Contributing A Verse

Posted September 10th, 2014

Contribute a verseFour weeks ago, I sat in a stale-smelling, artificially-lit waiting area of Maine Medical center. It was 6:30 am and my first-born child had just been wheeled into surgery.

First child. First surgery.

I was told – first patently, then patronizingly – that I had “no reason” to worry. The arrogant and emotionally-stunted – albeit brilliant, or so I was told repeatedly – surgeon insisted my son’s surgery was a non-event and nothing to be worried about, and attempted to mollify my concerns and questions by recounting his vast years of experience, reminding me that he could work at any hospital in the country. He was that brilliant, that good.

In one fell swoop, this surgeon-cum-God informed me that not only was I wrong to be worried on that cold medically-induced morning, but I was also remiss in not understanding how lucky I was to have him performing the operation on my son. Wrong on two counts, I was.  Yup, we were mixing like peanut butter and mustard on cinnamon-raisin bread.

In the large scheme of things, he was probably right. This wasn’t a big deal, was it? Four months prior, my son had the misfortune of getting a rather large splinter lodged in his foot when he slid across the length of his friend’s hardwood kitchen floor in socks. Unbeknownst to us, a piece remained after the initial extrication, and continued to fester – stubbornly – in the bottom of his foot, a fat and fetid chunk of dirty wood suspended in a large pocket of pus (lovely, right?) So yea, I guess a case could be made for it not being a big deal. After all, it wasn’t his heart or his brain being cut open. He didn’t have cancer. Nothing was broken, really.

My otherwise healthy eleven year old son was having a one-inch piece of wood surgically removed from the bottom of his foot. The foot that I grew inside my body. From scratch. The one that had never been cut open before by a surgeon’s knife.

I get how in the large scheme of things, I ought not to have been concerned. But here’s the thing: that morning in the hospital – and in the days leading up to it – I wasn’t living in the larger scheme. I was living in my scheme. The one where I had the right to worry. The one where worrying was a normal reaction. The one where putting my child under with general anesthesia and signing a waiver that if something went wrong it wasn’t the hospitals fault was a very big deal.

But, sadly, you know what I did when faced with this reaction from the doctor? I allowed myself to be shamed and ultimately silenced. I’d like to say it was unconscious on my part, but I’d be lying and well, let’s just not do that here. Truth be told, I actively participated in stepping down in the face of a bully with a scalpel who was deigning to care for my child, despite his annoyance with me as his unfortunate mother.

I blamed it on my pediatrician, the DO with whom I had entrusted my children’s care for nearly twelve years. The one who listened compassionately and offered the perfect blend of head and heart, traditional and alternative care, listening and counseling. The one who has assured me that I had a right to ask questions and encouraged me to be resourceful and gather information and options until I had answers. The one who validated that it was, in fact, my job to advocate for my child. The one that told me to listen to my instincts. The one who told me it’s not a crazy outlandish notion to want to feel that you can trust someone with your child’s life.

But instead, I got out the flog and started beating myself with it (for shame, Lael!) I told myself I was spoiled and had come to expect too much from doctors. I told myself that most surgeons were like that. I told myself that they had to be that way, and that it made them better when they were not caught up in the emotion of it all. I told myself that I had no reason to complain because there are plenty of parents out there every day with real reasons to worry. It’s all fuzzy to me now, but I believe I even used words like “silly” and “over-reacting” and “hormonal” in this internal rant.

I essentially told myself to shut the fuck up. And I did.

They wheeled my son off for surgery and I sat down in the doughy and stained chair to wait. Resigned, I picked up a newspaper and there was the news that Robin Williams had just ended his life the day before. That was all it took. I burst out into sobs, days of frustration mixing with worry and angst and grief at such a tragic loss. Because you see, like many of you, I grew up with Mork. I moved onto him after the Fonz wasn’t cool anymore. My friends and I actually said “Nanoo-nanoo” and I never did get, but oh my, did I want a pair of those rainbow suspenders. Then, as an adult, I got to appreciate his intellectual brilliance in addition to his artistic talent and timing, marveling at how smart he had to be deliver that fantastic political-cultural-comical shit so fast and furious. It was dazzling. And then he could switch gears and deliver these heart-felt dramatic performances. Mind blowing, he was.

And now he’s gone. And I’m crying.

Fast forward a week, and my son is at home with me, bandaged foot (minus the splinter) propped up on the couch. Admittedly, I used that convalescing time to go on a bit of a Robin Williams movie bender. It was cold and raining outside. We both love movies. I had been holding out watching Dead Poets Society with him, though, because it had been so long since I’d seen it I couldn’t recall if it was appropriate (it wasn’t). And how ironic, with the suicide theme. But it a conversation is sparked for us about education, and how the best moments of learning can feel so amazing – so alive. I play for him this scene where Robin Williams’s character, John Keating illustrates the power of a poem (Walt Whitman’s Oh Me, Oh Life)  to evoke desire, to ignite dreams, to call forth inspired action.

We start talking about his move into middle school in a few weeks and how this new community he was about to enter favors an expeditionary model for learning. I smile, knowing that he’s about to be introduced to one of my favorite ways to learn – the kind of experiences that are electrically-charged, powered by an entire community, shared freely like a productive virus, and entirely memorable. The kind of experience that sneak up and teach you without realizing you’re learning. I start to get more and more animated (frothy mouthed at this point, I’m sure) about how awesome learning feels when it’s charged with excitement, possibility and a sense of adventure.

We talk about that line from Walt Whitman’s poem: “The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse” and what that means. The gift of a life. The choice that is ours to make. Daily. The footprint that is your distinct mark to leave on this world. Your verse – a legacy, an impression, a contribution. All yours. For us.

The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.

Then I ask him the same question Robin Williams asks his students in that scene: What will your verse be?

As a side note – and an ironic twist of fate – Apple used the voice-over from that same Dead Poet’s clip when they launched their iPod Air TV ad campaigns back in January of this year. Gives me chills watching it. Every. Time. It describes why I do what I do in the world. All those verses just waiting to be written…or not. Frothy stuff.

As another side note, I’m fairly certain most of that conversation I had with my son went over his head. I’m also relatively sure it had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. Thankfully, wise and gracious kid that he is, I think he got that impression, too (the frothy spittle probably gave me away…), and lucky me, he didn’t make a big deal about it.

But here’s what I’ve concluded having come out the other side of living that story: it is a big deal.

My verse. And contributing it to the play we are all living.

That’s what I traded in when I told myself to shut the fuck up that morning. That’s what I thwarted when I silenced myself with shame. That’s what I started to give up, to hand over when I trash-talked my instincts and mocked my needs.

My verse. My voice.

