fear

If you’re waiting until you’re “ready”…

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I want to tell you today, you will never be ready.
There will never be a perfect time.

That dream you have, you know the one I’m talking about, has been patient, that longing has persisted, yet there are still so many hurdles, so many shifts, so many decisions and actions and tasks and choices that will need to be made before you’re ready, or so you say.

And so the waiting continues. The dream may persist, or it may even get put on a shelf, growing dusty and forgotten, and you’ll find other things, so many other things, to distract yourself with.  There’s work, of course. Family, friends, commitments, car repairs, house repairs, moving, changing jobs, getting married or getting divorced, raising kids, and let’s not forget the PTA.

You’re just not ready yet.

Or perhaps you’re waiting until you get the confidence, feel brave enough, get strong enough, lose the weight, “get your shit together”, get the braces on or off, have the right computer, or the right software, “figure out the details” or find a new excuse… It’s just not time yet.

Is your dream persisting? Or has it ducked into the shadows, neglected and tired?

Your days of playing small are numbered.

You feel it, you know it. But you don’t know where to start. It’s daunting and terrifying, taking a dream, an invisible, intangible idea and pushing it into reality where it becomes a living, breathing extension of you.

So the excuses come in handy. And oh, they are abundant, aren’t they?

Like a box of tissues, you can pull out one, and there will be another one waiting right behind it.

Whatever your excuses are for not doing your dream, I’ve heard them all before. And I’ve also seen them smashed to smithereens by one thing and one thing only: Action.

Make one choice today. Just one little choice. Begin to move. Let your dream seduce you, engage you. Brainstorm. Take notes. Doodle your dream. Tell someone. Buy a domain. Schedule that meeting.

Something.

Anything.

Action.

I want to tell you today, you will never be ready.

There will never be a perfect time.

The only time is now.

You owe it to your dream. Your dream is your duty.

It is not an accident that you are the one that wants what you want.

You are the one with that particular fantasy. With that particular desire.

And guess what? You are also the one with the exact set of experiences, talents and abilities to make your dream happen.

It is not an accident it’s yours.

It chose you.

Now choose it back.

 

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Originally published September, 2015. Busy getting ready for tomorrow’s Burlesque Experience Bust-Out! See you there!

A Real Pain in the Ass

ASS-PAINI woke up this Tuesday morning, stepped out of bed, and within my first couple steps, I was staggering in breath-taking pain. WTF. Sharp, intense, shooting up my back and down my leg, and centralized in my ass, right side, this pain has made a rude and unexpected appearance back in my life.

I am immediately filled with anger, resistance.

NOT NOW. NOT welcome. NOT okay. TOO BUSY. Too much going on. I immediately began my hip and back stretches, Matt helping me, though it hurt like hell and some stretches literally were impossible.

May I repeat, WTF.

See, this sciatica and I have a long history together, but so much time had passed, three or four years, and while I am always in some level of daily pain and soreness in my back and hips, not like this.

NOPE. I’m not having it. I resisted. I complained. I argued. I felt disappointed in my body.

Here’s the worst part. I felt betrayed by my body. As you may know, body acceptance, embodiment practices, body awareness, they’ve been my thing lately, and me and my body, we have a love affair going on. So more WTFs. I’m not pleased with this, not one bit.

All day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, going through the whys, through the questions, What have I done to bring this on? Why now? What’s the lesson? What’s the message? WHY? WHY? WHY?

Thinking of my calendar, my life ahead, remembering how a few years ago, this situation was chronic, for many, many months, and it shut my whole life down, so now, I’m scared on top of everything else. The implications. I can’t stop working. Fear, anger and disappointment, more resistance, all creating a mad, spiraling tail spin.

And then one of my dearest friends, my truth-telling sister Angela chats me up on Facebook. I tell her I might need to cancel her birthday date night tomorrow. It’s too painful to sit, drive, stand, move. She sympathizes, gives me love, asks what she can do and encourages me to ask for prayers and healing energy from my support system. (I’m asking for them now, please. Whatever you’re into, whatever you believe in, I’ll take whatever you can spare!)

