For weeks, okay months, I have struggled with this deep gut feeling. It sits in the pit of my stomach and reaches up to my heart, where it rests. I call it loneliness, it feels like emptiness. A hollowness in my soul that no one will ever see me; no one will ever connect with me. Like I will be unfriended and voted off the island my whole life.
Yes, I know some of you are thinking I am being dramatic. It is possible, I am extra feely after all. In this motherhood gig, we spend all our time focused on tasks to complete; juggling schedules. We drift from our partners and become ships passing in a fog of life, like heartbeats in the wind. (Thank you Brian Paulson, sweet husband for that line). In this life gig, we get lost and confused and turn ourselves inside out, trying to figure it out.
My loneliness feeling began to cultivate in July. It just so happened that is when a blog post by Rachel Macy Stafford came across my FB newsfeed as I distracted myself from my life. It was called I Will Go With You: Encouraging Kids to Look Beyond Themselves When Stuck in a Place They Cannot Thrive. The words in the article found my wounded little girl heart and lifted it right up to the surface. Rachel’s message reminded me I wasn’t alone.
Something bigger than myself compelled me to reach out to her. Maybe because at the end of the post, I noticed that she was going to be at 1440 in Scotts Valley. This is about 40 minutes from my house. I sent her a FB message, and she responded. Y’all it was the stinking 4th of July, and she wrote me back. I was stunned. I was honored. I was touched. And a little bit of magic happened; that vacantness in my soul felt like someone had taken up room.
I looked into scholarship opportunities. I was able to get one to attend the Soul Shift class that happened there this past weekend.
Of course, life continues to happen, and from that moment in July to October, I have only receded further inside myself and away from my friends. It is hard to get together when you are all living lives that take you in different directions. We easily give up that time together to pour our energy into our families. So while I had seen my friends and texted them, I still felt like I just wanted someone in my life on the daily that I knew would be there to smile at me in the hallways of life. And my friends were not the problem. I thought I was the kind of friend, the type of person who just didn’t make enough of an impression, who didn’t reach out enough, that maybe I wasn’t friendship worthy enough for that kind of friend. Which, of course, are the kind of thoughts that force you into retreat mode.
I thought this class might help me with my connection issues.
At first no dice. At new things I dive into myself. And even though before class started, a group gathered around me at the fire pit, um duh, that means you put off a vibe that you are welcoming. Then during the first session I was seated next to a wonderful woman who talked for the both of us and didn’t seem to mind; I still stayed safely inside my quiet comfort zone of unworthiness.
But let me just say that when I walked in, I was greeted by Amy Paulson, and she is the most fantastic human ever. She instantly connected with me because we have the same last name, and the front desk personnel had almost given her my name tag. She greeted me like an old friend. Her presence at this conference invited me in and whispered to my heart, “Stay.”
There were definite ups and downs in relation to connection during the retreat. All of which were in my realm of perspective and control.
Saturday, I spent the day inside my shell. I was like a timid turtle viewing the world from just inside my safest space. Afraid I didn’t belong. Scared there wasn’t space for me in this place or this world where I would ever feel connected, enough. From this space though, I was able to determine that these women and one man, were like me. They were all craving connection from like-minded souls. They needed rest and restoration for their weary, lonely souls.
So Sunday morning I prayed. I prayed for God to send me where He needed me to be. I asked that He use me as a vessel for love and light. I ask that He guide my words so that I may offer His peace and love into the world. I asked Him to use me for His good. And of course, as is likely when you ask to be used by the greatest good in the world, miracles do happen.
I was led to a space in the room where I met a woman who had five children. We had the best conversation and instant connection. She asked me to eat lunch with her. Relief and gratitude filled my heart. I was chosen by someone else to share precious time. My lonely soul needed that desperately.
At lunch, two other women joined our table. The connection was magical. I discovered at the lunch that two of the women had lost someone dear to them just a few weeks earlier. Not only did the light inside of me help remind them that their loved ones were close by; I made them laugh. Laughter inside of grief is a ray of hope; a reminder that there is a way through; a way to grow around that grief and carry it with you. God had answered my prayer and placed me just where I needed to be.
We said our good-byes and talked about our takeaways. Amy came up in my mind. She had greeted me and left such a distinct impression on my heart with her photography work, with her personality, with the ease at which she stepped into life and invited others to join her. It dawned on me that the best people, the people that welcome you in are almost always unapologetically themselves. Amy also reminded me of why I started this journey to live out loud. She also thinks of her children, her daughter, especially when she feels uncomfortable or out of place. How would she want her daughter to feel? What would she want her daughter to think? And those are the things she tells herself.
