On Turning 50: A Story

Posted May 18th, 2018

Age is a funny thing.

On one hand I’ve always found it rather arbitrary and annoying—a number that aims to qualify, and in many cases DISqualify, the value or merit of an opinion, idea, or presence. As an old soul who historically has looked younger than my years, I have felt my age (or what others perceive to be my age) as irrelevant and confining, often adding a layer of unnecessary context to interactions that either muddy the waters or dilute it.

AND…

I distinctly remember the day I turned thirty when working in the corporate world. NOW they’ll listen to me, I thought.

What I didn’t know back then was that my age was just the tip of the iceberg as to why I was feeling like I had to shout to be heard, keep my impatience and boldness on a tight leash to be invited to the table, and craft my words carefully and strategically so they would be taken seriously. Back then, I hadn’t even begun to open the box of understanding about how my very presence as a woman was a factor in what I was experiencing. Back then, I still saw myself as “one of guys”. Back then, I didn’t even know I was white (I know, go ahead and laugh, I am…), and didn’t recognize the sea of white men I was swimming in and wanting to belong to—even as I twisted myself into a pretzel.

Twenty years later, I find myself turning fifty, and there is that same voice saying that same damn line…NOW they’ll listen to me. 

But unlike my thirty year-old self, I find I am gently asking that voice:

Who are THEY, Sweetheart?
Simply say what you have inside you, Sugar. They’ll listen or they won’t.
Not everybody will buy what you’re selling.
But for some, it might make a difference,
And that makes it all worthwhile.

Age IS a funny thing, isn’t it?

Mine always seems to confuse or perplex people, rather like the guys that used to try and pick me up when I was working on the waterfront of a summer camp—they expected me to be lighter than I was because I looked a certain way, but then they gave a big OOF! And fell to the ground with the weight of me. I am not what people expect, it seems, and as a result they often don’t know what to make of me.
I am an old soul who has felt wiser than her years.
I was a tall woman from a young age.
I have genetics that have me look younger than my years.
I am older than most people assume.
I am younger than many people my age.
I relate to women in their late 60s and identify with my nieces in their late teens.

Age is a funny thing.

And yet it’s very real, in that my years have been markers of the story I have lived, the roads I have traveled, and the experiences I have both created and endured.

I have brought two human beings into this world from the center of my body.
I have sat by the bedside of my sister-in-law as she dictated letters to me for her children the day before she died.
I have held a newborn son in my arms as he took his first and then last breath.
I have wept at the souls lost and found inside sacred canyons in the middle of nowhere.
I know the smell of a mighty redwood, an ancient cathedral, and warm chocolate ganache.
I know the taste of salt on the skin from sweat, ocean, birth and grief.
I have lost all faith in humanity by witnessing our collective actions.
I have restored my faith by witnessing the kindness of a single stranger.

I write this not because I am special and have lived a particularly full life. Mine is just one of many, and we all acquire our own distinct markers over the years that signify the moments that have helped to shape and sculpt us, whether we like it, ask for it, are ready for it, desire it, resist it, embrace it or rail against it. The water just keeps coming toward us, like a river flowing through a canyon, sometimes rushing and swollen and sometimes slow, like a trickle.

I write this because age is a funny thing. 

And as I sit here mid-life, I am struck by the paradox of it being meaningful and having no meaning whatsoever.

I write this because I am honored to spend many of my moments with clients who ask these questions:

Should I wait to do this…to leave…to make my move…to try this?
When is the right time….how will I know…what will happen next?

There is, of course, no answer to these. That comes from each of us living our way into those questions. But here’s where I am with living those questions in my own life—

Last week, in order to feel what the participants of my writing experience were feeling, I sat down and wrote a story (see below) about what I was noticing.
It was odd…about a dog…and somehow exactly what I needed to hear.

Then this week, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in over five years, and then learned her husband had died suddenly the very next day.
It was awful…and tragic…and somehow exactly what I was meant to feel.

