My friend, Phil Goddard, invited me on his podcast “The Coaching Life” a little while back.
After about an hour of ‘getting naked’ about everything from eating disorders and boob jobs (just another day at the office), to how I see the world in general, he asked a question (paraphrasing):
“What would people be surprised to know about you?”
At the end of that conversation it seemed like the well of revelation had already been drained, and I found myself reaching for more nakedness…
Should I tell him about my public period blow-out? Or the time I came off a Master Cleanse without reading the instructions, and ended-up having to shit in a disposable coffee cup in the back my truck? Nah, that would be just more of the same.
I’ve revisited that question over the past couple months, and I wish I could go back and talk about something that I think it’s relevant not only to coaches, but to anyone who’s looking in the direction of what’s really true about being human.
I think that people would be surprised to know how lonely it feels sometimes… Like, I avoid the window dressing chitter-chatter of mom-groups, and sometimes dread standing in-line at Target because hearing the typical-talk and group-gossip of the 99% of ‘normal people,’ is like sand paper against an exposed tooth root.
When you think differently than 99% of the rest of the planet, who believes what we’ve all been fed: that our experience of life – good or bad – comes from our circumstances and the people in our lives…
When you KNOW FOR SURE (even when your forget) that your good-or-bad experience comes from how your virtual reality goggles (current mood and perspective), and your interpreting of circumstances in the moment is your own subjective reality. When you know that your experience is fluid, not real, change-able, flexible, your fault – and that’s good news. YOU’RE A FREAK! Because to everyone else – it’s the other guy.
I HEARD THAT! Your eyes rolling. I heard that. Careful or you’ll give yourself a migraine. (But what eves… hopefully that will be the most boring paragraph in this account.)
When everyone else around you believes that their problems come from their circumstances (duh), and other people (even you – YOU’RE the cause of their problems!), then having a conversation with those 99% feels a bit lonely. Isolated.
And in their frustration of not getting through to you about how things REALLY are (you hippy), and in their fight for the circumstances of their suffering, you might just hear something like:
“YOU people are CRAZY!”
And that just whacks a hornet’s nest in your skull, and the buggers fly out of your mouth in the form of gaggie, new-agie aphorisms and plagiarized quotes from people who explain this shit much better than you, like:
“You’re just believing your story… let’s just pick this up when our minds settle.”
“I don’t remember ever solving an argument by drudging up the past or trying to figure out the future.”
“What’s wrong with feeling _________ ?”
“We’re all just living in our own subjective reality.”
“Yeah, we really CAN just drop it and go back to having a good time.”
Or perhaps you say nothing, you just snort-laugh inappropriately because you’re the only one who sees the hilarity in the whole thing… which makes you look even more unhinged.
It can be lonely, and disconcerting to those closest to you, while you’re the chaotic goo in the transformative chrysalis of becoming something with unfettered wings of self-actualization, but you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube (H.R. Haldeman – The Whitehouse Tapes from the Watergate Scandal).
When the serum of inquiry (what REALLY true?) is in, there’s no going back (I know, I’ve tried… I thought it would be easier being ‘domesticated again.)
And very often those closest to you – they think you’re cray-cray.
You probably are.
Here’s an example…
It was the first day of school last year, late-August-something. Last June (2018) we relocated 15-miles north… not a big distance, but a FULL MOVE. New house, new schools, new geography, new everything for the ump-teenth time, in ump-teenth years.
I spent the summer moving, settling, registering 3 kids in 3 different schools – transcripts, histories, mining emails for immunization-records, DNA samples, finger-prints and background-checks, holy vodka, etc.
If you’re a mom, who finds yourself signing-up to be the ‘room mom’ against your better judgement (like you don’t have the time, and don’t even like children) because there’s a blank space on the ‘volunteer form’ at back-to-school night (later it made sense when the teacher got hit by a car… but that’s another story), you totally get how the cray-cray of moving-momentum causes you to engage in absolute stupidity.
OK, I just totally squired and parenthesized… where was I?
Oh, yeah, it was a BUSY summer, full of shit I’m not good at, and hate to do.
Anyway… so it’s late August, and I drop my 3 kids off for their first day of school.
I remember the outfit (top-to-bottom): Bed head hair. Tank top, no bra. Baby-pink, oversized, Victoria’s Secret sweatpants that are dirty and shredded at the bottoms because I’m 5’1, and they’re made for someone 5’4-5’6, and I don’t bother to get things shortened. And the highlight of the loser-outfit is gray, fuzzy socks in black, sparkly flip-flops. (holy vodka – just the picture of gray fuzzie socks wedged into sparkly black flip-flops…)
So I pull in the driveway, and get a little dopamine-hit of accomplishment: They’re all still alive. I got them all to their new schools. They had clothes on and lunches. Yay.
Then I entered my house.
It was like noticing that you haven’t held the hair, or wiped the lip of the moving truck that vomited in your front door for 2 months… and it’s gotten all smelly and crusty, and hasn’t brushed it’s teeth.
Not to mention the piles of every-day vomit… the stacks of dishes in the sink, and the Himalayas of laundry in piles taller than I am – washed, but not folded.
So, I sat there in my kitchen, surveying the domestic to-do’s. And lamented the potential clients that reached-out to me for coaching or courses, but I told them I wasn’t available until school started – TRUTH (how could I?)
