I love an excuse to celebrate most anything.
But I have a really big birthday this week,
and something happened on Sunday
that has me celebrating much more than just the number.
Sunday I happened into a fascinating conversation
with someone on the opposite side of the political perspective.
This doesn’t happen often.
I live in blue country.
We could have spent our time defending our points of view.
But that would have been so boring.
What was fascinating to me was how we’d gotten there in the first place.
That’s when I had my birthday ah-ha.
You see, as kid I was pretty fearful.
Something bad happened to me when I was 4.
And we moved every year until I was 9.
New schools, new teachers, new unwritten rules to decipher.
So I was a careful child, and more than a little anxious.
If I could somehow get it all just right, then I would feel a little safer.
I got good at making the safe choices.
But the fear still lingered.
It always does… until it’s unmasked.
OK, so back to Sunday…
Talking with this quite brilliant man,
I realized that my political views
came from my own personal experience with fear.
I’d never considered that!
Turns out, everyone on the right or the left wants to feel safe.
It’s just our strategies that differ.
But looking at fear,
Learning how to unmask it instead of falling prey to it,
is what I’ve loved about growing older!
Because it’s fear that limits joy.
And no matter our age, joy is what everyone wants in life!
So… tonight I’ll be telling my own story,
talking about how fear ruled my life,
…and how I’ve come to recognize and disarm it when it still tries.
This is what I’m celebrating on this BIG birthday
Instead of wasting even a second bemoaning my not-so-young body.
If you’d like to be a part of this conversation tonight – Tuesday – at 9:15 EDT,
just friend me on FB
and ask to join Divining Beauties, my secret group just for women.
but later this month I’ll be hosting a webinar and inviting you to join in the convo.)
I’d love you to come celebrate with me!
Because making friends with my fear
is what has grown me into who I want to be in the world.
PS… If you’d like to go a little deeper on this life adventure unmasking fear, and replacing it with a deeper turn-on — real joy — you might like to join me on retreat in Mexico this January. But FYI, Friday is the last day for early bird pricing, so click here to find out more.
Here’s another blog I wrote a few summers ago about facing down the fear, if your appetite is whetted…
I’ve been on a self-improvement project pretty much my whole life.
I’ve been trying to be a good girl for as long as I can remember. Good at whatever it took to get a smile. Good at being Mommy’s little helper. Good at trying hard in school. Good at doing what I was told. Good at looking good. Good at being very nearly the best at everything, most of the time at least… and when I wasn’t, I felt I’d failed. Then I was no good at all. This is the shared story of most high-achieving women today… and frankly, that’s all of us.
We’ve been improving ourselves our whole lives. And it’s worked well enough, for long enough, that we are persuaded it must be how to live.
Added to that, the better we are at it – at trying to control ourselves and everything around us – the more convinced we are that this self-improvement project is the way to finally be happy.
I could be a case study in some graduate student’s self-improvement research project. I’m always trying to improve my body with healthy diet and exercise. Not drinking too much. Not smoking. Trying to meditate everyday. Generally trying to be as perfect as I can be. I’ve even been fanatical about trying to have good posture!
When my kids arrived, I researched the best breast-feeding approaches and schooling philosophies. I managed their food allergies and invented recipes for the best gluten-free pancakes ever. Of course I was also determined to be perfectly moderate in my self-improvement, not going overboard too obsessively on any of the above!
You get the drift… My whole life, I’ve been in the process of this perfecting to be acceptable — first to others, but deeper, to myself. It was my own bar that I placed so dramatically high. This is the one that plagues me the most. Not others’ expectations, but my own.
So I find it kind of funny now, when I realize that all this striving to upgrade myself hasn’t addressed the real issue. It’s not improving that I need. What I want now, more than anything else, is to come back to myself. The being I have inside that I’ve been dedicated to hiding all my life.
Coming back to me – to honesty and authenticity – isn’t done by trying to make myself better or fixing anything that’s not just right. It’s mostly about looking with curiosity at any place in me that wants to hide. Or another way to say this is — to see with compassion the ways I don’t want myself to be seen. It’s about looking clearly at how I’m still compensating for any feelings of inadequacy, any remnants of my protective ego’s convictions of my not-good-enoughness. When I can relax all that, what remain has no need of improvement.
