I caught myself with a major case of the “should”s today. Last night I was notified that I was accepted to speak at Ignite Bay Area on March 2, 2010, in San Francisco. (Yes, it’s open to the public and you can get tickets here.)

I was so excited! I felt it was the universe telling me, “This is YOUR time!” Of course I always love a stage and an audience, so that got my juices flowing too.

Then I got up this morning and the “should”s started flowing.

“I should make a plan for the month of February to market this.”

“I should blast this across my network so everyone I know will come.”

“I should write a blog post on my main website to convince more people to come to my Music Improvisation class.”

What a way to kill the creative flow. Falling back on old thinking, I kept my butt planted on my chair in front of my computer, trying to prove to myself that I was “working”, typing away at a draft of some lame blog article based on a “Top Ten Reasons…” format that just wasn’t working. It took me all day to finally ask, “Why am I forcing things with ‘should’ thinking? What happened to my clarity today?”

I realized that today’s case of the “should”s was wrapped up in a sense of some constant need to produce something that makes me look good. It’s what I’ve been taught to do. We are all taught this lesson starting from an early age. We are taught systematically to please everyone from parents and teachers to older siblings and the popular crowd at school. And those of us who were handsomely rewarded for our accomplishments – whether it be gold stars, good grades, leadership roles, or high-paying jobs – tend to stick to those well-worn strategies. It feels so safe and familiar to fall back on the same praise that brought you from the cradle to this point, wherever that may be. And as we grow older, it gets scarier to think of letting go of everything we thought we once knew to be true.

That’s why the big resets – or if you prefer, “setbacks” – in life teach us the most about who we really are. If we choose to dive into those difficult situations and really swim around, to fully experience the grief and loss – whether that loss be a loved one, a job, a retirement fund, or our own identities – we can discover what’s really true. We can taste the freedom and joy of being truly alive, on our own terms.

But first you have to be willing to take that deep dive.

And what I realized today is that right now, at this very moment, I have the opportunity to take an even deeper dive.

I had to face the truth. The other thing that happened last night, at the very same time I opened my inbox to read that acceptance letter, was a comment posted by a disgruntled reader of this blog. In the two weeks since I launched my new website, there have been several comments, one of which is posted for all to see, by a person or group of people who are upset by the nature of the truths I share on this blog. They feel that I am attacking them. They feel that I should not be trusted. They want me to take down my posts immediately. They want other people to know their opinion of me, and they want to have their voice broadcast in my forum.

I’ve been wrestling with what to do about these each time I receive them. In one case I did not publish the comment because it would reveal the identity of someone in a specific post, which I feel is unnecessary and not in alignment with the purpose of my truth telling. I am focused on my own experiences, and getting clear about what I feel and observe, not on naming names. I am also focused on being as honest and direct and raw as I can, with every stage of my story, knowing that others will benefit from my willingness to be open and truthful. Even about the stuff that isn’t pretty. Especially about the stuff that isn’t pretty. So much of our self-editing is based on made-up beliefs about what other people can handle, or what they want to hear.

I thought about Martha Beck’s receiving death threats upon her decision to publish her tell-all memoir about the years preceding her leaving the Mormon Church. I thought about my brother’s own trip through the ring of fire when he first set out to create his own medical practice in the same town as the mentor who trained him. Their stories reminded me of the necessary journey through hell and back, if we are to fully claim our freedom and joy and fearlessness in the truth of our own experience.

I felt a few “should”s – some of them contradicting each other – with regard to my response to the comments.

“I should respond in a clever way.”

“I should handle it in a smart way.”

“I should not respond at all to it.”

“I should not waste any time feeling anything about it.”

None of these was my authentic reaction.

My authentic reaction is that we live in a time where openness, authenticity, humanity, truth, and adaptability are becoming the highest values we aspire to, and the greatest needs we have in our hearts. We also live in a time where the internet is accessible to anyone who can sit in front of a computer and operate a mouse. Putting this blog out there may have been an act of great courage in the end, but it was not a brash attempt at gaining celebrity. It represents the depths to which I sank by not having a life in which I could integrate the truth of my being with the actions, thoughts, and words that flowed from my body into the world each day. I had created for myself a life of internal conflict between what I presented on the outside – everything I felt expected to do in order to impress others (the “should”s) – and what I felt a longing to express from the inside.

This conflict built up to the point where I had to find an outlet. I had to find a way to understand what was going on, why the thing I had created had started to deplete me of my enthusiasm and physical energy, how the dream I had started with had begun to dilute or erode…one of the two, I couldn’t quite tell.

What set me free was a chain of events that all shared one common theme – telling the truth. I was reminded of that today, and reminded of the clarity that the truth always brings. There are many truths that we prefer not to confront, that we believe by hiding from view will either remain someone else’s problem or resolve themselves without our involvement. I know what came alive within me when I witnessed and was fully present to the truth of others. I was inspired, through observing the courage and humility of the six important strangers gathered at Real Speaking last June, to step up and start digging for the truth inside myself. I know the power of sharing what’s real. I know the power of hearing the truth of another human’s experience.

The truth in this blog is my truth, unedited and unvarnished. It is the first time I freed myself to say exactly what was up for me in the moment, and to open it up for anyone to read. And my feelings have evolved. My thinking has evolved. I am evolving.

And I hope that by sharing my evolution, I’ll show an example of what’s possible for any of us when we make the choice to get real.

Are you ready?