Posted on August 12th, 2015
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. ~Eleanor Roosevelt
The power of your commitment brings forth the means necessary for you to live in your Zone of Genius.
~ Gay Hendricks
I chose to go to driving school this week so that my speeding ticket would be reduced.
(I almost said I had to go to driving school this week but then I remembered everything is a choice!)
I walked into the same community college classroom where I used to give lectures on Developmental Psychology and spotted the grumpy-faced instructor fiddling with the computer and muttering under his breath. He appeared to be pretty much exactly what I’d expected – a man in his fifties with a little too much weight around the middle and a gruff demeanor about him. I grabbed a seat and wondered if there was a way I could read my book or return emails during the next three hours.
Then he started addressing the class and his whole demeanor shifted, taking my mindset right along with it. I sat up a little straighter, captivated by his lecture. It was clear he was operating in his Zone of Genius. I could see it but more than that I could feel it. I didn’t even touch my iPhone until we took a break 90 minutes later. I was sincerely engrossed. In traffic school! He was talking about reaction time and adjusting your side mirrors and merging and somehow it was interesting. I could feel there was more to this guy than met the eye.
And then it happened. He told us his story. When he was 19 years old he was studying Pre-Law as an exchange student in Germany. Driving home after his last final exam, he fell asleep behind the wheel and drove his car head on into a pole. He was in a coma for 6 days. Temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. Lucky to be alive. Eventually he recovered and decided to come home and teach driver safety. He wanted something good to come from his trauma. He wanted his story to mean something.
This was the magic I was feeling – a beautiful connection between his “why” and his work. This was how he was able to make driving school feel like Oprah’s Lifeclass live and in-person.
We all have our own Zone of Genius. The place where time expands and we’re operating in the flow. The work that allows us to give wildly and receive fearlessly. Mr. Driving School reminded me of the importance of pursuing our passions. He reconfirmed for me that when we follow our hearts and do what lights us up, we brighten the world around us. Your genius matters. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. If you aren’t living it yet, keep moving toward it in whatever way you can.
A critical incident occurred and now I don’t know who I am on the other side of it. I don’t know who I am supposed to be. I feel on the precipice and I’m not sure what to choose. In the fog of fear and grief and regret, I am questioning pretty much every decision I’ve ever made. Wondering if my life is focused on all the wrong things. How can I think/talk/write about self-care and living your dreams when this other scary, saddening thing is going on at the same time? Have I been devoting my life to all the wrong things, to trivial things?
This is not the first time these questions have pulled at my heart. I am aware of my privilege, aware that my life could’ve turned out much differently than it has were it not for the resources around me and within me. I see people struggling with addiction or homelessness and I think, “That could be me.” I know I have a lengthy roster of risk factors and I wonder, “Why me? Why was I spared? Why do I get to live this amazing, abundant life?” I feel equal parts guilty about and driven to use my good fortune. There is a voice in my head that tells me I’m not doing enough to help others, that says because of my happiness I owe the world something more.
Then words I read somewhere recently come to mind: I cannot be sick enough to make you well. I cannot be sad enough to make you happy. I cannot be poor enough to make you rich. I cannot suffer enough to alleviate your suffering.
And I remember – the best thing I can do for all the people I love, which includes all beings everywhere on my best days, is to elevate my own soul. To do my inner work, raise my own vibration, find peace within myself. Self-care and self-love are anything but trivial – I truly believe these practices will change the world. I remember that my callings, whether they be teaching about Badass Self-Care or volunteering at the local women’s shelter, come from the divine within me. Honoring the whispers of my soul is giving back to the world. I cannot suffer enough to alleviate your suffering but finding peace within myself may help you find peace within yourself. And so I will carry on doing my work.
***Trigger warning for domestic violence
For 10 days I stopped dreaming. Or remembering my dreams at least.
For 10 days I woke up with a clenched jaw. Pain, tightness, gripping.
Something working itself out in my body, just beyond my awareness.
I think of all the times I have kept my mouth shut. Wanting to be a “good girl.” Not wanting to rock the boat. Trying to keep the peace, always.
