A shocking event (with some context)

A Sunday sermon, of sorts, that I hadn’t planned to write…

You know those movies that start with a shocking event? After the scene is set up, the next 90 minutes take you back in time and slowly, bit-by-bit, carry you forward until you can see the event again – this time with comprehension and context.

That’s the way of life, isn’t it? Something shocking happens. We go back in our minds. We pour over every detail, every circumstance, every conversation in order to make sense of things. Simultaneously we are required to move forward, albeit haltingly; we put one foot in front of the other, almost surprised that we can do such a thing until, finally, we catch ourselves in a present moment, clear, awake, and aware.

My shocking event: I resigned from my job on Thursday.

Let’s go back…

Last week I wrote about crossroads, staring over the edge of a cliff, and knowing there will be consequences and costs no matter what decision we make. It was about saying ‘no,’ not compromising, and choosing self – always – no matter what. (And weirdly, wildly…or not…I wrote it before knowing what this week was yet to bring.)

How are we to know if our decision is the right one? How are we to rely on (or cling to) some level of confidence and surety, no matter the s**t storm that is about to descend?

My answer to these questions – for myself (and for you)? We listen to our soul.

I know. It sounds a little bit cheesy. Less-than-practical. “Where are the pro and con lists, Ronna? The Excel spreadsheets? Weighing all the options?” I’m not opposed to any of these; I’ve utilized them myself, believe me. Still…

First, last, always, the soul is where we turn. It’s our deepest knowing. The still, small voice. Or maybe not still and small at all: it’s the voice that screams within. We feel its press, its pulse, its presence. It stays.

Of course it stays. It’s our soul. It is the essence of who we are. It is endlessly intact. It cannot be shaken, shrunken, or silenced. It is our wisdom. Your wisdom. Not conventional wisdom, not objective wisdom, not book wisdom, not dogmatic or doctrinal wisdom. Not wisdom sanctioned by others. Yours. It’s what you know. Even (and maybe especially) if you can’t make sense of it for others, at times, yourself included.

It’s a life’s effort, of course. I have countless stories in which I couldn’t acknowledge my soul’s accuracy and trustworthiness until after-the-fact. I didn’t make the decision I knew I should, but inevitably looked back and said, “I knew. I knew. I knew!” And in that reflection, I learned. I have other stores (fewer of them) in which I took the tiniest, bravest steps forward. It was (and is) scary, foggy, unknown. But with each movement, no matter how tentative, I felt the ground beneath my feet get firmer. I looked around and ahead and said, “I do know. I can do this. I am right.” (My soul was right.)

I’ve been rewinding so many of these stories in past days. In the midst, I have deliberated, crafted pro-and-con lists, and even constructed an Excel spreadsheet or two. I’ve had countless conversations with myself and others. And I have heard my soul speak with impossible-to-ignore clarity. I’m still free-falling a bit, to be honest. But I’m also completely confident the ground will rise up to meet me.

I can hear my soul breathe, ‘yes.’

I could not have done this were it not for so many of my own lived stories – the ones in which I did NOT listen and, thankfully, a few in which I DID. I could not have done this were it not for the beautiful and brilliant tribe of women who support, advocate, and cheer me on. (Thank you: you know who you are.) I could not have done this were it not for the generations of women who have gone before – a chorus of wisdom that dwells within and says, “We are here. We know. We see. We understand. You can trust your soul. You can trust yourself. Hear our ‘yes.’”

And now, one more soul has joined that chorus: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Shocking. Heartbreaking. Incalculable loss.

But when we rewind, her wisdom and legacy remain and sustain. Her soul speaks to mine (and I’m guessing yours) in ways more powerful and undeniable than ever:

“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.”

Confirmation. Affirmation. Advocacy. Yes, another ‘yes.’

So, movie over. Popcorn gone. A Monday on the way. And if the film was any good, lots to keep thinking about, feeling into, reflecting on. That’s my plan – accompanied by the wisdom of RBG, so many other women, and what I’ve learned to rely on in myself, my very soul. Hearing ‘yes’ everywhere. Letting it compel the next, tiniest, most hesitant of steps forward…Hopefully for you, as well.

May it be so.

‘Yes.’

[Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash]

A crossroad, a cliff’s edge, decisions, and then some…

Over a lifetime, we find ourselves at crossroads: a relationship, a marriage, a divorce, a career decision, a location change, health issues, endings, beginnings… When peering over the cliff’s edge of a decision, we often feel as though few-if-any options exist. We feel stuck, lost, torn, frustrated, anxious, afraid, any number of emotions. (Or maybe it’s just me.)

We look into the unknown future and wish for an answer. But we need not look so far, so hard, or so wistfully to find one. The answer(s) are closer than we imagine or believe. They are already within. They are always within.

