Published ex post facto, originally written July 15, 2017.
These past few months have challenged me and exhausted me to the point that I’ve dropped the pretenses that I’ve operated with since childhood. For awhile I felt ready to outgrow my old habits – like a snake’s old skin they were restrictive and I felt disconnected from them – but I didn’t know how to actually release them. And then slowly, as I began to speak my truth and be more willing to just be myself, I’ve felt a natural evolution. It really is that simple. Be yourself – whoever you are in this moment. Feel whatever you feel, sit with it, let it be there. And trust whatever you’re feeling or whatever action you want to take. We have so much intelligence in our beings. When we stop getting caught up in ‘who we should be’ and forcing/pushing/running/trying/grinding then we can actually just be who we are. So simple and yet so profound. It has taken me six years of true struggle to realize that for myself. I hope that by sharing this it can take you less.
As I arrive in this new version of myself, I’ve felt clarity around one of my biggest existential struggles – my purpose. (A side note – I think there is way too much emphasis on defining our purpose. For me, it’s created a ton of pressure to find my purpose and I felt lost/less than without having my ‘purpose’ totally set in stone.) It wasn’t a huge revelation, it probably rarely is, but it felt like a relief to stumble on this simple truth of myself. I wrote this a month ago, “I figured out some progress on my purpose – I think it’s to connect. When I think about what lights me up, what moves me, what inspires me, what motivates me I always come back to connection – feeling connected to another person, to humanity, connecting people to each other, to ideas, etc.”. How did I realize this? Through interaction with others, of course.
Last month I went down to Mexico to visit a friend while she was on a work assignment at a beautiful resort in Cabo. Besides the top-notch location, the staff really made the experience. The most touching and profound part of my trip was experiencing the staff greeting. Each time I passed or encountered the resort staff, they placed their right hand on their heart and bowed their head. The gesture symbolizes “welcome from our heart”. Now, skeptics would say that they are trained to do that and it is not a choice. And that the resort is in a resort community and there is a service mindset in the area. And of course I’ve considered that and it is true. But does that fact take away from the gesture? Not to me. It absolutely seemed sincere and even if it wasn’t (which it was), what really matters is what I take away from it. Our greetings made me feel connected to them and I felt deep gratitude for the gesture and sentiment.
It reminded me of my time in Bali earlier this year. The Balinese greeted in a similar way, by placing their hands in a prayer position and a small bow. (Same skeptical judgements apply – Bali is arguably third world and extremely dependent on tourism. But I believe the same – I felt their gestures were genuine to their own nature and I returned the greeting each time with deep gratitude and feelings of connection. I don’t believe they greeted me for my benefit, I believe their greeting was a reflection of their true nature). To me, there is a common thread with these experiences that to be frank, I’m still fettering out. I know it has to do with being connected to something greater than myself. I think it also has to do with the disconnection I’ve felt being raised in a solitary, individualized society like the US where we don’t particularly value community or the greater good. I’ll share more on this as I continue to understand the role of purpose and connection.
I believe two sources helped me take this next step in my personal evolution. One – I listened to the You are a Badass books by Jen Sincero (book 1 book 2), which I highly recommend. The concepts are digestible, she is incredibly likeable and witty, and you will undoubtedly learn a few things (I listened to them on Audible, my favorite way to ‘read’ non-fiction). These books aren’t life changing but they definitely made an impact on me and inspired me to change a few of my beliefs and thoughts. The simple change of altering your beliefs and thoughts can change your life because you show up differently and your belief in what is possible expands. I believe that is the secret to ‘changing your life”.
And second – a truly profound thought for me. A few months ago I asked myself, “What if nothing is wrong with me?”. My first response was that nothing is actually wrong with me but the sense that I’m not being who I ‘should’ be (there’s the shoulds again) or that I’m not doing what I ‘should’ do has plagued me since childhood. I have always felt wrong – I am deeply introverted and that was not embraced in all my years of school. I am also introverted in a family full of lots of loud, talkative people who have little concept of healthy boundaries and personal space. My dad left my family when I was four and I thought that I wasn’t good enough for him to stay. I’m not chatty enough or my shyness is bad because it isn’t what people want from me. I loved art growing up but thought I should get a ‘real’ degree and build a corporate career. I haven’t felt peace with my body since my pre-teen years. And on and on.
All of this I silently carried and felt disappointed/ashamed/unworthy/different – all of which leads to feelings of disconnection. But that little voice started repeating the question – “what if nothing is wrong with me?” – over and over. And then I began to explore what it would be like to release all the energy I put into trying to change those things. What if I just put a bathing suit on and look like a 31 year old woman with hormones and softness (because that’s what happens to a lot of bodies during childbearing years)? What if I choose to feel comfortable with my quietness and let others feel however they feel about it? What if I identify with my dad for leaving and choosing to stay gone with my own relationships right now? What if I let myself pursue art without knowing where it will lead (and definitely not worry if it’s good enough)? And so that’s what I’ve been doing. I have a thought that feels like conflict with who I am and then I ask myself, “what if it’s not wrong?”.
So many of us suffer unnecessarily and live smaller existences than we are meant to. Trust yourself, your desires, your instincts, what you feel called to, and what you feel deeply against. Start small by following those little impulses and desires that we often ignore in our everyday lives. Most importantly, spend time doing things you truly care about and light you up – that is the best way to gain clarity.
“I have been a seeker and still am
but I stopped asking the books and the stars.
I started listening to the teaching of my soul.”