Three years ago today, I was working at my last catering gig.
It was a gigantic wedding in a beautiful yard, but it was catastrophic from the beginning – starting with when I had said yes to working the event when I wanted to say no. I said yes, because I wanted to be helpful, I wanted to be a team player. I said yes, because, three years ago, I was more concerned with how others perceived me than how I felt in my own life.
I remember spilling a sauce down the back of a woman’s beautiful silk jacket. I remember the dishes piling up, without a convenient water source. I remember lugging things around, getting progressively more upset and disgruntled as each moment passed.
And, at the end of the night, I remember taking off my waitressing shoes and throwing them in the trash as I walked, barefoot, to my car.
I wasn’t mad at the gig.
The gig was an ordinary disaster, one that I had become lovingly comfortable in over the twelve years of waitressing prior.
In fact, I wasn’t mad at all. I was ready.
Six month prior, I had made the terrifying decision not to become a social worker, a year and a half and almost $80K into earning my social work degree. I had realized that the life that I was building for myself was no longer a good fit for me, and I started consciously moving in another direction – a direction of my very own.
But the readiness that I felt on this day three years ago wasn’t about the preparation. It wasn’t the sparkly new website or the clients that were starting to come my way. The readiness that I felt had to do with choosing to be all in when it came to the life that I was building.
I didn’t have any money saved. I didn’t know how it was going to work out.
What I knew was this…
I wanted it more than I had ever wanted anything before. I wanted it so badly that I was willing to risk the possible heartbreak of failure in order to make it happen.
I wanted to be the beneficiary of my hard work. I wanted to be able to bring all of my creative talent to my daily grind. I wanted to help people – as many people as I could reach.
I wanted the kind of life where I had the freedom to take really good care of myself. A life filled to the brim with rest and love and fresh air.
And, I wanted all of that more than I wanted immediate financial stability. Or a lot of material possessions. Or a career that would impress people at my high school reunion.
For the first time in my life, I gave myself permission to want something for myself – for the health of my bright spirit – instead of wanting something because it was what I “should” do or what others expected of me.
For the first time in my life, my expectation wasn’t perfection – it was the messiness of choosing to become an active participant in my life.
These last three years have been the most spectacular and challenging of my life.
Since officially starting my business as a personal blog seven years ago, I have shown up here in some capacity every single day. Over these years, I have been consistent in my service to my audience, but more than that, I have been steady in my desire to pour all of my attention and my adoration into this dream.
I had never created something that I showed up for so consistently before.
It wasn’t easy. There were many moments of panic and frantic maneuvers to try to make enough cash to pay my rent. I cried every day of every launch that I had for the first year and a half. I got myself some amazing support to help teach me how tobelieve in myself and the power of what I was creating – holding me together in moments when I really just wanted to give up and run away.
Today, as I was smiling to myself this morning, I was feeling really quite proud of myself for showing up and navigating this business these last years. I started thinking about the three things that helped me devote myself to this dream and I wanted to take this opportunity to share them with you.
Also, a note: this is my recipe for absolutely everything – not just starting your own business. Wink.
1. Keep it simple.
It is far to easy to allow yourself cozy up to self-sabotage when you project yourself far out into the future of your projects. You are not going to know what it is going to look like ten years down the line, no matter how hard you think about it.
Instead, pledge to show up, be present, and do the best work that you can today.
Ask yourself: what small action can I do today to get me closer to where I want to go?
Start there. Start with one small action and then another.
2. Decide for yourself when enough is enough – and what your expectations are.
In my two years of business I taught myself to define success on my own terms. When people would ask me what success looked like, I would (not so) jokingly say: “The bills got paid and no body died.”
That right there was what I was aiming for.
Of course, I had other ambitions. I am writing a book. I want to own a house. I am consciously making space in my business and life for a baby. But, I get to choose what success means to me. I check to choose to celebrate the fact that I have worked for myself for three years and the bills got paid and no body died.
In a sea of people ditching their day jobs to make six figures doing absolutely nothing while dancing around the globe, I think that it is HUGELY important to remember that you get to define this for yourself – and you get to celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how large or small they might appear if you were to compare yourself to other people.
3. Your business works when you do. You are your #1 asset.
I show up fully when I am well-rested, well-nourished, and making sure to take really good care of myself. For me this includes carving out space for play and making sure to shut down all of my devices to connect with the world around me every so often.
