There they are, glaring at me as if to rub in my face that the self-deprecating thoughts around my ‘2015 Writing Dought’ are well-founded.
Little graphics of calendar pages…”May…June…July…August…September…” all blank.
As far as this little statistics widget on my blog is concerned, I’ve done nothing, created nothing, experienced nothing, captured nothing, and shared nothing, when in fact, my silence speaks louder than any words I could articulate. There are stories to share, and despite my own resistance, I know full-well that our “Truth-Stories” need to be given wings, not tethers, if they are to serve their purpose. When they land in the right ears and hearts, they can build bridges, create bonds, and remind us that, though we may seem worlds and experiences apart from each other, there is a very vulnerable, human part of us that is longing to be seen for the beautiful, complex and fascinating creatures that we are.
One such example came across my path yesterday.
I spent the day teaching Yoga in a high school — four classes of grades 10-12 who take this particular course to enhance their athletic performance. The thought of me being the person to teach them (let alone challenge!) these highly physical teenagers was almost laughable, in my mind. (You may understand my hesitation a bit better by reading this post here…)
The early morning hours before the alarm went off found me wide awake, thoughts racing. My fear of not being able to give them what I would assume they were expecting (a workout) was high, but my knowing of what they most likely needed (relaxation) was deep. Even so, I succumbed to doubt, to the useless dialogue of “who am I to do this,” put my pajama-clad self in child’s pose on our bed and cried, all nerves as to how I could serve this group to the best of my ability.
When my tears subsided, I reached for a book on my nightstand that my Mum recently gave me, opened it to a page — any page — to see if any wisdom would surface to reassure me.
There they were — four lines from Leonard Cohen‘s song “Anthem” that reminded me what, all this time, I had been forgetting:
Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in.
The part about the crack in everything letting the light in always gets the fanfare, but all I saw was that second line:
Forget your perfect offering.
Four hours later, nearly thirty Grade 10 boys who, upon arrival in the room, had been whacking each other with yoga mats, were now sitting in peaceful stillness so deep I was trying to figure out how to make it clearer that the class was over and the time had come for them to pack up, get changed, and move along to their next class. As they began to filter out of the gym, a quiet boy approached me.
“I just wanted to say thank you for the class…I don’t know if you’re familiar with the 12 Steps at all…anyway, whatever we just did made me feel really centered. I haven’t felt this centered in a long time, actually. I really needed that.”
In daring to give me a truthful micro-glimpse of his own imperfectness, what this young man unknowingly offered me in exchange for some simple, strong poses and a quiet relaxation were deeper lessons than he probably realized.
Perfection — in who we are, what we do and how we do it — is overrated. Offer whatever it is you have to share, from whatever experience it is you have to share it from, no matter how deeply you doubt or fear your inadequacy, or the likelihood that you may meet rejection or failure. Turn to your truth; offer it, if you can. Silence and inaction, though safe for a while, only keep us stuck and alone.
Isn’t it funny how when we’re in the midst of difficulty, we never know how we’ll reach the other side? We doubt that we’ll ever feel less pain/sadness/frustration/grief/anger/disappointment/… than we do in that moment, or in the days that follow that time as we process what we’ve been through, or what we’re grappling with. In the temporary narrowness of our vision, we fail to see how on earth we will ever get by, how anything could be any different than it is right now, how we could ever stop hurting, or at the very least, hurt less.
If we look really closely, really attentively at our lives, it is possible to see the inevitably of change — how the world changes, how we change, how life is changing us; how the strength of the emotions that weigh on us the most can, and will, somehow diminish. How they do, in fact, get to be less of a burden on our hearts…when we’re ready.
It doesn’t mean we forget, but it does mean that we can attempt to move forward.
There have been times where I’ve flat-out declared that I am completely uncertain as to how I’ll make it through the pain of something — a heartbreak, a loss, a significant change. It feels truthful because it is the truth of the moment, the daunting sight of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. The ‘blow’ typically feels like the tip of the iceberg, the lowest ebb, or maybe it just takes some perspective to see it that way — the tiniest shaft of light in the darkness to guide us back into a brighter place.
They say time has its own way of healing. It’s true. But we need to, at the very least, give ourselves that, and to recognize that we may not be the same on the other side, but we will be a much richer soul for having navigated that tempest.
When we feel like we’re making baby steps in the world, let’s keep in mind those mammoth trials that cracked us open, but we somehow still managed to emerge from stronger, greater lessons we’ve learned for having been taught, and higher mountains we’ve climbed that have shown us a perspective on the world that we wouldn’t seen have otherwise.
We may have scars, bruises and bumps as a result, but they serve as a reminder to celebrate our victories, no matter how small. Even the littlest triumphs are a benchmark for hope that deeper peace and healing will find us in due time, and our rejoicing will be profoundly steeped in gratitude.
There is nothing like the jungle gym/obstacle course/playground of the human heart to show us that what seems absolutely impossible…isn’t.
Despite my efforts to re-capture my childhood effervescence around the approaching of the holiday season, I’ve found, with each passing year, an increasing sense of pre-Christmas dread. No matter what change or hardship may come, I have begun to cultivate a more profound awareness of how my circumstances are not permanent, and how, oftentimes, the discomfort and resistance I may feel in any given situation is one of two things: an indicator of something new burning its way into my world, or a lesson to be learned before I can proceed to the next chapter in my “Life workbook.”
Even optimists have their down days. Most days, the mess reveals itself to be beautiful design work in disguise. Other days, it’s just…mess.
It pains me to say it, but the approach of the Christmas season this year has brought the pessimist out of me. These last couple of weeks have been marked by unfortunate global and local events that cause my burning faith in the basic goodness of human kind to wane, and my despair over the injustices of the world to grow. I have found myself grappling with a dizzying lack of understanding around why bad things continue to happen, why unhappy, fearful people are giving us all greater reason to be terrified, why souls of all ages go missing and families are left to worry themselves sick…and why oh why has it become acceptable to go out to dinner with your child and have them sit in neglected silence while you give your undivided attention to your phone!?
I thought that was enough of the world’s problems to feel through, but apparently I hadn’t come face-to-face with the tip of the iceberg yet — the place that has, somehow, become as synonymous with Christmas as Santa Claus:
It was a regular Friday night and I was feeling pretty good about life in general as Joel & I walked hand-in-hand, laughing at our usual weirdo banter. I wasn’t dressed up — jeans, winter boots, a blue long-sleeved t-shirt and a scarf. I very rarely wear make-up, so I certainly wasn’t made up for the occasion. This was meant to be a quick mission — in, out, done.
As we walked in the doors, I felt that familiar feeling of overwhelm ooze over me. Typically, the sheer amount of stimulation from walking into a mall (heck, even the grocery store!) makes me spacey and unfocused, but this was different. Christmastime at the mall is basically the mall on steroids. All I could see were strollers and arms laden with bags. There was a line-up into the jewelry store that snaked around far outside the paned glass entrance into the shop. Men & women alike were crowded over pamphlets, presumably selecting what charms or pieces of jewelry they would be purchasing once the security guard let them past the door. We wandered into a clothing store and I saw a pair of soft, knit leggings that I thought were pretty scrumptious. I checked the price tag, and they were $108. For leggings. A woman nearby stared blankly at the display table, quietly rubbing an over-priced scarf between her fingers. I wondered whether this was, in fact, the kind of gift that would make someone realize how much this person truly loved them.
