[Orginally published at: womens-plaza.com on 3/21/16]
A few years ago I was teaching a dance class at a high-end fitness club. During a break between songs, something caught my eye. I turned to watch as a woman just outside of the window seemed to be running in slow motion. Shirt stained with sweat, her cheeks were flushed a brilliant red. She moved as if traipsing through quicksand. As she labored on I noticed she was harnessed to something just outside my line of sight. Her face contorted and she summoned the strength to propel herself forward - desperately tethered, yet just as fiercely committed. Just as the students in class turned to look, her personal trainer - a young man at the other end of her rope - came into view. He leaned back against her might and looked almost-bored as he literally resisted her call to action.
“Wow. That looks a lot like my last relationship.” The words spilled forth and, before I could process my regret, the room full of women erupted in laughter. Apparently, I wasn’t alone in that sentiment.
While a certain degree of tension is to be expected in relationship, there may be times when we find ourselves pulling more than our share of the weight. We get angry. Resentful. We want to blame others for dragging their heels in tandem with our efforts. What’s with them anyway? Why do they have to make everything so damned difficult?!
Yet perhaps a better question to ask is: What’s with you? While it may seem like a loving act to continually pull people where you think they need to go, in reality you’re not doing yourself or anyone any favors. Sacrificing vital energy in any direction that consistently opposes you will invariably breed resentment.
My colleagues at the Women’s Plaza have recently offered some great fodder related to the topic of power expression. Danielle delivered a pragmatic crash course on how to say no. And Glaucia presented a demystifying look at work inequalities at home. Now let’s examine what typically lies at the center of our self-sacrifice.
Most debilitating emotional tethers are a result of poor boundaries. If your back is breaking and your heart rate is up, your exhaustion may be an indicator that you have disowned your limits.
Sovereignty is the ability to honor and effectively express your edges. In our most intimate dealings, we often disown our boundaries for the sake of what we call unconditional love. In our efforts to be unselfish, we over-empathize and stop differentiating. We become unwilling to draw a line - to own or express our truth - because that isn’t what love would do.
Now I assure you, I am a big fan of love. Love is the connective tissue that binds our lives to one another. It is limitless, expansive. It reaches our hearts and minds into an emotional stratosphere that lies far beyond the immaterial.
Yet, like it or not, limits govern in a material world. Bypassing personal limits for the sake of love may be necessary from time to time; however, it is absolutely essential to our well-being that we don’t make a habit of it.
What would love do? Love will love, just as the wind will wind. A better question is: What will you do to honestly express your love AND your limits given the current conditions?
An open heart has edges. We must treat our emotional heart-space as we would any other muscle - allowing it to contract with regularity so it might develop the strength and elasticity to expand to its fullest potential.
Sovereignty takes practice. You can start now:
3 KEYS to SOVEREIGN SELF-EXPRESSION
Do I embody my right to be happy no matter what I am “doing”? Or do I hustle to prove myself, allowing the roles that I play and my performance therein to define my worth?
Embody your significance.
Live the confidence credo = “I matter.”
What’s mine and what isn’t? Do I allow the people I care about to tend to their own emotional experience? Or do I intervene, hoping to FIX it?
Allow others the consequences of their choices.
Habitual martyrdom only serves to disempower the people around you.
Am I comfortable expressing my needs? Or does the idea of setting boundaries scare me? Am I willing to unpack, sort through dysfunctional models, and find a more honest and vulnerable way to draw lines in relationship to others?
Together we can divorce the my-way-or-the-highway models we’ve long been fed and recreate a world where reciprocated vulnerability is a shared cultural value.
Healthy expression of sovereignty has perhaps never been more critical than it is today.
And it starts with you.
[Originally published at: rebellesociety.com on 2/13/16]
We live in a world profoundly divided by ideology. A world where we are continually exposed to extreme differences; differences that often result in conflict. In the circles I frequent, extreme conservative and right-wing sensibilities are a source of dissonance and frustration for many. And, I myself, can become offended and/or royally pissed off by the words and actions of others. News and social media offers me nonstop fodder to ignite this dissonance. At times I take the bait... rallying with others "together in favor" of this-and-that... and rising up "opposed to him or her".
And yet more and more I'm realizing that when we roll our eyes or condemn or grow frustrated with another human for not speaking or behaving in the manner that we would expect, we are missing the point entirely. Maybe it's not our politics or our beliefs that define how effective we are... perhaps it's the character with which we show up and navigate the realities of a shared humanity.
