2015: The Year of Playing Big

eIn my last post, I mentioned that I’ve started a year-long mentorship program to help me fulfill my goal of playing big.

And I’m PUMPED.

Let me introduce you to the Epic Fucking Badass (EFBA) Mentorship.

My mentor is a master certified life coach, grew up as a Missionary’s Kid, and has a blog I LOVE to read. I have a history of paying women to shepherd me along in my Woo-ness, and Anna is High Woo. A Priestess of Woo. Part of the Reformed Woo set. She leads with her gut, her intuition, but she still GETS STUFF DONE.

And she said my blog was “yummy.”

If you want to know more about the EFBA mentorship, you can read about it in one of Anna’s emails.

But if you’re not the clicking-through type, here’s an excerpt:

. . . It’s ALL RELATED. What you wear, how you handle your bills, how you show up in the boardroom, how you talk to your kids. My year-long EFBA Mentorship is the only coaching program I know where you can get support with ALL of it.

It changes EVERYTHING when you have something in place to catch you when you falter.  Someone who will hold the vision for you when you’re too tired or discouraged to do it for yourself.  Someone who pushes you to stick to the path you want– even when it’s hard– so that you GET where you want to go.

I still have never gotten a flaming message in the sky that said, “Hey Anna, you’re supposed to help people with their lives and run a thriving business and write a book! Here’s a grant and some childcare!”

Nope.  I declared it.  But then? There was another crucial step. I lined up the systems, structures, and accountability that would help me get where I wanted to go.  I continue to hire coaches, mentors, consultants. And I write scary checks that make sure I have skin in the game so I don’t walk away when it’s hard.

This year, I’ll talk to Anna every other week, spend some time with her other four mentees at a relaxation retreat and for some horse whispering, and rely on her to help keep me on track. Anna’s really into fierceness and luxury, so I think we’ll work well together.

I’m really hoping she’ll help me decipher what I most want to be when I grow up and help me map out how I might get there. I know that part of this will include sticking to my guns NOW so I can honor the intentions I set for the year.

That’s the foundation I’ll build on for whatever’s in my future (which, thank goodness, is something other than January).

Rebutting Resolutions

I’ve always hated January.

This is probably because Christmas is my favorite holiday—while I do not love the militant Christians who sometimes come out to play this time of year, I do revel in the lights and the decorations and the food. I like that time seems to slow down in December; no one rushes to finish things, because, hey, we’ll do that after the holidays.

January, however, stands in stark contrast to the freedom and frolic of December. January’s like a month full of Mondays, reminding us that we did not accomplish any of the things we set out to do last year. January is judgmental and all about setting goals and resolutions that we won’t achieve this year, either. It’s like that mean old aunt who’s just been waiting for her turn to remind you that you are still as fat and unaccomplished as you were 12 months ago. And are you going grey as well?!

January is also the month of poor parking and poor sales. When I was a regular gym-goer, I HATED the first 2 weeks of January because I could never find a parking place at my gym.

Also, in December, ANYTHING you could EVER want was on sale. In January? Only fitness crap and diet food. January is the month of celery.

Your whining is futile; you will be assimilated.

But here it is, January. Again.

In December, I decided to just consider trying to find the good in January, to actually see it as a clean slate instead of an opportunity to fail. (Again.)  Because it was coming, whether I liked it or not.

So I started with a Winter Solstice ritual. Yeah, I know. I’m only slightly hippie and mostly Woo, I am not really a dancing-naked-under-the-moon kind of gal. (At least, not yet. I mean, let’s see what Authentic Self has to say about that. I AM hoping that bitchy gives way to something more zen.)

But, y’all, it was AMAZING. As part of this ritual, you “harness” the darkest day of the year, a time of quiet reflection, by looking back on what has occurred. You celebrate your successes, honor your surprises, and really face your failures.

And then you take each of your failures and work the hell out of them. (Ahem, literally.) For each of the big ones (you’re supposed to do this for all of them, but I wrote down a lot of stuff and ain’t nobody got time for that), I wrote out what my Inner Mean Girl says about the situation and what my Inner Wisdom says about the very same thing.

Words came out of me that felt EXACTLY right, but that I had no idea were in there. I actually learned a lot about myself and the motivations of other people just by inviting my Inner Wisdom to weigh in. It was transformative.

