February 5th, 2017
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I used to be afraid to ring the streetcar bell. There were countless times when I would stay on until someone else rang the bell – often a few stops further than I needed. A small thing that speaks volumes about how I felt about and within myself at the time. Ringing the bell was akin to asking outright for something – acknowledging a need: Please stop. I need to get off here. It embarrassed me, as it announced my presence in a way that made me feel uncomfortable, self-conscious and exposed. At the time, I didn’t have the staying power to be with that discomfort of being seen or expressing a need, so I stayed hidden and ashamed and, well, entirely self-absorbed.
It wasn’t only streetcars that brought out this tendency – I behaved this way in my family, in my friendships and with lovers, in my career, in my relationship to my body, in my relationship to my gifts and talents. For so long, I avoided showing up to my own life, avoided expressing my needs, announcing my own presence, and ‘dealt with’ it by retreating into some version of my life where my soul was barely audible and fantasy reigned supreme.
Unfortunately, fantasy will not make a streetcar stop. Nor will it speak up for your needs.
The only thing that will get you out of discomfort, out of your shame or off at Yonge and College and into your life is to pull the cord. DING. It is that simple*.
*I did not say easy.
But, if you’re like me at the time, it seems like there are acres of unknown territory between one way of thinking or behaving (shame, withering into yourself and your story) and where you want to be (boldly being you, showing up to your life as a creative agent). It can often feel like there is some great test you must pass, or steps you must take, or worth you must earn to do so.
What a relief then, to discover none of the above are needed. No test. No steps. No earning.
“But wait!,” you may be asking your screen now. “What does she mean? What the heck do I do instead?”
The unknown territory is NOT the landscape between hiding and the decision to stop hiding. That decision is your key and it takes only a millisecond, sometimes less, and can ideally be repeated and refined ad infinitum until it becomes habit. So what to do with all the terrain that is filled with unanswered questions and emotions that threaten overwhelm in the meantime prolonged by your own stubbornness/unwillingness to decide?
Believe me when I say I’ve tried almost everything when it comes to alternatives to the one antidote that has any power in this terrain: Presence.
Nurturers, it’s been what I like to call a WEEK (emphasis mine). Between what is happening with the retreat centre plan, with the world at large and with the world within, it feels like life took my greatest fears, vulnerabilities, dreams and aspirations, threw them in a blender and said: “Drink. It’ll help you grow.” Things did not work out the way I had planned and I find myself alternating between the poles of: “this is ultimately for the best” and “omg what if I didn’t try hard enough?” There is really no peace to be found on the see-saw between those two places. Rather, I have found peace in taking a deliberate step back from relating to the chaos and simply sitting in the unknown. Sitting with whatever emotion comes up (a smorgasbord – seriously, if I emojied this week, there would be at least 8 accurate ones, especially the one that looks like a constipated sad drama mask. You know the one I mean.).
Practicing this presence is a raw act, but it is also a privilege. Why? Because our lives are worth witnessing to. Our emotions are worth showing up for – ALL of them.
It’s a practice my friend and fellow self care advocate, Barbara, has also taken to heart. She calls this practice ‘Being With‘ and her beautiful card deck of the same name grew out of that messy human place most dreams and callings sprout from: the moment we realize, mid-suffering, that we are the answers to our own questions, or at least a creative vessel for them. It was an honour to include her cards in our Self Care Starter Kits at our fall Nurture: A Retreat.
Nurturers, if you’ve had a week like mine, if you’re struggling with your own version of the Streetcar Pull, or if you need a way through the horrific news feed scrolling across your screen or your mind, consider gifting yourself a pack of these cards. Divided into categories of Speak, Rest, Affirm, Ask, Move & Write, these cards offer tender prompts to stay with what’s unfolding, whatever form that takes for you. They also make an amazing Valentines Day gift for anyone on your heart that could use a compass back to themselves.
P.S. If anyone is curious, I now pull that cord like I’m a 5 year old who likes Choo Choo Twains.