I’ve written so much over the past six months about the importance of walking through pain, being at home with yourself, and shedding all that does not serve you. I’ve taken you through the woods, into the fire, up to the sky, and to my own awakening. I’ve shared the knowledge I’ve learned as I’ve put together years of research and first-hand experience. In reading my blogs, it’s my hope that my understanding of what holds us back and what can set us free serves you.
It’s not my intention to tell you I’m wise beyond all others; I’m human just like everyone else. I struggle just the same and what I write about each week is incredibly hard to do in practice. I’d like to spend some time writing about how I’ve managed to awkwardly walk the path I am on in hopes that it serves you. This week I’m writing about pain.
One of the key things I’ve come to write about is the importance of feeling our pain. I don’t think I have enough time or pages to do this topic justice. You see, the brain is hardwired to try and escape pain and find joy. When pain comes for us, the brain says “ouch! Make it stop!” Society has given an incredibly bad rap to pain and people taking advantage of this have profited billions of dollars. But what if we let pain run its course? What if we listened to it? What if we didn’t spend our time and money on avoiding pain and instead spent our energy on holding, listening, and navigating pain? I believe if we did this, peace would come.
Birth is an incredible example of what should be beautiful in practice, but the world’s greediness has found a way to make a profit out of our pain. During my pregnancies, I knew that the medical industry saw the profit margin in creating interventions with birth and that unless there was an emergency I would refuse all interventions. I birthed both Henry and Declan this way. When I gave birth to Henry I was not ready for the magnitude of physical pain force contractions bring and I suffered for it. I labored through the pain and pushed him into the world. My Doula held me, yet still, the pain came. I didn’t have the skills to manage the waves.
With Declan I wanted to be ready for the waves, to know what to do. I learned Hypnobirthing from an incredible woman (Robin (tag here) and had a 22 hour, pain-free birth with Declan. Each time a wave came I settled into it, welcomed it, and breathed. When the doctor left the room I flipped on all fours and birthed my son by myself. Navigating the perceived pain as a wise messenger brought my son into the world in peace.
These two different birth stories are examples of what happens to us when we don’t know what to do with our pain. With Henry’s birth, I didn’t have the tools and thought the pain would end me (like really end me). With Declan’s birth, I knew how to care for the pain and that going through it brought life. So here is my first piece of advice to you; stay with it, whatever it is, even if it’s painful. Learn. Fall down a few times. Keep trying and learning. But do not let pain take over. Let it be and learn how to care for it just like a mother cares for the waves of birth.
Learning from Pain
My first tip for you, as I mentioned above, is to stay with the pain. Do not run from it. Do not be afraid of it. If you don’t know you are in pain or upset, take pauses every day and ask, “am I me? Am I honoring myself? Is this the life I want?” If this little practice makes you uncomfortable, I’m sorry to tell you that you are pushing through pain.
When discomfort comes, either in asking the question above or in sitting in pain, I believe a toolbox is needed to navigate it. Just like birth, pain can either overcome you or you can skillfully move through it.
My next tip for you is to learn how to nurture yourself and allow others to nurture you. These past 6 months I’ve surrendered to this and created more love for myself and those nurturing me than I thought possible. You see, we’re given this stupid narrative that we’re supposed to just handle life on our own and I used to feel selfish asking for help. This is absolutely impossible and maddening. Most people actually want to be helpful and kind; if they love you let them. I can tell you this made me want to jump out of my skin when I started letting others help me, now it creates a warm glow in my heart (OK, I still jump at first, then I glow).
How to Nurture Yourself
Some things I do to nurture myself are taking walks in nature, taking baths with salts and candles, sitting in front of the mirror offering myself love, writing, and meditating. If I’m spinning in pain, I want to grab the remote, a glass of wine, and slip away. I used to be OK with this. Not anymore. If I can’t offer love to myself I call someone who can and who will hold me so I don’t have to slip. More times than not it’s my sister but honestly, I have more than a handful of people I can call and I know will call me when they need love and support. We have created a judgment-free zone for each other and it’s magical.
This is where I want to leave you today. With step number one. Find a way to take care of your pain instead of pushing through it. What can you do for yourself (shaming is not the answer here) to deal with your pain? Who can you trust to tell that there is pain within you? Who will you allow to carry you when you cannot walk? Remember my birth stories? Sure, it was me doing the birthing, but it was also Nikki, my Doula. She rubbed my back and smoothed oils into my skin as I labored. I wasn’t there alone. I’m not here alone and neither are you.
Do not let the world take your money or life telling you pain is bad. Pain is painful, but it just needs a little attention and care. If you don’t do this you risk losing your life and damaging the lives of others. If not today for you, do this for me; take one minute to unabashedly step into your pain and honor it. Then next time do it for you.