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell
The non-dual spiritual teacher Miranda Macpherson speaks about how we spend our lives polishing the mud we’ve protectively caked on the outside of the unique, genuine jewel that we are. Yet what’s magnetic and gorgeous – what’s radiant – is our own natural and divine essence. It’s the gem shining inside that others most want to enjoy.
But we’re afraid to show that part. We learn very early to hide our naturalness. Sometimes people don’t react well. Best to give them what they want to see. We grew self-conscious and ration out our true selves in increasingly more carefully crafted proportions. So begins the hiding.
Some of us got really skilled at polishing the mud. We look so nice and shiny. But the effort we invest in perpetual self-improvement – in order to protect the vulnerable being inside – actually dims our full light. The thick layer of mud coopts the real stuff – our intuition, our smarts, our talents, our divinity. Then the successes and admiration we thought would make us happy instead leaves us identified with the mud’s shiny reflection instead of the naturally radiant jewel inside.
I’ve done a lot of polishing over the years. But lately, I’ve been lucky to have circumstances crack the glossy mud I’ve spent so long burnishing. Even as I struggle, more of myself is shining through, and oddly, that feels good. I don’t feel the need — as often at least — to hide out in the image of myself I want to project.
Now my self-improvement project is in reversal. I’m wanting to un-something. Un-improve. I want to kindly welcome, and gently let go of, my personality’s fixations and attachments – all those ways I’ve kept myself safe. It’s the only way to come back to the more real me…the me that’s not that different from all the other you’s and is also delightfully unique in her own beautifully messy ways – whether they look good or not.
I’m ready to be just-me, and I’m ready to be with just-you. Join me?
So my questions to you is: How do you let the just-me shine through? Will you share your brilliance with us down below?
Let the jewel shine, Dear Ones.
I’ve been quiet for a while. Taking in the lessons from a bad break-up. It’s been tough. But amidst the heartache I’m starting – just starting – to sense that all this pain is going to be worth it. And I’m dedicating myself, more than ever, to truth.
For most of my growing up (58 years and counting) I’ve skirted around the truth. I learned early, like everyone else, that telling the truth can be scary and dangerous. But evolution created the hard wiring in us to keep ourselves safe. No matter what. And kids are smart! So we find truly brilliant strategies to protect ourselves.
When I was young, I figured out fast that if I was carefully nice and kind and oh, so thoughtful, people were nice to me. Of course what lurked beneath my sweet surface wasn’t always so sweet. And speaking it would have felt selfish or hurtful – something I didn’t want to be — and would have surely gotten me punished.
I tried not to lie, since nice girls didn’t. My careful tact, innocent indecision, and quiet smile were effective ruses, and most of the time did the job. If you’re anything like me, you got good at being diplomatic and careful with truth. Each of us mastered ingenious ways to manage the truths we couldn’t handle. We had to, in order to protect ourselves or get what we needed.
Thing is, all this management begins to blur reality. We start believing whatever story best protects the image we like to project. And my inner nice girl wants to keep the peace. She hates to make anyone feel uncomfortable. She’s practiced for all these years pushing down messages from her body and intuition that said, “Hold up, Girl! Something’s not right here!”
The truth is hardest to see when we’re busy protecting a carefully engineered and highly effective self-image. We start believing it’s only safe to be that image of ourselves. In this breakup I received the gift of a mirror to see what I didn’t fully notice before in myself. And I’m grateful… if still feeling tender.
But here’s the wisdom I’m finally getting – and what’s becoming the through-line of my book:
Truth is the foundation of love. The more we can love and accept our real, unvarnished human being-ness — what’s really going on inside, and share that with our beloveds — the more intimacy we create and feel. That’s the authentic expression of the love we truly are.
Over the years my habit of not really saying what needed to be said has hurt a number of good men… and me, too, of course. It’s contributed to the ending of two marriages and several long-ish relationships. The more I delayed recognizing or sharing what was really going on inside, the more I craved truth. I missed its aliveness. It became my siren call. And when it finally came, it did hurt.
Along with the pain comes clarity and eventually, healing. When it’s coupled with courage and good will, when it hasn’t been too long poisoned by delay and denial, truth releases energy and aliveness. Instead of the Armageddon we so fear, what might just be possible is a fresh new kind of connection. It may not be what I’d wanted, but real and honest — I want that most of all.
So… I’m practicing truth telling these days. I’m a little bumbly. Sometimes it comes out too strong. Or the old fears keep me silent too long. And it’s not a happy ending every time.
