Beware of the Naked Man
My lesson in promises, success, and the naked man who sends email.
I woke up this morning to an email that said, “Will you lose 80 lbs?
I immediately took offense. This email came from an over 60, very privileged white man. What the hell does he know about what will help me lose 80 pounds?
I know, I know, it is just an email in a sequence of probably 20 that were prewritten and probably not by him. Why should I be upset?
I’m tired of people selling dreams and promises — weight loss, a book being published, making it as a entrepreneur. Someone telling you and me how to have our best year ever or our most successful year. I took the course, I read the book, I followed the instructions, the worksheets, interacted in the forums. You know what?
To date, I have not had my best year ever.
This year was a year of being pissed off. As my inbox filled up every day with someone telling me what I need to do to be better, or worthy if I just followed their plan. Most of these emails were from privileged men . . . who have no frigging idea what my life is like. I began unsubscribing. I asked myself why I even signed up? What did they offer that I couldn’t refuse?
Slowly, I discovered a pattern. Stephen Covey says, “begin with the end in mind.” I did not heed his advice. I began without thinking about the end. Every promise sounded more amazing than the next, and soon I was signed up for programs to help me become . . . happy, successful? I knew I wanted a change in my life. And the snake oil and kool-aid seemed to be my solution.
I was a webinar junkie.
Finally, I began to understand myself better, see the patterns and the promises of hope that I found so appealing, and the next thing to do was: change or beat myself up every day because of the shame of falling prey to the naked man offering his clothes.
Over the years it became clear to me that I was looking for love in all the wrong places. A pattern that I developed at a very young age. I had strong opinions about what I wanted to do but the need to belong was stronger. I gave up dream after dream until one morning I woke up, in my 50’s, more angry at myself than any other morning. I had a choice to make, wake up miserable everyday or make some drastic changes.
What I did surprised even me. I began to stand in my own truth. I stopped trying to please the unpleasable. I said no. In my mind I said F-off I can’t do this anymore. I stopped being a doormat. The hardest part was seeing that I had gone from a strong woman to being invisible, unheard and unworthy. I stopped being Renee and was merely the wife, the mom, the volunteer . . . I was void of my joy and became whatever those around me needed. The chef, the maid, chauffeur, party planner, landscaper and household manager. I felt like a Stepford wife.
I met Ken in the late 80’s when we worked together in a grocery store. I worked in the Deli, and he floated doing every job in the store. On one busy Ann Arbor afternoon, the deli was slammed with football tailgaters, and our friendship was born. In that frenzied afternoon we laughed so hard, we cried, and we both knew we would be friends forever.
This year Ken died at 49. One of my longest running best friends. Gone. I still cry often. His words of wisdom were profound, and in our nearly 30 year relationship, we never stopped finding reasons to laugh.
I’d like to share two things that he would always say to me, “Renee, you love me too much, love me less and yourself more.” and “You are beautiful inside and out, and you don’t believe it.”
Of course, I would roll my eyes when he said such things . . . because after you have been friends for so long . . . you dismiss the message until they are gone.
Ken was right. After he passed, I devoted time to reading and rereading our correspondences to glean his prophetic insight. His words, spoken in deep love, gave me a firm and well-defined place to bloom. I am beautiful in my own way, and I see that when I did fall in love with myself, it was easier to be me not someone’s expectation of what I should become. I have way more love to give than ever . . . Ken offered me a container to hold my hopes, dreams and promise of the future. I was my own Jeannie in a bottle and my Master.
If you have a dog (or I guess a cat would do), then you understand love in a way that has no expectations. I was going to say if you are a parent, but realistically, most parents have some level of expectations for their kids. Dog love is what I’ll call it when we extend the love of your dog to yourself . . . that natural, organic, comes from within beautiful love that Ken wanted me to experience. I get that now!
When we can have the Ken inspired Dog Love we won’t need a program to help us have the best, fastest, thinnest, most successful life — we will already have it.
My year in therapy has given me the opportunity to work hard at becoming me and belonging to me in a way that I never thought was possible. When I became centered and grounded in my own Reneeness, I could see what I needed and what I didn’t need. What served me and what I could let go. I began to make choices that would serve everyone in my circle — including me.
Most important I can see what I need in my life to keep me moving in a positive direction, and it isn’t a snake oil salesman. I have learned to trust myself in making decisions on who I will allow into my life to help me move forward. I can tell you this — if you are an old white man of privilege, I know you probably aren’t on my team. If you are a wet behind the ears, 30 something, you probably aren’t on my team either — especially if you aren’t married . . . and you probably don’t have any kids — you can not relate to my life at all. It doesn’t matter if your sister is married with kids.
Ken was definitely on my team. For many years he was the only person on my team. The shame of not living the life I set out to live was just too hard to share with anyone else. The finality of death moved me forward. Since Ken has been gone I have carefully opened myself up to people who can help me. The people that can help me aren’t filling my inbox with tips on how to lose 80 pounds.
I don’t have tips on picking a team except I need to trust them, to know they will keep my dreams and fears in the vault, they are generous and forgiving when I mess up, they won’t judge me, they choose courage over comfort, we have a level of mutual respect. Of course, this happens over time maybe even years.
They should not be carbon copies of yourself, but they should be able to understand in a real way some aspect of your life. Above I mentioned all of the 30 something women without a husband and kids . . . somethings in life you need experiences first hand. This is also why those old men/30 something men aren’t on my team either — they have no idea what it is like to be a creative woman with kids and being a father with kids is not the same.
On the highway of life, as we take exit 2017 take some time to pick your destination for 2018 and 2028.
Start someplace. There is a great quote that I heard Tony Robbins say, “We over estimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in 10 years.” Understand that we are all in a ten-year growth cycle, we can’t hurry or slow down our own natures anymore than you can have the sun rise earlier in the day or tulips bloom in winter.
I believe in you.
I believe in me.