Laboring with my first daughter. My cheeks raw from pressing my face into a washcloth, keeping quiet.
Years of abuse. Time spent perfecting the art of crying without making noise.
All the little things in between – discomfort smiled through, hurtful jokes tentatively laughed along with, opinions held in.
This morning I recalled a dream from during the night. This gives me hope that whatever is causing my body to tense and tighten has started to move through.
I want to release. I want to soften into the stories.
Stepping into my intention, feeling afraid and yet so ready, I ask my massage therapist if she might be able to help me.
Her hands come around my face, my throat as she works to relieve the tension. I am reminded of his hands around my throat stealing my breath and the coming to afterward. Thanks to years of therapy the memory is neutralized and brings only a hint of anxiety. Thanks to years of yoga I deepen my breath and the feeling subsides.
I pray for release. I promise myself I will not keep my mouth shut any longer.
I have two daughters, age 17 and age 3.
I am driving to pick my daughter up. As I make my way through the streets of Niagara Falls
I practice my favorite informal meditation. It’s simple – as I drive I send lovebeams and positive thoughts out to people I pass on the street. So I’m driving along thinking about what an enlightened person I seem to be today spreading love all around the city. I start to think I’ve got it all figured out. I even begin to write a Facebook update in my head so I can share my amazing lovebeams-while-driving idea with all my friends. Surely they will like and comment away on my status, reinforcing my awesomeness. I pull up to my daughter’s friend’s house, get out my phone, and see a text from her asking me to pick her up an hour and a half later.
Suddenly I am fuming.
All my enlightened love beam shit has flown out the window in less than a second.
I respond, “I’m here right now. And I might kill you.”
She replies, “I didn’t ask you to pick me up.”
I read back over my text messages where she most certainly seemed to ask me to pick her up. I screen shot our messages and I’m about to send them to her along with a text emphasizing what a jerk she is. Then I decide no, I will post the messages on Facebook where surely all of my friends will side with me and affirm her rudeness. Yes. And I will tag her, of course.
Somehow I remember to take a deep breath.
The breath creates a pause.
In the pause I remember Miss She-Who-Beams-Love-To-Strangers. You know, the person I thought I was two minutes ago. I send a text to my daughter that we had a miscommunication and I will see her later. I start driving home and resume beaming love. I even beam some to my daughter.
She is screaming and it is like nothing I have ever heard before.
My three year-old who uses proper adverbs has suddenly become nonverbal. She is shrieking, crying, and thrashing about wildly and I have no idea how to help her. Why is this happening? How is the happening? This is not my first time parenting a toddler and yet I feel lost. Everything I try to do to help only seems to make it worse. My heart tells me to move toward her and she only screams louder. I want to hold her while she cries and she runs away from my embrace. Words are so calming to me, yet the more I talk the worse the situation becomes. Finally after doing all the wrong things, I am able to discern what she needs. She wants me to stay nearby, but not too close. She needs me to be quiet. She does not want to be touched or soothed, only witnessed as she works through whatever is happening in her tiny body. She wants me to hold space for her without trying to fix the situation and even though it goes against my very nature, she teaches me that I am capable of doing just that.
My children are my greatest spiritual teachers.
Through my relationship with them I become aware of unfinished business within myself.
They illuminate where I am stuck.
They challenge all the fantasies I have about who I think I am.
They keep me humble.
They invite me to love unconditionally.
They show me how to forgive.
They remind me to forget everything I think I know.
They challenge me to meet them where they are, as they are and without expectations.
Through them I learn to surrender my resistance to life as it is.
As I raise them, I raise myself.
May I remember these truths and may I be grateful for the journey.
Letting it be easy is a huge part of my Badass Self-Care practice and it has been on my mind a lot lately. The holidays are usually a time when I fall deep into making-things-hard mode. This year I did it differently, although not without a bit of panic! Watch the video below for more on my journey into letting it be easy (11 minutes).
Join me for Badass Self-Care and together we will release old stories, claim white space, and embrace ease.
We start on January 19 and circle together for 6 weeks of love and support.
