2018

Enough is Enough with Feeling “Not Enough”

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As the fifteen women shuffled in, nervously, awkwardly, some excitedly, some quietly, some chattering, hugging. Shifting into seats, we took some minutes to settle into the room and the circle before beginning our workshop.

I began by passing out blank sheets of paper and asking each woman to write down five insecure thoughts that she had since entering the room.  Not one of them hesitated to begin scribbling their insecurities. I collected these anonymous lists and put them in a box. “We’re letting these go for now, we’re putting them aside,” I explained. I put the box outside of the room. “If you want to grab them on your way out later, feel free.”

No one did. I ended up going home with fifteen very interesting lists. Around twelve of them mentioned their bellies, and not in very kind ways. Thirteen of them listed feeling fat. Many of them wrote of being concerned about saying something stupid. Not fitting in. Regretting what they wore. Concerned about being judged. And this is typical. Nothing unique here. We do this often, and we do this well.

Renowned father-and-daughter psychologists Dr.’s Robert and Lisa Firestone have done extensive research on our insecurities, and they have found these to be the most common…

  • You’re stupid.

  • You’re unattractive.

  • You’re not like other people.

  • You’re a failure.

  • You never get anything right.

  • No one will ever love you.

  • You’re fat.

  • You’re such a loser.

It’s a painful reality that we are our own worst enemies, that there is most likely no one in our lives as critical, and even cruel as we are to ourselves.

I think it’s safe to say that pretty much every single one of your insecurities, and mine, boil down to one false belief we seem to all insidiously carry, some of us better at hiding it than others…

I am not enough.

Enough is enough, already.

I’m forty-six years old and I do not want to waste another minute of my life feeling not enough. Yet, still sometimes the feeling comes in uninvited waves, parting, receding, flaring up, dying down, depending on a variety of factors. Sometimes a beautiful ray of clarity will shine through me, and it reminds me of a new commitment…

When do you get to be enough, Lisa?

And I ask you, when do YOU get to be enough?

How about now?

Not when you lose that 20, 40, 60 pounds. Not when you get that man or have that baby or get that job or degree or house or whatever.

Your enoughness is implicit, because you are. Because you exist.

It’s a tricky dance, this fluctuation between wanting to be better and being enough. Some might say I am in the self-improvement business, or so it seems.

Truth of the matter is, I am in the emergence business. I am only interested in bringing forth what is within you, what is within me. We are born with our innate brilliance, our enoughness, already existing inside of us. We simply have to tap it, cultivate it, birth it.  “Improvement” is moot. Accessing is paramount. Enoughness almost seems paradoxical- and it is:

I am enough. AND I am emerging into a more brilliant and powerful version of myself.

I am always enough.

If we could remember that, all the time, in a perfect world, in a perfect brain, we would have no more insecurities. Our enoughness would be enough. Sure, we might be attracted to making positive changes to live more brilliantly, to make our experience here more awesome. While being enough.

How the hell does one even go about practicing enoughness?

It boils down to taking control of the thoughts we think, of changing course when our brain wants to go down that dark path, stopping it in its tracks, shifting it, taking charge of it. You are not the thought. You are the thinker of the thought. You’re the boss. Start acting like it.

Wouldn’t you rather think (and know) that you are enough, and do your life’s work from a compassionate, loving place? Sure, who wouldn’t?

To do so, we must begin to shift our thoughts– stop them dead in their tracks, choosing new thoughts. Practicing new thoughts.

I am enough. I am always enough.

So the next time you feel insecure thoughts attempting to wreak havoc in your mind, I challenge you to…

  1. Stop the thought– BAM. Catch it. Stop it.

  2. Strip the thought. What’s underneath it? (Hint: It’s always “I am not enough”.)

  3. Replace the thought. I am enough. I am a beautiful work in progress. I am an evolving, eternal being full of potential, and perfect in the right now place of my evolution.

  4. Breathe into those new thoughts, slowly. Really. Use your breath. Even if you don’t believe the thoughts, breathe into the possibility of them. When you affirm a new thought,  it doesn’t automatically work like some instant magic pixie dust, POOF. But you do create a welcoming place for it to take root. We’re talking new synapses that must form here, brain chemistry being altered, science, man. But we do get to choose.

I, for one, am really tired of the insidious toxicity of not-enoughness. It’s a liar, and a cheat. It’s already cost us too much. It’s wasted too much of our precious time. It’s destroyed too many lives.

I am enough. I am always enough. And so are you. Pass it on.

Self-Love and Insecurities: This is Where I Am.

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Show me the most beautiful, powerful, successful, actualized, amazing woman in the world, and I’ll show you a woman who sometimes struggles with insecurities.

We all face the darker side of our own feelings about ourselves from time to time, no matter who we are or how hard we have worked on ourselves, how spiritual or “enlightened” we are, how much we have healed, how far we have come… it happens.

