I’ve been thinking a lot about the election results. It’s hard not to.
My facebook feed. My mailman. The lady at the town council office that accepted my forms. A client who had an out of the blue binge.
‘What do you make of Trump?’, ‘This is not going to be good.’ and ‘It’s all his fault.’
A mix of fearful disbelief, dismay, grief, and blame. Not fun times.
So what do I make of Trump?
I didn’t vote. It didn’t seem like the integral thing to do when I didn’t and don’t have a strong opinion about either candidate.
This might sound like a cop-out, but hear me out. A Facebook Ad made it’s way to my feed when there were only 3 days left to register for an overseas ballot and I quickly added it to my ‘to-do’ list. But then thought twice about it.
And I realized the only reason I’d be voting was because I think I ‘should’.
That as a free citizen in the western world, I should exercise my right to have a say.
But for me, jumping in the political ring at the last minute just because of all the hype around Hillary vs Trump didn’t seem like it was the real me.
I haven’t followed politics for years. The last time I voted, I voted for Bush junior because my parents were staunch Republicans and I couldn’t imagine what would happen at the dinner table if I voted for Gore. By the time his second term came around I was dating a liberal Democrat, and I couldn’t pick between my family’s values or my boyfriend, so I didn’t vote.
As I started to find my own voice, and what I really cared about, I realized that for now I don’t have the bandwidth to keep track of all the ins and outs of how government and the economy works. What I do have space for is why an individual makes a choice.
I care about why the person in the position of power, and the person casting their vote, is making the decisions they are making. Are they making it out of Pride, or Shame, or Fear? Or is it out of Love and what they believe is the ultimate good for the earth and mankind, even if it’s an unpopular vote?
As I hear the reactions toward this last election there’s a lot of emotion going on. I see Anger, Disgust, Grief, Sadness, Fear. Thankfully there are also slivers of Compassion and Love.
If you’re feeling any of those things, I can understand why, and I’m feeling those emotions throughout my life right now too.
I’m also aware that those aren’t my primary feelings about this election, and so I’ve had to check in with myself. What am I feeling instead?
Oddly, it’s Curiosity mixed with Anticipation and Excitement.
Not because I think Trump will do a good job, or is the best person for the job.
But because the only good I see coming out of this election result is that we, as a generation, have been given a wake-up call.
America is having a breakdown.
The same kind of breakdown that I’ve had.
The kind when you’re at war with yourself because you’re so caught up with fitting in and keeping up with the shoulds of who you think you have to be. The kind where you think the survival of you and your identity depends on this, and so you keep trying to keep it all together. Except you’re faced with guilt when you realize you’ve screwed up, and shame when you realize you could’ve done better, and fear that because of this, and regardless of this, you’re not OK anymore. It’s not working and you’re stuck, but you keep trying to make it work all the same because you don’t know any different. And so you lose yourself in the process.
Maybe you can relate.
Yes, it is scary when something the size of America has a breakdown. I have Fear there too. Because a breakdown on that scale means very few are left untouched. It’s no longer contained to the tears on my couch and the visits to my therapist.
But here’s what I know about breakdowns.
You either become a victim to it and let it define you…
Or you rise to the challenge and let the process of shedding and refining happen, so that you come out through the fire a more wiser, aware, connected, and purer version of you.
You get in touch with your True You.
That is the exciting part.
On the morning of Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 I did something I never do…
Aside from willingly getting out of bed at 6am (in the dark mind you) for my first day of fish feeding training (the joys of a fish farmer’s wife)…
…I turned on the TV when we got home. It was in time to watch Trump give his acceptance speech live.
My husband commented, ‘You never watch TV!’
‘I know! But this is watching history in the making!
In hindsight, I reflect on that statement, and sure, there was probably a lot of truth in that. That day is likely to end up in the history books of the future.
But here’s the other thing. We don’t have to wait for a presidential election, or any election to watch history in the making.
Every. Single. Moment. Of your Life. Can Change. The Course. Of History.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Every. Single. Moment. Of your Life. Can Change. The Course. Of History.
Every choice we make in our daily lives is us casting a vote. How we treat our neighbors, where we do our shopping, how we love (or don’t love) ourselves, our family, our friends, our enemies. How we do (or don’t) speak up and take action for what we believe.
It is the ripple effect and accumulation of those choices that matters more to the future of this planet than who is living in the White House.
Here’s something I was taught recently about feelings:
We have Anger when we have Passion and Desire for something to be different.
We have Sadness and Grief when we have lost something dear to us.
We have Fear and Anxiety when we are living in the future and forget that we have what we need, right now, this very second.
We have Shame and Guilt when deep down we know that we are capable of, and wish we had done, something different.
For those of you, and those you love, who are experiencing any of these emotions due to the state of the world affairs, or the state of any part of your life right now, first, let yourself feel. Feeling is important and necessary. Numbing doesn’t do anything except opt out of your life (trust me, I’ve tried).
Once you are feeling, here’s a few things to ask yourself:
What do I Desire to be different?
What do I have Passion for?
What is it that I think I have lost or will lose?
What can I be grateful for right now?
What is something I can do right now, or today, or tomorrow, to do my part to create the future I want to see for the world?
I started writing this to extend an olive branch to those who are hurting right now. But I am also writing this to those who are not. Because my gut tells me, that if Hillary had won, you would be hurting too, just for different reasons.
That’s what happens when the best our political system can do is give you the choice between a crook and an asshole to run the country, or so I’ve heard.
I am still undecided as to whether I will call them a crook or an asshole. Because I know two things about myself.
One, I will most usually judge the hell out of someone else when it is somehow reflecting a part of me that I really don’t like.
Two, anytime I say ‘I will NEVER do (or be) THAT!!!’, I inevitably do (and am).
So before I call her a crook or him an asshole, I’m asking myself, where am I a crook? Where am I an asshole?
Where in my life do I let the desire for power or greed or being right, or the idea that I can get away with just a little (or not so little) white lie, influence my decisions?
Where in my life do I think I am better than the other person, dismiss their point of view, and exert my own privilege or power over them?
Guess what, I do both.
Whether it’s covering my tracks when I know I’ve messed up so I don’t have to face the humiliating pain and shame of being wrong in front of family, friends, or colleagues;
Or stereotyping and rolling my eyes at the guy in front of me in the checkout line because they are taking too long to bag up all of their booze and potato chips.
