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  • Jan Rybeck

Mud Wrestling

Sometimes you just need to get down and dirty to find out what matters most.


I ran smack into this realization while on “retreat” in Brooklyn this past week. I went there to hide out in our kids’ apartment while they were off adventuring in Tanzania. My plan was to do nothing but write so that, finally, I could make traction on that book clients are often asking me to write. I figured that if folks were asking for it, perhaps it would just roll right out of my head and onto the page. It was going to be that easy!


Sparing the gory details…it was a total slog. Like wrestling in mud, the harder I thrashed around with my thoughts, the more muddled they became.


I got tangled up in what I should write, how I should write it, and whether it (I) would be good enough for anyone to actually read it. I spent hours staring at my computer, writing a few lines, then deleting, writing and deleting. When I wasn’t perseverating over the writing, I was cleaning, and re-cleaning the tiny apartment, perhaps to clear up the messiness overtaking my mind.


If you want a clean house, start writing a book. it really works!


Though there were moments when I could observe myself in this struggle with some distance, those times were mere mounds of high dry ground amidst a vast, mushy, stinky swamp of insecurity. The harder I tried to write, the more the ground gave way and I sank into despair. Like Chinese finger traps, the more I efforted, the tighter the grip, keeping me in a place I did not want to be.


So I left.


I went for a walk in the neighborhood. I walked for a very, very long time. I walked so long that I exhausted myself. There was no energy left in me to effort much of anything except appreciation for my body’s ability to keep moving. I felt small, blessedly insignificant, and at home in a deeply experienced truth that all I could do right then and there was to be.


It was a moment of grace.


And when grace happens, things show up exactly as they are.


Like Victor.


Actually, Victor was already there. He had to be because he was the doorman for the building where I was staying.


Victor met me with a blast of authentic warmth and care. It was an enthusiastic yet appropriate greeting that invited me in yet did not impose. It was a perfectly nourishing connection. And it popped me out of my funk.


It occurred to me in that moment that without trying too hard or making it about him, Victor had worked a small miracle. He had changed my day with nothing more than a genuine, heartfelt, and cleared out greeting. It was that simple and that big.


Every interaction is an opportunity… to make something happen, to learn something, to touch someone and change their day. Victor reminded me, in less than 15 seconds, that we all have a place and a purpose, and no act is too small to make a difference.


Sounds cliché, I know. But cliché’s are cliche for a reason. They are common because they are real.


And still we move past them for what looks shinier, smarter, and bigger than life.


I had gone to NY to write something that I imagined would enable me to be appear bigger than life, to have a larger impact than I imagined was currently the case. I hate to admit it but at moments, I bought into the idea that to be someone in my sphere, I needed to have a brand that came with a book, video, bumper sticker, anything that could go viral and make me legit. I knew in my gut that this was more illusion than truth. My inner wise woman, when I am calm and quiet enough to listen to her, often counsels me that legitimacy is a given… more a matter of being comfortable in my own skin than vesting myself in garments of glory.


Damn her, she is so damn smart. Why don’t I listen to her all the time?


Perhaps it’s because sometimes I need to wear myself out wrestling in the mud before I can actually quiet down long enough to hear.


I left NY with a renewed and deeply embodied sense of the potential for every action and interaction to be an opportunity. I had grown my capacity to trust that whether I knew it or not, impact was happening, no matter the size or source.

I also left my kids with a super clean apartment.


Some things to consider:


How do you get in your own way?


What are the voices and old narratives or self talk that keep you from stepping up to what is possible? How might you notice them without letting them affect you as much, and then move past them to what you most want, or what is being asked of you?


What do you notice in the moment that suggests a different approach than your usual?




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