Avert Your Gaze. I’m About to Show My Ass. (by Carol Fant)

napping

Note from Jen: Today we have a real treat — a guest post from writer Carol Fant of One Brave Cowgirl, a site dedicated to helping those who care for loved ones with dementia. Carol’s work is all about finding the humor and love in difficulty, which, of course, I completely applaud!  

I was really honored that Carol asked to work with me for the launch of her site. Within the first week, her work was featured on MariaShriver.com.  I think you’re gonna completely dig her brand of genius!

***

I’ve spent a good part of the past weekend napping.  It’s the kind of thing I rarely do – but when the sh*% hits the fan, I hit the couch.

Napping used to be a defense mechanism, a way to hide completely from the world until I could convince myself that whatever was happening wasn’t real, that I really didn’t need to deal with it, not right then – maybe not ever.  Napping as in “sleeping so I don’t have to think.”  That sort of complete cop-out slumber.

That sort of hiding made me really sick, made me find all sorts of unhealthy ways to deal (well, really, not deal) with my emotions.  Anything that could make me quit thinking and feeling were fair game, whether they came in the form of pills, liquids, herbs or powders – or something shiny and new that I couldn’t afford – or any combination of other people, places or things.  I ran.  That sort of running is exhausting.  So I slept.  I slept through, oh, maybe 15 years of my life.

Then I learned to show my ass.  Or maybe it’s more honest to say I was forced to show my ass.  All that running and hiding and ducking and dodging catches up with you sooner or later.  Life tends to pile up.  Those emotions you thought you were avoiding have a way of erupting one way or another.  Relationships fall apart.  Your stomach goes on permanent strike.  Your nerves fray to the point of no return.  And all those “tools” you used to not think or feel?  They quit working.   And then it’s up to you to make a decision:  learn to live another way, or just give up and let the landslide bury you for good.

I’m happy to say I chose the former, but only after I was literally halfway down the mountain under a ton of emotional snow and debris.  Learning to live another way for me meant learning to show my ass.  Talk.  Feel.  Be honest, no matter what.  Take risks that the people who love you will still love you after you tell them all the insane thoughts, emotions and horror stories that run around in your brain.  Someone told me once that feelings were just feelings, they wouldn’t kill me.  And I’m living proof that’s a true statement.

Showing your ass is looking directly into life’s face and screaming “BRING IT.”  It’s finding someone you trust, and just letting it all hang out.  It’s opening your mouth and letting your heart and soul and brain find a way to deal with a raw emotional state.

And that’s exactly where I’ve been lately – in a raw emotional state.  Dealing with THE BIG UGLY of life. I tried my old way first – I clammed up and played super hero.  I donned my rose colored mask and my I can handle it all by myself cape.  I didn’t talk.  I tried not to feel.  But my insides told a different story:  I had stomach cramps, and headaches, and I ate far too much chocolate.  Then my outsides joined in:  I had bursts of anger at the strangest times, like anytime the word “forgiveness” was mentioned.

I knew if I was going to survive, I’d have to show my ass.   So I did.  Just a little at first – - I texted two of my closest friends.  Because texting doesn’t involve talking.  That went well, so I talked.  I started with the easiest person – my partner. Someone I knew loved me no matter what.  Someone who already knew about the big ugly, just not how much crazy I’d built up around it.  Then I talked to my therapist, also easy because she’s paid to listen to me.  Besides, I’ve been talking to her for eons and I trust her.

Then I tried harder people — my mentor, a person who’s new in my life and who I really want to like me.  That was tough, because what if she never wanted to talk to me again?  I really didn’t want to show my ass to her.  But I’m working with her to overcome barriers and become a better, more productive person, so how honest would it be if I didn’t tell her what was completely shutting me down? So I did, and she gave me new tools to use, and she still likes me.

Then I talked to another trusted friend, a sort of spiritual adviser.   For some reason, I always want her to think I automatically take the high road, even though I know she knows that’s crap.  So I confessed what a complete mess I’d been, and we talked and laughed and drank coffee and I left there feeling real.

