As I approach my 30's I feel an intense sloughing off of old beliefs and expectations. A lot of people have told me their 30's were their favorite time because they had finally let go of insecurities and pressure from the outside world. They were also young enough to not feel buckets of regret about it.
It is the Sweet Spot. For some.
When I'm feeling stressed out it's good for me to evaluate where the expectations are coming from. And on a larger scale, what is my model of the world? What do I believe HAS to happen in order for me to feel fulfilled? In the past I had quite the list:
Serve others first and forego my own comfort.
Make every action directed toward helping others.
Create businesses that help others.
Don't follow your dreams because they may not "help others."
Push down your desires because they are selfish.
Don't be a consumer.
Only support local or grow your own food.
Share your space, time and money with people who need it.
Unfortunately, this list destroyed me. I became burnt out, angry, poor, sick and unfulfilled. I used to watch movies about Saint Francis of Assisi for life inspiration. We had friends who were living on the streets, friends who didn't have food. We were trying to live in solidarity and provide a space for everyone to use at their need.
I think a lot of my frustration came when I realized after all those years of "giving" myself, money, time and energy...there was no climax, no thanks...and Johnny and I were left with the realization that we weren't set up for adult life. We had to continue trading our comfort to move forward, to buy our land. And even now, as we approach two years since buying it, we are no where closer to moving.
This isn't a pity party. Johnny and I are very good at rising to an occasion and slaying it. We literally dream and scheme every single day. But something needs to change. The tiny house we built wasn't made for the long term...and I still don't have a shower. (haha) You could say, "just move into an apartment." But that feels like a soul crusher to me. Especially since we've been trying to move out of Portland. That would keep us here longer.
On the bright side, we have begun allowing ourselves to play and adventure more. We got married as children yet we took on so much crap. We're trying to view this time of life as a re-do of our early 20's. I started Pole Dancing again, Johnny is surfing and snowboarding. I have kept my model of wanting to be of service to other people but now it is in the form of wellness coaching.
(Speaking of that! I have a retreat for women coming up in November: Blue Ocean Retreat)
Our goal, now, is to not push ourselves toward the property if it's not happening. We've sacrificed a lot of our joy over the years and I don't want to do that again. Money is always the issue, for a lot of us, and we continue to dream up ways of making more and providing more value to people in the process.
Ultimately we want to develop the property and provide a space for people to come stay, our intentions are still focused on giving and sharing with others, but at this rate it will be another 5 years. So...we're at a cross road. And we've thrown around a lot of options. No decision has been made but we are always open to taking the ideas and thoughts from others who have experiences to share.
My new model:
Pursue what brings you joy.
When you feel joy you will be more able to give to others.
You will be in a resourceful state to solve problems.
Don't let "shoulds" rule your life.
Life has a way of throwing you curve balls.
Live open minded, with and open heart and open hands.
Ride the wave. (now that I've surfed I know how intense, scary and epic this really is)
The Eclipse was one of the most comforting moments of my life thus far. If you didn't get to experience it in Totality I hope I can shed some light...or...I guess darkness on what the experience was like so we may all go into this next chapter feeling invigorated by it's occurance.
We all know that feeling. When our whole body tingles with emotion.
When we watch two people who deeply love one another commit their lives to each other.
When a baby is born.
When we hear that song.
When we we're far away from city lights, laying under an epic amount of stars.
When we re-count the beauty of someone's life after they've passed.
When we feel truly seen and known by another.
When we re-connect with our truest self.
The Eclipse brought forth these feelings. The whole sun was blocked out, darkness descended quickly and the temperature dropped. A ring, brighter than anything I have ever seen in my life, pierced the daytime darkness. Our whole group reacted with strong emotions, speechlessness and tears.
It reminded me that life is a journey of discoveries. Each year I am blown away by something new.
So many of us close ourselves off from these experiences. We don't need an Eclipse to have them in abundance. It was just one of those moments that humbles and inspires us.
