Five Ways to Stay Stuck

Truth Byte #57

 “Change and growth are different things.”

 

The one constant in life is change. Kids grow taller, wear and tear impacts our highways, and our bodies age.  Change happens with the passage of time. It’s just Nature’s law.  However, change does not necessarily predict growth, especially when it comes to people.

Let me tell you a little story.  I know someone who tries new things all the time.  She moves from this project to that project and has a lot of fun doing it.  Downside: she is still telling me the same stories about how “life is so hard” that she was telling me fifteen years ago.

Lots of changes, little growth.

Here’s another one. I had a client who had seen over five therapists in the last ten years.  Before he met me, he had tried whatever they taught him, attempting to implement all the homework and self-reflection he could.  Every month he was reading a new book about personal development. Downside: he was still stuck in the same cycle of one failed relationship after another. Lots of change, not much growth.
Why does this happen?
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Sparkly Yet Spiritual

Truth Byte #51

“You can’t move forward with a split mind.”

 

For years, we have wanted things. New houses, cars, fancy clothes, the newest tech gadget, a happy wife, a thriving career, a caring boss, a baby, or the next child, or a pet. Some of us get these things and are thrilled. Some of us get these things and they are not enough to fill the longing.

 

Why is it that some people are satisfied with their lives while others are not? What makes some of us content with very little while others have a lot of stuff and very little happiness?

 

And the reverse is true too. There are those without all they want and need who are miserable and also those who live abundantly and thoroughly enjoy their lives.

Acquisition of things does not equate with happiness.

 

And yet we are wired to want.

 

Some spiritual and psychological traditions encourage us to be critical of this impulse to want, to learn to curb our desires and attachments and teach our selves to want less. People who follow these paths speak plainly and sometimes disdainfully about things and argue that the acquisition of things is our first and foundational problem. These traditions teach that it’s better to have experiences and relationships rather than things, and since we are all going to die anyway, none of this stuff actually matters in the long run.

 

I tried following those paths, and fell flat on my face.

 

Because I like stuff.

 

I like sparkly stuff, fancy stuff, decorative stuff, pretty things – just because they light up my space and bring a beautiful tone to my day. I like big things and small things and new things and plain things and bright things and things that make my life easier or trendier or just more fun.

 

I like stuff.

 

Going to the mall, for me, is like going to a museum. All those beautiful things to look at!

 

So when I stumbled upon the Law of Attraction, I felt like I had finally found a metaphysical system that works with my love of stuff. The Law basically says that whatever you focus on you attract to you. In it’s simplest form, the Law teaches that if you focus on what’s working, you get more of that. If you focus on what’s not working, you get more of that.

 

It even works for little things: if you focus on yellow flowers, you will start to notice them everywhere. Caterpillars? Same thing. Choose any physical object and focus on it, and it will start to appear more frequently and obviously in your life.

 

And of course, you would want more of the good stuff, so the teachings of the Law of Attraction helps us train our body/mind to focus more on the good stuff. Our spirit doesn’t need stuff, but enjoys the process of making thoughts into things, so there is no dichotomy in this system between wanting stuff and being in alignment with our own true spiritual nature.

 

So what about happiness? Well, many people think that getting the stuff is what will eventually bring happiness. But we can find hundreds of examples of how that is simply untrue.

 

Here’s an alternative approach: If we can learn to be happy first, then the stuff is just a bonus.

 

So what if we applied the Law of Attraction to happiness? That would mean the more happy we were, the more happiness would come to us.

 

And this totally works.

 

I have seen it dozens of times.

 

But only if you don’t have a split mind.

 

A split mind is where one voice in your head says, “Yes! Go for it? You can do it!” and the other voice in your head says, “That’s impossible. That will never work. You suck.”

 

Yes, you have voices in your head. We all do. And many of us believe the second voice because that is the voice that has evolved with us over centuries to keep us safe.

 

And for the masses, safety is the goal.

 

But then there are those of us that want something more than just survival. There are those of us that want richness and texture and complexity to our lives. We want adventure and thriving relationships and deep down joy. Some of us want to live loudly and vibrantly and totally immersed in this human experience. Some of us want to dance when we hear a drum beat and sing at the top of our lungs to our favourite songs on the radio. Some of us need that shiny, eye-catching centerpiece on our kitchen table to remind us that life is meant to be lived fully, not just tolerated. Some of us are willing to forgo order and discipline to be able to feel the cool dew of morning grass on the soles of our feet, or feel the gritty rhythm of live jazz pulse through our chests in a fringe club in the wrong part of town.

