As we close the year watching a nation humbled by shifting external events, I share with you lessons in strength.
I absorbed these insights from recent times in my life when, like our challenging economy, I “came apart” before centering again into a renewal. Contrary to what I once thought, strength isn’t “holding it all together” and “keeping a stiff upper lip.”
Rather, strength sometimes means tearing down all those walls that keep us separate from others and our own source of grace. By opening to our inner resources, we often find riches beyond any material acquisition. These are the gifts that can never be taken away. They are yours for life, but you—and only you—must claim them.
The most important step in my journey toward living more richly was re-building my self-esteem from the inside out by discovering who I am is more valuable than what I do.
For a long time, the valiant, guarded image I once held to the world as a journalist, PR executive and accomplished entrepreneur hid –or so I thought—the girl within who was unsure of her worth outside of achievement.
I suspect there are many people now confronting a time of unraveling false beliefs about themselves which previously created the illusion of “safety” based on externally defined perceptions of success.
When I surrendered my external identities to go within and find my true passions and calling (which led me to my coaching and writing life), I was humbled to a new sort of strength. I learned that, despite sometimes challenging circumstances, I am divinely guided.
Acquiring this faith has been a life-long journey. The final step of securing a belief in a power greater than me was deciding to stop letting my ego run the show. To do so, I became aware of any “grasping” behavior, and disciplined myself to center within instead, and just be still.
By no longer trying to control outcomes, magical moments have appeared where people or opportunities have come to me. At the same time, I experienced some nastier encounters that served as a reminder that I will no longer tolerate negative or toxic behavior. Immediately, when these incidences occurred, I shifted gears to recall moments of kindness, love, acceptance, encouragement, forgiveness or support.
I close this year feeling whole, centered, hopeful and slightly exhausted. It’s been a profound transformative period of inner reflection and intense physical demands from single parenting two children while working two “other” jobs.
I am deeply grateful for all my clients, friends, and colleagues who blessed my life with their presence—especially my children, who taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. They return all I’ve given them ten-fold, by loving life and me in the process.
I pray 2009 is an even more replenishing year, where love and support abound. I’ve prepared my soul to accept it all.
Here are some insights I gained from my recent journey inward.
To me, strength is:
- Making it through the first holidays without the physical presence of a loved one who has recently passed away.
- Relaxing into my vulnerabilities, seeing how flaws add as much to character as assets. These imperfections, in fact, sometimes even endear me to others, like the ex-boyfriend who loved my crooked smile and once found my intensity “cute.”
- Living from the heart, intuition and wisdom of my body as well as the intellect of the mind.
- Becoming comfortable “alone,” delighting in my own company.
- Relishing solitude, with its whispers of divine guidance.
- Balancing introspection with connection by joining communities where I also learn from the care, support, love, creativity and wisdom of others.
- Valuing my tender, sensitive sides and associating with people who embrace them.
- Forgiving those who have hurt me, including myself, who was once harsher and more critical of my own being than anyone else has ever been.
- Expressing gratitude to all those who touched my life and helped me grow.
- Increasing my lightheartedness, knowing courage involves laughter and joy.
- Delegating responsibility and asking for help, which reduces the seriousness of life when others share the load.
- Trusting in the unknown by gently letting go of hyper-vigilant behavior adopted long ago to survive as an un-parented child.
- Staying open to more spontaneity, wonder and living in the moment.
- Detaching from drama-based scenarios and fear-based or scarcity thinking.
- Receiving love and support when once it was easier to push people away for fear of rejection.
- Appreciating others’ differences instead of looking for clones of myself, knowing I grow more through expansion than the safety of similarities.
- Centering in peace before setting new intentions or making a major life decision.
- Being soft, feminine and assertive, and attracting men who find self-assurance sexy.
- Bringing more acceptance and unconditional love to others and less judgment and perfectionism.
- Giving those I care about space and room to grow.
- Becoming more patient (a life-long challenge for the high-energy Leo that I am), and pausing instead of “willing” outcomes.
- Acknowledging the courage it takes to find or reclaim oneself.
- Refusing to take personally others’ projections.
