Love In the Time of Disassembling

We want to be okay with larger bodies.
We really do.
But our families + our society
taught us to want
fat people
to get thinner
so they could be healthy.

It’s what we were taught.

But what if other people’s health
is not our business?
What if a person’s health
is between them,
their closest loved ones
and their doctor?

Oh.

What if these questions
helped dissolve our judgment?
What if these questions
disassembled
our
old
(intolerant)
stories?

That would leave us free
to see each human being
as deserving of dignity
and the right to pursue
their own happiness.

That would leave us free
to love each person
in the glorious body
that is theirs.

That would leave us free.

 


This is the third in a series of posts about learning to appreciate, respect and love our own bodies. The other articles in this series are:
*Leggings, Body Love + Beauty Queens
*Put Yourself in the Picture

To receive articles like these in your inbox, you can subscribe to my newsletter The Sunday Reader here.
 

Conversations with the International Educator in Your Life

This is the second in a series of posts for and about international educators. The first one is here.

When I’m back in Canada for long vacations it often happens that people don’t ask me many questions about my life. That’s weird, right? And I know I’m not the only one who has felt that way as I’ve heard this comment from many other international educators. Perhaps part of it is that I keep asking questions about their life/work/family and people don’t necessarily notice that we’re not talking about my life at all. It could also be that people feel awkward asking about something they’re not familiar with… or they don’t want to be “nosy”… or they might feel a bit envious about a life they perceive to be more glamorous than their own.

Whatever the reason, most international teachers would love to engage with people at home in yummier two-way conversations about our lives. As Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

To that end, here are some questions you could ask the international educator in your life:

  1. Do you have some photographs of your school and your apartment and home? I’d love to see them.
  2. What’s a habit or ritual from the country where you live that you think people living in your home country would benefit from?
  3. What has been the biggest challenge of living in this country?
  4. What are you really proud of in your teaching practice?
  5. Tell me about your boss.
  6. Is there a book you recommend I read so that I can better understand the country where you’re living?
  7. How was the process of settling in to your apartment and this job? Did anything surprise you?
  8. What’s your favourite meal right now? Is that something you cook yourself or is that a meal at a restaurant?
  9. Tell me about a student you admire.
  10. When you moved abroad, did you feel ready? Tell me about that.
  11. What are you reading right now?
  12. What can you buy with the equivalent of ten Canadian (fill in your own currency) dollars?
  13. What’s a good metaphor for teaching internationally?
  14. What’s the loveliest thing you’ve ever witnessed on a flight?
  15. What do you now notice or understand about your home country as a result of having been away from it?
  16. How is the school you teach at like the schools we attended as students? In what ways is it different?
  17. What’s a cool lesson you’ve taught recently?
  18. What are some of the less glamorous aspects of living internationally?
  19. How do you get to work? What’s your favourite part of the journey?
  20. How has living abroad affected your fashion sense and the way that you dress?
  21. What’s the view from your home? (If you are talking on Skype, your international educator could just show you!)
  22. What food/meal have you recently encountered that you’d never had before?
  23. How have you changed because you lived and worked outside your country?
  24. If you could give one piece of advice to your twenty-five year old self, what would it be?
  25. How do you define home?

Pro Tip: If you feel tempted to ask the international educator in your life when they are moving home, you could tell them, instead, that you love them.

In the comments below, please add a question that might spark an interesting conversation with an international educator. When writing this list, I let my curiosity and respect for other people and cultures guide me.
 

Put yourself in the picture

This is the second post in a series about learning to appreciate, respect and love our own bodies. You can read the first article, Leggings, Body Love + Beauty Queens, here.

i.
Five years ago, in a posh Tokyo neigbourhood filled with restaurants, bars and elegant shops, I finally found a hair salon where I could get an amazing hair cut and colour. Both the stylist and colourist are lovely people who speak English and, over time, we’ve become friends. For many people living outside their home countries, this is like finding the holy grail.