It’s not “silly”, it’s honest. I wasn’t being “hormonal”, I was experiencing blatant sexism. I wasn’t “over-reacting”, I was being bullied and feeling invisible.

So thank you, Robin. For reminding me of the gift I – we all, each one of us – have been given. And thank you for reminding me it is – and has always been – my choice as to how I use it. Or don’t. Thank you for making me laugh first, and cry later, which helped me to stand up a bit taller and feel a little lighter. Thank you for asking me – us all – that question time and time again, which serves as a reminder that we can choose to write that verse with each new day.

I know what my verse will be.

Actively Disrupting Normal

Posted August 7th, 2014

Crossroads-tracks-flickrIf I had a file folder in my office labeled “BIG DOINS” it would be bursting at the seams right about now.

Whitney Johnson calls what I’m doing “disrupting myself”. That sounds about right. I first heard her own disruption story at Business Innovation Factory’s annual summit (#BIF7) and something about her strategic and systematic approach to creating change resonated with me. It was brave and badass. Not for the faint of heart. Unlike the myriad of circumstances that can intervene and bump us off course (downsizing, illness, markets crashing, bubbles popping), “disrupting” by her definition is about consciously setting about altering your course with the intention of making space for something new to move in and/or reveal itself.

That’s what I’m doing. Disrupting myself to beat the band.

Most days this has me over-the-moon excited and chomping at the bit. But some days – especially last week, when I was making decisions and pulling triggers – it had me saying holyshitholyshitholyshit. Here is what I know to be true, though. What always helps me to navigate these moments in life – when my toes are curled and gripping the edge in anticipation of taking a leap of faith – is to tell my story.

That, my friend, is where you come in.

I’m going to crack open my bulging file and let you in on what’s going down – and up and over. I want some witnesses. I want to celebrate the abyss I am flying into with wild abandon. It’s what I ask of the audience at my SheSpeaks events…to catch the stories as they are being told, even lived. You don’t need to understand all of it, respond to it, or even agree with it. Just bear witness to it. And do me a favor if you will, and hold me like you love me while I lay it all out. That helps, too.

I’m taking all of August off. Again.
2012-10-06 11.26.26Last year, I made the decision to finance a mini-sabbatical for myself. One delicious month off where I wouldn’t be in the office or work with clients. Far from a personal retreat in Bali, it was more of a logistical stop-gap measure brought about by the fact that we didn’t have camp/childcare coverage for August. Plus, it secretly scratched my Spicoli-sized itch I get nearly every August that tempts me to play hooky (everybody does it…), blow it off (it can wait…), jump ship (you only live once), fuck convention (it’s boring) and chillax in my flip-flops like my life depends on it. Now let me be clear: enjoying this time isn’t what’s hard. In fact, I often joke that if vacationing were an Olympic sport I’d be a serious contender. No, the hardest part is authorizing myself to take it, and trusting that I will have a reason to come back.  Believing that an investment in me is, in fact, an investment in my business. The truth of the matter is, I do. I believe in unplugging and leaves of absence and don’t want to wait for a cosmic 2×4 to need to run interference in my life (again) to make that happen. I know life is short. And my long summer days with young kids, coloring with chalk in the driveway, having water fights and doing delicious amounts of absolutely nothing are seriously limited. So last year, they – my kids were my excuse. This year, I am. Actually, scratch that…this year I realized I don’t need an excuse. I’m taking this month off – August – off again. Period. I am a fierce champion for my clients taking bold and badass leaps of faith fueled by courage and a strong hunch. This is me matching their courage stride for stride. Because I can. So I will see you in September, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed and full of fresh new me-ness.

I’m starting a men’s group this fall. Ready or not.
This one has me throw up in my mouth a little, I’m so excited. For years, I’ve had this idea of forming a men’s group. Unfortunately, I’ve also had a rather loud and obnoxious voice of doubt saying, “you can’t do that, you’re a woman!”. So I waited for someone else to do it. I even approached several men I know about the idea, suggesting what a great idea it would be and offering to help them get it going. Nothing. Nada. This year, I finally said “fuck it” to that loud voice in my head.The Men I Know I raised my hand, called on myself, and started talking aloud to others about it. What I discovered is that it’s a good idea. And a timely one. So today, I’m thrilled to announce that not only have I designed the men’s experience I envisioned, but I’ve met with seven men who are interested in participating and it’s nearly full. So it’s happening. Finally.

I’m writing a book. For real.
For those of you who have been following me and supporting me over the years, this might not be news. But it is. Because although I have talked about it a lot – in my writing, on stage, with my clients – it wasn’t moving forward. It. Just. Wasn’t. I’ve had some promising fits and starts over the past year after I set that intention, but nothing of substance that lit me up enough to morph a daunting task into a I-have-to-keep-going-with-this-or-I’ll-explode experience (the latter is where I do my best writing, by the way). But all that changed earlier this summer. I upped my ante with my own coach, got fierce with my time, and enlisted a KICK-ASS posse of people to be my “batch-catchers”, essentially creating a reason for me to write each week. At this point, I will bow down and kiss the feet of my 12 devoted BCs…without you reading my shizzle weekly I would be a hot mess of constipated words. I would also like to give a shout out to the amazing, Melissa McCarthy and her performance in Bridesmaids, which inspired me to use the phrase “it’s comin’ outta me like lava” to describe my process of writing these days. So. Stand. Back.

And please pardon my absence on this blog, Facebook, Twitter, my monthly Touchstones and all other forms of social engagement while I unleash the hounds, inflate a creative bubble around me, and ride this beast of goodness I’m on until it’s done. It helps to lower the cone of silence as I dig into and make this particular form of art. And yes, of course I’ll still be seeing my coaching and consulting clients as I do this…as well as my women’s circle and my men’s group. I’m only disrupting myself, I’m not completely bat shit crazy.

I’m taking a year-long hiatus from SheSpeaks. Gulp.
Lael Sourcing - Melissa Mullen PhotographyThis was perhaps the biggest decision I made recently. If you’ve been to any one of the SIX SheSpeaks I have held over the past three years, you’ll know that this evening of women’s storytelling I offer is near and dear to my heart. You’ll also know it’s typically sold out in advance, being one of my most popular events. But every time I get off stage from that event, a number of people approach me in person or over email and say, “so when are you going to write a book?” I have been asked, encouraged, and thumped on the back for years, by clients and strangers saying they wanted to read the book I would someday write, which has felt equally awesome and intimidating. In many ways, it was this encouragement that enabled me to make this hard decision to cancel the Winter (Dec 4, 2014) and Spring (May 2015) SheSpeak events. Which I have done. Sigh. Gulp. The five speakers I had lined up for my December SheSpeaks “Swagger” have all graciously and enthusiastically accepted my invitation to join me on the stage NEXT December instead of this one. Hard, hard, hard. But right, right, right. Write. That’s what freeing up this creative space is about. Gathering up that space and creative mojo and channeling it into my book, instead of preparing more bite-sized pieces for the stage. Lawd, I hope this is worth it. My toes are still sore from hanging onto the edge of this one. But somewhere deep in my heart, I thought I heard a deep sigh. And a resounding “yes”.

