Nothing Is Yours

It was one of those moments of sudden inspiration, and clearly, I was not in a position to do anything about it immediately.

My lower back, nestled into a folded, Indian cotton blanket.

Both hands grasping a long, purple yoga strap looped around my foot, gently stretching my extended right leg.

My breath, deep and slow. My eyes, softly closed.

Silent, grateful bodies on colourful mats all around me.

My mind… instantly awake.

CRAP.

I had come to this Yin yoga class to be as fully present as I could be, and here I was, being tugged far out of the room…by an Idea. Rather than each thought drifting consciously into my awareness like clouds and swiftly leaving, one thought became another, and I was decidedly in the midst of a brainstorm. I had become the example that yoga teachers use — that I, too, use! — of the person who is drawn out of the practice by the so-called monkey mind.

But THIS felt different.

This felt like a moment that Elizabeth Gilbert referenced in her TED talk, where an interview with Tom Waits revealed to her that she was not the only one who had ever been struck with inspiration out of the blue and wasn’t in the least bit ready to receive what was coming down the pipe. Waits admitted the inconvenience of songs emerging from the ether while he was driving with no way to capture it. Creatives will recognize this plight — when you’re hoofing up a hill and are suddenly struck with insight, without a pen, or the good old iPhone Voice Memo function, and you just PRAY that it will come back to you again…

Was this what this was? Had I been chosen, in this inconvenient yoga moment, to be visited by a muse?

Was this my miracle minute of receiving the idea (or a potentially valuable one) that could determine the purpose and direction of my life? The skeleton with which to make a body of work that could have a positive impact on the lives of others? And if I just held on tightly enough to that thought (and this thought! Oh, and THAT thought!), could I make it to a piece of paper in time? Could I remember the buzz words, the key phrases, elements & messages that made up the initial pieces of what I thought could be something really big?

After we chanted our final ‘OM,’ bowed down and closed the class, I became THAT PERSON — the one who breaks out of a mindful practice and starts half-hurriedly gathering her props, nosing her way to the prop shelf a bit quicker than she should. I made a mental note that I would either have to admit to the teacher that my hasty departure was due to riding a wave of inspiration that needed an outlet ASAP, or simply acknowledge my enjoyment of the class and give as sincere of a thank you as I could without letting on that I was clearly in what felt like labour… with an idea baby.

I am fairly confident I did the latter. (My conscience feels, however, that this teacher probably deserves a little note of extra thanks, just to be sure.)

I promptly ducked into the book shop next door and bought a notebook that had an inspirational saying on the cover that (coincidence?) was in perfect alignment with my idea. Somehow amidst the brain storm, I managed to daydream, “This notebook could become legendary. It could be the one that contained THE IDEA that started it all…”

What a thrilling thought. (And somewhat embarrassing to admit in hindsight.)

I restrained my impatience as a teenaged boy at the cash desk began to reveal to the clerk that he ‘actually didn‘t like Tolkein’s The Hobbit.’ Knowing that Peter Jackson couldn’t even fit this 300 page story into just ONE feature-length film made me grey. I was going to be stalled here forever.

Please just notice that I am GIVING IDEA BIRTH!

Yes! It worked! Eye contact and a nod from the clerk. “I can help you over here.”

Money, on the counter. Receipt in my hand. A thank you, a wish for a pleasant evening.

It was past 8:30 at night. All I could think of was getting what I could recall of this FREAKING idea out of my head and onto paper, and then my belly rumbled.

Shit. Dinner. I am STARVING.

My mind was made up. Cooking something would delay this process to the point of actually losing it altogether, so I zipped across the street to a Mexican restaurant, asked if they did takeout (yes, they do), and ordered the first thing I saw on the menu (chicken tostadas)…and asked to borrow a pen.

I had a 5-minute wait  & a black ballpoint in my hand. As I opened the “notebook that could change it all,” I briefly contemplated whether I should leave the first page blank…

Screw that. I’m going for it. How much could I get down on paper so I wasn’t desperately clutching my brain bladder all the way home!? I opened the valve I had consciously put a stop on during yoga class and let whatever came flow out onto the page. It wasn’t even close to all of it, but it was enough for me to last the 10-minute trek homeward.

Front steps.

Keys in the door.

Watch for escaping cats! No cat? Good.

I’m in.

I didn’t even put my dinner on a plate. Just a fork in one hand, a pen in the other. Takeout box on the left, journal on the right. While one hand wrote, the other shoveled in chicken tostada. Whatever was still left in my brain, whatever was coming, I scribbled away, no censorship or judgement allowed…

I paused and took a breath.

