For the majority of my life, I’d made a habit of never getting overly excited for any personally significant or monumental moments. Like a well oiled machine, any ounce of achievement or special occasion was typically quickly followed by shame, fear, or a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Without going too far into the specific moment when I first consciously had the rug pulled out from under me, so to speak, let’s just say I went from a sense of coasting and naivety, to constantly fearing any seemingly good situation, overnight.
(I feel the need to acknowledge that I realize this is not rare… as we all have moments of intense growth from our own range of difficult experiences, but as a commitment to my own self-care (and a “permission” to do so), I am attempting to express my own human experience in new and challenging ways - so writing about it in this format will unavoidably be a biased and somewhat celebratory representation of my own perspective. I have always tried to lend a great deal of respect and empathy to everyone else’s interpersonal struggles and am working at giving myself that same respect.)
I will come back around to discuss my complex relationship with celebratory moments - but my main purpose for writing this article is to focus on the concept of “permission”. I have spent several years circling around and meditating with this word and especially in the last couple of years it has seemed extra present in my journey.
When I think about the idea of permission, I tend to think about it in two separate channels. The channel of self-permission and the seeking of permission from others.
It’s quite an exposing exercise of self reflection when you think about all of the smallest and biggest moments in your life and how many of them you have made completely, 100% on your own, and how many have been made with the guidance and simultaneously the permission of others.
In a notebook I’ve had for years, I found some scattered and repetitive scribbles of following: The permission to live out your dreams, permission to rest, permission to reach beyond expected limits, permission to practice vulnerability, permission to fall apart, permission to evolve, permission to change your mind, permission to let go, permission to demand more from others, permission to feel beautiful, permission to say the wrong thing, permission to celebrate yourself.
I discovered that last one had been repeated an especially odd (and yet not surprising at all) number of times in my notebook: SEVEN. Practically a big slap and the face and a call to pay some damn attention to a concept I clearly needed to work on, and an idea that scares the absolutely crap out of me.
On June 2 2016, I took a step out of the dark I had created for myself for so long and into the light of an experience that has forever re-framed my idea of myself, of the people I choose to surround myself with. I nervously signed up for and attended a retreat in Ojai, CA with Darling Magazine. (Darling is a beyond incredible and intentionally curated publication about “The Art of Being a Woman” and all the complexities and beauty that this phrase entails.)
It has since been very difficult for me to ever adequately sum up what that life-changing weekend was like so in the words of one of the incredibly talented and inspiring Darling team members, Cassidy Boatright - “Conversation swiftly moved from “introductory” into the more vulnerable places of the heart; we talked authentically about our lives, the challenges we face and how we’ve experienced, and triumphed over, fear. As the meal ended we shared stories of when we have found victory over fear in our lives, and from here the weekend unraveled into a beautiful pile of openness and moments of connection like silk ribbon on the floor, revealing the precious gift of genuine friendship and wholehearted empathy.”
“…The weekend was infinitely more than any of us expected, it went beyond pretty cocktails and gorgeous table settings (although they were quite exquisite), the creative retreat offered a level of genuine depth that we all crave. Each woman walked away unquestionably inspired, renewed, and awakened to the innate value she holds.”
I had been completely blind to how much of myself I had shut off for so long until that weekend. It was as if I was digging into a meal after months of not eating, or being given new eyes after years of blindness. That may seem dramatic to some of you reading this, but at that point in my life, I was in such a low place, that I quite frankly was terrified about how much longer I would make it. I had spent so much time putting immense amounts of energy into people who didn’t value what I had to offer, and trying to cover up and hide my numbness and unhappiness for so long that when I experienced this moment of shared uninhibited appreciation and celebration of one another with these strangers, it was an undeniable moment of hope and excitement for all that I had left to give.
That weekend was a crucial turning point in my path towards self care and saying yes to my “light”.
The last year and a half, while a little complex, scattered and impulsive, has by far been one of the most rewarding I have lived. This year has given me reassurance that saying yes to your dreams (and sometimes saying NO to opportunities that you thought were right for you but then aren’t quite what you expected and not settling for “pretty close to your dream”) is one of the most important ways to uplift yourself and those around you. “Let your light shine” is a phrase I have finally started to let sink in more genuinely - I have a difficult time with how selfish it comes off (another constant insecurity of mine), but nevertheless, in all the wonderful ways it has manifested itself and given back to me when I have leaned into that light this trip around the sun, it’s undeniably shown me its one of the most important mantras I’ve needed to practice.
Boy have I still got a long way to go… There will always be challenges in sticking to a path that not everyone understands. There will always be those who are not as receptive to your vulnerability because they are still working on their own. My goal is to put less energy into “impressing” others and less worrying about only being able to put my most polished foot forward, and to continue putting energy and positivity into those things and people who celebrate my authenticity, my growth and give me the permission to overcome those inevitable challenges along the way.
I still have a habit of keeping any exciting news between myself and a small handful of trusted members of my support system and often have been known to overuse the phrase “well we can celebrate just yet, I don’t want to jinx it until its official, official.” But I’m getting there. Working towards more celebrations, small and big victories, presence in moments of growth and achievement. And my biggest hope is to be there to celebrate, encourage and give you permission to let your own light shine as well.
“As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give over people permission to do the same.” - Nelson Mandela
Lots of Love Always,