Though I’m still nursing my wounds, through it all I can hardly believe the aliveness that comes with truth. What I most need now is courage to keep trusting its revelation. And how it clears the decks for more love!
I think this will change my life!
How about you? Does this resonate? If it does, I want to hear in the comments below. What cost have you paid for not speaking truth? And what miracles have happened when you have?
Thank you for receiving my dawning awareness and for reading all the way through this long-ish blog!! If you know others who might find it helpful, please send it along.
We are in this together, Dears. Wanting to live all that life has to teach us, to feel it all…the desolate sadness and the euphoric joy. This is what it is to be fully human and to travel the journey committed to growth and love.
I was born landlocked in Pennsylvania. My parents were farmers who didn’t swim. And I had soundly failed Junior Life Saving at the Y when the lifeguard had to save me! The beaches I saw on TV were mysterious and alluring, but terrifying, too. And at 12, the pummeling I received by the New Jersey surf while visiting cousins kept me timid and fearful of wild water ever after. Pools felt safer and much more predictable. If I didn’t feel entirely at ease in the water, at least I wouldn’t be sucked down to unknown depths.
But of course the ocean is unpredictable. And as it would happen, when I played hooky and went to the beach in Rhode Island last week, the surf was crazy after days of storms. A phantom wave drenched our blanket in the first five minutes. I’d never seen waves like this at Ninigret State Beach. And just as I was mustering up the courage to make my way in, the sea sent seven raucous breakers toward the shore in ten-second intervals.
A flash of the old fear surged through me. But fortunately some years ago a dear friend taught me the secret to turning this fear into frenzied fun. You know it, I’m sure. When I dove directly beneath the wild heart of each crest, I came up soaked, but shockingly unscathed! And thrilled! Dancing with Mother Nature’s power and unpredictability – in whatever form it appears – has become one of my biggest turn-ons.
Still, this day’s display was nothing to take lightly. I was thankful for the lifeguard not 50 feet away! So I ventured in. Minutes later, I was no Venus stepping off her shell. Three leviathan waves – one right after the other – had caught me unprepared. I’d had a wild ride, mostly in intimate contact with hard sand and swirling water. And though I’d surely had moments of panic, I’d also loved it.
There seems to be a direct connection between what frightens us most and what makes us feel truly alive. Of course, some common sense and knowledge of Nature’s ways will keep you safer – up to a point. There’s always risk though. She’s not about to be tamed; nor should you be.
But, the waves that scare us don’t usually rise out of the ocean.
I’m betting there’s an enormous wave out on your horizon, coming toward you right now. Some opportunity for really living, for more feeling, for deep intimacy – with yourself or someone else – that you’re scared to dive into, fearful that you’ll be swept out to sea – that you’ll fall into the same patterns or lose control or get hurt again?
But I’d also bet that you feel the pull of what’s possible. Can you let go enough to let life seduce you? Can you remember that you’re actually safer than you think when you catch the wave wrong, when you’re tossed under, out of control, scratching your elbows and knees on the sand, having your suit fill with grit? This kind of living isn’t about comfort. There may be consequences. But what I’ve found is that the more I let myself feel all that’s there, the safer I realize I actually am. It’s when I block feeling that I freeze in fear.
So how fully do you want to live? That’s the questions Jack Kornfield asks in his book, A Path with Heart. “In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you learn to let go?”
The more intimate we become with what scares us – the more we understand its ways – the more able we are to play in its force. Like an aikido master, we learn not to fight against the waves as they approach or avoid the water altogether, but to feel the waves all around us and swim fully with the energies of life.
In her recent book Lean In, Sheryl Sanberg encourages women to face challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.
She focuses on career, where our culture says the reward is.
But leaning in in relationships can be just as daunting and juicy.
We want intimacy and yet we avoid it.
We long to be seen for who we really are,(in-to-me-see)
but we stay busy and unavailable…even to ourselves.
It’s our habits that keep us conveniently disconnected.
We hide out in our busy-ness and cram too much into every day.
There’s so little time for self-reflection… or truly intimate connection with anyone else, for that matter.
What’s up with that?
Why are we so awkwardly hesitant to be truly intimate in our relationships
– with ourselves, someone else, or the world?
What risks are we afraid to take?
What truths are we afraid to say?
What challenges do we avoid, hoping the problem will magically disappear?
Maybe the truth will rock your world… or your relationships.
Being truthful is hard sometimes.
But, it’s often the things that aren’t said that create the distance.