Then, she helps me remember how futile resistance is, and how surrender is always a better choice. As a7LdaP9Fzr-8stubborn as I am, as difficult surrender can feel at times, it’s always the best choice. Because here I am, in a vicious, unexpected pain cycle. YOU ARE HERE, the mall map of my life would point with a big red X, right here, in this pain.

Today, in my morning reading of “A Year of Conscious Living” daily meditations book by Gay Hendricks, wouldn’t you know it? The entry for today is about physical pain. About resisting and surrendering, and I’m stunned. I feel held, seen, cared for by the Divine. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Shaking my head at divine perfection and the way we get what we need, exactly when we need it, I read these words…

“I know what to do now. Stop resisting the pain. Flow with it instead of fighting or fleeing from it. Just breathe. Just flow.”

And now, I remind myself, I don’t have to know “WHY.” I can just be with what is.

I have two choices here. I can focus my energy on being with myself, taking care of myself, tending to this uninvited guest like a good host. Or I can resist.

So I treat myself tenderly, giving myself the utmost attention and care. I immediately begin doing the things I’ve learned to do, through trial and error a few years ago. I’ve earned this wisdom through pain. I trust these practices. I do the things that help.  I clear space on my calendar, to make time for rest and recovery, to make a welcoming place for this surprise guest.

I feel the surrender, as it shifts from resistance, and it feels like freedom.

It feels spacious and loving, and I can feel restoration already happening within me.

If there is a lesson for me here, it’s surrender.

If there is a message here, it’s tend to yourself.

There is no need to find fault or blame. My body hasn’t betrayed me. This pain is a set of responses, facts and data, signals. My body is not at fault. She is hurting.

My body is loving me through this. Can I offer her the same?

So with my breath, I return to flow. Even with this pain, I return to my BodyLove Affair. Is this pain an invitation to love my body better? Ohhh… Well then. So shall it be.

I will love my body better.

I will love her through this.

I am on her side.

The Pretending is Killing Us

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Artwork credit: Hozier “Arsonist’s Lullaby” record art
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.”
– M. Scott Peck

There is a certain sadness in us all…

We walk around in our day to day lives, pretending it isn’t there, doing what we need to do to move through our routines and rituals, duties and motion, but it’s there. Hovering just beneath the surface, like a thin grey fog. Or a thick black cloud. A sadness that could bring us to our knees, if we let it.

There is a certain emptiness in us all…

We all walk around, trying to fill it, trying to cover it, this void, this hollow ache. We give and take from one another some temporary relief, in our smiles, and touches, in our words and hugs and presence, and orgasms and comedy and gossip and cigarettes, but it never goes away. We find other ways to fill the hollow, some so dark we don’t even talk about them. And the hollow is a vacuum, and we are always hungry there, in that spot. We are always empty, in that spot.

There is a certain devastation in us all…

The pain of what we have lost, the pain of what we never had, the pain that was inflicted upon us, leaving internal bleeding, we are permanently bleeding, the pain of what we turn our heads away from, the pain is too big, we can’t look directly at it. Like the sun in an eclipse, it will cause our eyes to singe. So we smile, we pretend, we work so hard to be okay. I’m okay. You’re okay. Okay?

There is a certain terror in us all…

Mine shows up in dreams. Last night, in my dreams, my only daughter was shot nine times by a drive-by shooter. We were all shot. We survived, but we were injured, and traumatized. I woke up terrified, I put my terror away so I could get out of bed.

Isn’t this what we all do, every single day? We put our terror away, so we can get out of bed?

We work so hard to be okay, to seem okay, to resist the ache, the sadness, the devastation, the pain, avoiding the intense sting of the burning sun of our humanity, our aching hearts.  Too bright, too intense to experience it directly, so we cover our eyes, we cover our pain, we bury. We stifle. We hide. We numb. We lie. We smile.  We do what we do to survive.

