Don’t fuck with my friends. Do not hurt them or tell them they are crazy.
They are not.
Don’t fuck with my friends. Don’t swindle, peddle, take, or steal.
And don’t you DARE break their hearts.
Don’t fuck with my friends.
Don’t lead them to believe they have bad judgement, draw negativity, attract the wrong people or jobs or circumstances. Do not take advantage of their immense capacity to feel and their great power to give. They are so very special and so extremely delicate in all their strength. Although they don’t let on, I know they’re just as easily bruised as you or I. More, even. Because to know the highest highs, one must also be capable of experiencing the lowest lows.
They know it all.
Don’t fuck with my friends. Don’t ignore them; don’t place blame on them for your own demons.
Don’t make them cry.
Don’t fuck with my friends. Don’t insult and don’t make them feel un-talented, un-beautiful, not-thin-enough or not-sexy-enough or not-worthy-enough of greatness. Pulling them down does absolutely nothing to raise yourself up, even though that’s your alternate agenda. It’s so much easier to throw your pain at someone else, anyone else, instead of sitting with it as it slowly transforms. And even if you’re self-aware enough to know, even if it is SO obvious that all you are doing is pummeling them with the trash piling up in your soul, they can’t necessarily see or accept that. They are IN it. They hurt.
I can hug, I can talk, I can cry alongside them. But I can’t heal them from your sickled sword and it enrages me that I’d even have to. They are stardust and sunshine, the waves in the ocean and the dew that helps the flowers grow. They are the hope of a new day and the long exhale as the week ends. They’re the birds you can barely hear chirping over the car horns and angry screams, but you know they’re there, and the knowing is a sort of comfort in the chaotic entanglement of city cacophony. They’re newsprint on your fingers, a souvenir from the adventures of a curious mind. They’re the giggle you can’t quite stuff down and the tears that come whether “appropriate” or not.
To hell with appropriate.I don’t want appropriate. I want real.
I want the laughs and the tears and the talks till 1am that can’t wait a second longer. I want the waves and the dew and the bird songs even if I can’t always hear them. I want the charcoal on my fingers, delicate stains from a morning well spent, and questions asked, and a mind expanded just by saying yes, I will turn that page.
Don’t fuck with my friends – because they are the ones who are making this world come alive.
This post was originally published on october 8, 2012.
It’s been three days since I’ve been back from Italy and I still haven’t opened my computer. It’s not because I don’t have things I need to do (I do) or that I can accomplish everything I need to on my phone (I can’t). It’s because for two whole weeks, I was reminded of what my life was like when it wasn’t portable. And I was brought back to a time when my worth or livelihood wasn’t even remotely dependent on a screen.
I’m not an avid traveler in the least, but I know the power of what a change of space can do for the soul. Traveling, whether to Rome or Rhode Island, will rip you away from the familiar and at the same time remind you of all the things you recognize and hold dear even when the landscape is foreign. You start to remember who you were before the proverbial “world told you who to be,” and you start to wonder if you’d still be YOU if born in another time zone, speaking another language, under a different sun/moon turnover. The things you think define you fade away during takeoff, and all that’s left are your thoughts and feelings upon landing. Going away becomes a homecoming.
But back to the laptop. I know I have work to do, and I know I can’t claim “re-entry” forever. I’ve gone off the grid before. I’m down with the Vacation Responder settings. But there’s something particularly off about my tech-aversion this trip around, especially since it was all in such close, tangible access the whole time around. I could feel my laptop’s sleek, cool edges kiss my fingers as I slid it out of my bag for TSA, expecting my flight to be filled with issuing invoices and playing email catch-up. I recognized my computer’s gentle weight and thud as I landed my backpack back at home in its resident corner of our 475 square feet, fully expecting it to yell for my usage now that we were far from the coastlines and Caprese salads. I listened hard. I really did. But I couldn’t hear its call.
