I Will Not Be Shamed

Someone tried to spank me on Facebook yesterday. I had posted a picture of myself after a haircut, something I do pretty much every time I get a cut as a way to celebrate doing something nice for myself and to continually work on the fear of being SEEN, real pictures of the real me at real (although admittedly well-styled, at least on my head) moments in my real life. I guess there were a lot of posts on my page yesterday, because I gave a sermon at my church and provided the music on Sunday, and folks had posted pictures and recordings of that. At any rate, the spanking…

artist-circus-clown-476Someone commented: “Wow Julia for someone who seems so private you seem to need a lot of attention.” It was followed by the obligatory: “LOL,” as a way to say I’m not really insulting you. Other favorite FB devices that serve this b.s. purpose include: “Just saying…” and the ubiquitous winky emoticon. This digital attempt to use humor to diffuse criticism is something I am VERY well versed in. It’s dishonest. It’s dishonest to pretend it’s a joke and it’s dishonest to believe you are NOT being critical when you do it. Mini-rant over; back to the larger rant.

So wow. Yeah. And I felt it for a minute, because let’s face it, the LOL, the “just saying,” and the winky face don’t really do anything about the words, do they? I felt that accusation. It fed right into old stories of mine about bragging, being too proud, trying to get the spotlight, things that were actively discouraged in my home.

Those stories are things I’ve worked on, but they’re still there, so when I received the FB spank, I had to take a few minutes. My initial response (internally) was not very friendly to the speaker, but it was also tinged with self-doubt. You can tell this is true because I DID go back and look at what I’d been posting that day. Was I asking for attention? Was I showing off? Was I shining too bright a light on the good things that had happened over the last 48 hours? ALL of that is spin, nonsense, garbage, old stuff that’s meant to keep me small.

My retort was sassy, but unnatural. I hid how it made me feel with false confidence: “I don’t actually need it at all. People just keep giving it.” I thought that would be adequate. He persisted. “I almost believe you… Sorta. It’s all good. You’re a babe regardless. LMAO.” Oh, thank goodness he thinks I’m good looking. I continued to respond with my put on self-confidence and he eventually surrendered, which I confess is my goal in these situations, BUT it left a mark AND it reminded me of some things.

It left a mark because it brought up old stuff that I’ve been working on but didn’t particularly want to dance with on a particularly good day. It also left a mark because dammit, can’t a girl just be happy about haircut? Can’t a girl just share the good things that are happening? Can’t a girl just be proud for a minute? Would it have been a problem if a man had posted photos of his recent speaking engagement, his golf score, himself all dressed up for a special night? WHY is this a problem?

It makes people uncomfortable. And to that I respond with a resounding: “Sorry. Not sorry.” I’m sorry if you are not comfortable sharing the wins in your life and if you were raised to believe that you should not crow when something has gone right. I mean that. I really am. That’s the part I’m sorry about.

What I’m not sorry about is that my newly found lack of shame and conscious decision to stop playing small makes you uncomfortable. You can challenge me if you really need to, but I won’t be pushed back into the closet. I won’t.

And I want to ask you to do something, which I acknowledge I have no real right to do, but if you’ve read this far, maybe you’ll be game.

alone-boulders-idyllic-426893If you get uncomfortable when people share their best bits, I want you to take a minute and think of something you are proud of, and even if you don’t feel ready to share it, just sit with it. Feel what it’s like to congratulate yourself, to revel in the good thing you are or did or had or made for yourself. Bathe yourself in praise for just a moment. It’s really okay. Nobody can stop you in your head. Nobody can ask you who you think you are or tell you you’re too big for your britches. You get to just enjoy it. If you’re ready to take it a step further, share it with me. Send me a little note so that I can read it and then say: “That’s awesome. Yay you!”

This is how we rise. Not even a little bit sorry for that friends.

They Don’t All Like You

There’s something that’s been sort of swirling around in my personal sphere lately – in myself and in several people I’ve encountered online, in person, on the phone, pretty much everywhere. So I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to feel it out, give us some space to look at it.

I’ll start with me, not just because I’m self-centered, but because that’s the story I know best. Many of you probably already know that I have a mailing list and that I send out a missive pretty much every week (summer has its own calendar and while my intentions are pure, they are not always timely). In the past my weekly offering was accepted either with enthusiasm or neutrality. Some folks would write back with questions (LOVE) or praise (SUPER LOVE – I’m not immune people). Others would just tacitly approve by staying on the list (YAY!).

alone-away-back-view-274712Lately, things have been different. I know my writing has been different. Some of my offerings have been different. There’s been a more spiritual bent more of the time. There’s been a little more cursing here and there – a strange combination for some, but hey, this is me. And lately when I send out my message in a digital bottle, I’ve been getting a little wave of unsubscribes. Like that language? “A little wave,” the wording shows you exactly where I am with the whole thing. I want to be okay with it, so I call it little, but I feel every single one, so it’s a wave.

