The Stories You Might Have Missed—Or Want Again

Posted May 30th, 2019

Last year, on the underground of London, I saw something that made me stop in my tracks. When the doors opened to Euston station, there it was….the EXACT reason I hold my SheSpeaks women’s storytelling series each year.

And then, as quickly as it registered in my brain, the doors shut and we were off—in the underground again.

I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live. It imprinted on my soul in a flash—you know those moments.

The sign on the platform that had me immediately clamoring for a pen and madly scribbling on the inside cover of my Lonely Planet London book was a quote from Lily Allen promoting her new book, My Thoughts Exactly:

“When women tell their stories loudly and clearly, things change for the better.”

 

BOOM.

Yes, Lily. My thoughts exactly, too.

Two months later, I would be taking the stage to kick off the first of two nights of women’s storytelling series, SheSpeaks. But this year, it had a twist.

It was the first time I had DOUBLED the event—2 nights, 10 women, and one theme that connected us all: Sovereign.

Could I do it?
Could I fill the house for both nights?
Would it be too much?
Would I be too much? Or not enough?
Would I be getting in over my head?
Was I too ambitious?
Or would it prove to be the smartest thing I’ve ever done?

Leading up to the show, I had Lily in my head talking about how telling stories is important…especially if you’re a woman. It made me think of that shampoo commercial with Heather Locklear (yes, I’m dating myself here…) where it was so good, she said, “I told two friends about it…and they told two friends…and so on, and so on, and so on….”

Storytelling is what women know. It’s also how we lead. And I wanted that to take center stage.

I didn’t know the answers to my questions leading up to that event, but I did know this:
 

I was going to do everything in my power to find out.

And I did.

What followed at the event that night—and then again the next night—was a highlight of my professional life.
 

It felt like magic.

If you were in the audience either one of those nights—or both—maybe you felt it, too. The stories told on stage that night—5 women one night, another 5 women the next night, with my own stories weaved in between each—weren’t video tapped, and the event wasn’t streamed. This was done with a great deal of intention, and was a contributing factor to why the night felt so….special. Refreshingly old-school.

You should have seen the audience from the stage. They were so….there. Present. Seeing us. Catching us. Being. No cell phones came out. No one got up to get drinks at the bar. They. Were. With. Us. And believe me, we felt that up on stage.

But what many people don’t know is that those stories told up on stage that night were recorded. The intention was to offer an “audio souvenir” for each speaker, because if you’ve ever told a story up on stage before and you’ve been really, really present to it, then you know…you truly have no idea what you said up there.

But then something delightful happened, and that brings me to why I’m here with you today.

The audio recordings? They came out really well—and clear. And after the dust of all that magic settled in our bones and the speakers had a chance to listen, process, and be with their own experience of what, exactly, happened up on stage for them….
 

They agreed to share their stories with you.

So without further ado—six months later— I offer to you, the stories from the five women who joined me on stage that first Thursday night of SheSpeaks, on Dec 6th, 2018. Enjoy. Take your time with them. Share them with those you love. See them as medicine to the headlines that divide us these days.

Let’s do as Lily suggests and change this world for the better—one story at a time.
 

Lael’s Intro: Sovereign

Anne Morin: Whispers Under The Words

Lael: On Making Shit

Louisa Irele: My Queendom

Lael: The Holy Grail Inside You

Corinne Mockler: Water Witching

Lael: The Game Of Life

Lyn Carter: Women’s Ways Of Knowing

Lael: The Golden Buddha

Nadine Farag: The Vessel Of Self

Note: I will be releasing the stories from the 5 badass women who spoke at Friday’s SheSpeaks shortly…but I wanted to begin with the 5 brave women who helped me kick SheSpeaks off that Thursday night.

______________________________________

Can I get an amen to that? Does any of this resonate with you over there or is this just my truth? Feel free to let me know if you’re on this slip ‘n slide with me. It feels good to hear from you—especially as I’m getting ready to publish my second book, Witch Ways, which is chocked full of more women’s stories and pulling-back-the-curtain reveals on the specific ways women are leading change—that don’t normally get talked about in the light of day (or the light of the full moon).

Or better yet, if you ARE a fan of my work and are out there cheering me on, please let me know you’re with me by making a contribution to my GoFundMe campaign that will support me in putting this in your hands sooner than later. Any amount would be most appreciative, and would go a long ways in helping me to know I’m not alone, but am backed by a large and robust pack of women #wolfpack. 

Click on this link or simply scan the QR code below to make that happen. Thank you! 
https://www.gofundme.com/shechanges-book-2-powered-by-women

And stay tuned for these upcoming events if you want to meet your people:

Thursday, June 13th
I’ll be speaking about why women leave organizations at Disrupt HR in Portland. VERY excited for this one!

Thursday, September 26
SheChanges Leadership  Summit for Corporate Women— save the date, details to come!

Getting Naked With My Truth

Posted May 18th, 2019

There are days I am convinced my entire life is strung together with a series of movie clips and soundtracks—connecting the bits of insights and moments of clarity in such a way that they literally reveal the breadcrumbs that have moved me forward.

That was the case the other morning when I woke up with Cher’s voice in my head yelling “SNAP OUT OF IT”. You know, that scene from Moonstruck, where Nicholas Cage’s character has just professed his undying love for her? Yea, that one.
 

SNAP OUT OF IT! (smack)

My eyes flew open as I, indeed, had felt like I’d been slapped across the face that morning by…what?

Would you believe me if I said the Divine Feminine?

I can’t blame Her, actually. Because in the days and months leading up to this moment, I’d been dragging ass a bit (gross understatement)—using the long, cold winter in Maine and the lack of ANY visible signs of spring as excuses for not doing anything…or having hope. I had been, as Brene Brown says in her most recent Netflix special: “engineering small” in an attempt to not look at or feel what was finding me. Because the truth is:

I’d been feeling in-between—no longer here, but not quite there—for so long I’d made it a bit of a home.
I’d been feeling overwhelmed, annoyed, and as my mom used to say “full of piss and vinegar”
I’d been feeling rage at the system, the government, our culture, and the assholes running them.
I’d been feeling righteous and full to the brim of vitriol—choosing to point out any and all examples of overt racism, homophobia and sexism.

Everything just felt wrong.
 

Are you catching the operative word there: “FEEL” (in shouty caps)?

These are the moments I’m so very fortunate to work with women. Because I hear their stories every day, and in them I often recognize my own. Which has me feel not so alone—or crazy, or just plain wrong.

This is especially evident when I do my work with women groups because our individual voices amplify to reveal the undeniable truth of our collective, that has it feel like it’s bigger than just us—but belongs to us all. There is an audible sigh that can be heard in these moments, when you hear another woman give voice to something that you’ve only heard up until that point in your own head.

Alice Walker talks about how this being the “magic of women” that can only be understood by being in a circle of women. I once hear Meggan Watterson describe this perfectly. She said something about how you can do this work alone, but when you do it in the company of other women, it’s like being on a slip ‘n slide—remember those?

That slip ‘n slide experience came to me late in life—probably because I spent the first 35-40 years resisting anything to do with being a girl, woman, or remotely feminine in my full-court press attempts to prove I was, in fact, “one of the guys.” But then if you’re reading this and know me at all, you’re probably familiar with what happened next.

It led me to the door of SheChanges nearly 15 years ago, when I started honoring my hunger for the circle of stones energy and tapping into the magic of women—starting with my own.
 

So why was I still feeling like I needed to SNAP OUT OF IT?

Why was I still engineering small when I knew better?

A clue to this came the night before Cher woke me up yelling in my head. I had just run the fourth (of six) read-alouds for my women’s writing experience In Her Words, and had listened as this group of five women from all over the country shared pieces of their writings (journal, letter, story) from that week’s theme of “Choosing”.

I lost count, but I believe the word FUCK was read-aloud nearly forty times in the short time we were together over the phone that night.

