the wanting that is waking

My voice

Mine is not a solo story. I’ve read my poems before audiences of four to four thousand. I’ve heard from people of all ages and circumstances – including those who love poetry and those who never understood it – that they find themselves and their lives reflected through my words.

Writing is how I solve and dissolve complex equations of heart and head. It’s my personal commitment to revealing, as poetry has the ability to connect us to one another. We discover ourselves in words, unveiled and immersed in the precision of the present moment.

Today I want to share with you my poem the wanting that is waking.

i wake
gasping for air
i’ve been submerged
now finally released
repercussions repeating
cycles of measure
setting in motion
what will be
from what was
that part of me
close to death

each snapshot
a moment
in the mosaic of time
made of shards that
wear as they rasp against
each other
mismatched fragments
bonding along side
polished fluid contours

your brokenness cannot
be fixed by my truth

inside each thought is
a choice and
always another
memory makes her bed

the stitches need to be removed
lives unwoven
the pattern unraveled
setting consequence in motion
moving one time to meet another

today
the truth of silence
of alone is setting in
no more marriage

his voice
is just a distant rumble
echoing about
and from now on
there is no voice
inside my head
except my own

this morning
it’s the wanting
that is waking
desire ripening and
rising inside
passion is roused
what lies beyond
is boundless

Are You Prepared to Jump Into Uncertainty?

More to you than you realize

I was once again in a hotel with Louise Hay. This time I was lamenting the fact that I wanted to jump, but felt too afraid. Big-time resistance!

“It’s like wanting to get to the other side of the river, yet clinging to a branch on this side for dear life,” Louise told me. “The only way we can possibly land over there is to release our grip.”

Lulu, as she is affectionately known, was absolutely right of course. For a long time, I’d tried to have it both ways. I was stretched all the way across that river, not letting go of the past and not fully embracing my future. But there comes a time when we have to trust our own ability to swim, even if we can’t see the other side. We have to trust that we can power ourselves to the other side, and that land will be there to greet us.

Jumping is not only about letting go and leaving, but also about propelling ourselves toward the new—even when we don’t know exactly what the “new” will be! I had no idea what would be coming my way when I left my marriage. I’d been with this man for eighteen years, after all, and we not only lived together but also worked together. Our lives were completely intertwined. Who would I be without him? I could hardly imagine who this A.D. (“After Divorce”) me would be. It was like standing at the edge of a cliff so high that I couldn’t see the river down below.

What I’ve since discovered is that we’re constantly being pushed to the edge of that precipice, and the only thing to do is to muster enough faith to jump into the uncertainty. As writer Ray Bradbury said, “You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

I know how scary that sounds, trust me. But isn’t it scarier to remain stuck in a life that you know for sure isn’t working? That’s certainly what I faced with my marriage. That life wasn’t working, but I was so afraid to let it go that for years I wouldn’t admit—not even to myself—how unhappy I truly was.

When my then-husband kicked me out of the house, and I finally did not go back, the ground beneath my feet was gone—literally. I was no longer living in my home. This was huge. I was already starting to become the “A.D.” version of Nancy, as everything I’d known myself to be was annihilated. Well, to my surprise, I was still here, and ground did appear beneath my feet. I actually wasn’t that identity I thought was me. I was much, much more.

So are you. There is so much more to you than you realize. The person your mind thinks you are is only a fraction of your totality. We are not our identities. All of the labels you put on yourself, all of the concepts and beliefs you have about who you are actually serve to make you smaller than you truly are.

Yes, and for many of us, that moment is when we know we can’t bear to stay in the old life a moment longer. As writer Anaïs Nin said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Start Living Your Unlived Life

Living Your Unlived Life

Florence, Italy. In Michaelangelo’s gallery, bodies birthing themselves from rough and ragged chunks of marble. “Unfinished Slaves,” frozen in a state of self-excavation. I, too, was carving myself back into life.

Shame and guilt stripped away, revealing my raw flesh. I reclaimed time lost; my unlived life. Forgiveness arrived, tentatively at first. Then—now—in bursts of disbelief. Inhabiting my life completely–no hiding, truly living–is unparalleled.

Once there was a marriage and now there is me.

What do I know, now? I know that happiness, fun, pleasure—these are the necessities. I know that loss is loss and grief is grief. I know that forgiveness is the gateway; freedom and love lie beyond. I know that nothing is better than living my life as it is happening. Meeting the miraculous moments as me—just me. Just being me is the only thing I ever have to do to be loved.