As we parted ways at the end of the retreat, my mind started to recalibrate to regular life. Instead, of settling back into old habits, I began to try and embrace the things that I learned. My soul did, indeed, start to shift.
I decided to call my dad on my way home. He is inspirational, real and always upbeat. His take on the world puts my mind in a positive place. This Sunday conversation was no different. It was soul healing. It was his insight that helped me draw the inferences through all the ideas that had bubbled up as a result of the retreat. So as the old questions encroached on my newfound happiness, I refused them. Instead, I began to turn and twist them into new questions that might help me find and rekindle connections in my life.
What if I don’t deserve the space I take up?
What if I not only deserve the space but am placed here with purpose?
What if I am not enough?
What if I am enough?
What if I am not a good mom?
What if I am the best mom for my children?
What if I am not meant to be a friend?
What if I am a good friend?
What if I fail?
What if I try?
What if I am too much?
What if I am just what this world needs?
What if I was unapologetically me?
What if I not only deserve the space but am placed there with purpose? If I am here on purpose then I have to show up. I have to be my best self and offer that to each situation I face.
What if I am enough? I always say I was born this way on purpose for a purpose. That means that I am exactly the way I am supposed to be. That means I am enough. And even though I am a work in progress, I am enough. Plus, all humans make mistakes. One practice I have implemented in my life are do-overs. It was years ago that I made the mistake of not greeting a friend the way I wanted because I was distracted and upset by my fighting children. Well, as soon as the children were settled, I found that friend, apologized and did the greeting over. From that moment on, I knew that each moment was a new shot, a second chance to get it right, or just a new moment to soak it all in. I can be flawed and enough.
What if I am the best mom for my children? It has come to my knowledge since becoming a medium that we chose our parents before we even get here. So it would follow that my own children wanted me as a parent. If that is true, then I am the best mom for my children. They knew I wouldn’t be perfect of course, but they also knew my love for them would never cease. They knew I would never stop trying to help deliver the nourishment they needed for their bodies, minds, and souls. And of course that would mean that I am the best mom for my children.
What if I am a good friend? This one is tough, because there are so many times I want to show up for people, and I talk myself out of it, or my own life wobbles like a top sputtering out of control that I don’t get the thing done I wanted to do for them. I am late to remember birthdays. I hesitate to ask for help or offer it. But I have good friends. How could I have such stellar people in my life if I wasn’t offering something in return? Maybe I am a good enough friend. I am going to work to be a better one and not talk myself out of showing up. But I am good enough as it stands today.
What if I try? Well, this one is an easy one for me. If I try, I have no regret. Regret is so much worse than trying and failing. I will take trying over regret any day.
What if I am just what this world needs? Even writing this, this truth sits a bit heavy with me. But if I was born just this way and I believe in divine timing, then it would follow that I am just right where I am supposed to be. Doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing at the moment and miraculously it is making a difference. In this crazy world I know we forget that if we do our best and help just one person that we have done what we set out to do. Just reach one person. The ripples that come off that action in their lives and our own create a catalyst of good in the world. Those ripples extend farther than we can imagine and create more ripples we may never even see.
What if I was unapologetically me? What if?! What if I showed up and felt like I belonged? What if I didn’t overthink everything I said? What if I allowed myself just to be? WHAT IF? Can you even imagine what that would feel like? The best people live their lives this way. Amy Paulson, my dad, Rachel Macy Stafford, all the people that influenced me the most last weekend and in my everyday life are unapologetically themselves. So I have decided I no longer am just striving to live out loud telling my truth, being vulnerable, I am going to strive to be unapologetically me. It is going to be a process, but I can’t wait to see where that will take me.
What I want you to remember, dear reader, is that you can shift your soul, your perspective, your heart at any moment, too. Each moment is a new moment, another chance, a fresh start. And it is a process, we can lose footing and our way and start over again. There is no end and no beginning; we are always becoming, growing, and if you keep showing up, believing you are supposed to be there just as you stand today, the good and acceptance that will flow into the world from that will be enough.
You are enough.
You deserve the space you take up.
You are a fabulous parent and partner.
You are not alone.
You are worthy of friendship.
You will not fail; you will learn; you will soar; you will become unapologetically you.
Sincerely and unapologetically,