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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

 

Tripping. Or: the thing you need most right now.

I have to tell you a story.

All true. It’s about the second-worst summer of my life.

And to understand the second-worst summer of my life you really have to understand the week or so preceding it.

Bad things come in threes?

I was 19. Living in Tel Aviv. Studying history at the University.

And though my life wasn’t exactly filled with joyful Disneyesque prancing in the forest, surrounded by obscenely cheerful birds, things were good.

You know how it is. It’s life. It works.

Most of the time. I had friends I liked, a new-ish boyfriend who was cute and sweet and funny. Having finally adjusted from the culture shock after a couple years in the Middle East, I was even enjoying my studies.

What happened next hit so quickly that I still feel a little startled blink of shock just thinking about it.

My roommate (my best friend in the country at the time) picked up and moved to London. All my other friends suddenly announced they were going to do a year abroad in Australia or India or something. All of them.

Then the boyfriend dumped me. Abruptly. And I’d always been the dump-er, never the dumpee, so it was a total shocker of a shoe on the other foot moment.

This woman who was basically a mix between adoptive mother and loving mentor to me got sick suddenly and died. I got kicked out of where I was living. And fired from my waitressing job.

The phrase “bad things come in threes” was starting to seem somewhat absurd.

Within about a week and a half, I was completely alone. With nothing. And stunned. Too stunned to even fully realize how devastated I was.

Salvation comes in weird ways.

My aunt and uncle took me in (for which I am forever grateful), and I stayed in my cousin Michal’s tiny closet of a room with all my stuff piled up in plastic bags. And I waited.

It wasn’t clear what I was waiting for, but some part of me knew I’d pull through it eventually.

Now, in hindsight, I’d describe what happened to me as depression. Nearly catatonic depression. Now, in hindsight, it’s obvious to me that this was a hard-core defense mechanism kicking in to keep me from falling apart completely.

In hindsight things make a lot of sense.

At the time, though, I was too much in shock to be able to process any of it. I spent three months doing nothing. By which I mean alternating between smoking, sleeping and watching TV.

Some other time I’ll write about how I got through this experience, how I healed, or how this experience was in many ways the catalyst for the work we do here now.

But today I want to tell you about the books.

Bonk bonk bonk!

My cousin Michal — the one whose room I was hibernating in — was in India at the time, getting her PhD in Sanskrit (because she’s cool like that) and she kept sending back books. Stacks of them.

Big stacks of books, tied together with string.

Some were large and some were small and they were almost all about yoga.

This was before I had anything to do with yoga. Their existence on my floor wasn’t interesting to me, or meaningful, or anything. They were just stuff to trip over.

These books had names like Heal Your Pain Through Yoga and Solve All Your Problems With Yoga and (I may be exaggerating here) Hey, Moron, Use Yoga To Make Your Life Better When Everything is Going Horribly, Horribly Wrong.

And I was tripping over them.

Bonk bonk bonk.

I didn’t pay any attention. I didn’t even open any of the books. Mostly I resented them for taking up space in this already tiny, already cluttered room.

I was literally (and figuratively) tripping over the thing that could have helped me the most. And cursing it for being in the way.

Salvation comes in weird ways …

No regrets, no complaints … everything unfolded when it needed to, and I did end up finding yoga at the time in my life when it was right for me. Much later. And it was the thing I that helped me.

It brought me back to myself at a time when I was divorced, bitter and hurting.

Yoga was also the one thing that kept me sane and healthy during the summer that actually did turn out to be the worst summer of my life. The one that made the second-worst summer of my life seem like a relaxed island holiday.

I like a juicy piece of irony as much as the next person, so I’ve had some good belly laughs over the absurdity of this moment. In fact, I like to imagine how tiresome it must have been for the universe to keep bonking me over the head like that — with no reactions at all.

You know, I pretend there were wacky spirits discussing my situation and saying things like, “Could she be any more obtuse? We really can’t make it any more obvious than this. What’s a wacky spirit gotta do …. write a message on the wall in blood? You want a burning freaking bush?!”

Because that would be funny.