I was living that adage: from action I get relief.  Each time I felt lighter, cleansed, freer – but completely exhausted.

So I napped the nap of the ass shower: a healthy, I’m only going to rest until I can get up off my ass nap. An emotional and spiritual power nap.  Napping as in “sleeping to restore myself.”  This new sort of slumber is healing.  It’s the very antithesis of a cop-out nap.

Sometimes I don’t actually nap horizontally, but I rest nonetheless.  I sit and stare.  I watch reruns of The Andy Griffin Show.  I watch one of the Twilight movies and confess to no one how much I like it.  I give myself permission to do nothing.  I eat cereal for dinner.  I read fun fiction.  I shut off my mind in healthy ways.

It’s all healing.  And healing is what I need when life is handing it to me.

Healing is what happens when I open my mouth and let others visit that scary neighborhood that is my brain.  It’s not so scary with other people standing by you, cheering you on — telling you you can do it — that you’re beautiful, you’re strong, you’re worthy, you’re brave.  I don’t want to cheat myself out of that kind of love and friendship and emotional well-being ever again.  I can do anything with my tribe around me.  So can you.

After a solid week of ass showing, and resting, I’m starting to be me again.  Which means I have energy.  I’m happy, at least as happy as I’m going to be with life’s big ugly staring me in the face.   I feel hopeful.  I can actually say “this too shall pass” without wanting to puke. I don’t feel controlled by my outside circumstances, because I’ve taken control of my insides.  And by taking control I mean showing my ass.

Are you holding onto something that’s weighing you down, that’s creating a spiritual and emotional dam? Wouldn’t it be easier just to show your ass, even a little?  Don’t be afraid.  Start small.  Let one trusted friend in.  If it makes you feel better, warn them in advance:  prepare yourself, I’m about to show my ass.  And if this is brand new to you, if it all feels like too much too soon – write it down.  Get it out of your head and onto paper at least.  From action you get relief.  And relief is such a beautiful thing.  So is a nap.  You deserve both.

Photo: DenisDenis

 

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The Midlife Debutante and The Instigator Experience

Flickr, Robert Couse-Baker

I hope you’ll be patient with me for just a sec. I’m gonna kinda sorta talk about Beautiful Me for just a moment and then I’m gonna swing over to you and bring us all together in a great big virtual chorus of amazing women.

This past weekend was a Game Changer for me. I was invited to speak at the Instigator Experience, a conference of and for other “makers” – people who are creating high-impact projects.

I hope Life After Tampons is one of those.

At any rate, I learned so much from the amazing people who spoke. Kamal Ravikant urged us to be “inappropriate.” Justine Musk reminded me that, for a writer, reading is the inhale, writing is the exhale. Meg Worden pointed out that I have an actual body to live in and that I should practice “letting the world come to me” instead of rushing headlong into everything I do. This was especially important to me because, as you’ll recall, I’ve always kinda sorta felt like my body was just a transportation device to take my mind from one interesting thing to the next.

Erika Lyremark has the sexiest brain, and I really enjoyed her book, Think Like a Stripper. Greg Hartle was perhaps the most genius business advisor I’ve ever met. Melissa Cassera was completely infectious as she talked about making our work a “guilty pleasure.” And AJ Leon made a compelling case for why “misfits” are changing the world.

The Instigator Experience is a “must” for creative entrepreneurs and I can’t thank organizers Srini Rao and, again, Greg Hartle, enough for an amazing event. You can subscribe to their Unmistakable Creative podcast here. (By the way, I am NOT an affiliate for this project, but when something is this great, I feel like I have to share it with you.)

Truly, The whole thing was magical.

My topic was Orchestrating Your Own Breakthrough. I took a big risk and decided to bring my flute and play part of my presentation. It was a HUGE hit and I sort of felt like a peri-menopausal star was born.

I’ve spoken at lots of events, but this one – the one that brought music into the picture, was a first for me. I wasn’t prepared for how “complete” I would feel afterwards. I felt like I brought my whole self to the experience. And I didn’t realize how important that would be to me.

