Once You Choose to Wake Up You Cannot Go Back to Sleep
I am writing from my new apartment where the sun shines in so brightly in the morning I feel like I am back in California. This might be the best decision I have made in a long time.
This is the eighth post in the Cleaning Out Your Stuff series. To start the exercise at the beginning go here.
In our quest for meaning and understanding we often find ourselves feeling a sense of longing. I wish I was this, I wish I had that, if only this thing were true I would feel like I had meaning and purpose in my life.
I have been there. And when I was there I felt like I would always be longing and craving. I felt like the craving was part of the evolution, that if I didn’t crave better, brighter, different then I wouldn’t ever feel the way I wanted to feel.
And then one day, after years of longing and craving and comparing and jealousy and shame the craving stopped. When I looked at instagram I stopped feeling inadequate (well most of the time) and started feeling pride. I felt pride for showing up, for using my voice, for sharing in inspiration with strangers for allowing myself access to different perspectives. And do you know why? Because I started actually doing the things I wanted to do with my life.
And if you were to look at my life with a microscope you wouldn’t really see anything that different. Your graph wouldn’t show some line skyrocketing upward where everything began to click and my life transformed. No no, my graph would be a series of micro moves—sometimes two steps forward and then ten steps back.
It started with realizing I could say no, and then basking in how it felt to actually say what I wanted to say. It started with getting quiet enough to listen to what the voices inside me were talking about. And oh how they were talking. Then I began consoling them and letting them have a say and honoring what they were experiencing. And soon enough my people pleasing nature diminished and in her place stood a woman who stood for something. It started with journaling and transformed into a blog and then a website and then another version and another version and another version of that website and then a business. And the more I wrote (the thing I love to do) and the more I put it out there and the more I practiced the more I felt like myself. The more trips I took because I wanted to and the more events I missed because, well, because my mental health was the priority not the afterthought, the less I craved something different.
I did not blow up my life in order to stop longing. I simply started doing small things that the voices wanted me to do. I got in the car with my dog and drove to the mountains, I sat quiet in the yoga class and let my body stretch over the floor. I deleted any account or news feed or email subscription that made me feel icky and less than and ugly. I stopped hanging out with people who wanted to talk about other people. I told the truth. That’s a big one. I told the truth and not the harmful, hurtful truth about others, the truth about myself. And that truth expanded into conversations with those strangers on Instagram and an exchange of thought and an interview on a podcast and a coffee in a coffee shop and a client growing her business and the development of a podcast. And along the way I said no so many times when people wanted me to say yes. I was what my father would call patient for the first time in my life.
I stopped punishing myself for feeling the way that I felt and I just felt it. This is the part where most people say." “and then it all happened and my business is booming and life is grand.” No. This is a daily practice. Once you choose to wake up you cannot go back to sleep. You must stay awake and be willing to face what comes in the light of day. Sleeping is for the meek. For those that have given their lives up to someone or something else. For those that have said, oh ok those are the rules? I guess I will play by them if that’s what you say. I used to do that, and for awhile it felt good to be doing the right thing according to this ghost leader who I never saw, never knew anything about but just apparently created these rules. And then one day I woke up and I thought, who am I following? Who made these rules? And who is enforcing them on me?
And thats when I realized there is no enforcer. There is no one standing above you saying, you must do this, you didn’t do this, you have to be this. It’s a collective. It’s a group think…a result of fear and sadness and loneliness. Why do I need to be a size 2? How does that help me? Because it allows me to fit into some society where they say skinny is good? Well skinny led me to bad relationships, skinny led me to hunger and shame and fear. Skinny made me quiet and small and afraid.
So you might say, “ok do more of what I want, what if I don’t know what I want?”. I know this feeling well. If you are still a little murky on what you want, I would suggest to continue to the first post in this series and start those exercises again. Maybe do them every day for a week. Track what comes up. Track what wants to leave. Sometimes the most important thing we can do is let things go to make room for the things we will soon discover we want.
I didn’t know I wanted to be a coach until I started exploring more how I could use my desire to help people to help people. One conversation with an old friend who said, “how are you going to help women when you have never even worked in that field?” That comment made me angry but it also motivated me to say, “I don’t know, but I will find out.” And then I started looking up masters programs and thinking about going back to school for therapy and I got tired. Programs started reaching out to me to recruit me and I felt icky and used and afraid of the mountain of money I would have to spend to help people. And then one Christmas I sat in my Aunt’s kitchen and I said, I really really know I am here to help people, I already do it every day in my life but I want to formalize it, I want training, I want to know that the work that I am doing with these individuals is impactful and sustainable. And there in that kitchen, I learned about professional coaching. And that August I was enrolled in a professional training program at a University.
The step you take does not need to be profound. It needs to be simple. Its simplicity is that it is something you feel like doing. A client emailed me this weekend to let me know she finally decided to foster a dog. She had wanted to foster a dog for years and she finally just went to the shelter and signed up. How profound.
What if I told you that everything you know right now is a result of practice? That you’ve been practicing shame, confusion, mediocracy. I learned this concept from another coach, Jesse Elder. I signed up for his 21 Day Upgraded Life Challenge. It’s exceptional. But this concept of practicing really stuck with me. If your whole life you have been practicing doing what everyone else wants you to do, craving things you do not have, longing for more, then don’t you think you’d be pretty good at it by now? So what happens when you change what you practice? What happens when you do one small thing you actually want to do? And then you do it again, and again and again? Perhaps you change.
So today this exercise will help you table your longing. It will help you understand that longing better so you can feel good where you are.
I want you to write down all of the things you wish you had, wish you were, wish were true. To dive deeper I want you to write down all of the things that drive you crazy, that create jealousy in your bones and make you want to scream. What is it about that other person that gets to you? What do they have that makes you crazy? What comes up when you think about them compared to you? Get it all out. Write how ridiculous it is that they have it and you don’t, get all the feels out on paper. What is making you angry? What are you craving?
Then I want you to write down WHY you want those things. Why are they important to you? Why do they matter so much? Why does someone else having them drive you so crazy? Why are you craving them?
And then I want you to write what would be possible if you had all of those things. What would life look like? What would you do with your time, money, expertise, new job? What would life be like when you got those things?
Now I want you to cross off anything that does not have a deeper meaning. If you cannot tie a deep, personal meaning to the thing that you have written down I want you to cross it off. If you cannot give a good explanation of what you would do if you had those things, I want you to cross them off.
Now look at your list and think about what is left. What still remains when you take away the superficial, the less meaningful? What stands out?
With this in mind, I want you to start writing down what is between you and that ideal? What needs to happen for you to have that meaningful life? Do you need to write more? Take a dance class? Learn pottery? Go on more dates? Join group therapy? Call your mom more? Make the list.
If you aren’t sure what is in the way of what you think you want, then write down what you need to do to find out and what resources you have available to you to get the information.
Now pick one thing on that list to do today. Just one. One small micro thing. Make the promise. Do the thing. Reflect on how it made you feel and then repeat repeat repeat.