It is funny. I mean, the symbolism was so in-your-face that it could have been a film student’s first production. It’s a white dove: it means peace. Here, let’s fly it across the screen six more times so you’ll understand what it means when it gets shot down!

Bonk bonk bonk.

And, by the way, it’s not so important how you understand this story. You can read it any way you like and take from it anything you like. Because whether it’s about the bonking of a higher power or just the occasionally amusing ironies of life, the lesson is pretty much the same.

Bonk bonk bonk.

The past is the past. What are you learning right this second?

It doesn’t really matter that I didn’t get the message. It doesn’t matter that I was in resistance to receiving help in any form. Apparently I wasn’t ready. I’m ready now, though.

So the real question is: what books am I tripping over now?

In fact, I often wonder about the following scenario.

It’s a few years into the future and I’m telling a friend (maybe even you) about right now. September 2008.

And I’m saying “This is so crazy. The thing I needed the most was right there in front of me. The most obvious thing in the world. It was right there and I couldn’t see it.”

And then we laugh and laugh and laugh.

Because I’m pretty sure we’re tripping over stacks of books all the time. I’m pretty sure that everything you need to know is inside of you right now and that it’s showing up right now.

Whether it’s helpful little fairies poking you with symbolism sticks, or just someone quietly telling you what you need to hear at the right juncture of space and time … maybe what you need to understand is right in front of you.

Maybe it’s even the thing you’re tripping over.

Making a wish.

I’m not going to give you a bunch of cliches about how everything is for the best. Because No one wants to hear that when they’re hurting, and who knows if it’s even true.

And I’m certainly not going to tell you that the thing that’s causing you hurt and pain is going to be the thing that helps you later. That’s just not a compassionate thing to say.

What I do want to say is this: It’s a useful and helpful practice, sometimes, to just pause and notice what’s there. Get a millimeter or two of distance from the hurt.

For example, I can stop and say, “hey, I’m willing and ready to learn what I need to learn in this moment … in the least painful way possible.”

Or: “Even though I’m probably not seeing or hearing or picking up on whatever it is I need to know, I’m ready for that information to be revealed to me.”

Or whatever. Phrase it however you like. Find a way of asking yourself for permission to stop tripping and to start receiving help. Because maybe it’s right there.

That’s what I wish for you. And also for me.

29 Responses to Tripping. Or: the thing you need most right now.

  1. Beth Barany says:

    Havi, You’re hi-lar-i-ous! I enjoyed your post, and I enjoyed taking a peek at your self-promotion for wimps class. You’re a genius, and so is your friend, Naomi.

    So, my question is this: what books are you tripping over?!

    Best,
    Beth
    *who likes to kick ass, sometimes; at other times, I just laugh loudly at the absurdity of it all

  2. Thanks for sharing this great story! Very nicely done.

    Chris Guillebeaus last blog post..Swimming from Regrets

  3. Sonia Simone
    Twitter: soniasimone
    says:

    This is just suuuuuch an obvious sales pitch.

    OK, I am totally kidding. No, this is a great point. I don’t know if I’ve literally tripped over solutions before, but I have many many times ignored wonderful pain-relieving solutions that were just as obvious.

    And the truth is, I did have a little moment like this, thinking “Man, implementing is really hard. I’m kind of stuck. I wonder how I could get unstuck? Oh, look, there’s Naomi and Havi’s class. That’s nice. Boy, I’m pretty stuck. Hmmmmm.”

    Fortunately, I did a double-take and signed up. ;)

    Sonia Simones last blog post..Do me a favor?

  4. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @Sonia – First of all, hi! I’m tripping (but not literally this time) that you’re taking our course … that’s seriously awesome. Hooray! Hooray! The coolness factor: it just keeps going up.

    And part of me is going ohmygod, oh no! Because it had not even occurred to me that anyone would think this post is remotely related to pitching something … because you know, because it’s so so not.

    I’d actually planned to write about shoes today. But whatever I’d written about, would have mentioned the “hey, it starts tomorrow” thing … because I’m also one of those people who completely misses deadlines just by not paying attention.

    So yeah, did not mean for that to be a tie-in, but now rereading in that context, I get how it could seem like I’m saying that the course itself is a stack of books.