So there it is. My new normal. Or at least the latest series of disruptions I’m invoking to deliver me to its doorstep. Truth be told, I’ve always thought “normal” was a bit over-rated, preferring to identify with the “Abby Normal” set as per Young Frankenstein.

So scary? Toe-curling? Vomit producing? Nail-biting? Sure. Risk tends to have that effect on people. We’re only human.

But Thrilling? Edge-of-your-seat suspense? Eye-popping excitement? Feeling wide awake to life and how it’s unfolding? You betcha.

That’s me. Abby. Abby Normal. Shaken, not stirred.

Running Over My Rabbit. Repeatedly.

Posted June 13th, 2014

rabbit-on-gravel-roadWhen I was in grad school, we were asked to share with the circle of thirty students in our cohort what animal best represented ourselves as a leader. Not surprisingly, as we went around this circle of bright and ambitious working-professional students, there were many fierce and classically top-of-the-food-chain animals offered up: hawk, eagle, falcon, wolf, bear, lion. I started to sweat a little because I knew what my answer would be.

“Rabbit”, I said.

I can still hear the laughter and feel the condescending smirks that came my way in the moment, now twelve years in my past. If I’m not quick enough to catch it, I can still go to shame. Vulnerability inevitably sneaks in under my radar.

Once the snickers subsided, someone was bold enough to comment, “Oh, you’re road kill.”

I gasped and threw up in my mouth a little at the violence suggested in that comment and how it was a metaphor for my experience in this not-so-safe group and, truth be told, being a woman working in the corporate world.

Small. Cute. Ultimately dispensable. A dime a dozen. And easily run over.

I knew I had just done something either incredibly stupid or thoroughly brave in outing myself as a rabbit. A case could be made for both, but that moment – as benign as it seemingly was – I sensed I was at an important crossroads, one that would define and irrevocably alter my course: tell the truth and honor who you are or play the game and stay safe.

I opted for Door #1: Truth & Honor.

I’d like to say that what flowed from that moment was a rich dialogue punctuated by curiosity. It wasn’t. No questions were asked about the virtues of the rabbit (nimble, perceptive, intuitive, creative, fast) with regard to leadership or its symbolism (feminine power, lunar energy, fertility, shape-shifting gender).

I’d like to say I offered up my experience that day as a means to explore how the over-developed masculine energy contained in the group (which incidentally was comprised of primarily women) literally ran over and was, yet again, dismissing, discounting and discrediting any feminine energy contained with us. But I didn’t. I shut the fuck up.

And silently made a note to buy a copy of Watership Down on my way home that night for some much-needed validation.

And there it was. Once again I found myself shying away from yet another opportunity to give voice and value to a feminine approach to leadership. I conceded to the violence implied in the “road kill” comment, and silently wished I had aligned with a Falcon with its sharp talons and beak that could impale a rodent. I might as well have been the driver that made road-kill of my own rabbit, in that I allowed it to die a silent and shameful death while on my watch.

It wouldn’t have been the first time. Rabbits tended to die around me.

I grew up in the country, and it was pretty common to have our old flatulent beagle, Polly, bring a near-dead rabbit to our back porch as twilight approached. So common, in fact, that my sister and I had a standard protocol for this event, lining a shoe-box with a towel, putting the bunny with the punctured head in it to rest, feeding it throughout the night with a dropper, and then inevitably burying it in the morning, giving it the next available number in a long-line of “Thumpers” that came before it. I thought nothing of it at the time, how we brought quiet grace and loving reverence to the never-ending parade of half-dead rabbits in our life.

And then there was the time I tried to repeatedly run over a rabbit I had accidentally swiped while driving on a back-country road in my 20s. Far from a masochistic move, mine was an act of compassion. Or at least an attempt at that. The rabbit I had maimed with my car might beg to differ, as I repeatedly tried to run it over to put it out of its misery, missing it again and again with the skinny tires of my Tercel, sobbing “I’m so sorry!” before backing up and trying one more time. It was awful, and I believe to this day that poor rabbit actually died of a heart attack from terror, rather than its initial injury from my car.

But it wasn’t until I started consulting with an Executive Director at a local women’s organization here in Maine that I reclaimed my rabbit.

Because she was a chicken.

Accomplished, resourceful, scrappy and wickedly bright, this woman readily identified and proudly owned her chicken as her totem animal for leadership. She inspired me. So much so, she made me rethink – and ultimately reclaim – my association with the rabbit. We used to joke – and still do – about taking “chicken and rabbit” road-trips to create some badass positive change in the world. Implied in this joint Thelma and Louise adventure (minus the unfortunate cliff scene), was a fierce and wildly audacious commitment to making change happen, fueled by nothing more than own intuition, wisdom, and irreverent belief that a chicken and a rabbit could make a difference.

I’ve since come to understand  that my on-again-off-again identification with Rabbit is a mirror for my on-again-off-again identification with The Feminine. And here’s what I’ve decided as a result of that realization:

I’m official done with running over my rabbit. No more.

rabbit_1887903bNow, at the age of forty-five, I’ve finally grown weary of the shame, the hiding, the back-peddling and hokey-pokey dance I’ve been doing with The Feminine all my life, qualifying and diminishing it with my humor, making it “cute”, comfortable or somehow soft.

No longer that younger version of myself who sat quietly in the shame of that circle, this is what I believe now:

Being vulnerable does not make you road-kill. It makes you visible, and therefore strong.

Being smaller in size (or number) does not make you less of a force for change.

Bringing compassion and curiosity to conversations is a fierce and strategic maneuver.

Sometimes two people is all it takes to create a critical mass.

Once you lose something dear, and then find it again, it’s yours forever.

So there it is, my lost and found story of The Feminine that began and ended with a rabbit.

Small Mirrors

Posted May 27th, 2014

Little MirrorsThis past Mother’s Day, my littlest son crawled into bed with me in the morning with a big grin, ready to finally give me the gift he’d been waiting a six-year-old’s version of forever to give me.In the days leading up to this big moment, he’d tried on multiple occasions to strike sophisticated bargins that would enable him to give me this heart-felt present sooner.Needless to say, I made him wait.

And it was so worth it.

Because in that moment, as his little chest was near-to-bursting with anticipation and pride, I unrolled a beautiful piece of his artwork that was lovingly prompted and laminated by his teacher. And in doing so, I unrolled myself.