Before I even sit down at the salon, a member of the staff has placed a couple of English language magazines on the counter where I will be sitting. They never forget. They place those magazines out for me because they know I don’t speak or read Japanese and they want to make my experience in their salon as lovely as possible.

I absolutely experience this gesture as love. But the thing is that I never open the magazines.

Vogue. Cosmopolitan. Others magazines from that particular high fashion family. There are no women in these magazines that look even remotely like me because all of the industries involved in making these magazines (fashion, beauty, diet) are based on the assumption that the worst thing a woman could be is fat. These magazines tell us how to dress to look thinner (not fat), how to apply makeup to look thinner (not fat), how to pose for photographs so that we look thinner (not fat).

In my teens and early twenties, I bought and read these magazines but the thing that got to me was the complete and utter absence of roundness. Not only were there no women who looked like me, the “average” sized women I knew were not represented in these magazines either. I watched as many of my friends and colleagues compared themselves unfavourably to the women portrayed in fashion magazines. Even when they received a compliment, some of these women would skip right over the thank you and dive straight into the self-criticism, “But my butt is too big” or “my hair is too curly” as if the whole damned world would shut right down if she were to say, “Thank you. I do look awesome.”

So I stopped buying the magazines. After a while, I stopped reading them in waiting rooms as even the articles were based on the assumption that a woman should do whatever was humanly possible to look beautiful… where beauty was always defined as being thin and taking up less space.

That has not been my experience of beauty.

My little protest of one didn’t have an impact on the beauty industry but I felt a LOT better.

So when the staff at the Tokyo salon place those magazines on the counter in front of me, I experience this gesture as love but I don’t read them.

Last year, during a morning at the salon, another English speaking client mentioned that she’d like a magazine.

“You can have mine,” I said.

“You’re sure you’re done with them?”

“I don’t read them.” And I explained the reasons why.

“You don’t even read them aspirationally?,” she asked.

Nope. Not even aspirationally. Especially not aspirationally.
 
ii.
While I was thinking about this piece, I watched a documentary called The September Issue about the making of the annual September issue of Vogue. The issue documented in the film featured photo shoots in Paris and Rome with sumptuous interiors, lush exteriors and amazing clothing, textures and colour. The photos were stunning.

Perception is a funny thing. Because the only women we see in these kinds of glamour photographs are very thin, we develop an expectation that these are the only women who SHOULD be in these photographs… who are ALLOWED to be in these kinds of photographs. We start to believe that THIS IS JUST THE WAY THINGS ARE.

If you’re a woman in an average sized or larger body and you visit Paris or Rome, you may may find it really difficult to put yourself into a picture that you don’t believe you have a right to be in.

It’s not like anyone will say, “Hey, round girl. Are you crazy? You’re not allowed to have your photo taken draped across that red velvet sofa like that. At your size, it’s indecent. Here, just take a nice Instagram of your cafe au lait beside these pink roses on this lovely marble table top.” Except someone does say that. Many of us have taken all the implicit and explicit messages we’ve ever received about beauty, bodies, power and pleasure and we’ve come to this ridiculous life-limiting conclusion on our own. We’ve built up a wall between ourselves and the fun possibility of being photographed on the velvet sofa.

In another example, I’ve noticed that a lot of my women friends are not in photographs with their kids. They’ll say, “But someone has to take the photo.” Sure. But it doesn’t always have to be you. Your kids are going to want photographs of you together and I promise you that they will not care about whatever you’re currently obsessing about… your tummy or your hairstyle or what you chose to wear on that particular day in September 2017.
 
iii.
In the first two decades of my life, I stopped reading fashion magazines because there was no one in them that looked like me. In this part of my life, I want to put myself back in the picture of my own life and I want to challenge you to do the same.

It doesn’t have to be a glamorous photo. You could start with a photograph with your kid. Give someone in your life an opportunity to love you and care for you by asking them to take that photograph.

It takes courage to be seen, especially if you think society doesn’t want to see your body. What I’m discovering is that everything that’s been learned can be unlearned.

