change

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.

When It’s Time, You Know.

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Change is hard.
Especially big change.
Especially when that change will require us to restructure and redesign our entire lives, will demand that we disappoint, inconvenience or confound others.
I’m in the midst of such a redesign myself, as we speak. As you might or might not know, I made the decision earlier this year to wrap up my seven-year project, the Burlesque Experience, and to transition away from facilitating group events and programs altogether. This coming summer semester will be the very last B.E. session, after twenty-two incredible seasons.
This has been no easy decision.
I love the Burlesque Experience. I love teaching, and hosting and facilitating, and holding space. These aspects of my work have given me immeasurable joy, satisfaction, connection, creative expression, pride, glory, humility, and have taught me so much.
I’ve fallen in love, again and again, with hundreds of brave and gorgeous women I’ve shared my work with over the years.
“I am who I am because of the women I’ve surrounded myself with.” – Salma Hayek
For the last eighteen years or so, I’ve been creating and hosting programs and events for women in Dallas.  For the last couple years, I have been doing some major “inner” renovations. I’m not talking new curtains or throw rugs in there- I’m talking about knocking out walls, foundation repair, restructuring the whole place, room by room. As I’ve been changing, so have my drives, so have my desires. (Well, of course they would.)
One desire that has grown stronger than ever, accompanied by a quickening, an urgency of sorts, is the need to buckle down and write. And what I have recently come to understand is that I cannot create what I want to create when my creative energies are dispersed all over the gosh-darned place.
I described to a friend recently, my life was feeling like watery Kool-Aid. When you water down the Kool-Aid, to stretch it out, everyone gets watery Kool-Aid. I want to be potent. I want to be concentrate. I don’t want to live my life diluted.
The truth didn’t hit me in the head like a lightening bolt. It seeped in, little by little, subtly tossing tiny clues here and there, until the tiny clues became wisdom, became truth.
Until I was ready to acknowledge my truth.
One day, my feelings turned to knowing. My curiosity turned to clarity. I just knew, I was ready to close this chapter.
I had to look hard at all of the elements of my business, my brands, to really get clear about what it is I wanted to keep doing and what it was I wanted to stop doing. I realized I still am very passionate and devoted to my private coaching clients. That is very much alive for me. I feel like I could coach privately for the rest of my life, I love it so much.
And I also knew that in order to tap into the creative energy I needed to do my other work, and explore other aspects of myself, my purpose and my soul’s desire, I had to let go of some things.
I am ready to turn my attention to other desires and dreams. I am ready to shift and evolve into the next version of me.
It’s hard to point at any one reason or circumstance and say “that’s why”, though I’d love to be able to.
See, I love a compelling story. And I usually need one to motivate me to make any important change in my life. Yet one of the things I’m learning is that, in actuality, I don’t require a story to make a decision. I don’t need to explain or justify to others, or to myself, why I’m done with something when I’m done with something.
Something doesn’t have to go bad or fall apart or hit bottom or become painful before I am done. I’ve been there, too, many times.
But not this time. This has been so hard, because I hate disappointing people. But I’m also learning that sometimes choosing for me means you might be let down. Can I be okay with that? I’ll never be a person who “has no fucks to give.” That’s not my style. I have a lot of fucks and I give them freely. I care about what others think. I don’t like hurting people. And I also must choose what’s best for me.
Many years ago, a friend shared with me that the word “decide” actually means “to kill.” This has always stuck with me. Especially when I need to make a decision. Think about it. Genicide. Matricide. Suicide. Homicide…
When we decide what it is we want, what direction we want to go in, who we want to be, something else has to die. No wonder we avoid deciding.
As I move into these new directions, wrapping up one cycle, immersing myself in new endeavors and cultivating new desires, it’s bittersweet, indeed. But I know it’s right. I trust myself.
So what is it that you, my friend, are avoiding? What big change needs to be made? What are you pretending to not know?
It’s scary, sometimes, clarity. Because it requires us to do hard things. I think that’s why we’ve gotten so good at pretending not to have it. I have it now. And I will not pretend.
I’m leaping into the unknown in many ways, letting go of what I know, to explore what I don’t know. I’m willing to let go of feeling like an expert to embrace being a beginner. I’m once again in uncharted territory. It’s bittersweet, terrifying, exhilarating, promising.
What about you?

