"An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, despite the time, the place, despite the circumstances. The thread can be tightened or tangled, but never be broken." - Chinese Proverb
I had never heard this until this morning when I was sitting down on my patio to write down some of my thoughts from this weekend. I just spent 3 days at a conference facilitated by the beautiful and talented Baeth Davis, and while I'll be sharing quite a few ah-ha moments this week I can say that one of the most wonderful parts of being with 200 hundred other like-minded women is that magic happened during the breaks.
Let me back up, I went to this conference with two goals. The first was to really get clear on my life's work, my purpose and of course how to fully incorporate it into my business and the second, the red string, was to find my people. I have unique ways of thinking - I'm multi-passionate, spiritual, practical, and truly have that entrepreneural spirit that means I love chasing down my new ideas. Most people cannot come to terms with the amount of crazy I have going on in my head some days. They nod and support but they don't go through it themselves. Now I have some great friends so before I start getting texts of disgust from them let me qualify. My friends love and support me, but I wanted to find other women who have a deeply woo-woo side and are still killing it in business. It's a rare breed.
I went alone and knew no one, which suits this introverted only child just fine. I wandered around waiting for the doors to open to claim my spot, the one that gave me the best view. That first morning I would sit next to 2 women that I connected with immediately. We sat at our table talking, not about the weather but about things happening deep inside of us, our dreams and secrets. We connected at a heart level. At lunch I wandered off alone again and sat with two more beautiful women, both wearing purple (doesn't really enhance the story, but it was a great color and I'm going to have to buy me something in it!). Again, we went directly into our hearts and were nodding at everything each other said because we just 'got' it, like the words were ones we were speaking ourselves.
This just kept happening. For three days of breaks and lunches I met new people who were telling versions of what I carried in my head and my heart. It was safe to cry and laugh and to totally be myself. I felt like I had come home, that I had finally met my tribe and they weren't nearly as crazy as I had thought they would be. Those are connections I can't wait to upkeep and nurture, although it would be better if they all just moved here (what? It would be).
So I say thank you to the little red thread for untangling for 3 days, for pulling together a group of women just like me. It's so wonderful to know that I'm not alone. None of us is alone. We all have people and if they aren't right in front of you then I'm going to tell you to follow your heart and find them. Go places you're drawn to. Listen to where your heart wants to sit, act on it when you notice someone and are drawn to them. It fills you up in a great way.
This morning I woke up with an impossibly long list of things to do running through my head. Coming off of a three day weekend and then leaving tomorrow for a conference in Arizona, today is the only day I have to crank out a huge list of work and get packed and buy water and snacks. I even have delusions of checking out a couple of stores for a new pair of shoes (what? I have to look cute right?). So then I start thinking of all the things I'm not going to get to and why. There is even this moment when I think that I've found my 'out' - that I simply don't have enough time to go to this conference and that I can't be away from my son and husband for that long (Wednesday through Sunday) and I won't be able to get everything together in time so I'm just not going.
Don't get me wrong, I want to go to this event. It's for me and my development as a person, a coach and a business woman. There's the excited anticipation of having an adventure. What if I learn so much that my life mystically expands? What if I finally find my people - women with whom I can totally relate to on a spiritual and business level? What if I look so super cute they give me an award for being best dressed? It could happen. What if the sky suddenly opens and my answers all come flooding down from heaven? What if I come home and my business transforms and I have 10 people working for me as I float on the wings of success?
That's about the time that my little critical voice chimes in and starts freaking me out. I feel selfish for spending the money and taking time away from my family. I feel like I probably won't learn anything new and will have wasted a week of my life. Mystical openings? Right... What if I hate everyone there? Or they hate me? I've gone to lots of talks, what is going to make this one any different? What if my car has troubles in the desert heat? What if I get hungry in the afternoon and my stomach starts to growl in the middle of the talking and there's nothing I can do about it? What if I'm wearing the wrong clothes and I'm too cold or too hot? I should have made more time to go buy those new shoes. At the core, I feel guilty for caring for myself when I should be busy caring for my family and my business and for everything else in my life.
