Freedom is one of my core values – I’ve designed a life that allows me to put my spirituality and my creativity first. I wake up, meditate, and write before anything else. I live alone in what honestly feels like a sanctuary (in NYC!). I splash my thoughts on the Internet with no fear of losing my day job. I’m living the life of my childhood dreams. Eleven year old Patia would be proud.
Yet, lately, I feel confined.
I think it started when I decided to become a life coach. The decision catapulted me into this entrepreneurial fast lane. Business plans, branding, and strategy rattled in my head. I was taking coaching classes, meeting people who were on the same path, and pulling collaborations out of my butt.
Not to mention – these coaching concepts are designed to stretch and grow you. I was analyzing and life coaching myself. Suddenly, it seemed in ordered to be a life coach, I had to be a different kind of writer. I should stop whimpering and start giving punchy and quick advice. I should be writing about “5 Tips to Be Happy Right Now” instead of “This is How We Ruined My Last Relationship. HOORAY!” I should monetize my writing, by focusing on print magazines. I felt pressure to be anything other than a mess, but the mess is where all my power lies.
And so the writing slowed.
And then the writing trickled.
And then it all-together stopped.
When the writing stops – everyone around me feels my wrath.
I will never be the kind of writer that I was taught to be in J-school. I’ll never be the fiction writer my thesis advisor thinks I am. I’ll never be Martha Beck, or Marie Forleo or Joel Osteen. I’ll never be objective, authoritative, or pristine.
But when I’m free, everything else works out.
My point is simple: The path to freedom is doing what FEELS RIGHT. Because what feels right is right, even if it’s scary and even if you’re doing what feels right…alone. Be who you really are. Love what you really do, and…trust, the rest will fall into place.
That’s what I’m doing. What are you up to today?
Lately, I’ve taken to saying that I’m going through a spiritual adolescence. It’s like a seven year soul puberty that just can’t stop. I’m like the girl with the concave chest waiting for her boobs to sprout. I’m doing all the exercises in the back of Cosmo Girl, but nothing…the boobs just won’t come up.
When I was a kid (going through physical adolescence), my father used to remark that I was “all over the place.” I’d have a new interest and then drop it. I’d have a passion and then leave it behind. When I felt like I discovered something, I’d toss it to the side. I’ve spent most of my life wishing I were a more grounded person. I’ve always secretly admired those who can tough it out, think logistics and ignore emotions.
I’m not that person. At all. If the wind blows me left, I’m riding with it.
Lately, I feel scattered and uncertain. My sense of self is changing. Have you ever felt this way? An image comes to mind: the old version of myself is giving birth to a newer me, but in a very violent and aggressive way. This new ME has pushed herself out of my stomach, and I feel like she’s trying to kill me.
Normal people, I think, call this an existential crisis. I wouldn’t really know. I’m f*cking weird…
Here’s what I know for sure: As abnormal as I come off, I’m even less normal than that. In my private space – absolutely private space between ex-boos and new ideas – I’m a gypsy. I talk to spirits; I spin tall tales and soft souls out of pine needles and thread. I wish to cover myself with mud and live inside a tree trunk. I learn to speak the language of energy and dreams.
I’m not normal, ya’ll. And that’s okay.
We define so much of ourselves in opposition. We say: I’m not like my father; I’m different from my best friend. I’ll never be the person I was that one time when I was in love with him [or her].
Those statements, though potent, don’t scratch the surface of who you are. We cannot exist forever by who we aren’t. That’s not progress; that’s baggage. The truth of who we are begins where the opposition stops. The truth of who we are lives in the silence.
I’m still figuring it out, but here’s something else I know: asking the right questions is the route to transformation.
Are you normal? Me neither. I salute you
I am learning to see the beauty in what is — not what I want it to be, nor what it was, one time, six months ago, nor what it will be in the future. I am learning to see the beauty in what is — right now — in this moment.
At least that’s what I’m trying to learn. Some moments it’s easier than others.
I’m becoming disillusioned with new-thought, new-age philosophy, and aggressive positive thinking. I’m becoming disillusioned because, to be human, is to tap into a range of emotions. To be human is to feel anger, to cry rageful tears, to feel fear so deeply you cower into a ball. To be human is to feel the horrible mix of emotions that come up when you stumble and fall.
Being human is being pregnant in stilettos — a sincere attempt at elegance that often doesn’t work.
I am learning a lot over the last two weeks. I’m learning about my shadow side — the side of me that is angry, hurtful, sarcastic and distrustful. The side of me that wants to burn my gratitude journal and dance naked around the flame. I’m learning to make friends with my shadow. I am learning to make friends with whatever comes up.
