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About Rest

In her book, Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto, Tricia Hersey says this:

“Rest is radical because it disrupts the lie that we are not doing enough. It shouts: ‘No, that is a lie. I am enough. I am worthy now and always because I am here.’”

It’s easier said than done . . . resting, disrupting the lie, believing that we are enough.

It’s the polar opposite of what the world promotes and pushes. It flies in the face of capitalism and hustle culture. It is radical. And it’s what I hunger for. Not just in terms of time, but deep within.

I’m asking myself some questions toward rest’s end. I hope they will serve you, as well:

  • Where do I feel the opposite of rest? What causes such, who causes such, and why do I persist in any of it? No shame. No pressure. Just awareness. (And rest.)
  • How might I choose rest as state-of-mind and way-of-being instead of succumbing to what others expect? WAY easier said than done, but it feels critical to growth and wholeness.
  • What are ways of being, practices, and rhythms that will call me home to myself, that give me permission to rest? No efforting. No harshness. Just curiosity and grace.

I fully intend to repeat Tricia Hersey’s words, again and again, “I am enough. I am worthy now and always because I am here.”

Deep breath.

Rest.

May it be so.

*****

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Letting go of what no longer serves

A few weeks back I posted a quote from Adam Grant’s book, Think Again on IG and FB:

“. . . let go of the knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving you well . . . “

Let’s start with three questions:

  • What are some of the things you learned (often like the back of your hand) that are still present in your mind and heart but really don’t “fit” anymore?
  • What are some of the opinions you inherited and imbibed from your family of origin, from the culture, and about yourself, that sit within you unchecked and undisputed?
  • What are the precepts, doctrines, even rules you took in (and took on) over the years that, when you look closely, are things you don’t actually believe or follow anymore?

Until we honestly name the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that have shaped us, we can’t hope to let them go. Four personal examples (of many) that I grew up with:

#1:
Knowledge: a clean house is imperative.
Opinion: anything less is unacceptable.
Belief: my worth is connected to, even measured by, not being messy (yes, in my home and other spaces; but more, in life).

#2:
Knowledge: vote “yes” for any and all tax increases.
Opinion: not voting “yes” for tax increases is ignorant and wrong.
Belief: intelligent people vote the same way as me.

#3:
Knowledge: thin is healthy and desirable.
Opinion: not thin is lazy and irresponsible.
Belief: my weight determines the quality of my character (and others’)

#4:
Knowledge: attending church every Sunday is the right thing to do.
Opinion: goodness is equated with discipline and devotion.
Belief: my value (and eternal security) is based on my obedience.

*sigh*

So, if I do not name these specific things — the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that have shaped me — it is dangerously easy to wander through life believing that:

  • my worth is connected to perfection
  • people who aren’t like me are stupid
  • if I’m not thin, I’m not a good person
  • unless I’m devout and faithful, I’m doomed

But when I do name them, I can see them for what they are and intentionally let them go.

  • my worth is a given, no matter what
  • difference is respected
  • my weight has nothing to do with anything
  • my value is intact and inherent; religion has nothing to do with it

I already know these four things, of course. Over time and in so many ways I have “let go of the knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving [me] well.” Still, to see them in black and white — where they came from, how they were reinforced and interpreted, and then intentionally releasing myself from their grip? Mmmmm. Good stuff!

Then there’s this: I can reverse-engineer this same process to discern and affirm the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that I WANT to hold onto, even develop and deepen:

  • What is the belief that I want to hold?
  • What opinions / thoughts would support that belief?
  • What knowledge would support that opinion and thought; what can I learn?

[For the record: I grew up with lots of knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that I still value and cherish. I’ve chose some very obvious and overly-blatant examples here in order to make my point.]

Let me add a final example by way of a story:

I believed in my heart-of-hearts that divorce was NOT the right thing to do. I had a whole truckload, a whole lifetime, of opinions and “knowledge” to back that up. So, when I found myself in the hardest seasons of my marriage, I could not let go of that belief. I argued with myself (and others) from every angle, trying to see a way clear, a way through, a way out, but because that belief was so deeply entrenched, I stayed cemented in place for a very, very, very long time.