Consider this: When you are "offended" your psyche imagines it's been attacked. Yet in reality it's only a belief, a mental and/or emotional construct that is under fire. Something is rubbing up against what you "know" to be true and you feel a need to defend it.
But before you fire back, pause, and ask yourself:
Do you really want to wage a war? Even IF the cause you represent makes you feel 100% justified... is it necessary that you *fight back* in order to gain ground?
Maybe your answer is yes, but I challenge that. As human history has shown us, violence and divisiveness does not change minds; it destroys lives. If you are like me, and you don't believe in fighting wars, then check yourself as to how you approach everyday conflicts in your life.
We are on the brink of electing a giant bully as a nominee for president. And people on the left (and right) keep asking: HOW could this be happening?! How could someone like him be an option for so many? Yet the more I look around at the way so many of us handle conflict in our everyday lives, the less surprised I am.
Trump is a living-and-breathing representation of what happens when the human shadow is allowed to run amok. Left or right, when we point fingers, label others, and allow our ideology to keep us from being curious and willing... we are no different than him. Just because our labels are more flowery and politically-correct, it doesn't make them any less divisive.
Politically, it doesn't matter much if you swing left or right.
If you draw hard lines when it comes to difficult truths then there is a fundamental flaw in your aim.
Do you REALLY want people to open their minds?
Then open yours. Wider than ever.
Has rolling your eyes and/or shaming someone for their beliefs EVER worked to open a heart and ignite the love you hope to inspire?
I seriously doubt it.
Judging others for their ignorance reveals to them your arrogance, not your intellect.
Instead of wagging your finger in someone's face, why not offer up a nugget of wisdom?
TIP: Wisdom = vulnerability + personal experience. It's NOT the same thing as a political soundbite you read on the internet.
Tell them how you overcame *your own* biases and judgement. And ask them how they inherited theirs. Create a dialogue that has the potential for truth-telling, versus shaming them for a mental construct they most likely played little part in creating.
In a divided world, there is a desperate need for safe spaces where we can openly speak what is in our minds and hearts without fear of condemnation. Where we can practice owning our truth and saying... "Hey, I know this might not be popular, but here's where I'm at as of now."
Sidenote: this is not an argument for emotional or spiritual bypassing. It's not an invitation to turn up your headphones and tune out the troubles of the world in the name of good vibes. No. It's a call for honest to goodness human-to-human dialogue where hard truths are welcome and heard.
There are many ways to stand up for what you believe in... and I wholeheartedly believe that the world will become a peaceful place when we really get that "the-good-fight" isn't really a fight at all. It's a confidence firmly rooted in integrity and sovereign self expression.
And P.S. I'm learning right alongside you. So no need to knock me off of any high horse. ;)
We are all going the best we can. Let's all practice (& do better) together.
There are times in life when we are sideswiped; taunted but not overtaken by a certain fate. Perhaps it's a desirable outcome that slimly passes us by, such as a long-coveted job or relationship that doesn't pan out in the end. Disappointment reveals to us its hidden gifts, forcing us to re-evaluate our priorities and find even greater clarity than before.
But what about "near misses" of the dramatic and fortuitous variety?... times when life narrowly misses a more disastrous mark? Roughly four weeks ago today was one such moment in my life.
My partner and I were traveling abroad, and it was our last morning in Turkey. Over the past week we had ventured 2500 miles by bus with a local guide, visiting ancient landmarks such as Cappadocia, Pamukkale, and Ephesus. Back in Istanbul for roughly 48 hours, we'd been exploring the vast metropolis on our own. Our plan was to squeeze in a tour of the Basilica Cistern along with a couple of more sites before our departure to Venice later that day.
Our hotel was in the Fatih shopping district, an area near historic landmarks that offered a hefty discount for the off-season. We'd slept in a bit, then headed outdoors where the temperature was rapidly dropping. As we scurried through the cobblestone side streets, snow began whipping sideways at our faces. I rallied toward the morning's mission for the sake of all we'd invested in time and money; yet even when I'm at my best extreme winter weather has the tendency to derail my enthusiasm. My will for adventure was wilting under the weight of the wind, and with each step I grew more resentful of our unrelenting itinerary. It certainly didn't help matters that, a bit tired of Turkish fare, all I'd been able to stomach for breakfast was a piece of toast. I was growing more light-headed and irritable by the minute.
