How Crying in a Bathroom Stall Can Change your Life.

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This story begins with a women’s experience, which turns out, is also mine. We are all connected, more than we realize. As you read this post, see if you can also see yourself in her. If not, perhaps your story is still unwritten.

This woman, on the very first day of her corporate job, one where had been given a six-figure salary, the task of overseeing a large department and managing multi-million dollar budgets, found herself hiding in a bathroom stall, crying. It seems the life she had been leading, all she had been working towards – the degrees, the promotions, the awards – came crashing down upon her. In that moment, she had no way of knowing that everything in her life was about to change for the better.

It would be a cool story, had she walked out of that New York high-rise that afternoon, but life isn’t about being cool, and neither is this blog. Change often takes time, and it took many more moments in the bathroom stall for her to find her voice.

How we had met was many years later, when she had asked me to write her a speech on Women Finding Their Voice. In preparation for my writing her speech, she told me her story, and how she had left her corporate job in order to pursue her passion – photographing women who life had beaten down. Women who didn’t look or feel good about themselves. Some were overweight, or fighting their way out of an abusive marriage, others had cancer. Through email, I learned how she had ignited her passion for photography, while also finding a way to make a difference for others. What seemed like an end, that moment in the stall, was actually a beginning. Along with her tears that morning, came a soothing ache of relief, a gift, a door opening. The first step she would take in a series of steps in finding her voice.

Due to unforeseen circumstance, she never did make it to that speech, but perhaps life had orchestrated our meeting just for me – and for you. To open my eyes to the path I was indeed walking in my own life, my own journey in finding my voice. Through her story, I had come to realize that finding my passion in writing, something that would lift me every day, while hoping to make a difference for someone else, began with many of my own moments in a bathroom stall.

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The steps she had taken that led her out of that bathroom stall, were ones I too had taken. Today, I share them with you. For sometimes we need to take the road less travelled, and other times, simply trace another’s footsteps in the sand.

As you read through these steps, please keep in mind that in finding our voice, our steps are fluid, as we can often skip or repeat steps along the way, moving forward and backward like a childhood game of hopscotch. Inevitably, whether we walk gracefully or clumsily stumble through these five steps, when we follow our hearts, we will find our voice.

The following five steps are simple, but not necessarily easy:

  1. Seek out your feelings. Our emotions always tell us the truth – sometimes whispering, often shouting at us. These are our bathroom stall moments. Take time to think about about your work, or your life. Does thinking about your day create feelings of joy or dread? When we begin to take notice of how we feel, we start to see the truth, to hear what is in our heart. When we follow our hearts, we find ourselves not at the end, but at the beginning of our story.
  2. Release Others’ Expectations. As we peel back the layers of our longings that linger beneath our skin, we often find a voice that is not our own. For many of us, our accomplishments have been driven by others’ expectations of us. Our stories of our higher education, financial success, the success of our children, can stem from a hidden need for approval. Releasing expectations is about not only releasing personal expectations about what we should do, but about what we think the world expects of us. It begins with the question, who am I doing this for and ends with what am I doing for myself? It continues with separating the voices of those we have known, from our own voice. We can meet every definition of the word success, except the one that matter to us. Success goes far beyond degrees, responsibilities and money.
  3. Find your passion. Unearthing your passion is not easy, but when you find it, it will feel like magic! Someday, you will be at the end of this wonderful life, and what will you find? Did you live your life for you? Did you follow your heart? Close your eyes, and think of something you love to do, that you would do for free. Start there. What makes you happy? As you take your last breath on this earth, what do you want to leave behind, and be proud of? This is the key to finding your passion. You will know you have stumbled upon it, by the excitement you feel, the joyful and peaceful feelings that emerge.
  4. Become courageous. This can be the most challenging step. Yet, when we reach deep within ourselves, finding the courage and taking a leap of faith with our passion, we are often rewarded. Give yourself a time limit, but don’t adhere to it. Set a goal but be willing to change it. Just begin doing what you love, and the rest will fall into place. Courage takes sacrifice, determination and pushing through adversity. As your courage grows, your passion grows, and this wonderful cycle continues.
  5. Share your Voice. Once you follow the other four steps, you will need to share your voice with the world. As you walk beyond the threshold of this fear, the life you have always wanted will begin to naturally unfold in front of your eyes. Resist the temptation to run back and hide. While many believe they have a fear of failure, it is often a fear of success. When everything you have been waiting for, that life you only imagined living, begins to take shape in front of your eyes, breath, say thank you. Remind yourself, you are worth it.

The first time I opened up to my voice, when Elephant Journal agreed to publish my article, I felt both disbelief and pride, joy and fear. Within twenty-four hours I had almost 50,000 views. My article had touched a chord about special needs children, and it was because it came from my truth, my voice. Not every article finds that success, but I have come to realize, the ones that I create from honesty and vulnerability, intimacy and truth, find their way more often into others’ hearts and Facebook pages.

I urge you to go out and find your voice. To listen to the gentle whispers of your heart, and follow it. To uncover and release any expectations that are not your own. To uncover your passion, reach for that courage and unleash your voice onto the world.

We can wake up each morning, and go through our days, never finding our voice, knowing the sun will continue to rise and fall. Or we can step out of our comfort zone, follow our hears and leave our mark on this world.

 

Please excuse all grammatical errors and typos. My editor is permanently on vacation.

 

 

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The Hidden Truth of Depression

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Like many, I have experienced depression at different times in my life. I have never felt the “I cannot get out of bed depression” or the “I cannot go on” depression, but I have experienced those feelings of emptiness, loneliness, loss of appetite, interest and connection.