Here’s a new thought: There’s no wrong way to have a body. Try that on. Wriggle around inside that thought. Isn’t it delicious?

I look forward to seeing your photographs.
 

What’s an international educator?


{The cherry blossoms in Nakameguro, Tokyo, Japan}

There are thousands of international educators working around the world right now but many people in North America, including lots of teachers, don’t understand what that means. This post is meant to serve as a quick explanation of this particular way of life.

For the last 20 years, I’ve worked and played and taken Instagrams and paid my bills by working at high schools outside of Canada. I’ve made my way in, and through, the world as an international educator.

How it begins

Looking back, I see that I was very lucky. Because I did my teaching degree at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario, and because Queen’s Faculty of Education hosts an overseas teaching fair each year, I learned about international teaching while I was still a student. When I was in Teacher’s College, the job prospects in my home province of Ontario were not good and rather than moving to a remote community in the far north of Ontario, I thought I’d try teaching in another country. Even though I didn’t attend the actual job fair, the Placement Officers kindly put me in touch with a school in Colombia that was looking for two English teachers. The Head of School traveled to Kingston to interview candidates and I was fortunate enough to be hired along with a woman I knew well from my Bachelor of Education program. We asked to be flatmates. Two months later I was living in a city called Cali in Colombia, South America. I was living in a city that, up until eight weeks earlier, I had never even heard of. Although I was at the school for just a year, during which there were some bumpy days, I can honestly say that the decision to “try” teaching outside Canada altered my life path. My year in Colombia marked the beginning of a truly interesting life and career.

After completing my Masters of Education back at Queen’s I returned to international teaching. Originally certified as an English and Social Studies teacher, I earned my qualification as a School Counselor and worked for the next 18 years at four different international schools located in Monterrey Mexico, Barcelona Spain, Bangkok Thailand, and Yokohama Japan.

Do I have to be an English teacher?
People often assume that all international teachers are teaching English (as a foreign language) but that’s not the case. International schools serve some combination of local and international students which means that teachers hired to work internationally teach all the subjects students study: Math, Science, Humanities, English Literature, Languages and many arts and elective courses. Although we teach in English, most of us are not English teachers. Those of us who are, teach literature in the same way we would teach English at home.

Adventurous?
When people hear the list of countries I’ve worked in, they often assume that I’m a very adventurous person but that’s not exactly accurate. I do love to travel, and I feel so fortunate to have lived internationally but I am a person with a VERY healthy need for structure, predictability and a big old safety net. I am living proof that it’s possible to teach internationally and still have a life that is safe and secure. A life that might even look a little bit boring on a day-to-day basis.

A (school) day in the life
At the school where I worked until June 2017, there are 650 students from approximately 50 countries. The teachers are from between 15 and 20 different countries. Most students travel to school on foot, or by train from Yokohama or Tokyo; in fact students as young as seven take the train on their own. (It IS that safe!) Other students are dropped off at school by their parents. Students at international schools come from many different educational backgrounds. There are students that have attended that school since they were in nursery school, students who’ve also attended local public schools and studied in Japanese, and Japanese students who have studied at international schools in Japan and/or other countries. There are also many students from other countries, each one with a different educational background which is shaped by the kind of work their parents do and the companies they work for. For high school students, the day begins at 9 o’clock in the morning and is finished at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Teachers arrive at 8:30 a.m. and finish their work day at 4:30 p.m. or later. Students have a 50 minute lunch hour and a break in the morning like North American schools. Before school, at lunch and after school, students participate in clubs, associations and sports. Students compete in activities like Model United Nations and Brain Bowl. University representatives visit the school. The places we teach are much more similar to North American schools than they are different.

