I gave this talk at an event I hosted yesterday.
You know some of this, because you’ve been here, following along the whole way. I got sucked into a bit of a work hole this past fall, but I’m digging myself out now and committed to getting back to the writing practice that fuels me.
I’ve changed some names and details, because I’d like to continue the anonymity of this blog, even though it offers a false sense of security. The truth is many people who read know who Maria Callas is, and I don’t mean my fave diva from the opera world. But anonymity protects some of the people I write about from the greater public, even if this blog will never be as famous as the original blog I started 15 years ago.
The was much funnier and more poignant live. I have struggled with public speaking my whole life, but yesterday I found my voice and my power. It was magical. I wish that for you, to experience the joy of sharing yourself so completely with a group of strangers, and to have people laugh and cry and feel like they know themselves better because they now know you. If you’re interested in coming to one of my live events, leave me a comment or send an email and I’ll reach out if I believe it’s safe for me to do so.
What is it that you don’t see? What is it that you don’t want to see?
I’m going to tell you a story. I’ve had 20/20 vision my whole life. Every July, right around my birthday I go to the eye doctor. On my 39th birthday, my attractive optometrist, Dr. Mike told me I had the eyes of an 18 year old. I thought, “Oh yeah.”
“Don’t get too cocky though. Come back and see my when you’re 40 and we’ll talk then.”
Sure enough, like a fairy tale curse, by 40 I was struggling to read tiny pill bottles. At 44 I was wearing a +1.5 drugstore reading glass but still had close to 20/20 vision. But this summer, at 45, boom! “You’ve got the eyes of an 81 year old. You have Narrow angle closure glaucoma and you’re at risk of going blind.” What. The. Fuck?
Suddenly faced with the possibility of not being able to see anything was eye-opening (pardon the pun). Assuming fate was on my side, what did I hope to see in the next 40-50 years of my life?
My past hopes of sitting on a porch swing, reading books with my husband playing guitar next to me, were dashed three years ago when we broke up after 16 years of marriage.
What did I want to see? Top of Everest? Nah. But Rome? Athens? Tahiti? This beautiful world?
My mother’s aging face? My father’s work-worn hands? My kids becoming adults? Finding love? Maybe having children of their own?
The sight of someone looking into my eyes with deep love in his eyes?
Ugh. When I thought about that last one, about finding a romantic partner, my belly churned. It was like someone in a movie snapping a thick book shut. We’ll get to that in a sec.
My choices were wait it out, but risk having an attack when not close to a hospital, or have a laser iridotomy: A simple procedure where a tiny hole is zapped into your iris to release the pressure in your eyeball.
So I waited. I waited all summer. Because while I was wondering what it was I wanted to see, in the background I was also doing the work of uncovering some pretty ugly stuff from my past that I did not want to look at. Even writing this part of my story was tough.
A lot has happened in the past year. I started a business with Rock n’ Roll Coach, almost exactly a year ago. We threw one event on a whim and fell in love with the idea of working together, which is how our super cool business was born. We now coach groups of incredible women on their mindset, teaching our program over three hours a week.
In April, the company I’ve worked at for 10 years sold my division to another company, and I’ve spent the past 365 days leading teams through change. I’ve learned to silence Imposter Complex, stepping into myself as a valued leader in the company, something that didn’t feel comfortable for me in the past.
In the past two weeks, I was given two new teams that I had little to no experience with, because, to paraphrase my new boss, they needed my energy. It’s humbling to be the rookie at my level after over a decade in the business!
In the fall, I successfully transitioned my two kids to new schools, middle school and high school. If you’re a parent, you know that September and October are full of big feels, and getting through this seismic change fairly smoothly has been a huge win.
One of the biggest things that happened to me this year was I started to fall in love with a man we’ll call The French CEO. It was significant because it was the first truly emotional relationship I’ve allowed myself to experience since the end of my marriage. I’ve had a lot of fun.
