Real. What does it mean to be real?
In the last few days I’ve been seriously triggered by some comments I’ve heard and some observations I’ve made. So I slowed down to dig in to what exactly was feeling so icky to me.
I watched an amusing video the other day about men being photoshopped like women. I watched it twice actually, the second time with my kids. Aside from the obvious reason to be pissed off about the premise behind the video, I was especially triggered by the following statement, “We all want to look like the best version of ourselves.” I paused.
We all want to look like the best version of ourselves.
I mean, seriously, who can disagree with this? I can’t. I love when I see a photo of myself that somehow doesn’t show my eye bags too much.
But… why is our “best” version not our real one?
What are we actually saying to ourselves when we say, “Oh, I prefer the shinier, prettier, sparklier, tightened up and tucked in, unblemished version?”
What the actual Fu*k?
No wonder so many of us feels less than and not good enough!
How did we get to this point that being our best selves somehow means something other than being our real selves?
Seriously. PLEASE take a moment to think about this. Since when is being real, as in 100% really YOU, not good enough? And who decides this anyway!?
As a mother, and I am sure you’ll all agree, I am sickened that my girls are growing up in a culture that promotes and encourages this distorted way of thinking about what it means to be our best selves.
Watching the Emmys the other night (to cheer on Montréal’s own Jean-Marc Vallée and Big Little Lies), I was at first saddened by the faces of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. They are almost 80 years old and look “amazing”. And all I could find online about their plastic faces (as I searched for something to share with you all) was praise for how “amazing” they look for their age.
Yup, they do look a lot younger than most 80 years olds I know. Is that what it means to look “amazing” at 80; that you look younger than you are?
And in full transparency, I am not immune to this myself. I posted a pic of myself on FB last week and a friend (she’s probably reading this right now!), commented that I looked like I was in my 20s. And I immediately very happy! Yay for me, the 43 year old who looks 20 in that pic! Trust me, I am just as caught up in the “looking younger” as everyone else.
So back to my original question, what is real? My thoughts:
Real is messy and painful and glorious and triumphant. Real is mistakes made, judgments passed and apologies accepted. Real is struggling with your age, weight, height, face and doing something about it. Real is acceptance of what you cannot change. Real is passion, confusion and struggling to make ends meet. Real is children playing in the school yard, while parents check their Instagram. Real is hurricanes, earthquakes and the destruction they leave in their wake. Real is the red lipstick I wear for a pop of color on my face. Real is at once the truth we speak, and the lies we tell.
The human experience is real. Including plastic faces, filtered photos and all the other “fake” images and news that comes our way. The human experience is BIG enough to contain it all. And I accept that now.
But where does this leave us? If everything is real, than nothing is real. Right? Maybe not.
Being real, as in unmasked and uncovered and raw, takes fucking courage! Being real means loving yourself…really and truly loving yourself, including your own freaked out mind, your insecurities and the darker shadows of your soul.
Being real means not needing the approval of others because you already deeply approve of yourself, the unfiltered, messy, imperfectly perfect you. Being real is compassion for self.
So in summary, if your real self is all of these things and you also happen to love plastic surgery…well, ok then. You’re doing it for YOU, not because you feel like you have to because your real version isn’t good enough.
Here’s what I know for sure: our REAL selves deserve to be cared for, tended to, and loved. Our real selves are more than good enough. Our blemished and bumpy faces, bodies and lives ARE the best we have because they are ours to hold dear and cherish! There is so much pressure for our real selves to stay hidden and neatly tucked away. So we have to be fierce about keepin’ it real. We have to be brave and bold and honest and vulnerable. On our own. With our children. With each other. Every single day.
I’ve got your back. We’re in this together. Will you join me?
A paradox* is defined as a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.
Here’s what I want us all to know. Our contradictions not only help make us super interesting but when we give them space to live and we give ourselves the permission to want what we want, we become whole.
And when we’re whole, we live more meaningful, purposeful and fulfilled lives.
I have had an office outside our home since Dec 2015. Saying YES to getting my own office was a dream come true. It’s the tiniest, coziest, prettiest office with very affordable rent, and it’s a 5-minute walk from my house. I am in love with it.