    Hmm. It’s clearly all Naomi’s fault for telling people that I’m all promote-ey and making them think I’m more marketing-savvy than I am. I’ll just blame her.

    Maybe that’s what I’m tripping on.

    Anyway, I hope everyone knows that I love them all just as much whether or not they take our course, and whether or not they keep tripping on big stacks of books!

  5. Christine says:

    Aw, I thought this was going to be a Havi on acid story! Dang.

    No really, very timely post for me.

    And I love how you write. Glad Naomi led me to your site.

  6. Tara
    Twitter: blondechicken
    says:

    Very timely, as I just stopped tripping over something!
    Ok, I’ll share. I loved being a waitress (while in school). I loved working in customer service (while managing a small retail business). I’ve taken side jobs at yarn stores when working a “real job” just to get my customer service high.

    When I think about going full-time in my yarn-creating business, I always think, “oh, I’ll miss the interaction of people”, although my current job has a sad lack of customer interaction (but I’ll miss seeing people in the office every day). I was stuck at thinking “working for myself will result in me becoming a lonely hermit who longs for the hour when Husband returns from work” Ick! I do NOT want to be THAT girl!

    So yeah, this weekend, I finally got over myself and did my first craft festvial, something I was terrified to do. For at least a year I wondered, “How will I handle the people? I’m so SHY!”

    Uh, duh. I LOVE customer service. I LOVED meeting people and chatting with them! And here’s my damn answer to the question of how I’ll survive self-employment: craft shows! Live venues with live people!

    Taras last blog post..5½ Shocking Facts about Craft Fairs

  7. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @Christine — I know you … from Itty Biz, probably. Or just around the internets. Anyway, thanks! And hi!

    Sorry for not having any acid stories in my bizarre, complicated past to dig up! But on second thought, not that sorry!

    @Tara — AWESOME. Way to rock the craft festival. And yeah, there’s nothing like live, especially in an environment like that where your gorgeous stuff gets to shine and you get to hang out!

    That is so, so, so great! LOVE it.

    p.s. I’m going to my first live business seminar next week … having always avoided them because I prefer home study. It took teaching at the Berlin Yoga Festival to make me realize that when people meet me and my duck in real time, they get it. And I have a blast.

  8. Avital says:

    What an amazing post. I absolutely admiring you for baring your soul (and past) like that!!! You are the best!!!

    Avitals last blog post..Inspiration Prompt #16 – Authenticity

  9. ACB says:

    This is crazy, last night I was wondering if someone who’s been traumatized and depressed for years [like me] could get to the fabulously productive kind of place that you are. I think you answered my question :)

    What am I tripping over right now? Hmm, maybe that I really can trust my boyfriend if I just let myself. And that I need to write more!

  10. steph says:

    This is what got me most, although the whole post was great: “I’m pretty sure that everything you need to know is inside of you right now and that it’s showing up right now.”

    I think this is simultaneously the most frustrating and the most liberating thing ever.

    stephs last blog post..Making a List and Checking it Twice

  11. […] post from Havi from which I’m going to devise an exercise for my upcoming […]

  12. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @Avital – Thanks! That’s strong stuff to hear from the inspiration lady!

    @ACB – Absolutely. I can’t even think of anyone I admire who hasn’t been through some seriously hard times. The whole “living to tell the tale” part comes after working through a ton of stuff. Or really, from the process of working through it.

    And yeah, writing more is always good. Writing is some of the best therapy there is. Plus, the world needs your voice too … if you start blogging it up let me know, because I’d love to read you.

    @steph – “simultaneously the most frustrating and the most liberating thing ever” …. yeah. No kidding. You are so, so right.

    Pretty much everything that is “true” like that is full of promise but also completely terrifying and hard.

    Sometimes I think the only thing we can do is just kind of relieve some of that pressure to get it now and do it now … you know, just the reminder that “Okay, even though I’d love to be solving this thing, maybe I’m not there yet and baby, that’s how it is. I don’t know what I need, but I’m working on getting better at trusting myself with this thing.”

    It’s hard stuff, and sometimes not even helpful to think that the answer might be right here. Being present with that can be kind of a pain, definitely. :)

  13. chris zydel
    Twitter: wildheartqueen
    says:

    OK. OK. OK.ok……….

