From Halfass to Badass: Living Our Wisdom
By Bernadette Pleasant
It’s not that we intentionally live half-assed in the first and second acts of our lives, it’s just that we haven’t yet embodied the wisdom that becomes available to us in the third act.
In the first two acts, we go through what a protagonist experiences in every Broadway play: we travel from youthful innocence through rites of passages and plot twists that are full of love and heartache, best attempts, stumbles, and mistakes. But this is the journey! All of this makes us who we are.
Except that, also in the first two acts, we learn lessons that aren’t actually true. “That’s too much,” we’re told, when we’re bouncing off the walls with joy, exploding with anger, or dissolving into tears. “Good girls don’t do that,” I was told again and again.
Every time we were told, “Shhh… stop,” shame built up around our emotions. We learned to stifle them and contort ourselves to fit within the acceptable emotional range. We end up moving through life wearing an invisible girdle, holding everything in as tight as we can.
In my own life, I began to look at this and eventually decided, NO MORE.
I wanted to know the full range of my emotional expression. I decided to unleash and explore my emotions and oh! there was so much wisdom available to me as I discovered how to let these emotions move me and move through me, rather than remain buried.
I ended up creating a body of work called Femme! In this classroom, as I guide participants through movement and meditation, we get to unravel all the lessons we once learned about how our grief is not acceptable, our anger is too much, our tears are to be stuffed…
And we learn what it feels like to move through joy, rage, and grief without holding back, knowing each emotion will pass.
I guide participants of Femme! on what I call an Emotional Tour, because we don’t get stuck in any one emotion. We go on a tour through it, and as we allow that emotion to move us and move through us, we access the wisdom within it.
This work mimics the weather. Sometimes there are gloriously sunny days and our face is up to the sky. Sometimes there is a storm coming. Sometimes it’s an earthquake. But none of it lasts forever. Our emotions mimic the weather when we take off that girdle and give ourselves the latitude to fully express it all.
We don’t get over things, we get through things. There are no good, bad, light, or dark emotions; only emotions that need to be fully expressed.
This is the ‘work’ of the third act, if we choose to take it on. It’s during this phase that we can reflect on our lives, see the lessons we’ve learned, and unlearn those untruths that kept us living half-assed.
I know that I’m here to live fully, embodying and expressing my entire range of all that I’m capable of. (What about you?) This, to me, is being a badass.
As we embody our own wisdom, available to us in all those lessons learned and unlearned, and in all of our emotional weather, we can use it to do something meaningful and helpful for other people, including ourselves.
And this work really begins with ourselves.
Since I don’t have you in one of my classrooms, in person, or virtually at this moment, I want to share with you some simple tips for how you can begin tapping into the wisdom available to you in your body, your emotions, and your voice.
Stretch Into Your Body Wisdom
Have you ever seen a toddler throw a temper tantrum? They involve their entire body in expressing their upset! They throw their body on the ground, kick their legs, pound their fists, yell and cry.
We can actually learn a lot from these expressive toddlers! Not that I’m suggesting you throw a temper tantrum (although you can!)...
I invite you to explore the many different ways your entire body can move and stretch. When you yawn, what does it feel like when you let your face fully stretch open, without covering your mouth and trying to stifle it?
As you wake up in the morning, what is it like to stretch your arms up overhead and wiggle those beautiful fingers of yours, lengthen your legs and wiggle your toes, experience those curves and folds in between?
The secret behind sensuality that most people aren’t aware of is that it stretches out the fascia that tightens with age. So instead of feeling stiff and tight, you can stretch and move your body in delicious ways and luxuriate in what it’s like to have a body that’s no longer wearing an invisible girdle.
Breathe Into Your Emotional Wisdom
Breathing deeply and mindfully opens up the passageways in your body. It creates movement. It allows you to get in touch with those deep wells of emotion in gentle yet powerful ways.
As you read this poem below, written by my dear friend ILOV GRATE, allow yourself to inhale and notice the emotions right below the surface — and as you exhale, let yourself move into and through them a little bit, and a little bit more.
For yourself and in honor of those who no longer have the ability.
In protest of all the wrong we see. And for those who see but pretend to be blind.
Savor it like the first. Savor until the last.
Inhale all you are. All you believe. All you stand for. Exhale everything that reflects otherwise.
Every emotion you feel knowing it is righteous.
Breathe for the too many who lost their breath at the hands of the wicked, mistakenly believing there’s no sovereignty in your breath.
Be defiant, be motivated, be heartbroken, be whatever...
Celebrate your power as it prospers. With this one reminder... dear heart, my love, sweet soul, please…
Express Your Wisdom: Use Your Voice
You have a VOICE! Whether or not you’ve fully expressed yourself in the first and second acts of life, now is the time to use your voice to speak out about the injustices in your community, country, and the world. The world is begging for new thoughts and action.
One way I get to share my wisdom is by speaking my truth and telling compelling stories that linger in minds and hearts, and wake up people to the wisdom within. Expressing your voice and speaking up for what you believe in and what’s important to you matters.
As Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in resolving and ending apartheid, said, “Too frequently we think we have to do spectacular things. Yet if we remember that the sea is actually made up of drops of water and each drop counts, each one of us can do our little bit where we are.”
What is your drop? It counts. It matters. You matter.
This is the gift of the third act: coming home to the wisdom in your own skin, emotions, and voice.
Intoxicating and energetic, Bernadette Pleasant is a fiery public speaker, somatic healer, sacred grief facilitator, and creator of well-loved mind-body wellness programs, including Femme!, the Emotional Institute, Emotion in Motion, and Sacred Silence. The Emotional Institute offers courses, classes, and how-to videos that broaden the understanding and expression of our full range of emotions.
In the 90-minute Femme! experience, Bernadette creates a safe space for people of all ages, genders, and body types to explore their emotional selves. Everyone is empowered to fully embrace and embody all of their emotions — and express them through sound and movement. Joy, sorrow, rage, confidence, desire, and more are all welcomed at Femme!
Bernadette believes "there are no good, bad, light, or dark emotions; only emotions that need to be fully expressed." In Femme! everyone is infused with the affirmation, “It’s your body; you can do whatever you want with it — including love it unapologetically!” Bernadette is a vibrant, sensual speaker who connects with those who have been silenced and shut down to support their physical, emotional, and healing journeys — whether in a classroom, on a podium, or in one-on-one private sessions.
You’re invited to join us at one or more of our upcoming online events:
Teacher Training Level 1, June 19-20
Live Virtual Femme! Experience, June 21
Worldwide WomanSpeak Circle, June 24
400 Years: Unlearning Racism Through the Body, Storytelling, and Deep Listening, July 2 – October 15
Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.
This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 14: Resilience & Renewal in Your Third Act Summit