True Beauty Series: #1 "Burned"

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This is a love story.

More than ever, I know that my story has never been anything but a love story.

Talking about illness and past hurts is tricky territory — the human inclination is to look away or create distance, “Oh poor her, that is tragic.” Please save that kind of pity for something else. Because this story, my story, is every woman’s story to some degree.

I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t suffer at least a little bit in the present moment from upbringing, culture, ingrained patriarchy and misogyny, violence and/or trauma.

I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t secretly walk around with demons that haunt.

I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t in some way diminish her story or her incredible power in some way.

Not to say those women aren’t out there, because I’m sure they are. I understand that the women I circle with tend to be like the mythical Phoenix bird — rising from the ashes over and over again in a brilliant burst of light and transformation.

So, please remember, this is a love story. An ongoing story of repeatedly rising from the ashes of outdated, painful and downright violent ideas and behavior so I can freely do the work that I’m here to do and be the person I’m meant to be. My hope - always — is that you, too, will see your own strength in my words and rise from the ashes, blazing, for all the world to see.

Burned

I spent my childhood summers seeking an elusive state of "tan" and instead found myself burned, repeatedly and often. Recently I did the 23 and me DNA testing and literally, I'm 99% Northern European -- I was the poor kid that burnt (sometimes blistering) and then went from bright red, to an even paler shade of white with a few new freckles thrown in for effort. 

Why would I be so intent on being tan? Tan women were beautiful. Beloved. (Think: Farrah Faucet) It was also widely circulated among the women of my family that to be tan was to "look thinner": which was the ultimate desire of the women in my life. 

Never mind the intelligence, strength and love these women embodied -- they wanted to be thin. Never mind the incredible work they did in their communities — they wanted to be beautiful. To be cherished and loved. But when I was a kid, that definitely required thinness and a “hot bod”. And tan was part of the equation. 

I know. I know. It's heartbreaking. The ridiculous cages that women were put in, and continue to live in, make me weep for the world.

We are so much more than the cages of societal expectation. 

True Commitment

Tanning beds came to town when I was 15 and then, it was game on. I committed to my tan (often burning in the tanning beds as well) and stayed tan year-round for 3 or 4 years. I have pictures of me at 16-ish and I'm that weird orange-brown color that screams, "TANNING BED". 

Even at the very tannest my skin could ever be, I did not feel thinner or more lovable or even remotely good enough. I had been date raped around this time and, added to the developmental trauma of alcoholic (recently recovering) parents, the cruelty of "friends", and the raging misogynistic air that I lived and breathed in -- being tan could not cover, fix, or mend the confusion, anger, rage and grief that was burning inside of me. 

I felt ugly, broken and unlovable. I took up drinking. It was the most reasonable response. I have nothing but compassion for myself at that age and every age since. 

"You have melanoma"

When I was back in the U.S. this summer, I had a suspect spot on my chest biopsied, and thank goodness I did. I wasn't expecting it to be anything but maybe a dysplastic spot - a bullet dodged. However, it ended up being mildly invasive lentigo maligna melanoma, which, not surprising at all, is most likely to be found in people who experience frequent burns. 

Being burned is a thread that wove itself through much of my young life -- both literally and metaphorically. I spent a good deal of my 20's and 30's burning myself and letting myself get burned. Again, both literally and metaphorically (though no more tanning beds -- I was over that look.) hoping beyond hope to feel good enough for love, for appreciation, for worthiness.

The fact that I ended up with melanoma — wow. The scorched earth of my past concentrated in a burning spot on my chest, right over my heart. For me, it was an invitation to lean in, to take stock, to reflect on how being burned has shaped me, and my life,

Making Meaning in the Best Way

I believe in the power of making meaning in ways that empower. Making meaning in ways that call the Truth out into the open. Making meaning in ways that affirm the beauty that is in me, and you, and in the world, despite the challenges and really, maybe because of the tension between where we are and what we know is possible. 