Maybe my fault was in projecting how valuable these physical items might actually be to a person, or maybe it was letting the tissue paper-stuffed Armani shopping bags and the price of wooly leggings get my goat, but it didn’t take much to spiral from there. I felt a weakening in my spirit as I began to fight back tears and attempted to reign in an increasing feeling of helplessness. We were surrounded by STUFF, all around us, but yet we couldn’t find the small, simple item we were looking for. As we walked the halls from store to store, I reached for Joel’s hand. In one hand, I felt his steady presence, and in the other, any previous shred of appreciation and joy I had for everything about myself and my life when I came in the door began to dissolve.
Nothing felt like enough. I wasn’t well-dressed enough, pretty enough, successful enough, good enough… I even got as far as wondering whether I was completely deluding myself in even trying to make a go of creating a fulfilling, meaningful career for myself… Maybe it was time to banish any insecurity around what I feel other people might think about what I do, jump into the stream of corporate conformity and shelf my quest to bring greater peace, wholeness and wellness to humankind. From this vantage point in commercial mayhem, it was easy to believe that there was more value being placed on finding material things to shower upon family and friends than anything that enriches the grist of who they are. If anyone had cared to count, there were probably more people in the mall at that moment than at every Yoga studio in the city.
As I held the hand of the man I love, I knew that these negative thoughts were the true delusion, but something about this vortex made it harder to see that my thoughts were as false and impermanent as the gussied-up brick & mortar around me.
I truly believe that a Yoga practice is just that — a practiceof honing our inner tools to put them into action when we experience challenge out in the world. I am also all for deep breaths and allowing emotions to be felt and honoured as they are coming up, but at this point, Joel knew that the best place for me to re-group and do those things more fully would be at a table in the food court, sharing a Blizzard. (And for the record, the seasonal flavour right now is delicious.)
As I spooned in mouthfuls of ice cream, my tears of sadness and frustration spilled out. I heavy-heartedly laid my mind’s turmoil out on the table while Joel listened and responded with deep compassion and understanding. The mall was near to closing, the crowds growing thin. If the mall had a sanctuary in that moment, it was the breathing space of the food court, at the small table in front of the DQ where there was Love, and a connection that not even wireless technology can emulate. I thought about a lovely compliment that my future sister-in-law paid me in a text message this Fall — that she admired my ability to keep perspective and see the positive in a given situation. Her words have fueled me to keep my eyes on the big picture as much I can, even if I feel my heart raising its protection level up a notch. Amidst my tears, I knew it was the feeling I had going into the mall, simply holding a hand and knowing I was ok in the world, that was more truthful than any single fear-based thought or doubt that my mind had created in that palace of excess.
As down as I felt, I knew that I hadn’t lost my ability to see the silver linings, or to know in my heart what was really true.
Cliché as it is, I don’t know if we always remember that all the shiny baubles, new technology, or overpriced items of clothing don’t really take us to the heart of what matters, not only at this time of year, but all year-long.
Maybe what appeared to me to be disenchantment over the Christmas season (and thus my entire existence and purpose in life, apparently!) was actually a re-framing of what we need to hold onto as truth in a culture that thrives on our fear of not having or being enough; that we need more of something — anything! — just to be happier.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my loved ones to stress out over giving me stuff, just as much as I don’t want to feel that putting something in their hands on December 25th is the only way they’ll know how much I value their presence in my life. That text my future sister-in-law sent me was a gift that keeps on giving. The way my husband looks at me and listens with his eyes wide and soft is something I never ask for, but receive without condition time and time again, even when my gaze drops from the horizon of greater knowing and possibility. The feeling I had as a kid on Christmas morning is now contained in the joyful embrace I share with my brother and his fiancée every time they come home, and in seeing my whole family share laughter and stories around the dinner table. My parents may worry about me more than I know, and love me more than it is comfortable for them to say at times, but I know that they will always see me for who I am. And no matter how much in-laws get a bad rap, I am blessed with a mother-in-law generous to the point that I don’t even know how to say thank you anymore, and a father-in-law who seems perfectly content just to hug & kiss me every time I walk in their front door; a sister-&-brother-in-law who, from a distance, teach me how a passion for the great outdoors is a direct line to what actually matters in life.
All this, without even scratching the surface of the friendships — old & new — that enrich my life beyond measure, the teachers and mentors who nourish my soul, the practitioners who inspire me to give simply by showing up, and all the strangers who, when I’ve smiled at them, have chosen to smile back.
Everything that has allowed me to grow wiser, stronger, more compassionate, joyful and peaceful this year cannot be gift-wrapped. It exists within a moment, a lesson, a touch, a word, a laugh, a story, a meal shared, a silence, a gesture of kindness, a breath, a sunrise, a knowing look or a starry sky.
The true joy and sparkle of Christmas lies in the hearts of those whose hands we hold, of those who give us the truest versions of themselves all year round, and in doing so, aspire us to greater light in our lives, knowing all the while that we always have, and always will be, enough. Just as we are.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m perfectly content to give Love this Christmas, and always.
And to be fair, someone else probably coined that term, and probably says that they made it up.
I’m not going to claim that I did or that I didn’t since, really, it’s the most unoriginal (and literal) thing to call a moment of truth.
But sometimes “literal” is brilliant — that’s just what it is, a moment of honesty; those are the two words that genuinely come up when I am about to say something that I feel to be gut-wrenching-and-heart-gushing truth, or when I see something that draws up a neglected file of haphazard, half-processed materials from the recesses of my brain; from the messy file room of EVERYTHING that I have been thinking, worrying, musing, sorting, contemplating as of late…
And this is when the worry comes that I’ve ALREADY written about something to this effect (see Nothing Is Yours), and perhaps I am only triple underlining the fact that, no matter how hard we try to be original in this big, bold, creative world, we still find ourselves coming up short and re-inventing someone else’s wheel. And maybe I’m being unoriginal or predictable by drawing from a beautiful writer who I consider, at afar, to be someone who teaches me a great deal more about the world within and without us than she probably will ever realize (or ever intended to when she wrote her wildly successful memoir unveiling her journey into wholeness after heartache).
Today, on the good old Facebook, this torchbearing warrior goddess of truth shared this:
It hit me so hard that all I could bring myself to comment back to her was “Yes. This. Yes. Ugh. Yes.” Or something to that effect.
Even our speechlessness can be the most truthful response of all.
I am certain A LOT of you will get this too, so naturally, I’m sharing it.
And now, trusting in my own words, I’d like to share something else:
Navigating this world from the space of my heart (and trusting my intuition) has made my life richer, more colourful and more meaningful. It has also made things both clear and confusing in equal measure. There are stretches of the journey where I feel well-equipped, strong, confident, hopeful, and absolutely in my stride. On others, I feel like I’m missing a shoelace on one shoe, short on snacks, tired, losing daylight, and needing to pause for an indefinite period of time to gaze up at the perceived Summit and wondering how on earth I ever thought I could get up there. There’s also the part of me that gets much joy out of seeing other awe-inspiring people succeed, witnessing them finding that place of flow and meaning in their lives, the space and clarity where everything is clicking. After all, they have earned it. I’ve seen them struggle and press on to be where they are, to realize their dreams, and they deserve every single second.