And sometimes, we are brave enough to share it. To unbutton our shirts and show our bleeding, aching, pulsing hearts, and sometimes the one we show it to then unbuttons their shirt and shows us their ache.

Sometimes we meet in the shadows and whisper “me too.”

If you tell me you don’t sometimes struggle with pain like this, if you tell me your thoughts are all so positive all the time and that’s why you’re just so successful, I will think you to be hiding. And I won’t believe you.

At the very least, I will not trust you.

Perfect people cannot be trusted.

If you tell me I am wrong for allowing the darkness to come over me, that I am wrong for sharing with my readers that, “Yeah. Me too.” because somehow it will diminish my shiny persona or murk my message with reality (oh no!) I will tell you fuck off.

We do more damage to one another by pretending.

We cause more pain to ourselves by pretending the pain isn’t there.

We’re all walking around with a certain sadness, devastated, with our wounds, our triggers, our aches. Maybe you’ve gotten really good at hiding. There are no awards here for the best actor.

Find someone to whisper your shadows to. Find a way to tell the truth. Find a way to expose your reality. Find a way to say “I’m in pain.” Find the ones who deserve to hold you in your grief. Find a way to show us your blood. Your tears. Your reality.

The pretending is killing us.

I will not pretend in order to protect the veneer. The veneer is suffocating and toxic. The veneer has been peeling for a long time anyway. I’m cracking open, I’ve peeled so much away, and I want you to see what’s real, what’s true, and I want that from you.

Don’t give me perfect. Give me real.

I commit to doing the same.

That is how we will survive this common ache, this collective pain, these private wounds, these lonely devastations.

That is how we will get through.

Stop trying to be fearless.

Photo credit: RKO Radio Pictures
Joan Crawford, Sudden Fear; Photo credit: RKO Radio Pictures

 

Fearlessness is total bullshit.

There. I said it.

I have yet to meet someone who is fearless. If they claim to be, well, they’re either hiding it, or sleepwalking through life.

And here’s a confession: I nearly cringe when someone calls me “fearless.”

And another: I’m scared all the time.

But I’ve taken that to mean something awesome is on the horizon. I take it as a signpost: adventure ahead. Fear is inevitable if I am moving forward. Period.

I don’t want to be fearless! I think our constant striving to be fearless is a big ol’ waste of time. Let’s focus our energy on better projects- like being brave!

I’d rather be brave than fearless.

Fear lets me know I’m alive.

Fear informs me.

Fear tells me that I am moving.

If I am never scared, I am probably playing way too safe. I am probably just existing. I am likely not adventuring in any way.

Fear is my teacher. Fear is my friend. It means well. It protects me when it needs to, by sounding alarms and manifesting signals and messages in my body and mind.

Yes, it sometimes gets unruly. Sometimes it’s completely unreasonable. It can keep me up at night, if I let it. But it means me no harm.

Its only intention is to protect me.

Then why does fear get such a bad rap? Why does it have such a lousy reputation?

Because sometimes, unfortunately, we give fear far too much power in our lives.

We let fear make our decisions.

We shut down our gut feelings.

We disconnect from our true desires.

We disengage from life because the vulnerability that fear requires is too intense.

Think of fear as your back-seat driver. It pipes up if your turns are too sharp, if it thinks you’re driving too fast, going the wrong way, or not abiding by the ever-so-boring rules of the road. And sometimes, even the most annoying of back-seat drivers have a point. But we don’t need to let them take the wheel. We don’t need to relinquish the driver’s seat. Because what fear really wants to do is pull over, park and stay put. It’s just safer that way.

But you and I, my friend, we have places to go, people to see, things to do, a world to change.

So, we’ll let fear be the back seat driver, we’ll listen when we need to (okay, maybe I WAS going WAY over the speed limit…) but we gotta keep driving.

So let’s ease up on Fear. Fear is not the bad guy.

The simple truth is, we are our own saboteur when we allow fear to run the show.

When we stay when we need to go. When we say yes when we mean no. When we quit because it gets too scary. When we never start because its already too scary.

