Sometimes hard things are just…hard.
It’s not about you.
It’s not that you didn’t do the right thing.
It’s not that you didn’t do enough.
It’s not that you weren’t up for it.
Or missed the boat.
Or gave too little.
Or too much.
You didn’t blow it, or screw it up, and it’s not that you didn’t try hard enough.
Sometimes, you are just a perfect being in the midst of a challenging situation.
Things can get hectic at work.
Or things can get hectic because you can’t find work.
Your lover breaks up with you.
You miss your period. (Or you don’t miss your period.)
Your kids get sick.
The toilet overflows again, the moment the plumber leaves.
All of these things can throw a woman off her game and fill her with stress that can easily slip into some form of self-attack or self-doubt.
When we are stressed or overwhelmed, it’s like the world has gone topsy turvy. It’s hard to get your balance, hard to find your center, and super easy to turn on yourself. When things don’t go the way we think they should, we blame ourselves, even if the circumstances have absolutely nothing to do with us.
Women tend to do the instant self-attack move in far greater numbers than men. And proof of this is well-documented. According to The Institute of Leadership and Management, half of female leaders regularly experience self-doubt, in contrast to fewer than a third of male managers. Experts have also found that women are more likely to blame themselves for setbacks or failures, while attributing their successes to luck.
I have been going through a challenging time, in the past few weeks, helping my aging momma (the Bubbe at Mastery), navigate hip replacement surgery. And I noticed that with all the strong floods of emotion that aging, illness, and hospitals stir up inside me, I was starting to turn on myself in a big way. I was scared, and disapproving of my own fear. Feeling helpless and wondering what to do. Not sure of my role. And feeling wobbly.
I knew that the only way back to sanity was through pleasure. But the last thing on earth I wanted to do was something pleasurable.
I think that children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren of immigrants tend to have a legacy burden that we get from our ancestors. Our ancestors’ focus was always on survival, so they were constantly looking at the negative and perceiving potential danger, in order to stay alive. But now, we have the opportunity to change our brains, and change our wiring.
And untangling those wires takes practice. When you are trying to rewire a legacy, in your lifetime, it takes A LOT of practice.
What is the practice? A willingness to step away from the habit of self-attack, and into the direction of pleasure. Yesterday, I was a jumble of thoughts and fears, regarding my mom. So, even though I didn’t feel like it (this is the important bit – when you are making an internal shift, inspiration strikes somewhat down the road of action), I walked to my favorite coffee shop. And after two lattes, I dragged my somewhat, slightly-less-cranky ass to the gym. I decided to do some laps in the pool. This is where the shift began to happen. What do I mean by shift?
Well, when we are in the mode of self-attack, we fall out of grace with ourselves and the universe.
We are no longer in flow. Self-hatred and shame break a woman’s connection with her divinity. When we can’t feel our divinity, we feel like sh*t. And we have been taught to be our own perpetrators in this disconnection from source.
Pleasure is the road back to flow.
The road back to embodiment.
The road back to self love.
So, there I am, lackadaisically swimming, when I notice a woman in another lane who is easily ten years older than me, and quite a bit heavier, and yet, she is besting me in her laps. My competitive streak kicks in, and I not only keep up with her, but I pull ahead. Then, she blows me out of the water – she starts doing the butterfly! I have not attempted this stroke since I was on my high school swim team. But, my juices are flowing. I do three laps of butterfly! (Yup, I’m feeling it today…)
When I ran into her in the locker room, I told her what an amazing swimmer she was, and how she inspired me. Turns out she not only swims, but skis – and has season passes to three different mountains. She was an athletic powerhouse in her 70’s. Because I pushed myself out of my shame cycle, by choosing the pleasure of the latte, and the gym, (instead of stewing in my own juices of self doubt and shame) I had an inspiring swim, met a really cool woman, and found my way back to myself (and my butterfly).
The experiment of choosing pleasure is not easy. It takes courage. And actually, you can’t expect to feel pleasure right away, even when you take the first step, or first lap. Sometimes you have to travel down the road a bit, before your chemistry shifts and you find yourself in flow again.
The thing is, pleasure is your birthright. It is always the way home.
And taking the first tentative steps will open the portal between you and your divinity. After you take those baby steps down the road, the universe will open, and you will find yourself back in flow.
With so much love and pleasure,
Regena Thomashauer, aka “Mama Gena”
The School of Womanly Arts
Regena is a feminist icon, a teacher, a speaker, a mother, a best-selling author, and creatrix and CEO of The School of Womanly Arts.