My son didn’t just give me a gift. He gave me myself. Laminated.

There it was – there I was – all boiled down to words and phrases that expressed how he saw me. The things I knew and took pride in – the fact that I’m creative, own my awesome (or “osum”), and make a mean chocolate chip cookie. Then there were the things I didn’t tend to see in myself – my beauty, my compassion and the degree to which I care for those I love.

But as I read through all this on that morning with him by my side, one-line shimmered brightly through my tears:

“My Mom always says be careful (or carfl)”

Long after we had snuggled and marveled over the color choices in his art and the heart-felt words he chose, I stayed in bed and thought about that one particular shimmering phrase. I wasn’t simply belaboring a short-coming, beating up myself again, or fretting over the past. I wasn’t discounting all the other thoughts and sentiments on his card. There wasn’t any harsh judgment or charged accusations in the bed as I held his card. It was different this time. This time I was I was seeing myself more clearly as a result of looking through his eyes. He was mirroring me. For me.

And the thing was: it was perfectly timed.

He couldn’t have known it at the time, but he was delivering to me yet another story that I had outlived. More than something I had moved beyond in my past, this particular phrase was now getting in my way of living into my future. Here it was – the thing that had been getting me hung up in my underwear – that constant caution I carried in my psyche. In my body. In my heart.

Be careful.

I read that phrase, and I winced. Because I knew if I were to unpack that particular phrase, I would find an infestation of words that had me playing small, living in doubt, feeding my fear. Inside that phrase there would be things like “get it right”, “don’t take risks”, and “you’re not _____ enough”. I knew them all intimately, but never before had I seen them together so clearly, presenting such a united front. Staring me down boldly from behind the safe cover of lamination.

As I sat there that morning, I reflected on how often I had uttered that phrase, “be careful” to my kids. My eldest joked about it with me, saying that if I had my way I’d wrap them both in poppy paper. Now my youngest had it laminated. I could make a case for that being a patent and perfectly standard caution that comes out of most parents’ mouths without us even realizing it. But that would be an excuse for me not to look closer at what was being shown to me in that moment.

I thought of what I valued and what I wanted to teach my kids: my legacy to them. Did I want them to be careful, to mitigate against risk, to proceed through life with caution and a guarded nature? This is not a trick question I was presenting myself, but a genuine reckoning I was having with myself as a parent. And the answer, not surprisingly, was a resounding “NO”. I thought of my most treasured values (learning, growth, courage) and mantras (figure it out as you go, launch and learn) and people I admired who inspired me (Anne Lamott, Danielle LaPorte, Cheryl Strayed), and realized – with crystal clarity – how that “be careful” story I had been carrying around so diligently (sometimes absently unaware) for most of my adult life was in direct opposition to what I wanted. What I loved. To the process of living, really.

I wanted to be the mom who said “Go for it!”

2014-05-23 16.11.14The next day, I pulled my littlest aside and thanked him for his gift. I told him about my discovery and my new-found desire to leave “careful” behind. Then I enlisted his support, having learned years ago that my kids were rock stars in little sneakers when it came to holding adults accountable. He listened with a glimmer in his eye as he heard my plan to replace the majority of “be careful’s” in my life with “go for its”, and nodded with wisdom beyond his years when I said it might take me a while to break the habit. A deal was struck in that moment. In witnessing my proclamation,

it was if he was saying, “Go for it, Mom.”

Since that day, I’ve been reflecting just how much those two stale words “be” and “careful” have soured my life’s ambition. To be honest, I’m proud of the risks I’ve taken personally and professionally. Thankfully the sail of my spirit of adventure has been vast enough to hold a fair amount of wind and weather some storms along the way. But there is more. More wind, a reserve sail I’ve been saving, and much more of me that has been cowering in the wings, waiting for it to be safe enough to come out and play. Of that I am certain.

My decision to write a book that would put more of me out further into the world is the most recent example, and seems to have created an opening for “be careful” to take up residence in my sinews once again. It leads me to creep and lillydip, taking one step forward, and two steps back, instead of plunging into this new creative endeavor with wild abandon. “Be careful” has been a downer, a buzz-kill, and a drag, kind of like inviting an actuary, an insurance adjustor and an accountant to join you on a long road trip to who-knows-where.

It’s fear I’m facing, really.

Anne Lamott wrote about it last week in a Facebook post. She spoke about how “perfectionism is the great enemy of the writer, and of life, our sweet messy beautiful screwed up human lives.” She writes that it will “keep you very scared and restless your entire life if you do not awaken, and fight back, and if you’re an artist, it will destroy you.” Yup, I’ve got that, Anne. Laminated and everything.

So it seems I’ve been “careful” of the wrong thing…It’s not making messy art or plunging into the unknown I ought to fear, it’s the call to perfectionism and way it lulls us to sleep, whispers sweet nothings about safety, and keeps us from going for it – our dreams, the discovery, the experience, the journey. Living. Life.

So I’m going for it. And I have a witness, now many, if you’d be so kind. No need for lamination this time, I’ve got it committed to memory.

Thanks to my little mirror and his gift. 



Authorizing Myself

Posted January 28th, 2014

993816_775985615752312_1023093244_nI spent most of yesterday shopping for validation. I didn’t realize it at the time. But it’s so clear to me now. And embarrassing to admit, but we’re among friends here, right? So I’m just going to put it out there.

Truth be told, what I really mean when I say “validation” is “permission”.

Shit, that stings to write that word out loud. It goes against everything I believe in…stand for…talk about. Seriously, Lael…after all we’ve been through? You need permission!? Yup. Really. Well, shit.

So here’s the back story to how I came to that sad realization yesterday. And what I did with it.

I’ve been doing some deep soul mining as part of reading Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map book. For those of you not familiar with it, her premise is that we’ve got it all backwards and upside down when it comes to designing our lives – we start with the goals, decisions, actions and then hope (and pray) they will have us FEEL how we want to feel, instead of starting with the FEELINGS themselves and letting them guide us. So she has us zoom in on the FEELINGS we’re chasing. And start there.

Just get the book. It’s revolutionary.

But back to my story (did you see how I just side-tracked us…pretty slick, eh!?)

As a result of all this word-wrangling I’ve been doing to arrive at my five words to describe how I want to feel, I’ve bumped (and continue to bump) into past decisions I’ve made that no longer jive with how I want to feel. That’s putting it mildly…some of those decisions are actually in direct conflict with my words, generating feelings that are the exact OPPOSITE of how I want to feel.

But because I was shoulding myself, I had a hard time seeing clearly and, ultimately, letting go of what wasn’t serving me.

