Embrace Life’s Messiness
by Lois Barth, Human Development Expert, Motivational Speaker, Coach and Author.
Here’s my story of having dealt with seismic change over the last 5 years, and my journey of both going and growing through it. These 6 Sparkle Power Principles that I share with both my clients and the groups I speak to help me every day. I know they will help you too.
1) Remind yourself “I’m not falling apart, I’m breaking open.”
During the last five years, I’ve gone through many changes. My Mom, Edie, was in and out of hospitals during 75 of the last 90 days of 2012 (accounting for approximately 14 separate stays) during Hurricane Sandy (which of course now seems like an oversized puddle compared to what’s happened recently), to spearheading her in-home hospice care for two years (with the help of my two siblings and an extraordinary home health care team), eventually losing her close to 3 years ago, letting go of a 12 year relationship with my partner Charlie (4 months before she passed) losing my office, having my business cave in on itself twice, becoming estranged from a close family member, launching a video series, writing my first book, and building my team, re-building my business, plus getting out there dating in midlife, woo-hoo, PARTY!!!
During that time (and sometimes now), my life felt so unrecognizable to me that I often felt like I needed a name tag to remind me who I was. I’m a firm believer in gratitude, so out loud I would list 10 things I was grateful for. Oftentimes, not having Lyme Disease, Bed Bugs, or Identity Theft were high on that list (oh and there comes Equifax!).
I’m not here to gain any airtime on the sympathy channel since, when I think about what I do have in my life, I’m eternally thankful. But it wasn’t until I burst out crying to a friend a few years back, – whaling in fact, “I’m falling apart, I’m falling apart,” over and over – that a tiny little voice of instinct clamored back in the sweetest kindest way, “you’re not falling apart, you’re breaking open”. And it was right. I was. I am. Every day, I break open a little bit more. And I see it too in my clients and the groups that I speak to.
Though it may feel like we’re falling apart, often we’re really breaking open. Breaking open to a new way of thinking, feeling. and relating to the world. Sometimes it’s hard to feel the difference between the two. But I do know that when we stay close to our hearts, feel our feelings to the best of our ability, keep marching towards our most genuine selves, speak and live our truths, and take daily actions towards what’s right for us, we do break open.
2) Let life get messy.
No matter how much you plan and take action, both of which are important, you must allow your life (feelings, circumstances, and relationships) to get “messy.” By messy, I mean that you’ll probably feel disoriented, confused, and in unfamiliar territory since you’re embarking on a new chapter. If you insist that your life has to look a certain way, you’ll continue to feel frustrated and off-track, like you’re doing something all wrong. Forcing yourself only exacerbates your anxiety. In my own life, I kept thinking of all the things I should be doing to get back on track with my business and other areas of my life; but, ultimately it was a way of trying to go back to what would never be. While I’m a huge proponent of taking action, when you’re doing it to just maintain the illusion of control, it won’t take you far.
When I finally surrendered to the fact that I didn’t have a template for SPARKLE 2.0, let things get messy, and allowed myself to not have all the answers, that’s when my life started opening up.
3) In grief, there’s relief.
No matter what circumstances are contributing to you no longer recognizing your life, it’s imperative to grieve. We live in a culture that provides limited space and low tolerance for grieving. We’re too quick to slap on a happy Band-Aid of “look on the bright side” or “this too shall pass.” These are sound principles once you’ve been through the heavy lifting of grieving, but there’s no short cut. Grieving is not the same as bellyaching, being a victim, falling into a bottomless pit of self-pity, or TMI-ing on different social media channels. Those all just keep the drama going; real grieving is about constructive catharsis. It’s being willing to face the feelings of loss attached to the moment when a chapter of your life comes to a close.
4) Create a safe and loving community.
In my book, Courage to Sparkle, I addressed this in Gem10—Creating Your Scintillating Circle of Support. Even if you’re an introvert and/or private person, it’s essential to not go through either the joys or sorrows of your life alone. There’s nothing especially noble about being in isolation and doing it all on your own. We’re the most social creatures on the planet. We need each other. Going through the breaking-open process in a community allows us the gift of being witnessed. Your community doesn’t have to have a lot of people, it just needs to be your tribe: people with whom you feel safe, seen, and loved. Seek out connections that can give you what you need and make the effort to be there for others.
5) Look for the lesson.
Amidst the messiness of life when we’re going through major changes, there are always lessons to be learned. Keep on the lookout. One of my daily, simple prayers is: “What do I need to learn from this experience?” There’s always a lesson. It will seldom come when we ask for it, but it shows up when we least expect it—like love. Looking for the lessons is not about taking a shortcut around our process, but rather giving us a context for learning. We can “grow” through the change versus “go” through the change. No matter what is going on in your life, ask yourself, “What can I learn through this experience?”
6) Embrace new possibilities.
During my eighteen-plus months of not recognizing my life, several opportunities opened up for me that I’ve been wanting to explore for several years, but passed on because it just wasn’t the right time. One was launching my own YouTube video series, which was a combination of Wayne Dyer (grandfather of personal growth) and Carol Burnett (grandma of a comedy variety and heartfelt sketch comedy). I had tried to kickstart it four years ago, but it never felt quite right. During this crazy time of my upside-down, hardly recognizable life, my videographer/editor, director, two assistants who would become my script supervisors, prop maker, and costume/prop person, all fell together effortlessly and helped me create SMART SEXY TV: What Nobody Talks About…But Everyone Needs to Hear. Three months later, my publisher approached me about writing my book. Shortly after that, a collaborative partnership aimed at supporting women formed with my long-standing friend and colleague, Elizabeth Browning, and our Shatter Your Inner Glass Ceiling Programs came to be.
When we’re in the same ol’ same ol’ and life is just moving along, we often end up closed off to possibilities. We are never as flexible and receptive to new opportunities as when we are falling apart and breaking open. That’s where the magic happens.
Thanks for reading this piece and feel free to pass it on to others you know will make a difference for them. If you want more ways to have the Courage to SPARKLE or if you want to set up a complimentary (no pressure) 30 minute session to see if working together may be a fit e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and in the subject field write: Let’s Tawk!” and we’ll set up a time to speak.
Life is Short.
Life is Precious.
PS: To embrace the messiness of life, I also love the book Love Warrior. Glennon is both an elegant and eloquent writer of what it is to be knee deep in sparkle.
Lois Barth is a human development expert, motivational speaker, coach, and thrilled to have delivered her first ‘book child,’ “Courage to SPARKLE: The Audacious Girls’ Guide to Creating a Life that Lights You Up”. She champions women to share their brilliance and to live an authentic life. She speaks at women’s conferences all over the country and has been quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fitness, Weight Watchers, and MSNBC.com to name a few.