It’s perfectly natural that as what I’m doing changes, there will be people who no longer dig it. It’s totally sensible that as I become more myself, there will be people who find that I’m no longer a good fit for their selves. It’s reasonable that with crowded e-mail inboxes those who don’t LOVE what I’m doing should unsubscribe. My wise and practical mind knows this.

But that girl inside? She’s 12 again and all she wants is for everybody to like her. I bring this up NOT to get you all to sign up for my newsletter, but but because this happens to all of us. It especially happens as we change and become more honest, more whole, and more authentic. THIS is what Brene Brown means by vulnerability. When you are real, you take the chance of finding out that not everyone likes HER. We so want to be liked and we so want to be real. And so we juggle and which of those balls we pay the most attention to depends on so many factors.

No matter how we slice it though, we’re going to come across people who just don’t like us or don’t like what we do. My response tends to be: “Wait a minute. What did I do?” I want to investigate to see exactly what was different this time. I want to know why they are leaving. I want to be able to ask them why they don’t like me anymore – and that’s all coming from the 12 year old.

And she only asks for one reason: she asks because she is willing to change in order to keep all of those people. She is willing to be someone else in exchange for approval. She is more concerned about what everyone thinks of her than what she thinks of herself. She actually NEEDS them to like her because she thinks if enough people like her, she will then finally get to like herself.

Ugh. Brutal.

I see it. I see it in a way I was not able to see it in the past. I see it because over the last few years I worked really hard at reversing that direction.

I started with liking me, no not just liking me, LOVING me.

I consciously began to notice the things I love about me – and I mean that on ALL of the levels: in my head, in my heart AND on my body. (I have an amazing décolletage by the way.) I also began treating myself with love. I sat down and figured what that looked like and while I worked on developing the feelings, I began taking the actions. It has changed everything.

And yet, that 12 year old is still around.

That’s right. She’s still there, because here’s the thing about dragons. You don’t have to slay them to make peace.

I know what she’s about. I see her emerge. I catch myself before it all gets so serious that I make someone else’s opinion of me WAY too important. I check in – am I cool with what I said/did/created? Am I proud? Was it me? Yes, yes, yes.

And as I check in with myself, I realize how very okay it is that not everybody likes me.

Truthfully, I don’t like everybody either.

And that’s not what really matters anyway.

What really matters is how I feel about me because even if everyone else thinks I’m great but I don’t like me, I will feel no better. I will feel like a fraud. I will feel lonely and empty.

blur-body-care-161608When I love me, I get to feel real. I get to feel full. I get to feel better. They don’t like me, and that’s okay because I love me (cue the Megan Trainor song now).

If this message was for you today, I hope you’re hearing me, that I’ve found the right words. If you have children, especially teenage girls, I hope you’re hearing me.

If you stop reading my stuff five seconds from now and never come back, I hope you hear me when I say that you are worthy. You ARE special. You do have something to contribute. YOU are the only you we have and if you aren’t doing you right now, maybe it’s time to try to find her, ever so gently, and with great love.

So be it.

 

Brave Enough

I do a lot of talking about fear and getting past it, working around it, not letting it make your decisions for you.

boy-child-clouds-346796And I think sometimes that makes it sound like I want to just see you being super brave all of the time. Like, we identify the fear and then we just leap tall buildings in a single bound kind of brave. Sometimes when I’m listening to another coach or an inspiring human, that’s my reaction.

Like, “Well, I’m glad you figured out how to be brave enough to swim the English Channel, but hells no I’m not going to do anything like that or be that brave EVER.”

My relationship with fear is old and it likes to tell me that I will never be brave enough to do anything worth talking about.

And when I think about bravery and being myself and taking risks as something that I need to don a superhero’s cape to do, it is so much easier to give in to that belief that fear wants me to have. It is so much more tempting to shrug off my preferences and dreams and just stay with caution, nice sweet status quo occasionally soul-sucking caution.

But there’s this thing, something Cheryl Strayed reminded me of this morning.

You don’t have to have the courage of an entire platoon of people liberating a European village in WWII. You don’t have to try to leap a tall building in a single bound. You don’t have to decide to swim the English Channel to take a step forward. You just have to be brave enough to take one step forward.

You have to be brave enough to be honest with yourself about what’s going on with you.

You have to be brave enough to be honest with yourself about what you do and don’t want in your life.

You have to be brave enough to keep wise counsel as you make these considerations and not let other people’s opinions hold TOO much sway.

You have to be brave enough to listen to yourself: not the nattering voice that wants you to grab a bag of chips and the remote because it’s scary out there, but the voice that is calling you into integrity, that is encouraging you to be more yourself. You have to listen to what that is.

You have be brave enough to act on what you discover in the realm of soul truth.