I was unable to let go of the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs that were no longer serving me because I didn’t ever consider the possibility that I could! Was such a thing even allowed? They felt like they were in my DNA, in my bloodstream, part and parcel with who I was.

I remember waking up early one morning to a thought that had never crossed my mind:

Maybe, just maybe, my value and worth were not defined by me-as-couple. Maybe, just maybe I was of value and worth because I was me, period.

I know! This sounds so obvious when I type it out. But I’m telling you: it was a radical idea for me, given the knowledge, opinions, and beliefs I’d grown up with.

To consider the possibility that I could change my mind, change my beliefs, and let go of those that were no longer serving me felt radical and shocking. But once this new thought had taken root, I could clearly see what was NOT serving me. I couldn’t not see! And it wasn’t too much of a leap from there to consider that maybe, just maybe, divorce wasn’t right or wrong at all. Maybe, just maybe, it was a way to honor myself and even my husband (though he wasn’t quite as convinced of this) because I would be honest, in-integrity, and whole.

When I let go of that belief, I was finally able to hold onto myself. I have so many stories like this one, so many experiences of becoming aware of a belief that was so deeply embedded and reinforced that it didn’t occur to me (until it did) that a) it was definitely not serving me; and b) I could actually let it go.

I’ve listened to thousands of stories from women over the years and witnessed the same: seemingly poured-in-concrete beliefs (often about self) that, once exposed, can be released — allowing for freedom, strength, and sovereignty. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I wonder what stories have come to mind for you today. I wonder what knowledge, opinions, and beliefs you hold that no longer serve. I wonder what you might let go of in order to hold onto yourself. And I hope that you will do just that.

May it be so.

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Three Illusions Worth Shattering

I received an email from one of my current book coaching clients a few weeks back that included an attachment with words by poet, David Whyte. It more-than captivated and provoked me.

Whyte speaks to three illusions that keep us from fully inhabiting the pilgrimage that is our life, that keep us from living fully.

  • The first illusion is that I can somehow construct a life in which I am not vulnerable.
  • The second illusion is that I can construct a life in which I will not have my heart broken.
  • The third illusion is that I can somehow plan enough and arrange things that I will be able to see the path to the end right from where I’m standing, right to the horizon.

Let’s begin by acknowledging that David Whyte is right: these three things ARE illusions.

Let’s also acknowledge that despite our awareness of just how obvious these illusions are, we keep trying to outwit them.

We don’t want to be vulnerable. We don’t want to have our heart broken. And we do want to plan and arrange everything so that we can see the end from the beginning.

*sigh*

I could talk about WHY we are so determined to outwit these illusions, but I’m guessing you know the answer(s) as well as I do. Instead, what I’m curious about what it looks like, instead, to acknowledge them as true and thereby, to Whyte’s point, inhabit the pilgrimage of our own life and live fully.

I am vulnerable.

My determination to remain impervious to vulnerability has been one of the biggest sources of pain in my life. In an effort to keep a stiff upper lip, believe that “all things work together for good,” and not let anyone see me as broken or imperfect, I have kept myself from grieving, from acknowledging harm, from extending myself (and others) grace, from believing that I am enough and not too much.

It took me a long time (and lots of therapy) to trust myself enough to be vulnerable. Ironically (and of course) it was giving myself permission to cry, to feel, and to let go that invited a life that finally began to resemble something full, instead of compartmentalized, cold, and exhausting. I was, for one of the first times, whole and present and raw and alive and honest and “real” in my own life.

I still struggle. Years of conditioning are hard to undo. A culture that demands (and promises) happy faces and silver linings is hard to argue with. And the fear of being hurt even more by choosing tenderness, honesty, and openness (translate: vulnerability) remains.

But these days, I far prefer the wisdom and graciousness of vulnerability over the disconnect and weariness I felt in protecting myself from such.

I will have my heart broken.