When I put these two happenings together in my one body, the message feels clear to me:

Life is short.
And so very precious.
Do something with it—again and again.
Be in it—again and again.
Don’t budget joy and desire and pleasure.
Don’t be miserly with your gifts and medicine.
Boldness and courage often result in service and inspiration.
Don’t wait to be a certain age. It doesn’t matter.
Use the wisdom and experience of your years. It matters.
You are more free than you realize.
You are more resourceful than you recognize.
And you are stronger than you imagine.

And with that, my friend, I will leave you with the story I wrote most recently— the one that delivered me to this place I have arrived in, at the cusp of turning fifty.

We shall see what happens next.

She gave a firm tug, and nothing happened. 
Another one, and still nothing.

She knew better than to keep tugging.
She was an older dog now, and wiser as a result.
But she’d also grown weary of the leash, and how it was a constant in her life,
Jerking and dragging her along, behind, over, and away from.

She knew she’d probably lived more years on the leash than she had left to live.
She knew something needed to change.
And yet, the persistent leash, and the failed attempts,
And the pervasive knowledge that dogs were no longer allowed to be wild,
But were, in fact, domesticated possessions with masters and leashes.

She thought of the years she’d lived in her version of captivity, and they hadn’t been bad.
Far from it, they’d been full of love and companionship, and even some adventures.

But they hadn’t been wholly hers, and she knew that now.
She’d learned to adapt to life on a leash, quite well.
She’d experienced choke collars, and traditional leads, even wearing a muzzle at one point,
Before settling into a harness that was away from her neck, at least,
But still encircled her chest, just over her heart, making it hard to breathe at times.

She sat down in the sun and thought, looking out at the water, which she vaguely remembered feeling.
She thought about her younger days and the places unseen by her own eyes.
Her paws twitched slightly as she considered all this.
Her nose lifted to the wind, and she sniffed.

Thinking, imagining, and sniffing seemed to be how she managed to be these days,
Making the most out of her life on the leash.

Part of her was sad with longing,
And the other part of her was resigned to her reality.
She was still fit enough to be able to roam and tap into the wildness she knew was insider her,
While part of her felt too old to have hope that anything would change.

And yet.
She found she couldn’t give that part of her up.

It was the hope of possibility that made her tail wag whenever the door cracked open.
It was the hope of freedom she felt when her necklace was taken off for a cleaning or a good scratch.
And it was hope that shined bright in her eyes when she met another dog on a leash in the park.

It was hope she felt the day she quietly slipped out of her bed in the dark of night when everyone was sleeping.
And it was hope that lead her out the door and down the street that night,
Without a collar, without a leash, without the watchful eyes of her master.

Unlike her younger days, she didn’t make a break for it.
She took her time, feeling the cool evening air on her wet nose,
And the dew on her feet.
She collected herself as she set off,
Not overthinking what she was doing,
Just. Quietly. Moving.
Across the lawn, and down the street.

She followed her wildness to the woods,
Trusting herself to find her way,
Knowing that when she was ready,
She could return home,
And that the door would be open a crack
Allowing her to slip back inside,
And drift off to sleep in her bed.

 

Want to hear more stories and reflections like this?

Join me on July 12th for ISpeaks: An Unscripted Evening With Lael in Yarmouth, Maine. 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…

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.

Re-Membering

Posted January 23rd, 2018

I liked this TED talk. AND it triggered me at various points. Many, in fact.
Maybe you don’t know this about me because of, you know, what I DO right now, but I’ve spent most of my life identifying more with men than I did with women. Not with regards to gender identity or my sexual preferences, but as it relates to my closest friends—those with whom I chose to spend the bulk of my time and energy. Men just GOT me and I GOT them, so that’s where I gravitated. That is, up until I had my first child, which “outed me” as a woman, effectively catapulting me into a new club. I untangled this hairball for myself and wrote all about that journey in my first book if you want more backstory—and to learn what was waiting for me (spoiler alert: the feminine…) when I got here. 

