How do you tell the difference between obstacles put in front which are a sign, telling you to adjust your course and move in the opposite direction versus those obstacles which are a test, put in your way to see if you’ve learned the lesson? Let me expand – a test to see if you are able to call upon new skills to move beyond and through whatever it is you’ve been resisting in your life?
For me, what I continuously bump up against in my life is letting other people help me and taking time to care for myself. Some would classify me as a highly ambitious, totally type A, mother of three who doesn’t know how to sit still. I agree — this is me. Yet, deep inside of me there’s a person longing for stillness, quiet, and peaceful reflection.
These two parts of my life are often at odds with each other. Not too long ago I found myself watching a tug-of-war between these two aspects of my being as I was preparing to leave for a girl’s getaway weekend. I would be leaving my family alone to fend for themselves. I would be taking three days away from a project I was in the middle of. I’ll pause here and say that my husband is a highly capable father and routinely manages the household and children’s activities all on his own with great success. It is me, I realize after all these of marriage, that has difficulty letting go and creating space for him to step up and help me out. I am a recovering over-achiever.
Back to my story. As I’m preparing to leave work on Wednesday evening due to fly out at 10 AM on Thursday morning I felt life closing in on me. In this moment, I remember thinking to myself that this is a sign. “This is the sign Erin. There is no way you can leave tomorrow. Just no possible way.”
Here’s a sample of what I told myself … initially at least.
The soccer schedule just came out and the boys have two events a day and your husband cannot manage this on his own.
What makes you think you get to go to the spa, eat delicious food, sleep in and have all of this time alone for yourself and leave him here to fend for three kids and to deal with all the things that are going to come up?
You’ve got a ton of approvals to get through at work there’s no way you can leave tomorrow and leave this for the next couple of days.
I’m sure many of you can relate and have a whole host of other choice phrases you tell yourself when you are found in similar situations. And for a few hours on Wednesday evening every time I turned around there was yet another sign telling me that I couldn’t get away. Signs everywhere – telling me that I shouldn’t be going on this weekend with the girls or taking this time for myself – it was just too much to ask! As I was drifting off to sleep on Wednesday night feeling anxious and negative with myself — it suddenly hit me.
Changing the dialogue.
This is actually just a test.
It is a test to see if I can actually put myself first.
What if it was a test to see how much it would take to stop me from doing what I knew needed to be done for me?
I’ve been resisting taking care of myself my entire life. I have always had difficulty letting others help me out. I feel inadequate if I need help. In short, I feel lesser. If I’m honest, this has been the way I have always been, since I was a child. Over the years I’ve gotten glimpses of what it’s like when you take care of yourself and allow others to help you out. I’ve been spotty at best, and nothing really consistent or deeply fulfilling has emerged until very recently. As I drifted off to sleep that Wednesday evening and contemplated the thought of “signs in our lives” versus “tests in our lives” I felt a peacefulness settle over me like I have never felt before.
Pass the test.
I woke up on Thursday morning ready to ace this exam!
My husband would manage the kids. He’s a pro. He’s been doing it for 13 years and he’s never let us down once.
Work was going to be fine. I can leave for 48 hours the project isn’t going to fall apart. I have capable people on my team who have my back.
I deserve this time and it’s up to me to make it happen.
I’m sitting here now, looking back at this experience and extremely proud of myself for passing the test. It wasn’t easy to leave. It wasn’t easy on the ones I left behind to run life when I took some time for me. The project has to wait for a few answers. It wasn’t easy to pass this test and yet it was totally worth it!
It’s not easy and it’s worth it.
Not being easy and being impossible or two entirely different things. In order for people to step up and assist us in life we have to create space for them to do so. To create space, means stepping back. Stepping back means challenging our internally held socialized and ingrained behaviors. It means honest conversations with ourselves, letting go and it means loosening the grip. It’s not easy and it’s not impossible.
This perspective was not available to me nor did I have the skills required to pass this test until I began my work and training as an integral coach. The most basic definition of coaching is to identify new possibilities and help build sustainable capabilities to achieve these new possibilities.
Every time I face this test, it gets easier and easier to pass it. I’m looking forward to to day when I don’t even have to consciously ‘take the test’ and the response to self care and spaciousness is an automatic ‘yes‘. For now, I’m grateful for the chance to grow my skills & change my tomorrow. I’m so deeply excited by the opportunity to be a better me. It takes practice, discipline & making mistakes that feel like two steps backwards to appreciate the wins and feel deep in my bones that it IS worth it.
What are your obstacles? How do you overcome them? How can others support you? Where do you need to create space? Are you ready to do the work required to make a change?