Over the past several months I’ve been writing to you about the courage and joy that come from walking through pain. About the importance of feeling our feelings versus shoving them down, avoiding them, or taking them out on others. Last week I wrote again about finding true joy; the moments that take our breath away in their simplicity. In writing this to you I’ve been writing from two different perspectives. The first perspective is from my own personal trauma going through a divorce. The second is from the assumption that a year into the pandemic each and every one of us has some level of trauma to unpack.
In writing from the second perspective I don’t mean to assume or project that each person is in trauma. My intention is to honor the humanity in each of us and perspective that, if you are struggling with the pandemic or any other personal trauma, to offer you the grace and compassion I offer myself. You see, I believe we are all worthy of the life we want. We’re far enough along in my writing that you know joy doesn’t come from taking from others or out in the material world. I don’t have to tell you this. When we strip it down to what makes us truly happy we find the God inside of each of us. She’s whispering, “this is the life I want for all my children.”
Will you listen to Her call? Will you listen to your heart? Your knowing? I’ve heard this calling in the wind many times. I’m no longer letting it blow by me or my life. I’m ready to do joy. I’m ready to live.
Discovering What You Want
What feels like months ago (but may be further back) I wrote myself a little note. It sits on my desktop where I see it every day. It reads:
I want to:
- Recommit to my own happiness
- Take pictures with a camera
- Turn the TV off
- Lighten my schedule
- Eat real food, drink less, but good wine
- Spend time outside
- Dance to the moon
- Disconnect my boys
- Cherish love every day
- Sink into my family & tribe
When I think about my perfect day it’s one where I’m totally unplugged, surrounded by my children, and enjoying the simple pleasures of life. It could be snapping a picture with a camera because my cell phone is down. It could be a walk in the woods or a fireside chat with Dametrius. Cooking food from the farm to my table. Dancing to the moon. Back down in the grass, eyes at the stars, boys against my chest. This, for me, is pure joy. This is life.
It’s such a simple list. Really. But when I read it to myself I know that when I do these things they bring me joy. These simple things take me home to my own heart. In coming out of trauma I saw these things as unreachable. Each time I reached for any one of them, more trauma came to me. I was told, “this is not for you, this makes you bad,” and slowly but surely I started to believe it. That is where I was losing myself. I was giving away what brings me joy. Sitting here now I know that love never asks this of any of us, and it certainly wasn’t asking it of me. It’s not asking it of you either.
Listening to Love
Love is born in our hearts and glimmers to the world. Love smiles in the sun as it sleepily peeks through the clouds every morning. It kisses us goodnight, slipping into the night light of stars. It says to us that no matter what may come for us on any given day, it will be there waiting for us. We are capable of harnessing the stars and living a life through this lens of love. Mamas, close your eyes and imagine that day when your body erupted and your babies were born. Remember their darling faces, nuzzled at your breast, and breathe that image in. That’s love. That’s joy. It’s been in you since the day you and your children were born.
Late one night, I tapped on Henry’s heart and told him, “Mama lives in your heart. I’m always with you.” He sleepily reached over and tapped my heart, “Yes, and Declan and me lived in your heart. Then you pushed me out & I was born.”
Yes baby, you were. We all were.
The more I take time in the quiet pleasures of life, the more time my heart swells and I realize how precious my life is. I used to think that life meant happiness all of the time. I know now that isn’t true. Hardship and struggle is part of being human. Yet within the same world where war exists, there are tiny baby snuggles and toddler giggles. The moon calling us for one more dance. We are made with strength to endure struggles but we are meant for joy.
So kick off your heels, pour a glass of really good wine, and snuggle up with joy. Make a list. What are your favorite things? No credit card swiped, no status gained, no other person giving or taking it from you–your favorites. Breathe in, breathe out, and chose to boldly live in real joy.
This weekend was a quiet one without my boys. I earned something on Audible called a “Weekend Warrior,” which I guess means I’ve listened long enough to be a warrior by their definition. The book I can’t stop listening to is “The Choice,” by Dr. Edith Eger, who, among other things, is a survivor of Auschwitz. While her tale is haunting, her perspective holds the key to our humanity. The key to joy.
Early in the book Dr. Eger shares a scene at Auschwitz when the Nazi’s had stripped the women and shaved their heads prior to giving uniforms. These women stood naked and bald for hours waiting. Dr. Eger’s sister Magda, known for her beauty in their town before the concentration camp, stood next to her, and asked “how do I look?”. Dr. Eger had a choice to make. She could shatter her sister and tell her she looked like a mangy dog or she could tell her the one truth she saw outside of this. “Your eyes,” Dr. Eger murmured, “they are beautiful. I never noticed them with all that hair.” Magda closed her eyes. “Thank you,” she murmured back. That my friends is the choice. That my friends is joy.