 What I know NOW that I didn’t know back then, is that my behavior as a woman with women wasn’t as much about it being natural, as it was about it being learned. But then, maybe you know this. Maybe you also lived this. Maybe you can see and appreciate how women are actively trained and indoctrinated into our masculine culture (I’m not saying patriarchy here—because that word doesn’t quite do it for me—but that’s essentially what I’m pointing to) as women.
Lisa Lister, author of Witch (just get it, it’s friggin awesome…) writes about us living in a dude-centric world of lines—one that doesn’t feel natural or sustainable to us, as we literally are designed to move in cycles and seasons. She reminds us how we are designed to be inconsistent. You know, like nature. And look how She is faring these days, right?
In so many ways, we (btw: a strong case could be made for both men and women being included in that we…) are taught and trained to disassociate, malign, and distrust women—including the woman in ourselves. Some women I know don’t relate to this experience, and I often envy them. I wonder if I might have been one of those women had I not spent a fair amount of my professional life in the corporate world. But honestly? It began long before that.
Happily, there are so many women out there doing amazing work to help us re-member this thing that use to come so naturally to us as women—our sisterhood.
Mama Gena and her School of Womanly Arts is all about healing women’s relationships—with our bodies, other women, and our sisterhood—by offering new (ancient) paradigms in the context of our modern day world. She shares her own story beautifully in her book Pussy: A Reclamation. While I have not participated in her programs, many of my clients have and rave about the power of her work—and in themselves after going through her programs and experiencing the community of “sister goddesses” she creates all over the world. A reclamation, indeed.
Most recently, I attended a Women’s Naked Yoga workshop (yup, I did…and it was mind-blowingly awesome!) with Kimberly Baker Simms, when she made the trip up to Maine from NYC to join me on stage at my December SheSpeaks storytelling evening. She is all about inviting women to literally shed what no longer serves them, ultimately returning us to the essence of who we are with the intention of bringing sacredness back to nakedness. More reclamation. I’ll never forget when she said, “…ten minutes…that’s all it took for this to feel natural…” and how I agreed with her as I stood naked in a circle of 20 women (side note: I am SO not a naked in public person, either...). She likened us to flowers in a garden, and said, “it doesn’t occur to a rose to compare herself to a lilly…”

 So back to watching this TED talk (click here if you don’t see it pictured above…) with these two powerhouse women I admire…it had me touch that nerve of regret. Sadness, even. Then shame and anger followed close behind. Like when I saw the movie “Hidden Figures” and had that “WTF, are you shitting me” moment when I truly GOT in my bones (again…) how history has systematically erased women’s critical—GAME CHANGING—contributions. Just because of who has the proverbial pen.  So there’s that.

The other part that triggered me was around the WORDS and PHRASES we women use when talking about men and boys….which only serve to reinforce the these stories written by our culture. Our words give these stories more and more power. As the only woman in my house, I am constantly surrounded by boys and men. Even the dog is a male. And those statements sting and make me crazy mad—because I SEE with my own eyes and experience in my own heart such a different reality unfolding, even if it’s just in the container of our home.
I would like to see more of us differentiate what boys/men are TAUGHT from what they are CAPABLE of feeling and being, because there is a big friggin gap. Like a Grand Canyon gap. And we do so much to unwittingly buy and sell those same stories that keep their stock prices high, viable, and on the open market. Our language is powerful and how we shape our world. We’re all in this together. 
The final thing I’d leave you with is this… Lilly Tomlin said “Female friendships are just a hop to sisterhood, and sisterhood can be a very powerful force to give the world the things that humans desperately need.” And then Jane Fonda said, “Women’s friendships are a source of renewable power.” The moderator, Pat Mitchell, then asked the BEST question…a simple, yet powerful one that I’ll share with you now:

“So how do we USE that power?”

My immediate thought reminded me of something Elizabeth Lesser once referenced when interviewed by Oprah years ago about women and power: She said, “We need to ride our chariots of love into the center of town.” I have ALWAYS loved that image. And invitation to women. That’s what I want—for me, for us, for our world: lots and lots of women’s chariots pulsating with love and crowding up town centers all over our world.
I want us to re-member that we know how to do this. 
What about you? What comes up for you as you watch this? What are you re-membering? 

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

 

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

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.

