Recently, in the process of reworking and adding to some of my existing offerings on Women's Leadership and Speaking, I've been doing a bit of a deep dive back into what I learned during my days of studying performing arts. I say my years of study, because my days of creative expression are still very much alive. And particularly, as I'm presently about to live beyond an age that my beautiful Mother never lived to be, I've found myself doubling down this month on my conviction and commitments to spend more time sharing more of the things I love, like dance or playing piano, or singing with groups of friends, or painting giant canvases with my hands and making sure more of these things permeate my work expressions a little more actively again now going forward. (Things that, through injury or terminal illness, she only had so much time to do.)
What I started to learn in those days, is kind of two fold. In one respect, there's the things that I've written about in blogs past, that I learned about Leadership. About teams and tribes. There's the technical things that I learned about how to be on stage, how to be with an audience, how to perform well. The more Business and Leadership Coaching I've done in recent years, the more I've found the consistency, the commonality in the kinds of mindset hurdles, limiting beliefs, the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, that most humans face in finding our voices, in finding the courage and confidence to stand in front of a crowd, in standing for or delivering something, just for them.
But then there's the things I learned during that time that I didn't necessarily expect to learn. The hard lessons of being a woman, being a human, you'd never have signed up for if you KNEW at the time, that's what you were about to learn in the middle of the storm. But, one day, you thank God/The Universe/The divine (whatever your wording for it) that you did. Because, in facing and reclaiming your true power within them, now you become free, to be who you were REALLY born to be. In more aspects of life than just work.
That time in my life, actually, simultaeous to containing some of my happiest and proudest moments, sadly, was also one of the two biggest sh#t storms of life events I've ever had to navigate. During that time, For a while, It felt like there wasn't much of a breather between difficult life events of my teens, someone else in the family getting or dying of cancer, or some other major health condition. My horse, my childhood cat, our short haired pointer, what felt like a lot the elders and my/our support crew at the time, checked out. Some of us (including myself, but luckily, compared to some, in only the briefest of cervical cell abnormality forms, for a year) had a close brush with it too, but said "oh hell no!" to the universe, doubled down on self-care and healing what was underneath it, and then came out the other side, healed.
Leaving home though, I felt insanely guilty about going off to the city to pursue my dreams. When someone like a parent dies in the family, everybody, in a way, has to compensate within the family system by stepping in to fill the shoes of the person who left. I made my own decision early on that i wanted at least one of my younger Brother and I to grow up feeling like they'd had a normal life and wanted to take a bunch of pressure off my single parent Dad, so regardless of whether i was asked or not, I just did the majority of the things that needed to get done around a country house to keep it running during the week. But then, like many Mum's I've worked with over the years, i felt equally as guilty and stressed just like one, about how they were going to cope, when i went off to pursue my work dreams.
Simultaneous to feeling the sudden shift of purpose, like an empty nester, only at age of 18, simultaneously, professionally speaking, I also felt very much like an 18 year old who'd just left home and, like many young performers and aspiring artists, I wanted to continue to stand for something and be involved in art and projects that would make a difference. While simultaneously, every day, i was coming into the reality of classes with students and teachers you'd know then and now from TV and movies. Not to mention, with plenty of others, hoping, they'd be the.next one to get into NIDA, or get on Neighbours. Whichever came first. It was a very surreal time.
At that time, I was also living on campus, while going to uni to study Contemporary Arts across the road. And trying to balance being an active part of a social culture, at, how do i put this delicately....the drunkest of all the country kid inhabited halls of residence, that like much of the country, was drowning in a social culture based on drinking. That was both a blessing and a curse. While trying to balance going to uni each day to actualise progress on my performing arts dreams.
