Today’s blog post is in fact my email newsletter from a week ago. I received more loving responses from my online community than I’ve EVER had before and have been inspired to share this piece publicly, though it feels somewhat frightening to do so. Even more reason to share? I think so. I won’t do this again — my private email newsletters are really where more of the stories and connection takes place these days — but you are very welcome to receive words like this from moi (a couple of times a month, max) by joining us right here.
One night (or very early morning) when I was 23, I sat, quite drunk, on the steps to my dear friend Tim’s apartment in Melbourne. We’d been out partying and dancing and it was a ritual of ours to end nights like this, locked in conversation so intense I sometimes scared myself.
“I’m afraid that our friends only like having me around because I’m bright and optimistic. What if they find out that sometimes I get sad and down and dark?” I’d asked, voicing for the very first time my fears about being unloved and unloveable.
What if they don’t like the real me?
What if they find out I’m a fraud, that I don’t know what I’m doing?
What if they laugh, lock me out, turn their backs?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve imagined wrapping my arms around 23-year old Claire, gently whispering to her “Oh, my darling, you are so loved, just as you are. Light and dark. Confused and creative. Down and up. You are wild and wise, all of you and all of your parts are wonderful.”
This morning, I found myself giving 29-year old Claire the same chat.
After an excellent day of work yesterday (you know those ‘totally on my game’ days) I went wandering around the most majestic — is this even real? — park in Amsterdam (oh yeah, I’m in Amsterdam! Hallo!) and my heart could not have felt heavier. Surrounded by simply cinematic scenery, all I wanted to do was lie spread-eagle on the grass and stare into the sky until I cried.
“To listen to the soul is to slow down, to feel deeply, to see ourselves clearly, to surrender to discomfort and uncertainty and to wait.” — Elizabeth Lesser
I knew that moving to another country would deliver some highs and lows, but it’s the extremity of both that I perhaps wasn’t prepared for! The highs have been so freaking high: laughs with old friends, finding a gorgeous flat in one of my favourite, leafy parts of London, exploring Barcelona and Amsterdam with Andrew (and getting some solo travel in too), receiving excellent feedback from a few trusted readers of my soon-to-be-released Adore Your Cycle eBook (which is now in the hands of my designer — HURRAH), becoming an official Ambassador for my favourite cycle tracking app Clue (OMG) and starting with a bunch of new clients — both coaching and copyediting — feeling clear and confident in my work and gifts as a coach and writer / editor.
I also recently lost a great deal of money in a real estate screw-up. This move has been much harder on my relationship than I’d imagined it would. I feel very, very far away from certain people who I’d like to be much closer to right now. After almost six-months of sobriety I had a few drinks recently and I’m not sure how I feel about that yet. Some things feel like they’re falling apart and I have no power to stop them from doing so. Alongside the joyous adventure, there has been a lot of doubt in this chapter. As I slipped into the yin half of my cycle last week (read: pre-menstrual) I felt like I’d dived into a washing machine of emotion; flung, wrung, gasping for space and air.
“But” I found myself questioning this morning, “how do I write this week’s email when I’m feeling so chaotic, so ripe and raw? They might not like it / me it’s not bright-and-sparkly!”
In one of my favourite, I-find-myself-constantly-recommending books Broken Open, author Elizabeth Lesser shares that we’re all just ‘Bozos on a bus’, floundering along, pretending to one another that we’re not. She writes…
“Every single person on this bus called Earth hurts; it’s when we have shame about our failings that hurt turns into suffering. In our shame, we feel an outcast, as if there is another bus somewhere, rolling along on a smooth road. Its passengers are all thin, healthy, happy, well-dressed and well-liked people who belong to harmonious families, hold jobs that never bore or aggravate them, and never do mean things, or goofy things like forget where they parked their car, lose their wallet, or say something totally inappropriate. We long to be on that bus with the other normal people. But we are on the bus that says BOZO on the front, and we worry that we may be the only passenger on board. This is the illusion that so many of us labor under — that we’re all alone in our weirdness and our uncertainty; that we may be the most lost person on the highway. Of course we don’t always feel like this. Sometimes a wave of self-forgiveness washes over us, and suddenly we’re connected to our fellow humans; suddenly we belong.”
I know this. I know this in my bones. And yet, sometimes I hold things back.
It’s the paradox of living our lives online: we’re connected more than ever, able to share it all, yet we manipulate and compare and forget that we’re all riding the bumps. Perhaps, like me, you were shocked to see author Liz Gilbert share last week on her Facebook page that she and and her husband ‘Felipe’ are separating. With grace and courage, Liz has shared such intimate, tricky details of her life with her devoted readers (and the wider public) over the past decade. Saddened as I was, I was also inspired; historically, this is quite a big deal! Divorce is nothing new, but women haven’t always been ‘allowed’ to speak so publicly, so emotionally and so bravely about their personal experience. I feel privileged and grateful that I live in a time and place where I am free to speak about my life as a woman, as a human being, as a Bozo on the bus. What opportunities for real connection we have today. Some things will always remain private and sacred (of course) but when fear motivates me to pull the curtains shut… that’s when I do myself — and you, and women — a disservice.
So what do we make of all of this? How do we embrace the parts that hurt while simultaneously rejoicing in the good and wonder in our lives? How do we connect on the tricky stuff?
Lesser writes that instead of sinking into isolated despair and comparison, we could much more effectively “work on our rough edges with a light and forgiving heart”, emerging with joy as we realise that we are truly among friends in this weird experience called LIVING.
So from a friend, if you’re feeling the ups-and-downs with me this week, you could try these few things, in no particular order:
- Celebrate your Bozo-ness — give us your radiance and your rough edges. Tell someone how you really feel and what you really want. You are most certainly NOT the most lost person on the highway.
- Get some space. You might get it physically, emotionally, meta-freaking-phorically — I don’t care how you get some — just get some.
- Come back to your heart. Actually, hand-on-heart, right now. Do it. You can scroll through this email with one hand. Now: breathe. Deeper. Exhale like you mean it. Again! Find the lightness and forgiveness within.
You are always welcome to hit ‘reply’ and share with me, too. Thanks for giving me this safe space to be with you. You really are very loved indeed.
With hugs and blessings from a fellow Bozo, doing my best, floundering along, enjoying the ride…
Ps. You can find Elizabeth Lesser’s book Broken Open here (if I haven’t already recommended it to you that is), it’s an excellent book as is my current read which you can find right here: OMG so much to say about this one! A whole ‘nother email.
Speaking of excellent books, don’t forget about my presale for Adore Your Cycle… The date is locked in now for the bonus online class on the 23rd July at 8am London time — order your copy and seat in the class here — don’t miss it!