Just in case you’re not hearing them or not certain I’m right about this, here are three “answers” to apply at your crossroad, your cliff, your dark night of the soul. They’re trustworthy, I promise. (And I’ll tell you where they came from in a bit…)

Sometimes ‘no’ is the right thing to say.

I know: you’ve been trying to get to a ‘yes.’ You’ve been looking for a middle ground, some kind of give that will allow you to stay, to manage, to make it work. ‘Yes’ is the answer others expect you to give (almost as though they’d never considered you’d say anything other). But what if the answer needed here – and the one that will create the clear path forward – is a definitive ‘no’?

Say no to circumstances that cause you to second guess your values, your strength, your integrity, your voice. Say no to people who push you to give in, to come around, to agree with their way of thinking, their perspective, their feelings. Say no to situations that harm. And say no, unequivocally and with great haste, to the anything that deserves our firm and unyielding response: racism, sexual trafficking, domestic and child abuse, gun rights… The list is long.

Listen to the wisdom (I promise) is within. Then give yourself permission and claim the authority to say ‘no.’ Sometimes it is not only the right thing to say, it’s the only thing to say.

Do not compromise.

I know this place well. Years in a marriage that felt too costly to leave; an avalanche of guilt that had me believe that compromising myself was the right thing to do vs. compromising my children. (I can see now that these weren’t mutually exclusive; in fact, compromising myself WAS compromising my children.) Way too much time in a job that felt too costly to leave – and a sneaky, endless voice within that told me I wouldn’t survive without it: “It’s not that big of a deal. Take the paycheck. Be satisfied. Compromise a bit, will you?”

Do not misunderstand me: I am clear that these are huge decisions with vast consequences. In such places, much grace must be extended – to ourselves, to be sure, and to women we know who are struggling. Perhaps our role, for self and others, is to remind ourselves that we deserve no compromise, that we deserve the reality that eludes, that we deserve dignity and clarity of mind and the strength to stare over the edge of that cliff and then leap…

Do not compromise. But if that’s not feasible, at least not yet, know that you are worthy of living a life that does not require or demand such of you. Ever.

Choose yourself – always no matter what.

I know: completely counterintuitive to what most of us were raised with, socialized into, and what feels our very nature. But as above, things are not mutually exclusive: choosing yourself does not mean that you cannot choose another. The point here? Do not not choose yourself – ever – no matter what.

Which means that we must not compromise. Which means that we must say ‘no.’ Which means that we must, yet again, sit at the edge of the crossroad or cliff and make the decision, make the call, make the leap – guided first, foremost, and always by choosing self – always, no matter what.

There is an old story told about a beautiful woman whose husband, the king, was about a week-deep into a party with his advisors and staff. At one point in the debauchery, he called for her, commanding that she show her beauty to his guests. Some versions of this story say he wanted her to come dance for them, others say she was to parade before them completely naked. No matter the details, she was faced with a decision. (Before going a step further, let’s acknowledge that to the king, there was no decision here. She wasn’t asked. She wasn’t conferred with. No one even considered this a choice. ‘Sound at all familiar?)

She knew she had a choice whether anyone else did, or not. She knew the consequences that would befall if she did not obey. She knew it was more than risky. She knew it was unthinkable. She knew it was unheard of. She knew.

And still, she said no.
She refused to compromise (herself).
She chose herself, that time, always, no matter what.

So what happened? As you might imagine, the king was enraged. He met with his advisors and staff to see what they recommended. Their brilliant answer: “Her behavior might negatively influence our wives and all the women in the kingdom. Best to make an example of her so that they don’t get any ideas.”

The queen was banished. But not before the wives did get other ideas. I have to believe that her ‘no’ reverberated through the kingdom and that nothing was ever the same again. Because that is the power of a woman’s will, a woman’s ‘no,’ a woman’s knowing. No matter what.

This is what all of us need to witness and believe in order to turn the tide: examples of other women who have done what we need to do, want to do, must do. Not shiny examples in which everything gets better (though those are VERY nice to hear); rather, ones in which the costs are swift and exacting and it’s still clear that her decision was the only choice and the right one. We must champion a world in which saying ‘no,’ hardly merits punishment – rather, celebration; where any form of compromise seems laughable, a non sequitur; where choosing ourselves is simply, always, obviously, the best and only thing to do.

Nothing more was ever heard of the queen, but that was hardly her story’s end. In fact, her choice created the conditions for another woman to take the throne. And that woman eventually saved an entire nation of people from genocide.

In her story, just like her predecessor’s, her ‘no,’ her unwillingness to compromise, and choosing herself rippled throughout history, changed history, and altered its trajectory in redemptive and powerful ways. I’m pretty sure that’s always the case…(Or maybe it’s just me.)

I don’t think so.

Every woman’s story links to another. We are never alone in our hardship, our challenges, or our choices. We are bound – you and me, all of us, past and future. One crossroad crossed, enables another to do the same. One cliff stared down and jumped from, strengthens someone else. One woman’s decisions are not inconsequential. They are what empower us to make ones we cannot yet imagine. Which means that it’s worth it. Always. Every time.

