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Be Willing to Suck At It

So yesterday I did my first real 5k. I’ve done exactly two before, but more in a show-up to get the t-shirt kind of way. Both times I ambled my way socially through the race course, and then deposited myself in front of the Krispy Kreme hospitality tent.

But this time was different. This time I RAN.

Lest you presume this means I must be fit or remotely athletic, let me clear that up now. Not only am I NOT fast, I am the exact opposite of fast. I’m a middle-aged office worker and I sit on my ass professionally for 9+ hours a day, and I’m still hauling around a substantial amount of extra weight that i’m in the process of working off. Rather than primates, i’m pretty sure my closest wild relative would be a tree sloth (or better yet a cubicle sloth, if there were such a creature). For the race, I carefully lined up in the back among the stroller moms and the paraplegics. My main, nay, my only, goal was to finish in an upright position.

So, you may ask, why on earth would a middle-aged cubicle-dwelling tree sloth attempt to run a 5k?

Allow me to explain. About five months ago I started on a personal journey towards better health and self-care. That itself is a long and interesting story for a future blog post. But the short version is, I was shocked to discover that I really, really, REALLY love to run. Which from what I learned in high school gym class 25 years ago, makes no sense. Running is what the gym teachers and later on drill sergeants did to punish us. Runners are lean, whippet fast, knottily muscled people. Computer geeks don’t run. And heavy people shouldn’t run.  We should walk slowly at a steady pace, preferably with an oxygen bottle and a heart rate monitor. Right?

But here’s the thing. I LOVE it. I love it so much I schedule my runs ahead a week and practically drool in anticipation.  As soon as I finish one i’m already looking forward to the next one.

I love the way it challenges me, that my legs start to burn and my heart pumps and my lungs breathe in and out.

I love the ecstatic glow that I get afterwards, the sense of well-being that is unlike anything else I’ve experienced.

I love the way that it has unlocked deep wells of stubbornness and determination in me that I didn’t even know I had. I love doing it even when I suck at it, and I love it enough to get my ass out of bed at 7am on a weekend. And believe me, there’s not much that will motivate me to do that.

Even in the moments I hate it, I love it.

So in short, i’d like to quote one of my favorite tidbits from Barbara Sher: anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Or, as my Martha Beck coaching friends say all the time, be willing to suck at it. I have decided that in the pursuit of doing something awesome, something that lights me up inside and out, I am WILLING to suck at it it. I am willing to FAIL. I am willing to do  and fail over and over again, even while I am discovering new levels of suckitude.

And yesterday I sucked at it in front of 1000+ people, photo journalists, and a news crew. Now, me and my running affair are officially out of the closet.

Even after three months of preparation, the race wasn’t easy. It was hot, & I was surprised when I started by how tired my legs were, & how much I felt like quitting. There was a huge hill right at the beginning that seemed to go on forever. But I kept going, & this is where the stubbornness comes in. By the end of mile 1 I was feeling warmed up & my legs were starting to move. By mile 2, I was feeling like an epic bad-ass.

I wish I could say I had an Chariots of Fire moment, that my adrenaline kicked in and I beat everyone else there. But, I finished 816 out of 864. In my age bracket of 40-44 year old females, I finished #46 out of #46. That’s right, dead last. Along the way I was passed by a 77 year-old woman, and a pregnant woman with a stroller.

But, I FINISHED. And you know what? I beat the pants off my self that was sitting on the couch just four months ago, wishing she could run. I had an awesome time, and I am ready to do it again.

So whether running is your thing or not, my hope for you is that you find THE things that light you up from the inside out. The thing you want to do so badly that you are willing to suck at it. And that, my friend, is something worth pursuing. no matter how bad you are at it.

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Giving Yourself Permission to be Where You Are

Let me just for a moment, hypothesize that maybe there’s some area of your life you’re not happy with. Maybe it’s just a couple areas of dissatisfaction. Maybe it’s life in general. Maybe you’ve struggled with it for years, and things aren’t what you want or where you think they should be by now.coaching blog, life coach, life coaching

Either way, I’d like to suggest something that may seem like a radical departure: Try giving yourself permission to be where you are.

I’m not saying you have to LIKE where you are right now. I’m not saying you should want to stay there, or to build a summer home there.

But here’s the thing–either way, you’re there. You can be there and fight with it, beat yourself up, and feel bad about it. Or, you can be there and just be present. Curious. Less stressed out. When you stop fighting with reality, that frees up a ton of energy that can be channeled towards something more positive.