There are many people who would like you to believe that you earn your rest by putting in your time. We live in a society that reinforces that very idea.
But, I want to feel good in my skin more than I want to have cash in my bank account. I want to bring the best of who I am to everything that I do – and I cannot do that if I am burning myself out a little bit more each day.
Fill yourself to the brim, so that you can serve the world from the overflow of your energy. Prioritize your self-care. Put meeting your own needs at the top of your daily agenda.
There is no lack here unless you believe there is.
You will flourish – but your business (and life) will flourish also.
A Thank you
Oh man, I really freaking love you guys.
I love this community. I love creating pieces of writing and e-courses and live events that serve your vibrant hearts – and help you reclaim the power to stand in the middle of your life and create something beautiful all around you.
I (still) spend the majority of my waking moments feeling so unbelievably lucky to get to do this work.
I want to thank each of you you for being such bright light in my orbit.
I want to thank you for showing up for yourself each day. You are making the world a better place, simply by allowing the beauty of who you are to shine through.
I want to thank you for all of your support for me over the last three years – and especially those of you who have been here since I started Medicinal Marzipan seven years ago.
P.s. If you’re aching for the bravery to cultivate a life of your very own with ample space for rest and taking care of your sweet self, I want to invite you to join me next month for The Deep Exhale. I am planning a BIG, exciting surprise for next Wednesday, September 9th when registration opens, so keep your eyes peeled. Whoop!
Today I’m delighted to share this guest post written by the lovely Marsha Philitas.
As you read this post there are liberation movements growing right outside our doors. The Black Liberation Movement and the LGBT movements are calling for us all to examine who has power and why. Protests, campaign disruptions and more are rumbling and challenging the status quo.
As sensitive, caring souls we have a tension to deal with. Our hearts are hurting and grieving right along with the protestors. We hear of the unjust deaths of people like Sandra Bland (a black woman arrested on a traffic charge and found dead in a holding cell 2 days later) or India Clarke (a woman who was murdered for being a trans woman of color) and our hearts feel so much pain that we’re overwhelmed. We want to help with the healing but are so tempted to protect our sensitive souls by turning everything off and tuning out.
Believe it or not, your sensitivity is not a liability in these times. The noise and crowds that come with protests may make those forms of action unmanageable for you, but there are other powerful ways that you can help to bring about justice and equality.
Each movement in history has required both disruptors AND visionaries.
Disruptors help to tear apart oppressive systems that perpetuate inequality. That work is crucial. But after the protest comes the planning. Visionaries are needed to help create the world that will replace the old one. As sensitive souls, this is where we fit in. Our empathy and creativity allows us to see beyond what is to paint a realistic picture of what can be. Your compassion gives your the courage to embody values of justice and equality.
1. Do Your Internal Work
Take the time to evaluate the places where privilege and oppression have taken root in your own life. Where have you benefited from those systems? Be honest with yourself and take stock.
2. Start Reading and Educating Yourself
Inequalities in America are not new and your access to the history of this topic is just a Google search away. Autostraddle.com compiled an amazing list of readings related to #BlackLivesMatter here. It’s a great start.
3. Speak out within Your Spheres of Influence
Bring up #BlackLivesMatter at the dinner table. Share the statistics on the murders of transwomen of color at work. Spread awareness where you can. If you’re an ally and not a member of these groups, this step is even more important. Black and LGBT people are often burdened with doing all the work to increase awareness. It’s an emotionally exhausting, and sometimes unsafe, position to be put in. If you’re an ally, have the strength to use your privilege to speak in spaces where other voices are marginalized.
4. Ampilify the Voices of Marginalized Folks
Were you moved by an article written by a transwoman of color about their experience? Share it. Do you have a role of hiring speakers or arranging trainings at your job? Reach out to consultants of color. Find out who is speaking on these issues and support their work. Give donations if possible.
5. Pressure Your Government Representatives to Make These Issues a Priority
The Black Lives Matter organization and Campaign Zero have both identified key policy demands. Find one you support and write/call/pester your local Congressman to endorse them.
You don’t have to tune out or feel helpless when you hear of injustices. Let your heart guide you to take action and use your compassion to build a better world.
