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Making Space for More Than One Way to Be Right

Thank you for not judging me.

We were weaving through the back roads and trails of the little town we grew up in.

I have this friend who I’ve known since we were 13, and we walk most Sundays while our kids nap or do quiet time.

We are really different in a lot of ways.

But every Sunday we share snippets of our lives from the past week and listen.

The other day I started talking about school and my ever-intensifying inner nudge to do something out of the ordinary when it comes to my kids’ education.

Part of it are the regulations around the pandemic. Part of it is change in the laws in Maine preventing us from making our own choices around vaccinations. Part of it is that I want to cultivate a sense of wonder in my kids for as long as possible and create an environment where they’re not being judged by a set of rules that someone else who I don’t necessarily agree with wrote that may or may not even be relevant to the lives they’re going to create.

I told her that what makes me the most nervous is that, through our continuing unconventional choices, we’re getting more and more fringey.

(Fringey: hanging out on the edges of society where the chances for loneliness and being judged feel heightened, whether or not it’s true.)

Being fringey brings up all of my stuff.

I caught a lot of flack for bringing veganaise and pickle sandwiches for my school lunches (being raised macrobiotic vegan, I always had the weird lunch).

Other kids gave me sh*t for having parents who were doctors (and one who was a particularly unusual one).

My mother would pause Sex and the City to give a mini-lecture on the patriarchy and the ways in which its messages were not-very-well-hidden amongst the cosmos and stilettos.

As a kid I desperately wanted to fit in.

And yet, here I find myself making my own against-the-grain decisions ensuring that in many ways, we won’t be like the other families, just like when I was growing up.

But this time it’s different.

This time I have my Sunday walking buddy who listens to my wackiness, asks insightful questions, shares wise reflections, laughs, and holds the duality with me:

I can choose one thing. She can choose a different thing. And sometimes we can choose the same things.

And we can both expand the space within, between, and around us so that there’s enough room for all of it.

My friend doesn’t judge me for being different. And I don’t judge her.

Every time I tell her something that I think makes me weird and she makes space for it, a little part of me heals and softens, making even more space for what feels right to come through, even, and especially, if it’s not what everyone else thinks or is doing.

This time I see how what makes us different from a lot of other people actually brings us closer to the ones who have space to hold the beauty of the both/and.

And this time I see how every choice, no matter how big or small, that’s in keeping with the truth I hear loud and clear inside me when I slow down enough to hear it, is a critical step for living my vision for the world right here, right now.

I give thanks for my friend and our Sunday walks.

I give thanks for the potential in all of us to make more space when we encounter something or someone who’s not what we’re used to instead of deciding it’s wrong.

I give thanks that there’s more than one way to be and that when we move beyond the idea that there’s a right and a wrong way, we’re far more likely to find our way.

What unconventional choices are you feeling called to make right now? How are you navigating fears around going against the grain? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!

  • Aisling FitzGibbon says:

    I’m being called to go against the grain against vaccination and it definitely is on the fringe as most people are still believing in the medical model. Like you my Mum brought me up different, wasn’t vaccinated, did homeopathy and made me healthy salads for lunches which I got loads of stick about from the children in my class.

    Now I’m being called to Free Birth my first baby and I know that I will protect my choices my only sharing with those who understand and won’t project their fears onto me.

  • Hayley says:

    Hi Kate. Thank you for this blog post. My whole family and most of my friends are anxious to take the vaccine and I have no desire to take it. It’s a tough subject because the media promotes it as completely safe ans I have doubts but don’t really have proof behind it. We have many ductile friends that say it’s completely safe and people think you’re selfish if you don’t take it. It’s a tough situation to be in and I just tell people, similarly to politics, that I don’t want to talk about it.

    • Kate Northrup says:

      We all have to do what feels best for ourselves and our families and make decisions based on considering all the information we have available. Keep doing you Hayley!

  • Hayley says:

    Sorry for the typos! “And” Doctor” friends that day it’s completely safe.

  • I am being called to find my authentic path in business & life. Attracting the support of other open-minded, caring women is part of this journey. It hasn’t developed into any specific choices yet, but it’s in the air around my daily existence and quiet time.
    The fears staring up below me on my path are: rejection, failure, alienation, disapproval, weakness, shame. I navigate these by keeping my focus up toward the vision of my true existence & allowing those fears to pass by me without attachment.

  • Meredith says:

    It wasn’t until I got pregnant that I realized how “fringe” I was.
    I grew up and went to a private girls Catholic school, and although I was the one telling everyone to NOT take Advil for cramps because breathing through the discomfort was “prep for childbirth” and that we should not wear bras on test days (because it would keep our energy “flowing freely” lol), that was about as outside the box publicly I was brave enough to get.

