I missed something important last week because I made a mistake.
Maybe you have made a mistake that finds you looping around regret and disappointment, too. Somewhere inside us all there is a story, a sorrow and a secret shame that somehow we are flawed.
This mistake turned out to be a blessing. It bent and shaped my being into something soft and pliable.
Here is what happened. I attended a Martha Beck Coaching conference in San Diego. The three-day event was filled with great workshops, drumming, dancing, new friendships forged, and old ones renewed. All in all, the conference was an uplifting and expanding event. It was filled with all kinds of new ideas and practical ways to be a stronger coach for my clients.
And then, I missed Martha’s closing speech.
It must have been amazing, if the final five minutes were any indication. I arrived late to find a crowd of 400 people filled with the energy of love and amazement, laughter and tears, cheering and celebrating. I took in the last few moments of the closing video, her farewell and up came the house lights.
I tried to paste a smile on my face and make it okay that I had become confused and spent the time packing and waiting to leave instead of in such a grand room.
It was a birth of sorts, and the universe provided me with Julie Ann Randall, a real life birthing coach, certified Doula, just birthed herself as a Martha Beck Life Coach, sitting next to an empty seat until I arrived for the final few moments.
Martha is one of those rare public speakers who has the reach to grab your heart and cup it gently in her hands, spark the deeper spirit that makes hope flame and all the while feeding the audience substance, science and fact, so we are left full of the fiber of truth and not just the fluff of empty inspiration.
It begs another helping to hear her speak.
When I missed the final closing event, it broke my heart and broke me open.
I tried to put on my brave-acceptance face, but in truth all I could feel was crushing disappointment and the sound in my inner ear, “REALLY? How could you be so confused? Now? Here?”
The lights went up, and everyone gathered their things to leave, the room filled with the sound of satisfaction.
As the room emptied, Julie Ann, admired my heart necklace. I handed her my card, explaining my website describes more about the necklace I had fashioned from glass, beautifully broken and now repaired.
And then I burst into tears. She gently asked me what was wrong and with strained voice and deep grief, I said I had missed the speech, because somehow I got mixed up, I failed myself.
She held me while I sobbed like a toddler watching her mother’s back recede from view, deep true grief of what is missed and what must be missing in me.
Never letting go of my hands, she questioned me about what was perfect about missing the moment. I sputtered and resisted, explained that somehow I had heard a passing comment from my roommate, Leslie Bixler, while looking at the final workshops that there must not be a final speech from Martha, that the wonderful one the day before must be the last.
I took that one sound bite, and paired it with other events that I used as evidence that it was true. I saw people leave the last workshop I attended into a quiet hallway with purpose and head toward the elevator. I assumed they were all in a rush to pack their bags with only 30 minutes left until hotel check out time. I hurried up and followed the stream to the elevators.
Now, don’t be confused. There was a wonderful journal gift book filled with schedules and information. It wasn’t that I didn’t have access to the event information, but sometimes my particular way of experiencing the world might have me turn right when there is a map available telling me left is the way to my destination.
Watching others head to the elevators at the end of the class I had taken, made her passing comment seem true to me. So I got on an elevator, went to my room, packed my bags and waited for Leslie to give me a lift to Carlsbad to spend time with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter for the rest of my visit in California.
I waited and waited. I called my husband and chatted. I answered a call and listened to the long list of doctor visits my parents have planned for the week. I watched Bill Maher and Seth MacFarlane talk about the new program “Cosmos” and how life is a random coincidence, and those that think there is a guiding intelligence are simply misguided. I thought about how they revered science with a passionate belief ironically requiring faith.
After an hour, far past check out time, I called Leslie to see where she was, with no answer, I decided I’d try to find her. That’s when I found her in the lobby; phone in hand, she led me to an empty seat next to her.
As I relinquished myself to disappointment, Julie Ann hugged me tight and told me the central message of the speech I had missed is that we are all connected, all one, and that separation is just an illusion, so it was really impossible for me to be separate, to miss what happened. She described the speech, the video clips but then she dove right back into the labor of my painful thoughts.
“What is the thought about missing this moment that is so painful?”
I searched my mind, I offered answers, but in the long run of it I told her that something must be wrong with me. That sometimes I miss what is obvious to others. That it hurt to be different and I was afraid that I’d be left outside the tribe, lost and not to be found.
“But what if this is where you are perfect, where your gifts come from?” she gently prodded.
It seemed impossible to imagine good, much less gift.
I could accept it as human; I could offer it to others to accept their humanity, but a gift? That was a stretch.
She gently guided me to look deeper. With a Doula’s expertise, she patiently helped me labor, with new evidence, new examples of my unique way of receiving and processing information and how it might be more than good, even a gift.
I recalled examples of how my own fallibility made it easy to genuinely offer compassion and empathy when someone is literally or figuratively lost, or has lost something or someone precious to them.
I realized that part of me that struggles to exist on this very physical plane of schedules and time is the same part that is receptive to spirit and dreams, poetry and magic. I am always attending to the art of my inner being, walking more closely with the awe of connection than the street signs in a physical world.
My inner focus on ethereal things is part of what allows me to bring my full heart to so many moments where I bring comfort to others, without judgment, and in that space is freedom to let their own limitations find safe footing.
As the new thought and fresh view was slipping into focus, she brought me to the last strong birthing cry of a new understanding, “what if out of the pain of confusion you find clarity?”
“What if you leave the notion right here in this room that something is wrong with you and realize that this is what is the most right thing about you?”
I left with exactly what I needed.
Sure, I would have loved to hear Martha speak. And I will again. Not that speech, not that moment. But still. A moment.
I heard exactly what I needed to hear. I was exactly where I needed to be.
It feels good to hold this new thought in my arms. Cradle it, and feed it until it becomes strong.
Today, I am with my 17-month-old granddaughter Regan. Without the burden of comparing herself to others, she is able to experience the world fully, uncensored and free. She doesn’t linger on what is missing, or hold back her love and affection. She reminds me to meet my own reflection with a joyful kiss.
I want to remind you too, what I had forgotten about the power of mistakes, gifts and the clarity found in confusion.
We are all so perfectly united, one single fabric, where one thread pulled allows another thread give. It’s no mistake that in the warp and weave our individual gifts are often revealed.
The next time I hear that mistaken inner voice of shame, I’m going to offer myself instead the reflection of love. I invite you to do the same.