I Submit to Not Summiting

I Submit to Not Summiting

gift of stopping

On July 13th, my friend Heidi gifted me with a hike in the mountains in honour of my mom passing. At the age of 17, Heidi lost her mom when she’d been murdered by her father. She understood my loss. Heidi asked me to choose a hike I had never been on before. I chose Ha Ling Peak because I have never hiked to a peak and so desperately wanted the accomplishment of reaching the top of the world. I knew Heidi was athletic enough to push me to complete a hike that was double the elevation I had ever climbed. We were joined by her friend Kari and my friend Susan who knew the trail very well having hiked it 88 times before because this was the hike where she has mourned the loss of her brother for the last nine years. These friends understood grief.

The climb is a relentless elevation with no reprieve or flat spots. We stop frequently to allow my heart rate to come down and stop the ringing in my ears. I’m exhausted a quarter of the way up. But I have a goal in mind, I push through the pain in my thighs, the burning in my calves, and the chaffing on my heels. I can smell my mom, and the birds are singing all around me like they did the morning she died. I know she is with me here on this path. Keep pushing, Tammy. I’m convinced that if I can just keep pushing to the scree and see the summit I will find the energy to complete the trek.

Grace

My friends are the perfect hiking buddies and amazing cheerleaders. They make sure I’m safe and hydrated and going at a pace I can sustain. As we start again after a short rest Susan says, “You can do it, with grace.” At least, I think that’s what she said. All I really hear is grace echoing through my brain. My business coach used the same word last week when I was setting an audacious goal. “Give yourself a grace period.”

Staring at the ground in front of me. One step. Another Step. What does grace mean? Why am I being told to surrender to grace twice in one week? My heart answers my questions. When are you going to do what you need to do for yourself? You can’t push past the grief. You can’t just take a cry break and then pretend that everything is okay. It’s time to stop trying to impress others and time to stop being the strong one. Don’t hide your grief to shelter the ones you love.

My body quits so I rest and then get back up to try again. But it won’t go. It betrays my mental plan of pushing through. I have a goal in mind, a summit to reach, an end in sight. Literally, I can see the end. But my body just won’t go. And then my mind catches up. And then my soul screams at me that I am meant to stop here.

I am not done grieving. I am not done with the valley. I am not ready to summit. And that’s okay.

The Gift of Stopping

I made it to the scree. I can see the peak. And I stop. I send the three others on without me and I sit at the base of the last three trees where the treeline ends. I meditate on the mountain side with the loud roar of the wind in my ears and the sun drying my sweat to a salty powder on my face. I open my eyes to see how far up I have climbed. Priceless. Something I don’t get to do every day.  I look around and am filled with gratitude for the bee visiting the flower at my feet and the chipmunk that crosses the path just a foot away from me. What an absolute gift to be in the present moment and see this view of the world.

I learned so much on this journey. I learned that, according to my Fitbit, I can climb 183 flights of stairs up and back down again. I learned the gift of stopping and looking around. And, I learned that I can’t rush through grief, there is no end date, there is no summit, and I am not done.

The Valley of Grief

The Valley of Grief

I am grieving the loss of my mother who died suddenly and unexpectantly on May 26th. This is my truth when it comes to allowing myself to grieve while drawing inspiration from the mountains, and from the book Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton.

What do we know about the mountains? There are peaks and there are valleys. High highs and low lows. Just like life. I absolutely love the mountains. I also love to hike in the mountains. I love the climb, the exhilaration and the success of reaching the top of the trail I’m on.

But right now, I am lying on my back visiting the cold dark ground of the valley. And it’s time to stay here.

In her book, Glennon describes a time when her husband of something like 12 years told her he had cheated on her their whole marriage. She was devastated. Looking for ways to cope, she saw a therapist and turned to yoga. On a particularly bad day, she went to yoga and her regular teacher’s class was full so she had to go to Hot Yoga. She set the intention to stay on her mat in a hot room for 90 minutes no matter what, and she did, crying for every pain and loss she had ever felt. This is what a valley looks like. This is what it looks like to be brave enough to live with pain and to live with grief and to see the good here in the valley. Glennon calls it the way of the warrior–the Love Warrior.