I have been heartbroken many, many times. Certainly in the context of my marriage (which, in many ways, ended because of my vulnerability), in other significant relationships, and by a world that is more broken than I can bear. I cannot possibly construct a life in which heartbreak is not a thing. Nor would I want to.

Like vulnerability, heartbreak is what tenderizes and softens us. Heartbreak is what invites deep and true wisdom. Heartbreak is what generates resilience and strength. Heartbreak is what makes room for more love (not its absence, which is what we too often fear).

When I look back (which is really the only way to have any perspective whatsoever), I can see that the things, people, and circumstances that have broken my heart have been the very things that thankfully shattered the illusions I was determined to perpetuate: that all was well, that the good would outweigh the bad, that I was too much, that my silence was safer than speaking out…

Heartbreak opens me to what is true, to a life that is full and honest. Not all at once, not once and for all, but heartbreak by heartbreak, over and over again.

I cannot plan and arrange everything (maybe anything at all) in order to see the end from the beginning.

I am a planner. Lists. Pros and cons. Spreadsheets. Goals. Tracking apps on my phone. A countdown calendar. As a “J” in the Myers-Briggs world, I want everything ordered, organized, and nailed down. “A place for everything and everything in its place.” You get the idea (and can imagine what this was like for my girls when they were growing up). So this one? The illusion of thinking I can plan and arrange everything in order to predict and make possible the ending I desire? Aaaaaaugh!

It’s actually the two illusions above — both shattered — that have helped me with this one the most.

Vulnerability has slowed me down, kept me from demanding that everything (and everyone) go to plan, and invited (sometimes forced) me to live my life in a place of unknown, of mystery, of not demanding answers. I’ve learned (with some reluctance) that spreadsheets are not applicable, helpful, or even needed when tears and grief and honest emotion is present.

Heartbreak has been a reminder, time and again, that I’m not in control the way I think I am. No matter my attempts to resist it, to protect myself from it, to pretend in the most brilliant of ways that all is well, it crashes in anyway.

At this point in my life, closer to its end than its beginning (which is a very odd thing to realize and say), I have far fewer ideas or demands about how everything is “supposed” to work out anyway. Most days I am appreciative of this — glad and grateful to loosen my grip on making things happen and planning for every contingency and trying to outwit and out run the unknown.

Deepak Chopra is right: “Most people talk about fear of the unknown, but if there is anything to fear, it is the known.”

And Anne Lamott: “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.”

It’s a lot to think about. Actually, maybe a better way of naming all of this is to NOT think quite so much and instead let ourselves feel . . . vulnerability, heartbreak, and the reality of the unknown.

May it be so.

 


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About Being In Control

A few weeks back I was in a place I haven’t been for two-plus years: wearing a lavalier mic, standing in front of a room full of people, training and facilitating. It was fun AND a bit nerve-wracking.

I used to do this almost every day in my corporate position: travel nearly every week to a new place and spend one or two days training folks on how to have effective conversations; leadership and professional development stuff. Different corporations. Sometimes execs and managers. Sometimes mid-level. Sometimes a particular division or team. Usually a tossed salad of everything and everyone. No matter how much was different about each place and group, the content stayed exactly the same. And so, NOT nerve-wracking. I always knew exactly what I was going to say every. single. time.

This time, I did not know exactly what I was going to say. This time I was not representing a company that owns proprietary content of which I am paid to be an expert. This time I was in a consulting role with content I created — which I’ve not practiced ad nauseum, memorized, rinsed and repeated. And, one other tiny detail: this time I was working for my sister! (No pressure.)

No surprise: all of this got me to thinking:

There is often a chasm between thinking about trusting ourselves and actually trusting ourselves. 

Whether it’s public speaking
or writing a book
or saying “yes” to a first date
or ending a relationship
or leaving a job
or speaking up in a meeting
(and a million more things besides). . .

. . . there is a moment, a minute, a month, what seems a lifetime, where we hesitate. Can I really pull this off? Will it even matter? What if I mess up? What will people think? What if I’m misunderstood?