 

And we don’t get to live that kind of a life by listening to that second voice.

 

The only way we get a sparkly life is to believe that voice that says we are limitless, timeless, spiritual creators having a physical experience. That this life was meant to be lived to the brim, and that the only thing stopping us is our choice to believe that “life is hard” and “good things take time”. We have to believe that voice that tells us we are worthy, loveable, and unstoppable. And that life is supposed to be easy, fun, and free.

 

When we repair the split and start focusing on only that first voice, life becomes really shiny, really quickly. And while there may be moments of self-doubt, we generally move our “normal” up a few notches, and find ourselves happier. With or without the stuff.

 

Tell me about your Law of Attraction stories! When have you wanted something and it came to you quickly and unexpectedly? Leave a comment below to start the conversation or send me a note at connect@talktosaira.com

If It’s Not Fun…

Truth Byte #50

 “If it’s not inspired, it’s just busy work.”

 

I used to be a really busy person.  I rushed around from one thing to another, always feeling like I was squeezing in life between events. Even when I was with people I Ioved being around, my mind would flit on to the the next to do in my agenda.

 

Not inspiring.  Not inspired.

 

It wasn’t always this way.

 

Years ago, during my Master’s degree in California, I met a group of incredible minds.  We laughed, learned, and lived together, coming with all kinds of back stories to a space we would share for four years.

 

I remember dinner parties with these friends. 

 

They would start in the early evening, and go on and on into the wee hours of the morning.  We talked for hours about the newest television drama or the meaning of life, and everything in between. When I was with them, I was inspired.  We made art together, wrote poetry, checked each other’s grammar for essays, and personally researched the human spirit in ourselves and each other.  We participated in each other’s religious and cultural ceremonies, shared meals and gifts on Holy Days, met each other’s families, and found a home in each other. Those were days of little sleep and much reading, few boundaries and dozens of breakthroughs.

 

Those were the most inspired years of my life.

 

Fast forward twelve years.

 

I am a mother of two young children and I am an entrepreneur.  I volunteer at least ten hours a week on professional boards, and babysit other people’s children regularly. I run a private practice as a psychotherapist and also run a household. I am the one who drops and picks the little ones from all their activities, including school, and I have a thriving and full social life with my incredible husband and our friends.  Plus, I go to the gym five times a week and squeeze in a manicure and massage once a month.

 

I have a lot to do.

 

Gone are the days of endless dawdling and conversation.  These days, I am one busy woman!

 

But until recently, that busy-ness was just busy-ness, not inspired action.

 

Today, I filmed an episode of my YouTube show, Today is Your Day, and we discussed the benefit of inspired action. If action is not inspired, it simply one more “have to”.  And I hate “have tos”.  Always have.  Sucked it up and pushed through most of my life, but these days, if something is a have to, I am out.

 

And so these days, I am remembering what I learned from my friends in California: if it isn’t fun, why are we doing it? Anything from school picks ups, to client re-scheduling, to photocopying the class list, to folding laundry can be fun…if done in the right frame of mind.

 

So my challenge to you today would be to take stock of all the have tos on your own to do list.  What could you just do later? And what could you never actually do well, unless it is inspired? Your answers may surprise you.

 

Want more? Join us on YouTube for Today is your Day, or visit us on a Thursday night at The Get Happy Club! Email connect@talktosaira.com for details.

Birds of a Feather

Truth Byte #48

 “Some people don’t know how to be happy for you.”

 

People who know me know I am an exclaimer.  When people tell me good news, my voice rises, my face cracks into a wide smile, and I exclaim.  When people tell me bad news, my eyebrows furrow, my jaw slackens, and the concern is all over my face like an “I’m sorry” card from Hallmark.

 

People love telling me good news.  I think if we had had Instagram when I was at university, much of my feed would be other people capturing my delighted, surprised, oh-so-happy face.

 

But let me back up here. I am not trying to say I am always happy.  What I am, consistently, is expressive.

