“If you want someone’s attention, whisper” — Skip Davis
Thirty years ago, for no apparent reason, I decided that I needed to get serious about my physical health. I committed to working out on a daily basis. As a busy mom of three kids, ages 5, 15 and 16, with a full time career, I’d let myself slip into a “I’ll do it later” mindset and never really made the time to exercise. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution, not a workplace challenge, or even a sense that I didn’t have the strength and stamina for yard work like I once did. In that decisive moment, I can’t really say what it was. Whatever it was, I heeded the nudge and began lifting weights and running. I might have wondered silently if my impending 40th birthday was the impetus for getting in shape.
The last thing I expected on my 40th birthday, was the discovery of a lump and soon thereafter the diagnosis of breast cancer. What I do recall ever so clearly is the awareness that intuitively my body had known in advance that I needed to be ready for the fight of my life and it had cajoled me in to doing the necessary prep work.
Intuition and instincts….what gifts they are.
My intuition and instincts had gotten buried under the daily demands of a busy life. Like many moms of my generation, I believed the advertisements and theories that we could have it all, do it all. I learned a hard lesson though — you can’t really give your best to others if you aren’t taking care of yourself first. There is a very big hidden cost to juggling too much, sacrificing often, and burning the candle at both ends.
It was somewhat revelational to me that when I started carving out time for a 5 mile run or a 45 minute weight training session, I actually felt more energized, a little more patient and sillier with my kids, and I was paying more attention in general. In fact, it may be the very reason that I discovered my lump in the first place. I was paying attention.
Brene Brown often asks her guests on Dare to Lead “what is one lesson that life teaches that you just have to keep learning over and over again?”
In my case, it is “trust your intuition and your instincts.”
It was 2015 and I was 63 years old, taking my two granddogs for bedtime walk under the hazy full moon rising in the darkening Arizona sky. I noticed my shadow on the stucco wall and in that moment, my intuition spoke to me. My life was feeling just like that flat, one-dimensional grey shadow. What happened to that happy, sunny, energetic girl who embraced life with enthusiasm and resilience? I missed her.
This time, I was more attuned to my intuition and instincts and if I was truly honest with myself, I’d been getting little signs, navigational buoys and even flashing warning lights for quite a long while. Glennon Doyle, in her book Untamed, calls these nudges “the knowing”. My friend Judy and I call our nudges “instinct and intuition”. Judy often reminds me of the importance of acting on our “nudges”.
I have a few friends who have come into my life since 2015 who also felt their own “knowing” in various ways — wanting something a little more out of life, needing to find deeper connections, or feeling a sense of complacency that nudged them to find a new interest. One thing we discovered that we had in common was a genuine desire to be at our best for whatever unfolded in this chapter of our lives. Judy and I often remark that in our wildest of imaginations we would never have envisioned a global pandemic would have been on the horizon. I do remember telling her that because of all our inner work over the prior 4 years, we were far better prepared to face it.
Over this past week, I have been fortunate enough to have long conversations with most of those friends who are on this personal development path with me. When we take stock of the many events that have unfolded in our lives over the past few years, we are deeply grateful for the ways in which we met these moments with greater awareness, calmness and improved navigational skills.
My late husband Skip would often say “The future belongs to those who are prepared for it.” That was the very message that my intuition and instincts were sending to me back in 2015 — “be prepared for the future; be strong, resilient, compassionate and resourceful. Be your best.”
It is no surprise that my good friends were receiving similar intuitions and instincts.
It is no wonder that we felt motivated and supported by each other.
The sharing of stories, books, podcasts and other resources has contributed to our growth spurts in meaningful ways.
My friends and I recognize that we turned down the volume on our intuition and instincts by accident. We’d gotten so busy with the “doing” that we forget about “being”.
This is just one of many benefits of living a more mindful life — paying attention to our attention –– helps us rebalance and rediscover what is most important in our lives.
I am deeply grateful for the friends who link arms with me on this journey, for their warm hearts, their open minds and intricate, intimate stories that become the mirror for all of us to see our own lives reflected back in each other’s experiences.