When vulnerability is your dance partner

 image by Kinga Cichewicz at unsplash

image by Kinga Cichewicz at unsplash

I spend a lot of time helping people get really intimate with the ways that vulnerability operates in their lives. 

We're talking down and dirty, full-body mud-wrestling, rather than a limp, politely offered handshake.

Today, my friend and colleague Petra Velzeboer, pressed a button, and the conversation we recorded months and months ago, is live on the inter webs, as part of her 'Adversity to Advantage' podcast.

Crazy fool that I am, I chose to share my infertility story as my adversity. 

Just a little light press of a button with Petra's index finger (I say this for dramatic effect, I didn't actually check...) and a part of my story and sharing out there, for folks to hear, should they feel inspired to listen.

And not the tidy tale where I've got it all under control, either. 

It's so much easier to share the carefully crafted image of the identity we've created for ourselves, who we think we should be, with carefully edited thoughts and opinions.

It's much, much harder, to let people see the parts we wish they wouldn't see. 

Blimey, sometimes it's hard to admit them to ourselves.

The things we're really thinking.

What we're really feeling. 

Especially if they're 'unpopular' feelings. Envy, hostility, disgust, disappointment, shame.

The old me would rather have eaten my own head than let anyone know that I felt anything less than rainbows-and-unicorns most of the time.

The current me has learned though, that letting people see us, real and messy, in process, alive and (like all of us) finding our way through this crazy, beautiful world, is the only way to go if we want to create a deeper connection.

And trying to edit my truth is like trying to squeeze a normal sized foot into a teeny tiny Cinderella glass slipper.

Uncomfortable, impossible, unnecessary and painful.

I've learned that when I hide parts of myself in order to fit in, or look better to others, I'm betraying myself and I'm not helping the people in my life know who I am, really, either.  Hiding, if you like.

Healthy vulnerability is about my willingness to be seen, in the ways that I choose to share, and with the people I trust enough to tell my story. Or - in this case - in being willing to be known by whomever listens, just-as-I-am. 

(We do need a good support network, I've learned. The ability to call on people who will champion and cheer us on, tell us the truth, love us in our imperfectly perfectness.)

When I'm not feeling rainbows and unicorns, I'm able to use the feelings from what's difficult, edgy or not-what-I-want, as creative rocket fuel to write a new story for myself.

I am the person who stopped wishing wistfully for the life she thought she should be living, and started living and creating from the one she was actually in.

Turning round the unwanted, to face the wanted. 

Denying that stuff just keeps us stuck and small, with no room to expand, transcend, evolve.

So listen if you must. 

:-)

 

Inherited stories.

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 11.33.53.png

I was blessed this week to have a little piece of my family history land in my hands, after a tin of old papers emerged from my late Mum's belongings.

Filled to the brim with newspaper cuttings, with yellowing, history-seeped papers documenting the coming, joining, separating and passing of human lives - those of my great-grandmother and great-grandfather, and the grandfather I never knew and who was rarely talked about. Like an ancestry paper-chain, we are connected through time and space, despite never actually meeting in the flesh.

Something that caught my attention was a note from my great-grandmother, Freda Annie, written to my gran Marjorie (that's her and me together in the pic above), telling her where to find the money 'in the sock tin' in the event of something happening to her. In my grandmother's handwriting on the back of the envelope was  a note: 'we mustn't tell the National Assistance'.

Since I can't ask my mum or gran, I have to make up the story that this was a note to remind someone, or herself, that there is danger in telling Them that There Is Money about. That somehow there will be less. That someone might take it away. That the safest place for money is in a sock tin. 

I'm so moved by this link with my ancestors, and the women I never knew, but without whom I would never have existed.

It left me wondering about how much of our ancestry we collect, inherit, absorb and hold onto in what we do, say and think every day.

I know that one of my things to master in this lifetime has been my relationship with 'enough-ness'.

Scarcity is not my friend, but has been my consistent companion throughout life, a bit like the summer-WASP-IN-THE-CAR scenario, only less frantic and not nearly as obvious. Definitely unwanted though.

There's not enough.

I  haven't had enough sleep.

I don't know where to find clients.

I'm afraid to leave my uninspiring job in case there's nothing else out there for me.

I haven't got enough money.