Resistance: Your Bratty Kid Sister

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Here is the plain, strange truth: I’m resistant to pretty much everything.

This includes, but is not limited to: things that are good for me, things that I want to do, things that I waited for, things that I chose, things that I planned, things that light me up and fill my soul, things that I love.

As I’ve spent years talking to women about their resistance, I am somewhat comforted by the fact that I’m not alone, and this is common, really common.

The resistance usually feels like this: UGGGGGGGHHHHHHH. I don’t wannaaaaaaaa. UGH. Do I have to? UGGGGHHH… Dammit.

Familiar? Most of the time, I can move through my resistance, but other times, it has stopped me.

There is a part of our brains whose job is to keep us alive.  Often called our lizard brain, our amygdala  is programmed to keep us alive by keeping us safe, by keeping us the same. Why keep us the same? Because same = safe. If we are not changing, moving, growing, exploring, or risking, nothing bad will happen, right? That’s what Amygdala, we’ll call her Amy for short, believes.

And at the sight or smell of perceived danger, Amy gets to work, often using resistance as a strategy. It’s a quite effective one, after all.

I’ve had two huge breakthroughs recently with resistance and I owe it all to a shift I made in the way I think about my resistance.

Instead of thinking of my resistance as something in front of me, blocking me, something that I need to push through, I moved it over, turned it into something small and predictable next to me, my bratty kid sister, Resistance.

This idea came to me out of nowhere, as many of my best ideas do, while talking with a client, an artist who’d developed quite a resistance to painting, although she is most alive when she paints.

This client is a brilliant artist, yet she hasn’t been making art. For weeks, we have analyzed and dissected her resistance, so that she could understand it and move through it, and made little progress. And then one day recently, the words just popped up and out:

Bring your resistance along, like a bratty kid sister.

We often think we need to move through our resistance and this daunting task actually keeps us stuck.

What if instead of moving through it, we took Resistance’s hand and moved her to our side, to walk with us?

What if we brought her along, knowing she was part of us, part of the experience, not the enemy, not something to annihilate, but more of a traveling partner? A sidekick? Very vocal, but no longer in power. One that might whine and complain the entire time, sure.

So what.

Once my client moved her resistance from in front of her to the side of her, guess what? Guess who spent the weekend painting? My brilliant artist client, that’s who.

I’ve been practicing this myself, thinking of my resistance as my bratty kid sister, and wow… what a difference.

I never had a bratty kid sister, but as a girl, I remember having friends with bratty kid sisters, and we were often “stuck” hanging out with them. And we did not let them stop us. We still managed to have fun.

What if you just acknowledged the fact that your bratty kid sister, Resistance, is coming along for the ride?

What if you just took her with you, because you have a life to live, you have risks to take and experiences to experience?

You came here for the ride. For the risk. For the adventure. For the experiences.

Within the last two weeks, I have moved my resistance to the side. My bratty kid sister is no longer in the way, she’s along for the ride.

I have taken up learning the piano, after years of telling myself “it was too late” to learn an instrument.

I have returned to writing fiction and started writing a novel, after years of telling myself writing fiction was not a noble or important enough way to spend my time.

And my muse has been responding. I am inspired and ignited and feeling more creative and joyful than I have in a very long time.

Trust your bratty kid sister, resistance to show up, to be there with you. Don’t let her block you anymore.

Take her hand, move her aside and bring her along for the ride.

Might as well, right? It’s way more fun than staying stuck.

Make it stop: The painful truth about negative self-talk

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Last week, we sat in circle in my living room, my BodyLove Affair coaching group, our reason for gathering, the shared desire to experience more loving relationships with our bodies.