My initial desire to work outside the home surprised me, as part of why I left my previous career was to be home more, not less. But sure enough, I pretty quickly had a growing and hungry desire to have my own sacred space somewhere else (far from my family, my husband who works at home, and all the other distractions that home holds). I craved a space that no one could touch and that was mine all mine (read: little fingers and “Oh, can I borrow this cool pen and stapler and file folder and…?”)
So I jumped in, rented a spot, and 2016 was my first year in my office. And it was an awesome year. I saw clients there, I meditated there, and I saw my dream of being a working coach come to life there. And by giving myself what I really wanted, I felt so empowered!
Until something shifted late 2016…
I needed space, again. But a different kind of space than before. Rather than a desire to be out and away from home experiencing something new, I craved a space that was familiar and comforting and would feel like a warm hug. And I really wanted to be with my dog. I needed to be with my dog, at home.
So this last winter saw me home, a lot. Working, digging deep into myself, working on my Pillars of Genius. Some days I would say, “Ok, today I’ll go to my office.” Only to never go. Sometimes I felt defeated and like something was wrong with me. Other days, I was ok with giving myself the permission to stay home.
But what bothered me was that I could not figure out my resistance to going to my little office, something I had been deeply excited about only a year before. I got coached about my feelings and while I found some clarity, there was still a part of this whole situation that felt unknown, unsettled, still to be determined. I wanted to want to go. But when I was honest with myself, I just didn’t want to. So I stayed home and weeks would go by as my office sat still and ignored.
Here I was, paying for a space I was hardly, if ever, using. What a waste of money, I know! But as much as something was holding me back from going, something was also holding me back from releasing it when it came time for my lease renewal in May 2017.
And that something is what I like to call Paradox: the tension between two seemingly contradictory desires or realities or situations, especially when you can’t make sense of it.
My paradox was this: wanting an office away from my home AND wanting to stay home to work.
Huh. Now what?
Well, I did what any good coach does and I got quiet. I went inward. I sat still. I listened to my soul. I asked the advice of some friends and talked at length with my husband, François. And the answer came in a whisper, one I could barely hear, but it was loud enough to trust it.
The messages I got from my intuition were “big things are coming and you need this space away from home… for yourself, for your work, your mission, and even your sanity as an entrepreneurial mom.” Now was NOT the time to let it go. I signed my lease for another year and said to myself “Let’s just see what happens”, even though I still wasn’t sure what this all meant.
Flash forward to recently. Remember that something I couldn’t quite identify that kept me in the tension of paradox? Wanting two supposedly contradictory things?
I figured out why I felt so guilty, confused and unclear. Because what I want is not actually contradictory, even though I thought it was. What I want actually makes perfect sense! An office space, outside the home, to go to part-time, AND an office space at home.How simple! And yet I had convinced myself that I could not possibly have both.
Why, you might ask, would I do such a thing? Well, in my mind, I had put limits on what was possible for myself. If I rent an office space, clearly I need to be there all the time. And the flip side is, if I have a home office then why would I need to rent an office space? Pretty black and white thinking.
But the beauty of paradoxes is that they don’t always have to be contradictory. In fact, they can be complementary, which I know goes against the very definition of what a paradox supposedly is, but I think the distinction I am making is important. Perhaps they are two sides of the same coin. Two sides of the same face. Two desires that can live inside one person. Who says they have to contradict each other and therefore be impossible to contain in one space, together?
The tension found within a paradox can actually help us define what we want and who we are, and the end result is wholeness. We become whole in embracing our paradoxes.
For me, the desire to have a sacred and lovely office space outside my home while also having the desire to have a space within my home is owning my whole self. The part of me that wants my freedom, independence, need for my own private space AND the part of me that wants to stay home with my dog and sip my tea and do laundry in between emails and be home when my kids come in the door. Who says I can’t have both? Who says I can’t have TWO offices?
Unfortunately, I did.