In the moment of Totality, I returned to my roots. I allowed myself to be shocked, surprised, blown away. I allowed myself to cry (as if I could even hold it back) and feel that indescribable comfort. I felt as if I was transported to another world. One where all my fears and worries disappeared into that darkness. I was at full peace. Time no longer mattered, problems no longer lingered in my mind. I was wiped blank. I relinquished my control, realizing life is much more magical than our minds can comprehend. We always try to comprehend everything...and in that moment I just surrendered.
We've made leaps and bounds as humans, but we still can't stop the moon from blocking out the sun. We still can't stop ourselves from dying. But if dying is anything like the eclipse felt, then it's all okay. That was the comfort I found in Totality. And that comfort is ours if we pause and watch nature, the stars and the universe swirl around us in it's epic beauty.
Living with wonder replaces living with hate or despair.
Living with wonder humbles our running lips and leaves us speechless when no words are needed.
Living with wonder unites all people.
The Eclipse is also a sign of new beginnings. What are your intentions for the coming months and years? I want be out in nature more often, pause more frequently, practice gratitude and wonder, remembering that as long as I am pursing what I know to be true within me that everything will be okay. And ultimately, to approach life with more curiosity and less fear.
FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE: My groups reaction to the Eclipse
FYI. There is cussing in this video...because...damn...nothing was held back.
The importance of financial security was beat into my skull through the constant verbal concerns expressed during my upbringing. This was somewhat concerning given the fact that I had never been able to pull off good grades in school. I was stuck in an in between land, which I feel most of us inhabit, for a good portion of my life thus far. Fear drilled its way into my decision making and found a way to put up a wall. Thank God I am good at climbing because I’ve spent a lot of my time sitting on top of it and jumping from one side to the other.
The first time I jumped over it was during my only year of college. Both my parents are in dental professions and I was lured into applying for Dental Assisting school in order to have some certainty and create a stable future. I was sitting in orientation, among a crowd of women as the presenter listed off the things we would need for school. One of the things on the list was Scrubs and where to find them online. As the presenter scrolled through the online store my mind only thought about one thing; what would be the most crazy and unique patterned scrubs I could buy? About 10 minutes later, and only 20 minutes into the 2 hour presentation, I stood up and walked out. The doors opened and flooded me with fresh air and light. I took a deep breath, the kind you take when you know you’re in the right place, the kind that contains a smile in it and sometimes joyful tears. I’ve always been braver than I give myself credit for. I left the possibility of a secure job behind and continued into the unknown.
A lot of us forget to look back at ourselves as a young child, when we were most free, and see what was there. I was obsessed with dress up, wrestling, starting clubs with other kids where I was the leader, singing, dancing, posing, creating space with decorations, being creative in all ways, spending lots of time alone with my imagination, analyzing my emotions and other people (yes, I remember doing this from as early as 6 years old). But what do those things tell me about what I should do now? They tell me so many things. They tell me I wasn’t meant to be a Dental Assistant, that’s FOR SURE. They tell me that my concern has never been about money or even stability, they tell me that I enjoy leading, performing and connecting emotionally, that is my currency first and foremost, without that all the money in the world wouldn’t satisfy me.
But hey, I am also realistic, and I do need money to survive. So what are legitimate jobs for me? Well, I went on a little journey after that fateful day in Dental Assisting Orientation. I started with the Floral Design Institute. An obvious choice for my creativity and visual mind. Once I started Forest & Field (now 7 years ago!) I also got this emotional fix. I was working with couples on their weddings and getting to hear a lot of their stories as well. Sometimes I felt like I was coaching them through certain aspects of planning in a very emotional way. Unfortunately, I was in an interesting time of life where I was incredibly concerned with how every action I took affected the world. It was stifling, but I was learning. This meant that I felt guilty about floral design because it didn’t “help” the world in the epic way I desired. (more on that later)
The next road I took was toward health. For a few years I studied Herbal Medicine and Nutritional Therapy. As I’ve mentioned in my other posts, I came down with allergies for a whole year that debilitated me. Ultimately my road into health was because I wanted my life back. Although, after completing both courses I felt a little lost again. My mind has always been so creatively driven that even the thought of being a Nutritional Therapist and Herbalist triggered me back to the moment I walked out those doors at Orientation. Yet this time it was different. I was SO thankful for the knowledge because it saved me. It healed me. But I was scared to peg myself in an area that I didn’t fully feel fulfilled. The more people reached out to me for advice the more I pulled away. I haven’t shared this information with anyone but Johnny, but I feel it’s important to mention, and here’s why.