Having each spent our lives judging, loathing, struggling, battling, at odds with these bodies, we come together weekly to heal, to work, to change the story.

We sat in circle, these three brave clients and me, and I asked them to create a list of the cruel things they say to themselves, about themselves, about their bodies.

They wrote for a few minutes, scribbling furiously.

I went on to share what would happen next. It went along these lines…

You want to change this relationship? It doesn’t change until we do things differently.

We must become police, master protectors, diligent security guards, docents in our museum, stopping ourselves in our tracks when we are endangering ourselves.

Then, I threw them for a loop. “We’re going to play BodyLove Affair Theatre.”

We’d been talking for the last couple weeks about tools and tricks for stopping these thoughts in their tracks, and now we were going to practice.

I invited them to pass their lists to the woman next to them, who would play the part of her partner’s negative self-talk-voice. While armed with another list, the partner would rebut, interrupt and argue, snapping back with kinder, more loving alternate thoughts. Various snappy truths and come-backs.

Knowing that these negative thoughts we’d written were highly personal, I made this surrendering of our lists completely optional. If they so desired, they could pass their list to the woman next to them for some role-play.

This is where it got interesting… this is where the cringing began.

Of course, as one might expect, it felt uncomfortable to have another read and know the way we talk to ourselves. That shit is private. And ugly.

But even more interesting to me was the reaction of the role players, when handed the lists to read.

When R. bravely handed her list to S., S. took a moment to read quietly, and the look on her face was pure discomfort. She scanned down the list for one that she could say out loud to R., so that R., could practice her new thoughts. Tension seemed to be growing in the air. She became visibly uncomfortable.

“I can’t.” she finally shook her head.

The room hushed in a holy reverence, a shared knowing.

“I can’t say these things to her. They’re too mean.”

“Can you pick just a couple?” I urged. And she did, face cringing, body tightening, shoulders rising in discomfort.

It was awful to speak these things to anyone, out loud. We could feel this. We heard it with our own ears, and saw with our own eyes.

After S. bravely read some awful things out loud, R. bravely responded with new thoughts, arguments, rebuttals.

We applauded both women’s courage, and switched partners.

Again, and again, each of us, myself included, found it painfully difficult to say the things out loud that our Theatre partner had written. It was torturous. Miserable. Why?

Because we don’t talk to people this way.

Because words are powerful. And certain words hurt.

Because we are kind and loving people.

Yet…

Yet, this is the way we talk to ourselves, with language so unkind, it can barely be uttered by another. “I can’t do it.” S. had said. Eventually she did, but not without a pained expression and hating every moment of it.

I’ve heard it said a million times, and so have you, in so many different ways.

We would never talk to others the way we talk to ourselves.

Yet, that night, I saw it. I witnessed it in action, and it wasn’t just painful.

It was nearly impossible.

And so I urge you, my friend, start by watching, witnessing the way you speak to yourself.

Catch yourself. Notice. It must start with noticing.

This is not how you would speak to anyone else, ever.

It would hurt you to utter those words to another. It would hurt them. And yet, to the one who is closest in the world to you, your Self, this vicious criticism comes so naturally.

Make it stop.

For the love of the goddess you are, the holiness, the divinity that is you, for the love of the sweet friend within, make it stop.

Interrupt. Resist. Counter. Argue. Talk back. Mouth off. Change the subject. You are worth this diligence.

You don’t deserve to be spoken to that way. No one does.

The Truth About Changing

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

There’s a recent shifting, a new understanding in me that has basically turned my world on its head.

It’s challenged everything I thought about life, about change, about habits and healing. It has turned my business beliefs upside down, it’s shaken up my entire coaching practice and belief system, and yeah, it’s big.

And it’s so awesome. So liberating.

I feel an opening within me that has become bigger than me, I free-fall into it. I’m still not 100% sure how to integrate this new understanding into my business, and exactly how it will impact my life coaching practice, and my life in general. It is monumental.