You have to be brave enough for those things, but you don’t have to do them all in the same moment.

beautiful-calm-coast-358480You only have to be brave enough to take one step, whatever that might look like.

Maybe it looks like writing without ceasing for 10 minutes about whatever’s going on in your head.

Maybe it looks like talking to a trusted friend about the things that you’ve been afraid to reveal.

Maybe it looks like getting really, really quiet so you can hear.

You don’t have to take all of the steps at once beloveds.

You only need to be brave enough to take one.

If you need some support, I’d be delighted to walk with you.

XO,

julia

Recital Notes – A Fine Example of Living

My daughter had a violin recital this past weekend. She has studied the violin for two years. Thank you, your sympathy is gratefully accepted. I am happy to announce that we ARE definitively reaching the stage where some music is happening and it is not always challenging to listen to. Bless her.

concert-music-musical-instrument-111287The violin is a tough instrument. It is exacting in terms of your finger placement – just the slightest bit off and you’re off pitch. It is demanding in terms of your bow action – this is the reason for the screechy scratching sound that so many young students demonstrate for so long. It is also tough because it doesn’t get a lot of play in popular music (Thank you Lindsay Sterling for bucking the tide), so it is difficult to “play” with in the ways that students of piano and guitar might do. The violin is the instrument that the family studies together because it is loud and takes substantial time to gain even enough mastery simply not to offend others. Am I laying it on a little thick? I am LOVE with the fact that my daughter plays this incredibly difficult instrument. I chose the easy ones and gave up on the violin in a few months as an adult. She really does seem to love it. My swooning over that fact makes the test of endurance possible.

Back to the recital. If you don’t have a child, niece, nephew, beloved neighbor for whom you’ve attended a recital, I would recommend that you seek one of these students out. Recitals are a wonderful way to experience some music, but also to see young people striving, learning, and growing. It can be really touching.

I’ve shared observations from my son’s piano recital and the community that exists in these events here and all of those same things are true in the strings community. I do have some fresh observations from this weekend’s event that I’d like to share.

  1. The Impact of Fear Diminishes with Experience. The biggest difference between the younger students and the older students was not just skill and difficulty of music as I expected, but the ability to perform without looking like you are going to vomit at any minute. My poor baby (who is 11 and still on the young side of this crowd) cracked nary a grin and really was kind of green by the time she was done, despite playing her piece better than she ever has. An older student complimented her playing and then asked if she was okay “because you looked like you were going to puke.” He was actually quite kind, and given the caliber of his performance, his compliment counted double.
  2. You Get to Decide How to Continue from Here. Accompanists always follow. When you are playing with one and you freeze or forget your part or foul up, they will wait. You get to decide how to proceed – whether you march forward or back up. Your accompanist will find you and help pave that road.
  3. Work and Artistry are Both Needed. When playing the strings it seems to me that one hand chops wood, the other turns it into art. The bow hand and arm moves almost constantly, for more advanced players that movement is fluid and doesn’t even necessarily seem to reflect the rhythm of what they are doing. The hand on the fretboard determines what the notes, and the quality of those notes will be. I know there’s a lot more nuance to this analysis, but this is how it struck me on this day. One hand chopping wood, the other carving the statue. It is critical to remember which hand is doing what AND to recognize that both must be done well for success.
  4. Doing It for Yourself. The performers that were the most enjoyable to watch barely seemed to notice the audience after their required entrance bow. They commanded the stage and the space naturally by doing THEIR thing. They allowed themselves to dive in and just play the music AND to experience the moment.
  5. Your Body is Part of Every Experience. Music is meant to be embodied. With experience and a growing comfort level, these students were able to leave the standing as a statue in an approximation of perfect string playing stance into one that allowed for a little more flow, a little more interaction, as thought the whole body was part of the production of sound.
  6. Creating Something Amazing Requires Leaving Worries Behind. No one is troubled by the wardrobe malfunction of a 17 year old violin phenom. One young woman’s blouse became slightly more revealing (not insanely so, but she noticed it and had a moment of concern) when she donned her instrument and began to play. Nobody reacted. We all just listened. No one would want to risk interrupting the amazing thing that was happening. I just wasn’t important in the face of what she was creating.

achievement-adventure-brave-6629I admit that I thought that attending these events would be hard, and it is at times. It is a long to sit still for those of us who are not native sit stillers. But the joy in it for me is ALL of the things that are going on: all of the music, all of the learning, all of the growth, all of the opportunities to watch young people being afraid and doing it anyway. What a fine example of living.

No Matter What They Think

Yesterday my fifth graders participated in a Living History Museum at school. It was a project they’ve been working on for some time that started with a question: what historical figure (who’s had an impact) would you like to know more about? They did research, prepared display boards about their chosen person, and then they were tasked with writing speeches to deliver AS the historical figure.

blue-sky-camels-desert-71241My daughter chose Marie Curie. This is not a surprising choice for her as she is quite the scientist. She was excited to play an important female scientist for her project. My son, who has always been really into ancient history, chose Ramses II (sometimes called Ramses the Great), an Egyptian pharaoh. Again, he stayed true to form in his choice.