Sometimes we think we have to do something just because we said we would or we spent a lot of time or money on it. This is no way to live life. Thankfully, I think I’ve found a way to re-define it for myself so I don’t fully have to let it go.
This past year has been the most eye-opening for Johnny and I. We’ve opened ourselves up to a vulnerability and a truth that we ignored in the past. We’ve been blunt and honest about our life, our circumstances, our marriage and our direction. It’s been REALLY hard and REALLY good. We realized that some of his childhood coping mechanisms had put us into some hard places. And it’s like we both finally woke up. We spent so much time living for other people and trying to “save the world” that we lost ourselves. Sometimes it’s not about doing what is “right” or having a “servant's heart” it’s about being true to who you are and giving yourself grace and freedom. When I allowed myself that I became more healthy and able to love and give to others out of that well I dug within me. When we “try” to serve others and be compassionate it can actually steal the truth and love within us, making us resentful and ultimately thwart the vision that we were trying to accomplish in the first place.
I learned that I need to be ME. That was the best person I could be for the world. This whole year has been re-defining that using my childhood self and journey to understand what it is that I desire. Honestly, it’s really easy when you’re just open and real. Ask someone who has had a few beers what it is that they truly want, they may say something completely different than if they were sober. How can we let down our guards and be real with ourselves sans intoxication? If you’ve been feeling unfulfilled then you’re probably not embodying your truest expression of self.
In order to bring the story full circle, I’d like to share where I’m at right now. For so long I’ve dabbled in many things, it’s time I create a more direct vision. I am not tossing aside any of my training, I am just specializing. First off, I am allowing myself to love Floral Design and use it as a way to transform a space and create a feeling, like I’ve always desired. I think I got worn out on doing weddings that weren’t fulfilling me creatively and were repetitious, this year I have the opportunity to create installations and epic art while bringing the couples story and desires into their wedding. I also have found ways to meet my need to contribute through making medicine out of arrangements, donating to charities and doing flower graffiti around Portland with the leftovers.
As far as the health aspect goes, I enjoy having nutrition and herb knowledge for my own life, family and friends across the board, but I really need to focus on something specific in practice. I started getting overwhelmed by it and knew that I wasn’t in the right place. This is where I’d like to officially announce my new direction (which is always subject to change). I will be focusing on mood and emotions. This means digestion will still be a key focus due to its huge impact on emotional well being and function, but I’ll be diving into more mood specific food and herbs in order to support people while also supporting them emotionally through my Strategic Intervention Coaching. Feel free to continue asking me questions about health, but know that I am switching gears in that arena. On top of all that Johnny and I are heavily focusing on couples and marriage coaching. Healthy marriages are the backbone of a family and we are incredibly passionate about this life choice.
I know this is the right direction because it feels deeply right. It feels in line with my true self, and there is no better place to be. Fore more on being yourself check out my most recent Vlog below!
Be Wild. Be Well.
Building trust in a relationship is all about repeating and reinforcing.
If you want to build trust with your partner you can follow these steps:
1. Commit and Declare
The first thing is to just say,
“I want to build trust with you and I’m committed to that because I love and care about you.”
2. Create Heartfelt Emotion
Some couples have strayed from being emotionally vulnerable, so even the first step can be hard for them. After you say something with your words you need to create heartfelt emotion behind it. For a lot of people, especially women, PRESENCE is of utmost important, no one wants a partner who is constantly distracted and not focused on them. “PRESENCE is EMPATHY for what the other person is experiencing in this moment right now.”
