next step and the next one after that. You’ve totally got this! I can hardly wait to see where those one-foot-in-front-of-the-other actions carry you in the the year ahead!

    5. Don’t do any of this alone.

    These steps, this effort, this life’s work? It’s a lot.

    Perhaps easier said than done, but my strongest encouragement (and hope) on your behalf is that you choose to NOT be alone in any of it! I know how hard it is to navigate day-in, day-out life, let alone your stories — past, present, and future — without the consistency, kindness, safety, and wisdom, and presence of another. You don’t have to do it alone. Truly.

    When we are not separated from self or each other, when we gather, when we vulnerably-and-bravely tell our truths, when we demand-and-live the story we desire and deserve, the earth shifts on its axis and everything changes.

    If I were to create yet another list of next steps, it would look like this:

    • Find, ask for, and accept the support you need.

    There’s absolutely nothing I want more for you, for me, for all of us — together.

    May it be so.

    *****

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