Forget Your Perfect Offering

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.

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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.