I’m not sure where to begin this post, but when struggling, I rely on the sage advice of The Sound of Music: “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”
I haven’t written much, and not for lack of things to say. At some point, I stopped thinking of this blog as a place to write freely and started to think of it as a journalistic forum, one in which everything I had to say needed to be researched, presented well and searchable via Google. I started to think in terms of writing like an expert and less like writing like me. Let’s be clear – I’m no expert people. I was, and still am, a girl with some things to say and some experiences that I wanted to share with the world, hopefully inspiring a few people along the way. Then September hit and I got a few messages from the world that it was time to stop the nonsense of believing I needed to write like an expert and JUST WRITE. If you need some inspiration yourself, I highly suggest listening to the new podcast from Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s called Magic Lessons and you can find it on iTunes and download ALL the episodes and listen to them obsessively like I’ve been doing. Here’s the thing: I don’t care who she’s talking to, but every time she starts to talk, this woman is speaking directly to me. Every. Single. Time. I’ve been listening in the car and have had to wipe away tears. I’ve stopped episodes and rewound them just to be able to transcribe certain phrases for myself. So, here’s me, JUST WRITING. And thank you, for reading and listening.
A few months ago, a friend shared a post on Facebook that really hit home for me. So much so that I read it a few times. I wrote about it in my journal. I thought about it over and over again. I talked to my husband about it. I tried to articulate it to friends, but it just never seemed to translate well. If you plan to read on, it might be worth it to read it yourself (you can find it here) so I don’t butcher it for you here. Elizabeth Gilbert has been a great source of inspiration to me. She helped a lot of women change their lives when she wrote Eat, Pray, Love. I heard her speak recently on the topic and she describes what women look to her for by saying “They want relief from the terrible burden of considering that it’s selfish to want something wonderful for themselves.” I did. Maybe you do too. If that’s the case, then it might be worth looking at the message that your tribe passed on to you, the spoken (or unspoken) laws that you’ve learned and embodied. I’ve thought long and hard since I read that Facebook post a few months ago and here’s the message I learned (and then lived) from mine: Self-sacrifice trumps happiness.
It doesn’t matter how I learned it, but it matters that I’ve been living it. And that the very minute I began to STOP living it, said tribe began to rebel.
Here’s how I’ve lived it:
- I do not know how to directly ask for help. Better than that, I’m not very good at accepting it. If offered, I’m almost certain to turn down assistance, so as not to seem a burden, needy or desperate. After all, self-sacrifice is the first priority in life.
- I chose an initial career path that would be a good fit for my family. Education meant I would have summers off, I’d be working day shift and I’d certainly be helping to support my family. Never mind that as I started to teach, I became increasingly unhappy, anxiety-ridden and ill.
- I don’t relax well. Sitting, being still, doing something purely for the sake of relaxation is a struggle for me. After all, if I am still I am not doing anything to care for my family, my house or my new career. Even better, I am great at being critical of others and considering them “lazy.”
- If I can’t do something to the very best of my ability, I will probably not do it at all. I must, and I repeat must give 150% or it’s better left undone.
Here’s how this method of living bites me in the ass (pardon my French):
- I carry stress in my system almost constantly. The self-imposed pressure of needing to do it all alone is overwhelming. Knots in my shoulders, psoas muscles that are rock hard. The stress manifests itself in my physical body.
- I ended that initial career choice and began doing something I truly love – teaching wellness and yoga classes. That decision is one of my biggest victories over the tribal message, but it came at great personal expense through loss of friendships and financial freedom.
- Not being able to relax at home means that it’s best if I leave the house to relax. The beach, a yoga class for myself, a restaurant or coffee shop are all good locations for me to have peace. I’m working, really working, on learning to be able to be at peace in my house without needing to “fix” anything.
- Doing all things at 150%, including yoga, means I’m going to be hurt. Injured. Broken. I can not show up to my mat every day and expect my best and not expect pain. To paraphrase a dear friend’s advice, I have to be good enough with good enough.
If you read that Facebook post, you know that the reality of those tribal messages is that unless we break free from them, we will live our lives in such a way that will make us welcome back into our original tribe. I’ve made the initial break and spent that last year working on growing and shaping a life that I love. But, if I continue to sacrifice my own well-being, continue to run myself in to the ground, then I’ll be sick and unhappy and broken and welcomed back with open arms. Here’s what Gilbert writes about
“Or did you bravely choose exactly the life you really wanted for yourself…but now you cannot seem to rest easily within it? You built the life you wanted for yourself, but now (even though everything looks good on the outside) you are making yourself miserable, anyhow. Are you walking around feeling eternally guilty, and exhausting yourself working so hard for the benefit of everyone else — just to keep yourself punished and shamed…because somehow your tribe of origin has convinced you that you do not deserve the abundance and happiness that you have fought so hard to earn?”
Again with the writing/talking directly to me. So here’s my takeaway: If I surrender, give up the fight to do it all alone, then I’ll probably remain on the outskirts of that tribe of origin permanently. Is that a tough thing to write? You bet. But here’s the gorgeous thing about life – you can make your own tribe. You can form your own crew, you can find other lovable, crazy-about-life people that will be there to support you and lift you up. You might have to lead the pack – or like me, you might be lucky enough to stumble upon a group that is already there and just needs you to show up, as you are, and will offer nothing but support and kindness.
So that’s it folks. That’s me, JUST WRITING. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.