Legacies Can Change. You Get to Choose.
I recently read Brene Brown's new book, Rising Strong. I highly recommend this read to you right now, it is brilliant. And like most reads, there are usually phrases or chapters that leave an a-ha moment or deeper thoughts after turning all the pages. Brene has a chapter titled, "You Got to Dance with Them that Brung You" and it is all about owning all the people you have been, forgiving your many versions of yourself (the past) and accepting you fully. Or that was how I interpreted and continue to interpret the chapter. My best friend spoke at my wedding this year and actually highlighted a few of the many versions I have lived, it was fun to laugh (and want to hide at the same time) at the sharing of Jacki Carr 1.0, 1.7, 2.0, 4.4... and so on. And in this dance with the women I have been, the women who have brung me to the person I am now, I realize that I have lived many lives, had many phases and been many people within this one body.
This past weekend I dove deeper into those versions and I found in writing out my many selves, I went straight to the times, moments, experiences where I felt in the wrong, ashamed or frivolous (i.e. all of my 20s). And I began to spiral a bit, like Will Ferrell in Anchorman, into a glass case of emotion that was remorse. I felt bad for who I had been, the things I had done and the impact I might have left on others. The past is tricky, right? There are all these posters that read 'Don't Look Back, You're not Going that Way' or 'Leave the past in the past where it belongs' ... you know all the memes you see on the social channels, especially this time of year as we embark on a clean slate of January 1. Yet I feel there are stories there, emotions there that need to be cleared, completed or forgiven and learned from as not to be on repeat.
In looking at the list of all the ugly versions of myself, I had originally done this exercise to forgive and accept. Whoops, forgot that part and got lost in emotional time travel backwards. Brene Brown shares that "nostalgia can be a dangerous distraction, and it can underpin a feeling of resignation or hopelessness after a fall. In the rising strong process, looking back is done in the service of moving forward with an integrated and whole heart" (Rising Strong, p. 243).
So I drew a line in purple pen and started another section in my journal of all the women I have been that I can celebrate, that I am proud of, that I am inspired by. Yes, you can be inspired by you, like remember that time you stood up for your friend in the schoolyard, or didn't cheat on that science test when EVERYONE was doing it? Those times....
And in recognizing my many selves (yes, a major plural), I got clear (clear-ish, it is a practice) on my own past. The (many, many) mistakes I have made, the (many, many) celebrations of myself and the in between phases of transition and who I was in within those phases. Therein lies the choice to learn about myself, let go and choose to move forward.
Obviously, I will share some of them with you in the most vulnerable of ways. We will go every other with the list, talking who I am proud of and you know, who I wish I could delete but can't type versions:
+ There was the Jacki Carr that once wrote an essay about Christmas Eve with her family in the 8th grade. My English teacher told me it was really well written, to keep it and come back to it later in life to edit and write it again. I still have it and it is almost time to edit. I became a writer that day.
+ There was the Jacki Carr that was dishonest with her first boyfriend. A slight make out session with a mutual friend sent me into this label of I am a cheater. It was a mistake, I told my then boyfriend and he forgave me, it took me a long, long time to forgive myself. Even now, I still feel remorse writing this...
+ There was the Jacki Carr that is a big sister to two younger sisters. My actions, my interactions, my language and my life are definitely inspired to be an example for them. I want to be someone they can lean on, trust in while also knowing I will tell it to them straight from my heart to theirs. I became a leader when my sisters were born.
+ There was the Jacki Carr that totally took the whole Glory Days in college to the limit. Man I could party. My nickname in college was Blacky Jacki, because I used to blackout from drinking too much. And then Blacky Jacki was best friend with another alter ego named Shacky Jacki. It was a confusing time in the freedom of college, the exploration and navigation (getting way lost, getting sort of found and getting lost again) of the self. I cringe sharing this ... especially as my littlest sister heads to college!
+ Then there was God Squad Jacki Carr in high school. Oh my word, I loved to preach the good word. I was part of a non-denominational youth group called Young Life. I went on the adventure trips (actually one of them was my first trip to Colorado), I signed the contract to be a Leader and not drink or do drugs or have S-E-X, I led the Thursday night talks, I sang the songs...I was all in. I remember I used to pray in my car alone. I feel this and a combination of great friends kept me sane in the emotional drama that is high school. And it supported my belief systems that I still explore today.