We will let a friendship slowly fade into memory before we’ll take the risk to share what we’re really feeling. We’re afraid to be that vulnerable.
We’re afraid we’ll mess things up.
We’re afraid of their reaction.
Lots of fear here, even if we’d rather call it something else.
But truth, though sometimes down right terrifying, is much less debilitating than dishonesty or hiding out in illusion or distraction.
It’s truth that brings a feeling of connection with others, and deep within, as well.
There’s a surprising aliveness and freedom we feel when we’ve been courageous enough to let ourselves be seen.
I learned this lesson some years ago from a dare Mama Gena gave to 250 women in NYC in her School of Womanly Arts.
We were to flirt with a stranger before returning to class the following day.
Flirting, for Mama Gena, was simply enjoying yourself in front of someone else.
I was so terrified at the thought of such a thing that I forgot all about the assignment
until I was about to dash across 59th street to class the next morning,
having just grabbed a quick breakfast at the food cart on the corner.
I scanned the street, looking for a possible victim for my first fumbling attempts at this kind of flirting.
I did not think I would enjoy myself, that I was sure of!
In despiration I remembered the young man I’d just seen at the food cart.
He was gorgeous. And those eyes….!
I felt scared and vulnerable.
But instead of flaking on the challenge, I turned back to him, leaned in to my awkwardness, and said,
“I just want you to know that I think your eyes are beautiful.”
I felt a little ridiculous.
It was a risk.
What would he think?
Yet I watched this young man’s cool-guy bravado melt away as his face softened
and he sputtered out the “thank you” of a sweet, shy 8-year-old.
For a moment, despite differences of age, race and culture, we were connected.
And that felt amazing!
How often we miss out on this kind of joy!
We notice something, yet so rarely say what we’re thinking.
I’ll probably always be working with my hesitancy to trust myself and the situation enough to say what’s true. Because, let’s face it, some truths will rock our worlds.
Yet practicing leaning in to the fear has deepened so many of my connections that it’s becoming positively addicting.
It’s the intimacy I must have to feel alive.
I have a challenge for you….
Try experimenting this Memorial Day weekend.
Surprise someone with a bit more of yourself.
And watch how you’re affected.
How did it feel?
Share with us below, to inspire us all.
I went dancing last weekend. With hundreds!
The Flurry is a huge dance festival with hot bands from all over the country.
Big Band swing, Zydeco, Charleston, Contra, Blues, all sorts of ethnic sounds.
Like the proverbial girl in the candy story, I couldn’t get enough.
I was a little shy at first, uncertain about sharing my energy so intimately with so many… and some, well… so odd.
Few of these men would be my choice for a date (no less a kiss).
As I entered each room, I scoped out those I might find acceptable.
The others… well, I did my usual – avoid eye contact, hope they wouldn’t ask.
But they did ask. and here’s the surprise.
I learned something amazing about receiving love by dancing with every man who asked!
Gawky college boys and gray-haired gentleman.
Sexy, long-haired types, men with balding bravado, and others with bulging bellies.
Ernest, but awkward new dancers and fast furious show-off aficionados.
Instead of being creeped out, I reminded myself that I was safe.
I could say no anytime I chose.
Being receptive doesn’t mean giving up all control. I could receive only what felt right.
So I accepted the gifts of these men.
Their smiles. Their hand. Their lead. Their gentle shyness.
Their enthusiastic spins. Their kind and patient instruction.
Their eyes enjoying me. Their touch against my body.
I let them be men.
In dancing, the man gets to lead.
He gets to protect the woman from overenthusiastic and bumbling couples.
He gets to set the pace and the direction.
He gets to be chivalrous. He makes the decisions.
And we get to receive.
Whether they’re awkward or skillful, clumsy or elegant,
our job is not to criticize, not to control and manage the way this offering of love comes towards us.
Our role – our opportunity, actually – is to allow the gift.…
To notice the kind intention, the warm willingness, the courageous invitation to make the most of this dance.
It was a dazzling day, but there was one last surprise.
Later that evening, at dinner in town with my kids, a lovely man came over to me to say,
“I just had to tell you, you are very beautiful!”
I think there’s some contagious magic that flavors the air around us when we choose this feminine receptivity.
So what’s inviting you to dance?
Let me know in the comments below.
Will you stay safe and sure of yourself?
Or will you allow a surprising bit of love to infiltrate your day?
If you try, I think you’ll find the world much safer than you think!
And way more fun!