2012 brought with it a number of revelations and revolutions, moments of WTF?!? and moments of fully-owned joy. In summation (and nothing close to the actual order of events) this year…
First, the biggies: I was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition, had my first launch that wasn’t just awesome, but mind-blowingly awesome, and rounded out the year by getting married after a whirlwind 10-week engagement.
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I started to lead marketing seminars for a fancy-pants coaching training institution, upped my running mileage, was nominated to lead a breakout session at the World Domination Summit, and ran a half-marathon–followed by getting a stress fracture when I upped my mileage too fast, and then having to wear a none-too-sexy walking boot to said World Domination Summit.
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But I did finish the 13.1, I try to remind myself–the longest I’d ever run. It was one of those transcendent running experiences, the kind where there I was completely in the zone.
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I spent exactly one semester in graduate school pursuing my MFT license, before deciding it wasn’t worth my time. This isn’t to say that therapists don’t do great work, so much as it was to say that I didn’t want to sit through weekly four-hour seminars of power point presentations copied and pasted directly from the assigned textbook reading, 3-4 classes a week, for two years, followed by licensing exams and clinical hours, all to basically work with the same population I’m already working with.
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I helped to co-create a mastermind group, created and lead my first group coaching experiences and tele-seminars, and then updated The Coaching Blueprint. I didn’t update The Courageous Living Program with new material, but I did change the font in a fit of desire for a better aesthetic. This is far bigger a job than you’d think.
* * *
I finally owned my obsessiveness with endurance events, and let myself have what I had wanted: subscriptions to BOTH Runner’s World and Running Times, plus a subscription to Triathlete Magazine, plus stealing Andy’s copy of Outdoor magazine, most months.
I re-read Born to Run for the fifth time, for good measure, and Running Ultra by Rich Roll (twice). I got into swimming and cycling after the stress fracture incident, and then started reading You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg–which got me to thinking about how bad-ass it would be to complete a 70.3.
The morning registration went live, I was at the computer early to get my spot–and I’m in! I later learned that the 2,300-person event sold out in 10 minutes, and had a wait-list of 800 within an hour.
When I told Julie Daley what I’m doing, she started to giggle (yes, giggle) and said: “I can’t believe 2,300 people want to do that.”
Many months prior to getting engaged, I have a revelation with my partner: that some of the patterns at work in our relationship are not, in fact, always 50/50. Sometimes they are more like 90/10, with me causing most of the ruckus.
This awareness leads to a gut-wrenching apology (to him) from my soul, which I imagine is strongly correlated with what happened a few months later: his proposal to get married (delivered on one knee, out in wine country, at sunset), and an enthusiasm for the idea of just jumping the gun and getting married rather than waiting it out with a long engagement.
This is followed by an even better sex life.
In the words of Charlie Sheen: “WIN-ning!”
I ditch gluten and dairy, and feel better, and then I get onto Armour thyroid medication and really-really-really start to feel better.
I discover Maca powder, which makes me think of Fozzie the Bear from The Muppets–how he says “Wakka wakka wakka!”–so I begin saying this to myself (“Maca maca maca!”) in the same voice when making my morning cacao smoothie, adding one tablespoon of maca.
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Tara Gentile tells me: “You don’t want customers that you have to convince to trust you.”
This sparks a massive re-write of most of my website, as I realize that with all the shlock on the internet, I’ve been selling my wares on the basis of wanting everyone to know that this isn’t just more shlock on the internet–but if someone doesn’t already trust that I’m a shlock-free zone, it’s probably for the best that they go elsewhere.
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While reviewing my test results for the auto-immune condition, I run across three little letters that are unfamiliar, that the doctor hadn’t explained to me because we were so busy looking at all the rest: FSH. What’s that test for? I do some googling (note: almost never a good idea).
My breath catches as I learn more. My number is not good. So, I get re-tested, plus a whole panel of other tests. My FSH is now twice as bad, just a few months later.
A certain demographic of my readers already know what those three little letters stand for, and their hearts are breaking for me, right here and right now. We are part of a “club” that you never want to be a part of.
The gynecologist delivers the news in her office, and as I start to cry uncontrollably, my voice is unfamiliar with the way it pleads, every question asked with the begging intonation of a hoped-for answer.
She sets up the referral for the fertility clinic via her in-office computer, while I cry and wipe at my eyes and look at all the photographs on her wall of the babies she has delivered. Her tone is apologetic yet professional, and even in my shock and grief I can see how much she truly wishes that she could help me, could give me a prescription that would fix everything. But my numbers indicate that I am past that point.
