A few nights ago, I was at my friend LiYana’s book launch party for her absolutely outstanding book, Feminine Genius. I can’t recommend this book enough, not because she’s my friend (though that helps, because I have a front row seat to the depth of her wisdom), but because this book is something I wish every human would read.
It’s not about being more “feminine” in our appearance or behavior, because
A) there’s nothing wrong with us
B) she’s not talking about some twisted version of femininity that’s about getting smaller and nicer and prettier; she’s talking about embodying our full selves, now, as we are.
Further, it’s about embracing our darkness and accessing the intrinsic genius that is our inner-knowing So…
At the party, LiYana shared personal stories and read excerpts from her book. Most of her stories weren’t what most of us would describe as inspiring. They weren’t the things we often hear from “successful people”: Rags-to-Riches, Breakdown-to-Breakthrough, and You-Can-Too stories.
She told stories of her own dark nights of the soul, and the messy yet meaningful path to embracing those difficult times and the harder-to-love aspects of herself.
It wasn’t the Sparkly + Pretty flavor of inspiration;
It was the Honest + Heartachingly Beautiful flavor.
I was reminded of two things:
- It is possible for our truth, undecorated, to inspire
- Our work works us
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say “We teach what we need to learn.” And every time I hear it, I think “Well….sort of.” Consider this:
Imagine if I only posted pictures of my perfect, healthy food on Instagram, but behind the scenes I binge-ate Doritos, all the while preaching that we should always be striving for perfect health, and never letting on that I am less-than perfect.
I don’t believe that it’s healthy for us or others, for us to teach or stand for something publicly that we are not actively engaging in privately, or to put up a facade of perfection, when we will never be perfect. If you’re an accountant actively digging through your own financial rubble, or a health coach who unapologetically enjoys croissants from time-to-time, it’s all good. But if you’re pretending to be “perfect” in order to inspire others, and you’re striving to be perfect – “we teach what we need to learn.” – then I would invite you to consider version 2…
We teach something that is constantly growing and shaping us; we are learning through leading every day; we’re engaged, and we’re listening. We acknowledge our imperfection, and help others overcome the destructive grip of perfectionism.
We might still post pictures of that pretty food, but we also acknowledge from time to time what it took to get it, the privilege we have to have access to it, and share some of the less-obviously-inspiring images and stories from our lives. In this version of “we teach what we need to learn”, our work works us – we become the student of it.
Rather than striving to be as perfect as we portray ourselves to be, we aim to be true to what we stand for, through aligning our actions and shifting our messaging as necessary. In the process our message becomes deeper, richer, and more true. And we become more honest.
This is what I heard in LiYana’s stories. This was a woman who has been speaking about what she calls Feminine Genius for over a decade. And yet, day-by-day, she was humbly allowing her message to be her medicine. It was growing her and deepening her work.
Here’s what I believe:
Your body of work – The Work – whether it’s your art or your sport or your way with numbers, has its own divine spark; its own essence and energy; its own soul.
And when you choose to surrender to the calling to do The Work, you are in partnership with it. And like any intimate relationship, it will challenge you.
In my experience, for most of us there will be times where we question whether The Work is for us…
I don’t know if I’m cut out for this.
Isn’t there someone more qualified?
I thought this would be easier.
This is too hard.
And like our other intimate relationships, if we bail at the first sign of intensity, then we will likely never sustain relationships of depth. As my friend Annie Lalla often reminds us, trees’ roots deepen because of the wind.
And like our other intimate relationships, if we put up a facade of perfection and don’t face our challenges or insecurities, then the relationship becomes brittle, inflexible, static, and inauthentic.
So we listen to what truly calls us. (FYI, there may be no instant strategy for implementation, and it might not even make sense)
We embrace the calling, without having to know what it looks like. (See above and below)
We experience life each day, and take it all in as medicine. (As my mentor, Elayne Kalila says: we treat life as the initiation.)
Then we look back at The Work and make it true. (We weave the depth of our learnings into it, and chiropractically adjust it as necessary.)
* That thing that aches to be expressed through you.
* That thing that you dare not think of when en route to the bathroom in the middle of the night, because it will wrap its arms around you.
* That thing that you can’t help but talk about, or do, even when you’re “off”.
* That thing that you may have expertise or even mastery around…
It is schooling you.
Let it, and be free, then bring the lessons back to us.