Making a living
Some international schools are run as businesses while others are nonprofit schools. There are good and great schools in both categories. Although I’ve never worked at a for-profit school, that could change in the future. At some schools, teachers make just enough money to live comfortably and do some traveling while, at other schools, teachers are able to save a large percentage of their salary each year. Most of us started our international teaching careers at less well-known schools where the pay was not as good but there are certainly exceptions to that trend. International teachers are also responsible for planning for their own retirement as we won’t have a pension from a school board in our home country. Some teachers work internationally for just one posting and then return home while other educators spend their entire teaching career overseas. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, just the way that best suits the teacher or teaching couple. Many international schools provide free tuition to up to two dependents which means that the children of international educators receive an amazing private school education.

Why it’s worth it

The gorgeous thing about working internationally is that outside of our regular jobs, during the evenings, weekends and school holidays, we have access to amazing opportunities to experience, and learn more about, the cultures in which we live. For almost two decades, I’ve been immersed in cultures in a profound way. In my first international teaching gig in Colombia, I sometimes felt frustrated when Colombians didn’t behave like Canadians… didn’t line up like Canadians, didn’t show up on time like Canadians. This seems hilarious to me now now but it takes both time and effort to comprehend and appreciate how people’s deeply held beliefs and values shape the way they live their lives.

Living outside of Canada has helped me grow. I’m more empathetic, respectful and compassionate as a result of being a witness to so many other cultures and ways of being a person in the world.

Finally, as a person who lives outside my home country, I‘ve developed a better understanding of what it means to be Canadian and this, I believe, has made me a better citizen of the world.

Next week
In next week’s post, I’ll provide a series of questions that will help you engage the international educators in your life in the conversation they’ve been hoping to have since they first went overseas.

 

 

Leggings, Body Love + Beauty Queens

This is the first post in a series I’ll be writing about learning to appreciate, respect and love our own bodies.

A few days ago I read a Facebook post about an American High School Principal’s comments to an assembly full of Grade 9 and 10 students. She was talking about leggings. Yes, that’s right. Leggings. And it’s not even that leggings were against the school’s dress code (they’re not) but the Principal felt that she needed to educate the girls about who should be wearing them. She said, “I’ve told you this before, I’m going to tell you this now. Unless you wear a size 0 or 2 and you wear something like that, even though you’re not fat, you look fat.”

In the comments to this Facebook post, several women spoke out against this educator’s message and the potential negative impact on the students. Someone commented that this would make girls with eating disorders even more self-conscious. Yes, I thought. That’s true. Her words might further harm those with body image issues (which describes many of us) but the real problem with her comments is the assumption that it’s not okay for girls and women to live in a round body. That it’s not okay for them to be fat.

I’m going to repeat this. The problem is the assumption that it’s not okay for girls and women to live in a round body. That it’s not okay for them to be fat.

So I took a deep breath and wrote this: “The most shocking thing about this remark is that it is not new. People have been talking to girls and women like this forever and we are just now starting to notice and to say, “That’s not right’. Also these kinds of remarks are not just harmful for girls with eating disorders but also to actual fat girls. Like me and so many other gorgeous girls and women like me. ”

Now, if you know me, you’ll know that’s not a typical Monna-move. For many years, I’ve flown under the radar with my views on body positivity. While I feel SO strongly about understanding the ways in which society has shaped our views about weight, beauty, gender and power, it felt safer to have those conversations with students or coaching clients individually or in small groups. The work of helping girls and women untangle years of conditioning and limiting beliefs about themselves has been largely an offline and private endeavour. But there was something about one of the commenters that really got to me.

She shared a screenshot of “bad leggings images” from Google, chastised us for bullying the Principal and celebrated this educator for teaching the girls the right way to dress and behave. I could not believe it. A number of people responded to her comments but she was not to be deterred.

I thought about responding. I thought about asking her why she hated fat girls and women so much. Something had rendered this woman incapable of letting girls and women enjoy the body they’re in and dressing to please themselves.

