I once heard someone say that people think that having a lot more money will solve all of their problems, but really all it will do is show you more of who you already are. If you are already an arrogant person, for instance, having more money will amplify that arrogance. If you’re already a generous person, having more money will amplify that generosity.
Since the birth of our daughter, I keep thinking that really, everything in life is this way.
Everything in life, all the stuff “out there,” just shows us more of who we already are.
For instance, when I’m lacking sleep, what shows up for me is different than what shows up for my husband. We have different responses to the stress that lack of sleep brings; it’s just stirring up more of what’s already in the pot of our psyches and more of who we already are.
It’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that other people’s behavior, or the amount of money or time that we have (or sleep!) is really what’s behind our choices.
It’s easy to say, “If they hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t behave this way” or “If my parents hadn’t raised me the way they had, I wouldn’t choose XYZ, today” or “If I had more money (or time, or sleep), then I’d be more (patient, generous, compassionate, etc.”
But really, the proof of who we already are is showing up in our day-to-day choices, right here and right now. I’m thinking now of a dinner experience I had where someone who didn’t have a lot of money approached me beforehand with cash and insisted, absolutely insisted, on covering my meal; when we were actually at the restaurant, other people who had quite a lot of money were irritated when the waitress hesitated to split the bill among our large party.
The person with less money made choices that indicated that she didn’t feel she had less money; her choices, despite her cash flow, were a reflection of who she already was. Likewise, with the other dinner guests.
We think that how we feel about our lives is really about the circumstances of our lives, when the truth is that how we feel about our lives is really about the Stories we tell about what’s happening, and who we are in response to that.
I adore my daughter. It is hard for me to be away from her. And yet at the same time, especially when it takes hours of rocking and swaying and movement just for her to go down for a nap, I have thoughts like, “Life would be easier if she would just go to sleep, already.”
The truth, of course, is that life already is easy. I have a healthy baby girl and I get the honor and privilege of raising a human being. It is something that I wanted and longed for and never regret. The moments when I think that something needs to change has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with me.
In other words, life is just showing me more of who I already am in my boredom or my lack of presence or my habitual response when I’m feeling tired. All of it comes up and arises, and if it weren’t coming up because I have a new baby, it would come up because of a frustration in my business or with another person or in response to a sports injury or the next time I hit a money snag.
There are moments in taking care of an infant where I feel really lost and broken; I can’t figure out what she needs and I notice that I’m attached to having an answer for her and being the Super Mommy who logically manages to assess the situation and determine how to best provide for her.
In those moments, life is showing me my own brokenness: my own wounds and longing for someone else to provide answers for me and caretake for me, my own assumptions that this is what love looks like, my projections that her crying means something dire.
If you want to know what life is trying to show you, here are a few questions to ask yourself, particularly next time you feel challenged:
- What must I believe about myself, others, or the world, in order to think that things should be different, right now?
- Can I really know that if things were different right now, anything would be better? Can I honestly, truly, 100% know that for absolute certain? (Hint: No, you can’t. Play with that one.)
- If this weren’t a trigger for me right now, what else would be?
- How is this trigger, in this moment, similar to other triggers? In other words, can I find the place where I project this same story or belief system onto different content?
There is grace and courage in examining your habitual responses to life and noticing that what they all have in common is one thing: you. Life is not happening to you; it is just showing you more of who you already are.
June 2nd, 2014.
I wake up early, around 5am in the morning. I’m 38 weeks and a few days pregnant, and my first thought is that that’s it, I’m finally soooo pregnant that pregnancy-induced urinary incontinence, which I’ve heard afflicts some pregnant women, has now hit me.
Good gravy. Seriously? Arrgh. Seriously.
I head to the bathroom, slightly mortified at what I believe to be loss of bladder control. My husband is asleep and thus no one would need to be the wiser, so I’m quiet.
And then it dawns on me that even though I have a scheduled c-section four days away…my water broke.
Hoooooly shit. My water broke.
