Have you ever lost your ability to love? I have been hesitant of love a few times in my life, especially after relationships (both intimate and friendships) that ended. But I really lost it, believe it or not, after one of the most joyful and life-changing experiences I had. I came back from Europe December 28, 2019 and one of the first things I noticed when I interacted with my friends and family was the loss of the emotion of love.
My Brain Knew, My Heart Did Not
Seriously— I could not feel the love. I knew I loved them, cared for them, but it was flat. Detached. What I imagine people explain when they are on antidepressants where there are no highs and no lows. In a way it was devastating–but I couldn’t even feel devastated. Usually I would use Emotional Freedom Techniques (tapping) with myself for something like this, but I couldn’t figure it out. I hired Gabriella from Migration of Emotion, and the best way I could describe it was as if my heart was in a concrete bunker.
Part of the reason I went inside? Safety. I connect so deeply and so easily to people that I had stopped connecting because it was too painful to keep leaving.
Where Is the Connection?
The first time I was in Europe I’d be in one area three weeks then go to another area. There was always something new to see, some new excitement to be had. The second time I was there, I wrote my book, The Touch Crisis, and it was much less like that. Friends hosted me, but I also took a lot of continuing education and was in hostels or camping temporarily. The connections were not as deep and, in fact, a lot of the people I considered close friends in the U.S. were not staying in contact or returning texts. Because I was going back to places I had traveled before, there was less magic and a little less enthusiasm about where I was going. I lost, over time, my desire to be connected because subconsciously I didn’t want to feel the pain and loss of leaving people.
I do remember a couple months traveling and thinking I ‘should’ feel more excited about what I was seeing . The realization I had been to all these beautiful places and done all these amazing things and had no one who really understood, no one who really could share that experience with me, was horribly isolating.
Jung on Loneliness
Carl Jung said in Memories, Dreams, and Reflections, “Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”
I knew I had changed, but kept questioning: what is this lesson? I was doing my work, tapping, self-exploring. Shouldn’t this be easier? I felt so lonely I couldn’t even find the motivation to do my self-work. Apathy was my main companion. I escaped through reading, sometimes drinking or eating too much, and sometimes stared at the computer. Watching movies was pointless because I would spend an hour trying to find what to watch only to turn something on and be completely dissatisfied– all because I was dissatisfied within. I felt lonely, isolated, and not understood.
With help, I came out of it; she helped me find what actually needed to be healed. She did for me what I strive to do for others, and I am extremely grateful.
Love is worth it. Connection is worth it. It’s why I’m so passionate about relationships and why it’s my life mission to help people feel wanted, connected, and powerful. Sometimes shit hits the fan and it feels it’s too hard or impossible to heal. Hell, half my work was about getting over the fear of feeling pain or heartbreak. The other portion was about observing where I was getting love, support, and understanding but wasn’t able to see it.
My Question for You
Where do you want to feel more love with yourself, others, and/ or your community? What is preventing you from having that? How will you choose to communicate the things that are important to you?
Savasana. Also known as Corpse Pose in yoga. I heard it described as ‘the art of lying still.’ Some people say it’s the most important part of a yoga practice. It used to drive me nuts.
After all, there were tasks demanding to get done. I’d lay there restless, as my mind spun; how am I supposed to be successful, build my business, stay strong, and manage my image if I’m lying on the floor?
Doing Less in Europe
I remember when I went to Europe in 2009 for 6 weeks for my honeymoon. Americans were stunned. “6 weeks!” None of the Europeans were stunned; In fact, they were fascinated by the ridiculously short 2 weeks of vacation accepted as normal in the U.S. “Why don’t Americans take breaks?”
When I went to Europe for 9 months in 2018 I finally learned to slow down—to BE. I would catch myself pushing on hikes to see how fast and how far I could go. I would stop and think: Who cares how fast you go? Who cares if your average speed is 3.4 instead of 2.9 mph on this challenging stretch of rugged terrain? No one is going to give you a medal for doing the 96-mile West Highland Way in 4 days instead of 5 or 6. Why don’t you chill out and enjoy?
Emotions Dictate Speed
I admit, some days I did want to see how fast I could go over the terrain. Or I knew I was pushing my luck to get to an area to set up camp before dark or to get back to the only bus that would take me back to the hostel for the night. Sometimes my speed was a game.
Other days I knew I was emotionally processing and would slow down and use Emotional Freedom Techniques a.k.a tapping. I would tune into the past situation, allow myself to finally feel—to become angry or sad. Or to grieve the loss of things I never had allowed myself to feel before and tap, tap, tap to get rid of it.