And though some of us are better at hiding it from the world than others, none of us are exempt.

Sometimes I struggle to love myself completely.

There. I said it.

Sometimes my inner mean girls, inner gremlins, inner demons, whatever you want to call the voices, those voices, whisper and chant the meanest things to me.

Does my sharing this with you make you think less of me as a woman, a coach, a teacher?

Did you think I had it all together, and that “all together” included never thinking one negative, mean thought about myself, never critiquing myself, never “ugh-ing” myself in the mirror, never ever calling myself a name?

I’m sorry to disappoint you, if that is the case.

Because I stand for radical self-love doesn’t mean I’ve perfected it. Because I believe in self-acceptance doesn’t mean this comes completely effortlessly for me. It’s my journey. I’m still in it.

If you’ve attended any of my workshops over the years, you know that one of the first things I share, after I point to the bathrooms and ask you to turn off your cell phone is that I am not immune or completely healed of the negative self-talk and self-loathing judgment that plagues women of our western society.

My journey has been arduous and painstakingly bumpy, and very real, and never-ending and yes, I’m still in it. I’m still journeying. But, I say.

But. But on this journey, as I tired of the pain, I have learned many amazing and powerful tools and practices for quieting the critical voices, for cultivating self-love, for remembering who I am, for practicing self-kindess and compassion, for healing the relationship between my body and my mind, and when I practice them, my relationship to myself shifts, it heals.

They work if I work them.

And so of course, I am obligated to share them. We learn, we teach. Some of us are wired this way. Whether we like it or not.

Why am I telling you this?

Perhaps to come clean.

Perhaps because recently, when I told her that I was having a bad day and struggling with self-esteem issues, still another friend looked at me incredulously, jaw dropped, surprised… maybe even disappointed… “You?”  Yes, me.

But my commitment to expand my capacity for self-love and self-acceptance has been recharged. My relationships depend on it. My business depends on it. My life depends on it.

These days, on a bad day, I can remember to turn to myself with compassion, and sometimes I even remember to practice the tools that I teach.

I am not immune to insecurities. But I am not going to lay down and surrender to them, either.

I am devoted to mastering profound self-love and acceptance, and if it takes me the rest of my life to master, so be it.

Perhaps that’s the whole point of living.

I’m in. I’m registered. I’m signed up. I’m enrolled.

I’m no longer enrolled in “Self-Love 101”, but I haven’t earned my Doctorate in Loving Oneself Completely yet, either.

I am a work in progress. I hope you’re okay with that.

 

 

Sister, It’s Time.

