Are you okay?
That’s what the email asked.
A thoughtful question from a concerned soul on my email database. (Thank you, I love that you asked.)
When I read it, though, I wobbled. “I don’t know, am I okay?” I thought.
I had my son in my arms. He had just fallen asleep at my breast.
I was checking my notifications one last time before my weekend offline.
Outside my bedroom door, I could hear my daughter and her best friend playing ‘mummy and baby’, giggling all the while.
Makia and her best friend Aurora. They were born on the same day and see each other at least twice a week for ‘family’ dinners or play dates.
I had a full stomach, slow cooker minestrone and homemade garlic bread.
My bestie and husband were just outside my bedroom door, sharing stories of the week and waiting for me.
I am okay. I thought. I really am. But what am I writing if people think they need to ask?
I started sharing deeper stories of my life just recently, and I don’t have any plans for them.
Each week I allow my intuition to guide my writing. I share challenging days or thought patterns, recent realisations, tools, and the harder parts of the human experience.
I definitely lean towards the harder parts. But, as we all know by now, just as the highlights reel isn’t the whole picture, the hard parts aren’t either.
I know all about sharing the highlights reel, I shared it for ten years on Instagram.
I choose to share the hard parts because so few people do.
So fucking few.
And for those ‘people of influence’ who do share their hard parts, they do it in one of two ways:
- Through tidy little quotes or,
- With years of hindsight behind them and the hard part. The stories become faded; they lack emotional punch.
I’d love to have known what was going on in his life when he was ‘going through hell’.
Most trained coaches are taught to share the hard parts from a place of transformation, not from the trenches.
I did plenty of that on Instagram during my “coaching” years. Tidy little summaries of a hard time I went through, complete with 2-3 tidy bullet point takeaways for the reader.
And what this post doesn’t talk about is the breakdown I experienced learning this particular lesson.
It doesn’t interest me at all anymore. What interests me is sharing it all – especially the messy parts, especially when I’m IN the messy parts.
Because the work never ends!
Before I started ‘working on myself’ (for want of a better expression), I was deeply uncomfortable with other people’s mess. It almost repulsed me.
My story was that I needed to be strong, and I took that story further by believing that everyone needed to be strong. To have their shit together.
“Get your shit together”, I used to think when faced with stories of depression, addiction, or any form of perceived “weakness”. I’ve had to get my shit together; you get your shit together. Nobody’s going to do it for you.
Oh, the judgment.
In 2019 I was working with a coach in a small group environment.
My world was about to be shaken. 2019.
I had been exposed to mindset work by this point. I had some awareness. I knew what the ego was. But my world was about to be rocked.
The coach, me and two other people were doing an exercise together. We had to document a pattern we went through—the pattern of our overwhelm.
The exercise aimed to gain better recognition of when the wheels fall off.
You start by describing how you feel when life feels fucking amazing. When you’re springing out of bed, smashing your morning routine, eating well and feeling like you can take on the world.
That glorious state of flow.
Starting from there, you work down and down and down until you get to the ‘bad place’—the days when you feel completely overwhelmed. The days when you don’t even want to get out of bed, talk to people or cook a meal—the days when nothing feels possible.
Theoretically, once you know your pattern, you can avoid going to the ‘bad place’.
Before we started doing the exercise, I distinctly remember thinking, “This will be easy. I don’t even get overwhelmed”.
But I was willing to participate.
The first person did her cycle. WOW, I thought, judgingly. That person is really messed up. I can’t believe they do all that crazy shit.
The second person went. HOLY SHIT. People are messed up, I thought. These people really need to get their shit together.
It was my turn.
Hand on heart, I can draw a line in my life between how I perceived myself before doing that exercise and how I perceived myself after doing that exercise.
With gentle but firm coaching, I was coaxed to recall behaviours and habits that determined my reality.
I drew parallels for the first time between the days on end that I would disappear inwards and avoid my work, my gut rolling with anxiety, and my overwhelm.
My original overwhelm cycle, 2019.
It was the first time in my life that I realised that I had been lying to myself.
Everything wasn’t okay. I was struggling, and I didn’t even know it.
Would my life have been better if I didn’t participate so fully in that exercise? Maybe. I certainly didn’t have an awareness of the wobbly days back then.
But I also didn’t experience the incredible highs that I now do. I’d never experienced presence. My relationship was surface level, as were my friendships. I didn’t want children. I didn’t FEEL anything as deeply as I do now.
The good or the bad.
Feeling the things.
So I think no. My life is infinitely better now.
I have wobbly days.
And I have days when I sit in the sun and feel the soft hair on William’s head as it runs across my face. My heart feels so full.
Mornings in the sun with this one. He melts my heart.
I have days when Makia and I share a bath, and she throws her sturdy little body into my arms. I wrap them around her and feel her aliveness. I find my peace there.
She is so ALIVE.
I have days where I share the table with my favourite people in the world, and we dig into a bowl of warm, nourishing minestrone that I’ve just ladled from the slow cooker. I am filled with gratitude.
Food is a great love in my life.
I am okay.
And I promise to start sharing more of the okay days.
But I won’t stop sharing the wobbly days.
Immediately after sharing my friendship struggles story, I received emails, direct messages and texts from my community sharing their stories and struggles.
Some were deep in a similar conversation with their friends.
Some recognised similar patterns in themselves.
Some just told me how proud they were of me.
Okay, so this is probably the best way to begin an email to me.
I received applications! (You guys, I want to meet all of you! I’ll reply to everyone personally on my work days this week.)
And I couldn’t stop thinking about how fucking important these conversations are.
Don’t stop asking people if they’re okay. I love that I was asked.
But let’s also normalise friendships, even online ones like this, that allow us to share our mess.
We have just this one wild, messy, indescribable life.
A double rainbow on my internet-free weekend. Life.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Fia lately. I’ll leave you with these lyrics from her song Shedding Skins.
Oh, I want to feel it all
I wear my heart on my sleeve
Saying here I am, can you see me
Oh, I am beautiful and fucked up
In the most glorious way
When standing in my truth
Who cares what people say
I love you guys. X
** Originally shared to my email database on the 7th of August, 2023 **