There was a time, you might remember, when the internet was a joyful side-dish to the hearty main course of life. But gone are the You’ve Got Mail days of delighting at a *ping!* and taking each website for its www-face value. Inbox Zero is now the goal, and a site can’t just be a SITE anymore: it’s got to be a HUB, with impeccable SEO and a whole host of press mentions and celeb-cred to prove its legitimacy. We live our lives about one-third of the time on our own and the rest of the time vicariously through influencers, and we spend hours peeling through click-bait headlines that lead us to half-baked content meant to leave us wanting more and clicking together opinions we’re not sure are even fully ours. There is so much good to the internet – connection! collaboration! insight! But somewhere between the romance of Shopgirl and NY152 and now, the internet has become the hearty main course of life that each amuse-bouche IRL experience is crafted around.
Our almost two-week long trip to Italy was our honeymoon, yes – but it was transformative way way beyond the parameters of our relationship. During our twelve days hopping from big cities down to coastal towns and back again, my Noticing muscles were on overdrive and overstimulated to the max. I saw freshly-washed clothing being hung upon outdoor laundry lines because that’s just how it’s always been done. I heard 80s and 90s tunes covered and reimagined into dance tracks, with not one Top 40 hit or latest-pop-sensations in earshot (okay, just one – the ONLY exception was that “Juice” was playing everywhere, which as a long-time Lizzo fan made me beam with pride). I walked through thousands-of-years-old ruins while captivated by a tour guide probably half a decade younger than me who needed no notes or maps to help her and told the history of each corner by beginning with phrases like “You must now imagine…” And between stumbling upon the best meals of my life and chatting with locals filled with hometown glory, I remembered what it truly means to make an impact that lasts longer than your Self.
And so my reluctance to touch my laptop isn’t actually about an aversion to technology itself or some newfound dogma claiming the internet is ruining our society. No: my current hesitation is because I’ve been reminded for the first time in YEARS of what it truly means to live a legacy. My laptop – my so-called digital window-to-the-world – is a tool in my legacy-making toolbox…but must never, ever be the thing I use to CONSTRUCT and DEFINE my legacy itself. Wandering the uneven streets of Pompeii and scanning out over the Forum ruins and eating at cafes on the side streets of Positano and Amalfi reminded me of something I heard a historian once say that I can only now paraphrase: No era of our civilization is inherently more or less advanced than the other. We just gain and lose knowledge along the way, over and over. When I looked out over things I’d only seen in textbooks and dreams, my overwhelming though was NOT “What on earth were the tools they used to build this?” – it was “Who on earth were these people whose minds could conjure up such a vision?” Or, to be honest, I mostly thought nothing at all. Because it was the feelings that took center stage.
The feelings I felt – and the thoughts I formed directly related to them – those were centuries of legacy in motion.
Maybe your tech-of-choice isn’t your laptop like mine is. Maybe it’s your phone, or a tablet, or the television you use to numb or learn or search the massive void of 0’s and 1’s. Or maybe the thing you use to craft your You-ness isn’t even a piece of technology at all.
But it’s worth asking every now and again: is this thing helping me articulate my legacy, my meaning, my mission…or is it deciding those things FOR me? If this thing did not exist…would *I*? And am I clear on what matter the most to me, or am I scrambling to keep up with what I think matters most to others?
I won’t be able to stay off my laptop for long – nor do I WANT to! – but while I’m in this headspace, I’m going to do as much as I can to preserve the magic I feel. I’m going to write as much as I can pen-to-paper, then transcribe my words onto the screen if I need to publish an essay or article or even just a podcast’s Show Notes. I’m going to opt for IRL meetings whenever possible instead of tying myself to my Gmail account. I’m going to take my phone, and my purse, and my papers, and I’m going to sit outside somewhere or at least by a window to work and feel connected to the world at the same time. And when I’m on a computer (like I am right now as I transcribe this piece, with just one browser tab open at a time and the intention to “get in get out and get on with my life“), I’m going to make sure that whatever I do on that piece of metal is MEANINGFUL.
