I'm not much of a gambler, but if you asked my last partner what my most spoken phrase was, I'd bet it all on "I know". While that neurosis could have been enough to make the Buddha crazy, he always seemed to laugh it off. "I know" was my go-to. Especially in, but not limited to the 'tough' conversations, which by the way, could be defined as anything that had to do with talking about my feelings. "I know" was my defense mechanism, my copout, my admittance of wrongdoing, my crutch, my best friend, my toughest opponent and my Achilles heel. The 'v' word (vulnerability) simply did not belong in my world.
I want you to picture a heart - got it? Great. Picture that heart being oversized, bursting at the seems, wanting to shower the world with love... Got that, too? Awesome. Now picture that same heart locked in a cage, enclosed in a castle, surrounded by a moat, with a very heavy drawbridge and no mechanism to open it, guarded by a fire-breathing dragon and a full army of guards (ya know, just in case the dragon didn't do the trick).
That heart was mine. And any hint of it opening, the mere thought of anyone (myself included) getting too close, was just too much to fathom. As you can imagine that made me a pretty inadequate, and likely even at times, insufferable partner. And I don't just mean romantically - I wasn't showing up for anyone in my life the way I wanted to, not my friends, not my family and worst of all, I had completely abandoned myself. Being closed off to receiving love, despite desperately wanting it and wanting to give it, set me up epically to be "blindsided" and heartbroken when my last partner confirmed what we both already knew. The knowing I'm talking about here wasn't the voice in my head - it was that whisper of the heart, call it intuition or gut feeling or knot in the pit of my stomach. While I'm sure you could find it somewhere in the head, it was much bigger and so much deeper than that.
Well what a perfect opportunity life handed me to become the victim of my own self-abandonment. Life was happening and it was happening to me. I was stressed because of work, hurting because of my broken heart, losing my shit because I was the victim of some horrific crime committed against me when I was cut off by some undoubtedly horrible person who decided to add injury to insult by"stealing" my parking spot. If you're not laughing yet, please join me in a giggle. I've certainly learned to laugh at my own shenanigans and just how ridiculous it was to believe that I held any sort of stake in owning that parking spot. I'm not sharing this to beat myself up for the mistakes or shortcomings of my past. I've left that "coping mechanism" behind, because as it turns out, beating ourselves up is actually more like dropping a tanker full of gasoline on an already raging forest fire. Much to my surprise, I've come to understand that being my own biggest critic is not an actual coping mechanism. While there is a healthy balance of recognizing the part I play in every situation in my life, the amount of time I spent judging myself for my mistakes directly correlated to how unbearable life became. But the truth is, if I'd known better at the time, I would've done better. I didn't and that's okay, because right now, in this very moment, I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.
I knew something needed to change, and I decided to finally put myself first and start the journey to find my purpose in life. I knew I was following my path. I enrolled in a coach training program (the best there is, in my opinion) and got on my way. I was doing my homework, going to work, reading, sleeping, eating, exercising and meditating (when I could find the time), day in and day out. Wash, rinse, repeat. Then one day I woke up and realized I was treating my life like a checklist. I arrived at the conclusion that I was doing all of these things, but I wasn't present for any of them, because I was consumed with anxiety over what was next on the list.
Treating your life like a checklist might be fine if you're a robot, but as a human it translates to not really living your life, despite physically being alive. In March the world shut down and I was sent to work from home with the expectation that I'd be back in the office two weeks later. At that time I knew for sure I loved true crime stories, big fatty Tomahawk steaks, intense workouts, doing things for others, spending most of my time with friends and family and never saw any of those things changing, like EVER. Not everything in life was certain, but I knew who I was and what I was doing. Or did I?
It turns out what I didn't know, is just how much I hated being alone with my own thoughts, but thanks to a global pandemic, I didn't have too much of a choice. Our minds, which can accommodate 70,000 thoughts a day can be pretty dark sometimes. Unlike what I've done for the last 28 years of my life - avoiding and even running away from that darkness - for the first time, I stopped and turned around and decided to look at the garbage I'd collected... and boy did it stink. Since the day I decided to own my junk, I've spent hours upon hours in workshops, working with coaches, reading a heap of self help books, learning how to be vulnerable, sharing & bearing my soul (and most importantly realizing I am one) and it has been the most fulfilling journey I've had in this lifetime. This journey has so beautifully placed many wonderful teachers in my life and has held my hand and walked me, sometimes forcefully, to the realization that this giant void in my life has come from identifying as just a human being.
What do I know now? Please hold for the punchline, however:
I have traded true crime for learning more about spirituality and love.
I have eaten a plant-based diet for the last three weeks and feel better than I ever have.
I have found love for parts of me I couldn't have previously acknowledged existing.
I practice yoga & meditate regularly and feel like I am on my way home.
I'm learning to accept and appreciate both sides of the coin.
I have light and darkness, happiness and suffering, good days and bad days. By bringing my darkness to the light, I'm able to make room for so much more.
Similarly to this blog post, I've taken the long way to getting to this point in my life. In May, I began to explore spirituality and the meaning of life (a small topic for a summer afternoon). One evening in June I returned home from a walk and was standing at this sink washing the dishes - a rare occasion for me, because I usually use this magical device that does the work for me - when I was overwhelmed by the feeling of not knowing anything. The laughter and joy nearly brought me to my knees. What I mean is, it finally hit me that all of the things I grew up believing, thinking, feeling, and the stories I've told myself for years exist only in my head. The peace that comes from an inner knowing that we are more than our minds is indescribable. The unlearning, the unboxing, the unpacking, the unknowing is a gift, that comes second only to being alive in this very moment. My appreciation for being so utterly wrong about myself, about what I thought life was, about everything I thought I knew, is truly immeasurable. Opening my heart has already led to a world of possibility and I have an inkling this is only just the beginning.