For once, I don’t feel like splattering my woundedness all over the Internet — all public pain starts as private indignation. I am privately indignant. And, to top it off, I have resistance to the persona in my head — the sad person, the clingy person, the jealous person, the critic, the girl with low-self esteem, the girl who cannot forgive herself. I’m resisting the “negative” person, the cynical person, the person who doesn’t believe that happiness is a choice.
That girl is not the girl who writes the blogs. I’m resisting the girl who goes out and finds stuff to write about. That girl keeps my life interesting.
I’m struggling to learn that she’s not half bad.
It is easy to say we must release emotions that don’t serve us. It’s easy to read a book and work REALLY hard at transcending these thoughts, choosing new thoughts, but I’m learning that attaching to better thoughts isn’t more enlightened — it’s simply the other side of the same superficial action. Positive thoughts aren’t, inherently, more meaningful than negative ones. The goal, I imagine, is to realize that all thoughts are equally mundane.
Though, admittedly, pleasant thoughts feel better.
When I meditate, I imagine myself on a train platform watching trains go by. When I find myself invested in my thoughts, I realize I’ve boarded a train. I get off the train, sit on the platform and continue to watch the trains of thought go by.
I have to let the trains of thought pass by.
I’m learning it’s not our job to clean up the mess of our minds. Mastery of the mind isn’t, necessarily, control. I’m learning that, instead, its acceptance. We can try, but the mind is like a ceaseless stream — it does not stop. It does not waiver, and it does not discern.
The mind doesn’t really care what you think…
So, instead, we must make friends with what shows up. We must not reject the parts of ourselves that are uncomfortable, unfavorable, or unflattering. Nor should we cling to the happy, positive, interesting thoughts. They are just as fleeting as the negative ones. In any given moment we are changing and stretching. Who we are today is not who we will be tonight. Cohesion is a myth…
So rediscover yourself in every moment. Allow yourself to perpetually be a stranger you keep meeting. Make friends with who shows up, maintain a playful curiosity, then wish her well and allow her to leave your side when it’s time.
Nothing lasts forever.
Nor should it.
“We don’t normally face our fears willingly. Usually, God has to woo us into the desert. We are either chasing love or some other desire, and we find ourselves in the midst of a situation in which we have very little control. And when we lose control, we go into a mild form of trauma. But the good news is the greatest stories are lived in the desert. The great lives are lived in the places we most fear. If we fear being rejected, the great story has us standing at the door with flowers in our hands, if we fear losing love, the great stories have us letting that person go rather than clinging to them. If we fear taking a chance on a dream, the great stories have us quitting our jobs.” (Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts.)
After any life-altering event, disappointment, break up, and/or breakdown…I look in the mirror and always, inevitably, say the same thing:
“Welp, you look pretty good. At least you managed to stay skinny…”
And, more often than not (considering my diet) that’s actually something to be proud of.
What have you managed to accomplish amidst change and turmoil? Acknowledge yourself.
A few months ago I wrote an article for the Huffington Post called, I Needed Therapy; Do You? It was liberating to discuss my mental health journey, and the feedback was really comforting. It turns out I’m not the only one who needed therapy. Lots of people feel the things that I feel. Even my mom shared stories with me about times when she felt like I had. My dad, well…my dad was actually proud of me. He wasn’t ashamed of my admission. I got emails for several weeks from people who’d been inspired by my confession.
It’s comforting to know you’re not alone.
In an ironic twist of fate that I couldn’t even write, my therapist informed ON THE DAY that the Huffington Post piece was published, that we had to end our relationship. For the most part I took it in stride. I had, after all, claimed that I “needed” therapy. I felt that perhaps the need was behind me, and it was smooth sailing from here. She said it months ago and I proceeded to ignore the end. I treated it like I would if my hairdresser told me she was moving to Tokyo, or my favorite clothing store was closed for business.
I pretended it wasn’t really happening.
As my time with my therapist draws closer to an end I find myself afraid of the future. If, for me, therapy is about giving your pain the respect it deserves, than where does my pain go post-therapy? Who is supposed to listen to me bitch for an hour? Whose job is it to help me heal? I’m not sure…
I’ve come to understand that most people do not seek help because they are afraid of relying on it. It is scary to trust someone enough to help you, and to know that someday you will again be alone. Help, at least productive help, is only temporary. Week after week, I trudged into my therapist office and sat across from her. Week after week I said things aloud that I wouldn’t have been able to say to anyone. I said things aloud that I couldn’t even say to myself. Week after week, I had one hour to be completely vulnerable. Week after week I had someone who completely listened without having a self-serving reaction to my statements. I could be shocking, I could be selfish, I could be a little crazy…and it didn’t cost her anything. She was someone whom I couldn’t offend by being myself.