Our technology could disappear tomorrow like the city of Pompeii, and we could run through the knowledge-lost-knowledge-gained tap dance hundred of more times in this century alone. But what I have to say matters. What I have to give matters. And it does for you, too. And there is no passage of time or piece of equipment that could ever change that. Time and tech will try to steal your voice and reclaim it as their own, but your impact is yours to make, not theirs. And that impact fully transcends whatever it is you perceive to be your day-to-day benchmarks of predefined success. Our legacy isn’t in the things we birth or the structures we build, but the knowledge we pass and the DNA strands we eventually return back to the stars. And leaning into that profound knowing, and letting the things that once dictated what we did and how we did it take a seat on the shelf (or the far-left corner of 475 square feet) for a while can be more than enough to remind us of who we are.
I went to Italy, sure. But you don’t need to travel across time zones and sun/moon turnovers to come back home.
“Live Your Purpose.” It’s an easily digestible, hyper-tweetable ism you’ve probably heard or seen everywhere from social media to street art. But what does it actually mean to “live your purpose?” And if a purpose is so easily livable…then why aren’t more people doing it?
Emily Ghosh Harris, founder of SoulMedia and host of The Soul Collective Show, shared with WANT what she notices is missing in the purpose-living process…and some questions we can ask ourselves when we feel stuck in our own way.
We’re all given an important assignment when we’re born: a core purpose around which our life unfolds. And as we learn lessons along the way, we’re meant to give back and share what we learn with the world. Many of us learn some pretty challenging lessons – and we emerge stronger and more in touch with our soul than before.
Why then, when we have a deep sense of knowing that we’re here for a reason and we’re meant to make an impact, do we have such a difficult time discovering and living our purpose?
Is there something holding you back? Look closely. Because the reason you find “living your purpose” so difficult could be that there’s an unfulfilled need or unaddressed wound standing in your way. There’s an existing wound in your history that needs your awareness, compassion and focus so you can transform it, move forward, and fully embrace your life’s assignment.
For me, a big wound that was standing in my way was the need for approval. While I founded my company with a strong vision, purpose and intention to positively impact the world, I noticed that I would keep getting pulled into projects that weren’t in full alignment with our mission.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the reason I kept getting pulled into these projects (that I knew weren’t a fit) was that I was lacking the courage to unapologetically and authentically express my true desires. I was afraid of judgement and disapproval. This resulted in work that was by many measures “successful”…but felt far from the full actualization of what I knew I was here to be doing. I knew in my soul that in order to live my life’s purpose, I needed to heal a subconscious need to people please and gain approval from others.
Healing can be challenging. Giving yourself the love you never received as a child, or giving yourself permission to follow your calling, can feel nearly impossible.
In order to heal and transform, we must take a closer, honest look at our wounds and ask:
How am I triggered?
How do my insecurities detract from living my true purpose?
How does my fear limit my full potential?
The last question is key. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in the world – and yet, sometimes it feels like we can’t get out of our own way. But underneath the fear, we have a deep desire to reach our greatest potential, and an inner knowing of our capacity to expand and shine our light. As Marianne Williamson says:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.”
I knew I needed to give myself the love, approval and permission I was desperately seeking, otherwise I would be constantly distracted and in fear of living and speaking my truth. The only way I could truly fulfill my “assignment” was by looking deeper and finding the courage to be my full self. All of me.
And so instead of looking at the big picture, I started observing the seemingly small ways I was showing up for myself and others. I started asking myself:
Were you present for a friend today?
Did you practice self love?
Did you try your best?
Did you exercise faith instead of doubt?
How did you stay focused on what matters most to you?
How were you patient with yourself and those whom you love the most?
What are you most grateful for today?
What I discovered is that we’re able to show up with vulnerability and authenticity in life when we learn how to embrace, heal, and fully love ourselves. Once we do, it is truly amazing how deeply we can connect to our purpose and to the world around us.
So if you’re in search of your purpose or trying to discover what your assignment is in this lifetime, look at where you may still have a wound that needs healing. Look at where you’re afraid of being seen. Our purpose is innate to us. It’s at the core of who we are. We just need to give ourselves full permission to show up in the world as ourselves.
