Both

Dear Strong Woman,

First of all, imma do both.
 
I bought this dress today as a symbolic representation of the problem with being me.
 
 
(And I’m not talking about the problem of what shoes to wear with this thing.)
 
What I really mean is that limiting belief I have that has me holding myself back; two characteristics of my personality that I think just can not exist at the same time; the two traits that, if I were to step into then both simultaneously, would likely create a lot of awesomeness in my life.
 
For me, it’s been a choice between being bold and embodying grace.
 
It shows up like me biting my tongue to keep the peace, and focusing the attention on others rather than on myself. Then my bold side retaliates and says the thing, only now with a hella hefty helping of resentment because I waited too long. It’s me quitting jobs, relationships, and projects because I shove down the inkling to have a bold conversation before it becomes more than I can handle. I escape, start fresh, and the cycle continues.
 
Today I’m choosing both. I’m choosing to TRUST that I can embody both grace and the audacity to do or say something that may be completely unreasonable, and not have the world – MY world – come tumbling down.
 
I can challenge a client from partnership, not make wrong.
I can give tough love to my brother from compassion, not disappointment.
I can share my take on the matter from communion, not proving.
I can stand my ground from love, not fear.
 
I can tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they enjoy the ride.
 
I saw all of that represented when I looked at myself in the mirror wearing this dress. I knew I had to buy it because the awareness had me second guessing myself. Can I pull this off? (“This” clearly meaning so much more than the dress.)
 
I can.
 
I can and I will.
 
 
 
 
 
But seriously, what shoes?

NEW

Dear Strong Woman,

Old ways won’t open new doors.

I’ve been working on a new entry for weeks.  It’s about how I wore shoes that were both cute and too small and how the pain I experienced in my feet is similar to the ways our souls feel pain when we shrink ourselves down for the sake of appearances in relationships.  (Takes a breath.) . It was witty and heartfelt and vulnerable…and laced with self-judgment for the way it’s gone for me in that arena.

So I scrapped it.  I scrapped it because I’m done with that past-based, back-door “I should’ve known better” trap.  Looking to the past to assess patterns in an effort to interrupt them moving forward?  I’m all for it.  But going back there to dig up all of the evidence as to why I am a silly, naive girl who never learns?

I’m not available for that anymore.   

I believe I took a step in breaking up that pattern by choosing to share this here thing I wrote in seven minutes versus the story I’ve been writing for almost two weeks.  It wasn’t hard.  It wasn’t emotional.  It was simply a choice.

Maybe there are more spur-of-the-moment shares like this to come from me.  Maybe more spontaneous decisions in general.  

A voice in my head says, “Yeah, and maybe more living, too.”

I’m not sure where to end this so I’ll end it there.  I’m also not sure if you got anything out of this, and yet I’m more present to what I got of this right now.  I suppose the gift of writing is found more in the process than the final product. 

(There.  You can pull an “enjoy the journey” zinger from that.  My work here is done.)

STAY

Dear Strong Woman,

Stay in it.

I’ve come to equate the journey through an intense season of change to a deep tissue massage. You know the experience will be worth it, but as it’s happening I sometimes find that pain almost too uncomfortable to bear.

At first it always feels good, but inevitably the masseuse finds my trouble spots and sets up camp there for a bit. Tapping, kneading, applying pressure. Working out the mess and the tension, what I refer to as “the crunchies” that have built up over time. (Funny, I call the crumble cookie layer on a Dairy Queen ice cream cake this same name.  Though I have a much different relationship with that indulgence.) I have to keep reminding myself to breathe through these moments, telling myself to hold on a little longer, that it’ll all be over soon and I’ll be happy I stayed in it.

Change is like this, too.

I’ve been interviewing recently for a new job, in particular one that would afford me the time and energy to dedicate to my growing coaching practice.  Time with loved ones is important to me, as is my own self-care, and both have been the first to go as I’ve been working a side-hustle on top of a full-time job.  (Perhaps it’s a similar story for you?)  So I made a list: my conditions of satisfaction for whatever came along next.  If what was presented didn’t align with them, then it was a pass. Period.  

And yet, with bills to pay and time ticking away, I could feel the crunchies starting to form.

I interviewed with an organization I really admire.  I feel in alignment with their business model and in good vibration with their people.  But the structure of the position they were looking to fill didn’t match my conditions.  It wasn’t immediate – as courage doesn’t always roar, my friends! – but I found to gumption to risk what was on the table for what I was committed to, for the way I want to do life.  They wanted full-time. I asked for part-time.  They wanted someone for the long haul.  I let them know my goal of running a coaching practice full time in six months.

