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Life is gradual, maybe that's a good thing. Sure there are abrupt pieces, events that can pivot direction and stutter momentum. Sometimes, life as I know it can come to screeching halt. I think my learning is like a slow crawl, even those aha! moments that provoke awakening on certain levels. They only stick if I can digest them fully and integrate them into my being. My story has a lot of repeats, I did not always get the lesson the first time around. I was stuck for a long time, in a way of thinking that kept me swimming upstream, foreverly. I reached a point about six years ago where I couldn't do it anymore. I stopped pretending. I spent the previous year begging my husband to speak with me, listen to what I had to say, to open his eyes and see me. I was asking him to do what I could not do myself. He wouldn't. I did not hear my own truer voice at the time, telling me to run, fast and far. I was committed to a superficial chatter. My thinking brain got in the way. I thought I was supposed to hold onto something I didn't want because it would be better for our children. Hell, at all costs, I would LOOK acceptable. I believed that history repeating itself meant I didn't learn anything. I come from divorce. I am told over and over again how terrible it is and that everybody loses. All I wanted as a kid was for my parents to get back together, so I could be like normal folk. And this is what I know, my kids watching me try to hide unhappiness only caused tension and pain. My un-relating to their father only made them confused. My pretending hurt everyone involved. I was trapped in a cycle of disgust. I hated him, I hated myself and I hated us. I was wearing a mask to hide my misery so I could look like everyone else. It did not serve.

During the divorce I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing. I questioned often what I had put into motion. I was lonely. I was scared. Maybe my brain just couldn't adapt, it was clenching tight to another idea. It was so hard. The pain, the loss, the sorrow, the deep down awful feeling that I had messed up, again. He and I were not friends, we were strangers. I remember wondering how I could have stayed married to us for so long? I really thought we would grow into my fantasy, but we were not actually working together, we were working apart. I think we just despised each other deep down, self loathing can do that to your partner. We expected each other to fix what was broke. Expectations are a killer. My own commitment to miserable was baffling. Looking back, it was all I knew. So on some level, I thought it was where I belonged. Married with two kids in a house on a hill, the perfect picture. Nobody talked to me about feeling beauty, I don't know that I ever experienced it.

Six months ago I was asked to join a Wisdom Circle. I presumed I may not be of the right caliber or possess the necessary brains to contribute to a small group. I had my doubts, was unsure, scared.

Curiosity is powerful. I had been wondering about "another way" for quite some time. What would it mean to join a group for inquiring discussion? To share individual insights and influence a collective environment? To propel group harmony and offer support to each member? I have since learned that all I require to find my way is a full color vision of what I want. Details are necessary. "Get granular" she says.

So it looks like I am giving myself sincere permission to dream BIG. And I am still scared. But it tastes different, it has a thrilling flavor now, no longer one of failing. For decades, I let myself get so small that it tricked me into thinking I was safe. I got myself stuck in a colorless world that delivered a shallow death. The spark in my eyes dulled, I lost my ability to wonder, maybe even hope. 24 weeks ago I suppose I had nothing to lose, so I said yes.

Being a part of this Wisdom Circle brought forth my deeper knowing. It just started spilling out all over the place. This says a lot about the power of good company amidst a safe and brave space, amazing happens here. In our first gathering, I was asked to set an intention for the following six months. What did I want to get out of our time together exactly? FREEDOM. That was my clear loud answer. Then I had to ask myself specifically and quietly "Freedom from what?"

"All of it" came to mind. I started remembering: I used to wake up scared, I went to bed scared, I didn’t want to answer the phone or go to work, because hiding felt better, safe. I thought I was broken, that something was inherently wrong with me and that everyone else had it all figured out. I faked having confidence for a long time, pretending to know, hoping that one day I would change. I was looking for someone to fix me. On the outside, my friends tell me, they saw a talented, driven and focused individual. I was hiding in plain sight. They saw happiness when deep down I was miserable. It was so heavy that my coping skills were binge eating, booze and drugs. Which then introduced me to guilt and shame. These were my companions for a long time. I tried to run away from them periodically, played weird games with blame and explored healing practices, but the one thing I needed most I had not yet learned. Me. I never thought to find me.

I would wake up feeling compelled to prove myself in some way. I was filled with an unconscious drive to gain approval. “What can I do to let them know I deserve to be here?” It was so deeply ingrained, this need "to do" that I cannot remember a time before. My energy was immense, urgency is a marvelous engine. And I became a master at hiding my exhaustion. I would disappear for days, in my attempt to reboot. I would be lost to the outside world as I holed up in binge watching old movies (omg! so much fun: The Thin Man series) or reading books or creative endeavor. It was an intense cycle.

Strange to recognize my strong attachment to all the ‘shoulds’ that existed in my world. I was subscribing to a cultural structure that did not speak to me directly. It was just what I was supposed to do. Honestly, I never questioned it. Early on I worked to earn money so I could pay for things I wanted. My first job cleaning houses started when I was ten years old. Then came babysitting. Scooping ice cream was my gig in middle school and a coffee barista carried me through high school. I moved to NYC to pursue a career when I was 17 years old which took me around the world. I was a responsible person, toward others especially. I was dedicated to getting it right, sort of. I wanted to follow the rule book. This is what I recall: at 18 I needed health insurance, my boyfriend at the time was appalled I didn't have coverage. At 22 a solid degree and career could be useful, I needed to go to college. At 25 a retirement account would be smart (I got married instead). Kids at 30. Nope, by then I was divorced. Home ownership. That didn't happen until I was 45 along with the kids thanks to husband # 2. Actually HE owned the home alone which brought me to my second divorce.