About Emily Ghosh Harris:
Emily Ghosh Harris is the Founder and CEO of Soul Media, a socially conscious digital media and experiential marketing firm that inspires genuine, authentic connection and engagement. She is the Host of The Soul Collective, a podcast which explores the fears, challenges, joys and triumphs that unite humanity by interviewing individuals who are living authentic and purpose-filled lives. An entrepreneur, author and speaker, Emily Ghosh Harris has used her own personal pain as a catalyst for growth, igniting a curiosity and deep desire to help others navigate past limiting beliefs and common “freedom blockers” to move into greater peace, authenticity and freedom.
COMMANDMENT #1:I will tell you I love you, and I will tell you often. I will tell you I love you, and I will tell you from the heart. Because love should be shared when you feel it. You deserve love, and hearing the words “I Love You” shouldn’t be reserved for certain loves and not others.
COMMANDMENT #2:I will have your back through light, dark, and especially in-between. I will not feed off your drama. I will not just show up when life is amazing. Oprah once said “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” I’ll take the bus, the limo, the Lyft, the Uber…even the subway car that’s suspiciously empty (because I agree that sometimes a subway car with no AC is better than a well-ventilated train but standing-room-only one).
COMMANDMENT #3: I will celebrate your successes as my successes. I will feel your losses as my losses. When you win, WE win. I will show up, and I will show up HARD. And when I don’t know how you need me to show up, I will ASK instead of GUESSING.
COMMANDMENT #4:That being said – I might disappear but I will never disengage. Sometimes I need time to myself to figure life out. I might not be physically present as much as I’d like to be, but I’m still there. I am showing up for myself so I can show up for you, too.
COMMANDMENT #5: I will tell you when you hurt me, and I will tell you when I disagree, and I will tell you not because “I say what’s on my mind whether you like it or not,” but because it’s in service of our friendship and of our individual growth. Not because my opinion is what matters. Because clarity is.
COMMANDMENT #6:I will not worship you or idolize you. I will not put you on a sky-high pedestal or treat you as untouchable. We are equals. I will respect you deeply, love you fiercely, and believe in you with an endless well of belief. But I will not think of you as above me, or better than me.
COMMANDMENT #7: I will not put Me on a pedestal. I will not stand for being worshipped, idolized, or treated as untouchable. We are equals. I will respect myself deeply, love myself fiercely, and believe in myself with an endless well of belief. But I will not think of me as above you, or better than you.
COMMANDMENT #8: I won’t make fun of you “out of love” or “because I can.” Tearing you down, even in jest, isn’t healthy – it’s hurtful. I’m here to build you up, especially when those voices inside of your head are tearing you down. Even if you don’t let on, I know they’re there. Because I’ve got them too. I’m here to help them learn to speak another language.
COMMANDMENT #9:I will remember. I will remember things that matter to you. I will remember the things you tell me, because they’re the relics that help tell the story of your life. And, when life gets in the way – you might need me to remember on your behalf one day, when life feels like much too much of a weight to even remember how to remember.
COMMANDMENT #10:I will love you for you, and expect from you what you actually have to offer instead of expecting you to be my twin – or expecting you to be some fabricated version of you I’ve made up in my head. I will love you for you, and that means that even if I disagree with how you view politics, or when you speak up and when you stay silent, or your thoughts on societal institutions, or how you think Shake Shack is better than In-And-Out. I will love you because you are YOU, and our differences are to be celebrated, not criticized. I will love you for you for all the ways we’re similar and all the ways we’re not, and I will love you because it’s the combo of the two that makes Lifers, makes us Soulies, and makes us exactly who we are.
Yoga teacher, artist, and cancer survivor Sarah Girard is a pro at name-calling. Today, she shares with us how her name-calling began, the way her narrative evolved, and how we can each reexamine the most important names there are: the ones we call ourselves.
I’m Sarah G.
The biblical meaning of Sarah is “Princess.” The American meaning is “Happy.” I’ve got a lot of Sarah-competition out there in the world. Sara(h) been one of the Top 100 baby names for decades, and in my generation alone, my fellow Sara(h)s and I reached Top 10 status.
My friends have always coupled my last name’s initial onto my name. Always. They can’t call me by my first name alone – there are always a few of us around. Partly because of this, I have always had a strong urge to set myself apart, to be unique rather than grouped together with my name-twins.