4626657_origThe first women’s group I started was under the slide at recess, when I was eight years old.
Okay, we weren’t quite women, but we were future women. It was a a dance club, and we had big dreams of performing for the entire school in the cafeteria.
We had it all planned. I’d request a meeting with the principal, and show him what we’d put together. He’d approve it, of course, once he saw our moves. No worries that there was no stage; we’d put a bunch of lunch tables together and make one. Never mind about the safety hazards.
We never got to the principal’s meeting, but we did put together one fun routine, to Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.”
It’s a complicated time in our culture, everything is shifting (or crumbling.) The rules have changed. The country’s in peril. As I prepare to march at the State’s capitol this weekend, I think about some of the challenges we face and  this new wave of feminism that we’re experiencing.
I’m grateful for the fights that have been fought by the generations before me. Without them, I wouldn’t have many of the freedoms I have today. Yet, that those freedoms are in jeopardy scares me and I know we’re not done.
For millions of reasons, we’re not done. And I’ll be marching with thousands of those reasons on Saturday.
What I love about today’s new wave of feminism is that we are not backing down from our right to be sexual, sensual women. To express ourselves and our sexuality in ways that suit us.
We are not backing down from our right to dress in ways that please us and turn us on, and this gives no one permission to touch us, disrespect us or shame us. We are declaring, TIME’S UP.
This new wave of feminism is marching with not only our sisters, but our mothers, our daughters and granddaughters. And if we feel like wearing fishnets while we march, so be it.
We’re not turning our backs on the joys of being woman in order to be allowed in some crumbling “boy’s club.” Those days are over.
Old paradigms like rape culture, slut shaming, and patriarchy in general are all crumbling before our eyes. It’s time for us to rise.
We knew thousands of years ago that we had power. We knew thousands of years ago how to gather, how to create sacred space, how to solve communication problems, how to create compromise and how to make magic. We lost our power for a while, it was necessary. The history and herstory of our society needed to be written this way, and now we are remembering. Now we get to write the story.
We’re remembering our power, we’re remembering our magic, we’re remembering that we are royalty and priestesses and goddesses.
We’re remembering that we need each other. We’re remembering that when we come together, we are even more powerful and more magical, and it’s our turn. The world is in desperate need of healing. And we’ve already begun our work.
After that fourth-grade dance club, I’ve started many more women’s groups over the years. There was the first book club I started, in 1999, when I first moved to Dallas and was hungry for connection, and friendship. There was Spark!, a membership-driven community of women I started with together with my partner, Jackie. That’s where I met one of dearest and nearest sister friends, Angela, also known to many as Violet O’Hara.
From there, Angela and I discovered the sexy, body-positive, women-celebrating art form of burlesque. Enthralled and inspired, then came Les Femmes Aplomb! Then came the Burlesque Experience, when group after group of women showed me the staying power of community, and the deep desire and innate gifts we have to support each other and be supported. There was SacredSexyU. BodyLove Affair.
Through all of these communities, all of these women, hundreds and hundreds of women whose lives have intersected with mine, for a season or a lifetime, I have always known this: I am here to connect women. To themselves, and to each other.
I, myself have been different women through these seasons. I’ve been no where close to “perfect.” Sometimes I burn out. Sometimes I need a break. Sometimes I pull back, as I fumble through my humanity, practicing (often by falling on my face) self-protection, boundaries, trust, courage, surrender and the delicate art of walking away gracefully.
Now, it’s time for something new. Now the me I am is intersecting once again with this part of my purpose, and I’m calling you. I’m calling you, my sisters from every corner to join me, because our time has come. Come hither.
My siren’s call is not for wimps. This is not a Girl’s Night Out.
This is a warrior tribe of women who are finally willing to make peace with themselves and each other, so that we can heal one another, ourselves and the planet.
There may be some Girl’s Nights Outs, I’m certainly not opposed.
But sisterhood is far more than happy hour and bottomless mimosas.
It’s more like giving birth, or being born.
It’s more like being held from the inside out, it’s more like dancing through pain or crying together through life’s tragedies.
It’s more like being the mirrors we hold up for each other, when we forget who we are, to say this: YOU ARE EVERYTHING. YOU ARE MAGNIFICENT. YOU ARE POWERFUL. And you can have what you desire.
It’s more like staying when you want to run.
It’s more like saying I SEE YOU. I really, really see you. And you will not scare me away.
My call to you is to show up, exactly as you are, and become part of this dream, this SacredSexy Sisterhood. The world needs us. And we need each other. Everything I’ve done, been and experienced has led me to this.
SacredSexy Sisterhood is ready for you. Are you ready for it?

Support for When Things Suck

 

“Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need. Watch for the guru.”

Let’s call a spade a spade, here. Sometimes, life just sucks. Sometimes pain takes over and ruins everything. Sometimes shitty things happen. Sometimes watching for the guru feels impossible. Sometimes, screw the guru.

In the middle of our muck, our dark nights of the soul, when our lives are falling apart at the seams, when we’ve lost the very people or things we trusted most, whether we have infections, diseases, chronic pain, migraines, nosebleeds, bug bites, lay-offs, miscarriages, death, break-ups, any of these crappy things, finding the light, finding the good, claiming “everything happens for a reason” in the middle of some very sucky everythings… is just not humanly possible.

There it is: humanly possible.

And guess what we are? Souls walking around as human manifestations. What if we accepted that during certain times, it’s okay to wallow? It’s okay to surrender to the suck.

“Look for the bright side?” Eff you.

But what we can trust is the other side. There is always movement.

We are always moving toward the other side.

Sometimes it happens on its own, microscopic and minute, like the blooming of a bud, unseen with the human eye. Sometimes we work hard at it, like a construction crew with a deadline and a strip mall to build.

Sometime the only thing required to move out of the muck and the suck is to surrender and trust in the natural unfolding and healing salve of time.

In the meantime, if you need to whine, whine. Find your support team that will love you through.

If you need to scratch the rash, scratch it. Do what you need to do that will give you even fleeting seconds of relief.

If you need to cry, let the tears flow.

If you need to curl in a ball, retreat from the world, stop showering for a few days, go on, curl. You’ll save money on hot water.

If you need to destroy property, well, you might want to rethink that one… but you get my point.

Feel your broken heart. Grieve. Gripe. Groan. Give in to what needs to be felt and experienced.

So much of our pain comes when we are resisting our pain. When we are thinking that as spiritual people, we should always find the gifts in our pain, after all, we chose our pain, we created it, as some spiritual teachers will have us believe. And maybe sometimes we do. It’s quite the mind-numbing paradox.

But sometimes, suck just happens.

Over the last few years, one of my gurus has been a chronic nerve pain condition in my hip, back and leg that has sometimes debilitated me, sometimes turned me to a crying sack of gloom, has slowed me down, has pissed me off, has enraged me, has cost me lots of money, has shut down my life and kept me from the things I love to do… how the hell am I supposed to bless this guru? As a human being, how can I love this pain?