The Veil

Posted October 27th, 2017

The morning after he died, I was making our bed, just sobbing. I missed him so much. I honestly didn’t know what to do or how to move on. All I knew is that our bed needed to be made. So that’s what I did. And then, out of nowhere I heard his voice talking to me, clear as a bell. He said, “I’m here, sweetie.” And I smiled because I felt him with me. I knew he was okay. Because before your grandfather died, Lael, he promised he’d find a way to communicate with me. And he did. 

I remember my mom telling this story to me like it was yesterday. I was five years old, and it was my first experience with death. The person I loved most in the entire world was absolutely crumbling in the wake of losing the man that was the center of her entire world. This wasn’t sudden, my grandfather’s death. We had been watching him die for weeks in his home from pancreatic cancer, although back then I couldn’t really appreciate the finality of what was to come.

But when it finally happened, it seemed to gut my mom—to flay her wide open and expose her to pain she could not have imagined. I watched her, standing by her side and helping her make the bed in the coming weeks when that was just about all that helped—like a mourning ritual. So when she told me the story of my grandfather speaking to her that first morning, reaching out to her from someplace unseen and unknown, I remember pocketing it like a precious jewel she had given me.

I didn’t know why it was important or what it meant, really. But in that moment, she gave me two gifts that I treasure to this day: 1) A deep belief in things I cannot see or understand and 2) What it’s like to witness and hold space for others.

Both of these gifts I use daily. If you’ve worked with me, than you’ve probably seen them at play in our time together, maybe experienced them first-hand. If you’ve read my book or heard me tell stories on stage, then you’ll probably recall I reference these two things regularly, demonstrating them again and again as I seek to make sense of the world around me. These two gems given to me by mother have governed many decisions in my life, and have guided me on the moments I am most lost and alone. I reach for them constantly, feeling their substance and warmth in my pocket like a well-worn lucky rock.

Two nights ago, however, I made a new realization. I was letting our dog out to pee one final time before going to bed, and my youngest son came out to join me as I stood on our front lawn.

Mom, do you smell them? Do you hear that? The witchy winds… they’re out tonight. 

I watched as he turned his little boy-man head skyward, closed his eyes, and breathed deeply. I watched as the soft, warm and wild wind reached into his hair, making it dance as it swirled about his beautiful head.  I watched as he reveled in the sheer power of it, the sound like a freight train coming for us building to a crescendo and then crashing through us like a wave of air as we stood there on the lawn like two sentries.

He knows this is real because of me. I have passed on some precious jewels from my pockets to his. 

I know this because whenever he senses those winds are present this time of year, he doesn’t question that urge to run outside and feel them on his skin. Instead he honors it. Because he has seen me do the same, and therefore doesn’t doubt it’s real or true. He believes in the power and presence of wind.

And because my son believes the wind is able to communicate with him, he has an open door for the feminine to flow freely to and from him.

I bring this up because so often these stories are referenced as happening between mothers and daughters, as they were with me. So often, these stories are talked about in the context of a “women’s intuition” or “women’s mysteries”, and while I do believe our women’s bodies are sacred vessels of creation, there is also that need to honor the seed that brings forth new life. And so often I see examples of how our society systematically underestimates our boys’ capacity to be with, honor, and value the feminine.

Let’s be clear: It’s not the boys’ capacity to be with the feminine that we need to be concerned about, it’s ours: the grownups responsible for teaching them.

I also bring this up because this is the time of year when the veil between the two worlds is the thinnest. When the earthly plane and the spirit world are separated by only the sheerest of scrims. When the divine masculine, sun and daylight pass the torch to the divine feminine, moon and darkness to carry. It’s also my favorite time of year because I was born right on this cusp of this transition, so it feels like my home and I can access both energies inside me without needing such a wide stance.

I trust most deeply time of year. I also feel fear most deeply this time of year. Which has me reach for those gems in my pocket.

So I share this story as a written prayer, maybe even an invitation. To shine more light on stories about women and their sons, and how the divine masculine and the divine feminine live and dance inside all of our bodies, sometimes starting with our hair and often sounding like a freight train. I share this with the hopes that more of us will pass along stories of things we don’t fully understand and can’t see, so that we’ll learn to trust in that more. I share this because I’m tired of us asking our children to do the heavy lifting for us adults, and I want some of that burden they feel to be lifted.