    Resistance is futile. I see that now.

    I kept looking at your list for the class and:
    a.) I don’t feel like a sham. I know I have something pretty good to offer.
    b.) and c.) I fear failure, I fear success, I’ve done both but keep going anyway.
    d.) I do OK with the monies. I’ve been supporting myself for years (but of course, that could always be better.)
    e.) I have an amazing husband who believes in me totally and wonderful supportive friends.
    f.) OK…. yes, even with all of the above….yes, I’m STILL feeling little niggling, stucky kinds of feelings. So yeah…. that one kind of fits.

    But yet… but yet. Your class keeps calling. I keep tripping over you and Naomi and your great posts, and Naomi’s anti-marketing and how often do you get to be in a class co-taught by a duck!!! I mean, for the first one I will be at the Hoover Dam, for crying out loud. Hopefully I will be able to hear you over the turbines.

    OK…. I’m signing up..

    chris zydels last blog post..ADDICTED TO TECHNIQUE: THE SAD AND SORRY TALE OF CREATIVITY GONE WRONG

  14. steph says:

    Just reading this was already relieving because I’m very much a NOW person (well, for the most part): Sometimes I think the only thing we can do is just kind of relieve some of that pressure to get it now and do it now … you know, just the reminder that “Okay, even though I’d love to be solving this thing, maybe I’m not there yet and baby, that’s how it is. I don’t know what I need, but I’m working on getting better at trusting myself with this thing.”

    Yeah. That sounds good. And balanced. And like the deep breaths you take during yoga. :)

    stephs last blog post..Finding Your Voice – And Sticking with It

  15. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @Chris — Yay! Will be fun to have you and your mad creative energy with us … looking forward. And yeah, you really only need to dissolve one stuck bit to have everything else reflect that.

    That’s very cool that you already know exactly what you need to be focusing on.

    @Steph — Oh, good. Hooray for balanced.

    It sounds cheesy but self-care really always does come first. I mean, all the smart insightful advice in the world is pretty useless if it’s inducing freak out moments.

    So it always comes back to finding some way to be kind to yourself or forgiving yourself if you can’t. Or noticing that you can’t. You know what I mean. Process process process and all that. :)

  16. steph says:

    Process process process and all that. Again: oh, how frustrating! :) Why can’t I be instantly perfect, dammit?

  17. steph says:

    The argument to that might be that I would never learn anything. But my argument back would be, hey, if I was perfect, what would I need to learn?

    Of course, I’m just kidding about all this. Growing is good.

  18. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @Steph – Good point.

    I guess the only counter point to that would be “If you were perfect, how could you truly understand someone else’s pain?”

    To me, that’s the saving grace of all our miserable imperfections, you know? It makes us human enough to get what the people we want to help are going through. Because you can identify with their hurt so completely. But yeah, it kinda sucks sometimes. :)

  19. tina says:

    This is exactly what I needed to hear right now, so thanks for posting! I’ve had the worst summer of my life and i’m well on my way to having the worst autumn of my life too.
    I really need to pause and, I only realise now that I’ve stopped doing yoga, which is making things worse so have to start getting back into my daily practice. Starting tomorrow morning :)

    tinas last blog post..i saw this empty pub

  20. […] reference to this post from Havi entitled “Tripping.  Or the thing you need most right now” – you just really have to […]

  21. ACB says:

    Thanks again for the great post Havi! Attached is the blog address – the Eczema Boil.

    ACBs last blog post..Arrival in Candyland

  22. […] Havi at fluentself.com has been making me think about a range of issues, but the one that I want to chase down right here is the idea that the thing you need to get unstuck, the balm for the hurt, the holy grail, is probably something that you’ve been tripping over. As in, direct from The Department of the Bleeding Obvious. […]

  23. Steve says:

    Tripping reminds me of an old joke:

    The rains had caused the dam to burst, flooding the city and wreaking havoc on everything – cars were washed away and houses had water in them ruining rugs, furniture and keepsakes alike.

    A man stood looking at the devastation out of his second story window, when a boat came by and offered him a lift to safety.

    “I’m trying to save my home and God will provide.”