But I didn’t post. Fortunately my better angels arrived just in time (as they so often do) and I chose to click on this woman’s Facebook page to learn more about her. Although I was not entirely surprised to see other conservative views shared on her page, one very relevant fact caught my attention. She had competed in beauty pageants in the early 1960s and had won a state title. While I’m sure that some young women have had positive experiences in these competitions, there’s not much space for body diversity or rounder bodies. Beauty pageant culture places thinness in the Penthouse right next door to godliness. Beauty pageants perpetuate the idea that it’s a girl’s job to be pretty.

It is not the job of girls and women to be pretty. That’s not our job.

Suddenly I didn’t feel so angry at this woman. I saw her as absolutely shaped by her life experience and by the beliefs of the adults around her as she grew up and developed her own worldview. I felt empathy for her and her situation.

Instead of responding to this woman’s Facebook comments I went to my own Facebook page and wrote:
Lovelies, After reading some particularly toxic + fat-shaming comments regarding what young women should (and should not) wear, I remembered these words from poet nayyirah. waheed.
YOU ARE YOUR OWN STANDARD OF BEAUTY.
I’d love for you to share, in the comments below, a photograph of yourself. A photo in which you are your own standard of beauty. I’ll go first. Monna xo

Do you remember the line, “If you build it, he will come” from the movie Field of Dreams? Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, hears these words and builds a baseball field on his corn field. Everyone thinks he is crazy but it turns out that he’s not crazy at all. My version of this was, “If you write it, she will show up.” On Sunday, eleven members of my tribe responded to my post by sharing photographs of themselves and claiming their own beauty.

These photographs said:
*I don’t need to feel totally ready in order to show up for myself (because I’ll never feel totally ready)
*I don’t have to look perfect in order to show up (because, of course, there is no perfect)
*I believe in my own inherent worth and that of my Mom and my kids and my friends (and even the inherent worth of the body shamers because it’s our hope that when they know better, they’ll do better)
*I’m not going to feel ashamed of myself or the way I look no matter what other people say and do

I’m so grateful to these women for helping me turn a really frustrating Facebook encounter into a lovely and affirming experience.

What is one way in which you could CELEBRATE your own unique standard of beauty?
 

The Picnic + The Ants

I keep waiting for my gap year to begin.

It’s been two months since school ended and two weeks since I officially finished my job as Director of University Counseling.

During the summer vacation we flew to Canada, took all of our things out of a storage unit in Ottawa, moved them to my parents’ home, sorted them and decided what we were keeping, loaded this stuff back on a 16-foot truck that Damien drove across four provinces from Ontario to Nova Scotia where two very generous friends helped us unload the truck. We unpacked some (but not all) of our things. Damien assembled two sofas, our dining room table, and two of what are quite possibly the heaviest bookshelves ever constructed. We placed our dishes in a drawer rather than a shelf which felt like a revelation after decades of reaching over my head for plates and bowls. We hosted my parents for a week ~ showing them the South Shore of Nova Scotia. In mid-July, I went to Paris for a glorious week… three days on my own and then a retreat with other life coaches in the city of twinkling lights. For a few days we hosted a dear friend from our time in Barcelona. At the end of our time in Canada, we had two weeks on our own in Casa Limon.

I had this idea of how the summer would be: Fun. An adventure. Romantic. The summer-images I assembled in my mind felt just like the promise of the Ikea catalogue that arrived in my mailbox each year when I was a university student. All those perfect rooms… just waiting for me to inhabit them. This was the way I thought about each of the weeks of our summer; I imagined them as perfect rooms of time.

This is not the first time my expectations have kicked my ass.

It’s not that the summer wasn’t fun/adventurous/romantic. It was those things… at times. In little bits, in flashes, in moments when Damien and I would look out at the Lunenburg Harbour from The Fish Shack where we’d ordered fish and chip and iced tea and then we’d look back at each other and that look would contain the thought, “We’re so lucky to live here for part of the year.” And in those moments, it was eternal summer and everything yucky fell away. But there was also this pile of hard, frustrating and not very romantic moments. We had no hot water for several days. The guest bed did not arrive when expected and when it did, we couldn’t get the box springs up the stairs. We wanted to throw a party for our neighbours but we ran out of time and steam. It took many visits to banks in both Japan and Nova Scotia and two actual transactions to successfully send a transfer of funds to the USA. We didn’t spend as much time by the sea as we’d hoped. We spent way more money than we’d planned. I didn’t write a single Sunday Reader.

