I’m driving down a Texas highway headed to a conference center in Livingston TX for a Woman Within weekend. No, I’m not blogging while I’m driving. I stopped for a chocolate shake at Chik-Fil-A in some ugly strip mall Texas town because I had a hankering for a treat that I won’t have for four days and this blog is begging to be written. Some things can’t wait even though I need to get where I’m going. I’m saying yes to myself at the moment.
About 10 years ago next month, I was inching down a Chicago highway in rush hour traffic trying to get to my Woman Within weekend in Delavan WI. I arrived with 10 minutes to spare because I had no idea Chicago traffic heading north would be that bad. The 4 hour drive took me 6 hours, and I was a mess when I got there. It wasn’t just the traffic that had me frazzled. I had no idea what this weekend was about nor what would await me. I just knew that something had to change. And the common denominator for all of my problems seemed to be me. I assumed the change had to come from within this woman.
A friend recommended this weekend to me about 2 years before I actually committed to going. It was expensive, and, to be honest, I wasn’t ready to look at myself. I was still searching for answers in boyfriends, jobs and the things that surrounded me in life. It took another two years for me to realize that the right man, job or enough money was not going to help me get out of the rut I was in. And I was finally open to looking under the hood of this earthly vehicle. So, I choked up the change and headed to the House in the Wood – a small, rustic camp that actually doesn’t exist anymore.
There were about 36 women there that weekend. Half were staff, and half were participants like me. What I found in that sacred, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful process surprised me. I met the teenage girl that I had abandoned so many years before and finally accepted how much pain she was in. I thought that others had abandoned her, but I realized that I had let her down. Her addictions and behaviors were masks for depression, and I walked away and let her flounder. To be gentle with myself, I didn’t know any better. It would take 40 years for me to come back and look her in the face and make amends for leaving her to the forces of the world.
My work that weekend was about learning to say “no”. It was powerful and the first real “no” that I had ever screamed to the world. I said no to abuse. I said no to a world who thought something was wrong with me. I said no to relationships that no longer served me. And I said “no” to what the Universe had been offering to me. And, in saying no, I learned to say “yes” to myself.
I now have a Louisiana driver’s license in place of the Indiana license. My super-short hair is replaced with a bunch of curls. I have more lines on my face, and the once salt-and-pepper gray hair at my temples is now completely gray. But, the biggest difference between that woman that arrived in Delavan 10 years ago and the woman today is that “no” is one of my favorite words. When I say “yes” to the first thing comes along, I am taken on a path that is often out of my control and not in my best interest. I’ve learned that by saying “no”, I choose the paths I want to take. And I’ve learned that my wisdom in taking care of myself is much more developed than I imagined.
Surprisingly, there’s a lot more opportunity out there than I thought. I think my “yes”‘s came out because I was stuck in a place of lack. “I’d better take what’s given to me because it may not pass this way again.” I was dead wrong. Since I’ve been saying “no”, I’m learning that the opportunities keep rolling in. And I have more navigational ability than I ever imagined. Every time I say “no” I’m teaching myself – and the Universe – what I want.
This is not my weekend. This weekend belongs to the participants who will be driving to Livingston tomorrow. Witnessing and supporting other women in their soul’s work is always sacred and inspiring. We are so much more powerful and beautiful than we can ever imagine. Seeing a women discover that for the first time is an honor and a privilege. Every time I staff I remember with great detail my weekend and my work. I remember saying “no” for the first time with a force that cracked me wide open. The memories are already flowing. I can’t wait to see how this weekend touches me this time.