I can't afford it.

Someone's going to take it all away.

You can't trust authority.

WHOA! Pattern interrupt :) Let's just stop this train of thought right here.

 

We don't have to perpetuate our family-ar belief systems. 

We can halt that right now.

We can choose again, here and in this moment.

Is there some effort required in rewiring our brains and in thinking new thoughts and creating new beliefs? Yes.

Is it do-able? Absolutely.

It starts with the light-bulb moment of all we've inherited.

Join me in turning our lights on?


I work with vibrant people who are creating brilliant things and being brave with their lives. We'd love to have you join us for an in-person workshop, in the heart of the Lake District. Bookings are open for Rising Strong in March 2018 and The Daring Way in April 2018.


Me too, and Moving to.

mohamed-nohassi-186911.jpg

I don't have all the answers, about the recent 'me too' wave sweeping Facebook.

I've been grappling with what I really believe, based on my own experience. Writing it down will be an attempt to get clear, for me. If it helps you too, awesome. I'm not professing to be The Authority on how people should feel or respond.  I'm not intending to offend or upset anyone with this post. I'm not looking for outside answers, or advice.

There were two questions I've been grappling with this week, after working through some private stuff about my own teenage years resulting in sexual shame I think I've carried for years! By that I mean some stuff that happened that I have always classified as 'not abuse and not nearly as bad as what others have experienced'. Downgraded, ignored, minimised.

Well, this week, it popped up in a big way.

This inner work, and the Harvey Weinstein thing, have unearthed what has been taking up a huge part of my inner world for the past 30 odd years - and I've only realised and opened it up fully this week. It's been a bit of a street-fight in my psyche this week - think I'm emerging victorious now, you'll be glad to know :)

I work with people a lot who have 'not good enough' issues tied to things that happened in childhood or in teenage years.

There's this beautiful moment I notice when someone is telling me their story - saying the thing out loud that they never told anyone else - they had judged it (them) as so wrong, so unsayable. it's like the sun coming out on their face - they look younger, brighter, more luminous. I tell them they look different. They say 'I know! I feel different'. There is always relief. Like the sun coming out after a storm. 

And - I've always been drawn to ideas that this is an 'attractive' world - that it matters where we focus and how we use our words and thoughts and feelings to create what we want. So I've been grappling with my dilemma about what I truly believe about how to empathise to best serve my clients, whether focus on my own wounds is healthy, or necessary. I realised I don't need to listen to what others are saying. I need to FEEL my own way through this, come to my own truth.

When I empathise with someone, truly empathise - I'm not just seeing them where they are - I'm knowing that something is transforming into something else. The stuck energy into a new understanding. Alchemy. Phoenix-like. Transformation. Shifting consciousness.

I like Carolyn Elliott's description of 'illuminative empathy' - the art of the art of being compassionate with someone in a way that expands their perspective on their situation and gives them new choices, a new way to see themselves, and new horizons to pursue.

I don't see them as a victim, I don't feed any victim-mentality. I name the pattern, the energy I sense, so that they can recognise it too, if they're ready.  I think holding people accountable is more effective than blaming, offloading hurt, or shaming. 

I want to help my clients know their power. I want to know my power - to choose my focus, to initiate and stay with my healing, to RISE, to tell a new story. An empowering one.

It feels like this is happening for the collective, right now. Paradigm shifts of healing and transforming, a bit like when panning for gold - the lighter gold rises to the top, leaving the dirt at the bottom. I hope, I believe, I sense, that the gold is rising.

To a place where we treat each other with kindness, and love, and one-ness. A new, global way of being.

I find myself seriously entertaining the idea that we are one big ocean. Different drops, but one big ocean. 

I want to uplift and be an uplifter.

I want to feel high, amazing, happy, joyful, free.

I want to know my power to do the work, to heal, to expand, to take responsibility for my experience of it. Yes, someone did some things. Yes people should be held accountable. Yes, it's important to be clear about what's okay and what's not okay.  Yes, there is healing required on both sides.

I want to do the work of my own healing.  I want to stand in the fire with my clients as they face their 'fire'. It's getting harder not to have my coaching and workshop work not be about deep healing, whether it be one to one, or group, or corporate work. Something shifting.

