Once upon a time, I believed that in order to be happy and seen as worthy of love, I had to follow the rules. Now, these weren’t rules you’d find in a book. Rather, they were the expectations of what Good Southern Girls SHOULD do. And if I were to carefully tend my role, then I would live Happily Ever After.  There was no real room for making conscious choices based on what I deeply desired. Nope, instead, it was just understood that those choices didn’t matter if I really wanted happiness.

Well, at least what would look like happiness “on paper”.

In case you didn’t grow up in the South in the 70’s and 80’s, you may not know what the plan for Future Happiness looked like. Yes, despite it being the era of the ERA and Enjoili telling us we could have it all, it all boiled down to tending these rules.

Here’s the “rules” I learned if I wanted to have a “happy life”:

    • Be a good girl in high school and plan for college
    • Get married to a man with a Good Job
    • Buy a 3-Bedroom Starter Home and get a dog.
    • Have babies and a job, but not a career because Women with Careers are a Threat to Men
    • Join the PTA and make Life Appear Perfect
    • Have the right hairstyle and wear the right clothes. Nothing flashy or trashy, now. It has to be classic and classy, cause momma’s can’t be sexy.
    • Ladies don’t like sex; they only dole it out as a duty.
    • No matter how crappy things get, put a happy face on it ‘cause, baby, that’s what Good Girls Do
    • You must do what’s expected of you, always.
    • Never say no.
    • Keep a perfectly clean house, and when you go out in public, your children should be perfectly groomed (and quiet, because children should be seen not heard)
    • If your marriage doesn’t feel supportive, pretend that it is.
    • If your husband has an affair, it’s your fault, darling, because obviously you can’t keep him satisfied.
    • If your marriage goes bad and (gasp) you head for divorce, it’s all  YOUR fault because you weren’t pretty enough / sexy enough / thin enough / submissive enough / etc.
    • When you get divorced, have the good sense to be demure and sad, as if you were widowed, because you don’t want to become a Divorcee because that’s a threat to other women.

Yes, darling, I grew up believing that these were the rules and anytime I stepped outside of them, then I would forever change my chance at Being Worthy. You see, those rules are the beliefs of a person who thinks their life’s fate is sealed.

And the story of life was called “The Art of Surviving”.

When I got divorced back in 2004, I continued to go through the motions for a long while.  I hoped that if I followed The Rules that before me would soon be laid the Plan for Divorced Women with Children so I would know how to continue surviving.

The first weekend I had no children and I was Home Alone, I have to admit I didn’t know what to do with myself. But on those quiet Sunday mornings, I began hearing the still, small voice of my heart.

I stopped drinking the sand and quenched my thirst.

Instead of following a Plan designed by others, I discovered that I could create my own plan for my life.

I could choose what to do with my time.

I could choose what to do with my body and my space. I could choose to reinvent myself. I could embrace my desires for adventure and structure my work around it. I could give into my gypsy soul leanings and bask in soul-altering travel and relationships.

I could choose to step outside my box, and then step back into known safety.

I could choose to thrive. I could choose to rest. I could choose to explore my edges. I could consciously and wholeheartedly live each day. I could be present and not worry about the future. I could allow my past to stay behind me.

I could choose to consciously live instead of unconsciously survive.

I took a meditation class with Buddhist Monks. Colored my hair. Redefined my relationship to Church. Discovered how to shine my karma. Found my Soul’s home in Washington DC.  Wore stockings and found healing through sex.

And, to be honest, I slipped in and out of consciousness.

I’d get brave and step out on the frozen lake of life. I’d walk slowly and carefully and admire every crystalline moment. Then, fear would set in and I’d rush to get off the uncertainty of what was below the ice and inevitably slip and fall in.

It’s easy, then, to give into the fear and nurse our hurts and believe that we are Stuck and Unable to Change and Without Choice of any sort.

Because it’s, frankly easier to just go through the motions. It’s less work to roll out of bed at the last minute, rush here and there, mark time throughout the day, fill our time in the evenings indiscriminately, eat crappy food that’s easier than cooking and then go to bed.

We lie to ourselves and tell us that things like journaling and meditation don’t work for US. That others get to lead a life that’s happy and of their choosing and that we have to lead a life of duty and should and what’s expected.

But let’s be honest here, darling. You can choose to go through the motions. You can choose to cling to the stories of how you’ve Been Done Wrong.

Or after you’ve caught your breath after falling into the frigid waters, you can get up and change your clothes and start the next day fresh.

Living a conscious life will seem like an oxymoron to those in the outside world. But we won’t care, because we’ll learn that it doesn’t matter what others think about us. And, in fact, living a conscious life will piss people off.

My darling, it’s faith in yourself and learning to listen to the small still sound of your heart.

What does a conscious life look like? Especially the parts that seem counterintuitive? Here’s some examples.

    • It’s dancing like a wild woman and meditating like a saint.
    • Learning to not only claim your story, but how to hold it close to you. Only sharing it when you are safe to be vulnerable with those who have earned the right while creating our art for the world.
    • Conscious living is about curating your life in every way. From the people you hang out with to the books you read to how you consume news and social media.
    • It’s giving into your desire to be mysterious and feel exciting, but ditching drama as a lifestyle. That means you’ll probably have to make the choice not to have some people in your life. Because they attract too much drama and are toxic.
    • And learning how the best way to break the rules is to tend the details of our daily lives while simultaneously letting go of the details that tie us to perfection.
    • Conscious living is all about ensuring that your life is nourishing while being disciplined enough to not give into your inner two year old. Because conscious living demands you learn the art of compassionate discipline.
    • It’s loving yourself to make a plan: to plan your meals, your to-do list, and your goals in life. And it’s also learning when to let plans go and give into whimsy.
    • Conscious living is about learning to sit with the uncomfortable nature of awareness, ditching what you’re only tolerating, and stepping into what scares you.
    • It’s clearing the clutter blocking our path so that we can tune into the voice of our heart more often
    • The beauty of conscious living is making choices that fit who you desire to be that day. So, that can mean wearing high heels one day and running shoes the next. Or buying that gorgeous dress and those fabulous yoga pants and wearing them instead of hanging them in your closet.
    • It’s learning to trust your intuition.
    • Conscious living demands you use your good stuff. Yes, it’s using the china for a weeknight dinner, wearing your best underwear and using every drop of that expensive perfume.
    • It’s fresh flowers in the kitchen and the bathroom.  It’s burning a favorite candle.
    • The key to living a conscious life is knowing that you don’t have to wear masks or play a role to be loved. And understanding that you don’t have to hustle for love.
    • Conscious living is also about letting go of grudges and learning the art of forgiveness. Especially when it comes to forgiving ourselves.
    • It’s choosing faith. Choosing love. It’s choosing ourselves over the fear of being alone. It’s choosing courage. It’s choosing to evolve and grow.

It is knowing that we have a choice.

You get to experience joy. You get to be happy.  You get to have fun. And, darling, know that choosing to live a conscious life means that it will be gloriously messy and imperfect.  And, baby, it takes work or else you can slip back into the unconscious.

Are you ready to go from existing and surviving and really living? Darling, it’s time to take that first baby steps towards what your soul desires.

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