The Mitchum Incident

I was co-leading a workshop the other day, and I was transfixed by watching this group of highly competent leaders all doing a task the exact same way. I found myself feeling a little high and mighty as I sagely gave them the feedback that when their approach wasn’t working, they just tried the same thing harder. “Heh, great line,” I smugly thought to myself. I should know by now that a high and mighty feeling portends a Universal bitch-slap, er… life lesson.

I found it in my deodorant.

My girlfriend Stephanie, who keeps it real, and I were chilling at the top of a particularly sweaty hike. I, making a grand statement of the obvious, observed, “I stink.” Steph, without missing a beat, said, “I know. I still love you.” I felt my face flushing as I said, “Sometimes I just have to put more deodorant on.” Steph paused for a moment and replied, “You know Bridge, that deodorant you use is not your friend. This isn’t the first time it hasn’t held up its end of the bargain.”

I silently thanked God for all of the work I’ve done on myself, because I could hear from my girlfriend whom I adore that I’ve been cruising around with periodic episodes of B.O. and not want to instantly die of mortification. Barely. Then, something clicked. I burst out laughing, “Haha!” I snorted, “That shit is NOT WORKING! And I’ve been trying harder to make my deodorant work by applying more!” I’d thought it was me—that I had some kind of fundamental hygiene flaw, like an extra B.O. marker in my genome or something—but it was just the jacked-up deodorant I was using.

In an embarrassment of riches, the life lesson didn’t stop at deodorant. It kept unfolding for me as I reflected on my tumultuous relationship with beauty products. The moisturizer that I stuck with for seven years while thinking I just had bad skin; the shampoo that it took me three months to figure out gave me hives; the cheap razors that nearly made me a bloody shower statistic before I realized I wasn’t just a horrible shaver or that my legs weren’t inordinately bumpy.

The Mitchum Incident, as I like to call it, showed me that my pattern of trying harder extended way beyond beauty products. My past relationships were case studies in trying harder: I tried harder to be a good stepmom, in another relationship I tried harder to not rock the boat, and, in another, I tried really hard to feel secure.

Like tossing the Mitchum for Secret, what I really needed to do was change it up.

Being a good stepmom meant stepping out of controlling and parenting, and stepping into negotiation and relationship. And, it turns out that trying hard not to rock the boat and avoid conflict can result in a very abrupt and painful capsizing—the soul wants what it wants, and eventually it will make its desires known. The last relationship change up was such a no-brainer, it only took a year of therapy and getting dumped to get there: I felt unstable in that relationship because the relationship wasn’t stable. I didn’t need to try harder to be in it, I needed to get the hell out.

I kept missing the point that my soul was so stridently trying to teach me: that I didn’t need to try harder, be someone different, or accept the unacceptable. I thought the pattern was you are flawed, try harder. But the pattern really was, this is not working for you, change it up babe. Stop trying to Mitchum a Secret situation.

________

P.S.

Hi friends! I’m writing blog posts again. And actually, what I really want to do is have conversations. With you. All this writing business is just so I can have something to talk about with you. My friend Abigail says I’m really good at creating clarity for people through having conversations. And I love it. It’s a total two-fer. So this is my invitation for you to join me: wherever you read this, on Facebook, my website, or via email, please join the conversation. I’m like the New Age Linda Richmond: we’ll have coffee and we’ll talk, no big whoop.

43 comments on “The Mitchum Incident
  1. AWESOME. But seriously — what deodorant do you recommend???? Razors??? You are describing my life and I need a cheat sheet! I mean: please. Maybe if I get through a week without stinky red bumpiness, I can exteeeeeend the metaphor:)

  2. Bridgette, this was Perfect. Shoot, can I relate! And particularly, this was so helpful for me now, entering relationship with 3 kids: “Being a good stepmom meant stepping out of controlling and parenting, and stepping into negotiation and relationship.” I get the same message all day long, “go easy” and it’s all about stepping out of the “try harder” pattern. Thanks for the awesome re-framing. XO

  3. I “Liked” LOVED this. You are a natural! Naturally Great at Writing. Write more! Don’t deprive us of your foibles.

  4. Oh yes, I ALWAYS think first it’s a flaw in myself and that I must try harder to make it (whatever it is) work. Interestingly, I also wrote about trying harder and giving that up this week. Coincidence? :-)

  5. Hey, Bridgette, I thank you for taking the bitch slap for a lot of us. Not that I’m stinky (maybe!?)…I just always try too hard and then when it doesn’t work it almost never occurs to me to let it go and move on.
    Thanks, Oh Wise One! :)

  6. Thank God you are writing posts again, clarity is always needed. “I felt unstable in the relationship because the relationship wasn’t stable,” my much needed gold nugget today.

    Many thanks and keep it coming!

    P.S. The deodorant thing is so relevant for hikers! WTF, do any of them work?

  7. Switch it up, babe!! Every day is an invitation to start over. Not like Groundhog Day. Like imagining the thing that never existed before, and believing it will happen. Thanks for the inspiration, Bridgette. And I don’t care if you smell :)

  8. Dude, I wish you had written this about 3 months ago, I had to figure it out myself last week!

    Seriously, this has been a theme for me this year as well… discovering all the places where I’m trying harder instead of trying new, and failing miserably as a result.

    This is going to be the summer of changing things up and (hopefully) finding ways to make things actually work, so nice timing, Bridgette. :)

  9. Just the reminder I needed to hear today…if it’s meant to be, it shall happen naturally. Forcing and trying harder a sure sign that I’m barking up the wrong tree, yet I still do it sometimes!!!!

  10. I’m so glad to have more of your writing to read! :-)

    The deodorant thing is a constant challenge, esp if you try to go the “natural route”. *grumble*

    On the deeper topic, 1) yes yes 1,000 times yes, and 2) this keeps coming up for me because it’s so much the thing I try to do with my work. Figure out who you truly are, at the core, so you quit trying to make yourself into someone else. Instead figure out why that part of you is showing up all awkward and fumbly, and how you can help it become more graceful and able to play nice with the rest of you (and the world). Love the further thoughts about this!

  11. Thank you a gazillion times for this gem: “the soul wants what it wants and eventually, it will make its desires known”…..reeling from the feeling….

  12. Thanks so much for this. Perfectly applies to some painful things I am going through. Sometimes it seems so much easier to keep on trying harder then to admit something is beyond my fixing. Realize I am just postponing the sadness of letting go.

    • Margaret–so great to hear from you. And yes, you make such a solid point–when you realize trying harder isn’t going to do it, there is the letting go. It’s a form of denial, isn’t it?

  13. Loved reading this! (I’ll just say I think it reads like it was written by an Emotional Body – I can so relate!) Right now I am doing the same thing with marketing myself as a coach – I think I am using an old way that might not be ‘my best friend” and the new stuff seems scarey!! (though it might be working) It’s odd how familiar seems comfortable (meaning pain/hard is easier than ease and grace – ummmm) – indeed I am grateful for partners – (CrisMarie – gives me the same straight goods) – who remind me I could thrive! instead of surviving! Change it up, Babe!! YES!

  14. You know, Bridge, I do so love your writing. I always look forward to your blogs–you have such a way with words. But I must tell you: This one was just brilliant! How many times in my life (wish I’d gotten it sooner!) have I seemed to be failing and kept trying harder when what I really needed to do was CHANGE! Thank you for this great post. Can’t wait to share it!

  15. Spot on. Exactly what I needed to reflect back on my past relationships where I thought, or was so wrongly told, that the problem was me. Thanks. Enlightening and humorous.

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