I want to feel powerful, not give my power away by holding onto past hurts without healing them. I want the deep heaviness that gets carried around in our bodies, to be lifted and fly away like a billion shimmery butterflies, transforming into something lifted, lighter, freer.

Yeah, I think I'm a bit clearer :)

Stop resisting life

 photo courtesy of visitscotland.com

photo courtesy of visitscotland.com

I'm reading Kyle Cease's new book 'I hope I screw this up' and realising something really important about how I experience my life.

So much of it is in my head - with worries about what people think, am I doing it right, what SHOULD I do next,  second guessing myself and my decisions, looking to others for guidance about what's right for me. 

This is not a place where life flows. It's a place where I resist life. 

When I'm in my head, the priorities are staying small, under the radar, not being seen and keeping safe. And many times thoughts of scarcity and caution. The thoughts are usually based on an old script instead of noticing what really wants to happen in the moment and trusting that feeling. I'm not present to what's happening AT ALL, I'm just living in a story in my head.

Like when we were on a sunny walk yesterday on the beautiful Scottish coastline, and stopped for a playful and delicious ice-cream on the way back to the car. I noticed my judgement about shouldn't really have one, my head's attempt to judge something that was about to bring me great pleasure as 'wrong' somehow. 

Instead, I choose the wild abandon, risk-taking and savouring that I would prefer to have and that goes with saying a 'hell yes' to the ice-cream my body wants to have.

I wonder where else that little voice of caution and judgement stops me having a really, really good time

When I let my heart lead, the guidance is softer, quieter, gently persistent.

Flow with life, it says. Stop resisting the present moment.

Eat the ice cream.  Savour the soft breeze on your face. Enjoy the company you are with. Notice the sparkle on the water and the frothy aliveness of the surf. Absorb the full-on joy of the dogs splashing as they bound and chase each other through the shallow water. Just this moment.

Say 'yes' to life.

 

How telling a room full of strangers I had sweaty armpits created magic

I'm standing at the front of the room, about to run an interactive session about failing and getting up again, being real, and living your life with your whole self. 

It's Saturday. There are about 30 people sitting on chairs facing me, in a school classroom just north of Newcastle, for the Spring ChangeCamp. They are mostly therapists, change-makers, coaches, and people who are interested in human behaviour and change. 

I make up that they will have high-expectations.

I want them to feel something really powerful - the truth of this work and this way of being. I know I have the courage to be seen, I know I am good at this work, I have prepared some stuff for them. I kind of know where the session will go and where it'll end up.

I'm playing my own 'arena' playlist as they come into the room. I know music makes me feel really good. I try not to mind that 'sexy and I know it' is playing as the bulk of the people come in. I wonder for a fleeting session if they will mind my eccentricity and occasional-bursting-into-dance, just cos it feels good.

I start talking. I welcome them into the room and tell them a little of my story. Perfectionism, can't-be-with-failing, disowning those parts of myself I judge as undesirable, blah blah.

My heart is pounding right out of my chest.

My mouth is really dry, suddenly.

I notice that my armpits are sweaty (oh no, did I shave my armpits this morning?) and I feel the pulse and force of the present moment, as I stand before these lovely people. The moment, the space of anticipation, where they have no idea what will come next - I am the guide, the midwife for the unfolding of the next hour and twenty minutes.

I am talking but I have to stop and breathe. I realise I can barely catch my breath! 

A few years ago, I might have tried to create the very best impression possible. One of the super-composed, well-prepared and holding-it-together presenter/facilitator. The one with dry armpits, a steady and calm heartbeat, poised and ready to develop a brilliant presentation that will wow them and won't make me feel too exposed and uncomfortable in the process. A good distance in the connection between me, and Everybody.

These days, I know too much about how that way of being doesn't deliver RESONANCE, and MAGIC, and allow us to be MOVED by our humanity and vulnerability. 

That way of being is small, and held-back and careful.

So these days, when I'm presenting or facilitating, I just 'do' real, and messy, and whole, and magnificent.

[Come back to the presentation]. So I don't pretend.

I tell them what I don't want them to know about me, in that moment.

I tell them I can barely breathe, that my heart is pounding, that I've got 'sweaty pits' (sorry, audience. It is entirely possible that was an 'overshare'). 