At the junction between obstacles and possibilities, there is an evolutionary tension carrying tremendous creative power. Every challenge we navigate through creates us.
— Chameli Ardagh

When I spent time compassionately bringing presence to my body, and the spot where the melanoma was found, I surfaced a lot of anger. Anger at a culture that constantly picks at women's flaws. I felt bubbling rage at a culture that values women (STILL) more often by looks (including thinness) instead of by strength, intellect, heart, and our capacity to make powerful contributions to create a better, more vibrant, and beautiful world for everyone. Anger at the ways that I, and other women I know, still play small and hide because at a cellular level, there is a fear that we are too much or not enough. Still. 

I now carry a scar and it means many, many things to me. It means I had melanoma, yes, but at a deeper level my scar is a visible reminder of the years I spent in tanning beds, trying meet other people's standard of beauty, a reminder of how much I wanted to be loved. It is a visible reminder of the violent ways women are told or taught to go against our own true nature.

This scar, this melanoma, is the years I felt unworthy being myself in my own skin. It is the self-destructive behavior, the violence I perpetuated on my female body because it’s what I learned was expected from society and our culture. The ways I bent and molded myself to others' expectations and desires. 

What is truly infuriating is that these storylines are still so pervasive and that women are still in the grip of these stories at all. It makes me want to scream. And let's face it: we are the lucky ones. We are the women who have the luxury of doing the hard inner work and mustering the courage to question the powers that be with relative safety. We have the option of walking out of our self-imposed cages and standing up to the people who would put us in our place as women.  

#TRUEBEAUTY

I’m lovingly naming this scar #truebeauty because it reminds me of the beauty - the true beauty of stubborn strength, emotional intelligence, grit, unfailing truth and resilience that I dismissed as part of my problem into my early 30's (too much/not enough/definitely unlovable). At 47, I thankfully see and appreciate the truth, the beauty, the power of what I’ve lived through and chosen and learned -- all of this has shaped and molded the #truebeauty that is who I am, who I've always been. 

What makes women truly beautiful, what makes us know we belong and we matter is being who we are, with all of our heart, on purpose — showing the world exactly who we are with no apology. It is breathtaking to see women be completely and utterly themselves — and I’ve found personally that to aim for anything less that full authenticity is not only exhausting but bound for failure. Knowing this, living this, is everything.

To burn on purpose

I burn with the passion of my strength and conviction that women have so much to offer the world. I burn on purpose with a vision for a world where women are focused on, and appreciated for, their powerful contribution to the greater good. And my scar will remind me to keep that fire lit, it will help me remember the Truth. 

All of the trauma, all of the times I was burned by others, or I burned myself in the name of being loved -- it strengthened me, tempered me. I believe with all of my heart, as the quote says, that our challenges create us. We have the capacity to take what happens to and to let ourselves be transformed by the fire, to let it teach us who we are and what we are made of. To rise from the ashes more ourselves — that alone changes the landscape of the world we inhabit.

We don't always have a choice in the circumstances of our lives. Many times we don't. It's true. But we always have a choice to respond with strength, with dignity and to meet the fire with the best of what we've got in the moment. To let ourselves heal and feel the pain all the way through and then... we rise. This experience with melanoma has reminded me that women hold a power that we don't wield far often enough -- women carry tremendous strength, wisdom and truth in our experiences, in our very cells. 

My deepest wish is that you read this and recognize a small (or big) way that you might be holding yourself in check. Perhaps you are quieting your voice to be more soft, more acceptable. Hiding your light.

Please stop.

Never has the world needed women to stand up, to speak the truth, to show their strength, to burn with purpose and passion for the good of all. I know amazing women -- look, I know you, don't I? Today is not my day to die (thank goodness) nor is it yours. Burn on purpose. Burn with your passion.

This is a love story — it was never anything but a love story. A story of seeking and finding the unfailing love that burns in our hearts for our own liberation, for the healing of humanity, for the freedom of women who don't have a voice, and for the earth and the children. This is a love story fueled by fire — not through compliance and silence and demure femininity, but by letting ourself burn with the Truth and the beauty and the power that is at the very center of our being.

Blessings to you, my sister.

