A Witch Waking Story

Posted August 3rd, 2017

I’m going to tell you a story that has five parts. Five, I’ve learned, is associated with the universal symbol of the witch. When connected, they form a pentagram, which is the very same design you’ll find when you cut through the center of an apple – you know, the one that made Eve the patroness of Nasty Women? No coincidence, right?

I’m telling you this story because, while deeply personal to me, I’m starting to see how it’s bigger than just me. I’ve been doing this work for nearly twelve years now, so this isn’t a new awareness by any means, but it seems to continually smack me upside the head in bigger and bigger ways.

And if you’re reading this, maybe you’re starting to get that, too. Maybe you’re getting curious about your own story as a woman. Maybe you have a daughter and you’re watching her wondering if her story will be different than your own. Maybe you’re wondering what the hell is going on in our world and you’re questioning everything you’ve ever been told or believed about being a woman. Maybe you’ll recognize yourself in these words—in this story—and it will create an opening in you. For you. To go into.

I dunno. But there’s one way to find out, eh?

Part 1: My story begins with my body. Because truly, doesn’t every story begin with our bodies? I wrote about it recently on Instagram, feeling vulnerable and self-conscious as I did, but also thinking, “I can’t be the only one experiencing this…” And sure enough, I wasn’t. Because I heard from you offline (which is telling that it’s still not entirely safe talking about our sexuality and the power that lives in our bodies publicly in the comments).

I wrote about how I had been terrified for months that I had cancer—or something equally devastating. What began as a head cold back in March, sort of settled in my throat and never really went away. It lingered and then got worse, giving me the sensation of having one of those large marbles lodged in my throat. Sometimes the sensation moved down into my chest, having me feel short of breath, never allowing me to get that last full part of my inhale, just like I did when I was very pregnant with my babies and was carrying them high. I just. Couldn’t. Breathe. I found I was putting my arms above my head and grabbing onto the tops of doorways in my idle moments, hoping to create just a bit more space inside me for my breath to enter.

In the back of my mind, I knew it had everything to do with what I had just lived through in my woman’s body following November’s election. I remember the sensation of that night, and the wise voice in my head that started speaking shortly after that, cautioning me about staying whole, helping toxins to move through my body, and the need to feel my feelings.

So, like many women did, I got my ass to a crackerjack therapist—a new one—who helped me to cry my tears and give voice to the truth and the anger and the despair that was bubbling up in me. I gradually got off Facebook and started turning off the news.

I also started writing my second book—the one about women not waiting (to do that thing, go for it, make it happen, step into the arena, live their life, lead)—which was flowing out of me like hot lava at the time.

The marble in my throat got bigger and more time passed. I got better at living with it, ignoring it most days and powering through it. I doubled down on things like gratitude, prayer, and solitude, but I also stopped moving my body. I started holding myself still. At some point, I became frozen, like one of those mosquitos stuck in amber. I told myself I was stressed, heartbroken, angry, and that it would eventually pass. But inside? Inside I was terrified I had finally pushed the needle too far. Inside I was convinced the other shoe was about to drop.

Eventually, I got worried enough that I decided to seek counsel from the world of traditional medicine, feeling like I needed some concrete data on my body to put my over-active mind at ease. I was ready to know. I started with a full work up with my blood, and when that came back “normal”, I felt something in my body exhale. When the kind doctor looked down at me after completing my endoscopy and said, “You don’t have cancer. You’re perfectly normal”, I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. More relief. I looked up at her, this stranger, and asked, “So this is stress?” She nodded.

Which honestly, was a relief, but was also a source of shame. How could I let this happen knowing what I know? I knew better, and yet I let this get to me—get inside me. And more shame: I couldn’t talk about this because I had no right to complain…I am white and have so many privileges as a result—who am I to complain about the stress getting to me? But you know what? None of that mattered. My body patiently waited with its marble while I made my way out and about and finally, back into my body.

Part 2: Then my witch woke up. With a twinkle in her eye and a full body stretch. It seems she had been waiting for me. It began in earnest when I started reading Lisa Lister’s mind-blowingly awesome book Witch. Always a fan of anything prefaced by “Un”, I was immediately drawn to the subtitle: Unleashed, Untamed. Unapologetic. Having written a book entitled Unscripted, I immediately sensed that this woman was a soul sister living across the pond.

I’d always loved the word “witch”, but tended to use “witchy woman” so as to differentiate my meaning from its identification with Wiccan, which is a specific spiritual practice I don’t necessarily adhere to. That being said, in recent years women have been referring to my women’s circle as their coven, so there’s that.

Lisa defines a witch as this:

“The witch represents the part of each of us that has been censored, ignored, punished and demonized. And it’s a part that wants—no needs—to be accessed and fully expressed. The witch is a woman fully in her power. She’s in touch with the dark. She knows how to be the witness, how to let things go and how to follow her own counsel. Most importantly, though, she questions EVERYTHING. She’s connected, pussy to the earth. She hears the whispers of those who have gone before her, and she feels the ancient secrets that are in her bones. She’s the one who knows without fail that there’s more of this life than actually meets the eye. She causes hierarchical power structures to shake in her wake. She knows that in any given moment, she can be a hot mess, a woman of grace and beauty, angry and grief-struck, loved and pleasure-sated, tired and soft or raw and vulnerable. She also knows that in some moments, she can be all of this at once. She is whole.”

Yea. That.

That is what I have been referring to all these years as “the and”. That was why I needed to write my first book for myself—to sort all that shit out and to reconfigure myself in a way that made sense to me—that allowed me to see the fullest range of myself, to grab all that is within me without apology, and then to put it to use in the world.

I’ll never forget where I was when I was reading her book. We were camping on the shore of this beautiful river, and it was like the sounds of the water moving over the rocks matched the words on the pages I was reading. It reminded me of the currents inside myself that would always lead me home. Inside my body.

During our three day stay on the river, my youngest son and I made it into a sacred place, erecting over twenty tall cairns of stones all along the shore. I felt like a witch, and I watched as both my husband and my son looked at me, and were drawn to me and the power I was clearly tapping into.

I came home from that trip and found a package resting on my doorstep. It turns out it was a random “just because” present sent by one of my oldest and dearest friends. She had taken a trip to Italy with her daughter this past spring and she wrote: “Saw this in Florence and immediately knew it was for you.” I opened the package, and a tsunami of energy washed over me—a combination of gratitude, love, serendipity and what I can only describe as witch-power. My hand flew to my chest as I picked up the leather bound journal that featured an embossed rendering of Botticelli’s Three Graces.

Not two days before, I had said aloud “I need a grimoire to write down all this stuff.” And now here it was.

Part 3: I got to work healing my body with my body. Meaning: I handed the reins over to my body and said “you steer”. I did what I could to get really quiet and I made more of an effort to listen. I tried my best not to laugh or dismiss the ideas that rolled into my consciousness, like when I couldn’t get the word “jasper” out of my head and finally looked up the significance of that stone and then made a new set of mala beads out of them and bought a jasper yoni egg so I could both wear that stone as well as carry it inside me. All hands on deck. Full court press.

I cracked open my grimoire and I started becoming a student of what I already knew deep down inside me. I started unearthing wisdom in myself that felt exciting and new as much as it did affirming and ancient.

I pulled out all my essential oils and started to use them with intention. I allowed myself to be drawn to certain colors. I paid attention to my appetite and what I was hungry for—and gave myself permission to not eat for long periods of time if my body didn’t feel like it, even when it was “time to eat”. I started to make a more direct connection for myself between my sexuality and my vitality—an awareness that had been building in me for a while, but that got hijacked by my brain so easily in this world of busy and doing and thinking. I started to crave making teas and concocting things like rituals and spells and magic. I started to consider the fact that there was more power in me than I realized—like I had been using just the little finger nail of my pinky, when, in fact, I could be using the entire hand. And my full body. I started to use the phrase “I desire” and then smiled when I realized that is the very same word I chose in January to be my word of the 2017 when we painted our words as a family on the wall of our kitchen.

I knew how to do this.

Part 4: I followed where my path led me. Yesterday, when I was flat on my back getting a “massage” (I put massage in quotes because this woman is clearly a mad-skilled wild woman witch who does more than simply work with my muscles…), I felt her hands and energy be drawn to my heart. She knew about the marble in my throat—I had shared that much with her—and had asked her to tune into the conversation my body was trying to have with me. She put one hand under my body between my shoulder blades and the other she placed lightly on my chest. And she held them there. For a while. Until I felt this wail build up from the depths of me (Oh no, I’m going to lose it…shit, here it comes…stand the fuck back, it’s gonna blow!), and I made sounds that I’d only heard myself make one other time…when I was in the depths of labor birthing my sons. As her hands held steady, my body convulsed with sobs underneath them. One passed, and another started to build, like waves hitting the shore after a storm.