I do know my work is becoming much richer with this new understanding,  much more loving, and compassionate, and effective.

Wanna know what it is? It’s this:

Everything is perfect. There is nothing to fix.

Your path is your path. Your unfolding is yours. There is no reason to force yourself into changing. In fact, it won’t work, if you are forcing it.

Having built my business on helping people change, as you can imagine, this is a game-changer.

Lately, I wonder if much of the self-improvement culture we live in today isn’t a bunch of bullshit. By our relentless pursuit of being “better”, we can never be enough.

If I witnessed a flower bud, and said “Flower bud, you are perfect, just the way you are. Don’t change!” would I stop it from blooming, at its own natural time? NO. It was designed to bloom.

If I witnessed a flower bud, and said “Flower bud, open. Open now. You were meant to bloom. Work harder. Push. COME ON! Why are you still a bud?” would it open any faster? NO.

Yes, it was designed to bloom. But at its own perfect pace.

Just like us.

Is an unopened bud any less perfect than an flower in bloom?

There is no forcing evolution. Evolution will not be forced. Emergence cannot be rushed. Blooming happens when its meant to. Not a minute before. Not a minute after.

The problem with much of our self-improvement thinking is that we are spinning our wheels, spending so much time, energy and money trying to shape ourselves into better versions, new and improved, always, relentlessly trying to change. Wondering why we can’t change. Wondering why we can’t shake this habit or that dependency. Frustrated as hell that we can’t reach that same goal we’ve had for 20 years, or that we haven’t succeeded manifesting our deepest desires and are still not the people we want to be.

We are missing the point.

And we are missing the perfection available to us in the present moment.

Am I saying don’t try? Of course not. Your desire, your intention, your trying is how you will get there, when the time is right, after all, but we also need to take into account the natural, organic ways we shift, when it’s time to shift.

We change when it’s time to change.

A caterpillar when it cocoons does not weave its humble abode around itself to cozily sprout wings and emerge all butterfly-beautiful, oooh! No. It’s a much uglier process than that.

The caterpillar first must deconstruct, actually deconstituting itself into black liquid. Caterpillar soup. From those cells, something new begins to take shape. But not without becoming complete mush before then. And here’s something new that I just learned… in that black soup process, the old cells fight the new cells.

While the new cells struggle and work to become butterfly, what is old, familiar, outdated is still struggling for survival. Can you relate?

When making the changes you want in your life, there will likely be struggle. It won’t be easy. Sometimes you will be fighting for your life. I’m not saying don’t fight, don’t work, don’t try.

I’m saying trust the process. Trust your own evolution.

I also know that you can’t crack open a cocoon anytime you want to set the butterfly free. I’ve learned the hard way, when I was 10. It was devastating and I felt like crap, I had destroyed the butterfly before it was even ready to be born, by trying to rush its perfect process.

So this is the great paradox… when you want to change, work at it. But know that if it’s not time for change, it won’t work.

Everything is perfect. Nothing needs fixing.

When it’s your time to let go, you will let go.

When it’s time to release old habits, you will be able to release them.

When it’s your time to make painful decisions, you’ll bravely make those decisions (not without being scared, don’t get me wrong. Bravery and fear are by no means exclusive of one another.)

When it’s time to leap, you will leap.

When it’s time to know, you will know.

When it’s time to crack out of your shell, you will fight for your life to break free.

And when it’s time to bloom, you will bloom.

Applying this level of acceptance and trust to my life and to the lives of those I care for and work with has been challenging at times.

We want what we want, and we want it now.

But luckily, becoming this new version of who I am brings with it the capacity to accept and trust life, on life’s terms, and I know, when it’s time… it’s time.

“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
– Anais Nin

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Inclement Weather Announcement

Inclement-weather-announcement-ROTATOR

I’m not sure if you clicked and opened this link because you usually do, or if the subject line piqued your curiosity, but either way, I’m glad you did. There’s something important I want to share.