Now go, burn bright. 

xo.nona


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Honor the Longing

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Hey soul sister: listen to me read this post right here {6min, 2sec}:
 

My work is so much of who I am.

So much of who YOU are, too, I know. You are dedicated, committed and absolutely on fire to do meaningful work in the world. And you do -- in big and small ways, just by being you, you are changing the ecosystem of the world through your love, through your wisdom, through your magic. 

As joyful and fulfilling as work is, you need more.

You need time for deep sustenance. Time to rest. Time to think. Time for pleasure and play. Time to indulge your longings. I have learned, over lots of time, and many fumbles, that I am at my best when I weave deep and meaningful nourishment into my days. 

And I also need time to step away completely -- to honor my longings as fully as I can. I believe we all need that kind of spaciousness and I wonder... how many of us actually give ourselves that time? 

What I notice when I do give myself that time is that I return to work anew. I return to my pursuits with loads of energy and fresh ideas. As much as our culture pushes endless productivity, we simply don't work like that, do we?  

So, as I head out on a month long vacation home to the U.S., I fully intend to honor my longings. The longings I have (that you have) point to the ways that we are most deeply refilled, most fully nourished. The things that create the richest, lushest topsoil from which to create. 

The other day, I was writing with the prompt, "I long to be." and it made me think of you, and me, and meaningful work and how extremely important it is to honor the longings. As the northern hemisphere bakes in the heat of long days and short, summer nights and the southern hemisphere enjoys it's lovely and mild version of winter, may you know, and honor, your longings -- -- for me, it's undoubtedly the time I spend with earth, in wild spaces, as you'll see from my writing below. 

I long to be

I long to be wild,
to be bitten and scratched, hot and burnt, ravished in the space between earth and sun. 

I long to be dipped in the rushing river,
to be cleansed, letting the heat of my skin be swept away by the current. 

I long to be sun freckled by day,
and kissed by moonlight as I dream. 

I long to sling a hammock between two trees,
to be woken by lions on the prowl, holding my breath when the king's great mane brushes against my back as I hang in the balance. 

I long to be a kingfisher,
to hover -- like magic, really -- so gracefully before plunging into the water. 

I long to be a hippo,
fierce and mysterious in being made for both land and river.

I long to be a leopard,
pregnant, holding the future of my kind in my belly.

Oh let's face it, I long to be every animal at least once (some twice, please),
Even the warthog, who kneels in prayer and looks like she is kissing the earth when she eats. 

I long to live in a treehouse.
Hobbit-style or Robinson Carusoe -- it doesn't matter as long as the tree says yes and we can tell each other our secrets. 

I long to do more and be more and make more,
to make a deeper and wider contribution. A legacy. And then the pied crow catches my eye and I just want to go back home. 

I long to be home,
to go deep into the forest, to the ocean, to the wild places. 

I long for the places that I reMember,
I am simply one of many beings who share the ancient exhalation of our star, the sun. 

I long to be nothing more than the woman I am,
but let it be in a world that values life, and I don't mean just lip-service. 

I long for a time,
Maybe long ago or in a (not so) distant future when all beings, all life, will flourish and be celebrated for it.

I long (eventually) to be dirt,
to be rich topsoil that nourishes beauty and bellies alike, that connects the trees and cushions the fall of children who lose their footing. 

I long for the adventure,
To lean into life and to appreciate every inch, every mile traversed. To love it with all of my soul yesterday, today and tomorrow. 

May you honor the longing of your soul.

May this coming season offer you ample opportunities to hear, and follow, the longings. To feel deeply nourished. To fill your cup with pleasure so you can come back to what is important and meaningful in your work with fresh eyes and ample energy. 

xoxo.nona

 

There is no "fix"

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Let me read this post for you {7 min, 14 sec}

You do not require "fixing"

You are not a machine. You are not a toaster with a faulty heating element. There is no final, steady state of perfection, transcendence or even plain old goodness to keep reaching for. You are brilliant, wise, and you shine so bright when I see you -- I wish you believed what you really, deep down, know is true: this brilliance, your brilliance, is the real deal. 