We laughed about it, joking that the theme that week should really have been “fuck.”
 

FUCKETTY FUCK FUCK! WHAT THE FUCK?

Why does it feel like we’re moving backwards?
Why do so many of us feel so undervalued and invisible?
Why does everything feel so hard—like it’s a game we’re being asked to play but can never win?

I’ve sat with these questions myself over the last fifteen years of working with women, and I realize I’ve been approaching my thoughts on the matter a bit….delicately…rather diplomatically. Or, as Rebecca Traister writes about in her (amazing) book Good and Mad, I temper my truth with humor and sarcasm—which might get me a good laugh, but can water down the potency of my soul fire fury with a liberal dose of my self-deprecation.

That’s me, carefully masking my natural sledge-hammer self.
 

Apparently She’s dangerous.

Because, you see, that’s how I look playing the game—by being myself in carefully-measured doses.

And that, my friend, is why Cher was bellowing in my ear, just days before the full moon in Scorpio (my sign…) this month.
 

SNAP OUT OF IT!

I got up that morning—the skies still gray and the incessant drizzle still coming down on the ground in a Maine that was struggling and slow to make its way out of winter. I still was tired, I still was filled to the brim with piss and vinegar, but I felt like the last of my excuses had fallen out of a hole in my pocket when I got up that morning. And I didn’t want to pick them up again. I felt…inspired. More clear.

As I walked to work that morning, I had something else in my head—this time a song by Sia…Come on, come on turn the radio on, it’s Friday nite and I won’t be long…I found I literally started STRUTTING down the cobblestone street, singing out loud:
 

‘Til I hit the dance floor, hit the dance floor, I got all I need…

I smiled, as I remembered something a client had forwarded me on Instagram not too long ago:

“You should give a fuck. You really should. But only about things that set your soul on fire. Save your fucks for magical shit.” 

This weekend’s full moon in scorpio, is apparently an invitation to look at our deepest desires and the secrets in our hearts—a time to accept or uncover a deep truth we have been carrying. As a scorpio myself, I’m not entirely surprised it had its way with me—but combined with Cher’s Moonstruck wake-up call, it acted like a one-two punch to my soul.

So here I am, writing to you under the light of a full moon in scorpio, getting naked with my (whole) truth. These are the fucks that set my soul on fire—the ones I’ve been secretly saving for magical shit. Truth be told, these aren’t new to me—I’ve just kept them inside for too long. And I want them out.
 

Here is what I believe with all my heart and soul under the light of this full moon.

I BELIEVE women are the ones that will save us from ourselves right now.

I BELIEVE the world which men have made isn’t working, and that we’re getting diminishing returns on the same masculine values.

I BELIEVE men as are exhausted as women by “the way it is”, but honestly don’t know any other way to be other than what we’ve all been taught.

I BELIEVE the blessing of our times is that the levels of exhaustion, righteous rage, and dis-ease among women will unearth our innate resources.

I BELIEVE women will be the ones to integrate and intersect the whole of we are, rather than dividing us further into either/or.

I BELIEVE women are leaving toxic organizations in droves because they will be the ones to help us craft new, more vital models for how we work.

I BELIEVE that “toxic masculinity” is not solely about men, but exists in women as well—which means our collective healing begins with each of us.

I BELIEVE women of color have been leading us for years with little to no credit, and that white women are only recently arriving at this party.

I BELIEVE that rebalancing our world and our planet must begin with an infusion of the feminine, before it can be re-integrated with the masculine.

I BELIEVE we are hungry for the leadership women can provide, but it will require radical and revolutionary change to create that opportunity.

I BELIEVE white men will be asked to increase their competency and comfort with being uncomfortable—de-centering themselves.

I BELIEVE white women will be asked embody more fully all forms of the feminine—fierce (anger), power (voice), self-authorization (source).

I BELIEVE we have it in us to c0-create this next phase of our evolution—but it’s going to require incredible of amounts of bravery and compassion.

I BELIEVE this is happening now—whether we’re ready or not.

All of my work with SheChanges has consciously—and unconsciously, I’m sure—supported these beliefs of mine over the past fifteen years, but I don’t know that I’ve ever actually STATED them as plainly as I have in the light of this moon.
 

This is me snapping out of it.

This is me not playing the game.

This is my sledge hammer self undiluted.

This is me getting naked with my truth.

______________________________________

Can I get an amen to that? Does any of this resonate with you over there or is this just my truth? Feel free to let me know if you’re on this slip ‘n slide with me. It feels good to hear from you—especially as I’m getting ready to publish my second book, Witch Ways, which is chocked full of more women’s stories and pulling-back-the-curtain reveals on the specific ways women are leading change—that don’t normally get talked about in the light of day (or the light of the full moon).

Or better yet, if you ARE a fan of my work and are out there cheering me on, please let me know you’re with me by making a contribution to my GoFundMe campaign that will support me in putting this in your hands sooner than later. Any amount would be most appreciative, and would go a long ways in helping me to know I’m not alone, but am backed by a large and robust pack of women #wolfpack. 

Click on this link or simply scan the QR code below to make that happen. Thank you! 
https://www.gofundme.com/shechanges-book-2-powered-by-women

And stay tuned for these upcoming events if you want to meet your people:

Thursday, June 13th
I’ll be speaking about why women leave organizations at Disrupt HR in Portland. VERY excited for this one!

Thursday, September 26
SheChanges Leadership  Summit for Corporate Women— save the date, details to come!

 

5 Antidotes For A Rugged April

Posted April 29th, 2019

April seems to have had its way with women this month and was a particularly rugged patch of road to navigate for many—emotionally, physically and spiritually. Limits were tested. Patience wore thin. Bodies were sick and tired. Ugly and rude behaviors surfaced with more frequency. And hope was spotty and threadbare in places.

For some, a logistical shit storm hit hard, and time wasn’t our own..

Others experienced physical blows that took them—or a loved one— out at the knees.

Still others witnessed many WTF moments when behaviors of people they thought they knew went off the rails, and were expressed in unchecked and ugly ways.

Some felt as if everything sort of “blew up” in April—schedules, plans, visions, expectations—even before the ink had a chance to dry on them.

Does this resonate with you or someone you know? If not, good on you, my friend—there’s probably nothing to see here then. But if this feels like I’ve just described your April, then read on ghost rider, and let’s do the final fly by of this rugged April tower together.

What happened in April? That’s the question I’m hearing a lot these days…You know, the sort of experience that has you checking to see if mercury is in retrograde or calling that friend who always seems to know what’s happening astrologically.  The bottomline: I have no idea (although I’m not gonna lie, my go-to resource in these WTF moments is Lee Harris for his monthly energy updates…”Talk to me, Lee…”), and to some degree I’m just happy it’s over.

“In order to get the rainbow, you must be able to deal with the rain.”
Dolly Parton

But before we turn the calendar month to May, I thought I’d pause and offer my take on this and what I’m finding/hearing helps women stay whole, focused and grounded in the truth of who we are as we make our way from here to there.

Because here’s the thing I’m most keenly aware of right now:
 

We need each other, now more than ever.

So if something I share here finds a home in your soul today, have at it, sister. And please pass it along to someone in your orbit. Because most of what I’m going to share with you, I’ve received from women just like you who happen to send it my way. Consider me a feminine transmitter, giving and receiving the collective wisdom that spreads like a magical wildfire among women in my SheChanges orbit.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the Spring Equinox. I know it technically happened back in March, but I’ve come to appreciate the equinoxes more in terms of a season than a number on the calendar. Unlike the Solstices in Summer and Winter, I find the Equinoxes aren’t particularly times of grace, but are a lot more jarring on the senses—especially the Spring Equinox. That’s a thorny little bugger to navigate.

Think of how a spring crocus must feel breaking through the crusty earth for the first time (“ouch, ouch, ouch…OUCH!”)

Think of how it can be sunny and 70 degrees or snowing and 30 degrees….all in the same week (“Wait…WHAT!?).

