He got very amped up at one point during what was starting to feel like a sermon, in a very good way. He exuberantly preached on how somehow, at some point, we make ourselves small, and he asked point blank, “Who are you watering yourself down for?”
My breath caught quickly in my throat, almost as though the wind had been knocked out of me. I physically recoiled from the screen Chris Corsini‘s face was taking space on. A very general Youtube Node Shift workshop turned quickly into what felt like a very personal and painfully specific intervention.
And then I asked myself the same question. Who am I watering myself down for? Because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for years now, and it came on so gradually that I didn’t even see it happening.
A few names came to mind almost too easily, because who doesn’t love the blame game, but if I’m honest it really doesn’t even make sense. Those people either wouldn’t want me to water myself down at all, much less be responsible for it or, even worse, they simply just wouldn’t care.
So then who? Myself? It can’t be me. I am repelled by things marketed as fat-free, gluten-free or “light”.
I like strong coffee, full-bodied wine, deep lyrics, comedy with a message and non-fiction. I’m a fire sign. There is nothing that I enjoy watered down, least of all me.
So then for who? An imaginary panel of judges?
Chris goes on to ask us to look back to a specific year; I think it was around 2003 or 2004. So I do. I immediately flash to my apartment on Esplanade. I see myself with my 3 daughters, I see myself singing and recording songs, I’m writing, I’m performing and collaborating. I’m a mother and a photographer and a university student. I am studying Jazz, and making music with my classmates, my friends and my family. My house is often full of friends, acquaintances and their children. I am cooking for all of them. I am confident in myself, and in who I am as a person. I am living in a way that aligns with what I feel deeply at the time to be my personal values.
It isn’t that I had zero insecurities or self-doubt. I did. I was insecure about not having enough money to pay the rent and the bills. I doubted whether or not I was going to be able to give my kids everything they needed and deserved. And of course, I was insecure that my feelings for the person I was crushing on or obsessing about (let’s be honest) at the time were unrequited… and they often were.
But I was not doubtful about who I was or what I was meant to be doing. I had no doubt that I would achieve everything I wanted to in life, that I would reach every one of my goals, be everything I wanted to be and I would live out every single one of my dreams.
I wore whatever I wanted to without worrying that somebody would think it was weird or uncool or inappropriate. In fact, I wore a bright turquoise flowered dress with full bountiful cleavage to an ex-boyfriend’s funeral because he had always loved it when I wore that dress. I knew people would judge me for it and not one ounce of me cared.
Even in my teens, in the 80s, when I was excruciatingly self-conscious about my appearance and lack of life experience, my friend Lisa and I would sing Sinead O’Connor, Little Walter and Joan Armetrading in the streets at the top of our lungs. It never occurred to us even for a second that people might not want to hear us.
I would get deeply hurt and disappointed if the object of my affection wasn’t as interested in me as I was in them, but I still believed in my heart of hearts that it was their loss. That I was cooler, funnier, deeper, more talented and more interesting than the prettier girl that they chose over me.
Fast-Forward back to 2004 – I wrote freely, never worried that people wouldn’t want to read it. I blogged about everything from my deepest fears and most shallow observations to my near-death experiences and my most superficial anecdotes. I wrote in equal detail about colonoscopies as I did about vampire-inspired plant-based (is that an oxymoron?) canapes. And I did it without hesitation. Some of what I wrote was beautiful, most of it was bitchy, some of it extremely oppositional and questionably controversial, some of it confusing, some of it was kind of funny, and some of it was just terrible. But all of it was me.
Now, I write a blog post less than once a year, and when I do, I cringe apologetically as I click on the publish button and feel flooded with pangs of regret immediately afterwards; as though the crawlers of the interweb have no free will to choose whether or not to read what I wrote.
Now I catch myself questioning the validity of my feelings, distrusting my instincts and, instead of writing, asking myself devastating questions like “Who would even want to hear what I have to say?” The HORROR. I know and for a LEO, extremely concerning. And yes, before you ask, I have sought professional help because #yourmentalhealthmatters but alas …
I was sitting with one of my daughters recently and I confessed to her that I felt detached from myself lately, that I felt I had somehow derailed without realizing it. I was having difficulty expressing what I meant but realized quickly that she understood without me trying. She seemed almost relieved, as though a weight had been lifted, and she too confessed. She confessed that she and one of her sisters had recently discussed this very same topic…. that they shared concerns about me because I so rarely wear leopard print or sparkly things anymore and that they couldn’t remember the last time they had seen my cleavage on display.
I’ll let you sit with that for a second.
I sat before her in my tired mom-who-has-stopped-participating-in-her-own-life-and-started-buying-her-clothes-at-the-grocery-store outfit and deflected, I’ve gained so much weight since my knee injury, nothing is comfortable, sparkly isn’t practical at work, and nobody wants to see my cleavage anymore.
I immediately regretted saying the last part. What a stupid thing to say to the daughter you have always strived to set an example for. What an obscene thing to say to the young woman you have worked so hard to infuse confidence and courage into her entire life, the one who you have told – time and time again – that ZERO % of their value is based on their appearance and even less what others think of it.
It took months before I realized the real significance of what she was sharing with me, that it’s not literally about the leopard, the sparkles, or even the cleavage. And by “it took months” I mean I just realized it today, 10 minutes before sitting down to write this blog post. My clothing isn’t the ailment, it is a symptom of it.
And while it doesn’t explain the root cause of the disconnect that I feel, the off-grey T-Shirt and Costco lounge pants ensemble illustrate it very well.
Chris ends his impassioned and inspirational address with a call to action: Level up and let your light shine bright.
I haven’t mastered it yet, but I keep catching myself in the act lately and course-correcting. Ah ah ah! no water in the wine! And I think that’s a pretty good start.
In the meantime, I’ve challenged myself to non-apologetically publish a minimum of one blog post per week. At least until my broken ankle heals enough for me to get back to work. Broken ankle? What Broken ankle? (you ask) Tune in to next week’s post for more on that adventure. 😉