I knew had I changed when I returned. My ex-husband even noticed. “I can tell you are much calmer than ever before. I’ve never seen you sit this long and be relaxed about it.” He marveled that I stopped multitasking all of the time. I am focused even when I am bustling about. I achieve just as much but with less anxiety, stress, and negative self-talk. Even when things are going wrong, technology is failing, clients are cancelling, my body hurts, or I am running late, I roll with the flow.
Until the last 2 weeks.
I’ve been exhausted. I started blaming it on the planetary shifts and the moon (which does affect me BTW), but when I looked at my schedule I realized that the American drive to DO had crept back into my life– sneaking clients in on my writing days, meetings on my client days, and work on the weekends.
I talked to my friend in Norway today. “Go, go go,” she noted with a note of pity in her voice. “I guess it’s the American way, isn’t it.” I laugh now as I write this, but I was actually offended. I thought I had crushed that pattern; had risen above and learned to be present.
Others Expect Me To…
And I have learned to ‘be’ instead of ‘do.’ Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I allow the negative self-talk of others and their projection of what I should be to affect me on the inside, and I start caving in. I catch myself lacking in self-care, becoming irritable, not sleeping, overthinking every little thing, making decisions quickly, then thinking I made the wrong decision and doing it over again.
My Question for You
Where is your negative self-talk driving you to do more than you really need? Where have you learned that you are not complete as you are, and that you must do more to gain others’ approval?
What I Am Saying
I’m not saying we shouldn’t better ourselves or strive for more. Observe where your actions and goals align with your heart and passion, versus where the outside world is “demanding” something different. My hope is that my story helps you take a step back, breathe, and just lie still, feel your body, and do you.
I listened to The Bob Davis Podcasts as I drove down to Red Wing Thursday. He talked about his experience on the road as a nomad.
It reminded me of the beauty and the wonder of what it was like to backpack through Europe; how I got to learn to slow down, be present, and shift my own expectations. His discourse also brought back memories of how my friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances projected their ideas and fears onto me.
Whose Self-Talk is This, Anyway?
“Isn’t that dangerous?” “How do you live with only a backpack full of stuff?” (To be fair, I had a backpack full of stuff AND a laptop…except when I ditched it to go hiking and camping.) “What are you going to do if you can’t find a place to stay?” “Aren’t you lonely?”
Then, there were the straight-up judgments. “Must be nice to be so rich you can afford to take nine months off.” “Is this your mid-life crisis?” “What on earth would you do that for?”
This is Not My Voice Inside
Their projections gave me a clear view into their own negative self-talk and limiting beliefs.
I got a lot of suggestions; however, most were irrelevant to the experience I was seeking and the way I love to travel.
I’ve been talking in my networking group about negative self talk and how impactful it can be; sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing it. We often do not realize that what we dislike in others is something we dislike in ourselves. For example, I get irritated when I feel like people are not following through on promises. I am clear that when I don’t follow through on something I am overwhelmed with guilt and sometimes shame. The reflection of what I dislike in myself gets projected onto the other as irritability. I know what others perceived as laziness and leisure while I was in Europe was often hiding jealousy or their own internal judge telling them that one MUST do more, be busy, and stay “on track” with goals.
Giving Grace & Space
Giving myself grace and space to write whenever I wanted allowed my book to come forward. When I tried to push to make the book happen, because negative self-talk decided I HAD to get it done before my mom visited, everything halted. And the voices got louder.
I returned to the US and jumped back into American life again (albeit more grounded and calmer.) Massage Therapy offices were closed in the spring, and I started berating myself for not building my online practice while I was in Europe. “I had all that downtime and did ‘nothing’ with it.” I didn’t have the space to work with clients in a safe and private environment, but the voices told me, “You could have been educating people about Emotional Freedom Techniques. You could have been sharing your personal healing using tapping.” I had to step back. The negative self-talk wasn’t mine. It was the voice of everyone else— you need to do more, make more money, have more stuff, BE more in order to be important/ relevant.
That’s not what I believe. Who I am and what I choose in my life is enough. If others want to judge me for that, that’s their own issue; thus, they get to look within instead of projecting their self-talk. I am not going to take that on.
My Question For You
Who gets the brunt of your projections? How does it feel to you when you are upset at others’ decisions? Where does your negative self-talk impede your own peace and happiness?
EFT Tapping Can Help Self-Talk
I could share a ton of stories with you about how it helps me. But I want you to go within first. It doesn’t matter how tapping helps me. The question is, how would you like it to help you?
**This is a storyline edit and repost of a past blog. I was looking for the words to help others connect with their community, have compassion, and heal from old wounds. My connection post from August of 2019 danced through my head, and felt more relevant than when it was first posted. I ask you to read this version with an open heart and mind. Learn. Think. How do you speak/ write/ make comments to others? Are “those people” doing something? Heck, I have even used that term lately.
