Living in Possibility

When I hear those words: “living in possibility,” it sounds pretty grand and floaty and rainbow unicorn-y.

child-girl-hands-6191And yes, that’s partly my cynic responding, but I think it’s also because in order to dismiss the idea of living in possibility, my brain wants to jump right to the outcome, to see what that looks like as I move through the world doing things I’d never thought possible, doing things nobody ever thought possible, leaping tall buildings in a single bound…. see there it goes again.

But the truth is that living in possibility starts in a way that really isn’t about leaping buildings or leaving a trail of glitter in your wake.

Living in possibility starts small, quietly, and internally.

Yeah, sorry. There are some steps before glitter and unicorns and that’s why we dismiss them, because we’re not sure what those steps are and we don’t know how to do them, and internal – yuck. I’m so with you.

As a life coach I spend a lot of time on the internal, mine and everyone else’s, and sometimes I just have to remind myself to look at the rest of the world because it’s tough in there. Those things on the inside can be pretty dark and full of spiders, but that’s exactly why the notion of possibility can be helpful. Possibility is like a little beam of light breaking in through the canopy into the darkness, encouraging the spiders to continue being helpful and eating pests, but not just run amok everywhere.

When it comes to living in possibility, the only real way to begin is to start thinking in possibility, which means taking a look at what we think when nobody (including ourselves) is looking, examining those underlying, unconscious assumptions about ourselves and the world to see if we’re boxing ourselves in. This has been an… erm… growth area for me.

For me beginning to think in possibility, as a conscious intentional project, began as a practice of noticing when I reacted negatively to positive things people said about or to me, something I did consistently and reflexively.

When praised after a speech or on a piece of writing or after singing somewhere, I would ┬ádo my best to dismiss that moment: in the early days by diminishing the praise somehow (revealing that I thought I did poorly or I should have been more prepared). As I started to see that, and to see some articles about how frequently women in particular do that, I made a conscious effort to NOT say those things any more. The next step was to begin to just say: “Thank you,” without extending that sentence with excuses and self-deprecation. This didn’t necessarily change my thinking, but it did bring my attention to my pattern and helped me to stop reinforcing my own unhelpful thinking.

Then I began to just really notice how I would recoil, turn away, internally dismiss those personal comments, and even passages in the many self-help books I’ve got stacked up around here. If I didn’t agree, if what they said was TOO good about me, I would skim past, breeze over, or even dismiss the speaker or author. Wow. I would essentially insult them so I could keep on insulting myself. True commitment.

The next step, after that noticing, was to begin to question myself.

An author and thinker named Byron Katie provides one of the most useful sets of questions I’ve encountered; all of those questions are based on reacting to our thoughts with some version of: “Is it true?” You’d be amazed at how many horrible stories about ourselves we can begin to unravel if we just take a deep breath and ask ourselves: “Is it really, absolutely true?”

So I began to apply that tool to my responses to the good stuff being thrown at me, but did a little wordsmithing, as I do, to make it immediately helpful: “Am I sure it’s not true?” My recoil instinct was clearly due to me thinking that whatever good thing was being said was not true, was demonstrably false, and maybe even demonstrated a little disdain for the speaker. I mean, after all, what would have to be wrong with you to have such low standards? Yes I’m shaking my head at myself too.

And so I began my practice of asking about the truth of that reaction, about my certainty that I was not whatever good thing was being acknowledged.

Sometimes that question was all it took, and I found ease in responding to praise about singing, about writing, about good deeds. The trick was when I got down to the internal worth. The trick was when I dug into some spiritually bent self-help books that wanted me to believe REALLY good things about myself like: “I now declare myself to be whole, holy, perfect, and complete.” (Iyanla Vanzant)

It has never been okay to declare myself perfect or complete. The notion of me being holy would defile holiness because of the mistakes I’ve made. I also assumed that if I believed I was perfect I would stop trying to be better and would naturally become selfish and complacent.

Well, that sort of lays the insides bare, doesn’t it?

And all of that shows the ways that old wounds and improper words diminish my living in possibility. Those thoughts create the cage for what I can do, my estimation of my capacity.