But as it turns out, I didn’t need to work all that hard to be “different.”
When I was two years old, I was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer called Retinablastoma. My eye was surgically removed and now I wear a prosthetic. I was so young when this trauma occurred, that I have many memories of growing up in and out of the hospital. And I have even more memories and experiences of how others have responded over the years when I tell them what I have been going through.
There is a darkness to being “different.” We might think (or at least hope) that kids wouldn’t make fun of the sick kid with the prosthetic, and that adults wouldn’t look at her with pity and shame as if she’s a lost pet. But kids are the most brutal about the things that they don’t understand and adults pity the things they wish would never happen to themselves.
Oh what a tragedy!
You poor soul!
How miserable your childhood must’ve been!
Hearing it repetitively over and over for decades makes it really hard not to believe. So I started identifying with their reactions, naming myself with the same rejection and shame that was being reflected to me.
I was a sick, poor soul. A freak. A tragedy. I desperately wanted to fit in, so I tried to disappear in the sea of other girls with my name. If I could just be Another Sarah, I could escape being Me.
I ducked my head down into books to avoid stares and questions. I became committed to over-achieving at school. I got smarter. Way smarter. If I could outwit the bully, then I could overcome the bully.
But the thing about getting smarter is that I started learning who the bully actually was. The bully wasn’t other people, though they contributed to it. It was all the discomfort and rejection inside myself that I had been holding onto like a safety blanket. I wasn’t able to accept the kid inside me who desperately wanted to fit in, and at the same time, would always be different.
The more I learned and processed, the more my perspective shifted. I noticed that I wasn’t the only one hurting herself through negative talk. I started seeing that we were all doing it.
And we need to change it.
We are all hurting.
We have all made mistakes.
We have all hurt someone.
And we are all hopeful and desperate to be seen and accepted.
We are here, belonging to this group called “humanity,” that feels so deeply and craves true connection.
The great thing is that time moves us along: we graduate, relationships change and our lives evolve. We learn how to adapt, and have the opportunity to learn how to work with our past, not against it. Every now and then I’ll get a sinking feeling in my stomach when I meet someone new and have to tell them about my eye, fearing they’ll call me a freak. But I’ve got this. I can introduce myself with kindness and acceptance, knowing I’m not alone in this.
Let me take a moment to also say that I am extremely thankful to be here and for the expert doctors who saved my life. The cancer never spread to the rest of my body. And I am grateful to my family for always encouraging me to live fully empowered disregarding my handicap as a weakness.
I have stopped calling myself Freak and started taking on other names: Sister, Daughter, Artist, Yogi, Educator. And these are names I love so much. They connect me to my communities, but they also help me stand out on my own.
The names we call ourselves matter so much more than the names other people call us. That being said, I do love my given name. Call me by it. I’ll answer.
It’s simple but stands for so much.
Royalty. Happiness. And ALL my story encompasses.
So hello. It’s me. Sarah G.
Sarah Girard is a Venice Beach-born, NYC-based yoga and meditation teacher. Being a cancer survivor, artist, and food lover, she incorporates resiliency, courage and humor in her on-going group, corporate, and private classes. Over the past two decades, Sarah has studied with leaders such as Bryan Kest, Annie Carpenter, Maty Ezraty, Leslie Kaminoff, and Nikki Costello, and accumulated over 1000 RYT hours. As the Director of Meditation and Yoga Fundamentals for Culture of Fit, she created corporate wellness programs which are implemented in companies nation-wide. Her writings have been published for Yoga City NYC, Prevention Magazine, Self, and is an ongoing expert consultant for Furthermore. As an educator, she is always learning and celebrates the challenges we greet in our daily lives. Find her on Instagram.
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I know, it sounds so precious in the retelling. I’d hug my teachers, my friends, strangers, and of course, the characters at Disneyland.
I am in family photos around the world. I don’t have to see them to know they exist. I would see those characters, the constants in my life, those faces that were unable to change or be anything but Love Incarnate. And I would wrap my arms around them and bury my little three-year-old head in their synthetic fur coat, and in that moment I felt time was paused and I was loved.
