So I’m sitting in a park for what could be, and very likely is, the first time I’ve ever popped my laptop out to write in the outdoors (excluding all my favorite outdoor dining brunch spots in Dallas of course). Rolling in hot with the super cliche lady-in-a-park-being-cerebral-and-writing-important-shit vibe. Wearing yoga pants and a tank top that read, “Believe in Miracles,” I am channeling the most basic B persona I’ve emitted outwardly since the days I became a certified yoga instructor and stopped my car anytime I saw an appropriate place for a sexy handstand Instagram pic that accidentally showed my amazing abs (I miss you so much, 15% body fat).
I had embarked on a long walk with my laptop to find a perfect place situated just beyond the reach of sunlight at a public picnic table facing the Potomac. Words began yelling at me to be put onto a virtual page. I had hoped inspiration would strike me if I wandered long enough, and desperately hoped this would be the case when I optimistically charged up and loaded my laptop to take with me as I ventured out of the house this morning to explore.
My head was partly in the clouds, and partly buried in the text. After only about 30 minutes, I had cathartically dropped about 1,500 words and feelings onto the page, which you’ll read portions of that brain dump below. Some serious weight was lifted from my soul and my shoulders, and though I wasn’t visually connecting with anyone around me, it’s clear there was some kind of energy, because that’s when I started getting “visitors.” I’m sure they do this every day, and to everyone, but they caught me at a good time. So I started having brief but somewhat uncomfortable and enlightening conversations with religious organizations who were looking for…perhaps exactly someone like me.
The first set of visitors was a woman named Wendy and her mother. Wendy was a beautiful and genuinely friendly black woman, I’d guess around upper 40s, lower 50s. I don’t remember her mother’s name, and I wish I did because I did really enjoy the conversation with them. They were buddhists, her mother having become one 37 years ago (I do remember that detail), and her daughter soon following behind in the practice. I’ve never stepped a toe into a Buddhist building or any type, or attended anything related to the topic. The closest I’ve come is reading “Why Buddhism is True” (a great book), meditation, and a treasured introduction and what I fondly feel like is the most intense acquaintance friendship and heart vibing with an incredible guy named Chris Dancy. One of the world’s most “connected” techies according to Tech Crunch, also a practicing Buddhist, Chris can literally see through every single layer of fake you’re wearing at any time, and microscopically observe YOU. Even through the phone. It’s creepy, but he’s one of the most compassionate humans I’ve ever come across, and it’s not a scam, he sincerely cares about the people he speaks to, and can sense exactly what you’re feeling right then, or just the mere fact you need someone to say, “Call me anytime, I’m a listener and it seems like you have worries to unload.” Anyways, meeting Chris’ softness in all that he does (even on social media) piqued my interest in the Buddhism practice in March during GovCity. Significantly more than my light observations of the practice to date, but I haven’t gone further than serious curiosity.
Wendy and her Mom stuck around for a lengthy enough period of time to talk about their organization and their <church?> for me to lose my wind on writing for a moment and when that escaped me, I was fine keeping the conversation going. It was the first time one of these random conversations I tend to have had approached me, so I was uncomfortable in the moment but willing. They invited me to join them sometime of course, which is the goal of anyone sauntering up to your picnic table on a beautiful day and testifying about their religion. They openly gave me their phone and email addresses, and not asking for mine, which was great so I didn’t have to make something up. I’m sure I’ll never contact them, but they were sweet women, and we shared a few powerful beliefs with each other, enough to respect the wisdom we both brought to the table. When I talk to complete strangers, I get to speak my mind, opinions, and my thoughts without any preconceived notions swimming around, and I love that part of these random chats with humans who cross my path. It’s a great time to test out what’s weighing on me, strangers are wonderful outlets for low commitment, high soul, musings.
