It is Saturday, and we are at Equinox- a creativity retreat that me and Kris, my friend and equine assisted learning partner, are facilitating. A group of women sits around the table talking about why they had signed up for Equinox and then offering the answer to one of a handful of quirky questions I have posed to them.
Before this day, I have never met Page but I “know” her from Twitter, and I know that her career is as a writer- how much more writer do you get? I am about to say something about how she isn’t just trying to be a writer when a friend of her’s says, “You are a writer!” Page smiles sheepishly, not sure if to accept or demure.
Later, we are talking outside and I mention to Page that she is a writer not just because, hey, she’s getting paid for it but also because all of us who care and dare to write are writers- whether or not we get paid for it. One of my friends, Mary Kathryn, is at Equinox, and she and her husband own a running shoe store. She tells us how people come into the store all the time and say, “I am not a real runner. I mean, I just run 15 or so miles a week” and how she insists to them that they are indeed runners because they run at least one step.
Every time, I do one of these workshops, I come away with some clearer understanding of a rule of life- like the importance and value of saying no - and Equinox is no different. As we talk about being a writer or not being a writer or being a runner or not being a runner, I see something about our natures or, at least, my nature.
We make rules about things, and the rules almost always exclude us. They include other people we admire but deliberately leave us out– because, hey, we have no business being in a subgroup with those people we admire. For several years, I was an endurance cyclist. Except I would never have called myself an endurance cyclist. Because that tag was reserved for the people who looked like and talked like and lived like they were endurance cyclists. And I was just little ole Rosie. With two bikes. And a lot of cycling equipment. And serious saddle sores from riding my bike for about 25 hours a week. And race numbers from the endurance rides I did. And cycling route maps etched into my brain space. Except I wasn’t a cyclist. Because I wasn’t fast and didn’t really want to change my own bike tire in a pinch and hated Gu. I just was a girl with a bike. All those other people were cyclists.
And even when I was regularly practicing yoga, I wasn’t a yogi. And though I took painting classes and gave people paintings as gifts, I wasn’t an artist. And we all know that I was told by enough folks growing up that I was either too Puerto Rican or not Puerto Rican enough that I was just totally confused about all that. And, well, you get the point.
But, here’s the thing, the only person who can enforce the rule of whether or not we are something is us. And when we say we aren’t, we’re denying ourselves something we love, something we do, something we ache for all because we have some preconceived idea of what a writer or runner or yogi or cyclist or artist or a Puerto Rican is or does. And those preconceived ideas are often directly rooted in a way that excludes us. We diminish ourselves and our capacity because, well, if the running club lets me in it, it can’t be all that special. Except because we admire it, it is special to us, AND because we exist and try, we are, too. It’s time we quit excluding ourselves because we can’t believe someone would let us into the club. We are the only ones excluding ourselves. Enough already. We are what we do.
What label have you been denying yourself? Can you claim it now?
Wondering how Equinox was? Incredible. In designing it, Kris and I were really think about a retreat we would want to attend and so we had a great time putting it together. But conceiving a retreat is only a tiny part of guaranteeing its success. Who attends and how they interact make all the difference and we had an incredible group of attendees who really connected, were game, and really enjoyed what each had to offer. That is just about as good as it gets.
Want to join us for a future retreat? Check out First, Love You, a day long retreat we are offering two times in May (the maximum number of participants is six). It’s going to be incredible!