Next, you’re supposed to spend time telling all the failures goodbye and celebrating your successes and surprises and turning those into things in the new year, and. . .yeah, I didn’t do that either. (I mean, come ON. I had things to do and shoes to buy and stuff. It was December, after all.)

But it was an amazing way of gaining a new perspective on parts of the year, and I highly recommend it. I bet it could still be powerful if you are looking for a way to say goodbye to 2014 or if you also hate January and would like to pretend it’s still magical December.

A month of better feelings

My copy of the Desire Map.

My copy of the Desire Map.

I’ve also been Desire Mapping. I figure since I love Danielle LaPorte and her social media posts, I should read at least one of her books. I’ve also recently been reminded of just how much I hate setting goals at work. (Probably because they feel a whole lot like resolutions—either they are stupid things you’re going to do anyway, or they are the unreachable dream. Goals and resolutions are both dumb.)

So I’ve been working through a big, fat process of setting goals based on how I want to FEEL, not what I want to ACCOMPLISH. The idea is that we want to accomplish things because of how we think they’ll make us feel and not for the goals themselves. (When I lose 20 pounds I’ll be attractive, when I get that promotion I’ll be powerful, when I get married I’ll be truly accepted for who I am, when I get that raise I’ll finally be safe, etc.).

Instead, you desire map to decide how you want to feel and choose what you do based on that.

I have set five Core Desired Feelings for 2015, which are:

  • Fierce – powerful (full of might, strength) + clarity (the quality of being clear); commanding.
  • Luxurious – luxury, pleasure, great abundance
  • Flow  – State of fluidity
  • Radiant – Beaming with heat or light
  • Connection – The state of being connected to or with likeminded Ninjas of Love

I’ve hit some stickier situations now, though, because I’ve been trying to define the actions that will help me feel those feelings this year, and I’ve only come up with a few, which include things like:

  • Wear clothes that feel good on and that I look good in.
  • No more playing small (I’m embarking on a year-long mentorship to help me with this, but that’s another post for another time).
  • No more restricting what I eat; food is pleasurable, and I want to enjoy it.
  • See my group of Wayfinders and talk to them more often.

I like to think of these as INTENTIONS rather than goals or resolutions. This is partially because I loathe resolutions and partially because this seems more plausible. I intend to do them, but if things happen and I change my mind, no big deal. Intentions are fluid because, well, LIFE. I mean, January happens, you know?

I intend for 2015 to be awesome

My new calendar.

My new calendar.

Perhaps I am the only one whining about January, but I am still kicking butt. I have already managed to fill out and put up my 2015 calendar (something I don’t normally achieve until February at the earliest).

So while I cannot promise that your birthday card will be punctual, I can say that I intend to get it to you in a reasonable amount of time.

And I’m already feeling accomplished in 2015: I’ve set some Core Desired Feelings, I’ve embarked on a mentorship, and I filled out my damn calendar. And it’s only Jan. 2! I’ve totally got this thing down.

But what if your authentic self is really bitchy?

I came home and told my husband about the best and the worst thing that happened to me at work today. When I told him the worst thing, he gave me one of those “I married a weirdo” looks.

And rightfully so.  Because the worst thing that happened to me today was a “keep Christ in Christmas” kind of email.

You don’t want to get into a Biblical tango with me

So, first, some background. I grew up in the Church of Christ. This means that I spent the majority of my childhood at church, bible camp, or bible bowl. (Also, I did not realize until my 20s that most people did not spend their childhoods in hospitals and nursing homes like I did.) So if you want to talk hermeneutics or eschatology, I’m your girl.

But I am not your girl if you want me to support this season being all about you. I understand that not everyone is a Christian, nor do they celebrate Christmas.

Especially now

Second, as I work on letting my authentic self come out to play, I find things I usually keep to myself just tumbling out of my mouth. This can be funny sometimes, but can also be a bit surprising. Kind of like discovering that your dress has been tucked into your pantyhose all afternoon.

During a department discussion about our holiday lunch celebration, someone asked if we should do a white elephant gift exchange again. At this point I offered my opinion, which sounded something like, “I just want to spend time with all of you; I don’t really need any more useless crap.”