Later I was visited by Jennifer and her friend, who’s name I also cannot remember. Point of note, these witnesses have only one shot at landing in my memory bank and it seems the first one to introduce themselves gets the gold in those instances apparently. They were REALLY committed to telling me about the Bible and its teachings, but they were from a worldly church, or something like that. She told me that the Bible was the only book that was accurate, that Judaism, and other religions can’t possibly be accurate because the Bible and christianity was the only one. They were about 10 years younger than me, and I could tell they REALLY wanted to practice their witnessing, so I let them go at it. On a normal day, in a different situation, I’d say something like, “Oh thanks, but no thanks” and wave them off. But the energy she was pouring into her speech to me was so passionate with a hint of desperate, I felt like her golden ticket, the one conversation she was able to have from start to finish. She touched on SO MANY talk points in our time together that I imagined her like a startup founder pitching the 100th investor and fitting every single refusal reason from the past into this one hot minute. If she ever happens to read this, or I ever happen upon her again, I’d tell her that instead of speaking to me, she would do great to converse with me. She’d find out I’ve studied all that she was talking to me about, and her extra 10 minutes to “convince me” of the Bible’s truths could have been spent telling me why she adopted them. To even ask me what I believe. She would have had a rodeo of a conversation at that moment, and we’d both grow, I’m sure. Since I stopped attending organized services, I’ve become wary of people who offer “facts” about something fueled by faith. I honor their faith and I understand, because I know this intimately, that you can see evidence of your belief in absolutely everything — not just religious things. That’s confirmation bias.
Now, I’m not saying they’re not right, but I’m also saying they don’t know it…they BELIEVE IT. Which I honor and respect their choice to do so. I’m also saying, you select what you believe and you run with it. You shape your observations of the world to match this. But that is not a connection point to those who don’t share the belief. It was interesting to sit in the seat of the listener. I used to be this Jennifer person long ago in college and before. Now I understand why witnessing is so hard…much like connecting government to startups…there’s a translation missing. And like I’ve said before in podcasts and other interviews, if you swing into a room like Luke Skywalker, you’re not going to convince anyone of anything. Be the Yoda, and they’ll be interested to learn.
I let Jennifer talk, though. It was clear she craved a completed delivery of her testimony and I was happy to provide that to her. Especially after they wandered off and were blown off by everyone they spoke to after that — I’m sure I was the first and only full conversation they had.
When a French family started playing with blow up bats and beating each other senseless right next to my table (they had the whole grassy area, why there?), I picked up and wandered off, satisfied I managed to get some kind of writing and some random connections to think about.
On my way back, I walked by an adorable book store, which will undoubtedly take all my money in the year to come, and couldn’t help myself. I dropped in. I’ve been trying to get myself unattached to pointless podcasts (murder ones, mostly), and I thought, “buying a book in this super intellectual-feeling bookstore will inspire me to be less shallow.” I’ll use any kind of internal reasoning to buy a cool book, really.
I wandered around and touched a few books to see if they spoke to me. None did. My mood was pensive, deep, exploratory, willing. I didn’t want to read my usual garbage (I love it though) of self-improvement and success banter. I have plenty of those at home. I wanted to read something that stretched me, or explains what’s been coursing through my veins and wrapping itself all around my heart over the past seven days.
Maybe it was the bright yellow cover, or the immediate recall of his name as a quality writer that drew me to the book, but I spent almost no time selecting my latest gem. A glance through the inside cover insisted this was my book. I had to have it. And so I gifted it to myself.
For a solid mile down cobblestoned and bricked streets (i.e. super dangerous) and lots of busy crosswalks, this book and its words wrapped themselves all over me. It became my full attention. I managed to somehow safely make it home so I could continue reading it. Stopping for a consulting call and some follow-up after that, I picked it right back up again. It’s been quite some time since I ravenously took in pages from a physical book. I couldn’t stop.
It was the first few pages that made me shiver. It revealed to me some simple truths that I’ve “felt” for the past two years but had no trust in their validity and certainly it’s only words I’ve read from the likes of Branson, or sentiments I’ve digested from relationships with brilliant people that I treasure but none that are intimate enough for us to compare war stories. Immediately the book noted President Abraham Lincoln, who suffered this plight until the day he embraced he was created for something better, which made him a better person that we remember today. True, I’m nothing compared to a Lincoln, but shame me you might — I relate to the route he took to become a man that made such an impact on the world. I believe the same is true for a friend of mine, Jeremy McKane, who notably told me (and I’ve never forgotten this), that in all his individual and entrepreneurial successful endeavors, he never met a moment like the one he had when he looked into the eye of a Humpback whale. If you ever have the opportunity to hear this guy speak, or to attend any of his art exhibits or, like I am dreaming to make a reality, travel on an expedition with him…you’ll know that his heart beats through and through on conservation. Not for fame, popularity or money. But as he says, “Once you look straight in the eye of a whale on his turf, you no longer work for anyone, or yourself, just them.” I’ve never forgotten that, and I have always craved a life that permitted me to be more than I am as an individual.
