April 24th, 2018
“That was a really long, roundabout way of saying something so simple. What is it that actually needs to come out?” my friend Steph says as we take our Spring-starved souls on a much-needed walk in sunny High Park.
We often exchange what is on our hearts with one another and I have spent the entirety of the dog path dodging unleashed puppies, nodding my head in solidarity and inserting the occasional ‘hmms’ and ‘mmmhmms’ of affirmation as she expresses her thoughts and feelings to me. Her story makes sense to me; I can relate to it personally; and I also see a few spots where the story is a story and not the truth and can easily reflect that back.
When it comes time to share my heart, I babble at length around something that’s been on my mind. It probably takes two minutes, which is two more minutes than it needs to be.
I feel my coherent self shut down – the words that usually flow so easily from me abandon me and out spatter about 8 run-on, overly descriptive, sentences that are like I’m attempting to type my emotions into Google Translate:
Hurt – pause. Weird. Awkward structure sentence. Off-kilter reference and then yep – what? Pain? Smokescreen confused then back to empty words I think I need to say to sound like I have figured this out and am beyond the lesson of it to save me from the shame and fear it’s covering up.
And yet there it is, underneath – the Truth. The one single sentence of REAL that shines through the veritable Fairy Tale Evil Forest full of Archetypal Challenges & Creepy Vines vibes I am giving this issue.
Why is it so hard to say or name what we need when faced with a struggle or an area of vulnerability or tenderness?
Why is it so difficult to say the simple phrase: “I am struggling with _____________.”?
Or: “I want to celebrate _________. “?
Or perhaps the hardest: “I need _________.”?
I feel so blessed by the friendships in my life that intentionally create space for the mirror.
The ones where I can be messy and weird and they’ll raise an eyebrow and say: “Let’s try that again. Without the extras.”
The ones where I am invited to arch an eyebrow back.
The Truth then has permission to come out: “YES to this opportunity, NO to that. YES to letting this emotion in, better let that one OUT for good, etc.” The ones that affirm: “Here’s what we stand for” and refuse to allow you to engage in any venture that betrays your values.
I believe that most of you who are reading this are curious about your lives to the extent that perhaps you’ve started a business or a creative project, a relationship, or a personal inquiry into your own beliefs that has brought you, at some point, to the ‘Evil Forest’ place.
This forest is haunted with your past selves; echoes and projections of every voice that ever taunted you cawing like ravens who judge your creations or life decisions with their beady little eyes. Bogs of shame, quicksands of anxiety, and some trigger-happy techie on a dry ice machine spree, filling the forest and blowing the budget by immersing the entire scene with entirely too much doubt fog.
Any good fairy tale story eventually transcends the Evil Forest via the ‘answer within’, but I find that answer comes much faster through the reflection of kind companions who are also consciously on their own journeys. The ones that walk by your side and say:
“This is what I hear when I hear you say this.”
“Have you considered …?”
“Here’s what really resonates from what you shared.”
Essentially, they are the good kinds of mirrors – the ones who reflect both the ugly and the beautiful but do not shudder or leave you when they see what they see (the real YOU).
They remind you of what is possible, what is loving, and, helpfully, what is TRUE.
These are exactly the kinds of relationships I am interested in nurturing at the Harvest Table Dinners and retreats I host. In a city where you often feel the pressure as an entrepreneur or creative or leader to show up in a mask of ‘success’ or ‘got it all together-ness’, where are the spaces where you can show up when you’re in the Evil Forest and have someone kind show up to say:
“I see you, I hear you, let’s remove the creepy vines and get to the core need that wants to be shared here.”?
Where can you show up and laugh – maybe even cackle or snort – in solidarity? Sometimes the stuff we go through is so ridiculous and deserves to be aired through a belly laugh rather than be added to our virtual “this is how I’ve been failing” lists.
Where can you show up in service to help others with the lessons you’ve learned along the way, while simultaneously learning lessons of your own that otherwise make you feel “unqualified” or like an impostor who “shouldn’t” be viewed as an expert?
I see the core need as being heard; being seen; being in a space of togetherness and understanding – a shared experience.
After hosting retreats for the last three years and monthly dinners for half a year now, each with a different crew of incredible creative minds coming together to share a weekend or a meal, I can honestly say that the communally shared reflection and response is one of a desire for community.
There is a big appetite for gathering and sharing and yet many of us struggle to figure out where we can be fed and truly nourished among the multitude of offerings out there.
Nurture events have shown me that real connections are made, solutions are mined, and truths are spoken and witnessed to when we show up as ourselves without our masks. The best part is the organic unfolding of it. I do my best within the template of a meal or a retreat to create a beautiful, welcoming, safe, (delicious!) intentional space and to collaborate with like-minded others whose creations inspire and ignite. The core of the experience, however, is about what wants to happen between the people like you who show up.
What wants to happen is connection.
There is a magic there that I do not take for granted – a shared co-creation of those of us who are brave enough to admit we have a specific need: we don’t want to (or can no longer) do this alone.
If this is you, and you are hungry for this kind of connection, I’d like to personally invite you to come join us at one of our monthly Nurture Harvest Table Dinners. This month, our inspiring guest is Sammi Smith, founder of Soft Focus – a local loungewear line whose creation and purpose goes beyond mere fashion to include the fact that what we wear when we are at home (as many of us freelancers often are) can shape the way we feel and how we show up to our lives and our work. And to the Evil Forest. Her clothes to me feel like a beautiful, magical option for that journey.
You can reserve your seat HERE.
P.S. For those of you craving creative community and connection, but for whom the dinners or retreats are currently not a part of your financial reality, check out two of my favourite spaces of (FREE!) community, support and inspiration: TuesdaysTogether Toronto & Creative Mornings TO.