 

Maybe it comes from a long line of adventurous, immigrant women who had a flair for the dramatic. Or maybe it comes from watching Young and the Restless with my grandma when I was way to young to watch it without giggling through the kissing scenes. Or maybe it’s just that I have always secretly wanted to be a stage actor, and these live-out-loud expressions are the closest I can get.

 

Where ever it came from, this expressive trait is here to stay, and sometimes I forget that not everyone is wired like I am.

 

Recently, I shared some really excited and game-changing news with a family member.  I was met with a blank stare.  I assumed he didn’t quite understand, so I explained why this was such a big deal for me.  To which I got a slight nod and a “Good for you” in a “there-there-dear” tone of voice.  As I reflected on it, I realized I was looking for a big reaction.  But this is a person who never gives big reactions.

 

So my expectations weren’t really fair.

 

A few months ago, I told a different family member about a new project I was launching.  And this person is very expressive.  And I care about her opinion (first mistake), so was excited to have her in on it.  What I got was “Why would you want to do that?” When I explained, her next question was, “How much more money will you make it you do that?” After that second question, I got it.  No matter how many “correct” answers I gave her, she was not going to be happy for me. 

 

She had dug in her heels into her life’s own unhappiness, and was just not willing to let anyone else be happy in her presence.

 

If you talk to this person, she will tell you she loves her life.  She has a successful career and close relationships. She has hobbies that are meaningful and travels often. And yet, there is this air of unhappiness about her.  All the time.

 

For many years, I thought I could change that.  I thought if I continued to be bubbly and loving and optimistic around her, she would soften. I now know that when someone is steeped in bitterness, the road back to the sweet life is slow and deliberate, and that first step has to be taken by them, not me.  It’s their road to walk, not mine.

 

I have walked this hard road.

 

I have lots of good, reasonable, justifiable reasons for being miserable. In less than four decades, I have battled depression, obesity, sexual and physical assault, relationship betrayal, and all kinds of other physical and emotional barriers to my well-being. When I finally got my own inner house in order and reached out to help others, I had to face the glum reality that nobody around me was really thriving either.  Some of the people closest to me were struggling with drug addiction, divorce, death, potential incarceration, and all forms and flavours of trauma.

 

Plus, I had chosen a career in which people spent their time with me talking about their problems.

 

At some point, I had to make a decision about who I was going to choose to be. Was I going to be a feather in the wind, tossed around by the events that Life was throwing at me, or was I going to be the bird, choosing my own path? Being a bird took grit and perseverance.  It also required that I do something that no one else in my world was doing at the time: taking accountability for every part of my life. 

 

I had to examine my wings, and recognize that they were made up feathers. I had to come to the understanding that the events in my life had impacted me, sure, but I could choose whether or not to let them define me.

 

I call this learning how to fly.

 

I had to start re-framing those past events as character-building exercises, and journalled until my hands were raw about the lessons I could look for in them. I had to stop blaming the people and situations that had wronged me, and begin letting the past truly go.

 

I took a course in forgiveness.

 

At the Master’s level, for credit.

 

With one of the world’s leading-edge experts on the topics.

 

Cuz’ if I was going to learn this stuff, may as well throw my whole self into it, and learn from the best. (He has written some great books by the way, if you are interested. His basic intro and the one that changed my perspective on Life pain is “Forgive for Good” by Dr. Fred Luskin.)

 

And I had to make choices in all arenas of my life that would bring me closer to being that intentional bird rather than the victimized feather.

 

So yes, I am expressive. And I get in trouble now because when I sense someone is about to tell me their sob-story, they can tell within seconds that I am going to re-frame it with them. I am not going to sit around and let my friends and family members talk badly about themselves, their partners, their lives, or their choices.

 

I am going to call them out. 

 

Every graduation/closing session I have with a client, we talk about flying. I tell them, through guided images and a simple completion ceremony the following truth:

 

“You don’t need me, or any other therapist. You have recognized that you are not a feather. You now know what’s in your wings, and you have been getting stronger. And now you know how to fly.  You can’t un-learn that. All you need now is to remember who you are, and set a course for where you are going.”

 

And every decision has it’s consequences. One of my consequences is that I have stopped hanging out with feather-like people. Another is that I have found a flock that knows how to be happy for themselves and for me, and shares my flair for expressiveness.

 

And while it’s scary at times to be up here, soaring above the bitterness, it just feels so much better.

