I noticed myself gasping one morning at the onset of another school year for our daughters. My rib cage felt locked and my chest cage constricted for no apparent reason. I wasn’t able to get enough oxygen into my body. I was working for more air from morning until night, often waking up with the feeling of not enough filling my lungs. This limitation lasted for days, yet I didn’t feel anxious at all. Perhaps I was less self-aware than I thought, making the breaths feel even more limited when I considered this!
Days passed, and the feeling of limited breathing alarmed me. I felt the expansion I needed wasn’t only oxygen, yet I couldn’t identify what else lay beneath this sensation. “Maybe it’s anxiety,” I shared with my husband. After all, I dealt with some intense anxiety over the summer. Yet I didn’t feel anxious at all; I felt at peace. “Maybe it’s a pulled muscle,” I considered. Still, this limiting, uncomfortable, caged feeling persisted. A week or so passed and this lack of oxygen seemed to subside, but what was beneath it persisted.
I then came to understand the second layer. I was craving more space. Our home of 1350 square feet felt like it was swallowing me. Our backyard felt too encased. The mini-van I drive, the roads I take daily, the grocery stores I landed in, all of it, felt too small. I kept envisioning myself walking around with my arms extended, literally making more space wherever I was. I talked to a therapist about it.
“Oh,” she said, “You’re needing space.” You know how good therapists are at paraphrasing? Ha! “Yes. I need a LOT more space,” I told her. “I feel stuck. I feel limited. I feel too small. I am needing a ranch, a bigger home, a place that is wide open- I don’t know. I am needing this,” I motion with my hands, and show her what my arms have been doing, extending my hands and looking like I am swimming in space.
“Let’s call this place, My Montana. Can you do that?” she asks. “Sure,” I respond. Though in my mind, my inner voice is saying, My Montana? Is she for real? I don’t care what we name this, I just need MORE PHYSICAL SPACE! How can you help me get there?! I left this meeting with a small sense of hope and realigned purpose, and stayed open to the idea of My Montana.
The following week, I landed in a tiny planetarium for an afternoon constellation show for kids. I saw the absolute awe as our youngest absorbed the information about our galaxy and the thousands of other worlds we have yet to explore. I was mesmerized by this star-gazing show and something inside me began to open. I am part of all of this, I thought? Just one part, connected to all of this celestial magic?
So I began looking for My Montana in all the moments of my day. Where do I feel most capable? Where do I feel most engaged? When am I most open? When do I feel free?
A few months later, I had an extremely vivid and remarkable dream. I was driving in my mini-van (you would think in my dreams my car would be a red convertible Mustang or something more fun, right?!) and as I drove, in the middle-of-the-day, down a usually highly trafficked street, I noticed there were no other cars but my own and one small postal car packed with people whose faces I didn’t know. I slowed down as I drove by, noticing these non-discript people looking at me and observing the fact that they knew I saw them. At first, I felt fearful. What was I missing? Why were they there? And then I broadened my scope and saw that none of the businesses and stores that reside on that street were there. Instead, each so-called “storefront” was a headline from the national or world news. “Environmental Devastation,” “Starvation amongst Children,” “War-torn countries”- the list went on. An entire street full of the perils and brokenness of our current world. These people in the postal car? They just looked intently at me. That is how the dream ended. I woke up and the details of every bit of this dream lingered in my mind for weeks. The postal car. The people I didn’t recognize. The number of problems that presented themselves as storefronts and banner-plastered windows. I couldn’t make sense of what I was supposed to do with this.
The dream, over time, along with this feeling inside of me became clear. I was meant to grow for the purpose of making something better. This postal car was sent my way to inform me of the work that needs to be done and my role in doing more. This began to resonate with me. Bigness in the form of purpose? Yes. This was digestable!
Over the last few months, I began seeing and feeling this expansion of self everywhere. My home, where for months previously had felt about to swallow me up, now felt so comfortably spacious again. My backyard felt like an ample island of lushness and endless possibilities. My interactions with others felt connected and brought me so much joy. My lungs, which once felt collapsed and unable to absorb air, now felt limitless in their ability to open, expand and delight in this new bigness.
Here is what I learned about My Montana. That space, that expansion I was looking for? It needed to happen within me, not outside of me. And the growth needed was because there is a need I am intended to fill that I had not been open to in the past.
Finding the bigness inside of me was a concept I’d never considered until my physical body literally had to grow to allow this new capacity to unfold. And here, I remain inside My Montana, looking for space and growth and opportunity and bigness of love, wherever I go.
Globally, every one of us has a place and a role to step into the bigness of needs our world has. I believe each of us, stepping into our bigness, has the opportunity to heal so many of the worlds’ needs.
Why do we shy away from our own greatness? How are we willing to step into this light, catch it and let it lead us to creating more good around us?
Where did each of us lose our own Montanas?
Several summers ago, our family and I took a trip to Montana. We soaked up the quiet of an entire glacial lake that we had all to ourselves.
After long hikes, we reveled in dipping our tired feet into the icy cold lakes and creeks. We marveled in the boiling pockets of the rivers in the heart of this majestic state.
We breathed in the sulfurized mist from salt flats and mineral-land magic. I carry those images and memories with me as I continue to seek this bigness from within.
Now, I see My Montana in a Mesa sunset; brilliant fall colors shrouding the sky and filling up my soul. I see it in a flock of seagulls soaring through the coastal fog, reminding me to be open and free. I see it in the tender conversations between our daughters inside our home, eliciting the remembrance that My Montana exists in all areas of my life. I see it in the early morning as I notice the banana trees swaying in the wind or the monarchs landing on the last of our summer milkweed. And, I feel My Montana as I move through my day in the same way summer transitions to fall. I feel the shift, even though subtle, as the beginning of something new. The space between my rib cage has expanded and so have I. I see opportunities opening to me that I would have previously missed and I am jumping in, like a glacier lake dive.
Living out our bigness is what our neighbors, our communities, our schools, our families, our workplaces, our nation, our WORLD needs now.
I see, feel, honor AND am graced with My Montana at any given moment I choose. Tell me, how do you see, feel and honor Your Montana? EMBRACE your greatness, and let the world be better for you living out your purpose.
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