Exercise: Sit across from your partner and look into each others eyes. Practice this definition of Presence. Think about your partners Positive Intent instead of seeing the things they do that hurt you, see how they might be protecting themselves from vulnerability, see them as a child that maybe didn’t get the love or attention or freedom they needed. Marriage is a place where we can grow and be pushed beyond our boundaries, practicing true presence with our partner is seeing the positive intent inside them and also the hurt that they have gone through. It is empathy for the other person. While looking into their eyes flood yourself with thoughts of gratitude and dedication to the other person. Practice this everyday.
Your wife is nagging you all the time. Positive Intent: "she is scared that you don't care about her"
You husband is unable to emotionally connect with you. Positive Intent: "he is protecting himself, making sure he is safe."
In both these situations if the other partner understands the Positive Intent behind the actions they can better love their spouse and build trust. Our positive intents were formed as survival mechanisms. We learned that we would only get love from our parents when we cried and complained, or we were put down when we tried to be emotionally vulnerable and so we stopped in order to protect our self,
A Positive Intent doesn't mean the person should go on acting like it, it means they should understand where there actions are stemming from and realize there is a positive intent behind them, something that they've used that is no longer helpful. After the realization it is time to make a change.
3. Share, Listen, Learn
-Every time partners communicate it can be seen as either a comment or request.
-Are they just commenting about something or are they asking something from you.
-Practice listening and responding to your partner so you can learn new things about them and meet their need to connect and build trust with you. Allow them to speak truth, even when it’s painful for you to hear, that safe space is where trust is truly built.
4. Align Vision
After completing steps 1-3 you should come to a place where you are aligned with your partner on what you spoke about. This is when you align your visions and confirm what you both desire.
5. Act of Love
Seal the conversation with an act of love. This can be as simple as a hug and kiss or more extravagant, like a date night. If you can’t end the conversation with an act of love then more trust building needs to happen. You may go back in steps and keep working on 1-3 before moving to 4 & 5.
FOR MORE TIPS CHECK OUT MY NEWEST VLOG BELOW.
"HOW TO BEST LOVE YOUR PARTNER"
“When we gather the courage to search for the truth of our being and the truth of our partners being, we begin a journey of psychological and spiritual healing.” -Harville Hendrix
When we see marriage as a spiritual journey to wholeness it can change everything. When both partners enter their marriage this way or come to realize it later on it can have profound effects on their relationship.
So often we work hard on our career or other endeavors in life, why is it that we don’t view marriage as something to challenge us, help us grow and become whole? Why do we give up?
We need to look into our past, our childhood, and discover how we were denied adequate nurturing and how we repressed essential parts of our self. It’s as if our parents pass us off to our spouse so they can finish the work that was started. The more dysfunctional the family of origin, the more intentional the communication and action must be in the marriage. We can do this searching through self-reflection, journaling, therapy or whatever avenue makes sense to you. As we discover new things about ourselves we can share them with our partner to start building a new way of interacting. Every single day Johnny and I share new things with one another and calibrate accordingly.
Some people might say, “My partner doesn’t listen to me" or you don’t feel comfortable sharing with them. In this case trust must be built first. Marriage remains stagnant without trust, openness and vulnerability. We can start by “going first”. When our partner reveals anything about themselves, no matter how small, we must respond with understanding and compassion in order to start building the trust from our end. As we build our Love Map (a concept I will describe in Part Two) we will inevitably find ways to love our partner in the way they desire so deeply. Even the most stubborn, elusive partner will soften when their needs are being met on the deepest level. We’ll actually start to see them as “wounded children” whom we can heal with our unconditional love.
Stay Tuned for Part Two.
What is the most common phrase you speak to yourself?
For me it's probably: I want to live with authenticity and passion.
We can also have negative common phrases, or incantations we tell ourselves.
One of mine is: I will never be successful. I am not good at being truly affectionate and vulnerable.