 

Want to join me, and learn to fly too? My good friend Jena and I are starting a Get Happy Club. Email me at connect@talktosaira.com for details on how to join!

When They Don’t Want Your Help

Truth Byte #46

 

“Not everything is your business.”

 

I am a helper.  Always have been and probably always will be.  So when I hear a cry for help, even a silent cry for help, I spring to action.  I want to heal your pain, solve your problem, and make you smile again.

 

But this winter I have learned that not everything is my business.

 

I come from a very close-knit faith community.  Whenever I go to one of our gatherings, even if I am in a totally different country than where I usually live, somebody in the group will know someone from my family.  We are a community of adventurers, explorers, and pioneers, that left the pain of our poverty behind as we forged new vistas.  We are an immigrant community with international roots, and even though my great grandchildren will likely know little of the cultural ancestry that I have subconsciously marinated in, the rhythms and flavours of “back home” run deep and strong in the caring way we interact, our collective, hidden anxieties, and how we dance and laugh with reckless abandon on the big days of celebration.

 

We have come a long way, both literally and psychologically, and we have a lot to be proud of.

 

But as an intimate, caring community, we are also painfully aware of those who are struggling.  When tragedy strikes in one family, the ripples run quickly through our networks and reach the farthest corners of this planet, all the way to the lands where we came from. Long before the click of a button, our collective information travelled quickly, often with well-meaning embellishment and loving prayer along the way.

 

So when something bad happens to someone in my community, I feel it.

 

And I want to help.

 

But there are millions of us spread all across this blue/green globe. And I can’t save everyone.

 

This winter, I have learned that not everything is my business.  I have sat with people in pain, and allowed myself to be uncomfortable with my impotence.  I have watched the inevitable unfold and been powerless to change it.  I have realized that you can only help someone who is willing to grab on to your hand as they are falling.

 

I now unnderstand that sometimes people unconsciously prefer pain over change.

 

I know this not only as an observer, but as someone who used to live there.  There was a time in my past where I thought I knew everything about myself.  I thought I knew every nook and cranny of my inner landscape, and I had unearthed even the darkest of demons.  I was emerging from an intense few years of personal transformation, and I felt shiny and perfect.

 

And suddenly, the people around me, the people I considered my community, started exploding.

 

Marriages fell apart. Careers were in shambles. Children got seriously ill and injured. Addictions took hold. Friendships deteriorated. Hearts broke. Life just generally sucked for multiple people in my life simultaneously.

 

And I couldn’t save them.

 

I couldn’t fix it.

 

I had all this incredible knowledge and training and experience, and yet I couldn’t help the people who mattered the most to me.

 

Because they hadn’t asked for help.

 

And when they finally did, I wasn’t the one who could get through to them.

 

So years ago, I had to step back.  I had to look around at all those I loved, and I had to make a choice.  Would I spend the next decade furiously trying to fix it, or was there another option?

 

Perhaps I could gently turn back around to the people in my world who were thriving. Could I focus on building something that would last, rather than constantly trying to salvage bits of hope out of rubble of the personal tragedies around me?

 

Even though I kill plants on a regular basis, I know about the fundamental law of gardening: what you focus on will grow.  I was ready to focus on what was already growing, rather than trying to fix what needed repair.

 

And as I shifted my attention, the seeds of hope took root in my heart once again, and my life began to unfold organically. The people who could benefit from my particular flavour of care started knocking on my open door, and the results were incredible.  I was making a real and lasting impact on lives. And those who I couldn’t help also, somehow, began to find their way.  By letting go of the “how”, I stepped aside and the Master Teacher in each person light their own path.

 

Today, my community thrives. The leaders have woken up to the depth and complexity of the issues, and have found solutions that address root causes rather than handing out the sparkly band-aids of the past. I have found my place as the quiet listener who sends prayers and heart and referral letters. And when I hear those calls for help, even the silent ones, I trust that I am not the only one listening.

 

I challenge you this week to take a step back.  What are you assuming about the people in your life who you think need help? Are you giving them enough credit? Can you see their path, even if it’s difficult, as a spiritual unfolding rather than simply a tragedy? Can you focus on their resourcefulness, their resilience, their capacity for recovery? Can you, from a place of true care and compassion, put them in the hands of their Creator, and take a break from playing God?