You see the problem for me and for so many of us women is that today’s lifestyle offers us a thousand ways to numb out the valley, and to avoid the pain. Glennon calls it our Easy Buttons that take us away from dealing with life. I can pretend that everything is okay by staying busy with work, or by scrolling through Facebook, or by shopping for new clothes, or by having that second or third glass of wine, or by getting a prescription to dull the pain, or by gossiping with a bunch of friends, or by binge watching Netflix, or by, and my personal favorite, intellectualizing. But none of that works for very long, and at some point, when I least expect it the pain of the valley comes to sit next to me and holds my hand and looks into my eyes and whispers, “Remember how much your mom truly loved you.”

Grief is the receipt to prove we paid the price for love.

I am an artist. My art is the written word. The first purpose of art is to make us feel. We watch scary movies to feel fear, we listen to sad songs to make us cry, we read romance novels to feel love. It is imperative as an artist and a creative to feel so that we can translate those feelings to others. I am also a healer, and I heal with coaching. Feelings are what makes us human, and a good coach crouches to meet our client where they are at, often in fear of change and paralyzed with doubt and stays there with them while holding the vision of what’s possible pointing towards the path out when they are ready to resume the climb.

What a gift it is for me to be in this pain. What spectacular writing and coaching will come from this rawness. In my chapter in When Women Talk, Stories than stain and stories that serve, I wrote about my lesson from my own life story and the hundreds I have witnessed. What I have learned is that you have to stand in your story and be with the emotions of it, then stand beside it, and eventually stand on your story and use it to move on and serve your life.

Right now, I am at the Stand In your story stage.

The good in the valley is that fertile ground surrounds me. Wildflowers and deep green moss surround me. By sitting with my pain, I find the lessons that I can pass on to my children, I can be reminded of the emotions that I write about when I write, I can be a mirror for my clients when they face this level of pain. I am a full human being with a full whole range of life by sitting down on the ground of this valley.

And now I ask you. Where is there pain in your life? Stop running away from it! Stay on your yoga mat! Sit with it, hold it, and ask it how it will be of service to you when you are ready to stand up and walk away and start climbing the mountain again?

Beginning With Commitment

Beginning With Commitment

There’s something about the month of January and the New Year that has us all setting goals and new intentions for our health, our careers, and our relationships. Some call it resolutions, others say it’s a lifestyle change. Call it what you will, you will need two elements to make it happen: Commitment and a beginner’s mind.

Here I am, on my yoga mat unable to even touch my toes. Again. Huffing and puffing halfway through my second sun salutation makes it hard to believe that fifteen years ago, I would do 4 hours a day of yoga at an ashram. My inner dialogue is quickly taken over by my inner itty-bitty-shitty-committee. “You’re getting too old for this. Look around you everyone here is gracefully sliding through to the next pose. It’s been ten minutes and you can barely breathe, obviously it’s time to quit. Maybe, if you weren’t two-ton Sally and a size zero like the rest of them you’d be able to actually stay in down dog and not have to collapse into child’s pose instead. This is embarrassing, you are embarrassing. Just give up already.”

Have you ever heard that critical voice in your own head?

It happens to all of us and in a variety of different situations. Cutting out sugar from your diet will make a donut literally talk to you. Choosing to get up earlier to run before work makes 5 am darker and colder than it ever was before. The self-doubt as you sit in front of your keyboard ready to write that book you’ve been meaning to write for years can immobilize your fingers and freeze your thoughts into a block of jumbled words. These are the things that stop us dead in our tracks when it comes to resolutions and lifestyle changes. So how do we mere mortals overcome that inner critic that lives inside every human being on the planet?

The beginner’s mind

It can be very humbling as a grown adult who has the rest of their “stuff” together to find themselves in the start position. You can be very successful in other areas of your life like leading a team at work, running a business, or managing a household with children and a spouse’s schedule to maintain. And suddenly there you are fumbling around without a clue.

I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to say to my children, “If you would just do what I suggested the first time you never would’ve gotten into this mess.” Preventing a mistake is easy when you know all the steps and have practiced them a thousand times before, but the whole point of learning (for our children and ourselves) is to actually make the mistake. Adults don’t like to make mistakes.

Part of the reason we quit on resolutions and change is that we want to get it perfect right away. We don’t want to take the time to learn and we don’t want to look stupid or clumsy while we’re learning. But if we could just embrace that innocent curiosity of a toddler exploring the world and allow ourselves the time and mistakes we can see the beautiful dance unfolding in our inability to march in step with the experts.