There are so many boxes society tries to put us in; so many ways we are being asked to play small and to fit in. So many ways and reasons we find to deny ourselves our true desires. We all have paradoxes that live in us. Desires and dreams that we convince ourselves are unattainable or too far out there or just not possible. We often hear, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too”. WTF kind of comment is that anyway? You can be damn sure if I order cake that I am going to fucking eat it!
I wanted both options for myself, I just had to give myself permission to want what I wanted.
So I say, HELL YES, you can have whatever the hell you want! If you want an office outside the home AND one at home, go for it! Embracing the paradoxes that live in each of us, helps us live whole and reconnected lives. When we deny all of ourselves, we become disconnected and ultimately broken. Our light dims. Our smiles fade and we become shadows of who we are meant to be.
If you want to rock an AC/DC t-shirt one day and then pearls with a Lilly Pulitzer dress the next day, you go girl! Do it. If you want to eat only veggies one day and then stuff your face with a burger the next, go for it. Or, maybe you love listening to super loud music when you’re in the mood for a dance party but you’re also hypersensitive to certain sounds (like me, again), and need to listen to the TV with the remote in your hand (in case it gets too loud and uncomfortable) or you cover your ears at the sound of sirens. (BTW, this is called self-care and knowing this about myself helps me live an easier, happier life.)
The point is, be ALL of you. Own it. Go for it. Get it.
I want us all to be whole, authentic, take good care of of ourselves and take charge of our lives. But in order to do that, we need to know who we are, at our core. One of the ways to know yourself is to know what your paradoxes are. What needs, dreams, and desires do you have that seem to be contradictory but are, in fact, just two different yet complementary desires? And just who, exactly, is saying you can’t possibly want or have both? Is it you? Are you standing in your own way?
Consider this an invitation to give yourself permission to really want everything you desire (instead of telling yourself you shouldn’t want this or that it’s impossible to have it all), so you get clearer on how to take care of yourself, how to set boundaries with others, and how to live a life that allows for your whole self to be in charge. Imagine how good that would feel
If you’d like support to discover your paradoxes (among many other things!) and how to take charge of yourself and your life, I am launching a new coaching program designed to help you know yourself, love yourself and live your right life. It starts soon and there are limited spots. If this sounds like something you want, email me for more details!
*Midlife: a time when we awaken to our soul’s deepest calling to live as authentically as possible. Usually happens around 40 (give or take some years on either end).
My own midlife awakening started happening in my late 30s. On a massage table, to be exact. I’m 43 now and it’s not over yet. You can read about the details of it here. http://yournovellife.com/index.php/my-story/.
What’s so special about the awakening that happens in midlife versus, let’s say, the one that happens as we step into adolescence and make grand declarations about who we are and what we want?
Well, for starters, we’re adults now. Far from the teen angst that pulsated through our veins and left us quivering in the corner with our deep insecurity and the need to be accepted. Wait, perhaps we aren’t that far from that fragile, blossoming person after all, you say? I know, I know, adulting is hard too.
All kidding aside, the difference has to do with life experience. As teenagers, we’re still growing and transforming from a child to an adult. Our life, up until that point, has been family, school, camp, siblings, and an ever expanding and important friend circle. But really, we’re in an in-between state, hovering between childhood and adulthood. And it is HARD.
But it is precisely because of this in-between state that we are being asked to awaken. We question everything (if you were anything like me!) and dream of the future and who we want to be. We take our distance from our families, we start to develop and express our own beliefs and values, sometimes in direct conflict with those closest to us. We get in trouble, make rash decisions and piss off and worry our parents. We are in a process of becoming independent and it’s a crucial time in the development of humans that this happen! It’s exciting, confusing and trying.
But at midlife, we’ve been adults for a while now and have already lived pretty full lives. We’ve been on this merry-go-round long enough to have really and truly gotten a taste for what it means to be ALIVE.
We’ve seen things. We’ve done things. We now know enough to know better, to do better.
