Two Decades to Build a Tribe

Truth Byte #43

“Life is a team effort.”

For many, many years, I bought into this lie that I was supposed to be able to do everything.

All by myself. 

As soon as I launched from my mother’s home into the big, complex world of adulthood, I assumed that I was on my own, and somehow, I was supposed to “make it”. Sure, I had friends and professors and bosses, but the responsibility for my life was now in my own hands, and I had to damn-well make it work.

And for a while I did!

Well, kinda.

I hustled through nine years of academia after leaving the shelter (and occasional mayhem) of my tight-knit family of origin, living on a shoestring student budget and the generosity of my mom’s and aunties’ unexpected and unasked for (but oh-so-needed!) long-distance cash deposits and care packages. Every so often, I would swallow my pride and even reach out to my long-lost dad for a little bit extra to keep the heat on and the gas tank half full and maybe a plane ticket home for Christmas.

But I was making it, right?

Kinda.

In between the late-night babysitting and bleary eyed tutoring jobs, I was getting that degree so I could be that grown up that everyone wanted me to be.

But when I met my would-be husband, everything about my solo life changed.

For the first time in my life, I felt like I could breathe. I was living back in my mom’s basement, completing my Ph.D. because it was unaffordable for me to continue another year in California while I completed my research and writing phase.

My old bed and old room were long gone, and I remember how proudly my sweet mother displayed the faded Mickey Mouse bedding in the new space she had carved out for me in her home. When my face fell, so did hers, and we realized simultaneously that I wasn’t a kid anymore, and yet I still couldn’t afford to really be on my own while I finished up.

Huddled in that basement at the unfamiliar desk, I sat, night after night, transcribing interviews, tearing up drafts, and chatting on MSN with the young, patient Chicago Cubs fan who I would one day marry.

And today, I can boldly say, I could not have finished my Ph.D. dissertation without his flirtatious encouragement and my mom’s persistent and relentless monitoring of my progress. (Some would call that nagging, but not me, right?).

So why am I telling you this story?

I want to remind you that you don’t have to do this alone.

Once I married him, I was sold. I realized I didn’t have to do this alone. I now had a buddy, a confidante, and a partner in crime who would do half of all the stuff I used to have to do all by myself.

And ten years later, I have realized that one person is not enough. It’s just too much pressure!

It was only after getting married, having two kids, owning a car, building a career, and buying a house (in my mind, the pinnacle of my personal capacity for “adulting”), that I was ready to take the risk and begin building a tribe of like-minded others. I had friends from my past, we all do, but they all live far away and none of them really know each other anymore. So I decided I needed a local crew, people whose eyes I could look into without a screen between us. I started small with invitations to coffee/tea/smoothie/some-other-drink to larger events like home-grown dinner parties for people I thought I might one day want to let it all hang out with.

Fast forward one year.

This weekend, I went out for dinner after an incredible workshop that I co-facilitated with three other therapists. Three.

For those of you that know me, you know how hard it is for me to share a stage.

Three other therapists. And I didn’t hog the mic.

During the course of the workshop, I realized how we gelled, how we built each other up, and how we were harmoniously helping the women in the room to come to their own aha’s. And as I looked at them, I didn’t see colleagues or my competitors.

I saw my girlfriends. 

These were women I had cried with and to, women who had poured out little pieces of themselves into me, women who faced the same challenges that I had, and probably do the same little happy dance in their messy kitchens or pristine offices when shit goes right.

At the dinner, I looked around at the table and asked myself: would I refer a client to these women? The answer was a resounding “YES!” Then I asked a bigger question. Would I refer my own brother or sister or mom to these women if any of them needed a therapist?

I was stunned to her the same “YES!” at the same volume in my head.

I have found a group that I respect professionally, and that I trust implicitly. Even with my own family.

Plus, we have fun and like each other’s fiances and husbands and kids and parents – which is important when you are building life-time relationships.

Almost two decades after leaving my mother’s house, I am finding my tribe.

And it’s such a relief! Though flying solo felt a lot safer, it also was uber lonely. When things went wrong, it sucked.  When things went right, I had very few people to share it with that actually got it. And though at times I am gripped with an irrational fear that they will ditch me unexpectedly, I remind myself that my ego is a tricky saboteur. It doesn’t approve of my vulnerability or this growing intimacy with people outside my tight-knit family of origin.

But my spirit knows that this path of life was not meant to be walked alone.

And I look forward to the tribe growing and evolving as we all bring back the deliciousness of life and share it with each other, and the world.

Curious about who these women are? Check them out: my powerhouse super-mama: Nasreen, my deep soul-sister, Shahaa, and my giggling girlfriend Jena. And join me at www.talktosaira.com or on Jena and my YouTube Talk Show Today is Your Day if you are tired of the loneliness and want to learn to build a tribe of your own.

Are you ready for closure?

Truth Byte #26

“The end is coming and you aren’t ready.”

The end is coming.

 

But we don’t really like endings. 

I remember being ten years old and getting hooked on a novel series called Sweet Valley High.  Every book stood alone, and the characters were consistent and predictable.