I watched them both struggle with finding the information they needed. I quietly observed as they tried to find stories that would make their presentations particularly interesting. I listened to them practice their speeches (from afar – no peeking allowed). Everything was going swimmingly, until we got to the costume phase.

My daughter had no problem. She looked at a bunch of photos of Marie Curie, noted that in all of them she was wearing a lot of black, that she wore dresses and that she wore her hair in a bun. She was able to abstract an idea of what she should wear that would give the overall effect, and that she already had in her closet. Easy peasy. You have to know what’s coming…

My son didn’t seem to register that costumes were part of this whole thing. He caught on eventually as his classmates began to talk about their preparations. I kept approaching him for a conversation about what he might wear. The problem with an ancient historical figure is that there are no photos. There are guesses, approximations. My son really doesn’t like guesses and approximations. He also wasn’t thrilled to discover that much of what was available to us in the way of guesses looked like dresses to him. Being an 11 year old boy can be a rough road.

After he rejected a few of my homemade notions, we ventured out to our local Party City, the only source for costume type items when it’s not Halloween. He was visibly horrified by his options. I attempted to logic him out of that. He became downcast. I got impatient. His sister played helpful clown for us (and I mean that in the best way) by demonstrating some truly ridiculous options. As he withdrew, my daughter and I assembled some pieces that we thought would reasonably approximate the ancient ruler. He finally rallied a little to examine what we’d chosen. He agreed that we had done the best we could with what was available and was even enough of a sport to try some things on before we left to make sure it would all work out, but the energy about the project had left the building. He was visibly upset about the whole thing.

Later, when his sister was elsewhere, I asked what was bothering him, why he’d gone from SUCH enthusiasm about this whole thing to seeming like he’d rather do just about anything else. “It’s the other kids Mom; they’re all going to laugh at me.” And I saw it in his face, the fear that idea creates. The sentence sort of echoed in my head. It really is at the heart of most of our fears, isn’t it? “They’re all going to laugh at me. They’ll hate it. They won’t like me. Nobody will want to be/play/spend time with/work with/marry/date me.” Rejection. Dismissal. Humiliation.

So we talked. We talked about why he chose Ramses II. We talked about his character. We talked about how excited he had been. We talked about the historical figures the other boys had chosen (“All of their people just wear suits. They all picked famous businessmen.”). I reminded him that he chose someone interesting to HIM. I reminded him that he chose someone he wanted to know about. I reminded him that he gets to be who he is and be interested in who he is. And then, just for good tween measure, I threw in the fact that probably most of his classmates would feel awkward and silly in their costumes too. They would all be nervous about giving speeches. “Did you like learning about Ramses?” The answer was a resounding yes. He liked learning about ancient Egypt. He liked the historical figure he chose. It was all about the laughing.

I comforted him. The Mom in me nervously assured him that people wouldn’t make fun of him as they would likely look silly in one way or another, but I knew that might not be true and that it also wasn’t the point. It was just that moment.

So I tried my best to do the other things he needed me to do. I tried to let him get it all out – all of the fear, all of the worry, without talking him out of it the whole time or making him feel silly for having it. And then I tried to make him feel good enough, wonderful even, for being exactly who he is.

It worked well enough. He put on his full costume (which I’d show you but both of my kids have recently banned us from sharing pics). My seminarian and I went to school at the appointed time so we could see the presentations. They were great. All of the kids were dressed up and had obviously worked very hard.

When I went to my young man and pressed the button that was supposed to animate his historical figure I was delighted to hear a fact-filled and really funny speech. I was so proud and he was all smiles. I asked later who his favorite was (he said: “You mean besides my sister?”. He replied, of course, King Tut.

acid-citric-citrus-997725He was who he is. He got scared. He was afraid people would not like it or him and would embarrass him, humiliate him. None of that happened (although it could have). But he got to the end of the day proud of himself and thoroughly engaged in his learning. It was a thing of beauty and a great demonstration for this light worker that the fear is never enough reason to stop being who I am, no matter what all of the other kids might think.

The Secret to Belonging

Thirty-one years ago I was deep in the throes of a big decision. I was in the middle of choosing where to go to college. My father was REALLY REALLY excited about the fact that I was getting ready for this step, I suspect at least in part because I was the last of four that he had promised financial support for; his light at the end of the financial obligation tunnel. As part of his excitement, a journey was planned. We would take a tour of some of the top contenders for my attendance. He and my stepmom would drive me all over the place so I could see some of these places in person rather than just rely on the glossy pics (in brochure form because there were no websites yet – WHAT?!).