Who are “Those People”
I’ve found myself talking about all of “those people” who are judging other people. Who aren’t seeing the big picture. Who are creating division and separation. You know-like I was at that moment.
Crap! I might be one of “those judgy people” right now
It was a good moment to check myself and my own ego. That’s a broad-based statement and judgement there, Dawn. Not only are we all doing the best we can, but our brains are wired from birth and from upbringing to find solutions to a problem in a pattern. You are doing what you can with the knowledge, beliefs, and brain you have. So is everyone else. No matter what “side” they seem to be on.
Ego and Fear
My book, The Touch Crisis, is now a bestseller. Perhaps my mind is accurate in telling me it’s not going to help enough.
Firstly, how on earth am I supposed to help us connect with each other when we cannot even use civil tones with each other on social media? Secondly, how can we use intentionally loving or compassionate physical contact to connect when we cannot even use compassionate verbal tones?Thirdly, how can we touch each other with kindness when we are triggered by the idea that someone–that stranger over there– may or may not have a mask on at the moment?
I have been observing people become angrier with each other. We are acting less patient, less kind, less considerate. Perhaps as a culture we are expressing more belligerence and more defensiveness because we tie ourselves to “a side.”
Maybe touch will help? My internal dialogue spins. When did each of us stop thinking critically? When did the slippery slope of identifying with an idea shift to our ego and our tie to our own identity? How has each of us lost touch with how our actions and words impact others–no matter what the others’ beliefs are?How has the way I define myself changed?
People cheat, people lie, people do bad things—not liberals, not conservatives, not pro-Trump, not BLM, not whites, not gays, not the immigrants, not the millennials, not the elderly. There are hate groups, of course, but individuals make these choices, the same way my individual friends make the choice to use tones of hatred. Individual People also make mistakes. Many are traumatized–even if they aren’t aware of it yet because they are in survival mode. “Those people” who are judging others for their actions or inactions are part of the problem. How do I become part of the solution? How can I even stop using the insidious yet seemingly-harmless term “those people?”
My goal of helping others connect seeming suddenly hopeless, I stepped away from my computer and wandered aimlessly around my house. Instead of the peace of the Norwegian countryside, I was confronted with rain and the piles of detritus left on the curbside by the college-student turnover in my neighborhood. I thought of my friend who made the comment, “Suddenly I’m associating the American flag on vehicles with the concept of racism, and I don’t want to feel that way. In fact, I know it isn’t that way.”
Our shadow side has emerged. On one hand it’s great, because to heal anything we must face the hard truth of what lies in the dark. Of what has been hidden. Of what needs to be healed and confronted and understood. But one cannot fight shadow with anger, with cruelty, with judgement, and with denial. My mind drifted again to an exercise at my Blandin Community Leadership training. If only people understood how much our beliefs are actually part of our brain function.
Blandin Leadership Training
“I am going to put you into groups based upon your Meyers Briggs results and have each group figure a way to solve this problem.” One of the program directors stood in the middle of the U-shaped table formation near the front of the room and watched us expectantly.
I was one of fifty rural community leaders. We were a variety of ages, backgrounds, gender, and race. Our similarity was our passion and our desire to change our community for the better, and each of us had been chosen– after a lengthy application process– to be trained and resourced to build and sustain a healthy community. We were learning not only about ourselves, but where individual and organizational blind spots may be, how we interact with others, how to see problems from a higher perspective, how to build positive social structures, and how to resolve conflict. Quite an undertaking for a five-day retreat.
This should be interesting, I thought, as the director divided us into three groups. The last few exercises taught us all a lot about individual roles and reactions, but this is the first big group problem-solving exercise. I smiled as everyone stood up and a cheerful buzz filled the room, as people grabbed their materials and re-organized themselves.
“Here’s the situation,” she interrupted the chatter as people organized into smaller circles. “You are on the board of directors of a nonprofit organization. Your bookkeeper, a volunteer who has been loyal, accurate, and timely for 15 years, suddenly starts making mistakes in the financials. The mistakes seem to be growing slowly, and one day it is brought to your attention that someone smelled alcohol on her breath while she was at the office. What do you do?”
She stepped back and smiled knowingly. “Does anyone need me to read that again?”
Huh, not quite as challenging as I anticipated, I thought as I turned back to my group with a thoughtful look on my face, I already know what my plan of action would be.
“Well, of course we need to have a conversation with her,” one member piped up right away. “We don’t know what’s going on or if it’s true she really had been drinking.”
“She is a volunteer,” another person chimed in. “But we do have a duty to our organization, especially when it comes to finances.”
“Yes, we definitely cannot sacrifice our organization if she isn’t able to continue here duties well, but if she needs a bit of time away from the job to deal with a personal issue, we could find another person to help temporarily,” the next comment came.