Honey, It’s Time
Total adrenaline hits. I wake up my husband. We are both looking at each other a bit like, “Uh…what do we do, now?” I’m texting my sister, because she’s had a kid and I’m trying to figure out if this is for real.
It is for realllllz.
Since I’d thought I would have a scheduled c-section, I’d thought I’d have a few more days to do things like finish packing the hospital bag, finish typing up the birth plan. My husband begins throwing things into the bag; I pull towels from the bathroom to sit on at my desk while I’m hurriedly finishing the typing on the birth plan and printing it out. We call the hospital and let them know that we are coming in.
Hitting the Brakes
At the hospital, everyone who passes us as we walk in gives us a huge, knowing smile. One person even says, “Congratulations.” Everyone knows that no woman walks into the hospital that early in the morning and that heavily pregnant, unless it’s basically go-time.
Of course, after we check in, there are long periods of sitting in an exam room, waiting. Since I need to have a c-section, surgeons and anesthesiologists who happen to be on duty need to be consulted, review my medical history, and on and on. I’m crossing my fingers that they aren’t going to make me wait until the afternoon; the anticipation is biting.
The nurse puts a baby monitor around my belly. A few minutes later she asks, “Did you feel that contraction?”
“That was a contraction?” I said, surprised. I’d felt this wiggly sensation off and on for a few weeks; it was painless and I had always assumed it was just the baby moving.
She shows me the dips up and down on the monitor. I am completely comfortable, just curious, and perhaps even a little antsy to know what’s happening next so that we can get this show on the road.
The nurse shares that she, too, had had a c-section when her baby was breech. “I totally understand,” she says when I share that I fear needles.
I think to myself that I love a nurse who is also afraid of needles.
Changing to the Fast Lane
It is nearly ten o’ clock. The surgeon and anesthesiologist come in. They introduce themselves and say that they’ve consulted and that they’ll be able to start the c-section in about an hour.
For all of my antsy desires to get things moving along, suddenly this is moving way, WAY too fast–my brain is trying to compute. Surgery, c-section, baby born, me, in less than an hour, what the fuck?
They start setting up the IV. Someone else is going through the disclaimers. I notice that I start breathing heavily. My veins keep collapsing because I’m starting to really, really freak out; they finally get the IV in on the third try. A nurse suggests that I put on headphones and cue up some relaxing music. I do exactly that and focus on trying to breathe.
The truth is this: I had a fear that I would be that one person, that one person in the statistic who dies from a c-section or who has a baby die from a c-section. I’m trying very, very hard not to allow that fear to completely overwhelm me.
When it’s finally time for my husband to go off and get into scrubs and for me to be wheeled into the actual operating room, I notice that I’m having an even harder time processing everything. It just seems surreal. When they finally wheel me into the operating room, I look around half expecting that this room is just a way station en route to the actual room, but no, this is the room.
When they administer the spinal, the nurse who is standing in front of me to brace me so I don’t fall forward says, “You can lay your head on my shoulder, if you want.” I immediately do.
Thinking about the tenderness of that moment still brings tears to my eyes.
The spinal begins to take effect. I have Devi Prayer cued up and I’m listening to it and breathing, breathing. I realize that I can feel my body swaying a bit down below and have a brief moment of panic. I hadn’t realized that I would feel my body swaying from side to side or anything else.
The same nurse who told me she had had a c-section and feared needles leans over me and reassures me that the spinal has taken effect. When I panic further, she looks me in the eyes and says, firmly but with such kindness, such knowing of what’s to come: “You have got to breathe; it’s the best thing for you and for your baby.”
I trust her. In the next few moments, the most marvelous, sweet, relaxing feeling creeps over my entire body. I have not felt this relaxed in months (years? EVER in my life?). My husband is there. He pets my head and I am listening to Devi Prayer and I can hear him and the anesthesiologist, who keeps poking in to share that I am doing great; I am doing great; I am doing great; everything is going exactly smoothly; I am doing great.
