I’m a little mad, but so are you…

This spring I received the best advice I can remember in a long time. I was prepping for a call with my life coach Russ as I built my ‘story’ and planned for the call.

We started as usual talking about my success and celebrations from our last session the week prior. Russ worked hard to teach me that habit, and this time, I knew it was coming and was prepared for it. “My celebrations are…[insert pre-planned list].” We moved through our first topic and it wasn’t long before I dove into my recent ‘breakthrough’ about who I really am and why. It all started with the Enneagram…and wait, how much time do you have Russ?

This is normally where I’d jump in to explain my Enneagram number and how I figured this out. I’d explain I didn’t take only one free test, oh no…I’m an over achiever.  I took several free tests in addition to the full 100 question version (which yes, I paid for). Why? Because this over-analyzer wanted my 40 page document with dissections on Christen Chapman. I mean…this seemed like the most logical path towards what I thought was ‘self discovery.’

Before I could dive deep into my newfound self, Russ patiently helped me pause. He asked a little about how I had gotten to this place in just one week (no doubt recognizing my no-Enneagram-number self from last week’s call). I explained that I had spent my time doing my homework on self development and so many answers had come. Didn’t he want to know all about it??

And then he did something I did not expect. He casually spoke out loud some of the best advice I’ve gotten in my adult life.  He said I should try not to over identify with anything outside of myself that tries to tell me who or what I am.  No test can define who I am, or who you are. What we do today defines who we are. What we do tomorrow defines who we become…he went on to say more wise (yet simple) things that actually started to piss me off.  Here I was out over $100 for this damn test…this test that garnered results that cut me so deep that it made me cry!  Why was he so ready to throw all of that out the window?  Why didn’t he want to better understand how the test exposed me to all of the worst parts of my personality?  I really respected him so I knew I needed to take his advice and think on this…try to understand why a life coach wouldn’t want all of this ‘valuable’ information about me…hmmm…

Let me add that by this point, I had over 3 years of intense interest in self-development.  I probably should have known better.  The thing is this test was extremely detailed and insightful (to the point that I felt it read my mind in some parts), but 90% of the results were negative and told me what to focus on to avoid being my worst self.  To top that off, it reminded me that I was very immature in my self-awareness and put me inside a box.  The box had written in bold on it, ‘people pleaser’ and I was more than ready to step inside and lock myself in there for a long time while I tried to find a way to create some new, better identity that didn’t make me want to run for the hills.

Regardless of my feelings…which were definitely flowing…I went through some of my old notes and realized I had written on almost every single sheet of notes after every call with Russ to be careful what I focus on.  “Where focus goes, energy flows.”  Then it hit me.  I was literally focusing every bit of energy, including my own unique gifts, into dissecting everything that was wrong with me.  What did I think I was going to see more of after this?  What did I think I was going to find next–something to celebrate or something to shame myself with?  After all, the results made me want to hide my true identity more than it made me want to improve.  What did I hope to get out of this painful and ineffective exercise?  Honestly?  I never even asked myself that going in.  Lesson learned.

Even writing this now, it’s been months since that call and I never forgot his advice.  He was so patiently insistent on it (I think I tried to bring it up again the next week lol).  Only now looking back do I recognize that I have been doing this for YEARS.  Pretending the ugly truth was real when I knew it didn’t align with my soul…beating myself up for years in hopes it would make me more happy, more peaceful, easier to be around, or whatever else might make me feel more loved.  This, my friends, is madness.  So I went digging again…

And just like that, I’m sent inwards again to find myself.  Ugh…this is actual work, guys!

In looking for the truth, I found my fear for the truth.  In looking for my purpose, I found my fear of success.  In looking for my mistakes, I found my blessings. Somehow after all of my digging for excuses to let go or give up on my dreams, I found that no matter how scared I am, that is not who I am.  I am not a quitter.  Why did I think I was?  I had spent years focusing on everything that I was not and everything I could not fail at.  I spent my energy, time, resources and emotional strength doubting every good thing I had done and praying nobody would notice the bad.  Again…madness!  Madness to the point that I was more comfortable with some pre-coded test telling me who I am and what to do than I was sitting alone with Christen.