When I worked at MoveStudio as Marketing Manager, I was responsible for the community email that went out to several thousand people each week. On average, our open statistics were par with industry averages, about 15 to 20%.

Unless there was inclement weather.

In  Dallas, when it snows or ices, the city basically shuts down. Schools, government agencies, businesses, everyone wants to know, what’s open, what’s closed. We burrow and watch the world fold into itself. I love this about Dallas. Coming from Chicago, driving to work through piles of snow and ice, it’s a relief that we just don’t do that here.

So here’s what’s fascinating. At MoveStudio, if we sent out an inclement weather studio closing email, our open statistics went through the roof. Even though, I guarantee, most of those opens were not people who had planned on coming that night.

Thousands of people wanted to read about our decision to close the studio for dangerous conditions outside. We typically had maybe 75 to 100 people walk through our door each night for yoga and dance classes. Not thousands.

Then our regular studio communications would resume, most people would go back to scrolling past our emails, just like the research shows, what most people do with most weekly emails.

Why was that? What could explain this strange phenomenon?

Although I haven’t worked for the studio in a few years, this curiosity always stuck with me.

And I realize, people love inclement weather closings. Whether they are affected by them personally or not.

This week, over lunch with my wise and perceptive dear friend, Jessica, a friend who is also in the helping profession, we talked about vulnerability, revealing our truth, admitting to our struggles and the impact these brave practices have on our businesses.

I wondered aloud, does vulnerability hurt my business?

I am certain there will be more opens on this post than my average.

I have also noticed I get the most click-throughs when I am revealing a struggle, a pain or a personal issue.

Why? Part of me wants to center the explanation around about people’s love for drama, that they actually enjoy watching someone struggle. That there’s a spectator in all of us that loves to grab the popcorn and watch the show.

The other part of me wonders if it’s something deeper.

The question of how vulnerability impacts my business has become increasingly relevant lately because I am learning more and more, to be vulnerable.

I am learning to reveal what is true, what is current, what is alive in me, and that isn’t always pretty, or comfortable, and it doesn’t always fit with the image people have of me, or the persona I have created.

I’ve been meditating on this lately, because it matters to me more than ever.

Do people love my inclement weather more than they love me?

Is it okay for my business if I reveal my own struggles, my own journey, my own humanity?

Will you still hire me to support you, if you know that I’m still working through my own shit?

Here’s what I think will happen, the more I reveal to you, the more I share my vulnerabilities and struggles with you…

Some, just a few hopefully, really do just want to watch me fall, with sadistic pleasure. These are the ones that revel in other people’s failures and struggles so that they can feel superior. In today’s lexicon, we call them “The Haters.”

Some will be disappointed, and withdraw or disengage, because I am not living up to whatever they were projecting onto me, and my human flaws and frailties and struggles become unappealing, in their search for a hero, an icon, a one-dimensional caricature of what they wish I was, projections of what they wish they were.

But, I want to believe, that some, hopefully you reading this, will draw closer to me, and my work, when they understand that I am always in process, just like them. And any projection of perfection or “having it all together” placed on me was one that they created, and that I perpetuated, (and the other way around) in order to feel safe.

They are the ones that might even breathe a sigh of relief, and they will feel a little less alone in their struggles.

I am a little nervous to find out which you are. No matter what, I’ll be okay.

If you find yourself in the last group, thank you. I’m glad you’re here.

Now let’s take care of one another.

Because I am in it, with you.

We are in this together.

I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of work this year, in supportive community and on my own. I told a group I’m in that I feel like I am dissolving. But really, upon more thought, I said: It’s my shellac. It’s crumbling off. This shiny protective covering I’ve worked so hard to maintain, it’s losing its hold. It’s becoming obsolete. I am no longer interested in presenting just that version of me to the world. There’s so much more under here.

But that’s scary. Terrifying even. And exhilarating, too. It’s a striptease of the soul. What if you don’t like what you see?