Then, she flipped me over onto my stomach and put both hands on my back. I heard her ask out loud (to my guides, to her guides, to the universe…) What IS this? I was so relieved to have someone other than myself asking that question. A moment later, she said “Mama Bear energy”, and again, I sobbed, this time with anger at the injustice, violence and whole-scale systematic oppression of women that now seemed publicly sanctioned. Apparently I had been carrying that around on my back, reluctant to put it down lest I forget it.

Needless to say I was spent. Wrung out like a sponge.

My “plan” had been to go to this massage and then pop into a coffee shop to crank out some client work before heading out on my August break. She knew this plan, and after working me for much longer than we both had anticipated, she gently suggested that I take a moment before shifting gears—“…maybe take yourself to the water…” 

Which I did. I found a country road and followed it along the coast until it ended. I just keep taking these big huge sighs, and with each one I felt a bit lighter.

I came to a place along the water and pulled over, thinking I would literally get right by the water, maybe even in it.

I wasn’t supposed to be here. I hadn’t planned on it. I didn’t have time for this. I had a mountain of work to get through and here I was just…wandering. I was going to disappoint someone because shit wasn’t getting done when I said it was going to get done. Why couldn’t I just focus, put my head down and get it done? That’s the gist of what my tired brain was saying.

But my body? My body said YAAAAAAASSSSSSS. This is where you are now. Right here is where you’re supposed to be.

So I plopped myself down, pulled out my mala beads (I wear them around my neck for just this occasion…) and went through all 108 of them. When I was done, I opened my eyes and looked across the water at this rocky ledge that was jutting out. And that’s when it hit me.

I’d been here before. Right in this very spot, only last time I was out on that rocky ledge, talking about my life and my business with a trusted friend. It was almost exactly six years ago. I was at a crossroads in my life—wanting something more, but not really knowing if I was worthy of it or could pull it off. You know, that Who Am I…? conversation Marianne Williamson talks about. Sigh. That one.

The conversation on that day was a catalyst for me to make some big changes at SheChanges. Shortly after that I completely re-hauled my website, clarified my brand, stepped away from what felt stale and no longer served me, and grabbed ahold of the idea that would become SheSpeaks, the ever-popular evening of women’s storytelling that, ultimately, was the springboard for my first book to be born.

What my friend and I didn’t know at the time was that there was a woman who was painting us as we were sitting out there. We had seen a woman with an easel, but we weren’t aware that we had ambled into her field of view and become subjects in her painting.

And here’s the really cool part. My friend? She managed to track down the artist, buy the painting, and give it to me with a note that read: As a symbol of our friendship and women making change in the world. For years, I had that painting packed away, but just found it again last year and put it on our bookshelf. When I came home yesterday, I flipped it over on the back and saw that the artist (who’s name, sadly, is illegible…) wrote: Solving? or Creating? Problems!

I shit you not.

Part 5: Coming full circle. Which brings me to where I find myself today.

Driving over to that spot yesterday—long before I realized where I was heading and what its significance would be—I had this thought: I gather the witches. And sometimes the men who love them.

I was thinking about the event that scares the shit out of me this September, and the six brave women who will join me on stage this December at SheSpeaks, and the six women who will gather with my for my women’s circle this fall and winter. I was thinking about the men’s group I have almost had on multiple occasions, that feels more timely now than ever. I was thinking about the second book I am writing that has my hair on fire and can’t come out fast enough.

But I know I am poised at another crossroads in my life now. Sitting there yesterday thinking Who am I…? with that marble in my throat, holding back my heartache and anger for fear of….what? It’s power? It’s impact? My safety?

And like that day on the rocks, I already know what my answer will be. It’s the same one it always is: Yes.

Why? Because that’s the witches’ word. A solemn oath. An ancient promise that has me coming full circle again and again and again. Walking my path with as much courage and moxie as I can muster in my white, privileged woman’s body.

 

Want to hear more stories like this? Check out my Unscripted Evening coming up this September 28th in Yarmouth, Maine. Tickets are now on sale.

 

And if women’s storytelling is your thing, save the date for this year’s SheSpeaks being held at One Longfellow Square on December 7th. The theme is “Life In The Arena” and tickets will go on sale November 1st.

Anger Advocacy

Posted December 16th, 2016

kaliI had a fight with my son this morning. It was one of those times in the car that leaves both people fuming with tense jaws, bitten tongues, and cold steely eyes starting straight ahead. It was awful.

But that’s not what I’m going to tell you about here because honestly, it’s bigger than my relationship with my son and I value our privacy.

 

This is a post about Anger. More to the point, this is about what happens when a woman expresses her anger.

Here’s the gist of what led up to this morning’s stand off in the car:

For the past month, my husband and I have been jumping through the hoops of refinancing our house. We could have gone with another lender and have been done with all this hoopla by now, but we felt strongly about keeping our business local and giving our existing lender a chance to keep our business. That’s all well and good, but the lender has been dropping the ball internally, dragging their feet in making things happen, and making excuses for what essentially amounts to horrid customer service and communication skills. The final nail in the coffin came this week when the appraisal for our home came back (late) and was far below market value. We looked at each other and scratched our heads, having lived in this home nearly 20 years together and having been through this dog and pony show of refinancing many times.

Upon further inspection of the appraisal, it was clear the guy had left off — or failed to make note of — some key things that would have made a difference, like not including all of our rooms, factoring in all the energy efficient windows we’d put in as well as converting our home heating to gas and investing in a high efficiency on-demand water heater. We also learned that the comp he used for our home was one that was significantly smaller, run down, and located on a major through street (versus ours which is at the end of a dead-end street). In fact, a smaller house up the street from us that has an ancient asbestus boiler system and no garage just sold a couple months ago for much higher than the appraisal had come in for our home.

 

Something wasn’t right. So we spoke up. And asked some questions.

The bank basically said tough shit — it’s good enough for the refinance to go though, so we got what we need. Wait, what?

That’s when I called the loan officer directly and spoke up. This time louder. More clearly. More pointed. I was angry they weren’t valuing their relationship with us, given the fact that we could have taken our business elsewhere. I was angry that they knew they had us over a barrel now that the interest rates were going up. I was angry they weren’t fully comprehending that when one customer is dissatisfied, it impacts about 19 other potential customers because consumers talk to each other. I was angry they were confusing disappointment with downright disagreement. I was angry that the loan officer was resentful of our inquiries and inconvenienced by our calling into question the accuracy of a such an important document that was clearly so subjective.

I was just fucking angry.  I started to hear those common phrases play in my head.. move on, get over it already, suck it up, don’t be a sore loser … and I felt the irritation of my chapped skin and raw scab from November’s election flare up again, reminding me how the popular vote in our “democracy” didn’t matter one iota because of the elector college (WTF!?).

Clearly all this was stewing and churning in me as I got into the car and drove my sons to school this morning. It’s clear my glasses were not rosy, and as is often the case in those situations, I started to notice and feel every irritant more deeply. I got frustrated by the driver that didn’t seem to get how to insert a car into traffic by just creeping the nose out little by little and giving the friendly “mind if I cut in?” wave (isn’t that universal?) to the next car in the slow moving chain. I stood on my horn (did I mention I’m from NJ?) when a driver ran a red light and almost slammed into my car.

My son, experienced driver that he is of 14, commented on my driving. I got defensive. I got angry. And then I shut the fuck up – because isn’t that what we’re trained to do as women when we get angry? Like Elsa in the movie Frozen, we are taught to conceal, don’t feel…don’t let them know! We are taught to fear our anger because it could do damage, wreak havoc, lay waste.

But in my silent front seat stewing I started to think about why it is I felt the need to clam up. Beyond the circumstances of my week or the particulars the conversation with my son, I started to see the arc of our culture’s beliefs about women and anger. More than just a frustrated mother of a typical teenager, I sensed there was something of import to convey about a woman’s experience in a world that is governed by white men…a club to which he belongs whether he is aware of it or not.

 

It’s not okay for a woman to express anger in our society. 