Honestly? All this structured accomplishment around my age is really messed up. Not that I followed it exactly (duh) but the pressure and eventual guilt for NOT doing it that way was a real bummer. I keep using it now (??!!&*$#%&#!!!???) to look at my own kids as the words fall out of my mouth: "You are supposed to be....". My life looked and felt prescribed, and the torture was excruciating, I never even knew I had a choice. I mean, of course I chose, but it felt forced. What I was missing was the courage to do it my own way. When opportunities came about to keep me in line with what society deemed acceptable, I grabbed at them because nobody had taught me to think for myself or to design my own ideas. I think I took safe risks instead of the ones that would actually bust me out into a life of my own making. I was just doing what was expected of me. And let me tell you this, other people's version of me is super bland. I am realizing now that I am the maker of my own unique. And as I create this for myself, I also want this for my children.

I don’t like to think about my age as a marker for anything, ever. Why do we do that? I want to stop counting. I want to call my own shots and not think about being too old. "Who says?" I will start a new business this year and work for myself. I will ask for help when needed. I will build my own website. I will step into the arena and make my life happen, just for me. The unknown is a magical place and all this focus on anticipation turns me sideways. I do not want to care about what has not yet happened. I want to appreciate fully whatever is going on now. I want to stay real.

That formula of self sacrifice is no longer valued. For years I ignored what I really wanted because I believed it to be wrong. I could not trust myself, I did not know how to do that exactly. My inner voices were 'scaredy cats' that kept telling me what I was “supposed to be doing”, it runs deep in my being, I dance with it often.

The heavy burden of “...or else nobody will love you” that I was so keen on generating is no longer being nourished. I chose partners who reinforced that needy version of me. I could never do enough to belong in my heart, I was so stuck on trying to get somewhere else, to prove I was worthy. Being motivated by a need for praise was so lonely and painful. Anxiety was weaved in there too, all the worry around if I was 'doing it right'. I just couldn't stop. I was incessant. And every time I received acknowledgement, deep down I felt nothing. It was meaningless. All that work for what, exactly? In my head I got what I sought, but my heart was empty. I was trapped underneath the ice, it had grown so thick with cold that I had lost all connection. I froze myself out.

Today I have more appreciation for the way I am as I am. This is new and it is holding. I am learning to be gentle with myself. Those decades of donning ‘other hats’ and being consumed with trying to fit into a mold have brought me here. I am no longer willing to try to be someone else. I don’t even like the proposition. I now envision a life of my own making. There is no default here. This is full on activated desire. I get to dream about my partner too, the one who will absolutely compliment my nature with their own bold and robust. I am open for the commitment to our relationship and the sensitive we will grow, together. If I can have the courage to live for myself, then my partner will show up to hold my hand.

My imagination is wonderful company. A birthright. I am naturally becoming.

My ability to relax has arrived. I can now sit on the couch and doodle with my kids for hours. I can sleep in. I am exploring new ways of spending my time and focusing my attention. I take courses online. I walk my dog every morning. I resist rush as I consider being in a hurry urgent pain. My playful has expanded. I am recovering all the joy I brought into this world! “Coming Home” is a term I have heard in many circles and I will apply it here. Rick Hanson used it this morning in one of his Neurodharma videos. He offers that we are whole, true beings, we are already here and all we need is to be ourselves.

Now, I realize that what I was seeking is already a part of me, it's built in. When I praise and acknowledge myself I feel deeply fulfilled. This happens every time I believe IN ME and activate my creative. Looks like I am the magic I seek.

The good news is I do not feel so lost and unavailable to myself anymore. Whew! Taking the time to delve into my true nature, recognizing my ideas and listening to my inner voice (the positive one) has made me stronger. It has not been easy. I can't expect anyone to really get how emboldened I feel about this, but my life is way better than before and it can still feel "messy" often. I do not waste any of my time blaming others, I have learned how to take responsibility for my actions, ha! even my feelings. There is still pain and ache, that's just life. My strongest teachings reside in the dark, usually in the form of grumbly uncomfortable challenge. I am growing appreciation for the hard stuff. There is an ownership piece here, holding strong to what is true for me. I am still discovering as it is always changing. THAT is beauty. My truth is not always abrupt and overnight, on the contrary, the awareness feels more gradual, as I discover my values and begin to know what holds meaning. It gets interesting as I strengthen my showing up for me over showing up for others. Holding my line is my responsibility. Accountability is important too. The more I do it the stronger I get. And it can feel really wrong at times because my old conditioning tries to stand up. CHOOSING ME might be the only way for me to earn my freedom. Feeling safe is not bound to my familiar, it is woven into the wings I use to fly.

When I opened the door and crossed the threshold from my prescribed routine, I found 7 members of my tribe. Yeah, I took a risk and stepped into a thrilling momentum that has given me opportunity and tremendous personal reward. That door opening led me to a conversation that gave me an idea that led me to another door, and so on. I am a worthy participant, I can contribute my whole self and be acknowledged without personal detrimental sacrifice. I am accepted as is, I have never felt judged or criticized by these people. Rather welcomed. I joined an online writing group too, we invite bare honesty. It is an important practice in vulnerability. Perspectives are so invigorating, they offer a wide interpretation of our world that deliver amazing flavor, living with mine alone is just limited and a little sad. In a great conversation with a friend I realized that taking good care of myself is beneficial to everyone. Depletion is not a healthy solution, it is abusive. I am learning to listen to my heart, to maintain healthy boundaries and to choose me with a big fat smile. This is still messy. Muddy even. Loss is a part of this equation, it is inevitable as I choose to walk away from strong clutches. I am taking my kids with me too. They know. We talk about it. "Go big." Yeah. I am doing that.

I want a simpler world, filled with patience, generosity, sand play, sharing stories by firelight, ease in being and warm hands. Together we are better. We are finding our way.

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