I always thought the book Eat, Pray, Love ought to be rewritten for regular humans and instead be called, Eat, Shit, Shower. Because, let’s just be real here: Most days, if I get those three things done, that I consider myself spiritually whole - forget Bali and Italy and Silent Retreats.
Don’t get me wrong, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book was incredibly inspiring to me when I first read it and I’m confident there is a ton of wisdom in there that I have yet to appreciate. In fact, the scene in which she sits on the bathroom floor and decides to REALLY listen to herself in regards to her crumbling marriage was hugely helpful during my own divorce. BUT, I had to pull myself away from the temptation she lent me to leave my entire life, run for the hills, and live in silent and divine communion with the natural world.
You see, as moms and as partners, we can’t often do that. We can’t afford it in any sort of way, can we? And most of us - although anything silent and divine and far away might be desirable - don’t really want to leave our lives. This means that we become resistant to listening to ourselves out of fear of what we may hear. We are afraid that we will discover aspects that simply can't be fixed and if they were to be fixed, everything in our lives would have to blow up.
So, because we’re incredible humans with a mission for love and continuity, we start learning the great skill of ignoring ourselves. Whether it’s about the food we are bingeing, the lack of sleep we are getting, the unsatisfactory aspects of our relationships, the burn out we keep teetering towards, or whatever it is that our body/soul/insides have an opinion about … we get really good at saying, “NOT RIGHT NOW.”
Now, the other extreme here is obviously those of us who do listen and who then become completely obsessed with controlling our lives and making huge dramatic change. We go on restrictive diets and detoxes, we seek a geographical cure and attempt to move our families to far off places, we try the latest fitness craze, or we start looking around at how people other than our partners might fulfill our needs. And we do this without outside counsel and usually fairly impulsively.
The reality is that these extremes aren’t part of the much-needed skill of active listening. They are reactions, not responses. And they are bound to lead to trouble. I have been learning that true listening is actually the ability to hear something and then to live in the tension between the extreme feelings it may dig up. This is not easy to do, but since I am now the mother to a teenager and an infant all at once, I can tell you that it is essential to do. Everyone has big feelings. Everyone has big truths. Everyone has big “somethings” that just need to be heard. The good news is that RARELY do the things we hear need BIG responses. In fact, I would say that most of the time, all that is needed is a super gentle nod, a hug, and a “there, there” whispered in your ear.
So, this July, join us as we delicately and bravely trek through the land of TUNING IN to yourself, without losing yourself. I believe that this is the secret to being strong for the long haul. Here’s the breakdown of what we’ll be tackling:
Week 1: How to listen
Week 2: Becoming aware (without becoming obsessed)
Week 3: Respond versus React
Week 4: Show Up or Shut Down
Please share with your people. Having company while doing the hard things is a major life hack that you deserve.