At the end of the day, I am just as guilty as they are.
You might be too.
So here’s a reality check:
Blaming, shaming, and complaining isn’t going to change anything other than you will grow a lot of bitterness and discontentment. You might experience anxiety, or hopelessness, or possibly depression. You’ll probably increase your blood-pressure and see a few more wrinkles in the mirror.
You may choose that if you wish. No one is stopping you.
You can also choose to get curious about yourself. Because like it or not, that is the only person who’s words, decisions, and actions you have any control over.
You don’t have to hand over your power to the government, or any institution for that matter, and watch the show from the side of the road, or your couch.
You get to play a part.
Not only do you get to play a part, you get to cast your vote and create the ending to the story, at least for your own life.
And who knows, maybe by creating an ending that reflects your deepest truth, one that is grounded and founded in compassion, empathy, patience, kindness, courage, and more of the endless facets of Love, then maybe you get to shape the ending of the bigger story at play, that extends beyond the next 4 years, 8 years; beyond your lifetime.
And it all starts with You. With Me.
How can you and I show compassion, empathy, patience, kindness, and more to Me, Myself, and I?
How can we let go of an old harsh story that says we need to be doing and striving and pushing and trying, so our pride and ego can say we have done enough?
What about really tuning in? Slowing down enough to hear the whispers of your heart. To see where your soul wants to take you? What might you do differently then?
And how might you then BE and Become what you so desire for the world around you?
I am not promising that this is easy. In fact, heads up, it’s not. I get it wrong all the time.
I will promise you this though. It is worth it.
You are worth it. The lives of the people you touch are worth it. Your community, your country, and this world is worth it.
As you extend more compassion and love to yourself, you will have more to give to the people around you. And they will have more to give to the people around them. (Heck, there might be so much love and compassion floating around that even the White House will get the hang of it!)
And there lies the hope. And excitement for what could be.
This story was written by Corinne Birchard. Thank you for sharing your heart with us!
This was supposed to be the year of everything. Senior year of college. I was so excited to start this year as I had big goals and aspirations for the up-coming cross country season. I dedicated my summer solely to training; I discussed with my mom the idea of not getting a summer job to maximum my time for getting in my hour long endurance runs, my lifting session, my shakeout second run of the day, and my routine of “little things” to promote recovery, including sleep. My parents not only understood that, but encouraged me to hold off on getting a summer job so I could focus my energies on training. So that was my summer.
I was so excited to go back to school and compete in my class cross country season as a Division I runner. And to learn and complete my degree in biology, of course, but I invested so much time in running during my time off from school that I couldn’t wait to taste the delicious fruits of my labor.
Turns out they weren’t so delicious.
While I was focusing my energies on training, I kept putting off the dreading feeling of leaving the home I love so much. This year was different from other years. The early years of college, I would be so excited to go back to school and reconnect with my roommates and teammates, train hard and study hard. Of course, I would miss my family and friends and boyfriend back home, but the college atmosphere was different, almost refreshing. New.
Now, things are different. With one year left of college, I had my future career to look at, deciding where to get my masters of education, spending time with my parents that I enjoy so much, and planning a future with my then-boyfriend, now fiancé. And, life happened back up at school. I grew apart from people whom I was close with at the beginning. That happens, that’s okay. I went through mindset changes that maybe didn’t exactly line up with the mindset of others on my team (some may say I take my sport too seriously, but I’ve always been a serious person. That’s how I perform my best.)
I wish I realized this earlier, but underneath the focus of putting forth my best effort in training, I was masking the dread of going back to an environment in which I knew would be different.
But when I realized it, it hit me like a ton of bricks straight to the chest. I felt like I was suffocating.
The year I was expecting to be the best year ever wasn’t turning out that way. Training was going okay, but I didn’t feel comfortable with where I was at. Between the different training philosophies, eating lifestyles, practice conflicts, and levels of interest in competing and training, I felt like I was isolated and had no one to connect to. I thought that it would pass, maybe it was just everyone was adjusting to being back at school again.
But weeks went on and I never felt more alone surrounded by people. I dreaded going to practice. I ran with others, but being with people felt like I was suffocating. I would break off and run by myself, and that was equally as suffocating. I couldn’t escape it. The pressure would follow me back to my apartment and I felt uncomfortable in what was supposed to be the comfort of my own space. It felt like living in a compacted bubble that was ever pressing down on my chest.
The worst was when that pressure, the suffocating, came crashing down in my first race of the season. I went in with a happy heart and a happy head (I thought) and was looking forward to seeing how I would perform. Mid-way through the 6K race, the pressure came back and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
Not exactly the way I wanted my first race as a senior to go. It was embarrassing. My parents drove for eight hours to come watch me run and spend the day with me. I felt like I let them down, and cried in the shower as they waited in my living room to go out to dinner. They had no idea.
In a place in which I was surrounded by positive energy, I encountered negative energy at an unrelenting rate. The pressure, the suffocation would squeeze tears from my eyes on my way to class, or practice, or on my way home. But I couldn’t tell anyone there; I was colloquially known in the athletic department and on my team as the girl who was always smiling, always happy, such a great big smile on my face.
Yes, I’m smiling, but on the inside, I’m crying. I began counting down the days to graduation, not because it would a joyous occasion, but because that meant I could leave this place for good.
I decided to take a weekend away. I needed a change of scenery, a change of people, a change of everything. I couldn’t wait to leave.
And thank God I did. I left my computer at my apartment and my phone’s touch screen wasn’t working too well, so I only used it to get in contact with people on an urgent basis (like, where was my ride from the airport, and yes, I landed safely, because just to type those five or six words took a solid ten minutes. I couldn’t be bothered with that the entire weekend).
With the first breath of fresh air I took in when the flight landed, I felt all the negativity leave my body. I was able to breathe again.
Over the course of that weekend, I got the best sleep I’ve been able to get since I went back to school. I really, truly, genuinely laughed so hard in the pee-your-pants-but-you-don’t-care type of way. I genuinely smiled so much (a real, tooth-grinning smile) that my jaw cramped up.