Another of part me just wishes I was up there with them already, bypassing the part that I’m working with, and coming up with mere scraps of clarity. It can feel like I’ve been asked to solve a Rubix Cube to proceed, and I ain’t NO master of the Rubix Cube!
The compass that guides me in my life will never direct me wrong. I know that to be true. On some legs of this journey, though, the needle begins to spin every which way, pulling me between what I know within myself to be more valuable and more lasting, and the realities of the material world. I have already answered The Call; I can’t un-answer, nor would I want to. I am 7 (maybe even 8) years deep into this particular answering and there is absolutely no turning back. I have chosen my work, and I would never wish to undo anything that has unfolded, or bypass the mysteries and beautiful surprises yet to come. For everything that I ever feel is unclear or uncertain in my life, there are many more things that I know in my bones to be true, good, and purposeful.
You can’t put a price tag on those.
We’ve probably all heard at some point that we are here to offer our unique gifts to the people of this world and to the planet we live on. I am fortunate to know some incredible people who have the best intentions to make lives healthier, happier, brighter, and more easeful… Lucky me, I am surrounded by this kind of light a lot of the time. But what if, by job description or title, what you do isn’t unique?
The other night, I had the immense privilege of helping out at Mastin Kipp‘s ‘Growing Into Grace‘ event here in Calgary. It got my week off with such an epic bang that I am reeling to piece together everything I learned and all the questions that have come up as a result… which are really an extension of all the questions I have been asking since I leapt to find greater purpose in my work life 3 years ago. I’m going to bet that the vast majority of the people in the room that night want to do some variation of what he does — write/blog, teach, speak, inspire, mentor, lead, and ultimately, change lives for the better around the world while having financial wellness that not only allows them to take care of themselves, but also to make contributions towards the betterment of others.
And if I’m even more honest, I would love nothing more than that myself, in my own unique way. (“Unique” meaning in knowing for certain what my capital-S Service is that I enrich the world with, and how I offer it. We’ve already acknowledged, even silently, that this world is practically being taken over by blogging yoga teachers. ;-))
Mastin told us that, before he began this ever-growing venture that became The Daily Love, he checked to see how many people do something to the effect that he does:
90,000 people (!!!!)
Later on, when I heard one of the ladies there mention this kind of work was something she felt she could/wanted to do, I felt any fragments of a dream I had created for myself start to dissolve. And why, WHY, would I do that to my own dreams, just because someone else was showing a sliver of confidence in their desire to create something more meaningful for themselves?!
I know in my heart that everything is here, that you can only truly be THERE by being HERE, and that THERE is really just HERE.
Read: The treasure you are seeking is in this moment.
You are already living your purpose, whether it is your ‘job’ or not.
HERE is IT. THIS is IT.
And then, some days, I feel like I couldn’t be more far away from where I feel I need or want to be, and HERE just seems to be a puddle of uncertainty and fog.
I am also learning that what falls away in our lives is just as important as what falls into place.
What was never ours is giving us the gift of something greater…an opportunity. I wouldn’t call myself a religious person, but I’ve got my eyes on the bigger picture through it all. One definition of Grace is “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration.”
Regeneration. Re-inspiration. An opportunity to dig deeper, burn brighter, dream bigger, see clearer.
When you’re navigating rough seas, nothing feels better than knowing you are not unique in your seeking, that you are not as alone in your storm as you may feel. Being “unoriginal” never felt better than when you are facing life’s trials.
Be that as it may, what we DO need to know is that, though each of our situations may not look much different from the outside, our ability to be authentic about it, to summon our courage and tell our story… IS.
The steps along the path may be smaller some days, but they are still steps worth taking… And I’m going to let Liz close this one, because hey, I’m not going to re-invent the wheel, and her authenticity speaks loud and clear to me this morning:
“So whatever it is that you dream of doing (creating, traveling, loving, inventing, transforming) just do it. Don’t worry if you’re the 100th person to do it. Just do it, anyhow, and be sure that you bring the highest purity of intention to your pursuit. Act from a place of your deepest authenticity, and the rest of it will take care of itself…
And trust me, if you are authentic, you WILL be original.”
It is far earlier in the morning than I would care to be awake, the second morning within the bookends of this week that I have found myself wondering, “Really?! Now?! Can’t I just sleep?!”
I immediately think of my friends with babies. This is their norm, except the bonus is that when they wake up, they have the eyes of a sweet, innocent little soul to look into; I am sure I could promptly get the comeback that this early-rising of mine doesn’t involve someone needing something of me, or the cacophony that ‘needing’ creates, and at least I am waking to relative quiet, to my own thoughts…
True enough, I guess…
I am falling into that place of recognition and gratitude for the moments of ‘freedom’ where I will, one day, have the needs of my children at the forefront of my mind. I know the frustration of restless slumber (and early rising when there is no clear desire to do so) is strikingly similar across the board whether we have children or not, and being the baby-lover and wannabe mother that I am, I still haven’t heard a single one of my new parent friends say they look into the faces of their young early birds and wish that little smile wasn’t there to greet them in the wee hours. Like any other, parent or non-parent, I’d prefer to have some good sleep so l can live fully in the world and in the lightness of my own being. Until parenthood becomes my reality, what I am waking up to when I am called out of bed at what would be referred to as ‘ungodly hours’ (others would say this is some of the most ‘godly’ time of all) is far less tangible…and let’s face it, waking to the hamster wheel of ‘my own thoughts’ is not always what could be deemed a relaxing experience.
It may not be a baby crying out for me, but something else is.
In previous incarnations of this scenario, I would resist. I would lie in bed, my mind processing scraps of thoughts and seemingly unrelated emotions, tinged by an overarching shade of exasperation at the fact that I’m not sawing logs like the darling man in bed beside me.
Very recently, I’ve stopped resisting.
There must be a reason for this. Go with it.
I have really come to appreciate that Yoga is labeled as a ‘practice’ – a commitment to coming to a mat with whatever you’ve got, over and over and over. As a student said to me yesterday, “there is comfort in consistency.” The container of the practice can look very much the same in some contexts, but the more I release expectation and surrender, the more I learn. It’s bigger than just learning, though. It’s experiencing something in present moment time, exactly as it is meant to unfold, with all its kinks, smudges, and glimmers of light.
When I come to my mat, I almost ritualistically ease back into child’s pose with a sigh (the comfort in the consistency), gather the steadiness of my breath, then start to move instinctively, with no real knowing of what might arise.
What if I do this in Life? What if I silently answer “Present” right off the top, open up… and trust?
I wish I could say when I began to see the truth-telling mirror of Life and Practice, but I can certainly attest that, in the lead up to our wedding, there was a distinct acknowledgement of how futile it is to micro-manage and control — how we can set the foundation, the main plot points, but what unfolds from there is all up to the moment, that we need to be OK with that, and for extra brownie points, see that as being the magic. I used to be one of those people who tried to fit life into a box because it was a thing that we humans had to do. Doing so created an anxious need to know more, to know what’s next, and to be assured of all the details so I could feel at ease. Before I went to Bali, I remember pestering my teacher for as many details as I could as to how the whole week of training would go, what material we would cover, who I would be rooming with, blah blah blah. She gently called me out on my need-to-know-ness and did something really great that has radically changed my perception of how things can or should be:
She gave me enough to reinforce a strong, positive feeling in my gut, enough to get me from Point A to Point B safely and on schedule, and not nearly enough to cause my own expectations to ruin the experience.