I’m not complaining about my life; I’m very clear about how fortunate we are. But I was surprised to find that our summer wasn’t perfect.

It never has been and it’s never going to be.

I realize that my feeling of waiting for my gap year to begin comes from the exact same crazy place as my desire for a perfect summer.

Once I heard a Buddhist teacher tell a story about a picnic. He encouraged listeners to imagine ourselves going on a picnic. We were asked to imagine that we had a delicious lunch packed away in a basket, the sky was blue and filled with white fluffy clouds, and the temperature was not too hot and not too cold as we set out our food on a red and white gingham cloth. The fried chicken was delicious and the lemonade was the perfect combination of sweet and tart. But then we noticed a procession of ants on the gingham cloth and our first thought was, “These damned ants are ruining my picnic.”

The storyteller then suggested another interpretation… that the ants are the picnic.

The picnic doesn’t exist in spite of the ants. The ants are as much a part of the picnic as the blue sky and the crispy fried chicken.

My hopes for, and understanding of, our summer had been way too limited.

The broken element in our water heater was the summer. The guest bed that arrived in pieces and cost more than we’d budgeted for was the summer. The jet lag and the packing and the unpacking ~ yup… they were all the summer. Also summer: the gloriously cool weather in Nova Scotia, the fog that crept in to the shore the day we took my parents to Green Bay Beach, ice cream cones, hugs, Chef’s Table on Netflix and great visits with new and long-time friends. Daisies cut from our own ramshackle garden, movies in Bridgewater, a pair of black leather sofas that feel like home, raspberry iced tea in blue rimmed glasses from Mexico, afternoon naps, the way the sun slipped through the blinds at twilight and filled the living room with golden light, driving with the sunroof open as the bass of the Hamilton Mixed Tape thrummed through the car. All summer.

When I opened my mind to accept the more challenging aspects of the summer as part of our picnic, a surprising thing occurred. Not only was I able to feel more peaceful about the rough bits but I found that my heart opened up WIDE to ALL of the beauty the summer held. I was able to see our entire summer with greater clarity and peace. Our summer was awesome.

News flash: Conditions will never be perfect.
Buddhist wisdom: It’s all part of the picnic.
Monna-move: Let’s get this gap year party started.

Yesterday, when Damien headed up the hill to start his seventh year at our little school in Japan, I didn’t go with him. I made a list of emails to send, blog posts and Sunday Readers to write, and people to help. And I began. And it wasn’t perfect because it was never going to be.

But it was a start and that was kind of beautiful.

What’s been stopping you from enjoying your picnic?

Coaching

Perhaps there’s something in your life that you’d like more of (or less of) but you can’t figure out how to make that happen. You have a sense that you should be happier but you don’t know where to start.

If you’d like some help with your journey, I have openings for four coaching clients.

Here’s what a couple of clients said about our work together:

I’d never participated in life coaching before, so admittedly I was a bit skeptical if it would be helpful. Thankfully, I gave it a shot because working with Monna over the course of a few months was really beneficial for me. I found Monna to be warm and patient and genuine, and I actually looked forward to diving in and discussing things that have not always been the easiest for me. What I found the most helpful was that she always found a way to turn a negative statement into a positive one, flip a bad experience into something I could learn from and present my self-doubt as a building block for much needed self-care. I’m truly grateful to Monna for this experience.” ~ M. in Montreal

Monna is the Marie Kondo of the mind. She has helped me declutter my mind, throwing out unhelpful ideas and those which were none of my business. She’s guided me through setting a plan which will help me find my North Star. Thank you Monna, I’m on my way.” ~ L. in Melbourne

We’ll start by working together for six sessions over six or twelve weeks. You’ll choose what works best for you.