Yep, this is easy, I sat up straighter and looked around the rest of the conference room to see how the other two groups seemed to be getting on. Looks like there’s a lot of agreement in the other two groups as well, I noted, people are smiling and nodding and seem enthusiastic with their hand gestures—-at least the extroverts.
I giggled to myself. Blandin had broken our 16 types down into sub-types, giving us further insight to each category, and I could see those dynamics playing out in the room. Our group is much smaller than each of the other two, I noted. We only have about ten, and the other two are around twenty people each. That must make it a bit more difficult to come to a resolution.
“You have three minutes left. Please pick someone from your group to present your decision to the group,” the director interrupted loudly over the animated chatter.
We hastily picked our leader, had her verbally recap our final decision to us quickly, and turned towards the front of the room, waiting.
“Group one, please present your results.”
A prominent businesswoman stood up and projected the decision easily and clearly over the group. “As the board of directors, we have no choice but to terminate her volunteer position immediately and find a replacement. We cannot tolerate any financial impropriety in the organization, as it could cause a negative impact on our nonprofit status, our revenue, and the community trust in our organization.”
Wow, that is super harsh, I thought, stunned. No communication? No making sure that there wasn’t some other error in the system or an update that wasn’t her fault that was creating the errors? Wow. So much for years of loyalty. I know how much time that stuff can take.
“Group three, go ahead,” the leader interrupted my thoughts as I shook my head and turned my body the other direction to hear the verdict from the other side of me.
“Well,” the executive director of a nonprofit stood and faced the group. “She has had 15 years of loyal service. We thought it was in our best interest to sit down and have a conversation with her, offer her help, see if the matter was one in which she wanted to leave the position temporarily or permanently. We will give her support in finding help with her drinking if that is necessary, and do what we can to get her back on track. She is a volunteer after all, and we don’t need to jump to harsh conclusions or actions until we understand the totality of the problem.” She sat back down.
Huh, that doesn’t seem to protect the organization fast, and is completely opposite of the first group’s answer.
“Group 2?” The leader prompted.
Our spokeswoman, who worked for a large corporation, stood up and announced our decision, an exact blend of the other two. Starting with compassion and curiosity, and if the issue wasn’t fixed, to take strong disciplinary action.
Our brain wiring determines how we make these kinds of decisions. Holy crap. And my group’s brain wiring has a blend of both sides, which is why we are smaller and have a blend of both answers.
The understanding hit me as ways to increase communication and synergy to pull two conflicting sides together became clear.
Nature and nurture both influence how we see and interact with the world as individuals. The fear, drama, and propaganda in our culture now shapes the tone and grace–or lack thereof–in which individuals choose to share their opinions.
My mom told me that if I can’t say anything nice—-don’t say anything at all. I don’t believe that is true. Communication is necessary for a vibrant community. We need to be able to disagree, to have respectful conflict, to speak our minds, to share what is disturbing us, and why. However, it can be done in a curious, educational, and amicable way. Are there people spouting melodrama and hatred out there? Of course. Does that mean you need to match their tone? Absolutely not.
If something someone says triggers you and makes you extremely angry, is there a way you can pause, take a breath, and reply in a manner or tone that conveys your disagreement in a way that opens communication? What kind of attitude and tone would open you to listening to an opposing point of view? Try using that.
That’s my challenge for you this week. Whether it’s a disagreement with your child, your coworker, your friend, or on social media, take a breath. Realize that everyone has a right to their own opinion, no matter what information or lack thereof informs it. You may not be able to change someone’s mind, but you won’t for sure if you attack them. Ignore those who haven’t learned these lessons yet, except to prompt them to please use a different tone.
Does that seem too challenging? Perhaps it’s time to learn Emotional Freedom Techniques (a.ka. EFT or tapping.) It’s a powerful way to release the visceral emotional reaction to stressful situations. Check this link for class details. If you would prefer to talk about it individually, schedule a free session here.
I had just dropped my rucksack on the bedroom floor and stepped into the bright, open hallway when I heard the ruckus. I peeked over the open stairwell and saw my two nephews pounding up the stairs with excitement, the six-year-old, Geoffrey, a few paces ahead of his younger brother.
“Auntie Dawn! Auntie Dawn!” I knelt down to receive the oncoming barrage of love, and my heart nearly burst with happiness when I saw his sweet face round the corner. His brown hair bounced as he ran toward me, his green eyes sparkling with glee, a giant smile on his face.
He almost knocked me over as he ran into me full-force for a giant hug. I wrapped my arms around his little frame as soon as he crashed into me. His brother joined from the left side, blonde curls framing his sticky face, and snuck in for a group hug. As I gave them both a big squeeze, overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from their big hearts, I wanted to hold onto them forever.
