This was said to me last Friday in LA by “Grace,” the CEO of a transmedia company for whom I’m doing some consulting work. To reward ourselves for a grueling week of successful meetings and gridlocked traffic, we were soaking in Beverly Hot Springs, a Korean bathhouse with the only natural mineral springs in LA. I admire this woman like there is no tomorrow. Grace is one of the most brilliant creative minds I’ve ever encountered, yet she also has a solid business head on her shoulders. She’s lived her life first and foremost as an artist, and as such, understands the importance of periodically shaking up the status quo in order to ensure regular change, keep life fresh, and to keep her creativity flowing.
Me, on the other hand, I’ve always followed the rules. Historically I’ve been afraid to venture outside of the box because of the fear of being judged, or of disappointing those I love by living a life different than them. So I spent the bulk of my life living inside of that stifling box, staring longingly at the world outside. Wishing I could muster up the courage to just climb out, breath fresh air and live a life authentic to me. I wanted to change my life, but I was scared. So I stayed in a life that wasn’t working for me. As a result, my life became stagnant, dull, and uninspired. The routine of each day became heavier and heavier, and I felt that I was slogging through the motions of daily life. That is until I couldn’t take it anymore. I bottomed out. And I left that life in a big way. I climbed into my car with Yoda and drove. And drove. For five months we drove.
“You threw a scud missile into your life,” said Grace.
She observed that I had resisted change for so long that a Molotov cocktail wasn’t enough to alleviate the pressure that had built up inside of my box. I needed to obliterate that box. Explode it into a million little pieces so that I could then start over. I wouldn’t be tempted to climb back into that box if the box no longer existed.
After this conversation, our names were called to go into the treatment rooms. We were having Korean body scrubs, something I’ve never before experienced. The treatment is not one for the shy. What happens is this: You lay, completely nude, on a steel table. A woman in a black bra, panties and rubber sandals then proceeds to scrub every inch of your body with a scratchy mitt and some sort of body scrub. She even gently scrubs inside of your ears, in your armpits and between your toes. She’ll periodically dump buckets of warm spring water over your naked body. Then she gently washes every inch of your body again with some sort of fresh-smelling liquid soap. The grand finale of this luxurious thirty minute bath is when she washes your hair while you are laying on your back, scrubbing and massaging your scalp while you find yourself entering some sort of parallel universe located somewhere between semi-consciousness and dreaming.
The experience of the bath is symbolic to my life these days. The mineral springs symbolize rebirth, and I felt like a newborn baby lying on that table, being gently bathed by my caregiver. I found myself thinking about my conversation with Grace, and realizing how different my life is now than it was three years ago. She’s right, I threw a scud missile into my life. In the almost three years since, I’ve slowly learned to live a different way. With the innocence of a newborn baby, I’ve embraced life with the cowgirl spirit, a lesson I learned from an Alabama cowboy whom I met on the road. By living with the cowgirl spirit, I’m constantly challenging myself to make choices that help me feel alive. I’m continuously working to silence that destructive inner-voice that tells me I should worry what other people think about my choices, and that it might be easier to climb back into a box. After a lifetime of rule following, it takes a lot of work to keep living an authentic life outside of that oppressive, yet familiar, box. But the rewards are worth it. I’m happy now. I really like myself, perhaps for the first time ever.
When my body scrub ended, I wrapped myself in a fluffy white towel and slowly walked back to the changing room. I found myself wondering that if I continue to be successful with living with the cowgirl spirit on a daily basis, then maybe that will alleviate the need for both Molotov cocktails and scud missiles in my life. I think that’s why I continue to write on Seeking Shama. It keeps me accountable, it keeps me brave. It gives me the courage to keep living with the cowgirl spirit. I hope that by sharing my story, maybe just one person will be moved to embrace his or her inner cowboy or cowgirl, and be rewarded with the joy that comes from dancing outside of whatever box they have built for themselves.