Commitment

It’s been said by many a great motivational speaker, “Are you just interested in (fill in the blank) or are you committed?” I have to admit, I’m interested in learning to mountain climb. Me, who is afraid of heights and can’t breathe through two sun salutations. I would love to scale those majestical beasts here in the Canadian Rockies and take pictures of the vistas from the top of the world…  But am I committed to purchasing all of the climbing gear, including harnesses, climbing shoes, helmets, ropes, and carabiners? Am I committed to climbing in the bitter cold? Am I ready to let go of my other hobbies and focus my time and attention on learning this new skill? Not really, not at this point in time. I’m not saying never, just not now.

What are you committed to? What do you want so bad that you can taste it? That you can see yourself in it that you can feel the emotions it will create? The best way I have found to stay committed to something is to know WHY I want it in the first place.

Here’s a great commitment exercise

(which, by the way, you can do on any day of the year multiple times of the year not only on January 1st)

  1. Take a journal and write out the goal you want to achieve
  2. Write out why you want that goal. What purpose does it serve? Who will you be when you reach that goal? What will be different in your life and/or in the world?
  3. What do you have to do or say Yes to in order to reach that goal? What do you have to stop doing or say No to in order to reach that goal?
  4. Take a piece of masking tape and laying down in a door’s threshold or lay a broom handle on the ground. Read what you wrote in your journal out loud to yourself or a trusted friend or partner and then cross the line. Just like jumping the broomstick in the African and Celtic cultures you will be married and committed to your goal.

Here I am again, on my yoga mat pushing through my shortness of breath inching closer to touching my toes allowing myself to be a beginner and embracing my commitment to my health and wellbeing. Who knows, maybe a year of practicing mountain pose will lead to a commitment to climb a mountain one day.

Are you looking for a little extra support to reach your goals this year? Drop me an email and I would be happy to offer you a complimentary discovery call to see if coaching with me will get you there. 

Coming Out

Coming Out

door- coming out

It’s no big secret that I talk and write a lot about empowering women to stand in their personal power and speak their truth. “Stop hiding and speak up because you matter,” is my everyday mantra. So what do I need to be coming out about?

The big secret is how much I don’t speak up in everyday life.

I was on a mastermind call this past Monday and I waited to be called on before I talked about my project. Why? Because it’s going so well and I’m too excited and too passionate about it lately. Really. I didn’t want to overshare?! Over Shine?! Inspire too much?!

What was that all about?

This is a very common phenomenon for women. We don’t speak up in case it makes someone else feel small. We don’t take credit because we don’t want to come across as selfish or narcissistic. We don’t complain because we’ll be seen as a bitch. As much as I try to inspire other women to speak up… I myself don’t. Not often enough.

When is it appropriate to shine?

Shining comes from the soul and overshadowing comes from the ego. I offered a lot of valuable insight and resources to my fellow masterminders on Monday. I shined. Not for the sake of wanting to be better than anyone else but for the sake of sharing what I knew in order to see their projects flourish. Overshadowing would have looked much different. Overshadowing lives in the world of comparison and better than. It would have involved monopolizing the time and, instead of offering help to others, looking for ways to use their projects for my own gain.

Coming out for the sake of what?

Today’s culture is ripe with masses of everyday people to celebrities coming out as gay, lesbian, and transgender. It is wonderful to see. I wonder, what benefits do they reap on the other side of the closet door, and how as women can we follow their lead and also benefit from daring to speak our truths in public? I make up that we are all stronger and more confident from being our true authentic selves. I also heard that Canadian Olympic swimmer Mark Tewskbury shaved 4 seconds off his swim speed after he came out to his coach as a gay man. But there’s more. There’s the source of our creative self that is freed when we live authentically. How can we create from a place of hiding? We can’t. And to me, creating is everything.

Brene Brown offers great wisdom on whom to share your truth with, and how. We are not all meant lay our souls bare for every stranger to see. And again, ask yourself, for the sake of what? We need to add context to our sharing to make it about shining and not narcissism.

What are you hiding in your closet and who can you trust to share it with? Who will you be on the other side? I’m still learning at this game of life. This week, I have learned that I will be speaking up and over shining more often.

 

Speak Up Ladies

Speak Up Ladies

speak up women empowerment coach

I take it for granted now that there is often a theme that arises from my coaching clients. Somehow, they come to their sessions with common issues and I have stopped wondering why and just accept that this is part of how the Universe works. This past week’s theme though is a theme that hit me personally.

Men just aren’t listening! It’s time to speak up, ladies.

My first client is working on healthier boundaries with an ex-husband who was financially abusive. She is frustrated at the litany of topics she can’t bring up with him when they discuss co-parenting because he gets defensive, argues, and turns the tables on her. My second client is a CFO at a very successful company and is working on her leadership style. She is frustrated with a partner in the company who refuses to take responsibility for any challenges but wants all the credit for the triumphs. Both said to me on their coaching call: “I can’t say anything to him because I don’t want to deal with the fallout.”