I know that living on the other side of my greatest fear I can do anything.

restoration

the truth has been patiently walking beside me
periodically darting out in an attempt
to capture my attention
then today it just gently reached over
held my hand and gave it a squeeze
reminding me that i do want and need
and love

so this is what it feels like
to inhabit my body
a home familiar yet unrecognizable
breath hydrating the space
between flesh and bone

still flashes of the past hover
as film overlay on present day
haunting me with life before
and life unlived

once
i was a woman
with a husband
and a dog

it was a time
when water
didn’t behave
as water


how quickly spells are cast
and broken
but life going on without me
leaves me breathless
so i trust in the power
of restoration

seems i am always settling in
and then settling in
all over again
to the changing terrain below
the weather is coming for us
and it’s breathtaking

now loosening my grip
on
 what i desire
it draws toward me

what makes the heart
start beating again

balancing as i settle in once more

living and breathing
on the other side
of letting go

fierce
wild and free

Get on the Boundary Bandwagon

Set Healthy Boundaries

I used to spend so much time reacting and responding to everyone else that my life had no direction. Other people’s lives, problems, and wants set the course for my life. Once I realized it was okay for me to think about and identify what I wanted, remarkable things began to take place in my life.

—Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More

Leaving my marriage and whole-heartedly deciding not to return felt like what I imagine it might feel like to leave a cult.

As my mind began to clear, and as my habits of reactivity and walking on eggshells began to lessen and loosen, setting boundaries became easier.

The months that followed were a blur. I filed for divorce, met with lawyers, went through a painfully long mediation, agreed to a settlement, and got the dissolution decree.

During all of that time, my husband and I never spoke or saw one another. I was finally able to set a boundary — and keep it. Having set my own boundaries for the first time, I was no longer reacting or responding to someone else. I was suddenly able to act from a clean, clear place. It was amazing.

But while I felt stronger in some ways, I also felt like a young colt trying to walk for the first time, which is fitting, since I was indeed birthing a new identity.

So, take heart! When you set new boundaries, you may at first feel as though you have a new pair of legs. You might feel off balance, but it won’t last forever. Yes, it can be very scary to operate from a place of what you want, especially when you’re a people-pleaser like I used to be.

As children, we learn to respond in a way that brings us the least stress and trouble, and that often means allowing ourselves to be moved by others’ wants and needs. But as adults, we have to learn to get past our ingrained fears and make clear choices. Most of us have an inner dialogue that tells us we’re not enough, that we’re not lovable.

Refusing to set healthy boundaries is one of the primary ways we express that belief. If we want to live fulfilled lives, however, we have to let go of the belief that the needs and opinions of others are more important or valid than our own. We have to stop taking it personally when someone disagrees with us. We have to stop believing that if we disagree with someone or ask for what we want, we’ll end up alone and unloved.

Most of us don’t know how to set boundaries. We’re taught to put others ahead of ourselves. (This is especially true for women, but there are plenty of men who have the same issue.)

During a workshop I heard Cheryl Richardson say something that stuck with me: “If I spend my life pleasing people, I spend my life.”

Up until that point I realized I didn’t have any boundaries, I had definitely been spending my life. I was just about emotionally bankrupt when I finally woke up.

As you begin to set boundaries, remember that each time you set a healthy boundary, you say “yes” to more freedom. Setting one boundary can help you develop the courage to set more boundaries. Jump on the boundary bandwagon today!

Befriend Your Resistance

Resistance is a natural part of the process

I love a line in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love: “The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving.”

It rings so true, especially when you’re wanting to jump, and find yourself sitting in the uncertainty of the unknown.

Inner conflict is one of the ways we stay stuck. As long as we’re sitting on the fence, we don’t have to pick a side, hop down, and get on with our lives. Since my coaching is one massive attempt to help you disengage from your inner stalemate and make the best decision you can, we’ve got to talk about resistance.

You will have doubts. It’s not a one-time deal; you will inevitably have to make your choice over and over. I had to keep choosing to get divorced and not go back … over and over again. I had to reevaluate my decision more times than I can count. In fact, it became a daily practice.

None of us likes change.

Our natural impulse is to come up with all sorts of reasons why we should stay right where we are.