They didn’t really evolve much. 

Each book was about something fascinating happening in the lives of these twin sisters who were nothing alike.  I remember that sinking feeling every time I was close to the final chapter and then the final page of a book.  I just didn’t want it to end.  And lucky for me, it didn’t really have to end because the very next Friday, the Book Mobile (a kid’s library crammed inside an old white van with a sweet faced old lady sitting in the driver’s seat) would be back across the street from my elementary school and I could stock up on another batch of adventures.

Life is kind of like that.

We have these mis-steps and pitfalls and successes and triumphs, and there is a part of us that doesn’t really want to face the end of anything.  Or when we do face the end, it is often framed in terms of beginning of something new.

The end of high school? That’s okay, it’s the beginning of young adult life.

The end of single life? That’s okay, it’s the beginning of a committed relationship.

The end of a committed relationship? That’s okay, it’s the beginning of finding yourself again.

The end of being a “needed” parent, having a job, your youth, living in a particular home, that’s okay, it’s just the beginning of something else.  And you can see how we spin the endings so we don’t have to feel the loss.

But when we don’t take time to really end, we leave a lot unfinished.

So here’s how you can start to actually honour the endings in your life, instead of rushing on to the next beginning.

  1. Reflect back.

Leonie Dawson has this incredible series of workbooks.  She leads you through planning out the year (pre-orders start July 20-27 in case you want one for really crazy cheap!) and the thing she does that I haven’t seen anywhere else is she forces her people to reflect on the end of the last year or last month or last week.  What went well? What didn’t? What did you love and learn? What should you probably never do again? When we take the time to reflect back at the end of a period of time, we can actually start to evolve.  That way, we are not the same people in book 15 as we were in book 2 of our lives.  Looking back helps you to actually learn and grow.

  1. Commit to completion

When we don’ acknowledge the end, we are left feeling frazzled and it’s hard to really start the next phase with that solid feeling.  We just jump to the next thing.  This used to happen a lot with a particular friend of mine and music.  We would get in the car and she would tell me about this great song she wanted me to hear.  We would listen to the first minute or two of the song, and then she would pop over to another song.  This would go on for an entire 45 minute car ride.  I always left those drives feeling unsatisfied…I never got to complete any song and I had a bunch of catchy opening bars in my head for the rest of the day, but couldn’t really decide if I like those songs or not because I hadn’t really heard them.

When you commit to completion, you take the project, idea, relationship, etc. right to the end point, and then thoughtfully let it go.  You don’t walk away in the middle.

  1. No regrets.

Easy to say, tough to do.  When you actually admit to yourself that something in your life is ending, and take some time to feel the mixed bag that comes with closure, there isn’t really room for regret.  Regret is when we wish we said or did something different.  When my cousin died beside me at age 22 in a car accident, I had no regrets.  Because I knew she knew how much I loved her…I told her several times each day, and especially on that evening when she was so bursting over with life and laughter.  I knew she knew how much I respected her.  I knew she knew what an impact she had on my life.  And so I didn’t have that feeling of “I wish I had told her….” that I have experienced with the death of other family members and friends in my life who died slowly from illness.  When we have the luxury of seeing the ending is on it’s way, this is a chance to be brave and go through the grief as it comes.  Not feeling might make you sick, and regret is a smelly monkey to have hanging on your back.

  1. Don’t do it alone.

It is tempting to isolate yourself when you are going through an ending.  And it’s true, no one can do it for you.  But remember that we are social creatures.  When tragedy strikes, we have a natural impulse to come together.  Whether it’s something intense or something minor, reaching out to people you trust will help you come to closure more quickly.  It’s a reminder that even though this part of your life is over, there are people that will love to through the transition and into the next phase.

Are you ready for closure? 

Then don’t just nod your head, do something about it.

The next Path of Leadership workshop in Calgary is on Guilt and Regret and in Vancouver it’s Relationships.  What usually takes three to four months of weekly counselling, people can resolve in one day at these workshops, and how it happens is absolutely fascinating for those of us who have an interest in people and human psychology.  If you are ready to close the old stories of your life and start writing some new ones, please join us.  There are a few more days to get the special discounted price, and if you are ready for a quick and lasting change and an unforgettable experience, sign up today.

The Past is Holding You Prisoner

Truth Byte #20: “It’s time to let it go.”

You have been holding on to something.  Something that still brings you pain or sadness after all these years.  And I am not talking about the ultimate loss of someone you loved dying, because really, there is not much you can do about that, and we know that even time won’t fully repair that fracture.  What I am talking about is your grudges and heartbreaks from the past.

I am surrounded by really loving, caring, nurturing people who are still holding grudges and nursing heartbreaks.  And that holding on for way too long is literally destroying them from the inside out.  Their bodies are bent and twisted and just don’t seem to want to heal.  It’s like the poison from their pasts demonstrates it’s potency every single day through their physical pain.

Many of these loved ones of mine are older, around retirement age.  So they have a lifetime of things to be mad about.  In a way, I can see where they are coming from.  It’s justified.  Some pretty shitty things actually did happen.  The irony is that many of the people who did those shitty things have been buried decades ago.  Yet these men and women still tell the old stories as crystal clearly as if they happened last week.