It’s not that what you’ve seen up til now, if you’ve been following my work, isn’t real. It’s simply that there’s so much more.

Just like you.

What do you show? What do you reveal? How do you decide?

This is how we do it: One truth at a time. One reveal. One vulnerable moment. One brave share at a time.

Let’s do this together. I’m committed.

So yeah, it’s getting’ real up in here. You have been warned.

Inclement weather perhaps? Maybe some. I’ll bring the flashlight. You bring the candles. Let’s take cover together, and ride out the storms.

Through it all, we’ll feel more alive, more connected, more real.

Are you with me?

The Opposite of Funny: Enough with the Body-Shaming “Jokes”

7c9187e61f2c00fd5c3778b79949e139I’m fed up this morning and I’ll tell you why.

I have cringed over many a meme that shames a woman for her fat that is exposed. A woman who is oversized by our culture’s standards has no business showing off her body, as we know. If she does, she shall be subject to our modern day hounds of hell in the form of cruel viral memes, vicious comments and ugly body-shaming messages. Perhaps even thousands of them. Hundreds of thousands.

It’s not just women who fall victim to public ridicule. Men are often the subject of these “humorous” pictures that circulate the internet and show up on my Facebook newsfeed. Pictures of women, men, with their butt cracks, or bellies exposed, most certainly unaware that photos are being taken of them and shared on the internet.

Imagine finding that a picture of you, that you didn’t even know was being taken, had gone viral and someone had made memes making fun of you and the social media world was making fun of your body or the way you dressed or the way you looked.

Can you imagine how painful that would be?

We seem to forget one important fact.

These are PEOPLE we are making fun of. There is a person whose image that belongs to, who lives with her self, her body, her curves, her “unacceptable” shape every single day. She has a soul. She has a heart. Feelings, emotions, the ability to hurt, to cry. Just like you.

Turning someone’s body into a JOKE? That is not funny. That’s the opposite of funny.

Can’t we all just wear want we want and be who we are without the wrath of a million judges laughing and making fun of us?

It’s like a giant schoolyard bully session. Having been made fun of most of my childhood, and the ‘star attraction’ of plenty of schoolyard bullying-sessions, I know it hurts. We are grown now. Shouldn’t we be evolved, compassionate adults by now? Why are we still acting like schoolyard bullies?

Let’s stop perpetuating cruelty. What do you say?

When I was a kid, being made fun of or picked on, once in a while a loving, aware grown-up would intervene on my behalf. She would step in and stop the bullying, stand up for me, protect me, and get me out of an awful situation. She would shut it down.

Now we have grown up and become a giant schoolyard of grown-up bullies. Where’s the loving aware grown-ups to step in and intervene? Who’s going to shut it down?

Let’s do it.

Will you perpetuate meanness by sharing body-shaming memes or even “liking” them? Or will you join me to intervene on behalf of the people whose images are being riduculed.

It’s time for the loving, aware grown-ups to step in and intervene.

I’m tired of being quiet about it so as not to offend, as I continue to be offended.

I’m tired of my own complacency.

I fight the fight every day to love and accept myself, and have built my life around helping others love and accept themselves. Yet, we still struggle. And it’s no surprise. A social current that ridicules, degrades and shames in the name of humor is hard to swim against. But we can do it, if we swim together.

I dare you to stand up for the anonymous victim of the next body-shaming meme you see.

I dare you to delete people from your friends list who perpetuate this type of riducle.

I dare you to voice your offense when offended, instead of staying quiet, as to not offend.

I dare you to take a stand against this bullshit.

Excuse my French, but I’m fed up. Our schoolyard bully days are over. It’s time to evolve, to grow up. Enough, already.

 

*********************

Originally published July, 2014

What These Women Have Taught Me

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I promise, you can do this!

I am more in love with my work than I have ever been. One of the most beautiful parts of my work and my life is The Burlesque Experience. Running now for five and a half years and 22 seasons, around 230 women have come through this program, and  I gotta tell ya, it doesn’t get old. In fact, tomorrow, another group is finishing their program, the end of the line. Tonight, the last sleep tonight before Bust-Out.

