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.)

SEEN

Dear Strong Woman,

Leave it to Brené.

No, I have not yet watched her Netflix special, though everyone who has watched it has been posting those classic mic-drop quotes of Brené Brown’s left and right, and to that I am grateful. I’ve been working on this particular post for a few days and was having trouble with the “What for?” component. As in…what is the point I am trying to make with this spotlight on my messy parts?

The irony of this quote of hers doesn’t go unnoticed.

 

The irony of this quote of hers doesn’t go unnoticed.

So let’s get to it – the lesson that brought me to this beautiful breakthrough.
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I can preach about the importance of self-care until I’m blue in the face, and still put others needs before my own.

You could call me a hypocrite.
You could say I’m human.
I prefer to think I’m just a work in progress.

(Aren’t we all?)

What I didn’t realize was how deeply engrained my belief that “my needs aren’t important” really is, to the point where I subconsciously do things to reinforce it.

It’s fascinating and scary how the mind works.

For example: I tend to resent people who lack self-awareness. From this snap-judgement, my “formula” tells me such people won’t ever have the emotional capacity to be in-tune with my needs, and will likely hurt me. This resides within another formula that tells me if people loved me, they surely would never hurt me, so when they do, my fear that I am unloveable gets fed Thanksgiving style.

That “won’t ever” component…? That comes from the experience of me telling a family member how they’ve hurt my feelings, and being met – again and again – with defensiveness and the accusation that my feelings were wrong.

I learned over time to stop voicing what’s really going on with me, as it was easier to do that than experience that pain repeatedly. Only recently did I realize how this way of protecting myself is connected to my judgement of others that comes about when they share what’s going on with them. What’s more is that…the unloveable fear I mentioned? I counter that by listening for what people need help with, so I can help them, and therefore feel valued. Important.

In a way…loved.

So I’m the girl who doesn’t share her needs, asks others what they need so I can come to their rescue, and then inevitably labels them as needy.

WHAT IN THE WORLD?!

The good news? I’m aware of this cycle now. The bad news? Untangling this twisted formula of 25+ years isn’t going to happen overnight. Le sigh.

That’s why, albeit after major resistance, I enlisted the support of some reinforcements. I *gulp* asked for what I needed: to have conversations with other in which I only talked about what was going on with me.

That’s when the magic happened.

One friend let me vent about some deflated feelings around a project I’m working on. She heard me, validated how I was feeling, and helped me brainstorm some ways to put the wind back in my sails. By the end of our conversation, I was energized and excited to get back to work – night and day from how I felt when I first got on the phone. She also shared some things she was working on for a similar project, and we decided to check-in with each other later in the week to ensure we remained committed to doing the things we said we would do.

When we reconnected, she told me how sharing what I needed in that moment gave her the momentum to do what she needed. The initial exchange energized me. I hadn’t realized it had energized us both.

Giving to others always allowed me to feel valued. What a beautiful realization to know that receiving from others can have the same effect.

When I consider self-care, so often I think of the obvious that’s marketed to us: getting adequate rest, fueling my body with healthy food, working my body with a solid workout, taking time to be still.

All the things to fill my cup.

But what if it’s already full with…poison?
Overwhelm.
Negative thoughts.
Stories from past experiences.
Old wounds.

How can all the other stuff do it’s magic if we never let the toxins out?

Yeah, a solid sweat session helps.
So does journaling.

And yet, I’m realizing none of these quite compare to being seen by another human. To allowing it. To seeking it out.

Brené is right: We don’t have to do it all alone. We were never meant to.

It’s in this way I’ll overcome my fear of being unloveable, because being loved means allowing yourself to be seen.

FAITH

Dear Strong Woman,
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Take me to church.
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When I was young, church coincided with a firm talking-to through gritted teeth. I remember putting on my best dress, only to get yelled at. “I don’t want to hear a peep. You sit, stand, and kneel when you’re told. That’s it and that’s all.”