This week, I reach out to my elders.  I am tired of seeing you twisted in physical and emotional and spiritual knots over things that happened decades ago.

It’s time to let it go.

I also reach out to my peers in parenting.  I see how you raise your children with stories of your own childhood.  You might not notice, but your lives are peppered with passive-aggressive rage about how you don’t feel like you actually chose this particular hamster wheel, and you aren’t sure how to get off.

And you don’t even know you are doing it.

But your kids know. 

They know when you snap for no reason after a long gruelling day at work.  They know when you would rather look at a screen then answer their questions.  They know when you brush them off and brush them aside and don’t make space for their delight in your pessimism.  And soon, they too, will switch off and plug in to numbness, and start gathering stories of their own.

Take heed, parents, because it’s never too late to give your kids attention and care.  It’s never too late to let go and get back to what really matters.  Today could be the day.

And all my single ladies, I will end with you.  Whether you are single and loving it or single and hating it, please commit to not getting stuck in the heartbreaks.  Because that just makes you really hard to love.  When you get so independent that you can’t receive love or help, you get caught in that vicious circle of loneliness.  I know because I have been there.  No one thinks you are lonely so no one reaches out.  Or people are so drained by your complaining that they avoid you.  If you can commit to being in the moment and giving love and friendship a real chance, no matter how many screw ups you have had in the past, you might be ready for the miracle of long lasting (romantic?) companionship, if indeed, that’s what you want.

Or you could keep being mad and hurt.  The choice is yours.  Do you want to break free from the prison of heartbreak and love your life?  I know you do.  You just have to let go of your grudges.

Don’t you think it’s time?

If you want to learn how to give up your grudges and heartbreaks once and for all, pencil in our upcoming one-day experiential workshop on Guilt and Regret in Calgary, Alberta.

Bear Down and Just Roar

road-908176_960_720

Truth Byte #16: You are not a quitter.

I know it’s tempting. It’s tempting to end the day with numbness and Netflix. It’s tempting to eat that extra slice of cake. It’s tempting to check your social media page in the passenger seat of a parent’s car. It’s tempting to disengage with the people who need you and keep asking more of you.

And sometimes it’s ok to do those things.

And sometimes it’s not. Read More

Want to Come to my Tea Party?

IMG_0300

Truth Byte #15: The purpose of life was never work.

We are all working way too hard.  Well, most of of are.  We wake up earlier than we want to, go to bed later than we should, and drink coffee all day to keep us going.  And for what? Work.

I am tired of hearing people complain about work.

Work was never supposed to be this hard.

Do you remember those lazy summer days of your childhood? Do you remember what it felt like to just play, without any regard for time or activity?  One thing would meld into the next, at some point there would be a snack, and everybody would fall into bed feeling happy-tired.  When is the last time you had a day like that?

Read More

That’s Not Really a Tiger

tiger_face_teeth_anger_big_cat_44711_3840x2160

Truth Byte #14: You are making it harder than it needs to be.

Life was meant to be easy and simple.  How do I know? I learned that from nature.  Nature doesn’t try so hard.  It doesn’t wrinkle it’s forehead in worry and confusion.  In nature, it’s always the path of least resistance that wins.  In the natural world, animals conserve their energy just in case they need a big burst of speed or strength.  And every so often, a tiger shows up and that gazelle runs like the wind.  But generally, the gazelles just hang out, chillin’.

Read More

Cowboys and Roller-Coasters

Rollercoaster_4

Truth Byte #13: Get off the roller-coaster.

Did you love the roller-coaster when you were a kid? Did you love how it went up and down, and twisted and turned, and then thudded to a stop, only to start up again over the next terrifying careening swoop? And then, finally, when it was all over and you docked back into the station, do you remember racing around the amusement park to get back in line again?

Every July growing up, we had this incredible festival that came to town. The tents would go up, the rides would come out, and there were mini-donuts to your heart’s content. Now, because I am from a town in the Prairies, they would mix in cowboy hats, hay-bales, and chuck-wagon racing, and they called the whole over-the-top-affair the Calgary Stampede. But all I cared about growing up was wearing my high-waisted jeans and riding the roller-coaster. Read More

The Lobster Knows Best

Truth Byte #12: Growing is gruelling.

Have you ever wanted to truly know yourself, from the inside?

Do you look around sometimes and feel like you are stuck on a hamster wheel where everyone is running really fast and getting nowhere?

Do you kinda sorta believe in yoga, veganism, inner peace, and meditation but think it would take too much effort to really live like that?

We live in a world that tells us it’s okay to want meaning and depth. It’s okay to want happiness and passion. It’s okay to want connection and laughter. And the best way to get it is to simply buy ________ (book, seminar, weight-loss product, fitness gizmo, online relationship quiz, new app that will change your life). So maybe you get duped, and buy it, and maybe you even feel good for a few minutes or a few weeks, but then, the hunt begins again….something is missing. Read More