Twenty-eight years ago, I found myself in a very sweet birthing center, filling out paperwork for a birth that was due to take place 6 months later.
Right there on the form, nestled between other queries was a question the answer to which was to become my guiding light for over two decades. The question was: what matters the most to you at this time?
I barely hesitated.
Having just gone through a traumatic and heart-breaking miscarriage followed by a cancer scare and the deep fear of not ever being able to have babies, out came an answer I did not know I had in me: Peace of Mind. More than anything, more than my health, my marriage or even having children, what I wanted - what I needed - was Peace of Mind.
I wrote the three words down not knowing I had just made an oath to myself.
My baby girl was born, then her two brothers. Years passed as they tend to do and I kept myself pretty darn intently focused on my Peace of Mind promise. Over time, I learned to meditate and when my marriage ended, I put that tool into overdrive. Spirituality became my best friend.
A decade later, the Essence of Service made its entrance - or rather its re-entrance, but that’s another story. I needed to serve, to contribute, to leave the days better than I found them. So Service cuddled up next to Peace of Mind and Spirituality and none of them complained. I could make that work just fine. Eventually Gratitude moved in with us and the four of them have been good buddies ever since. To me, and to each other.
Together we have traveled many paths, created many adventures and slept soundly through most of them. Most of my days are darn good. I love my work. I can navigate just about anything without getting rattled for too long. I go to bed feeling as though I am leaving things at least as good as I found them and sometimes better. My kids like me, as does my cat. I travel. My home is a sanctuary. I have good friends, and I try to be a good friend to them as well. I have love in my life.
But lately, I have felt a squirming, an itch.
The itch I believe, is actually a request. And I am pretty sure I know what it’s about.
FUN. The Essence of Fun.
If someone was to follow me around for a few months, they would think that my Fun Reserves were topped off. After all, part of my work involves wearing yellow clothes and holding big happy Signs from the back of a flat bed truck while 60s music is blasting. Or walking down a Caribbean beach eating beignets with people I love. Or brainstorming a new joy-making movement with my team while eating chocolate. That sort of things. All of it pretty darn fun, right? It is.
Then, there is the fact that I can find joy in most things. Cleaning my cat’s litter box can feel like a treasure hunt to me. Weird, I know.
And yet, I now have room for something else. Not just room, but a strong yearning.
I have room for the kind of Fun that serves no purpose, that is not going to put food on the table (mine or others), the kind of fun that will not make me smarter or more efficient or more interesting. Fun for the heck of it. Fun like when my friend invites me to go paddle boarding with her at the end of a work day and I just say yes. Fun like the thrill I get from ice skating - which I have not done in 4 years. Or like when I learned to snowboard (or started to) at the age of 40 and ate so much snow yet went back for more. And like the way I sang along to “Bohemian Rhapsody” a few weeks ago while the credits rolled. The kind of fun that stretches me, takes me away from where I know just what to do and how to do it. Fun that might even rattle my Peace of Mind for a minute or ten.
Also, Fun away from work, and for a die-hard Capricorn like me, it takes a bit to get to that. I usually need to be coaxed into it.
I have been playing around with this whole Fun topic and I am hereby publicly making a pledge to do more things that have no goal other than to delight me.
Things that don’t just bring me joy but FUN. Excitement.
Which brings me to this question:
What is fun for YOU? What do you do just because it tickles you to pieces, makes you feel light and giddy and has no other purpose than to delight you?
I would love to hear. And get some pointers, too :)
On the phone with a friend yesterday morning, we are catching up on each other’s lives; the places we’ve explored for the last year or two, the things we’ve learned.
She asks me about my 6-month trip and she says something about how I must have been scared, all alone out there.
I turn that word around in my mind for a few seconds, try to find the places where it would land, and I come up empty. No, I was not really ever scared.
I was alone, and sometimes I was lonely. I was occasionally sick, I was bored once or twice, I was lost on occasion, I was mind blown, too. But scared? No.
I tell her so, and I bring back a memory of getting into a van in the middle of the night, on a little country road in Italy. My friend had made me a reservation for a ride to the Milano airport and when the van showed up, she helped me get into it, closed the door and air kissed me goodbye. Once the van started, I looked around and realized that I was the only woman in the middle of eight men, and had no idea where we were, really. And more importantly, no one I loved had any idea where I was. What I remember thinking was: “this may not be a smart move.”