In a plot twist I'd soon come to expect while traveling abroad, we reached the metro stop nearest to our hotel only to discover it was inexplicably closed. Backtracking yet again, we headed to our hotel to regroup. The most direct passage was along a narrow street. Leaving barely enough room for one vehicle to pass, its path ran parallel to the busy highway above. Weather and sound assaulted my weary body, and I couldn't wait to retreat indoors... so I led the way with dogged determination, power-walking with my hood up and my head down to the wind. Chris followed close behind. I had just moved up off of the street onto what I can only presume was meant to be a sidewalk - a claustrophobic brick embankment no more than two feet wide jutting away from the building that loomed four-stories high on my right. Lost in my single-minded mission, my senses would soon betray me. I vaguely recall hearing an approaching truck on my left, yet I mistook the sound for traffic along the highway above. It was in this exact wrong moment that I chose to step off the curb back into the street. When I did I was met with a sudden and terrifying burst of energy.
I felt the unmistakeable power of speed and metal as a commercial truck quite literally grazed my coat. I heard myself release a guttural scream as it passed. I didn't know what else to do; there was no time or space to move in any direction but toward hope. The truck missed me by less than a measure of an inch.
I frantically made my way back up onto that two-foot bullshit-of-a-sidewalk and leaned in against Chris. My body shook with overwhelm and the terror a deer must feel when narrowly missed by a bullet. Chris did his best to calm the both of us; yet needless to say, seeing me nearly mauled by a truck had really done a number on him as well.
Eventually we made our way back to the hotel and sat in the lobby gratitude-stricken and stunned by the silent presence of what could have been. I verbally alternated between breathless relief: "oh God... oh THANK God" and manic awe: "holy fucking shit... holy FUCKING shit!" Once safety settled in, I had no choice but to ask myself: How I could have been so distracted and out of my body as to step in front of a moving vehicle totally unaware?
Shock dissolved into realization.
Tears pooled, the answer swimming within.
I had (once again) been exhausted by my mind's ambitions. The truth was this: I was miserable with fatigue and a road-weary part of me desperately needed stillness and tending to. It wasn't the first time that I had ignored my needs for the sake of an external enterprise. It wasn't the first time I had fallen out of step with me, placing the rhythm of someone I love (in this case, my partner) before my own. But it WAS the first time it had almost cost me my life or god-only-knows-how-many weeks in a Turkish hospital.
I have a hard time standing still while the rest of the world moves at an even clip. And so, I bully myself to conform and carry on. I do as is expected and push through resistance. I rally. I suck it up. I power through. I push to (ap)prove my place in the world, unconsciously defying the direction in which my internal compass points.
I had gone halfway across the world to be reminded that no matter where we find ourselves on the map, without sovereignty and self care we are lost. Susceptible to life's bittersweet and sometimes reckless re-calibrations.
The looming presence of that truck weighed against the left side of my body for the next few days along with the beautiful and haunting realization that I had been spared from injury. I had stepped off that curb at just the wrong time but at just the right angle so as to avoid being hit. How is that? What if I had swung my arm a bit wider? What if I had stepped outward even an inch more, instead of just to the left of the curb? Two possible fates intertwined and by some chance I was granted the thread more fortunate.
Just the night before, I was watching one of the few English channels we had available in our hotel room. A news reporter told the story of a seven year old girl in Kentucky who was the lone survivor in an airplane crash that took the lives of her four other family members. She had not only survived the crash without major injury, she had walked barefoot in total darkness for over a kilometer in a rural area, somehow venturing in the one direction in which she had any hope of finding help. With unlikely success, she was rescued.
While my experience pales in comparison, I couldn't help but wonder why? Why were she and I spared when so many others haven't been? I couldn't help but think of the tragic loss of my brother back in 2010; my heart still breaks that his was not a near miss. Nor was the recent devastation of a friend who lost her six year old daughter three days before Christmas because someone ran a stop sign. I witness this extraordinary mother gracefully navigate an unimaginable loss and am both heartsick and aglow with wonder at her strength and will to carry on. Life and death can seem so arbitrary; loss delivers its blow with such indifference. While a great many will try to, we can't possibly decode the mystery that unfurls each fate.
Misfortune. Lucky break.
I'm not convinced that any of these exist.
I am certain only of the mysterious grace that both binds and rips us apart. Life is a wild beast of a thing that cannot be harnessed. Untamed and fiercely loving, she is as ill-behaved and nourishing as a storm... and our arrogant attempts to explain the unexplainable are distractions from drinking in her rains more fully.
To near misses. And to all things unfinished & undone.
... (( ❤ )).
Ironically, those who have the greatest capacity for empathic connection are commonly the most debilitated by it.