Think of how frost or snow must feel on tender greens or freshly exposed flowers petals  (“JIMINY FRIGGIN CRICKET!”)

Nature mirrors us back to ourselves, but somehow (time and time again) we forget we are also nature…and therefore natural.
 

Simply put, we are all experiencing transition. Together.

And unlike the grace and surrender that can easily happen at solstices—at the height of summer or the depth of winter—the equinoxes can be a particularly loud and rugged transition, with bumps, thumps and some frost heaves that can have you bottom-out. And this year? It was one of the loudest I’ve witnessed with my clients and have personally felt in a while. Perhaps it’s because we are a microcosm of what is happening at a macro level for our evolution.

It’s like we are feeling the lowercase “t” transition at a time of intense uppercase “T” transition.

No matter where you are in that, here are five antidotes I’ve found to be helpful to ease the transitional effects of April.**

“If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.”
Toni Morrison

 

Divine Feminine Oracle by Meggan Watterson

I have been using tarot and oracle cards for years to connect with the divine and help me see and feel what often feels just out of my reach—especially when the swirl of my thoughts kicks up and my over-tired brain tries to “help” me figure things out. Not surprisingly I gravitate to feminine models and images to offer a refreshingly familiar and validating women’s perspective that wasn’t given to me in our history books, cultural messages or religious tombs. This is where and how I remember what has been forgotten and buried (or burned) out of my consciousness, but still lives in my bones. Most recently, Meggan’s oracle deck has been filling and fueling my weary soul, offering me countless images and stories of women that remind me I am not alone, but am following in some pretty badass footsteps—especially when I feel most alone or crazy. One of these fine ladies inevitably reminds me what I know to be true and gives me guidance for my path.
 

The Serenity Prayer

I actually Googled this earlier this week, because for the life of me I couldn’t remember the first half of it (which is extremely telling if you know me at all…). If you’re not familiar with this prayer, it’s most commonly associated with its use with Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs as a means to stay present to each day as it unfolds—and take it one day at a time. Discernment is the key here, inviting us to winnow out what is outside of our control from what is within our ability to change. Simple and powerful. I put it on my fridge this month with a heart-shaped magnet.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

 

Do Less by Kate Northrup

 
I’ve been loving Kate’s latest book, Do Less. I found myself making audible whoops on certain passages as she calls bullshit on this obsession we have with more, better, faster, and offers a refreshing and timely invitation to “lean out” of the systems that are not designed to support life. Specifically, she points to how the systems and structures so many of us find ourselves in were designed by men for men—not women. This has been my life’s work thus far at SheChanges, supporting women aligning around this belief, and then designing change—for herself, for her company—that honors that understanding. Kate writes “women don’t need to lean in to fix the system. We need to lean out so that the systems that don’t support our well-being can collapse and new ones can be formed. And that’s what we’re doing…in droves.”  BOOM! Amen to that, sister. Don’t know what that means to you and your life? She offers fourteen distinct invitations to experiment with doing less, as a means to see for yourself what it’s like.
 

Brene Brown’s Netflix Special

Holy SHIT this is good. I had so many texts from clients the night this Netflix special dropped, insisting that I stop everything and watch it. I finally got around to it on Saturday night—and then again the next night…this time with my beloved. Then I texted it to a handful of my clients. Brene just does it for me, and this Netflix special is just her at her best. In one hour, she weaves together her own stories with loads of examples as well as her research around topics of vulnerability, courage and what life is like for those in the arena. All along the way, she drives home this one beautiful invitation to her audience: “choose courage over comfort”, and seals it with this prophetic kiss: “you do vulnerability knowingly or vulnerability will do you.” She underscores again and again, how much we need each other these days, and how our ability to truly connect—first with ourselves, and then with each other—is the key to… everything. Perhaps the best sixty consecutive minutes of screen-time I’ve invested in along time.

“I’m not going to bullshit you. Vulnerability is hard. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s not as hard and uncomfortable as getting to the end of your life and asking, ‘What if I had shown up?’, ‘What if I had said I love you?’, ‘What if I had gotten off the blocks?'”

Brene Brown

 

She Let Go by Safire Rose

A client texted me this poem the other day and I just stopped in my tracks. I put my hand to my chest and wept. This poem touched something deep and tender in my heart—and felt like a feminine version of the traditional masculine invitation to surrender. It was just so beautiful and powerful and relevant, I have no words…so I’ll just leave you now and offer you Safire’s words as a final tribute to the humble lessons of April.

She let go.
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.
She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.
She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word.
She just let go.
No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort.
There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

 

** FYI, none of the links provided are affiliate links. Just me sharing the love with you…just because I can

What a 16-year-old girl and fishing for marlins reminded me

Posted April 3rd, 2019

“Our house is on fire”, She said quite plainly. 

That was Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who spoke to hundreds of world leaders at Davos back in January of this year.

She then went on to say that now was the time for us to speak clearly, and that’s when she really let it rip:

“Adults keep saying ‘we owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel everyday. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire. Because it is.”
 

BOOM! Drop the mic, Sister.

Did you say shit like that to an audience of world leaders when you were 16? Me neither. But the reality is, we are now living in a time when our children are feeling the need to step up and get in our faces as adults—to call us out on our adult bullshit.

Our house IS on fire, Greta. This is true. Thank you.

This is exactly the same energy I was tapping into writing my second book, Witch Ways: You’re Not Crazy, You’re a Woman. I didn’t PLAN on tapping into that full-throttle, but it just….came out. My bone-marrow truth hacked up like a hairball. Which had me feel rather nervous, because shouldn’t I be a bit more diplomatic, careful, or measured in my words? It wasn’t until I heard Greta’s speech, that I got the full power of it in my bones.
 

Nah. Because our house IS on fire. Why mince words now?

My truth came in the form of marlins. I know, it surprised me, too, when a story flew out my pen one day about a woman on a tourist boat fishing for marlin. Did I mention that she was naked? And me? Not being an angler or remotely comfortable with public nudity, I never quite understood where that story came from, what it was about, or why it found me. Until I wrote the entire manuscript for this second book of mine and then found myself hacking it up like a hairball of truth that wanted to be center stage.

I talk about Greta’s words and her courage in this latest episode of An Unscripted Woman—and use this as a backdrop for talking about urgency and not waiting any longer to act. I also read the story about the naked marlin fishing woman that set my hair—the one that is now an author’s note at the very beginning of the manuscript that is now (happily) in the hands of my editors.

And here’s what else I talk about that might be of interest—especially if you’re feeling the urge to speak clearly, call bullshit on our excuses, and take action:
 

How the hell do you stay rooted and naked when the house is on fire?

Here’s what I’ve got on that that. Have at it, my friend. And join me in the fire.

P.S. Here are the links referenced in this episode:

In Her Words w/SheChanges
www.shechanges.com/experiences-for…ing-experience/ (please note: this experience is now full for 2019)

Witch Ways: You’re Not Crazy, You’re a Woman
www.gofundme.com/shechanges-book-…powered-by-women

Layla Saad
www.meandwhitesupremacybook.com/

Greta Thunberg at Davos
www.theguardian.com/science/video/2…-at-davos-video

What She Said

Posted March 12th, 2019

What if I were to call you a storyteller…how would you respond?

Would you agree or would you start Yea-Butting me?

Yea, but not a good one.
Yea, but it’s not like I’m a REAL storyteller.
Yea, but it’s not like I know what I’m doing.
Yea, but it’s not really about anything important.
Yea, but it’s not like anyone wants to hear what I have to say.
Yea, but it’s not like anyone asks me to do it.
Yea, but I’m just goofing around.
Yea, but I’m introverted.
 

YeaBut. YeaBut. YeaBut.

After working through this very conversation with nearly 70 women who have stepped onto the stage for SheSpeaks—a women’s storytelling evening I’ve run ten times now—I’ve heard a lot of YeaButs. I expect them. I normalize them. I actually have come to love them, and you know why?