A couple of options ran through my mind and thinking that I could make myself crazy if I explored them any further, I leaned against my backpack and slept for the 90 minutes it took to get us to the airport.
On the other end of the telephone, I think I hear my friend’s surprise and somehow, it makes me a little bit surprised, too.
As I walk to work a bit later that morning, all bundled up and loving the cool air on what is showing of my face, I think about this some more.
I am not immune to fear. I may not feel it often, but when I do, it grabs my gut and squeezes nice and tight. And it usually does not have that much to do with vans full of men.
- My fear shows up when I worry that I may have hurt someone’s feelings without knowing it, or worse: with knowing it.
- It shows up when the plane shakes and I think of my children’s pain if I was to die at that moment. This one scares me the most.
- It shows up when I am faced with someone’s pain and my inability to soothe it.
- It shows up when I hear words that are wobbly and shifty and when I feel that I cannot lean on them to take a rest, for fear they will crumble. It terrorizes me when they do.
- It shows up when I remember that my kids’ relationship to fear is similar to mine and that they are likely to step into a van in the middle of the night, in a foreign country.
There is no fear more noble than another fear. I don’t think so, anyway. I also think that some fears are good for us, as they remind us of our limits and of what matters to us.
As we walk through life with them, we get to connect with a vulnerable part of us, a part that asks us to boost our Trust signal a little bit. Then if we dare, we can share our fears with the people we love, and raise our intimacy level in the process.
Where do YOUR fears like to dance?
And are you willing to share them with the people you trust?
Today, I invite you to take a moment and write down a list of your main fears. And then, to look at each one of them and give it a little bit of love.
"A year ago, bundled up in my rental car parked on a tiny Greek harbor in the dark, I am talking with a coaching client / friend.
She needs to make a big decision and when I close my eyes, I can hear that something thick is in her way, something that has little to do with logistics.
She talks some more. I listen some more.
Then, as is often the case when someone makes the space for us to truly explore our own nooks and crannies, something important bubbles up, warm and soft, perfectly ready for me to catch it: she shares with me that she had often been told that she was noncommittal, or as some of her friends put it, “a quick quitter.”
I can hear the weight that these opinions have had for her. I can almost see the tight tapestry that their strands have woven, over the years. A rich, protective and familiar tapestry that was now getting in the way of her heart’s bright light and of what it was trying to tell her.
So I make a suggestion. A quiet, small and quite huge suggestion.
I ask her to drop the story.
This suggestion made her laugh and in her laugh there was relief as if a window had just opened up onto a sweet horizon. Suddenly my little car felt a few degrees warmer, too.
This morning, I receive these words from her:
“I keep reflecting on what a journey the past year has been. In one of our very first coaching conversations, I talked about a story I carried - that I was noncommittal or as friends said a quick quitter.
Your advice was drop the story.
I dropped the story and within a year I am engaged.
Isn’t that fascinating!?"
What a change we can make with the words we use and the stories we tell - or choose not to tell.”
Our stories. The stories we have made - or most likely have adopted - about who we are and who we are not. About our skills and our defects. So many stories. Stored in our very own Story Book.
In my classes, we call these “the tissue papers.” The thin and often numerous tissue papers that get in the way of us shining our light brightly. Often times, there were not placed there with malice or an intent to hurt us. They just floated our way and took hold.
One of my stories was that I was not good at math. Or numbers of any kind. Therefore, I was not good at money. This was actually a convenient story as it absolved me from dancing in the world of financial abundance, which kept me safely tucked away from the things I had seen such abundance do to a person, as I was growing up.
Of course, shopping at the food bank turned out to not be all that convenient either and I can physically remember the exact moment I dropped that story. Or maybe it dropped me.
One moment it was there and one moment it was gone.
All of a sudden, I was (and still am) able to do math in my head, to look at spreadsheets and analyze them almost at a glance. Not only that, but I am now able to connect with how much I love playing with numbers and yes, money. Especially when it comes to making it do pirouettes and add ease and happiness to many lives.
There are more stories in my Story Book, and I bet you have your own, too.
Today, I invite you to check in with yourself and with your own Story Book. What’s in there and is it being a good friend or is it getting in the way of your life?
And then, I invite you to very simply … allow some of these stories to let go of you.
Wishing you a lovely rest of the day...
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