Are you not speaking up because you don’t want to have to deal with the listener not liking what you have to say?

And then, just to drive the lesson home, the Universe sends me several messages to watch the Super Soul Sunday episode with Glennon Doyle Melton where I received the clear message: “There is a system to telling the truth that splits women in two. It’s very hard for the world to hear the truth from a woman. Since negative emotions are less acceptable from a woman, we sometimes end up telling our truth in different ways than words. We tell the truth in harmful ways: they say I’m not fine with a credit card, or they say I’m not fine with overeating, they say I’m not fine with booze, or sex, or unkindness. That why it’s so powerful to integrate those two selves and tell the story of what’s going on on the inside with your words,” shared Glennon.

Deal with the fallout now or later

When are we women going to embody the full expression of ourselves? When are we going to allow ourselves to take up all the room we are meant to occupy? When are we going to be more concerned about our own feelings and break out of the prison of tiptoeing around others’ feelings?

“If you avoid conflict to keep the peace you start a war inside yourself.”  – Cheryl Richardson

The thing is, human beings tend to avoid pain on a whole. We all like to avoid the unpleasant things in life. What we don’t realize is that sometimes we are turning down one road to avoid the skunk up ahead only to walk into a grizzly bear instead. What happens if my first client’s ex-husband is abusing his daughter but she doesn’t want to make waves? What happens if my second client gets scapegoated for the partner’s major spending spree? Dealing with the fallout of an uncomfortable conversation, while slightly painful, could be much less dramatic.

And what is my unspoken truth?

I don’t want to be mommy first and get to my career when it’s convenient to everyone else, not anymore. I have sacrificed my body to gestate, deliver, and feed four children. I have devoted over twenty years to their education, their emotional intelligence, their values, their mental and physical health. I have dried tears, shared belly laughs, survived road trips, attended plays and concerts, and graciously accepted macaroni art and bouquets of dandelions. I have been an excellent mother. I love them beyond words. My unspoken truth is that for me it’s not enough.

I will always be a mom and have another ten years before my nest is empty, but right now I also want to be Tammy the author, Tammy the speaker, Tammy the coach who is empowering women to speak their truth and live a full, authentic life. I am claiming my truth and standing in my full power to be my full self.

That’s my unspoken truth, what’s yours? Where in your life are you keeping silent to make others feel comfortable, and what is it costing you to keep it bottled up? Is today the day that you choose to stand in your power?

Speak up, ladies, speak up!

Is Being Busy Bad?

Is Being Busy Bad?

Busy Bee

I used to seriously dislike people who chastised me for my glorification of busy.  There was a while that I marketed my business specifically for crazy busy women, and it was on more than one occasion that I was told that I was part of the problem.

Why, I asked, what is so wrong with being busy?

Of course, I read Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive. I knew how important it was for my own self-care, and that of my clients, to take time for ourselves—to meditate and do yoga and get enough sleep.  So it just irked me to no end when people censured me on my use of the word busy, when in fact that’s what I was and what many of my client’s were: busy.

Fast forward to the present day, fresh off a nine month hiatus from building my business because I was focused on moving my family across the country, and I have found myself in a very different frame of mind. I am not busy. I am nesting. And I am frequently bored to death.

Then, as I was scrolling through Facebook I saw these two memories: one from the perspective of a business owner and the older one as a stay-at-home mom.

coaching busy

mom busy

I can totally see how I was indeed glorifying busy.

Just to seal the lesson, I was on the phone with my mom just last night and she uttered the words: “I can’t stand idleness. I have no use for lazy people.” It was certainly not the first time I heard THAT come from my mother’s lips. The evil of sloth is a very old tape that my inner critic had ingrained from a very young age and loves to replay.

It soon became apparent to me that I have to find some reconciliation in the grey area between the extremes of busy and lazy for my own sanity.

Today, I am not busy. I am nesting. I am supporting my husband and my children by establishing new routines and decorating our new home. I am writing again and enjoying the process that requires lots of daydreaming and contemplation. I am still coaching, of course, and even coaching has its own down time like holding the silence after a powerful question so that my client can go into themselves and find their truth in their answers. I’m not chasing potential clients instead I am allowing them to find me. I am not lazy. I am purposeful in my non-doing.

Where do you fall in this belief spectrum? Busy, good or bad?