I tell them I love this work, and that I want to be brave with my life and work and in sharing my message with them.

I tell them I want for them the feeling of freedom that comes with being who we are, mess and sweaty pits and all.

I offer myself to them, in that moment, just as I am. I surrender to the moment, because it feels so good, I feel so free, and I can give myself to the moment and give all I have, because I'm being topped up with a constant source of inspiration and presence, in that moment.

Because I'm not trying to work it out or thinking. I'm just being, sensing, responding to the dance in the room, and creating from that.

And then they do an exercise where they help each other focus on moments of success and flourishing, and moments of disappointment and failure and the gifts they brought to those moments, helping each other see where they shine, naturally, with no effort at all, even where they would normally have judged themselves as failing, or in not being able to own their gifts even when they were shining.

And within a few minutes the room is abuzz with laugher, some tears, hugging, deep connection, brought about by compassion, and empathy, and being seen in their humanness as magnificent, and messy, and real, and amazing. Every one of those people had a story. Stories of sadness, and tragedy, and heartbreak, and love, and wonder, and dreaming, and power, and wanting to create. 

They are magnificent.

And I know that they were more able to be magnificent because I was able to let them see me, in mine, even in my exact messy state in the moment I started my session with them. I know it because I see it and feel it on every single Daring Way and Rising Strong workshop I deliver. And the more I experience it, the harder it gets to be the old way, where I have to look good or competent, and be perfect, and prepare, and need-to-know.

And I wanted to move them along quickly, since this exercise had not been intended as such a big part of the main session, but the group told me 'no'. We want to have this conversation. We will not be moved on quickly.

They told me this with their words, with their energy, with their eyes, and their pleas for 'more time'. They told me by the way I could not enter the small group discussions. They were on 'lock-down' as they created deep connections and sharing together, just like I had invited them to do.

So I just stayed at the front of the room, standing and resting against a desk, for another 25 minutes, and noticed what was happening. What happens when we create a strongly-held intention for healing and miracles, and then get out of our way and let it come.

When we notice when our usual industriousness-in-preparation for something feels like more effort than is required (as it had done for me in the weeks leading up to ChangeCamp), and that we feel like if we just show up and create a space for people to connect at a deep level - they will do the work of their own healing.

We will create connection, with those conditions, because we are human and we are hard-wired for connection.

Whatever's wanting to happen will happen.

I sat at the front of the room, revelling in the ease and synchronicity, and what can happen when we are fully who we are, when we don't hold ourselves back with fears of being seen a certain way (perfect presenter with calm heartbeat and dry armpits) and we say 'look! I'm really really here with you in this moment. I'm willing to be truly seen, because I care more about this other thing, and feeling FULLY ALIVE. And I think you want to feel that way too.'

It's possible that some people didn't have a rich or deeply-touching conversation, I know that. 

But people came to me afterwards and said that they had experienced some magic. That they got the sense of 'doorways opening'. That they had goosebumps. That being around me 'did something' to them, that they felt a magnetic force.

One lady told me that she felt like I was talking about her, just to her, as I shared my old way of being around wanting to be perfect, wanting to know all the answers, wanting to look like I know what I am doing, never wanting to get things wrong or fail. For those who resonate with this work, the feeling is really really strong. I think that's the power of the research - because it's so rooted in people's lived experience. Anyway. It's powerful, and undeniable.

All I know, is the more I show up for this work, the more magical it feels, the more ease I sense in the delivery of it, and the more I feel like I just have to give myself permission to be real, be present, and trust the transformation to unfold. It's challenging at times, and I feel exhausted afterwards, as I learn to rest more, to recover, after being that channel, but I can't stop now that I feel the power of being real, and messy, and being seen in my wholeness.

And if I have to do it with sweaty pits, so be it.

 

I would love to know about your experiences with being real, and feeling 'seen'. Feel free to share in the comments below.

I run workshops around topics like these - please see the Daring Way pages for details!

Like this? Please consider sharing it! Thank you.

Why we can tell when we're faking and what to do instead

  Image credit: Juskteez Vu at unsplash.com

Image credit: Juskteez Vu at unsplash.com

On my first coach training weekend, we did an exercise which changed the way I thought about myself for ever, and in the biggest way.

Picture the scene:

Sitting in a circle of about 6 people who met less than 48 hours ago.