This was actually much more coherent than what was going on in my head, which sounded a lot like “Noooooooooooooooooooooo.” But everyone looked kind of surprised. They’re still talking about how I just went RIGHT ahead and shared what I was thinking.

I could see how this might be surprising, as a large portion of my job deals with saying the right thing in the right way to the right people at the right time.

But ohmigawd, that takes a lot of energy.

Luckily, though, this authentic-self-thing has some benefits, too. Since I am spending less energy covering things up, other things are showing themselves more naturally. For instance, people have randomly started sharing things with me that they never would’ve shared before. I’m going to start charging people by the hour for listening to them.

Also, I have a better idea of what is in unmarked envelopes.

This diatribe has been a long time coming

A few months ago, I got an unmarked envelope via interoffice mail—it was one of those brown envelopes with only my name on it.

As I picked it up, I thought, “We really should screen our mail for anthrax.”

And then I thought, “Where did that come from?!”

But when I opened the envelope, I discovered exactly where that thought came from.

The envelope contained two pieces of paper. One was a copy of the email I had sent to announce the winners of the Halloween office decorating contest. (I hadn’t composed it, but I had sent it.) The other was a typed letter about how the anonymous sender thought we were a CHRISTIAN organization, and our use of the phrase “spirited décor” was a direct violation of that.

Obviously, Anonymous is an asshole who has no life or work duties.

My boss, however, did not share my shock and awe. When I went to her expecting her to share in my outrage, she said something like, “What did you expect? Halloween is a PAGAN holiday.”

To which I replied, “SO ARE CHRISTMAS AND EASTER, BUT NO ONE SEEMS TO BE COMPLAINING ABOUT THAT!”

Seriously, look it up

 Fast forward to today, when I sent an email announcing a “holiday gift” from our leaders.

I received an email that said something about how excited the sender was, and how this was the “best work CHRISTmas gift ever.”

And then I couldn’t help myself, so I fired off a response that said, “Unfortunately, this is your gift for Christmas and New Year’s, so you’ll have to consider it covering both HOLIDAYS!”

This could be no big deal.  But it could also be a bit career limiting for someone whose career depends on saying the right thing. In my defense, though, I did not say what I was really thinking, which was:

“Christ was born in the summer, Christmas is based on a pagan holiday, and not everyone who works here is Christian, you ignorant slut.”

The Zen response

I know that I should not be frustrated by her ignorance. If she wants to take offense at someone else’s beliefs, I should let her go forward in her great ridiculous muggleness.

But years of shoving and eating my feelings is coming back in full force, and my authentic self is looking like the girl from Hyperbole and a Half, all crazy like I’ve been drawn in MS Paint. But with red hair.

And she will not be denied.

Lucky for me, though, unlike the girl from Hyperbole and a Half, I will never be tempted to clean all the things.

Perhaps there is some hope after all.

A Big, Beautiful, Book-Writing Day

As we discussed earlier, my Big, Beautiful Life Plan includes writing a book. So I recently spent a day at a book/blog/all sorts of writing conference. 

It was pretty standard—there were discussions about book proposals, the necessity of building an online following before sending one, and a belly dancer with python. (Because watching a belly dancer sans python would’ve been totally boring.)

I learned some really important things! First, I am nowhere close to being ready to write a book (see: increased online following above).

Second, I learned for approximately the 8,456th time that pre-7 a.m. fights are really stupid. For many ridiculous reasons, I hopped on a 6:50 flight to LAX the morning of the conference, but couldn’t get a flight out that night, so I booked a 6:30 a.m. departure for the following morning. (I have way more work to do than I will ever be able to accomplish, so I needed to get back to the office.)

Lorna, Kathy, Julie, Ali, me.

Lorna, Kathy, Julie, Ali, me.

Then I spent the day with my buddy Ali, experiencing the amazingness that was the conference, and then we met three of our OTHER friends who happened to be two hours away at a DIFFERENT conference. That’s what we call synchronicity, baby. So Ali drove us in horrible traffic to meet them, I got carsick, and we finally walked into the restaurant after 8. We ate and laughed and I soaked up even more pure, pure joy. (And Diet Coke of course—I was kind of a mess.)

