It’s almost 2020.
Somehow, the 20’s became a magical decade. Many people never mature out of them or at least never admit to it. Perhaps the Roaring ‘20’s still capture our imagination. Maybe we just like the idea of a younger, more carefree version of ourselves.
Let’s call bullshit, shall we?
Let’s stop looking back nostalgically, or expectantly, or worshipfully. The truth is, wherever you are now, is perfect. It’s exactly where you should be to learn and grow in the ways that you specifically need. You’ve earned your way to this very spot. It is not good or bad, it just is. And it’s yours to live.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to stay.
Maybe that’s already painfully obvious to you. Maybe life and transition is happening to you right now, whether you feel ready or not.
- A parent requires your caregiving and suddenly you’re not sure if you can handle being both a ‘child of’ and a ‘caregiver of’ (not to mention ‘partner of’, ‘colleague of’, etc.)
- You have a new job or your work life is changing or you got a longed for promotion that’s scaring the pants off of you.
- You are thinking about leaving something (a job, a relationship, a social group) that has defined you for so long that you can’t really imagine there’s another side.
- You are getting divorced or are recovering from a deeply wounding break-up.
- You’re not even sure how to articulate it, but a small voice inside you knows you are stuck or lost and won’t let you rest.
So, let’s ask again – what are your 20’s going to look like? What will this decade hold for you and for your work in the world? The world needs you. We need your gifts and courage, your grace and engagement. And it’s ok to not know what that means or where to start.
You don’t have to figure it out alone. The 2020’s don’t just have to happen to you. But they are coming fast.
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Close your eyes. Take three deep centering breaths. Keep breathing and imagine what you want your life to look like in 10 years – your home, your social life, your spiritual life, your health, your career and livelihood.
Now two more deep breaths – what does this future feel like? Envision the feel of your day-to-day. Imagine the way happiness and fulfillment feel in your body. Do they feel solid and grounding? Do they feel light and free? Where does laughter and joy reside?
How did that experience feel? Did you have immediate ideas about your future or did it feel like you were looking into a grey void? Both are ok – and both deserve exploring. Immediate ideas should be considered thoughtfully. Where did those ideas come from? Are those ideas for your life yours, or did they come from someone else? Grey voids mean you have lots of room to create, to play, to try on ideas until the right ones fit.
What do you want?
Spend two minutes every morning for the next two weeks envisioning this life and feeling these feelings.
Our ideas of perfection are almost always external. We were taught about perfection, or we internalized ideas about it when we were growing up. Social media and regular media are a constant barrage of “perfection”.
By the time we are adults, our imperfections, on the other hand, are mostly internalized comparisons. We call them out to ourselves all the time – I’m fat. I’m lazy. I’m dumb. I’m not as good as…We judge ourselves again the external. I do it so much, I don’t even realize how often it happens.
What if our imperfections were actually something else entirely?
What if the internal judgements that we obsess over are actually helpful messages that we misread in our quest to be perfect?
I’m lazy. (Could also be – I need to rest.)
I can’t get everything done and I’m failing. (Could also be – maybe I don’t have to do everything and ‘doing everything’ is too much for anyone. I need help. I need to let go.)
I’m always tired. (Maybe your body need better nutrition? Exercise? Are you spending your energy on things that drain, rather than feed, you?)
Maybe our imperfections are important messages we are misinterpreting.
Can we stop beating ourselves up long enough to actually listen to what our ‘imperfections’ are telling us?
I fall prey to this one, and I don’t always catch it. I hear it from my clients – it slips out in moments of frustration and overwhelm. I see it at play in our overworked, oversaturated and under-resourced world.
I should be giving 100% to my work.
100% to my family.
100% to my community.
100% to my spiritual life.
Y’all – we don’t have that many 100 percents. I’m no mathematician but I know some great ones, and I’m pretty sure if I asked them, they’d agree.
Would you really want that anyway? Flip the tables and think about your favorite colleague or team member. Would you want them to give 100% – completely flame out in the moment and be reduced to a pile of ashes at your feet?
No. You’d want them to save something for themselves. You’d want to make sure they could show up as their full and capable selves – tomorrow, next week, three years from next week.
I invite you to think about what it would mean to not give 100% away. If you want to use this yardstick, then think of your whole life as 100%. First – how much are you carving out for you. It’s your life after all, and if you aren’t honoring it, then you can’t show up for the rest of it fully. The rest of your life needs to fit into what’s left over of 100%, after self-care (whether that means a day at the spa or #boringselfcare like dirty dishes in the sink while you get some extra sleep).
No one part of your life should get 100%. That’s not how balance works.