I leave her office thinking, dramatically, that the sun is shining a little too brightly for how devastated I feel.
I spend some time feeling completely betrayed by my body and wondering if there were really THIS MANY pregnant women all around me, walking the streets this whole time, or if I just notice more, now (of course, it’s the latter). In my darkest moments I wonder if this is some universe/god thing, like I would be this really terrible mother and that’s why this is happening, why my ovaries are… “failing.” Prematurely.
Then I figure out that I can do this: love my way right through personal tragedy , and I know this truth like I know nothing else:
Only someone who would be a really amazing mother would be willing to love that big.
So, I’m okay. And–parenthood will come when it comes, in the form that it comes. **Special Note at the bottom
* * *
I luck out and am paired up with six awesome interns for my Blueprint launch. Couldn’t have done it without them.
I end up realizing that after all these years of being skeptical about Virtual Assistants, it’s time to hire one. Also, it’s time to start taking Mondays and Fridays off of work–my quality of life immediately improves.
Taking Mondays and Fridays off of work, it hits me hard that really, I just want to write. It’s always about writing, all the time, and I’m stunned a bit as I realize that–DUH–it’s been this way for years, and most of the tension in my life is due to prioritizing anything else. I declare sovereignty over my time, again, by rearranging my calendar.
And from there, everything else blows wide open.
I feel in touch with a confidence, a bad-assery that I had never been able to quite harness, before. I realize that I am more committed to living life my way than I can ever remember being, and that’s truly saying something because I’ve ALWAYS been pretty committed to living life, my way.
I realize that I want (even more) fun; I want (even more) joy.
(Is this allowed? YES, I decide.)
I want to write more, to finally get fluent in Italian, to do a few Tough Mudder races once this half-Ironman is under my belt. I want to learn how to cook and throw a dinner party for friends where all the recipes come from an Alice Waters cookbook.
I want to finish my book proposal and get it in the hands of an agent, and then I want it to go far and wide because the world needs a revolution around fear. Times call for courage now, like no other.
I want to travel around the United States and get out from behind the computer screen, and meet people, and have tea with them and hear one another’s stories. I want to love my new husband even more, if that’s possible (I am already quite sure it is, and feel blown open by the simple curiosity that courses through me–there is a freshness and newness that comes from being curious. Who are we, now? It’s exciting to rediscover him as “husband” and to ask what that means).
I desire so much more than I have wanted in years past, but this year there is a kind of confidence as backbone to the desire.
It’s a confidence that the exact right things will happen, even if they aren’t anything I’ve articulated here.
Also–a reminder, of course, since I already know this–the things that have happened were the exact right things to have happened, too.
And with this, I can declare completion for 2012–with love, and with total surrender.
** In service to practicing healthy boundaries: While I appreciate that people might want to offer support, connection, or helpful insights/info, please do not contact me in any way regarding the content of fertility, adoption, motherhood or related topics, at this time. It’s too tender, and not something I feel open to discussing–but please do know that I am okay, and have a lot of support and love and care in my life as I navigate this.
When I’m interviewed about courage (or anything else), it’s common for the interviewer to ask about any particular tips, tools, tricks, or advice that I have for how someone can…practice more courage. Feel more fulfilled. Experience more joy.
This is a delicate question to answer. There is no one tip or trick, that applies to all people, everywhere, of course. I typically end up answering with whatever seems to be the particular “thing” that I’ve been jiving with, lately, knowing that they really all seem to feed into the larger whole.
It’s never incorrect to say, one day, that “presence” is the practice, or to say on another day that “seeking laughter and joy” is the tool to use, because they all feed into the practices of attending to life and living in a conscious way.
But lately, the tool that I’ve been sharing most, is this one: crying.
Confession: I actually cry, quite a lot.
Most people’s misunderstandings and stereotypes about crying can jump into effect when I say this. If you cry quite a lot, does this mean that you’re not happy? We’re a culture that often equates crying with weakness.
But what I mean by saying that I cry is this: I cry, consciously. I cry with intention. I cry as a form of connecting to my joy. I cry as a way of opening my heart. I cry as a path to liberation from what would otherwise be bottled-up feelings within me, feelings that would otherwise stifle the creative impulse.
Crying, as a practice, is one of the most lusciously, fully-alive experiences for me.
Where I used to associated crying with victimization, I now associate it with freedom and liberation, of the highest order.
Crying As a Practice
Before this, I used to hate crying–within myself, or seeing anyone else. I felt condescension towards people who cried, precisely because I hadn’t yet reconciled the ability within myself. It was positively Freudian–Defense Mechanisms, all of that.