Just like the veil.

 

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

 

And if women’s storytelling is your thing, grab a ticket for SheSpeaks being held at One Longfellow Square on December 7th. The theme is “Life In The Arena” and tickets are on sale now and going fast!

A Witch Waking Story

Posted August 3rd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa defines a witch as this:

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

Yea. That.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I knew how to do this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shit you not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Full Enough

Posted June 15th, 2017

Here’s a confession: I was on a walk with a friend recently and when she asked enthusiastically, “So what’s next for you?” I almost burst into tears.

But I didn’t. Instead, I threw some words out that talked about this and that…to fill the space and answer her question. At which point she asked me more questions about specifics…to be helpful. And then the “Nos” started coming out of my mouth…much to my horror.

Have you ever thought about doing this?
Not really.

What about that?
Nope.

Have you ever considered this?
No…

What about doing that…you’d be great at that.
Nah.

I felt like a failure—like I’d let her down with my vague responses and lack of specificity.
I felt ashamed of the abundance of my NOs and my refusal to cooperate with her obvious desire to be supportive and helpful.
I felt like I was wrong to feel what I was feeling.
I felt like I was missing out on something everyone else was already going after.
I felt unambitious.
I felt like a fraud or a charlatan.
I felt insecure.
I felt exhausted.

The reality is that I was full – I wasn’t hungry for more just yet.
The reality is that I am neck-deep in the process of writing a book that is consuming my thoughts and scaring the shit out of me.
The reality is that I am completely feeling enough right where I am.
The reality is that there is a time and a place for outreach, brainstorming and “ambition” and it is not now or here (for me).
The reality is that I am not a failure, I am not vague, and I have never lacked ambition.
The reality is that I am crystal fucking clear on what matters most and am all over it right now.
The reality is that I have never felt more proud, aligned and full of integrity as I do now.
The reality is that I know myself really well and I’m really good at honoring the me that I am.

This woman is an amazing person, a wise soul, and a fierce champion. I treasure her. So this is not about her, and I know that. Her intentions were only the best and her questions were from a place of love. I get that. I love her for that. I know this is about me, not her.

My point is this: I had no business being on that walk. I knew better than to put myself further out in the noise unnecessarily.

Another friend—who happens to be a creative soul as I am—put it best for me years ago. She said that there are times for inputs and there are times for outputs. Glennon Doyle talks about her creative process in terms of an inhale and an exhale. The moon waxes and wanes. The tides are high and low. There is a time to sew the seeds in the fields and there is a time to reap the harvest from them.

I’m outputting.
I’m exhaling.
I’m a waxing moon.
I’m a high tide.
I’m reaping my harvest.

I get this. I live this. I work with other women to get this and live this. And yet, I forget this…until I remember it again.

That’s what I mean when I say I had no business going on that walk as I did. What I ought to have done instead was to assume more responsibility for where I was and what I needed—to name it clearly and give voice to it publicly. She totally would have been down with that. And I would have left that walk energized and not depleted.

Now did I realize all that in the moment? Hell no. That insight (remembering) only occurred to me many weeks later when a client forwarded me this amazing article on making space in our frantic GO BIG society for mediocrity to be enough. You know, those moments when we feel at peace and embrace where we are just as we are? So this is hindsight talking. But I’m hoping that by sharing this with you today I will be pocketing away something useful next time I find myself here.

Being full enough.

 

Want to follow along with me as I write my book?
Follow me on Instagram or Facebook to read a line from my batch of writing each week—hot out of the oven.

The Right Hook of Physics

Posted October 12th, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

ritualThat evening ushered in a weekend that felt deeply nourishing.

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

Here’s what happened:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened to being luminous?” he asked gently. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the shadow side of a luminous life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Living Prayer: Embodying Intention

Posted September 30th, 2016

woman-prayingThe woman’s word was “WORTH“, and I watched as she went first, embodying each letter of that word — her intention – with her body, spelling it first forwards and then retracing it backwards.