Before this weekend I just couldn’t figure out how to bring the musical piece of myself to my work. So, even though I’ve been a musician for 41 YEARS, I just left this part of myself out.

Here’s the “you” part:

I’m curious to learn if you shave little bits of yourself off because you think they don’t belong or you can’t make them “fit.” Do you hold yourself back when it’s your turn to shine? Are you afraid you’ll look silly? Or, stuck up?

After my talk, I felt ensconced in a circle of love from those in the audience. I had prepared for weeks for this talk, and it felt so amazing to get a good reception. I think of all the times in my life where I held back, and I want to vow to do less of that.

This weekend, surrounded by mostly younger people I was reminded of this: There is certainly power in youth – there is vitality, freshness, sex appeal. But a woman’s power as she ages is in the wellspring of gorgeous WISDOM that comes when she commits herself to culling ALL the learning she can from a life well-lived: a life replete with beauty, dark, light, joy, sorrow.

I was reminded this past week that, when we bring all of that to our daily work, we truly make an impact like no other.

Wisdom is HOT. A woman owning the fullness of her power is a thing of beauty.

My question for you is this: How can you bring more of yourself to this day’s work? How would you fully expand into your life if you allowed yourself to do so?

Love, Jen

Photo: Flickr, Robert Couse-Baker

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41 Years After My Father’s Funeral: Forgiveness

uncle bob, judy and boys

This past weekend I finally had the opportunity to introduce my children to some members of my father’s family. Although we all live within an easy drive of each other, this little reunion took decades to happen.

The family drama of generations past was just too strong and biting to overcome, I suppose.  In our case, it’s not even a very particularly interesting story. Alcoholism. Mental illness. Divorce. Discarded children. Resentment. A refusal (or inability) of ALL the adults involved to change?

My father drank himself to death when he was only 34.

I was 11, and although I lived in the EXACT SAME TOWN as his family, I only have two memories of him, and only one of them: his funeral.

But in the limo on the way to the cemetery, his family promised to stay in touch. This past weekend – 41 years later — we all made good on that promise.

It wasn’t like I didn’t try. Once I became an adult, I started looking for them. There was an early brief reunion twenty-some years back. But, my baby died, and, once again, after the funeral – nothing.

There’s no point in speculating why all of this did or didn’t happen. Every character in this sad little drama has a different story. Each version is compelling, except for this one thing – not one of the adults involved could rise above their own personal feelings and difficulties to be there for the children involved.

Nope. Not one of them.

And then, when I became an adult, I got some empathy for this problem, as I too had a hard time staying in forgiveness. There was just so much loss.

Still, underneath all of that drama, is one prevailing question:
 

Do You Get Bitter?

Or, Do You Get Better?

In concept, the choice may be clear. But, in practice, it can get more difficult. All the parties in some events just don’t want to make nice, and sometimes you can get caught in the middle. Sides are drawn. Rumors are flying, unkindness is present at the supper table.

When you bring the spirit of forgiveness to these situations, it might make you a temporary pariah to others.

Or, at least you’ll get the Silent Treatment. In some families, the Silent Treatment is an art form all its own.

But, to me, it’s worth the risk.  There just isn’t time for any of that now. We’re all getting older. I don’t know how much time we have left, and there is so much to do . . . so much to say.

And, honestly, a whole bunch of stuff that is better off left unsaid. I think I’ve finally learned you don’t have to rake over every little slight in order to have closure with the big losses in your life.
 

Simply. Let. Go.

Alcoholic families are such complicated little micro-communities. There is such passion there – so much goodness that never quite reaches its own potential. So many misfires, blunders. So much injury. So little pardon.

Me, too. I confess, ME TOOOOOOOOOO!

I didn’t know how to forgive. I didn’t know how to stop all that pain from bleeding in to the choices I made in the present. I could not let go, and that meant I was an all too willing participant in this little drama in my early adult years.