Yes, I am human, AND within me resides the infinite power of the universe. So sometimes I can access that, and use the Big Love when mine falls short. But, mostly, it’s when the pain subsides. It’s when a flare-up flares down.

It’s only when I’m on the other side, I have said, wow… I learned so much. I slowed down, I practiced exquisite self-care. I re-prioritized. I rested. I learned to count on friends. I practiced asking for help, receiving. I grew. Thanks, Guru, Chronic Pain.

But until then, when I am in the suck… it sucks, okay? Let’s stop trying to fool ourselves about that.

Be with your pain. Be with your suffering, be with your suck. Allow yourself to feel every ugly or pitiful feeling you need to feel. Wallow if you need to, cry, scream, whine, fully occupy your humanness and all of the messy, crappy, sticky, stinky, painful things that come with that.

Trust the other side. You’re always moving toward it.

Baby, You’re Worth It.

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Click for video. What if this was your anthem for 2018?

It happens every year. Millions of us start the year with determination and resolve…

This is The Year.I will eat healthier. I will exercise more. I will create new habits to work toward my dreams…

And then, one by one, by February, almost all resolutions have been dumped by the side of the road, like last year’s Christmas tree.

And does that mean you failed at resolutions, or did the resolutions fail you?

There are a few theories I have about why this happens, why we start strong with such good intentions, such fierce determination, only to eventually fizzle out.

The bottom line is this. Resolutions rarely work.

Yet we are so quick to blame ourselves.

If I was just determined enough, disciplined enough, focused enough, we often think. If only I had more will power.

Ahh, will power. That evasive, invisible force that seems to start strong and fresh each morning, only to evaporate by day’s end.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned about change, commitment, creating healthy new habits and ditching old, unhealthy ones, in hopes that you’ll feel extra supported as you move deeper into 2018, hopefully with your commitments strengthening.

But here’s where it starts, my lovely friend.

You must believe you are worthy of your desires.

You’ve gotta believe, all the way to your core, that you deserve this.

And I think all too often, deep down inside, we don’t really believe in our own deservability.

Getting healthier takes extra time and effort. Shopping, chopping, slicing and dicing veggies for a salad is, ugh… so much more time-consuming and expensive than say, Jack in the Box drive-thru.

And you are so worth it.

The next time you are going the extra mile for yourself, hassling over yourself, chopping, dicing, juicing, getting your butt to the gym in cold, crappy weather, paying for dance classes, whatever that extra effort might be, what if you turned your effort or extra hassle into an act of devotion, instead? An act of worthiness and deservability. An act of love.

What if you repeated this to yourself, over and over? I am worth the effort.

Baby, I’m worth it.

Think about the things you have done for others that are time-consuming and take extra effort.

Maybe you drove all over town looking for that special Christmas list item for your kid. Because your children are worth the effort.

Maybe you are dating someone you’re crazy about and you spent hours in the kitchen preparing a special dinner for them. Because that person is worth the effort.

Maybe you spent hours knitting that scarf for your favorite cousin. Because she is worth the effort.

It’s so easy to do these extra things for the people we care about, because they are worth it. Their smiles, their satisfaction, their happiness matters to us.

And you, my friend, are also worth the effort. You are so worth the effort.

I’ll never forget my fantastic client Jennifer, that told me how her amazing, succulent wild woman, poet aunt, responds, when receiving a gift from someone…

“You are so good to me, and I am so deserving.”

Don’t you just love that?

We are so deserving.

And in a couple weeks, (or days!) when your resolutions or intentions for 2018 start to lose their luster, falling flat, like the carbonation fizzled out of a soda… remind yourself.

You are worth the effort.

Every ounce of extra effort it takes for you to be, do or have whatever it is you want, is worth it.

Because you are deserving, so deserving.

Believe it, know it.

And remind yourself, as you course down the aisles of that pricey health food store, or write that check for the yoga pass, or power through cravings as you break that nicotine habit, or dice and slice and chop your ingredients all Sunday afternoon for your weekly meal prep.

I am so deserving.

Baby, I’m worth it.

You Can Be Satisfied AND Want More

"She was a bad egg." Click image for Veruca's video!
“She was a bad egg.” Click image for Veruca’s video!

Every time I think of “wanting it all”, I think of the petulant, spoiled-to-the-core brat of Willie Wonka fame, Veruca Salt. She’s an extreme example of wanting. Spoiled, recklessly self-absorbed, and we all know what happens to her. She faces her unfortunate demise when she falls down the hatch, trying to get her golden egg. “Bad Egg” the meter declares.

And we all chuckle, knowing she got what she deserved, the little brat, the subtle message planted: don’t want too much.

