"You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens." Rumi
All year I was looking forward to going to the Emerging Women conference in NYC, and after attending the first year in Boulder last year, I knew this was going to be a yearly event for me. It is so hard to articulate the experience of this conference, but basically it breaks you open and demands you to be in your true nature - whole & authentic. Though indeed, I"ve been breaking open for years. Although there is so much joy in my life, there has been many losses. Way too many losses. Yet I know they are just small cracks compared to what is to come. One of most difficult experiences - the loss of one's mother.
Emerging is hard. And very painful.
In the weeks before I venture out for EW, we were informed that my mother would no longer be able to receive treatment for her 20 plus year battle with cancer. There is nothing left they can do. I was shocked to see the changes in her in the last few weeks. She is a little over 100 lbs and has no hair (due to a final stint of radiation). She has fought battle after battle in these 20 years, as she traveled her journey, including the loss of 2 sons, hitting a deer on her motorcycle, and three months in ICU. And I've lived with this underlying anxiety and perpetual grieving.
But what's hit me like a ton of bricks recently, I feel guilty for living.
One huge thing that my mother has taught me, however, is how to live. Live from your heart, no matter how misunderstood you might be. No matter what the circumstances bring.
With this gift to live, I head to Emerging Women as planned. For a few days, at least, I could stop crying.
It was just one brilliant woman after another, including all the participants. And by brilliant I don't mean having the highest IQ's (although I am certain most of them do), I mean living the truth of who they are. For so many of us, this means making radical decisions…to leave the job, the marriage, the life of comfort to go to a place of uncertainty.
Brilliant women are courageous & unapologetically themselves. No permission needed.
In both years of Emerging Women, Brenè Brown is the first keynote speaker. If you don't know her, spend 20 minutes watching her TED talk on vulnerability. There is a reason it is one of the most watched ever. Her book,The Gifts of Imperfection, came into my life at, of course, the perfect time. It was a game changer for me. Brene said, "The first thing we look for in others is imperfection - humanness, but oddly, it is the last thing we want people to see in us."
Arianna Huffington was like a wise mother reminding us that the cost of success has just that - a COST. For her, it was her well-being. As she collapsed, exhausted from years of sleep deprivation, she eventually developed the third metric of success - which is the basis of her book, called Thrive. When I am tossing and turning at night or simply just trying to accomplish one more thing before bed, I hear Arianna's beautiful Greek accent in my head saying, ..
"Sleep, darling, sleep."
The conference was four days, so I can't go into everything that moved me.
It was a lot.
One particular woman who blew me away was Dominique Christina. She is author, poet, and activist with a big message and a soft heart, and quite possibly, in my opinion, the next Maya Angelou. As the slam poetry winner for several years, her words are potent and powerful. Then, there was Sera Beak. She was trembling last year as she spoke (extreme stage fright), but not this year. A tiny person with a soft voice that actually speaks VOLUMES. She advised us that if she can use her voice that, WE CAN. And, we MUST. This is particularly true for me, and where a lot of my fear shows up. And Eve Ensler, this woman got one BILLION people to dance all over the world, to stand up in opposition of violence against women. This is my second time hearing her, and I was on the edge of my seat on both occasions.
My wellness idol, Kris Carr spoke, and she was her sassy, silly self. She reminded us that our spiritual assignment is to get more connected to ourselves. And gently shouted at us to "Grow Motherf$%ers." This is a daily work in progress for me to connect to myself, and a core mission in my work. Gabrielle Bernstein has written many (beyond her years) wise, spiritual books based on the teachings of A Course in Miracles. Although I have never studied the full text, I am familiar with many of the teachings.
One things she said that stuck with me is -
"We expend so much energy trying to keep it all together that we actually
block the simplicity and grace."
Of course, I have heard this before. But today, I really heard it.
In her latest book The Desire Map, Danielle Laporte writes about the fact that our goals are never about the goal itself, but how we want to feel. Using the Map as a tool, we can shift our goals as our feelings guide us. During her talk, she asked the audience to shout out words and puts her spin on them.
In addressing grief, Danielle said -
*It demands our full presence
*It catches us off guard
*We feel it with your whole body
*It comes in waves
*Sometimes, we need to make a date with tears."
I can't get enough of Emerging Women. So when I return home, I am listening to
a talk on EW podcast's called Grace & Fire by Christanna Rusmussen
about grieving. She was not part of Emerging Women in NYC, but I had heard of her book, Second Firsts. In this talk, she says the term "the waiting room" in regards to grief. This is a place that place that feels so familar to me. I have been in the waiting room of my life for years. I am not exactly sure how Christina felt in her waiting room as she grieved the loss of her husband, but I know how it feels to me.
I feel lost. And numb. Unable to cry. Unable to move forward. Waiting for the pain, perhaps. If you are in a waiting room, you will know it.
As one of my dear friends said, she is making her waiting room pretty and purple. She might be there awhile.
As I step more into my power and emerge, my mother is dying. And, yes, it's scary.
I know that I am breaking open.
And becoming more fully human.