The French CEO has an adorable accent, is a devoted dad and works 80s hours a week, so getting time with him was super challenging, even for a busy single mom like myself. I didn’t mind only getting to see him once every other week, but there was a real lack of conversation in between hangs.
Simple texts here and there, usually initiated by me when I’d feel insecure due to days of not hearing from him. Always me sharing a lot and him unable to share much more than how busy he’d been.
We spent a beautiful weekend away together a week before I turned 45. When he missed calling me on my actual birthday, I was a mess. The relationship was bringing up things in me that I needed to understand. A lot of the coaching work we do is about understanding and managing your own mind, so I knew it was my responsibility, not his.
I started to explore why I felt so insecure when I hadn’t heard from him in a few days. And what I realized was that in my childhood home, if my father was silent for a few days, it meant all hell was going to break loose in the form of violence. As it turns out Little Maria feels very frightened when she’s ignored. It means she’s done something bad or disappointed someone. Whooooo.
Through therapy and meditation, I was able to go back in time and see my parents with compassion and forgiveness. They say forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. I found this to be true in terms of my healing process.
But what also came through loud and clear is how much I was willing to put up with before I could confidently say it wasn’t working. The subtext to all of it was that subconsciously I felt I didn’t deserve more or better. Love to the little bad girl was conditional, and if she wasn’t perfect, she wouldn’t get it.
I didn’t want to SEE my life story as it had embedded itself in my psyche. I couldn’t see it for fear it was too painful. But let me tell you, when I finally had the courage and felt desperate enough that I had to get to it no matter what was in there, the clarity and peace I found was the opposite of scary.
For the first time in my life, I was able to say to a man, “If this is going to work, this is the bare minimum I need to feel secure.” The bar was surprisingly low. The French CEO chose not to reach for it anyway. But I walked away with all my power, something I had no idea how to do before.
In fact, managing my own mind and accepting my responsibility in doing the work has lead to powerful change in all aspects of my life. I didn’t realize, for example, that my own anxiety and stress was leading to my kids’ behavioural issues at home or performance issues at school. Learning how to separate facts from feelings has been something I’ve been able to share with them as well.
The outcome to my story: I had the surgery on October 30th, and I’ve had the good fortune of learning that my recovery is better than the expected result. Meaning I’m back to an average person’s eye health. While I need reading glasses now, I still have pretty great eyesight.
But having solid eyeballs is not the same as having a solid vision for yourself. Today we are talking about 2020 vision in a different way. A proper vision guides your daily life and provides the direction necessary to chart the course of your days and the choices you make about your career, life, and family.
All a vision asks of you is to come at your self and the world around you from a place of possibility. We’re going to ask you to imagine the future while staying firmly rooted in the present. Those deep breaths we took at the beginning, how’d they make you feel? [MC: I started the event with a meditation and Indigenous Land Acknowlegement]
If breathing mindfully relaxed you, you can always come back to a single in and out breath to come back to present.
When you find yourself shutting down ideas that pop into your brain, jot down the thoughts to explore later. Steph will guide you through a workshop and you will leave feeling inspired and engaged and empowered as the captain of your destiny.
In The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, author Bessel van der Kolk says,
Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.
Consider this your safe space.
Then we did all kinds of fun stuff. Workshops, lessons, panel, a talk about sex with a sex educator. My business partner is so good at what she does and it was incredible to see the progress she’s made as a mindset and life coach this past year. It was so rad. Typically I sit on the sidelines of our events during Q&A, but I found myself taking the stage. I’ve done the material for long enough that I know how to answer people’s life questions, when they struggle with guilt or time or what idea to chase. And I continue to improve as I read and study and learn new perspectives and modes of teaching.
I find the ticket sales part so challenging, but the content is so good. We helped so many people yesterday! Here’s hoping that word of mouth helps our business to grow. Would love to do this full-time. Oral storytelling was so important to my culture, getting to do it for a living would be magical. Putting it out to the universe.