I won’t speak for you, but in all of these examples and then some, one thing holds me back: I want to be in complete control of everything, really. Of myself. Of how everyone else will respond. Of how every single detail will play out. Of the results. Of the outcome.

And this need/demand? Wanting to be in control IS the chasm. And it separates me from what I most want, most desire, most hope for, most hope to be.

The logical follow-on question then, is this: if my need/demand to be in control (of everything, really) is the chasm — the gap between thinking about trusting myself and actually trusting myself — then what is the bridge?

I’m not crazy about the answer . . .

The bridge between thinking about trusting ourselves and actually trusting ourselves is letting go of control.

*gulp*

It would be great if I could tell you exactly how to do this. How to let go, give up the need for control, risk, step forward, do it anyway.

It would be great if there was some secret formula, some 3- or 12-step plan, some failsafe advice that, if followed, would guarantee complete safety and certainty while maintaining complete control (of everything, really).

There is no such thing.

So, it seems that this is what we’re left with:
The only way to let go is to let go.
The only way to give up the need for control is to give up control.
The only way to risk is to risk.
The only way to step forward is to step forward.
The only way to do the thing is to do it.

*deep breath*

*****

I should tell you that everything went perfectly fine a few weeks back. Well, not “perfectly” fine. I made a few mistakes. Nothing fell apart. I didn’t fall apart. I lived to tell the story. I WAS actually able to trust myself. It’s a happy-ending story, to be sure. But trust me, I have TONS of examples in which just the opposite was true: I doubled-down on control, I refused to let go, I did everything I could to minimize even the slightest bit of risk. I still do.

When I remember these stories, I feel a kind of low-grade exhaustion seep into me. My shoulders slump. A sense of futility almost overwhelms. And what I realize is that everything I have been SO committed to keeping in my grip usually ends up either strangling me or sucking the life right out of me.

In truth (and when I extend myself some grace), I have more positive experiences and stories than just a few weeks ago: my TEDx talk, ending my marriage, quitting my job, starting my own business, writing a book. Even creating content and presenting it for the company my sister leads. And when I remember these stories, I feel invigorated and strong. My posture straightens. A sense of encouragement, even pride sets in. And what I realize is that when I let go of control, I am not OUT of control, but finally-and-fully myself. I can breathe.

So, what about you? What stories do you remember?

Where did you, like me, double-down on control? Where you refused to let go and held on even tighter still? Where you had risk-mitigation as your number-one priority? When you remember them, what do you feel?

Where did trust yourself . . . no matter how rickety the bridge you had to step onto? And when you remember them, what do you feel?

It’s probably too simplistic, but it feels true nonetheless: the fact that you can actually remember this latter group of stories, that you do have experience with letting go of control (and even surviving) means one really important thing:

You can trust yourself — again, every time, in all things, always.

And now that I think about it, maybe this IS a sort of secret formula, a 1-step plan, some good advice (even if not failsafe) that does not guarantee complete safety and certainty, but that certainly reminds you of just how amazing and trust-worthy you already are — yes, again, every time, in all things, and always.

Take some risks in the days and weeks ahead, yes? Let go of control (even if only a bit). And trust yourself. You can, you know?!! Again, every time, in all things, always.

May it be so.

*****

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I am NOT the Crazy One!

No big surprise: I love books! A ton of them are on my Kindle and most of the time I’m good with reading the “virtual” version. But sometimes I order the physical book, too. It’s silly, I suppose. There’s no need to have more than one copy. But the books I am most moved by? I want the “actual” thing in my hands.

Last week I did exactly this. I was re-reading portions of a book that has me saying, “I wish I wrote this!!!” more times than I can count. And though I’ve highlighted my my way through it in electronic form, it was clear that I needed wanted it in my hands and on my shelf. If it’s not on your shelf (or your Kindle), I highly recommend it: Cassandra Speaks: When Women are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes by Elizabeth Lesser. (‘Guessing by the title alone you can figure out why I’m so smitten!)