If you experienced the devastating effects of deep depression, medication can be a life saver. It can give you the space you need to be able to even receive what I am saying or to be able to think differently about your situation. This is the moment, where I remind you that I am not a doctor. And if you think you need help for your depression, there is no shame in reaching out.

Very often, I receive very strong messages that come to me at times during meditation or when I least expect it. Yesterday, I was given the awareness we need to view depression, not as an inconvenience or detriment, but as a gift. Stay with me.

Depression is a space that is left when our ego has begun to unravel. This can happen from a loss, a change in routine, or during ongoing self-awareness. Our ego is there to help us – to keep track of time and space, and our daily lives. But egos can be very inflexible, and change is a part of being human, and living our lives. Change causes our ego to release its grip upon our psyche, and this can feel uncomfortable and empty. Imagine a person hugging tightly to you, and then they back away. While freeing, it can feel different, uncomfortable, empty. You are very aware of the space that is now there. All those patterns, routines and security are now gone.

Loss of loved one or job. Divorce. Life Change (children moving out). Therapy. Illness. Awareness and insight. Even a change in routine can trigger the space of emptiness. Your yoga teacher cancels, your child gets in trouble at school, you become demoted – can all lead to emptiness.

If we rush to fill that space with food, drugs, alcohol or technology, we never move beyond it. It is then, we can become stuck. We have now just become “addicted”, in addition to  “depressed.”

What if we allow that space to unfold, and treat ourselves kindly, like we are dancing into new territory, one that can feel strange, but also exciting. If we name this space of emptiness as a “time out” and don’t try to rush it away, self-medicate it. If we allow it to just be, for as long as it needs. We will change! It will not go on forever, even if it feels like it will. But we cannot force it to go, for then like an unwanted house guest, it will stay well beyond its welcome.

It is not about rehashing, but healing. It is not about running away from, but allowing. It is about becoming comfortable with uncomfortable empty spaces, and the feelings that may come and go.

I am not only relaying what I intuitively received – I have done all of this. It is always just beyond my actions that the awareness comes in. It has become my practice to do something as intuitively guided, and then the understanding follows.  I know from experience, it is not easy, but allowing the space to just “be” allows for not only a deeper understanding of our selves, but so much more.

Sometimes, it can get rough – as dark feelings can move in and out of that emptiness. Shadow feelings of grief, anger, resentment, and sadness can move in. Don’t raise the rent, allow them to linger until they move on. Their stay is temporary, I promise. This too shall pass, and in its place will come everything you can imagine.

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While allowing the space, it is important to also practice self-care. Picture your self in a new place, a new room, with an open door. Feelings can come in and out, as they need, no appointment is necessary. Make that room as comfortable as you can – put in a fireplace, a warm couch with a soft blanket, some ice-cold water to keep you hydrated, or hot tea to warm you. Hang some beautiful pictures on the wall. Even bring in a soft big teddy bear. Think comfort and safety. Make it all about you, and what you need. This is what self-care is about, and it needs to happen even more when we are moving into that space of emptiness, so that we can withstand the discomfort.

What does this self-care look like in real life? Releasing toxic relationships, saying no, putting up boundaries, a hot bath, a good book, a warm nourishing meal, a funny movie, or even just letting someone know how you feel. It is whatever you need in any given moment without judgement.

Just on the other side of the depression is a life you have always dreamed about. The confidence to move away from addiction, and into awareness. Our minds can benefit along with our hearts. The release of all those egoic and competitive needs – to be right, better, higher than others. Obsessions, fears and bad habits, can fade as we move into a more open-hearted way of living and loving. Everything we ever wanted – all the joy, peace and self-love – is bestowed upon us.

It gets easier, I promise. Many years ago, I would have done whatever I could to rid myself of any feelings of emptiness – run, eat, drink – you name it. Today, I become excited when I sense it because I know what is happening, and how I am continuing to move along my life journey. I am about to embark on something new, and release a piece of old conditioning that is no longer serving me.

So let’s stop calling it “depression” and call it “a time out.” Let’s view it as a gift, and if we can see it as such, we can unwrap our self, unwind our ego. Inside, we find the beauty of our true self. Rest in the beauty of that emptiness, take a pregnant pause and allow it to unfold as we are guided through the uncomfortable feelings, we move into a life we can only imagine. Everything we ever wanted is just outside of this discomfort zone.

Choose Love

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Choose empowerment. We are not victims. We do not need to run. We are not helpless. We need to take back our power. There is not one candidate who will magically change our lives or our country. It is an inside job. We do it within ourselves. We do it within our families. We all have the choice.

Choose love. Tell your daughters how beautiful, strong and smart they are. Tell them today and everyday. Teach your sons how to honor women, treat them dignity and respect. Enlighten all our children that it is not the color of our skin, our sexual orientation or where we pray that depicts our humanness, but how much love and compassion we show one another. 

Choose compassion. Today be that much more compassionate, patient and helpful to one another. Look for the highest in everyone you see, whether it is on a grocery store line, or listening to the next President of the United States.

Choose hope. We are all entitled to our choices. We need to treat another’s opinion with respect. There is a bigger picture and everything is here to help us. Sometimes our foundation needs to be cracked in order to let in more light.

 

Turn off the television, get quiet and ask yourself. “What can I do to be the change I want to see in the world?” If you need faith, ask for it. All the answers are inside of us.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our thoughts, feelings and actions today create the world of tomorrow. Today, I see a world of hope, love and compassion. What do you see?