Show up. Trust. Allow.
The result? Mindblowing. Changed my life. For real.
I’m not only seeing this yielding to uncertainty through glass-half-full, rose-coloured glasses, though I can attest that showing up with peace in my heart and nearly-zero expectations has yielded to some of the most beautiful, most connected and honest moments of my life to date. Just as truthfully, there have been seemingly normal, happy days that have been game-changers in more shocking ways than I could have ever expected. Regardless of their ‘tone,’ these events have shaped my life, each carrying their own lessons, wisdom and experience. I don’t regret them existing for a single second. They are my teachers.
Showing up, however, becomes much harder when things don’t go the way you planned, or when you feel like things aren’t going your way. Within the last few days, I have faced unexpected obstacles and that heave-ho of resistance, which, in the past, would have had me turning away from the horizon and feeling all my efforts were in vain; or contrarily, feeling I need to put on a brave face and just get to the other side, to a place that feels “better” than whatever is being felt in the Now.
On Sunday morning, reluctant to get out of my PJs and greet the world, I took solace in Elizabeth Gilbert’s recent interview with Oprah. It was like the internet heavens opened up and, in the form of a Liz (some of my favourite people on this planet are Lizzes), what I needed to hear was dropped into my blanket-covered lap. In their discussion around Joseph Campbell’s concept of “The Hero’s Journey,” Liz brought in the idea of “The Call” — that this “Call” may very likely come at an inopportune time, and when called, you are faced with a choice: refuse the call, or answer.
Refuse? Go ahead, but expect nothing to change.
Answer? Well…buckle up.
Back when I chose the path of Yoga practice as an anchor in a time of uncertainty and tumult, I was naive to the fact that I was committing to answering a call that would ring not just once…but over and over and over again. The physical postures still teach me and humble me to no end, but it is through the quiet, meditative practice of Yoga Nidra (and in particular, in the past year of working through my limiting beliefs in the space of that practice) that has required digging to untouched and sometimes murky depths. Each belief, each day, each scenario, each interaction, offers me the opportunity to either put up the blinders and stay stuck and safe, or to recognize the faces of my limitations and conquer them heart on, to clear space amidst the weeds, sow seeds of positive intention and be totally open to how they will blossom.
Now, I see with more clarity the nuance of what needs to Be and what needs to fall away for something better, what needs to be ‘slept on’ and what needs to be faced. I have also had to reconcile myself with the fact that, no matter what we may be working through, there is a time for being alone and processing your emotions without the filters, risk of judgement or lofty expectations from anyone around you. There is also, however, an immense strength and courage in being present in your community, in your tribe, simply as you are.
On Monday morning, once again awake before the crack of dawn and still not quite on the other side of my cloud, I felt a habitual pull to stay in my pajamas, to conquer my to-do list from the comfort of home and avoid human contact for one more day. Only 24 hours before this, this cocooning was my most potent form of medicine, but on this particular day, something was calling me from the other side of the haze. I gathered the bits of me I felt were intact, cobbled them together and promptly took them out the door for a long walk to the yoga studio to practice. When I walked through the door, I saw beautiful, familiar faces of those who, whether I knew it or not, were all fighting their own battles that day. I knew in an instant that I had made the right choice. We all rolled out our mats and showed up to what was.
Messy and true, “what was” was the gift.
“What was” was the doorway, and no matter what I may find on the other side, I chose to answer the call. I choose to answer. I choose to listen.
It’s Wednesday, October 8th, 2014. It’s 4:30 AM. Your eyes are wide open. Why sleep? Why not just be what you are: Awake.
One of the rituals I most enjoyed in childhood was waking up in the morning, shuffling to the kitchen, and after “good-mornings” were exchanged between my parents and brother and I, we would launch into a recall of our meandering through our individual dream lands. My brother, always a champion of the hilarious, nonsensical dreams, had stories that would make us laugh and shake our heads as if to say, “What the….?!”
I mention my brother for a reason. Not only is he one of the most important and loved people in my life, he is the person I remember most vividly as populating my dreams from the earliest age. My deep care, love and concern for my younger sibling was shown to my childhood self in strong images that I have never quite been able to kick. I wouldn’t call them nightmares, but for an older sister navigating growing up on her own terms, they could certainly be called as such… Whether it was dreaming of walking into a giant hotel elevator and finding my brother tangled in the wires snaking out from the electrical panel inside, or seeing him climb to the top of a high diving board at the local pool to jump into the water below and, as he was hurtling towards the ground, realizing it was pure concrete, these dreams would cause me to wake with a start…and eventually, upon stumbling into the kitchen, finding floods of relief in learning that these images were mere figments of my imagination.
Inevitably, there he would be, eating cereal like nothing had ever happened. All was well.
When I look back on those particular dreams, they so starkly contrasted what actually would be occurring in waking life. Little boys can be very daring, but my brother would never have so willingly thrown himself at a hard pool deck the way he did in my dream. They show me now how I have always had an almost motherly concern for his well-being, and I am grateful to learn that in hindsight. Dreams are one of my most cherished teachers.
Nowadays, when I wake up from my dreams in the morning, though the imagery and circumstances I have dreamed about may still cling to the hyper-real artistry that dreams so fascinatingly possess, I often am seeking to find the separation between what is dream, and what is real.
When I committed to getting to know myself more deeply through the path of yoga, meditation and self-inquiry, I wouldn’t have fathomed that I would begin to see so many parallels.
My work, while awake, is now seeping so densely into my work while asleep. It is becoming hard to distinguish which is which.
Not even a week after Joel & I were married, we found ourselves in a scenario that has become a powerful symbol in our first year of marriage, but one that epitomizes much of what I consciously feel is the theme of most of the last decade of my life.
I call it, THE LEAP or to melt it down into one word, JUMPING.
There we were, each in turn standing at the top of a high rock in the middle of a lake, staring down at the water below and weighing the options: summon deep courage and Jump, or turn around to take an even more difficult journey over jagged rocks back down to where we came from. I climbed to the top of the rock first, felt the fear arise, and then pushed with all the strength of my legs to fly off the rock (screaming all the way, mind you) into the blue below. Joel, however, took more time. Always a more calculated soul, this particular challenge was unlike any other he had ever faced. With the sun beating down on us, I steadily treaded water for what turned into the next 40 minutes, calling out to the top of the rock where he was pacing nervously back and forth, encouraging him to take the leap, that it was ok, he would be fine, he could do it. The act of committing to the rest of our lives together had come with such certainty and ease, but this was a whole different beast. I watched him venture to the ledge, assess the height, turn around and check out the path from where he came… I knew he was trying to think his way through it, but this was one moment that couldn’t be rationalized or over-strategized. It required that instant of surrender where the outcome had to be released, the fear transformed into fuel.
A leap of faith. An unconditional acceptance of the unknown.
For a very long time, I played it pretty safe. I wasn’t a party animal. I steered clear of high school dances, and in university, I chose my parties very carefully. I moved out of home a bit later than most. I’ve never been into high-adrenaline sports or behaviors. I’m the gal who gets an immense amount of thrill from a good conversation with a close friend, a day of exploring a new place, or spending time with a good book and a cup of tea (bonus points if this is in Summer, the tea is actually ice cream, and the ‘reading nook’ is under a canopy of trees). I will make a legend out of an incredible meal (even if it’s poutine on a rainy day!), or be jazzed for days after spending time with a baby. Heck, I actually encourage my friends to send photos of their little ones whenever they like.