Sovereignty is essential to clear, confident expression for this very reason. Tangible differentiation is the turning point when it comes to navigating a sensitive spirit. The more empathically tuned in we are, the more essential our edges become. Without sovereignty, we live a life of emotional extremes: martyrdom-withdrawal, infatuation-resentment, hopefulness-despair. With sovereignty we learn that empathy isn’t something that happens to us; it is an energetic allowance. Though at times it may feel like an inevitability, with practice it can become a conscious choice in the moment. Empathy is no longer a liability when it flows from the healthy space of sovereignty.
Rather than reluctantly riding our sensitivity into every interaction, we can become more discerning about when to infuse an interaction with empathy and its wisdom. Rather than forcing ourselves to connect, we learn to reach out without compromising our needs and edges. Similarly, we are able to stay present and open-hearted to deeper truths, even those that threaten to make a mess of our lives, without compromising our integrity. We are able to hold space for authentic compassion - inside and out.
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Despite my best intentions, at times people just don't get me. And it's okay. As I've recently discovered, in the struggle to be seen I often miss the point.
It's easy to judge others for not aligning with our values; cloaking self righteousness in projective analysis. It's easy to shake our heads from side to side, to get angry, to point fingers. I've done it. Yes, recently. I've made others wrong when they aren't walking my talk... and I've been likewise condemned. It's a prickly dance to say the least.
We're all guilty of this from time to time; projection distracts us from the real work. It keeps us from facing the inevitable questions we are avoiding:
Do I feel met here? Do our values align? Do we want the same things moving forward? Much better questions to ask when it comes to true understanding in our relationship to anything or anyone.
More and more I catch myself when I'm attempting to morph my values and expectations to mesh with those who I'm innately out of sync with. For years I gave my power away to large personalities; I would shrink in the face of their confidence. Later in life I learned to stand my ground. And now... NOW I'm seeing that I've really got nothing to prove. No need to fight or endure unnecessary drama. No need to override my sensibilities to make others happy.
Yielding to others, going against your gut... that's a slippery slope, my friend. Keep in mind, this can happen with friends or family members that you love deeply. It's particularly easy to compromise your edges for someone whom you meshed perfectly with at one time, but with whom your needs no longer align. What does so-and-so need? How can I make it work for them? These are reasonable questions, as long as you are also honoring your own needs and what works for YOU. The reality is, sometimes you reach an impasse and the two cannot be compromised. Honoring lack of alignment doesn't add up to failure; at times it's an honest discernment that saves everyone energy in the end. Yes even if in the devastation of the truth, one of you wants otherwise.
That's the thing about boundaries. You get to define yours. Anyone who tells you that yours are misplaced is projecting their truth.
Black and white isn't. What works for one person won't necessarily vibe for another. What gets us into trouble is deciding FOR others. Telling another person how to hold themselves as sacred is a violation and a projection. Many people will come in and out of your life in order to help you define where to place the edges around your heart. Yet the way in which you choose to hold yourself is deeply personal, and it's ultimately up to you.
As an example, let's consider a Portland hot-button topic: monogamy vs. polyamory. This is an arena where projection runs rampant in both directions. Right and wrong will never be compromised because what it really comes down to is personal choice. Healthy boundaries of any kind are permeable, yet intact. We magnetize those whose edges align with our own in any given moment; we repel those who don't. Say you interact with someone who is interested in openly engaging your heart and/or physical space... and that someone holds edges that are naturally a bit more porous than your own; you may feel yourself withdrawal or recoil from them. Is that wrong? I don't think so. Yet nor is it wrong that they want to engage. Not at all in fact. To someone who desires reciprocity of connection in that same manner, this might be a welcome advance.
No need to make someone wrong in order to express your no. Nor must they take your edges personally. It's all about choice.
There is no universal standard for how an open heart should behave.
Love and sovereignty work best when not confused. Your feelings AND your edges must line up in order for you to feel respected and honored in any relationship. Dominion is unique to the individual; thus, it is essential that you are communicating your values and preferences to the people closest to you every step of the way. Own your truth. Ask for what you want. And be willing to navigate the choppy waters on the way to getting it... even if it means letting go of something or someone.
Often the so-called "high road" is the one that plucks you out of the drama and puts you face to face the most difficult truth. Love sometimes means honoring and navigating differences in order to make it work... and other times, it means graciously walking away. Fallout is never easy, but owning your truth is always far less messy for everyone in the end.
No one can provide you with the answers you seek. An advocate and ally is the best you can hope for - someone willing to walk alongside you, reflecting back what you already know. Better yet if they have walked a day or more in your shoes... that much more do they have to offer as a mirror along your path.
