Don’t let anybody tell you your inner work is frivolous.
The other day I was talking to a new acquaintance about my work. She was incredulous that people actually pay real money for this ‘coaching thing.’ (To be fair, if you’ve never experienced it, it can be hard to understand why it’s so valuable.) After a few minutes, though, she smirked and said,
“So– let me guess, it’s all ‘ladies who lunch’?”
“No, not really,” I finally said. And then I had to walk away before I unleashed on her.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase ‘ladies who lunch’– a snide jab at women of a certain income bracket. The assumption is that if you can afford to meet friends for lunch, if you aren’t grinding out a paycheck or staying home with kids and cutting coupons, that you’re surely someone to be dismissed. Someone frivolous.
No matter that these much-maligned women of the luncheon are often commandeering the PTA, funding libraries and gardens, supporting a fleet of artisans and artists, and paying attention to things like voter’s rights, Planned Parenthood, and free speech.
(If you think those things don’t matter, go visit your local elementary school. They matter. Big time.)
And no matter, too, that my clients tend to be attorneys, executives, therapists, writers, business owners, mothers, and creatives. Nary a society queen in sight, for the moment.
This scorn isn’t really about wealth, though it appears to be. The ‘ladies who lunch’ are just an easy target, like ‘soccer moms’ or ‘skinny bitches.’ Our language reflects our deep opinions about what’s considered ‘worthy’– and what’s considered fluff. (Notice that those derogatory terms all are decidedly feminine? More on that later.)
There is so much disrespect out there for anything that can’t be quantified– for the things that are invisible, and especially those that are just for you.
- Make a pie? Fantastic!
- Make a spreadsheet? Value added!
- Make a baby? Congratulations! ….and now you’re on your own!
- Make a piece of art? That’s fine, as long as you can sell it.
Did you heal a broken relationship? Conquer an old terror? Change the legacy you’re handing down to your students, children, or friends?
Hang on a sec. My calculator can’t compute those.
These deep inner shifts are so easy to dismiss.
Navel-gazing. Privilege. Drama queen. She’s trying to ‘find herself.’
Elizabeth Gilbert gave a great interview over at Salon, where she pointed out that when she wrote about the male experience, man grappling with nature and science, she was nominated for the National Book Award. But when she wrote about a woman’s personal grappling, in her memoirEat Pray Love, she and her writing were dismissed as ‘chick lit.’ Fluff.
In that book, Gilbert wrote about decidedly feminine questions– marriage, motherhood, sex, healing. She wrote unabashedly about feeling so shattered as a woman that none of the pretty things in her life– the big house, the successful career– could help her feel anything besides heartbroken. It’s not an accident that this book sold bazillions of copies. Or that so many smart, literary folk will go out of their way to trash it.
I love that book because Gilbert isn’t hiding behind irony, sarcasm, or stoicism. She’s not pretending to be cooler than she is. And that kind of softness, even rawness, is easy to dismiss.
Nurturing your own soul will give you something so much better than coolness. It will help you feel alive. Awake. And when you’re awake to it, the world floods in– rich, hilarious, full of delight and sounds and smells and colors.
Also, interestingly enough, this ‘invisible’ work tends to play out in pretty practical ways.
- What if you could negotiate that raise you deserve– calmly, coolly, charmingly?
- What if you told the jerk to stuff it– politely, clearly, with wit and power?
- What if you didn’t yell at your kids even when they are being total assholes?
- What if you stopped bemoaning all your missed opportunities and just DID something?
- And then, when it was a disaster, what if you picked yourself right up and did something else?
All this hard-to-define work, the things that are easy to dismiss as the self-indulgent playground of the privileged, have incredible repercussions.
For the next two days, I’m going to be holed up in the Hotel Monaco with some incredible women. They’ve worked with me through all of 2013 in a year-long program called The Year of Magic. I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of these women. They’ve handled difficult challenges, done the seemingly impossible, and managed to keep their senses of humor and even style. They’ve handled promotions, new jobs, serious illness, divorce, injustice, and relationship difficulties– just for starters. And they’re radiant. Brave. And bad-ass.
The work we do this weekend will be hard to quantify. We will resemble those self-indulgent folk who putter in navel-gazing, spoon-bending, self-actualization.
But let me tell you something.
The results are in, and they are pretty damn spectacular.
So here’s what I want to say to you:
What you do for yourself– it’s not frivolous. It’s priceless.
Whether it’s taking a bath, meditating for five minutes, reading a novel, or tucking away $50 in a bliss fund– whether you hire a coach or a trainer or a therapist– whether you talk to a minister or a friend or your daydreams– whether you scrawl in a sketchbook or scribble in a journal or sing into the wind– none of that is wasted.
NONE OF IT.
Don’t believe me?
Pull out a photo of yourself as a baby.
Now ask yourself– is there any love, any healing, any tenderness that could be WASTED on that tiny, beautiful soul?
I didn’t think so.