 

That simple shift will probably make the holidays a lot more enjoyable for all!

 

Questions? Comments? Email me at connect@talktosaira.com

Retiring Thirty Years Early

Truth Byte #45

 

 “Pushing yourself makes things harder.”

 

This month, my parents visited.  They live in a different city, so having them in town is a huge treat.  Whenever they arrive, there is laughter and joking and a whole lot of crazy-indulgent gifts for the kids.  Nani and Grampa come for a week or two, and I get to relax.   All those big plans of what I would do when I had unlimited babysitting hours get pushed aside as I catch up on my fair quota of sleep, meals prepared by someone else, and long, late night conversations.  They remind me that it’s okay to just be, without a screen, or a book, or a task to complete.

 

And without any guilt.

 

I remember when I was a kid, and my mom and stepdad were just as busy as I am now.  They flitted and fluttered around at their jobs and our activities and their full social and religious calendars.  I remember my mom dropping onto the couch exhausted after dinner every night, and falling asleep before our family sitcom had reached the first commercial.  I remember my stepdad filling our weekends and school-breaks with adventures to the mountains, and watched him as he brought his files along to squeeze in a little bit of work where he could.

 

Every year, my grandma would visit us.  We called her Nanimaa.  She would mostly just sit on her favourite spot on the couch, and hum sweetly under her breath while she clinked her prayer beads.  And every single weekday at four o’clock, my non-English-speaking grandma would ask us to turn on the TV for her so she could watch The Young and the Restless.  Nanimaa moved slowly, and smiled deeply.  Her hand-skin was wrinkled like a soft, paper-thin elephant and she told the most intricate yet humorous stories about her childhood.

 

Nanimaa showed me, as my parents are showing my kids now, that life doesn’t have to be so busy and serious all the time, and that home could be a place to just be.  She did not push herself, and she did not force herself or us in any way, at any time.

 

My parents, now grandparents, are living that life now.  Even though my step-dad still runs his accounting practice, his approach to work is so much more relaxed.  He doesn’t take on the high-demand clients anymore.  He has learned to take regular holidays, and doesn’t bring work to the dinner table or on vacation.  My mom has relaxed too.  She has gone back to school in a completely different field for the pure love of learning, and is acing her classes alongside people younger than her children.

 

I always looked forward to old(er) age, because I thought that was when I would finally get to retire. Or at least relax.  But in the last few months, I have had an epiphany.  I don’t have to wait another thirty or forty years to stop pushing myself!

 

I could just stop pushing now. 

 

At first, that created panic in me.  I thought if I stopped pushing, my business would fall apart, my house would be in chaos, and my family would be eating microwave popcorn for dinner every night.

 

What I have found to be true is actually the exact opposite. 

 

When I stopped pushing, I stared allowing.  Opportunities that I would never have noticed started to drop into my lap.  Things that seemed hard either fell away or suddenly became manageable because I was brave enough to ask for help without thinking it meant I had failed in some way. I was happier and more connected, and so my friendships deepened and grew.  People I would have walked by before, now became fascinating co-collaborators and mentors.  And like my grandma, there was one daily thing I became totally serious about and dedicated to.  For her it was her soap opera (and through it, learning English), and for me, it’s dancing (and through it, releasing those endorphins I need to maintain positive mental health).

 

I have learned, in a very short time, the power of relaxing.  I have learned the importance of my home as a sanctuary.  I have learned that pushing creates illness and tension and rifts between people.

 

And I wanted to tell you that so you could test it out for yourself.

 

This week, I challenge you to stop pushing.  I challenge you to allow Life’s river to pull you along to the next restful moment instead of always pushing against the current.  If something is hard, maybe it can wait till later, until you have the energy and enthusiasm to do it, or until help arrives.  You may be really surprised how it really can all work itself out when you stop trying to control it all.

 

Watch our YouTube Show, Today is Your Day to start crafting the life you have always wanted, free from the heaviness of pushing too hard, and let me know if you live in the Vancouver are want to join our Get Happy Club!

 

Want to keep crawling?

Truth Byte #44

 “Evolving means un-learning.”

 

I have been watching my kids, and how quickly they learn.  One of the critical skills they also need for success is to be able to un-learn.

 

Let me give you an example.