    Thank Goddess I danced very seriously from late childhood until now. I’ve often said dance literally has saved my life. I never realized how much regularly expressing myself through movement kept me sane. I have always suffered with anxiety and dance was a safe way to really let go. I teach Nia and yoga to women with the intention of softening our relationships with our RIGHT NOW THIS MOMENT bodies, for sustainable health. Teaching the biggest lesson I had to learn:: dancing for OURSELVES, no one else. Learning how to listen deeply and move from the inside out instead of a “performative” outside in.

    Once I had my son, my guts wouldn’t let me go with the grain. I knew instinctively what was right. He’s never had any OTC meds, we had a homeopath and a chiropractor and an herbalist, we didn’t vax, we sent him to a Sudbury school, homeschooled, and now, at 14, he’s in a Montessori Adolescent program where they spend half the day in a classroom and half working on an alpaca farm.

    Lately, I’ve been so much more anxious and getting more migraines. I worry we won’t have choice around vax for him for high school and he really wants to go more traditional and now my guts are telling me this is a decision we need to make together ~ he should have a voice.

    I have friends who believe differently than I do about what is going on in the world. I don’t speak freely yet with my clients for fear of losing business which would be difficult right now as a single mom. However, I DO find comfort in many friends who will stand with me in our shared beliefs and although much of what is happening in the world right now feels scary, I feel hopeful. I keep dancing and making sounds and sharing from what I know in my guts to be true about health and movement and self-sovereignty. Doing my best to go easy and pace myself, moment to moment, day to day. Thanks for talking about this Kate.

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Keep dancing Meredith. Staying in our bodies will always be our strongest access to our truth and the deepest wisdom available. You already know this, though ;)

  • Suzanne Maxey says:

    We live in a hyper academically competitive area and I refuse to overschedule my child. It’s been interesting the looks I get but I feel downtime, free play, and being bored is key to a child’s growth.

  • Nicole Cook says:

    My unconventional choices stem directly from your mother. Well more accurately it was finding your mother in the late 90’s early 2000’s on PBS that my sense of being different was confirmed. Ive been a loyal follower of wisdom and intuition ever since. I am cautious in my approach and look for those (like your friend) who have an opening to ´less traditional’ rules. Thank you also for leading the way! You are so important to me as I grow to leading my most authentic life and find my voice to speak my highest truth without shame and with dignity.

  • Tal says:

    Dear Kate, thank you for sharing this. I resonate deeply.

    I feel that we as women are going through a massive transformation right now…

    We went through a feminist revolution that taught us that to be worthy is to be equal to men, but we ended up living our lives torn between our careers and our families.
    As a young mother who had her kids after having had cancer that led to a spiritual awakening, I couldn’t bear to part with my medical miracle babies just because everyone was doing it. My instincts were letting me know, loud and clear, that this bond was too precious to compromise for hours spent in an office.

    I think that right now, a great transformation is happening that (among many things) is helping us heal the artificial changes that feminism brought about. It is helping us take back our power as women, as mothers, and listen to our womb wisdom.

    We influence through connection, through being a nurturing home for our children, and powerful leaders for our societies.
    We cannot and should not be men, but we do need to learn how to wield our great power over them too, to direct them towards the new values and goals our world needs now more than ever.
    Values like family, connection above differences, global unity, mutual consideration, and interconnectedness.

    We need to create a new future where family, connection and humanity come first. Where we reorganize our societies to support families, not consumerism, and may I say, corruption.

    I too have been struggling with being outside of the mainstream, struggling to make the decision about how to educate my kids, and scared of listening to my instincts… but we have to listen to our inner voice. Nature is speaking to us, and through us.

    Most of all, we need to come together, the unity of women will heal the world.

  • Somer says:

    Oh Kate! I am so thankful to you for always listening to your truth and sharing it with all of us! As an holistic early childhood educator and Mama, I share so many of your views. (almond butter and honey sandwiches on sprouted bread anyone? Funny how our school lunches speak miles!) I chose community that was relatively like-minded probably because I wasn’t strong enough in the early years to be “fringey” Today it feels like taking a stand for what you believe in your soul is so much more divisive so I commend you all the more!!!
    My girl friend and I spoke recently about this pandemic’s ability to divide not only our country but also our coveted holistic community and how we now feel on the fringe! People feel the need to group us in a certain way just because our health views differ from theirs.
    We just want to stand up for change and I feel this pandemic has given us all an opportunity to create a long lasting change in our broken systems so that our children can do what they have come to this earth to do! Putting on a band-aid just so we can go back to life as we know it is not what will heal our wounds.
    I have pivoted this year by leaving a school I have loved and served for 16 years and created my own program for parents and their young children to connect with nature and each other. I hold in -person classes in the forest and we sing seasonal songs and finger games, have a puppet show, a picnic snack and talk about parenting. I have classes for 4 months to 4 years and I honor all parents with all views and we hold a sacred space for the children. I could not be happier or more honored by this work! I am so grateful to you Kate and my new Origen membership! Hooray.