You’ll have to keep reminding yourself what you want and why the change is necessary … in spite of your resistance. And, yes, you’ll have to keep choosing, every day and every moment, to move forward—toward your fulfilling future.

As my friend Dr. Christiane Northrup says, “We heal through repetition. Each time on the spiral we go back to the same place but we’re on a higher rung, or deeper section of that particular issue.” So, every time you act in spite of your fear voices, you grow stronger.

The most important thing to remember about your resistance is that it isn’t necessarily a sign you should abandon your plan to jump. It’s just that that is where your comfort zone is—the familiar.

In my own initial jump—divorcing my husband—I approached resistance with a sword, ready to wage war. I thought if I could just muscle through the resistance, and outlast it, that I would be victorious. But the funny thing is…it doesn’t quite work out that way.

Resistance is like a beach ball. When you push it underwater, it pops back up to the surface even stronger. (Thanks to my late, great friend and mentor Debbie Ford for that great analogy.) So, as you move closer to making your jump, accept that resistance is bound to pop up to the surface and possibly even hit you in the face. Don’t push it back down. Let it be there.

And today I’m going to even ask you to…befriend it.

Now why would I want you to do that?

Resistance rears her uninvited head in the form of negative thoughts and feelings, attitudes, self-judgment, anger and distraction. But she’s a part of you. How you react to resistance may be the difference between staying where you are and breaking through to realizing your greatest desires. Instead of resenting her and wishing her ill will, you might as well sidle up to her and ask her if she wants to go get a cup of coffee.

By befriending your resistance, you honor and acknowledge her but you take away her power and eliminate the conflict. Think of her as a guide, whose job is to test you as you progress on your journey. Every time you notice she’s knocking on your door, offer to buy her a latte and inform her that you’re going to keep moving forward anyway.

Resistance is a natural part of the process. How you deal with it is up to you.

I want to help you befriend your resistance. You deserve it!

Surrender To Grief

Letting Go

Surrendering to grief involves diving deeply into your memories and understanding that there will be longing and feelings of loss from broken promises and unfulfilled dreams.

Rituals from my marriage come back at unexpected moments. One that still lingers is the memory of taking off my ski boots just outside the door of our home in Telluride, Colorado, as our dogs feverishly licked my nose. Remembering that ritual after the jump, after leaving my marriage, and months (and years) after seeing my dogs for the last time, flooded me with the sensation of loss. The dogs became a symbol of my past. I was not just divorced; I was dog-less.

Sometimes the emotions were overwhelming. The grief was confusing to me at first. I knew it wasn’t about wanting to go back, but it was still intense. Soon I discovered that when I allowed those visceral reminders to be there, I could more easily move through the emotions and emerge without fighting with them. When I fought, on the other hand, the feelings seemed to linger and fester. It took much more work to hold my painful emotions at bay than it did to let them flow. It was, in a way, a “core dump” of emotions.

Honoring your grief is akin to honoring your resistance, but there’s a subtle difference: Grief is just a feeling; it isn’t a setback. It’s a passing visitor. Unlike resistance, which will do anything to keep you from moving forward, grief simply wants to be felt. Once again, its presence doesn’t necessarily mean that you have chosen wrong. It doesn’t mean you jumped prematurely or didn’t jump far enough. No matter when you jump, you will have some grief. And sometimes, it will be intense.

But you can’t let go of something that you haven’t fully felt, so there’s nothing to do but let the grief come. The only way you can truly say goodbye to anything is to allow everything you feel about it to be fully felt. This isn’t the same as wallowing in your pain; it’s about allowing your feelings to have their say. No graceful exit can happen until you accept what has been.

There’s a fine line between memory and baggage, however. You do have to eventually let go of whatever you’ve been holding onto. This doesn’t mean you won’t still occasionally have painful memories.

If you want to heal old relationship wounds and patterns to create new, healthy connections, I’ll be teaching with David Kessler and Paul Denniston August 25-27 at Kripalu. Click HERE for more information.

Uncover Your Underlying Commitments

Underlying CommitmentsWhen I first met Abby, she was trying to break free from living paycheck to paycheck. Her excuse up until that point was that she was already getting paid better than her peers at her company, so more money wasn’t available. Through our work together, she unearthed a shadow belief about rich people. “The wealthy are greedy and dishonest,” she said. She traced that belief back to statements she heard her parents say when she was a kid.

