“Wow. I had a good year.”
Said by a client who reviewed her Facebook profile for the year she had postpartum depression.
The cultivated profile. That’s what we’re surrounded with on social media. There’s nothing raw: no unfiltered photos of drool on the pillow, yelling at children, crying off your mascara, or of the empty package of chips you mindlessly binged on in a moment of self-doubt. So intellectually you know it’s not the whole story. But the sheer volume of beautiful selfies, adorable children, gorgeous meals, ironic detachment and self-aware, philosophical humor overpowers our critical thinking. We believe all of it anyway, sometimes even fooling ourselves like the client I quoted above.
Last week I shared five simple steps for aligning your action with your desire. I may have given you the highly-cultivated, 800 word final product, but I want you to know that every step in that process was hard-won. I can write knowledgeably on the subject of aligning action with desire because for years I failed to do just that.
I was in such pain about failing to accomplish my dream of a thriving life coaching practice that I tried to give up on it. I thought I had really good, rational reasons for quitting and moving on. But what happened next changed my perspective completely. Instead of feeling relief at quitting, I hurt more. That fresh pain was my signal that I was on the wrong path. Investigating it got me on the right one. I will share with you my raw story of discovering the steps I shared with you last week: how confusion, shame, quitting and pain led to true clarity.
In September 2010 I began Martha Beck’s Life Coach Training. I loved it. Coaching felt the perfect expression of my passions, interests and gifts. My dream was to integrate childbirth education and coaching to create a practice that empowered mothers and mothers-to-be. I would help change how we think about birth, postpartum and motherhood: we would transform from “just moms” to the heroines of our own journeys!
I coached anyone who wanted coaching. I told all my HypnoBirthing clients about my group course, designed just for them. I hosted a postpartum mothers’ group in person and online. I offered a free book club for new moms. I spoke in my community. I blogged (inconsistently, as I confessed last week). Despite positive feedback on my coaching, after two years I was down to one client and out of ideas for growing my practice. I was very discouraged.
Things came to a head as we planned our move from Japan to Hawaii. I had begun home schooling my kids (I wrote about that decision here, here and here). Would I carry on with it in Hawaii, which has notorious public schools, or pay for them to go to a private school?
Enter the voice of shame: If you were actually making money, you could pay for them to go. But your earnings don’t come close! You may have helped people, but face facts. You don’t have a business. You have a hobby. Your family needs you now. If you can’t contribute financially, the least you can do is educate the kids. Sorry, Chickie, but this is life. You failed. Move on.
That voice preyed on every fear I had about myself: that I was not enough; that being a stay-home mom was not enough; that I needed to prove myself and financial earnings were proof of value; that if I could not earn money, that I had to be an uber-mom; that I was a dilettante and despite my dreams I would never make anything of myself; that what I optimistically called slow progress was actually failure.
Right. No more Pollyanna shit. I failed. Move on. I resolved to take a hiatus from my work to home school my children in Hawaii. I tried to be open-minded but my heart was heavy.
When I saw my parents at Christmas, though, they were not convinced that I was doing the right thing. I found myself completely inarticulate as I attempted to persuade them. And angry. I took myself on a long walk to calm down and sort out my thoughts.
Why was I so angry? Clearly they’d struck a nerve. They didn’t believe me – did I believe me? My anger dissipated, but now I was just lost. What did I want?
I went back inside and saw my mom puttering around the house. She has always been there, in the house, at the ready for when her family needs her. And I know she has some regrets about not pursuing a career after my brother and I were grown. I wanted her perspective on my dilemma.
“Mom, what would you do?” I asked her straight-out. My voice was demanding but plaintive, almost a whine – the sound of someone who believes she’s trapped and powerless.
She looked up at me, startled. I do not usually ask her advice. She has a gorgeous habit of telling me, “You’re so clever. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” But today I didn’t want encouragement, I wanted an answer.
She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and said, “I think you should find a great school for the children so you can keep working.”
I immediately replied, “Well that would be ideal, but. . .”
That would be ideal? I heard myself. Really heard myself. I was not lost. I knew exactly what I wanted! I was stuck because of my belief that I did not deserve it.
The experience of feeling the pain of trying to give it up showed me that deserving had nothing to do with it. My dream was bigger than my fears. Not only did I have a dream, it had me. I was the one it tapped. Who was I not to see it through?
I felt such relief! I thanked my mom, kissed her, and started that moment looking online for a school for the kids as well as for some kind of business training or coach mentoring for myself. I was going to try again!
Once I was clear about Question Two, “Do you believe you deserve it?” things really lined up to support me. The highlights:
- The school we selected, Ho’ala, has been brilliant for the kids. It has been a more healing experience for my son, in particular, than home schooling ever was. They are both thriving. We consider the school a great value.
- I decided to deal with my shame around money and found Nona Jordan’s “Get Right With Money” course. It was life changing. Not only are we able to pay the kids’ tuition, we are saving 40% of our income on top of that for long-term priorities. By doing that course, I have effectively “earned” thousands of dollars.
- In a moment of inspiration, I received the idea for the flagship course I am now developing. Becoming A Mother integrates childbirth education and coaching in the way I have always dreamed, and which, I believe, is unique in the world. I am turtle-stepping each day to bring that course to life and on track to launch it in the New Year.
When I’m no longer afraid that I’m not enough, I have nothing to prove and unchain myself from my desk, the kitchen, the home schooling table. When I’m no longer afraid that I don’t deserve what I want, my dreams and desires become a priority, instead of something I subconsciously push to the sidelines. I go to the gym. I learn to surf. I ride bikes with the kids and help them with homework. I read. I clean the house. I practice French. I go the Farmer’s Market. I have friends over. And I show up for my work and find that I am more productive than I’ve ever been.
But I’m not fooling myself. Though I have cultivated a new peace, I have no doubt things will get raw and messy again! After all, growth isn’t linear, moving in a straight line of continual progress. It’s more of a slowly rising spiral: you learn something, get a bit better, forget it and learn it anew, going a bit further each time. It may seem like you’re not getting anywhere, but take the long view and a different picture emerges.
If you are in the midst of a crisis of faith or feel a raw mess looming on the horizon, I hope this story encourages you. Please remind me of it when I need encouragement, too!
Join the discussion 6 Comments
Thank you. Thank you. thank you for the reminder. I am standing at the edge of the cliff almost ready to quit. Today I asked for a sign and found your post.
Going to take a step back and figure out a way…
What a joy to read your comment, Pam! Thank you. What if you let the way find you?
Thank you so much for passing on this gem of wisdom and encouragement. I am learning to face my dream of being a paid performer/actor/singer with courage–I’m realizing it’s not a silly dream, but rather that I’m the one being silly for not believing in myself and for feeling I somehow don’t deserve to make it a reality. My perspective has shifted. Your words have struck the heart of my soul and have helped me realize that this dream is not something I have conjured up of my own power alone, but rather, the dream has “tapped” me!
I love this, Danya: “this dream is not something I have conjured up of my own power alone, but rather, the dream has ‘tapped’ me.” Yes! You are so positive and work so much and so hard, I never imagined you had doubts of your own — isn’t that the way? And isn’t that ridiculous (of me)? I’m so happy this post encouraged you, my friend.
I love this Allison! Thanks for sharing, and thank you for your wisdom and encouragement. You are changing my perspective. Reminds me of the fire-medic who told me, “you know all the answers, you’re just not committed.” It helps to have people be frank with you. Gracias.
You’re so welcome, Jack! xo