Friday, May 25, 2012

Dealing with the Naysayers and Path Dictators

When I was 26, I decided I wanted to take a trip to Ireland. I'd never been to Europe before—had only traveled to the east coast of the U.S. twice—but I knew I wanted to see more of the world and decided that Southern Ireland would be the perfect place to start. (This was mostly based on an avid love of U2 music.) I talked a girlfriend into going with me and when I told my parents we were planning a trip, my dad looked at me and said, "You can't go to Ireland!"

I should have prefaced this story by saying that my family, although extremely well-meaning, isn't comprised of a bunch of adventurous world travelers. They love to vacation, but up until very recently they've stuck primarily to the western United States.

The thought of the youngest member going across the pond to a Foreign(!) Country(!) was just too much.

Had I said, "Okay dad—you're right it's dangerous," I'm sure I would have been rewarded with praise and affirmation. But I knew my path was meant to be different from theirs.

This was not the last time a member of my family tried to dissuade me from doing something I felt personally compelled to do.

The people around us have opinions about pretty much every move we make, don't they?

But no matter how well they know us, they don't know us like we know ourselves. They will never be able to interpret what feels authentically right to us the way we can. They cannot sense our intuition in their bellies.

It's hard to tune out their quacking sometimes. It's hard not to be obedient and follow the same paths our friends and family members have chosen. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that sometimes we have to hear again and again and again why we Really Should Be Doing THIS Instead.

What I've learned though, is that the risk of not obeying the Path Dictators and Naysayers is miniscule compared to the risk of not following our instincts. Doing what feels true and right to you—in your deepest knowing parts—will always yield a reward. And the people who really care about you will continue to be there after you set out on your divergent road. They may still squawk about it, but the ones who love you won't walk away.

And when they see how satisfied you end up from following your own heart instead of listening to their direction, the wags of their fingers will turn to pats on your back.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Other Side of 'Actions Speak Louder Than Words'

I was walking through the streets of Venice (California, not Italy) with a girlfriend recently, listening to the tangled complications of one of her relationships, when I found myself repeating one of my most favorite lesson lines to her: Actions speak louder than words. 

"But doesn't saying, 'I love you' count as an action?" she asked.


Well...sort of nope. Saying I love you is obviously a huge action for anyone to take, but it means nothing if it's not backed up by consistent, trustworthy, love-declaring behavior. Without that, it's just sound coming out the hole in someone's face.

After I left my friend, I started thinking less about the actions and words related to outward relationships and more about the ones we use in our relationships with ourselves.

Are you saying one thing and showing something else with your actions? 

For a time when I was single, I would talk about how I was totally open to dating! and ready! to meet the right guy!, but in reality, I wasn't putting myself out there to be open to ANY guys. I have friends who utter the phrase, "I know I deserve a great man," but then they settle for people who treat them subpar again and again. Whatever the scenario—professing to care about your career path but being too afraid to make a change to something you're truly passionate about or calling yourself a health nut then routinely depriving yourself of a good night's sleep or saying "I absolutely have my own best interest at heart" then putting everyone else's needs before your own—it can tell you a lot about how you're really treating yourself.

It's not just other people's actions that inform us of their true feelings for us. The actions we take to steer our own lives speak enormous truths about our own commitment to loving ourselves and finding real happiness. 

Want to change something in your life? Stop talking about it and take action!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Starting Point of All Good Things: LOVE

It was the summer of 2007 and I was camping with Mr. RedFlags in a beautifully lush state park in Oregon. He had retreated to our tent and I was lying on my back, on top of a picnic table, staring at the sky wondering what in the world I should do.

Leave or stay in the relationship.

RedFlags and I had been together over a year at that point; the majority of the relationship spent fighting, mistrusting, questioning, knowing it was the wrong fit for both of us but ignoring our own instincts. That night he had shared yet another story from his past that I just wasn't equipped to handle. His load was too much for me to bear.

So I rested on that splintery wood and prayed to God and the Universe for an answer on how to proceed.

What came to me under the canopy of June starlight was a single word: LOVE.

I thought, "Okay, that's the answer. I have to just love him. Help him. Save him. Try to accept all of these things that my heart keeps instinctively rejecting."

So I made the decision to stay. And it was ugly. And trying to love him didn't rescue either of us from the inevitable fall we had lined up to take. 

What I know now was that the word that came to me from some otherworldly instructor that night was right, but my interpretation of it was completely wrong.

It wasn't Mr. RedFlags who I was supposed to love, it was myself. 

I'm not here to say that we should abandon the people in our lives during times of struggle or split when we feel uncomfortable. I don't think that's it at all. I do think we should give our love freely, but if we're sacrificing the love we have for ourselves in the process, it's a recipe for disaster.

You can't be happy and love anyone else if you're not madly in love with yourself. 

Not a little bit in love, MADLY. You've got to know that you are the #1 most important person ever and that you deserve the best—or else all those little doubts and self-defeating thoughts will catch up with you and wreak havoc on your relationships and your own sense of well-being.

I believe that to get everything you want from this life, you have to start from a place of love. 

Want to attract a guy who adores you? Start by adoring yourself. Want to land a job where you're challenged (in a good way) and appreciated daily? Start by knowing what an asset you are. Want to find the perfect dress for that upcoming wedding you have to attend? Focus on how much you'll love wearing it and how excited you are that it fits perfectly.

I'm sure there will be times in my future when I look back up to a night sky and ask for guidance on how to move forward, and I may get an answer like I did back in 2007. Only this time, I'll know the meaning of it may be more than I first think.

Love on.