And, I felt independent. With the suffocation gone, I felt like I could actually do things I wanted to do, instead of veg on the couch post-run thinking of all the things I could be doing but instead wasting my day away. Slowly but surely I felt strength come back to my body in the form of the warm light ability to freely breathe.
I didn’t know how much I needed to get away, but I’m glad I did. I learned so much about myself that weekend. Like I truly enjoy math and maybe I should have majored in math instead, or that I am actually able to strike up a conversation with a person I just met, instead of waiting for her to dictate the conversation.
The best part was that the happiness I felt in the core of my body didn’t leave me when I stepped on the flight back to school. Instead, I think it grew and made me more confident. I reached out to a friend and teammate who I haven’t really spoken to since the beginning of the year due to scheduling conflicts and I told her how I was feeling. It felt so good to actually tell someone, instead of letting the feeling suffocate me. I became more comfortable reaching out for help from different resources, like my coach, my sports psychologist, my journal, and you, who is reading this story. The more I shared how I felt, the more comfortable I felt, because I wasn’t alone.
The more I talked, the more I realized that there were changes I could make myself to help me truly enjoy my last year at school. I happily decided to switch my degree from a BS in biological sciences to a BA, and resign a class I really wasn’t enjoying or benefiting from. I explored places and initiated activities with my friends, either going out on adventures in town or finding a new place to study.
And, most importantly, I felt like I was able to breathe. I was able to breathe without restriction.
What I learned from this experience that it is so important to do what makes you happy. Don’t worry about obtaining perfection. Don’t worry about obtaining the ideal “senior season” because there will be someone that is out of your control that may change that vision in an instant. Instead, be malleable. Be open. Be present. Be you, do what makes you happy in that moment, and breathe freely.
It’s not often that I will drop £350 on myself without pre-planning the expense, working it into the budget, rationalizing why I, and the items that I desire, are worth it.
It was a new and rare experience when I found myself freely handing over my credit card without any of these mind games going on. A spontaneous shopping spree on the 2nd day of the True You Italia retreat as we were wandering the streets of Rome.
Technically, we were looking for a place to sit and have a drink and a snack together (when in Rome…). My mission at the time was to get us off the main street and into the quieter alleys that were not so packed with tourists (those darn tourists).
As I paused to invite the others to cross the street, I looked up and saw a dress that caught my eye. It was an orangey mustard colour with a subtle blue flower print, the light material flowing off the mannequin in such a way that stirred something in me to try it on. To see if I would feel as beautiful in it, as the beauty the dress itself created.
Plus the price was right. 39 euros? I can do that.
So I meandered into the shop, browsing the racks, imagining how the gently feminine styles would look on me, keeping an eye on the price tag.
I found a navy pullover for only 19 euro made in a light viscose material, with long sleeves and a long torso, that made me feel comfy and softly sexy at the same time.
That was a definite yes.
Then something made me ask the sales assistant if I could try on the dress in the window… the reason why I had walked into the shop in the first place.
Maybe a different day I would’ve settled for the comfy sexy pullover, but the whole Retreat was about coming Alive… part of that means acknowledging and acting on my desires. And I had a desire to try on that dress.
The young man explained that the one on the mannequin was the last one in the store, he could get another one from a sister store, but would I like to try on the same dress different colour in the meantime?
Sure. Go for it.
And go for it he did.
I put the dress on and it was shapeless. Not what it looked like on the mannequin. A subtle disappointment creeped in… once again my desires don’t look good on me.
I showed my two amici, Liberty and Becki, and they agreed… something was missing.
The belt! The mannequin was wearing a belt!
‘I’ve got a belt at home’, I said.
The sales assistant, whom we soon learned was named Emanuele, perked up. ‘No, not your belt from home. I will get you a belt. Stay there.’
He brought over a blue leather belt that matched the sprinkle of blue in the dress. He lovingly tied it around my hips and flounced the material around it.
Wait, you need the necklace.
2 minutes later I had my choice of necklaces to try on. I chose the one that felt most me.
Yup, that worked.
Something inside of me was awakening… I started to feel playful. ‘What shoes would I wear with this outfit?’ I asked. ‘Heels?’ I was picturing strappy stiletto Roman-esque adornments for my feet.
‘Ah, No. I will show you. What size are you?’
‘Ok good. Here, put these stockings on your bare feet while you’re waiting.’
Next thing I know, I am standing there with Emanuele down on his knees scrunching the soft leather of a pair of handmade boots around my calves, just so, to give the outfit the exact look and feel he could see for me.
Me? I had no clue boots could scrunch. Left to my own devices I would’ve rigidly kept them knee high. I was not expecting the inviting look, and the internal surrender, that came from the boot scrunch.
Again he eyed up his creation. ‘Something is missing’. He declared. ‘Stay here.’
I stayed and looked in the mirror. Definitely not an outfit I would’ve picked out for myself, but it was working. I liked what I saw.
He returned with a blue jacket that matched my belt, hand crafted from lambskin, as soft as a baby’s bottom.
Trust me, I was not expecting to ever try on a blue leather jacket. It just wasn’t in my view of what works for me.
But to my surprise, this more than worked.
Another look in the mirror and I could barely take in what I saw. It was like I was lifted from the page of a magazine. The outfit popped, and in wearing it, I did too.
Becki and Liberty were oohing and ahing. Turn here. Look that way.
I let myself be seen. Playfully and coyishly posing for them to admire. Hand on hip, knee bent, head tilted.
Something inside of me desired to savour this. Let myself receive the attention, care, and admiration of those around me.
Forget the outfit, this experiment in receiving was a whole new look for me. My norm is to downplay and shy away from compliments, and then crack some joke so as to dumb down the beauty.
I chose differently yesterday. And it felt damn good.
I felt like a woman. Like a divine being. I tried on the ability to receive, without any strings attached; without owing anyone anything or apologizing for my radiance.
I was empowered to own this moment, and so I chose to take that moment home with me. To own it for good; without figuring out where the £350 was coming from, or what would my husband think, or do I really need or deserve this?
It didn’t matter. Because being more of me is priceless. So is owning and living the truth of who I am… a woman who can delight in herself, and let herself be delighted in by others. A woman who knows she is worthy.
And as I did that, something else changed in me. I let the walls down between me and Emanuele.
