Why do we, as women, often ignore our own best advice?
The advice we freely share with our friends, daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, clients?
The advice we lovingly give because we want them to be healthy and well and happy and safe?
Because we feel guilty.
Guilty if we take time away from helping others to take care of ourselves. Guilty if we spend money on our own well-being. Guilty if we ask someone to help us. Guilty if we can’t maintain everything we’re juggling in its precarious balance. Guilty if we acknowledge we’re tired, or we’re sick.
Guilty if we can’t do it all, after all.
My Mama always said, “Listen to your body.” Yet, often, she ignored hers, to the point that for several months after my father had his first stroke she suffered with abdominal pain, loss of appetite, digestive distress and lost a significant amount of weight.
When she finally ended up in surgery for an entirely different matter – a hysterectomy following an abnormal Pap smear – they discovered her appendix was dangerously enlarged and were shocked it hadn’t ruptured, and that she’d made it so long in that condition.
Like mother, like daughter.
I’ve ignored my own distress over and over throughout my adult life. I did it in 2012 and landed myself in a heap of trouble medically in the summer of 2013.
I did a lot of hard work to heal, physically and emotionally, and for the last couple of years, I’ve been teaching women to put themselves first, to prioritize their own well-being, to listen to their bodies.
Guess what I’ve been doing?
Not so much.
And I’ve landed myself in a whole heap of medical trouble again.
For close to three months, I hid my symptoms from my guy, my family, my friends, and just pushed along checking things off my personal and professional to-do lists.
It all came to a head a few weeks ago and I crashed down hard.
And even then I made excuses about why I didn’t need to go to the doctor, chiefly the huge expense (I have no medical insurance) followed closely by the business things I have worked hard to get lined up for August and September, things meant to up-level the work I’m doing.
And I was feeling guilty about how much headache this was going to cause for a bunch of people I care about.
When I finally went to my Naturopath, he sent me straight to the ER – do not pass go, do not collect $200, get your ass to the ER.
And when a Naturopath tells you that, it pretty much scares the hell out of you.
So I went.
As I sat there on the gurney telling the ER doc my story, he and the nurses were remarking about how stoic I am, how they couldn’t believe I’d made it this long without coming in.
I told them I get it from my Mama.
And I realized in that moment how much I pride myself on “being stoic.”
If I don’t cut the shit I’m going to “be stoic” right into an early grave.
After enduring weeks of debilitating abdominal pain, when the doc said, “Are you going to let me give you something for the pain?” my response was, “That would be fabulous.”
And when that morphine filtered through the IV into my bloodstream and I felt all the tension in my body just ebb away – emphasizing how much I’d been resisting the pain for ages – all I could think was, Holy fuck, what am I doing to myself?
And even then, I felt guilty.
I felt guilty for letting my daughters down because I’m going to have to push out the timeline on some business goals we’ve got.
I felt guilty for having to reschedule a podcast interview at the last minute.
I felt guilty for leaving someone I do some behind-the-scenes work for “hanging.”
I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to prepare a proposal for someone else in the timely manner I’d promised.
I felt guilty that I needed to ask for an editorial extension on an article I’d promised to submit.
I felt guilty that the house needed cleaning and the garden needed weeding because I hadn’t been able to manage much of anything for the last couple of weeks.
I felt guilty that I’d not been walking the dogs much because it was too painful.
I felt guilty because I’d allowed myself to get so sick that I was scaring the hell out of my family and friends.
Does any of this ring a bell?
I know I’m not the only woman who’s done this kind of thing.
Where am I going to draw the line?
My stated business purpose is to “bring hope, help and healing to wounded women.”
I further state, wherever I have a bio published, that “my life and my work serve the higher purpose of being a voice in the world to eliminate violence against women and to mitigate the effects of trauma in their lives.”
The tagline for Indomitable Women is Invoke the Power to Create Your Divine Life.
Is any of that what I’m doing while I’m all busy over here “being stoic” – e.g. being a hypocrite because I’m not doing myself what I’m telling every other woman to do?
I’ve spent way too much time being stoic.
I was stoic when I went to school with pain and bruises given to me by my violent father.
I was stoic when I had a raging kidney infection a few weeks after the birth of my third child, and I refused to be hospitalized because, even though they’d allow me to bring my nursing newborn, it meant I’d have to leave my 2- and 4-year-old daughters home with their alcoholic father.
I was stoic when, a few years later, I had an abnormal pregnancy during a very difficult time for my children and I ended up with emergency surgery for a ruptured ectopic pregnancy with 750mL of blood in my abdominal cavity (and I recall that doctor also expressing amazement that I’d made it as long as I had before coming to the hospital).
I was stoic some more when I had endometriosis all through my lower abdomen and I passed golf-ball sized clots when I had a period – at a time when my kids were struggling, my mother was having regular follow up for abnormal Pap smears, and there was a mountain of transcription to do and bills to pay – until my blood work was so dire I came close to needing a transfusion.
I was stoic some more when everything was falling apart around me in 2013 and I had unrelenting abdominal pain, migraines, a thyroid mass and wacky blood work – at a time when my Mama’s health was failing, my sister was struggling with tragedy, my youngest child was dealing with a whole bunch of ugliness and my then-husband was going off the deep end.
After that, and the hard, hard, hard work it took to heal once again – and deciding to make it my business to advocate for women’s wellness – I thought I was done with being stoic.
Yet, here I am again, facing this monkey on my back that I thought I’d thrown off.
So what is it? Am I addicted to stoicism?
I think I am.