You catch my drift…Simple pleasures = massive impact.
When I first began my exploration into the world of Yoga, getting past the awkward stage of figuring out ‘the moves’ aside, I began to love and appreciate its predictability, the consistency of the sequence it followed. There was steadiness and stability to it. In an uncertain time, it became a rock. The feeling of the free-fall of brokenheartedness had become so exhausting, and coming to Yoga, to my mat, felt certain. The movement in the physical practice kept me moving forward in my life, even if I felt as if I was going backwards on some days.
Then, I decided to give Yoga Nidra a try — my world, and who I am, began to change.
This practice wasn’t about movement. It was about stillness. It was about finding a place that was so still that you could access a depth inside of you that you barely knew existed. It was about working with a single, powerful intention to break down the barriers that you had so meticulously and purposefully built up over time. I wish I could remember at the time if I was willing to tackle those barriers, but clearly, I sure as hell was ready for something to shift because my whole world began to shapeshift. I grasped a hold of my intention like a life raft, and the more I worked with it, the more transformed, for the better. Even when things were messy, they became achingly beautiful and dripping with meaning and a deeper sense of purpose. I became stronger. I became brighter. I became more joyful. All the things that I held at the altar of my intention were breaking through dammed up spaces inside me that had been clogged with sadness, hurt, anger and grief. I felt it all. I never denied it. It all began to flood from me, and before my eyes, transform into a strength and resolve I never knew I could access.
THAT’s when I started to jump.
THAT’s when THE LEAP began to permeate everything.
I started JUMPING, and I feel like I’ve been doing it every day since.
The jumps I took, at that time, were in relationships. Even the jumps that appeared to draw me away ended up bringing me closer. Letting go, and finding a depth, a closeness, a realness, that I hadn’t felt until then. Appreciating what they were meant to be, how they were meant to serve and teach me, and how they could bring me closer to my heart, no matter the timeline, no matter the outcome. In recent years, the JUMPING has become more about my Purpose. It has become a practice of listening deeply to my gut, my heart, and not succumbing to the fear that wants to prevent me from moving forward. It’s about getting out of my own way, meeting the walls head on, facing the beliefs that keep me small, feeling the illusion of security melt away and resting in the uncertainty of presence, change and a steady increase of inner light.
My life IS the THE LEAP. My practice is JUMPING.
And in my dreams, I Jump too.
The dream I had 4 nights ago was so vivid and real, it makes me vibrate to recall it.
I was having a conversation with the teacher who brought Yoga Nidra into my life, the teacher who continues to guide and inspire me to infinite depths in this mysterious, potent practice. In this dream, Tanis told me that a small group of us was going to jump off a rock. With the ‘Honeymoon Jump’ fresh in my mind, I told her I was well equipped — how high could it be, really? If I could jump off that rock, I could jump off this one. “This one,” she said, “is much higher… Significantly higher. I’ve jumped from this rock before, and if you do, the healing you will experience is substantial.” If she’s done it, then why can’t I? Soon enough, we were wading through waist-high water towards what appeared to be the edge of an infinity pool. Water spilled from the pool over a smooth, stone ledge. The sound of a roaring waterfall echoed through my ears. How high is this rock? How far from the ground are we? I felt my insides begin to churn as I reached my hand out to touch the hard stone, the single wall of rock that was keeping us at this height. I peered over. The drop was massive, but I couldn’t see the water. All I could see was dense fog. The small group that was with us strode confidently through the water towards the ledge, and without any hesitation, began to hurl themselves into the abyss below. One by one they went…leaving me and Tanis to bring up the rear. I was terrified. More than that, I was scared that I would be the last one up there, the only one left in hesitation and paralytic fear with no seeming way back besides diving in. Tanis swung one leg over the wall. This is my moment. In a second, she’d be off. “Tanis, can we jump together?” She reached out to clasp my hand in hers. Both sets of our legs were over the wall, and before I had time to think, Tanis initiated our jump. I expected to feel the plummeting sensation of dropping like a stone, but the fog all around us instantly created this deep web of support. We were held. We had taken the leap, and we were falling, but we were held every step of the way. As we dropped through the layers of fog, a vortex of light appeared beneath us, and just as we brushed the edge, I woke with a start.
Shuffling my way into the kitchen that morning, I replayed this scene over and over in my mind.
I knew the Dream leap had ended, but the waking one was just beginning.
Well, I texted Uncle, actually. (It is the modern age after all.)
I’ve always gotten a kick out of that expression, which, according to the language authority that is Wikipedia, is defined as follows:
In the United States and Canada, the idiomatic expression “Say ‘uncle’!” may be used as an imperative command to demand submission of one’s opponent, such as during an informal wrestling match. Similarly, the exclamation “Uncle!” is an indication of submission – analogous to “I give up” – or it may be a cry for mercy, in such a game or match.
Although it is often regarded as an Americanism, there are at least two differing theories as to the true origin of the phrase: ancient Rome and 19th century England.
The Roman Empire theory says, Roman children, when beset by a bully, would be forced to say the Latin phrase, “Patrue, mi Patruissimo,” or, “Uncle, my best Uncle,” in order to surrender and be freed. […] The 19th century England theory says it comes from an English joke about a bullied parrot being coaxed to address his owner’s uncle.
Yes, my friends, snow days can provide ample opportunities for language lessons too!
And yes, I did say “snow day.”
Our fair city has been hit with a giant batch of the white stuff, far too early than any of us would care to have to deal with. Within a 24 hour period, we went from tank tops and flip flops to down-filled parkas, mitts… the whole kit’n’caboodle. Social media has been plastered with images of fallen trees, kids building snowmen, vegetables salvaged in the nick of time, flower beds draped with towels and tarps, and hands clasping coffee mugs perfectly positioned in front of a roaring fire…on a Wednesday…in Summer.
Upon rising (late) this morning, we found our power was out (the absence of the alarm tipped us off), the tree in front of our house torn out of the earth and cozied up to the hood of our van, and snow softly piling onto the solid base that had been falling for the last couple of days.
I had plans, items/to do’s to knock off the list, places to be at certain times… But there’s nothing like a power outage to remind us how much we rely on our technology (none of which was working; texting/calling from our cell phones was all we had), and boy, does a city filled with fallen trees, backed up and blocked off roadways, and out-of-commission traffic lights show us how, instead of pushing against every obstacle you face, it’s not a bad idea to say “Uncle!” and throw in the towel.
I wish I could pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that to micromanage, or to over-plan, or to over-expect, or to continuously push uphill, was fighting a futile fight. My life has proven, with each coming year, that letting go of the plan, and acknowledging the truth of a situation, leaves much more room for the Universe (for lack of a better term at the moment) to just do what it needs to. If we’re talking about this current meteorological dilemma, here’s a truth:
Complaining about the weather is not going to change it. Period.
A delightful side effect of relinquishing some control of your ‘plan’ is shedding unnecessary stress — stress that we create both internally (our brains are good at that!), and externally through trying to navigate circumstances we have zero control over. We’ve all enjoyed telling a story about how stressful/challenging/frustrating it was to get from Point A to Point B. But what if we simply removed the need to tell it? We are no longer trying to make something work that, on a normal day (whatever that is!?), would flow just fine, but on this one day in time is just not worth the headache.