Because at first the cynic in me thought, hmmm, he’s a really good sales person. I better keep my eye on the price tag here because he’s up and cross-selling me, all for his gain ie commission. And although he’s doing a very good job, I’ve sussed him out.
But the more I let myself receive, the more the judgement melted away. I stood back and let him do his thing, because he was actually having FUN! Decorating and dressing me was not a job for him.
It was Play. His Art. I was his Creation.
I got curious about him… Tell me Emanuele, why do you do what you do?
I like to put the colours together for people. They would never think green goes with this, or blue goes with that, but then I put it together, and dey lahv it!
His finds joy in seeing others experience joy.
His True You comes alive as he helps others come Alive.
We asked if we could capture this moment on camera, and so Liberty asked him, ‘When do you feel most alive?’
And this is when it became clear our shopping spree was not really a shopping spree, but a Divine experience. A meeting with God.
‘When I pray.’
Here, in a women’s fashion boutique in Rome, was an openly gay Jewish man who admittedly talks to God (and sometimes Jesus…) and who comes most alive when he prays. (If that doesn’t mess with your view of who’s right and wrong when it comes to religions and sexuality, I don’t know what will.)
Not something I was expecting, and not something I can explain.
It brings tears to my eyes and sends me to my knees.
Because Emanuele, God with Us, was giving me more than a new outfit. He was acting out the gift from the Creator who likes to Play. Who likes to make Art. For whom I am It’s Creation.
And for whom You are too.
Dear ones, know that you are delighted in. You are loved. You are a work of art. Let yourself receive this gift.
Surrender to the work of Emanuele. You are already adorned by your creator. Regardless of your race, religion, sexuality, gender, number on the scale, bone structure, percentage body fat, health problems, emotional problems, your failures, your successes, your pains and your joys.
You are You for a reason. Let yourself come Alive.
Awaken to your own playfulness, your own creativity. Be curious about the world around you.
Let the walls of judgement, shame, fear, expectations, and perfection, fall down around you (those same walls that try to separate Christian and Jew and Muslim and gay and straight and married and single and divorced and you name it.)
Let the beauty of your True You shine through.
Please, I beg you.
The world needs your True You. It needs you, and me, to be like Emanuele; shamelessly and vulnerably letting ourselves be seen (even the parts that could easily have us hung on a tree) and sharing our gifts to the world. Lighting up others by just being our quintessential selves.
We all left changed that day. We wanted to take Emanuele home with us. And not because we’d be guaranteed a good-outfit-day 7 days a week. But because being around him touched something in each of us; awakened us to something bigger than us that we can’t explain.
And when we put down our guards enough to connect with what he had to offer, we were changed.
Truth is Emanuele is with us always. That spirit, the delight of something bigger than us that we can’t explain, is always with us. Just look around you. You will see it.
In the wind, in the waves, in a flower, in a child, in a dog sniffing and licking your face. In the laughter and the art of another soul walking this earth with you.
Emanuele, God with us, is With You.
This story of the week is actually the story of the Year. It started August 2015, or actually June 2015, or actually… how far back do we ever have to go to find the beginning of our story?
It’s a story of learning to Trust. Be Open to what I can’t explain. And learning what Love is. Especially when it hasn’t always felt good..
Here’s how it begins.
On June 1, I experimented with a True You Treasure Hunt and the treasure I found that day looked like this: Don’t expect to take the weather with you when you move climates.
It was June 1st and I was taking a hot bath to keep warm. I’d rather it be jumping in a pool to keep cool on June 1st, but hey ho. Not my ideal weather, but I was trying to let it go. The weather isn’t really something to get upset about now is it?
On July 5th I left my house that morning to go for a walk in the Brecon Beacons and it was wet and gray. By that evening I found myself sitting on my couch facing my husband saying the words, ‘I need space’.
Fyi telling your husband that you need space is scary.
I didn’t need space from him, but I needed space from the gray, from wanting my coaching efforts to pay off, from the never ending saga of setting up a fish farm, from wearing gloves and having the heat on in July.
But still, you never know what they’re going to say.
I am forever grateful that he understood and could lovingly and graciously look at me and say. ‘OK. Why don’t you go to home to NY for a few weeks?’ I’m not sure I would’ve done the same.
When I heard him say that, something clicked though. ‘Home? That’s not the space I need. I want to go to Italy.’
On August 4th I was on a plane to Rome for a 10 day ‘work-away’ stay in Abruzzo. I had no idea what to expect other than sun, heat, blue sky, and that I’d be doing odds and ends at an eco-tourism village in exchange for room and board.
It turns out it was an experience I still can’t explain.
By Sunday August 9th, I was sleeping in the bed of the daughter of the woman who owned the eco-tourism project that I had rocked up to. (If that sounds kinky, it’s not.) We had started talking while chopping tomatoes and sun bathing on the beach, and it turned into one of those moments when the you look at each other and think, ‘Right, I’m not in Kansas anymore. We’ve clearly walked into each other’s life for a reason other than my trimming your olive trees and you giving me a respite from Welsh summer.’ She invited me to stay overnight in her city apartment so we could talk about potential opportunities of working together in the future.
It became clear that I could help support her and her growing business from back in Wales, which would give me the opportunity to establish some roots in Italy and let my dream of living there start to take shape.
I remember giving my husband a call and filling him in on the developments and feeling:
Now, I have never been pregnant, and I have no idea what real pregnancy feels like. But that was the second time in my life my where my womb space felt like something was growing in it.
Once, the day I opened myself up to spending the rest of my life with my now- husband. Twice, that day when I opened myself up to creating a life in Italy.
A check-in here about what that impregnated feeling felt like: Like being in the eye of a storm.
Complete calm, completeness, and certainty, in a sea of a million questions, unknowns, no plans, and uncertainty.
I was sure, even though I had nothing to be sure about. I was saying ‘Yes’, without a guarantee.
And I was holding on to that pregnant feeling while the questions of, What does this mean? Are you crazy? Where’s the 10 step plan? What about this? What about that?, were vehemently swirling around me.
It just so happened that the week I was in Italy, I was reading Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love.
She planted a seed of truth in my mind and my heart that I held on to: Only Love is real.
I guess that’s what left me feeling calm in the middle of that shit storm… I was opening myself up to Love.