As promised, I feel no pain and no discomfort (again, seriously–I feel really, really awake yet relaxed and it’s amazing; it is definitely a positive c-section experience ). Minutes later, we hear her crying for the first time: our daughter. She is shrieking and loud. Now that I’m an experienced diaper changer, I know that that’s the same cry that means, “I am COLD! I am COLD! Cover me up! I am COLD!” Andy and I are both crying. They are checking her to make sure everything is okay.
And then a warm little baby is tucked against my chest.
Anika Jane Rado. Nine pounds, six ounces. 21.5 inches. Blue eyes. A beautiful full head of hair.
She immediately stops crying and stays snuggled against me. I am suddenly very awake, no longer out of it, amazed by all of these sensations.
It is all perfect. It is everything. It is completely and totally right.
I had thought I would only have that feeling if I’d had a natural birth. Turns out, I had exactly the birth experience that everyone needed. She is completely happy tucked against me. She stays warm on my chest for the next several hours; we get to our room and keep the lights down low and our voices soft, wanting her transition into the world to be as calm as possible.
All of these weeks later, I’m in total mama-mode. The feeling of attending to this little baby feels almost primal. I want to memorize every moment. I’m acutely aware that there will be a place in time, somewhere in the months to come, when I will look back and she will no longer be a newborn. I don’t want a single day to go by where I’m unaware of that, taking it for granted, longing for her to be an older baby, and then realize that I completely missed the fascinating world that she’s in, right here, and right now.
Welcome to the world, Kid Courage. Thank you in advance for being my incredible, life-changing teacher.
Join the YCL community for the #ProvocativeQ challenge, all during the month of July! Click here: www.YourCourageousLife.com/begin to get started with the subscriber-only worksheet and information on how to participate.
One of the most powerful lessons that I’ve learned is this: any time someone tells me something that I really, really dislike hearing, there’s something in what they’ve said that I really, really need to hear.
This started in couples therapy, which my now-husband and I started years before we were ever married. He’d say something I didn’t like hearing, perhaps something as kindly phrased as, “I notice that when you ___________, I feel __________,” that was totally endorsed by our counselor, and I’d think, “What a jerk; He’s just making excuses.”
It didn’t matter how kindly he was delivering his feedback. I was irritated with him for offering any suggestion that my behavior needed to change as part of creating a better relationship.
Really, though? The issue was my own shame. I was so ashamed of my behavior that owning my part and truly taking responsibility for it felt like more pain than I could handle.
To that end, for years most of my self-help work existed on a periphery, on edges. I’d meditate on chakras; I’d recite affirmations; I’d try to manifest goodness; I’d “focus on the positive.”
I was not willing to look at anything that involved me actually taking responsibility for my behavior (because that triggered my shame). I was not willing to hear critical feedback with an open mind (because that triggered my shame).
If it was airy, light, positive, and flowery, I’d meditate on it with discipline.
If someone tried to get me to hear five minutes worth of feedback in which it was clear that my behavior and choices had been unattractive, directly in conflict with my vision for my life, or the like, I could easily justify ten reasons why they were the asshole who was trying to “bring me down” and hurt me.
What We Choose, Instead
This is a common issue that I see in the self-help world, and it’s easy to see why it happens:
If you take a whole lot of people who have spent a whole lot of time either being criticized and berated by others, or criticizing and berating themselves, the world of self-help feels like a relief.
We want chakras and crystals and affirmations more than we want getting really, really, really real about the ways in which we, as adults who no longer live with mom and dad, will go out into the world and choose the circumstances, manipulate the game, and then go back and blame it on mom and dad…over and over.
Doing this a few times indicates a lack of consciousness. Doing this again and again indicates a lack of taking responsibility for one’s life.
For example: when a coach decides to go into business for herself, then bogs herself down with overwhelm, then refuses to actually choose to use any of the numerous tools she’s already invested considerable time and money into learning to alleviate any of the overwhelm that she feels, then throws up her hands and declares that she can’t make her coaching business work…
…she’s making a choice not to take responsibility for her behavior.
The problem is only exacerbated if that coach then goes to a friend or a coach or reads a self-help book, and tells herself, “I just need to breathe, and relax, and be gentle with myself,” and leaves it at that.