We know that life can be beautiful, kind, and exciting, while still being deeply cruel, unjust and filled with hatred. We’ve experienced deep, passionate, dizzying love and then felt the comedown of it as it morphs into something quieter and more predictable (long term marriage/relationship anyone?). We’ve felt the sting of failure and the urge to bury our faces in the sand to avoid the pain and the shame. We’ve celebrated successes + promotions and felt proud of our accomplishments. We’ve had our confidence shaken, our hearts broken, and our minds blasted wide open. We’ve traveled to far off places and met fascinating people. We have university degrees, seen a ton of sunsets, and made people laugh till they cried. We’ve been to weddings, funerals, and enough parties to never have to go to another if we didn’t want to. We’ve made love, had one-night stands, and yes, we may have even broken some hearts along the way. Add in houses + bills + mortgages or rent + insurance payments + childcare, etc….we’ve got this adulting thing down! Most days, anyway. 😉
We’ve learned the lessons that life isn’t always fair and that those closest to us can hurt us the most. We’ve learned that heartbreak is real, and that death and losing loved ones is as much a part of life as anything else. We’ve learned to trust our gut and that our parents really were trying to do the best they could with what they knew. Because we’ve also learned that being a parent is really and truly the hardest job you’ll ever have and yet it’s also the most divine privilege to raise, love and honor another human life. We’ve watched our children grow, year after year, and we realize how FAST time really does go. And we understand how precious and fleeting this life is. Our lives are.
And yet… and this is where things get interesting…we also realize that we still have A LOT of living left to do (fingers crossed!). We’re only half-way! We see our parents enjoying their lives; still working, traveling, being active. But holy shit!
There is still so much more to DO! To BE! To SEE!
And so we find ourselves in transformation once again. We have entered into a new in-between state. A state where our cup is half-full with the lives we have already lived and also half-empty with the lives we have yet to experience.
And we start to ask questions. Is this the right relationship/career/home/lifestyle/diet (feel free to insert anything else that fits) for me? Do I want to take this with me into the next half?
Let’s be honest. Being at this unique crossroads is at once scary and exhilarating. It’s a moment when we are being asked to wake up to what remains. Wake up to what has come and gone. We take stock, we reassess, we think ahead. And this state of wakefulness (or, if you prefer, this wake-up call) often creates a deep, lustful hunger to live the remainder of our lives in a way that feels right. Whatever that means for you. We are being asked to deeply consider with what we want to fill the remainder of our cup. Do you know?
At midlife, our SOULS awaken to the call to live braver, more authentic, and meaningful lives.
We are called for MORE because we are no longer willing or able to settle for less. We know time is ticking. Our eyes are wide open, our hearts are wide open and we are hungry for something else. We are no longer the teenager who lives for herself and yet we do feel the same need to distance ourselves so we can find ourselves once again. This is normal. Only now, we are mothers, fathers, volunteers, CEOs, entrepreneurs, doctors, professors, artists, coaches, people doing things in the world, people with massive responsibilities for goodness sakes! Yes, our lives are our own, and yet they aren’t, because we are so tethered and entangled (in the best of ways) to the little humans we have created (talk about massive responsibility!).
There is a whisper. Can you hear it? It’s an invitation to ask yourself the questions that seek answers.
We reexamine our values, our needs, and our desires. We question our relationships, our purpose, and how we contribute to the world. Who am I now, in this midlife moment? As a woman? As a mother? Who am I?
Sometimes we are on the search for more excitement, passion, something new and refreshing because life has become a routine, complacent place to be. Other times, we want everything to stay the same because we’re scared of what change may bring. Sometimes, we know the life we have built thus far, is not the life we want to take with us into the future.
Midlife is often a time when marriages implode, families break apart, careers change, and, on top of all that, our bodies start to show signs of aging (WTF!). Weird foot pain anyone? Cracking knees and random hip pain sometimes? I feel your pain!
This time can be so confusing. So what do we do?
We fret, we stress, we long for something we can’t quite put our finger on. And it often leaves us with a void, with no idea how to fill it in a meaningful way. And so sometimes we do nothing except slowly accept that life is actually “OK” (like ho-hum OK, not really OK because we ‘re secretly really freaking envious of all those other people living fabulous lives).