I share my thoughts with you not to sway you towards them. Nor do I write for release alone. (I have a journal for that.) I reach out to you as a demonstration of how unfiltered expression can free us from self-made confines that disconnect us from one another.
I see the vulnerability of exposure as the ultimate power building practice. For when I show up and am seen, I am forced to look at myself.
How so exactly?
Some people will like my musings; others will unsubscribe. Either way I gain power. From those who resonate with my art I receive external validation that my perspective matters. I feel like less of an alien when someone else sees the world through my eyes. As for those who don't feel I add value, this truth is just as real. We are necessary only to those who echo our deepest real; it's not personal. Besides, nestled within the sting of so-called rejection is a call to look within for validation and comfort. And any excuse to be my own lover is a welcome one in my book.
I am a mirror for passionate, creative women who feel stuck or are settling for less than their hearts' desire. How do I know this? Because I have garnered wisdom from my own experience, and I feel honored to share. That's why I'm relaunching my online course (which may as well be called: How I Found My Power & Learned to Love Life 101). I'm making it more affordable and more accessible than ever before. Choose from 7 virtual classes or experience the entire 12-week program. It officially launches July 1st.
I won't give you the answers... but I can turn the light on in a room you forgot even existed.
Your Ally in the asking ~ Candice
From here on out I will write to you with the thoughtful-yet-reckless abandon that I speak in. Too many years as a copy editor have kept my fearless-writer-vixen pacing in her cage. I now aim to write with the flow-etic intensity that I bring to dance... I want to leave the page dripping with what's real.
Yes, you'll be hearing from me more often; however, I promise to be concise and pointed... ripping the bandaid off quick... sharing coaching ah-hah's along with my own personal ugh's... spilling my beautiful ugly out to you in order to be wholeheartedly me... and hopefully, inspiring you to do the same.
One of the things that most fascinates me about the human experience is its endless variations and vantage points. Even when we attempt to put our best foot forward, we step on one another’s toes simply because we each have our own rhythm to follow.
Conflict used to scare the shit out of me. In my twenties I fought the good fight only with myself, the emotional residue of my childhood left me paralyzed in the face of dissonance of any kind. So I morphed myself into someone who took great pains to please the people around me. It was an exhausting and relentless pursuit... all to avoid hurting anyone. Unfortunately, I was beating myself down in the process.
I have since learned that in order to lift the veils of protection, you have to be willing to take a hit from time to time. That is how you come to know your edges. We discover sovereignty and self-dominion by giving over our power, then reclaiming it again.
Tremendous growth can also happen when we are vulnerable enough to reveal something of ourselves that hasn’t yet seen the light of day; and sometimes that shadow truth shows up as a white hot mess. It doesn’t come out right. We feel exposed. Feelings get hurt. Some less than flattering aspect of ourselves is revealed. We wonder at the point of it all.
Yet regret is rarely helpful; it is powerlessness disguised. It often impedes self-empathy for what is done, is done. There is no point in holding yourself hostage to avoid facing the truth of what now lies before you. Accountability as an internal process contains within it the opportunity for needs to be revealed and a more honest expression of self to emerge... IF we are courageous enough to gaze upon ourselves and take the medicine being offered.
I can’t think of any greater power in my life than that of humility. When life knocks me on my ass, I may bitch and moan for a time... but I no longer stew in it for long because humility reminds me that pain has its purpose. It invites adjustment. Focusing on how to take the reach being offered is a far more worthwhile pursuit, as the mystery of growth reveals itself to us sooner when we are less resistant.
Particularly in the realm of relationship, sovereignty is key. I’m still learning how to love with an open heart, how about you? What to share... where to draw lines... and how to be present when wounds overlap and rub raw against one another. Join me as we dance this dance together... allow your pain points to show you how to navigate the world around you more consciously while healing your tender heart. Be humble to your own evolution, however bumpy the ride, and open to a larger vantage point beyond what you can see. Yet never surrender fully your core truth to the perception of those around you. When it comes to reality, we all see through a different lens. Seek not to convince others that your gaze reflects what is most real. Honor variance, tread lightly, and own what is yours (no more, no less).
And when you have no clue what to do, divorce your role as dramatic storyteller. Instead, find a safe container and tell the deepest truth you possibly can. If in doing so, you still make a mess of things, lean into the knowing that every dark explosion contains within it the potential for rebirth. Yet humility requires you to turn on the lights. Look around you; invite a new response to an old paradigm. And bless the mess that has revealed who you might come to be.