So what did I get out of this?

I’m aware.  I’m ready for change.  I’m still trying.  I’m less afraid of failure and more afraid of never really trying.  I wish I could tell you exactly where the journey began and when things really started to change but just like many things in life, it cannot easily be measured.  What I can tell you is that it’s possible.

The first step to any change is usually acknowledging the need for change, even if you aren’t ready to change the scariest parts of yourself.  You can take one step…one step you are comfortable with, and that change, could change your entire life.  I know it changed mine.  That step for me was asking for help.

Having a personal coach has changed my life.  Not because he tells me who I am or what to do, but because he holds the mirror up in front of me and leads me to it.  Seeing myself as I really am (not better, not worse) was step 1 to self-love.  And let me tell you, self-love is a choice.  Even if you have done terrible things or just a few things that aren’t perfect and drive you crazy, you are worthy of loving yourself.  And if you believe that your capacity to love others is only as large as your capacity to love yourself, what other choice do you have?

I’m a little mad, but so are you…

To awakening the dormant

Pay attention to what makes you better.  Notice what makes you naturally come alive.  Then follow it.  But how?

For me, the hardest part about this mentality and moving forward has been that I don’t know where I want to end up.  I can see the beauty and the fear in each direction.  I keep waiting for that PULL….that thing to tell me ‘Christen, this is it.’  And I’m still waiting.

I spent years thinking I had better stay put until something more obvious comes along so that I don’t miss that special moment.  So I sat and I waited…and waited…ignoring the moments that made me feel truly alive in case I had misunderstood them or crossed a line.  Over time I found that I got older and less excited about it all.  I got physically heavy and emotionally, too.  I was afraid to make a decision and ‘unpack’ in a place where I might have to stay put.  But, that’s just what I did…only I didn’t have to make a decision to do it.  Or in reality, my indecision was the biggest decision I could have made.

And then one day everything started to fall apart unexpectedly.  I watched young friend’s lives ripped from them/us with no warning.  Watched their families agonize over endings that came way too soon. Choked up and confused a million emotions stirred over me and I felt the need to move…it didn’t matter which direction.

So I went in search of change.  Anything…anyone…any reason to do something different.  This is when I immediately found wonder and opportunity, and ultimately, was confronted with the best and worst parts of myself all over again. And that’s when it hit me:  Nobody is really ‘safe’ anywhere.  Not in war nor in surrender.

You can stay put, you can run away, you can chase your dreams or decide you are too afraid to fail before you ever begin–NONE of these options guarantee safety.  None of them guarantee anything actually.  So why shouldn’t we follow what makes us smile?  Why shouldn’t we go out on that limb and see just how far out we can get before we fall?

Maybe it doesn’t matter how you get to where you go as long as you GO?  Yes it’s scary and unpredictable, but the best parts of life aren’t standing by waiting to tap you on the shoulder or cuddle you to sleep.  Keep moving, keep exploring, keep believing…because what the hell else is there to do?

“Before you can make a difference you have to make a decision.”                                             -I forgot who said it (oops)

I decide to live each day a little more openly and to believe in the things I cannot yet see.  I decide to step forward despite having no clue where I’m going because the only guarantee is that some day I won’t have the opportunity.  I’m still astonished at the unexpected beauty that can rise from the terrible pain…but the truth is, much like the duality I expressed in myself, the world is filled with the same.  We choose whether we see light or dark.  We choose the ending.  We choose to smile…or we choose not to.  I know where I stand.

To the three young ones who died…we must live because you are not.  We must speak because you are silent.  We must be awakened before we are laid to sleep.  We must do it for you, and we must do it for ourselves. I am forever grateful for the guiding hands that beckon me forward…

In loving memory of Jon, Bryan and Jeremy.  We miss you every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To awakening the dormant

First, let me introduce myself…

Thank you for reading this…it means you are possibly interested in what I have to say, here to support me, or maybe just bored.  Either way, I appreciate you!