It is hard to pick from so much amazing content, but there are two quotes, separated only by a page of so, that I’m offering and reflecting on today. No question, they are on my behalf; I’m hoping yours, as well.

. . . we know the truth of our own experiences, yet we are told we are lying or overreacting; we can see consequences on the horizon, but it’s still “common knowledge” that women’s emotions cloud their vision, that we tend toward hysteria — even madness — and therefore are not to be believed. . . Far from women as a species being irrational, overemotional, hysterical, lunatic or morally weak,” writes the Australian author Jane Caro, “what strikes me about women and their history is just how damn sane we have managed to stay.

Even without knowing your story, I am completely certain that you have one or more experiences of being told that you are lying or overreacting. I am also completely certain that it’s amazing just how damn sane you’ve managed to stay.

Which also makes me completely certain that there have been (and are) plenty of times in which you feel crazy! And if not that, exhausted by all the mental gymnastics required to filter others’ version of your story and hang on to your own. *sigh*

It’s a lot of work: taking in so many messages, sifting and sorting through them to discern which ones are true, which ones are not, which ones need to be paid attention to, which ones need to be completely ignored, which ones need to be addressed, which ones need to be adamantly refused. . . And it’s not like we can flip a switch and enter into complete peace and calm just because we want to. It takes effort and discipline and determination and patience and so. much. grace.

Almost twenty years ago I held a leadership position at the seminary where I received my M.Div. degree. After a few months in the job I began to notice that female employees and students would come into my office, ask if they could close the door and sit down, and then say something like this:

“I don’t know how to explain exactly what I’m feeling or exactly what’s going on, but I feel kinda crazy. It’s probably nothing . . . It’s probably me, but…”

It ALWAYS had to do with a conversation or interaction they’d had with a man on staff. Time and again it was as if their words didn’t land, they felt slightly dismissed (but not enough to be sure), they were left out of the loop somehow, things just felt “off.”

Once I recognized the pattern and the more I heard the words “I feel kinda crazy,” I learned to say, “You are not the crazy one!” I’d explain what I meant, listen more, affirm their experiences as real and true (and sane), and then before they left, have them repeat out loud (with as much defiance as they could muster): “I am not the crazy one. I am not the crazy one. I am NOT the crazy one!”

The very fact that we feel crazy is EXACTLY the evidence that tells us we’re not!

Other people and the systems within which we live and work reinforce the internal messages that convince us we’re to blame, we’re the one with the problem, we’re being “irrational, overemotional, hysterical, lunatic, or morally weak.” Exactly the opposite is true!

It’s a form of gaslighting, of course. “Gaslighting at its core is always about self-preservation and the maintenance of power/control — namely, the power/control to construct a narrative that keeps the gaslighter in the ‘right’ and [the other person] in the ‘wrong.’” (Aki Rosenberg, LMFT)

It’s not enough, of course: repeating the mantra, “I am not the crazy one. I am not the crazy one. I am NOT the crazy one.” It doesn’t magically change reality. But it can actually help. It reminds you that you are not wrong. It gives you back the power that was always yours in the first place. And it is a way of offering yourself so. much. grace.

Again from Cassandra Speaks, Elizabeth Lesser says this:

I see changes afoot. I see bold women everywhere taking what used to be called a tendency to cause trouble and rebranding it as a tendency to speak up, to confront the gaslighting, and to make our culture more caring, communicative, and emotionally intelligent.

This feels like grace, too.

Not soft grace, tender grace, grace as traditionally “feminine” in quality and characteristic (like balancing books on your head while pouring tea in the most practically perfect way).

Bold grace, brave grace, fierce grace is what you deserve. Speaking up. Confronting the harm. Being caring and communicative and emotionally intelligent. So much more. And it’s what you model for the rest of us when you “know the truth of your own experiences,” when you celebrate the fact that you have somehow managed to stay sane, when you hold onto your version of your own story, your very life, no matter what.

May it be so.

The truth is almost always personal

I recently read Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, by Beth Kephart. On the back cover are these words: 

It is almost always personal – and consequential – to tell the truth. 