The problem, or the benefit, with incantations is that we actually hypnotize ourselves.
Positive or negative incantations have real life implications. It changes how we act, how we view ourselves, how we view other people, etc.
The biggest impact you can have on your life is to change your incantations to encouraging, positive words and phrases. It's been proven that people are more likely to succeed in life if their self-talk is encouraging.
If you are suffering from self-confidence issues remind yourself of how strong you are. Make a list of the things you've done in your life that required great inner strength.
If you are suffering from feeling inferior in relationships with others remind yourself of the ways you care about others. Make a list of the things you have given to friendships in the past and present. Add in things that you desire to give in relationships and that you know have within but haven't given out yet.
If you are suffering from feeling critical and angry remind yourself of how compassionate and caring you really are. Sometimes the hyper-critical people are the most compassionate of all, they just don't know how to let go and be themselves. Write your true compassionate and caring desires down. Get specific with it as it applies to your life and relationships. This one is really true for me because I have suffered from a very critical world view and yet I feel like at my core I am exceptionally compassionate.
We're taking the things we want to change, or the things we think we're bad and we're looking at the positives. If we think we can't do anything right then we're going to start speaking that incantation to ourself and then it will come true in our life. Instead we need to focus on our positive qualities, the things we have accomplished, the people we've given our love to and so on. This reframes how we view ourselves.
If we want to help and contribute to others then we need to see the positives in ourselves. This is what creates good interpersonal relationships. We all want other people to feel good about themselves but then we don't practice the same kindness for ourselves? What kind of double standard is that?
I'll go ahead and practice what I am preaching. Here is my list.
These are my CORE STRENGTHS.
Get a piece of paper out and do this now! We're so uncomfortable with saying what we're good at. I think we can sometimes see it as arrogant. This is unfortunate because self-confidence in a healthy way is so beneficial to us and everyone we love. Lift yourself up.
I am compassionate
I am a deep thinker
I am always trying to improve and grow
I try new things
I have a strong spirit
I desire to be encouraging and giving in my friendships
I am open to others point of view
I care about people
I love giving people gifts
I am a great poet who can communicate my deep thoughts with written words
I am intuitive and can sense people's feelings and emotions
You can keep writing as long as you think of things. I would re-read this or add to it at the beginning of every new day. Speak these things out loud, write them on a poster, put it where you can see it. Whatever works for you!
What if I approached life like a video game? Something like World of Warcraft comes to mind, though I know next to nothing about it. I am my character. Every problem or difficulty I encounter is a challenge that, should I prevail, allows me to advance to the next level. Through training, learning, and practice, I can level up my character. Thus I can add weapons to my arsenal and skills to my repertoire.
Like any well-designed game, life is inherently challenging. Often our model of the world is that life should be easy, or at least difficult only when we want it to be; when we are feeling bored. What if a person’s favorite game was easy? It probably wouldn’t be much fun. I don’t play Scrabble with Bailey because I win every time. I crave the challenge.
When I face a problem in life, I can default to getting angry or depressed. Or, I can stare down the problem like a high level player in the game of life. I can take a stance of enthusiastic curiosity. I can look for the unique quality of this individual problem; the opportunity it affords to push beyond my present understanding of my limits and what is possible. I can allow the desire to know what’s on the other side, on the next level, be my motivation as I craft an elegant, creative solution.
Once on the other side, there are a couple things I can know for sure: the problems of my past have brought me here to this level, and another challenge is on its way. I wonder what this one will be like?
I'm proud to officially announce my next certification journey has begun!
It's common for people to ask me if I went/go to college. I tried this avenue for about a year and a half but only thrived in three classes: Psychology, Public Speaking and Writing.
This should have been enough information to lead me where I needed to go. Unfortunately it's difficult to see when you're freshly out of high school and carrying the weight of pursuing a career for security instead of passion. Not only that, but I've always had a hard time in school.
So instead I decided to "create my own major"
Well, I didn't actually decide this at one moment in time…it just sort of happened.