“Auntie Dawn, I missed you! Are you going away again?” Geoffrey’s tiny voice was strained with anxiety.
Oh no, I thought, surprised by the length and ferocity of his hug as I held him close. I was suddenly feeling polarized between the immense amount of love flowing between us and the intruding guilt sinking into my stomach. I didn’t think it mattered to him that I was gone for nine months. They don’t see me that often anyway.
Suddenly, the two large dogs descended on the three of us, tails wagging and tongues flying, trying to get in on the action. As the youngest let go and started asking questions, Geoffrey kept me locked in his arms with an intensity I hadn’t felt from him before.
I don’t want to be another person in his life who comes and goes and makes him feel unstable, unloved, or disconnected. I thought we stayed really connected over FaceTime. I guess that wasn’t enough.
As I held him close, trying to reconcile the overwhelming energy of the dogs, the barrage of questions from the youngest, and the increasing concern about him, images and sounds of a different memory emerged—reminding me of the last time a wonderful hug led to questions about connection and my responsibilities within it.
Every culture we are engaged in, whether personal, professional, or geographical, has different touch rules. Many are unwritten. So how can we approach connecting through touch in a genuine and open way?
The restaurant had the feel of a small, simple café, complete with a tall Norwegian blonde woman behind a coffee counter and a glass case full of baked goods. Wanting to feel part of the culture, I walked up and grabbed the Norwegian menu. Maybe I can figure this out. I was a little nervous, as I really wanted to connect, but wasn’t sure what was appropriate as far as initiating conversation. Will I talk to people in English? Swedish/Norwegian hybrid?Well, I don’t understand much of this menu, so it’s already looking bad. I traded it for English and skimmed the page. No wonder. Whale steak, some kind of fish I’ve never heard of, and accoutrements I barely understand in English. After ordering, I re-gathered my courage and sauntered upstairs into the near-empty open dining room that included a small stage to my left and a bar to my right. The windows overlooked the ferry, fjord, and small patio, which was packed. Most of the inside chairs had been pulled outside and added to tables crowded with people and drinks. That’s okay. I’ve been outside all day. It won’t hurt me to sit inside near the windows. After claiming a chair by loading it with my stuff, I wandered up to the bar for a glass of wine just as the bartender ran to the back. I waited patiently, and a tall, stocky, obviously-Norwegian gentleman and eventually a shorter brunette woman joined me in the wait.
“Var är han?” the man asked, followed by something I didn’t understand, as he gestured towards the back and then down the stairs I had ascended earlier.
“Du talar för fort. Jag föstar inte. Kan du säga det igen?” I said, telling him in Swedish that he spoke too fast and I needed him to repeat what he’d said. I focused intently on the general words as he asked if the bartender was in back or getting food from the kitchen.
“Is English easier?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yes, but I should have a conversation to learn.”
The woman chimed in and my brain immediately tried to pinpoint her accent, “It’s really a friendly space here. You can just pull up at any table and join the conversation. Are you waiting for the ferry as well?”
When the bartender returned and took their order, I paused. Just pull up and join the conversation? I felt my stomach flip. From what I know, that might not be appropriate. Plus with those full tables, it seems like a lot to manage with a plate full of food.
Dawn, my other voice chided, you would have jumped on that in three seconds at home, plus that’s what you resolved to do. Remember being in Ireland in 2009? You had no compunction about joining conversations, touching people, engaging, and being yourself. Yes, you are more culturally sensitive now, as well as more aware of the impact of unwanted touch on people, but don’t hide out at the perfect moment.
I shook my head at myself. I’m back to being sensitive to people and a bit fearful of overstepping cultural boundaries. Perhaps I can bridge that with more ease this time—after I eat at a proper table.
“Miss, what can I get you?” the bartender asked.
When we all had our drinks, we started introductions. The woman was German and was traveling Norway in an RV with her husband and three large dogs. The man was from Oslo, Norway, and was on a two-week holiday visiting friends. Both returned to their respective groups on the patio. My food arrived and I was grateful for the space while people-watching through the glass. People are sitting very close to each other, and most are laughing and engaging and talking with enthusiasm, but they are not touching casually at all. Even the couples don’t seem to be touching much.
“Come, join us outside.” The German lady peeked her head in the door, her shoulder-length curly hair standing out from under her beanie. “Don’t be in here all by yourself.”
“I was just going to eat first and then come out,” I said, startled and hesitant to leave my quiet nest, “but okay.”
“How can I help? Shall I grab your water and wine?” she asked, as she reached forward to grab them.
“Thank you.” I followed her with my food out to the corner table, where her husband sat.
The couple they were sitting with must have left. I didn’t even notice.
She set my drinks down and introduced her husband. Quickly, we started with casual talk about our trips, and eventually worked our way into other conversations as we ordered another round of wine.