By the time we got back to our hotel, it was late, and by the time I showered and crawled into bed, it was 12:30 a.m. California time, which was 2:30 Texas time—I had been up almost 24 hours.

So I rescheduled my flight the next morning from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. Because as we have discussed, flights before 7 a.m. are like blind dates—they sound great when you make the plans, but they really aren’t worth the pain.

And here’s the lesson I’m trying to remember: following your bliss is the most important thing, but you can only do it if you’re resting, too. Just like you can’t get to the top of the mountain unless you put gas in your car first, even deep joy will only get you so far.

And, last but not least, I learned that I am more in love with Danielle LaPorte, one of the author/hosts of the conference, than ever. She said that someone once told her that if Deepak Chopra, Janis Joplin, and Seth Godin had a baby, it would be her (and it’s SO true). I stood near her for a long time, trying to break in and talk to her.

And when it was finally MY CHANCE, well, I just kind of verbally vomited on her about how I just want to stand near her and rub her energy all over myself, and how I love that she’s standing at that weird intersection of writing about entrepreneurship AND spirituality. And I hugged her twice.

http://www.daniellelaporte.com/truthbomb/

http://www.daniellelaporte.com/truthbomb/

It was beautiful and totally awkward at the same time—kind of like life, I guess. But as I watched her, Danielle helped me choose my word for the remainder of 2014 and probably all of 2015: fierce. She said she had worn a dress that day because it would help her embody the divine feminine while she would be heavily showing up as the masculine. (And she was. She didn’t hesitate to say, “We already answered that—let’s move on,” or “I don’t know what that hand signal means; how many MINUTES do we have left?”)

I tend to either let my feminine energy rule (“Oh, you screwed that up and missed the deadline for submitting it? That’s okay.”) or my masculine energy (“What is the point you’re trying to make here? Great, we get that, let’s move on.”). I’d like, instead, to find that beautiful balance somewhere in the middle.

Maybe I can work on that while I work on building my online following, too. . .

Butterfinger Binge

Yup.

So I had my Big Girl Pants conversation, and it was fine, and then I wondered if I had set strong ENOUGH boundaries, and what would happen next. Leading this task force means that we’ll need to make some decisions, and they feel like either/or.

Either I will get what I want, OR a coworker I like and respect will get what they want. Either we will do things the right way, OR we will make a horrible, horrible decision, and everyone will find out that we really don’t know what we’re doing, and we are making all of this up. And they will know that we were out sick that day in Kindergarten when the teacher shared the secrets to life and how to be a good adult, and we totally missed out on that. Or at least I did.

In the midst of this, I’m trying to take my thoughts to inquiry, to question them, or to just be the voice of the angel on my own shoulder. (Because that devil has really gotten to be a pro over the last 30-plus years.) Because, well, I still worry.

Not EVERY minute of the day.

Just, you know, almost every minute of the day.

But living BIG doesn’t mean living EASY. And I am still amazing at my job. And I am still a woman of great worth. And I am still a divine soul learning the lessons of this life and trying to achieve my purpose. So I’d better at least start faking it ‘til I make it, because I have THINGS to do.

Like Homework

Last night, those THINGS included writing a paper for my MBA, and picking up dinner, and booking travel for a personal trip next week. (To a BOOK-WRITING SEMINAR, yaaay!)

So, since I am a divine soul who deserves to eat whatever she wants, I thought I would calm the storm inside and distract myself from the crappiness of paper-writing by eating a buttload of Butterfingers. Because I can do that. And, thankfully, I bought a bunch of Halloween candy for the neighborhood children and a bag of Butterfingers just for myself.

So I ate, and I ate, and I ate, because I wanted to. Because only I can make choices about what goes in my body. And in the end, it doesn’t really matter anyway, right?

Right. Except then I felt all gross. Overly full and sleepy and lethargic. It was totally unfair, and I could see where I got a little lost. Not wrong, just not where I wanted to be. Not in the “feeling good and healthy and energetic” zone.

As the Great Saint Anne Lamott once wrote, “It’s hard to remember that you are a cherished spiritual being when you’re burping up apple fritters and Cheetos.”

So I took good care of myself—I finished up my paper and took a long, hot shower, and put myself to bed. Because sometimes putting yourself to bed is the most spiritual action you can take.

