I can be a cynical person. The last two years haven’t made me less cynical, that’s for sure. I might be the type of person to think mantras are not very helpful. Can mantras realistically help you “be the person you want to be”? Nervously laughing inside my head, I might shrug them off as trivial new age nonsense.
So why did I sign up for WORDSHOP: Real Resolutions: Navigating the Unfathomable 2021-2022″ with Christine D’Ercole on New Year’s Day?
The description on D’Ercole’s website “Wordshop is where we wordshop the words that make up the our stories. We listen unwittingly to the words in our heads, on autopilot. Often, what we hear in our heads, starts with “I AM…” and ends with something awful. In Wordshop we catch the storylines that hurt us, identify words that do not serve us, change those words and write a new story about who we are and who we are capable of being.”
December was not my strongest month. I am familiar with the practice of self-sabotaging through our thoughts. December wasn’t crap only because of my thoughts. There were external factors that I won’t describe for privacy reasons. But, December made my quest for purpose, agency, using my abilities, seem more urgent. I’ve always struggled with “fulfillment and purpose” which can seem self-indulgent.
In Tracy’s post about FIFI blogger’s word of the year (WOTY), I explain that my WOTY for 2022 is “Blossom”; as I approach 50, I would like to encourage myself to blossom not settle or become stagnant. Whether it’s improving my speed when running or trying new strength exercises or finding things in my career that inspire a sense of blossoming. When I shared this with the other bloggers, Mina asked if “blossom was my opposite to existential dread?”, to which I said “Yes! You know me pretty well :)”
I have written about D’Ercole’s mantras previously. I am not ashamed to admit that I have written I AM I CAN I WILL I DO on a sticky note that I kept on my home desk all year and which I read to myself when it serves me. I also use this mantra when I’m running and I get to the sticky parts where my body is getting tired and I may be tempted to stop early. You know that part in an endurance sport where your thoughts might sabotage what your body can do.
So when I read about the Wordshop the week before it was taking place, I thought “why not?”. It wasn’t cheap but I have spent more on food or clothes I didn’t enjoy. It may be an hour-long event, but hopefully it will permeate the part of myself that holds inspiration. I have also been hunkering down (again) because of the Omicron surge, so I figured I certainly had the time.
I don’t typically idolize celebrities. When I like someone, I do really like them though. I’ve taken a number of D’Ercole’s Peloton rides after a year of using the app and my admiration for her or the benefit I feel from taking her classes hasn’t faded. That was another reason I thought I would take the workshop.
Was it worth it? I think so. D’Ercole started the seminar sitting in her living room. Just her on the screen. I was worried it might have an over-the-top quality to it. Or a TED talk triteness. But it didn’t. It felt casual and authentic. Her charisma also shone through the screen. It also felt useful.
D’Ercole explained that this was the 7th annual New Year’s Day wordshop. She suggested having a pen and paper handy and explained that you could use an electronic device if they wanted but explained the impact using a pen and paper can have. She also explained the usefulness of doing these exercises over time and looking back at them to see where you’ve been and where you are. She recapped the purpose of the seminar and why the last couple years have made it increasingly important to work on our internal chatter. One thing she said was that we should spend as much time editing how we talk to ourselves as we do editing an email we send to others. She also cautioned that working on self-talk won’t “change your life” with respect to big things (diagnoses, loss) but it can change how we navigate challenges.
D’Ercole explained a bit about her “back story”. She described wanting to be a ballerina when she was little. How her family couldn’t afford lessons but her father set up mirrors and a barre in their basement and that made her feel he believed in her. She describes being told by ballet instructors that her thighs were too big to be a dancer. She decided to be an actor and despite getting into a “fancy acting school” she was again told she was talented but her thighs were too big. Somewhere the way she became a bike messenger in NYC and she reveled in an activity where her thighs made her fast and good at that job and it was the first time something about herself that she had been taught to dislike because of others’ ideas worked in her favour. She became a mother and became much larger and she decided to embrace her size and become a plus-size model. However, again she was the wrong size (too small) according to the agencies. Eventually she went back to competitive cycling where embracing her self became her superpower. I’ve paraphrasing and have condensed this story quite a bit. D’Ercole is indeed a gifted storyteller and I can’t do it justice. But weaved throughout this story was how learning to use wordshopping to frame her internal chatter, helped her embrace herself fully and navigate life’s challenges in a better way. She makes it clear it’s an ongoing journey. This I respect. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that therapeutic coping mechanisms that we teach ourselves need to be practiced and assessed. They are not static.
D’Ercole then had us go through each part of her mantra, I AM I CAN I WILL I DO and had us wordshop our own parts which had us all come up with our own mantra (for now, not for eternity!). She asked us to share in the chat and mine ended up being “I am fearful. I can deserve. I will enjoy. I do envision better”.
Not surprisingly, and as D’Ercole pointed out, when we look at everyone’s mantras, there are many similarities. People are very much the same in the fears they hold, their wants, desires, etc. She also said acknowledging this can help us know that others have their hands on our back (she uses this a lot in spin classes – picturing someone’s hand on your back helping you through a challenging part).
All in all, it was a worthwhile hour (she went a bit over the hour and seemed pretty casual about the time) on a quiet New Year’s Eve Day. Maybe it left me a little less cynical (for today). Perhaps it will even help me direct my internal dialogue to a place of blossoming for 2022.