But then I started doing this really powerful, heart-opening work, and as part of that work, I was asked to cry–whenever and wherever it came up. I was invited to make it conscious, as part of a path to healing.
My first fear was that instead of crying consciously, I would becoming a “disgusting, wallowing vat of despair.” (That would be an exact quote from my inner critic).
I judged crying as being about “drama” and “attention-seeking.” I intensely disliked the discomfort I felt when others cried and I sensed that their tears were about trying to manipulate me into feeling guilty, so that they could get the result they wanted.
If that’s your context for crying, too? You feel me. And yes, there are people who use crying in this way, and it’s not responsible–but that’s not what I’m referring to, here.
To move beyond these internal judgments, I just had to…cry. “No way around, but through,” Robert Frost says, and I agree.
I needed to be conscious about crying, to take it on as a spiritual and personal growth practice.
How to Practice Crying
Mostly, I needed to notice that little second where something within me would tell me not to cry, and just not follow that impulse.
- When a sad moment happened in a movie, I needed to notice the impulse to fight it and keep calm, and I needed to cry.
- When a friend hugged me or said something I had desperately needed to hear, I needed to notice the impulse to fight it and keep calm–I needed to cry. (Yes. In front of someone else).
- I needed to go to powerful, life-changing workshops where no one would care whether or not I cried.
- I needed to book more sessions with my “counselor/coach/guru-man,” Matthew, and there I would need to cry.
- When devastating news occurred, I just needed to…cry. Right there, or wherever I was, or in the nearest restroom if necessary.
This practice of crying on the regular evolved until I would start actually “making” myself cry.
In order to heal and forgive things that had happened in my past, I would find time each day to sit down and think of them in a deliberate way, until I was good and worked up about them–and then I would (on purpose) do the crying over those hurts and wounds that I had not really been allowed to have, at the time.
This was immensely healing.
If I knew that I was holding a lot of space for others, juggling a lot on my to-do list, and otherwise feeling overwhelmed, I could make myself cry–listen to a song that always did the trick, or 9/11 footage, or something devastating.
The crying would connect me back to myself, to my humanity. The release I’d feel afterwards was of the kind that no person, no self-helpy book, and no external circumstances could provide.
When we cry consciously, with the intent to release that which is pent-up, and with the intent to express our truest emotions, the crying is catharsis. It’s bliss.
Fast-Forward to Today
I make a point of crying, as needed. I cry when I’m moved to my core. I cry when I hear about generous deeds. I cry when I watch the documentary, I Am. I cry when I’m on the phone with Tanya Geisler and she delivers just one perfect sentence, oh-so-casually, where I realize just how clearly she sees me and it feels so damned good to be so truly seen.
I cry when I hear about the tragedy of Newtown, CT, because if I weren’t crying all of that grief and shock and anger would stay stuck within me, rotting.
Crying is one of the healthiest presence practices I’ve adopted.
If you’ve been holding your tears back, especially if you’ve done it for awhile, I can’t help but entreat you to try conscious crying.
A quiet room, 20 minutes. Cry it out, on purpose.
Try that on as a meditation for one week, and you will emancipate your soul–I promise.
“What are you doing for the holidays?” people ask.
“Mmmm,” I respond with a smile, “Absolutely nothing. Chilling out at home. It’s a very relaxed holiday.”
The common response: “Oh, god–I wish I could do that!”
Then they share the hectic weeks ahead of them, of catching planes or people flying in from out of town or the social events they have lined up, one after another, that they “have to” attend.
And I remember what that was like, and I nod, and I’m glad that I’ve chosen differently.
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“Did you beat the crowds, this year?” people ask me. “Almost done with your Christmas shopping?”
The question always takes me almost by surprise. My brain has to catch up: “Oh, yeah, it is that time of year, isn’t it?”
The common response: “I wish I could do that” or “I wish I had thought of that.”
Then they tell me about how the stores were terrible this year, or how they got up early to make it to a special sale and how tired they are, or some other thing they “had to” do.
And I remember what that was like, and I nod, and I’m glad that I’ve chosen differently.
“What are you making for Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner?” people ask.
“Nothing!” I say, with delight. “We’re going to go to Whole Foods, get some takeout, and come home and watch movies, drink tea or apple cider, stuff like that.”
“I wish I could get away with that,” someone confides, before she explains that if she did, people in her family would judge her endlessly.
“Every year, I tell myself that I’m going to do that,” someone says, “But then it’s Christmas and I just feel like the kids are missing out if I don’t go all out.”
“Your plan sounds sooooo nice,” someone says, before outlining an entire day spent in the kitchen, cooking, and not with the enthusiasm of someone who actually likes to cook.
And I remember what that was like, and I nod, and I’m glad that I’ve chosen differently.
“Glad that I’ve chosen differently”?
I’m not being sanctimonious. I am, simply, glad.
I used to do all of that–catch a lot of planes, spend a lot of time in airports, wait in a lot of lines, succumb to obligation about how I’m supposed to participate in this or that event or gathering, spend money on junk just so that someone wouldn’t take offense, and generally exit the holiday season feeling like the “break” had taken me to the point of “breaking.”
Finally, after a particularly disastrous Christmas, I said: “Enough.”
- No more flying anywhere for Christmas. It’s a terrible, awful time of year to fly, in every single respect.
- No more running around, getting junk gifts for people, purely out of obligation.
- No more pressure to be part of some all-day cooking-fest, when cooking is something I don’t like to do.
- No more cramming three families into one house for a week straight, which always made my HSP/INFJ body shut down or start to get sick, all in the name of “We’re supposed to be together for the holidays, aren’t we?”
So I experimented for the first time with the quiet, pressure-free holiday season.
It was a smashing success.
I emerged from that holiday season feeling well-rested, healthy, sans resentment, and at least $600 richer, because I didn’t “have to” spend money on a plane ticket.
Instead, I spent money on plane tickets to visit family at less expensive times of the year, or they came to my neck of the woods. I donated more money to charity. Where I did buy gifts, I bought better gifts, because I could afford to.
A curious thing started to happen: I began to look forward to Christmas.
My husband caught me singing “It’s the MOST! WONDERFUL! TIME!, of the YEAR!” in a store.
When we were invited to a holiday party, I put on makeup and a nice dress, instead of reluctantly throwing on jeans and a sweater and wishing I could just stay home and rest, in my pajamas, because I was so tired from going, going, going.
The Point of Sharing This
The point is this: if it’s important to you that everyone is together on Christmas, and if you don’t mind the crowds or the lines, and if you feel no pressure about getting gifts for people, and if your idea of a good time is hanging out in the kitchen all day to prepare a meal for others, then–Bravo!
I completely support you in those choices.
But–after more than a decade of Christmas seasons where I tried, very hard, to fit into that model, I finally realized two years ago that for me, it just didn’t work. It didn’t make me feel happy, and it definitely didn’t have me feeling connected to anyone, least of all to myself.
If the point of the holiday season is to celebrate, to feel connected, to be merry–and the things that the culture at large has told you to do don’t actually have you feeling happy–why, oh why, would you continue to do them?
I know why–I was living the “why.” Because people will be upset. Because people will be offended. Because people will take it personally. And, the real kicker–because that’s how you show people you love them.
It wasn’t until I got out from under those ideas that I realized that there are a hundred other ways to show people I love them, none of which I felt very inspired about when I was wrestling with the weight of obligations that the holidays seemed to bring, and the heavy sickness and fatigue that always seemed to accompany it.
If the traditional model doesn’t work for you–if the thought of a holiday season spent mostly around the fire with a stack of books, and the kids playing, and hubby watching football and apple cider in a pot on the stove, and not having to spend an hour scouring pans at the end of the day all sounds like a pretty nice way to live…
- …then attend fewer holiday parties. Only go to the ones that light you up like, well, a Christmas Tree.
- …give fewer gifts. Or donate money in people’s names to deserving charities, and have a heart-felt conversation with them, after the holidays, about all the good that that money did for someone in a country where first-world problems like “I feel so overwhelmed waiting in long lines to spend hundreds of dollars” don’t exist.
- …plan ahead–shop in October, hide it all in the garage, and then don’t step foot in a department store during the month of December (trust me, you’ll feel ever so slightly…rebellious!).
- …arrange a joint gift-unwrapping via Skype, and use call recording programs and the dual-window feature to simultaneously record two families of children tearing into their gifts and shrieking with delight. Replay the video, later.
- …designate specific days that are just for resting and staying close to home, and refuse to get on social media, check your email, or get out of your pajamas, during that day. Plot for such days by going to the library and getting a big, fat stack of books to peruse–books on fashion or home decorating, something that’s not too overtly cerebral.
Tweak and experiment, until you find the thrilling combination that leaves you joking with cashiers at the grocery store, bringing hot cocoa to the Salvation Army bell ringers, and saying, “Merry Christmas!” to your relatives with true joy and excitement.
Remember: if it’s not leaving you feeling fully-alive, it’s not truly living. What will you do with your one, precious life?