fearless

What happens now?

I’ve always had a thing for Jodie Foster. Well, since puberty hit, I guess.

I went through a phase where I watched virtually every movie I could find, one of favorites being the original Freaky Friday. I didn’t know it then, but I was especially captivated by her androgynous teenage character. I almost "knew* she was gay even before she came out decades later. I could totally relate to her, even when she didn’t even know herself, or share herself, in that way yet.

In the movie CONTACT, Ms. Foster’s character, Ellie, travels to outer space and on the edge of a major part of the journey into the Great Unknown, she says breathlessly, “what happens now?!”

Matthew McConaughey’s character says the exact same phrase in INTERSTELLAR, another one of my favorite outer space/sci-fi films. Fun fact! Mr. McConaughey also played a major role opposite Jodie Foster in CONTACT. ;)

I’ve been especially drawn to this phrase “what happens now?!” as I’ve intentionally veered off the straight-and-narrow (pun!) path in every aspect of my life, for most of my life. I just recently put together a presentation about living in 25 different homes in 19 years. And that’s just the past 19! I’ve had more than that in my 40 years on this planet.

As I put together that presentation, I realized the guts and glory it took along the way to pull that shit off. I sat at my computer, watching the pictures scroll by and realized the epic courage it took to do what I’ve done. And the more details you know about my story, the more it may dazzle you.

I don’t come from old or new money. I was raised by a single mother who never attended college. I went to school on full scholarships. I left my career due to homophobia in my early 20s. I’ve weaved in and among many different careers including building my own business as a coach and writer and speaker for the past 10 years. I came out as queer in my early 20s and then again as trans in my mid-30s. I put myself through the grad school at the same time I began my transition. I left the long-term relationship I’d been in when I realized it had served it’s true purpose for me and then moved around to find and figure out what Home meant to me ever since.

And along the way, through all those meanderings, I’ve often asked myself when the going got tough, “what happens now?!”

And the answer I’ve learned to hear and trust is: whatever you want.

What happens in our lives is completely dependent on us and our choices and our decisions from moment to moment. It may be why so many people play it “safe” and stay with what’s familiar. There’s a false sense of security when you live your life like that. But you also stay the same, perhaps to a fault that doesn’t serve you to your highest potential.

“What happens now” feels like it’s out of our control, which it often is, but we do have plenty of agency in what happens next. External factors may influence our means and methods but if we let ourselves fall victim to that, we’re in dire straights. When we empower ourselves to act with whatever we have in the moment, we find our way, sometimes one fingerhold at a time. And if you’ve ever tried to plan something, like a wedding for example, you realize how imperfectly Best Laid Plans may actualize.

I think that’s why I loved the movies I mentioned earlier so much, besides my major crush on Jodie of course, because they show just what happens when we choose our own adventure and let go of what happens next. It’s a dance between choosing to act, choosing to see, choosing to try and releasing our grasp on how it will unfold.

Both characters intentionally choose to go into Deep Space with no idea what will happen to them and no idea who they will become or if they will even continue to exist.

I’ve done that so many times in so many ways, my transition being one of many decisions I’ve made, my moving around the Northeast of America being another, and what I’ve learned from the process is how scary and thrilling and wonderful it is to leave the familiar and learn who you become as a result.

Show up fully, even if it's scary

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Last week I did something I'd been thinking about for a long, long time. I woke up and felt completely discouraged and a little bit hopeless and I posted what was really happening for me in a really long Facebook status. I put it all out there. I shared some really deep details about myself.

I was completely terrified to do this. I was afraid it would leave people with the impression that I was a failure of a human being and most definitely a failure as a health coach. I overcame the fear and was practically brought to tears as the likes and comments multiplied minute after minute. To date, it has 124 likes and over 60 comments! I overcame the fear and chose to open it up and put it out there, and people resonated very deeply with it.

I'd been carrying this fear around with me for a really long time, though. And it was bugging me to see person after person engage with my Facebook wall or blog posts and the whole time I was left feeling like they were really interacting with a cardboard cutout of me, instead of the REAL me. I know a lot of business folks, or just everyday people, who do this and are perfectly content with it.

I wasn't.

See, there's this trend that everyone's aware of but still participates in. A lot of people are going around posting the highlights of their lives and not really talking about whatever else is happening. I know this for a fact, because I know what people are going through and how it compares to what they show.

Welcome to the social media monster, right?

Wrong.

It doesn't have to be that way. In fact, the more I see people do this, the less I feel inclined to engage with them. And I was concerned people were getting that vibe from me, too. After listening to Pema Chödrön talk about "fake spiritual people" one day, I realized it was sort of my worst nightmare to be coming off as fake to anyone. I was talking about my life and the good and not-so-hot parts of it to other people but I wasn't really showing it publicly. I get the point of professionalism, really I do. But what's the point of that when I'm touting authenticity and fearlessness from one side of my face and pretending everything is fine and dandy from the other side.

I don't think I ever gave that impression but was focused on posting positive stuff to inspire and encourage people. Based on the response I received from that post the other day, people don't just want or need positive stuff. They certainly don't need more negative, cynical stuff but they want real. They want strife. They want to know how I struggle and overcome the same stuff they deal with every day.