Each person takes a turn for the others to tell them what they see in them, and then once that 'round' feels complete, what the others sense is possible in them, but not fully expressed right now.

We end up with a badge which had that word on it, and then went into another exercise where we (all at the same time) had to act that out - really being in the energy of the word we had on our badges. Throughout our coach training, we were often called to be more of that word.

Picture 25 people, acting as strippers, studs, leaders, poets, storytellers, the sea, the sun, grandfather time, wise sages, princesses, kings, queens, bastards and clowns. All at the same time. 

You're curious what my word was, right?

:)

Mine was METEOR. 

It was about bright light, power, stars, magic and massive impact.

Boom. 

Just like that, I recognised a part of me I had not been owning up until that point. But I knew, with every cell in my body, that what they were seeing was there in me.

I also learned a really powerful lesson about how I experience other humans, and this is it:

We can intuitively sense the truth of each other.

My beautiful coaching comrades had seen in me, an aspect of me that even I wasn't fully aware of (but had spent most of my adult life trying to hide).

Even when we have been covering up or hiding, the person we really are, or editing ourselves to fit in, or please, or keep others at an emotional distance, other people can already recognise the qualities in you, that make you, you.

Who you are speaks more loudly then what you are doing to cover up who you are, for fear of judgement, separation, or disapproval.

And from my facilitation of the Daring Way workshops I've realised we can not only feel the truth of a person, the qualities that make them who they are - but we also sense it when they hold themselves back, and are hiding or editing themselves.

We don't know what is being hidden, but we feel the dissonance of a person, we sense that there is more, or that the person being represented is not necessarily the person who is inside.

And that prevents true connection from happening.

Because which edited version of you, is connecting with which edited version of me?

The belonging that we seek through presenting a more pleasing version of ourselves, isn't actually available until we stop editing who we are. 

And when we stop trying to belong, and show up just as we are, seeking to give, and contribute,  we suddenly find we belong in the places where we really fit.  

With ourselves. 

With the people who feel more like 'our people'.

That's 'cos they can see us, for real, and we feel the integrity inside.

And when we stop hiding, stop editing, and allow ourselves to be seen, it can feel risky, because we fear disapproval or disconnection, yes. But what happens when you take that risk is that people feel the truth of you (that they already sensed) and true connection can happen, because the true you is meeting the true 'them'.  

That's resonance.

We can already feel who you are.  Let us have more of the full-on, unapologetic version of you - it's already more amazingly genius than any kind of editing could accomplish.

 

Does this idea land with you? Do you recognise where you say or do things which aren't really aligned with who you are? What happens? What would be on your badge? 

Want to come and explore more topics like this? There are a couple of places left on the next Rising Strong™ workshop in Penrith, Cumbria, on 3+4 March 2017. We'd love to welcome the real you.

Why you'll never be alone in a fitness class - lessons from Moky

When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves.
— Brene Brown
 just a couple of foxes comparing pom-pom techniques after class...

just a couple of foxes comparing pom-pom techniques after class...

I absolutely love my weekly dose of Moky awesome.

If you're not Cumbrian, let me give you a little background.

It's described as a "fun dance workout which uses big chart hits and easy to follow dance moves designed to give a fun but intense cardiovascular and full body sculpting workout".

I can't say I'm body-sculpted (there's still time) but I can vouch for the fun and intense part.

All shapes, all sizes, all abilities, whether you're co-ordinated or not, it really doesn't matter. As long as you're whooping and smiling and moving.

I once thanked Moky's founder, Shameem, for creating something that was so important and wonderful in my life. She told me that having fun and making people feel amazing was always the intention.

It's not just a dance workout class though.

It's an opportunity to let yourself go, to whoop, to rave, to party on, to dance like nobody's watching. 

To dance like a cheerleader complete with pompoms.

To thrust your boobs-belly-bum provocatively in the name of dance. Or maybe just hootlessness. 

To hustle like you're a member of Pans People (young Moky-goers will need to look that up. Here you go. Welcome.)

Even when how you think you look, and how you actually look, don't add up.

Whatever age you are. Even if you're more 'cheerio than 'cheerleader'.

