friendship

I Hate Vulnerability

 

vulnerability

It was a crossroads moment. I was feeling hurt. A few friends were planning a special get-together, and I couldn’t make it on the night in discussion, told them so, and hoped another date would thus be chosen. It wasn’t.

There they were… those sucky feelings from way-back-when. Even though I’ve “done the work”, they still live deep within, and sometimes, when triggered, they still show up. I know on a cerebral level that they are ancient, childhood wounds, I know they don’t apply to this situation. I know my friends love me. Yet, the hurt feelings were there.

At this crossroads, I thought of just sweeping my hurt under the carpet. God knows I’d had many years of practice doing this, it’s a most effective tactic. (NOT.) But I’m “good” at it. Or at least I used to be. I could put on my Tough Girl cape and plow through my hurt feelings and no one would be the wiser. And it would certainly be easier than my other option… Telling my friends my feelings were hurt. (UGH.)

This is how I know I am changing: I chose UGH, over “easy.” Instead of doing it the old way, I chose to reveal, to be vulnerable, to express what was alive and current for me, as messy and embarrassing as it felt to do so.  I did this because my friends challenge me to be brave. They support what is real and true, even if it is not easy or sweet, even if it is messy or ugly. And since I’ve been hanging with these particular folks, I’ve been learning to do this, too. They make me braver.

With the loving nudging of a friend, I swallowed my Tough-Girl pride (my name is Lisa and I’m a recovering Tough Girl.) I stopped pretending everything was okay, and I shared my hurt feelings with them. UGH. This happened more than a week ago and I still cringe. Because here’s the truth. I HATE VULNERABILITY. Not yours, of course, I think yours is super cool and beautiful and all that.

I hate MY vulnerability.

It’s sticky. And messy. And embarrassing. And I feel so… naked.

In vulnerable moments, my armpits sweat, my hands get clammy, my chest gets tight. I want to cry. (In fact, I did, in this instance. Double UGH.) I feel like a baby. I feel embarrassed. I want to hide. Once the reveal is made, I want to rewind.

Yet, more and more, I’m choosing it.

You know why? Because vulnerability is brave. Because I am becoming braver and braver, and ironically, that means becoming softer and softer, toward myself. It means letting the people that care about me know when I am hurting. Because hiding my feelings, sweeping them under a rug is no longer the “easier” choice. It’s becoming more difficult to pull that off. And because on the other side of a vulnerable moment, with the right people, there is deeper intimacy. And intimacy cannot happen without vulnerability. And because I want intimacy.

And, of course, these friends received my vulnerability with tenderness and openness. They didn’t stop loving me, in fact, maybe they even love me a little more, because of my vulnerability. They heard me, they explained scheduling challenges they were working with, they even expressed gratitude, for being let in to what was true for me. They were grateful for my vulnerability. And so was I.

So yeah, I hate vulnerability. And I love it, too.

What about you? Where can you be more vulnerable? Where in your life can you speak the truth, even though it’s messy and uncomfortable? Where and how can you be braver today than you were yesterday?

Maybe someday, I’ll write a blog called “I Love Vulnerability.” Not yet. But today, I can say this.  I’m willing to be vulnerable.

I Got My Feelings Hurt

Sometimes my storyteller is six years old.
Sometimes my storyteller is six years old.

It happens to all of us. It happened to me.

I had planned a home party for a line of adult products, and invited pretty much every DFW woman I thought might be interested– 300+ to be exact.

I created this picture in my mind of what the party would be. Full house, lots of laughter, lots of girl-time connection, juicy conversations about sexuality and pleasure, and of course, toys! RSVPs showed 16 yeses. And 40 maybes! Nice!

For what I realize are reasons that have nothing to do with me, a very small handful of women came. Not counting me and the consultant, I had five others show up. Five others who I gratefully enjoyed seeing, and felt a love and appreciation for, no doubt. But simultaneously, I found myself missing the other eleven who had counted themselves a yes, and for whatever reason, did not show up. And all those maybes… I thought at least a couple of them would actualize into yes.

The big girl part of me listed possible reasons, and again, those reasons had nothing to do with me. I live a ways out of Dallas now, it’s a Thursday, I had rescheduled once, not everyone like sex toy parties, yada yada.

Yet, the little girl part of me was hurt, sad and in her hurt feelings kept whispering: Nobody actually likes me.

There were parts of me that were hell-bent on making it mean something about me, that something was wrong with me.

The mean critical aspect of me was saying: What a fucking disaster. Aren’t you embarrassed? You thought you had friends. And you made way too much sangria.

The dark shadowy part of me that lurks, eagerly waiting for moments like this to pounce, whispered sardonically: LOSER.