I’m Okay, You’re a Jerk

jerk

Copyright that guy.

Remember that person at work, the one who got all up in my sandbox inappropriately? The one I’m going to talk to today?

Well, as I got ready for work, I thought about the situation and about what I’d say. And I got more and more angry.

How DARE he pull this! How would he feel if I had told HIM that I was inserting myself in HIS area?

How DARE people tell me that I shouldn’t express my emotions! How DARE they tell me to just pretend like everything’s fine! How DARE they tell me to ignore things I don’t like in corporate culture—to just deal with them instead! I’m so ANGRY that I learned that I had to be a good girl, and that good girls don’t rock the boat! How dare EVERYONE!

All of a sudden, the conversation I was planning would be held on behalf of all womankind, to right centuries of deep in justice. I was going to put on my Big Girl Pants this morning and save the world.

Paved With Good Intentions

And then. . .I got in my car to drive to work, and I began listening to some recordings for the food program I’m in. And I came to a horrible realization. . .

. . .that if what has happened thus far means absolutely nothing about me, then it means absolutely nothing about that guy who pissed me off as well.

He’s a good guy, doing his best, making the decisions that he thinks are best for the company. Really, he’s a lot like me.

So, perhaps, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Now, he also needs to stay away from my sandbox, but that doesn’t mean he’s maliciously up in my business. It just means he needs to take a gentle step back.

You’re a Jerk

I should mention, though, that this doesn’t apply in all situations. Some people really are just jerks. Just like you, I work with some of these people. I’m related to some of them, even. And I trust jerks to continue to be jerks.

Jerks must be handled differently than Captain Good Intentions.

I talked to a huge jerk last week. I think almost everyone in our company agrees that if you looked up “Biggest Bitch” in the Dictionary, her picture would be next to it.

She is mean. She is a bully. She should not be allowed to continue her behavior, and when she points it in my direction, I calmly let her know that it is not okay.

Because she is also MAJORLY afraid.

She is afraid that if she isn’t a bully, she will become ineffective, she will get fired from her big position, and she will be destitute and alone. She is afraid that if she isn’t mean, you’ll notice that she’s overweight and begin to hate her for that instead. She’s afraid that if she doesn’t give you a reason to dislike her first, for her own protection, then you’ll find one on your own.

This does not dismiss her behavior. It does not give her a permission slip for acting badly. But it does help me understand why she does what she does. So when she starts yelling and pointing in my direction, I can look over and see the scared kid who’s actually inhabiting her seat, driving her bus. And I can respond calmly, firmly, and with compassion.

I’m sorry, but jerks don’t get to drive the bus if it’s headed in my direction. Even if they have their Big Girl Pants on and are preparing to right wrongs done to womankind over the centuries.

Some days I hate this, but it is true.

My Coffee Can Plan

Do no harm, but take no shit

Reason 8,543 to love NPR.

I have continued to feel all good and all badassy today. Buuuut. . .I’ve still had some mud to slog through. Namely, three assignments due in the latest class (Marketing) for my MBA.

This has handed me a golden opportunity to test my, “I don’t give a shit” big-plan attitude. Of course this doesn’t mean that I don’t care, that I don’t want to do things well, that I don’t want to succeed.

I want to do all those things. But I don’t HAVE to.

I made an 82 on my Marketing quiz today. I think this is partially because I had time to read less than a quarter of the assignments this week. But it doesn’t really matter WHY. Because you know what that grade means about me?

The same thing that not eating a bundt cake sample meant yesterday. Absolutely fucking nothing.

I’m not done yet, though. This class is mostly group work (insert groaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth here). We have a conference call at 8 o’clock tonight. So miles to go before I rest.

First, a Short Interlude

But I did give myself permission to take a short break this afternoon, and I watched Part I of Liz Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.

And just about everything she said resonated with me. Liz talked about the hero’s journey. She talked about quests. And she told a story about what to do if circumstances in your life keep you from questing just yet.

You can watch it here. (Seriously, we’re not going anywhere. Go ahead.)

Okay, so if you are in a loud place or can’t watch it at work or whatever, I’ll summarize. Liz told a story of a woman in the ‘50s who got married at 18, had 5 children in 10 years, and whose husband just up and left her one day. When this happened, her oldest was 10 years old, and her youngest was 2 months. The woman had only a high school education, and had woken up one day as the sole provider for her family.