Uncovering that belief was quite a shocker for Abby! Even after bringing the belief to light and becoming aware of the excuses she had made to uphold that belief, Abby felt stuck. It was a belief that had taken hold when she was probably five or six years old—so young that she unconsciously felt it was fact. She could see that it was just a misinformed belief, yet she was at a loss as to how to disengage from it.

Abby had an underlying commitment to live paycheck to paycheck so she would never have to be one of the greedy and dishonest people her parents disliked so much.

So what is an underlying commitment?

“Underlying commitment” is a term my dear friend and mentor, the late Debbie Ford, created. Others have called them “unconscious commitments” or “hidden commitments.” They’re commitments we made to ourselves when we were very young as a result of the limiting beliefs we developed. We don’t know about them because they’re in the shadows of the unconscious, underlying our conscious knowledge.

When we get stuck in a pattern that we can’t seem to change no matter how hard we try, it’s almost certainly the result of an underlying commitment. We think we’re committed to one thing, but we’re actually committed to something else. For example, let’s say you think you’re committed to starting your own business. But your underlying commitment is actually to stay safe and small right where you are. Even as you make efforts to start your own business, some part of you is sabotaging those efforts and ensuring you fail.

Underlying commitments cause us to take actions that lead us away from the direction of our dreams. To get stuck in patterns that we can’t seem to change no matter how hard we try. To create results that are inconsistent with what we say we desire. But the truth is that we’re always getting what we’re actually committed to—our underlying, hidden commitments.

Say you want to start your own business, but you grew up in a family that always struggled financially. So at a young age, you formed the belief that in order to not turn into your family—and thus, stay safe—you would need to struggle with money as well. Because of that belief, you made a promise to yourself that you would avoid your finances in order to avoid pain. In fact, you spent years doing just that. You’ve been to seminars; you’ve practiced manifesting meditations; you’ve written abundance affirmations. You’ve even worked on discovering your limiting beliefs and your excuses. Maybe you’ve even gone so far as to finally start that business . . . only to have it crash and burn. What’s going on?

Because you formed the belief that you’ll always struggle with money—and promised yourself that you’d avoid your finances—you’re creating a reality characterized by struggle. You’re actually committed to struggle and avoidance. Now, why would anyone stay committed to such a thing when it comes at such a high cost? Because to the little one inside, it feels safe. Remember, this commitment is unconscious and began when you were very young.

What Do Underlying Commitments Sound Like?

To help you figure out your own underlying commitments, let’s look at what they often sound like compared to what we think we’re committed to.

“I think I’m committed to becoming a public speaker.”

Underlying commitment: “I’m committed to staying small so that I won’t be called stupid.”

“I think I want to start my own business.”

Underlying commitment: “I’m committed to controlling everything so I feel safe, and having my own business feels very out of control.”

“I think I’m committed to becoming an artist.”

Underlying commitment: “I’m committed to being an accountant because that’s what my father was, and he died when I was young. I’ll dishonor him if I do something else.”

By exposing your unconscious commitments, you’re gaining the ability to see and tell yourself the truth. You can step into a greater sense of worthiness—one that says, “I feel compassion for my child self’s beliefs and commitments, and now it’s time for me as an adult to commit to what I truly deserve.”

The Short End of the Stick

Nourish yourself first

“Me! Me! Me!” says almost no woman…ever.

 One of the beliefs I hear a lot is “I’m not enough, and there isn’t enough.” That leads to the underlying commitment to deprive ourselves. If there isn’t enough, and we’re not worthy, that means everyone else gets first dibs. We’re afraid to take our rightful portion.

I talk a lot about how women tend to take care of others first, which often leaves little for themselves. Did your mother do that? If she modeled that for you, it’s a big part of your programming.

My coaching client Pauline says, “So much of my self-worth is based on what’s on the ‘outside,’ rather than how I feel on the inside. I tend to let my husband and close friends have their way almost all the time without even thinking about what I want. I realize now that I don’t speak up because I’m afraid of what they’ll think of me.”

With awareness, Pauline can begin to catch herself, correct her behavior, and make a different choice. Whenever she sees herself starting to take “the short end of the stick,” she can stop and say to herself, “No, I’m enough, and there’s enough for everyone. I get just as much as everybody else. I deserve to have first dibs. I deserve to say which movie I’d like to see. I deserve to choose the restaurant.”