Now here is where it gets really interesting.
I think Love, and I think, Yay! Hugs and kisses and hearts and roses and everything turns out perfect! No stress, no worries, no angst.
Far from it.
For the next 5 months I was tested in every way possible.
I thought this decision to open myself to Love, to say yes to an opportunity that I knew in my gut, my heart, my soul, was the way forward, would be smooth sailing. It would give me financial security, it would give me my dreams on a platter.
What it gave me instead was growth.
For 5 months I wrestled with the question: do I stay or do I go now?
The growing pains of navigating a new working relationship, of not having all expectations met, of putting your foot in your mouth and having to clean it up when your dark side is seen.
For 5 months I felt like I was on a seesaw.
But I felt so sure back in August! Was that false? Did I somehow trick myself? Can I no longer trust my gut and that feeling that feels so good and is so hard to explain?
Because this doesn’t feel good anymore! My body doesn’t feel good and I’ve practicing listening to my body! If that’s the case, I should run!
Except here’s the thing: Your body is not going to feel good when you have jumped aboard the Fear boat.
Your body will always feel good when it is in the middle of Love.
It doesn’t matter if the final decision is to stay or to go. That part is irrelevant. What matters is how you feel when you make that decision.
Whatever you choose, if it’s surrounded with Love, it is the ‘right’ decision for you.
I didn’t quite get that at the time, but thankfully 5 months ago I knew enough not to jump ship because that didn’t feel good either. And what I found by staying, was learning how to Love more. How to surrender my own expectations of how story would all unfold, and actually walk with what is.
What I got to experience was a miracle on so many different levels.
To be given the gift of watching another person’s journey to Love unfold in front of me as I was on my own. To see a Jew and Christian ‘by birth’ be able to share experiences of the same God. To discuss business challenges in two very different industries and realize that the only difference is the number of zeroes stuck on the end of the number.
To experience that although we looked different on the outside, we are actually the same on the inside.
Which brought me full circle to a place of being open, being able to listen to what’s in front of me.
And so this summer, when I kept putting off my dream of having a True You Retreat in Italy until 2017 (because of fear of not having enough time or people in my life), but then had these words of encouragement said to me 4 weeks ago: ‘Why don’t you just have it this September. You’re going to be here anyway.’
I could listen to the nudge.
And once again find the calm within the storm of How? And Who? And What do I do now?
And so begins the next cycle of Listening, Trusting, Growing, and Loving. And dare I say Healing and dare I say Living?
I am currently walking through the Growing part… the process of actually walking forward into the uncertainty and the unknown after you choose to Trust. I’ve never held a retreat before. And fyi… there are lots of inner and outer world obstacles to navigate. And even now as I am writing this on August 21st 2016, even with the certainty that 5 of us will be there in September, I still have no idea how it will turn out!
But as I look back over the past 14 months, here’s what I’ve learned and keeps me moving forward.
#1: Don’t poo poo your dissatisfactions and disgruntledness. If you’re not happy, you’re not happy. There’s probably a good reason why. And instead of trying to force the smile and pretend it’s all OK (because the weather, or my problem du jour, is such a silly thing to be upset about, I have it so good), call a spade a spade. If the weather is pissing you off, let it piss you off. You never know where it will lead you.
#2: Always be open, be present to what is right in front of you. I arrived in Italy last year with an inkling of a dream to live there and have retreats there, and imagined it was years down the road. It would require us owning a villa tucked away somewhere. When events began to open up different doors that had the potential to lead me to the same place, part of me wanted to say No, this doesn’t fit my picture. What about, oh yeah, I don’t have the whole picture.
Lesson #3: It’s ok to trust the feeling of complete calm, peace, and serene knowing from deep within. It may only last a moment, (because the minute you take the first step of action all the fear and uncertainty and doubt now has a new spot on the path to try to take over), but trust the moment.
Lesson #4: Choices when you are open, and present, and inviting in Love, will feel good. It doesn’t matter whether the choice is to end something or start something, you will still have the peace and the calm to ground you even if only for a moment. That doesn’t mean that Fear, Doubt, and Distrust goes away forever. And so when you find yourself in that boat, find your way back to Love. Chances are you’ll grow as you find your way there.
Written by Liberty Bain for The True You Project:
My 10 year old started a new school this week. Last week was spent getting everything in order; buying uniforms, supplies and going to orientation. He loves his school bag from last year but wanted it to be monogrammed.
Before we headed out on our shopping expedition, he showed me a creative design he’d dreamed up for how he wanted his name sewn onto the bag. His name begins with a W and his design included a lightning bolt.
When we arrived at the monogram lady’s shop, she laid the bag out and asked how big he wanted his name and what color thread he desired. At this point he started questioning her to see if she ever did special designs, etc. That’s when Miss Pat, as we got to know her, invited him to pull up a chair in front of her design computer and look through hundreds of possible lightning bolts. From there they perused different stitches and other options for his bag.
Five minutes turned into ten and ten turned into twenty. I got super itchy on the inside, thinking this was taking too long, and I thought about trying to hurry him up.
I asked myself a question instead: What is it about this process that is triggering me?
I realized I have a tendency to rush through things that are important because I fear ‘taking too long’ will annoy people and I’ll end up feeling rejected.
Letting that old story go began right there in the shop. I chose to watch him live like he belongs and matters, to simply let him be who he was in the moment. I also got to practice getting comfortable with my discomfort.
After settling on the size and shape of the lighting bolt, he spent a full 5 minutes choosing just the right blue thread. I almost rushed him here too, but watching his process I bit my tongue (again). His presence and trust astounded me. He never flinched about asking for more blue thread options or a bigger lighting bolt, and he didn’t settle for anything that he didn’t really love. Never once did he consider he wouldn’t be able to get what he really wanted. It clearly had not crossed his radar that he needed to hurry or that this was ‘taking too long.’
Observing my son, vulnerably and wholeheartedly, enjoying his next loving step totally inspired me. He used a basic process that included asking lots of questions, taking time, and making his best choice.
So I wondered: where can I apply a ten year old’s trusting principle of continuing to ask for what I want and how I want it?? How quickly can I shuck the lie that I need to curb my desires??
First, I need time and space to dream and practice creativity; to come up with my own lightning bolt designs for life.
