So Many Voices

This awareness thing is tricky. It seems there are multiple voices lobbing suggestions at me. The high one, the one coming from that space of awareness, the one that is not the me walking around, not the one entangled in my ego, is pretty distinguishable. But the voice I call my own, has quite a few personalities, it turns out.

There’s the one I think of mostly me. It’s the one that says “ugh” a lot when receiving a download from the smart one. Then there’s the doubter, never quite sure if the information being downloaded from the galactic realms of absolute reason is sound. “Maybe I should have chocolate?” And then there’s this judgy presence who reminds me of Patsy from AbFab. Mostly she sits in a corner with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other scoffing and rolling her eyes whenever I set out to make a positive change. “Here we go again.”

So, naturally positive change is what I’m trying to make. Break some unhelpful habits, add in some new healthy ones, hope something sticks this time. You know the drill.

To motivate me to get (re)started, I opened Marie Forleo’s book Everything is Figureoutable and it was the right choice. Yes, it’s a self-helpy kind of book and yes, I have read every single self-help and motivational book there is. Every. One. I’m pretty sure. But with each one I take away a nugget or finally get some key principle I’ve read 27 times. Or maybe I am able to let go of some worn out belief that didn’t belong to me in the first place.

This book asks some great questions and like the student of life I like to believe I am, I dutifully answered each question in my journal.

To back up a tiny bit, the book is about going for your dream – whatever that is, starting a business, getting healthy, financial freedom, ending a relationship, whatever – and figuring out what is standing in your way or what needs to be done. Marie Forleo is a business coach extraordinaire, but with heart and presence. She gets it.

She allows for you to have more than one dream but insists you choose just one to start with as she is working on helping you build focus and discipline, twin struggles for me. Once the first dream is solidly underway, any other dreams can be addressed.

Here’s how it emerged.

Dream 1: World Traveler Storyteller Shopper. I would love to travel the world and take photos and meet people and write stories and buy really cool things from artisans and flea markets and bring them back to sell in my own awesome shop. I know. I’m already kind of doing that.

Dream 2: Financial Freedom. I have a student loan that is like a bad rash, it will not go away. It’s my own fault, I have deferred it a million times hoping it would just evaporate. It didn’t. I am left with a hefty sum bearing down on my happiness and freedom. In addition, I have a sort of round robin thing going on with my credit card debt. It all gets paid off, then it magically reappears, then it gets paid off, etc. I’d like to crack the code and eradicate all eliminatable debt. (New word. Meaning: any bills that do not occur monthly like phone and power.)

Dream 3: Vibrant Health. Lifelong struggle. I can pinpoint exactly when I went off the rails and it has everything to do with family dynamics, but that was over 40 years ago, so let’s get on with this, can we? What I mean by vibrant health is: an appropriate weight for my height, age and lifestyle; physically active daily – walking, riding my bike, gym; eating foods that support me and not my cravings and habits. Overall it means having this boundless energy that will allow me to do all the things, sleep all the hours and go all the places.

I was sure Dream 1 was the one to figure out. But guess what? Dream 3 rose to the top. For a few reasons.

  1. While my brother was visiting I was sharing my desire to be successful and travel and start another business that involved said travel (I already have a very successful business I share with two badass women, and a couple side gigs). I was a little wistful and maybe a tad whiny. Then he has the nerve to say, while gesturing like the greatest showman, “I kinda feel like you already have that.” He’s right. I have someone’s version of success. If I took the time to practice gratitude more often I would realize that. And he’s also not completely right. Entrepreneurs like to start stuff and I love a beginning. But still, I heard him, and it sunk in.
  2. Everything starts with health. Everything. I have no excuses other than my resistance to something that I have not yet figured out, but I bet it has something to do with that mean girl in my head (you probably know her too) that tells me on a continuous basis that I don’t deserve what I want, that I’m not good enough or that I’m just fine as I am. “Grab a bag of chips, girl, there’s a Hallmark Mystery movie you haven’t seen yet.” I’d like to use an expletive here but I’m trying to keep it street level and stay classy, instead I’ll take a page out of CeeLo’s censor’s book: Forget her!
  3. A huge part of my existing business has to do with health and often I feel like a fraud. Not practicing what I preach. Not meeting my own standards and expectations. (Side note: most women feel like they’re frauds, that someone will figure out that they really don’t know what they’re doing, but we’ll cover that another time.)