    Later on, the water had risen and the man was standing on his roof when another boat came by, calling him to join them in their escape.

    “Go on,” he said, “My life is here and God will show me the way.” But the water soon washed him off the roof and he drowned in the roiling waters.

    At the Pearly Gates, the man met St. Peter who told him, “You know, you didn’t have to die.”

    The man replied, “I was waiting for a sign from God.”

    To which St. Peter said,” What the hell! We sent you two boats!!”

    The cosmos usually provides what we need if we’re only smart enough to see it.

  24. Joely Black says:

    This is brilliant! And oddly relevant to me at the moment. Like another bonk from the universe as it tries to convey the “Sit down and shut up” message it’s been throwing at me for ages.

    Ten years ago – well, actually, 12 years ago – I decided I would Never Be A Writer. I would never be able to write the Amazing Fantasy Series that would Change The World and Make Everybody Happy that I’d always imagined I would write. I went to university and studied geography. Yes, geography.

    In order to try to get me to go back to writing I even had to go through hospitalisation, which was a bit of a dramatic bonk (described in my latest post all about resiliency). Despite this, despite writing a first version of Amnar and my mother for the very first time telling me it was publishable, I just kept saying no. A few years later, I met a woman who pushed and pushed until I started writing again.

    All this time I’ve been avoiding it. I’ve kept trying to get other jobs – being a university teacher, being a database designer, being an analyst – but it never works. I’ve never stayed in one position for more than 12 months, and then the job is done. It took four years and this summer for me to think “Maybe there’s something going on here.”

    I was already working on my stuff around writing by then, but really, it was a con. I was pretending to be All About Writing. Actually, I was all about hiding. The universe has been kicking harder and harder. What’s really fun is that suddenly, at the end of November, a lot of the opposition I had felt, 99% of the pain I felt about my past, just evaporated in one moment. It was my Byron Katie Moment.

    Since then more and more stuff has come at me. I haven’t got any kind of a plan, because none of the possible plans I formulated work (I’ve tried them already), so I’m just leaving myself open to what life offers. I jump at things randomly, and try them out. I get the feeling that I’m going to eventually come to the specific thing I can feel at the back of my mind. In the meantime, a lot of it is play, learning how to wait, and “coming out” as the real me.

    As a kind of conclusion to yet another essay on my life here, it’s nice to read somebody else who gets a sense of being told things by life. Sometimes I think I must be nuts. That is, of course, true, but in a wider and scarier way that my more gentle form of nuts.

    End: I did email Kelly at Copylicious. It was random and weird and stream-of-consciousness and I was SO SCARED after I sent it that she would say “HUH? SCARY PERSON.” But no! She got back to me with a load of great links for learning to market myself and get myself out there. Fabulous!

    Joely Blacks last blog post..How much can you really know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?

  25. Ruth says:

    I remembered this post today when I read an obituary…of a woman who I’d met on a train when I was 15…she turned out to be a lyricist, and she befriended me on my first trip alone to NYC, taking me to lunch before we went our separate ways.

    I didn’t know it then, but I would grow up to be a songwriter, but it was only when I wasn’t doing that that I thought, hey, I should contact her.

    Somehow I had thought that she was older, and had already passed away…

    She had a happy life, sounds like, so hers may not have been lessened by us never meeting again.

    But I missed out on continuing the friendship and wisdom of someone who was already kind and generous to me.

    Rest in peace, Mae Richard, and know that I remember you everytime I have blueberries…and often when I write.

    Forgive me if I begin to talk to you now as I should have my whole life.

    Sometimes we have what we need all along.

  26. Pereira says:

    Enjoyed the post… seems I stumbled onto it just at the right time! lol. ;)

    Pereiras last blog post..Etsy Treasury – CCCOE team

  27. Ann Pifer says:

    I was meandering around today, and came across this old post. How lovely. I understand a lot more now why you do what you do, and why you must be good at it.

  28. […] my way of saying “I’m willing and ready to learn what I need to learn … in the least painful way possible.”, please don’t take that comment […]

  29. Laura
    Twitter: flamenooregon
    says:

    This is wonderful and brilliant, thank you!

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