What that culture, the A's and HD's and D's and awards i'd been getting up until that point, the running 5 days a week lifestyle hid though, was how often I was home alone some Saturday night, or after some function, half a bottle of Southern Comfort down, crying my eyes out until 4 in the morning, in secret. All i wanted at that point was no conflict and life to be DRAMA FREE. What I still had, were giant gaping, grief dripping holes in my heart and insides. And a massive craving for intimacy to fill those holes, plus a massive desire to be an easy going, "yes" person, who was likeable by everyone and could be relied upon by everyone, no matter what, to compensate for the amount of baggage i clearly came with, that i felt guilty for, and feared i would inevitably be rejected, socially and romantically, for. I once heard Oprah refer to her version of that, as being symptomatic of "the disease to please."
Add to this, the individual and collective stories and fears about male female dynamics I was carrying around and many of us were all wrestling with during that era....plus ones about fame, like:
-"Men only want one thing. Especially at your age, they can't be trusted"
-"Men need to sex to love and wont be able to love you without sex"
-"If men are the alphas and have the power, then a woman's power in getting what she wants out of him, lies in her ability to seduce."
-"Women are physically weaker than men and therefore women are vulnerable and in danger everywhere they go"
-While "it's ok to say no", "a 'no' from a woman is just the start of a challenge and the beginning of the hunt."
-And we all had and have a bunch of collective views about fame and celebrities; "Actors and celebrities are social property for the entertainment of the masses" and
"events are our one big chance to get near them", like Whitney Houston getting mobbed by the crowd in The Bodyguard" when the secret things people think about their "celeb free passes" in their lounge rooms (in which they've dehumanised them), spill out into the crowd space, individual and group hysteria takes over and, as the performer,
"you have to be careful of crowds and protect yourself from crowd mentality."
Combine all of that....and my next few months were anything BUT drama free. But, much to my frustration, added another 3 notches on the belt of my #metoo story.
I was sexually assaulted by a guy from a few doors down, who following me into my room, after a function, trying to get my into bed. About a month later, the day of a performance, at a lunch function, I got (involuntarily) dead-lifted over a fit Californian guy i'd not long been seeing's head, and dropped over the back of his head from that height when he lost his balance. Narrowly avoided breaking my back. Long story short, I ended up being treated for back issues from that until my 20's/early 30's, at which time, with all of the holistic health work i was doing/participating in, it mysteriously disappeared. And finally, a month after that, again, against a lot of no's and my obvious attempts to get up and walk away, was (violently) raped by a friend.
All of of these situations were dealt with at the time, and dealt with well. But for me, all of that, along with a broken stomach lining and literally starting to crack and wear down my teeth at night, clenching and grinding through all of that in my sleep, became the giant wake up call, the incentive, to stop drinking, to start going to therapy and, whether it was the right thing to do in hindsight or no, became a big part of the reason i deferred and went to work and ended up on a different path for a bit. This is a very simplified summary. But part of what came next, was a few messy spiritual crises and emergence, bottom-of-the-bell-curve-type moments of breakdown and spiritual breakthrough, between work and further study. That ended up becoming a big part of my inspiration to become a Therapist myself (initially of the Counselling and Transpersonal Art Therapy kind, along with the Energetic Wellbeing kind and then the Coaching kind)....and help other people who'd been through similar life and relational challenges, before then wanting to help those who also had big dreams and a life purpose they knew they needed to lead, but needed help to heal and get out there doing what they were born to do. Before, as the website says, having eventually become internationally known and recognised as someone who had helped over 20 000 Holistic Practitioners and awesome people out there in various other settings along the way, heal and get out there shining in doing their thing too. And, along the way, there might have been the reemergence of numerous moments of singing in people's lounge-rooms and being called in to crew people's dance events. Before this era we find find ourselves in now.
What are some of the harder lessons i learned, that i didn't expect, but that are still relevant to women (and all people) finding their voices now?