When a woman says YeaBut to my invitation to SheSpeaks to share her story on stage, sure she faces her fear and her doubt and all those other hairy monsters we have within us as humans. But you know what else she does in that moment?  She touches her humility in that pause. She touches her humanity in that hesitation, and let me tell you, that is often the beginning of a beautiful story.
 

Stories with humble beginnings are some of the best ones in my book.

It is in that pause that she reckons with that question Marianne Williamson asks in her book A Return To Love:

“Who am I to be brilliant, talented, gorgeous, fabulous?” 

You know what comes next, right?

“Actually, who are you not to be?”

And Marianne goes on to remind us that showing up fully as ourselves is, in fact, a deep service to not only ourselves, but the world.
 

Your playing small does not serve the world….We are all meant to shine.

So put THAT in your YeaBut. I know I have over the years—many times. In fact, when I first left the cushy corporate world and started SheChanges I had a whole lotta YeaButs to contend with—the first being that up until that point, I had considered myself “one of the guys“. What the hell was I thinking starting a business working exclusively with women?

So you know what I did?

I painted that quote on the wall in my itty bitty home office that was the first roosting spot for my business.

(Side note: if you know me at all, when I really want to OWN something bold in myself, I either paint it on a wall or get a tattoo)

But back to being a storyteller. And being a woman.

What I’ve come to appreciate in the past fourteen years doing this work with women—and wrestling with my own hairy monsters—is this:
 

Storytelling is a feminine form of leadership.

A story transports—it has the power to take someone with you to another place.
A story paints a picture with words—it leaves images like breadcrumbs for others to find their way back to it.
A story enlists the senses—it asks our whole body (and heart and spirit) to experience it and not just the mind.
A story invites us to connect with ourselves and each other—offering solid ground to stand on in uncertain times.
A story offers a deeply personal perspective—allowing space for differences to emerge and resourcefulness to rise organically.

But you probably know all this, right? This isn’t new information. In fact, a case could be made for this being really OLD information—like ancient, in our bones information.

But if I were to ask you to speak with me on stage at this year’s at SheSpeaks…would you see yourself as that woman I see?
 

The Storyteller.

The one who could take up space on that stage—tomorrow if need be— and lead us forward simply by sharing what’s in her heart as only she can?

Or would you wait until you felt ready?

There’s no right or wrong answer here, and it’s not a trick question. It’s an honest one. An earnest one.

Because as I sit here in the heart of Women’s History Month, I am already eager to hear what you’d say, woman. Not just at SheSpeaks, but on our world stage.
 

Let’s storm the stage. YeaButs ‘n all.


Hungry for specific examples of how women create change with their stories? Every chapter of my next book, Witch Ways: You’re Not Crazy. You’re a Woman. begins and ends with a “She story” that might have you think someone has access to the thoughts inside your head, but rarely say out loud. If you want to read more about what’s coming in that book, where it came from and when it’s coming out, please check out my GoFundMe page for access to five sample chapters read by me via SoundCloud, and updates on where I am in the publishing process. I may be the birth-mother of this book, but you are its lifeblood, so this is indeed a book that is truly powered by women for women. Thank you for all of your enthusiastic support in helping me get this into your hands sooner than later! 

Run, Lady, Run

Posted February 18th, 2019

“I feel like a feral cat pacing back and forth in a cage,” She said.
 
I looked at her and everything about her seemed like it wanted to be wild—her hair, the laugh that exploded out of her in a snort when she was caught off guard, the way her eyes lit up when she talked about taking the kids, getting a RV and hitting the open road.

Wild.

And yet contained by the confines of the life she had created with a great deal of intention to offer her kids the stable base she had never had for herself—emotionally, financially, and physically. She had wanted roots and now she had them. But somewhere along the way, those roots had overtaken her life, and now were feeling like kudzu, possessive and consuming, cutting off the light and air with its dense leaves and thick vines.

No wonder she felt caged in. No wonder she wanted to hack it all back and break free.  Her cat had gotten caught in a jungle of its own making.


It happened in the blink of an eye. One minute she was sitting there by her owner, idly panting and waiting for her walk, and the next minute she had shirked her collar and was looking around wildly, suddenly overcome with the opportunities of freedom.

To be honest, I had forgotten that Lady even existed. Sure, it was spring on our street and we’d all been house bound throughout the long, cold winter, but I’d been living next door to these people for nearly ten years now. How was it that I never saw this dog come outside? Seeing Lady emerge for her walk was like spotting a Yeti, it kind of made you do a double take as you recalled her name and the vague recollection of her being among the four footed residents of our street.

But that warm spring day, while her owner was talking to me about her latest transition to a new school district and our plans for the upcoming school vacation, Lady had somehow managed to slip out of her collar like Houdini. For a moment, she stood, frozen, looking up at the empty loop of leather swinging at the end of the leash from her owner’s hand. What I would have given to read her thought bubble.

And then? She bolted, as if jolted into motion by this great surge of electricity. While we watched, stunned, she zipped across our dead-end street and disappeared into the neighbor’s backyard. Moments later, she came flying up another driveway, tongue hanging out the side of her mouth, and her four little legs a blur of motion. As she dashed by me, I swear I saw the whites of her eyes wide with delight.

Free at last, free at last! Good lord almighty, Lady was free at last.

Her owner, finally recovering from her stupor, started chasing Lady all over the street— through the backyards, up the driveways, across front lawns, down other driveways, up the sidewalks, and between the cars. This woman, the owner, is a highly conditioned runner in her own right, but she was no match for Lady that day.

Lady was making the most of her moment of freedom, and she wasn’t about to be leashed.

When I think about this, isn’t that the way most of us respond when we encounter that sweet moment of freedom? When the collar slips off our neck, and the owner is otherwise engaged? Do we bolt and make the most of our freedom?

Or do we wait for permission—for it to be okay?

Because I will tell you right now, if Lady had waited for permission, it would have never come. And something wise in her doggie heart knew it. So she seized her moment and didn’t look back.

But it reminds me of that famous science experiment most of us learned about at some point in school—the one with the flies in the mayonnaise jar. As the story goes, apparently these flies were kept for weeks, if not months, in one of those jars with the holes poked in the lid. Rather than standing upright, though, the jar was laid on its side. During the first few days, then weeks, the flies would ping against the sides of the jar and the lid to try to escape, which was obviously futile. And then one day, the researcher would carefully unscrew the lid, leaving one end of the mayonnaise jar wide open. And the flies stayed in the jar.

They had been conditioned, you see, that it was futile to try to escape. They had banged their little fly heads against the lid one too many times, so somewhere along the way they stopped trying.

Even when the jar was wide open, and their freedom was in plain view, they assumed they were still trapped.
But Lady didn’t assume jack that day. She saw empty collar swinging, she saw the distracted owner, and she made her move.

Had she waited one moment longer, or asked for permission with her brown little beagle eyes, “Mother, may I?” the opportunity would have passed her by and the jar would have been firmly screwed back on the lid.

But that’s how fast it happens, that split second decision to stay put or make your move. There’s often no time to deliberate, weigh your options or make sure you’re ready. Much like Lady, many of us don’t even have a sense of where we’re going or where we’ll end up as a result. We just figure it out as we go, weaving and dodging among houses and shrubbery, hoping like hell we don’t get caught or hit by a car.

And sure you could say it’s a bit of a stretch to liken a neighborhood dog on a leash to a woman, say, in the corporate world, but maybe it’s not. Maybe you’ve gotten a taste of both the tight leash and the very freedom that Lady experienced that day.

Maybe you know that sometimes all it takes to duck out of leash is to let it slip off when nobody is looking. Maybe you know there isn’t a lid on the mayonnaise jar anymore—and that you could just turn around and fly straight out to freedom.

But here’s the question that keeps many of us leash-bound and jar-trapped:

What would you do with all that freedom? Or more to the point, who would you be with all that freedom?

