I was recently sitting in a workshop that I helped coordinate, looking at the flip chart that the facilitator was using. I had provided that flipchart, thinking the pages were all blank. As she turned a page, I caught a glance of something I had written. Luckily, she did not expose the whole page, but turned to the next blank page. I drew in a breath and a clapped my hand over my mouth. I felt mortified, shocked, and a little ashamed! A few people near me turned to see what was wrong. I felt a fierce blush creep up my neck. The person sitting next to me later told me my upper arm had gone red, too.
What on earth was on that page? A bad word? A naked picture? What?
My eye had caught some numbers, a price. The sheets (there were two) were actually advertisements for two workshops that I had planned to put on in 2013, both cancelled because of my cancer diagnosis. So why did I have such a strong reaction? This was way beyond embarrassment at an unprofessional oversight. I thought back over the past year, to the last time I used that flip chart, and I realized it was just about a year ago. I had ambitiously scheduled three workshops over the course of three months on Maui. I was really making a push to birth a body of work into the world, to ‘make it’ as a workshop creator and facilitator. Two of the workshops would be co-taught with Apollo. We were creating weekends to help singles and couples heal their sexuality and leave the baggage behind so they might have the kinds of relationships they wanted. We were excited and giving it our all. We had spent thousands of dollars and weeks of time and travel learning how to market in a way that was heart-felt and aligned with our values.
I took everything I learned in my marketing classes and applied it to a free intro for my women’s workshop. It was called, ‘Three Common Mistakes Even Smart Single Women Make That Keep Them Alone, Lonely, and Hungry for Love.’ (Yeah, that really was the name of the intro.) I followed all the marketing rules I had learned. I planned to sell the women’s workshop and the single’s and couple’s workshops as well that day. I had written up the flipchart pages in advance, well in back of the flipchart. 35 women showed up that day, and I was really pleased with the turnout. Five women registered for the Reclaiming Aphrodite workshop. It was barely enough to make it a go…. but I was buoyed by the success of the free intro.
Following the Reclaiming Aphrodite workshop, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The two workshops to follow were cancelled. Apollo and I both breathed a huge sigh of relief. “We don’t have to do this anymore!” No more marketing, no more trying to fill workshops, no more putting in hundreds of hours and making barely enough money to survive on! I never looked back. I was done. After nearly a decade of putting on workshops, I had had enough.
Fast forward a few months to post-cancer: fully recovered, ready-for-what’s-next. What is next? I have no idea. I’m happy to have some work to do, website and graphic design, working at home. Happy to be healthy, living in Maui with my beloved. Happy to help organize a workshop that was easy to fill on subject matter I’m very interested in, Internal Family Systems ‘Parts Work.’ Seeing those flip chart pages sparked something deep. My reaction of mortification was intense and visceral. Why?
I invite the feelings to wash over me again, so I can dig deeper. There’s shame in there. Disgust. I hated having to market myself. Some part of me feels like I was a fraud. I didn’t really know what I was doing. Nothing I was teaching was original. Who did I think I was, anyway? Another part of me knows. I have a gift and I wanted to use it. Perhaps teaching was not the right use of it. I hereby invite and invoke right use of my gift!
My gift is so subtle as to be almost invisible. It’s the gift of presence. Listening. Being with. Witnessing without fixing or advising. I may not always choose to use it, but when I do, it’s palpable. I can also teach others how to bring presence, if they are willing and have a desire to practice. Because it is truly a practice. If you want to know more about presence, contact me and I’ll send you info.
Since ‘workshop facilitator’ was a part of me that I identified with for so long, it’s natural that I would feel bereft when that part is no longer needed or called upon. Do I need to create another persona to take its place? I’m not so sure I do. I have tremendous contentment in my life, but I am by no means stagnant. I keep doing my inner work, and writing about it for the benefit of myself and others, as this blog and my book reveal. Perhaps I am simply myself. No labels necessary. I accept!
Who are you, without your labels? If you care to share, I respond to every comment below. Thanks for tuning in.
Love & blessings, Amrita