From the age of 21-27 I've completed (or am completing) these certifications:
Floral Design Institute
Beginner + Advanced Herbalism
Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
Strategic Intervention Coach
The last three certifications will go beautifully together. Although Floral Design seems unrelated it has actually been the job I needed to accomplish the other three. Normally I'd have to work at least 4 days a week to make the money I do as a floral designer in the summer months and other weekends throughout the year. Because I was given the gift of time I decided to use it to pursue the "job" I actually wanted.
I created this job. It's me, it's my desires.
You could call it a Wellness Coach…I haven't decided on the best term.
It comes out of my deep desire to THRIVE.
My life question has been, "what makes some people thrive or experience happiness and what makes others get stuck and feel depressed?"
I noticed there was no relation to life circumstances and how someone reacted to them. Some people have a very hard life yet they thrive. Some people have a relatively easy life and they don't. And vice versa.
"Pain is a damn good thing if you use it." -Tony Robbins
I understood that happiness is not one thing. It's a lifestyle.
Health is not one thing. It's a lifestyle.
I wanted to thrive in mind and body and see other people do the same.
This final certification (probably not the last!) is honestly the one I am most excited about.
Psychology, emotions and the way we use them is the subject I am most obsessed with, always have been.
I am so thankful to have the knowledge of food and herbs as they are equally important in this equation.
So here is where you come in.
Over the next few months I will need volunteers to practice my skills in this next certification.
So if you are someone who has felt bogged down, stuck, depressed, anxious and angry in life this is for you. Or if you have a problem in life you are trying to solve, this is for you.
Or if you want to discover your passion and learn how to pursue it, this is for you.
This will basically be a few months of FREE life coaching/nutritional therapy/herbs.
At the end of my certification I will be hosting an overnight workshop for a discounted price so let me know who is interested in being a part of that as well!
Send me an email if you're interested: firstname.lastname@example.org
People commonly ask how Johnny and I take on so many things. The answer to that question is highly involved but could be boiled down into two words: Passion and Obsession.
“Great…” you may be saying, “but how do you cultivate that?”
A lot of people mention their lack of time, energy or motivation.
Some people always put it off for the future, which we’ve been guilty of ourselves, saying, “when I get “there” I will start pouring into what I love.”
Some people just have no idea what they want to pursue...there is this huge looming idea that we have to know what our life vision is right now! And then we need to pursue it with everything we have, make a difference and change the entire world!
There is a lot of unnecessary pressure.
Passion comes when we pursue our obsessions.
Passion comes when we fuel our bodies and minds with good food.
Passion comes when we create rituals and take time for self-care.
Passion comes when we stop looking at it as the end all be all.
Passion comes when we do the thing that makes time stand still for us.
Passion comes when we explore, adventure, try new things, fail over and over.
There are steps to feeling fulfilled in life. These are things that I have tried myself.
FIRST. If we aren’t eating well we won’t be fueling our bodies to wake up and live to our fullest potential. Not only that, but certain foods affect how our mind works and if we aren’t digesting well then we won’t be receiving the building blocks we need to have a clear mind. How are we to follow our passions and live life if we always feel bogged down in our body?
A few quick nutrition tips:
-Take Bitters before every meal to stimulate digestion. That way your brain and body will receive the vitamins, minerals and other materials it needs to thrive.
-Consume healthy fats. Fats make up the barrier of every single cell in our body, this affects the transport of nutrients into the cells which affects EVERYTHING. Fat also satiates us and gives us long burning energy for those days that we are kicking ass! Some ideas: coconut oil, pastured butter, raw olive oil, avocado, wild caught sardines, raw milk products, pastured animal products.
-Consume high quality protein. Proteins are broken down by optimal digestion into Amino Acids which are the building blocks of our Neurotransmitters, the things in our brain that create our feel-good emotions. Without protein we can become deficient in these and slip into depression, anger and lack of motivation. Consume PROTEIN for PASSION!
