I just finished a four month project that left me with beautiful stories etched on my bones. That cracked me open and reassembled me as something new. Something different.
I just finished a four month project that took me, a single woman, working alone in the world, and showed her with clarity that cannot be overshadowed how much deeper and fuller, how much more real, how much more alive community is.
I am so deeply honored to have worked on the First (hopefully annual) TEDx Bellingham event. There is a combination of fullness and emptiness inside me that I’m actually having difficulty exploring completely….but the closest I can get to it is that I’m Full beyond belief from the courage and passion of everyone who took part in the project. And empty because it filled me up for so long, and now there is just ether in a space that was overflowing with palpable community just two days ago.
It may be too early to write this post since I am still unwinding and processing my emotions around this whole thing…but while I was in it, I wanted to share a few thoughts on the process, for those who are interested. See you can never really know what lessons you are about to learn. I seem to keep forgetting that.
I was a speaker coach for the event. I was so lucky to work with 8 of the 18 absolutely incredible speakers…who all in the end fused into one giant love bomb, by the way.
But I don’t want to focus on them, that would take an entire novel to dive into. I want to focus on the element of community that can completely rearrange your soul.
I have always worked alone. I mostly lived alone. It’s not that I want it that way, it’s just kinda how things have worked out thus far. I had a very small family also…so that feeling of community has never really been a part of my life aside from my years in Chinese Medicine School.
And then I pick up and move to sweet little Bellingham. A city so rich in sharing, so rich in belonging, so rich in families of communities….and within weeks I started to feel a shift.
The first thing I noticed when I moved here is that when i was out walking Lake Padden in the early morning hours, ear buds in ears listening to Radio lab or something else to keep my mind from wandering, and groups of people would be walking towards me from the opposite direction. Even if they were in conversation, these absolute strangers looked at me…each and every one of them, and said “Good Morning.”
Can I tell you I have walked around Greenlake in Seattle for 18 years, and you would think I was as bright as the sun how people turned their heads and looked away as I passed.
Soon, I stopped wearing ear buds on my walk and actually ended up in conversation with these lovely morning dwellers like me. My first introduction to community. What a concept!
This brings me back to my role as Speaker Coach. Not by any means ignoring the lessons so deep I could get lost in them for years through working with the speakers and their stories. But I want to talk about the experience of collaboration as coaches.
If I’m honest, when I started this project I sort of became soccer mom to my speakers. I wanted them to beat the other speakers. I wanted their speeches to kill beyond the other speeches. But that was then.
Then I started having meetings with the other two speaker coaches, and sharing stories and getting input into my speakers…and giving input into theirs…and I realized, like everything else in my life I had fallen into the trap of:
1) Knowing I’m right.
2) My way is best.
3) EGO-LICIOUS ELISHA
I have watched enough TED talks to know there is no place for that if you want to have a vulnerable, real, thought provokingly experiential experience.
And I may have started this project wanting to be a part of something larger than myself, but I had fallen into my programmed trap of doing everything by myself, and therefore, my way.
There comes a time when even the most stubborn of us see the light. We open just a crack, but that’s enough to let change flood right in.
And man does it flow.
It flew right into my heart…unlocking the tight grip of ego…boom…and I was left wide open and therefore easily connecting with everyone around me.
It’s like I took the ear buds out of my heart and what I got instead was the most beautiful community.
All of sudden there was this depth of grace that surrounded everything we did. And it no longer was about what I did…so much as all of us moving in a kind of anti-gravitational choreographed float. If I pulled you could feel it across the entire project. If someone else pulled, I could feel it. And we shifted. And we became more than ourselves. And we became community.
Why did I sign up for this project? Knowing it would be hundreds of unpaid hours? Because unbeknownst to me, inside I wanted finally to throw off this blanket that Elisha is alone. To stop taking responsibility for always knowing the right answer. To bask in the glow that arises from group think. To see the dimensionality of it all. To feel that feeling of being pulled and changed and just be open to it.
And in the end, to step back and feel the expanse of my heart. Of my soul. Of the incredible change happening in my DNA.
And to breathe into that space.
Breathing and ensuring to keep it open and flowing and real and alive.
TED talks can change us all in different ways. In fact each speaker tugged on a different part of me…but letting go of the control and ego that has surrounded my heart and projects for so long…more than any of it….was a gift I didn’t even know I was waiting for.
Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes, that doesn’t seem to fit. But this time I feel like it was made for me.
Videos of all the amazing speakers will be available on TEDxBellingham.com in a few weeks. I hope you love them as much I do.