I know this is 180 degrees away from alot of contemporary thinking, but here are two reasons why I believe it’s true.

First of all, please consider that you don’t have the whole picture yet. As human beings we all have a limited context and understanding of our own lives. This is why we think we are mature at 16, or will never love again after getting our heart broken at 20. Can you really say that in the greater scheme of things, this struggle won’t feed into your future brilliance in some rich and beautiful way? Can you really know that this is not exactly where you are supposed to be?

Second of all, God can use anything. Anything. In the miraculous hands of the higher loving power of the universe (however we understand it), anything can be used as a springboard to bring more peace, more love, more healing to the world. I see this play itself out on the news all the time: the school bus monitor who received more than a half million dollars in donations after a video of her being bullied went viral. The abused dog in Texas that prompted an outpouring of love, support and donations. As my mentor Martha Beck has said, life is a benevolent process where bad things are meant to create good things.

So please, I invite you to try this out, and see how it feels: Wherever I am with my finances is okay for right now. Or my job. Or my body. Or my marriage. Maybe it’s all of the above. If this thinking feels like a relief, please try being kind to yourself and accepting reality.

On the other hand, if beating yourself up, feeling ashamed or guilty has helped you to affect positive and lasting change, then by all means keep doing it.

As the poet Hafiz beautifully said:

This place where you are right now, 
God circled on a map for you.

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Brené Brown TED Talk: Listening to Shame

I just wanted to share this wonderful Brene Brown video. It’s a follow-up to her much-loved TED talk on vulnerability.

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame.html

The whole video is about 20 minutes and well worth listening to, but here is what I found most essential:

Shame as she refers to it is the feeling that tells a person they are bad. This is different than guilt, which says they’ve done something bad but can do better.

And there is a HUGE correlation between shame and addiction, depression, violence, bullying, eating disorders and I would imagine most types of self-abusive behavior.

Also, I love the way she refers to her midlife nervous breakdown as a “spiritual awakening”.

For anyone interested in hearing more, I’ve heard from several friends her book is wonderful.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Gifts-Imperfection-Supposed-Embrace/dp/159285849X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1341795142&sr=8-1&keywords=brene+brown

With much love,

Layla

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The Thing About Assumptions…

So something funny happened to me a day or two ago. It’s kind of embarrassing, but it’s a great example, so I thought I would share.

While driving to work I was approaching a busy intersection where panhandlers typically stand with cardboard signs.

On the corner waiting for the crosswalk, there was a 20-ish guy with faded clothes and a backpack. He had wild, shaggy hair and was badly in need of a haircut. I’m not proud of this but my first thought was “oh there goes another pandhandler”.

As I got closer I then noticed he was holding a skateboard, and his clothes were not truly shabby but rather intentionally shabby. Shabby chic. The kind where you expend some effort to send a clear signal that you don’t care about appearances. The next thought that ran through my head was something like “skateboard, slacker, probably doper”.

And THEN, as I got even closer, I recognized him. It was someone I KNEW.

He is not a  panhandler, and he’s certainly not a slacker. He is a post-doctoral student from France, here specifically to study at the Salk Institute in La Jolla. He is devoting his very considerable talents to studying neural coupling in the brain, attempting to create a mathematical model for understanding schizophrenia. He is sweet, tidy, considerate, and his mathematical talent is dazzling. I know all this because he and his girlfriend stayed in my home for two weeks when she first arrived from France. His girlfriend who is a physician in France, I might add.

At this point I felt like a first-class heel, and was reminded of a bad cliche I’ve heard many times: when you make assumptions, you make an Ass of U and Me. But in this case mostly me.

Had I not known him, I would have continued on with my day & never given it a second thought, never knowing how wrong I had been.

And it made me wonder–where else in my life may I have jumped to the wrong conclusion? What other assumptions have I never questioned?

Something to think about.

 

 

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If Wishes Were Horses

When I was a little girl, more than anything else in the world I wanted a horse of my own.

Gerry, my life coach with hooves

Everything about horses sang to me: the lines of their bodies, their smell, the sounds they made. And of course, it didn’t help that there is a whole industry built around fanning the flames of little girls’ horse fantasies. I played with collectible horse figures, read horse fiction, and pored over library books on obscure horse facts and care. In the first grade I got busted for telling my teacher & classmates long, colorful stories about the horses my family and I owned. It wasn’t that I meant to lie, so much as my fantasy world of horses & adventures was more real to me than my actual life, in a Calvin and Hobbes kind of way.