Dad’s excitement was through the roof. The poor man wanted to see me excited about college so badly. He also wanted to return himself, something I thought he was joking about but I now know he actually did desire and was just waiting to need to make a little less money. We hopped in the car, bags packed for a several day sojourn. I don’t remember how we chose the places we would actually visit in person. I do know that we decided we would visit a great aunt as part of the trip and that at some point her location became part of the calculus, but I’m sure it wasn’t the only factor.

activity-adventure-blur-297642A route was planned. Bags were packed. We hopped in an early model SUV and headed out for the great unknown, Dad’s enthusiasm erupting in pronouncements about the wonders of fast food (he was serious) and the joy of the open road. Looking back now I think it sounds really fun. But I was 17, and he was driving me crazy. I solemnly donned the headphones attached to a Discman that Dad had thoughtfully brought along (it played CDs and you could take it with you – gently). Barbara Streisand’s Broadway album stood between me and the barrage of excitement.

We visited schools. We visited private schools (women in pearls and skirts on Monday morning, no I’m not making that up). We visited public schools (SO big, so many people). We drove past the school in NYC that I wanted to see and Dad pointed at the jersey wall with graffiti all over it: “There it is. There’s New York; isn’t it beautiful?” Not his finest moment, but understandable given a whole separate story that is for another time. We toured campuses and asked questions (at least he did). I just kept feeling my way through. “Nope, I don’t feel right here. Nope, not here either. I wouldn’t fit in here. I clearly don’t belong there.” The whole trip was pretty disheartening for me, but allowed Dad to choose his preferred school.

After that trip I was invited to visit a small liberal arts college for a weekend. I would stay in a dorm with a host student, get to see campus life through her experience, really get the feel for the place. I excitedly signed up for the weekend. And when I went to this school, this historic institution that espoused all of my values AND was a great school for music on top of everything else, I looked around and thought: “I think I could fit in here.” And then I kept looking around. And over the weekend a sense of unease developed. I noticed that here at this liberal bastion, there was an overwhelming sameness. It was a sameness that I enjoyed more, but a sameness nonetheless. I joked when I got home that I just KNEW someone had penny loafers in their closet that they were too afraid to wear.

All of this searching for a place where I could belong ended up with me feeling pretty sure there was no place that I could belong. Ultimately the choice about college had a lot more to do with my father than with me. And I sort of spreadsheeted my way through it rather than feeling that I knew where I wanted or needed to be.

The truth was that what I was seeking so desperately was a place where I felt accepted, a place where I felt like I belonged. I wanted to fit in and still be myself AND (because I am complex) I wanted to know that I could change and STILL fit in and be myself. I was looking for some kind of super flexible wildly accommodating Nirvana as an education experience. I had a great college experience, but it wasn’t that. And more importantly it didn’t teach me the thing that I most needed to know then and for many years after.

I didn’t know that I would never find a place that felt like belonging until I allowed it. I would never find a place where I believed I fit in until I was able to know and accept the parts of me that felt so ill-suited for so many corners of my world. I would never find a group of people in which everything I thought or did or said would be okay – like ever – and that that would be alright because I could still know I was okay. I just kept looking for the right room to be in instead of just deciding I was already right wherever I was.

backlit-dawn-foggy-697243It was a mistake I made in other arenas, and I suspect I still do it from time to time, forgetting that I really am okay, pretty wonderful in fact, regardless of my reception in a particular space – digital or otherwise. I start to seek out that external validation, that confirmation, the folks who seem most like me. And that’s okay. It’s good to have a home to return to when we are weary and depleted, a place to fill our cups so we can take all of the best of who we are out into those larger spaces so we can be the lighthouses for everyone who’s still out there searching for the right place.

If that’s you, if you keep opening doors, trying to find that room, I want to tell you something.

You are okay.

You are enough.

You are, in fact, quite miraculous.

And I love you.

XO,

j

Building Trust

This weekend I did something that was really hard for me.

I took my kids to the march on Washington.

My husband is out of town, and couldn’t be with us, but my church chartered fancy buses and when I realized I could be with a big group, I decided that we would go. The kids wanted to go. They felt strongly about it (although in retrospect they really didn’t know what that being there would look like). I wanted to support their participation and I certainly felt that it was important for myself.

pexels-photo-93490But the crowd thing. That’s a tough one for me. I’m an introvert by nature, so really groups of more than like 50 are really never on my short list of great places to be. I also am SERIOUSLY sensitive about noise, people accidentally touching me or bumping into me, and just the energy of ALL THOSE people. This is just me. I completely and totally accept all of my unique unicorn-ness.

Knowing these things about myself helps me make good decisions, AND it helps me to make difficult situations just a little bit better.

Because let’s face it, I could have just decided not to go. I could have decided that it would have been too difficult for me to provide good parenting for my kids when I would be a little energetically impaired. I could totally have decided that. OR I could have decided to just gut it up. I’m going to just do it and be miserable and push through.