I sat there amongst the piles of dishes and laundry. And surveyed the situation of my ‘loser-mom’ outfit, punctuated by the fuzzy socks in sparkly flip-flops, surrounded by dirty, shredded pants, and dirty domestic to-dos…
The voices in my head fought for loser-mom pole position with:
I’m a lonely loser! I have no friends, no work, no life!
My kids, my company, my purpose – all gone!
I’m dressed like a homeless person, and went into Starbucks like this to order a coffee!
Then something happened.
So I’m standing there in the kitchen, a tortured, loser soul with no friends, no work, and fuzzY socks in flip-flops.
And then I saw it – or more FELT and noticed it (because I’m weird and think differently than 99% of the world) – the bumps on the side of the highway that are there to wake you up – you don’t get out of your car and try to smooth them over – you just realize that the ‘bumpiness’ means that you’re off course.
So I felt like a loser. And lonely. And realized I was off-course, but there was nothing to do but feel off-course and wallow.
And then it happened, suddenly (you do the hokey-pokey, and you turn yourself around)…
Hang on a second… I’m alone in my kitchen!
I have no work planned today!
I have no kids with me today!
I’m in a disgusting outfit – fuzzy gray socks and flip-flops, and shredded, dirty sweat pant bottoms, and no one to impress!
And I have no appointments today!
I could read a book!
I could go to a movie!
I could lay naked by the pool – even with fuzzy socks and sparkly flip flops – and NO ONE would notice!
My kids are gone for the next 5 hours!
I’m totally free for 5-whole-hours!
In an instant, my reality changed, even though NOTHING changed… not even my fuzzy socks in sparkly flip-flops.
I went from lonely-loser to FREE, in an instant, and the only thing about my reality that changed was my thinking.
Same thing happened with my 16-year-old the other day.
We dropped my (almost) 12-year-old off for a 2-week, residential equestrian camp (we’re so fancy).
On the 1.5 mile dive home I said to Gianna (my 16-year-old):
“DUDE! All the adults are gone! (Sofia and Frank are the only adults in the house):
Let’s throw a party! Or get tattoos! Or our noses pierced or something!”
We laughed at the obviousness of Frank and Fi’s grounding presence gone for the next 2 weeks, and what that meant for the mischief that what we might get into.
After we were home for 30 minutes, Gianna came down from her bedroom and announced:
“Ok, I’m ready to go get my 3rd ear-piercing. When do you want to go?”
Gi: “You said since Dad and Fi were gone we could go get things pierced. And I want a 3rd hole in my ear.”
(She actually said that)
Me: “Umm, no. I was kidding. But if you’d like to have a party, I’m cool with that.”
Gi: (pissed. Attitude) “I don’t understand. You’re ok with a party, but not me getting my ear pierced a 3rd time?”
Me: “Yes. Exactly. But me being o.k. with a party has nothing to do with what I said on the way home, joking; I’m just ok with you having a party. But I’m not ok with you getting another piercing right now.”
Gi: “That doesn’t make any sense. You said. And give me a good reason why not?”
Me: “I said so, that’s a good reason. Give me a couple minutes, I’ll think of another.”
And then I started trying to think of a really good reason why she shouldn’t have a 3rd piercing in her ear (of course, all the reasons that came up were someone else’s – like, “a 3rd ear piercing means you’re a whore!” Or, “a third ear-piercing means that your parents don’t supervise you, and it’s a bad reflection on them!, etc.”), and none of the ‘good reasons’ were actually true. And she pulled the teenager, oppositional guns out. And we argued. And she went up to her room in a huff, and didn’t come back down until the next morning. And I wondered why my old conditioning – that wasn’t true – made me miss a night with my kid.
And I sat there all evening lamenting, and pondering what went wrong…
What was supposed to be an evening of bonding between me and Gi, turned into a silent war over a 3rd ear-piercing.
The next day Gianna and I had breakfast together and all was well, but I was still bewildered about what had transpired. I called my friend, Antra, and told her about the whole dealio.
We talked about ‘learned helplessness‘ – about our kids’ entitlement, and how we started working and earning money at a very young age (10 for me), and how we’re ruining our kids…
And then, just like the morning in gray fuzzy socks and sparkly flip-flops… I questioned my belief about how ‘I’m ruining my kid.’
“Hang on a second… I had to start working at TEN! She’s 16 and hasn’t worked a day in her life! Learned helplessness my ass. Who’s “helpless” here?
Nothing in my reality changed, but my feeling for my kid went from worry to admiration in an instant.
And my whole experience of parenthood went from: ‘I’ve failed my kid,’ to “holy f@ck, she’s so friggin’ smart!” in the time that it takes for a thought to change.
I know, I know… that’s a LOT to digest, especially if you’re of the 99% – which I still am about a lot of things. I don’t know what’s right – especially living with such lax about kids, and fuzzy socks in sparkly flip-flops and such…
But I DO KNOW FOR SURE that I don’t know.
And it’s a bit lonely to not know, and to doubt everything I’ve been fed by those who don’t know either.
Life is a blank slate when you’re this open to WHAT IS REALLY TRUE?
As Jiddu Krishnamurti said: “It’s no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
All I know is, I can say this about my closest friends around the world, who are also finding their way to what’s really true:
YOU PEOPLE ARE CRAZY
And I Love You For It.
Because in our mutual inquiry of what’s actually true?
We get to feel less alone in the discovery of who we actually are.