What would happen if I let go of the words and wounds that get in the way, or if I kept them in safekeeping but decided they need not get in the way?

Here’s what happens when we step out of certainty and into possibility:

“I cannot trust” becomes “I find it difficult to trust but would like to learn.”

“I cannot love or be loved” becomes “I am willing to begin to allow myself to open myself to love in all forms regardless of my past.”

person-road-walk-1605411“I can’t surrender” becomes “I am open to the idea that surrender creates both ease and action and is strength rather than weakness.”

“I am not enough” becomes “I wonder how I would feel if I decided that I am exactly who I should be right now.”

All of that by asking: “Are you sure? Is it absolutely true?”

Thinking in possibility leads to living in possibility. Glitter and unicorns to follow.

 

Letting Go

Letting go of the chatter,

adult-art-artist-133170Letting go of the measurements,

Letting go of the certainty that I know either the ways or the means,

Letting go of the notion that my worthiness is in any way dependent,

Letting go of the hope that I can be good enough,

Letting go of the need to prove, to show, to demonstrate,

Letting go of my agenda, my goals, my plans,

Letting go of the barriers to my attention,

Letting go of the fear that I use to distance myself from things that feel good, do good, are good,

Letting go of the need to have proof, evidence, and demonstration that all will be well.

adult-beautiful-close-up-773371Letting all of it go, releasing that which no longer serves with intention and ease of heart, knowing it may return and visit but in feeling its absence, I have the chance to glimpse how my true nature and peace.

I am enough and

All is well.

Amen.

Being Home

I’ve just spent most of the weekend with friends. Because it’s a long weekend here in the U.S. we accepted invitations to parties on both Saturday and Sunday nights. Whoa – I know, pushing the introvert envelope a little, right? There was some overlap to the guest lists too, so we saw a whole lot of some folks.

alcohol-bar-blur-313715Both parties were really lovely. The weather, which was threatening to bring us monsoons, held off in our little area so we were able to enjoy our hosts’ decks and slightly more country than where we live vistas. My daughter got to feed my friend’s chickens, and that was really fun to watch. Overall it was a lovely time.

So, what? The so what for me is that in the past this would have been exhausting. Completely and thoroughly exhausting, not just because of the wine (which was definitely present and I am a little slow for it this morning), but (in my understanding) because of all of the people. I am a self-classified introvert and all of the signs suggest that I am absolutely right about that. And so in the past I assumed that it was that introversion that made these gatherings tough for me: difficult to be at, hard to enjoy, a struggle to engage in, so really attended out of obligation rather than enjoyment. So THAT’s the so what. I really had a lovely time AND when my seminarian woke from his lie-in this morning I asked if he wanted to try to schedule something with friends. He looked at me a little askance and I asked: “Peopled out?” he grunted yes into his coffee.

I am an introvert. I still need alone time to recharge. I still need quiet time to feel my best. I still have to balance my group scenes with my solo flights, but something is different and I think it’s actually a big so what.

I think the difference is in the amount of work I had to do to be there.

You see, in the past I would have started worrying about these events well in advance.

I would have worried about what to wear.

I would have worried about what dish to bring.

I would have worried about who else was going to be there and if there were enough “comfortable people” for me to cling to.

And as I cycled through these worries, I would have doubled back and worried about them again.

I likely would have changed my mind about what to wear a few times ahead of time.

I likely would have changed my mind about what to bring a few times ahead of time.

And then I would have gone through those changes again while actually getting dressed, while actually cooking.

I might have tried to time my attendance to ensure I would be there when someone else was or wasn’t.

It was a lot of mental effort.

And I think ALL of it was because I just wasn’t comfortable being myself, at least not with any old body. I had my safe circle, and that was it. That circle was very small. And so when I was with people outside of the circle, it took a lot of work. The work was in checking myself. Checking myself for fitting in. Checking myself for not saying too much or the wrong thing. Checking myself for not coming off in a way that I wouldn’t be happy about later. More often than not this meant me not saying very much, because let’s face it, that’s a whole lot easier than all of that checking.

alone-clear-sky-clouds-691919Now, now I fit in. I fit in with myself. I’m not sure when it happened, but I know there was a lot of coaching to get there. And all of that work, all of that rethinking, all of the stories I rewrote, they have finally all added up to being at home. I am at home in myself. I am at home in all of the rooms. I am at home with all of the people. I am not just allowed to be myself, but obliged and ready to do so. And while that is scary sometimes, it is now so much less work and so much more rewarding than the other way.