This notion of fearlessness to me feels like a sort of zombie-like state to be in… a life with no fear? Sounds like a terribly boring time. I’ll take fear, thank you very much, and I’ll continue to cultivate my courage by taking brave steps, by continuing to risk in life, in love, in my work, in my art, in relationships.

This is my mantra: Fear, I hear you. Thanks for your concern. But I’m doing it anyway.

 

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Originally published April 2014, as “Fearlessness is Bullshit”.

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.

Your Fear is a Master of Disguise

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Remember in every episode of Scooby Doo, at the end, the kids would catch the scary ghost that had been haunting them, only to pull off his mask and discover it was just some guy, pretending to be a scary ghost?

In my countless sessions with clients, conversations with friends, private whining dates with my own journal and years of being in circles of truth-telling women, I’ve noticed something interesting.

All too often, fear holds us back from what it is we want to be, do or create. It is fear that holds us back from letting go, from moving forward, fear holds us back from taking chances and plunges and leaps. Fear gets in the way of our dreams and desires. Fear keep us stuck and small and stagnant and the same.

Yet, in most of those cases, our fear knows that if it came  right out and said, “hey you know what, I’m afraid, and here’s why…” you very likely would see it for what it was and blow right past it. And fear’s motivation is only trying to do its job, after all. Fear wants to protect you, guard you, keep you safe, keep you stuck, keep things the same.

Fear has picked up some tricks on its journey. It’s clever. It’s strategic. It has to be. So in order to get you to pay attention, in order to get you to stay “safe,” here’s what fear does: it disguises itself as other things.

Do you have a desire or dream or change you haven’t been able to create movement with, for one reason or another?

See if you recognize any of these disguises fear uses, when it comes to your dream…

  • Disguise #1: Preparation – Classes, courses, certifications, research, prep work, organizing, re-organizing, re-re-organizing. You know what I’m talking about. The problem with these is that just when you achieve one level, you quickly convince yourself that there is something else you need to know or achieve or accomplish to do the dream. I once worked with a client who was stuck in a standstill with her new business launch until she got a new set of office shelves. Shelves. Her dream was on a shelf because of shelves.
  • Disguise #2: Procrastination – Once I finish this Netflix binge, I’ll work on that business plan. I would do that tonight but I am beat. I’ll get to that thing tomorrow. Or the next day, but soon! Procrastination has a nice payoff too. It’s a lot easier to put things off then to do them. And by easier, I also mean “safer”.
  • Disguise #3: Limitations – A wise friend once said to me “argue for your limitations and they’re yours.” it was a punch in the gut at the time, because I was literally arguing for my limitations when she said it. That’s the thing about limitations. If you want ’em, you got ’em. They certainly love being coddled. In fact, they absolutely BLOSSOM with attention. I hear them all the time. I’m too young. I’m too old. I’m too fat. I’m too broke. I’m too busy. I’m too this, I’m too that. Our perceived limitations quite quickly become TRUTH. If we choose for them to be. Or… we can be wild and crazy and blow right through them. I’ve seen that a few times too. I’ve even been lucky enough to have done it.
  • Disguise #4: Blame or finger-pointing – This clever disguise of fear likes to convince you that it’s somebody else’s fault that you are not doing what it is you came to do. That if it weren’t for that crappy husband, boss, mom, dad, you’d be doing your dream. If it weren’t for THEM, you know… THEM,  you’d be different. You’d change. You really would.
  • Disguise #5: Busyness – We all juggle a lot. I get it. But here’s the thing. The obligations, commitments and time bandits in your life because you allowed them in. You chose them. You actually did. You have two choices here. You can continue to use busyness as a convenient hiding place for fear. Or you can make some space. Commit to your desires. Squeeze in five minutes a day. Do whatever you can. So often we think that soon, just around the corner, life is about to get way less busy. Guess what? It does not. We make the time for what’s most important. If you don’t like the way you spend your time, if the way you spend your time is interfering with a dream, make some cuts. Delete. Re-org. And if you still can’t find the time, chances are, it’s fear making sure you stay nice and busy because it’s safer, and you get to stay the same. Remember, fear loves that.