I sought understanding. I wanted to know “why” but the people who knew all the secrets just weren’t spilling them. Why not? Did it give them a feeling of power? Or, were they trying to protect me? I’m not sure anyone even remembers after all these years. And, besides, plenty of new dramas have cropped up in other areas along the way, confusing the original issues.

It no longer matters. I no longer care.

Today, I seek peace. I don’t care who did what to whom when I was still in diapers. I don’t care who ticked this one or that one off when the parties involved were younger than some of my own children, for god’s sake.

I’m not playing the game.
 

Simply put, I am FREE!

I’m going to do my best to love all the players.

Now, this doesn’t mean I am blind to the potential of others involved to still hurt me.

When someone tells you who they are – BELIEVE THEM. (click to tweet)

If you have a lifetime of experience that tells you that someone who “should” be in your camp is not a reliable confidant, then stop telling them your secrets. Don’t get confused by societal roles, not everyone who is related to you should play the Hollywood role as assigned.

Know people’s limits, including your own, and act accordingly. Above all, remember to respect others if you can. Search for compassion.

You are responsible for teaching others how you want to be treated. Stop placing yourself in a position to be harmed by those who have a history of doing so. You are not at a disadvantage because of the craziness in your past.

On the contrary: Your stories of tragedy, properly understood, hold the seeds of all transformation for you and those you would help.
 

Your sorrow is your gift, love. TRULY, it is.

Remember that hurt people hurt people. They are all doing the best they can. That doesn’t make all the shenanigans “okay” by any measure. But remembering to remember the humanity of all involved will help you retain the compassion you need to stay on the better side of bitter.

Last weekend, my boys and I had a wonderful time with some relatives who mean the world to me.

Our love isn’t perfect.

I no longer need it to be.

Love, Jen
P.S. Please join our LAT community. We’ll send you your very own Comeback QuickStart to help you have a fresh beginning.

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In Case People Yank Your Chain

flickr,  { pranav }So, lately I’ve noticed how often the outside world yanks my chain. This is particularly true when people around me are stressed, angry, and anxious.

When I was growing up, I was the kid that was always hyper-aware of what the adults were doing. I felt I needed to be. I felt there was emotional safety involved, but that is another story. Besides, this piece is not about them, it is about me.

My tendency to live on high alert transferred to every other area of my life. I could read the emotional temperature of any room I walked into. Or, maybe, I just believed I could. Either way, I based the way I showed up in the world on what I thought were YOUR moods and emotions.

I didn’t have my own views, opinions, or desires. They were all built as reactions to you.  In other words,

I let you yank my chain.

I know you didn’t set out to yank my chain. You were just being Beautiful You. I know you didn’t ask me to become invisible in the world, but I guess I unconsciously volunteered early on and that was that.

I gave all my power away. And, eventually, I got mad at you for taking it. (What? You didn’t want that responsibility?)

Here’s what I know now:

Each time you react to others by changing the way you would otherwise behave, you give them control over your life. This is true even if you act in defiance to the other person. In fact, this is probably ESPECIALLY true in that case.

When someone does something or says something you don’t like, and you react with stubborn defiance or become oppositional in response because you think you are being independent, you are actually acting out of dependency instead.

Fortunately, we don’t have to be free of our unconscious tendency to live in reaction to others. We have another option.

We can PAUSE.

We can slow things down.

We can train ourselves to think before we take action.

In fact, we don’t have to respond at all. We can simply say, “Hmm. Well, I have to confess, I’m stumped about what to say next. How about if we take this up later?”

And then, we make it our business to get clear about our feelings about what is going on and act accordingly. We may agree. We may not. Either way, we are living in alignment with our own Truest Truth.

Slow it down.

Take a breath.

When other people trigger your anxiety and anger, remember this:

Hurt People Hurt People. (click to tweet)

If you can just PAUSE before you respond, you are less likely to make mistakes.

Love, Jen

P.S. Please join our LAT community. We’ll send you your very own Comeback QuickStart to help you have a fresh beginning.

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