I’m aware that all of this is very provocative to say. If you’re imagining someone saying all of this in a voice of condemnation, you’re probably about ready to click elsewhere (so, hey–perhaps notice if that’s the choice you’re making and the “story” you’re attaching to my intentions for this piece).
Here’s the full picture for that coach:
She does need to breathe.
She does need to give herself some time to relax.
She does need to be gentle with herself.
She also probably needs to say to herself, “It’s not surprising that I’ve arrived here, if I evaluate and then take responsibility for my choices. I’ve been taking on too much. I’ve been comparing myself to others. I’ve been buying into a story that the money I make or the number of clients I have determines my worth. I’ve been getting overwhelmed and not taking time for self-care. These are the choices I’ve made. I can take ownership and responsibility for all of this, without making myself into a bad person. These were my choices. I accept the results of my choices and now I’m committed to shifting them.”
The friend, or coach, or book (or blog post) that actually asks you to yes be gentle and kind to yourself, while also not shirking from self-evaluation and taking responsibility for your choices is the resource that truly has your best interests at heart. When we do not try to save people from the consequences of their choices, we are practicing an incredibly courageous form of love.
The problem is, self-help gurus and coaches and the like often avoid asking provocative questions. Why? Wanting to be liked; fear of triggering pain; not wanting to come across as judgmental.
Even I have a fear of these things as I write this post.
Yet I really want to ask you some provocative questions, because it’s been my experience that when someone asks them of me, and I sit with them and truly go deep instead of resisting them, I discover something about myself. What I discover about myself is often deeper and richer than zoning out with a few crystal meditations or looking up my horoscope to see how my planets are aligned.
You can sit with provocative questions and go deep, without actually berating yourself. You can just get honest.
Getting honest is time efficient. It’s a relief. (Click to tweet that: http://ctt.ec/m5r8H).
For example: Let’s be real. Most of us whine and complain. People tend not to point it out when we do that, because they…want to be nice. They want to not hurt our feelings. They want to be supportive.
So what if you were asked the provocative question: Are you justifying your whining and complaining?
At first, you might push against that. You might say, “She’s a bitch for saying that to me.” You might deny that you ever whine or complain. You might go behind the person’s back and declare that they don’t support you.
OR, if you sit with it long enough, though, you might feel the gentleness arise: “Well, okay, yeah…so, I’m a human being having a human experience. Sometimes, I whine and complain. Here’s the truth behind the whining and complaining.” Then you might ask consider that this person was asking a question that was hard to hear, but that your reaction to hearing it is…your responsibility.
From there, you might start to ask yourself what is needed, next. You might ask yourself how releasing the justifications for whining and complaining might make your life…better.
July 2014: Provocative Questions
During the month of July, on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/katecourageous) or the YCL Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/YourCourageousLife) , I’ll be asking a series of Provocative Questions. It feels a little risky, a little daring, the kind of thing that will get me labeled as a bitch because people will misunderstand the intent.
Yet, these are all questions I’ve either been asked, or asked myself, and they’ve been really fruitful.
I’ll post one a day during the month of July, and your invitation is to participate by actually a.) asking yourself these questions, and b.) blogging a response to these questions.
The invitation is also to see this as a doorway to greater compassion for yourself. Instead of trying to live up to some self-help ideal where you’re endlessly compassionate and living in the light, you might also own the parts of you that can be bitchy, impatient, jealous, or out of integrity.
In owning them, you can embrace them. You don’t ask yourself the hard questions so that you can make life hard. You ask the hard questions so that you can face what you fear, and work with it, instead of against it.
There are two steps. One, head here: http://www.yourcourageouslife.com/begin/ and sign up for the YCL e-letter (current subscribers, you’ll automatically receive everything!). After confirming your opt-in, you’ll get to access the entire YCL library as well as the #ProvocativeQ worksheet only for subscribers.
Second, head here: http://www.twitter.com/katecourageous or here: http://www.facebook.com/YourCourageousLife and follow on either of these social communities to see what the daily #ProvocativeQ question will be.