Marsha Philitas helps social justice-minded women learn to balance ambition with ease. Her latest program, The Sisterhood, is an intimate group coaching experience where women heal from the trauma of oppression and build joy-filled lives.
When you find vibrational alignment with You, you personally thrive. You feel good; you look good; you have stamina; you have energy; you have balance; you have clarity; you have wit; you have abundance of all things that you consider to be good. You thrive in all ways when you come into Energy Balance with You. Vibrational Relativity – that’s what it’s all about.
At the idea of it, I can feel the strain of restriction pulling my head to my chest, a stance of shame. The idea of focus misinterpreted as a chastisement, as if before this moment I had been too lackadaisical or discombobulated. That in the mention of focus, what I hear is I need to rein myself in. But the focus that is called for here is the discipline of paying attention to what is yours to pay attention… and surrendering the rest.
You energetic balance here requires, initially, that you buy into the idea that you deserve to feel good in your life.
And also that “feeling good” is not the same as “happy all the time” – none of us are happy all the time. There is not a magical land where all hardship or stress is evaporated completely and will never exist again. Feeling good is about the approach to hardship, about choosing to believe that we are supported, always, by the world around us.
It begs of you to believe that you deserve the beauty and happiness and love that is all around you all of the time. That, in this life, your soul is chiefly concerned with the things that make you feel really good. That you are allowed to be selfish in prioritizing you own joy. That when you take care of yourself first instead of last, you best serve the world around you. That your divinity is reflected in the divinity of the natural world on this planet, a world that you belong to, even when it feels like you don’t belong anywhere.
That you are allowed to live this way.
In this life, you are autonomous in creating your own joy.
The focus here is on paying attention to your daily life, noticing the things that light you up, filling you with exhilaration and belonging, and the things that fill you with dread. It requires that you you know that your vibrational relativity has to do primarily with YOU – your heart, your spirit, the things that make you feel – and making choices that are in energetic integrity for you, meaning they are aligned with your own internal compass, your own determination of good and bad.
The secret equation here is doing more of the things that feel good and less of the things that make you feel bad.
But, don’t we have to do things that feel bad?
I know that many of you believe that. I know that I believed that at many points in my life. I told myself that life was made up of things that just had to get done so that I could squeak in something good around the edges. But, I don’t believe that anymore. I am no longer willing to buy into the idea that there are things that I absolutely have to do.
Instead, I believe in choice. I believe that I am making choices all day long, every day. That I was and am choosing to continue living the way that I are living, choosing to remain in my complicated family entanglements, choosing to head in to work at the job that makes me feel anxious and inadequate. However, my choice extends to how I perceive a situation, as well.
You get to choose to do something that you might not really want to do, but to reframe how you think about it.
There are things that I lovingly do for my business that I would prefer not to do. There are times when I’ve made choices for the health and happiness of my family, that, if I were really honest, my heart wasn’t invested in. However, in those moments, I was also able to see how those choices supported the life that I did want.
You get to choose to enjoy something that isn’t very enjoyable. You get to choose to make it work, to make it fun, to bring your best self to it. You get to choose the “hard” choice, the one that you may not particularly want to prioritize, but you must recognize that in each and every moment you are exercising your ability to choose.
The focus that is being called for here is choosing to pay attention to the things that are working – the things that light you up, the moments of joy, the choices that you can make that impact the overall feeling and trajectory of your life.
This focus informs you that may not have the internal fortitude or desire to overhaul you life in entirety.
First, it’s exhausting to do so. Second, those sorts of major revamps often floods your receptors with excitement and the invitation of challenge, but ultimately leave you exhausted. Instead of “fixing your body in 30 days” or embarking on a “21 day to jumpstart your ambition,” the focus that your spirit aches for is the slow, conscious practice of exercising your choice each day.
This is the permanent overhaul – the devotion to honoring choice as our best tool for living well.
The focus that is called for here is the reclamation of the minutes that make up your daily life, your reinvestment in the quality of the fabric that you are sewing together as you navigate your existence on this planet. There is discipline to this type of approach and patience. You are called to show up, not just once for a grand decree, but into the mundane daily meetings and community demonstrations within the community of your physical, emotional, spiritual and energetic bodies. You are called to the focused state of receiving and interpreting information before making well-informed, intentional decisions.
You are being called to show up, repeatedly.