So I'm sitting here telling myself the same thing that I tell my clients - take a deep breath and stop running best and worst case scenarios in my head. Those stories are making me feel overwhelmed and are taking me away from the things I need to be focusing on, which is wrapping things up today and getting packed and ready.
There is everything right about doing something for me and my development. I don't run off everyday, it's once in a blue moon that I feel compelled to do something like this. I know deep inside that this is right for me, that I need to be there for some reason that my overly active imagination can't surmise. I don't know the big picture but I know that all of the fears will go away when I sit down and let them go at the opening of the workshop. I'll get done what needs to get done and I'll hop into my car tomorrow after giving my son way too many instructions and driving my husband crazy with details he already knows. And when I get to Phoenix I will take a deep breath and stay present to the experience I am awesome enough to give to myself.
I will continue breathing throughout the day, letting go of the stories and reminding myself that this is a gift, I am giving myself the gift of self care and I won't squander it by getting tied up in my mental clutter. I will say thank you to myself as if someone just handed me a present. My playlist is ready to go and by morning, I will be too!
When I went off to college they had a couple of days of orientation for the incoming Freshmen where the parents stayed for a day and got the rundown along side of us. I had 2 roommates. One roommate and I couldn't wait for our parents to leave. We pushed them to their car and waved "See ya!". But our other roommate was distraught. I mean she literally cried for 3 weeks because she was so homesick. I had no idea how to comfort her because it was seriously such a strange concept that she wanted to go home. We were free and on our own, I mean what wasn't there to like? She ended up returning home after the first semester.
As a Mom I decided that my kids would never be like that... not that they would never miss me, but that they would never be held back on their dreams because being in a new environment was too scary. So I did what my parents did to me... I shipped them off to summer camp. My daughter was first in the summer before 6th grade. She chose a tennis camp out near Santa Barbara, about a 3 hour drive for us. So we got there and found her room and I took out the sheets to make up her bed and she told me to stop, that she could do it herself and then she physically PUSHED me out of the room and said "See ya!".
And much to my husband's total confusion, I cried the whole way home. When he looked at me and said that she was going to be fine I replied "Of course she's going to be fine. I'm crying because she didn't need me." Now here's the thing - that was totality what I was going for in the first place! I wanted to have kids who could go someplace new, know no one and be confident enough to handle it on their own. And I got exactly that.
My son goes off to his first camp this week - he's going into 6th grade just like his sister was on her first time. He chose a Rugby camp in San Diego where he, of course, knows no one. So I'm going to drop him off in the morning at the Olympic Training Center and leave my baby there for a week and you know what? I fully anticipate a "See ya!" about 5 minutes into the day. After the unceremonious dismissal from one child, I'm taking my daughter to Ikea to shop for furniture for her first college apartment. She moves in in a couple of weeks. Yep. Another "See ya" moment on the near horizon.
What I have learned from these moments isn't that I raised kids who can't wait to leave me (although it feels a little like that sometimes). I'm going to give myself one heck of a pat on the back and say that I raised kids who have a solid enough foundation that change doesn't cripple them. They can stand on their own because they are loved and they are confident because they know they have back up when they need it.
I will have to hear "See ya!" many more times as a mother and I'm not going to promise that I won't cry afterwards. All I can hope for is that the "See ya!" is followed by a hug and a whisper in my ear saying "I'll miss you".
In marketing there is a saying. Okay I don't really know if it's a saying but it's a thing - give your customers what they want, not what you want to give them. As a spoiled only child I used to have to work pretty hard to remember that, at least until I made it all about me.
See it started with all of the social media sites... I've been on Twitter and Facebook since 2007. When I first joined I followed anyone who followed me. As my followers grew I noticed something - most of these people had nothing interesting to say. They weren't inspiring me, educating me, conversing with me. They were just posting crap. I don't need more crap in my life... so I changed my follow policy. I take a hard look at someone's profile and look at what they are posting and if at that point I'm interested in them and what they are saying I will add them. As a result, my streams got really interesting and fun to read.