No matter how much I say this, no matter how much I repeat this, I know that it's hard to hear in the swirl and roar of airbrushed images, affirmations that attempt to elevate you above your flaws, and the subsequent hangover cures peddled to everyone who is trying to distance themselves from their lack of perfection. 

I think I'm lucky. I have always been stubborn as a mule. When people who had my "best interests at heart" steered me toward the path of least resistance, I could only stomach that crap for about 14 years. It nearly killed me to drink my way through the darkness of trying to do what was expected of me (which is actually code for "continuous striving for perfection that will always fail"). 

Humanity is the light and the beauty

And, I know firsthand how much work it takes to live into this truth, which can seem like you are trying to fix something in you that is fundamentally flawed. That's not it -- it's more like chipping away at old paint that was put on beautiful hardwood in a misguided attempt to beautify something that is incomparable in it's natural, stunning beauty. 

It's not a fix that you are seeking, it's restoration of your innate wholeness to your conscious awareness. A revealing of (and reveling in) your natural light and beauty, one sweet layer at a time. Your true nature, your soul, your Essence of beauty, truth, light, love and joy is intact. The luminous core of you is undamaged and on some level, you know it. You can feel it because no matter how much paint you might layer on, somehow the natural grain of the wood is still there, still visible. 

One layer at a time

With every fiber of my being I believe that we are, at our core, divine. That we are, in fact, embodied, divine soul. That our human experience is exactly what we are here for, not some hyped up idea of "transcendence" that is just another face of the impossible search for perfection. 

What our souls really long for is the messy, real and true experience of being human -- engagement with terrible and difficult challenges, experiencing the incredible joy of creativity, feeling our hearts break open again and again as we move through the world with countless other beings (some we love, some we like, some, well... great teachers), the awe and wonder of living in a world that is so alive, so beautiful and terrible in equal measure that it inspires us. The tears and pain, the laughter and joy, the triumph and yes, even the defeat. The list goes on. Our lives on earth are precious, our capacity and desire for aliveness, immense.

Please.

Drop any ideas of perfection. Stop looking for a "fix" (god, looking for a fix is like looking for a "fix" as an addict, isn't it?) Let go of the idea of attainment. Or being some kind of goddess. Strip away anything anything other that who you are: a unique expression of the divine living deep and wide in the human experience. Perfectly imperfect. Held and nourished by our great Mother Earth, celebrated by the angels and devas throughout the Universe, infinitely loved and supported by the Divine. 

Peel off the paint, reveal the luminous beauty at the core of your being; at the core of your humanity. Show me your quirks, your fears, your mistakes and your triumphs. Let me see the stains from the tears and the scars born from love, from play and yes, the incredibly strong scars from the wounds inflicted by others. 

This is how we belong to ourselves. This is how we belong to the world. One tender layer of Truth revealed at a time.

Show me the very Truth of your being

My sister, this is so much larger than you, than me. This is what you need. This is what I need. This is what we need, collectively, to reconnect with our Truest Nature as individuals and as a collective. We crave Truth. We long for radiance to be revealed. This is how we know ourselves, and each other. This is how we remember who we truly are.

When you reveal your True self you restore something precious to your own life, yes, but the ripples are infinite. Don't doubt the power your own healing and restoration has on the world at large, my sister -- don't doubt the power of knowing and celebrating your own wholeness. 

Hear me now.

You are brilliant, wise, and you shine so bright in your messy and oh so human experience -- embrace what you really, deep down, know is true: this brilliance, your brilliance, is the real deal. Stop. Trying. To. Fix. Yourself. You are not broken, you are beautifully and brilliantly and divinely human. 

And truly, I love that about you. 

xo.nona

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A guide to craft your Sacred Practice

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Embody your Truth in the way that you practice. Get the guide to creating a unique-to-you, supportive Sacred Practice.

You will receive a playbook with everything you need to get started, plus access to my monthly missives when you sign up below.

I would love to have you. xo

Photo credit: Natalya Letunova on Unsplash