We all have a choice in front of us at any given moment. We can choose to see the negative; we can choose to let the pains of the world swallow us. To be lost. We can choose to believe that the horrible things that happen to us or the words people say to us. Or that the messages pushed down our throats by society should be taken as gospel. This is not true. Yes, it happens to all of us, but it does not define us. We can define ourselves by choosing joy and beauty. By following the truth.
What of Dr. Eger’s truth you say? She went through a hell that no human should ever have to experience. Dr. Eger was forced into the worst situation possible but just because something is real does not mean it is true. It was real that the Nazis abused, murdered, and tortured millions of people but it is not true that the people they abused were less and deserved it. Take this little sentence and apply it anywhere. I promise you will be free.
Let’s think about this together. It is real that children are starving. It is not true that they should be. It is real that women are raped, it is not true that they ‘deserved it.’ It is real that transgender people have a suicide rate above all other people, it is not true that their life holds less value. It is real that black people are suppressed and murdered by white police, it is not true that they are less and deserve such treatment. It is real that women are taught to be polite, small and sexy, it is not true that our identity lies in these labels. It is real that men are appropriately taught to ignore their feelings and man up, it is not true that their feelings do not matter or make them weak. These are all examples of issues we face every day that hide the truth in generations old sexist, racist, or prejudiced societal narratives.
It is real that bad things happen to each and every one of us, it is not true any of us are inherently bad and deserve these things. Even if you have done unspeakable things, you have a choice to offer yourself compassion, show mercy, beg for forgiveness, and go back to what is true. If you are a person that has been the victim of real, unspeakable acts, you can also offer yourself these things and find what is true.
Finding Authentic Joy
Don’t you see? Can’t you feel it? Joy is our birthright. It’s not lost in wall street, in bodies carved from money to follow societal norms, in gender roles, sexual preference, skin color, the size of your wallet, or how you have walked so far during your time on earth. If you choose to believe any of this, as Dr. Eger writes, you are lost in the prison of your mind. Dr. Eger reminds us that while she was a prisoner of war, she was more free than any Nazi. She knew joy, she knew her worth, and knew she was not lost.
If a woman who has been stripped, shaved, starved, near raped, and lost her parents and former life to the chambers of Auschwitz can choose her sister’s blue eyes and hold them as joy, we can all find these tiny angels. They are sparkling through the world to remind us that only love is real. I have not been through half the hell of Dr. Eger’s life. I have walked through my own pain and the false belief that because bad things happened to me that somehow I somehow deserved them. I walked through losing the life I wanted to choose. I wrote to you months ago in the middle of my grief about the light in the forest, but didn’t know exactly what I was writing about. I now know I was writing about joy.
You see joy is the candle that tells us. Our world offers beauty, kindness, and grace. It comes to us in a child’s laugh, a dog wagging her tail at the door, a cup of coffee with a friend. As I walked through my own hell this past fall this is what I sought out every day. I was looking for Magda’s blue eyes. I was looking for what was true while what was real attempted to swallow me. The truth has set me free. Joy has reminded me of the possibility of being human. That regardless of the pain that may come in our lives we can all choose joy.
In choosing truth we can ask those who challenge our worth to leave. We can hold abusers and those lost in greed accountable and end damaging relationships. We can stop wars and bring water to the millions of mouths that still need it. To have this strength, we must first fill our own hearts with true joy. That’s the gasoline that will set the world ablaze with a new kind of life. A life where joy is offered for all.
One life at a time. Follow me, follow joy. Choose again. Joy is your birthright, and it’s all around you every day. Put down the lists, labels, and judgement. Shed the hate. Choose love. Choose Joy.
I don’t know if this is true for anyone else who has a sister but my sister is part of me and I’m part of her. I can’t explain it but we know each other in our bones. I could spend literal days with her and still get annoyed she hasn’t texted me back within five minutes of leaving. She’s my person and I’m hers.
Last night, I was struggling to see myself. To be honest I feel like I always struggle to see myself, but last night everything kind of hit me at once. I literally have no idea how I come across to anyone in conversations or interactions. I never have. Soon I found myself picking up the phone to call my sister. I knew she would be honest with me, brutally if needed.
At first she was surprised to hear I don’t know how people see me. I was surprised she didn’t know this because she knows what I eat for breakfast every day, how much sleep I get–pretty much everything. I asked her why I felt like others met me with resistance and judgement when I shared my voice with them. Her response was everything I needed to hear. She told me, “you are a strong woman and that scares people. You won’t conform and that makes people uncomfortable.” Holy shit. That’s it.