Then I want to trust that everything is conspiring to help me ask for what I want to become reality.
Everything might not turn out exactly how I want – but it won’t be because I held back or talked myself out of it because I didn’t want to annoy anyone or make them uncomfortable.
How about you? Where in your life do you need to ask for more!?
What are your unique designs you want to bring to the surface?
Where could you reframe ‘I can’t because…’ into creativity for how you actually could??
Where is possibility hiding in plain site in your life??
How incredible would it feel to go for it?? Whatever IT is??
If the answers to all these questions feel like way long shots, reach out to me or Kendra for a nourishing session to connect you to your True You. Email us at trueyou.inspire[at]gmail[dot]com
What I don’t want you to know about me is that a lot of times I am driving around my neighborhood and most of South Wales, and all the gray pebbledash (aka stucco) houses stained with diesel smut really gets me down.
I want to see color! Vibrancy! Variety! Wooden cladding with beautiful paint jobs. Nicely decorated front porches and whitewashed fences.
I’m not in Kansas anymore though, and unlike OZ, all I can see is gray.
The part that I don’t want you to know about is that I am starting to resent where I live. I feel stifled. And I judge myself harshly for feeling this way.
‘Grow up. Get a life. Stop judging your surroundings. You should be happy with what you have. Stop being so superficial that you let a bit of dirt and gray get you down.’, my inner critic dutifully chides away.
A couple of months ago I was walking towards the Swansea waterfront for a jog on the beach. The neighborhood I was walking through… let’s just say it could use a facelift. Terraced pebble-dash houses with concrete slabs passing for a garden, bleeding into asphalt pavement (aka sidewalk). No grass. No trees. No sign of life.
Except for one.
One neighbor in the 4 or so blocks I walked was doing life on their own terms. They had created an actual garden in their 10’ x 6’ plot of front yard and humongous tulips were in full bloom, all different colors. You could tell it was cared for.
It was so beautiful, and so starkly different from it’s surroundings, that I stopped and took a picture to capture this memory. Imprint the beauty. Make it last.
A true testimony to the idea that when you shine your light, you impact others.
Two days ago, I was again going for a jog along the beach, and The Beatles decided to come with me. ‘I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together’ started running through my head.
I never could really understand the point of this particular song. The Eggman? The Walrus?
But as I fell into a rhythmic pace over the sands of Swansea Bay, it clicked. I didn’t have to be high on LSD to get the point, at least of this first line.
I am he: I want beauty in my life and so does the person who takes the time to make this garden beautiful.
As you are he: If you want beauty in your life, you’re just like him too.
As you are me: Oh cool, we both crave beauty (and both probably winge when it’s lacking).
And we are all together.
So if we’re really all together, than I’ve got some socks to pull up because ‘he’ is clearly doing his part in creating beauty, and all I’m doing is getting more and more depressed the more I don’t see it.
So two days ago I did something different.
Drug-free but high on endorphins from my run, I went to my car, took out a pen and paper, and wrote this neighbor a note of thanks. ‘Thank you for caring enough to make Swansea beautiful.’
I walked over to the garden (this time, huge purple roses in bloom; took my breath away so much I forgot to take a picture). I was going to leave my note in the mailbox but heard voices on the other side of the door, and sure enough an elderly man opened the door as he was was about to go walk his dog.
I thanked him for creating a beautiful garden.
He had no clue what this Crazy American was on about.
But he proudly told me about the days where he would get up every morning, walk over to the university, tend to the gardens there, and then pick up his grandkids from school.
I still don’t know who the Eggman is. Or the Walrus.
But lesson #1 from the Beatles I now know: People around us can teach us about, and heal, our soul cravings.
I crave beauty. I need it in my life. I know this because when I see someone else create beauty, I am attracted to it.
And now I am challenged to create it. Because I am he. And if this grandpa can conjure up some beauty, then so can I.
Whether it’s by planting flowers, cutting my grass, painting my nails, or writing a note of gratitude…
I get to choose. I get to let the light bouncing off my soul cravings, light up others around me.
Lesson #2 from the Beatles: I am he, and you are he, and you are me, and we are altogether… works not only with beauty, but with all the crap in life too. Our suffering is the same.
As different as we might think we are from those around us who suffer, we are not.
We are in this together. We create beauty together, we suffer together, we heal together.
Perhaps that’s the Eggman. The Walrus. I think I am so different… I mean, heck, I don’t have a bald head or tusks. I’m not a retired grandpa who maintains his horticultural hobbies.
But inside we’re all the same. So when you come across someone who is suffering, remember that their suffering is yours too.
Thursday happened to be the first ever World Eating Disorder Action Day, which makes this Eggman and Walrus concept even more profound. At the crux of an eating disorder you’ve got a massive loss of identity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the person sitting across from me say, ‘I don’t know who I am anymore’.
So if that is the suffering of someone with an eating disorder, all the more reason for the rest of us to shine our light so that they’ve got a chance to find themselves through the light they are attracted to. Just like grandpa’s garden reminded me of my soul craving for beauty, and experiencing it healed a part of me.
I have no idea what grandpa saw in me other than that Crazy American, but I would like to think that somehow in helping me heal my suffering, some of his was healed too. Maybe he felt alone, unappreciated, forgotten and someone noticing his soul creation gave him some hope or something. Who knows.
But I do know that sometimes I feel alone, unappreciated, forgotten.
So maybe our suffering is the same. Maybe your suffering is the same. Maybe we can heal it all together.
This week in our house, we had our regularly scheduled blow-up about the origins of mankind. These discussions happen on a semi-regular basis but it seems that every 3 months or so the conversation really heats up.
Questions like: Is there is a God? What about the dinosaurs? Is our spirit really a spirit or just our subconscious mind? Or is that the same thing?
My husband and I come at these questions from polar opposite points of view. I was raised in a culture steeped in conservative Evangelical values, where anything but Christian was the devil. He was raised in an environment where values didn’t stem from religious beliefs and there was no expectation of what faith you affiliated with. If anything there was an assumption there would be no affiliation.
Some pointed differences:
My upbringing told me that I had to marry a Christian. His upbringing could care less what I did on Sunday morning.