I explained to him that as a woman, I have been shamed, shut down and silenced my entire life any time I have attempted to express my anger. I stated this quite plainly. I also said that this is not okay — and especially hurts when it comes from family. Specifically someone I grew inside me.

That was the end of our conversation that I’ll share, but I will say that it was the beginning of a long conversation with myself about this. I started to think about the specific ways we systematically train anger to go underground in women — pummeling it down with a heavy wooden mallet in a never-ending game of Whack-a-Mole.

Here’s the series of escalating steps that formed inside my head:

— We tell women they are over-reacting, being too sensitive, making a big deal out of nothing. Somewhere in there we suggest they calm down, relax, and be more patient, compassionate, grateful it’s not worse (I believe we used to call them hysterical and take out their uteruses…)

— If that doesn’t work, we patronize them, patting women on the head, using terms like humoring, tolerating, and allowing her to vent, rant, or blow off some steam.

— If that doesn’t work, then we resort to shaming, suggesting (or outright saying) women are stupid, uninformed, hormonal, or not capable of understanding something complex.

— If that doesn’t work, we try name calling and labeling women as a means to vilify, ostracize, and humiliate them: bitch, shrew, cunt, witch, man-hater.

— If that doesn’t work, we make them invisible, disassociating, physically or mentally shutting them down and cutting them off.

 

So yea, you can see why women hesitate to express anger or are quick to shut it down in others.

I bring this up because from where I sit, the topic of anger among women is swirling all around us these days. Last week on stage at SheSpeaks, several of the speakers made reference to it in their stories, one of them even asking herself (in front of the audience), “What do I do with all this anger I’m feeling?” My individual clients talk about the anger they are feeling these days — at work, at home, in the world — and my women’s circle dances with it as well.

My most recent thought about it is this: if we don’t heal our internal relationship to anger as women, we’re in for many long, dark nights of the soul (there’s a reason heart disease is the number one killer of women…) But moreover, if we don’t make space in our society for women to express their anger externally, we’re in for a long slow road to change in this world.

There is a fundamental difference between anger and violence, but so often they are interpreted as synonymous, and our fear of one keeps us from expressing the other openly.

“I think anger is one of the most misunderstood emotions we have because it spends so little time in the light of day. It’s shunned and left to fend for itself in its dark cave, mumbling and scuffing up the dirt in frustration like a petulant child. I don’t blame it – I’d be a bit ornery, too, if I were that devalued and misunderstood. Because at its essence, anger is just really another form of energy. It’s an emotion with Tabasco sauce splashed on top. And it generally has something for us to hear. Something that’s coming from a deep and meaningful place.” – Unscripted, pg 135

We are taught that anger is toxic to our bodies, and I agree, but I want to clarify and expand upon that notion. Anger is a natural human emotion that can be a catalyst for incredible change, even a source of power in that it can fuel and drive us forward. But if it remains unexpressed and silenced or stuffed, it can sour and ferment inside us, setting us on the path to one of two outcomes: outward violence (verbal, mental, physical abuse that disconnects us from others and does harm) or inward violence (self-loathing, shame, sickness and dis-ease that disconnects us from ourselves and does harm).

The good news is that we are all capable of making our own choice with how we want to be with anger — our own and others.

We can get out our hammers, participate in our own shame, and do our best to erase the truth inside the anger with a sorry. Or we can increase our capacity to be with it — which means being willing to get messy, be uncomfortable, ruffle feathers, or even offend. But there is one thing that is undeniable in all this:

 

Anger is here, like it or not. It’s the mole that refuses to be whacked.

So what do I plan to do about it?

That experience this morning got me thinking about all the ways I have experienced my plain truth of anger as a woman, and also all the ways I have contributed to whacking it down. While I can’t control how other’s experience me, I can control my own relationship to anger and how I allow — or don’t allow — myself to express it. I can control how I dance — or don’t — with other people’s expressions of anger. I can also control how I give voice to it as a means for bringing it into the light of day — giving space for it to exist, be safe, have merit. Ergo this post.

When I think about it in the light of day, Anger isn’t something that needs to be “managed” or even tolerated, it needs to be actively practiced — so we can get better at expressing it. Look what happened to Elsa in Frozen when she finally took off the gloves and assumed ownership for something that flowed naturally from her. Sure, the village experienced a momentary freak freeze (ever heard of the Hindu goddess Kali?) and perhaps some people got startled or scared, but ultimately, she lead the kingdom and leveraged her gift to create colorful beauty from cold ice.

And sure, you could make a case for that simply being a kid’s movie…but isn’t that we’re all just doing here anyway? Playing our parts, hitting our marks, and following the scripts that were written for us?

I don’t know about you, but I’m auditioning to do the voice-over for Anger. I think I’d make a badass advocate for that character.

The Heart is A Muscle

Posted November 30th, 2016

2016-06-26 13.23.26Last night I sat in a circle with a group of women and we talked about how so many of us are openly grieving – and how refreshing and healing it is when we find (or create) safe spaces and communities in which to do that work. We talked about the feminine, and how often she is told to be quiet, pull it together, be productive, get over it already and move along. It reminded me of this post I wrote this past summer about the heart being a muscle. It’s about my most recent experience of heartbreak… something I did not expect to feel so soon again…like this November. Until I did. And like this summer, I watched the familiar anti-crying war being waged – this time not privately inside just me, but publicly as this energy it swirled around so visibly in many of us in our post-election society. 

So in case your heart is feeling ripped and bruised still, and in case you’re wondering if your tears will ever stop, or in case you’ve resisted letting them ever start… this one’s for you. And our collective heart muscle growing stronger.

Originally posted 6.30.16

Last Sunday I dropped my eldest son off at overnight camp for three and a half weeks. And then I proceeded to crumble.

No, that’s not entirely true. The truth is that the crumbling — much to my horror — began in earnest the night before.

On Saturday night, I was standing in the kitchen trying to put candles on the strawberry shortcake “cake” for my youngest son’s 9th birthday. A small gathering of our family in the backyard was eagerly waiting for me to reemerge with the lit cake and launch into a rousing rendition of “happy birthday” to celebrate him.

But me? I just wanted to cry. But I didn’t know that at the time. Instead, I was waging a full-out anti-crying assault in my mind:

YOU CAN’T CRY! It’s a goddamn birthday party…this is no time to be sad! What kind of mother cries at her kid’s birthday party?

DON’T BE SELFISH! This is not about you, for fuck’s sake! He’s all excited to go to camp! Don’t make him feel badly because you’ll miss him! You’re supposed to be the grown up here!

SUCK IT UP! It’s only three and a half weeks, for crying out loud! He did it last year and it was fine! Pull it together, woman. This is just silly.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!? You’re totally losing it for no reason. You’re a camp person! This is what you wanted! You’re supposed to be excited about this. Something’s wrong with you…

These were all the loud voices going through my head pre-crumble. Loud, loud, loud. Very anti-cry.

Apparently I was in the kitchen “lighting the candles” a bit longer than I had realized. Because soon enough, my eldest son appeared in the kitchen asking me if I needed help.

That’s when the first crumbling happened. I pulled him into a hug and sobbed “I’m just going to miss you SO much.” We stood there, together, and just had a quiet moment in the kitchen. Finally, I pulled away and told him I loved him, thinking that would be the last of the crumble.

You know where this is going, right?

Yup. Turns out that initial crumble was the beginning of a two-day blow.

The next day we drove him up to camp, met his counselor, got him settled in his tent, and said our goodbyes with a fair amount of grace — his younger brother was totally fine, and his dad and I were wearing these weird grins on our faces, but by and large the drop off was a non-event. 2016-06-26 18.18.12

But then after? I was a fucking mess. I crumbled like all my bones had been taken out. I cried big fat silent tears on the ride home. I cried standing in the empty kitchen. I cried sitting on my front stoop. I just couldn’t seem to stop crying.

None of my usual tricks were working. Trying to reason with myself didn’t work. Trying to “snap myself out of it” wasn’t working. Reading? Making art? Going for a run? Nope, nah, nothing.

I panicked, actually, wondering if my crying would ever stop. I’m mean, is it possible to literally die of crying?

And that’s when it hit me. I was heartbroken. 

My heart, like my quads sometimes feel after a particularly long run, had a little tear in it. My heart was a muscle, and it had stretched — like it had been given an emotional workout — to the point of ripping it a little. A Couper-sized rip.

When I made this connection in my mind, something shifted for me. Having been an athlete most of my life, I knew that those little rips of muscle were what made them grow bigger and stronger. That kind of pain was familiar to me – a welcome sign that was often indicative of a really productive workout.