Sometimes our Thursday class will see up to thirty, sweating-like-a-pig feeling-like-a-fox,  beautiful women, showing up and being seen at class, even when they're not sure of the routine, or the song, or the steps, or their left and right, or their forward and back,  or whether they are whooping too loud or not whooping loud enough. 

Or whether that chest pop was too.... chest-poppy.  

Or whether their whoop isn't at the right pitch, or length, or tone, or maybe it's more of a 'yeah' than a whoop.

Or maybe they whooped when no-one else did. I've done that and man, that's all the Awkward Feels.

But we're showing up, in all our sweaty, messy, imperfectly jiggly magnificent forms. That's courage, my friends.

Honestly, sometimes when I'm in the back row, I look at these women and love and glitter just shoot out of my eyeballs at how magnificent they are and by association, I am, JUST FOR SHOWING UP. 

To get to class, we had to get on our sports bras and spandex pants (you know who you are) and walk into that room and sometimes smile at people who we don't know very well.

We had to show up even if we're not sure we've got life or Moky all figured out. To sometimes stand in the room trying to look like we're okay when we're wondering if we really fit in, or have something interesting to say, or will belong with the bigger group.

Sometimes we just left a screaming child, or troubles at home, or a terrible day at work, or a health problem, or a sore back, or deep grieving, to come to class.

Sometimes, it took all our willpower to take the time for ourselves, to dance, to laugh, to move our bodies, to sometimes wish our pelvic floor muscles were a little stronger. To show up anyway.

Seeing my Moky buddies from the back row really ticks my 'common humanity' boxes, for all these reasons. That, and they're my tribe.

Sometimes, I think other thoughts, at the other end of the am-I-doing-this-right spectrum.

Of how I might be doing the steps too well, because I was always blessed with being able to pick up dance routines quickly.

Of how I worry sometimes about what other people think of me, and that maybe instead of whooping like a banshee and channelling Beyonce like a diva, I should perhaps tone it down a bit, in case I'm too much or too loud.

As my Mum would say when I was six and getting changed behind a towel at the beach: "no-one's looking at you!".

[The six year old me is certain that they were.]

These days I can catch my thinking early and make sure I'm saying something kind and encouraging to myself. Like - you go girl! Or - you have full permission to enjoy yourself! Or - it really doesn't matter if you went left there. Or - Dance to the beat of your own drum, lovely.

It's ok to do Moky (and life) YOUR WAY.

Given my historical tendency to prioritise getting things right over having fun, Moky's taught me to lighten up, stop taking myself so seriously, be playful, AND not to tone myself down, as long as I'm having fun and not hitting anyone in the face with my enthusiastic pom-pomming.

No surprise that this dovetails so beautifully with the Daring Way and Brene Brown's work around living wholeheartedly.

When we can let go of being cool and always in control and give ourselves permission to act goofy, life gets more fun.

When we let go of perfectionism, we get to go easier and kinder on ourselves, which feels WAY better.

When we let go of caring about what others think, we get permission to be real, to be ourselves.

 

I once had a conversation with one of my Moky buddies who confided that she just wasn't able to find her voice, not just in singing or whooping out loud at Moky, but also in life. We had a giggle as she practised 'stealth-whooping' in songs where we knew lots of people would whoop so that she wouldn't feel so self-conscious. She later reported she had found her voice in a kick boxing class requiring some serious badassery in attitude and power, and after that things got a whole lot easier.

So if you're ever new to class, you're probably not the only one to ever feel out of your comfort zone or to be thinking those things you've been thinking.

And if you're showing up at one of our Moky classes - you belong with us.  You're in excellent company, you foxy thing.

 

I would love, love, love to know what your fitness class stories are in the comments below.

I run workshops around topics like these - please see the Daring Way pages for details!

Like this? Please consider sharing it! Thank you.

on rumbling with grief and owning our heartbreak

  I've chosen this pic because I think you can see the love and magic that exists in a person - this person - as seen through my cousin Daisy and Archie's eyes. Every child knows a Magic Fairy when they see one :)

I've chosen this pic because I think you can see the love and magic that exists in a person - this person - as seen through my cousin Daisy and Archie's eyes. Every child knows a Magic Fairy when they see one :)

Ask anyone who has lost someone they love and you'll probably find it's been the hardest thing they've ever faced.