I had a ‘hashtag‘ (or handle, I guess it’s called?) come to me in class that I felt could be associated with this ‘project.’ It wasn’t revolutionary, but hey, sometimes even the simplest things haven’t been explored. Or have they? I consulted what my friend Liz calls ‘The Oracle’ (yes, Google) to see if this handle was being freed up by the universe to house what was the beginning of a project that, as far as I felt, could really grow into something beautiful… 

The inner soundtrack soars, my heart pounds and hope burns brighter than ever… This…could…be…

Friggin. Eh.

Sure enough, it’s been used. The general concept of my Idea has been done.

FAAAACK.

I followed a weblink. This gal seems lovely. There are pictures of her doing yoga. She keeps a blog. She fulfills her purpose by helping people find theirs…

In an instant, I felt my rosy pink Idea balloon (whose gradual but anticipatory inflation had consumed 80 minutes of head space in a yoga class where I just wanted to be present, dammit) shatter into a pile of listless, rubbery bits. It may have been an inspired woman that came into this room, but a sad one eventually dragged herself to bed for a night of restless sleep.

Now, I’m under no illusion that original ideas are hard to come by. My Dad always said that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, and there is nothing wrong with being inspired by someone else, but I don’t think there are many people who purposely want to be generic and have the same ideas as everyone else does, do they? How colourful would our world be if we all did the same thing, or were the same person?

So why did this idea come to me out of oblivion if it had already come to someone else…someone else who followed through…

 I was instantly struck down with discouragement. I felt the increasingly saturated nature of the self-development world, that I was just one of many tapped into the universal mind; my hopes of having something unique to share, or offer, quickly dashed. I felt that, no matter what my experiences had been, I really had nothing, and I would just have to accept that at face value. My fear I had expressed to my husband a few months back — about being just another yoga teacher with a blog who wants to share realness, inspiration and create deeper connection in the world —  was being broadcasted to me in real life, real time, and I frustratedly saw myself willing to toss in the towel. All that was left of my optimism was 3 pages of messy notes in a $9.50 impulse purchase of a notebook. I had almost double that dollar amount in Mexican food in my belly, and it wasn’t even sitting that great. Oh, and 80 minutes of peace of mind that I really could’ve used…gone.

 (Wow, talk about glass half empty, huh!? I promise there’s a point. Please keep reading.)

 Which led me to think: why do multiple people have the same ideas? Besides my soul sisters who I know I share virtual head and heart space with (i.e. three of us had the same idea for our wedding invitations which, surprise surprise, already exists on weddingpaperdivas.com, which means TONS of other people have had — and used — that idea before!) Why did THIS idea come to ME — this idea that had already come to somebody else, without my even knowing it was already out there?

With the internet being such a public free-for-all, is it possible to say that we really own anything? And with all of us out there thinking, creating and being at the same time, is there any wonder that we may all be just recycling each others’ thoughts, concepts and dreams? And if this idea hit ME like a, well, maybe not a Mack truck, but an F250…does it mean that I should say no to carrying this through? And if I do, will anyone who feels this idea is rightly theirs be territorial or competitive? Will they insist that they came up with it first?

Or can we start to work together from a place of collaboration vs. competition and think, “Hey, my people dug this idea, but my people aren’t your people. And if you can reach more people that aren’t my people, then maybe we’re onto something here… World awesomeness domination!”

photoLE. SIGH. (By the by, for a while, I believed I had coined this expression… Turns out I’m apparently just a copycat who combines my French & English language skills into one super-language like everyone else.)

Since I was a kid, I’ve had a desire to have a ‘thing.’ I was protective of my relationships to my nearest and dearest, and still can be, to an extent. I value my one-on-one time with my bosom buddies deeply. I may still be sharing them with the world (and now in the case of many of them, their babies!), but when I’m with them, I’d rather not split my focus if I don’t have to (cute babies exempt, of course). When it came to activities, in High school in particular, I remember inadvertently stumbling into Drama and getting the sense from my Drama teacher that I was alright at it.

It quickly became my ‘thing’ — My joy. My happy challenge. My creative outlet.

Where others pursued their strengths and passions on swim teams, in soccer fields, art studios or in church youth groups, this was my much-needed time for me. It gave my 14-year-old self a sense of individuality and purpose amidst the burning desire to just make it through high school in one piece.

When a friend announced one day that they were taking up Drama, I felt my heart sink. My ‘thing’ felt lost to me in an instant, no matter whether I kept going or not. To further that point, if they ended up being good at it, then I would clearly have to admit defeat and let them shine instead. This is, of course, a really poopy attitude linked so intimately with the fear of not being enough, but it was genuinely how I felt. I would get good at something…then someone would be better…and inevitably, I would let it go because it was clearly their arena to shine in, and not mine.