My therapist is the most consistent relationship I’ve ever had. And now it’s ending.
I’m reminded of what people say about meditation. You begin meditating 15 minutes a day with the understanding that you are “learning” how to meditate, but somewhere along the line you begin to realize that life is a meditation. The fifteen minutes are just training – they are the least meditative part of your practice. Perhaps therapy is the same way, perhaps my entire life is a therapeutic experience designed to heal me and keep me honest. Maybe these last two years were simply training to help me learn how to see the therapy in the present moment. Every moment, perhaps is the therapeutic experience….or maybe I should find a new therapist?
I don’t know.
I do know that we all have a right to find a safe place in this world. We all have a right to find another human, be it a therapist, a coach or even a clergy member, where we can go when we need help. We all deserve love relationships – both romantic and platonic – but we deserve a space where we can be free of the obligations that come with those ties. Sometimes friends and family cannot handle our pain, and sometimes we cannot take theirs. Sometimes we fail our friends and family, and sometimes they fail us. It is our most common misconception that those who help us create the scars can/are obligated to help us heal them. More often than not, they can’t. The task of healing is ours, but that doesn’t mean we cannot seek support. We all deserve to take our pain seriously. It is only when we know that our experience is valid, that we can move beyond it and stretch into new definitions of ourselves. We have to let the poison out, before we dress the wound.
I am still afraid of where I will put my pain when therapy ends. The anticipation of the end has been feeling out of sorts, and I’m nervous that my big fat emotions will swallow me whole, but here is what I know: At the core, I am strong enough to find support when I need it. With therapy or without, I am brave enough to face my daemons privately (and blog about them publicly).
No matter what lies ahead, there is no one I’d rather be, than myself. And that knowledge is enough for me today.
And so it is.
What are you healing from today?
“Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you’re not. You will no longer have to prove you’re good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to life in fear. Find the gifts of your shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. Then you will have the freedom to create the life you have always desired.”
― Debbie Ford
A Course in Miracles says that everything we see is an illusion. The Bible mimics this sentiment, the idea that the tangible things of this world are not real.
There is more to life than we know.
To that end, I’ve found myself praying differently. If nothing is real, but EVERYTHING feels real to me, I cannot rely on myself to pray for a specific outcome. I can only pray for strength, courage, wisdom and guidance to overcome what lies ahead.
To that end, I’ve begun praying for miracles — an event or occurrence that removes the veil of human perception and shows the face of divinity.
A Prayer For Miracles
Thank you for all that I have and all that I am. I do not know what to say or where to go, so I ask for your loving hand. I ask for a miracle, and I ask for the ability to recognize all miracles in my life.
And so it is. Amen.
What miracles are occurring in your life today?
Did I ever tell ya’ll how I used to have a personal trainer? I was to preparing to run my first half-marathon, and I needed a trainer to push me toward my goals. She’d twist me into positions and push me beyond my limits. I, never wanting to look like a weakling, would strive and strain to meet her challenges. I’d grab the weights and jump around squinting and grunting (and sometimes crying) my way through it.
“Don’t forget to breathe,” she’d warn me.
And, inadvertently, I’d realize I’d stopped breathing.
It seems that breathing is something I often forget to do. When challenges arise, I get busy. I use my brainpower to figure out best practices, and when that doesn’t work, I cry. I get frantic and, because I’m kinda smart, I can often pull a solution together. In the obstacle course called life, I do all the things I used to do with my trainer, but sometimes I forget to breathe.
It’s true. I do…
I’m not talking about the shallow involuntary breaths that keep us from passing out, I’m talking about deep conscious breaths that bring stillness to every cell — the breaths that tie us to the present moment.
Deep breathing helps release toxins and tension in the muscles. Deep breaths boost our immune system and help us manage pain. It can energize us or calm us depending on the technique. Deep breathing is vital to our wellness, and yet we often just scratch the surface. We take shallow breaths in between obligations that pull at us, and we wonder why we’re tired and depleted.
Every cell in our bodies is crying out for air.
Today, I create space to take deep and deliberate breaths. I inhale and exhale knowing that I am capable of releasing what does not serve me and embracing what nurtures my health. I deserve quality breaths. Breathing is an obligation for mindful living.
Are you breathing deeply?
Photo credit: http://theyogalunchbox.co.nz
“Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
- Mother Teresa