Since my divorce six years ago, I’ve been cutting out the chaos in my life by erasing the drama in any given situation and focusing on the truth. I work hard to clear away the internal chatter that fuels an erratic response based on assumptions and my own insecurities. It’s a daily practice and it hasn’t been easy to retrain my mind. But, the payoff has been huge: I have less anxiety, less anger, more explanations and insight to who I am and why, and ultimately more peace.
Last weekend was Staycation Soulcation. It was a 6 hour one-day retreat in my hometown of Eliot, Maine. There were 30 of us. Jen and I had prepared a day centered around presence, peace, power, and love. We stuck to our script(ish) but as always, we were open to the flow of what the group brought to the space. And just like every Soulcation before this one, the word “unworthy” came up more than once.This idea that we are not enough, or that we are too much often comes from the obnoxious chatter in our heads. We carry our experiences and labels given to us during childhood into adulthood. We think that just because we are older now, that we should be free from from all of it. But that’s not true. Unless we’ve acknowledged our pain, the jabbering voice only get louder and the stories only get longer. In moments of clarity and validation, we understand that this is an internal process. It’s a battle with self-doubt.The only way to soothe self-doubt is to love ourselves.
I like to think there are two characters living within each of us.
Reba is fiery self-doubt. She likes to say things that are not true. She uses fear of acceptance and belonging as the thesis for her script. She twists every interaction we have with other people into a tangled mess to leave us questioning if we said and did the right thing. She relentlessly tap-tap taps the keys of her typewriter to create scenarios that haven’t even happened yet so that we continue to stay silent, trapped, and feeling less than everyone else. She stifles our voice by shoving old drafts that contain embarrassing and awful experiences from our past into our mouths. She shames the fuck out of us. She refuses to let us change. Sometimes she uses blame. She lights a match and sets the drafts in our mouths on fire. We cough, spit, choke and spew all of the distorted words onto everyone else. We’re just trying not to get burned, but we end up spreading the flames onto others through our negativity, anger and irrationality. Our hearts get charred. We beg for forgiveness from others, but never actually learn anything so that we can forgive ourselves. The cycle repeats itself. Reba feeds more paper into the top of her typewriter and with a resounding “DING!” and “ZZZZZZing”, she rolls to the new line to continue the saga.
Lainie is calming self-love. She says what’s real. She is clear. She is honest. She sees things logically and fluidly. She is open to all of our emotions but is unwaveringly calm. She is not naive. She is not stupid. She has learned from past mistakes and doesn’t hold a grudge. She forgives. She does not give a polite shit about societal standards and there is a kid-like essence to her even though she is the same age as we are. She is the truth. Instead of writing exaggerated autobiographies about the past and creating fictional horror stories for our future, Lainie uses colors to paint a picture that only includes what is happening in the present moment. When we look closer at her canvas, we are struck by its simplicity. There is no chatter. No type marks. There is silence. We take a deep breath. When we relax, it feels like we’ve been submerged in cool water on a hot day. It reminds us that we can always begin again. And there is peace.
Back in February, I met my friend, Jess* out for dinner in Boston. When I saw her walk into the bar, I quickly noticed that she was wearing a high waisted black skirt that hugged her hips perfectly, black bootie heels that made her super-model tall, a rose colored silk crop top, and a black blazer. My Reba lit a cigarette. Jess and I know each other from yoga teacher training. We hadn’t seen one another in a few years and any time we had spent together while in training, I was usually wearing a sweatshirt, with my hair piled on top of my head and no make-up. The first thing Jess said when she reached my bar stool was, “Ohmygod! Your face! You’re wearing make-up?! You look so pretty!” Reba began furiously pounding away at her keys because she knew she didn’t have much time. She got my attention. When I looked over at Reba’s page, it said, “YOU ARE UGLY.” I started to spin. At some point in my 20’s I instilled the belief system that I was not pretty enough to ever leave my home without wearing make-up. The idea was put in place by comments and remarks made by other people, gazes and reactions from friends and strangers, magazine covers, and TV. Six years ago when I went through my divorce and decided to live a more transparent life, I realized that it meant showing the world my real face. For me, it was a tangible way to erase the internal belief system. It’s been one of the most freeing changes I’ve made while uncovering my authenticity. Sometimes I wear make-up now and sometimes I don’t. In the moment with Jess at the restaurant, while staring at Reba’s page, I took a deep breath. In less than a second, Lainie brought me back to the present moment. I felt my shoulders come away from my ears. I said, “Thank you” to Jess after she gave me the compliment. Because that’s all it was. A compliment. The truth was a canvas that mimicked the shades of my face: reds, pinks, oranges, and blues. Reba’s words were gone. They could have developed into a trashy novel but they no longer had any power over me. I also noticed that Reba’s cigarette had been stubbed out. Instead of comparing what I was wearing to what Jess had on, I looked down at my own jeans and top and saw more colors. They were beautiful. Self-love won and Jess and I spent the rest of the night being present with each other while drinking wine, eating good food and laughing into our napkins.
Last week I taught a hard yoga class. What made it especially difficult was the transition between two relatively easy poses. The energy in the room IMMEDIATELY shifted. People were pissed. Suddenly it sounded like a typing room from 1960 because all of the Reba’s were getting their stories on paper at once. There was wet ink everywhere. I saw some of the titles: “I am not Good Enough,” “I shouldn’t be in This Class,” “Why is Everything in My Life So Hard,” “Jaime Sucks,” “Jaime Must be having a Bad Day,” and “I can’t Do This.” We paused. We all stood still for a good minute. Our eyes were closed and our heads were bowed. I spoke softly and told the class that this was simply a hard yoga transition. That in the present moment, there were no stories beyond getting from pose A to pose B. Even the hard part was relative. I asked that they erase the chatter and get rid of the tales that weren’t true and come back to now. Collectively they softened their breath. I reminded them that they had a choice: path or perspective. With love, they could figure out another damn way to get from pose A to pose B OR they could switch their thoughts. They could release the grip on their hot and heavy typewriters by adding cooling breath for clarity. The room went back to color.
It would be nice to live a life where just Lainie exists. But since we are imperfectly perfect human beings, Reba will always be a part of us too. Sometimes Reba gets desperate and lights her own typewriter on fire just to draw our attention away from any sort of self-love and truth. Sometimes we can take her out of our consciousness and find quiet and color with a single breath. Sometimes it takes a hundred breaths. Sometimes our self-doubt is so deep that it requires more work on our part by going to therapy, talking to friends and family, reading books and being a part of a safe group where our truths can be shared. We do that work while holding onto Lainie’s hand. She is patient. She is a constant choice. She will never leave us because she IS us. We are worthy of her love.
As I told my class last week, “When we edit out our self-doubt, the only thing left on the page is the truth.”
Painting by Kate Jorgensen Bejarano @artsymamakate www.etsy.com/shop/artsymamakate