I want to invite you somewhere. I want to invite you home, to the place you will always belong. If that sounds really appealing but you can’t find that spot on your GPS, I’d love to help you create a roadmap. Home is calling. Are you ready to go?

On Being Heard

All my life I wanted to be heard. I wanted to be heard by the mother who was on her 4th child, the second “pleasant surprise,” and was just beginning to wrestle with the notion that motherhood might not be her only or most beloved goal. I longed to be heard by my father who for many years was largely absent due to work and then emotionally unavailable as his marriage crumbled. I craved being heard by my siblings who noisily jockeyed for position at home.

backlit-beach-clouds-289998I longed to be heard and had no idea that I always could be but that turning to everyone else was a losing game. I had no idea that what I needed was to sit quietly and tend my own inner flame, to hear the heart and soul whispers that I had no words for, to honor my own longing to be valued, to love and care for myself deeply and thoroughly.

My constant outwards reach for attention and affirmation took me to some places that in retrospect, well sometimes not even in retrospect, were pretty dark. I made choices that didn’t serve me because they promised some kind of attention that at least for a little while felt like love. I made pretty big decisions that I thought were destined to make me good enough to merit a seat at the grown ups’ table with all of the seemingly glorious benefits that conveyed. I self-destructed in myriad small ways in an attempt to prove that I was worth noticing, worth admiring, worth listening to, worth loving.

And it all fell on deaf ears – not because my family doesn’t love me but because in the scenario I created I really kind of needed them to NOT love me. You see all of that approval and attention seeking wasn’t a reflection of a deficit of their affection, but a grim revelation of my own complete and utter lack of self-esteem. I hate to use that term because it makes it sound so, I don’t know 1970s. There was a whole movement about that, right? I may have more to say at a later time about THAT, but really that’s what it boils down to, right?

If I had enough self-esteem – a sense of self-worth, I wouldn’t need all of this outside approval for everything. I’m not saying I wouldn’t need any attention or interaction, I’m just saying I might not need so much (in quantity) and not getting it wouldn’t mean so much (like a reinforcement of basic flaws). All of that trying fell on deaf ears because my own ears were deaf to messages of approval. Even if they had approved or attended or given me applause, I would not have heard it because it wasn’t enough to drown out the voice of the critic in my head. It couldn’t be enough to make me feel like I was enough.

afterglow-art-backlit-556665I had forgotten you see. I had forgotten who I am. I had forgotten that like each of you I am a miracle. The moment of my conception was a moment of biological and cosmic interplay that has never occurred before and will never happen again. I had forgotten that it is perfectly normal for me to be “different” from whoever I am comparing myself to and to be grateful for that difference, even at times when its usefulness was not so clear. I had forgotten, in all of my trying, that I was okay. That I am loved. That I am whole. That my purpose here is mine and no-one else’s. I had forgotten that I am stardust.

And so I reached out for reminders. I begged for confirmation of my value. And in doing so I made choices that diminished my own magnificence by confusing it with other people’s desires. I longed for proof, always seeking it from the outside rather than starting the work within, the work of building trust in myself, of listening to the small still voice that says “Yes, you can,” the work of loving this body/mind and life as the container for all that I am and all that I can be here and now. That is the work I have undertaken in the last several years.

What comes from this work is a glowing fire of confidence and self-assurance, a quiet knowing of enough-ness, a tenderness for myself and all of my choices past and present, and a deep felt sense of really being okay. It’s okay. It’s all okay. I don’t need anything from you. I delight in your company. I delight in your you-ness. And here in this space I want to assure you that you are also a miracle, that you are stardust, that there is a small still voice inside of you.

If your need for love and affirmation is falling on deaf ears, I’d love to help you listen.