As a result, health moved up. Here’s another interesting insight I had regarding these three: When I think about starting a business I take the long view, I understand there will be setbacks and struggles as well as wins. I have measurable goals that are like signposts along the way, once one is achieved I reevaluate and move on, I pivot, I hold, I recalibrate and keep going. With both the health and financial dreams I don’t do that. I have a final destination and then I’m done. I pay off my student loan and credit cards and then I clap the crumbs off my hands, take a deep breath and book another trip. On a credit card. Or I get to the perfect size, maintain healthy eating habits and exercise for a while then forget and leave the door open a crack for the not so helpful habits to sneak back in. And voila, we’re back in the depths of the self-shaming cycle.

To truly achieve what I want with my health and my finances I’m going to have to reframe them entrepreneurially. There will have to be other things beyond the eradication of debt and the perfect size for me. A growing savings and retirement account with measurable balance goals, perhaps. A refinement of muscle tone or races or dance classes, cooking classes, something to keep my body happy and my mind engaged in the ongoing healthy living process.

Still working on that part, but for now I have a plan in place that starts smallish and manageable and grows. There are markers, a stack of healthy cookbooks in my kitchen and a hefty pile of inspirational books from athletes to badass women to keep me inspired. Plus my brother has the same focus on health this new year, so we are each other’s accountability partners, checking in once a week.

This is ongoing, I’m recommitting to my health for the 1 millionth time and this is why Patsy is pffting in the corner. That’s okay, eventually the juicing and roasting and meditation will bore her and she’ll wander into someone else’s personal drama and try to convince them to stay stuck. I hope it’s not you.

I’m Not Aware

It’s the beginning of another year and for whatever reason – cultural, internal or driven by the all-powerful social media – I am pulled toward self-review. If I am being completely honest, my life is a series of perpetual self-evals. What is my purpose? What should I be doing? Am I on the right path? Am of service to others? To anyone? Followed by, I could do better, Habits are hard, and my all time favorite, Let’s figure this out.

So, here I sit before a blank screen pondering those same tired thoughts without a lot of fresh input. Instead, I offer the following…

Everything begins with awareness. Awareness of that higher, wiser part of ourselves. We all have it, and sometimes we use it. We all know we shouldn’t have the extra helping of pumpkin pie (or maybe even the first), stay up to binge watch something that is not really enhancing our lives, not getting up early to own the day, not planning meals and finances. I trust you’re familiar. I mean there are mythical beings out there whose finances are pristine, their abs are true, their kitchens are stocked with local, organic vegan fare and their relationships are nothing but love and light.

But I’ve yet to meet such a unicorn. If they don’t really exist, why am I spinning plates and hula hooping trying to live up to their imaginary standards?

I’m not gonna make this about resolutions or even intentions. Has that worked for you? I mean for more than a week? Me neither.

My gift to myself this coming year is going to be to listen to my gut, my higher self, the universe, nature, pretty much any voice that doesn’t come from my ego running rough shod with scissors through the night or any other actual well-meaning, yet mortally flawed, human being. I’m going to listen to the powerful, yet calm and quiet and simple promptings of my soul.

    • Put the phone down.
    • Go to your mat.
    • Drink water instead.
    • It’s a beautiful day for a walk.

I mean, her advice is spot on and so clear, there is no innuendo, no context needed, nothing cloudy or unsure. And usually it’s not about don’t do something and more about make a better choice. For my energy, my sanity, my peace.

My life will still be full of all that I love, travel, decorating, creativity, but I feel like it will be richer, cleaner, more spacious, maybe, if I pay closer attention. I kind of imagine myself – my human form – with all my to-do’s and passions and needs stuck to me, adding weight and making me itchy. Then I imagine creating space through nothing more than awareness and listening to that wise voice. (Conscious breathing and meditation never hurt, so I’ll throw that in a well) Then I begin to see myself with an inch of air between me and all that stuff. Then maybe a foot. Then maybe arm’s length, just far enough away that I can reach out and choose which task or project I wish to work on or play with. I mean everything we do involves choice. If we’re not consciously selecting where we put our energy and focus, those decisions are happening by default. And not very elegantly, I may add.

So that’s it. Just listen and follow directions. That’s my big plan. I mean, how hard can it be?