The decision that had me madly “shopping” for permission yesterday was whether or not to turn OFF the comments feature on this blog. For years I’ve been writing posts and have loved hearing – and feeling – how you’ve connected with my writing. Truly. But here’s the thing: it’s rarely through a comment on my blog. Instead I hear about how my writing resonated with you in an email sent to me a month after a post went up, or a client references how something I wrote spoke to her heart, or a stranger at a dinner party quotes something I’ve written- often years prior –  back to me. Those comments sing to my soul and literally bring tears to my eyes. They move me and deeply touch my heart. I love being a part of such an intense and meaningful exchange of words and feelings and kindred spirit connections. But actual comments on my blog? Not so much. They are few and far between, and to be honest, that has been okay with me. Truly. I’ve gotten what I need. And I trust that others have, too. Deeply.

“You should have more comments on your blog posts.”

That’s a comment I hear that helps reinforce the “should” I’ve been feeding anxiously out of obligation – “yes…you’re right…I know…I should…” – but not with my whole-heart. It was like an occasional bone I was throwing the nasty junkyard pit bull I passed by every morning, yanking on his chain, barring his teeth. I was shutting the “should” up – giving it something to chew on for a while – but not really acknowledging the energy I was giving it. Which was fear, guilt, or obligation. Or even habit.

I tend not to do a lot of market research or troll the internet to see what other people in my field are out there doing. Not that it’s not interesting or valuable, but it just doesn’t seem to feed me – and like empty carbs, it can gobble up my day, fill my head with more to dos (most of which I’ll never do), and add more ambient noise to my creative world. Instead, I opt to take a page out of Oprah’s playbook and keep my head down, focused on what ideas and inspiration bubble up naturally from within me. For the most part. But sometimes I slip up. That was the case yesterday. When I was home with my eldest who had a stomach bug, I found myself looking at other blogs, inevitably scrolling down to look at the number of comments the writer had on a post. I noticed – as I did yesterday – that whenever I do this, I have one of two distinct reactions (both, admittedly, pathetic): 1) “Ha! See!? That was a good post, but you don’t have many comments EITHER!” Heckle, heckle… or 2) “Shit. Real writers have many more comments than I do…” Wah, wah..

Comparison: that’s what this is about. And it sucks the soul right out of me.

Numbers have never really been my thing when it comes to measuring my fulfillment or impact, unless we’re talking finances – then bring it on. But there is nothing that snuffs out my creative candle fast than a flat metric that has no heart. Numbers take me to my head, and that’s not where my best writing lives. I am reminded of a story author Tama Kieves told about her experience with a writing group when she was in the process of writing her first book: “Like vultures, we’d peck at the carcass of a piece until we lost all sight of its feathers and flight.”

Pecked. That’s what the comment option on my blog did to my creative spirit. Peck, peck, peck.

It was a simple fix, really. Just turn the fucker off. But alas, even as recent as yesterday, I denied my request, chiding myself with a million different paper cut reasons, fear and insecurity being at the top of my list of reasons to keep it.

So I started shopping for permission – because clearly it wasn’t coming from me, but I was hellbent it was going to come from SOMEONE. It didn’t take me long to find it. Ironically, it came from Danielle LaPorte’s own story of  making the decision to turn off the comment feature on her own blog as a means to create space for her creative spirit. And bonus, I learned she shopped for permission, too, taking solace from the fact that both Seth Godin and Havi turned off their blog comment feature.

That was all it took, apparently.Without further ado, I sent a quick email to my rockstar web designer and asked her to please delete that function. And she did.

Simple. And incredibly liberating. Who knew? Turns out I did. All along.

And with that one symbolic act last night – whoosh! – in came a rush of fresh oxygen to my body – quite literally. My gut unknotted itself. I took a deep sigh of contentment. I reflected on the five words that represent how I want to feel – DAUNTLESS, SHINING, FREE, SHAKTI, and HELD– and could see how giving myself permission to finally honor my instincts on this decision meant that I was consciously choosing to feed my true desired feelings versus someone else’s should. Permission never felt so sweet. And right. Finally.

It only took me 10 years to get there.

As I”m reflecting on this now, though, I’m wondering if what I was truly seeking was not permission, but rather inspiration. From someone I admire. There are subtle shades of difference between validation, permission, and inspiration – and what makes it tricky to navigate is that all three of them can all come from internal and external sources. It turns out it took a sweet mixture of both to work for me. I’m still mulling this one over…

But in the meantime, I’ve started to look at my life – and how I’ve designed it – with fresh new eyes. I don’t want to wait another ten years for a great discovery. So yesterday, I asked myself:

What do I know NOW that I can grant permission to myself to act upon?

More clarity popped out of the ether within me that had me tweak and modify my plans, goals, decisions – now, not later:

That marathon you were quietly planning on running? Let that go. That’s not going to have you feel the way you want to feel. That’s just going to have you prove your son (who said “Mom, it’ll never happen.”) wrong. Get strong instead. Think pilates. Run if you feel like it.

The book you’re writing? Let it be your blog – and SheSpeaks – instead. It already is. Fold them all together, call it a book, and share it. Don’t start from scratch. And don’t wait.

That spiritual craving you’ve been having? Feed it. Now. Immediately. That’s what this is all about. It’s not just related, it’s the source. Go in.

Your desire to travel? Don’t wait. The open road always unlocks you and your creativity. Play with your art on the road and it will grow. Faster.

Hot damn, I’m inspired – which is always on the flip-side of hard truth for me. So here I go. You with me? No need to comment…oh wait you can’t. But I know you will.  In your own way. Sometimes without words.

And I’ll gobble up every tasty morsel along the way as soul food. Guaranteed.



Letting “Enough” Be

Posted October 29th, 2013

2013-10-05 13.19.50I surprised the shit out of myself a couple weeks ago. I did something I never thought I’d be able to do, which left me giddy and feeling lighter than air.

I threw out all of my notebooks – all seventeen of them – from my graduate school. In the garbage.

Now, for anybody that knows me – you know what a big deal this is for me. I am never without a notebook to capture my random thoughts as they flit across the radar of my consciousness. So you can imagine what I was like in grad school…my left hand forever stained in blue ink, madly scribbling notes, ideas, concepts, models, theory. I’m an auditory learner, so I long ago made friends with the fact that writing down what I hear is part of my learning process – it literally creates a picture of what I hear. Or think. Or want.

But I rarely – if ever – go back to those notebooks.

And this was the case for my grad school journals. When I graduated my program in 2002, I put all of my notebooks on a shelf in my home office, and had visions of me pulling them out on snow-filled dark winter days by the fire, as I reflected on theory and mindfully honed my skills.