If you are interested, or even curious, email me at monnamcd@gmail.com. I’ll happily answer your questions and we can even hop on the phone and have a 30 minute chat to help you decide.

Please share this information with a friend who might benefit from working with a coach.

Cheers,
Monna
xo

P.S.
This post was first published as The Sunday Reader. If you’d like to receive these notes directly in your inbox twice a month, you can subscribe here.

How to know when it’s time to remove the labels

A few months ago, a friend who has known me for a couple of years described me as relaxed. I was shocked.

RELAXED?

In the same unconscious way that some women run their fingers through their hair, I scanned my labels and diagnoses: INFJ. HSP {Highly Sensitive Person}. Anxious. Round. Bookish. With occasional bouts of deep sadness.

Yup. All still there.

I’m a person who loves ALL the tests. At the school where I work as a counselor, we provide Grade 9 students with the opportunity to complete the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and VIA Strengths. Our hope is that these instruments will help them recognize their own preferences and gifts as well as their responses to other people. These tests are meant to provide a flashlight for one’s insides.

I first took the MBTI as a 20-something RA in a university residence. I learned that I’m introverted, that I take in information through my intuition, that I make decisions based on my feelings and that I’m an organized list maker who doesn’t thrive on chaos. (Note: this last bit was no surprise.) When I got my results, I felt like I saw myself, my whole self, for the first time. Suddenly, I was able to understand why certain things were so easy for me, why they felt just right in my body, and why other activities (and people) were WAY more challenging.

My MBTI profile led me to the work of Elaine Aaron and the recognition that I’m also a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) which means that I’m profoundly affected by my environment, that I startle easily, and that my nervous system is in overdrive much of the time.

Then I remembered that my friend described me as relaxed. I wondered if I was simply doing a really good job of acting.

And then I considered the possibility that maybe I’m not THAT anxious anymore.

When I took those tests, the information I learned was tremendously helpful. I was able to be kind and gentle with myself, and set up more ideal conditions for my own success. This information also helped me develop better relationships with others because I could see their not-so-tiny gremlins and be more empathetic about the kind of crazy they dealt with every day. Understanding how we’re shaped by psychological and sociological forces helped me to develop greater empathy for the people around me.

Empathy led me to counseling and then to coaching. Empathy rocks!

Recently, I’ve started to be a bit less gentle with myself. I’ve begun taking greater risks and I’ve challenged myself to do hard things like become a coach, start a business, get out of debt, and give up my lovely full-time job in order to take a gap year. I reached out and gave Uncertainty a big old bear hug and, to reward my courage, Uncertainty hugged me back. Sometimes we even go dancing now, Uncertainty and me.

It’s not that I’ve stopped being introverted or having a preference for order over chaos. That’s probably not going to happen. What has been happening, however, is that I’ve been teaching myself to stretch beyond my natural preferences and strengths. I’m claiming more and more territory as home.

Ultimately, I’ve chosen to feel safe. Choosing to feel safe in my life, and in the world, has made me feel free. And if there’s a better feeling than freedom, I haven’t met it yet.

One morning, I was in the kitchen cutting the labels out of a silk blouse with a pair of orange handled scissors. This felt entirely satisfying to me. Damien walked into the kitchen and raised one eyebrow.
“Why are you cutting out the labels?”
“They’re rough against my skin and make me itchy.”
“Aren’t you worried that you won’t know how to launder them?”
“Nope. I know what fabrics my clothes are made of. I have it all in here.” (I pointed to my brain.) “Besides, when in doubt, hand wash in cold water.”

It was time to remove the labels in my life. They’d served their purpose. They were never meant to be boxes ~ only feedback. A bit of a map to get me headed in the right direction.

So it turns out that I AM relaxed. I’ve learned a lot about myself and now I’m ready to be NEW things. I’m ready to be greater than the sum of my parts and my labels.

What are you ready to be?
 
 
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