Whether letting go (or crying Uncle!) is to provide space for beautiful surprises or just necessary changes, releasing my grasp on what is no longer working or no longer serving me, or whatever is starting to feel like a constant uphill battle, has been both challenging and freeing. Whether it was calling in sick to work when I needed a day to hole up in bed, nap and not talk to anyone, or canceling a commitment I had excitedly made in earlier times, or even in January of this year, when I came down with the flu the VERY week I was to do a Yoga teacher training to work with Cancer patients/survivors (yup, I definitely had to cry Uncle on that one, and it was heartbreaking)… there is always that part of me that feels like I am doing something wrong, or letting someone down, for having to choose what I need.
(Isn’t that crazy!? It feels wild to actually see that written down — that choosing what I need for my own well-being, whether physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc. was/is considered a guilt-point. Seriously!? Where do we GET this stuff!?)
For years and years, I feel as though I tried to fit into the mould or expectation of what would create the most harmonious result for all involved, oftentimes sacrificing what I truly yearned for to keep myself feeling whole. I remember one New Year’s in particular when my recently wounded heart, along with my “compensating-introvert” tank, unexpectedly ran dry, and all I could think of doing was getting out in the woods (we were in the mountains), being alone, having a quiet word with the stars in the night sky, and going to bed. In the end, I stuck around 30 minutes longer than I wanted to, and the feeling of inner struggle in those extra 30 minutes was SO not worth it. I have swallowed my reluctance, I have ignored my intuition, or let my boundaries be broken down, all for the sake of what might make someone else happy (or at the very least, content); that no one will perceive me to be a party pooper, or a letdown.
Some days (well, most days, but some days more so than others), you have to let go of the plan (and I mean ANY plan — big or small), and surrender. You may even have to let go of some guilt attached. (Seriously, let it go.) I can’t guarantee that the day you have after the fact will be better or worse for having made the decision (that’s all up to you!) but you will have followed your gut, your heart, your inner compass. You will have made a commitment to yourself to quit being the salmon swimming up stream, and to ride the current, wherever it flows.
Calgarians are impeccably talented at both praising and trashing the weather. When the devastating floods hit our city last year, I can’t think of a single person who wasn’t reminded of how powerful Mother Nature really is, and how no matter how hard we may resist her actions, we are still at her mercy. These are the forces that are more vast, that have far bigger intentions than any of the myriad of expectations or parameters we may try to impose upon them.
“Patrue, mi Patruissimo.” (“Uncle, my best Uncle.“)
This question may conjure up images of a whiney teenager, bemoaning their life circumstances or first world problems. Or it may be a reflection of that Facebook friend you have (you know the one) who airs out their ‘why my life sucks’ laundry online.
Not that ‘Why Me.’
The ‘Why Me’ question that has come up as of late is more about why we are, for lack of a better word, ‘called,’ or ‘inspired’ to do what we do, especially when we are paralyzed by that moment of doubt that makes us feel we can’t actually do it at all. It may also come up when an opportunity knocks at our doorstep beyond what we feel we are ‘qualified’ for, beyond our ‘expertise,’ or our comfort zone:
‘Why me? Why this? Why now? What on earth do I know or have to share?’
Can anyone see us and value us as being more than just our credentials, our current job title, or the fit-onto-one-page-please summary of our experience?
And for the ‘young’uns’ reading this, that question of ‘how many people see my youth as lack of experience; maybe not in education, but in life?’ I recall an ‘older’ friend of mine once lamenting the fact that so many young people were becoming ‘life coaches’ — ‘What person in their 50s and 60s wants to learn about how to live life from a 20 or 30-something year old who has barely lived yet?!’ That was his argument. There are, however, some exceptional men and women who attain incredible and admirable goals by the time they hit 25. Whether it’s starting a successful business or winning Olympic medals, heck, who wouldn’t be up to learning something (at any age!) about how to actively pursue your dreams and attain them? None of us is perfect, no matter how old or how young we are, and we all have something to learn from each other.
I realized today that this, ‘Why Me’ — this questioning of our value, worth, expertise, skill, talent or gift — is a manifestation of what is often referred to as our Inner Critic. We all have him, or her, or it. (My most current critic’s image is reminiscent of a snooty French waiter in a cartoon. I’ll call him Maurice.) When I give Maurice the chance, he turns up his nose at my ideas, or the irons I have in the fire, and whisper-spits into my ear:
There are millions of yoga teachers in this world. Everybody’s doing it. Who cares how long you’ve been making shapes on a mat, or that you took the trainings you took. (Hmm, now that I think of it, you might need more…) There are people who know way more than you, and will always know more than you, no matter how much you study, or read, or practice. Doesn’t teaching make you nervous? That’s a yicky feeling… maybe it’s best to leave it up to the others who approach it with confidence, ease and a brain full of sanskrit and anatomy.
But he doesn’t stop here. I have neglected my blog as of late, even though thoughts and stories have been plentiful…
Writing? Come on. Instead of taking creative writing classes in school to show people you have HARD SKILLS as a writer, you took a class about the Rolling Stones! And Art for Children! And Dance! Sure, they were options you needed to graduate, but you’re not a “writer.” Just liking to write whatever comes to you doesn’t make you so. Furthermore, does anyone really care what you think? Or what you’ve experienced? Everyone’s a blogger. Stick to your journal. No one needs to read that.
Luckily, I’ve begun to see my history with Maurice more clearly. I think he had his hayday during most of my teens and 20s (bless those times). As I continue to grow, I have made a commitment to not let him speak as often, or promptly cut him off JUST BEFORE he gets the chance to talk me out of doing that thing that I am excitedly fearful of, or see big potential in.
When we leave space for our critics (living or imaginary) to get more airtime, they can say things to us that, if we said them to our loved ones, would sting hard. Wouldn’t we, instead, remind them of why they are perfect for the job/opportunity/challenge/dream? And not just because of the credentials they may have earned in that particular field, but because of the inherent gifts they were born with, and the fact that who they are holds more value than we could put a dollar amount on.
Whenever I get asked to prove my “worth” or competence through my credentials, I am so reluctant to define who I am solely through what I’ve done. My university degree is a BFA in Drama — one that I am proud of and worked incredibly hard to get, not just by writing papers and reading textbooks, but through hard mental, physical, emotional, creative work. The ‘Drama Kids’ in my life are some of the most creative, hard-working, thoughtful, kind, passionate, incredible people I know. In fact, they are just as talented, hard-working, thoughtful, kind and amazing as the ‘NON-Drama Kids’ who followed more ‘straightforward’ paths. These paths certainly aren’t without their own challenges — whether you’re a musician, a doctor, an engineer, or a circus performer, everyone meets obstacles in their learning and growth. Everyone meets indecision of where to go and what to do with their lives. Everyone doubts whether they have what it takes to do what they do, and to do it well. I have had this conversation about ‘being qualified’ with people who have much more than the ‘minimum requirement’ of education one would expect to make an ‘expert.’
For all of our stressing out, I don’t know a single person who is ‘unqualified’ for doing what they do. In fact, because of that pairing of all the things they have studied with their natural gifts and talents, some are grossly overqualified.