Maybe them seeing me loving this ‘thing’ was what lead them to THEIR purpose, or THEIR gift. Come to think of it, this friend who jumped on the Drama bandwagon back in high school makes their career in Theatre to this day. Maybe if I hadn’t blazed the trail, they wouldn’t be where they are right now…Or maybe they would because we had just both had the same initiative to try it.

But here’s the bottom line:

We may all share the same ideas, thoughts and dreams. We all share this world. At the end of the day, we own nothing. Nothing is truly ours. But part of what makes our lives purposeful is the decision to listen to the inklings of our hearts. If you’ve been visited by a crazy muse, HONOUR IT. If you weren’t meant to be visited, you would have been left to stretch your hamstrings in peace! Maybe this muse is a trickster who gets her jollies from whispering the same ideas to different people, in different parts of the world…but it’s an IDEA, and IDEAS. MAKE. CHANGE.

If you asked 1000 children to draw a tree and a cat, no two would be exactly the same.

Maybe the seed of my idea looks like any ordinary seed, but depending on who chooses to plant it, one comes up an Orchid, the other a Sunflower —  both beautiful, both completely different in appearance, but intentionally the same in their purpose. If we didn’t have both, we wouldn’t be able to choose which one enhances our own unique lives the most. Our ideas may not all be unique, but the body we will inhabit for this time on earth, and the soul that it contains, are.

In this moment, I can’t say what will become of my elusive Idea that kept me from fully appreciating my yoga moment. I can say, however, that what you are reading right now is the result of waking up when I wanted nothing more than to sleep in peace, of pushing through the weight of defeat & discouragement, and of being challenged to connect when it seemed more worth my while to withdraw. Perhaps this Idea was really an opportunity in disguise for me to encourage you (as I have had to do for myself) to question why any thread you feel called to follow is worthwhile if you deny yourself the opportunity to even TRY.

Shine your OWN light in the junkyard of recycled dreams and the bleak landscape of ‘sameness.’ Defy your own long-held beliefs that someone we will be better, or more deserving of this honour, than you.

If you’re going to own anything, at least own that.

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Why Shiny People Should Lose Their #@*%

Dear Jeff Brown,

You are the hero of the day. Did you write this (below) knowing that SO many people would feel like it was written specifically for them?

“I know we often want it all happy and positive, but that’s just not where much of humanity is. Many of us are overwhelmed with pain, undigested sadness, unexpressed anger, unseen truths. This is where we are at, as a collective. So we have two choices. We can continue to pretend it’s not there, shame and shun it in ourselves and others, distract and detach whenever possible. Or we can face it heart-on, own it within ourselves, look for it in others with compassion, create a culture that is focused on authenticity and healthy emotional release. If we continue to push it all down, we are both creating illness and delaying our collective expansion. But if we can just own the shadow, express it, release it, love each other through it, we can finally graduate from the School of Heart Knocks and begin to enjoy this magnificent life as we were intended. Pretending the pain isn’t there just embeds it further. Let’s illuminate it instead.”

~ JEFF BROWN 

When I read these words on Jeff Brown’s Facebook page today, they hit me hard. Everything in me wanted to share it.

Maybe it sounds geeky and hippity-dippity, but I have ‘rules’ for my Facebook ‘shares.’ I ask myself:

– Will this somehow make the world/someone’s life better?

– Will this help to forge deeper connections within the self and/or with others?

– Will this make people laugh (for all the right reasons)?

– Will this inspire people to be more honestly connected to their own humanity and the humanity of others?

If the answer is ‘YES’ to any of those questions, I’ll share the nugget.

When I witness what I did today — an instant surge of online connectivity simply through identifying with a powerfully worded & universally shared sentiment, an outpouring of honesty that says ‘I GET this’ — I know that “The General We” have touched on something huge and human.

Moments like that just can’t be swept under the rug and traded in for the newest funny cat video (oooh, I love those too…)

Let’s be honest: we’re not ones to share much less than our ‘best selves’ on social media. We have all done this, and we will continue to do it because, if you think about it, it has a really stunning way of showing us the overarching highlights of our life — the things that we’ll remember (and will want to remember) at the end of the day. Plus, it makes us look like we have perma-happy lives or are full of really unique ideas, which, for some reason, is really important to us. 😉

We do this in real life too. How many of you have been asked that all too common question “How are you?” and have answered with, “I’m a lost, god-forsaken, blubbering piece of mess and I have no clue how to get untangled.”

Yeeeeeah, probably not many, and if you did, the person who expected you to reply with sunshine and rainbows oozing out of your pores was most likely flabbergasted.

How many of you have said you’re “good!” “fine!” “great!” and the perennial favourite, “really busy!”??

(Remember, I say this, because I am guilty of ALL of this.)

