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Turning Jealousy Into Inspiration

Sometimes I forget to breathe.

Which is embarrassing because I know better.
I know I don’t have to remember to breathe—my body will that for me.
But still…I feel like I forget a lot.

You know what I mean, right?

There are those moments I realize my breath is shallow and limited, like I’ve been given a coffee straw to suck through and I have to make it work.

It’s not hard…that’s the alarming part. If I’m being honest, I think it’s my default.
Like I’ve been highly trained….is this how ninjas breathe?
What’s next—sleeping on a bed of nails?

In those moments I start to actually wonder if I’ll ever be able to take a deep breath again—like one of those really deep ones, you know?

Is it possible to train a body not to breathe?

I’ve been thinking about that because I’ve had a particularly thinky couple of weeks—which means I’ve not had breathy ones:

  • Two weeks ago I wrote this blog post on the need for more of us to talk about vaginas (VAGINAS!) in our everyday conversation…and then I correlated it with our discomfort in talking about women leaders: “Change our conversations about vaginas and we’ll change our conversation about women.” It left me feeling vulnerable, like I was surely gonna get burned at the stake for that one.
  • Last week I was interviewed by the amazing Susan McCulley for her Age of Becoming community and we had this incredibly juicy conversation (“animated” is the word viewers have used a lot…) about women leading our way forward from these fractured times—what that means, why matters, and how it looks. It left me breathless and a bit wide-eyed at the electricity we generated between us…which made my mind whirl to life even more.
  • A few days later, I was prepping for my interview on a leadership podcast that’s is being recorded in late February and the host asked me this question: What are you seeking to disrupt in leadership? I pulled put my notebook and jotted down this: I WANT TO DISRUPT OUR THINKING AROUND LEADERSHIP. It left me feeling like a fraud, looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.
  • The next morning, before my first client session, I noticed an email in my inbox inviting me to speak at a conference this April at a university’s leadership institute. The theme? Disrupting Your Leadership Thinking. The faculty chair organizing the event wrote, “I’ve heard about you from multiple people, I like your approach and style to change and leadership…I think you’d be a perfect fit.” Needless to say I said yes. It left me feeling like my power to manifest things was now leaking dangerously in ways that were too much, too fast.
  • The next day, I went to edit a quick thing on my website and ended up writing this post about how we’ve buried the lead story in the United States about women and leadership—to such a degree that we’ve got a lot of the world (and ourselves) believing we’re more progressive than we actually are. I dug deep into statistics and numbers showing our global rankings are far from #1 (more like #34, #67…) when it comes to women, people of color, and children in this country. It left me feeling really dangerous, really out there, and really off my rocker—and also more proud than I’ve ever been.

Before I went to bed last night I powered down my computer (and didn’t just shut the lid…read here to find out why that matters..), turned off my phone and drank a ton of water.

My thinker was tired, like I rode it hard and put it away sweaty.

The next morning, a friend of mine commented on a picture of our new golden retriever puppy that I’d texted her: “I love how it’s live picture of him, because if you press and hold it, you can see his little puppy belly puff up and empty out…”

Griffin is 5 weeks old today and we get to go pick him up and welcome him into our home right after Valentine’s Day. He smells like happiness. Our 9 year-old lab, Max, has graciously agreed to teach him everything he knows about being the best dog in the world (he has the stats to prove it).

As I pressed and held my finger on Griffin’s photo this morning and watched his belly grow big like a balloon and then deflate, I noticed my own breath started to return.

Still shallow at first.
Then deeper.
And finally. a big one.
Very Griffin-like.

I was all swaggery-proud of my newfound breath this morning until I rolled out my mat next to Loud Breathy Guy in yoga class.

Dude, really?
I’m trying to think here…
Wait, what?
Wasn’t I here to breathe? Shit…..

As he whooshed and sighed and exhaled with his loud breathing next to me, I actually got jealous.

It must be nice to feel like it’s no big deal to make THAT much noise.
It must be nice to not care that you’re disrupting anyone else’s concentration.
It must be nice to take up THAT much space in a room filled with people.

Not my finest moment.
So of course I started thinking again… (don’t judge…)

I thought about how my husband drove us around town in my dad’s car recently while doing some errands for my parents. When he got into the driver’s seat he took a moment to crank the seat this way and that, adjusted the rear view mirror and the side ones. He even adjusted the tilt of the steering wheel…I don’t even do that on my own car.

Me: Is that really necessary?
Him: What do you mean?
Me: You can’t do THAT!
Him: Why not?
Me: Because!
Him: What?
Me: BECAUSE when my dad gets back in he’ll need to adjust it all over again.
Him: So?
Me: What do you mean SO!?

All those days I had been driving around in my Dad’s Subaru, it never occurred to me to adjust the seat or tilt the mirrors—after all, it was HIS car, not mine. I just sat up straighter and craned my neck. I made it work.

How noble of me.

(You’re getting this is a metaphor, right? 😉

Why did it not occur to me to put my comfort and safety first?
How did I not see that as a priority—or worthy of my time and consideration?
Why did the customization around my particular needs not even flash as a possibility?

Over the holiday break, I noticed my 20 year-old son did the same thing with my Jeep when he drove it around town for the week. I got in MY CAR and my feet didn’t touch the pedals, the mirrors were all wonky, and I felt like I was leaning back in a recliner.

So when I heard Breathy Guy next to me this morning, I thought: There it is again!

It seems I can learn a lot from the guys in my orbit these days, so I’m taking my jealousy and I’m using it as inspiration to make a few changes:

  • Griffin will inspire me to go ahead and puff my belly all the way out before tucking it back in. And he’ll remind me that I can smell like happiness and be loved while doing it.
  • Loud Breathy Guy (who I really hope isn’t beside me next week…) will inspire me to go ahead and make some noise and take up more space than is comfortable. And he’ll remind me you can stay inside your body—not your head—as you do it.
  • The male drivers in my family will inspire me to take my sweet time adjusting the ride around my own needs—so I can be comfortable and stay safe. They’ll remind me this is something people do everyday without permission or apology.

Big. Deep. Breath.


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