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.
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.