Thing is, I didn’t do either of those things. I decided to go, but to make sure that I was making that just a little bit better. How did I do that?

It started with that decision to ride the chartered bus – no long drive and parking nightmare in DC, no mob scene on public transport, no traffic jams. I then made sure I was going to be on the same bus with my sister and her family. More adults who love my kids in a mob sounds like a perfect setup. We also joined forces with another family while we were there and it was so HELPFUL. Huge high five to Elaine Gleaton who co-navigated the whole getting the kids to the port-a-johns and then losing our group and finding our way back to the buses thing… tangent.

That wasn’t all I did. I made sure I wasn’t going to be cold, because I really, really hate to be cold. I also made sure my kids dressed reasonably so they would also not be cold and whiny because I am not always super compassionate in response to whining. I wore clothes that made me feel comfortable in my own skin. I wore a little jewelry that made me feel plugged into myself. Bits and bobs that had special meaning, like talismans of connection and protection. I packed a lunch so that we wouldn’t have to add to whatever else might be going on by relying on street food and whether it was easy to get to or whether or not they would have ANYTHING my daughter would actually eat. I packed water bottles and snacks, and a deck of cards because I always pack a deck of cards.

I attempted to get a good night’s sleep, but was foiled. I also took a little bit of a supplement that is calming to me as we got onto the charter bus. I did everything I could think of to make myself as comfortable as humanly possible. I took excellent care of myself and my little people.

And doing all of that made it all a little better. I discovered some more tricks that I will remember for the next major crowd scene. I do best when I face the other people I love in a crowd, so instead of facing the Jumbotron, I just listened to the speeches. Really, that was more than enough and it felt good to me to be looking at my people instead of the screen and the backs of hundreds of thousands of heads. This also allowed me and the other parents to create a bit of a circle that we put the kids inside of so that they would not be bumped into as regularly. Adults are better at holding the physical space claim than slim 11 year olds.

It sounds like a long list I’m giving you, like I’m prepping you for your own protest with kids, but that isn’t really what this is about.

blur-body-care-161608What this is really about is me making a decision and then being really honest with myself about what parts of that decision were really going to challenge me, me honoring my own tendencies and my own needs in as many ways as were humanly possible. What this was really about was both not allowing myself to miss out on something really important AND actually doing what it took to make it okay to be myself in that situation. It was okay to be an introvert and stand with nearly one million other people. It was okay to take my kids to an event like that. It was okay for the whole thing to jangle me a little bit because I can and DO take care of myself. I can and DO treat myself as one of my loved ones.

See how that works? Being honest about what the challenges would be and taking care of as many of them as possible was like a signal to my sensitive self that she is heard, she is cared for, and there really is an adult up in here who will make sure she is okay. There is someone who wants things to be just a little bit better, even when it’s not an ideal situation. That message is so calming, so soothing, and so confidence-building. I can trust myself. I can trust myself to take care of myself and my kids. I can trust myself to do what’s right and not let it kill me. I can trust myself to make good decisions small and large. I can trust myself and that scared girl who’s in there and gets rattled by events like the rally on Saturday, she sees that and takes a deep breath and says: “Thank you.”

Sometimes It Takes A Little Courage

Here we are, one day away from a new year.

2018. Part of me sees that number and just goes: “Wow.”

As in: “How did that happen so quickly? When did we get to 20… anything?” And there’s a little calculation of my age in there too.

But when I interrupt all of that, which is standard new year’s fare, I really can marvel.

When I interrupt all of that and think about what has changed for me in 2017, I am more in WOW than usual.

In my last post I suggested a way to do a mini year in review, and I’ve been playing along as well.

And in some ways the results are predictable. There are big parts of 2017 I will be delighted to let go of. But there are also big parts that I just kind of stare at in wonder. I’m amazed at the changes I see in myself. I amazed at the changes I see in my business. I’m amazed at the changes I see in my relationships. Wow.

chase your dreamsAnd so I enter this arbitrary restart point that is new year’s eve with the confidence and courage that really pushing yourself can bring. I’ve been doing the work (inside and out) and things are changing. And I’ve noticed that even when they don’t work out just the way I expect, they still get better. I see my own growth. I see my own progress. I can note how my learning, effort, planning, and time have changed my life for the better.

So I can come to my vision for the next year with some sense that whatever I’m dreaming up IS possible. I’m coming to this moment with a whole lot more “YES” than I’ve been willing to give in the past. I’m willing to take risks, work hard, and possibly even fail because when I do those things, my life is better. I feel better. Everything gets better.

It was not always this way for me. At some point in the not so distant past, I had to face this moment without the confidence that experience can bring. I had to face having a vision, a new idea for my life, a new hope with huge uncertainty in anything but my inability to accomplish what I imagined. I faced that moment with tremendous fear and a sinking feeling that it would never work.

