As I wrote last week, I took some time off from work to tackle a few renovation projects around the house. I enjoy renovation work as it allows my mind to problem solve which I love, but also do so in an entirely different way than is usually required. Most of my coaching and fine art problem solving involves the creative, even touching on the metaphysical, but in home renovation, it’s all very literal and concrete. Measurement based. And that feels refreshing to me every once in a while.
Last week also allowed for some rest and receivership. I was able to get to the skatepark on the board quite a bit, disco roller-skated myself into a sweaty hot mess, and even started taking skateboarding lessons from a pro at a legit indoor facility. (It all feels so very new. The ramps there scare the living shit out of me, but so what)? All of this is to say that I found myself with the time and energy to be in a deep place of integration. We all need times of pause to make sense of what we have been taking in and giving out. Rest, recharge, integration, digestion, whatever you call it, our whole selves need moments of rest to weave the threads of our experiences together. What I most enjoy about these places of integration is that we do not get to choose what comes together. It’s like a great big surprise to see what pieces connect, where, how, and to whom. And that is always super fun for me.
What surfaced over and over again for me in rest last week was skateboarding. Not so much the art or sport of it, but more about how I fit and what impact it has had on the stories I tell myself that no longer serve me. Even some I didn't realize were stories. Amazing the things we can take as fact! This is why doing the work and thinking together is so important. We all need the help of a fact checker every now and then. Coach, therapist, or even just a hand to hold. Perspective counts.
What follows is the unraveling of a limited belief story I didn’t even know I told myself. It feels a bit strange to share here, even vulnerable, but I hope it will illustrate that this kind of unraveling and deconditioning requires rest, awareness, reinforcement, and oftentimes a very literal or concrete manifestation of the esoteric. And that the work is never really done. But the benefit comes when a shift is noticed and a tangible reminder exists to help us dust our shoulders off. And that’s what went down for me this week in the most surprising way. Perhaps it will resonate.
I’ve been pretty transparent about how slow my progress in skateboarding has been and also how truly scary I find it. I am not good. And to be honest I am not sure how good I really want to get. I love being able to cruise around and just feel the wheels move beneath me and hear the click clack sound as the wheels roll over the breaks in the concrete. It is the only place I can just be and not do.
The beginning of last week was the first time in a while I was able to get out to skate with our little crew. I had missed a week due to recording for the podcast (totally worth it by the way I got to interview Dr. Pauline Boss - OMG - look for that episode in a few weeks).
When I returned I was surprised to find that I was missed. “We missed you last week.” Really? I thought. But I don't do anything. And here’s where I stepped in my own pile of bullshit. When I drilled down on why I was surprised to be missed I realized at the core was the story that I believe my lack of skill makes me insignificant and unworthy of being part of our group. Wait, what? That’s an ancient story. One so old I thought I had worked through it already. The story goes that I only matter, I am only worthy of belonging if I excel. At everything. All the time. And there is clear evidence to suggest that while I love skateboarding, I do not excel. But I do show up. And I think that’s what I was missing in all this. Showing up is kind of the only rule in skateboarding. Just get on the board. Then do it again. It says a lot that you just show up.
But this kind of showing up has been really difficult for me. As I’ve said many times, the skateboarding learning curve has been hard and steep. I am risk-averse when it comes to getting hurt, so trying new things takes me a long time. And the story I told myself was that this made me insignificant or unworthy of belonging. Like I was tolerated as the slow-moving fully padded middle-aged mom. But that was only a story and actually runs counter to every single fact I could gather about my experience with my mighty crew and all of my experiences with skateboarding.
In fact, all experience points to the opposite, which hit me in a tender place. Despite my lack of skill and showing up not even as myself but really as what I perceive as a less than great version of myself, I’m worthy of belonging. And when I say I show up as a really undesirable version of myself, I mean it. And this was a big part of the emotional struggle for me even starting to skateboard. I already feel huge with my height and the size of my feet. So yeah, let’s add a helmet and all the padding to that. Plus big baggy clothes that cover everything so I don't end up with raspberries all over the place. I’m sweaty, usually smelly, and feel like a walking donut. It’s a real moment in humility for me. But even still, I was not going to let that stop me. Even though it made me miserable. I mean what would my daughter think? I didn't want to try something because I thought I looked like a refrigerator? Ugh. Plus, I do not know the name of a lot of tricks, and I barely hold my own out there. Yet, still, I belong. And if I am really being honest and vulnerable, I am not sure I have ever felt that I could belong anywhere without excelling or looking like I had my shit together. That sounds so unbelievable to write, but it’s true. Did I actually reach 46 without ever really wholly feeling I was worthy of belonging just by showing up? Whew. That really knocked me on my ass for a few days.
Once I integrated that a bit, I realized that this wasn’t only belonging but it was a deep kind of care. One where my absence was noticed. A kind of belonging where a problem I was having with my board a few weeks ago was also asked about at a later date. “Did you get your trucks sorted out,” I was asked by a fellow skater who offered his tool set the previous week so we could take a closer look. “Did it help to loosen them?” Again I circled back to the story I told myself about achievement and being held. So, I just show up and am deserving of holding and care? Just because? Even if I am not so great at skateboarding? Turns out my story, is just that, a story and very far from reality.
It was this past weekend when all the pieces kind of came together. I was reminded of when I was in private practice and my patients would be working on integrating a new reality and out of the blue something would appear in their lives that tested their false story so deeply they had little choice but to let it go. And that’s pretty much what happened.
After a year of playing around on a board, I had my first skateboarding lesson last Sunday. It was exciting and scary. Smelly and sweaty. And a lot of fun. There’s a pro my kid has been working with but he’s never seen me skate. So I skated around to show him what I could do, feeling kind of foolish, like I’ve been skating for a year and I should be better. But that’s not what he thought. In fact, it didn't even matter to him where I was now, he wanted to know where I wanted to go. I could go anywhere. He would show me how. Which I hadn’t even considered. I had limited myself, but he didn’t. Regardless of my age and skill level. Again, totally surprised that I had limited myself in that way.
We settled on learning a trick that can be built upon to help with my push and speed and of course, I was really scared. And I said so. And he said, “yeah that’s cool. I’m just gonna hold you until you're not scared or you can do it yourself. Whichever comes first.” And he did. I struggled and failed and succeeded a little and he held me as I fell, faltered, and freaked out a little. He held me. Just for trying. He held me just because I showed up and that was good enough. And it was the addition of this very literal and concrete example of actually being held, deserving to be held as my struggling, faltering, failing self that convinced me the story I had told myself of only belonging if I excelled, was just a story.
And this story hid. Really deeply. In places where I thought I had accessed it. Addressed it. But here it was. And that’s okay. The other times I found it, I wasn’t ready to fully let it go. And maybe now I can. I do not know for sure. But fact checking is a really good first step. I can now remind myself of the data when I start to revisit that story and I can remind myself of my worthiness and belonging regardless of achievement. And I can hear the words, “I’m gonna hold you until you’re not scared or you can do it yourself. Whichever comes first.”
Thank you skateboarding. I love you so.