It’s been a little over two years since a traumatic career experience took me away from all that I trusted, knew and understood about myself. In between then, some absolutely spectacular, romantic, celebratory, unforgettable experiences occurred too. But I unfortunately have chosen to punctuate a good portion of my life and my derailment to the moment I fell off a mountain from a career perspective. I didn’t lose all that I worked for, and I’m not wallowing in a gutter right now…I just began to wonder if I deserved anything leading up to that point, or anything after that point. It was an impactful experience that shakes me to this day, sadly.
I questioned (less so each week) everything that led to that point. I spent so much time surrounded by people who love me, living in fear of pursuing anything that thrilled me ever again, worried any amount of ambition on that same mountain would bite me similarly as hard — and how many times was it capable of doing that? Infinitely, I became convinced.
I’ve wondered when I would find Molly again. I’ve missed her so much. I know a few others who have also. I’ve missed the things I sought, the people I’ve loved, the trust I built, the safety I felt in public being just…me, the relationships that came easy to me, the readers I abandoned, the freedom of a life without anxiety and the days when I would have scoffed if you told me I spent more time on the couch than knocking productivity, fitness and self-improvement goals off my to-do list every day as if they were as easy as buckling my seat belt. I didn’t understand how one situation could put so much fear into my body, so much doubt into my brain, and so much loneliness into my heart. And why I would crave connection and commitment from everyone and everything around me, and desperately (unhappily) seek it for these two years, yet not operate myself in such a way where I truly earned it — much less identify it if it was presented to me on a golden platter.
This book and this author’s words were an immediate eye-opening, a painful but explosively healing notification that the Molly I’ve been missing and punishing myself for not returning to — well, she’s never coming back.
It took only about ten minutes into this book to know that I was completely okay with that. And I was excited about the Molly that suddenly woke up from two years of a cloudy haze of doubt, self-hate, temper tantrums, emotional, disconnected, clingy, survival that has driven away so many people that mean so much to me. Experiences that I miss dearly. Stolen milestones. Potentially imprinted lifelong damage to everything I thought I’ve ever wanted, including the opportunity to have and nurture a family of my own. I think I’d be a damn good Mom, but first I need to be a damn good person to myself. But not because I need to seize the day of Molly. I don’t want that anymore and I don’t feel connected to individual success anymore. I want to be a damn good person so I can be for others. It’s weird to feel that way, but I see amateur career coaches, instagram quotes, bloggers and all the world trying to “be somebody,” and if my experience two years ago taught me anything, is that you are nothing if you’re not for something other than yourself. The world of “influencers” and clicks and leading this and that…I hope you don’t experience a situation that proves you shouldn’t pursue those things. I just hope you realize one day that you’re above it.
The fact this is happening now, at this age, just means the universe doesn’t care about our plans as they relate to social norms. None of us live authentically in those rules or norms anyways…we just use those rules to skulk behind the scenes and judge ourselves because we’re not as good as we think everyone else is. And those everyone else’s are feeling the same way. We use those norms as parameters to measure ourselves up next to a standard of living we’re all ridiculous to pursue, unsuccessfully and unhappily.
Suddenly, I got right with that. I got right with the realization this life thing isn’t as effed up as I’ve imagined it to be. It’s just not as I PLANNED it to be.
And I appreciated that I picked up this awareness, in this tiny bookstore, on this overly and uncomfortable spiritual day where not only the world was yelling at me, but also total strangers kept approaching me because perhaps they sensed that I was missing an entire chunk of my humanity. You don’t have to make eye contact with people for them to know you’re missing heaps of yourself, or that you’re in that very spot at that very moment, in that very town, in that very park, because you set off seven days before that moment to go out and find out what the heck is wrong and how can you fix it.
More than anything, my heart melted in all the good ways. I had more comfort in this 20-minute walk and encounter with this strange book, and revelations about my journey than I have in a very long time.
And so…wow. So this is what’s wrong with me?
TO BE CONTINUED….