I realized I wasn't sharing that with my folks and it wasn't serving me, personally or professionally.

I can't relate to someone who only shares smiles and sunshine. It tells me that person can't be present to the grief and darkness that is part of being human. And that isn't who I am or want to be for others.

I've gone through some very difficult times the past few months which included leaving a long-term relationship, moving all my worldly belongings twice in three months and opening a new office for my business. Not easy stuff, I tell ya.

It wasn't easy, but I did it all because I have learned how to take really good care of myself. In fact, those choices and changes are a RESULT of how well I take care of myself. It's all part of the same package. When I share that with people, it is the full picture of what's behind my healthy breakfasts, my personal-record-breaking jogs, my donut dates with good friends, the pink armchair in my new office and my selfies.

There was a time not long ago, several times in fact, where I couldn't stand my own reflection. To take a selfie and post it is a testament to how far I've come to appreciate my own likeness in the past few years.

This is what people need to see.

This is what people need to read about.

They don't need more resentment. They don't need more complaints. They don't need more advice telling them what to do or think or feel or say to be "right" or "wrong".

They don't need more pictures that highlight the good and make the pain or challenge invisible.

I don't believe it when I see it so I know people weren't believing it about me, either. People aren't stupid, they saw the void where a partnership used to be in my life. They saw a new table when I took pictures of my food.

By opening up and letting it all out, I invited them into what real transformation looks like, what real change requires and what real life is like when you're giving it all you've got to do the best you can.

I was afraid to be so real because I thought people would think I had nothing to offer them as a health coach. If my life isn't perfect, what would they have to learn from me?

I realized that wasn't true. The most valuable thing I can provide people is an example. I can show up fully and be a real example of the resilience, tenacity and self-love one needs to be your authentic self, to leave relationships that aren't supportive, respectful and loving, to pursue work that is meaningful and fulfilling and eat healthy food and exercise even when it feels like your life is falling apart.

I can show up fully, even when it's scary, to inspire other people to do the same.

 

What can YOU provide people? What would you share if you stepped into being fully authentic?

 

One Year Later: Overcoming My Fear of Reaching Out to My Family

nelson
nelson

Last week I celebrated the one year anniversary of "going under the knife" to change my physical form as part of my transition to male.

I promised to post a video showing footage from my "unveiling" as well as results one year later and you can see that below. But rather than lead with that, instead I want to share a bigger transformation with you.

You may have noticed (or not) that over the past four years, I've barely mentioned my family. I've hardly spoken of them because I was estranged from them. I know this happens for all sorts of reasons in many families, and this began before my transition but you can guess that it wasn't exactly something that would bring a family together, even in the best of circumstances. It can happen, but didn't for me.

I went through this entire process without contact from everyone except my mother. She and I had minimal, strained interactions prior to surgery and after, it got even more difficult. One reason for this, I can see after the fact, was my focus on myself and my process. Summoning courage to make this leap meant I had to be a little selfish for a while, especially when it was clear my family wasn't in a space to support me. And I am 100% totally ok with that, because it's what happened.

A few weeks ago, I shared on facebook that I emailed my father for the first time in four years. It got tons of likes and quite a long list of comments, most of them from my loyal and incredible cisgender* following. It was clear to me that everyone can relate to family estrangement and the courage and fear inherent in trying to bridge those distances.

The reconnection is slow-going. Such is the nature of change.

Communication with my mother, however, is moving along more swiftly. I'm sharing this now because I want to inspire from a place of real self-awareness. I haven't shared much about my family in the past because I was still seeing myself as the abandoned, the forgotten, the deserted.

That wasn't . I was simply not able to hold space for their process of losing the person I had formerly been. I was terrified of what they would say, and hurt by things that had already been said--before transition and once I mentioned it--so I made the decision to take time away until I felt stronger.

I knew it wasn't easy for them, but it wasn't easy for me, either.

It was easier for my friends, though I can guess it hasn't been a walk in the park.

It was easier for my partner, who has known me for 9 years and we both sort of always knew this transition was inevitable.

It was easier for strangers, most of whom have no idea I am even transgender.

It wasn't so easy for people who had known me since birth. And a certain kind of guilt prevented me from being able to listen to their experience. Silenced grief goes unprocessed, in my experience, and prevents true healing.

One year after my surgery, I am celebrating a tremendous transformation, both inside and out. I took steps to do what was needed for my own health and happiness and now I am able to overcome my fears and extend compassion and a listening ear to how it has affected my family, namely my mother. Bearing witness to her grief is only possible because I first did it for myself. Extending compassion and understanding to her process is only possible now because I showed that love for myself, first. As a result, we have plans to reunite next week--for the first time in almost 4 or 5 years. It pains me that it's been so long that I forget exactly how long.

This video shows before and after images of my physical body, but the true transformation that I'm celebrating one year later is that of becoming the person I really want to be: kinder, honest, compassionate and able to listen with love to bring about true healing and acceptance.

Have you broken a mold of some sort or lived outside the lines in some way?

What was the impact of that on those around you?

How can you accept and affirm your decisions and still make space to help others heal?

Please share your stories below.

If you want to join me on this fearless journey I'm on, you probably want to join my pay-what-you-can Fearless Living virtual program. Check it out: http://dillandigi.com/fearless-living-the-remix/