Yesterday I received an email of congrats from an entrepreneurial friend of mine after she saw my name on a press release announcing that I was a finalist for a Trailblazer of the Year Award. I quickly clicked on the link she had sent and was momentarily stunned... Trailblazing? Really? I wrote her back and said, "Thank you!" And, "hmm... I wonder how I ended up in that category?"
The title of "Trailblazing" is definitely a word I hadn't yet used to describe myself.
Her return email then landed in my inbox:
"Don’t underestimate yourself Shasta!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU are doing such IMPORTANT work ----- don't you realize you are- Reinstating the Role of Friendship in Life? Giving friendship a Facelift? Uplifting the Spirit with New Friends? It’s because of these reasons that you are a Trailblazer!!!! Accept it and write about how you think you are trailblazing for your next blog – this is important!!"
And then I just smiled. Smiled with the appreciation of having friends in my life who believe in me and help me see myself in new ways. So this blog is my way of accepting the challenge of a friend. This is for me to own what I want to do in this world, but it's also me inviting you to blaze the trail with me! :)
The funny thing is that I know I am definitely on a mission. I wouldn't deny that! But sometimes we just don't use words like "Trailblazing!" to describe ourselves! But when I started GirlFriendCircles.com nearly 4 years ago I'd get blank stares from people when I'd describe my business. And magazines would respond with "Oh we did a story on friendship 8 months ago," as though that meant they didn't need to cover it again this year! And women would say stupid things like, "Who would be so desperate as to pay for friends?" as though paying for coffee, water, and manicures were of more value to them. Even now when I try to pitch friendship as the very real health story that it is, editors and producers would rather give you a story about a new technique for stomach crunches even though friendship is far more important to your health!
So when I remember what it was like back then and compare it to now.... while I wouldn't have used the word "trailblazing," that was very much what I have done for the last number of years.
And just to further laugh at myself... I do have a theory that friendship can save the world. (See my 3 min video here.) What kind of a silly girl goes making lofty claims about "saving the world" without thinking she wouldn't be blazing a trail along the way!? Ha! Shows just how much we can do without seeing it through the eyes of others!
What Our Trailblazing May Feel Like...
This experience reminds me of the recent Dove commercial that highlights how we see our appearance differently than others. I think the same can be true of our accomplishments, roles, identities, and goals. Certainly it makes sense that we might focus more on our wrinkles, wide foreheads, and big noses than anyone ever looking at us sees. But similarly, we see much more of the un-glamorous and non-wowing parts of our lives than others see. (Which is a good thing because while I'm absolutely okay with you knowing how many days I go un-showered, it's still better that you don't have to see it!)
The truth is that when I think of my life, I just see a girl behind her computer, in yoga pants, with stringy hair, typing emails furiously, scheduling phone calls, and just checking things off my to-do list. It's not really the same image that comes to mind when I think "TRAILBLAZER!" LOL!
But just because the vast majority of my life moments feel mundane doesn't mean I'm not creating partnerships, pitching stories, creating content, and slowly making the trail one foot longer.
To that end, I started www.GirlFriendCircles.com to help introduce women to each other, wrote a book to help inspire and teach women how to foster friendships into more meaningful relationships, and filled up calendars with speaking appointments, workshops, interviews, and events where I can engage with women on such important friendship-related subjects such as forgiveness, personal growth, physical health, self-esteem, and joy.
This idea is necessary because we are moving every 5 years, changing jobs every 4.4 years, living far from our family, going through our life stages at vastly different ages, and divorcing more frequently than previous generations-- every single one of those changes can uproot our support systems leaving people feeling incredibly vulnerable. We need new ways of connecting with other human beings with more ease and less fear, while also having the permission and know-how to transform those friendships into deep, fulfilling, and meaningful relationships.
So as I'm expanding into a new word, here's hoping you'll blaze trails with me! I don't expect any of you to run a media campaign in your community for new friendships, but you can RSVP for a ConnectingCircle or sign-up to be a local Ambassador! You may not see that as anything hugely glamorous. In fact, it may even feel awkward, discouraging, and scary! But that doesn't mean it's not HUGELY important!
Why We Have to Blaze Friendship Trails
We have to remember why we are doing what we do.
Yes, most of being a mom feels more like being a chauffeur, ATM, and chef; but to actually stop and feel the awesomeness of the role-- a life-giver, educator-of-the-next-generation, and the person who will teach real love to another human. Wow.
Similarly, starting a friendship doesn't always feel that amazing. We often carry fear wondering if the other person will like us, frustration with how hard it is to get something scheduled, and then un-fulfilled when an evening talking to strangers doesn't feel like talking to our best friends, yet. It doesn't always feel amazing.
But when you realize it's our relationships that serve as gymnasiums for our souls, giving us the place to practice the skills this world desperately needs: forgiveness when hurt, compassion when tired, cheering when jealous, and supporting even when not understanding-- then we sit with just a bit of the sacredness of this relationship. For, if we can't practice these skills with people around us who we, at one point, chose to care about, then we have little chance of being able to show up with these skills when we're talking about people who live on the other side of the world, who worship a different version of God, or who vote for a different president.
I'd say there are few things more important than having safe relationships where we can practice being the powerful, big, loving people who this world needs us to be.
Furthermore, we live in a world where increased loneliness is literally poisoning our bodies. Stress is the number one cause of most disease and death and a sense of disconnection is heightening our sense of being "separate." The less we feel supported by a tribe of people, the more at risk we are of sickness, acting out of insecurity, and behaving in less compassionate ways.
A plethora of research shows that when we have friends we feel like the obstacles in our lives are smaller, that we heal from surgery faster, that we recover from breast cancer at higher rates, that our immune systems are stronger, and that we have more energy to do our life missions. Wow.
I sincerely believe that the more connected everyone is to a group of friends-- the better off this entire world will be.
So to all the trails we have already blazed, and to the many, many more that we will keep making... Thanks to Rock the World for the honor of the nomination, thanks to my friend Shamini for pushing me to sit with the label, and thanks to all of you women who are on the trail with me! xoxo