Showing Up

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I’m showing up today as a hot mess. See, I’ve envisioned for years now how I was going to show up. I was going to be the shiny, bright AFTER photo set against my hot mess BEFORE photo. I was going to tell you how hard my journey was, how absolutely horrible things once were and how absolutely beautiful everything is now. (Cue the chimes and sparkles)

Except I got stuck in that damn before photo. Funny enough, I think that on some level it is all the Disney princess movies I’ve been watching with my kids lately that has finally gotten the message across.

I’ve been anti-princess my whole life. Never watched the movies, avoided Disneyland, no tiaras or dress-up clothes for this girl. Maybe it was because I thought princesses were about perfection and only lived in the happy endings.

But I didn’t see the journey. I didn’t see that the before picture holds a whole hell of a lot of story. Of fight. Of learning, climbing, falling, discovering, wanting to just go to sleep for weeks, of feeling like you are conquering the world, of feeling like there is no hope, and of becoming a true warrior. It’s all in that before photo.

If Cinderella shows up for the first time in her perfect gown with her perfect everything and tells you how bad she once had it, you will never quite SEE her truth. You will assume that she somehow got lucky, that she had some piece to the puzzle that you just don’t have. You’ll kind of be inspired, but mostly you’ll feel more justified in knowing that your journey is just much harder than hers and probably even impossible. 

Seeing her perfect, happy ending will most likely zap more fight out of you and convince you that you really are stuck with no way out. The true inspiration-the kind that connects with your soul-is in the mess.

I think, too that sharing your journey once you’ve reached the end, doesn’t actually capture the journey. When you take away the stress, doubt, fear, exhaustion and mess, you take away the story. 

So, yeah, hi. I’m Mary and I am filled with stress, fear, exhaustion and all things messy. This gets tossed around with wild optimism, take your breath away pessimism, and all emotions in between. 

Freedom come when you can show up just as you are.

Do I know where I am going with this? Nope. I honestly have no master plan, I just know that so many women beat themselves up because they can’t figure out how to get unstuck. How to be the shiny, sparkly, doted-on princess in the after picture. And so shrink themselves more and more and find themselves in day-to-day survival mode, simply existing. Saying every single time someone asks how you are doing, “Fine, thanks.” Or, my more convincing, “Good…. (pause, forced smile) GOOD!”

Over the years, the question that I came to dread the most is, “so what do you enjoy doing with your free time?” The first, knee-jerk response is, “free time? That doesn’t exist.” And then you are pushed. Because in all the courses and magic solutions to find your passion, you need to first name things that light you up.

I’m told this is easy. To get happy thinking about doing certain things even if only in fantasy. But what if you are so damn burned out and beat up that you literally cannot think of one thing that you enjoy doing? There are way too many of us who find ourselves here and it is scary. And lonely. Because if you try to tell that to someone, they will poo-poo the idea and say that of course you have things that you love.

They’ll say, what if time and money weren’t an issue, what would you do? And your mind doesn’t even go over ideas that it rejects, it is simply BLANK. Sometimes, I really try and I force an image of something that is supposed to be joyful- travel to Paris, playing at the beach with my kids-and, yes, the images are quite lovely. But all I feel is BLANK.

So, there you are. In the mess. And you are told time and again that once you discover your passion, you will happily go without sleep to work on it night and day. You are told that defining your WHY will give you superpowers. I know my why. It is to get my kids and I to a healthy, safe, sparkly new life. Being emotionally beat down every day and seeing my children the victims of gaslighting is definitely the big WHY that is supposed to light a fire under me. And yet, every night when the kids fall asleep, I am so exhausted I cannot even type out my own name.

I swear to gerd that the next time someone clucks that “we all have the same 24 hours in the day” I will implode. It’s just another form of making those of us deep in our messes feel guilty and like we are simply “full of excuses.” Pretty sure the last person, who so bravely cut back on his Netflix hours to tout the “same 24 hours” crap at me, was the same one who said that me claiming to have a foggy brain at the end of the day was just an excuse because foggy brain was not a real thing.

Shit like that stirs up so much. It makes me feel like a failure. After all, other women with even more on their plates have started multimillion-dollar companies, amiright?

It brings up self-doubt. Am I just an excuse-making machine doomed to my own laziness? It brings up anger. Because you are stopped from speaking your story. If you try to say, Dude! You cut our Nextflix to make time to work. To make time to work, ALONE, in quiet, completely undisturbed. I have not sat to watch tv for pleasure in a decade. I work with constant interruptions and—- you are cut off here. Because you are focusing on the negative and that is what losers do. You must not want this.

I’m seeing more and more that this messy zone is all about fine lines. You need to acknowledge where you are at and even understand that your stream of excuses are REAL, LEGITIMATE REASONS.

It is absolute truth that I can only work in 10-minute bursts before being interrupted, it is true that my mind is beat down and exhausted from living in constant stress and emotional hell and so my focus is minimal. I’ve got a lot of painful and ugly reasons that this is damn hard. But on the other side of that fine line, I need to make the decision that I will do my best in those small bursts of time and that I will not expect the same kind of results as someone with more time and mental focus. I can have 1001 very good reasons, but I can still decide to show up.

I have only opened my eyes to all of this over the past year. Prior to that, I was completely swallowed up in a toxic, emotionally abusive relationship with a narcissist for two decades! TWO DECADES!

Messy snapshot time: I am still here. My eyes are open now and my wings are forming. But I am here. In a tiny, falling apart one-bedroom house with my two children and their father. Life is B-A-D bad. I am certain that I could fill a notebook with terrible, sad, and hopeless details of our life. But look closely. This snapshot has a powerful story of a warrior in the making. 

“The great loneliness- like the loneliness a caterpillar endures when she wraps herself in a silky shroud and begins the long transformation from chrysalis to butterfly. It seems we too must go through such a time, when life as we have known it is over- when being a caterpillar feels somehow false and yet we don’t know who we are supposed to become. All we know is that something bigger is calling us to change. And though we must make the journey alone, and even if suffering is our only companion, soon enough we will become a butterfly, soon enough we will taste the rapture of being alive.”
—Elizabeth Lesser

I’m going to do my very best to write. To simply write. As in not toil over what I SHOULD write about, if I’ve shared too much-or too little, if I said it the right way or stepped on someone’s toes.

Around 30 years ago I had a friend who was very good friends with a lawyer. This lawyer also happened to be a very gifted psychic. We casually met and she told me, “You need to write.” It was one of those things that I heard and felt deeply. I understood and didn’t understand.

Those four little words have popped into my mind hundreds and hundreds of times over these years. I always feel like it is fresh advice, not like it has been sitting as a weight on me for 30 flipping years. And I always think, yes, I must write. Yet I’ve never really known what it meant. I’m hoping I finally do.

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