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.

Mattering

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I’ve been absent for about 10 days. I have a really good reason: someone close to me passed away. It was unexpected and sad, but ultimately beautiful and freeing. For her.

I, on the other hand, have been gifted the bulk of her possessions. And it’s a lot. She had a two bedroom apartment stuffed with books, creative project pieces and parts, clothes and the normal belongs of a life richly lived.

The Universe can be douchily ironic. Just as I am in the process of purging and letting go I am presented with a whole house of stuff to manage.

I am not being intentionally insensitive, it is just that I am on the business end of handling this parting. Grief comes in waves mixed with laughter and sweet memories. For now, though, the sorting of that life is the task at hand.

It’s always a process.

In sorting through the markers of her life I am both compelled to keep special tokens and simultaneously light a match and walk away.

There will be no fires.

At first glance the items surrounding me point to a life of abundance. But on closer inspection I find evidence of something more akin to lack and fear. Where one stick of deodorant would suffice I find 4. All the same. Five tall bookcases line the walls of the craft studio. They are packed with scraps of fabric, beads, books on creative endeavors, sewing materials, patterns, paper, glue. There are two computers, a sewing machine and a closet stuffed with mystery. A million tiny notes are scattered about. Half as many projects begun then abandoned.

Elsewhere in the home 3 large bookcases are full of books, sometimes two rows deep, a few photos and other mementos dot the shelves. Stacks of books rest next to the spots most frequented, magazines teeter on tables, the freezer is stuffed with food, the refrigerator the same. The walls are covered in artwork and photos with still more framed pieces leaning against walls waiting for a vacancy. And appliances requested sit in boxes unused.

It is a very accurate representation of its occupant: homey, messy in that creative way and lived in. It’s welcoming and feels safe.

But it’s a lesson. In stuff, in love, in fear, in recognizing what is necessary. In recognizing what is true.

I will continue to sort through belongings, donating many to the faceless masses, gifting some to friends of the deceased and keeping a touchstone or two.

There are boxes full of love – letters, cards, photos of trips and good times – that were perhaps felt and then forgotten. Mementos of troubleless times. (I will study these.) But they were not powerful enough to convince the beholder of her worth. Perhaps for a moment, but long term this sense of ‘not-good-enoughness’ would take a seat beside her.

Receiving things, temporarily created peace. Until they didn’t and more things would be desired, procured. She wasn’t a hoarder, but may have been heading in that direction.

The biggest gift I am getting from this experience will not take up any space in my home. It is the recognition of my own self-worth, my place in the universe. That I matter.

She mattered too, so much more than she could accept and believe. She heard the words over and over again from so many people how she had made a life-changing difference to them, how she had given them peace when they thought none existed, how she awakened in them a creative spirit they didn’t know they had. But she didn’t receive those words, she didn’t integrate them. She wore them for a short time, shared them with those close to her as external evidence of her worth, then shed them like dead skin.

In sorting and purging her things I am infected with a sense of melancholy. In purging my own things and letting go I am left bare, all raw nerves and sensitive teeth. It’s necessary. At times I am elated and giddy. It’s a cleansing with far deeper implications than a tidy home. It’s a liberation. And it’s a process.