If you didn’t have the excuse of being yanked around by someone else’s power, if you had to rely on someone else’s to allow you to come in or go out at their will, or if your muscles became atrophied or your wings became cramped from lack of use… would you have the courage to own your own freedom?

Lady did that day. I saw her. My clients do. I see them.

And like Lady did that day, as she made her mad dash across my lawn with her eyes bright and her little doggie grin on her face, my clients are never more alive than when they’ve taken the leap, made the bold decision, or pounced on the opportunity.

Like Lady, they weren’t expecting it, they weren’t ready, they didn’t have their plans fully mapped out, and didn’t know how it was all going to go down. They just saw their moment and they made their move before they lost their nerve. Or the lid when back on.


Intrigued? Want to read more? The above excerpt is right off the pages from the unedited manuscript of my upcoming second book: Witch Ways: You’re Not Crazy. You’re a Woman.  If you want to read more about what’s coming in that book, where it came from and when it’s coming out, please check out my GoFundMe page for more information, access to five sample chapters read by me via SoundCloud, and frequent updates on where I am in the publishing process. I may be the birth-mother of this book, but you are its lifeblood, so this is indeed a book that is truly powered by women for women. Thank you for all of your enthusiastic support in helping me get this into your hands sooner than later! 

Pebbles In My Shoe

Posted July 7th, 2018

Someone once wrote about me in an interview, observing that “it seems she never stops thinking, considering, fitting pieces together.” That woman got me, she did. She described how I move (“she talks with her hands and her arms, radiating exuberance…”) and didn’t seem surprised to learn that I was always writing in my head, jotting down notes to myself mid-sentence and had my next three books already fleshed out.

A former colleague once commented that I had lots of “pebbles in my shoe”, which perfectly summarizes what that experience is like for me. I do my best to walk around “normally”, but until I actually pause, and jot down the things in my head or talk them out, they are just going to rattle around in there messing with my gait, slowing me down and distracting the hell out of me. So a long time ago, I learned it’s best to just stop and grab those pebbles as I feel them.

I used to be self conscious about this, even apologetic—like I was “too much” and needed to temper who I was and dole out bite-sized pieces of me lest others choke on my excess. I tightly guarded this ability of mine to weave together concepts and words because it wasn’t hard for me. And wasn’t anything worthwhile supposed to be hard? Was I cheating, somehow, thinking I could make a living doing something that flowed so naturally from me?

And then I heard these same phrases come my way time and time again.

Just say something…anything…
Whenever you talk, I always get something out of it…
You’re a master storyteller…
Your stories on stage are the ones I wait for…
I get inspired just listening to you...

For years I batted those comments away, doing my best to graciously hide behind excuses of it not really being about me, not being anything special. In fact, I cringed a bit even sharing them with you now. Many times, upon hearing those comments,  I would diffuse the substance of what someone was saying with humor or by making light of myself, saying I just a dork at heart or a bit of a freak that way.

That was me, playing small.

I was afraid of seeming “all that” and being arrogant (because humility is one of my most treasured values).

I was afraid people would think I was full of myself and narcissistic (because come on…look around you…it’s an epidemic)

I was afraid people would say “who the hell do you think YOU are up there saying that…?” (because I am honestly still figuring this shit out along with you)

I think it’s a thing women excel at, dimming or hiding our light.

So often I hear women talk about “playing big”, and that phrase always makes my heart break a bit. Because aren’t we all BORN BIG to begin with? It’s not something we learn or acquire or “play”, it’s something we are born with inside us. It’s not any one thing we do, it’s something we are. But so often our circumstances and life experience train that out of us…so much we “play small” and believe that big is something way outside of—or beyond—ourselves.

Sadly, this concept seems to only apply to women. How often do you hear a man talk about wanting to “play big”? Exactly.

Gradually though, over the years—of my life and in my business—I’ve started to see that it’s actually selfish of me to hold all that light in me inside. Gail Larsen, an amazingly talented woman who supports others in expressing their stories, asserts we are all born with what she calls “original medicine” —the gifts and talents you and you alone possess that, when expressed, are medicine to others. Her invitation: Bring it. Give it. Share it.

I watched an absolutely incredible interview of Oprah Winfrey by the Stanford Graduate School of Business where she said her biggest fear used to be that others would think she was full of herself. Now, she admits, she sees it as her job.

To be full of myself.

That is my job description, quite literally. Because who else’s job might it be, if not mine? I sure as hell don’t want that to be society’s responsibility. No, I’m the best fit for that position, thank you very much.

Most recently, this sentiment was punctuated for me when I watched Abby Wambach deliver her amazing commencement speech to the women of Barnard College this past May. She told the story of being coached as a teenager by Michelle Akers, a powerhouse professional soccer player who was so intent on coaching, she had inadvertently forgotten to actually play during a scrimmage with these girls…until a light switch turned on inside her and she ran back to her goalkeeper and said

GIVE. ME. THE. EFFING. BALL.

At which point the goalkeeper did, and she blazed through Abby’s entire team and scored. And then she went back and demanded it again. And again, she scored.

Abby shared this story as an invitation to the women of Barnard College—and wolfpacks of women all around the globe who have seen this speech since—saying, “Women. At this moment in history, leadership is calling us to say:

GIVE ME THE EFFING BALL.
GIVE ME THE EFFING JOB.
GIVE ME THE SAME PAY THAT GUY NEXT TO ME GETS.
GIVE ME THE PROMOTION.
GIVE ME THE MICROPHONE
GIVE ME THE OVAL OFFICE.

Photo credit: Ginger Soul PhotographyTHAT is why I am committed to get out of my own way and unapologetically let my fullest self shine. I have that intention each time I step onto the stage in front of the audience at SheSpeaks, my evening of storytelling in December, knowing that I need to walk my talk because I ask the women who join me on stage each year to do the same.

And THAT is also why I created ISpeaks, an unscripted evening of storytelling I have with just me—an event where I let lose all the pebbles in my shoe that have been giving me pause for thought, irritating the shit out of me, or grabbing my attention, weaving together the things that might have been on the cutting room floor from SheSpeaks (or my book), conversations that seem most relevant, or resources that have me and my clients talking or thinking differently.

Because honestly? I could do that all day long, weaving together the bits and pieces of thoughts and ideas swirling in my brain. Honestly, that doesn’t feel like work to me—it’s actually a relief to get it out. And bonus—having now held SheSpeaks eight times and ISpeaks four times, I know that when I can allow myself to be full of myself in public….its never my worst fear, and is generally my best medicine.

And that’s where it’s at for women, right? Being of service. Sharing our medicine.

I see it all the time when I’m working with a woman. If she can start to see how what she desires most will actually be of service to others…well now, she’s unstoppable. She turns into a force of friggin nature. If she can see that she’s actually being miserly with her medicine…well now, she throws open those cabinets with wild abandon and starts doling it out more generously and with less preamble or apology.

Talk about a win-win situation. Connecting with service is often all it takes to flip that switch that has her demanding the effing ball.

So I’m going barefoot on July 12th at ISpeaks, but I’m bringing along my shoes filled with pebbles. Because I’ve got ’em and am happy to share.

 

 

Want to hear more stories and reflections like this?

Join me on July 12th for ISpeaks: An Unscripted Evening With Lael in Yarmouth, Maine. Advance tickets are on sale now and will save you $5. I’ll be speaking to some of the biggest pebbles in my shoe these days and will be touching upon many threads and themes of my upcoming book Witch Ways: The Unspoken Ways Women Create Change. My first book, Unscripted: A Woman’s Living Prayer is chocked full of stories like this, too, and will also be on sale at that event.

 

And if you’re a fan of SheSpeaks or want to be…

Save the date for this year’s SheSpeaks, which has now been expanded to be a TWO DAY event, featuring the stories of 10 different women (5 each night) over two days: December 7th & 8th at One Longfellow Square in Portland. Tickets will go on sale —and go fast!—this fall, but save the date now to set the intention.