A little slow to post – but such a great conversation and group at AFP ICON. As one participant told me later,
“It’s so great to know that you are not alone but to also feel inspired by something that seems so hard.”
I’m excited to launch my first coaching & professional development ‘experience’ – focused on owning and claiming our space as Working Mamas. It’s not an easy path. Come celebrate all that you’ve learned, all the ways you’ve grown, and discover more about this very special superpower!
It was an adventure – my daughter’s first “passport trip” as she put it. There was so much for her to experience for the first time – customs/forms/questions, new currency, a language she only knew by a few phrases, foods, art, history.
And it was exhausting. Being a mama is exhausting. Traveling in a foreign place without other adults and a dependent (albeit fantastic) human is exhausting.
And yet – I kept adding on to the agenda. I kept asking what else we should do, kept scouring the map. Without acknowledging it, I was operating out of scarcity. Were we doing enough?? It was my daughter who reminded me to pause. To breathe. To absorb what we’d just done before we ran to the next thing.
“Mama, I think it’s time to go back to the hotel and just rest for a little while.”
A wise lesson in boundaries and presence from my 10 year old. When we got home, I asked about her favorite part of the trip. I expected it to be specific, a thing – the food tour, the churros, Frida Kahlo’s house, the Dia de los Muertos art installation in the Zocolo.
“My favorite part was when we were just wandering around and exploring; just being together.”
What do you want to be present for, just today? Not what are you waiting to see or do. Not what are you waiting to happen.
- What (or who) can you be present for today? Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s what feeds you.
- How can you pause, before you run to the next thing?
Maybe less is not less.
It was one of those days. Those days when you suddenly realize you are giving so much – and not getting replenished. You’re so tired but also kind of angry. Why do people just take? Don’t they see me at all?
So, I went for a run. The trail was about as crowded as usual and I was lost in thought. About halfway, just before a big hill, a guy on a bike slowed down and held out his water bottle – offering me a drink.
All of a sudden, I had tears in my eyes. I was so touched by the gesture, even though I wasn’t dehydrated. I didn’t need water.
There is a sweetness in the offer of a gift, even if it isn’t something we need. Random-Generous-Guy-With-A-Water-Bottle taught me a two-part lesson:
- Freely offered gifts connect us. He offered what he had. It wasn’t what I needed, but it was still meaningful. When we offer what we have, especially to those that we care about, the gesture is sometimes more important than the thing itself.
- But these gifts don’t have to sustain you. You can honor the gift and still say ‘no thank you’, moving on to find the sustenance that you do need. Take the goodness that comes with what is offered, enjoy that effort and the spirit with which it’s given, have compassion – and then do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Trust yourself to know what you need.
If there is one thing we can say about the times we are in – they are dang stressful. Learning to balance action and self care is critical to well-being. Your actions matter, even if they seem small – the donation to a hard working nonprofit, your volunteer hours, the call to your senator, the difficult conversation with someone whose beliefs you want to understand, even just trying to keep up with the news. Keep doing those things, until it’s time to say, ‘no thank you’ and just keep running.
Whether you have a formal spiritual practice or not, most of us are seeking. We want to move forward in our lives in a way that is joyful. That means different things to different people, and at least for me, the very idea itself is constantly changing and evolving.
So often the advice out there feels rhetorical, loopy, or woo-woo, at best. So I’m always on the lookout for practical advice on what it means to seek and to grow. Gabrielle Bernstein was recently at guest on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcast, and she gave the following three steps.
Side note: she says these are “simple” but I’m not totally sure that’s true. If this stuff was “simple”, we’d be done and over it already, right? So, in the spirit of embracing our complicated and not-so-simple lives, these steps are worth considering.
Gabrielle Bernstein’s (Paraphrased) Steps to Enlighten Your Life Today
- Be willing and open. Admit that you need to learn and grow in a particular area or way. Then, be open to new ways of seeing or approaching that part of your life.
- Pay serious attention to the teachers, the guides and assignments. If you are open, learning opportunities will come to you. Be on the lookout. Take the work of learning from the world seriously.“We can be willing, but then go right back” to the distractions (ie our phones), bad habits, or destructive patterns.
- Show up for the assignments. This one is my favorite. Do the work – and pay attention. You don’t have to feel like you have the answers, but you do have to show up, listen, and take the assignments to heart.
Here’s a link to the full podcast (Nov 7, 2017), which also includes Marie Forleo (I dig her too) – enjoy!
**If you are ready to consider your next steps, face some of your blocks, and vision your future – let’s do it together! Contact me for in-person, phone or virtual coaching today. firstname.lastname@example.org