Finding Your Strength
I often explain to family and friends that I have always felt I’m outside of the world looking in. Honestly, a big part of this is being a researcher, introvert, and visionary. If I only ever talked to the people I loved and never met a new human being I would be a very happy woman. I had a million fears when we went into lockdown last spring during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic but staying home was not one of them.
I’m often deep in thought of what brings me joy and what I think the world needs. At the same time, however, I don’t give a lot of thought to how I come across. But I’m also human and when I’m in social situations, work relationships, and non-intimate personal relationships I’m quite aware I’m on the outside. Take a hometown football game, for example. If I’m at a game and a circle of other moms my age are sitting as far away as possible, I’m not bothered at all. This is nothing against anyone. I’m happy by myself and would feel exhausted having to make small talk. But if I think bigger, like when I need to advocate for myself or my beliefs and am met with resistance or judgement, this is what bothers me. I thought there was no clue why this is. Hence the phone call to my sister.
After the call I took her answer and mulled it over deep within my core and knew it was true. I am a woman who won’t bend. I stand on my own and refuse to make myself small for anyone. This makes the world uncomfortable because I am a woman not bending. My small, sacred circle of friends and family? They give zero shits that I am true to myself and respect me for honoring myself and my worth.
My sister and I spent hours talking about my dilemma. I was stuck. I am a good woman who wakes up daily wanting a better world for others. I want it for myself, my sons, my sacred circle and every human being. I spend time each day in gratitude seeking authentic joy. My happiest place in the world is my basement couch across from the playroom. In the mornings, when I have the boys, I sip my coffee with a book for me and a stack for them. They buzz around me, flittering between reading with me and playing. At night, after dinner, Dametrius joins us in the basement and my boys snuggle, wrestle, and Declan brings us all “tea.” It’s bliss and nothing in the world brings me closer to God. She’s right there.
Perceiving the Good in Ourselves
So how then, when I perceive myself to be a generally good person soaking in the tiny joys of the world to build a better one, do I get painted as someone to fear? The belief system of the patriarchy we live in. That’s why. I am a woman with a strong voice in a world where women are supposed to be quiet. This past fall, when my divorce situation was still new, I was walking the pasture wailing to the sky, screaming “why me? Because I’m a woman with a voice?” Among other things, yes. The path for women with visions is hard and It’s fucking bullshit.
My friend Dana has a daughter named Kahlan. Kahlan is incredibly bright and bold. She’s unapologetic about her worth and comfortable with it. During the pandemic, Kahlan became so frustrated with the disorganization of online learning that she began providing feedback to her teachers at their request to streamline the programs. When a mistake is made Kahlan shoots off an email, “I should not have to be writing this email but…” She’s 13. Kahlan reminds me of myself before the world told me to be small.
Dana often doesn’t know what to do with her fierce daughter and rightfully so. Ask my parents if they knew (or even know) what to do with me. Nope! But here is my wish for Kahlan, my nieces, my darling Olga, every woman alive, and myself. Do not make yourself small. Take up space and use it. Shout to the world, show your worth, and if you’re too strong for someone that’s their problem not yours.
When I thought more about the issue of being small I felt grace for others. Forgiveness, if you will. You see, for thousands of years strength was the masculine feature valued above all others. When a man flexes his muscles it is to show others he can dominate them. I have no time, nor interest in this. To my knowledge no woman or girl I know does either. We’re not showing our strength to put you in your place. We’re showing our strength because it’s who we are and through it we can honor ourselves and the world.
Moving Forward with Value and Compassion
I’ve spent my whole life feeling this way. Strong and judged for being strong. My strength? It is mine to hone and through it my life is full and the world served. There’s nothing scary here, unless a woman with a voice scares you. So I ask you this: Too strong for who?
My answer? Too strong for no one, my strength is not harmful but it is powerful. So is the strength of your daughters and your strength to teach your sons to value power with, not power over. To build a world where strength is used is to build a society where we all thrive and power is no longer misused.
I challenge you this; Ladies, look at all your strength and ways you have held it in. Ask yourself, “too strong for who?” hashtag it. Blow me up. Start a storm. Stand up. We don’t have time to just sit still and look pretty.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been writing to you about looking underneath the leaves of our psyche and how to slowly start overturning each leaf. As I lift my own leaves I’m reminded of my own worth and humanity. If you’ve been following me you may be thinking, “wait a second, I thought the leaves were our dark parts, how did you find self-worth under them?” I’ll tell you.