My upbringing was laden with fear… of breaking the rules and punishment if you did. In his upbringing, fear was not something that was there to control you.
This week as we hashed out our differences… in upbringings, worldview, trigger points, and communication styles (oh my!)…
I realized that my travels through Thailand were not for naught; ‘Same, Same, but Different’ rings true again.
Yes we are different, but we want the same thing.
Our differences lie in a combination of things.
For starters, the basic mathematical principle of the Mode: We are both the average of the people we spent the most amount of time around growing up.
Then there’s our innate personality type: He is a J on the Myers-Briggs scale; where if it’s not black, white, or a neat row of logical zeroes and ones, his head hurts. Me? I live in a world where fifty shades of grey makes perfect sense to me.
And don’t discount the fact that when he finds out our sun is spinning in spirals around some other planet/object/universe, his calls me in from whatever I’m doing with the excitement of a kid at Christmas in his voice. And I’m left standing there trying to find a way for ‘frankly my dear, I could give a damn.’ to sound like I really care. And when I can’t stop talking about how life changing the idea that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have!, he nods his head and smiles and then goes back to watching David Attenborough.
Yet we are both asking for the truth. For the capital-T Truth; the indisputable laws of life including physical laws of gravity and e=mc2, and the spiritual laws such as life follows death (hello butterfly).
And being on the journey for capital-T Truth, we have to respect what is true for ourselves and each other in the moment… that where each of us is on our journey is real and true for us, and not something the other person can dispute or take away.
For me, if you are asking for the Truth, you’re good to go. You may not have found it yet, but it will find you. And I’m convinced that it knows enough to find you in the way that works for you. Why would it show up in Greek when you only speak Russian?
And so why would I only be able to find truth in nature shows when I’d rather be reading Brene Brown?
So here’s my encouragement to you today:
It’s likely that somewhere in your life you feel a disconnection, and the blatant differences between you and a loved one are staring you in the face. It might keep you up in the middle of night, make you want to punch a wall, or it’s why you cry yourself to sleep.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that the disconnection is just a figment of your imagination, or that all you have to do is change your thoughts. No, the disconnection and the differences are real. You are two different people.
The disconnection doesn’t have to stay there forever.
A different lens helps to see where the similarities are. Even if it’s a tiny speck, it is the place to plant a seed.
This is what helped me/us this week and maybe it can help you too. It boils down to two things.
1. Owning your story
2. Finding the common goal
Owning your story:
- Understand where the differences come from. Eg I am personality type A vs I am personality type B
- Understand how you think and communicate differently. Eg I need to connect dots and see patterns vs I need the final answer shot straight between the eyes
- Understand your triggers. Eg I shut down to closed-ended questions vs I blow up when I don’t get a straight answer
- Remember where you came from. Eg I came from a heavily religious background vs I went to Sunday School because that’s just what you did.
- Check in with where you are now in your story. What Chapter are you living? Eg I am at a place where I’m unraveling and dissecting everything from my past and deciding what I want to keep and what I want to throw away vs I am building off of a clean slate.
Finding the common goal:
- Where do we both want to end up? Eg Truth, Peace, Love, etc
- What do we want for each other? Eg space to grow, curiosity, encouragement
Once you’ve given this some thought (and fyi some of those answers may not show up right away), chances are you can find a way TOGETHER, to fill in the gap from A (where you each are at in your own story) to B (your common goal).
And then maybe your quarterly blow-ups can look more like quarterly peace-talks. Except that, that whole death brings life and fire burns off the old thing still stands true; so maybe the blow-up is just inevitably necessary 🙂
I’m a big fan of house music, especially remixes that highlight the hidden beat of a song that otherwise falls into the ‘meh’ category, but now you can’t stop moving to. Back in 2003/2004/maybe 2005, my boyfriend at the time and some friends went to the Miami Winter Music Conference; my first time in the presence of some DJ greats. Aside from an encounter with an overdose (not my own thankfully), I was in my element.
The music, the energy, the weather. I am seriously convinced that God is DJ.
Especially when a remix of Tears for Fears’ “Shout” was played. (I still can’t find which remix it was and it’s driving me nuts, so if anyone remembers the version with special emphasis on the xylophone sound and a kick ass bass, plz let me know!!)
A couple weeks later we were all back in NYC leaving a club where the mix had just come on, and there was like 5 of us singing and dancing in the streets of the Bowery:
‘Shout! Shout! Let it all out!
These are the things I can do without
Come on, I’m talking to you, Come on’
One of my best NYC living memories.
So what’s this got to do with anything?
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been confronted with a lot of tears. Tears of my own, and tears of other women on their True You Journey.
Ten/Fifteen years ago, you wouldn’t catch me dead with tears for fears or any other reason.
Today though, tears are a relatively common occurrence.
My tears, and the tears I’ve been privvy to recently, have been tears for a variety of reasons.
Uncovering the Truth of who we are, experiencing Love in a new way, and being so touched that all we can do is let it all out. Tears for saying goodbye… to old stories we were telling ourselves… the things we finally realized we could do without, but had been holding on to for so long. And yes, even some tears for Fears. The fear and uncertainty of what will be on the other side of letting the old stories go, and letting in the Truth and Love?
What I was reminded of this week is that shedding tears is a good thing. All those years I lived with dry eyes, a good part of me was dead inside.
The more I wake up, the more I cry. (And sing, and dance, in the streets of New York.)
My tears and those of these women were signs that we’re waking up; our True You is coming to the surface.
So have a think for yourself. When was the last time you cried? Shouted?
When was the last time you let it all out?
Got rid of the things you can live without?
C’mon, I’m talking to you! C’mon! 🙂
Naked Female Bodies. Probably the most competitive arena in the Western world. So much so it might as well be an Olympic Sport. At least then the standards would be objective and not left up to the eyes of the beholder, forever wondering if this body is ‘good enough’.
Our bodies are either too fat, too thin, too soft, too hard, too round, too flat, too tall, too short. We’ve adopted the Goldilocks syndrome, except we can never find the resting place of, our body, or her body, is ‘just right’.
I am guilty of being Goldilocks. For years I judged every pair of legs, arms, abs, and cheeks (both pairs) that passed me by. And as with all forms of judgement, I was my own worst critic. Displacing my judgement on to her body was easier than accepting my own frailty and flaws.