Recognizing and calling on this connection to every woman who has gone before is what allows you to trust that wisdom does, without question, dwell within. Within you! You can trust it – all the time, and definitely in circumstances that require a decision, a direction, an answer:

Sometimes ‘no’ is the right thing to say.
Do not compromise.
Choose yourself – always – no matter what.

Should you still wonder if you have it in you to follow this wisdom, this advice, here’s one more thing to ponder: you’re not only accompanied by a queen, you are royalty yourself. The line of women from whom you descend give you the strength, the courage, and a bloodline that cannot be weakened. So rise up. Leap off and over the cliff. Do not fear: we are here to catch you, if you fall. But even more, we are here to watch you soar – knowing that we are now able to do the same.

May it be so.

‘Seems like the way to start a new week…a Sunday sermon, of sorts.

[Attribution to the ancient, sacred story of Queen Vashti for my inspiration – and hopefully yours.]

Photo by Einar Storsul on Unsplash

Take your seat at the head of the table

All of us know times, even seasons, in which we struggle and strain to feel like we’re on solid ground…in our minds, not to mention our lives. We toss and turn. We hear the inner fight. We know it’s not helpful, even sane. And yet we can’t seem to get ourselves out of the looping, the spiraling, the repetitive messages that do not help and worse, are not true.

I won’t assume to know what those internal messages are in your mind, but I’m highly familiar with the ones that circle and spin in my own.

In such times, we need something to grab on to. Not like a carousel ring; more like a pylon. Maybe what we really need is something that grabs on to us, that holds us tight while we finally let our breath slow and the internal storm calm. That stronghold, that safety, that holding comes from wisdom. And that wisdom comes from within.

I could tell you why we don’t turn toward this wisdom automatically, why it evades, why we often feel devoid of what we most need. But analyzing more deeply why we do the things we do isn’t the only avenue that heals. For right now, and in service to the calm that’s desired and deserved, let’s just allow it in (or perhaps remember that it already dwells within). No matter what, it longs to hold you fast so that you can hold on.

As you read what follows, maybe even for these few minutes, imagine some wise sage or crone reading your palm – more likely your heart – and offering you three truths. Each of them simply is. There’s no need to argue or dismiss. Just accept. Now, inhale. Breathe deep.

This first truth is an imperative, a directive, a call to place; a place that is yours.

TAKE YOUR SEAT AT THE HEAD OF THE TABLE. This is where you belong – even now and all the time. Assume this spot of distinction. Look at the people who surround – as they look at you. They are not surprised to see you here. They understand and unquestioningly accept your distinction, your belonging, and your role. You are honored. You are revered. As it should be. As you deserve.

And do not miss this one singular and significant point in the sentence above: sit down. Let the chair that’s only yours support you. Let the weight of your body be fully held and finally still. Exhale. You are here. We want you here. Ahead is the nourishment you most need.

Now, seated where you belong, hear this second truth.

YOUR ROLE IS SIGNIFICANT BEYOND MEASURE. Nothing is required of you to make this true. It just is. You just are. This statement intends no pressure, nor is it some marker by which you measure everything you’ve done (or not) thus far. It is simply (and always) true. You matter. You impact. You influence. And in ways beyond imagining, “beyond measure.”

What if, instead of wondering how this could be, you just believed? What if you just take this in? And what if you choose to live from and with this knowing? That’s the invitation – yours to accept – because of the third truth.

YOUR LEGACY IS CERTAIN. “Certain.” The word feels foreign, strange even. Especially now. But it’s the one you most need to hear, most need to draw on, most need to believe (yes, again). The less certain you feel, the more this deep wisdom-that-is-yours needs to be clung to tenaciously, fiercely, with every bit of grip and grit you can muster.

And what exactly IS certain when so much feels out of control – both within and without? You. Your lasting impact. Your legacy. The way in which your life lives and breathes beyond you. Done deal. Amen.

You may feel tenuous about what I’ve offered here. Uncertain, faltering, questioning, doubting. Which takes me back to where I started. We deeply, desperately need to believe what is more true, what is actually true – instead of the endless din that shouts within and without.

Let it in. Then let it hover like a fragrant offering to the ancient, endless wisdom within you. Listen with reverence and faith. And breathe deep, then deeper still. Now, push your chair back from the table. Rise up to the immeasurable power of your role. And stand in the full and glorious stature of your certain, incontrovertible legacy.

‘Seems like the way to start a new week…a Sunday sermon, of sorts.

Because I’ve been writing (again and finally). Because I need to remember, recall, and believe in what’s deeper, truer, wiser. Because I’m guessing you do, too.

[Attribution to the ancient, sacred story of Lois for my inspiration – and hopefully yours.]

Photo by Nadia Valko on Unsplash.