Did I mention I was five months pregnant with my first child when I graduated? I also had visions of baking loaves of whole-grain bread, knitting and reading all those classic books on my list, like Wuthering Heights and Crime and Punishment, during my maternity leave. Right, right…

You know the drill, those lofty expectations you set for yourself that have no business being in reality…even as we make them to ourselves, we know there is not a chance in hell it will ever happen, right? But we make them anyway. And soon we find ourselves – as I did with those damn journals over the years – moving them from shelf, to closet, to box, to other closet, all the while telling ourselves, “I need these!”

You know what I was really telling myself all those years? “You’re not enough without these.” Ouch.

I am enoughWhat I came to realize this past fall is that those journals weren’t serving me – they were mocking me. Every time I looked at them, I got this pang in my gut that represented all the “shoulds” I ever carried – from myself and others, like my professors and mentors. One look at those journals and I thought of how I still have ten more years of student loan to pay off grad school, and then I was critiquing if it had been worth it? Was I using what I had learned? Did I even remember what I had learned? Even writing this now, my stomach is in knots.

Because here’s the deal: I AM enough. I get that now.

The gift of living well into my 40s is that my give-a-shit meter has gone way down, and with it, the assurance that I have what I need within me has gone up. I may not know something, but I sure as hell can figure it out…or ask someone else who might know. I know myself. And I know others. That’s good enough. I am good enough. This not to say “I’m done” – far from that, I’ll always be hungry for more. But it is to firmly and solidly acknowledge “enough” works for me.

So on that day, when I opened the closet and once again saw those green and purple notebooks mocking me from on high, I finally made the decision to let them go. I pulled them down, loaded them up in a box and had my husband drop them in a dumpster. “ALL of them…” he said, ” are you sure?” (He, too, knows me well and was also probably thinking about those student loan payments and getting my money’s worth…). I smiled and said, “Yes, I’ve got what I need.” And out they went. Their 10-year term of intimidation and mockery had ended. There was a new sheriff in town and she was all about traveling light.

It felt delicious. Heretical, like the time I threw out my massive statistics textbook in the garbage can in Washington National Airport after passing the class.

I texted a photo of  the stack of journals to my friend from grad school – the one person besides me who could appreciate this bold act of rebellion – and asked her to bear witness and celebrate with me. She did. She gets it.

Because the reality is we all have green and purple journals that mock us, don’t we? They are those things we think we need, ought to hold onto, or don’t quite know how to move beyond. Maybe it’s your wedding dress in the basement, or those clothes you wore before you lost all that weight and got in shape. Maybe it’s love letters from the person that broke your heart, or tokens of the friend that broke your trust. Reminders of something you never want to experience again. No matter what their shape or form, they are our physical reminders of “shoulds” we carry.

Too often, we write it off as simply being sentimental. But truth be told, it more closely resembles “playing safe.”

I've got thisThat’s what I was doing by hanging on to those journals all those years. I was hedging my bets against success, keeping a back up plan, holding onto an external reminder of my worth. I told myself I need them, but when I truly examined the situation – I found they were simply holding me back, shackling the weight of doubt, insecurity, and fear to my ankles. They were taking up valuable space in my psychic closet.

So I let them go. Which, I soon discovered, was a surprisingly loving gesture on my part.

By tossing those journals out in the garbage, I was not only lightening my load, I was investing in myself. I was buying stock in my own success and self-worth. In that one simple act, I blessed and anointed myself for the next leg of my journey, saying “I believe in you, you are enough, and you do have what you need.”

“You’ve GOT this.”

That’s what my clients tell me I say to them on those days they’re scared, worried they might be making a mistake, or feeling like they’re not enough. We can all use that reminder. Myself included. Clearly.

It funny, you hear the word “enough” and you think it’s about settling or stopping somehow. But it’s not that at all.

It’s about setting yourself free. Don’t believe me? Try it. I dare you.


Posted October 8th, 2013

winnowingI slept horribly last night, and not for lack of trying. It happens when I’m approaching a creative jag, most commonly around the equinoxes in spring and fall.

I know I’m not alone in this pattern – I work with enough writers to know this is the blessing and the curse of the creative mind: very little sleep ultimately yields fully formed thoughts and pages that take shape in our heads long before pouring out of us effortlessly upon waking.

My husband has found me many times crouched on the edge of the bathtub in the middle of the night, madly scribbling notes on a scrap of paper with only the dim night light to illuminate the page. He once watched me for a half hour as I wrote down my thoughts in the pitch dark of our bedroom while laying in our bed, trying to ascertain if I was asleep (and enacting a bizarre dream) or, in fact, awake (and possessing a freakishly odd talent for writing in the dark). It was the latter, by the way.

At the age of forty-four, I’ve come to appreciate the need to strike while the creative iron is hot – to ride the wave of inspiration as it’s rolling to shore. As much as we’d like to, I firmly believe we can’t schedule or force moments like these – they are just born. Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself these days as inspiration finds me in the middle of the night.

It beats the hell out of the other reason: Perimenopause. That would just be sad.

Here’s the seed of inspiration that found me as I tried to sleep last night – and I think it’s pretty apt, given the season we’re in: Winnowing. It’s a concept I share frequently with my clients, and it seems to find a home with them as they navigate change, and find themselves sorting through what they want, and what’s just old and coming along for the ride.

The concept of winnowing is ancient, but my story with it begins when I was eight or nine. At the time, we had a parakeet named Happy (how odd that we had a bird, and how telling that was his name…). My job everyday was to change Happy’s cage and make sure he had plenty of food and water. On special days, I got to cut the leafy ends off of the celery and toss it into his plastic “bath” that snapped onto the side of his cage. The bird would go nuts with excitement on those days, offering up one of his many swearwords he favored (also telling…), but I digress…

The most challenging part of my job was to separate out the old husks of his bird seed from the uneaten ones. Ordinarily, this would be a daunting task for a young girl with limited patience, but my mom –  wise woman that she was – made it fun and easy for me. She sent me out into the back yard with two old Folger’s coffee cans. Demonstrating the process to me, she taught me how to fill one can with the seeds from Happy’s cage and then, holding my arms out, pour the seeds from one can to the other repeatedly, letting the wind carry away the empty hulls. I still get goosebumps as I think of those old seeds simply flying away on the wind.

I remember being mystified by the process, like I was some high priestess offering symbolic seeds to feed the sky gods.

As a “grown-up” now, working with people navigating change, I find I use this metaphor a lot with my clients to illustrate how simple and effective the process of “culling” one’s life can be. It can be fun and easy, leveraging the wind in our life as an unassuming ally to rid of us of that which is no longer serving us. “Empty seeds” in some cases might be friends who would rather we not change or grow, old stories we keep telling ourselves out of habit, or “shoulds” and outdated expectations we’ve been carrying with us without even realizing it.