My poor mother, who was busy juggling her own issues (first a dysfunctional marriage, then single parenting while working two jobs) would only say we couldn’t afford it. After raising my own stepkids I recognize that now as sometimes being parent code for “I can’t deal with this right now”, or “if I wait this latest fad will blow over”. And I understand it couldn’t have been easy for her to handle a child who on alternate days wanted to be an astronaut, a  ballerina, or Indiana Jones. For many years though, I felt a sense of lack, of not-rightness-with-the-world around not growing up on a horse farm somewhere. It felt like years of loss that could never be restored. I hope to never again be in the position of wanting anything so badly & so painfully as I did that horse. Now, looking back it’s easy to see I wanted what I thought a horse would give me: freedom, happiness, companionship.

After having years to contemplate this, I’ve come to think alot of unfulfilled dreams are not so much about the dream itself, as the fact that it was denied. For instance, when I wanted to take ballet lessons around age 10, being told I couldn’t felt like a tragedy. When I got a “ballet class on tape” at age 20, it took only one time through for me to realize I HATED it.

When we are yearning, we may think we need another lifetime to make up for something that we lost. But here’s the good news: very often it’s enough just to start now. Sometimes all it takes is a taste to satisfy the yearning, the curiosity, & understanding of the trade-offs that life would have meant. Yesterday, for instance, I took my first English riding lesson with a beautiful chestnut Thoroughbred named Gerry. An hour in that horse’s saddle did more to ease my heart than ten hours of therapy. The sweetness, the pure joy of it was everything I imagined as a kid.

Marianne Williamson has said before that even if you didn’t have a happy childhood, the good news is you can fix it now. And this is what I think that means: whatever you missed out on during your childhood, your crappy first marriage, whatever–you can give those things to yourself. Now.

Roses. Art classes. A puppy. And even if it’s too late to give yourself the actual thing itself, you can give yourself the essence of it: kindness. Attention. Love.

Start small. Start today. Apply liberally. Repeat. Allow yourself to bask in knowing that you are loved and you are beautiful.

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Catching Up

Hi there!

This is just a quick post to say hello and get back into the swing of blogging. Since starting my life coach training back in September, i’ve unleashed such a flood of changes in my life that I chose to set aside a few things, including this. As one of the instructors in my class said, as a coach cadet I am my FIRST and BEST client. So many amazing things have happened in the last nine months–a new job, a move to San Diego, some of the richest friendships of my life. I can’t wait to share it all! Be back soon!

With much love,

Layla

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Remembering the Importance of Rest

Hey everybody!

Sorry it’s  been so long since my last post. I’m living a double life these days between my day job and completing coach training. I was balancing it pretty well until unexpected work events last month swept me up like a flash flood. I received a theoretical promotion (a pep talk followed by more work & responsibility, but no money or title change), and went on a two-week business trip right before Christmas. Plus, I will be going back to New York on Sunday for another two weeks!

My two dogs, champion loungers in action

My two dogs, champion loungers in action

So, I decided to take vacation for this in-between week. I intended to spend it doing a vigorous house cleaning and reorganization, getting everything in tip-top shape for the New Year. You know, get caught up on all those projects around the house that are accumulating. Get my Martha Stewart on.

But instead, when I came home last Friday night I flopped into bed exhausted; and to my surprise, I stayed there all weekend. Sure, I did the bare minimum I needed to to sustain life. But the closets went uncleaned, the walls unscrubbed, the junk piles unchallenged.  Not only did I not do these chores, I couldn’t even find the energy to CARE about them anymore.

Martha Stewart would NOT approve.

I realize now I was so swept up in frenetic activity this last month that I didn’t notice how depleted I was getting. Today, on the third full day i’ve spent resting, I’ve actually started to feel my normal self returning. I feel like doing things again, instead of laying around like a gelatinous mass. Tomorrow i’ll probably even get started on my chore list.

My cat Trooper would make a great sleep coach

My cat Trooper would make a great sleep coach

Luckily (and with perfect timing for me), my coaching mentor Martha Beck recently posted this short quotation from her new book on Facebook. I watched as the post spread from profile to profile like wildfire, & remembered thinking it must have really struck a chord as something we needed to hear. This was of course right before my own exhaustion hit me like a truck from behind:

The next time you’re worn out, don’t tell yourself to pep up. Do what your body and brain want: surrender to the weariness. Breathe into it.

For this new year I hope you will give yourself the same permission: to recognize when you are worn out–physically, emotionally or mentally–and allow yourself the rest that you need.

And happy New Year!

Layla

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