I signed up for a life improvement course. The leader of group, Sophie, challenged ten women to make a few changes to blossom in our lives. This miraculous change would happen in only eight weeks. Because I am a fan of instant gratification, I paid the two hundred dollars and sat in the front row. Yes! I was ready to blossom.
Our first class began with a strange twist. “Put your right hand up to your nose. Keep your palm flat, now touch your nose. Feel your palm against your nostrils. Keep it there for a minute.” I did as I was instructed. What kind of fancy talk is this? I paid two hundred dollars for a training seminar on self improvement to touch my nostrils? I was not happy so far. What happened next infuriated me.
“Ladies, feel your nostrils breathing air in and out? Can you feel your exhale? Anything beyond that space is none of your business!” She stated loudly. What??? None of my business???? I have five grown kids who need my input. My friends are forever asking for advice. I have so many creative ideas to share with the world. This was just insanity. After I got done patting my nose, I was going to ask for a refund!
The next day my sister called me to give me some advice. I didn’t ask for her advice. I didn’t want her advice. She had a one-sided view of the situation and it wasn’t mine. She obviously had no idea what she was talking about and I was furious. How dare she tell me what I should be doing? I am not a moron and I can run my own damn life!
I yelled, “Put your palm up to your nose. Can you feel that? Anything beyond that, especially me, is none of your business!” I slammed the phone.
Then it dawned on me that I do the exact same thing. I put my palm to my nose and out loud I said, “Anything beyond my nose is not my business.” Sounds easy, doesn’t it? If I could just walk around in a half deaf fog it would be easy. If I could move to a remote island, it would be easy. It would be almost impossible to work this in my current life. But I tried.
When a friend called talking about an issue with another friend, I started to offer advice. I caught myself and said, “Oh, that must be difficult.” To my surprise she agreed and continued the conversation. Again, I threw in a comment, “I hope things get better for both of you.” Again she agreed and continued to talk. When she hung up she thanked me for listening. She felt much better. Since I wasn’t offering advice, I had free space in my brain. I wondered if this was what Sophie meant.
That is the moment I realized that I am like Pinocchio. The more gossipy the problem, the larger my nose grows. There are no boundaries that I won’t cross. With all of my knowledge, high emotional IQ and empathy I was a walking, nose growing, busy body lady. To make matters worse I have an invisible sign on my head that only people with troubles can see. It blinks bright red…..Tell Me Your Problems. Strangers tell me things. People on airplanes confide in me about personal things. My Pinocchio nose gets so long it can almost reach the pilot’s cabin door….from the back of the plane.
I went back to the second class for more self- improvement. I confessed my Pinocchio nose. One woman started to give me advice, but I put my palm up to her nose. It seems she missed the memo last week.
Second class lesson ….”Trust your instinct. Stop doubting yourselves and allow your feelings to surface,” Sophie told us. Now, in addition to my Pinocchio defect, I realized I do ignore my feelings. I am so busy worrying about other people, I have no time to think about myself. For the love! This was an eight week course and I was already starting to sweat. What did she mean concentrate on myself? Hello! I wanted to shout. I am a helper. How can I help other people when I’m only concentrating on myself? Her next statement shut me right up. “Everyone deserves their dignity. When we jump in to solve other people’s problems or rescue them, we take away their dignity.” Uh oh! Now I’m a Pinocchio, dignity- stealing woman with bad language. I hate this course! This week’s homework was to focus on ourselves. What??? In the past I was so busy focusing on the other people in my life, I had no time to look at myself.
Third class… was equally painful. I learned that I am a major people pleaser. Well, yes! That’s how I help them. Then they like me. I will cancel my plans to help someone with their problems….whether they want me to or not. I am that important and they need me. When I mentioned this, the leader took a deep breath. It’s never a good sign when a leader does that. She calmly told me that it’s alright to help people, but it’s critical that we take equally good care of ourselves.
Sophie took a pole:
Who has had a mammogram in the past two years? Two hands went up.
Who has had a dental check up lately? The same two hands went up.
Who is holding a grudge that keeps you awake at night? All hands went up.
Who has treated them self to a simple pleasure lately? By simple I mean: a pedicure, a special cup of coffee, a new book. No hands were raised.
Who has done something nice for someone else? All hands shot up immediately.
Homework: Be nice to yourself this week and report back.
Fourth class….more good news….I learned that I love others more than myself. I will ignore my feelings to make them happy. Will this class ever end? The next day I planned to take the day off work to do things that were important to me. When a girl at work complained my first inclination was to change my plans and work so she’d be happy. I would be miserable, but she’d like me more. Once I realized what I was doing, I took the day off. I was so proud of myself. I am learning to blossom.
Fifth class…I learned that I am valuable. Yes, it’s true. I need to learn to value myself and be kind to myself. I bought an ice cream cone on the way home. My inner child wanted mint chocolate chip. I wanted caramel- mocha, but I hadn’t learned the lesson fully, so I got mint chocolate chip. I am a work in progress. I did get a waffle cone though.
Sixth class….. By now some of what I learned made sense. It actually made my life better. We only had three classes left. Sophie made a simple statement. “When you are in a tug of war, drop your end of the rope.” One woman shouted, “You can’t win if you do that.” Sophie calmly said, “There is no way to win some wars. Refuse to participate in them.” We all looked at each other confused. What???
During the next week I encountered someone who wanted to argue. The tug of war came to my mind. In my mind I let go of my end of the rope. They may have felt like they won, but I was calm and peaceful and just watched the so-called battle fizz out. I was beginning to love Sophie.
Seventh class…”You are not in charge!” Sophie preached. She repeated, “You are not in charge.” Now she was just talking crazy. Of course I’m in charge! “You are not that powerful to change people,” she explained. “You only have control over your actions.” Well, I was not a fan of this statement.
After class I thought of all the energy I’d spent trying to change people’s behaviors. There were years of wasted hours and energy. What if I had spent that time making myself who I was born to be. I felt tears and let them flow.
Eighth class…. Graduation! ”Take some time to play,” Sophie reminded us. “Life is meant to be enjoyed.” I hadn’t realized how serious and worry filled I’d made my life. I started to count my blessings. My life was blessed in so many ways. I’d been so worried about other people I’d neglected my own life.
The eight week course was life changing for me. I’m happier, less stressed and my nose has shrunk. Goodbye, Pinocchio! I sleep well and notice my blessings. I don’t have to be a source of wisdom for anyone but myself now. Not only am I blossoming, I am shining a bright light on my own path.
Have I mentioned I love Sophie?