 

Dear March

Posted March 13th, 2018

Dear March,

How is it, that after forty-nine years of doing this dance, I am totally blind-sided each year by you?

Would it have made a difference if I remembered the punch you pack with your one-two hits of snowstorms and virus that demolish our well-oiled machine of a home ? Could I have better anticipated, planned or even mitigated against the inevitable shit storm that ensues like clockwork each and every time you pull into town? Am I deficient in character or vitamin D, somehow— not physically, mentally or emotionally equipped with the necessary fortitude, self-care practices or time management skills needed to endure your formidable presence?

Am I simply no match for you, is that what it is? Do you get off on bringing me to my knees each year with your show of force?

I thought about all this, March, as I laid flat on my back in bed last week, hacking up a lung, sweaty with fever, and not-so-silently cursing you. And when I finally stumbled out of bed because I couldn’t stand the look of my own ceiling one minute longer, I saw this de-stuffed, face-down bunny of Max’s on the floor and thought:
 

This is what March does to me. 

If I’m being brutally honest—which actually is all your fault, March—this is how I feel.

I wonder, though… must it always be like this between us? This perennial knock-down, drag out street fight, where you always emerge the victor and I inevitably get wrapped around a tree in the forest like one of those stupid witch-on-broomsticks decorations everybody thinks are so clever.

Fetched up. Stopped in my tracks. Doused with a ice-cold bucket of wake-the-fuck-up water.

But now that the first two weeks of your month are in my rear-view mirror, March, and the worst (I hope) of the sweaty ordeal is behind me, I’m not as mad at you. In a strange twist, I’m actually grateful you’re here.

In your visit each calendar year, there is a reckoning with my inner and outer worlds like no other—as if something reaches inside me and presses that red reset buttons on the electrical outlet of me after my circuits  had been blown.

When I think about it that way, March, I actually think you are more akin to a lifeline, than an adversary—jumpstarting me annually like a defibrillator.

Because as frustrating as you are, and as much as I resist you each year, you inevitably leave me better than you found me.

Isn’t it ironic, that what began as an official grievance with you, is now turning into a letter of appreciation.
 

But then you know how stubborn I am, so perhaps you’re not all that surprised.

Because of you, March, I rest more deeply this month than I do the entire year long. The collapse-on-my-face, boneless chicken, everything-can-wait, crystal-clear-on-what-matters sort of rest. The kind of rest that takes me WAY past my previous understanding of what true rest really feels like. You connect me with my body, leaving me more capable of truly caring for myself.

Because of you, March, my heart opens even wider to receiving—receiving love (from myself and others), help, guidance, clarity—and the medicine goes all the way down because my defenses are down. You connect me with what it means to belong and be loved, leaving me open to experience both more fully.

Because of you, March, I come closer to death (feel free to roll your eyes and call me dramatic, but that was one hell of a virus last week…), and has me touch that “what will people be saying about me at my funeral” question which inevitably has me cut through all the bullshit and noise in a busy life and gather to my heart all that is nearest and dearest. You connect me with the stuff that truly matters, leaving me with clear priorities rooted in my values, not my assumptions or expectations.

Because of you, March, I see how hard I had been paddling in a circle with one oar, and begin to trust in the wisdom of the things I cannot yet see, understand, know to want, or plan for. I just put it all down and look to be lead somewhere. I believe it’s called surrendering. You connect me with my divinity, leaving me with a freshly-kindled spiritual fire.

Because of you, March, I see the crumbs and dog fur on the kitchen floor as reminders of good meals and groovy kind of love, and the stacks of laundry as testament to having had somewhere to go outside my home each day. You connect me with a powerful perspective, leaving me with gratitude where there once was resentment.

Because of you, March, my thoughts shift to those outside my own little world inside my head, and give me a renewed appreciation for the many gifts I have been given in this life—shelter, food, safety, love, education, opportunity—that so many others go through life without. You connect me with my humanity and my humility, leaving me more compassionate.

I guess it’s kind of like that Rumi quote, isn’t it March:
 

“The wound is the place where the light enters you”

(Yes, March, you are, in fact, the wound in this scenario….) But please hear me when I say that I am officially down with what you’re doing over there. And while I’ll probably forget we had this conversation, I dunno, eleven months from now…I will most likely meet you again with my fists up, resistant to everything about you and ready to rumble and do our dance again.

I won’t ask you not to take it personally, because clearly it is. Happily, that fact doesn’t seem to stop you from paying me a visit each year. Months are funny that way—they just keep showing up, ready or not..

 

Want to hear more stories like this?

It’s not too late to grab a ticket for my Unscripted Evening coming on Thursday, March 15th. Still hungry? My book Unscripted: A Woman’s Living Prayer is chocked full of stories like this, too. And wait until you read the second one I’m writing…
 

Are you someone who uncovers the truth inside you through writing?

You might be interested in my In Her Words writing experience coming up in April. It’s less about what you write (quality), and more about the fact that it actually has you write (the process). It’s one of my favorite groups to run, and it’s the only one available to people outside the state of Maine. FMI, read more about it here, or reach out to me to see if it’s a good fit.

If Not Now, Then When?

Posted January 5th, 2018

He looked at our words painted on the wall, then he looked at me. “If I were you, I would have chosen Queen…

That was my youngest son—the oracle Buddha boy I grew inside my body—saying that to me four nights ago. The night the moon was so bright and so full, it kept me up. The night I finally got up and pulled the switch. The night I laid it down. And painted it on my wall like a promise.

 

Sound dramatic? I assure you it’s not. It’s how magic works.

This might come as a surprise to you, given what I do for my living and all, but I’ve never really been a big fan of goals. That very word makes me raise my left eyebrow in a challenge…you know, the facial expression that conveys the “you’re not the $#&#@ boss of me” look. And let’s not even talk about the whole “New Year’s Resolution” beat…. that phrase elicits the raised eyebrow/pursed lips combo that reads: “nobody puts Baby in a corner. Dude.”

There’s a longer story there that involves a rebellious spirit filled with wanderlust, a leaning towards things left-of-center, and an penchant for upsetting the apple cart of authority…but let’s just leave it at this: While working in the corporate world (goal central…) one day, I saw this sign in someone’s office:

“If you always know where you’re going, then you’ll never get a chance to end up anywhere else.”

I remember reading that and something in my whole body exhaled. Permission moved in…to NOT know, to NOT be so rigid in my plans, to NOT move in a direct line from A to Z, collecting my $200. I swear something in my body that day decided to move through life a bit differently than what I had been told and trained to do so well.  Something in me woke up—

 

A desire to wonder. A desire to wander. A desire to figure it out as I go.

And yet…I wanted things that required some planning, work, and even training to accomplish. Things that scared me, overwhelmed me, and felt like a challenge because they were new, audacious or wildly out of my comfort zone.

In short, I wanted to live a brave life. I also love a challenge. And I get bored easily.

So what to do?

Enter, stage left: intention and our wall of words.

For the past eight years, my family has this ritual of painting “our words” for the year on our kitchen wall. The words we choose cannot be more than seven letters—not for any mystical reason, but for a very practical one (the wall is only a thin strip between two doorways so space is limited). Sometimes words are picked with a great deal of advance thought and reflection, and sometimes serendipity is at work and our words are delivered to us at the last minute in random ways. Sometimes we know exactly what our word means for us, and sometimes we just get this vague sense that the word will be a teacher or a guide into something we cannot yet see or understand. It doesn’t matter how we arrive at this word, and there is no one “right” way to do this.

 

What matters is that the word feels like an intention we want to hold for the year.

The operative word there is FEEL As in “I don’t know , but something about it just feels right..” or “it feels good to me…”

The word we each chose to paint on our kitchen wall each New Year’s becomes our traveling companion for the year ahead, like a intention kissed by our soul, and released into the void during the darkest time of our year, like one of those paper Chinese sky lanterns lit by a candle and carried aloft in the nighttime sky. I guess you could say the word is a living prayer. Which would make our home a sacred temple.