It’s unfortunate really, that we’ve equated desire with being spoiled, wanting more with ungratefulness, that somehow it’s more virtuous to not want, to just be satisfied with what you have, to be content.

So when the desires do stir within us, for more, for bigger, for better,  there is an emotional dissonance that occurs within us, a tear of sorts, a conflict. The apparent contradiction between what we’re “supposed to be”– grateful, content, happy with what we have,  and what we actually are, wanting, desirous creatures with longings and yearnings.

The notion of either/or is complete hogwash and I challenge you to ditch it!

I was talking to a sweet friend the other night, who can’t quite put her finger on it, but she’s restless, less satisfied with her work. “Uninspired” was what she called it.  “But…” she began to backtrack. She feels like she “should” just be happy, grateful. She’s got a fulfilling, successful career, cool apartment, great boyfriend, wonderful friends. Shouldn’t that be enough?

And yet, here she is, finding herself wanting more, and the shadowy underbelly of that desire is guilt and judgement, as if wanting more is some declaration to the bountiful Universe that we are greedy, arrogant and impossible to satisfy.

My friend dreams of traveling, of experiencing more of the world, having wild adventures in foreign places, doing what she loves while traipsing the planet, and when she allows herself to want more, her eyes dance, her face lights up, her smile spreads across her face, and it’s beautiful to behold. A desirous woman is frightening to some, titillating to me.

Of course, there is also that part of us that knows that if we want more, bigger, better, we will have to BE more, bigger, better, and, oh that’s a whole other blog, this idea of staying small so that we don’t have to live up to the grandness of our desires and dreams… You know what I’m talking about, right?

But the message I want to share with you today is that you CAN be both grateful and content AND wanting of more.  You are a co-creating your life, with a boundless Universe that is thrilled by your desires and dreams.  Your longings do not diminish your gratitude for what you have. Desire does not cancel out gratitude.

So go on, want it all. You will not fall down the chute. You are not a bad egg. Your dreams and desires have power and magic in them, and you can trust them. But ohh…  you might have to act on them, too. That’s the way it goes…

Feel grateful, yes. Appreciate what you have, yes. But don’t stop there.

Dream on, feel your longings, bask in your desire, let yourself want.

A Double-Spaced Life

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I’d been doing it unconsciously for the last few weeks. And the other day I noticed.
I looked at my hand-written to-do list for the day, and between every task listed was a blank line. I’d skipped a space between every list item.
Interesting, I thought. And then as the deeper epiphany landed, I realized…
Whoa. This is my life now.
I’m living a double-spaced life.
Let me back up a little. I’ve been a purpose-driven, passion-fueled entrepreneur for more than fifteen years now. I’ve worn many hats, juggled many balls, spun many plates, had many irons in the fire, many pots on the stove, insert your preferred-busy-AF metaphor here. I was no stranger to overwhelm.
In fact, if you’ve been following my work over the years, you know I’ve written a blog or ten about busyness, overwhelm, stress and that constant gnawing feeling I know many of us are familiar with: I’m not doing enough. I should be getting more done. How am I going to get it all done? And if you looked at my to-do lists from the years gone by, not surprisingly, they were single-spaced, one task stacked tightly on top of the other.
I’ve also always found it interesting that I journal on my blank page notebooks from one end of the page to the other, with no margins to speak of. When I create a vision board, there is never any posterboard left peeking behind the images I paste onto it. Filling time, filling space, filling my life to overflowing was how I did life. It’s what I knew.
Until I began to know a different way.
This summer I let go of a huge part of my life and my work, when I decided to close the Burlesque Experience. I also scaled back considerably on the other events, workshops and programs I was offering.
In doing so, I created a spaciousness in my life that at times has been uncomfortable. Who am I now, without this work?
I’ve resisted the urge to create filler, to throw new things together hastily, so that I “still matter” so that I don’t disappear or go broke. Because for so much of my life, I assumed that my greatest contributions to the world required me to be spread too thin. As if this was the only way to be successful. I watered down my potency, my very essence, and it took a major crash and clearing for me to realize this.
Living in a chronic state of overwhelm is not possible without the help of our adrenal system to kick in like a furnace, to support us, give us the energy we need, but guess what? That’s not what adrenaline is for.
Our bodies are marvelously wired with adrenaline for emergency situations. We were never designed to use adrenaline for getting through daily life, for managing our daily to-do list, for the everyday fuel. Yet so many of us are relying on our adrenal systems for just such support.
Until we can’t anymore. Until our adrenal system is fried. Until our bodies say no more.  I was. And mine did.
I spent much of the summer healing my adrenal system through diet, a restorative adaptogen regimen, rest, self-care. And I vowed to do things differently, going forward.
One of the greatest gifts middle age is giving me is the wisdom to slow the heck down. To breathe. To create space, in my home and my work and my life. To leave blank days on the calendar and blank lines on the to-do list. To commit to less. To rest. To seek quality over quantity. To declutter and let go and scale down.
Realistically (though I hate to even type this), I’m in the second half of my life now. I have given myself permission to slow down.
I have given up the hustle to do, do, do, so much of the time, in order to focus instead on being magnetic and being potent—to just be, be, be more of who I am. I still need my business to generate revenue. I still have bills to pay and dreams to fund and a future to plan for. But I refuse to utilize panic and fear as my personal motivator any longer. I refuse to sacrifice my well-being and water myself down, I am done with being stressed out as a normal way of life.
Desperation, overwhelm, over-commitment and stress are no longer invited into my work day. I am far more interested now in being the flower rather than the bee. My bee days are behind me. Letting go in this way can feel scary. Especially for a recovering control freak. Yet what a beautiful way to practice deliberate actions, clear intentions and deep trust. I’ve even noticed the chronic pain I’ve dealt with for years is subsiding, I feel more embodied, of course I do. It’s a friendlier place in there.
New ideas are gestating within me, I am inspired to create more, to express more, to inspire more. There are still big things I have yet to create. In fact, I think my greatest impact and contributions to the world exist in my future, not my past.
But a lot has changed, and I am clearer than I have ever been. I refuse to utilize my adrenal system for day to day living. That means shorter task lists, less events, less overlapping projects, more focus, more self-care and ritual and spiritual care. More white space.
With more space available, I’m finding myself to be a more potent coach, a more present partner, a more available mother. I’m a better friend. My close relationships feel richer.
I am more emotionally (and physically) accessible, more joyful and more me. And it’s easy to understand why…
I am showing up for life, undiluted.
I have gone from a single-spaced life to a double-spaced life, and wow, does it feel great.