Or we do something drastic and impulsive that ends up being hurtful to our loved ones and ourselves as well (affairs come to mind, quitting a job without warning, buying things you can’t afford, developing destructive habits, etc.).
Or, the third option is we settle in with the questions. We invite them in. We heed the call, slow down enough to listen and we figure it out.
The awakening of midlife is a call to listen deeply, slowly, intentionally. You can either heed the call and transform or you can turn away and suffer. I invite you to heed the call. Allow yourself to be provoked by your soul’s deepest desires.
Will it be easy? Probably not. Is any kind of transformation easy? Will it be worth it to engage in a dialogue with your deepest Truth and live your life from an authentic and aligned place?
I know you know. The answer is YES.
Midlife is a beautiful time to take stock of the glorious life you have already lived, so you can plan the rest of your time here on Earth with more intention, more purpose, more awakeness (is that even a word? I don’t care, I like it!). Step into your second-half feeling confident in who you are NOW (as this adult who has so much life inside her) and in what you want so you can create that right life you seek for the remainder of your days.
My deepest wish for you is to heed the call so you can meet your Truest self, meet who you are TODAY, standing there with your cup half-full and half-empty. You are being called to transform again. Sometimes this means big things will happen (like REALLLY big) and sometimes it means only little things will shift. Either way, I invite you to make sure that your second-half feels right. However you define that. You deserve it. You deserve to live your best, brightest, most meaningful and purposeful life.
If this post resonates with you and you think/know/wonder if you could use some support to get super clear on who you are TODAY and what you want for your future, I’ve created a deeply insightful, wholistic, and powerful coaching program to help you do just that. This will be an exclusive program with limited spaces. If you’d like to get on the interest list, send me an email today. I’ll also be sharing more about it in the coming weeks.
I was free writing in my journal using this line as my starting off point: Like paint tumbling out of a paint can, ready to be rolled onto a clean wall.
Yeah, I know, but just go with me here, ok?
Anyway, this stream of consciousness writing eventually led me to a truly important insight, which is this:
What if the truth isn’t what “she” says? “She” being our mean-spirited, overly critical, judgmental, asshole voice in our head. I’m sure you know who I’m talking about, right? We all have a “She”. Let’s just say “She” is part of our human experience.
But here’s the thing, we don’t have to believe everything (or anything!) “She” says. In fact, we shouldn’t, because “She” is basically a compulsive liar. Let me explain.
“She” is so swift at having us believe that we are spoiled, ungrateful, worthless little brats that have absolutely nothing to offer anyone, ever, that we often stay hidden, play small, and never do what we really want to do in life, much less what we are meant to do, which is to love ourselves and others both fiercely and gently.
So how do I know she’s a liar? Because when I stop believing her, even for an instant, I SEE my brilliance. I am flooded with images of me twirling in delight on top of a mountain (cue The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music here), free, happy, and unchained. I FEEL my heart filled to the brim with LOVE! Perhaps even enough to heal the world! At least, in that instant, that’s what it feels like to be free of “She”.
So I wonder, what would happen if more people stopped believing “She” and instead chose to listen to their truer voice, the voice of their own brilliance? What could happen with the power of that energy? What if we were all twirling on the mountain? How could we use that force of light to transform our selves, our communities and our world?
To be free of “She” is to say NO to being dragged down and held back, so we can say YES to moving forward and being uplifted!
So what if the truth really isn’t what “She” says? What if the truth is something else altogether that has nothing to do with her and everything to do with you?
Who would you be if you didn’t believe her lies? How would your life change, starting today, if you focused solely on your voice, your light, your Truth? Can you set her free from her need to control you, in her attempts to keep you safe from living a courageous, vibrant life? Can you stop believing “She” long enough to release her to the wind, turn inward to the wise LOVE that infuses every ounce of your being, and be FREE?
I say, let’s live in a world free of “She”, twirling together on the mountain.
I want to write. To get it all out of me. To say what needs to be said. To explore and be brave and be heard and scream from the rooftops that I am worthy and capable and will do and make and be something magnificent. So here is what I have for you today.