You are being called to show up, joyfully.
You are being called to choose how you want to be living.
That is your business, your responsibility. That is your soul directive.
I can feel the stirring in my heart. The moment of perfection, the opening.
This perfection unlike the perfection that I strove for many years ago.
That perfection involved the tightly held hands in fists, stray hair securely gelled to my head kind of perfection. The straight A’s. The body perfectly shaved and waxed and primped and readied. The need to constantly raising the bar higher and higher, without realizing it wasn’t possible to achieve at that magnitude as a mere human being with a body full of needs and heart full of desire.
This perfection is organic, subtle.
Hands in the dirt, rearranging my sweet garden of succulents when the sun passes down right behind the boat yard behind my house. The smile when I notice, again, that the blue boats on stilts always look like a mountain range when the sun ducks behind them. That pleases me to no end, my own personal mountain range in a land that is decidedly flat. This perfection feels like a private joke between us, me and my life. It is the way that I, find the space between other moments, moments of striving or struggle. It is how I soften into loving my life on the whole.
This perfection is about stringing together moments that I am able to truly see myself reflected in – my heart, my dreams, my own peculiarities and predilections. This perfection is highly personal, because each and every one of us blooms in the specificity of what lights us up.
Instead of achievements and external validation, this perfection is a collection of moments well loved.
I aim to be love drenched.
Sweaty and skin warmed from the sun, love drenched is my goal. It is how I want to feel about my partnership, my friendships, my work. I am obsessed with setting up the structures that allow me to love radiantly, deepening into pouring all of myself into what is in front of me without the fear that the love won’t be returned or that I might be thought of as ridiculous.
We have to be comfortable being thought of as ridiculous – or too much, or not enough.
We have to be fully committed and immersed in what we are building.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t care about others or that we become self-obsessed, but it does that we don’t allow our love for our lives to get spoiled by trying to micromanage whether or not other people like us. That is not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to ourselves, first, always. We have to love ourselves. Our ability to love – and accept – our worlds are key to building a life that makes you feel ecstatic about living.
The presence of love doesn’t negate adaptation. Acceptance isn’t stagnation.
The key here, for me, is to know that I can love my soft, tender spots, adoring the parts of myself that I am also actively working on. I imagine these parts of myself like the worn out elbows or pulled string in a sweater, worn again and again and again. There is no shame here, in wearing thin in places. There is no shame in this vulnerability.
I ask myself: what if I treated myself like a precious thing?
What if, instead of berating myself for my tenderness, I devoted myself to patching up the places where I am worn thin?
The truth is, what I love grows and changes. What I love is steeped in possibility.
This is through the constant stretch, the desire to keep showing up and surrendering to what is that creates the fertile ground to plant future seeds in. What I love feels empowered – capable to handle the next task at hand. Collecting these moments of organic perfection between moments of disappointment or overwhelm, reminds me that I there is life outside of this one moment of hurt.
It reminds me that I am here, committed to the long view – the life that I am creating over time as I continue to show up.
It is a shift in perspective. A deliberate choosing. The decision to prioritize the joy, the moments drenched in love even in the presence of negativity.
It is the discipline of pausing from the swift action of my body, moving from errand to errand, to notice the true happiness in my body when I realize that there are four bees frequenting the lavender plant in front of my house or the taste of the absolute perfect ice cream treat on a hot day or the coziness of an impromptu family dinner party in the living room.
This is how I show up – how I keep myself present.
This is I build a love drenched life, moment by moment.
Hi there! I’m Pace. I live in Portland, Oregon and I love it here. I’ve been married to an amazing woman named Kyeli for nine years, and we recently made it legal thanks to Oregon allowing same-sex marriage! I’m a Pathfinding coach, I love to play Dance Dance Revolution, and my favorite genre of music is chiptune dubstep.
I love my body, but I used to hate my body. And before that, I hated my body for an entirely different reason.
This is my story.
I was assigned male at birth.
That means that when the doctors looked at me when I was born, they said, “It’s a boy!” They assigned me the gender of male; I didn’t choose it for myself.
I lived a fairly normal life – as a boy – until I was 26 years old.
This is atypical. Most transgender folks feel some kind of gender-related discomfort at a young age. Me? I was oblivious. I played video games (mostly Tetris), dated (mostly girls), had sex (mostly with girls), ran a two-node online bulletin board (mostly for the conversations), and went to college (mostly computer science) – all the while identifying as male.