 

When you cannot change (no matter how hard you try.)

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“A leopard never changes its spots.”

Gosh, I hate that saying. I hate it because it’s nonsense. I’ve changed my spots many times. They’re changing right now, as a matter of fact. And I know many, many people who have drastically and dramatically changed themselves at the very core. Change happens.

But what about when it doesn’t? As a Life Coach who specializes in supporting people as they make lasting change in their lives, I’ve also seen plenty of stuckness. I’ve also been stuck.

What does it mean when you want to change, but no matter how or what you try, the change just doesn’t last? The new habits never gel. The old mindset won’t let go.

First things first, if you’re finding this to be the case in your life, there is nothing wrong with you.

I’ve become bona fide allergic to any form of thinking or self-reference that implies you are broken, damaged or “ruined”.  In fact, the most damaging thing about thinking you are damaged is the thinking-you-are-damaged part.  Our thoughts and beliefs are more powerful than we’ll ever know.

Tattoo this backwards on your forehead so every time you look in the mirror, you will read it: There is nothing wrong with me.

In a self-help society that profits from our damaged self-concept, it’s hard sometimes to buy this. But you can. Owning that there is nothing wrong with you is an act of civil disobedience. Rebel!

“Be full of yourself. You are good. You are very good.” – Patricia Lynn Reilly

Yet, while we strive to improve ourselves and step into our greatness by manifesting powerful changes in our lives, our habits, our ways of doing life, sometimes we just can’t even.

We may make some progress. One step forward, two steps back.

We may sabotage our own efforts.

We may not even be able to take the first step, but oh, we can talk about it so much we get sick of the sound of our own voices, saying the same thing over and over about what we need to do, month after month, year after year, about what we will do, someday… while we stay stuck.

Why? Why is being “well-meaning” so irrelevant to making lasting change?

Why is the road to hell paved with good intentions?

I have a few theories of my own, and they all involve letting yourself off the hook, for now. You ready?

* There is still juice in the old way. You haven’t made sustaining change in that area because you still have learning to do, you’re still growing, the lesson hasn’t rooted, or there is still some pay-off that you are getting that outweighs the risk, pain, danger or loss that making the change brings with it.

Ask yourself what you are still getting from not making the change.

Ask yourself what you are willing to learn in order to move on. Evaluate, compassionately, and know that there may be very important reasons under the surface, in spite of your seemingly compelling desire.

* You are fighting natural life cycles and authentic timing. When I was a little kid, I found a cocoon and thought I would help the butterfly out by slicing open the cocoon to set it free. You can guess how this story ends. A dead, black undeveloped cluster of goo. I killed it because it just wasn’t time.

Can you allow yourself the possibility that it’s just not time? Trust me, when natural timing of change is aligned and calibrated, the change happens, momentum is possible, efforts finally stick. Nature is wiser than we are.

* The change you are striving for on the outside is not in alignment with who you truly are. Perhaps you are trying to change because your partner wants you to, or you want to fit in, or stand out, or you are trying to change to keep up with what you think you’re supposed to be. True change must be rooted in truth.