The heart is a muscle. The heart is a muscle. The heart is a muscle. 

This was something that started to play in an endless loop during that two-day blow, and with each new loop of it echoing in my mind, I found I was giving myself more and more permission to feel what I was feeling. To have it be normal, expected, and even welcome. To see my tears as a result of my strength, not my weakness.

2016-06-26 18.22.50It felt like a tremendously loving act, that permission. 

There wasn’t anything wrong with me. I had simply let myself love with my whole heart…and then a little bit more for good measure. I had let myself love more than my heart had previously been able to hold.

There wasn’t anything wrong with that. There wasn’t any shame in that. In fact…once I thought about it some more, there was a fair amount of pride. There’s a reason the word courage comes from “coeur”, the French word for heart: I was being brave-hearted.

This is good pain I was feeling, not bad pain.

We talk about that a lot in our family — the difference between “good pain” (that comes naturally from growth, learning, reaching, challenging) and “bad pain” (that comes from injury, sickness, an accident, or something foreign being inflicted upon you). To illustrate my point, I have often told my sons the story of their births, and when they ask me if it hurt giving birth to them (“naturally”), I always respond honestly saying, yes, it did, but my body knew it was good pain so I was okay with it.

When my kids are literally experiencing growing pains behind a knee or in an arm, and come to me concerned, the first question they’ll generally hear me ask is: Does it feel like good pain or bad pain?

This connection — a framework, really — of my heart being a muscle that is capable of growing gave me the permission I seemed to need to cry my tears. I found I stopped apologizing (no one had been asking for it anyway), explaining (no one seemed to need one), and worrying (no one expressed concern for my sanity).

I just cried, and let my body heal my broken heart. 2016-06-25 15.54.17

Such a simple thing for my body to do, but unfortunately began with such an epic battle in my mind.

When I really let myself crawl inside that Couper-sized rip in my heart, here’s what I found:

Sadness at how the passage of time seems to be going faster and faster with our kids.
Grief for having moved beyond the phase of our kids being small and needing us as much.
Panic that there will be many more — and bigger — drop offs and goodbyes ahead of us.
Gratitude that I have been given the gift of motherhood.
Joy at knowing my son was in his happy place.
Pride at knowing that we had raised a child who felt confident enough to be independent.

And then the most amazing thing happened. I woke up Tuesday morning and felt so wonderful. The “soreness” I had been feeling in my heart from that Couper-sized rip had been repaired seemingly overnight. My permission to feel and cry my tears had helped, much like gentle stretching and the potassium in bananas goes to work on my sore muscles.

I was not only all “better”, I was stronger. I could feel it. 

Apparently I had given my heart one helluva workout and discovered that not only was it capable of rising to the occasion, but it was quite naturally ready for more.

Want some good medicine for your heart muscle?

Today is the LAST day of my November Birthday Sale of Unscripted, my book
For the entire month of November, I’m celebrating my birthday and the art of creation by selling Unscripted for $19.68 (the year I was born, get it?) rather than it’s usual cost of $34.69.

There are still some tickets left for SheSpeaks for next Thursday (December 8th)…
If you’re looking for some mojo, some inspiration, some light in the darkness, or some kindred spirits, SheSpeaks is for you. It’s an evening of women’s storytelling I’m hosting on December 8th. This will be the 7th SheSpeaks I’ve held but the first time that I’ll be holding it since writing/releasing my book. And the theme? A Living Prayer. Seven speakers will be taking the stage to explore that theme with me that night at One Longfellow Square. I received word that it was officially sold out yesterday, but the venue JUST released 15 more tickets for sale…) . So if you want in, make a plan and don’t delay — tickets are on sale now at One Longfellow Square.

Listen to and/or follow my podcast An Unscripted Woman
If you haven’t checked this out already, this is basically my creative response to requests for an audio version of my book. Each week, I read aloud a chapter of my book in an episode and do a riff at the end about what I’ve learned, noticed, and am aware of since writing it.

Check out the new events I’ve got coming up this late fall/winter on my homepage
My women’s circle is full and will started up last week, but it’s never to early to look at it for next year (seats fill up way in advance!), and I’ve got some new experiences lined up for those of you who are not local to Maine, but might be hankering to connect. Also, the video of my story I told at October’s SoundBites just became available, if you missed that event but want to check it out.

Stay On The Mat

Posted November 4th, 2016

stayonthematI had no business being up at 3:00 a.m. But I just couldn’t seem to stop myself.

I had picked up Glennon Doyle Melton’s new book Love Warrior, and now I couldn’t put it down. More than just being thoroughly engaged or committed to see it through, my experience was of being found. Truthfully, it was more like being found out. As in busted.

I was reading this woman’s story — a story that is vastly different from my own — and something she writes about suddenly flips a switch in me.

“As I fall asleep, I decide to stop writing for long while. I need to live this, not create it. I need to let it be what it is, let it become — without forcing my pain into my art. I need whatever happens…to be real, not shoved into a storyline. I will not try to control it by making sense of it. This is not material. This is my life. I’ll let go of control and live this instead of write it. I will not hide from this by hovering above or diving below. I’ll land inside it.”

Gasp. Sputter. Pft. Fuck.

I’m not sure I’m going to be able to articulate this well (in case you need me to elaborate beyond the above guttural noises), but I’ll try to sum it up:

I think I’ve been hiding from something by writing about it. 

And that something? It’s my feelings — ones that I’d rather not feel. Like confused, out of control, and lost. Instead, like Glennon so beautifully admits to herself, I’ve been observing my life as an outsider, rather than living it as an insider. She talks about her tendency to “hover above” or “dive below” as a way of using her mind to download wisdom instead of her body.

To be clear, what I’m talking about is trying to control the feeling of being out of control — playing whack-a-mole with the things that threaten me most: confusion and chaos. Because clearly feeling out of control is not an option. And it’s no wonder. I live in a society that has trained me well, and I have been a good solider. Glennon talks about the “easy buttons” marketers sell to us to help us not feel what we’re feeling (Brene Brown calls this “numbing” in her TED talk) This is apparently where the abandonment of self happens — when we reach for and desperately push those button that dull the pain of our very human experience.

Fix it with THIS is the story we accept as truth.

My button? Writing. I reach for writing to understand myself. I reach for writing when I’m in pain. I reach for writing when I’m feeling alone or crazy. Or both. I reach for writing when I’m lost and lonely. I reach for writing when I’m desperately on the run from something I don’t want to feel.

What do you reach for? What’s your easy button?

I didn’t see mine at first — it’s one of those slippery crutches that felt noble, productive and healthy, like learning can be for some people (don’t know what to do? better get another degree…take a course…read that book…do some research…but DO SOMETHING…do whatever you can to not feel what you’re feeling, right?)

“Our pain is not the poison; the lies about the pain are…you are not supposed to be happy all the time. Life hurts and it’s hard. Not because you’re doing it wrong, but because it hurts for everybody. Don’t avoid the pain. You need it. It’s meant for you. Be still with it, let it come, let it go, let it leave you with the fuel you’ll burn to get your work done on this earth.”

I read that passage from her book in the wee hours in the morning and I saw for the first time with crystal clarity that I had been denying myself my basic human right to feel my full pain. I had abandoned myself too often, opting instead to look like I was “landing inside it” when, in fact, I was really just hovering above it or diving below it.

Smoke and mirrors, baby. Smoke and mirrors.

Now this is not to say that I haven’t been honest — brutally honest — and open in the past. It’s also not to say that I’ve not allowed myself to feel vulnerable, I have. I know I haven’t just been mailing in this life to date. It’s just that I know there’s more for me to feel and be with here — like where I am right now, for instance —  instead of simply being content dig down a few layers, make sense of it all, organize it in my mind, put a ring on it and call it good.

I am an earnest journalist to these places in me — it’s my beat, not my full-time residence.

Now this is not an entirely bad thing, I realize — after all, you’re reading this because you’ve related to something I’ve said or written about at some point, so there’s that: the connection, the resonance, the community. But if left unchecked, my desire to be writing about living my life can actually getting in the way of truly living it.

Here’s how that looks for me, specifically: it’s like my eyes are cameras, my ears are recorders, and my brain is a ticker tape dutifully capturing everything for the record like a court stenographer. Wherever I go…whatever I’m experiencing… whatever I’m noticing…I’m generally writing about it in my head.

