I feel uncomfortable with a sentiment I hear sometimes that says you’re more “hardcore” if you give birth without an epidural. Birth is a trip no matter what, and it’s also only part of the larger picture of becoming a mother - much of which is already painful and “hardcore” enough.
What’s important is that women have options, and for me, the best option was to skip the pain meds and give birth without them.
I think intuitively I knew that I needed to have an experience of extreme discomfort. Like many Americans, I got very good at avoiding pain of any kind - physical, emotional, social, etc. I had started to buy into the belief that the point of life was to get comfortable, and I think my soul was hungry to feel things that were very uncomfortable.
In birth, I wanted to feel everything that was happening in my body and go places in my mind that were unexplored.
In short, I was seeking an experience that felt completely and unequivocally real.
Once you have an experience like that, whether it’s giving birth, experiencing deep love for someone, facing death, or anything that brings you to your knees, I think your concept of “reality” shifts.
It becomes less about “The Real Housewives of Orange County” and more about the things you can really touch and feel in life, like a tree, or the ocean, or meaningful connection with another human being.
You start to realize that there’s a lot in our lives that isn’t actually real.
And when I say that something is “real,” I mean that you have a felt connection to it in your body.
Think about scrolling through your social media feed. How do you feel?
When I do this, I feel a bit numb, some anxiety, and the sensation is mostly in my mind. I’m just imagining scrolling and seeing other people’s posts.
Now think about the last time you felt really seen and heard by someone. How do you feel?
For me, I feel firm in my core, like I want to sit up straight. I feel grounded and joyful. It’s a much stronger feeling than before.
In your work everyday, there’s probably a lot of pressure to attach to and worry about things that aren’t actually real for you, like:
- Sales quotas
- Spats between employees
- The number of email subscribers
- An artificially-imposed deadline
When I was getting back into the swing of things at work after having Wyette, I was struck by how much time I’d previously spent worrying about things that weren’t important to me, like the number of LinkedIn followers I had, or website analytics, or “do I need new headshots?”
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the things that people tell us are real but that we don’t feel a bodily connection to.
When we keep directing our energy toward things that aren’t real for us, we lose our sense of reality and we get lost.
Three years ago, my therapist asked me what kind of berries I liked to eat. She had to start with berries because my sense of who I was and what was real for me was so distorted that I couldn’t clearly give an opinion about much else.
Fast-forward to today, where I’m comfortable closing my Facebook account despite the advice not to, declining projects, and directing my energy toward things that feel real and resonant to me. Also: it turns out that I like every kind of berry except cranberries.
After committing and recommitting to what’s true for me over the past three years, I’m finally starting to recognize what’s real in my life, and that makes it much easier to do away with the things that I know are just noise.
I share this because I meet a lot of professionals who are stuck in a world that doesn’t feel very real to them. They feel like they’re on autopilot, or like a head attached to a body that doesn’t get to feel alive very often.
They say things like, “I want to do work that’s meaningful,” “I want to be able to see the impact my work has,” or “I want something I can touch and feel.”
When so many of us as individuals aren’t connected to what’s true for us, we become a society that doesn’t recognize what’s true. We develop a warped sense of reality and become a mob of disconnected talking heads. That’s really dangerous, and I think we’re seeing the fruits of that playing out in our world today.
Your mind might be wondering, “Okay, so what do I have to do in order to have more of what’s real in my life?”
But actually, this requires an undoing. A letting go of the things that don’t resonate for us. A constant sloughing off of the expectations, pressures, activities, relationships, or environments that only bring us a shallow sense of what life is.
If you feel as though there’s not much in your professional life that’s real, I encourage you to try something:
Imagine holding that “unreal” thing in the palm of your hand. Let’s say it’s an employee handbook you have to write.
Now look at this thing, the handbook, and try to distill all the way down to the very essence of what that thing is. Depending on who you are, an employee handbook could boil down to safety, bureaucracy, or anything else.
Next, ask yourself: do I connect to the essence of this thing? Does this feel real and substantive to me?
If you’re not into bureaucracy and that’s how you see this handbook project, then it’s time to either renegotiate your relationship to that piece of your work or find a way to get out of writing it.
On the other hand, you may surprise yourself and see that it really is about safety or organizational effectiveness, and that’s something you do connect with. Great! You’ll write a handbook that actually reflects those values.
If you feel like you’re on the brink of not knowing what kinds of berries you like to eat, I want to help. You can click here to set up a free 45-minute call with me to talk about how to get back to that place of truth within you and within your career. You'll have a chance to get clarity about what the next best steps might be for you and be able to ask questions about your unique situation. If you want to talk more about working together on the call, I’m open to that, too.
When we honor what makes us feel embodied and neglect the things in our lives that are empty, we tap into what is true, and real, and ultimately the key to our freedom.