And I have fallen in love with each of them.

Could I love this work any more than I do right now? I doubt it.

It starts with a strut.
It starts with a strut.

Like any marriage, my relationship to the Burlesque Experience has been challenging at times. At one point I even wanted to leave it (some of you may remember, Last Year’s Burn-Out…) But I realized that what I really needed was rest. I know now that I must do my best to keep my tank filled, keep my head on straight, focused, adulting, dedicated. I know that if I stay awake, stay present and in service to the group, it’s a sheer delight.

I’ve learned (the hard way) that impeccable self-care is the key to being good at what I do. It’s not just a novelty or ‘good-to-do’ kind of thing. It is paramount. And when I show up fully, I get the most out of it. I get to spend an exciting six weeks with a group of brave women who transform, bond, blossom and bloom in seriously palpable, sustaining and powerful ways.

I have the best job in the world. And I don’t just teach them. They teach me, too.

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Am I really doing this?

Here’s what these women have taught me lately…

  • We are so much more than we think we are. Every semester, week one, women come to that first intro circle, uncertain, curious, wanting more. They also come with their stories about who they are or who they are not, and sometimes even who they think they can never be. And then, I watch, as they shed those stories and prove to themselves they are so much more than they ever thought.
  • We need each other. Each semester, I watch a bunch of strangers sheepishly approach one another, wondering who will they like. Will they be liked? Do they fit in? By the time they reach their Bust-Out, they are soul sisters, they are intimately connected and they trust each other. They hold each other up, they wipe each other’s tears. They show up for one another in such inspiring ways. No one does this alone. In life, and in the Burlesque Experience.
  • We can be afraid and do it anyway. People who wait for the courage to arrive, before they say yes to their Burlesque Experience may be waiting forever. The courage comes while you are doing it. And afterward, you are more courageous than you were before you did it. That’s how courage works.Tomorrow, the Spring/Summer 2016 class busts out. Are they excited? Hell yeah. Are they terrified? Of course. Will they do it anyway? I have no doubt. Fear is part of the package. We don’t get to skip it. But we can move through it. When we start to realize we can do brave things AND be afraid at the same time, the world opens up for us. We become unstoppable.
  • We can do anything we set our minds to, even if a part of us thinks we cannot. Around week three, this group, and the ones before it, realize what’s ahead, and it feels insurmountable. Freak outs begin. Meltdowns are common. Fear works overtime. Overwhelm kicks in. I plead with them to stay with me, it’s possible, we can do this. And most of the time, they stay. But it’s not my pleading that convinces them. It is they, themselves. They work their tails off, they practice, they create, they stay connected to each other and dedicated to the process and to themselves, and then, they reach the end, and lo and behold, they do it, and hot damn, they do it well.
  • We all want to be seen. We all are meant to shine. I’ve worked with every type of woman you can imagine. Shy women, open women, closed women, wounded women, loud women, quiet women, younger women, older women, sweet women, sour women, and we all share so many things in common. One of them being this deep desire to be seen. To stand in a spotlight, to bravely say, “Hey world, here I am! Notice me!” This requires great bravery. And they have it. And every woman is capable of shining brightly. It’s not just reserved for a certain few. We all have it in us. In class, I call it our inner showgirl. We could also call it our essence, our spirit, our bright shining soul. We are meant to shine. Marianne Williamson said it best…

“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine… It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

It’s almost showtime.

I hope you will be there with me. It’s so much more than a “show.”

Hold space with me as we watch these women shine, as they are liberated from their fears, and in doing so, liberate others.

Cheer with me as they boldly step onto that stage and into the powerful glow of their very own light.

I am in awe of these women. I couldn’t be more proud of them. I couldn’t feel more blessed.

I think they're ready.

They’re ready. Let’s do this.     

Photos by Sunset Hoots Monroe & Dee Hill.