Doing so left me feeling the same way I do after one of those massages – a little sick. My fears of being able to pay my bills and falling back into debt grew into a giant, crunchy knot in my chest. But I stayed in it, and as I heard myself stating what was necessary for me for me to remain inside the commitment I made, I found myself telling myself the same things: Hold on.  Just a little bit longer.  You’ll be happy you did.

In the end, they still offered me the job! How rewarding it was to take a stand for what I am worth,  what I am creating, and be validated! Finally.

I’m not saying it will always be like this.  In the past, asking for what I needed got me scoffed at, outcasted, and dumped.  As you make a change, this happens.  People will react in this way.  Just remember that these are not your people.  Their opinions of you have no bearing on your self worth.  Sure, they may shake their heads and wonder why, but keep going, dear.  Soon they’ll be wondering how.

The last thing I want to point out is this:  there is fear present in every choice you make. There is a fear that comes with risking what you have, and there’s also a fear of risking what could be.   You just have to decide which is the greater risk.

Just please keep in mind…

No pressure. No diamond.

THE TABLE

Dear Strong Woman,

I know what I bring to the table, so trust me when I say I’m not afraid to eat alone.

There was a time when this was a badge I proudly wore.  I was confident. Felt grounded in my worth. Knew I had a lot of good I could bring to a relationship, and knew I wasn’t going to waste time with those who didn’t clearly see that.  Strong Woman in a nutshell, back before this concept even existed.

I’m proud of that girl.  She stood up for herself, and knew she didn’t need others to validate her.  She learned a lot. About the world. About the people in it. But that girl also learned how to eat her dinner standing up, sometimes with the refrigerator door hanging open, always in mere minutes, and never in a mindful manner.

I wasn’t afraid to eat alone, but I sure didn’t spend much time at the table.

That’s no longer my reality. And what’s funny is that…of all the new things I’ve been adjusting to these past couple of months, the one thing that has been the biggest change for me – over moving away, over starting a new job – has been sitting down at the table for dinner.

As a girl who has grown to be quite a fan of self-help books, meditation, and the like,  it’s been nice to get some personal development from a slightly different angle. In fact, I’m often hungry for it. Not in terms of what’s on the menu – though that is a great bonus! – but for the process.  The company you get to interact with in that process.  I’ve found that dinner merely serves as the stage for us to slow down and connect while we create (and enjoy!) a main dish that is so often just to conduit to the main event:

Togetherness.

Togetherness around the table.

It’s a place where we can set aside all the doing and just focus on being.

One of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, masterfully captures this in her book Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes:

We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel.

What’s beautiful is that my old and new realities can coexist.  I can sit at the table proud, confident, grounded in my worth. I can be all of those things without needing to be alone to prove it true.

I’m still proud of that girl, but I’m also proud of who that girl has become. I’m still not afraid to eat alone, but I’m not too afraid to admit that…I much prefer it this way.

So I encourage you, Strong Woman, to take a seat at the table.

Gather.

Visit.

Be present.

It may satisfy cravings you never knew you had.

LAMB

Dear Cleo,

Thank you.

I’m not sure for what just yet, but I know your hand is in everything right now.

I continue to have these moments that seem to cut my life into before and after, and I can feel you here…holding my hand…welcoming me into yet another season.

Another version of myself.

I hope it never stops. Not because I selfishly want to feel your presence, but because I want to continue to grow.  To become to woman I am meant to become.

I know this means there will be more hard moments, but I am not afraid of this.  Between having you and Mum as my guideposts, I am more than trained to handle such times.  What I am learning though is that sometimes breaking down into a full-blown snot cry is an acceptable first step in handling it. It’s okay to show weakness. It’s okay to not know what path to chose so long as I trust that it has already been chosen.  I just have to follow. To show up. To be open to those Universal lessons that you are most definitely throwing my way.

(This last one has your name all over it.  I feel it in my gut. My heart.)

But while I’ve felt inclined to tap into the lion within me, you’ve kept me…calm.  Relaxed.   At ease and thankfully off that dreaded hamster wheel in my head.

You’re reminding me that in times when I feel inclined to roar, it’s okay to be a lamb.

Soften my edges.

Come from grace.

Operate from a space of happiness. Only happiness.

How beautiful it is to remain silent when the world expects you to be outraged!

My instinct is screaming: YES. THIS.

I shouldn’t be surprised that you are showing off as such, especially now.  Even today – your birthday – has provided little glimmers of reassurance that I am moving in the right direction.  And as I type that, I can hear your giggle.

You always were clever.

And we always made a good team.

Glad to know that some things will never change…even if there are worlds between us.

YES. THIS.

Thank you for keeping me in line down here, pretty girl.