If you feel that way when you look into the future, if you see no chance for change in your year to come, I want to tell you that you are wrong. And I’m going to ask you to take action anyway.

I get the impression that a lot of people think that courage is the absence of fear. We think that we need to somehow conquer our fear, banish it, overcome it. I’m going to suggest to you that courage is simply acting even though you are afraid. That’s it. That’s all it is, a decision to do it anyway.

There are lots of ways to go about this. You can imagine that your fear is a small suffering animal that needs you to be compassionate to it before you act anyway. You can imagine a chair where you can tell fear to go sit while you do the scary things. You can imagine that your fear can just exist and that you can notice it and allow it to be without doing anything at all about it. Or you can just be absolutely terrified and just proceed.

Finding courage to chase dreamsAnd then you will be acting, with courage, and creating the confidence you need to do it again simply by making that choice.

What would you do in 2018 if fear wasn’t driving the bus? What would you say yes to? What action can you take today that will give you the confidence to take another action tomorrow?

If you need some help creating courage or acting on your vision, I sure would love to help.

Yes You Can

My son had his first piano recital yesterday.

He is NOT someone who relishes being in the spotlight, on stage, watched intently in any way.

It was a big deal.

As I watched him and the 24 other students perform, I found myself overcome with emotion many times, not just maternal pride, but something deeper, something that wasn’t just about me and my boy.

It think what I was sensing is all of the ways a GOOD recital reflects the best parts of our world, and I don’t know about you, but I could use a little reminding right about now of some of the best parts of our world, not so I can ignore the bad, but so I can remember WHY I care about the bad, so I can remember why hope and effort matter so much.

Life Lessons in the Recital Hall

1. Community Matters. We all know this, but sometimes we get so involved in our own stuff that we forget. We forget about the people who make some of our own stuff possible. When we arrived (early so he could see the room, get comfortable, maybe even run through his piece), the performance space had been completely rearranged and decorated to provide the best experience for performer AND audience. Tables were set up and decorated and treats arrived with each family so that everyone could enjoy something afterwards. It was festive, and it took work. Community matters.

2. There will most likely always be someone who is better than you. When we arrived yesterday, my son walked into the sanctuary of the church where the recital was held to find a very advanced student warming up on her piece. He had hoped to sit at the grand piano for a minute to see how it felt, but quickly lost his interest in playing anything after she was finished. He didn’t want to be compared to her AT ALL. He was already doing enough of that himself. He didn’t tell me so, but I know he was afraid that all of the other performers would be more like her and that he would be the only beginner.

There is no shame in being a beginner3. You are never the only beginner. What he discovered when a family friend (who also was there supporting a performer) clued us in to the other piano in a more private location where he could practice is that he was far from the only beginner, and perhaps more importantly, he was not the oldest beginner. The recital featured students of all ages at all stages in the learning process. It is much easier to be kind to ourselves as beginners when we remember we are not alone.

4. Everyone makes mistakes. Of the 25 or so pieces that were played, I think there were 2 in which there were no mistakes I could discern. All of the students made mistakes – different levels of mistake, but mistakes nonetheless. And you know what happened? Not a darned thing. Nobody asked them to step away from the piano. Their teacher did not get frustrated. Their parents did not shame them. They had the grace of the group to handle their mistake and finish the piece they had prepared. The audience cheered for everyone because everyone makes mistakes.

5. A corollary: being perfect is not the point. When students prepare for a recital, they are sure that the point is to play the piece flawlessly, but I am pretty convinced that this is not the point at all. The recital offers an opportunity that is far greater, far deeper, far more important for the development of the self and the soul than playing a piano piece perfectly. The point of the recital is to share yourself, and to do without being deterred by fear or flaw. The point of the recital is to take a moment to acknowledge growth, development of skill and to grow and develop as a human by keeping fear at bay and getting to the finish line no matter what. Being perfect was never the point.

6. It is never too late. My son was so sure he would be embarrassed by his beginner status ate the ripe old age of 10. Amongst the students yesterday were several adults. Some were very advanced. Some were not as advanced, but they reminded us all that it is never too late. It is never too late to try something new. It is never too late to improve a skill. It is never too late to spend time on something that fills your heart. It is never too late to share yourself. It is never to late to have another chance to put fear in its place and go through with your plans as you made them. It is never too late.

7. The audience wants you do well AND wants you to feel good. They want you to do well, but not really because they don’t want to listen to poorly performed music (although there might be a little of that). They mostly want you to do well because they want you to have a good experience. They want you to feel proud of yourself. They want you to have concrete evidence of the growth and courage that they see when you walk to the front of the hall. The audience even loves you, not just your parent. They are all holding you in hope and compassion as you take that risk.