In a perfect world, we do what we do — whether that’s for work, or for play, or both — because it lights us up. Who wants to be a miserable lump full-time? We’re not asking to be special, or famous — unless that’s what you really want. The Royal We (or maybe just the We I’ve had this conversation with) is asking to be recognized for what we have to offer to the world beyond all the learning we did in school, or the trainings we took, and all the letters that could follow our names. We want to be seen for the passion in our hearts, the sparkle in our eyes, and the conviction in our words because we believe that we have a positive mark to make on our planet. We love when someone gets behind us fully because they believe in what we’ve got to share, and who we are. What makes us qualified to face the opportunities and challenges that are placed before us is the fact that we invest everything we have, and take big risks, to make those things a reality; that we build the bridges to get there, and that upon our arrival, though we may we hear the muffled sounds of our critics in the background, we do something not everyone can muster the courage to do…
We follow our hearts anyway.
This isn’t to say that we should be cocky about what we DO know. Part of growing is acknowledging what we need to learn. If anything, my recent movement towards teaching has been more humbling (and uplifting and rewarding) than I could have imagined. But sometimes, we don’t get time to be ready. We get a few tips from the well-meaning coach before they throw us off the deep-end.
Spluttering and coughing, we find our bearings, get comfortable in the water, and learn to swim.
Is this the end of asking ‘Why Me?’ Probably not. All of us, young or young at heart, may continue to ask this question every day of our lives, with each new opportunity that arises, with each new dream that floats into our seeming realm of possibility. But more than that, we would be wise to recognize when to let the question “Why do this?” fade, and feel the depth of the quiet answer rising from our hearts:
If you look at the number of different types of experiences we will be privvy to over our collective lifetimes, I can guarantee that we will overlap on many of them. We will believe that our experience is unique, which, to a certain degree it is — unique people in a common situation. Because the individuals involved are unique, that can certainly make the situation unique too. In the grand scheme of things, though, our experiences are universal… it’s our ‘take-away’ from our unique view on this experience that holds something strong. And if we feel so compelled, we may feel drawn to sharing it, in the hopes that it touches someone, teaches them something new, or opens them to hearing something they were ready to hear.
To be frank, break-ups suck. My heart goes out to those of you who feel you have had one too many of these. My heart has broken and been broken a handful of times when it comes to romantic love, and the depth of those experiences were key in revealing what I was both forced to learn, and chose to learn, in finding my way back to Me.
I certainly hadn’t anticipated getting married, and then blogging about the lessons I learned in hindsight from the pivotal years I worked with heartbreak. A 30-something woman who has just entered the doorway of long-term (and legal) commitment to a man she is, admittedly, in perfectly-imperfect deep love with… who is suddenly delving back into what’s past… Strange? Or just timely.
A big part of the journey towards our marriage — in both the big picture and in the months leading up to the day — was about honoring where we had come from, where we were, and where we envisioned ourselves going.
Most importantly, this wasn’t something that we purely honored as a twosome. It was essential for each of us as individuals. Preparing for our marriage — beyond the details of colours, flowers, the dress, the rings, the venue, blah blah blah– held decisions much more pivotal than what the external shell of our wedding would be:
For me, every step towards being a married woman held this striking realization that, to love someone in the way you truly desire to, there has got to be one mama of a solid foundation in how much you love yourself. Make your wedding as elaborate, fancy or unique as you want. Stress about the details to no end. But when the event is teared down at the end of the fastest-moving day of your life (and it will feel like you blinked and it is over!), what you’ve got left are two people who have made a commitment. For life. And if neither of them has a shred of love and respect for who they are, and a decorative wicker basket of love for everyone else…then it may just be a long road.
We still unanimously agree that breaking up (twice) was one of the best things we could have ever done. Once we got back together after the first break-up, I was so committed to making this deeply seeded feeling of mine (“He’s the one! I know it!”) come to fruition that I did exactly what a woman in her mid-twenties would do for love:
I completely lost myself.
Though I felt more wretched than I had ever felt, it finally hit me hardest when one of my dearest friends (who had just been through a break-up herself) held a mirror up to who I was leading up to “It’s Over”:
“I’ve watched you slowly disappearing over the past year and half, wearing yourself to a shadow over your relationship. I’ve been worried about you, because it always seemed that you were steadily turning him into the centre of the universe. I watched as the sweet, bubbly, always-positive girl I knew started to get bitter and anxious and jaded, and my heart broke for you, my darling friend, because I recognized the same self-destructive pattern I had with [my ex]. That’s the thing with these relationships; we work so hard for the men that we love, we strive and strain to be their dream girl, and it starts to eat away at the person they fell in love with in the first place.”
I know, sounds like I was in the weeds, right?
I was. My heart was in pieces. But I was lucky. I had undying support from friends and family. I also had a tendency to listen to my heart, and a solid guidance in my gut. When those things became temporarily obscured, my dear friend advised that I momentarily turn my eyes & ears to the loving guidance of those around me who would lead me back into the light. Once I started to see the sun as not just a reminder of another day rising in my heartbroken life, but as a sign of promise for what a new day could hold, I was able to listen to my heart more intently. The guidance I received in that raw, uncertain time was strong and powerful. Some of the greatest things in my present life were born out of that time. I was lead where I needed to be, and my life, in all facets, changed significantly, and for the positive.
This year, in the anticipatory weeks before my love and I officially said ‘I do,’ I began to see the most beautiful things…
I saw a stunning tapestry of experiences had, people met, things that had happened all for a reason. Even the moments of uncertainty, doubt, fear or pain came into view as being absolutely on purpose. I saw the intricate road map of my life not as being all over the place, but as being beautifully connected. The “wrong turns” were right turns. The “pitfalls” were not so deep that I couldn’t surmount them. Whether I knew it at that moment or not, they were leading me in directions I was meant to travel, meeting people that I was meant to meet, that I could never have expected.
I had this ever-growing feeling that all of the ups & downs were undeniably right. I may not have clearly been able to see what lies ahead (and still can’t a lot of the time), but I began to make sense of what had come before.
The sweet thing about hindsight (besides that it is 20/20) is that you get to actually experience yourself saying things that, years, months or days ago, when you were going through that thing that you just couldn’t envision ever getting out of alive, you’d NEVER think you’d say. Ever. Or be grateful for. EVER! My 7-years-ago-self that was balled up under the covers sobbing her eyes out with grief couldn’t snap herself out of her saline-coma to assure herself that, years down the road, she was actually going to marry the man she was grieving the loss of. Not only that, she couldn’t have fathomed ever feeling grateful for the world of pain she was in at that time.
“Pre-wedding Allison” had a landslide of thoughts, feelings and revelations, but this one took the cake:
Thank God For My Broken Heart.
I dropped into child’s pose one day in a yoga class, and it came to me from a place of such certainty that I had to stop myself from actually saying it outloud. This phrase was echoing so clearly off the walls of my heart. I then inwardly poured out a list of all the things that I was grateful for that had led me up to this moment. Then even more strange, I smiled…and cried. I knew the reason for it all…
On the day we were married, I felt overwhelming peace. A mosquito bit my face that morning and it swelled into a red welt. I hadn’t put myself through bridal bootcamp. I stayed up late the night before connecting with my incredible friends. I don’t remember what the tables looked like. I had no concept of timing and anything being off or on it. A button popped off my bustle. It was hot and I got sweaty. My hair frizzed. Before I even got that dress on, or ‘prettified’ myself, I knew one thing for certain: the man I would see at the end of the aisle would marry and be married to me no matter what; he had already proven, through breaking my heart, letting me go, and finding me again, that he loved me unconditionally. What’s more, he fell deeper in love with me when I clearly defined my strength of who I am — not who I am for him. Who I Am. Period. What will always stick in my memory of that day, however, was the feeling of being totally and utterly in love with everyone who has ever crossed my path, and grateful for the roles they have played and continue to play in my life story. I sat amidst the celebrating, the singing, the dancing, the toasting, and I smiled… and laughed… and cried tears of joy.
