Difficulties come when you don’t pay attention to life’s whisper. Life always whispers to you first, but if you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you’ll get a scream
Have you noticed how familiar challenges continue to cycle through your life which present opportunities to do the deeper dive of healing from a place of greater safety, understanding, and compassion?
During this past Thanksgiving holiday weekend of 2019, I lost my voice. Laryngitis wrapped its red swollen, cracked fingers around my vocal cords. Talking creates discomfort. I have muted myself to heal. As someone who loves to express herself with spoken words, I’m finding gratitude and rich lessons inside the silence, once again.
I often take advantage of body ailments as a time to be curious about the mental, emotional, relational, and contextual conditions of my life. I broaden my view to all these areas because I’ve learned that repeated, familiar body ailments often connect to limiting beliefs that linger like that last bit of dog poo that I cannot scrape off my shoe after stepping, again, in a pile. The ailment almost always connects to unresolved feelings that haven’t fully processed through my heart.
I look at “pay attention to me!” body issues as a window to the rest of my life, a process I have been doing for years to great benefit.
This holistic perspective honors the mind/body/emotion connection because I know I’m not an isolated clump of symptoms. I’m an entire human being connected to the people I care about, the thoughts I think, the feelings that flow, and the past I lived. I also know that I can watch all of this from my ever quiet, internal witness.
A couple of weeks ago the man I hired to create Cherish Your World videos had set up all his equipment outside on his driveway. As the temperature rapidly dropped here in the mountains, the winds picked up ferociously creating a biting wind chill. I had texted him earlier to request that “Maybe we tape inside today.” However, he believed that shooting outside would stay consistent with the other footage of excerpts from Let Go Courageously. A handful of chapters remained to be read.
Thinking he would honor my request to remain inside, I arrived in skinny jeans, hiking boots, a fleece jacket over a cotton sweater with no hat, scarf, or gloves. A metal stool awaited my bony bottom. Speaking up did not even occur to me. A life-long pattern of automatically acquiescing to what seems like an authority figure, a person who appears to “know better than I do” took over my whole way of being. Days later, I revisited this moment over and over again wanting to understand and dismantle an unhealthy, habituated reaction.
I climbed up on the cold metal stool, followed his cues, and began reading the last chapters of my book. The icy wind gusts began to take my breath away as my body shivered with cold. We took breaks to warm up inside his house. He noted that the wind chill has plummeted into the teens. He offered me gloves, a hat, a thicker coat that I layered on top of my fleece which did little to warm my already bone-chilled body. We powered forward. I could no longer bear sitting on the icy metal stool. I stood shivering as I read the final two chapters. How did my voice not quiver?
I drove away in full-body shakes, teeth chattering, the heat blasting from my car, my hands like icy tentacles attempting to grip the steering wheel. I couldn’t remember ever feeling this cold. The brilliant sunshine could not warm anything. All I could focus on was getting home to a hot shower and sipping hot cups of tea.
Have you ever powered through a situation without even thinking about the harm you were doing to your body, your psyche, your heart, or your relationships?
I don’t know about you, but I own that I got trained from a very young age to step into grown-up shoes, to take on more than I was designed to endure, and to “suck it up.” A mantra delivered loudly and clearly during my childhood came through: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I wanted to be a “tough” one even though so much of who I am at my core remains tender and sensitive. The demand for the yang of masculine energy in an unbalanced, unhealthy expression became and still becomes a way to cope, to survive, to produce results in a world that seemed to demand that I earn my right to exist.
The act of sitting on a metal stool in the freezing cold didn’t seem like a big deal given my past training. And yet, wow, really?
How many times have you not spoken up to authority figures? How many times when you did speak up to authority figures were you not heard or believed? How many times did your speaking the truth or pushing back create a ripple of backlashes that robbed you of your freedom, dignity, or sense of self-empowerment?
I acknowledge that a healthy, centered response to the videographer could have been to say, “I honor that you’d like the footage to be outside and consistent because you have an excellent eye for what creates an inviting video. I also appreciate that you’ve got everything set up. However, I am not willing to sit in the freezing cold. I don’t have that bandwidth or the proper clothing. Let’s reschedule for when the weather is warmer.”
As I live with the natural consequences of not taking care of my body like I could have, I’m grateful for another opportunity to shred limiting beliefs and those feelings of powerlessness that a young child or even a grown adult can experience. As I listen first to my body’s wisdom, to my freezing self after that shoot, to my currently inflamed vocal cords and my heart’s compassion, I can retrain my mind.
Before the laryngitis fully set in, I called the videographer. I created a temporary pause in our work together as I know I need to allow these learnings to settle in and the holidays have him very busy. I took full responsibility for silencing my voice that day and regretted doing so. He apologized when he realized he could have been more patient in waiting for another warm day. We realized there was rich learning for both of us.
As Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.”
Some of us might get to hike round and around the mountain, living and reliving certain pieces and parts of experiences until the layers of lessons finally titrate all the way down to our chilled to the bone, bones. Maybe next time we’ll advocate powerfully and confidently for ourselves without hesitation. At the very least we could pause to listen for our body’s truth, for what yearns to be expressed. Or maybe we’ll simply show up in the proper gear.
What lessons has life been teaching you lately? Do you cycle through similar challenges that remind you of previous ones as you deepen your learning? What have you realized about both powering through and choosing a gentler or different pathway?