- Releasing victim behavior and "poor me" scenarios by finding the lessons in any past conditions and letting them go with compassion for having once served me. Instead, focus on knowing "I matter" and deserve all that is best for my highest good.
- Being authentic, and sharing my genuine emotions, whether I’m feeling content, centered and joyful or sad, confused and hurt.
- Standing in my own power even when it feels uncomfortable breaking from early conditioning and others’ expectations of me.
- Setting boundaries and saying “no” to people who demand too much from me.
- Integrating my inner gifts with my outer being by taking the time to nurture and groom myself, knowing how we present ourselves to the world does matter (except, of course, on those writing days when I am so in the flow that I stay in flannel PJs and pray no one knocks on the door unexpectedly).
- Resting when tired, instead of pushing to excel.
- Sharing responsibility by choosing to surround myself with people who operate on a foundation of mutuality, where the give and take is easy.
- Engaging with others from a sense of fullness versus neediness.
- Avoiding people who try to control by being overbearing or withholding.
- Embracing emotional generosity as a sure way to create an abundant life - discovering that giving my thoughts and presence to another is far more nurturing than writing a check, although my observation is that those who are emotionally available are often financially generous, too.
Wishing you a holiday season filled with strength and love. And, should you be confronting any adversity at this time of year, may you find comfort in the words of Rumi:
“Learn the alchemy
true human beings know.
The moment you accept
what troubles you’ve been given,
the door will open.”
With love, blessings and the soft embrace of stillness,
Faith, a long-term client and friend, had a huge “AH-AH” moment one day during a major life transition. In solitude, she heard these wise words come forth from her soul: “Have the courage to feel joy.”
As she has moved through many other mid-life changes, from career moves to the deaths of her parents, she has exuded strength in numerous ways. I asked her, for this newsletter, if she would share her views on becoming strong.
“THE MANY FLAVORS
So Gail asked me to write something about strength. Not really sure as to how I would go about doing this, Gail suggested I look back on my experiences and trust my soul to find a way to share.
After lots of thought it occurred to me that my understanding of strength may be very different than what I think I others believe it to
This is MY definition and therefore MY truth and this is how it came about for me. The past three years
had brought me more challenges than I ever thought possible.
- After years of infertility treatments and more miscarriages than I care to recount, I am without
children and have accepted that fate.
- I was “asked to resign” from a job I loved because of an accounting scandal.
- I chose to finally break ties with a sister who was physically and verbally abusive to me my entire childhood which challenged every other family member to accept.
- I asked my husband of 14 years for a divorce.
- I turned a deaf ear to friends who could not grow with me.
- When I became intolerant of immature neighborhood behavior I was openly shunned and
criticized for standing my ground.
- I confronted my obesity and changed my diet and workout routine, and I hired a personal
trainer in the face of naysayers who thought I was going overboard and lost 60 pounds.
- I engaged in coaching with Gail at least twice a month and confronted each of these experiences. I revisited all of the trauma and emotion that my decisions, past and present created, regardless of the profound discomfort until it felt completely purged.
So it was during the darkness, the anger, the anguish and despair, the humility and judgment of others, the
downright desperate times when feeling my absolute weakest, when I had to muster up just enough energy
to get through the moment that I learned to trust the “right” decisions for me.
It is the compilation of these “right decisions”-- the moments when I chose personal integrity over popularity,
self-love over tradition and sentimentality, and accountability at the risk of public humility that I turned
my energy into an aura that others now recognize as strength.
Today, I know how to become quiet in the world, walk gently, talk softly, and move slowly and with
forethought. I learned that being alone was fulfilling, and that peace of mind is fertile ground for more love,
ideas, energy, and growth than I ever thought possible for one person to experience. I learned that living in
truth, moment by moment, small decision by small decision, would keep me in a sacred place in my mind
and body that is self-nurturing.
So if someone were to ask what MY definition and therefore MY truth of what I believe strength is,
I would simply tell them this:
Strength is quiet and contained ~ not loud and forceful. It is just knowing and believing ~ not shouting
and preaching. And, it is OWNED, not earned.