And . . . right alongside the risk of truth-telling, is the possibility, the benefit, and our hope:

“Every word a woman writes changes the story of the world, revises the official version.” ~ Carolyn See

I’m back and forth between these two bolded statements because of my own writing of late: the final edits of my manuscript. It’s not memoir, but still, personal – and consequential; not memoir, but certainly compelled by my dogged desire to “change the story of the world.” (Or at least the way we have been telling the stories . . . )

On the one hand, I am reminded that it’s not truth OR consequences (a reference to a very old TV game show – if you are too young to remember); it’s truth AND consequences. On the other hand, I am compelled by just how important it is that I write, that I speak, that I trust the ways in which my words, my truth, do change the story . . . my own and others’.

Writing and me aside, the same is true for you. All women sit in the tension these two statements elucidate.

We are caught between the risk of our truth and its impact, its cost and its significance, our fear and our yearning.  

*sigh*

*****

Another recent read has been The Book of Essie. I stumbled across it while looking for an epigraph quote — a couple relevant keywords in Google, plus “quotes” and this is what showed up:

“It’s men who trust they will suffer no consequences for their actions, while women suffer no matter what they do.” ~ Meghan Weir

No surprise: I immediately went to Amazon for details, then my online library app for the audio book. I won’t spoil it for you, but again – no surprise – it deals with exactly what I’m naming here: Women reside in the impossible tension between telling the truth and changing the(ir) world.  

It shouldn’t be impossible.

As I was lost in the pages of Essie’s story, I thought back on my own — the places where I knew my truth, but wouldn’t take the risk and couldn’t bear the consequences (or so I thought). I thought of other times in which I spoke my truth, how everything changed, how it was impossible to go back, how most of the time I wouldn’t have gone back even if I could, and how painful it was to move forward. And I thought about how this is the reality for most every woman. Past and present. Not just once, but over and over again.

If we weren’t so familiar with it, we would feel crazy (and often do)! It’s become par for the course, second nature, what we know how to do extremely well.

Weigh the costs
Consider the outcomes
Put ourselves second . . . or last
Compromise
Comply
Long for change
Wonder if it’s even possible
Speak up
Take it back
Apologize
Wish we were stronger
Get stronger
Step forward
Risk everything
Survive

I’d be elated if we could jump directly from “weigh the costs” to “step forward,” “risk everything,” and not only “survive,” but thrive.

There’s no simple “answer” to this conundrum, but I do have some thoughts.

We alleviate the consequences of our truth (or at least our fear of such) by telling it, by building our capacity to do it even more, by trusting ourselves.

The way in which this messy and excruciating world will change is by women being unswervingly committed to their truth – and its out-loud expression.

Our courage to tell our truth and change the world is exponentially increased when we are surrounded and supported by stories of other women who have done the same – whether Essie, Eve, or countless others.   

I had “maybe” at the start of each of the three sentences above. A dilution of my own truth. A fear of being misunderstood or too bold or too outspoken. And a way in which the change I long for on my behalf, yours, and the world’s, is slower to occur, harder to imagine, and that much further away. I guess it feels important to acknowledge that even though I am the one writing all of this, I am often stuck in the same bind – over and over – in the most insipid of ways.

And then there’s this:

I know telling your truth is hard. I know it is scary. I know there are consequences. And I’m sorry. 

I also know that your truth, the know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within, is worthy of being heard, that your story is, that you are. Written. Spoken. Allowed. Celebrated. Lived. And when that happens — as it should and as it must — it’s definitely world-changing, story-changing, life-changing . . . changing everything. As you deserve.

As I’ve written this today, I’ve wondered how it will land for you — whether you will feel desire or tension, a deep knowing or a shoulder shrug; if you will be proud of where you’ve boldly and bravely told your truth or lost in your memories of truth-avoided.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I long for you to trust your truth and your power to change the story of the world . . . of your world. If I could wave a magic wand or say a prayer or cast a spell or maybe all three in one, this IS what I’d wish, hands down, every. single. time.

May it be so.