I wasn’t into stereotypical boy stuff, like sports, but I chalked that up to being a geek, and never gave it a second thought.
I knew about transsexuality in the abstract. I even had a couple of transgender friends. But it never even crossed my mind that any of it might apply to me.
I dated a woman who was in the process of transitioning from male to female.
Seeing, feeling, and experiencing her journey flipped a switch in my head. Instead of “this transgender stuff is a fascinating topic to learn about,” it flipped to “this is something I could actually do.”
And once that switch flipped, I dived in headfirst.
I researched how to know whether I was transgender. I introspected so hard I almost imploded. I took an online “Are you transgender” test, scored “sorta kinda maybe”, then told my friends I had scored “probably totally definitely”. What was that about?
I began to identify less as male and more as female. It didn’t happen all at once. I experimented with presenting as female, online at first because it was so much easier, and it felt so right to be treated as female that I wanted it more and more.
Presenting as female didn’t feel like wearing a mask to me. On the contrary, it felt like I had been wearing the “male gender role” mask all my life, and I was finally taking it off.
But as my internal gender identity shifted, my male body started feeling… wrong.
I started experiencing an uncomfortable feeling toward my own body, a feeling I had never experienced before. It felt like something between discomfort and disgust. The technical term is body dysphoria, and it’s not limited to transgender folks. It’s the feeling that your body is not the way it is supposed to be.
My first thought was, This is horrible!
My second thought was, I’m so lucky! Other trans folks have been feeling dysphoria since they were very young, and I was oblivious until now, when I have the independence, the means, and the support to do something about it.
So I did something about it – I changed my body to look female, so that it would feel right to me and so that others would treat me as female, which would also feel right to me.
I had my facial hair zapped by lasers to make it go away. Under the guidance of a legit gender therapist and a rogue endocrinologist, I began taking estrogen, which sent messages to my body saying, “Smooth out that skin! Grow those breasts! Change that neurochemistry!” and many other tiny, beautiful things, like floating instead of sinking when I went swimming, because my body fat ratio had changed.
It was my second puberty.
And just like the first one, it was hell. I cried at the drop of a hat. I had to relearn how to think and how to feel. My sexual response changed from a lightning bolt to a rolling, cloud-to-cloud lightning rumble. I became even more sensitive, emotionally and physically.
Imagine a puberty-themed montage to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger”, and we’ll fast forward past the fascinating, painful, and tender details of my transition, and skip to the end.
After a year and a half, I was free from body dysphoria. I loved my beautiful new female body.
But it didn’t last.
Estrogen had also altered my metabolism; I was eating the same things and the same amounts I always had, and I gained 100 pounds in two years.
The voice of my inner critic piped up with, You went through all that so you could have a beautiful female body, and then you ruin it?
Being raised as a young boy instead of a young girl, I dodged a lot of the “you must look like a supermodel” beauty standards. It’s one of the rare cases where a woman can have male privilege. But I didn’t dodge all of them. I wanted to feel beautiful, and I had been cursed with a very specific idea of what it meant to be beautiful – namely thin.
I thought back to when that switch flipped, when I first decided that “female” fit me better than “male”. I asked myself, Why did I go through all this?
And the answer was:
I went through all this so I could be more me.
I immediately stood up and yelled, “I didn’t work this hard just so I could trade one set of shitty gender stereotypes for the other set of shitty gender stereotypes!”
And more quietly, “I didn’t work this hard to love my body just so I could find a different reason to hate my body.”
The love felt like a warm, yellow-orange glow centered around my heart, then spreading out to encompass my entire body and a little bit more. The love came that day, and it’s never left since. (I occasionally forget it, but then I always remember.)
I gave my high heels to Goodwill. I stopped wearing makeup.
And, at long last, I started being myself.
Pace Smith (The Pathfinding Coach) helps sensitive spiritual nonconformists live wild crazy meaningful lives. She’s also a teacher, a speaker, a writer, a Sufi dervish, a bi poly trans gamer geek, an open-source Reiki healer, and a tournament-level Dance Dance Revolution player. Download her free eBook, Find Your Path Now, to STOP living on autopilot and START living the wholehearted, unconventional life you were meant to live.