-Consume a variety of vegetables/fruit. The colors and types of vegetables/fruit have different benefits. We’ve become a society that has a lack of variety in our food. Eat seasonally, go to the farmer's market, try new things.
SECOND. If you don’t know what you want to pursue but you don’t go out and try things then how will you discover it? A common issue is that people don’t even know where to start. If that is you then answer these questions:
Where do these lists all align?
Once you’ve got an idea or direction:
THIRD. Take the lists and writing you did above and start researching or trying things out. Most people don’t choose their passion the moment they graduate highschool and go full throttle. The reason Johnny and I look like we’re doing so many things is because we are trying stuff out. We’re seeing what works, what doesn’t, what makes us feel alive, we’re researching, experimenting and ultimately FAILING a lot. You have to take calculated risks and you have to fail. I don’t like failing...but I see the purpose of it now.
If you truly find your passion then you’ll become a force to be reckoned with!
No one could stop you once you find it and all you want to do is learn more, try things out, fail and succeed.
My hope is that more people take the risks needed to find their passion.
And once you find yours, or if you have the resources, help others find theirs.
I’ve always looked to the person next to me to see how I should respond. This typically arises in situations that are uncomfortable, cheesy and emotional. We all grow up with some feedback loop, usually tied to our parents and how we obtain their love. For me, I would get negative feedback if I tried to be emotional or vulnerable. It’s like I’ve been wrestling myself all these years as a closet emotional. Time and time again I’ve brought my true self out of the dark and been pushed back in. This wasn’t just in my upbringing. When we step out into the world we have to remember that everyone is walking around with their guard up. I know that criticalness is a coping mechanism, one that gives us the delusion that we’re safe. It’s a false sense of security because ultimately it destroys us. It keeps us an arm length away and never allows us to really be “known”.
I look to my left; I look to my right to see how people are responding. I’ve never responded to something without fear. I’ve never responded to something without holding back a little. Whenever I have allowed myself to try, I’ve been pushed back under.
Johnny and I began our marriage encouraging each other’s criticalness. We used the guise of “social justice” to accomplish this. Our desires have always been incredibly pure; we want to bring healing and redemption into our community. I’ve always felt this draw. From a very young age I desired to live a life that carried grace and love. Unfortunately, I was given a lot of negative feedback when I tried to be raw and real.
At age 11 I found that a piece of paper was the most forgiving thing I had ever known. A piece of paper would take everything I had to say and accept it, no strings attached. This is how I became a writer. Years down the road I would read my poetry to someone while they stood in shock. I realized that my writing exposed so much more about me than I let on in person. People would say, “where did this come from?” and I would say, “It’s been here all along…this is me.”
Someone who always encouraged my creativity and emotional nature was my grandma. She was a safe person to express myself around because she, herself, was free. When she passed away un-expectantly I knew the only way I was going to process her death was through writing. I wrote her a poem that communicated everything I wanted to tell her and everything that she encouraged within me through our relationship. Normally standing up in front of a lot of people and being emotional is hard for me…not with poetry. Poetry is my safe place; it’s the thing that translates my thoughts into communicable words. It gives me a buffer.
I stood up at my grandma’s memorial and shared my heart openly with a room full of people. My brothers did the same. It was a moment where we all allowed one another to be vulnerable. But the most beautiful moment of the day was when the most critical person in my life was given a glimpse into who we were as people and responded, not critically, but emotionally, communicating that he was proud.
I watch people build up callouses over years and years so that finally when it’s time to be vulnerable they can’t bear it. This is when those detrimental coping mechanisms come out. Sooner or later others see us as our false self. We start to expect that person to be critical, or whatever it is, and no longer give them room to change and grow. This is a terrible and unfortunate cycle that I’ve felt stuck in myself. It’s hard for people to change and it can be an incredibly vulnerable time. We get so used to someone being a certain way that it’s almost just as uncomfortable for us to see them trying to change.