This is what I’ve wanted for so many days. A connection with people, real conversation, and a chance to learn.
“You are more than welcome to come stay with us in Germany,” she offered, her husband nodding as she pulled out her phone. “We are in a really small town, but it is beautiful. Here, I’ll show you.”
Everywhere I travel, I meet good, generous people who want to share where they come from and who are proud and excited to share it with others.
We exchanged Facebook messages so I had the ability to contact them in December, the next time I would be able to enter the Schengen zone again.
“Okay, we have to get our dogs out for a while,” she said, standing up. “We will see you in Germany.”
Okay, this is my opportunity to practice what I preach.
I took a breath and stood, being careful to keep my body open and relaxed. “How do you say goodbye where you come from? Do you just say goodbye and wave? Give handshakes? Hugs? What’s appropriate?” I smiled, watching her reaction to my question.
It feels like a way to imply I am open for all of those things, but without crossing a cultural barrier and asking for something specific. Even though we have been talking for two hours, we are technically strangers. I know Germans have a reputation for being practical and structured, but I have no idea how they touch.
“Hugs are good,” she replied smiling and opened her arms. We exchanged a warm hug, and I stepped back from the table.
“There are only a few rules while dancing here,” Kari, the leader addressed the circle of dancers. “One, dance however you want without judgment and without judging others. You can run, skip, jump, make vocalizations, spin, lay down, roll around on the floor, rest on the edges, or whatever you feel called to do that honors your needs and takes care of you. Two, no words may be spoken during dance. All communication should be done using gestures and touch. Three, some people enjoy dancing for a while with others. You can communicate you want to dance with someone, and wait for them to nod or invite you into his or her space. If you do not want to dance with somebody and they attempt to dance with you, it is okay and encouraged to just bow out. Remember, bowing out is an individual taking care of themselves and their body in the moment, and not a reflection upon you in any way. Do not take it personally.”
Those are great rules. I wish it had been that easy in my twenties at the dance clubs! I gazed around the circle at the variety of people sitting in the open wooden-floored meeting space inside the small Texan church. This is going to be a lot of fun.
Kari prompted everyone to declare an intention for the session, and the variety of answers surprised me. They ranged from an intention to be playful to an intention to heal oneself and let go of body stress through movement. The DJ stepped behind the table as the circle broke and people stood up, and then the music started with a steady rhythm that was easy to feel and move to. I stood with my eyes closed, getting a sense of the beat, the energy of the music, and how I wanted to start dancing. Slower at first, allowing myself to get grounded, to feel my breath, and to remind myself to just be playful and explore.
You don’t know this music, but you know how to move and how to dance and how to feel free, I told myself. Just do what you would do in your kitchen or outside.
The music progressed into faster yet more melodic songs, rhythms changing gradually with each one. There were no words—just a variety of tones and instruments—but the energy remained. This music inspired the body to dance.
I remember spinning around the edges of the group, seeing the cacti in the garden outside through the windows, and feeling my hair and my long skirt fly around me as I giggled like a small child. It was pure freedom, and I was high on the knowledge that other people around me were feeling the same. I knew I wanted to connect with people; but as I tried to catch someone’s eye to get permission or make a connection, no one seemed to respond. They all seemed like they were engaging with each other, but leaving me isolated.
Is it because I don’t know anyone? Are people only dancing with those they know? Or maybe I sent a message that I don’t want to dance with anyone else because of what I said?
Introversion. Dictionary.com defines it as “the act of directing one’s interest inward or to things within the self.” As someone who has defined herself as an extrovert since the age of nineteen, the idea of being defined as an introvert again scares me.
But why do I have to define myself? As a child, my parents and friends knew me as an overly-talkative, playful, and goofy character. My mom recalls me laughing at “free air” signs at gas stations. Why on earth would people charge for air? But when around strangers or in groups, I was quiet, compliant, and docile. I liked being outside for hours playing with my Labrador, Ben. I charged myself by pondering things like love as I wandered the deep forest with him. Reading until the wee hours of the morning inspired me. It all changed when I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah to go to massage school. How would I meet people? How would I survive? I adapted my dad’s extrovert personality, and forced myself to talk to anyone and everyone in my class. I was surprised to make friends quickly and as I celebrated my twentieth birthday there, I realized I was more than the box I had been subconsciously relegated to—both by myself and by others that knew me.
Returning to Minnesota
I returned to Minnesota expressing myself differently than many had seen me before. Suddenly, I would talk to anyone, I presented myself with confidence and assurance, and I even stood up to my boss who committed insurance fraud under my name and kept about five-thousand dollars of my wages as punishment. But it wasn’t the social aspect alone that had changed. Suddenly I found rejuvenation by being with people; anyone around me at that time could tell you I processed my thoughts outside myself, as most extroverts do.