In a recent friendship-as-mutual-therapy conversation with a dear friend, I saw how those of us who strive to show our ‘shiniest selves’ as much as possible have a very hard time when we fall short of our own expectations of being, well, shiny. Even worse, when we fail to show anything less than that shiny side to others, we feel like we’ve let everyone down.

What happens when the ‘shiny, happy, steady people’ feel tarnished? Worn out? Confused?

 

Image

‘WAIT’ by Vancouver artist Kelly Clarke.

In sharing our less-than-perfect moments, opening up our own vulnerabilities and truly hearing the vulnerabilities of others, something amazing happens:

BOOM. Connection.

The inspiring Brené Brown has devoted years of her life studying vulnerability, but it never ceases to amaze me how real this idea is until I see it come to life right in front of me.

When we share our imperfections, what we perceive as our ‘failures’ or ‘shortcomings,’ we create the space for the most honest form of human connection.

Now, I’ll admit I’m pretty new to the process of living compared to, say, a centenarian who went through world wars. At the end of the day, my life could be touted as being fairly uncomplicated and not nearly as riddled with past deviance as the guy smoking the joint at the bus stop admitted to me today. (Such a nice guy! That’s another story for another time.)

The thing is, I’ve felt old since I was a kid. My 8 or 9 year old self was VERY much looking forward to being in the vicinity of my current age one day, and in this particular phase of life.

Case in point, my childhood best friend and I (we are still friends to this day, which is a true gift) didn’t play ‘House…’

We played ‘Mothers.’

Yup, two 10 year old girls pretending to be happily married to our respective ‘husbands,’ then spontaneously pregnant and contentedly rubbing our bellies, then giving birth to our plastic dolls, and once that was done, having ‘coffee’ together as we rocked our respective babies in our hand-me-down Snuglis (once inhabited by us as infants) or child-sized doll carriages.

At age 8 or 9, with our childhood games of being a wife and a potential mother aside, I wouldn’t have anticipated that my vulnerable, ’emotional’ moments at age 31 would feel not too far off from that of, oh, a 9-year old.

This weekend, my husband and I went over to my in-laws’ place for dinner. On the way over, I acknowledged that I was feeling a healthy combination of tired, borderline anti-social, mellow and just not quite up to snuff. (I love people to bits but I’ve gotta start owning my Introversion!) We had barely been in the front door not more than 60 seconds when I broke down, and let’s face it, there’s no graceful way of breaking down…

Why the insta-tears?

Well, it was because my mother-in-law eagerly suggested that we should pop across the cul-de-sac to meet the sweet little 3-year old girls that live across the way.

In the most polite way I could muster, I lost it. The way I dissolved was as if I had been asked to take care of newborn sextuplets with explosive diarreah on the eve of the apocalypse. And you know what I said? (Here’s the kicker.)

“Sometimes, I just need to not meet new people.”

Great, I thought, so now on top of coming a bit unglued, I am being unfriendly AND unwilling to meet new people…who are 3 YEARS OLD. We used to play MOTHERS!! I LOVE KIDS!

I may have felt for a split-second that I was showing ‘weakness,’ but I knew in my heart that I was 100% being true to EXACTLY where I was in THAT particular moment. Not everyone is comfortable with breaking down in front of their family — this wasn’t a cushy moment, and this wasn’t even the first time I’d ever cried in front of my in-laws! I took myself for a long walk and reminded myself to detach from the mental process of why I was feeling the way I felt. Instead, I shifted my focus to all the messy, vivid sensations of how utterly uncomfortable and undeniably right it had felt to ‘come apart’ the way I had — not the story of “Why” 20 minutes ago or 5 years in the future, but the realness of what was running through me NOW. In reality, I knew that I hadn’t come apart. I was claiming my honest feelings in order to become more whole. Who I was in that moment may have looked less than shiny, but I had been, and was being, totally and utterly true to myself, tears and all.

What I am grateful for now, 3 days later, is that instead of being flabbergasted at this unexpected unravelling, my mother-in-law hugged me, followed by my father-in-law… then my husband hugged me and kissed me on the forehead. They all met my feelings with compassion and promptly scooted me out the door for nature therapy.

No one made me go meet the 3 year olds that day, even though I am sure they are adorable beyond measure. Instead, I sat and stared at the subtle shifts of the clouds that hovered in the bright, blue Sunday sky, and felt the sun wash over me.

They say ‘in every life a little rain must fall.’ Sometimes, it’s a deluge, and not even a sunny day is immune to a downpour.

Where I live, we like to talk about the weather. So in meteorological terms, here it is:

Even the shiniest of people need these clouds. We need these clouds to break wide open to even begin the process of getting a piece of our sunshine back. No cloud ever withholds the rain. And if those you love can see YOU clearly through all forms of weather, then, by golly, it’s your lucky day.

Shine on.