It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
So many people I speak to lately tell me they feel like wanderers. They say they feel like their lives aren’t moving in one particular direction. Some say they feel like they are in transition, while others say everything feels up in the air for them. Some say they finally feel open to things they never were before. I’ve heard some version of this message from people at all stages of life, no matter the age.
To them I say, “Same here.” I, too, have abandoned the fantasy of certitude.
COVID-19 has robbed everyone of certainty. I was certain that my government would take care of COVID quickly and effectively. I was certain that it would distribute vaccines in an efficient manner. I was certain that there would be people to help me navigate my way forward in this mess. Nothing has been like I thought it would be. That’s why letting go of the fantasy—letting go of what I thought was true—is the best way forward. It’s the truth of where we find ourselves.
In the past year, I’ve seen friends who lost their businesses get up and, in an instant, move to a different city or state. I’ve had friends lose jobs and collect unemployment for the first time in their lives, which forced them to alter what they think of themselves and also those they used to judge for doing the same. Just a few weeks ago, a good friend's entire worldview shattered when she became a widow in an instant. Other friends have taken sabbaticals—some forced, some voluntary. Others have been fired or woken up, looked ahead at the limited time they have left, and said, “I’m finally ready for something different.”
Being open to something new—admitting you are a wanderer—well, that requires you to be brave. It forces you to admit that you are standing in the unknown. It requires you to rethink almost everything you thought was certain and that you thought you knew about yourself and life. It forces you to be willing to do some deep soul-searching, and of course, it requires you to be courageous enough to let go in a big way.
I was talking about all of this with my brother Bobby the other day. A few years ago, he picked up and moved away from Los Angeles to Wyoming in an instant. I was mad at him for leaving at the time, but I also admired him for daring to live his life outside the lines. He talked to me the other day about my own dreams; how important it is to have them, how important it is to play with them in your mind, and how important it is to ask yourself what’s stopping you from pursuing them.
We also talked about our childhoods, about our family's belief systems, and about how we have each spent time looking within. Then he asked me something that stopped me. He said, “I know you’ve looked hard at what you took away from our parents, but have you done a deep dive into the lies you've told or sold to yourself?”
“Wait, what?” I said. “Lies I told myself? Lies I sold myself?”
Bobby told me that he believes that everyone adopts an identity and a persona for themselves. For example, one might tell themselves, “I’m the smart one” or "I’m the scared one” or “I’m the good kid” or “I’m the screwed-up one.” But to really be brave, you have to be open to the fact that you may have sold yourself a bill of goods. You may be inhabiting an identity that’s too narrow and too restrictive. It might even be dead wrong—a lie.
“You’ve got to be willing to look at everything in your life and then feel your way toward the authentic you,” Bobby said.
Ironically, I already knew a little bit about what he was talking about. I just hadn't heard it explained that way before. Several years ago, a friend said to me, “You are so tender and gentle. You are such a little girl at heart.” I was shocked. Then another friend said to me, “Don’t you know that you are an artist?” I was stopped cold by both. I had no idea who they were talking about, so naturally I challenged them.
“I’m not tender; I’m tough,” I countered. “I’m not gentle; I’m strong. I’m not a little girl; I’m a woman with a capital W. I’m not the smart one. That slot is already occupied in my family. And, I’m not an artist. I can’t even paint.”
Turns out, I was dead wrong about all of it, and I was really wrong about myself. Like so many, it turns out that I wasn’t my mother like I thought I had become. Sure, I have a few of her traits, but I’m also very different from her, and I did myself a disservice thinking we were one and the same. It wasn’t a disservice to her but to me.
It turns out that I’m not any one thing, and neither are you. You can be the funny one and the serious one. The tough one and the tender one. The smart one and the silly one. The extrovert and the introvert. The warrior and the one who is afraid. The fighter and the one who wants to rest and play. We are all multifaceted, and I urge you to explore that. In an age when everyone thinks of themselves as a brand, don’t limit or try to box yourself in.
In this new year, be willing to look at everything. I’m willing to put it all on the table and either move things around or throw some of it out altogether. Doing this exercise allows you to let go of the straight jacket you have put on yourself. It allows you to evolve, to wander, to move, and to drop an identity that you adopted just because you thought you needed it to be loved, seen, or enough.
I’ve taken to writing down qualities I love about myself, and then looking within to see if they are hiding in plain sight. (Hint: They usually are.) I’m on a journey to change it up in ways I’ve never been willing to in the past. I’m willing to silence my mother's extraordinary voice that drove me much of my life (thank you, mummy) and now make room for the tender, kind little girl I silenced—the one who wants to live more spontaneously, more playfully, and more from her open heart.
I'm excited to launch my new book imprint The Open Field, which I did this week. It will allow me to raise up the voices of people who want to challenge what is and imagine what can be. That’s my definition of an Architect of Change. I’m also excited to grow, to let go of what no longer serves me, and to be more honest about who I truly am. No more hiding. No more lying. No more pretending.
Life is so precious and so fragile. One minute you are getting dressed for dinner, then the next minute you are dead on the floor. We aren't here to waste time. My hope is that this column doesn’t waste yours, but that on the contrary, it makes you dig deep and that it heals your heart, opens your mind, nurtures your soul, and guides you towards the one meaningful life that is uniquely your own—the one out there in the open field.
Your life will not always be a happy life, take my word for it. It will not always be easy. It will not be without pain, tears, rejection, and/or grief. But it will also be inspiring. It will be filled with joy, meaningful, breathtaking, thought-provoking, and totally your own, if you choose to make it so.
You, my friend, are brave enough to be your own beautiful, tender-hearted self. That in and of itself is what moves the world. You are capable of dropping the flimsy fantasy of certainty and wandering out into the open field. That’s where you will find yourself. That’s where I will be waiting.
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