Over a month ago, I launched a campaign (#50til50) for the 50 days leading up to my 50th birthday. What started as something spontaneous without much of a plan has turned into a powerful learning experience for me and for others. While it's a fun and creative project, the inspiration came from a deep place filled with challenges around this life milestone.
One main motivation for documenting #50til50 was people's surprising feedback and perception that my life looks easy and fun. I wanted to articulate the various elements about the life choices I make that creates the perception of ease and fun. While it may look effortless, these choices require intense focus and intention. The truth is that I've been navigating "ease and fun" with health issues over the past few years due to hormonal changes that have resulted in symptoms including anxiety, insomnia, weight gain and intense crying jags. Despite writing publicly about this in a previous blog and talking about it in this interview, people are only responding to the fun and frolic and not the more challenging aspects of what I am sharing.
We all know that secrets, shame and isolation don't help anyone, and we really need to look at the way that our culture discourages being open about our challenges leaving us with a limited vocabulary for talking about the shadow side of our life experiences. So I've recently taken my authenticity up a notch and when people rave about my fun photos on Instagram, I am honest about the difficult time that I have been having. I was surprised the other night on vacation when I told some friends I needed some downtime and received texts like, "There is no party without you" "You must come out -- we need you!" As I am usually the life of the party, they could not accept this side of me and I had to be very insistent about the truth of what I was experiencing. This was another reminder that we really need to expand our emotional repertoire and hold space for the light and the dark in ourselves and in our loved ones. What a world this could be if we didn't have to hide and could share honestly with each other about what's really going on!
As we sit with the one year anniversary of the tragic death of Robin Williams, I wonder how he would have felt with this radical type of unconditional love and acceptance that I am trying to foster from his public family. As I reflected today on this painful and shocking loss, I was struck by the message in the blog I wrote this time last year and how pertinent this is to my own life right now. This blog had quotes from him about feelings of shame around his mental health and addiction issues. I can't help but think about Robin Williams and how he might have experienced a similar type of pressure to be entertaining and upbeat for the world... yet not share his personal struggles or darkness.
It is time for an Awakening -- Blog 2014:
"In honor of all of the gifts that Robin Williams shared with the world, let's create an awakening and take action. Lets take a bold step to end the secrecy around these issues. Let's share the truth about ourselves, no matter how scary, with each other. The comedian Chris Gethard's response to this tragedy was a wake up call when he immediately posted 'the face of my mental illness' his beautiful and raw blog with a photo of him in one of his darkest moments. There is tremendous power when we can stand in the truth and connect in our vulnerability which begins to extinguish the toxic effects of isolation."
Let's acknowledge this one year anniversary with the same call to action. Let us come together in the truest and fullest expression of ourselves. With just a week left in my #50til50, I know first-hand how much I feel the impact of love, support and encouragement from family, friends and online followers at this sometimes challenging moment in my life. I have a hunch that our beloved Captain would be pleased if we all took the risk of being real and vulnerable with each other so we can receive the healing gifts that come from being truly connected in the power of community.