It’s a long time since I’ve written a blog. I haven’t been dodging it exactly, our ‘schedule’ means I wasn’t due to produce one until now.
And yet, knowing my turn was looming, I noticed more and more the feeling that I had nothing to say. A rare situation for anyone who knows me. In the world of yin and yang, I’m the one that fills the space, rather than leave it empty.
The truth is, lockdown has had a profound impact on me. So profound that I have had no desire to wrap up what I was learning into pocket sized lessons that I could share with each of you. I simply haven’t been ready. In many ways, I’m still not, and yet, I have a sense, today, that there is something important in simply resurfacing, showing you what is present for me.
As I write this, I have no sense how long this might be or how it will end, I simply know my intention to go deeper with you than I ever have before. I am choosing to use this space to pour out some of that which needs to be released. Forgive me, if it was not what you were expecting or hoping for.
“Physician, know thyself”
I have always considered myself to be highly self-aware. There has never been a psychometric in the land or a piece of feedback received that has truly been a surprise. Whilst I have diligently shown up in the world and focused intently on my self-growth, there are some parts of me that I have known could take some adjusting, and my truth is, I have never wanted or chosen to go there. I have seen where the shadows have served me and been reluctant to explore life without them.
In most aspects of my inner self, I have been highly self-accepting. I have never owned a sense of ‘not enough’, if anything, I would consider myself ‘too much’.
Yet in these last weeks, I have found myself learning new things, bigger things than I might ever have anticipated at this stage in my own evolution. I have uncovered surprises and been gently, uncomfortably, led to look at things I have long kept in boxes. Some of them even had ‘not enough’ written on the label.
It turns out there are new layers of knowing to be uncovered.
Of course, there are.
The call to show up
Throughout my life I have experienced an interesting phenomenon. I have noticed that when I am truly struggling with something or deeply afraid, very few people notice. This happens, even though I feel I am waving loudly from the rooftops with a big red flag that says, ‘Help me, I’m stuck!’. (I have literally had the physical experience of someone patting me on the back and saying, ‘off you go, you’ll be fine’ when I was shaking to my core. He was not being flippant, I watched him with care and love with others on that same day, he simply didn’t see it.)
I project capability. I reassure with my very presence. It is a blessing and a curse.
And so, in this moment, choosing to bring you in deeper (whoever you are, dear reader, because I cannot possibly know who even reads this work), I have an unfamiliar sense of ‘not enough’, of self-indulgence, of ‘how could this even be interesting?’ and I realise, as my fingers continue to type on the keyboard, that I must own that this thing I am writing now, is for me first, and perhaps, if the wind is in our favour, it will bring something for you too.
I am simply showing up, with what is.
Return of The Cave
If you’re a Joseph Campbell fan, or even a lover of Star Wars, then you’ll be familiar with the idea of heading into a cave. It’s part of the Hero’s Journey. The moment where the hero must let go of his guide and mentor and enter a metaphorical cave (or in the case of Star Wars, a literal one) to face his deepest fears alone.
He must face his fears (and yes, it is a ‘he’ in all descriptions, let’s leave that one for another day) in order to transform. In order to create the ending that concludes a heroic quest.
Last year, Nic and I used the metaphor actively. We were grappling with big things and so we chose to create a cave and stay in it for a while. Only this cave, for all of its many challenges, also had cakes and tea rooms and ice cream and hugs and company and those things that might make it a little easier.
Cushion the blow if you like.
I did not truly go it alone.
But lockdown, well that’s another matter. I found myself in the cave, with no coffee shops to escape to. The dragons and demons came demanding answers. And they have no regard for social distancing. They settled in for lockdown. Got very close indeed. Their chosen home for the duration.
Forgive me, I’m delaying. Because of this next bit.
Ugh. I do not want to share how much has been disturbed in the process of lockdown and yet, it’s time to say them. In bullet points. Or we’ll be here forever.
- Things I have long held as ‘true’ are now in question. Are all the things I have been teaching these last few years as important as I once thought they were? Or did I give some more prominence because of my own need to be something?
- Have I been inadvertently selling snake oil?
- Have I been pretending to serve when really I was trading? Expecting something in return?
- Have I been more focused on success than anything else whilst wrapping it up in the message of ‘making a difference?’
- Have I really wanted to be rich first and make a difference second? (Oh, the irony of leaving this on the page! I actually managed to delete the whole sentence just now in one slip of a finger. I don’t even know how, but I do know my mind was literally telling me in that very moment that this was not to be shared).
- Have I been projecting my feelings and desires onto others?
- Have I denied some of my core talents in order to wrap up a neater package of things I love to the world in a way that would make perfect sense?
- Have I returned to my Chameleon behaviour, being what I think is needed rather than showing up as truly me?
- Have I fooled people that I love that all this is exactly the way I wanted it to be?