+ A lot of you have heard about "girls don't like me" Jacki Carr, you know, the non-hugger that I was. I went through a (far too long) phase of thinking that girls don't like me and was super weird about having a more guy friends to girl friends ratio. Not that it was all bad, I loved my dudes. However, I definitely had this power trip, insecurity thing going on with women that kept them at arm's length. A couple women (still my best friends today) broke down the wall, only a couple though at the time. And the kicker was that in this phase, I was educating myself within the feminist vibrations while studying and major in Gender Studies and living the exact opposite in my own personal life. A lot of internal conflict. A lot of ego. A lot, a lot of fear. I missed out on some rad female friends, I know I did.
+ Of course we cannot leave out lululemon Jacki Carr phase. When I joined lululemon many moons ago, before they were the humongous yoga-inspired company they are now, I drank that culture kool aid and I spiked it. Another preaching of words talking spandex, time integrity, living your best life and goals on goals on goals on goals. My friends would beg me to wear jeans and go have a beer while I was jumping my bicycle to yoga at 1045pm (yes, they have classes that late in California and I went to them!).
+ But wait, pre-lululemon and post college there was one more phase in between. Dare I say, dare I write it...Hollywood Jacki Carr. I worked for a talent agency and was an Executive Assistant to the VP at the company and then a year and half later I tried my hand at PR. Are you ready for this? I wore high heels, went to clubs, I was on Dr. 90210 the TV show getting (temporary) lip injections (and free botox + laser hair removal at age 23ish), and I was networking all over that city drinking martinis on Mondays and playing in a beer pong competition on Thursdays. Wow. Just wow. Who? Me?
+ And one more to end on a celebration note, there was/is Christmas time Jacki Carr. I honestly believed in Santa Claus for far too long. Truth be told, I forced it and I loved it. The traditions, the family, the stories, the reindeer and the giving spirit. I really do love Christmas. I have the sweaters and the decorations and holiday cheer every year. I did and I still do believe in that magic.
You guys, I can literally go on and on.
And even in writing a few of those phases up there, I am nervous you are judging me. I am nervous you are blocking me out now. I am nervous you don't like me, all of me. It is true, in this moment right now, I still want to hide so many versions because I am so clear they are not who I want to be (still learning, always learning).
I was actually sharing this all out loud at a speaking event recently and a woman raised her hand to share. She pointed out that knowing me now, none of these really ring a bell for her. She knows me now as someone completely different and she said this, "what this tells me is how cool that our legacies can change".
How freaking cool is right. In that moment, she was not judging me or labeling me. She was choosing to see me, all of me in this moment right here, right now amidst who I was and even amidst who I will be.
You can shift, reinvent, change your legacy, your grand impact on the World. At any time. At any moment. You can choose how you want to show up, the mark you want to be leaving and the space you want to create for yourself and the World. I want to write that you can do this regardless of your past. Yet what I know is you can do this with your past. By getting really raw and acknowledging and truly owning all of you (the highs and lows), so that you can move forward with humility and grace and rock all of your unique gifts today. Lose the labels, embrace the learnings.
Truth is, some of your gifts, you don't even know what they are yet.
I am all of those people I listed above. A lot of those Jacki Carr phases of the self I have often tried to hide, chosen to close the chapters, forgiven again and again, and learned a lot from. Within the forgiveness, I let go (again and again) of the remorse, the pain, the shame or the distraction that holds that tight, gnarly grip. It is in the forgiveness and the letting go of the emotional stronghold that I can choose to be me, in all my past, present and mysterious future that is coming.
And you know and I know, I have many phases yet to come. And I am open to those mysteries. And I can always, always choose.
In closing, Brene shares this from James Hollis, "In his book Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, Jungian analyst James Hollis writes, 'Perhaps Jung's most compelling contribution is the idea of individuation, that is, the lifelong project of becoming more nearly the whole person we were meant to be - what the gods intended, not the parents, or the tribe, or, especially, the easily intimidated or the inflated ego. While revering the mystery of others, our individuation summons each of us to stand in the presence of our own mystery, and become more fully responsible for who we are in this journey we call our life'" (Rising Strong, p 235).
Get fully responsible. This is a lifelong project, people. Forgive faster and allow the mystery.
Love, Jacki Carr (version 12.7, goal coach Jacki, owning it all)