When my parents divorced, my mum decided she wanted to start going to church, crushing our hopes of sleeping in at least every other Sunday. The first time we walked up to this new church with her, the doors were locked. What we thought was a literal sign from God that we should go back to bed was really just a result of some remodeling going on in the sanctuary, as was explained to us by a member of the church who walked us to the social hall across the street.

It was that Sunday, while sitting on a metal fold-out chair, that I truly experienced church for the first time.


Despite being an active youth group member, I got away from church when I went off to college, and even more so when I moved out of state. I adopted the ever-popular “I’m spiritual, but not religious” stance like most my age do these days to escape all the rules of various organized religions and do church their own way. (My way became a Sunday long run in the park.)

But I never really felt like I was home for Christmas until we went to the midnight service back in our old church. Something about seeing Maranda and her family, and hearing Vicky sing just brought me home. (And often to tears.)


I say all of this because I’ve felt a pull back towards my faith these past few months…and am loving it. That feeling I would get from attending midnight service is the same feeling I’ve gotten recently by simply taking a moment to sit. To breathe. To be.

I’ve heard it said that the people make the place. It’s the same concept as your vibe attracting your tribe. It’s no wonder that surrounding myself with growth-minded friends, books, and experiences have helped me to reconnect with my most important values.

When it comes to food, if you’re not fighting disease, you’re feeding it. But it’s the same with your soul – if you’re not serving it, you’re suffocating it.

I’m thinking it’s time we make soul food a staple on the menu.

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Agreed?

ABLAZE

Dear Strong Woman,

Have you ever had that moment where you’re driving alone in your car, and the song that suddenly comes on the radio feels like it was written for you?

Or maybe you find yourself at church, actually listening to the sermon your pastor is giving (for once), and find that it was exactly what you needed to hear?

What about when your sitting in a room with 30,000 other people, both exhausted an invigorated after three full days of intense training, listening to woman at the top of your organization getting praised for the positive change she has brought to the world, and feel a bizarre futuristic sense of deja vu?

“Who would’ve thought a girl from Western Pennsylvania could have done all of this.”

WAIT.  I’M a girl from Western Pennsylvania, too!

From Spark to Wild Fire

I felt it – that spark – way back when I decided it was time for me to put myself first and encourage others to do the same by becoming an advocate of self-love.  I knew it was going to be my saving grace, as I couldn’t ask others to do what I was unwilling to do for myself. The example I strived to set was the answer to the problem I avoided by constantly kneeling at the alter of my to-do list.

I just didn’t know that such a tiny spark would eventually spread like wildfire.

Self-love has played a major role in transforming me from rundown workaholic to wellness warrior, so much so that the act of saying no to the shit I hate has allowed me to say yes to the things that have always set fire within my soul.  (Hence, this blog.)  In a way, I am becoming who I was always meant to be.

However, the most profound discovery thus far on this grand adventure has not been my light, but what happens when one chooses to take their light and light the candles of others.

And then put 30,000 of them under one roof.

It’s Lit

There is something so beautiful about a person whose energy introduces them before their words do. Get enough people like that together and you’ll find the air around you buzzing.

Buzzing with hope. With opportunity. But most importantly, with intention.

And isn’t that how we should be living every day?  In fearless pursuit of what sets our souls on fire?

*click*

It was then, there…in the middle of the fire, that I decided.

There is no such thing as having enough time.  You have to MAKE time.  Life never slows down. You are never ready.  As is the case with everything, you’ll figure it out as you go, and even then you’ll never have it all figured out. (Here’s a secret: no one ever does.)

But if you find that place where you are just a little more excited than you are afraid, that’s your magic moment.

That’s when you go for it.  That’s when you go all in.

I’ll leave you with this:

When it feels scary to jump, that’s exactly when you jump. Otherwise you end up staying in the same place your entire life.

And I don’t know about you…

But that’s not something I can do.

“Be here a year from now.”

Message received. 

Now this girl from Western Pennsylvania has some work to do.