And in case you’re not getting it: HEAD is the operative word here.  My big, fat, tired head that often feels like a swollen tick.

So there I am, at 3:00 a.m. reading about Glennon’s decision to not write for a while so she can “land inside it” and “live this instead of write this“, and something in my whole body sighs at that idea. The permission. The clarity. The decisiveness. I admire her. I am inspired by her.

And then the panic sets in. What would I do if I couldn’t write for a while? How would I figure myself out? Wouldn’t I get a backlog of shit I need to figure out that I’d just need to deal with (read: write about) later? Oh wait, I already have that backlog. Well, wouldn’t I miss the Marco! Polo! game I’d been playing with readers for years — the one that gives me a lush and fecund sensation of validation — and even service— with every new sharing, with each new “like” or heart emoji?

What did Glennon do (WDGD)? Ah! Of course. The fucking mat.

I got out of my bed at that ungodly hour of the night/morning and found my phone. I pulled up the website of the yoga studio I hadn’t been to in over two years (three?) and decided I would go to a class the next morning. And — bonus! — I already had my damn intention (am I the only one that frets about having a perfect intention?) because I was borrowing Glennon’s (at this point in the night/morning I was considering us the best of friends.)

“My intention is just to stay on this mat and make it through whatever is about to happen without running out of here”

Glennon gets it — she knows and has lived the AA practice of focussing on the next right thing. And then the next. And while we don’t share that same thread of story, somewhere in my tired mind I join her and weave our stories together in dark of my night. Somewhere in that joining, I make some promises to myself for my birthday which  falls right between the Day of The Dead (Halloween) and All Souls Day.  It feels like magic, this swirling of commitment and sacred soul intentions. I make a list:

Take a break from writing the entire month of November.
And don’t jot notes about what you want to write about in your journal (that’s writing, too)
Go to yoga and stay on the mat.
Let your body teach your mind — let it take the wheel
Inhabit your body — unpack, make an alter, hang some art — make it your own

I got up the next morning and drove my ass to yoga. I could feel the tears starting even as I was rolling out my mat. I could feel my spirit inhaling with anticipation, even as I panicked that the instructor didn’t put on any music. I could feel the wave of questions crash over me in that noisy silence, and I nodded my consent with a pinched face.

So it’s official: Yesterday was Day One of me living inside it for the entire month of November. And if this feels overly rigid, extreme or a bit intense, let me assure you that is entirely by design. I do my best work in concentrated spurts, so throwing down self-imposed gauntlets works for me (case in point: I wrote my entire book in 20 days…rewrote the entire thing in 10 more). It’s how I roll. So in addition to seeing clients, starting my women’s circle and working with the women of SheSpeaks over the next month as they prepare for my December 8th evening of storytelling, this is where I will be. On my mat — literally and figuratively — doing my best to land inside each experience as it visits me.

So Glennon? Thank you.

Want to stay in touch in the meantime?

I’m having a November Birthday Sale of Unscripted, my book
For the entire month of November, I’m celebrating my birthday and the art of creation by selling Unscripted for $19.68 (the year I was born, get it?) rather than it’s usual cost of $34.69.

Make a plan, rally your friends, and reserve your ticket to SheSpeaks for December 8th
I’ll be working with the eight speakers over the next five weeks as they sit with and unearth the stories they will be telling on stage that evening, but don’t delay — tickets are on sale now at One Longfellow Square and they are going fast!

Listen to and/or follow my podcast An Unscripted Woman
If you haven’t checked this out already, this is basically my creative response to requests for an audio version of my book. Each week, I read aloud a chapter of my book in an episode and do a riff at the end about what I’ve learned, noticed, and am aware of since writing it.

Check out the new events I’ve got coming up this late fall/winter on my homepage
My women’s circle is full and will be starting up in November, but it’s never to early to look at it for next year (seats fill up way in advance!), and I’ve got some new experiences lined up for those of you who are not local to Maine, but might be hankering to connect. Also, the video of my story I told at October’s SoundBites just became available, if you missed that event but want to check it out.

Be on the look out for some of my favorite blog posts to be reposted
In January, I will be celebrating the 11th anniversary of SheChanges (that’s amazing to even write…), and anticipation of that event, I will be digging some of my favorite and most popular pieces out of the archives for an encore performance.

The Right Hook of Physics

Posted October 12th, 2016

physicsA couple of weeks ago, I wrote about this amazing experience I had where I literally drew my intention with my whole body. My intention?  To be more luminous.

I shared how I felt luminous as I embodied that word in the circle of women gathered that night. It was powerful and mysterious. Like magic.

I felt like a High Priestess conjuring something from the depths of my soul.

Driving home that night, my whole body felt alive and vibrating with vitality — as if I had tapped into some divine charging station that continued to juice my batteries. I felt deeply connected – to myself, to the circle of women that had been strangers earlier that night, and to my purpose. I felt as if the aperture of my soul had widened, allowing in some much needed oxygen, creative energy, and mojo. I could breathe. Deeply.

There was a halo effect from that experience as well. I went through my week feeling grounded, present and grateful. I gathered my family for a similar ritual to honor the new moon in Libra. We pulled tarot cards, created “God boxes” and did an amazing despacho ceremony (an offering of gratitude back to the earth). We were digging it. The whole family — and even my eldest son’s best friend who happen to be spending the night — commented on how peaceful and relaxed they felt afterward.

ritualThat evening ushered in a weekend that felt deeply nourishing.

Now maybe you know what happened next, but I sure as hell didn’t see it coming. What happened next felt like a right hook out of no where that left my jaw sore, chaffed my spirit and made my ass twitch in annoyance — like I’d been bamboozled or something precious had been taken from me.

Here’s what happened:

As the weekend rolled on into Sunday, life started to feel more congested with brass tacks. Reality started to hit. I dragged out our bill basket, collected all the debit receipts, and opened the computer, knowing full well the rat’s nest of untangling that lay ahead of me as I did our bi-weekly bookkeeping. My husband, meanwhile, tackled the mounting dirty laundry piles, replacing them eventually with clean laundry piles stacked in the room all around us needing to be put away. He also fell on the sword and did the grocery shopping for the week, coming home with more bags that now filled up the kitchen floor, adding more receipts to the pile that seemed bottomless.

He looked tired and disenchanted and I felt like Bartleby the scrivener all hunched over the computer and myopic in my vision. We both were sighing a lot. Audibly.

Later that night, we dug into all of our financial files, printed recent statements, and ran reports because we had been putting off compiling all the necessary documents for the new financial planner we were starting with who needed them the next day. We were cranky, overwhelmed, and pissed that we had waited until the last minute to do this dreaded task.

This is all normal household stuff and part of living, I realize. And yes, I’m grateful we can afford groceries, have a home, and have access to a financial planner. I am aware many people cannot and do not. I’m also grateful I have a committed and loving partner in all this. My point is not to complain about the daily grind of living that most of us are all too familiar with these days. I could just suck it up, stuff it down, and suffer in silence, saying mean-spirited things to myself (you have no right to feel this way…you have nothing to complain about…you’re so lucky you miserable shrew!), but that’s not what I’m about these days. I’m kind of done with actively participating in my own shame.

Now, I’m about keeping it real, being honest, and showing myself more fully. So hang with me. Because what happened next was…ironically illuminating.

My point is that suddenly, almost overnight — like a switch had been thrown — everything started to feel pinched, constricted, and dire. As we pulled out insurance policies, I started to worry about fires, theft and total disaster. I started to think about death and destruction and how devastated we would feel. I started to think about all the people, things, and dreams we could lose at the blink of an eye. I started to focus on everything we didn’t have instead of everything we did have.  I started to think about the political election we face in November, the environmental crisis we’re in, and the epidemic of violence that seems to be running rampant.

In short, I started to feel vulnerable, and found myself knocking on wood, crossing myself (even though I’m not christian), and noticing the black cats in the neighborhood (when did there get to be so many?) My husband found me wrapped in a blanket that cold, gray Monday afternoon after I’d brought my youngest son home from school, knees to my chest, rocking back and forth with a deeply furrowed brow.

What happened to being luminous?” he asked gently. 

He held up the mirror of me not three days before in which I could see myself then — all glowing and expansive and radiant, which gave me pause. What had happened to me? Where had that woman gone? Why wasn’t I fucking luminous anymore? I wanted that shit back again. Stat.

I felt like I’d done something wrong, like I’d misplaced my intention, dropped my eye from the ball, or fallen prey to the pervasive suck of fear, lack and disconnect that is seems to saturate our consciousness through main stream media these days.