Who are you, really? Who are you emerging into? Is the change you’re trying to create really all that important to you? Whose dream is this? Get clear and get honest.

* There’s a deeper, truer belief that needs to be addressed. Repeatedly running into the same old slips and relapses and repeats and redundancies means there is a deeper truth in conflict with your desire and there is still healing to do before real, true change can finally take root. Debbie Ford called these truths “Underlying Commitments.”

When the change you desire is consistently sabotaged by conflicting choices or behaviors, there quite often is a deeper desire, a deeper commitment or belief that won’t let go until we heal it. For many, that belief is “I don’t deserve true success.” Or “I will always be a screw-up.” Or “I am committed to playing small.” So guess what our actions will support?

Our actions are always a reflection of our true commitments and beliefs, even before we discover what those deeply-rooted commitments and beliefs are.

Instead of relentlessly beating yourself up because the change you are trying to make just won’t stick, what if you turned within, with compassion and kindness and explored what might be keeping you stuck?

What if you dared to trust that true change happens when the timing is right, when the healing is complete, when the leopard is truly ready to change its spots?

Until then, go easy on yourself. Be gentle. Be kind. Be present.

And dare to trust in Life’s wisdom, and the natural nature of your life’s own unique and perfect evolution.

“Nothing happens, and nothing happens, and then everything happens.”– Fay Weldon

 

Stuck? A Super Simple Shift that Can Change Everything

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“Why do I keep attracting unavailable men?”
“Why can’t I maintain healthy boundaries with my mother?”
“Why do I still hurt so much, when we broke up so long ago?”
“Why am I so afraid to ask for what I want?”
“Why do I always feel taken advantage of in my friendships?”
These are some of the questions some of my clients have asked themselves, and me, in our sessions lately.
When it comes to self-inquiry, they’re certainly provocative questions and questions like these do have their place, for understanding patterns, or identifying blind spots.
However, they can also hurt us. Questions like these (especially when we think them repetitively) beat us down with the underlying belief that there is something wrong with us. There is quite often blame in a question that starts with “why.” 
There is a presumption of defect, convinced that things should be different.
Oftentimes, wishing it was we who were different. Here’s what we’re probably really thinking…
“Why do I keep attracting unavailable men?” Because there’s something wrong with me.
“Why can’t I maintain healthy boundaries with my mother?” Because there’s something wrong with me.
“Why do I still hurt so much, when we broke up so long ago?” Because there’s something wrong with me.
“Why” questions want to point fingers and place blame, and frankly, aren’t very productive, and can only take us so far. I’ve got an alternative.
The next time you find yourself pondering your life with “why” questions, stop and convert your inquiry into a “how” question.
Where “why” places blame, “how” opens doors.
Where “why” contains resistance (things/I/he/she/they shouldn’t be this way.), “how” creates possibility.
Where “why” focuses on the problem, “how” focuses on discovery and solutions.
Here are some examples…
Instead of asking “Why do I keep attracting unavailable men?” try asking “How can I become the type of woman that attracts emotionally available men? How can I release my attachment to this old pattern?”
Instead of “Why can’t I maintain healthy boundaries with my mother?” ask “How can I create a healthy boundary with my mother this week when I see her for dinner?”
Instead of asking “Why do I still hurt so much, when we broke up so long ago?” ask “How can I be more gentle and accepting of what I’m feeling, and allow myself all the space I need to grieve?
Can you feel the difference between “how” and “why” questions? Words have energy, and energetically, the difference is palpable, even without definitive answers to the questions, in even just the asking.
The secret is catching yourself in the act and consciously converting your inquiry.
Practice with a supportive friend the next time you are griping about why things are the way they are. Take turns brainstorming “how” questions until you run out, even without answering them.
Feel the spaciousness and possibilities in this new line of questioning. Feels like throwing open the windows of a dusty, cramped room, and letting the fresh air and sunlight rush in.
I love this practice in my own life, and I’ve seen it work wonders in the lives of my clients.
Our minds are busy little bees, so why not direct the flow of the buzzing, in the direction of potential, healing, compassion, acceptance and freedom?
Try it, and let me know how it goes! In fact, why not post a “why” question you’ve been stuck on and see if you can’t convert it, right here, right now. What have you got to lose, except maybe blame, finger pointing and stuckness.
Happy pondering!

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Self-Care and its Slippery Shadow

Art by noell oszvald
Art by noell oszvald

When does the self-nurturing act of nesting and withdrawing from the world turn into debilitating isolation?

How does self-care turn into self-sabotage?

When do our once-effective practices for self-care become self-destructive?

When does the sacred pause become a stuckness, viscous and muddy, and seemingly impossible to break out of?

