I sat down to write a message saying, “Sorry, the well is dry. Nothing inspiring to talk about this week. Talk to you next Tuesday.” Turns out that the topic of the well supposedly being dry is this week’s article. So the article and I slept on it for a night to let Spirit’s wisdom emerge.

If we look to Mother Nature as our guide and teacher, she will show us there exists perfect balance between doing and being. The oceans show us the natural cycle of the ebb and flow of the tides. The moon shows us the waxing and waning that takes place every month. Our own incredibly intelligent bodies demonstrate this phenomenon via the inhale and the exhale, as well as the beautiful pause between the breath.

In the spring everything has been dormant begins bursting forth at the seams with new life. It seems all of nature is full of exuberance and joy. Birds are chirping and bees are buzzing. Everyone is showing off and looking for a mate. Summer is a season of lush growth, where everything feels sultry and sensual. Autumn brings the harvest and an ever-deepening hush that invites us to begin making preparations for the deep sleep of winter’s silent embrace. Winter strips everything bare to conserve energy. The cold slows the trees’ xylem and phloem, kills bacteria and fungus in the soil, and sends the bears a-caving for several months’ long hibernation. Winter also invites us to descend into our own internal darkness for introspection, deep rest, rejuvenation and recuperation, as well as incubation of new ideas and projects that we intend to birth into the world.

And each season teaches us about our own seasons as women.
ebb & flow
expansion & contraction
doing & being
the pause between the inhale & exhale
season of growing
season of resting
going within
rejuvenation, recuperation
incubation
birth & renewal

When have you felt depleted, empty, lacking inspiration and yet you pushed yourself to perform? I used to do it all the time. These days I’m kinder and gentler with myself. But I know a lot of women who still push themselves despite the fact that they’re running on empty.

Why do we push ourselves when we’re clearly out of gas? We don’t drive our cars on empty. We pull into the gas station, fuel up, and then continue driving. And I know women aren’t alone in this. Men are guilty too. But since I work with women I am speaking to women in this article.

What gives?

Why do we feel guilty if we admit that we can’t commit to something because we’re exhausted? Or because we simply aren’t interested? Or because we don’t feel like it? Why do we keep commitments and obligations even though our heads and hearts aren’t in it? Why do we push ourselves to the point of exhaustion – and beyond – crossing over into zombie-land on a repeated and continual basis? Why do we say “Yes,” when we really want to (and mean) to say “No?”

I’ll tell you my theory, and I also want to hear yours.

I think we do it because we’re taught to people please. Many of you reading this are in an age group, where, as women we were taught from a very young age to ignore our internal compass, our internal authority. To please others over and above, and often instead of, ourselves. To say “Yes” when we really wanted to say “No.” To say “Yes” when we ought to have said “No.” To oblige. To be compliant. To obey. And to do it with a pleasant smile so we didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

And all the while we were growing giant resentment, and now we’re seething, burning with decades’ long rage. And we don’t even know it because we’ve internalized our resentment about being people pleasers. Instead of lashing out at others our resentment begins to eat us from the inside out.

It depletes us. It exhausts us. It makes us ill. It causes dis-ease of the body, mind and spirit. It makes us tired and cranky. It contributes to PMS. No, really. I’m serious. If you could just tell everyone to take a hike and do whatever you please for an entire week do you think you’d act “hormonal?” I seriously doubt it. You’d rest. You’d take naps. You’d hang out with other women and drink wine and eat chocolate. Or you’d tell everyone to shove off so you could spend 15 minutes alone without someone asking you for something. You’d take your sweet time. You’d say “No” and mean it.

As we descend into the heart of winter’s darkness Mother Nature invites us to tune into our deepest most authentic self, asking us to get quiet and present to ourselves. To take inventory of the year’s harvest.

What did we accomplish? What, or whom, should we release? Where should we surrender? What would our hearts and souls yearn to give birth to in the coming year? And where and when do we push ourselves past the point of exhaustion? Where and when do we say “Yes” when we should say “No.” Where do we oblige? Where and with whom do we people please? Where do we give our energy and power away?

This will probably be an eye-opening exercise for many of you. It may feel discouraging to realize where you give your power away, but it is also empowering to see it written. There. In black and white (or maybe pencil or crayon).

Now comes the fun part. Give yourself permission to begin saying “No.” It’s simple, but not always easy. You were probably taught at a young age that saying “No” was wrong. It was contrary. It made others unhappy with you. When you did say “No” your parents and teachers said you were being “difficult” and weren’t very good at cooperating.

I got that label in kindergarten. “She doesn’t play well with others,”and “Needs to learn to share” reads my report card. Apparently, I was good at saying, ”No” at 5, but after that the reinforcements came in to tame and domesticate me. Make me behave. Probably for you too.

It took me several years to remember how to say “No” again, and then a few more to do it consistently without the guilt nag on my back.

In reality, we weren’t being difficult when we were growing up. And we’re not being difficult now. Back then we were learning to differentiate ourselves from others as individuals. So we practiced saying “No.” Wise parents understood this and allowed us to pass through this phase by encouraging our autonomy and helping us discern appropriate times to say “No.”

However, your parents probably weren’t wise, and you probably learned that saying “No” garnered negative attention.

I hate to break the bad news, but you are going to have to parent yourself as if you were your own wise parent who understands that you are learning about how the world works and your place in it.

You are going to have to give yourself permission to say “No.” And then have fun gauging the reactions you receive. I promise you’ll gain a significant amount of knowledge and wisdom about yourself, and you’ll begin honoring your own boundaries as if you are sacred ground.

I would love to hear your comments about where and when you push yourself, and the areas you choose to set boundaries around your time, energy and resources. And if you find yourself stuck, needing guidance, or identifying and dismantling blocks to honoring your boundaries I would love to work with you.

To your freedom,
Jennifer

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