To be honest, I couldn’t even remember that woman who felt luminous just three days before. In that moment, she felt like a figment of my imagination — trite, silly, lacking substance. Gone.

Thankfully, the very next day I happen to be sitting with a wise woman. I was explaining to her how I’d lost my luminous, and she smiled at me.

(this is where it gets good — I love when people smile at me like that…) 

It makes sense that if you want to feel more luminous, you would also experience greater darkness.” 

forcesinpairsDoh! As I heard her say that, a flood of rightness washed over my body like someone had finally taken her finger out of the dam. The “someone”, in this case, was me.  I had been doing my best to staunch the feelings I had been making wrong in me, when, in fact, they were a natural consequence of the laws of physics.

My whole body exhaled with relief. Permission to honor the entirety of my human experience came riding in on the next breath.

Nothing was wrong with me…it was simply science that was right. And then I smiled at the wise woman sitting across from me and said:

“Of course. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” 

It was not only entirely natural, it was a LAW. It wasn’t just me experiencing this — it’s everything that does…the tides, the moon, and those little paddles with the rubber ball connected by a string. I started to remind myself of all the ways this was true…

If you push your body physically beyond what it’s used to, your muscles will be sore the next day
When you knead pizza dough on the counter, it will both expand and contract
The longest day of the summer will be mirrored by the darkest day of the winter
When the tires of a car push against the road, the road will naturally push back against the tires
The wings of a bird push air downwards, the air pushes the bird upwards

It’s how friction is created. It’s what enables something to have form and move. 

Now this is where I come clean and let you know that one of my few regrets in this lifetime is that I never had physics in high school or college. So there’s that.

But there’s also a deeper appreciation of this: the degree to which I challenge myself to become more luminous — to allow myself to shine brighter, be more visible, and be powered by my fullest wattage — needs to be equally matched by my willingness to feel a deeper level of darkness, which naturally comes as a result of that lightness.

It’s the shadow side of a luminous life.

If being luminous was the full moon, being with darkness was the new moon. It’s a package deal, apparently. So clearly, I need to be gracious enough with myself to receive both of these gifts, and stop pretending as if I can simply chose one and opt out of the other.

There is no surprise here. I had simply forgotten what’s natural.

Brene Brown talks about this a lot, suggesting that those people who live their lives most whole heartedly are also the ones who are willing to feel the most vulnerable. Not just once, but always. Danielle LaPorte talks about how “being the giver” is a sure fire way to experience a life of abundance — and I would add that it also makes you keenly aware of the level of need, potentially raising internal conversations around greed or selfishness. Want to live a life with more integrity? Better be willing to look at shame. Want to live a more balanced life? Get ready to experience some imbalance.  Want to live more simply? You may be gobsmacked by the complexities of life. Debbie Ford writes about the need to face these very things within ourselves in her book, The Dark Side Of The Light Chasers. Hell Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock even sing about it.. “Joy…and pain…sunshine…and rain.” 

It’s powerful information to know what lives on the dark side of your moon. 

And now that I had remembered, the darkness doesn’t seem as scary as it once was. I am finding I’m not bracing for it quite like I used to, clinging to the light side for dear life. I now see them as allies, not adversaries. Sort of a dynamic duo that will ultimately support me in moving forward.

Which means my work now will be about foster better relationships with each of them individually, learning how to move through my days exposed to both brighter light and deeper darkness. Increasing my capacity to be luminous, while also increasing my capacity to be with darkness. I can’t want more of one without expecting more of the other to show up in equal measure.

This realization feels new, but in many ways it’s another version of what I’ve been writing about for years. It’s just that I’m having another go at it, having the very real human experience of forgetting, only to remember something anew. And that, too, is natural. When we are in the light, we literally cannot see the dark, so we tend to forget about it — out of sight, out of mind. Until we see it again — and then we wonder that the light ever existed.

It seems Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock were onto something…it does take two to make a thing go right.

Mea Culpa

Posted September 20th, 2016

episode7meaculpaDid you know I’ve got a new podcast out? Yup! It’s called An Unscripted Woman and it’s available right now via SoundCloud – which means you can subscribe to it through your podcast app on your smart phone. Easy peasy.

I started this as an experiment back in July this summer, and the response was really positive, so I’m back for more this September, as promised! Essentially, this podcast is my creative response to the question I’ve heard from so many of you:

“Where can I get an audio version of your book?”

To be clear, this isn’t an audio version, per se, but it is me reading from my book aloud — chapter by chapter. It’s also a chance for me to riff out loud with you on my thoughts, learnings and experiences that I’ve had since writing each chapter. I’ll be posting each episode right here in my blog as well as on Facebook, so listen however — and wherever — you’d like if it you want to come along with me on this audio journey.

Beyond that intention, we’ll see where it leads us.

Oh, and rest assured…just as I said about reading my book, don’t feel like you need to listen to the episodes in order. Each one will stand on its own just fine — so no rules or shoulds here. Start from the first episode, join me at the latest, or follow your nose to sniff out the one appeals to you most. You can’t do this wrong.

But I do hope you join me at some point. It’s so much more fun when you do.

Scroll down and start listening if you want to catch my latest episode — Mea Culpa.

This is the first chapter I really dig into the specific stories of masculine energy and my experience of it as a woman. In doing so, I also explore how I wasn’t able to even get to that conversation with myself until I really started to sit with and ultimately own my identity as a woman — a tall order, considering I had essentially dissociated from that fact (Why does that matter? How is that even relevant…?) for more than half my life. And then I became pregnant with my first child, and everything, it seemed, “outted me” and forced my hand along this road. This is the story where I started to see the degree to which I had been actively participated in my own shame, and how once I decided to face it — and assume responsibility for it, with compassion — I was able to more fully access and leverage some of my favorite parts of myself.

Thanks for listening — now or later!

The Heart Is A Muscle

Posted June 30th, 2016

2016-06-26 13.23.26Last Sunday I dropped my eldest son off at overnight camp for three and a half weeks. And then I proceeded to crumble.

No, that’s not entirely true. The truth is that the crumbling — much to my horror — began in earnest the night before.

On Saturday night, I was standing in the kitchen trying to put candles on the strawberry shortcake “cake” for my youngest son’s 9th birthday. A small gathering of our family in the backyard was eagerly waiting for me to reemerge with the lit cake and launch into a rousing rendition of “happy birthday” to celebrate him.

But me? I just wanted to cry. But I didn’t know that at the time. Instead, I was waging a full-out anti-crying assault in my mind:

YOU CAN’T CRY! It’s a goddamn birthday party…this is no time to be sad! What kind of mother cries at her kid’s birthday party?

DON’T BE SELFISH! This is not about you, for fuck’s sake! He’s all excited to go to camp! Don’t make him feel badly because you’ll miss him! You’re supposed to be the grown up here!

SUCK IT UP! It’s only three and a half weeks, for crying out loud! He did it last year and it was fine! Pull it together, woman. This is just silly.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!? You’re totally losing it for no reason. You’re a camp person! This is what you wanted! You’re supposed to be excited about this. Something’s wrong with you…

These were all the loud voices going through my head pre-crumble. Loud, loud, loud. Very anti-cry.

Apparently I was in the kitchen “lighting the candles” a bit longer than I had realized. Because soon enough, my eldest son appeared in the kitchen asking me if I needed help.

That’s when the first crumbling happened. I pulled him into a hug and sobbed “I’m just going to miss you SO much.” We stood there, together, and just had a quiet moment in the kitchen. Finally, I pulled away and told him I loved him, thinking that would be the last of the crumble.

You know where this is going, right?

Yup. Turns out that initial crumble was the beginning of a two-day blow.

The next day we drove him up to camp, met his counselor, got him settled in his tent, and said our goodbyes with a fair amount of grace — his younger brother was totally fine, and his dad and I were wearing these weird grins on our faces, but by and large the drop off was a non-event. 2016-06-26 18.18.12

But then after? I was a fucking mess. I crumbled like all my bones had been taken out. I cried big fat silent tears on the ride home. I cried standing in the empty kitchen. I cried sitting on my front stoop. I just couldn’t seem to stop crying.

None of my usual tricks were working. Trying to reason with myself didn’t work. Trying to “snap myself out of it” wasn’t working. Reading? Making art? Going for a run? Nope, nah, nothing.

I panicked, actually, wondering if my crying would ever stop. I’m mean, is it possible to literally die of crying?