And then the light bulb went on... I needed to look at my postings AS IF I were assessing my own friend worth. Would I want to follow me? Are my posts interesting, funny, inspiring, engaging? It's not about what other people will think of me. It's about editing myself as if I were a rough draft of a book - the words are all there on my paper I just rearrange them until I love to read them.
What face would I show the world if I would want to meet me? It's a new kind of authenticity. It's not about putting on a mask and pretending to be someone I'm not, it's about editing my stream and deciding to be the person I'd want to hang out with. And it's not just about social networking, it's about who I am in all things. When I write in this blog I write from my heart and I write things I want to read and learn. I'm not pretending to be something. I simply choose to act from my heart and put my best foot forward.
So I know you read all the time not to worry about what others think of you and to be more gentle on yourself and to let your authentic self shine forth into the world. I will tell you the same thing. But you can choose what that looks like and what you bring to the table. See now as an only child this totally makes sense to me since I am very often my own best friend... You can choose to be the kind of person you'd like to have a cup of coffee with or you can choose to be the person you would edit out of your stream.
So, who will you choose to be today?
The other day I was at a meeting for one of my son's teams and we had pizza all around. One of the other moms sat down next to me with a piece of sausage pizza (what did you think the title was referring to?). Her 15 year old daughter came up and started picking off the sausage from the slice like a seagull. The pizza was stripped down within seconds to just the cheese. So I said something along the lines of "If you don't like sausage there are other kinds up there..." and the mom looked at me and said "No. I love sausage pizza but I don't get it very often because the kids pick off all the good stuff so I always just end up with cheese anyhow".
Now, I'm an only child so this just naturally seemed nutters to me. I mean I don't mind sharing but when I purposely get something I like I make sure I get some of it too. They might get one piece of sausage from my slice but after that man, get your hands off! I mean if I taste something amazing I say "here, try this" and I share a bite. I DO NOT take a bite and then say "This is amazing - here, I want you to eat it all while I watch".
Because that's as good as saying "I don't deserve something this good. In fact, your happiness is so obviously worth more than mine." And then we say "seeing them happy is all the joy I need", which quite frankly is a lie because I know that deep down inside I really just wanted to enjoy my piece of sausage pizza.
Don't gasp and judge me here - I know being a mother is supposed to be all about sacrificing things for your kids. But if you give away ALL of your sausage (or time or energy or money or whatever) you are not being a better parent or a better person. You're not nourishing the child - I bet the child already has plenty without taking all of yours. You're not teaching respect - a respectful person doesn't take everything, they know to give and receive equally. Most importantly, you're not showing yourself respect - self respect means you know that you deserve as much happiness as those around you. What you are doing is depleting yourself unnecessarily. Now I know that sausage might not seem like a big deal but it's indicative of a bigger picture.
It's part of our fatal flaw as women - we're expected to give and nurture and then give some more, often to the expense of ourselves. Think for a minute - how many other places are you giving away pieces of your joy to an excess? I don't mean sharing your joy because that feels great and it makes everyone happy - I mean stripping it all down until you're left with just the bread? Do you do so much in the service of others that you forget yourself? You make lunches for the wee ones but forget to eat yourself. You help others fix their computers only to find your printer is out of toner and then run out to get more so that they can print. You take the seat facing into the sun. You do the dishes when your favorite show is on tv. You volunteer for positions because no one else is stepping up to take them. You let your kids pick off your favorite toppings from your pizza.
At the end of the day, you're depleted and stressed and over-extended. And all it takes to stop the madness is shifting just a little from 'give it all' to 'sharing an appropriate amount'. An appropriate amount is always moving and shifting - a fine balance between sharing, being generous and giving it all away.
So start with the small things. Start telling yourself that you're worth as much as those you love by letting the gulls take one piece of sausage then slapping their beaks away so you can enjoy your piece of pizza. Ask for the good chair from time to time. Serve yourself first. The little changes in your attitude will start spilling into the bigger areas so that at the end of the day you just may have some reserve energy left.