The Red Hat

My therapist once told me a story that goes like this –

Once upon a time there was a woman who really wanted a red hat. She went to a store and walked up to the counter and asked the salesperson for a red hat.

“I’m sorry, we don’t sell red hats.”

Disappointed, the woman walked away. Then, she thought, “Maybe I didn’t ask in the right way.”

So, she went back to the counter. “I’d like a garment in a crimson colour that fits on my head.”

“I’m sorry, we don’t sell those.”

Disappointed, the woman left. Then, she thought, “Maybe I didn’t enter the store from the right door.”

So, she walked around the block to another entrance and asked again.

“I’m sorry, we don’t sell those.”

Maybe she should try a different time of day? Or day of the week? She tried again.

“I’m sorry, we don’t sell those.”

Maybe she wasn’t dressed nicely enough? She changed into nicer clothes.

“I’m sorry, we don’t sell those.”

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And so it goes with you and me.

Looking for a red hat, I try again and again.

And because you love me, you offer me a blue hat. Or a purple hat. Or a red scarf.

And because I love you, I try to wear them and be happy. But they don’t fit right. And when I look at myself in the mirror, I no longer recognize myself.

I am left confused and unsure.

When my therapist asks, “what should this woman do?”, I answer without hesitation.

“She should walk away and look someplace else.”

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Out here all alone

Recently, the following quote appeared on my Facebook feed –

crowd

While likely not ever said by Albert Einstein, it nonetheless got me thinking.

My first thought was that it’s a pretty scary looking picture with the grey mist, the old bridge and that crow waiting for you to try and pass.  And that is sometimes how it feels when you break off from the crowd and are all alone. Scary. And lonely. And dangerous.

So much of my life feels like a break from the crowd. Or at least from what they tell you you need to be and do in order to be part of the crowd. I’ve never been married. I don’t have kids. I’m not interested in climbing my way up the corporate ladder (and working 60 hours a week). I don’t want a house. I’m not thin. I don’t have cable. Or a TV. I probably haven’t seen the latest episode of, well, anything. And, I don’t much care about the big game. So sometimes it’s lonely and scary and I feel like I’m not doing it right.

But then my next thought was how awesome it is to be out here on my own traveling through my own landscape. I’m living MY life and not the “supposed to” life constructed in my head from too much advertising and not enough self-worth. And the more I inhabit this space, far from the maddening crowd, the happier I am and the easier it is to make decisions about my life and my path. Even the hard decisions are becoming easy to make if still somewhat harder to implement.

Not that I’m becoming a hermit, although I am sometimes tempted to escape to the woods to a cabin all by myself. It’s just that making my decisions about my path without worrying about what everyone else is doing (or thinking) means that I really am going places that I’ve never been before.

So here I am crossing the bridge and heading into the misty unknown.  And finding it pretty damn exciting.

(side note – have you ever noticed the large number of internet quotes attributed to Albert Einstein?!)

The war is over

In 2014, I picked the word fierce as my word for the year and it was a damn fine word.

I wanted to be fierce about the decisions in my life. To stand up for my needs more and compromise my happiness less. To live my life fully and not let my fear of not being liked (or loved) stop me from doing what I really want to do. To be visible and courageous and unflinching in my authenticity.

Did I succeed? For the most part …hell yes I did! Not always, of course. And I’m sure I had my clumsy and inelegant moments in which I inadvertently hurt others. But mostly, I loved being fierce. I made some really hard decisions and then hoped my friends would understand. Some did and our friendship is strengthened and more deeply valued by me. Some didn’t and the loss of that connection brings sadness but few regrets.

I tackled some big physical challenges and made it over the damn mountain. Twice. I spoke some hard truths and I tried to do it with love, compassion and thoughtfulness. And I walked into the darkness to poke at what hurts in the hopes of healing the wounds.

Now that it’s 2015, I’m not sure I want to let my fierce word companion go. I think I might keep that fierceness tucked in my back pocket and just keep on keeping on.

subversiveBut as 2014 came to a close and I began thinking about a word for 2015 one thing became increasingly clear. The most troubled area for me in living fully is still my physical relationship with my body. I’ve put on weight (again). I never feel like I eat healthy or get enough exercise. But July’s experience hiking the Quiraing planted the seed that I needed to get along with my body more. I couldn’t force it to do what I wanted; I needed to support it.

And then, at the end of 2014, I had the incredible experience of being with a dear friend in the last days of his life as he passed away from cancer and his spirit was released from this world. As I watched his body break down and stop working, I realized that I have spent a lot of my life at war with my body.  Hating it for being too fat, blaming it for the things that haven’t gone the way I wanted them to (hello rejection and heartbreak), yelling at it to be in better shape like some kind of abusive coach.  Faster! Stronger! Not Good Enough!

The fact is, though, that my body is working pretty damn well.  There are a whole lot of things going right each day that mean I am mobile, not in pain and able to do the things I want to. It has done its best and stuck with me even with the negative self-talk and the crap I sometimes feed it.

Perhaps instead of being at war with my body, I could instead be at peace with it.  Maybe instead of yelling I could celebrate my body and all the amazing things we can do together. Perhaps if I loved my body more then this idea of self-care would become less of a battle and more of a partnership. If I could take the fierceness with which I have tackled the outside world in 2014 and turn it inwards into celebration and partnership then I might be much happier and waste less of this precious life.

IMG_1270And so I have chosen the word stretch for 2015. To stretch my body fully and gloriously and revel in all it can do. To expand my body and my spirit together in partnership to explore the potential of my life. To physically stretch my muscles to allow for free movement.

If fierce was the word that acted as a backstop to keep me from eroding myself away in compromise and people-pleasing then I hope stretch is a word that helps me join hands with my body and reach forward towards my goals and dreams and desires.

It’s time to make peace with the enemy.

The war is over.

Let the parade begin.

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Invisible Cleaning

I spent this weekend doing the kind of cleaning that only I am likely to notice.

I moved furniture and chased down a whole burrow of dust bunnies.

I went through drawers and cupboards and got rid of things I don’t need. Even that stuff way at the back where you have to get down on your hands and knees to reach.

I took care of tasks I’ve been putting off … cleaning the window sills, sorting through the treasures that had turned from “a few highlights” to “a pile of stuff”.

I said goodbye to energetic anchors, remants of projects long done or never to be finished, gifts from old lovers or friends that chain me to the past, clothes that will never be worn again.

I can tell I did good work. My body is pleasantly sore and I can look around and feel proud at the tidying up. I look around and I am happy.

But if you knew my home and had visited me here, I doubt you would notice. It’s subtle and it’s easy to miss.

It strikes me that self-care is a lot like that. The time spent sweeping the cobwebs from my mind, sorting through emotions to clean up the yucky mess, the sifting of memories to keep the good and move past the bad. Breaking energy connections that leave me sad and forging ones that highlight the treasures of friendships. And the sometimes heart sore feeling at the end of the process.

It’s easy to forget in the mess of the big things in life. But the invisible – or maybe just hard to see – cleaning brings and equal sense of quiet contentment at the end of the day. Peace of heart and home.

You might not notice if I didn’t tidy and if I didn’t work at self-care. But I sure would.

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