I was her partner. My job was to witness her.

It was an exercise, really — something we were asked to do as part of a ritual for a new moon Qoya gathering. If you’re not familiar with it, the foundational belief in Qoya is that through movement, women remember they are wild, wise and free.

A friend of mine who is trained in Qoya recently decided to offer a series of new moon rituals with a small group of women here in Maine. The last time I attended one of her sessions it inspired the opening scene from my book. Needless to say, I was keenly aware of reentering that sacred space again just over a year later. Part of me couldn’t help wondering if dancing in this barn was how I would begin all of my books.

But as I stood there, watching my partner dance her intention, all my thoughts and wonderings sloughed off me and slid soundlessly to the floor. I watched as this woman — whose voice was barely above a whisper when she spoke — close her eyes and move deeper and deeper into her skin as she embodied each letter. I became transfixed by her as she moved through the W and onto the H and the O and the L, eventually getting to the E. When she finished each pass, she quietly gathered herself, keeping her eyes closed, and made her way back through the word, ending where she began, with a W.

Back and forth she went as I watched, sometimes in capitals, and sometimes choosing to embody a lower case letter. While music played softly in the background and three other women traced their words with their bodies behind her, I watched my partner, enrapt. I could see the moment where the exercise moved from her head and melted down into her body. And then her soul. I watched as her expression of the word “WHOLE” shifted from being a thought or an intention “out there” to a whole hearted embodied desire “in here”.

And as I widened my gaze beyond her particular movements, I could take in the other women moving in the space, eyes closed while they invited their desires to inhabit their bodies more fully. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before – no choreography, no synchronization, no consciousness or awareness of how they were sharing the space in this small magical barn in the middle of the woods. They just moved from someplace deep down in their bodies — and when taken as a whole, the scene was utterly breathtaking like some mystical ballet was happening before my eyes.

When the music paused and my partner opened her eyes and looked into my own, we both had tears streaming down our faces. The awkwardness was gone, and a deep intimacy had moved in its place, bonding me to this woman who had been a stranger 30-minutes earlier.

Then it was my turn, and she waited patiently as I gathered myself and wrote my (long) word on a piece of paper so I would know how to spell it backwards. My word was “LUMINOUS”, and my breath caught in my throat when I felt myself write it down — as if I were taking a sacred vow with the Divine.

I began as she did, a bit awkward and literal in my movements, wondering if my partner could “read” what I was “writing” with my body. And then, as she did, I felt the shift. Far from a flip of a switch, the sensation felt more like a faucet had been opened to its widest aperture within me. I could feel I was dancing with and for something much greater than simply my own intention.

I felt like a high priestess. I felt deeply of service. 

I felt luminous as I was embodying the word “LUMINOUS“. It wasn’t simply something I was wanting or aspiring to be…it was actually ME in that moment. More than that, it was flowing out of me, like my body had become one of those a metal spiles that gets tapped into a maple tree, and this warm viscous syrup was just pouring through me — and out of me — like a gift.

When the music stopped and my friend instructed the dancers to open their eyes, I felt the same sensation I had when my partner met my eyes after her dance — a deep connection that felt more like gratitude; as if witnessing me and being in my presence had somehow nourished her.

I have never experienced anything quite like that in my life, and that’s saying a lot because if you know me at all (or have read my book), you know I’m no stranger to being exposed to things like this. But this was different. And, I assume, timely and by design.

This was me living my prayer with my whole body. Or perhaps my wholly body.

A living prayer. I’ve written about that concept, and maybe you’ve even heard me talk about it. The tagline of my book is even entitled “A Woman’s Living Prayer“. But now I get that writing those words on my book was really the equivalent of me opening yet another door inside myself, saying “this way, Lael…this way.

The first was an intellectual exercise (naming it) as I started to chew on a new desire, and the latter is actually me deciding and learning how to embody (own) that desire. The first was saying my prayer, the latter is living it.