Pass the seeds from one can to another, and watch what drifts away on the wind. 

Give it a try. Step out into nature – find a patch of grass or go whole-hog and climb a mountain – and bring your “can of seeds” to sort, literally (I’m all about the ritual..) or just figuratively. Don’t over think it. That’s not what this is about. Let it be about motion, the elements, and the wisdom of the wind. Watch for what flies away and see if you can name it…feel it leave you. Say goodbye to it, and thank the seeds from past meals for their nourishment. Notice how your can feels lighter, and yet more solid – full of substance and free from waste. All meat, no fillers.

That’s the good stuff you want in your can. Happy food.

Don’t worry if you feel like an ass doing this. You will, trust me. Especially if you’re not eight and don’t have a pet bird swearing from his cage in the corner. But know that you won’t be alone. You’re actually in good company. This is happening more than you realize. Just think of that every time you feel the wind on your face.

Winnowing: It’s not just for the birds.



Posted September 5th, 2013

2013-09-05 08.15.23Many years ago, I was pulled out of the corporate rat race very suddenly for a medical leave. Up until that day, I thought I had it goin’ on – I was feeling in the zone, spinning all my plates, dazzling people with my fancy footwork, and buying into my illusion of feeling invincible. Never mind the fact that I was bone tired, spiritually emaciated, and completely disconnected from all my sources of nourishment. I was a junkie and work (and the accolades that came from it) was my heroin.

Then I got a wake up call.

The very next day I went out on a medical leave for three months – a maternity leave, minus the baby. All those important meetings I “needed” to attend? Gone. My schedule that was a solid block of busy from 8-7? Wiped clean. Obligations? Promises? Intentions? All renegotiated, tabled, forgiven, or forgotten. In less than 24-hours, I literally worked myself out of a job. It turns out I wasn’t that important. I quickly learned the earth would keep turning on its axis even in the face of disappointment, incompleteness, or failure to produce, do, or deliver.

I will forever be grateful for that lesson.

Because in those three months I found myself again in all the noisy confusion that had become my life. It was a good life, yes, with lots of fulfillment and riches – but it was loud, had too many moving pieces, and wasn’t ultimately sustainable. In those months, I asked for help and guidance from the universe, from my family and friends, and from a few wise and trusted spiritual teachers. I was trying to make sense of my life. And somewhere along that journey, I realized that isn’t possible using just my head. I couldn’t simply will myself to make it all work. I had to listen to the entirely of me for that to be possible – using my heart, my spirit and my physical body for counsel as well as my mind.

I realized I had let myself become reduced to simply a head with feet.

996167_626027297408414_1096786616_nMany life-altering realizations were born out of that time. In fact, I often bless the child I lost at the beginning of that leave, for giving his life so that I could rebirth my own life – this time more fully and with much more intention. It was on that leave that I decided it was time to exit the corporate world to start my own business, and I began to create SheChanges (although I didn’t know what it was called at the time…that would come much later). I also realized (contrary to my previous beliefs about myself) that I was a deeply spiritual person, and began to see the degree to which I had cut myself off from any forms of spiritual connection – nature, silence, spiritual practices, even movement.

I began to more fully appreciate the space that was needed in order for me to live my life more fully.

As an extroverted person who thinks best in a crowd and gets infused with energy in social gatherings, I had overlooked my need for privacy and quiet reflection. I came to appreciate the importance of holding counsel with myself, which is much more than simply being alone – it’s about deep listening to one’s own voice. Because as much as I love to generate and create in the presence of others, my best seeds of ideas and embers of wisdom are born within me. All of me. Alone.

I made a promise to myself on that leave to design a life that incorporated my need for space and reflection.

As grateful as I am to that leave for waking me up, I never want the universe to have to intervene in my life to that degree again. I never want to experience another cosmic 2×4 upside the head. That was rugged, and jarring (to say the least), and extreme. During that leave, I pledged to assume responsibility for my own life, which included the care and feeling of my entire being – even if it wasn’t convenient, even if I didn’t have “enough” (time, money, justification) to make it happen, even if I was needed elsewhere, even if others didn’t understand it or thought me selfish.

It hasn’t been easy or smooth sailing. I’ve failed grandly at times – gotten sick, run down, and fried as a result of burning the candle at both ends and overestimating my capacity to get shit done. But I have had successes, too. Many of them. I take myself away two times a year for a solo retreat – nothing fancy, just a couple of days in a cheap inn or crashing at a friend’s island cottage when they’re not using it. But it does the trick – just two days, sometimes three, all by myself. No distractions, no noise, no obligations other than to listen deeply. Many of my clients have been inspired to adopt the same practice for themselves, one even calling it her “Me Retreat”, and have discovered both the challenges (guilt! too busy! selfish!) and the benefits (clarity! perspective! guidance!) firsthand.

But this summer I did something that surprised even me.

2013-09-05 08.15.13Earlier this year I decided I would take the entire month of August off. And I actually did. Four. Whole. Weeks. I still laugh when I think about it, because there were so many reasons I could have used on myself not to make it happen. I had just moved into an amazing new office in June, after having worked out of my home for the past eight years. This new added expense – not to mention the excitement of wanting to be IN it – could have been enough to have me reconsider. But nope. I pulled the trigger, telling my clients I was NOT going to be in the office August (gulp), squirreling away money each month to finance it (YES!), setting up my auto-responder (gotta love technology), and then getting myself out of dodge. I unplugged, got off social media, put down the iphone and picked up my camera, stopped writing to do lists, and made decisions for my days using the weather, my mood, and our family’s inclinations (within reason…) as our only guides.

I did it. And I’m wicked proud.

I got so much out of it, I’ve decided to make it an annual occurrence. As a way of honoring the fact that I actually set the intention and followed through with it (tah-dah!), I thought I’d share my top learnings from the month (in no particular order…) – lest I forget them in the heart of winter when I’m having doubts about doing it again…

  • You can go for a really long time without a shower if a lake is around
  • Coloring with crayons is a fantastic form of meditation (pictures in this post are from my journal)
  • It’s amazing how much more I laugh when I’m not thinking so hard
  • My senses come out to play in full force when technology/noise is turned off
  • Carpets are over-rated, dirt rules
  • It’s possible to function quite well with very few clothes to choose from
  • Clock-free living is the fastest way for me to plug into my own rhythms
  • I return to center very quickly given permission
  • I’m a better mom, wife, neighbor, friend when I give myself what I need with wild abandon
  • Living sensually and being a sexual being is so much more than simply sex
  • Things (the answers, the keys, the idea…) will find you when they’re ready to
  • Directions, recipes and guidance are merely suggestions, not the gospel

And finally…Gratitude.