- Have I fooled myself?
- Do I always hold something back?
- Do I ever really know entirely what I want?
- Am I ever willing to share the entirety of what is going on inside me?
- Will I keep creating these moments of creation and destruction in my life?
Something in between.
Some of this is not new, simply nuanced in a fresh way. Some of it, a deep enquiry. There’s probably more. This is what I have right now.
All of this necessarily means shifts and changes, reversals, pivots, explanations that may not make sense to others. Things I might be inclined to ‘package’ in an acceptable manner. Those politicians have nothing on me for spin…
Will you still love me, just as I am?
As I write this, I’m reminded of a guy I used to follow on social media, who merrily announces with absolute certainty a change in direction of the thing he was so sure of last week.
He used to inspire me and now he exhausts me.
What’s that line?
‘Point the finger, and three point back at you’.
Because my truth? I don’t want to exhaust you, you on the other side of this screen, who I have spent so much time carefully nurturing a relationship with, even though I don’t even know who you are. I don’t want you to sigh and go somewhere else. I’ve spent so long being what I thought you wanted me to be.
It feels so much easier to pretend nothing has changed.
In the most deeply uncomfortable way.
Ever noticed how often we choose the discomfort?
There’s this thing many of us do, called ‘Comparative Suffering’. We look at our circumstances and then we find someone who has something so much worse than us. There’s always someone. Right now, it’s easier to find than ever.
Once we’ve found that person, we use their circumstances as a weapon to disarm our own challenges. ‘Who am I to think that this is a problem, when they have so much more to deal with?’.
We put our feelings into a box and shove them away. They are not worthy of attention. We have nothing to complain about. As if the whole thing was a competition and only the person we judge to have the worst scenario is worthy of attention, empathy and love.
I have a PhD in Comparative Suffering. In fact, consider me a World Expert.
I’m writing about it here, because if I don’t declare the feelings that are running through me right now, I won’t be able to press send.
If I don’t make it clear to you, in my effort to keep you with me, that I am wholly and utterly aware that this is perhaps the oddest thing to be sharing in the midst of a global pandemic while people are literally in life and death situations every minute of the day, then I’ll never be brave enough to release this into the world.
The voice in my head is literally screaming ‘YOU CANNOT BE SO SELF INDULGENT!! WHY, WHY, WHY WOULD YOU EVEN CONSIDER PUBLISHING THIS?’.
The truth is, I have never taken so long to write a blog, nor been so sure that it is the worst thing I have ever written.
And still I continue.
When we do not speak our most unacceptable thoughts, they grow toxic and fester inside. They manifest themselves as scathing criticisms of others, of expectations that are not met, of disappointment and self-attack, of nasty jibes to people we love, or passive aggressive responses, gossiping, colluding, false authenticity, withdrawal, anxiety, fear. All this and so much more.
Which is why I continue.
Who will you be when you open your eyes?
I want to be clear, this has not been a period of self-attack and self-pity. Sure, there have been moments and they have not dominated the discussion.
Nor has it been a time of fighting through, fighting on.
This has been a time of sitting, staying, grieving, crying, probing into what is occurring. Of being in the enquiry for a long time.
Of seeing what I would normally do in times like this and doing the opposite.
Of owning that sometimes, whilst part of me would like to get these lessons so deep into my bones that I never meet them again, I will not always choose that. Sometimes I will choose the well-trodden path of resistance, fear, morphing into someone that is the very picture of success.
It’s tiring, this enquiry. And whilst I am longing for it to be over and to see the grace and joy that I know without doubt awaits me on the other side, I am surrendered to the knowing that this is going to be a slower process than the rocket in me would normally choose. We are not done yet.
Resisting it? Of course. And seeing clearly that the days I choose resistance are much harder than those when I sit with what is and let it be with me.
I’m taking tea with my demons. And whilst the constant presence of their hot breath and glinty eyes makes me feel edgy and exhausted, it’s a choice to be in softly spoken conversation with them rather than to let them run ragged around my home, setting fire to whatever takes their fancy.
An active and present choice to slow down action and simply be. The very hardest thing for a woman who runs on rocket fuel.
Each morning, a new choice, to open my eyes, accept what is and to stay with it. To let this enquiry run it’s course.
Twenty seconds of bravery
And so, it seems we have come to the end of whatever this is.
Because I’m often driven my validation, I feel the need to apologise if it hasn’t met your expectations.
To say sorry that you almost certainly haven’t got the gold you might have been looking for when you opened your mail this morning, or clicked on the link on the website.
To say thank you to those of you who chose to witness till the end. And also to those of you who have walked this path with me, knowingly or unknowingly, inspiring the next step simply by your presence.
It is what it is.
The final step calls.
20 seconds of bravery to press ‘send’.
Let’s be remarkable together,