Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reunited and It Feels so Good!

Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
Veronica A. Shoffstall

Last week I ran into an old friend. I was eating dinner with my sister Emily at an awesome local Thai restaurant, when she came in. I felt her presence several moments before I actually saw her. She was radiant…full of light and just as I remember her from long ago…filled to the brim with unconditional love.

I knew her back when I was a kid. She was a kid too…but somehow always seemed a bit wiser…there was a grace about her…a word I wouldn’t have used then to label her, but an ease that just made everyone around her feel comfortable, safe and warm.

In sixth grade we parted ways. I began to heed the voices of the outside world…seeking the love I thought was missing from my life…in things, people and circumstances. During that process, she slipped from my life, as quietly as she came into it. Over the course of my sixth grade year, she would occasionally check in with me…humbly, patiently and without force…just a reminder that she was still my friend and always there for me should I need her.

Finally, in seventh grade, she disappeared altogether. I might occasionally think of her and receive in my thoughts a dim memory of our connection, but quickly I would redirect myself to the pull of adolescence and the rules of growing up.

When I was fifteen, I started running, first with my Mom and then by myself. It was during those solo runs that my ‘recalls’ of her began to escalate. Inevitably, somewhere during a six mile run, I would hear her voice--quiet, strong and loving. It was as if she and I were running together through the woods: in autumn, listening to our feet on red and dying leaves; in winter, feeling wet snow on our eyelashes; in spring, hearing the first call of cricket’s at sunset; and in summer, smelling the sweat of humid noon. At run’s end, I would with bittersweet tug of heart, leave my memory of her along with my running shoes on the back porch and head straight into my house of things, people, circumstances…hoping that somewhere in there I would find happiness, contentment and satisfaction. Somewhere in that house of pretty is as pretty does I would surely find the love I had felt when I was with her and would recall so sweetly during my time on the trails…the kind of unconditional love that heals, inspires and reveals our own brilliance.

When I was giving birth to my children, she dropped me a quick “Hello, I love you” kind of connection. Her words would sound out frequently in my thoughts, especially during those precious mother-moments of nursing, changing diapers and babies taking first few steps.

The first season of Girls on the Run, I ran into her enough that I began to think it a bit odd. I would see her while I coached. She would run by in a blur and call out my name from across the track. We would wave and for the hour I was with my girls I could feel her love rain down upon me, as if she was there. Her warmth was infinite and her presence was felt even though only in my memory of her.

So, when she walked into the restaurant and sat down with me and my sister, to stay for while, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. I had become increasingly aware of her presence and I had thought of her frequently. She had been a significant part of my life, even though I hadn’t told her so. She had been a source of strength for me…a reminder of love’s power and its ability to nourish joy…pull it up from seed to stem to blossom.

When she sat down to join us, I remember feeling for the first time in many, many years, the way I felt when I was friends with her back in elementary school. My heart felt as if it would lift right out of my chest and the immense amount of energy I felt was clearly palpable and present to those around me, particularly my sister.

The love I felt from her and for her was like a tidal wave washing through every cell of my body, each beat of my heart rising and falling with the joy of our reunion. When dinner was over, we walked out together, drove my sister back to her hotel and chatted some more. I poured my soul out to her, the fears I had felt for so long--the longing I had deep down in my soul for love and tenderness toward self and how elusive my search had been in outside sources…the frustrations I kept coming up against, trying to find it in people, things and even at times my work at Girls on the Run.

She held me close…that kind of embrace where loves flows from spaces never touched to those never known…and then she whispered.

“I’m so glad you let me back into your life. You know? I’ve always been here. I’ve always loved you. Always.”

Her name? Her name is Molly. She is the one who is with me now…right here inside…one in the same...unconditionally loving herself…right here, right now…as I am.

Her Love.

What does unconditional self-love look like and feel like to you? Do you give it to yourself? What holds you back from giving it to yourself? Fear? Anger? Messages you received from the the boxes you allow to confine you? Why Is self-love important? What do you think?

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Set 'Em Free"

“I know not how I seem to others, but to myself I am but a small child wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, every now and then finding a small bright pebble to content myself with.” Plato

Okay…so I preface this blog posting with an apology to my male friends, readers and colleagues. The content of this may bore you, embarrass you or simply seem irrelevant, but I’ve got to “go there” because I’ve been “going there” a lot lately and when I have to “go there” that means I’ve got to write about it, talk about it and then if I’m really moved by it, do something about it.

