I found my word in February during a day like any other and yet by the time I came home I had twisted the dial to my being in a way that set me on a path I’ve been variously searching for and ducking my entire adult life.
It happened while on a training ride where I was chatting with a guy who is very fast and very accomplished. He didn’t hand it to me and it didn’t just pop into my head right then. It came as a result of whatever conversation we had and truth be told I don’t really remember the content but I do remember how I felt. Later, on that same ride, I had a conversation with my favorite cycling leader that was a big part of what lead to me fixing my eating problems. She asked a very simple question that set me to a very positive bit of self examination.
What is this ‘word’ of which I speak? There is a writer who calls herself Oriah Mountaindreamer* who has written some books that I became aware of through Stronger. These books are meant to help people discover the source of their inner drive, their being, their joy. I haven’t read these books but both Stronger and Phoenix have talked about her book The Call – Discovering Why You are Here in which she says
Remember- there is one word you are here to say with your whole being.
When it finds you, give your life to it. Don’t be tight-lipped and stingy.
Spend yourself completely on the saying.
Be one word in this great love poem we are writing together.
Stronger’s word is, of course, Stronger because she spent a long time developing the strength to escape a very bad relationship – and she won. She is stronger for her and stronger for her children. Phoenix came to understand that her word, at the time she found it, was Empower. She wrote her post about her word in September of 2007 and along with the happiness I felt for her because she had this new insight into why she trained and raced I felt a twinge of jealousy. What was my word and how would I find it? I knew enough to know that you don’t go hunting for your word – you just open yourself up to the notion that your word exists and then sit and wait for it to come to you.
My word is – Affirmation. After years of doing all sorts of things right, of making friends and doing good work, and raising fabulous children and being an honored volunteer and putting some good kharma out into the world I have finally come to a place where the endless, mean spirited, destructive self deprecation I’m so prone to just seems wrong. I’ve always been one to give affirmation to others, cheerleading and trying to help them see their goodness and the positive results of their own work but I consistently failed to do the same for myself. Most positive feedback from others has, to date, been met with skepticism and an “aw shucks, thanks but really it was nothing” when in fact it was something.
So how does a perfectly nice, good, kind, caring person develop so much self hatred? I really hate to do this because it is so cliché but I have to lay this particular pile of doo at my dearly departed mother’s door step. Sorry Mom! I know you didn’t mean to but boy, did you. I think the reason I’ve taken so long to write this up is because I thought I was going to have to tell you about the terrible things my mother said to me. About how she transferred her poor self image and body issues directly to me when I got a little chubby as a kid. I thought I would have to tell you that in a misguided effort to get me to slim down she would say things like, “people just don’t like fat girls” and that I believed her with all my heart and soul and I just knew that when new people met me their first thought was, “EW!! – Gross!” and that I still have to battle that feeling almost every day. Whenever I have a personal interaction that doesn’t feel totally warm and loving regardless of who it is with I’m always pretty sure it’s because my ass is too big. And there’s more – so much more but really it doesn’t matter. What matters is that in finding my word I’ve finally picked a battle that I can win and in winning my battle I win my mental, spiritual, emotional and physical health.
Letting your word lead the way isn’t magic and it isn’t automatic – it is a perpetual and iterative process. I took a nasty swipe at myself just the other night in a room full of people and completely discounted myself as an athlete. Not doing that is still a real struggle but now that I’m focusing on affirmation instead of deprecation I see the snide commentary for what it is – a poop sandwich. And I am an athlete. Unlike last year when I greeted every planned workout with so much self defeat I just skipped half of them, I am now adhering to the plan and deriving the benefits. I feel great and I look great and I can almost say that without embarrassment or fear of reprisal from others who would surely respond by saying, “meh – you look okay but you could stand a lose a few pounds and really – you’re kind of slow to call yourself an athlete”. That now sounds as ridiculous to me as it does to you but it’s been a long time coming.
Hanging on to the word and what it means both about me and about how I need to be in the world isn’t easy. Every day I have to fight a sense of rejection that comes with being unemployed and single. I have to stop asking “why doesn’t anyone want me?” and keep asking “Who do I want? What do I want? How do I get it?” and I have to believe that I deserve to have it and that it’s out there and that I can make it mine. And I do – pretty much… most of the time… more often than not. See what I mean? Not easy, but definitely worth the effort.
note – she’s toned it down a bit and is now going by Oriah.