I was using my voice already, in one respect, and I found it had tremendous power.... and yet I hadn't fully found it yet on understanding why it was really powerful. Or where our power as Women, and people, truly comes from. It's not in force, it's not in seduction, or any of the decades of manipulative shit WE women TOO have played out trying to get our needs covertly met in a patriarchally dominant culture. And while there's healing, confidence and a sense of safety to be found in realising that we're capable of meeting and matching a threat back (whether as the warrioress, or the fierce Mumma bear within), nor is it only to be found in that. (Lord knows i also TRIED to nail the hitting BACK piece in my teens!) It's in having the courage to connect inwards, to show up and walk the world as a full body, walking expression of our truth and love. And speak our truth, relate, sing our songs, be of service, from that place.
More than that, it's in learning to love, respect and trust in our ability to support ourselves (in addition to how we women often OUT-DO ourselves in service to others) and have faith in the divine order of a universe, that is constantly aligning and working to ensure that we and all involved will indeed be met with what we need, in perfect timing. And while it's also in trusting that, when we get clear what it is that we want and need, the right, aligned people, will inevitably be willing and capable of showing up for each other as that, it's also in having the fortitude to get up and be willing to walk away on anything or anyone that our intuition and our better judgement tells us is not in alignment with or willing to commit to showing up, loving and respecting us like that.
Admittedly, several years of retreats, tens of thousands of dollars worth of therapy, several Mentors and more than a few occasions of re-facing those same demons again and again in years since, on the inside and the outside (just wearing a different face) it took to keep getting deeper layers of this. And believe you me, as i revisited these parts of my life this last two weeks, there have been A LOT of tears on my part of grief, guilt and regret, for everyone I've ever done my best to love and honour and for the younger version of me, that I wish, could have understood it then, so that i could've better protected her from all that she went through. Admittedly, it wasn't also without the humble acceptance that NOW me is still having my moments of working on trust and vulnerability in connection. i'm all too great at "show me YOUR wounds so that i can love them", flip the dynamic though where i really like you....panic attacks, tears....and more tests on discernment and trust. I'm still trying. The people i love, who despite ALL of that are still here, are the reasons i keep getting back up to try.
As these lessons apply collectively though, in a world where, according to her research mentioned in her latest book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown says almost everyone out there can tell you what they don't want, but very few can tell you what they actually do:
- being able better hear our own intuition (and better listen to what others are really saying, as well as ourselves)
-being able to better identify what we need and how we really feel about things
- being able to better communicate these things with heart and soul and
-being able to hold true to what is and isn't in alignment with it, as we go about our daily work and personal lives
are skills that clear many of us need more help with. So that we can better lead, so that we can better serve, so that we can better relate and go out there and create. So that we can better believe and trust in the divine perfection in all that is constantly trying to unfold around us in our favour, as we feel into what we love, find our clarity of purpose in how we feel called to be of service and make choices about how we will and won't engage with life and with others within it.
As some of my awesome Mumma bear Mentors of years past, and colleagues past and present would also say, there is also tremendous power in making a choice about what individual and collective stories we choose to tell ourselves each day. We have a remarkable ability to re-write our stories and circumstances to the benefit of both ourselves and those around us, at any given moment. When we start realising that the ones we've been telling ourselves aren't working, in any given moment, we have the power to pick up and re-write the script. Or let it go completely, and write a whole new one.
Plus, remember the supernova v's black hole metaphor I mentioned at the start of the year? Sometimes in life it takes a massive explosion, to plant the seeds of creating, and then one day birthing, something new and truly beautiful into the world. Something that is both a pure expression of love and catalyses all it touches into alignment with the highest expression of themselves, as whole, soulful people, right here and now.
It can sometimes be hard to see it in the moment. But big bangs, in the end, become the reasons we are now here, the reasons we truly understand how to love, and the fuel from which we can now serve and create. Once you can connect with that, once you start to see the silver lining beyond the storm, it's hard not to be grateful.
And while sometimes we can't undo the consequences of stories and times past, and other times, we can, what is always also within our control, is the first, next step we take from here. And It's never too late to start again. Excelsior ("ever upwards")
Thanks so much for reading.
Until next time....
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.