We are here to learn, grow and evolve. This I know for sure.
Because LIFE (yes, life in all CAPITALS!) is constantly changing and isn’t that miraculous?
Every single day, the same sun rises…but it never looks the same. EVER. It never quite casts the same shadows or reflections onto the ever-changing but stable mountains, sidewalks, hills, or houses.
Our days begin and end with the same rhythm…the sun rises, makes it’s way across Earth’s face and
then sets again to reveal the moon. And yet, the world we step out into and wake up in is constantly different (especially with #45, but I digress). No two days are alike. No two moments are alike. And I can’t help but think what a miraculously beautiful gift we are given, every single second of every single day!
And so it is with us.
Each day we awaken a little bit older, a little bit closer to death, a little bit more life lived within our bones and blood. Some days we may be wiser than the day before. Other days, maybe not. But that’s not the point anyway.
The point is life goes on and it will keep going on, with or without us. (Sometimes that makes me sad, but that’s for another post). The beauty of this is we get to decide how and if and with whom we get to participate in this beautiful unfolding before us, around us, within us.
THAT is what will either make or break us. Some days, we awaken with a sense of purpose, drive or excitement. Other days, all we feel is dread. The dread of the same old sun rising over the same old landscape to do the same old thing…again and again and again.
And yet, if we take a moment to notice the subtle shifts in the landscape, we can see the nuanced changes in light and how the sun hits that peak or valley or stream or horizon with a glow or shadow or haze we didn’t see the day before.
And when we notice these ever-so-slight shifts in perspective, what do we actually see or gain or experience? Something new. Something that has not been known before. Something NOVEL. And why is this important? Because when we slow down enough to notice the new, the slight, the different, the change…we become present to what is. And what “is”, is Life. This thing we do every single day. We LIVE. Your life, my life, our lives. We are living, breathing and participating in this glorious experience together
And I care about this so much because just as the natural rhythms of our lives set the tone for change and stability, so do we in the way we live. If we’re lucky, we wake up every single day with another opportunity to participate in this “thing” we call life. But when this thing keeps changing, we need to change along with it, right? Can you imagine what would happen if we didn’t change? What that might do to our souls, our homes, our lives, and our relationships, to name just a few?
Here’s are some simple examples:
The weather changes (weather is a big deal here in Montréal), so we adjust our clothing, the tires on our cars, the shoes on our feet and the temperature in our homes.
Can you imagine if we didn’t adapt to the changes in weather? What would that look like? It would look like shorts and flip-flops when its -20 outside! Which means frostbite at best and literally freezing to death, at worst! (Although I honestly feel like I could freeze to death at my fathering-law’s house sometimes. BRRR!).
You become a parent, so you adjust your lifestyle. Again, what would it look like if you chose not to adjust? It would look like heading out to the movies without a care in the world and leaving babe behind, because OOPS, babysitters? Or partying like it’s 1999 and being wasted while babe is sleeping and may need your help during the night, but you’re actually too drunk to do anything. Um, not so cool, huh?
You get fired. Now what? If you don’t adjust and adapt, you just keep showing up at your old job until eventually someone calls security, right?
Look, I know I am giving some really basic and somewhat ridiculous examples, but the point is this: life is made up of a lot of really teeny-tiny insignificant moments but it’s also made up of some really freaking big ones. And it’s our privilege to adapt to both by consciously growing, learning and evolving as humans.
And that is whatI love about coaching. Knowing that we can change our level of happiness and satisfaction with life by being open to learning new ways of seeing our circumstances, our lives, our troubles, etc. By being curious enough to ask ourselves what needs adapting or shifting.
By being present enough to see how the changes are already happening around us and wanting to be in dialogue with those changes, as opposed to being in opposition to them.
Life is such a beautiful, ever-changing gift. Some days are really good. Some days are really hard. That’s ok. THAT is life.
Our power is in how we dance along to the changing tune of what we can’t control. THAT is where you’ll find your happy, joy, and freaking-killer dance moves.
Dance on, my loves. Dance on. xo