And that’s when it hit me. I was heartbroken. 

My heart, like my quads sometimes feel after a particularly long run, had a little tear in it. My heart was a muscle, and it had stretched — like it had been given an emotional workout — to the point of ripping it a little. A Couper-sized rip.

When I made this connection in my mind, something shifted for me. Having been an athlete most of my life, I knew that those little rips of muscle were what made them grow bigger and stronger. That kind of pain was familiar to me – a welcome sign that was often indicative of a really productive workout.

The heart is a muscle. The heart is a muscle. The heart is a muscle. 

This was something that started to play in an endless loop during that two-day blow, and with each new loop of it echoing in my mind, I found I was giving myself more and more permission to feel what I was feeling. To have it be normal, expected, and even welcome. To see my tears as a result of my strength, not my weakness.

2016-06-26 18.22.50It felt like a tremendously loving act, that permission. 

There wasn’t anything wrong with me. I had simply let myself love with my whole heart…and then a little bit more for good measure. I had let myself love more than my heart had previously been able to hold.

There wasn’t anything wrong with that. There wasn’t any shame in that. In fact…once I thought about it some more, there was a fair amount of pride. There’s a reason the word courage comes from “coeur”, the French word for heart: I was being brave-hearted.

This is good pain I was feeling, not bad pain.

We talk about that a lot in our family — the difference between “good pain” (that comes naturally from growth, learning, reaching, challenging) and “bad pain” (that comes from injury, sickness, an accident, or something foreign being inflicted upon you). To illustrate my point, I have often told my sons the story of their births, and when they ask me if it hurt giving birth to them (“naturally”), I always respond honestly saying, yes, it did, but my body knew it was good pain so I was okay with it.

When my kids are literally experiencing growing pains behind a knee or in an arm, and come to me concerned, the first question they’ll generally hear me ask is: Does it feel like good pain or bad pain?

This connection — a framework, really — of my heart being a muscle that is capable of growing gave me the permission I seemed to need to cry my tears. I found I stopped apologizing (no one had been asking for it anyway), explaining (no one seemed to need one), and worrying (no one expressed concern for my sanity).

I just cried, and let my body heal my broken heart. 2016-06-25 15.54.17

Such a simple thing for my body to do, but unfortunately began with such an epic battle in my mind.

When I really let myself crawl inside that Couper-sized rip in my heart, here’s what I found:

Sadness at how the passage of time seems to be going faster and faster with our kids.
Grief for having moved beyond the phase of our kids being small and needing us as much.
Panic that there will be many more — and bigger — drop offs and goodbyes ahead of us.
Gratitude that I have been given the gift of motherhood.
Joy at knowing my son was in his happy place.
Pride at knowing that we had raised a child who felt confident enough to be independent.

And then the most amazing thing happened. I woke up Tuesday morning and felt so wonderful. The “soreness” I had been feeling in my heart from that Couper-sized rip had been repaired seemingly overnight. My permission to feel and cry my tears had helped, much like gentle stretching and the potassium in bananas goes to work on my sore muscles.

I was not only all “better”, I was stronger. I could feel it. 

Apparently I had given my heart one helluva workout and discovered that not only was it capable of rising to the occasion, but it was quite naturally ready for more.

My Latest Leap

Posted June 23rd, 2016

2016-06-16 12.27.55I can’t tell you how many days I wake up and think: I want to be as brave as my clients. 

And let me tell you…from where I sit, that’s a tall order.

In my work, I tend to be a brave people magnet, so I find myself surrounded by them daily — people striking out into unchartered waters with the voice of doubt hollering from the back of the boat, people walking a thin yet strong cord of inspiration toward a hazy vision that’s often clouded by fear, and people that are actively engaging a conversation with the unknown, even if they aren’t yet convinced they want a relationship with it…or trust that it’s telling the truth.

Brave people. 

These are my clients. We speak the same language. We inspire each other (although I don’t know the degree to which my clients realize they inspire me as much as I inspire them).

Ergo my waking invitation to myself: I want to be as brave as my clients. What does that mean?

I want to trust my intuition even more than I imagined possible — even more than the last time I did, when I scared the shit out of myself. I want to engage my fear as well as my desire. I want to acknowledge when I’m hungry, and not wait a moment longer to feed myself what I’m hungry for – creatively, spiritually, professionally, physically, emotionally.

I want to walk my talk. I want to take my own medicine. I want to feel what I am asking my clients to feel. I want to trust myself to the degree that I am asking my clients to trust themselves. It’s about integrity, alignment, and truly belonging to a tribe. A brave-hearted tribe.

So here’s my latest endeavor.

I’ll be hosting an event on July 7th in Yarmouth, Maine called An Unscripted Evening. I’ve never done anything like this before, and truth be told that excites me to no end. It’ll be part book reading, part riff on topics that are present and most relevant to the work I’m doing with my clients, and part Q&A with you, the audience. But mostly, it’s about the nourishment that happens when a community of kindred spirits gathers in the same place at the same time. It’s about the courage that can grow exponentially in the presence of others being courageous. It’s about moving toward the unknown, bantering with the what ifs, and entertaining the why nots.

It’s about being a part of a revolution, really. 

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to your instincts and what they’re telling you. Join me and a pile of other amazing people the evening of July 7th and let’s make the lights blink with the power surge that happens. Bring your journal, bring a friend, or bring your village. Bring your questions, bring your intentions, or bring your curiosity of what’s waiting for you there that night — wanting to grab your attention, bend your ear, ignite your spirit, or open your heart.

You can check out my website more more detailed information about the event. Advance tickets are now available on-line now via Brown Paper Tickets, so if you know you want to be there, I’d highly recommend grabbing your’s today. Tickets (cash only) will also be available at the door that night, as will signed copies of my book, Unscripted: A Woman’s Living Prayer.

Here’s to leaping. Together.

Mustering Courage: An Interview with Lael

Posted June 16th, 2016

I’ve always found the field of coaching to be a tough thing to describe. Sure, there are words, catch phrases and pithy pitches that make coaching all seem pretty and neat. But pretty and neat have never been my style.

Messy is more my style, with a colorful side of real and gritty. And certainly a generous splash of heart. It makes sense. I’m an artist at heart, and making art without being willing to getting messy is kind of boring to me. You’d think that might pose a bit of a sticky-wicket in running a successful business, but happily that hasn’t seemed to get in my way. The people I am meant to work with just keep finding their way to me — it’s like we’re magnetically drawn to each other or share a heat-seeking radar that is tuned to the same frequency.

But truth be told? I always credit the success of my business to my clients — the ones that work with me from all over the country, and then share me with their friends, family and co-workers. After nearly eleven years in business, it’s a really bountiful and fecund network that just keeps giving, and I am so very grateful to be the happy spider in the midst of their web.

But this interview? This is just about as good as it gets with regard to me describing who I am and the work that I do with my clients. This is me. All heart, even some tears.

So if you’ve ever wondered what coaching is (with me) and how it feels — what it’s truly about and what it aims to do…this interview conducted by a former client of mine, Rachel Horton White, will offer you an inside look. We talk about what coaching is (and isn’t), my work with clients, my own story of becoming a coach, how I (and my clients) dance with fear and desire in equal measures as rocket fuel, and how we all have the capacity to access and muster courage if we make the decision to do it. Daily.

Her podcast is called The Courageous Path, and we talk about what a lonely path that can be for many of us. We also explore how storytelling and the willingness to put ourselves out there publicly and be vulnerable are contagious acts that can inspiring more and more brave souls to walk that path.

So here’s to the path. And walking it. However that looks for you. Whatever your edge.

What My Dog Is Teaching Me

Posted April 27th, 2016

MaxandmeOne of the things that surprised me most in writing my book was the frequency with which I referenced dog stories in its pages. Time and time again as I was writing it, I would be grasping for a visual to describe what something felt like and — BOOM! — in would pop a story about Polly, Durango, Milo, or Max.

Living with a dog, it seems, offers me a mirror or a bearing for my soul.

Maybe that’s why one of my first decisions after I got a job at a boarding school in Western Massachusetts was to get a dog. Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt a little lost when we don’t have a dog in our life — like when we’re grieving the loss of one, but don’t yet feel ready for another.