On a realistic plane, I KNEW these thoughts were not true. I know I am loved, that I have friends, that it was not a personal thing. I know the facts.

But I’m not necessarily talking about facts today. I’m talking about feelings.

Sometimes what we KNOW and what we FEEL are two different things. Sometimes we attach made-up stories to the feelings we feel. Sometimes we even tell ourselves lies to support our hurt feelings. (Gasp! Who would do that? Raises hand.) And most of the time, those stories can be traced back many years, and are rooted in very old wounds, experienced by a very young self.

I pushed away my hurt feelings, “knowing” they were unreasonable. I cleaned up. I went to bed. Yet the next morning I woke up feeling residual hurt. I journaled, working to talk myself out of these unreasonable feelings.

And then, Facebook chatting with one of my best friends, Angela, she asked “How was the party?”

I began typing my reply and BAM, just like that, the tears came. They came fast and hard, falling steadily from my eyes from some ancient place, and my first reaction was to stop them and shove them back up in there, because this is silly. Because I think these feelings are “unreasonable.”

I told her that I felt silly, but that my wounded-child was hurt.

Before I continue, let me tell you something about Angela. Angela and I have been friends for about a dozen years. She is one of the bravest women I know. Since a tsunami of traumatic life events in December of last year, she has been in rebuild-phase and been working her ass off to heal, to get better, to re-wire, to re-construct, to stay present, to feel it all. She’s been to hell and back, and aside from that, she knows me better than most.

This chick knows a thing or two about triggers and core wounds and she replied… “Of course. This is one of your core wounds, correct?”

“Yes.” I went on to explain that I know that I have this tendency to catastrophize, and I am famous for my ‘goldfish-memory’ (I only remember the last six minutes of my life. So, if they’ve been great six minutes, wonderful! If not, well… ugh. My entire life is shit and everything sucks.)

“I feel silly.” I said.

And she said…

“Try to replace feeling silly with being compassionate with yourself. These are deep, real wounds you are dealing with, and when they are triggered, our reactions aren’t necessarily rational.”

Her words felt like salve, soothing and cool on my owie.

I already KNOW this- I preach compassion and curiosity for a living, for cripe’s sake!

But there I was, completely forgetting to direct curiosity and compassion toward myself. Instead I lashed out judgment, even mockery toward myself for my feelings.

Thankful for this reminder, I exhaled.

I turned within and softened my gaze. I saw her, little me in there, sad and rejected, and I went to her. I let her crawl onto my lap. I let her feel.

Resisting our feelings does not work.

Judging ourselves for our feelings does not work.

Feeling bad about feeling bad is a double layered shit sandwich that just does not serve us.

Thank you, Angela, for reminding me to return to compassion. Reminding me to allow myself to feel. Caught up in my own loop of feelings and judgment about the feelings, I couldn’t remember to do this. I needed a friend to remind me.

Once felt, the feelings dissolved like vapor.

They just wanted to be felt.

Is there a feeling you’ve been judging yourself for? Is there an emotion you think is silly or unreasonable and you try to chase it away?

Turn to it. It’s a precious part of you. Let it feel. Create a safe space for it, and watch what happens next…

Healing happens.

 

 

What These Women Have Taught Me

13514268_10206575215364531_1308381315_n
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.

13521653_10206575217164576_656698698_n
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.

A Great, Big, Vulnerable and Game-Changing Blog (Gulp.)

article-0-0C42CD2700000578-132_468x402A few months ago, I made a new commitment to myself, a commitment that was actual born from my mistakes, from behaving in ways that I regretted, and felt guilty about.

Feeling guilty can be useful, because it is informative. If we are learning, if we are paying attention, our guilt actually points us back to who we want to be, instead of who we have been.

Get the message, absorb the truth, release the guilt, and move on.

There’s a poisonous infection that passes between women. And for a little while, I had contracted it. Prior to becoming infected, I prided myself in being immune, “evolved” enough to not fall into its traps. But I failed.

I’m talking about gossip.

Years ago, I made a commitment to not allow myself to slip into any conversations that were snarky, catty, bitchy or downright mean toward people not in the conversation. I was doing really well for a while, for years, even shutting it down when it would rear its ugly head. Proud to be “immune”, I admit, I got lazy.

And a few months ago, I realized my no-gossip policy had been pretty much forgotten. I allowed myself to be sucked into it, seduced by it. I said some things I regret. They were the snarky, catty, bitchy, and even downright mean things I once had so easily avoided.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, and even debated whether or not to write about this. (There’s a “yikes” feeling right now, in the pit of my stomach.) But in keeping with my new commitment to push my own edges in the interest of deeper authenticity and expression, I am jumping in.

