Finding My Way with a Broken Compass

self compassionWhen I was young, I was a competitive figure skater. Some days I would wake up at 4:30 am to practice, and other days I would get off the ice at 10:00 pm. While it looks like a very delicate sport, it’s actually quite physically and mentally grueling. If there is a way to be a competitive athlete without some level of dissociation from your bodymind, I’m not aware of it.

The result of spending my formative years pushing down and ignoring pain or stress signals from my body has left me feeling like my compass is broken. I have a really hard time discerning whether I’m being pushed/pushing myself way too far, or if I’m just being dramatic. At times I sense that I’m probably overdoing it, but don’t know how to come back to myself – my true self. Having a broken compass creates a sense of being ungrounded…untethered…like looking at a map without the “you are here” label.

This disconnection with myself branches into other problems – fatigue, resentment, loneliness, self-judgment. I don’t want to blame it all on skating. Life is a rich tapestry of experiences, after all. My years as an athlete do, however, show a demonstrable space where what I did and what I wanted to do were not always in alignment.

This week, just as I thought I might break from the pressure of life with young kids and two businesses, two interesting things happened. First, someone lit a candle in the dark. One of my co-workers rallied others to show up and help with a mind-numbing project I was working on. As people began to put pieces of this project together alongside me, I could feel myself start to breathe again.

This opening, this space allowed some of the clouds of disconnection to clear. It was as if my friend has laid down the first stepping stone in a pathway to self-compassion, and now I knew how to lay down the next one. I stepped away from a commitment that was very hard to let go of. A responsibility that feels like part of my identity in many ways. Sweet relief filled my whole being. My ears came down out of my shoulders. The tension I had been carrying for the last month released.

I wonder if my compass was never actually broken. It seems that I can find it after crossing thresholds of letting go. Sometimes I’m letting go of obligations, sometimes I’m letting go of high expectations of myself, sometimes I’m letting go of beliefs that no longer fit. That letting go always creates space for something new to come into me. Perhaps the compass is just covered by the things that need to be sorted or discarded.

It brings relief to think that even when I’m lost, maybe just maybe I can hear the faint, suppressed voice of my inner needs, and take one step closer to my true north.



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