My friends and family lovingly joke about the number of selfies I take. For me, taking and sharing a picture of myself is a self-care and self-love practice. Selfies are about seeing myself with kindness and honoring who I am at any given moment in time. They remind me to look into my own eyes with love and kindness. They allow me to shift my perspective, my mood, my day.
For every selfie I post there are at least 10-20 that I don’t. I think it is important for people to know this. To remember that each picture captures only one angle, one filtered piece of me and my life. This is part of the beauty. We get to choose what we focus on, what we highlight from the bigger picture. Same goes for life.
On Saturday, I shared this pictured on my Instagram feed:
Finishing up at work and playing with collar bone selfies.
A few hours later I felt compelled to share this picture with the following caption:
This is another I took earlier. I didn’t like the mark from a cold sore that’s healing or the way my neck looked. The truth is that this picture and my earlier one were taken in the exact same moment. The beauty and the flaws are all part of my truth right here, right now. #lifeintheampersand
This is what it’s all about for me right now. Embracing it all. Dancing with the light and the dark. I’m done denying parts of myself to try to fit into an artificial box that makes life easier to understand. Life is messy and it’s complicated and it’s freaking brutiful. I’m learning to open to it all. I’m living in the ampersand.
This week in my newsletter I shared how I have been hanging out in the comfort zone a little too long for my liking. I am ready to move back to my edge, to safely push myself into bigger and bolder territory. A few ways I plan to reclaim my edge:
My heart races a little as I read this list over, telling me it is just right.
She said thank you, you made my day.
She said you inspire me.
She said you know you’re gorgeous, right?
She said you are awesome and you are enough.
She said thank you for writing what I am feeling.
She said you are my yoga.
She said I am breathing with you.
She said you are a gorgeous magical spirit and total badass.
She said thank you for having the courage to share your truth.
She said I love your laugh.
She said you are a natural, loving guide.
She said you are so beautiful and full of light.
She said thank you for holding my hand.
She said keep writing please.
She said you anchor me so I can fly.
She said you are pure, pure love.
She said your vulnerability is beautiful; it makes me want to hand you my own heart, knowing how well you will care for it.
She said I trust you.
She said you are freedom and peace, joy and safety.
She said you are a saucy yoga goddess, a sexy mess.
She said you show up with all parts of you.
She said you are sublime, the sacred and profane, mindful and wild at once.
She said your energy is contagious.
She said you seem to be on the brink of setting the world on fire with your magic.
She said you deserve it all.
She said your sweetness and dignity just blow me away.
She said I adore you – you are soul and sass in one gorgeous package.
She said I love you.
And I let myself believe her.
I like to complete the prompts the day they are given. This may be Magic Making Circle and not graduate school, but I am still the girl who likes to shout out the answer before the teacher even finishes asking the question.
“Who are you becoming?” she asks us to consider.
I’ve barely just figured out who I am now, let alone the next iteration of my messy, beautiful self. Me from before would muscle through it and pry the answer from somewhere, anywhere. Me from now is frustrated with the lack of answers but she is able to sit with the unknowing, to impatiently trust that the answers will come.
I want another tattoo so badly. Hours spent on Pinterest searching for the perfect talisman. Hundreds of mildly inappropriate stares at the wrists, forearms, shoulders of beautifully inked strangers. Who I’m becoming won’t allow me to settle on something good enough. She knows my forearms are sacred, limited space. That I must be sure; that I deserve to be sure. That I’m still stepping into the next iteration and now is not the time for permanent decisions. That just as my forearms are limited real estate so are my heart and mind. That I deserve the time and the space to really discern what to let in and what to release.
I go to get my nails done and a color pulls at me. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever chosen and I can’t take my eyes off of it. It hits me. This color is my becoming. Grey-ish. Purple-ish. Space between. All here. I am becoming the woman who stays. She stays with the hard, the confusing, the scary. She no longer runs to food or wine or work. She doesn’t try to fix it or figure it out. She is learning to breathe through it, to be with it. To inhabit her life. To trust. To surrender. To truly let go. To simply be.