One year older. In anticipation of my birthday, I got a facial chemical peel, doing what I can to trick the aging clock. Or at the very least make myself feel a bit better as I elevate into another year.
Day three, I looked a bit like the Walking Dead. Skin cracking with every smile and grimace. And, peeling. Ay caramba. Peeling. Peeling off the dead and used skin to make room for the new. I tried helping it along, but the last bits seemed to be gripping on for dear life. Finally shedding when they were good and ready.
I took myself for a massage and afterward ran some errands where I got into a lengthy conversation with an adorable bud tender at a dispensary. I had a fleeting thought about the fact that I wasn’t wearing a stitch of makeup, something I would have never done not too long ago, not to mention the fact that I was still peeling like an orange.
And, it hit me. I didn’t care. In the past I would have gone out of my way to explain the peeling, etc. To explain and apologize for myself.
I was undone.
And, have to say I felt pretty damn good about it. As I approached this birthday in my 5th decade, I thought, isn't that kind of the goal, to be gloriously undone? That all of the work we do on ourselves as we mature in life, is really about becoming undone? Peeling back the layers of all of the various conditioning we’ve spent a lifetime applying. Because what is revealed, or left, when we’re peeled, undone, is nothing short of our true self.
As I noodle on my annual birthday post, culling shareable lessons I’ve learned, I’m thinking about what I’m shedding, what I’ve let go of at this point in my life, things I just don’t care about anymore, that no longer trigger reactions, internal nor external. And, also what I’m still gripping onto, old paradigms that still feel safe or patterned, no matter how stale and old they might seem. Some are new discoveries and all of them are snippets of truth.
It feels cathartic and appropriate, and at once welcome and dreaded.
Paying attention to how our body reacts. It’s often the best clue to our truth.
I’ve noticed that sometimes the first clue telling you whether you’re done with something, or not - whether it’s a habit, fear or behavior - is when you see it others. It got me thinking. When you see it so loudly in others, is it because it's echoing loudly within you as something you need to pay attention to, to work through? Or does it mean, seeing it so clearly play out in another, that you’re done with it in yourself, you’re ready to move on?
I would posit it’s both. If it’s a feeling of internal discomfort, like a stomach ache or feeling of agitation, then it’s likely a trigger telling you that it mirrors something in you, either something that you do or something you don’t. If you just feel done and it doesn't trigger a reaction, then you've processed it, moved past it.
A fellow meditator in Insight Timer had this quote next to her name: “Seeking and finding all the barriers within.” Indeed.
One that came up for me recently happened when I was with a friend who was asking for help in promoting her upcoming course, a course I’ve taken three times so really believe in. This woman is a very powerful asker. She easily puts it out there and asks often. It gave me a stomach ache. I shared this with her because that’s what we do with each other, putting it out in the open to examine.
Because, what this was, was a gift of discovery. I was uncomfortable with her powerful ask because I’m not comfortable asking. This isn’t new information. But, what was new is the first big lesson this past year I want to share.
Some Lessons in Un-ing
Not in an I’m-sorry-I-hurt-you kind of an apology. But, in the deep-rooted apology that we sometimes carry in our energy. Where we’re apologizing for ourselves. Do you catch yourself saying “I’m sorry” when it wasn’t really warranted? I’ve done it at times. And I cringe now when I see others do it as well. I see how it diminishes them, like they’re apologizing for their very existence.
My big aha came when I realized there are times when my ask has an apology built into it. Where I don’t say the words, but my energy is “I’m sorry, but do you have time to meet with me?” “I’m sorry but can I send you my script?” “I’m sorry, but do you have time to talk?” It’s disempowering and paralyzing. And, not an ask that requires a powerful positive response.
It’s apologizing for yourself in a way that hits one of the most basic core fears. I’m not enough. It’s fulfilling early conditioning of not wanting to impose ourselves on others.
My friend, the powerful asker, said that when she asks, she’s not thinking about herself, she’s thinking about what she’s sharing and how much it’s going to help the person or groups of people she’s asking. It’s a much more powerful intention behind the ask. It’s not a question if she’s enough.
So, no more apologizing. BTW, I have a stomach ache as I’m writing that. Hey, I’m working on it… Understanding it deeply, acknowledging it outloud, is the first step toward letting it go. Be unapologetic.
Releasing the need to prove yourself to anyone, including yourself, that’s being undefended. It’s truly shedding all pretenses and language that are used in defending yourself or proving your position.
Next time you feel the urge to say something like, “I’ve known that for a long time,” or “I’m the one who told her/him about that/to do that long before this person said…,” or “I’m better at…” take a closer look.
Here’s an invitation to take a look at your motive for saying it. Even if it’s the truth. Ask yourself, are you asking it to prove something? To defend yourself? Are you looking for some kind of validation? If so, try not saying it. Be undefended. Remove your guards. Can you imagine how much more real our relationships would be, as undefended? Be undefended.
“With an undefended heart we can fall in love with life over and over, every day.” Tara Brach
When you put yourself in the middle of someone else’s situation because you want to help, it’s easy to get emotionally entangled. It can be hard to extract yourself once you’ve placed yourself there. A dear old friend is in town this week and we got in a great discussion about this. She's the one who shed a powerful light on this notion of enmeshing and its ramifications. The process of becoming un-enmeshed starts with setting emotional boundaries for yourself, where you are still compassionate and helpful, but with a healthy detachment. Be un-enmeshed.
When no is just a no, or a yes is just a yes, without feeling the need to explain why you’re saying no or yes, that’s freedom. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. Try it. Thank you, but no. No more unnecessary explaining. Be unexplained.
Where you feeling burdened? To be unencumbered is to be burden-less. When something is burdening, look at what you’re receiving from it, because you’re receiving something or you wouldn’t be doing it, or allowing it.
If it’s unhealthy, unburden yourself. If you can’t, if it’s very real obligation, sometimes it’s a simple shift in feeling or intention. Are you providing a service, something that’s serving someone else’s highest good? Unencumbering is either releasing the burden or reframing it in a way that serves. Be unencumbered.
I really felt this one at my class reunion this year. I found it fascinating to hear about what old classmates have done in their lives, and while the launching pad may have been “what do you do?” it became, for me, about their passions and what still brings a sparkle to their eyes. I didn’t care in the least about what some may have perceived as labels, or accomplishments that came with labels.
I had a slight trepidation heading into the event as I wore one of my labels across my forehead - childless - as so often the discussion would turn to family. But, I quickly realized that I was the one who placed it there and I was the only one focused on it. Letting that go and just being present erased the label. The truth is, I am, but it’s not a label. It’s a important part of me that has shaped my path.
I also noticed how some, one in particular, fell back into old labels. “That was my nemesis in high school,” dredging up old resentments that clearly still weighed. That one was really loud, as in I’m so done with that. Let it go, it was forty years ago! So, be unlabeled.
“Supposed to” is passive, as in it’s a directive that’s happening to me, rather than a directive I’m helping navigate. It means ”I’m not the one in charge." As if someone or something else is dictating. It reflects the feeling of "required to", as in, follow the rules. It's confining, rigid. You’re not “supposed to” do anything. Making it more about your intention or deep desire is empowering and self-directive. Be un-supposed.
So, on my birthday I’m embracing the un’s. Because, what’s left, shining and fresh and real as a resulting of the un-doning, is the feeling of true self-ness, that of self love.
It is the best gift you can give yourself. Any day. Any time.