Written By: Laurie D.
Trust. Wow, that’s a big word. It carries a lot of weight and importance in our lives. We often think about trust in others when the topic is mentioned. Trust in our kids, our partner, our co-workers, our friends, those we trust with our health and safety. Or maybe we think about it in terms of how trustful others can be of us. But what we tend to overlook is trust in ourselves. I’m talking about trust in our voices, our inner-selves, our instincts, or …our guts. You hear it repeatedly “go with your gut”, but if you’re anything like me “going with your gut” means running through the multitude of options in your mind over and over again, second guessing any aforementioned “gut” talk. It’s maddening to keep spinning around and around, seeking the right answer but never being sure which is “right”. It takes practice and trust in your inner-self’s ability to guide you along the path before you’ll begin to recognize it when it shows up in the most unexpected of places.
There are two moments in my life where I felt my instinct shouting at me through a megaphone and despite my merry-go-round thought process of “should I or shouldn’t I’, I took a leap of faith and listened. Both instances changed my life forever.
In 2006, I sat down with my Runner’s World magazine and a cup of tea, taking a much needed mommy-break. My kids were five and two at the time and were both in their rooms for quiet time. As I flipped the pages, I came across an article about a woman who had started a program focused on helping girls build inner confidence and a strong voice through physical activity. As I read through the details, I recalled reading an article a few years back about the same person, Molly Barker. Girls on the Run was just beginning to gain some momentum across the country and the program resonated with me, the once shy, quiet girl. I phoned my local Girls on the Run council only to find out that they were unable to contractually serve girls in my community. “Here’s everything you need to start your own council” the Director said. I hopped online, read about the curriculum, and felt deep from within, “I need to do this. I need to make sure this program is available for my daughter, her friends and all the girls in our community”. I had no background in non-profits, social work, or teaching, but after a few rounds of “there’s no way you can do this. Wait, what? Yes you can! Wait. Err no. No you can’t. How are you going to do this with two little ones and virtually no experience?” I began to feel the pull to take on this project. I distinctly recall hearing a voice from within say “Sure, you can step back, wait and see where life takes you. But someone else is going to come in here and take this opportunity. You will have missed your chance and you’ll regret it.” In 2007 I started the program in my community and have turned leading the local Girls on the Run council into a full-time job. I coached the girls for many years and have always said that the girls have given me so much more than I have ever given them. Leading the lessons with 15 pairs of little girls’ eyes and ears intently focused on the words I was saying shined an incredibly bright spotlight on the ways I was not living the very lessons I was so passionate about the girls learning. This program changed my life; I found my voice and my strength. These experiences lead me to “listening to my gut changed my life forever” moment #2.
During all of this growth, and baring my new found voice and inner strength, my marriage began to fail. Maybe I was looking at it through a different lens, one in which I felt I was missing out on some of the basics of a happy, healthy marriage, or maybe we just ended up going down separate paths and couldn’t reconnect, but one thing I do know, there was very little love between the two of us, only stress, anxiety, avoidance and resentment.
Like any big decision in my life, I was in a perpetual tailspin on whether or not I should stay in my marriage. You can weigh the pros and cons of divorce or staying together all day long, but really, you can never, ever land on that “YES! This is the perfect decision”. I was lost, broken, hurting and I had no idea how to proceed. I often turn to my dad for guidance in moments like this one. He passed away when I was 20, and I’ve always felt him close to me. I believe he visits me in my dreams, because when I dream of him, it is intensely real. I wake up feeling loved, protected and safe. My dad had been missing from my dreams during this time, so while I was out on a run, I asked my dad to give me a sign. He was an environmentalist, and loved birds. It was a connection point for us so during that run I said “Dad, I need help. I’m so confused right now. I need you to guide me. If I should leave my marriage, if that’s the best thing for me and the kids, then first show me a cardinal. If I should stay, if this is just a rough patch but we’ll make it through and be even stronger, then show me a hawk. Between these two, whichever I see first is my sign” I let that thought go into the universe and finished my run with anticipation and hope for my sign. I didn’t see either bird for almost 48 hours. I was beginning to second guess signs from angels and was feeling a little more hopeless than I had been when I set out on my run. As the end of the second day neared, a red-tailed hawk swooped down right in front of my car. It was large and obvious, there was no mistaking it was a hawk. There was also no mistaking that the second I saw those broad wings and hooked beak, my heart sank and I was filled with dread. I couldn’t believe it was a hawk I saw first. “STAY?? I’m supposed to STAY?? There must be some mistake. Did I miss a cardinal along the way?” My disbelief and subsequent crying eventually turned to enlightenment and awareness. My dad knew that I would overthink it all, even with his sign, and the lesson here was for me to experience that feeling of disappointment, of “no, that’s not right” for me to understand how to listen to my gut. My inner-spirit had been guiding me all along, I was simply shutting her off because I feared the pain that lie ahead, in either decision. I didn’t immediately act on my hawk moment, but when the time presented itself, I knew it was the best decision I could make and was able to trust what I was feeling.
Our inner spirits talk to us all the time. Once we start recognizing it during the big moments, we begin to see it in our day to day lives. From going back into the house to grab a first aid kit before an adventure (we ended up needing the first aid kit) to grabbing an umbrella “just in case” and being caught in a downpour later in the day, the little voice that taps you on the shoulder and whispers “you’re going to need this” is one to which we should listen. I’m certainly not an expert at following my gut, but I’m definitely learning to be more in tune with her and she has yet to fail me. I’m also more aware of the feeling of making the wrong choice – the pit in your stomach when you know you could’ve and should have done something different, but you let your brain interfere with the process. After the fact, I recognize the little “I told you so” from within. It’s all of these moments combined that help us become more in tune with our inner-selves, and when we are in harmony, that is when we know…in our gut…that we are on the right path.
“Self trust is the essence of heroism.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson