All the Feels
Shining a light on the good stuff
I just spent a weekend with friends who have know me since I was barely a woman. We met at that incredibly vulnerable time in our lives when we were leaving our families of origin and leaping into the abyss of adult life. We had very little idea who we were or what we wanted from life, but we did know that we wanted people we could count on to have our backs. We saw each other and grabbed on for dear life. Twenty-five years later we are still those people for each other.
I recently got to spend a few days with these amazing women I call my “Mountain Movers”. This early March weekend, and others like it, fill my bucket more than anything else I know how to do. We didn’t have big plans or events to attend. We just sat and talked, drank good wine or coffee and talked, and did I mention talked? It would have been amazing to have seven or ten uninterrupted days to fill each other in on the details of our lives, speak about our plans for the future, reminisce about years gone by, and speak loudly the things that worry us most. That would have been a luxury, but when you know people as deeply and for as long as my mountain movers and I have know each other, you don’t need seven or ten days, you just need a few hours.
We just needed to look into each other eyes. So much sits right there in the eyes of the people who have know me at so many stages of my life. Those eyes contain multitudes. So many of versions of me. Sometimes sloppy and mean, other times graceful and kind, and most of times in the gray space in between. Those eyes tell me, “I don’t care how you show up, I am just so glad you are here”. Knowing that there are at least two people in this world that hold all of those parts of me is a life line. They have seen the movie of my life and gave it an academy award, so there is no need to start from the beginning. I can just jump off and get started showing them the new tender places that need attending to. We can start right in and see the imperceptible changes in each other. “I see that you worry, I have known you when you haven’t, and I know you will get back to that place.” Or when those eyes who have seen the movie say, “I see how healthy you look inside and out. I always knew you would be here, even when you were not too sure yourself.” The three of us have mastered the fine art of seeing each other and being seen.
Just above the need for food and shelter, in the hierarchy of needs, is our need to belong. Brene Brown defines belonging as, “…true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” Reaching self acceptance is a process that requires practice with people who will reinforce the amazing experience of showing up authentically. We need people who will cheer us on when we show up vulnerably and give them a peak at our authentic selves. We need people who will call bullshit, when we are faking it or pretending to be someone we are not. We need cheerleaders who can see when we are trying our best and falling short, because we need people who can believe in us when we are having a hard time believing in ourselves.
When we are little babies we learn about ourselves through the eyes of our loving care takers. If all goes well we learn that the world is a safe place, and that we are loved and belong to our families. Having a strong sense of love and belonging needs to keep evolving over the course of our lives, and our friends are an important part of that process. My mountain movers have been that for me over the past twenty-five years. I can show them all of my messy places and they say, “ok, we love you.” I can show them my spectacular places and they say, “ok, great!, we love you.” Best of all they give me the side eye when they can tell I am showing them a version of myself that I think the world wants to see.
These weekends, although never long enough, are the vaccination I need to keep going on this path of life. When I am in that dark place of, “I am not good enough.” I call on their faces, their words, and their hugs to tell me I am good enough and I should keep going. I know they would move mountains for me, but most of all I know they are there to remind me that I can move the mountains myself.
For more than 15 years, Sarah has been helping teachers, administrators, children and families experience empathic connections and her professional mission is to support the people who are on the front lines with vulnerable populations. She is currently the School Counselor at the Montessori School in Northampton, Massachusetts and RH Conwell grammar school in Worthington, MA, where she works closely with students, teachers and families on a daily basis. She also facilitates monthly support groups for medical practitioners and adolescent girls. She attend Mount Holyoke College (where she met her Mountain Movers) and Smith College from where she received her MSW. You can find out more about Sarah and her work at www.sarahcarlan.com.