Ask me, here, today, as we approach the 2 year anniversary of my Mum's sudden illness and death 8 days later, and I'll tell you I can't do anything about the visceral response I have when I allow my memory to go to the way she stroked my curls in her last hours, or the tear I remember on her cheek that I willed to be not there at all.

It's like my insides turn to dust, and drain out down through my body and out through my feet.

The sobbing comes from deep within my chest, up through my chest like a water feature, and then out through my eyes as tears.

My crying is in waves, and has a voice. It isn't pretty.

That's what research suggests too - with Brené Brown finding through her fifteen years research into human experience and emotion.

"Grief is perhaps the emotion we fear the most. As individuals, we are afraid of the darkness grief brings.

As a society, we have pathologised it and turned it into something to cure or get over.

Owning our stories of heartbreak is a tremendous challenge when we live in a culture that tells us to deny our grief".

 

As all well-trained coaches know, we've got to feel what we're feeling, so I tried today 'rumbling' with my grief, alongside the Rising Strong process that Brené talks about in her book of the same name. 

She describes three parts of grief, and I'm exploring them here.

Loss

You know that feeling you get when you think you have lost your phone, and the relief when you find it? That's what I think of when I think of loss. Every time I remember my Mum isn't anywhere that I can physically touch or speak to her, I get the rush of her loss all over again.

The main thing I feel I lost is the relationship with my Mum.  

It doesn't matter how many times I'm told she's still with me in spirit, or in my heart, and no matter how much I agree with that,  she isn't here in person, and that's the thing that causes me the pain of loss.

I could choose a different perspective, but the feeling is still there.

It's too big to shift away from the fact that she isn't here any more, in physical form. I can't deny I feel that, if I want to move through it. The pain of that story will define me, if I don't own it.

Longing

I was on a Skype call with a friend this morning, already planned before I knew how I would be feeling, and as I started the call I explained my puffy eyes and snotty disposition. It resonated with her so strongly that in the first 60 seconds of the call we were both snotty messes, crying and laughing with the sadness and shared humanity of having lost our Mums.

She said:

'it's the longing, for me, that is hardest, I think, even after 14 years'.

It has the power to take our breath away, that involuntary yearning for a touch, or a look, or a smell, that defies rational thinking and that is really hard to explain. It doesn't make any sense, because you know you cannot touch what you have lost, you cannot regain it in the same way.

Yet, it exists.

Feeling Lost

We have to reorient ourselves to be in the world without the one we've lost. Who are we now, that the person has gone?

Who am I if I'm not a Daughter?  Who am I if I am not a Mum nor a Daughter? Motherhood and Grief has been a frequent visitor and theme in my life.

How am I supposed to be now that I don't have those conversations we used to have, those private jokes and histories?

I realise through rumbling with my grief that if I want to experience the unconditional love I felt from my Mum, I've got to create that for myself.

If I want the magic she brought, it's mine, now, to make.

If I want to experience her generosity, I'd better get on and do something generous.

Only when we honour what we lost, do I believe we can heal.

 

Rumbling here has helped me realise there is a 'clean pain' of grief that feels to me to be whole, and cleansing, and healing. And when we feel it fully, when we welcome it as a natural and necessary response to loss, it doesn't get to drive us from an undercover place, and it passes in waves and eases.

I can choose not to suffer by thinking thoughts that feel bad or that go over painful memories, since there is only now, this moment, and in this moment, all is really well. We really are all in it together.

 

I teach around topics like this.  If you are interested in attending an in-person workshop in Cumbria, or commissioning a Daring Way or Rising Strong intensive workshop for your organisation, please contact me.

A letter to Mum (originally posted on jacsjenitzer.com in August 2015)

 A year ago, you messaged me to tell me you would be here in the morning to tidy up my house and snuggle the cat.You declined my invitation to join us at my Moky dance class, because you had a ‘rather nice casserole made’, but would see me in the morning. Almost exactly a year ago, Simon and I got the call that changed everything, when your dog came home from an evening walk by the stream, a place you loved, without you, which raised the alarm. My cries of denial are etched into our souls for ever.

 

This writing is intended to honour you as we approach the first anniversary of your passing. I’m just going to rampage it out. Maybe it will ease someone else's pain. I hope it does. It doesn't matter. I'm writing it anyway.