But that very day, she made a plan, and she started a practice. She put $1 in a coffee can every day, investing in a future when her life would not be so sad, so full of depression. When she would see the world.

She put $1 in a coffee can every day. Even though her family was always desperate for money. She knew that $1 a day wouldn’t break them. And when the youngest child left the house, 20 years later, she cashed in her coffee cans and sailed around the world, like she told herself she would. 

Liz said, “You might not be able to begin your quest today, but you’ve got to get your plan. Get your coffee cans going.”

Second, a Coffee Can Plan

So, friends, while I struggle through an MBA and a more-than-full-time job, here’s the beginning of my plan:

1. I will continue not taking everything so fucking seriously. Not every single solitary thing in my life defines my worth. In fact, really, none of them do.

I’ll still want what I want. I’ll still dream my big dreams. But I will not ascribe so much power to every silly thing. I will practice what Martha Beck calls intention-attention-no tension. I will focus on what I want, I will imagine it in as much detail as possible, and then I will let. It. Go.

2. Write. I want to write a book some day. Because while I would love for that to make me rich and famous (and it could), what I want more is to help other women find the light. That light in them that whispers softly, “You are beautiful. You are more than your life circumstances. And you deserve to be happy. Today. Right now. Not when the kids are out of the house. Not when you lose 20 pounds. This very second.” I want to go all Liz Gilbert on everybody.

So I will write SOMETHING at least every week. (Blog posts totally count.)

3. Speak. One of my other big, hairy, audacious goals is to give a TED talk. Speaking is something I’m good at, and also something that scares the pee out of me. It’s exhilarating and frightening all at the same time, and I want to do more of it. So I’ll seek it out and bring my A game.

And when I end up flailing and saying “buttload” to a group of CEOs, I’ll turn it into blog fodder.

4. Tomorrow, I will start kicking butt and taking names at work. I’ll tell that guy that it’s great that he wants to call together a committee to look at my stuff. Really. But since I head up this area, I’ll be co-leading it with him, thankyouverymuch. And I will not worry about the outcome of that conversation or the task force. Because it means nothing about me.

I’ll also have at least 1 conversation I really need to have. It probably won’t be fun, but it needs to happen.

And I’ll make plans for another conversation like that in the coming weeks. (I just need to arrange some other things first.)

First Work, Then the World

See? I told you that seatbelts needed to be on for this one. Now that I’ve let you in on my innermost depths, what’s your Coffee Can Plan? Feel free to share in the comments below. Or Facebook message me. Or write it down and put it in your God Box.

Just do something, yes?

The Play Big Manifesto

I can only please one person per day. Today I choose me.

I took this at an airport.

So let’s just say that over the last few weeks, lots of things in my life have gotten stuck, broken down, and otherwise not played by my rules. Big things, small things, important things, stupid things. I’ve worked too hard, rested too little, and otherwise gotten into a very grumpy place. . .the Valley of Victimhood.

When I’m in the Valley of Victimhood, I forget that I get to make my choices. I forget that I am in charge of my one amazing, wonderful life. I forget that my ego does NOT actually call the shots, and while it is only trying to keep me safe, it is also generally a really huge jerk.

So I’m saying adios to the Valley of Victimhood, and I’m traveling on to the Hollow of the Hero. (The theme park rides and funnel cakes are WAY better there, just FYI.)

I’m driving this bus, so everyone should just MOVE ON OVER.

Because Food is at the Center of Everything

Helping me make this shift has actually been a program dealing with food. I’m currently taking a class with Isabel Foxen Duke. She’s young and tough and only slightly crude, and that works for me. Because here’s what we’re aiming for: not giving a shit about food. I’m learning that wanting to eat when I’m not hungry makes sense—it’s a great coping mechanism. Food is good; eating it should be pleasurable. So wanting to eat good food, whether or not I’m hungry, is not a failure on my part. And it really. . .doesn’t even matter that much.

Today I went into Nothing Bundt Cakes to pick up dessert for this evening. They always have samples of their cakes lying around, which I used to resist. This would often result later in me eating more cake than I would have if I had just eaten a sample in the first place.