    Warmest holiday wishes to you and your family! Somer

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Wow Somer – I wish I lived near you so Penelope could come sing songs in the forest with you. That sounds amazing!

  • Lisa says:

    Thank you Kate!! This is just what I needed to read right now! I also feel like I am moving more and more towards the far fringe (though I have been in that fringe field for a while). I also contemplate what our future might look like if we don’t follow the common narrative and want different choices for our children and our health care. Thank you for sharing this – and reminding me that I may be on the fringe but I am not alone.

  • Sarah says:

    Hi Kate-I resonate with this so much because I too grew up a vegetarian with parents who lived outside the lines. I would be made fun of because they sent me to school with Nori rolls and soba noodles…which is funny now because it’s all the rage and is now considered cool! LOL! But I desperately wanted to be normal too. Now I deeply grateful for the outside the lines childhood and had because it prepared me for the choices I would make now. Up until this year I was still trying to fit in even though I was really just pretending. I still find parts of myself hiding from those I don’t think will get it, but now I just don’t care. I don’t announce those differences but I allow myself to be as far outside the box as I want to be knowing that those who want to judge will fall away and those who are meant to surround me with gravitate towards me. And those who are ok with our differences with stay. Such a difference than cutting off who we are to fit in. Thank you for your words. Not many people can relate to my childhood so it’s fun to find those who share a similar story. Your mother with a big influence for my mom. Thanks again! Sarah

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Yeah for Nori rolls and Soba noodles for school lunch – I feel you sister! I love what you’re saying about not cutting parts of yourself off to fit in. So beautiful.

  • Debbie says:

    Hi Kate!
    Right now I work in the healthcare system as an admin. I constantly here of how “those people” don’t want this highly technically advanced vaccine are crazy. I watch Dr. Northrups you tube videos while they are still up and I wholeheartedly believe she knows what she is talking about. I am finding it hard to not be “shamed” at work as One of those who are hurting others by not wanting this lethal vaccine. Just one example. Hell they tease me for my essential oils for petes sake!!
    Love what you are bringing Kate and your mom too!!! ❤️

  • Debra says:

    I love these sentiments so much, Kate! I’m feeling the exact same about so many things right now, but also about my daughter’s education path. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Katie says:

    Actually very similar with school – our oldest will start K next fall and I’m considering rearranging much of my work/our life to support something more off the beaten path from those around us. One option (Waldorf) may be too expensive but also I am pulled away from it due to fears fo fringe – I too don’t like feeling left out and always wish I was more comfortable I’m that space. The other option is an out of district charter and even that will bring some judgement from a few close family. Part of my navigation is talking through it with like-minded people, so I can keep my courage to do what I know is right in my gut. Also trying hard to spend some time NOT thinking about it because when I overanalyze I often take myself further from what my instinct knows to be true.

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Love that you’re exploring alternatives for your family, Katie! One thing I like to do is every week I put “Attract ideal school situation for P” on The Universe’s To Do List in my Do Less Planner and it helps me relax and trust!

  • Thank you so much for writing this Kate! Similar to other comments it wasn’t until I became pregnant with my first child that I realised just how much I didn’t conform to the norm despite my desperation for it as a teenager when my parents (my Mum in particular) were so determined to make sure I thought outside the box!

    Whilst pregnant I looked in-depth into natural home births, understanding my own body and its ability to birth – relatively simple really but how I wanted to become a mother, very differently to jumping on the “conveyor belt” to birth and beyond as it is known in the UK.

    I followed my Mum’s example of not vaccinating my daughter (neither my sister or I are vaccinated) and have read more and more reasons as to why this is a good choice for myself and my family.

    I think the hardest thing is that there are very few people I can discuss my choices with outside my family, I am slowly building a small group of friends who have similar views but still not many who I could have a walk similar to yours with – I hope to find one!

    • Kate Northrup says:

      What I’ve found is the more spacious I am around other folks’ beliefs that are different than mine, the more spacious folks tend to be around mine even if they don’t share them. Love that you’re making choices that are in alignment with your heart and I know you’ll find more who you can share them with!

  • Brenda Haws says:

    I love this post. I see it all the time. And I have been doing “fringey” for almost my whole adult life. Eating healthier than most, homeschooling my children for the last 25 years and then coaching homeschool co-op leaders for the last 20. Yep!! It’s a really good thing I am a very social person and create my own love! Sometimes people THINK I am going to judge them for not making the same choices as I have, but the truth is, it is so rewarding to accept them as the best person to make choices for their life and still know that I am the best person to make my choices. It creates so much positive energy to sit in that and really LOVE on someone!
    Thanks for your posts. They are beautiful!!

  • […] Kate Northrup – whose recent book is highly appropriate for 2020 – “Do Less”, spoke about this in a post that caught my attention – you can read it HERE. […]

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