Author Archives: Alexandra Levin
Author Archives: Alexandra Levin
I’ve been called a good sport, agreeable, and easy-going. All good things, right?
Wrong. For me, they are not.
I have been accommodating my entire life, starting when I was 2 or 3. I was a good girl – in fact the best behaved child around (my mom’s friends always told her so). Being a “good girl” became my instrument for being liked by others, and getting my family’s approval and love.
I’ve been a people pleaser. With a smile. Happy to oblige. I’ve thought others know better, are smarter, and that I should just do what is wanted of me. To keep this thinking in place, I’ve subconsciously surrounded myself with plenty of people to accommodate.
One example is my ex-husband of 15 years, who was scary-smart, headstrong, and had a temper. It was much easier to say “yes” and do things his way than to say “no” and stand my ground. So I went the easy route. Except it only looked easy.
The very hard costs were my respect for myself, my self-expression, and the absence of a stand for who I am and what I believe. I was lost to my Self. In the end, the marriage ended and I decided that the only way to break that accommodation pattern and allow for my self-expression was to stay away from relationships. That changed when another way of thinking and being came along, called The Back Forty.
In my Back Forty, I have no interest in being an accommodating, people-pleasing, agreeable good girl.
Change is not easy after being a people-pleaser and accommodator for 48 years. It is still much easier for me to agree (with you, them or whomever) than to stand my ground for my perspective, values and desires. Patterns of behaving and thinking are deep and well-established.
My brain has been trained for a lifetime to perceive failure to accommodate as a threat to my survival. The temptation to agree and accommodate is high. Yet I am learning to stand for my Self and my full Self-expression.
It can be messy, like a child first learning to feed herself. And while it can be easier to err on the side of continuing to accommodate and agree, I choose to err on the side of my stand, even if disagreeable. I’m ready, willing and fully able to make mistakes, clean up the mess, and move on. Change can and will only come this way.
I do this because being accommodating is deadly. It kills who I am, it kills my joy, and it kills my relationships and, interestingly, it kills other people… because it doesn’t require them to learn and deal with what they need to figure out or improve about themselves.
I choose to be a stand for my Self, as a way to honor those I love, those I care about, those relationships I treasure, and what is possible for me when I am fully Self-expressed. I choose to be disagreeable and unaccommodating when my Self is at stake and to risk argument and disapproval.
After many years of first-half-of-life research, I’ve learned that being a good girl is overrated. For my Back Forty, I choose ME – and the difference I can make – when I am true to my Self.
The ropes course looked awesome…but the helmet necessary to participate was dusty, filthy and gross. What’s worse, I didn’t have a scarf to put between my hair and the helmet.
I was raised by a neat-freak. Admittedly (ask Darrell), I have those tendencies myself, although in a much lighter form.
I’d never done a ropes course before, and had been excitedly waiting for this day.
The dilemma presented itself: the only way to engage was to put on the helmet.
I’ve heard it said that “if you think your hair is more important than your head, you’re probably right.” However, this was not about vanity. This was about extreme dirt. Remember: neat-freak tendencies.
Yet, I was clear that I would not miss this ropes course.
At that moment, being brave didn’t at all mean walking the tightrope or jumping from a high pole onto a trapeze (all of which I was facing). At that moment, being brave meant putting on that damn helmet!
Outside of my comfort zone? Yes! Already! Before putting one foot onto a pole step or rigging!
Once I made that first “leap” of faith, everything was downhill from there. Crossing rope bridges, diving from poles, ascending vertical obstacle courses to reach new heights…piece of cake.
My takeaway lesson for the day: being brave looks different for everyone. For someone afraid of heights, it’s jumping off a climbing wall. For someone afraid of dirt, it’s donning a dirty helmet. It doesn’t matter what fear we conquer. It just matters that we conquer it.
The helmet course was amazing. Who wants to go?
If I am going to use my calories on ice-cream, it’s got to be worth it. Vanilla, Strawberry, Eggplant Madness or Garlic Jalapeño is not worth it. Thrifty’s Rocky Road is worth it.
We recently moved to the sweetest little gem of a micro-town-within-a-metropolis by the sea: the Belmont Shore area of Long Beach, CA. One recent evening, while walking on the happening 2nd street with Darrell, we visited our local Rite Aid for some Thrifty ice cream. I asked for not just my favorite, but my one and only, and the friendly ice-cream clerk, Bill, said they were totally, completely, and utterly out of Rocky Road. The refrigerator was being serviced, and their ice-cream selection was cut in half. Rocky Road was one of the casualties.
While I was recovering from the shock, my dream of a Rocky Road cone fading into abyss, Darrell chose his flavor of the moment. He’s far more flexible on some things than me. And he isn’t thinking calories either.
The ever-helpful Bill tried to tempt me with tastes of other options, but I wouldn’t budge; I was absolutely clear that I was not going to settle for “second best,” and if I couldn’t get the ice cream I wanted, I would have none.
Petulant child? Stubborn adult? Or a woman unwilling to settle for less than what she wants?
As we started to leave, with Darrell busy at work on his cone du jour, Bill asked us to wait for a few minutes, excused himself to “check something” and walked towards the back of the store. He was gone for a while.
This was getting interesting. I hadn’t put up a fuss, or (despite my words here) even copped an attitude. What was he up to?
“Wouldn’t it be wild if he came back with a fresh bin of Rocky Road?” I thought out loud. Darrell raised an eyebrow… “If he does,” I added, “it will be my sign from the Universe to never, ever, settle for anything less than what I really want.”
W. Somerset Maugham said:
“It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”
And yes, you guessed it. Bill came back with a fresh, brand new bin of Rocky Road.
I am taking W. Somerset Maugham’s words into my Back Forty. I am excited for an “un-settling” second half of life.
Who is with me?
“Oh s**t! You want me to do what????”
Up until the moment the door actually opened at 10,000 feet, I was cool. Then it all turned upside down.
I am a little nervous but excited about our skydiving adventure, which is not even on my bucket list. A year ago, Darrell asked me if I wanted to go skydiving, and I said “yes” – because I have a thing for trying everything at least twice (in case the first time is a fluke) – and I hadn’t even done this once.
The prospect of jumping out of plane was a little scary, which is why I wanted to do it. Doing things I am scared to do is good for me. It expands who I know myself to be. My view of myself becomes bigger. I am learning to be courageous: having the fear and doing it anyway. Plus, I want my second half of life to be radical.
So, there I am, after signing my life (literally) away in the most severe Liability Release I had ever read, about to jump out of a plane nearly two miles up with a dude attached to my back. The dude has a parachute and is a professional. Millions of people skydive. I know it is safe. I am cool.
Until the moment the door of the tiny plane opens and my instructor tells me to put my foot out on the tiny plank outside of the plane…
This is where “Oh s**t!” hits me…
“Is it too late to change my mind??” flashes through.
Meanwhile, my foot goes on the tiny plank, and my body flies out of the open plane door… and I am free-flying… with the dude still attached. The view is magnificent, and what is even more magnificent is that I did it.
The fear is replaced by quiet and beauty. And this is what I learn: behind every fear is a door. When I get past the fear, I open a door to new possibilities, and a new expanded “me.” My world gets bigger, and I know that “If I can do this, I can do anything.”
I am now someone who can jump out of the plane at 10,000 feet. Radical.
Afterwards, a friend asked me if I would do it again. Yes, I would. And the second time will be even better – because I will be past the fear and more present to enjoying the flight. And that’s the real treasure – enjoying our flight.
Sooo… Who wants to go bungee jumping?