Here are a few things I have come to realize about gossip:

  1. It is the cheapest and laziest form of female bonding available. Like dollar store potato chips. No nutritional value, but tasty to snack on this greasy, salty garbage. And its toxic. I am worth far more than that. I don’t need to sully what true connection feels like, in favor of this cheap synthetic.
  2. It creates an instant feeling of intimacy. And that feeling is a lie. That form of “intimacy” is tissue-paper thin, and cannot and will not hold the weight that true, genuine intimacy in relationship requires.
  3. Having been bullied and rejected throughout my entire childhood, there is still a wounded child that somehow finds it comforting to fall into a conversation of tearing down, as some sort of really dumb vindication. My energies will now be redirected into actually healing that wounded child.
  4. Women that gossip are very likely dealing with some deeper insecurities – actually, make that NOT dealing… By gossiping, I am actually categorizing people “under” me, less than, that makes me feel superior, better, and my insecurities are gone, right? Wrong. I am still stuck with my insecurities.
  5. Gossip is a great distraction. While gossiping, we don’t have to be vulnerable. We don’t have to go deep. We can stay in the shallow end, splashing around, avoiding real topics and preventing our own growth, staying in the safe smallness that gossip provides. If we stop gossiping, we might have to change the world.

If or when I find myself engaging in gossipy behavior again, I can catch myself and instantly turn inward, using the gossip as an inquiry…

In what ways am I feeling insecure right now?

What feelings am I attempting to create with this person, and can I create them in a healthy, loving and supportive way, instead?

What is this really about?

So I’m officially done with it. I’m committing to you, to the “world”… I will only engage in Good Gossip.

What is Good Gossip? I’ll only talk about other people in kind, loving and curious ways. If someone not present comes up in a conversation, I will use my words to turn the topic around, to speak kindly, respectfully, compassionately.

I will not use my words to contribute to the darkness that already exists in abundance between women and in the world, at large.

I will use my words to create light. To contribute to what is good, and uplifting, and soul-enhancing.

I will no longer diminish my own light and power in this way. I refuse to be sucked in by the seductive and false intimacy that gossip promises.

I will not engage.

Would you care to join me in this Good Gossip Revolution? It starts with a decision. Then comes the diligence. Paying attention. Making better choices. Spending less time with those that prefer gossip as their form of bonding and connection.

It’s taken me a few months to write this blog. Before I could share this with you, I knew I needed to practice this #GoodGossipRevolution myself, privately.

I’m proud to say, I’ve created and nurtured a new commitment and it’s thriving. It feels good, really good.

Claiming it now, out loud, holds me to an even higher commitment, and I’m ready. I say yes, an even bigger yes.

Are you ready to ditch this cheap and lazy form of connecting? Let’s go deeper in our conversations, let’s stay clean, let’s use our language to create and cultivate love.

What do you say? Here’s a pledge,. I dare ya to take it, make it, share it on Facebook. Let’s start a revolution.

I hereby declare my deepest intention to live a life that’s free of any conversations that would be damaging or hurtful to me, the people I’m talking to or the person I’m talking about. Gossiping negatively is the cheapest, laziest way of bonding, and I’m better than that. My relationships deserve better than that. I commit to using my words for good– to build up, to support, to inspire and reflect the light I want to put into the world. If you do find me gossiping, feel free to remind me of this commitment. Call me out! From here on, the only gossip I plan to engage in is good gossip–. positive, uplifting, edifying, seeking the best in others. If you’re with me, share this post!  #SacredSexyU #GoodGossipRevolution

1604688_10152214278605827_740270450_n

We are shaped by what we love.

We are shaped by what we love.

Every person, every thing, every creature, every way we have loved has carved us, molded us, formed us. We are composites of every choice… to love or to not love, every sweeping tidal wave of love that has ever knocked us over, every tsunami of love that has stormed through our lives, leaving us in a broken heap, wondering if we would ever love again, every outpouring of love that has washed over us, cleansed us and made us new and beautiful, love that has shown us how to give, how to receive, how to be love.

I had the honor to share sacred space with an intimate group of women this past Sunday, at our monthly WomenCircle. Being curiously drawn to the question and topic lately, I decided to focus on the subject of love and how it has shaped us.

Unlike some of my other gatherings, WomenCircle is not a coaching group, there is no advice, no fixing, hardly any feedback, really, aside from nodding, smiling, laughing or crying together. We just share. Prompted by questions, the stories come. Share we did. We told stories of love, loss, love returned and unreturned. The ways we attract love, and reject it. The ways we mourn the loss of love, the ways we heal. The ways we move on and dare to love again.

