Please welcome Elaheh Bos to #BeReal. If you have some time I very highly recommend you check out her website because her books are amazing and my daughter loves them.
When my oldest daughter was three years old and as intense and curious as she is now, she opened a can of sardines, ate a few and then placed the open tin back in its box and closed it before placing the box back in as if nothing happened. This box was then very neatly placed back in the back of the baskets where we kept our cans and dry goods. By the next day, a weird and quite unusual fishy smell started emerging from the kitchen. While we could somehow guess the nature of the smell, we couldn’t find it at first. We opened and emptied cupboards, reorganized the pantry, wiped every surface, and checked in every nook and cranny we could reach. It took three days of complete kitchen chaos to notice the oil leaking out of the perfectly closed sardine box and figure out where the smell was coming from. I was reminded of this recently while we made a quick lunch which involved a can of sardines. It is not the sardines that matter here but the stench of something out of place, the disconnect that happens in life when we are out of sync. These moments when we are forced (through a metaphorical stinky situation) to pull everything apart and figure out where the stink is coming from.
Growing up and for a big part of my teens and early twenties, I felt a disconnect between the stories of my life and the reality of living this life. There was the story of what our life was, a story that was like a large blanket woven from wishes, past dreams, and never-ceasing adventures that got pulled out when in the company of others. It was almost as if my actual life, with its own richness, beauty and yes, challenges, didn’t quite make the cut to appear in its own version. This strong sense of disconnect followed me for years and sometimes I wondered if it actually left a trace, a stench that followed me around. Maybe not quite as potent as three-day-old sardines, but possibly more lethal in what it was doing to my soul. If you have read this far, then you may be thinking that I don’t know how to read very well and that this has nothing to do with relationships. The thing is, it does. It has to do with the most important relationship I have, the one I had to create and rebuild with myself. One that at some point was leaving a strong toxic fictional fish stink that followed me around, making me live as if at any given moment someone would notice and move away, sit further, or point it out. This sense of duplicity, discrepancy, mismatch and fear that stemmed from wondering how to merge the gap and rebuild a relationship that was authentic challenged my perception of self.
I stood a long time festering in discomfort, looking at myself but not seeing the person I was or wanted to be. This process was not as simple as finding the sardine can and getting rid of everything that it came in contact with. This process (which is always ongoing) involved a much more patient and surgical approach of going back and merging different versions, events, messages, stories, memories, and sides of myself until each relationship within myself was mended or came to a peaceful and healing understanding. There are many sides of myself, each with quite distinct personalities and features and since this post is practically turning into a novel, I will only introduce you to two of them and share my relationships with them.
Meet my inner child – A shy girl with big eyes and an even bigger imagination. You will probably not see this imagination at play because there is so much chaos and noise around her that she feels there is no place for her. She goes back into her shell and plays with the worlds she creates in her mind, not realizing that all she has accumulated with time is a large collection of fears.
In this relationship, I learned to create a safe place for my inner child. A quiet place where her imagination could come out to play. Where her voice could be heard and where her fears (although never quite disappearing) could be faced with love, patience, assurance, faith and courage. She often comes with me while I am with my children and especially in my work. I have taught her to show up as often as she wishes and she has taught me that life is always beautiful if we are willing to look at it with hopeful, grateful, and playful eyes.
Meet my confused success coach – She is terrified of failing and even more of disappointing anyone and everyone. All the beliefs she has of success come from an outdated and twisted reality where there is a magical amount that makes you successful and that until that magical bell rings, nothing else is praiseworthy. But worse than her illusions of money, fame, and success is that she has handed her worth (in a nicely wrapped insecurity package) to the mercy and judgement of others.
In this relationship, I gifted her with a large pair of thick furry earplugs. It took some time and a lot of re-education to come to a very different understanding of what success is to us now. Together, we are claiming our self-worth back. I have thought her to tune her ears for fear-based advice, messages rooted in limitations, and for anything that suggests that success comes in one shape and belongs only to those who fit in a certain box. Now these messages go in a neutral space where they can be examined before deciding where they should end up. Better yet, we don’t use the word success much and instead have replaced it with better words. Purpose. Authenticity. Happiness. Service. Love. Creativity. Art. Joy. Family. Beauty. Time. Health. Love. We have a daily practice of journaling and centering ourselves and have created the tools that help root us. Let’s just say I helped her get a new career and she helped me realize that I have a lot more power over my life than I believed I did. We are both much happier for it now.
Sometimes the stink resurfaces and I know that I am out of sync. Maybe I said yes to doing something when my heart was screaming no, so I adjust and learn for next time. Maybe I let fear and insecurity stop me from stepping on the path that I know I need to take, so I pause and redirect. I look for creative solutions and have a meeting with my selves so we can come to a better understanding of who needs to be in charge here. I think the biggest gift of re-building this relationship has been the space that I now have around myself. This space of conscious intention, gratitude, kindness and love.
Elaheh Bos is the founder of Plant Love Grow, a resource site that creates tools to help parents, teachers and health professionals. She is a passionate public speaker, an artist, author and entrepreneur who believes in our innate capacity to bloom. She loves to write books, create new journals and collaborate on different projects with amazing people.
Photo credit: Sabine Yimlim
This is just one of the books I got my daughter. If you click on the picture it will take you to Amazon where you can see inside. I PROMISE Elaheh is amazing 🙂