When I was 18, I was exposed to more naked female flesh than I bargained for. The locker rooms in my university had showers that were reminiscent of Auschwitz. One big, square, stark, concrete room; empty except for shower heads peeking out from the walls. No cubicles, curtains, or any gesture of privacy.
And so after track practice, I’d be butt and breast naked with at least 10 other women as we washed off that day’s sweat and grime.
A perfect opportunity for the dissatisfied Goldilocks in me to take over. Her legs aren’t cut enough. Her bum isn’t round enough. Her thighs aren’t toned enough. Her breasts aren’t firm enough.
I was always comparing each body to some idealistic vision of what a woman’s naked body should look like.
The reality: no one in that room made the cut. Least of all myself. Because none of us had cracked the code of how to surpass the unreachable standard of perfection.
For years I’ve had the wool pulled over my eyes about what a woman’s beauty is; caught in the harsh cycle of comparison, judgement, shame; resulting in trying to hide my own flaws and compensate, in order to meet aesthetic standards.
Here’s what I know now, that I wish I knew then.
Aesthetic beauty is not uniform.
Aesthetic beauty is not the defining factor of a woman’s beauty.
A vivid memory I have from those locker room days was noticing the variety in breasts, nipples, and pubic structure. In the first 18 years of my life, the only naked female body I was familiar with was my own, and I naively thought that all breasts and vaginas were created equal.
Equal? Yes. Identical? No.
Why this was a shock to me, I’m not too sure. Clearly our eyes, noses, and ears were all different. Why wouldn’t the most intimate parts of our bodies be different too?
While this was news to me, I didn’t understand the symbolism of this fact until more recently. I was too busy looking for similarity, conformity, and sameness, missing the point those naked bodies were trying to tell me.
No one body has a monopoly on beauty. Beauty is variety.
No two bodies have identical features (OK, except for twins), even down to our most intimate parts which are usually hidden from sight.
When we are clothed, we hide our differences. It is in our nakedness, that we see our uniqueness.
And while one body may have individual features that can be labeled attractive, or pleasing to the eye, it is the collective, the combination that is beautiful.
Consider a painting. A canvas that is painted solid purple may be nice to look at, a pretty color. But it isn’t until the blue, green, pink, red and yellow are splashed on and accentuate each other, that you have something beautiful.
And so it is with the beauty of a woman. To think that you or I alone define beauty, destroys its essence. Alone, you and I can be pretty, nice to look at, and yes, carry pieces of beauty.
But, it is in standing naked next to another that is beautiful.
It is in our differences, our variety, the fact that no two of us have the same exact same shape, size or coloring, that we create the beauty.
And while this stands true aesthetically, our beauty extends beyond our physical.
Last week I made a comment in The Nourish Circle, reflecting on the experience of coming together for a group call the day before. I wrote, “The vulnerability and shared wisdom that each of us brings is beautiful.”
Hmmmm…. That has nothing to do with how hard, soft, round, flat, tall or short we are.
It was the sharing from the heart, letting others in on the secret heartaches and joys of our souls that was beautiful. Getting emotionally and spiritually naked with each other.
That was beautiful.
And just as in our physical self, while we each have a similar make up and can relate to much of each other’s stories and experiences, no two of our souls are identical.
We are individual, yet the sharing of our individuality and differences creates connectedness, relatability, and no longer are we alone. Like a single strand of a spider web, each strand serves a purpose, and once connected, you have a work of art.
And just like a spider web, where one strand on it’s own can easily be broken but a web can carry an immense amount of weight, keeping one’s ‘weaknesses’ to oneself will break you, but sharing them generates strength.
The beauty of sharing the intimate corners of our hearts, the parts of ourselves that we usually keep close, covered up and clothed, because showing those parts would be too embarrassing, shameful, or inappropriate, is something that I now crave and seek out.
Although at the time of the naked showers, I allowed myself to be physically seen, I kept my emotional and spiritual self, buttoned up and buried deep. And I too, broke.
I could not see that my differences, my so-called flaws, both physically and emotionally, contributed to a collective beauty. And so I fought to change myself and my body. So much so, it led to an eating disorder.
It is only now, through my healing that I can see what I missed. That our beauty, and strength, comes from our differences, ‘weaknesses’, and surrender.
Ah, the Surrender.
For years I thought that I knew better than my body. That I could mold, sculpt, and whip it into shape. Turn it into a machine.
Except it already was a machine. I just didn’t understand how it works.
Within our naked bodies lives wisdom that lays dormant until ignited.
The key that turns the ignition? Surrender. Not Control, as I naively believed.
Surrender and trust, that the same body that pumps blood, creates a baby, and gives and receives pleasure, without having to micro-manage it’s every move, also knows what we need to emotionally and spiritually survive, create, and freely give and receive.
When your body is aching for a run, go for a run. When it is knackered beyond belief, sit still and rest.
When something inside of you craves a catch up with your best friend that you haven’t spoken to in months, a book that you’ve just heard about, a visit to certain part of the world, a good wail and a cry…
Listen to that craving.
Chances are there is something waiting for you. Something that you are ready to learn, a door or window ready to be opened, a gift.
Your body knows where you need to go and what you need to do before you do.
But it won’t tell you if you can’t see it’s beauty.
When you are judging, controlling, and disconnecting from your body, it goes silent.
Instead, we have to be grateful for how it functions, regardless of it’s shape, size, or shade.
We have to care for it, as we would any machine.
And we have to listen to what we are sensing, feeling, and hearing, even when it doesn’t make 100% sense and we can’t be certain of the outcome.
By learning how to relate to our bodies in this way, we learn how to relate to the world.
When we learn to love and surrender…. That, my friends, is beautiful.
So here’s what I finally realized was staring right at me all those times in the shower:
When our hearts are filled with love and surrender, and we stand naked next to another, exposing our differences and ‘weaknesses’…
that is the beauty of a woman.
Thanks to August McLaughlin for inspiring and inviting this post. For more Beauty of a Woman blog posts and a chance to win prizes, visit www.augustmclaughlin.com/beauty-woman-blogfest-v/.
To join a group of open-hearted women sharing their vulnerabile beauty with each other, visit www.thetrueyouproject.com/nourish.