31 August, 2010

Dirty Harry

August plays a mean game of chicken. With September barreling toward us like a runaway freight train, August holds its ground like Dirty Harry in a desert town. "This town's not big enough for both of us", August sneers, its eyes squinting at the hot sun as a tumbleweed rolls on by. And September screeches to a halt, idling at a distance and biding its time. Like Clint Eastwood in those infamous Dirty Harry movies, there is something audacious and unapologetic about August. It doesn't care if there is work to do, plans to make or logistics to coordinate. It doesn't need your permission or approval. It really doesn't. With its heat and seductively beautiful days, August squeezes the last days of summer out of us and we are the better for it. We instinctively know that there is wisdom in the mandate of August to resign and resist sneaking peaks at the freight train waiting just outside the town line. "Stick with me, kid", August says, "it'll be waiting for you when I'm done."

13 August, 2010

Seek Out A Little Solace

It's a radical act to strike out on your own. On purpose. With intention. And yet, however terrifying that prospect might seem, I am firmly convinced it is elixir for the soul. Keeping good company with your own self is an exercise in unconditional love. Free from the distractions of prater and chatter, cell phones and wifi, friends and foes, the hum of our own operating system can be heard.

Every year, sometime during the week of my birthday, I take myself away for one night and two days. I started doing this the year I turned 39 and it's become something of a ritual. I always go to the same place up the coast. Every year on the day I leave it rains. And the kids whine and beg me not to go. And awful stories swirl around in my head about being selfish, inflicting unnecessary stress on my family and spending money on myself that could go toward something else. Something more important. But I somehow muster the fortitude to drag myself out of the house, into the car and up the coast.

When I tell this to people - friends and clients - I get a lot of "well, that must be nice..." or "I wish I could do that, but it would be so hard to get away." Let me tell you right now, "nice" is not the word I would ever use to describe that journey, and it's never ever easy to get away. Ever. It's rugged and it takes every ounce of courage I have. But having fulfilled that commitment to myself for three years now, I am a believer. It's so worth the angst, the sweat and the money. It's my annual anchor and it deeply nourishes my spirit and soul.

Each year, I have many rituals I go through and very clear intentions for my time away. Some of them soothe my soul so I relax and some of them stir the pot and agitate me into a state of clarity. The best description of what I do, however, I found in the KT Tunstall song, Someday Soon:

Think it's time to put myself away
Seek out a little solace
Close the doors and sit a while
And walk a little

As I put my words away
The flow slows...

It is this same belief that inspired me to offer Homecoming: A Women's Retreat back in 2008 for the first time. Forty-one women joined me at that retreat back then. This October, I will be holding the retreat again and it's likely we'll have twice that number. It seems that "radical' is the new black. More and more women are putting firm stakes in the ground and are carving out time for themselves. Look at what a phenomenon Eat, Pray, Love has become (it opens today, by the way...)

Will it be hard to pull yourself away? Sure it will. Might you feel awkward or self-conscious at first? Of course. But that won't stop you, will it? Because if you're reading this, you're a believer, too. And if you need a bit of encouragement or a primer, check out this awesome YouTube video called Learning to Be Alone. It's a thing of beauty and calls to each of us to see ourselves as such.

05 August, 2010

The Flip Side of Anger

I’m quite confident I’m going to kick the hornet’s nest on this one, but let’s get it out there and see what happens, shall we?

I think anger gets a bad rap these days. It’s not surprising that this emotion is feared, denied, repressed and shushed. After all, “anger” has become almost synonymous with “violence” and it’s so pervasive these days, who in their right mind would become a “fan” of that page, eh?

But I was thinking about anger today. And actually feeling a bit sorry for it. I think it’s one of the most misunderstood emotions we have because it spends so little time in the light of day. It’s shunned and left to fend for itself in the darkness, mumbling in the cave and scuffing up the dirt in frustration like a petulant child. I don’t blame it – I’d be a bit ornery, too, if I were that devalued and misunderstood. Because at its essence, Anger is just really another form of energy, isn’t it? Unlike “violence”, Anger is not a behavior, it’s an emotion. It’s an emotion with Tabasco sauce sprinkled on top. And it generally has something for us to hear. Something that’s coming from a deep and meaningful place – like lava rising up from the depths and spilling out over the rim of the volcano.

I’ve been tracking Anger for a while now – in myself and in my clients – and I’ve come to actually appreciate it much, much more. And here’s why: it signals passion, conviction and a willingness to take a stand, draw a line and make a change. For a coach, this pay dirt when working with a client because all of the sudden we have access to a reservoir of potential energy for change that had previously been contained. Someone giving voice to their anger is a powerful thing to witness. Often it unfolds like a fiddlehead in the spring…beginning with sadness, maybe with a pinch of disappointment thrown in, then making its way gradually into annoyance and then finally entering into the realm of downright anger. Upon entry into that often “forbidden” land, I often see clients make passionate proclamations, and then clamp their hands over their mouths, their eyes wide and startled-looking as they kind of giggle at themselves. I love that place in working with clients…helping them to hold onto that which can be slippery and saying, “oh, hi there…well, well, well…what have we here…?” And then we listen. Deeply.

In writing this, I am reminded of that awesome book by Judith Duerk called A Circle of Stones (the very same book that was the inspiration for the title of my blog). In it, she poses the question: "How might it have been different for you if, earlier in your life, the first time you as a tiny child felt your anger coming together inside yourself, someone, a parent or grandparent, or older sister or brother, had said, “Bravo! Yes, that’s it! You’re feeling it!”

It’s about naming it. Honoring it. Bringing it out into the light of day. And listening to what it has to tell you. And then watching as it dissipate back to nothing. What it we were to stand before it and receive its gifts with a more loving and trusting heart rather than running from it, looking over our shoulder with fear? My guess is we’d be a mite more healthy.

What’s your take on it? Go ahead. I already gave the hornet’s nest a big ‘ole kick. They’re going to be angry at me, not you.