I have the great fortune of leading a coaching group with some remarkable women. Every week I sit with them and watch as they push hard past some dark and ugly obstacles that a mere mortal might ignore, looking the other way as they continue on their journey, disregarding the muck that is dragging behind them. Every week when I worry that perhaps I am pushing them too hard, asking them to reach too deep inside themselves, they show me the power of human connection and the depth of strength we all have lying inside us. It inspires me. It moves me. It is the most delicious delicacy I can consume. I try to stop time and keep the clock from ticking past the hour, wanting one more story to emerge, looking for another opportunity to connect dots and see discomfort turn to empowerment.
Today was the most challenging day we have had. Even more difficult than the first day we sat together, with everyone squirming just a little bit in their seats, not sure how they were going to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Some of us knew each other, some were complete strangers. Others were familiar faces but, there we sat, seven women all parked at the side of the road ready for a brief respite to revisit their personal maps, willing to consider that a detour might be in order but no one really sure if they had enough gas in their tank to tolerate some roads where they could not anticipate the distance or the destination. With a promise to keep them safe and a prayer that we all had the strength to bring our full selves to the table, we jumped in, hazmat suits at the ready, and prepared our journey deep into the depths of ourselves. Of course, I was the only one who sort of knew where we might be going but, in truth, part of the fun of facilitating these groups is never truly knowing where you might end up or what obstacles might jump out in front of you. Perhaps I am like a storm chaser. I want to get inside that tornado. I want to understand the velocity of the cyclone. I want data to help better predict the next storm. Will i ever abolish the storms from existence? Not likely but, each time, I have better preparation and more fortitude to tolerate the winds and debris and lots of reserves to deal with the aftermath.
Each week we go just a few meters deeper. Every week we fill our air tanks so we can submerge just a bit more and let ourselves linger under the water before we need to push up and catch our breath. I try to guide the women to learn how to pass their tanks between them so they can support one another if one of them runs out of air. I try to empower them to find ways to encourage each other to take a deeper breath before going down and to hold hands so they don’t drift too far off in the sea. Today, the group showed me their skills. I witnessed the shift. I did not have to search for clues or try to squint really hard to see if there was a difference. They boldly and loudly showed me that they were paying attention, that they were committed and that they had the ability to hold their breath as long as they needed to in order to make sure that their comrades were going to be alright.
And I was transformed right there just watching them.
Today we talked about chaos. We talked about the space that chaos takes up in our lives and what we do to mask it, control it, avoid it, banish it. We talked about our respective fears of chaos. Some of us admitted that a little chaos was actually ok. We have the ability to find order in the chaos or we have surrendered to it, hopefully muting its powers over us and diminishing it to an annoying gnat rather than a looming wasp ready to bite and poison us.
Today we talked about vulnerability. I love this topic. I look for any opportunity to explore it – either on my own or with others. I have no predisposed position on vulnerability except that it wields tremendous power, both positive and negative, and we get to choose which direction it moves in. We have the right to determine if we are going to use vulnerability as a strength, allow it to put ourselves in a place of power or we can decide to hide behind our vulnerability and allow ourselves to build walls to protect us from the vulnerability. Ironically, vulnerability actually allows us to take down the walls. Being vulnerable means you are willing to be exposed and, when we are using vulnerability as a strength, we need no additional fortress to protect ourselves because we can handle whatever comes our way.
Today we talked about how vulnerability and chaos play together. We discussed our ideal state where the sun shines, we are living in technicolor, we pick candy off trees and skip around gleefully – something like Oz. Perhaps our most perfect happy state is one where we live life in full color and can breathe in all the beautiful fragrances that float amidst us. Perhaps this is the place where our hearts are filled and we are blissful. Is this a real place? Perhaps? Possibly, if we are living consciously in our lives and looking at chaos as something not to be controlled but to be embraced. If we begin to shed ourselves of the fear that keeps us embroiled in a tug-of-war with chaos, with no feasible outcome other than us being the victor. If we allow ourselves to be open and exposed without fear of assault or compromise. If we allow ourselves to accept ourselves for who we are and we stop filling the space that chaos fills to try to control the outcomes. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to the chaos, perhaps we can relinquish control and begin to accept that good enough is, in fact, good enough.
One of the beautiful spirits in our group, a woman who has magically lifted to us to another level of understanding, put it quite simply today. She said – Vulnerability allows us to shift chaos into chaOZ and lets us live in a new normal. We can be vulnerable and blissful all the while we have chaos in our life. If we learn how to accept, embrace and utilize these gifts properly, maybe we can live in Oz.