Am I An Extrovert? Does it matter?
I was extroverted in my travels last year. This allowed me to meet great people and develop a few strong friendships. I explored and connected through the new and the unexpected.
This year has been startlingly different. Writing a book about The Touch Crisisin our culture and shining a light on feelings and patterns I hadn’t exposed to others brought me back inside myself for a deep level of transformation and preparation. I spent much of my journey at safe spaces with friends instead of exploring.
I deepened relationships, took advanced trainings in EFT/tapping, homeopathy, and CranioSacral. My hikes were more about rejuvenation and connecting with myself and nature than exploration. I recharged being alone (introvert,) versus with people (extrovert.) My thoughts were processed inside and then communicated instead of being processing externally (although both happen for different reasons.) I learned that when one takes pictures of the Northern Lights, many more colors show than visible with the naked eye. Isn’t that a great representation of what others see in us and what we truly are? Who sees all of our colors in purity and clarity?
My mind races sometimes with unanswered questions. What will people think? What will I do when people attack me or take
offense over what I have written? How do
I step back into my relationships as my new self? How will this impact my business and my
Tapping and homeopathy have helped me tremendously to overcome these questions and settle back into myself. This journey was about finding flexibility. I have concluded: I am all of it. I am an extrovert in some seasons, and an introvert in others. Overall I have remembered that health is about flexibility. About being to express all of ourselves when we want to. I have been stuck in introversion, and have been stuck in extroversion, but being able to move between the two as I need is a sign of health. It’s a sign of breaking free of social programming. It’s the ultimate freedom. I had thought freedom was exploring and traveling and not caring what people thought as I wandered carelessly through the world. I was wrong.
What IS Freedom?
Freedom is being flexible within myself. It is communicating what I want and need and not being afraid of the outcome. Freedom is understanding why I am upset and learning from it; addressing it with tapping, healers, and talking to friends; struggling and coming through the other side; breaking free of the fear of being ‘not enough.’ Freedom to me is choosing who I want to be with—even if that’s just myself. Freedom is returning home after many journeys a different person and allowing others to react how they wish, but staying true to who I am now, instead of playing a role that doesn’t fit me anymore. It will get even more intense when my book is released in January, and I’m okay with that—finally.
My Question For You
Where are you in a box that doesn’t fit? What role are you playing that doesn’t suit you? Do you feel you are not as happy as you wish to be? I’ve been there. A few times in my life. I would love to help. If you are ready for something new in your life…to let go of old emotions, habits, and beliefs, or to transform yourself, your life, and your relationships, let’s chat about the possibilities for you.
I look forward to connecting.
With love and gratitude,
P.S. If you are interested in hearing when my book comes out, SUBSCRIBE HERE.
As I write my book and encourage people to communicate more clearly around their own touch boundaries and needs, I find myself observing, even more than usual, the ways individuals communicate and touch in various cultures and situations. I also observe the ways that people create strong and clear connection without using touch, as this is just as important.
I have observed cross-cultural use of many of the ideas that business gurus and communication professionals have been recommending for years, e.g. reflective listening, looking others in the eye, and body language. But I have also noticed, being a non-native speaker, on how people interact with me and with others who are from other countries. In the tourist areas, some English-speaking natives start by asking ‘do you speak English?’ but many will automatically start talking English, and hope the other person knows what they are saying. Many workers are adept at picking up on cues from their patrons and can identify whether to speak a native language or start with English, as English is default to those who know multiple languages but not the language of the country they are in.
Conversations in Foreign Languages
I start my conversations with as much of the foreign language I know before I switch to English, ask for clarification, or request slower speech. I find people are more communicative and warm in return than if I just lead in English. My mother is visiting, and she says in Swedish ‘do you speak English.’ It seems to me that people are also more open with this level of communication. Perhaps because it shows a basic attempt to learn and respect where we are?
People I have met are more than willing to help me learn their language. They are willing to speak slowly, use simple words and phrases, and say things in a different way if I don’t understand. They will switch to English if they know it and I cannot understand, but if I ask them (once I understand the words) to say it again in Swedish, not only will they say it, but they will help me pronounce it correctly. It’s amazing and heart-warming and really fun to be able to learn to communicate this way.
It’s Too Hard
However, sometimes I don’t attempt clarity. People speak to me and I just pretend I understand, even when I have no clue. Maybe I think I know what they said, but instead of clarifying, I just respond and then watch them give me an odd look because my reply wasn’t congruent with what they said. Every time I don’t ask for clarification, I reflect on it later, usually with a bit of regret at a missed opportunity to learn and connect. Usually I don’t clarify because I am in the midst of self-judgment or ego. Frequently I am afraid I will be perceived as stupid by the native speaker, other times I just am being lazy. At times I recognize the words and am upset at myself for not remembering them, so I “punish myself” by not engaging. Now and again I default to English, as I can’t even think about how to say a sentence under my own perception of pressure but after the situation is done, I think of three or four ways to express what I needed to, even if I do sound like a 4-year-old. (At least I will learn that way!)