This is something I’ve actively been making space for in my creative life lately — inviting that living prayer into my body more fully and feeling my way as I go. I know now that I can’t simply just understand it. I have to experience it. And I am, more and more. I’ve had moments in nature recently where I feel completely present and connected to the earth, feeling its pulse as my own. I’ve held my boys and smelled their heads and experienced profoundly new degrees of presence. I’ve made art and gotten in the dirt. I’ve immersed myself in lakes and oceans, and have felt the wind hit my skin in new ways. In all of these instances, I’ve slowed down – by choice, by circumstance, or by design. Most recently, I found myself singing that song by Alison Krauss — the very song that inspired the tagline of my book — the other night in the shower:

Take my life…and let me be….a living prayer…my God to thee. 

In the hot water and the mist of the shower, naked and with my eyes closed, it did, indeed, feel like I was making a prayer with my whole body. A prayer that had me being of service, of doing work that felt sacred, of using myself to let some amber syrup run into the world. A prayer that had me vibrating with such a clear intention that I am luminous.

I’m finding my way into this, I am. I can feel it in my bones, but more to the point, I can feel it in my soul. It’s not always graceful — and certainly not without a good fight every now and then just to prove to myself I’m alive and kicking. But my senses are more alive now than they’ve ever been which, in this culture and landscape, has been both wonderful and challenging. My increased senses have literally made me more sensitive.

But now? Something new has emerged from all this: a curiosity. A desire to hear from and connect with others who are interested in this idea of being a living prayer. In fact, earlier this year when I announced I would be relaunching my SheSpeaks event (my evening of women’s storytelling) this December 8th, I decided the theme for this one would be “A Living Prayer.” I want to hear from more women on this topic: What is your living prayer and how are you living it? But more importantly, I want to bear witness to them embody it that night, just as I did my partner as she traced her intention with her body.

I am envisioning an entire audience dripped in warm syrup by the end of the evening.

So join me — and them — if you’d like on December 8th (tickets are on sale now), but in the meantime I’ll leave you with this invitation on this new moon in Libra (an uber powerful time to manifest, by the way…):

— Pick a word… a word that lights you up, makes your whole body smile, and represents a deep desire for yourself
— Put on some quiet music
— Enlist a partner to witness you or simply keep company with yourself
— And invite your word to move into you more fully by slowly tracing each letter with your body, first forwards then backwards
— Repeat this (S.L.O.W.L.Y.) until you feel it move out of your head and into your bones…wait for the faucet to open

Somewhere in all that, see if you can feel how what you want — your living prayer — is actually connected to us all. See if you can feel how the service you are doing, the nourishment you are providing, the gift you are offering starts with you and ultimately pours out to us like syrup.

And then thank yourself for being such a badass rockstar of a living prayer. I know we will.

Happy New Year

Posted September 16th, 2016

happynewyearWe were quite a sight that day, arriving at my youngest son’s elementary school for the annual “watermelon welcome”. A few people, seeing us hobble up the front walk, asked us if we had been in a car accident. No, we assured them, we’d just had a bit of a rough summer.

My husband, having crushed his arm in an accident back in early July, had six metal bars sticking out of his forearm (an “external fixator”) that were in plain view despite the thin sheath of gauze he used on such outings to spare people the full impact of his edward-scissorhand-esque arm. I donned a big gray boot on my foot, having broken my toe weeks earlier, but it packed quite a wallop visually because I had bedazzeled it with puffy paint that gave it sort of a cyborg-rocker vibe.

Needless to say, we were quite the pair.

The kids, happily, were healthy as clams and ran ahead to meet their friends as we hobbled behind and did our best not to let a wayward braid or a sticky toddler snag the metal bars sticking out of Todd’s arm.

When we arrived at the door, we were greeted by the principal and a bunch of parent volunteers who were holding the door, and managing the chaos with smiles on their faces.

“Happy New Year!” one of them said, as we finally arrived at the door, and we were given New Year’s tiaras.

I felt like Todd and I were the underdog team that had just completed an episode of the Amazing Race and were standing at the end of the journey on that little mat, about to find out – surprise – we were actually not eliminated this round. I literally remember exhaling at the entrance of that school, thinking “WE MADE IT.”

It felt like a finish line.

