True to form, I featured someone other than myself in the first post on this topic. I love being a witness to other people as heroes–including deeply appreciating and truly participating in their journey.
The reality is that I show up everyday. I am on my own journey and it’s observable by others. People see me physically in spaces. They are impacted by my words, tone of voice, facial expressions. They feel my energy wordlessly when I sit next to them or walk into a room. And people have stories about me and what’s going on in my life as a result–often solely from what they observe.
Sometimes I forget that I am seen, take up space, and am in other people’s thoughts. Oddly enough, I am always baffled when someone recognizes me in public or remembers me from a previous, in-passing encounter. I forget that I’m just as unique and memorable as others are to me.
This past month on a Saturday morning, my coworker Lisa and I sat in the sunshine outside the wonderful Flying Apron Bakery in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle (pictured right). We had set a date to pick out new glasses for her at the incomparable Warby Parker. Lisa recently made the change to “go natural” with her grey hair, and rock clothes (and now glasses!) that are playful and colorful with her new Miranda Priestly style (Meryl Streep’s character in “The Devil Wears Prada“).
After successfully selecting not just one pair of new frames, but two! (one clear and another in a great blue tone), Lisa and I stood on the sunny corner just outside of the shop and continued to talk. I shared with her how much I appreciated that she was embracing her natural hair color along with a boldness and unashamed confidence in herself–what she calls her “inner Meryl Streep.” She turned the tables and talked about me. Lisa shared that she had noticed how much I had been wrestling through and journeying with in the past year. She said that she could feel my energy while walking in the halls at work between meetings–and how she observed that energy change over the months that had transpired. She talked about how she had wondered if she should tell me at the time, but felt that it wouldn’t have been helpful to tell me necessarily then. Lisa said that now, in this moment in time, she was happy to tell me–standing with me on the other side of so much change and transition.
I asked Lisa–what is your story about my journey? I had told her what I thought it was about and she simplified it. “No…I don’t see it as being about all those details. I see your core motivation as being about your naming that you weren’t happy and fighting for the life that you wanted. I saw it. It is obvious and inspiring. You did it.” She and I proceeded to talk about the role of people in our lives. When do you need the friend, the guide, the therapist? When do you need someone else to say that they see you, and tell you what they see? And when is it just up to you–to name and fight for what you want?
I tend to slip in a joke, tongue-in-cheek, in conversation from time to time: “No, I’m not going to _____ event / place by myself. I’m going with me, myself and I.” My hero’s journey is shared. By me, myself and I (insert winking face here). Ok, all joking aside, it takes work to see ourselves in our own journey.
I mentioned in the last post that I took a “Leading with Emotional Intelligence (EQ)” class this past quarter at Seattle University. One of the closing activities on our three day retreat, was a “I See Myself… I See You…” activity.
For 3 minutes, we were to say without stopping “I see myself as ____. I see myself as ____.” We could use adjectives, metaphor, literal identity elements–whatever came to mind. Then, for 3 minutes, the 18 or so people in the room would spontaneously, popcorn-style say aloud “I see you as _____. I see you as ____.” Again, true to form, I chose to be the scribe for everyone. I loved having the audio-visual experience of hearing what people said about themselves and what others said. I loved the kinetic experience of writing those words on paper. I loved being able to hand everyone the notes of what happened in those significant six minutes.
Here is what someone else wrote down for me, when it came to my turn:
It’s amazing how our view of ourselves is different than how others see us. I love the Dove “Real Beauty Sketch” videos (links: full 6 minute version or 3 minute version). I also love the spoof men’s version (here) + Saturday Night Live mirror spoof inspired loosely by the concept (here). Each of those videos–serious or spoof–paint a great picture of the disconnect between our eyes and our thoughts/emotions when we look in the mirror or are “present” in our own journey.
Just a week or two after my EQ retreat and the “I See Myself… I See You…” activity, I struggled yet again with seeing myself. My life coach, Cindy, was on the phone with me. She began to list elements of who I am that struck her and have impacted her over the last year that we’ve been working together. I wrote them on a post-it note (pictured left), which now sits in my room where I see it daily.
At the end of the EQ class, we were assigned the rather daunting and somewhat morbid task of imagining ourselves on our death bed. What would our hypothetical, 90-year-old us want to say to ourselves?
My 90-year-old me said to my current self:
- I’m proud of you for trying new things, being curious, staying full of wonder despite sadness, pushing through, taking control of your life, laughing more, being free.
- I want you to unashamedly be you and want what you want.
- Budget better. Save more money. Stop spending so much.
- You have so much love in your life already. Enjoy it.
- What you’re drawn to professionally counts. It matters. Trust it. Take those risks.
The genius of the “90-year-old-self” exercise was that we were able to somehow “see” ourselves. We were also able to talk to ourselves. To tell ourselves things that we wanted to know.
Over the course of this last year, I’ve engaged more than these EQ activities or the “Value Card” exercise I mentioned a few posts ago. I’ve made “Vision Boards,” written about an “Ideal Day” five years from now, made a “Goal Board” more recently, have written a “Manifesto”–and even more. My coworker Ryan (pictured left) also went through a similar change to mine in the past few years and the “Manifesto” idea / concept came from him. Side note: I’m actually going out on a limb and playing music at an open mic with Ryan this month, which I’m really excited about. It’s yet another exploration of my own personal change and being/becoming.
A non-traditional, counter-cultural, antithesis-of-American-Dream, creative life. One that cannot be labeled with one label or boxed.
A capital “L” life–a proper noun life of Life’s truest essence.
Real life. The ugly and the beautiful. Serendipitous and spontaneous. Growth-defined and challenging. Raw and refined. Fresh and aged. Time-tested and true. Expansive and innovative.
A life dripping with contribution. Contagious inspiration of “L”ife, consciousness, spirituality and connectivity with self and world and the other.
I sing though I don’t perform.
I drive outside of comfort zones to embrace friends near and far.
I run at my own pace with or without music–enjoying being a human in motion.
I walk through forests and on waterfront cliffs with the wind in my hair.
I open my kitchen and home to laughter and conversations that push past surfaces and assumptions.
I wrestle the unknown in relationships and hold with an open hand.
I will never cease to fight for this Real Thing–Life, Love, Connection, Beauty. Authentic Truth. There’s no substitute for the Real.
At the Seattle storefront of Warby Parker, there are wonderful art pieces and words throughout the shop. Guests can write their “Five-word Memoir” on a wooden block at the entrance. A quote and some words from the writer’s block stood out to me (pictured below). In my own life journey: how do I listen to me, myself and I? How do I listen to my own story? How am I kind to myself? How do I live with my eyes wide open in seeing myself?
When I was traveling and living overseas, I would often spend hours looking at my own photos as a slideshow on my computer screen. Somehow it helped to witness my own life. I felt as if I was able to zoom-out from my experience as an outsider while also zooming-in and seeing the nuance and detail more closely. What time can I spend this week paying attention to myself, and noticing my own journey?
I’ll close this post with a quote directed to myself, as well as to you–the reader. My friend Carolyn (who I’ll share more from at another time) posted it on Facebook this past week and it resonated on this theme for me.
“Remember: you don’t need to figure anything out. You don’t need to see how it all fits together. All you need is to practice directing your attention to the life you want.”
~ Cheri Huber