Start by Trying
We all have to start somewhere with clarifying communication-at work, in relationships, and in social media. It’s important to speak clearly and gently with others. To take time and trust the other person is doing the best they can in the moment. I encourage you, as I am encouraging myself, to let go of the ego and ask for clarification if you are being triggered by another’s words, or if you don’t understand. Take a few breaths, know that communication is one of the trickiest things we engage in. Give yourself and the other/s time and space to really understand. It’s time to be kinder and gentler with ourselves-and each other. Communicate what you want, what you need, and what you want to understand. Allow engagement, allow for mistakes. I am, and am finding it’s one of the best and most rewarding ways to learn.
I have officially hit the half-way mark with writing my book, and thank goodness I hired a content creation expert, Amanda Johnson, to help me. I write in spurts of energy and enthusiasm, but then hit blocks. I wonder how to phrase my ideas. Are they too repetitive? Will they trigger someone or make them feel uncomfortable? I find myself getting upset as I poke around at old memories and lay them out for the world to see in an open and vulnerable way.
Luckily, hiking grounds me back to the earth so I can breathe. I also do a lot of tapping/EFT work with myself. I’m even using my EFT practitioner once a month to help find deeper sources of patterns I cannot see on my own. It’s been an invaluable tool of healing and processing emotion so I can neutralize the past and keep using those stories to help others.
I Like Getting Halfway
I started reading a book once called The Way you Do Anything is the Way you Do Everything. I got about halfway through it, like I do with most books that are not fiction. But the point was valid, and the video below I took reminds me of that book.
I started hiking a mountain, but hit snow. I wasn’t sure, due to the melt, if I should walk across it or not. I know a lot of these mountains have deep crevices and holes that are buried under snow, or streams that run deep underneath, creating potential pitfalls for the average hiker wandering alone. I wandered at the same level for a long time, entertaining myself by building a small snowman, and taking pictures. Then-I found tracks in the snow leading up. So, I followed them. I had planned a 3-4 hour hike round-trip. The book had said 3.5 hours, 6.9 km (4.29 miles), but I had already deviated from the path and circled the mountain to a different path— a ninety-degree difference on the map.
Should I Keep Hiking?
I kept going, bit by bit, checking in to see how it felt to go
farther. Was I going higher up because I
wanted to? Because I felt I should get
to the top because I was already halfway?
So, embracing my inner child, I just did what I felt like at the moment. I took a rest on some rocks in the sun. I thought about patterns of pushing myself for others. How often I do things in life because others expect me to, want me to, or because I just want to prove that I can. I forget to tune in sometimes.
As I write this book that asks people to tune into their bodies as they learn to integrate physical contact into their life in a way that is both comfortable and consensual for everyone involved, I realized I better start doing that in all areas of my life. Tune in. Be present. Make choices. Say ‘no’ when I want to, even to myself, no excuses needed.
YAY! I did it!
I did make it to the top, after checking out a live bug hanging out on the snow with me, here and thinking about how I want to overcome and make a bigger impact on the world. 17.72 km (11.07 miles) and 6 hours later I was back at the bottom, waiting for the bus.
Perhaps, if I can allow myself to conquer the mountain bit by bit,
using play and exploration to figure it out, I can do that with the book as
well. I can use the support of my coach,
my friends, and my own healing tools and get it done. No rush, no timeline. Of course I’d love to have it done before I
come home in January so I can focus on my business. Yes, it would be amazing to have it done by
November so people could have it for holidays.
It would be even more exquisite to have it done before I leave the
safety of my friend’ s house in Norway in a week so I’m not stirring myself up
and trying to travel at the same time.
But, I am going to remain playful. I am going to heal the world by balancing a wooden spoon on my nose. I’m going to try to be zen, or at least laugh, even when being surrounded by black flies while hiking a fjord.
I encourage you to do the same. Find something that you do habitually, a pattern that exists in your life, and shift it to something that suits you more. That allows you peace and balance and freedom. That allows you to tune into yourself and your relationships on all levels. Be prepared-bring a carrot along for the snowman you want to build, but upon finding no snow, eat it instead for energy.
My Question For You
What do you want to do different? Can you make small changes to make that happen?
Let me know how I can help you tune in. You can email me from my contact page on my website, put a comment below, or give me a call. My work phone works in Norway! I would love to hear from you. I sometimes get the best service while I’m hiking, so that’s fun.