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November Newsletter: The Unarmored Life

Hi friends, this newsletter is getting to you a little late because I was enjoying time off with the fam in Vina del Mar, Chile – a place that holds so many of my dear childhood memories and never fails to inspire me with it’s natural beauty (that ocean, tho!) In the spirit of mindfulness, I tried to get on my computer as little as possible last week and truly savor every moment of my magical vacation.

During my days away, I started reading Brene Brown’s new book, Dare to Lead. In the chapter about trust, Brene brings up an instance when her daughter, Ellen, comes home very upset after school because friends she thought she could trust had shared her secret with the whole class. After sobbing her way through the story, Ellen tells her mom “I am never going to trust anyone ever again.”

Brene goes on to brilliantly explain the anatomy of trust for the next 5 pages or so, but it was Ellen’s statement that really got me thinking. How often do we let one shitty situation or one person’s hurtful actions close us off to all other opportunities or friendships for fear of feeling shitty or hurt again?

I know that I have, many times. The truth is, staying open, vulnerable, and hopeful after a painful experience is a lot harder, and takes a lot more courage, than shutting everyone out so they can’t hurt us again. In a world that feels increasingly unpredictable and unsafe, I get why we’re hearing more and more about protecting our time, our belongings, our borders, and our feelings. But when does establishing boundaries turn into putting on a thick armor before we leave the house each day? And what’s the price we pay for giving in to this culture of mistrust?

A high one.

When the norm is to have our guards up, we take all the juiciness out of life: innovation and creativity are stifled, collaboration goes out the window, and our capacity for joy and love slowly fades. It’s only when we face the world unarmored and welcome life fully that the magic happens.

I had a long distance relationship through most of my college years that ended in heartbreak. When Dave and I first met, we lived in two different cities and I resisted getting involved in another long-distance relationship based on my previous experience. Luckily, I did end up saying yes and look at us now, celebrating 3 years of marriage just a few months ago with the sweetest little nugget in tow. Had the memory of that heartbreak long ago been stronger than the rightness I felt about a relationship with Dave in that moment, I might still be living the single life in DC hoping to find my match.

When we establish healthy boundaries, we build trust with one another, not barriers between us. We can be firm about how we want to be treated and how we want to feel but remain vulnerable as we engage and connect with our families, friends  coworkers, etc. This dichotomy, in my opinion, is at the heart of resilience. Getting back up again after a difficult situation with a closed fist and closed heart is easy, and simply not good enough if we expect to leave this world a better place for our children.  We must, instead, have the courage to get back up ungloved, unmasked, and unafraid to face-plant again. I know that Lucas will face disappointment and hurt as he grows up, and in those defining moments as a mama, I hope I can teach him to love again after a heartbreak, try again after a failure, and as Brene says, move forward with a “tough back, soft front, and wild heart” after a fall.

This month I invite you to practice the soft side of resilience, both in your life and on your mat. As you moved in class, see if you can find the balance between structure and softness, power and flexibility, effort and ease. When something feels challenging, honor your limits, change your approach, and leverage your breath, but don’t disengage.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite excerpts from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening:

“We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.

When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.

It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.”  Mark Nepo


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