So back to my oracle son and his comment the other night…

In the weeks leading up to the moment of actual painting, my youngest heard me talk aloud about the words I had been considering, just as I had heard his (we’re the two talk-alouders in our family, and as such we tend to seek each other out…). He heard my original choice was Witch for 2018, and how that one opened up to Queen as an option, which led me to Rise, then Fly, only to have me arrive back where I began….at Witch. 

Photo credit: Ginger Soul Photography

What he didn’t know—because I hadn’t even admitted this to myself yet—was the degree of information and intel from the universe (call them signs if you’d like…) I had been getting that were consistently pointing me in one direction. The very direction he called out to me on that night. After the deed had been done and the paint was already drying on our wall.

 

Queen.

If I were to be honest, it was how I felt on stage at SheSpeaks, my evening of women’s storytelling, held for the eighth time late last year, and it mirrored the comments people made afterward about how they had never seen me as that radiant, powerful and comfortable in my own skin as they had that night. And when the pictures came out of the evening from our photographer, people literally said I looked like a QUEEN.

And then there was the spontaneous video on Facebook I did about the word “empowerment” because I couldn’t take it anymore, and was concerned that word wasn’t serving women by using it—even as I knew I was speaking ill of one of the sacred cows of women’s business models. My annoyance had outweigh my silence and hesitation so I finally gave it voice, and as I watched the comments flow in—both validating and illuminating in different perspectives, I was reminded of the power of our words we use as women and about women and was heartened to see the words I’d been playing with such as “sourced” and “sovereign” were picked up in its place.

Earlier that month, I had gone to a Qoya dance class and spontaneously decided to wear this top I had stuffed in my closet – the one I’d never worn because it was, well…too much…not me, not appropriate. Sometime during the evening, my friend who was leading the session paused, pointed at me in front of all the women gathered, and said “Can we just take a moment and admire that top…and how you look like a QUEEN in it?”

Then there was the moment I was preparing for my women’s circle in December, doing the readings that I assembled, and read a passage from Rochelle Schieck’s book Qoya as if I’d never read it before. My eyes glued to this passage and my heart swelled in my chest with recognition…and desire:

“Qoya, in Quechuan, translates to QUEEN. Not a bejeweled, emotionally distant woman holding a position of power, but a feminine manifestation of a higher consciousness. She is the embodiment of the four phases of feminine evolution: Maiden, Mother, Queen, and Crone, all at once, because as Queen, she is sovereign…she is the woman willing to be wildly reverent to her instincts and inner wisdom…[She] is the one who sits on the throne that is [her] life.”

I thought about random stuff, like how I had this book The Star-Touched QUEEN  beside my bed for over a year and hadn’t yet cracked it because it felt, too….something. Like I wasn’t ready for it or worthy of it.

I thought of how I’m literally writing a book right now about women NOT waiting anymore (to want what they want, to be who they are, to take action on what they feel, see, and know…), and how so often we have nothing but green lights in front of us, but are holding ourselves back with our foot on the brake. Because of our fear.

Art by Tang Wei MinI thought about how a woman I’d never met on my SheChanges Facebook page messaged me with a link to a post and wrote: “I saw this and thought of you, beautiful teacher…” and how how I’d immediately saved the accompanying image that came with it as my lock screen on my phone because she looked like a QUEEN…”

“A true healer does not heal you; she simply reflects back to you your innate capacity to heal. She is a reflector, or a loving transparency. A true teacher does not teach you; she does not see you as inherently separate from her, or less than her. She simply reflects back your own inner knowing, and reminds you of the vastness of your being. She is a mirror, a signpost.”

I thought about all of this as turned off the lights in the house and walked up the stairs to go to bed that night. I wondered if I was meant to paint Queen and chose Witch instead. I reminded myself that there wasn’t a “right” word, and that the deed was already done and the paint was drying. I told myself to let it go. To move on. It was too late.

And then I heard a small voice inside myself say this, almost as a whispered negotiation: Let’s just see how Witch goes for you this year…and if you can live up to that, THEN you’ll be ready to choose Queen next year…

That’s when I put down my toothbrush, looked at myself in the mirror with my mouth full of toothpaste, and said:

 

Holy shit, that word QUEEN scares the shit out of me.

You know where this is going, right?

Now many of you reading this might like to paint me as a woman who’s fearless, and that’s very kind of you. It’s also incredibly inaccurate. I, frankly, don’t know what I would do without my fear because it is what I use to point me in the direction of my truest desire. Every. Time. It’s why I am not a fan of the whole “fearless” mindset. No thank you.

 

What I fear is often the key to what will set me free.

The biggest mistake we can make, I think, is to not notice our fear—to pretend it’s not there. To close our eyes to it. This doesn’t mean we hand over the tiller to fear. Quite the contrary. What I’m suggesting—and what my clients and I look for together—is to captain our ships and chart our course by noticing where fear doesn’t want us to go….and then go there, in that direction. Unless, of course, it’s a dark alley. And therein lies the tricky part…discerning feelings of fear that have us play small from our survival instincts that can help us stay alive.

But I wasn’t going to die from being a Queen, right?

I thought of the story Marsha Greenberg told on stage at SheSpeaks back in December, about drawing a continuum that represents our life—on one end having the year you were born, and on the other end writing the year that you guessed you might die (she picked 90). She suggested drawing a line to represent your current age, and then spoke about the choice we had in looking at the time remaining: we could freak out or we could get busy.

I’ve thought a lot about that since hearing her story. And how 2018 is the year I will turn 50—not in a dramatic or dreaded way, but in a way that shines a light on the stark reality that I have now lived more of life than I probably have left to live. Which means I have a choice to make.

 

I am choosing to get busy.

That night, thanks to my oracle son and the mountain of evidence he reminded me I had, I spit out my toothpaste, marched my ass downstairs, turned on the lights again, and painted over my word on the wall. I broke my own rules. I defied the drying paint.

 

I made myself sovereign. Because that’s what Queens do.

So here’s to sitting on our thrones more honestly and fully this year. And here’s to repainting our walls even though the paint is dry, the lights have been turned out, and everyone has gone to bed. Here’s  to more of us not waiting until next year to get busy.

Here’s to 2018 being a year to remember.

 

Because if not now, then when?

 

 

Want to hear more stories like this? My book Unscripted: A Woman’s Living Prayer is chocked full of them.

 

Feel like getting your boogie down and burning off your Saturday Night Fever for a good cause? Join me at HerMojo January 13th (100% of proceeds will go to benefit Planned Parenthood!)

 

Hungry for more storytelling and inspirational mojo, grab a ticket for my Unscripted Evening on March 15th.

White Women Cake

Posted September 19th, 2017

For most of my life, I have been accused of being angry. I say “accused” because it very much felt like that. Words like vicious, ruthless, and combative would attach themselves to me, and I accepted them, feeling ashamed, like I was too much for people to handle and therefore needed to be really careful with how I show up in the world lest I inflict harm.

I was told to pipe down, just relax, cool my jets, get over it, let it go, pick my battles, and move on. Sound familiar? 

On the playground in elementary school, I used to get in the face of kids who were nasty when the teachers weren’t looking. In middle school, I used to look directly at bullies through my tears and call them out on their actions. In high school, I used to speak up when kids used others as stepping stones (or public punching bags) to make themselves look and feel more powerful. In the corporate world, I blurted out comments when the emperor had no clothes or bullshit was being served up on a platter. As a parent, I did not turn the other cheek when shit was going down.

All of this made me wildly unpopular at times. I was, of course, singled out by the bully when I diverted the attention to me. I sealed the fate of my dorky outcast status in high school. I was tightly managed in the corporate world. And I felt like a pariah at pick-up time from my kids’ schools, sports sidelines and dinner parties. At one point in my mid 40s—when my give-a-shit meter was just starting to go on the fritz—another mother actually cautioned me to “be nice” as  I was walking into a school community gathering.

