I left my Man Friend's place the other morning intending to walk 3 blocks to the metro. I made it one block before I hopped in a cab and paid $38 + tip to get home. That's my relationship with winter, and part of the reason I finally gave hot yoga a try.
My business partner and a few clients have been nudging me. The idea is that it's much easier on my post-carpal-tunnel-surgery wrists than flow classes, helps develop core strength necessary for a physical job, and limbers me up for jogging and standing all day. Plus, the rhythmic breathing provides stress relief. So yeah, yoga is good for people. Blah blah blah.
What really got me in there is what keeps me going back: my skin, OMG!!!!
Mary started talking about how every dead and dry skin cell sloughs off in the shower after a class, and I tried it the next day.
I have never had a facial or anti-aging product produce this sort of glow. I can skip foundation after a Bikram class and get complimented on my makeup. Even my eyes look clearer and brighter. It's January and my skin feels like it's springtime and I just got a full-body sugar scrub at a spa!
Not only that, when I am in the hot room and see sweat pouring down my face, I can't help but feel like an athlete and get sort of impressed. Yesterday I finally folded into a toe stand from tree pose (or whatever it's called). I wake up with no stiffness in my shoulders and can see in the mirror how much further they automatically fall from my ears. I used to wake up almost every morning feeling like one big walking charlie horse, but my calves are much more content. Repeating the same 26 poses every class gives me a sense of discipline, and builds respect for my body while pushing its limits. Whatever worries I carry into the room, I find that the practice leaves me with a complete inability to focus on anything but the positive. In anyone.
And there ain't nothing prettier than self-acceptance.
The more you put your real self out there, the more it hurts if people don't agree or appreciate your ideas and efforts. Clients see red where I see brown; break room chatter slams an attempt to help my team; people say they had expected something different from their experience with a stylist or assistant at my store; silence greets my attempt to reach out.
Rejection always stings. Some people deal with it by closing themselves off, but then they lose the valuable piece in every review, the piece that gives hints on how to become better. I want to use critiques as input, but not let them derail me. Yet I'm hypersensitive, define myself by my work and treat every little thing I put out into the world as a creative little piece of my soul - whether managing, hair, or ideas. My preferred reaction to rejection used to be buttoning my emotional trench coat up to the sky and running away, never to be heard from again. Not an approach that is easily available when you are responsible for over 300 clients and 30 employees!
So how does someone like me thrive in a hair salon? I have developed a slippery outer surface.
If you get inside that surface, things are really sticky and everything you say matters to me intensely. Only a few people who really count get all the way inside. They comprise my personal network of supporters who may judge me the hardest, but do so out of love and a desire to help me grow. When someone proves their worth as a mentor and earns my core trust, they get let inside.
What keeps me from crumpling into a ball of despair, and often, is that when someone else flings a complaint at me, I let it slip right off my slick exterior and dissolve into 2 buckets beneath me labeled "FACTS" and "FEELINGS". That is, my first step is to just silence my own feelings and encourage the other party to let it out. Once it's fully out, I isolate the facts from what the other person feels, and analyze both separately. I force myself to try to imagine why they may feel the way they do even if I disagree about the facts. I do all of this before allowing myself to feel my reaction, but when I feel it, I let myself feel it 100% - hopefully only in my own head. Finally, I decide how to express my emotional reaction. This depends heavily on whether I think the person complaining actually wants to make things better, or wants to pull me down. It also depends on whether I think they are honest. (Yes, we do get people who just want every haircut to be free, and someone recently tried to return a 3-year-old hair product!)
It's by having these standards that I've been able to build up a network of supporters who pick me back up on the days where my process just isn't enough to stave off doubt or disappointment. What I want most for myself and everyone I come into contact with is just this: that we will keep putting our true selves out there, even though it's harder than how most people live, and even though it means we will step on lots of toes. I'm not trying to be cool and I'm not trying to be right. I'm trying to keep trying.
And not just professionally. My dad wrote me the following in an email this week, when I was talking about taking on a new (exciting) risk in my personal life. I expected critique, but instead got the reassurance I most needed:
"We only get one life. I would rather go for what seems right and makes sense than overly protect myself and miss out. Knowing you can and will bounce back (and knowing you have lots of support) makes leaning forward a better bet in my opinion than missing out."
Leaning forward and sharing your creativity will earn you criticism. I promise. How you deal with that criticism will make or break you. It will give you greater traction or it will make you trip.
Developing emotional armor in all the right places ~ that's my favorite thing about getting older.
A stylist at my store posted this video on our staff page. Definitely watch the whole thing, it's outrageous:
This guy's tricks have an elegant simplicity, yet they create dramatic results. While watching this much expertise and creativity flow through someone's hands, all I could think about was how many things he must have tried first! This sort of magic doesn't just happen. It takes a really fearless artist willing to make some mistakes and experience a lot of frustration at not quite having nailed it.
I've been thinking a lot about the creative process, and how to rekindle my own after an exhausting 2015. Luckily, Emily Ford gave me a copy of Big Magic for Christmas (thanks, friend!) I never could get through Eat, Pray, Love but this book is right up my alley. It's about "living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear." When it comes to doing the best work you have in you, curiosity is what ultimately pushes you beyond the way you currently cut, color and relate to others behind the chair, to attempt new (and therefore risky) methods.
I had a long list of New Years resolutions for 2016, and it made me feel like shit. So I threw it out.
At the brilliant recommendation of my man friend, Eric, I did something else. I made a list of all the actions that make me feel better about being me - right now. Things like doing yoga, running, having a drink with one of my stylists, prepping my lunches for the week, and actually putting my clean laundry away before I wear it. Basic little things. The idea is to relieve the pressure I put on myself to Do Big Things and do more of what I know full well makes me feel amazing. No matter what else is going on, no matter how others respond to me, I have control of doing these small things and making myself feel better. Eric suggested I cross 3 things off each day, so that over the course of the week I've taken pretty damn good care of myself - while still allowing for those nights when the dirty dishes don't make it off the counter.
If this sounds too simplistic, think about all the times you focused on your loftiest goals and didn't quite achieve them. How did that affect your confidence and productivity? Now think about how you feel after doing one of the little things on your list. After a run, when my endorphins are flowing, I have my best ideas, focus on the happiest parts of my life instead of the most annoying, and reach out to others in a more positive way. For a little while, I live more confidently and stop focusing on all the ways I'm not yet precisely who I want to be.
It's only in this energetic state that curiosity can flourish and the sparks that lead to Big Magic can fly. As Gilbert puts it,
You can battle your demons instead of battling your gifts - in part by realizing that your demons were never the ones doing the work, anyhow. You can believe that you are neither a slave to inspiration nor its master, but something far more interesting - its partner.