A few weeks ago I asked for topics of inspiration for me to start my blog.  I was really touched that I received about 10 recommendations.  That is 10 people who took the time to read my post and offer me some support.  That is priceless…times 10.

In true Christen fashion I first typed up the topic list and outlined a few notes for each topic.  I decided I would do that and see which ‘moved me’ first.  For my first blog (well first recent blog), I decided to take Linda’s idea to write from the heart.  Interestingly enough, this was the one topic I couldn’t outline clearly–yet I was most drawn to it.  I’m completely seduced by the idea of moving forward without a plan…like who am I?

For those who know me well or have worked with me, you know that I am very ‘type A’…I’m a beaver…I’m a C on the DISC…I’m an operations person.  Details, outlines, data, and processes are my jam!  But for the purposes of this blog, there is another side that I am dying to tap into.  It’s my ‘I don’t care what you think’ and ‘fuck the comma and sentence structure’ side where I get to turn off my need for perfection.  That is my hope…to be honest and vulnerable.  Because the truth is that for every instance of me attempting to draw within the lines of life, I have just as much of me dying to scribble.  I hold that side back because I don’t know where it fits in the scheme of who I am.  To maintain a longstanding joke, I will refer to this other side of me as ‘Amy.’

Who is Amy?

Amy is the name/persona I was given by my parents when I acted out of character as a kid.  It was characterized by me coming out of my shell and suddenly turning into an outgoing kid who wanted attention.  Now I know this sounds silly or ordinary, and it is, but the reason it stood out for me is that I was such a reserved, shy and timid kid growing up.  I was scared and shy TO THE CORE.  Scared to be seen…disliked…judged…scared to be vulnerable.  But Amy, she was afraid of nothing.  She surfaced in the strangest moments, and she only came out when I felt safe.  My mom and stepdad were the first to see her and the first to love her.

As a kid looking for a purpose, I was confused.  In my attempt to stand out I ironically perfected the art of fitting in.  I would often be found hiding or tiptoeing physically and metaphorically around others.  Usually this happened around those that I admired for being bold and confident.  I observed them and their opportunities, their challenges, etc.  I was and to this day am still SO drawn to confident people.  I have always yearned for my turn to step into the light, and yet I somehow have self-identified as someone who should not ‘go there.’  But every now and then…my Amy would seep out.  Amy is bold and fearless.  She is honest and she scribbles.  She wants to have fun and be wild, she doesn’t need to please you.  She will not be liked by all…she may not even be liked by many.  But that does not bother her.

OK so let’s stop and acknowledge that I do not have multiple personality disorder–LOL.  This is not Split where I am going to now introduce you to Veronica or Harry or Little Allison.  That could be fun though…

Rather, this is my story of duality within me.  It is the yin and yang of Christen Chapman.  The proof that both chaos and order belong together…the strange and beautiful feeling of being everything and nothing at the same time.  I decided to start here because the rest of my writing, should it stay really honest, will be threaded with both Christen and Amy.  I can’t separate them clearly because they fuel one another.  Christen’s need for order created Amy’s need for chaos.  Neither can exist without the other.  Or if they can, I don’t want them to.

So here we are…I have introduced myself.  Next, I would love to meet you–the real you.  It doesn’t have to be today, and it doesn’t have to be in writing.  If you have ever gotten pulled into a deep conversation with me, you know what I am asking for.  I am asking for you to take off your mask with me.  I believe it is our masks that separate us from one another.  While we all wear them (some more often than others), we all recognize the fraudulence of it.  That in turn creates a sense of distrust towards one another.  This all happens without us even processing it, and therein lies the danger.  I’m sure you will see me dig into this concept in a later blog.

I will end this ‘introduction’ with a quote that has inspired me to take my mask off more often.  I heard it repeated in an audiobook by Dr. Brene Brown and it has been on my mind since…

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Musical inspiration for this post:

 

 

First, let me introduce myself…