You see, as humans, we are all torn between two realities. In the spiritual world, this is often called the light and dark, good and evil, and so on. Whether you are spiritual or not I believe you can break this down by choosing to show up as you were created to show. You can also respond to the pain of the world and hold it as truth. The way we find ourselves is by really taking a good hard look and accepting what is there. If you know there is worth at your core, worth that could bring you endless joy, wouldn’t you want to look?
That is where bravery comes in and if we are operating from a place that does not feel like ourselves it’s time to make a change. The scary part is that when we are willing to look at any single thing keeping us from our true selves we know we are facing loss. There’s this piece of the bible (not to get all spiritual twice now…) about not serving more than one God. I wrote last week about the different things that can keep me from me, so not serving more than one God rang close to home. But to me, God isn’t high in the sky. She is deep in my core. She is me. When I do things in the world as though they have a higher value than me I’m lost. Knowing that my one truth is to never abandon myself again I have to be willing to lose things of the earth if the cost of keeping them is me.
So, how do we know if what we’re serving is working towards our highest good? We need to ask the questions “are we making the best choices for ourselves?” and “are those choices bringing us closer to or farther away from ourselves?”
Working Towards Our Best Selves
For me, it’s twofold. I believe that in our truest form we cannot inflict pain on ourselves or another. That we are all innately good. This is the first piece and hard as hell to learn. Because if we are all innately good, then we need to practice the principles of, “do no harm,” or “not to me, not to you, not to anyone”? This is how I navigate all of my decisions and I believe if we all did this the world would radically change overnight. I know it. In being committed to doing no harm to myself it means I have to honor myself and am unwilling to attack my sisters and brothers who walk this world with me.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. There is absolute evil in this world and not one of us would survive running around with free hugs and forgiveness all of the time. That shit does not work. Holding people accountable for their damaging behaviors and refusing to damage them in return; that shit does work. My sister made a cross-stitch for me for my birthday this past weekend that reads “do no harm, take no shit.” Yep, that’s it. That sums it up. We can absolutely stand up for ourselves and our desires without hurting anyone.
If saying your own truth creates a loss of a relationship, job, opportunity, or the like you aren’t hurting anyone. You are setting a boundary to say what you need and want. If who you are setting the boundary with accepts you they are part of your tribe. If they don’t, they’re not. Plain and simple. This is where loss comes in. In this part of knowing our true form, we have to believe our wants and desires are worth losing almost everything for, so we may then gain everything.
Weighing Our Beliefs and Desires
The second part is incredibly important here; all of our wants and desires need to be measured against, “does this cause pain, anywhere?” This is how we can come to know if our choices are in line with that deep knowing within ourselves because deep inside of us is a God. She would not cause harm (think back to the last section). So, as we’re navigating through coming home to ourselves and examining what really sets us on fire and makes us uniquely joyful we can know if we’ve chosen based on what’s within us versus what we’re being told.
Let me give some examples of this because it’s pretty hard to grasp. For example, say I tell you what makes me wildly happy is fur. I think fur is fabulous or I love the Kardashians, I’m in it to win it with fur! I put myself out there and say, “world this is me! Love me as I am!” You have an absolute right to call my bullshit and I should call my own too because wearing fur literally hurts (or kills) the creature it came from! This is a dramatic example of choosing wisely about what we think makes us uniquely happy.
On a simpler note, I could say drinking wine is totally me but when I drink I feel fuzzy and like I’m doing it to just fit in. I could say I’m wearing a certain outfit to make more friends. I could give an example of restricting calories to hit a goal weight when I’m really fucking hungry most of the time. All of these are the false idols, the many Gods if you will.
If we expand this thought of worshipping false idols further we become tainted and begin attacking ourselves or each other. The attacks on ourselves may be subtle, or you may have an inner monologue that is so nasty you would have no friends if you spoke your thoughts out loud. The attacks on our bodies and minds come from filling them with content and people that keep us from being home to ourselves. In frustration and out of alignment, we then attack the world by lashing out at others to let them know they are separate from us and therefore less than us. It’s vicious, it’s awful, and it’s everywhere. It also couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Following the Real You
Following these two guiding principles to take us home and “do no harm,” enables us to truly know if the choices we are making are for our true selves and if we are choosing them, are real. Because what is real will cause no harm. You can show up gloriously and easily ask for all you desire for your life and hurt no one, starting with yourself.
In Untamed, Glennon writes about a warm golden feeling she has when she accesses her knowing. Glennon talks about the quiet space beneath the noise of the world that is her holy space. I know this space too. It is inside of me and I know it’s inside of you. To find it you must be willing to go there, find yourself, and pull her back to life.