In which of those five do you identify your fear in disguise? It’s time to shine the light at them. Reveal them.

Think back to when you were a kid. Sometimes simply shining the flashlight on the scary monster in the dark room proves that it’s just a sweater on a chair.

Shine the flashlight on your fear. And then maybe, you can choose differently. One choice at a time.

But first we must call it them out. Nothing changes til we call them out.  Maybe a journal entry like this…

“I see you, Fear! Disguising yourself as _____ and ____. How clever and wily of you. Sadly though, I’m on to you. I’m hip to what you’re throwing, I’m no longer fooled by your conniving ways. I get it. You want us to stay safe. You want me to stay the same. I understand. But here’s the thing. I can’t. So just to give you a heads up, I’m going to be _______ and ______ in the coming days. Starting now, I’m also going to be ________.

I’ve got dreams. Desires. Plans. Big things to do. You no longer get to be in charge.

Your services are no longer needed.”

Are you ready to do that? There is no time to lose. The time is now. The world needs your gifts, your message, your smile, your creations, your song, your dance, your ministry, your magic, your mischief, your heart, wide open, spilling forth.

And Fear is just going to have to deal with that.

Fearlessness is Bullshit.

scream-of-fearFearlessness is total bullshit. There. I said it.

I have yet to meet someone who is fearless. If they claim to be, well, they’re either hiding it, or sleepwalking through life.

And here’s a confession: I nearly cringe when someone calls me “fearless.”

And another: I’m scared all the time.

But I’ve taken that to mean something awesome is on the horizon. I take it as a signpost: adventure ahead. Fear is inevitable if I am moving forward. Period.

I don’t want to be fearless! I think our constant striving to be fearless is a big ol’ waste of time. Let’s focus our energy on better projects- like being brave!

I’d rather be brave than fearless.

Fear lets me know I’m alive. Fear informs me. Fear tells me that I am moving.

If I am never scared, I am probably playing way too safe. I am probably just existing. I am likely not adventuring in any way.

Fear is my teacher. Fear is my friend. It means well. It protects me when it needs to, by sounding alarms and manifesting signals and messages in my body and mind.

Yes, it sometimes gets unruly. Sometimes it’s completely unreasonable. It can keep me up at night, if I let it. But it means me no harm.

Its only intention is to protect me.

Then why does fear get such a bad rap? Why does it have such a lousy reputation?

Because sometimes, unfortunately, we give fear far too much power in our lives.

We let fear make our decisions. We shut down our gut feelings. We disconnect from our true desires. We disengage from life because the vulnerability that fear requires is too intense.

Think of fear as your back-seat driver. It pipes up if your turns are too sharp, if it thinks you’re driving too fast, going the wrong way, or not abiding by the ever-so-boring rules of the road. And sometimes, even the most annoying of back-seat drivers have a point. But we don’t need to let them take the wheel. We don’t need to relinquish the driver’s seat. Because what fear really wants to do is pull over, park and stay put. It’s just safer that way.

But you and I, my friend, we have places to go, people to see, things to do, a world to change.

So, we’ll let fear be the back seat driver, we’ll listen when we need to (okay, maybe I WAS going WAY over the speed limit…) but we gotta keep driving.

So let’s ease up on Fear. Fear is not the bad guy.

The simple truth is, we are our own saboteur when we allow fear to run the show.

When we stay when we need to go. When we say yes when we mean no. When we quit because it gets too scary. When we never start because its already too scary.

This notion of fearlessness to me feels like a sort of zombie-like state to be in… a life with no fear? Sounds like a terribly boring time. I’ll take fear, thank you very much, and I’ll continue to cultivate my courage by taking brave steps, by continuing to risk in life, in love, in my work, in my art, in relationships.

This is my mantra: Fear, I hear you. Thanks for your concern. But I’m doing it anyway.