Sweet, right? Yeah, until my parents had taken the picture and I still wouldn’t leave their side. I’d stand there next to them on watch, god forbid they hugged another kid, god forbid someone else became their new favorite person – god forbid they forgot about me when I went away.
I am a recovering Stage-Four Clinger. And it’s not just the death-grip hugs I’m talking about. I cling to people, I cling to places. And most of all, I cling to ideas. Attachment, for me at least, is less about the actual thing and more about my relationship to it. Becoming attached to something (or someone) is almost always at least in part becoming attached to the story you’ve written about it in your head.
My clinging isn’t physical, and it’s probably not the kind of clinging anyone else would notice but me. My mind goes into overdrive, like a frantic puppy who senses its owner is about to leave for the day. When I cling, I submit to the feeling of scarcity. When I cling, I set the stage for Imposter Syndrome to waltz in and snag the spotlight. And Imposter Syndrome isn’t just about career goals and success. It shows up everywhere.
Am I a good enough friend?
Am I too selfish? A pushover?
Am I really good enough, wise enough, strong enough to weather this life I’ve constructed, or have I just made everyone believe I am? Will they find me out?
And so I cling tighter.
I used to think that when you became more self-assured and successful, your Imposter Syndrome just melted away. Or at least melted away quicker than it would if you weren’t so self-assured and successful. Nuh-uh. What I’m starting to learn is that as you become more and more You, you open way more doors and windows for Imposter Syndrome to enter through. Your Imposter Syndrome doesn’t melt away – it amplifies and attacks. The irony is that you’ve got waaay more introspective ammo to battle it than you ever did. It just becomes more of a constantbattle than a sometimes-tiff. It’s wildly empowering and scary as hell.
I feel myself clinging when the story I’ve told myself starts to develop holes in it. And I cling to no-one and nothing tighter than I cling to MYSELF. I worry that I’ve created a mess. That I’ll never be able to live up to the expectations I’ve built up for myself. I’ll never forget when a co-worker once called me “enigmatic.” Who ARE you even, Katie Horwitch? he teased. It was the first time I realized I might not be the person I’d always told myself in my internally self-narrated tale. I’m too introverted and too solitary to be the kind of companion I feel I should be. I’m too much of a team player to be the kind of leader I know I can be. I’m too interested in day-to-day life to seek out the adventures I know are open to me. I’m too private to be public. Too soft to be tough.
Loosening your grip on an idea you’ve built up about a person or a place is tough. Loosening your grip on an idea you’ve built up about YOURSELF, though – well, that’s next-level. You’re YOU, after all. You can’t escape You.
But then again, why would you want to? The more you know about how your story is “supposed” to unfold, the less chance you have at surprise and delight and all those other emotions in-between. Clinging isn’t an act of love. It’s an escape. A redirect. When we cling, we bring in the ships and shut down the lighthouses. We call off the search party and refocus our energy onto taking ourselves captive.
When exciting opportunities come my way – a chance to lead a big event! a friendly-friendship gains soul-status! a YES to that YES I’ve been pursuing for months or even years! – I feel my Stage-Four Clinger coming out and I have to tell her NO. I have to tell her that…as much as it pains me to admit it…that she was not always right. She rarely was, actually. Because she was coming from the wrong place. The place that made me feel like the Always-Second-Best, the Always-Runner-Up, and The Always-In-Search of how I can be BETTER. My inner Stage-Four Clinger wants so desperately for me to Find Myself – but she wants me to do it by following an outdated set of rules I made before I actually started to LIVE.
I still count hugs as one of my love languages, and I still make choices that feel more in service of an imaginary version of Me than the Me I am right now. But I am learning to loosen my grip. I’m learning that my embrace will linger way after I let go, and that I don’t need to be hyper-present to be deeply felt.
Finding yourself isn’t about abiding by a past vision, and finding yourself isn’t about searching for a new you. It’s about coming home to the you that was always there. To cling to a vision of who you should be or could be will never, ever reap the kinds of rewards you’ll get when you honor who you are right now and go from there.
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