Tony Robbins has said, “We’re meant to grow so we have something to give.” Being steeped in critical feedback for so long has created a desire in me to push through fears and give others permission to be who they are with no judgments. It’s so easy for so many of us to make fun of people we don’t understand. How many times have you pointed out someone on the street or pulled up someone’s social media page with a friend so that you can make fun of it? We train ourselves to be judgmental and leave no room to learn from and grow with people that are different from us. We need to give people room and freedom.
We’ve all been told that people who are mean are usually people who don’t like themselves. Being “mean” is just putting up walls of protection. We’ve learned through feedback loops that being critical, mean or judgmental can protect us in the moment. Overall, it ruins our chance at relationships and growth. We have to play the long game and start practicing acceptance in small day-to-day situations.
We all want to feel free. A lot of us are drawn to nature for this very reason. Nature doesn’t judge us. When we hike to the top of a mountain and look out at the expanse we feel as if we can just be. When we’re around others and cultural expectations we feel stifled. There is a certain amount of catering to others in conversations and actions, we do need to learn to be people who don’t “over share” or expect everyone to “get it”. This would be where I was when Johnny and I were first married. Our perceived “vulnerability” was just us thinking we had figured it out and that we knew better than other people. My critical nature was still there; I just didn’t recognize it because I was pursuing “goodness” overall.
I don’t regret how I’ve acted in the past. These things had to happen for me to understand how my coping mechanisms were isolating me from others. I tried to act like I knew best, like I was more free and open, that I was living the most selfless life…but these things were all walls. I wasn’t truly being vulnerable. I was working off of perceived vulnerability. I was able to create a façade without opening myself up to too much criticism. If I did good things then people couldn’t judge me, is what I thought. That way I could look as if I was being vulnerable when in reality I was living in fear.
I’ve overcome these fears by practicing vulnerability when it was uncomfortable for me, by sharing my weaknesses, by coming to the realization that I am not the only one pursuing these things and that I am not “all knowing”. I’ve always been the person to “hold it all together” on the outside when in reality I am more emotional than people know. As I mentioned, when I expressed these things growing up the response to them was negative…and so I learned to hide them. When I married Johnny I knew that he was critical and somewhat judgmental but I also saw in him this desire to grow and change, which is ultimately what led me to marrying him. We both had the same story. We wanted to learn how to be free from our critical patterns.
It’s been seven years of growing with him and we are finally experiencing HUGE breakthroughs. I have never seen Johnny so healthy and light. I have never seen us this way together. Even last night as we were watching an emotional documentary I looked over to him to see if I had permission to respond to the documentary in the way I felt. This led us into that conversation. He told me that he had gotten teary as he watched it and I not only felt permission to be emotional myself but I saw him giving himself permission. Together we allowed each other space to respond how we wanted to.
Johnny and I both grew up in the church. I am so thankful for the beautiful qualities this upbringing instilled in us but also aware of the unintentional stifling it brought. Because we were already prone to being critical and “all knowing” as individuals, the church exacerbated some of those qualities. For those of you who know the stories of Jesus, you’ll recall that he did not approve of the Pharisees, AKA the uber religious men, who were judgmental and claimed to be “all knowing”. Do you see where I’m going here? Once I realized that Jesus came to bring freedom and the permission to experience God directly without having to jump through hoops it changed the way I thought about “religion”. It also changed the way I saw the world and myself.
We shame people into changing because we were shamed into changing as children. Putting shame on people and thinking we know best gives us this sense of control. And it does work sometimes. People will changed when shamed or criticized enough. We continue that loop.
I am realizing that this is my calling. TO GIVE OTHERS PERMISSION. Every time I find myself really drawn to someone I notice a common thread; they are someone who gives others permission. They create a safe space around them for every single person they come in contact with. This is who I strive to be but I need help. I need grace and understand from others when I mess up and don’t achieve that goal. Failure is okay and even beneficial as long as we’re striving and pushing past our fears.
GIVE PEOPLE PERMISSION.
LIVE WITH LESS FEAR.
Bailey Patrice & Jonathan David