So today. . .I didn’t eat a sample. Because I didn’t want one. And you know what that means about me? Absolutely fucking nothing.

Nothing. It doesn’t mean I’m good. Or bad. It doesn’t mean that I made the “right choice” because I listened to my body instead of my mind. It just means that both participated in the conversation, and then I made a choice. That’s. It.

Tomorrow, I might make a different choice. And that’s totally okay, too. Because the more I try to restrict food, the more I try to fit into x size or base my happiness on how I look in a bathing suit, the more likely it is that I will dive straight into a box of cookies. Because a caged animal always tries to break free. And food restricters always end up losing that battle eventually.

And Here’s how This all Relates

Perhaps, then, it’s time to stop taking EVERYTHING so fucking seriously.

There’s a person in my office who is a great, and he has good motivations, but he’s gotten into my sandbox a few times.  It took me a while, though, to figure out that this was not because I was failing at my job, but because I had not set the boundaries. And, you know, possibly because he was doing what he thought was right, what was asked of him.

Yesterday he announced that he’d be calling together a group to look at something that falls in my area. Something that has always fallen in my area.

I got somewhat peeved. A woman in his position wouldn’t have pulled this shit. And the woman who was in that position before him couldn’t move things nearly as quickly as he has. And, in my professional, expert opinion, this is because he is a man and she is a woman. And this TOTALLY SUCKS.

But I think this has more to do with lady bits vs. male parts, with society’s view of us, as well as a long history of patriarchy in certain industries. It is because many of us, as women, have learned to play small.

I certainly did. I learned to play small from just about every female boss or coworker I’ve had. I learned it from the religious tradition I grew up in, which would let women run VBS or just about anything else, but not serve in a leadership position. I learned it in school, where good girls were rewarded and bad boys were expected.

And I have to say that I am fucking DONE playing small.

My friend Ali—who is amazing in her own right—reminds me often that I’m not small; I am BIG. So I shouldn’t play small, and I shouldn’t listen to people who want me to. She also reminds me that one of my favorite authors thinks I am cool; she even wrote this down on a napkin for me, which I carry in my wallet.

My friend Lorna—who is an epic fucking badass in her own right—tells me not only that whatever I decide will be the right thing—she also tells me that I am beautiful. And she doesn’t need to lie. Lorna is a beautiful soul who is not to be trifled with.

So I’m done. I’m done doing the right thing because someone else thinks I should. I’m done being nice because it’s expected. I’m done thinking I don’t deserve what I want. I’m done not trying because it might be scary, or because I might fail. I’m done letting my jerky ego call the shots.

I deserve a big, juicy, fabulous life. But no one’s going to hand it to me—I have to build it. Every day. Every decision.

Does this mean I will always get my way? No, absolutely not. Does this mean that I’ll become a huge bitch? God, I hope not. I’ll play the B-card if it’s necessary, but that won’t be very often.

I want to set boundaries or disagree calmly. I want to make decisions from love, not fear. I want to speak words that are true, that improve on silence, and that are kind.

I can do all these things and still live BIG.

So seatbelts on, friends. Here we go.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Following the Rules

Part of Abby’s Epic Adventure has recently included trying to show up more as my authentic self. That sounds like it should be really easy, but it turns out that my authentic self (my real, eat-all-the-cupcakes-when-no-one-is-looking-self, my true Love Ninja self) has gotten buried by decades of shoulds. Things like, “I should wear a dress today, because it’s more professional,” or “I should pass on dessert because my tummy roll is getting aggressive” or “I shouldn’t tell her that women who claim to LOVE cardio exercise are not getting into heaven because no one can stand them, because then she won’t like me anymore.”

I’ve been seriously shoulding all over myself.

Dropping that mess and uncovering the real me has been a process. I mean, I don’t expect to wake up and discover that I like camping or anything crazy like that. But I am learning that I can let the real me out to play more. . .slowly. . .and it can be a really fun thing.

And, you know, sometimes it gets in the way.

I’m sorry, but your authentic self is showing

This morning, an important committee I lead made a presentation to some really important people in our organization—the regional CEOs of our hospitals, their boss (our company’s COO) and one or two corporate Senior Vice Presidents. I work for a Catholic, non-profit health system, so we’re pretty conservative. And some of those people are SUPER conservative.