It can start as simply as that, and then spiral out into more important areas of her life. Of course, we all have to make compromises and allow everyone in a group to have their say and their piece of the pie. But we certainly deserve to give ourselves equal treatment.

Another coaching client of mine, Amanda—who identifies as a recovering people pleaser—realized, “I can love and nourish myself and create the life I love WHILE I love and care for those around me.” She went from a high-stress career to a Happiness Coach, and even started a podcast called “The Full Life” to help other people-pleasers nourish themselves first. Talk about a 180! And she’s never looked back.

You can learn to put yourself first, too. All it takes is some self-awareness and the willingness to say out loud…I AM WORTHY!

Because you are.

Kick Worry to the Curb

Living in approval of yourself

Is your first thought upon waking, “What do I need to worry about today?” Are you constantly scanning for what needs your attention—in a negative way?

I used to wake up every morning and the first thought in my head was, “What do I need to worry about today?” And then a list of other-focused and other-referenced activities and fears would begin to rattle off.

Now, I wake up and ask, “What’s the most loving act I can take for myself today?” And I do it. Great self-care and living in approval of myself is the antidote to worry. And it leads to a solid sense of self-worth, because here’s the deal: Worthiness is an inside job.

How do we take stock of our worthiness quotient? First and foremost, we start to notice when we’re judging ourselves. One of the easiest ways to tell if your self-worth could use a tune-up is by paying attention to how you talk to yourself. Do you get very upset when you make a mistake? Do you say, “Damn! I’m such an idiot!” Do you tell yourself that you aren’t smart enough, aren’t good enough, aren’t capable? Do you compare yourself to others and make up stories about how you don’t measure up?

Sometimes, that voice of judgment is so automatic that we don’t actually “hear” it, but we sure do feel it. The excuses come next. “Oh, I can’t join that class. It’s stupid.” “I can’t take that job. It’s too far away. What a commute that would be!” Underneath those excuses is the longing for the very thing we’re pushing away. And we push it away because we’re afraid we aren’t good enough.

Whenever we don’t feel good enough, we invoke worry.

Allowing yourself to worry is giving unnecessary airtime to negative thoughts about yourself.

Worry lives in the past and future, and it prevents you from living in the present.

Flip the script by taking charge of your worry. Name it and write down the most loving action you can take for yourself today. And if what you’re worrying about is beyond your control, why let it take up precious real estate in your head and your heart?

Remember, action alleviates anxiety!

The bottom line is you need to take care of yourself in order to kick worry to the curb. And if you’re anything like I used to be, you’ve been abandoning yourself for far too long.

So stop it!

Start living in the present and kick that worry to the curb.

Are you afraid of fun?

 Give yourself permission to play

Do you think fun is frivolous? Does play make you feel anxious? Do you relate to leisure as being lazy, unproductive and irresponsible?

Ya know…I used to be just like you.

My perfectionism and my history—the pain I experienced around my brother’s death when I was so young—turned me into someone who didn’t know how to play or relax. In fact, I was so concerned about spending any time not working that I frequently worked during my off hours while I was at Hay House. It made no sense, of course, since I had a set salary. I would make just as much if I relaxed and enjoyed my time off as if I spent it crouched over my computer. But I wasn’t thinking logically! My beliefs told me that if I wasn’t working, I wasn’t valuable. And if I wasn’t valuable, I wasn’t safe.

It wasn’t until I left my job and started working for myself that I began to give myself time to play and enjoy my life. Which is ironic, since as any entrepreneur knows, when you’re working for yourself, there’s no such thing as paid time off! But my self-worth was finally intact, and I no longer believed I had to be a workhorse to validate my value. After that shift, I not only began to make more while working fewer hours, but I also began to learn how to enjoy my downtime. I can now play and relax without feelings of fear or guilt!

I’m learning to have fun, to ask for what I want. I’m learning to flow between work and play with more ease, not waiting for the stars to align before I give myself permission to embrace joy. And it’s all because I know I’m worthy of it!

—Penny, Former Coaching Client

I’m here to tell you, it’s not too late to give yourself permission to play.

Do you do find yourself working all the time instead of having any fun? When your friends ask you to go out to dinner or a movie do you make up an excuse? Or maybe you think work is fun and fun is work?

If any of this resonates, join me for a Free Group Coaching Call and let me show you how there’s room for everything you desire in your life—family, relationships, the right kind of work, and play time too!