And as we crossed over the threshold into the lobby of that familiar school, wearing our tiaras and taking in all the fresh faces of the teachers and sharp new pencil smells of the hallways, it occurred to me:

September is the start of my new year. Always has been, always will be.

At first I used to think it was simply because of my conditioning as a student, always “starting” the new year in September, which gradually morphed into adulthood when I began to work in a boarding school as a professional in my first career. Growing up, most of my friends where Jewish, so I was accustomed to this time of year quite literally marking the end of one year and the beginning of the next according to their faith. Then I thought it was about becoming a parent, and how our entire year gradually started to rotate and revolve around the school year, starting in September and ending in June.

But now, as I’m hearing so many more people – like my friends and clients who don’t have kids – talk about their feelings about September, it feels like something more. It feels deeper than education and religious calendars. It feels… primal. And I know I’m not alone. There’s something about this time of year that feels “new”, and I suspect it has to do with leaving behind what was and charting a course for what will be – ready or not.

It’s the changing of the guard time of year, when grief and denial and dread of the summer being over collide with distinct hints of excitement and optimism and eagerness of a fresh start. It’s when playing hooky trades places with a do-over. It’s an in-between place, September…definitely not summer, but still not autumn. No longer there, but not yet here. Feet in one location, but head in another. Moving forward, and yet still holding on. Too cold for shorts and flipflops, but too hot for pants and leather boots.

So what was it, exactly? Where the hell am I?

Feeling a little battered and bruised to begin with this year, I entered September feeling disoriented and ungrounded.

So I did what I always do when I feel ungrounded: I read. In this case, I pulled out everything I had about the seasons, hoping to find something that would help to tether my understanding and right my ship that felt lost at sea. And I found it.

It turns out that according to Chinese medicine and Native American beliefs, there are actually FIVE seasons in the year – Winter, Spring, Summer, LATE SUMMER (ever heard of “Indian Summer”?), and Fall. I had no idea – where has this bonus season been hiding my whole life? It’s often referred to as the “five element theory“. Huh.

Late Summer is actually a distinct season – the shortest one of the year, lasting 4-6 weeks – and is associated with the earth element. That made sense as I read it, because I found I had this intense craving for “grounding” and “getting grounded”. Something in me must have instinctively known this, because I had already given up caffeine and pulled out my bracelets with wooden beads and had been applying really earthy oils like frankincense, sandalwood and patchouli.

Come to find out this season packs a wallop just like my bedazzled boot. Because of its shortness, it’s a time a intense metamorphosis in nature and within ourselves. It’s marked by extreme swings in weather (hot, cold, wet, dry, windy, stagnant, crispy, soggy), which consequently can be a mirror for our what’s going on in our internal environments. Apparently this is a season when things are in motion, both inwardly and outwardly, effectively disabling us from holding on to anything in particular.

Ergo the desire to stay grounded and centered lest things go into total chaos. Sound familiar?

Because while it’s all perfectly natural, it’s also pretty fucking scary when it’s happening. I know this personally, but also because of my clients who have been navigating these waters recently with me as their witness. Clients have used words like “stuck”, “stalled”, “overwhelmed” and “meh” as they are seeking to move toward something, and feel like the wind they were feeling so strongly in their sails just a short time ago has just…disappeared. As a consequence, things seem take a wee bit more effort and focus than they usually do, like trying to walk through a living room with a small child clamped around one of your legs.

So I’m sending this post out into the ether just in case you’ve been concerned it’s just you. Just in case you’ll feel like you’ve lost your way, used up all your mojo or don’t recognize yourself. Just in case, you’re feeling neither here nor there. Maybe you’re through it already and have burst out the other side with all your colors flying – in which case, good on you! But maybe you’re not quite there yet. In which case, sometime thinking in things in terms of “seasons” – especially when you find a bonus one! – can feel immensely soothing and entirely validating.

Like a bearing on a compass. Or a tiara on your head.

 

Want some more bearings on yourself this season?

  • Join me next Thursday night on the autumn equinox (Sept 22nd) at Sherman’s Books in Portland as I do a reading, give a talk and answer questions about making the transition from here to there. Starts at 6:30, completely free and open to all!