I was up in front of them with my pretty slides, trying to prey on their comparison flaw by telling them that the for-profit hospital systems were all doing what we were asking them to do, so they should do it, too.

I said, “They’re making a BUTTLOAD of money at it.” [Slight pause, silence in the room.]

“I mean. . .a BUCKETload.” [Explosion of laughter.]

I got a bit flustered, then recovered by talkingreallyfast and passing the Clicker of Great Power over to one of my co-presenters.

Now, I know what you’re thinking—in your organization, this would not be a big deal.  Probably no one would notice.  Your boss has definitely said worse things to you in front of other people.

But you have to remember that my company is basically run by Nuns, and these gals have some pretty clear rules. For instance, we only recently dropped the mandatory pantyhose clause from our dresscode.

In my company, we don’t really use vaguely inappropriate language in front of groups. We absolutely don’t curse, we don’t wear heels over 4 inches high, and we don’t say butt. I was pretty embarrassed—after all, it’s my job to coach executives on how to give speeches—but I figured everyone had forgotten about it, and we’d all move on. (Ahem, did you just read, “I teach people how to give presentations, so I should be perfect at them” here? Because I totally did.)

However, on the way out of the meeting, one of the SVPs stopped me to tease me about it, and we shared a few good laughs.

When I got back to my office, I had an email from the COO. The subject line was, “I think we should change our strategy,” and the body of the message said, “To ‘We want to make a buttload of money.’ “

I laughed out loud, then wrote him back and agreed that he had just shared a freakin’ great idea.

So, perhaps, it’s okay to show my authentic self (even when I don’t necessarily try to). My Inbox certainly gets more interesting when I do.

You know, assuming I can get through the buttload of stupid emails first.

When Your Supernatural Helpers Need Supernatural Help

Today, I am sad. And I’m thinking a lot about the helpers in my life.

Joseph Campbell is famous for investigating many hero myths from many cultures and distilling a pattern from them. This pattern, often called “The Hero’s Journey” can be broken down into about 15 steps. (And to prove I’m not making this up, I’ll cite Wikipedia to support my credibility.)

First, the hero receives a call to adventure. And then, naturally, the hero refuses that call—because adventure sounds scary and it might mess up her hair, or require a bathing suit, and she hasn’t tried on one of those since 1989.

Then, eventually, she finds an elastic hair band and her ancient one piece, sucks it up, and begins her quest. She is almost immediately met by a guide/magical helper who provides supernatural aid.

And this is where today’s thoughts come in.

My Freshman year of college, one of my best friends lost both her grandparents—who she was very close to—in a car crash. I was totally distraught that I couldn’t rush home and be with her, so I called my student mentor, who faithfully drove over to my dorm, picked me up, and listen compassionately while I ugly cried/snotted in his car. And somehow, I felt better afterward (if a bit more congested and red-faced).

That mentor happens to be Kent Brantly, who has been all over the news, as he recently contracted Ebola in Liberia, where he and his wife were serving as medical missionaries. I’ve been sending him healing thoughts, and I’m sure many of you have as well. I will forever be grateful for what probably appeared to him like mundane support, but to me felt like supernatural aid.

I’ve also been thinking about my buddy Karla, who we learned passed away this weekend. Karla was just a few years older than me, but was truly a legend in my mind.

When I was a teenager, I was gawky and awkward, with a face full of pimples, a mouth full of braces, and huge hair. (Please, everyone, talk to your daughters about the purpose of mousse.) I never felt like I really fit in anywhere, and Karla was one of the cool older kids in my youth group and at my school. She took me under her wing and adopted me, taught me important life lessons like “Boys are stupid,” and made me feel cool.

When I didn’t see anything worthwhile about myself, Karla did, and she nurtured it. I owe her for her supernatural aid as well.

So I’m sad today, after such devastating news. And this is the time to be sad. I even sent myself home early from work today, which is kid of shocking.

But the beautiful part about all of this is that the hero’s journey continues. Campbell says that “One has only to know and trust, and the ageless guardians will appear.”

And after that, the hero crosses over the threshold into adventure, separating from her known world and journeying into the unknown.

Onward.