I know that a recital is not the world at large, that a smaller group of people with similar interests might be different, kinder to one another, special, but isn’t it possible that these things are or CAN be true everywhere, especially if we look for it, if we don’t imagine that they’re not true or only notice when people behave badly?

Just do youIsn’t it possible that there is a safe space in the world for you to share yourself, to acknowledge what you’ve been up to, to give of yourself, to set fear aside and just do the thing so we can all cheer for you?

I’ll be the one in the front row with an inappropriate noise-maker and glittery signs.

Go do that thing.

Are You Aware of Your Mastery?

 

She said: “I’m not an expert” and then told me, as an aside, how she was quickly able to answer a potential client’s question – no hesitation. Her client walked away from that exchange with information that could change her daily life. And my client walked away without the confidence that her training and years of preparation should afford her.

There’s a thing that can happen with mastery. When we study something deeply, or at least repetitively for a long time, it becomes part of who we are. We can act on that mastery without thinking about it. And THAT can get us into trouble.

Acknowledge what you're good atWomen are not always encouraged to reflect on, celebrate, and talk about their mastery. They’ll even give credit for their work away to others (especially to male colleagues at work). So even though they achieve these levels of ability and skill, they don’t share that with others and after a while, they sort of forget that there was mastery involved at all. Let me give you a few examples.

Example 1: This is about yours truly, but I KNOW it applies to others because I’ve heard it. I stayed at home with my twins for 10 years. I did do some part-time work in there, and the amount of work time increased in the last several years as I pursued my coach training and established a practice, but for all of those 10 years I was the chief cook and bottle washer. I was squarely in charge of our entire domestic scene. This was a job I took on willingly, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t wear on me. As our employment picture has shifted, we have worked toward rebalancing the domestic load, my grad student and self-employed husband taking on more and entrepreneur and musician me casting off tasks. And for some time this shift caused a great deal of discomfort. He didn’t do things right. He took forever to complete tasks I could whiz through. He didn’t see the messes and the problems that were screaming out for attention. And it drove me crazy, until I realized that this whole domestic scene was an area in which I had achieved mastery. While I didn’t love a lot of it, I had become extremely efficient. These tasks were second nature. I could execute them quickly, without even thinking about it most of the time. My irritation with him both shortchanged him of the room to grow and learn AND failed to acknowledge the amount of learning and skill that went into my handling of these tasks in the first place. I had achieved mastery. My execution of that role had become intuitive, could be in flow, and was a demonstration of hours and hours of practice.

Example 2: I have a friend who has always been interested in health. She is constantly reading about nutrition, alternative therapies, anything she can get her hands on that describes things people can do to take better care of their bodies. (I actually have a handful of friends that fit this description now that I’m thinking about it). She is also a nurse by trade and is in graduate school. I turn to my friend when I have physical and medical questions, which as someone with an undiagnosable joint problem, I do with some regularity. And I can see the wheels in her mind turn as we discuss whatever I’m asking about. I see her accessing all of those cerebral files. I see her deciding what’s relevant and what’s not with lightening speed. I take her recommendations seriously because they have not yet failed me. And yet, she regularly tells me that she is not as smart as _____________. Her mastery goes unacknowledged internally. Her ego doesn’t even get the boost of feeling proud of all of the value she offers the world on a regular basis, because she doesn’t recognize her own mastery.

Example 3: I have a new part of my practice, helping coaches and other service professionals to create a signature program so that they can serve their clients in deep and meaningful ways. This development is a mastery story in two way. First of all, I had to acknowledge my own mastery of curriculum planning – my deep understanding of how to teach – in order to offer this as a service. It struck me during a conversation with a fellow coach that I had knowledge and skills, mastery, that might be helpful to others. The second way this is a mastery story is that this process requires my clients to acknowledge their own mastery. What do you know about/know how to do that the people you want to work with don’t? Where is your flow and who needs that? Who do you want to work with and what can you offer them? These questions always remind my clients that they DO have mastery, that the skills and knowledge that they take for granted are taken for granted because they’ve mastered them. When they acknowledge that mastery, our work together takes off like a rocket.

How to feel more confidentAnd I say all of this to give you a moment, a chance to pause and really take a good hard look at yourself. Because I’m betting there’s some mastery there. There’s something (probably many things) that you do and do well without even thinking about it, and that you’ve done well for so long that you think everyone can do that (or knows that or thinks that or makes that). You’ve forgotten that your mastery is, in fact, YOURS. You’ve forgotten to remember the ways that you shine, and by ignoring your mastery, your sparkles have grown a little dim. Nobody can see what you can do and learn from you, be inspired by you, find courage to shine themselves when you extinguish your light.

What are you a master at? What can you do without really breaking a sweat? Take a moment and see it, see your own mastery, your own unique blend of skill, learning and intuition. See it and remember that you can shine and others will bask in that light.

If you need some help polishing your glitter, please do get in touch. I’d love to share my shine with you.