This phrase was recently offered to me and I knew instantly I would want to reference it. I immediately grabbed my journal and wrote it down. We all have those edges in our life where we go right to the very brink but then...we stop. Maybe we stall or do that arm-flail thing keeping ourselves upright, metaphorically speaking.
When we want to lean in, so badly, we know it. We can feel the pit in our stomach light up, maybe our palms sweat, we know we are about to act in a new way and likely an uncomfortable way. And without any prompting, we pull back instead.
An uncomfortable conversation.
A situation you'd rather not be part of.
Something in the news. The "too close for comfort" kind of news.
Making a request of someone.
Facing your internal longing for something.
Saying "yes!" when you usually say "no."
The list goes on...
Last month my father's health took a poor turn. Which is really just to say it went in a direction I'd rather it didn't. A decline, a chronic "not coming back from this" kind of a turn. At first I rummaged through all the "poor me" statements. Why now? We just lost Mom, can't you wait? I can't do this...
You know the kind of statements I'm talking about. I basically threw a pity party in my head. Not because it was particularly helpful but because I was frustrated. And unbelievably sad. We canceled our vacation to Hawaii (then I added to my pity party) and I packed a very heavy suitcase and headed home where my dad had been admitted to hospice.
This is where I wanted to stop. I didn't want to turn toward it. I didn't want to acknowledge this new reality and I certainly didn't want to be thrust into being his caretaker. This was a place I badly wanted to stop. Stall. Halt. Flail about. Anything but lean in. Because leaning in was going to be very (very) inconvenient.
Working from coffee shops and hospice waiting rooms. Navgating care, meds, and keeping a watchful eye on his health as it declined by the day. And the most glaring inconvenience of them all... knowing we had months left if we were lucky.
Why do I describe this as "inconvenient"? Not because it interrupted my life or required a new level of flexibility, but because we often stop at the places that will make us really pause and look within ourselves.
I used to hold onto the notion that in times of distress the rest of my life could just go on as normal. But this wasn't the case. The part of me that was grieving this news was the same part of me showing up to coach clients and teach my classes.
It's the part of me that is on a retreat right now facilitating the power of letting your life be a model of transformation which requires you let all of your life in.
This same teacher who offered me the phrase "the places we stop" also gave me this:
"When we're on the path, when we deal with what gets in the way, we refine our gifts."
In other words, it's the places we choose NOT to stop which offer us the most reshaping, the most accurate mirror, and opens us to more honesty about who we really are.
Needless to say, this past year has changed me and my work more than any other to date. I used to want to go find all the answers and bottle them up ahead of time then get to work on helping others. I no longer feel this way. In fact, it would be to miss what matters entirely.
I work with so many people, people who love to serve like I do, who also attempt to perfect their life, their message, their meaning before offering it back to the world. My advice is this: don't.
Doing so is just another place you stop. You can't get it right first and apply it second. It's far messier than that. You get it right by applying the present moment to the present moment.
By not letting the places you stop define you. But instead, letting the places you choose to lean INTO refine you.