2013-09-05 08.14.55Thank you to everyone who has believed in me – past, present, and future. Thank you to those who said “Good for you!” and “That’s fantastic!” upon hearing my news of an August hiatus, instead of the “Must be nice…” and “I wish I could do that…” comments I feared I’d get. Thank you for your encouragement, your support, your hive-fives, and your warm reception back as I’ve re-entered.  Thank you for recognizing that taking a break like that was not easy and took a bunch of courage – to not only DO, but to publicly SHARE with others. Thank you for reminding me how easily we confuse jealousy with inspiration.

Here’s to a life filled with juicy and life-giving intermissions.


Show ‘Em How It’s Done

Posted June 12th, 2013

BraveWhat if everyone took their cues of how to treat you…from you? What if your desire to be valued, loved, respected, validated began…with you?

What if the hokey-pokey really IS what it’s all about?

It’s what I’ve been playing with most these days. I’ve been hearing myself say a lot to my clients (and to myself): “You Go First.”

Because here’s the thing, how can we ask others to do something for us when we’re not even doing it for ourselves? But yet so often this is what we want. Not to put too sharp of a point on it, but we want others to do the heavy lifting for us. How fair is that? How sustainable is that?

You go first. And show ’em how it’s done.

You want to feel loved? How well are you loving yourself these days? Go there.

You want to feel sexy? Attractive? How turned on by yourself are you these days? Start with that.

You want to feel valued? Respected? Do you see the value you bring? Are you respecting yourself – your decisions, your needs, your instincts? Try that on for size.

But you go first. And see how people will follow your lead.

What if it were as simple (and as daunting) as that? What if the keys to what we want most rested squarely in our own hands? What if it was your turn to “go” but you didn’t realize it?

You’ve had that experience, right? Where you’re playing a game with someone – chess, or cribbage or scrabble – and you sit there patiently waiting for your opponent to go. You think they’re deep in thought…mapping out a strategy or weighing their options. And then finally when you’ve waited long enough, you sigh and say, ‘GO!” and they look at you confused and respond, “It’s your turn…” Doh!

That’s what I’m talking about. Assume it’s your turn to make a move. And make it.

See if you can name what you need from others – and then find a way to give it to yourself. You want to feel more appreciated? Do something today to appreciate yourself – send yourself flowers at work, give yourself the day off, leave yourself a love note next to the coffee machine, treat yourself to a dinner out. You want more recognition for what you do? Recognize yourself. Write a list of all the things you DID do this week and celebrate what a badass rock star you are. Buy a bunch of gold stars and paper your bathroom mirror with them. You want to take a bold leap into something new, and want to feel supported? Be your own fiercest champion. Give yourself a pep talk, remind yourself how big your brave is, let yourself know you will be there no matter what – the good, the bad, or the ugly.

Show us how it’s done and we will take your lead.

Or not. Feel free to disregard this and say, “it’s not that easy…or simple.” But what if it actually IS your turn and you’re just sitting there? Waiting. And so are we.

What Sticks To You

Posted June 7th, 2012

Sometimes it feels like messages from the universe attach themselves to us like those pesky dryer sheets cling to the backs of our shirts or nestle inside our pant legs. They adhere to us with static electricity and wait to be discovered.

That happened to me last week. There I was, minding my own business, happily reading a book in bed just before falling asleep. As my eyes moved across the lines of the page, they suddenly came to a screeching halt at the phrase “righteous anger”. At first I just thought it was an ocular hitch, but then I kept trying to read. One sentence later, I was back again.

Righteous anger.

I tried to move past it again. No luck, still stuck. It took me a while, but I finally got curious. What was it about that phrase that was grabbing me and not letting me go?

Oh shit. Seriously!?

Now here’s a bit of personal information most people don’t know about me: I haven’t had any contact with my father since the early 90s. For those mathematicians out there, yes, you’re correct, that’s about twenty years. Nearly half my life.

There’s a huge story there and many hours of therapy have been logged as a result, so you can imagine the eye-rolling fit I had upon having this well-chewed little morsel rolling around my palette once again. It was like a cosmic boomerang – clonking me in the back of my head. Again.

To be clear, I have a fair amount of shame around this. I don’t wear this on my sleeve, primarily because I’m tired of it. That last part is an excuse, by the way…it’s really about the shame. But that’s another topic, for another post.

This one is about me and my apparent righteous anger. 

Look up “righteous” and you’ll find it’s synonymous with angelic, blameless, credible, deserving, devoted, faithful and guiltless (and that’s just A-G…) Couple those words with anger, attached them to me, and you’ve got my attention. Big time.

If you feel me rolling my eyes at this, it’s because I thought I’d moved beyond this anger -convincing myself I had somehow made peace with not having had a relationship with my father. After all, I had a great excuse: I already have a dad, I don’t need two. When I was twelve, my mom met and fell deeply in love with a man who would later become my stepdad. I have always believed he is my “real” dad. He raised me. He loved me fiercely. He was – and continues to be – my biggest champion. He showed me how a dad loves a daughter and I learned how to love a dad. I look at my boys everyday- and my beloved who helped me to create them – and I thank heavens for those lessons.

About five years ago, in a heart-felt show of love for my stepdad, I created an adoption certificate (retroactive to the day we met) and we celebrated “making it official” with our family, complete with a cake, flowers and “it’s a girl” balloons.

So why was I staring at this phrase in my book and thinking about my father again?

Because, like one of those tiny bubbles that periodically get released off the side of a glass of ginger ale and floats up to pop open on the surface, this message had found me, and stuck to my psyche. It would not let me – righteousness and all – go.

So I made a decision.

I got up and wrote my father a letter that opened the door to him that I had previously closed out of hurt, anger, and bitterness. I knew what I was doing was allowing the righteous anger inside me to be released.

The letter wasn’t about my father. It was about me. And my door.

With that single act, I made a powerful discovery: when messages such as these knock at our door, we don’t have to brace ourselves for hours of intense thought or work, as I had previously believed.

Sometimes a simple action is all that’s needed. Like opening a door.

I suspect this message from the universe had been hiding from me in plain sight, riding around on my back like a clingy sock fresh from the dryer. After all these years, it turns out that all I needed was to acknowledge it, pull it off, and put it back in the drawer with the other socks.

But I wouldn’t have been able to act, had I not seen that sock stuck to me in the first place.

Thank heavens for mirrors to point that stuff out.

Post script: Weeks after writing this post, I received a response to my letter that said, “Thanks, but no thanks” to my invitation to walk through my door. It was in that moment that I noticed the righteous anger had left me and had been replaced by something entirely new. It turns out Peace had walked through my door instead of him. Welcome.