When I turned 50 last year, I celebrated by jumping out of a perfectly good, well-designed airplane, 15,000 feet above the sandy and rocky terrain of Boulder City, just outside of Las Vegas, Nev. I thought for sure that I had conquered just about every fear I had ever faced. After all, I’m proud to count my personal dare-she-devil accomplishments of being a certified scuba diver with a few night dives and shipwrecks under my weight belt. I’ve logged hundreds of miles in over 18 pairs of running shoes and have the bragging rights to a couple marathons. This girl from the inner city of Detroit just loves spelunking and caving, and I’m a pretty good rock climber as well.
The year before my skydiving adventure, I faced an even larger challenge and fear by standing up to the personal online attacks from a malicious and controlling ex-boyfriend, and I launched a global movement to give voice and dignity to victims of cyber harassment.
None of this bravery and courage . . . or physical accomplishments for that matter, would have ever prepared me for what I’m now learning about facing the years of internal grief that I was trying to outrun and cover up with an “I can do anything!” attitude.
I had reached the end of my escape route. There was no other option than to turn and face the truth and embrace the feeling that I was so desperately trying to hide from. That feeling that had been gnawing at me because I refused to acknowledge it, so it grew instead. The overwhelming feeling of guilt. More precisely guilt over not admitting “I was wrong, and I made a mistake.”
The denial was so evident, it left a trail. Weeks turned into months, months into years and as I was approaching a half decade of running from these crippling emotions, the time was up.
It was far too late to say, “I’m sorry.” In fact there is no one to apologize too anymore. The deed is done, the act is over, the past is the past, it is what it is. Except, that it’s not.
Sometimes the greatest apology is the one that we owe to ourselves. The beautiful act of owning our mistakes, taking responsibility and saying “I’m sorry” to our wounded selves.
I can still hear her voice… when my coach told me “Lean into the things that scare you, it’s how you reclaim your power and stand in your truth.” Yeah this sounds all too familiar. It’s precisely what I tell my coaching clients. This time, I got it. I really got it. Leaning into pain, frustration, disappointment, failure, responsibility, takes way more courage than jumping out of an airplane or scuba diving off the shores of Bonaire at night.
Leaning into the place that hurts is precisely the place in which our greatest recovery can be felt.
I remember the moment in meditation when I allowed myself to feel the greatest discomfort over that series of bad decisions that I hadn’t fully apologized to myself about. It was like a wave of emotions flooded through me, washed over me and then gently placed me on the safe shore of acceptance.
“If being an amazing person and having a legendary life was easy, everybody would be doing it. None of us is perfect. Get on with being you!” I can’t recall where I read this quote, but I managed to rehearse it enough times in my head that it has stuck. It’s one of those statements that helps me readjust my attitude when I’ve forgotten that life is a process, not a list of show off projects. The most rewarding accomplishments are sometimes the ones that nobody sees, you don’t earn a trophy or medal for, and that don’t require insurance waivers.
Lean in, go deep, set sail into the places in your heart and soul that need the most attention and recognition. You will discover that a major key to happiness is the internal peace and knowing that comes with forgiving yourself and accepting your best version of you.