 

When my fist little guy started crawling, it was bells and whistles all around.  We were so excited and encouraging of him, and finally he could get around on his own, kind of.  A few months later, he was mastering a new skill: walking.  As expected, we celebrated with whoops and hollers when he mastered the wobbly dance of one-foot-in-front-of-the-other.
And for most parents, that would be that.

 

But since I am obsessed with the human potential for growth and change, I couldn’t leave it at that.  I was really interested to see how he would make this transition.  After all, he had spent months getting his muscles and mind to work just so to be able to crawl, and now he had to forget all that (or maybe build on it?) and move to a completely different skill.  Sometimes he would opt to crawl instead of step-step-fall, especially at the beginning.  But as time passed, he chose the “easy way” less and less, until the point that he could say to me “Mama, crawling is for babies”.

 

My daughter, on the other hand, had a different learn-unlearn trajectory.  She learned to sit up, then scooch forward on her bum, and one day she just stood up and walked.  Once she started walking, she never went back to scooching.

 

She is better at un-learning things.

 

And I see this in other aspects of their personalities.  When he makes up his mind about someone, he interacts that way with them for ever and ever.  So if he likes you at first, he likes you forever.  And if he doesn’t really like you, too bad. But with her, she gives you a fresh chance every time you meet her.  She will adore you one day, and then be distant the next.  She has un-learned who you are and what you mean to her as soon as you are out of the room (though, like most kids even she has one or two favourites).

 

And while her life seems more tumultuous (she is three after all!), she is also living in the moment a lot more, rather than being informed by the past.

 

I have seen how as my children develop through their natural developmental stages, they become less adaptable, less able to unlearn.  It’s almost like Nature is saying, “You tried that before, don’t make that mistake again, if you want to stay alive!”  And they haven’t even hit double digits yet!

 

And so fast forward to you and me and the adults all around us.  Many of us have spent decades learning, and not too much time un-learning.  Even when what we had initially learned has become maladaptive, we continue acting that old, safe way.  We continue to crawl, even though we suspect walking would get us there faster.

 

The first requirement if you really want to grow is to be willing to un-learn.

 

Which means you have to be willing to say, “Maybe I have been wrong about this or that.”

 

And for some reason, for certain people, admitting they are wrong is worse than ‘being a baby’.  It’s just plain out of the question.  They continue to trudge along in their usual, unhappy, unfulfilling way of doing things, judging the people around them as ‘uniformed’ or ‘living in the clouds’ or ‘clueless’ or ‘lucky’, while day after day, they insist that their way is the only way and the rest of us should stop running forward into this great glorious life and crawl instead.

 

On our hands and knees.

 

Feeling bad about everything and doubtful about ever reaching any of our big dreams.

 

You may have people like this in your life.  I sure do.

 

When I run in to them (which happens more and more infrequently, I must say), I remember my infant son.  Maybe one day they will decide to take the first few difficult steps, and I will happily be there for them as they master the new skill.  But I can’t keep pretending they are so accomplished when all I see is crawling and complaining, year after year.

 

I can no longer play along with that lie. 

 

I have also learned, through painful mistakes, not to call them ‘babies’, and feel somehow better or ‘more advanced’ than them.  This is a really slippery slope in the field of personal development.  We hear phrases like, “Oh, she’s just not there yet” to help explain the closed hearts and minds around us.  Here’s what I have discovered: some people genuinely do not want to be there.  They are happy where they are, and don’t want to be told that there is a way out of their drama.

 

It’s not fair for those of us who can run to taunt the crawlers. 

 

All we can do is keep running, keep laughing, keep playing, and trust that if they are meant to stand on their own two feet in this lifetime, they will.  And if they don’t, it’s not our personal failure.  It’s simply the unfolding of their journey.

 

Human consciousness is evolving.  And for those of us at the leading edge of those changes, we will have to un-learn, and un-learn fast.

 

My challenge to you this week is this: think of something you believe, from the bottom of your heart, to be true, that is making you miserable (for example, germs are everywhere, or life is short, or success takes hard work, or there will always be poverty). I would challenge you, just for a week, to see if you could unlearn that fact.  Pretend, just for a week, that something else could be true instead.  See if you can challenge yourself to un-learn the “truths” have you have been entrenched in for years.  Self-reflection, followed by conscious evolution is the way out of personal chaos, so today, “I’m starting with the (wo)man in the mirror.” How about you?

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.