Train wrecks, hypocrites and the authentic self
Last week was pretty tough for me. In fact, it was a train wreck – literally.
Working in Los Angeles is always energizing to say the least. I loved being at the beach, but more than that, I was thrilled to be in a creative space with people I’d previously only worked with online.
I said goodbye to my friends, boarded the train and waited. We were delayed. The train finally took off, but a few hours later and 30 minutes into my nap, I awoke to the smell of smoke as the train screeched to a halt. Someone in an Amtrak uniform ran through the train as if we were – on fire. I assessed how my window opened and how far I would need to jump and then I relaxed a little. I could make the jump.
Still optimistic, I joked with the guy behind me when we first smelled the smoke as to whether we were being attacked by zombies or aliens to pass the time. This guy, Adam, officially elected me as the leader if we were to have to fight zombies and he chose himself to lead the masses if it turned out to be aliens. The casual “we demolished a truck” revelation from the concessions attendant when we finally investigated the mysterious crash was quite a let down from the potential war we were preparing for against zombies and aliens – but thankfully, the passengers of the truck got out just in time and no one was injured.
We were updated on regular intervals that we would be experiencing a one hour, no two hour, um, closer to three hours, looks like four hours, and finally a five(ish) hour delay. I had to work like mad to complete four hours of work to meet a deadline by typing on my iPhone. Then, I came home to everything I had left behind.
Leaving home for the weekend is similar to getting totally wasted. You can’t solve anything while you’re gone, so you relax a bit and free yourself from the worries of everyday life. However, when you wake up, your hangover headache is screaming at you with the problems you previously put down and your life is now offering you even bigger problems to pick up.
It was too much. I went into a three day state of “I give up” while working from bed – and crying intermittently for two of the three days. I was feeling sick physically and overwhelmed emotionally. To be clear, I rarely have meltdowns of this magnitude, so I made this one count. Meanwhile, I continued to write my upbeat lessons for the online class I’m teaching and I continued to post motivational pieces of wisdom on Facebook and Instagram. As time ticked on, every post was more and more challenging and was followed with severe guilt from my holier-than-thou inside my head voice. It was quickly becoming tell-tale heart louder as the week progressed. “You’re a hypocrite. How can you keep inspiring and motivating others when you can’t even pull yourself together? Who are you kidding? You’re on the radio empowering women and you can’t even get out of bed!”
Then, someone told me “you know, you really don’t have to be Ms Sparkle Pants all the time,” which struck me as so hilarious in that moment. What an ego check. I suddenly realized what a cartoon version I had created of myself in my own mind.
It caused me to seriously reflect on the time I had spent with others who were in this position. In the past, I interned for self-help authors, ran full international public relations campaigns for spiritual leaders and I even collaborated with some well known personalities on projects. What I came to realize was that no matter how much I adored or celebrated each author and their guru wisdom, no one has all of the answers – no one.
My hero worship fantasy bubble was always popped by this – people are people, through and through. Or, as my dad said to me not so long ago, “Girl, nothing will disappoint you like people.”.
No one is exempt from disappointment, chaos, rage, family dysfunction, money issues, addiction, or general domestic instability. No one deserves to be placed on a pedestal. While it is a lovely view from up there, the behind the scenes stuff can truly be a mad house! Trust me. I’ve been there to witness the metaphorical train wrecks as well. Everything is falling apart, but the show must go on. I’ve watched family members scream at each other and an hour later lead beautifully calm and moving meditations. I’ve watched an author give an interview about her latest self-development book that focused on relationships while she was packing her bags to leave her own hunk-hunka burning love.
The truth is, sometimes the Great Oz is really just a loud voice behind a curtain – with a team of monkeys and witches serving as distractions – and sometimes the Great Oz is a Good Oz, but just lost his best friend, has a dog that keeps nipping at his feet and can’t go for a walk because he has a severe allergy to the poppies in his front yard. It isn’t always easy to know which Oz is behind the curtain, but the good news is that you can still follow your favorite author, motivational speaker, role model, or mentor while you’re learning to trust yourself and your own intuition. You can rely on your own stories and be acutely aware of the prevailing red flags. We are all teachers and we are all students. We are all learning together in the same big classroom. Our natural inclination is to elevate people who challenge us to believe more or be more, but the people we revere most actually have that specific insight/wisdom because they’ve known the trenches and they’ve lived where the roses can’t grow. Everyone is fighting their own personal battle and while we may love what someone has to say or deeply respect their work, it’s usually because it reflects much of our own experience. It resonates. They are simply holding up a mirror so you can see your authentic self more clearly.While it’s beautiful to lift each other up, it’s equally important to take turns with whom we lift up and to recognize our own light and life experience as having supreme value.
I would also encourage you to be vulnerable, because being vulnerable is so very brave (which is admittedly extremely difficult for me). We need to get comfortable with being truly gut level honest and authentic, even when we aren’t feeling or acting like our best selves. We can continue to learn as much as we can from our mentors, but we also have to learn to trust ourselves again.
To be a hypocrite essentially means that you say things that you don’t mean in order to appear a certain way to others. So while I may be challenged by my (gasp!) imperfections, my big lesson last week was acknowledging that being vulnerable does not make me a hypocrite. I believe what I say, what I write and what I post. I only promote what I believe is worthwhile and progressive. When it came right down to it, in my most vulnerable moment I realized I can’t give what I don’t have and I can’t genuinely love anyone else on days when I am finding it difficult to love myself.
So on those days, I may not be Ms. Sparkle Pants, but I can be authentic and loving – to me. I can trust that sometimes I need to take the time to put in fresh batteries, download what I know, care for myself and then hit the road running again.
For me, being authentic means sitting in a big comfy chair with the people in your tribe. It does not mean sitting up high on a pedestal looking down on them, floating above them, or stepping on them. It means shining your own light into the darkness, not blasting your light into someone else’s eyes. It’s dressing the wounds of others after you have carefully bandaged yourself. It’s being a servant in tandem with being a leader. It means offering help when you can and asking for help when it’s needed.Being truly authentic means taking off the mask and trusting that both your good days and bad days are enough.