I think a lot of us are.
I think it’s been imprinted in us from birth – to a greater or lesser degree – through family dynamics, social and cultural programming, generational chains, ancestry and so much more.
And I think I’m sick of it.
Something else was revealed to me during that ER visit – the something that I think is going to help me finally beat this habit.
When the registration person came in and asked the usual litany of questions about demographics and emergency contact info, she also asked this question: “Do you feel safe at home?”
And with a huge smile on my face, I unequivocally answered a resounding Yes!
You could have knocked me over with a feather right then (and not just because of the morphine!).
A few hours later, my guy and I were sitting there in a quiet moment and I told him why: I’ve answered that question – the do you feel safe at home question – many times in many doctor’s offices and hospitals and even therapists offices…
and I’ve lied through my teeth every damned time.
I’ve never felt safe at home.
And I really, truly do now.
His comment? “ I saw your face light up when she asked.”
In the weeks I’ve been taking some time off to heal, I’ve looked really deeply into all the things that are tied up in that for me, and how it relates to constantly making myself my very last priority.
And how stoicism – when you’ve been through trauma and deal with a lot of anxiety – is a natural reaction, a way of trying to control your circumstances and your fear.
It’s a mask, a facade.
And that is compounded by all the layers piled on us by social and cultural definitions – and media influence – about all the things we “should” be, “should” do, “should” look like, “should” act like.
We end up with one or more false personas – different masks – as we fulfill different roles in our lives, and relate to different people.
Eventually, we have no idea who we really are anymore.
And when we look around us and we see everyone else’s masks, we’re more confused and uncertain, because we measure ourselves against what we see, and it’s another facade, someone else’s mask.
I’m tired of maintaining my stoicism.
I’m tired of wearing a mask.
I’m tired of facades.
I’m tired of a world that promotes cookie-cutter sameness – robotic falseness – and predefined parameters about what anything or anyone “should” look or be like.
I’m tired of a business arena that constantly promotes magic bullets, quick fixes, and miracle cures – formulas and strategies that, if you just get on board with it, will suddenly make your life perfect.
I’ve always been unconventional, eccentric, different, rebellious…
and over and over again I’ve tried to fit myself into a mold, squeeze myself into a box of shoulds.
And I’m done.
It’s time to let it be different.
As this latest cycle in my life has played out – the repetition of a decades-long cycle – and I’ve looked back over the many times I’ve circled around to face the same demons again, I’ve realized how much I’m still trying to follow the “shoulds” of a lifetime, in my life and in my work.
I’ve been decorating a couple of pretty news masks – one for who I am in my current relationship, and one for who I am in my business – both things that have developed in tandem over the past couple of years.
And neither of them fully represent who I know I am, who I am when there’s nobody around but me…
because I’ve been afraid to show her.
When I was talking with a dear and trusted friend about all this recently, she reminded me that I don’t really do much of anything “by the book,” and she’s right.
So why the hell am I still trying to stuff myself into yet another box – a couple of boxes actually?
A lifetime of conditioning, of following old programming, default behaviors, and getting stuck in the ruts of the neural pathways long established in my brain.
So here’s what I’ve decided to do:
I’ve taken off the mask in my personal life, creating the resonance I need that reflects exactly who I am – and, oh, my poor guy, who’s over here kinda going, Wait! What?, but in true Tony fashion, is responding with, Whatever you need to do to be happy and healthy. (See why I could answer an unequivocal Yes! to being safe at home?)
Now I’m taking off the mask in my business life.
I had a well-organized “funnel” planned for the rest of this year, with all the “right” strategies and marketing methods built in. It included a to-do list with about 17,000 things on it that would make sure every “t” was crossed and every “i” was dotted. It was well thought out, shaping the knowledge and skills I have into an acceptable mainstream concept.
And I realized I loathe about 85% of what’s on that list and in that plan, and that it doesn’t reflect what I’m called to teach.
So, I got rid of that 85% and re-fashioned the remaining 15% to reflect my unique, quirky, rebellious, eccentric, eclectic self – and that 15% is all I’m going to teach.
I’m going to let it be different, in my life and in my work.
I’m leaving the old paradigms behind.
I’m going on an odyssey of discovery – to unmask the real me and invoke the power to be everything I came here to be.
And I’d like you to join me.
Because I know you’ve got some masks, too.
Because I know you’ve got areas of your life where you’re ready to let it be different, too.
Because, wherever you are in your own healing journey – just starting out, a long ways in, or already helping others heal – there’s always more to do as we uncover another layer.
Because women are being called to circle together and support each other, to break the culture of competition, to help each other heal.
Because you can’t manifest your power and create the transformation you so desperately desire until you clear space and allow it to be different.
Because you’re smart, and you know there’s no magic bullet…and you know, too, that there is hope, there is possibility, there is power, and you’ve begun to suspect that the power is within you.
There’s a powerful season just ahead of us, and it’s incredibly important for women to be tuned into the natural cycles happening throughout the year, so I’ve put together something to correspond with it.
And it’s going to be simple, and straightforward, no bullshit and no tactics.
It’s a place for women to explore how they can let it be different in their lives and connect with other women on the same journey.
It all starts with Truth – telling ourselves the truth and daring to take off our masks, in a safe and supportive place.
Will you join me?
I’d love to hear your thoughts about all of this in the comments below.
Love & Blessings,
P.S. One of the ways I teach energy healing and manifesting skills is through my free Radiant Resilience Community – click below to join us and get The Secret to Emotional Resilience 4-part audio mini-course free