Maybe that’s why when I was driving a red jeep on a beach in Nantucket this past week, I felt a little hole — a dog-sized hole — even through everyone I loved was right there with me. I remember turning to my husband and saying, “If you ask anyone growing up with me what my dream was, they will tell you it was to have a red jeep and a golden retriever.” And then, because it felt weird not to have included him or my boys in there, I added, “…you know, plus you guys.” He smiled because he knows me — and that dream — well by now.

Our dog these days is Max, a two-year old string bean of a mutt that has lots of lab in him with a dash of shepherd to boot. I adore him. But unfortunately, he wasn’t invited along on our family adventure last week, so he went “camping” at a kennel up the road. To make up for Max missing out on the miles and miles of empty beaches on Nantucket, I decided to take him out for a Maine beach adventure of our own today.

We have this habit of narrating what we think Max is thinking in our family, and this morning as he launched himself into the back of our car someone said (for Max), “I don’t know what this means or where I’m going, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be awesome!” That’s our Max — a furry optimist if there ever was one.

The crying from the back of the car began in earnest when Max got his first whiff of the ocean. He does this howling-growling-moaning thing when his greatest hopes get confirmed and are soon to be realized. They reached a crescendo as I pulled into the parking lot and turned off the car, noticing how his little mouth formed a blissful doggie smile as his nose pointed out the open window.

When I opened the back of the car, I told him to wait so I could put on his harness-leash thingy (which takes a fair degree of concentration). His whole body quivered as he physically restrained himself from launching out of the car and making a beeline for the water. But he’s a good boy, our Max, so he held still while I fastened the clips and hooks and tugged him this way and that. And then?

IMG_1498He could contain himself no longer and exploded from the car like he’d been shot out of cannon. With me trailing behind him, eventually letting go of the leash so it dragged behind him with the little purple bone-shaped poop bag container bouncing merrily along the parking lot pavement.

Watching Max crest over the dunes and see that wide open ocean, I was struck by how much this dog is teaching me about life —and how best to live it. The same could be said of all my dogs, I suppose, but Max is the one we’ve got in our life now and I suspect it’s for a reason.

Unlike flatulent Polly who sat idly by with me watching my parent’s marriage implode, or spirited Durango who shared the ride with me on my first taste of independent living, or patient Milo who endured the sleepless years and consuming chaos that came with young children, Max has come along at a season in my life where my deep desire to play is melding (sometimes clashing) with my intense need for introspection.

So I watched Max today at the beach. I watched him as a student would watch a teacher – intently and earnestly. I watched him for clues that would illustrate and point me to whatever it was I was grasping for these days, hearing once again that Max voice narration in my head that had it all make sense.

Here is what Max is teaching me:

It’s easier to access JOY when you’re off a leash
The quality of Max’s experience outside grows exponentially when his leash comes off. It amplifies. It gets louder, more full-bodied, and less heady. It struck me today that this is canine version of what I’m talking about when I say I want to live “unscripted”. A leash only has him going so far. A leash has him asking for permission more and honoring his instincts less. A leash has him compromising his needs over someone else’s and settling for less than he desires. A leash keeps him under control, restrained, and alert to changes that are governed by someone other than him. That’s not exactly a breeding ground for Joy to take root. In fact, I can see just how hard Joy would have to work to get my attention in that scenario. When I unhooked Max’s leash today and watched him take off with his happy doggie smile, I found myself taking stock of where I might have myself on a tight leash — expectations, shoulds, guilt, self-imposed shit — that I could “unhook” from more.

When you want something, want it with your WHOLE BODY
Max is one of those dogs that will clear off a coffee table with one sweep of his big tail. When he greets us each day after work and school his whole body wags in delight. He’s one of those dogs you can tell is wagging even though you can’t see his tail – just because his head is doing that side to side move. When he comes over to be pet, it’s not just enough to come next to us, he nudges underneath our legs and feet, so he’s literally feeling the physical weight of our love on him. His love is that big. And we give it back to him accordingly. When Max is “sleeping” in his bed when we’re eating dinner, you can feel his eyes fixated on your fork as it goes up to your mouth, and you can see his nose wiggling wildly with desire. He can turn into a frozen statue of desire at the sight of a piece of bacon. Which usually works to his advantage. The thing Max is teaching me is to bring everything you’ve got to expressing your desire. It’s not simply about thinking a desire – it’s about embodying it. Being completely fully and present to that desire with your whole heart, your whole being. It works for Max, so maybe he’s onto something.

MaxonbeachYou can make big, awful, very bad mistakes and still be “GOOD”
When Todd and I came back from a trip to New Orleans a couple years ago (another time Max went “camping”), we woke up the next day to find our entire map of NOLA as well as our Lonely Planet guide book ripped up in itty bitty pieces. Max was sleeping soundly in a pile of map detritus, making no bones about his feelings of our trip. Bad dog, Max! Another time I came home and the sheepskin lining of my Ugg boot (just one of them) had been chewed off. Bad boy, Max! Then there was the time I came home to find three months worth of birth control pills cast about our home, with little sucked pink pills mixed in among twisted bits of plastic, remnants of a chewed pharmacy bag and some white placebo pills. Max! Bad, bad boy! But what I love about Max, is that he moves on quickly from his mistakes. He doesn’t let his short-comings or missteps define him — he just learns from them and moves on. Because somewhere in his little doggie heart, he must know he’s loved — and he feels that love more deeply than any one mistake. Sure, you could make the case that he’s “just a dog” and that it’s easy for him. But from where I stand, it’s inspiring. I want more of that love-feeling and moving on he’s got.

Greet everyone on the beach, but BE SELECTIVE about who’s butt you sniff
Max is a greeter. When someone new comes into our house, he’s up and at the door, ushering them in or sussing them out with the best of us. And he’s no different on the beach. I watched him race all over creation this morning, running up to poodles, tussling with a couple of other labs and even mixing with a pekinese. In these cases, there was much tail wagging and circling about, sometimes even with the classic butt up in the air, down on the front legs “wanna play” invitation dogs do. Inevitably they would sniff each other’s butts as part of this exchange, amicably either partaking of a sniff or offering up an anus. But then there was this other dog that just stood there, not circling, not wagging. Max ran up to him enthusiastically, and then at the last minute, just veered to the right, kind of doing a fly-by or buzzing the tower of the dog. Somewhere in that short stretch of sand, he had ascertained “this one’s not for me” and simply aborted his mission right then and there. No wavering, no “maybe I was wrong” second-guessing, no shame. Just a fly-by. What a visual that was to see. And permission for me to keep flying by when something just doesn’t feel right.

You don’t need a tennis ball to PLAY
When my husband heard I was making an impromptu trip to the beach this morning with Max, the first thing he asked was “did you bring a tennis ball?” Um…no. For those of you with water dogs, you’ll know that it is damn near a crime to bring a dog to the ocean and not bring a ball for it to chase. I’ll be honest, the realization was almost enough to have me turn around and go home. But then I thought of all those desperate mom moments I had under my belt – the times I was caught with a poopy baby and no clean diaper, or the wailing kid in the backseat with no pacifier – and I knew I’d be resourceful and work something out. But the thing is, Max soon showed me that he didn’t need a tennis ball to play. Sure, he would have loved to chase one, but there were dead sea things to roll in, dogs to meet and lots and lots of things to sniff. And when that all fell short, he would just go and lay down in the crashing waves. Happy as a clam. Watching him play this morning had me start to understand the degree to which I can get all fetched up in orchestrating play for myself — to have all the circumstances to be just so before I will drop down into playing. Max showed me that the only thing that’s truly needed is the desire. Anything beyond that — like a tennis ball — is just icing.

Love is ALL AROUND you if you look for it
This was the last little gem that Max delivered to me this morning on our walk, and it goes back to that part about Max being an furry optimist. I see how Max looks for love wherever he goes, whomever he’s with, and whatever he’s doing. He will go to the outstretched hand, he will wag at the smiling kid, he will click on his doggie toes to whomever is laying on the floor. It’s in his nature as a Lab, for sure, but it feels like something more. It feels like a choice he makes. It feels like a magnet he possesses, to be drawn to the love and not the other nasty stuff. And what’s really cool, is that by seeing it, and by allowing himself to be drawn to it, he is essentially bringing that love with him wherever he goes. He’s a love pollinator.  As I was studying him this morning, I was also sitting with my own magnetism and how keenly it is tuned to love — or something else. It has me wanting to play with that a bit more to see how much love I can see around me – and how I can become a pollinator in my own way.

So thank you, Max. For giving me a reason to get outside on a beautiful day. But mostly? For being such a good boy. We love you all the way to the moon and back, buddy.