As a result, for most of my life, I tried to walk this razor thin line between taking a stand (which had me speaking up) and muting myself (which had me playing small). I harbored this secret shame that I was unbelievably cruel and mean and capable of  doing some serious harm. In short, I battled this chronic fear that if I weren’t careful, I would use my powers for evil, not good. I became afraid of feeling angry, and learned it’s best to keep that shit under tight wraps lest I express it outwardly and lay waste to everything I hold dear.

It wasn’t until I started questioning my own beliefs about myself (you know, the ones I had been given and swallowed whole without chewing?), that I started to see there was an enormous gap between the words I’d associated with myself and people’s actual experience of me. Big. Huge. Gap.

When I had a really honest conversation with myself and pulled out the feedback, cards and emails I’d collected from clients over the years to examine the actual comments about my work and people’s perceptions of me, I could finally see what I had missed. It turns out the most common descriptors of me were: warm…big-hearted…make me feel safe..honest…keep it real… inspiring… feel like I can be myself, can say anything…

That was a watershed moment for me.

I realized that somewhere in my youth, I had been called vicious and ruthless or mean maybe a couple of times by a couple of people, and because of its impact, it stuck. I assumed it was true and  never questioned it. Until about 30 years later.

I wrote about this in my book, telling my story of facing and unpacking anger for myself and how I reframed it and, ultimately, reclaimed it. Because you know what lived inside that bundle of shame? My truth, my voice, my effectiveness as a leader, and my ability to affect change. Today, anger, as it relates to women, has been the single most requested topic people want to explore with me during interviews, book readings and storytelling since releasing my book.

Now all this is not to say that I can’t be mean (I can), and that I’m not capable of hurting someone with my words or actions (I do), or that I’m now magically fearless or unfettered (I’m not). My (big) heart still beats wildly in my chest right before I say something out loud that I know will be unpopular, hard to hear or will challenge the status quo. I still replay the video tapes in my head afterward, double-checking myself. Am I mean? Am I blind? Am I delusional? 

But now? Those are genuine questions born out of true curiosity, not out of desire to participate in my own shame. Those questions keep me honest, not small. Those questions keep me humble and connected—living from my heart and my light, not from my head and a desire to hide.

I know I’m not alone, and that helps give me courage. I hear similar versions of the same story from women who make the move, step out, speak up, use their voice, and show themselves. So often those stories begin with being confused, disappointed, concerned, perplexed, frustrated, hurt, and even sad. But you know what’s waiting for us when we dig beneath all that stuff?

Anger. Even rage.

“‘In hard times, filled with hate, look to your highest self instead of getting angry,’ they say. As if my highest self isn’t angry as fuck.” – Andréa Ranae

And here’s the part where anger intersects and clashes wildly with our white women culture. Anger is seen as unattractive, distasteful, threatening and destructive. We are taught from a young age to get rid of it quickly and discreetly, passing it on like a hot potato to someone else if need be. We don’t have a lot of practice being with it, let alone giving voice to it. The result? We kind of suck at expressing our anger at a time when many of us are full to the brim of it, and we could be using that energy to create and lead change.

The bottom line: We white women have some work to do owning and expressing our anger. 

Now let me just pause here and clarify that this is not to suggest that white women are the only angry women. Nor do I mean to suggest that women of color have all that anger shit figured out either. There are plenty of angry women in our world these days, and legions of us are getting loads of opportunity to experience it. What I’m seeking to do—for myself and other white women— is to shine a very particular light in the corner of our white women culture that we don’t often discuss: all that anger we feel and what we do with it.

Because that stuff in our corner? It’s still there, and getting bigger. And if we don’t allow it to exist because we’re uncomfortable (or out of practice, or afraid of not being liked…), we run the risk of it coming out sideways, having it be misdirected, and ultimately rendering it (and us) ineffective.

Ever been dismissed as a bitch, hysterical or an angry feminist? Then you know what happens next. Most of us shut up or get shut down.

But keep all that anger inside, and it rots and festers within us.  I can’t help but make the connection between this unexpressed (in many cases, unvalidated) anger and the state of women’s health. Heart disease. Breast cancer. Depression. What’s that phrase Carolyn Myss, Christiane Northrup and so many others talk about? Our biography is our biology. And when you lay over the history of women and the impact of years of patriarchy? Well now, that’s a pretty rich history that we carry in our collective cellular memories as women.

You know what helps? Practice. 
You know what doesn’t? Shame. 

Why is this important? Because in the absence of doing our own work with anger as white women, we will shop around for others to express that anger for us—like men and women of color or white men. We’ll ask other people to hold the hard stuff we don’t want to be with at a time when many people of color have their arms full of stuff already. There is much to be angry about these days—the injustices, the oppression, the corruption, the violence — and we need all hands on deck if we are to right this ship. Waiting to get comfortable with our anger, be good at voicing it publicly, or having it feel safe is an exercise in white privilege; just as getting self righteous about it is —both actions serve to disconnect and divide us further from ourselves and each other.

You know what helps? Curiosity.
You know what doesn’t? Judgement.

Like many of you reading this, I have been struggling mightily with the anger that has kicked up for me in the wake of our last presidential election. I find I have been working overtime to face and feel the intensity of my anger and use the power of my voice with intention. And yet, many days I am overwhelmed with what I see…how the opportunities…they seem to be…everywhere.

I was sitting with my therapist recently recounting one of them, qualifying it as “not a big deal”, but more of an example of how microaggressions can pile up pretty quickly. I was telling her the story of talking with a man when another man came over and started talking over me, not even acknowledging that A) I was there, or B) I was talking. Without skipping a beat, the man I was talking to stopped listening to me and diverted his attention to the other man. And off they went. I stopped talking and and no one noticed. Or cared. I was fuming but bit my tongue.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” my therapist asked.
“I didn’t want to be, you know… THAT angry feminist,” I responded.
“Why not? “she countered.

Good point. Why not, indeed.

“The patriarchy is so scared of women’s anger that eventually we learn to fear it, too. We walk around as if we were bombs about to go off, worried about admitting how livid we really are, even to ourselves.” – Laurie Penny

Writer Laurie Penny talks about this very thing in her book Bitch Doctrine, exploring why women hide anger, why we fear it and how we can use it to create change. She is clear about the need to distinguish anger from hatred (“anger is an emotion, hatred is an action…”Gloria Steinem has been talking about anger for most of her life. Danielle LaPorte’s latest book explores the notion of “spiritual bypassing” and how “all the woo [can] keep us from dealing with our poo.” Most recently, Tina Fey—in only the way Tina Fey can do—shined a humorous and extremely well-pointed barb on the rage living inside women these days, stirring up a mixed-bag of responses with her “sheet caking” alternative to protest, that would have women yelling at their cakes.

You know what helps? Acknowledging the suckage and trying anyway.
You know what doesn’t? Pretending it doesn’t matter and expecting things to change.

So I, for one, will continue to pull up my plate of anger and sit it squarely in front of me—my version of a sheet cake, I guess. Which means I will get messy with it, make mistakes, make an ass of myself, maybe even offend someone. But you know what? I’ll learn something in the process.  I will have practiced something hard and will suck less at it each time as a result of that effort. I have no intention of stuffing my words down with cake or misdirecting my anger at some shapeless mass of empty carbs, though. And I will try my best to remember this:

It’s not about being nice; it’s about feeling angry.
It’s not about being unproductive; it’s about being honest and showing up.
It’s not about being ready, it’s about being present.
It’s not about feeling safe or comfortable, it’s about being accountable.

And if that doesn’t work, I will hold the image of Tina yelling at the camera with frosting all over her face and her fork flailing around. And if I am so moved, I will lift up my fists full of frosting and make some noise for change — ready or not.

 

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 are on sale now if you’re a planner!