I learned this:

That there is a magic and aliveness in high dependency units, and places where life, literally hangs in the balance. Where one person’s family is being told hopeful news; another that their loved one is at the end of their life. That the staff there have hearts as big as the planet, and courage and sensitivity to hold space for the biggest range of human emotion and reactions. That people who loved me, found the courage to be present with me whilst I got lost in the drama of an intense time. That relationships deepen, when things are tough. That I have the best husband in the world. That friends and family matter. That when you work with a coach willing to witness your raw emotion, you find the way out, through, easier. That in later times, having a coach who is willing to share their own humanity,  helps to make sense of it all. We don't have to do it alone. That the heavy sorrow of grief, is like a dense, dark gravity, that pulled me downward and had me surrender to what is, in that moment. No where to get to, no where to hide. The bravest thing to do is to let it have its way with you. There is such healing in being still and feeling it all fully. That grief comes in healing waves, with the depth and vastness of the ocean and is a powerful and necessary part of the surrender. In the beginning, they came fast and frequently and threatened to pull me under with their strong current. Over time, they have become less frequent, but the intensity remains the same, when they come. One came this morning and insisted I write this post. That grief feels like love, and appreciation, and care, and courage. That it is painful, of course, but that the pain is caused by being broken open and because I loved someone. The love remains. That the feeling does have a bottom and we won’t get lost forever in it (promise). That I did find the courage to allow the exquisite intimacy of holding your hand and looking into your eyes, in your final days and hours, and let it be okay that you had a tear sliding down your cheek. I wanted to run from that, to not witness your sadness. I later realised it is okay to be sad when you know you are saying goodbye. To let people experience their experience. That for months afterwards, I would cherish the memories of the way you squeezed my hand or stroked my curls between two fingers, or touched the ‘dear daughter’ necklace you bought me years before. That I would rub away the wording by retracing, over and over, the place where your fingertips touched.

 

That hearing these things helps - that I will have been everything you needed at the end of your life. That showing up bravely is what I did, the best way I knew how. That grief will ebb and flow in its intensity. How other people loved and experienced you and the impact you had. That our relationship could continue 'beyond this temporal dimension'. Knowing that people were sad, that they were holding space for our sadness too. That there is deep intimacy in connecting over sadness in a way that the words 'I'm sorry for your loss' sometimes feel inadequate, in comparison. That I could continue, broken open, with a big wide open loving heart. That we need to grieve, and mourn our losses. That we gain empathy, because we have experienced the deepest sorrow, and we gain wisdom, because we will find parts of ourselves that we didn’t know we had. That in the first few weeks, I would be too sad to smile, or sometimes, move. That eventually I would be able to go to Moky, and let tears run down my face while dancing to Pharrell's 'Happy', and allow my partners in (dance) crime to hold me in my humanness and tell me I am doing so well, and share their stories of love and loss and let me be exactly where I am. We are hard-wired for empathy. That we are not permanent, in these physical bodies. Even though we act like we have a forever of tomorrows, stretching out ahead of us. That it both matters greatly, how I choose to spend my life, and also that it doesn’t matter at all – since there is no-where to arrive at, and I think it’s really about loving ourselves and others and being kind and enjoying ourselves. That we each get to make our own minds and hearts up about meaning. That I get to build something courageous and wonderful on the obliterated place that has been existing inside me, and that it might involve showing up wholeheartedly, and helping the world have more love in it. That, if I choose to, I can hear you saying ‘when I die, just throw me to the wind!’ and I can feel you when it blows. If I let myself believe that you are everlasting and the essence of you is free and expansive, I can find and feel for you there. You communicate now in white feathers, sunflowers, and ladybirds (we have a shared memory, from the time I collected a hundred of them when I was 7, and they escaped from my jewellery box overnight and were in my hair and bed)

 

That on the night you died, I felt euphoric. I felt you – the essence of you. The worst was happening, and yet I was feeling more clear, and alive, and purposeful than ever. That when you died, I realised that the only other person who could give me what you gave me, was me. That if I want the magic and unconditional love you gave me, I can give it to myself. I hope your spirit continue to be free, and that everyone who loves and misses you can feel your presence and love with every cell in their bodies. Love, Jacqui Anne.