Thank God For My Broken Heart. Its once being broken has made me whole.
“When there’s a disappointment, I don’t know if it’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure.” ~ Pema Chödron
When I started this blog a few weeks ago, I made a commitment that I would be honest and, dare I say, more vulnerable in what I had to share. I want it to be a nugget that has been aching to be spilled out, even in the event that only one person reads it, let alone identifies with it. (Bonus!) And maybe, just maybe, what is straining to break through the gate and get out there isn’t necessarily ‘neat.’ A girl I met last weekend joked about the idea of ‘being good at life.’ If we were all experts at life, then my bet is we wouldn’t even be living on earth at all.
So if your mind & heart is totally organized in colour-coded folders when it comes to feelings and thoughts, rock on.
This is for the rest of us who dare to be messy and sort through the tangled threads that help to reveal all the most beautiful things we can find in being human.
While in training for a summer camp leadership position back in 2006, I was told (very kindly) by the trainer we were working with that he could see clearly that I “wanted communication to be tied up neatly with a nice little pink bow.” This was one of those moments that you know you will never forget. At that phase in time, I was going through a break-up with my now husband. Our 23.5 year old selves had experienced a block in communication, a confusing crossroads. I knew even then, in the deep recesses of my heart, that there was more; this was IT. But at 23.5 and on the threshold of being spat out into the big post-Bachelor’s Degree world (and in the fine arts, nonetheless), our visions of the future weren’t lining up. Why? We couldn’t see beyond the hood of the car we were sitting in outside my parents’ house in the dark, let alone what the months ahead held for us. We were both nice people capable of a lot of love — we still are. At that juncture, we knew our relationship was on the brink of change. In a strange way, talking about our impending separation had made us closer, but I hoped we would be plunging to a deeper level of commitment. At 23.5, getting married seemed, well, a bit soon.
In our total confusion as to how to move ahead, we moved apart instead…Nicely. As nicely as a break-up could be. We even tried to carry on as friends, which was a devastating experiment in facing broken love head on just as often as we did when we were together, with the expectation of saying goodbye casually; no romantic undertones whatsoever. Impossible. When he told me he was ‘over me,’ I responded with the hard fact that my love for him hadn’t waned in the slightest, that I had known from day one that we were meant to be. My truth, in a nutshell. In one particularly heart-wrenching night of trying to hash things out and hitting walls at every turn, I finally had nothing left but sobs. He held me in his arms, let me cry, and eventually broke the silence with another truth of his:
“Who knows, Al. Maybe one day we’ll look back on this and laugh.”
Eventually, we did. What got us to that point is an entire blog post within itself, but over the course of a handful more years, we re-built our friendship in a healthy way. Through that process came many honest conversations which, somehow, led to a re-blossoming of a deeper love than we had experienced before. All in time, we moved in together, then eventually got engaged, and now married…
Last week, I read through my old journal from the year we first broke up. It’s amazing to read about this period from the other side. Our break-ups yielded some of the most direct, honest, intention-filled writing I have ever done. During that time, I messily expressed every confused feeling I felt. I also, very clearly, calmly and purposefully, expressed gratitude for all that was going right in my life, for all the things and people I loved, for every lesson I was learning, for every new person who entered my life and brought renewed light to my world… When it came to Love, I knew exactly what I wanted, and through all the hurt and anger, the part of me that was true to my gut (and my heart) never changed. My words were bold. At the time, his were too: “I’m not in love with you and I’m not getting back together with you.” Ouch.
But here’s the thing.
It was his truth. It hurt me to the very core of my being. (I’m pretty sure I felt the crack in my heart widen hearing those words.) As he would still say, “It was true… at the time.”
My truth was different. Even in the hardest conversations, my truth was that I loved him, and couldn’t imagine loving anyone else in the way I did, or being loved in the way he loved me. If there was any way to dispel my habit of communicating with neatly tied pink bows, it was with him, in this time, that I laid the foundation for communicating from a place of truth. Sometimes, what I had to say didn’t sound ‘nice.’ It would come out in a torrent of mixed emotions, or oftentimes, from a still, peaceful point in me that I had never experienced before. At least I was saying what I felt, what I meant, rather than stifling what I felt I couldn’t say.
I say all this to speak on communication, as well as a general state of being — the stereotypically Canadian trait of being ‘nice.’ I will always find the ‘nicest’ way to communicate a point. I will politely acknowledge a ‘wrong number text’ with a ‘sorry!’ and a ‘have a nice day!’ I will be pleasant in a situation that is frustrating, choosing the perfect words to not disturb any peace, or even just saying how I feel with the intention of being kind. I could argue that this benefits relationships in the long run. I say what I say in the way that I do with a long-term vision in mind: Am I going to wreck a relationship because I reacted rashly to someone else’s rash reaction? What’s the good in two people reacting back and forth at each other? Someone’s got to stay grounded while the other person flies off the handle, right? But at what cost?
In one of the most confrontational interactions I have ever experienced (over the phone, nonetheless), I simply got quiet, took the brunt of someone else’s anger, and then said something so genuinely nice and loving to this person that I was surprised they didn’t break down and confess that they had been horribly unkind. Yes, I chose the high road, but if that had been a fist fight in a dark alley, would I have let this person beat me to a pulp?
As of late, I’ve begun to see that ‘being true to myself’ is not always ‘nice’ for everyone. Sometimes, it doesn’t even feel ‘nice’ for me. It can feel a bit like getting snow in the sleeve of your fleece jacket — bracing, uncomfortable and awkward. It catches me off guard. I’m sure it still will to those who know me best. Like that classic movie scene, where the lead character has given a passionate ‘call-to-arms’ (with standing-ovation-provoking bravado, of course), and you’re expecting the heinous boss to furiously pick it apart and fire their ass…and instead, they start an epic slow clap that ripples throughout the entire board room…
Yeah, like that. You say it… and then you hover there in nanoseconds of limbo, just waiting for the world to fall down around you, and for the person you spoke to to write you off completely. For.ev.er.
But the world doesn’t collapse. And the person is still there.
My truth is like a shaky toddler, learning to walk. It comes out a bit more raw and jagged than it sounds in my head. If, for some reason it hurts your feelings, I’m sorry for that. That isn’t the intention at all. I’m just learning to stand my ground. At 30. Whether we make it clear to everyone around us, or we just silently wish it for ourselves, we all have a burning desire to just be liked, goshdarnit. To be impeccable, to be everything to everyone, to be NICE and spew out perfection laced with rainbows and unicorns whenever we open our mouths. (Wouldn’t THAT be magical?) But as one of my dear yoga teachers told me once, if you are authentic and true to who you are, people won’t just like you, they will love you.
Go forth, truthful ones.
Be lovable in a way that re-defines the normal ways you aim to be adored.
May you be truthful and authentic to no end, and may you be loved deeply for it.