What is the “it” I’m talking about? I’m talking about the physical ways the Girl Box continues to show up in my life. When I started Girls on the Run I was 36, right in the thick of it…only then coming into an awareness of how the Girl Box held me captive. Slowly but surely, things that I thought were important have simply fallen away. My need to conform to the unattainable standards of the Girl Box are joyfully surrendering to an attitude of “who cares” and I’m becoming child-like again…less concerned with the status quo. (Pretty soon I’m going to be that lady wearing the sweat pants, red hat, striped toe socks and Birkenstocks. Whoo Hoo!)

So what am I trying to say? Dare I say it? Does it matter? Alright so here goes…I’m beginning to let go of my “morning ritual.” What do I mean by my “morning ritual?” That daily process I undergo of putting on my game know that thing I/we do every morning to tackle the day. The list goes a little something like this:
1.) The drying and straightening (or curling) of the hair;
2.) The application of make-up and wrinkle-defying creams;
3.) The application of numerous body lotions. There are now lotions specifically designed for feet, hands, face, belly, cellulite, elbows and knees…keeping track requires a journal.
4.) The choosing of (this can take hours) and stepping into clothing that is relevant for whatever the day brings. This could be a suit or perhaps something a bit more frivolous but however it lands on the frame it is sure to accentuate certain body parts;
5.) The choosing (this process can often determine the choices made in number 4) and climbing into shoes that may be terribly uncomfortable but are really cute
6.) And yes (alright guys, here’s where it gets a bit awkward) strapping on the bra, that lovely contraption that holds ‘em in, pushes ‘em up and in some cases makes ‘em bigger! There are bras for every occasion and these often can, according to fashion experts, make or break that first impression, whether in a professional business meeting or on that first date.

Undergarments apparently have a lot of power over other people.

Now before everyone goes running for the exits, let me explain what’s really going on here. Lately, I’ve found myself returning to the world of the girl. I watch with wonder the way an 8 year old girl navigates the world. With eyes wide open, she sees things as if never seen before. There is an open stance, a fresh approach, a completely untainted and “unstoried” perception of the world around her.

What I love, too, about girls are the various physical ways they show up for life. They appear to me to be very much in charge of their morning ritual. Every one of them has their own unique style. You can on any one given day see lots of: pink, curly hair, straight hair, unbrushed hair, T-shirts, plaid vests, giggles, seriousness, smiles, tears, high-tops, glitter, purse, no-purse, sunglasses, bows in hair, baseball cap, knee socks with sandals, Halloween costumes, princess tiaras, skirts, pants, lace, jewelry…there are as many ways to show up for life as there are 8 year old girls.

And as I write to you, I find that somewhere over the last five to six years I’ve allowed myself to be, even in the work that I do (how ironic!!!), more tangled up with some of the physical expectations of the Girl Box. The need to appear as if I’ve got it SO together has restricted my ability to laugh, dance and get goofy.

I’ve been more inclined to shake hands rather than hug, hold back rather than speak up and actually found myself afraid to do an energy award even when I feel this intense desire to do one! (Any upcoming sponsors don’t know what they are in for!!!!)

So…while make-up, hair traditions and pushing ‘em up in a bra may appear to be mundane and seemingly irrelevant acts I carry out each morning, what I’m discovering NOT going through the process is how liberating it is to let them go. I find myself physically walking/running/skipping/hopping through the day like an 8 year old girl…totally comfortable in my skin, unafraid to be who I am.

This physical freedom manifests in my actions. I really am more inclined to dance through the grocery aisle (particularly if my daughter Helen is there), laugh out loud and for several minutes during Yoga, sing really loud in my car with the windows down and walk up to an older couple and tell them that the way they are lovin’ on each other has totally rocked my day.

So I invite you to see what it feels like. Seriously, try eliminating one piece of your morning ritual (if you have one) or if you are willing to go full-on, skip the whole thing! Go without the suit and wear something that feels easy and unrestrained. Skip the mascara or foundation, blush or lip gloss. Don’t burn your bra, but leave it at home. Set those puppies free and see how it feels. Let your hair air dry and see what it looks like, feels like and how it shows up. You might be surprised. Be aware of how AWESOME it feels to show up for life, like an 8 year old…unstoried, uninhibited and best of all un-boxed…and see if something else has space to emerge. A laugh? A tear? A dream? A totally new perspective perhaps?
What part of your morning ritual are you willing to release? What have you been holding back, afraid that others will thing you too child-like, unrealistic or maybe even “crazy”? Let me know at

(Postscript: The moment I posted this, someone sent this to me. I had to share. Smile, won't cha?)