If only there were a clear line we could see, “Ah there it is! This retreating to my bed as soon as humanly possible is starting to feel unhealthy, I better fix this now, before it gets really hard to.” If only there was a definitive marker, a brightly colored delineation, between there and here, where we can see, and know, those practices, those choices and decisions we made in our best interest are no longer serving us.

Sometimes there is. More often, instead, I think, it’s far more subtle, inch by inch, we sink into the mud that once was fertile soil, until one day we look at the circumstances we have created and realize they’re just not working anymore. And we feel stuck in the mud we have created. We’re in the dark and we can’t find the light switch.

We are so wise, so self-protective sometimes, knowing when we need to stop. Knowing when we need to withdraw, to fold inward from the noise of the world, cancel plans, hole up, Netflix and chill for a few weekends in a row.

I’m learning to spot pending burn-out a mile away, and I get into gear to steer away from it with more ease and grace lately. (Yay, me!) I’m developing a knowing for what I need, I’m attentive to myself. My needs. To the clues and the signs.

I change course. I politely cancel plans. I hole up. I withdraw. I nurture and nest. I put on my invisibility cloak.

Yet, where I still find challenge is the knowing when I don’t need it anymore, before my inner retreat and period of rest and respite goes dark, very dark. I fumble around for the light switch. I want to take off the invisibility cloak but its laces around my neck are knotted.

A few years ago, for example, during a chronic pain meltdown, I was exhausted and frustrated and at the end of my rope. “Rest,” my body kept telling me. “Stop.” And I tuned in. I canceled my life and stayed in bed for a month.

Little did I realize, this sedentary prone position physically worked against me, causing more physical pain, causing the intense cycle of misery to last longer than it needed to. Yes, I was right in that I needed to slow down. I needed rest. But I also needed physical therapy and stretching and less bed.

More recently, I’ve done some withdrawing when I decided I would do my best to try and live a sober life nearly two years ago. My dance card hasn’t been quite as full. Parties, frankly, just weren’t as much fun. I made up the story that certain people preferred me lit up like a Christmas tree, a story that might actually be true, and that’s okay. I found out that I wasn’t as social as I thought I was, in fact, enter social anxiety, something I’d never known before. I hated feeling like I had to “fake” having a better time than I was so that people thought I was still cool… silly, I know. Then the second year, it’s gotten way easier to be in the world as a sober person. It’s not a struggle, it’s just the way it is. I’m not just “okay” with it. I love it.

I’ve been realizing it’s okay to leave the party early. It’s okay to even skip it. And I can have hella fun sober now. About a month ago, on a bar rooftop doing karaoke with a bunch of awesome ladies, I remember thinking “Remember this moment. It’s one of the very best moments of your life.” I was lit up like a Christmas tree, but it was pure joy, endorphins, connection, love.

I still have some social anxiety that usually dissipates, and if it doesn’t, I know how to take care of myself. I leave. And in the right environments, with the right people, I’m even engaging and fun.

Having come pretty close to burning out this summer, I withdrew more. Became a homebody. Spent a lot of weekends on the couch, nestled under blankets with my love, getting my head rubbed, and it felt good. I decided it was what I needed. But when it was no longer what I needed, my downtime, my withdrawal from activities and plans and people didn’t just shift into “okay! I’m back!”

First, it needed to go sour. It turned into isolation, loneliness, restlessness, boredom, depression. I was becoming an unpleasant person to live with. Hostile and judgmental. (Poor Matt.) And lots of feeling sorry for myself and the state of my affairs I’d created. I felt like the ugly troll living under the bridge, threatening billy goats from the shadows.

Somewhere I know, there is a middle ground, a happier balance between doing and being, between weekends on the couch and engagement with the world that feeds me well, and sustains me properly, as an ambivert. For me, it can’t be all or nothing. That’s toxic and draining for me, in either direction.

“Figuring ourselves out” is the most challenging assignment, because the questions keep on changing. And so do the answers.

So what do we do? How do we know? How do we choose? It requires a self-intimacy. A self-closeness. We must stay close to the questions, always, in real-time. Because while I don’t claim to have “figured myself out”, (an arrogant claim, as “myself” is fluid, not static.) I do know that I am a rock solid ambivert. I need people. And I need alone time. I need real connection, with myself, AND with others.

And while couch is a lovely thing, too much couch dulls my spirit and diminishes my inner flame.

Today, this week, in fact, I feel the clouds lifting. Hallelujah, I found the light switch, I’ve taken off my invisibility cloak, I am re-engaging and reconnecting and it feels like I’ve been far away, on a long journey. It feels like coming home.

It is a homecoming, and while I don’t need to figure myself out, I promise to stay closer to the questions, to check in more frequently, to see what’s current, what’s needed, what’s new, what’s now.

Because I deserve that kind of attention.