I’d like to invite you right now to create a list of all you have loved. People, places, events, creatures… whether or not it turned out ‘as planned’. Whether or not you walked away from it or was walked away from.  Whether or not it quaked quietly within you, never expressed, or stormed in, thrashing and stripping you of what you thought you knew. The big obvious loves, and the tiny, subtle ones.

 As you create your list, consider the ways these loves have shaped you.

 As you are always evolving into a higher version of yourself, the love you feel, give, receive and experience, the love you are, shapes you… always.

Here are the questions we discussed in WomenCircle.

I invite you to journal about these questions yourself, and if you feel like sharing, I’d LOVE to read your answers to any or all of them, in the comment section below.

  • As a young child, when did you first know what it was to love? When did you first experience the feeling of love?
  • When/how have you loved and lost?
  • what is easiest for you to love? what is the most difficult?
  • What are you learning to love?
  • If an alien came to earth and wanted to understand what LOVE is, how would you explain it?

One of the women in the circle defined love as “the invisible thread that connects one living thing to another…”

What do you think? How has love shaped you?

P.S. Here’s an extra love-boost for you. From my heart to yours.

Grace, generosity and a friend in need

480139_507634642626144_705871581_n
Zenda being Zenda.
Photo by Loving Photography

I’m doing something different this week. I’m really wanting to help a friend.

Some of you may know her, some may not. Her name is Michelle, a.k.a., Zenda LaBelle.

She’s one of the most generous, loving and accepting people I know. She’s picked up the nickname “Mama Zen” in our Burlesque Experience alumni community because there’s something really maternal about her, something really calming. She’s been a blessing of nurturing tenderness, support and encouragement to so many.

She’s the type of person that would drop everything for a friend, that loves to give and share and create and connect. I’ve been honored to watch her unfold first as my client, then part of my team, and most importantly now, my friend.

Last year, she had what some might call a ‘dark night of the soul.’ Within a matter of a couple months, her job, her car, her home… all gone for unrelated, yet eerily closely timed circumstances, and her life became a blank slate. Her sense of security was gone. She relied on friends to help her with temporary places to stay. She was down. But she did not stay down. She reinvented herself. She job-searched. She found a new job with potential for growth and long-term stability. Her spirits began to lift, and she worked to rebuild her life. Last month, she found a space of her own to call home and settled in to her new apartment. I’ve watched her return to her more natural state of joy and peace. Stronger, wiser, and more in control than ever.

And then last week, she had an unfortunate accident.

Like, she tripped and fell and broke her wrist really bad-unfortunate.

She needs surgery, she has to miss a bunch of work, she’s running out of resources, has new medical bills and rent is due.

I have no doubt that the generosity of this community can help her through this temporary setback.

She is the type of person that rallies around someone in need. Last year at this time, in fact, she organized and produced a burlesque show on my behalf, when I was in my personal crisis. That show saved me. Even moreso than the money, I was reminded by the outpouring of love, that I wasn’t alone.  That’s just one of the generous things I’ve seen her do or been personally blessed by. If I listed them all, this blog could go on all day.

I have this amazing circle of friends, and I’m noticing this super cool trend among them- and actually, “out there” in general…

We take care of each other.

There is a shift in consciousness happening where generosity is a natural response, a path and a way of life. Where the tribe gathers round when one of its members is in need.

I told her this morning that she’s been making deposits in her karmic bank account for a long time. Now it’s time to make a withdrawal. She deserves that. She is supported and held by a loving Universe, and that Universal energy likes to disguise itself as people, you and me, in action. Let’s be Zenda’s karma.

If you’re feeling inclined to send a gift, small or large, please send it to through Paypal to zendalabelle@gmail.com.

Let’s continue moving together in this beautiful circle of generosity and grace and keep the spirit moving, growing, thus creating abundance for our own lives as well. I didn’t make that stuff up. That’s just law. It’s grace.

Zenda wrote these words about grace last month to my daughter as part of her graduation/18th birthday gift…

“The dictionary defines grace as unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification, or a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace.

 My gift to you as enter woman-hood is this grace, a knowing that you are worthy just because you were born; a knowing that the divine loves you as you are no matter what; a knowing that Spirit is always with you, loving you every step of the way. Whether you stumble or fall or soar, you are complete and worthy. If you stumble or fall, grace is there to catch you and tell you are worthy of picking yourself back up with divine assistance…

Grace is the women you walk through life with, supporting you and encouraging in your journeys and adventures. “

Zenda, may the grace you give return to you now. When you stumble and fall (sometimes, even literally…) know that grace is there to catch you, too.