Women’s Stories Matter—To All Of Us

Posted October 23rd, 2019

Something happened for me at my SheSpeaks evenings of women’s storytelling last year. I didn’t see it coming, but once I did, I saw how it had been there all along.

If you’re not familiar with SheSpeaks, then you might not know that this annual event has become something of a tradition for many women—a heaping dose of good mojo, heartfelt energy, and inspiration delivered right before we all head inside (ourselves, and our dwellings) for the long, dark winter months.

I’ve been running SheSpeaks since 2011, and have brought ten amazing and sold-out audiences together with over fifty-two speakers courageous enough to share their stories with their whole hearts and soul fires. No fancy bells or whistles, no elaborate rehearsals or formal introductions, just some loud or soulful music to get the party started, and women speaking their truth on stage. Just as they are.

But last year, having expanded SheSpeaks to a two-night event—and still we sold out!—I noticed something different: more men came out to be in the audience.

I’ve always been very clear that this is an event open to everyone—not just women—even though only women’s voices are featured on the stage.
 

That’s the idea: showcasing women’s power, perspective, and experiences as valuable, relevant and worthy of our attention.

But last year, as I looked out at the audience—especially on the last night, I saw more men than I’ve ever seen before. It excited me. Not just because I’m the mom to two boys or that my husband’s presence in that audience literally helps to root me both nights I’m on stage (making this event truly a family affair…)—but because more men were literally seeing what it looks like for woman to lead.

See what I just did there? I made storytelling and leading synonymous.

Men came up to me after both shows last year and said things like this:

I’ve never experienced anything like this before…
I had no idea…
What just happened?
I’ve been laughing, nodding, and tearing up all night…
This feels like the church I’ve always wanted…
I didn’t expect to relate to this…
I was just here to support my friend on stage…
I can’t believe I didn’t know about this…
I want to bring all my friends to this next year…
That was the best night ever…
I didn’t expect to feel so welcome here…like I belong

I’ve heard things like this before from men who have attended in the past—men who have quietly approached me after the show, their hand extended, shaking their head in disbelief, wondering why they were drawn to me…to this.

In fact, the first time I ever hosted SheSpeaks, a man came up to me after and said—in all seriousness—“So when are you going to do a HeSpeaks?”

I laughed outright, and I regretted that later. Because I had missed his point, I suspect. While his comment felt rather tone deaf about the entitlement of white men to have a voice and a captive audience, I think what he was really getting at was this:
 

“I want something for men that feels like this…Can you help?”

Sadly, I didn’t know what I know now. Back then I was still a bit bitter from my corporate days and had some harder edges to me. Back then I was still guarding my heart and looking for fight.

But last year? Men were undeniable in the house—not only as a captive audience, but seeming to say the same things in a chorus, not just as a lone voice.

While all this amazingness was unfolding, however, something else was happening that was not so hot. I didn’t know it at the time, but a client of mine later shared her experience—and her disappointment.

Apparently she was in line at the bar during intermission and turned to the woman behind her—someone she didn’t know—to express her excitement about the evening. She said something like:
 

Have you noticed how many men are here tonight?

What my client meant, but didn’t feel the need to say because she thought it was obvious was: “isn’t that different…EXCITING?”

All that excitement came crashing down when the woman she’d spoken to rolled her eyes and said, “I know, they’re totally crashing our party…”

That sort of shit makes my heart break. But I also get it, because at one point at time, I was that woman. I was tired of constantly being surround by men—most of them white—talking to me, about me, on all these platforms. I was tired of not feeling heard and seen. I was tired of not having a space that felt safe or comfortable to me as a woman. And I was tired of not seeing more women on the stage, in the office, grabbing the microphone, or in the spotlight.

So I get it. And yet.

I also know what it’s like to not feel like I belong, to be the one woman in the room, and to feel grateful to have just been invited by a man to join in the conversation. I know what it likes to be included in places where I don’t feel like I belong.
 

Women need to actively invite our men to join us—in our spaces, at our tables, to our gatherings—so we can create change together.

This is what I was thinking about when SheSpeaks wrapped last year.

It’s not about giving men a microphone, having them set the agenda, or asking them to lead. It’s about inviting men to follow our a woman’s lead. It’s about enlisting men as allies and granting them access to the world of women.

How else can we demonstrate what it’s like to be in the presence of a woman leading an audience if we don’t invite men to witness us—to see and feel what it’s like?
 

Leaders are visible, not hidden behind closed doors.

So here’s my challenge to you: invite more men into your world. Let’s show them how we do things as women. Let’s show them what it looks like and how it feels. Let’s show them how alive and vibrant and magic it feels when women feel safe enough to reveal the full wattage of their power—and do it together.

But don’t should yourself over there, okay? I remember how much I craved being in the company of women back when I had no access to it. So if that’s what you’re hungry for right now, than have at it—go nutty, get your needs met with wild abandon, and I will be over here celebrating you.

Just be mindful if you have any of these thoughts, though:

He won’t be able to handle it…
This would freak him out…
He’d feel so out of place….
He’ll probably feel awkward…
He’ll probably say no anyway…
He’s not going to get it…
He’ll just make fun of it…
He’ll ruin it for me…

Check yourself. Is that really true? Or is that just something you’re telling yourself? Have you ever tested those beliefs? Do you want to find out? Do you believe in him? Have you ever told him your concerns? Have you ever expressed how much it means to you—and admitted that you want him to share it with you?
 

Because those things? Those are on us to own as women.

We cannot control what the response or outcome will be, but we can damn sure assume responsibility for extending the invitation.

Now lest you think I’m over here with all this shit figured out, let me offer you a story from my own experience that just happened this morning.

A client of mine let me know that Glennon Doyle will be coming through Boston this Saturday—just three days from now—as part of her Together Live tour. I’m a big fan of Glennon and clearly I’m all about women’s storytelling, so I clicked through to the link, fully expecting to see tickets were sold out months ago.

Happily, there were still some left! And I soon found I was in possession of not one, but two tickets to go to this event Saturday night.

I’ll admit, my first thought was this: What woman do I want to bring with me to this event? After floating the offer by a couple of my badass women, I thought back to my my experience of SheSpeaks and had another thought:
 

I want to share this with my man. This matters to me—and to us.

So I invited him to be my date over text, even though the voice in my head said all the things I listed above….

I didn’t just ask him to come because I couldn’t get anyone else to go with me. I told him how much it meant to me if he would make this event—and my world of women—a priority. And show up to it.
 

His response: I’m in!

Even though he’s tired. Even though, like all of us, he’s been all go, go, go and was looking forward to not going this weekend. Even though he knows he’s going to be in the minority. Even though he might feel uncomfortable, awkward or not welcome.

He’s going not out of obligation or guilt—he’s going because he was asked. And he trusts my invitation.

And sure, he’s an awesome man who was raised by a strong mother and four strong sisters, but still….how often do we underestimate our men? How often do we assume their disinterest and write off their participation in something that is valuable—that matters—without even extending an invitation to them to decide for themselves?
 

That’s on us, women.

So I double dog dare you to join me. Invite your men. Forward this post to the men in your world and see how they respond. Go on record that you’re going to be inviting them to join you in women’s places and spaces more.

Because it matters and it’s time.

Start with SheSpeaks. That event is a great place to start, and people are flying in from all over the country to go to it, but begin by using your own voice today. Use it to actively enlist men as our allies, and see what happens next.
 

Invite men to be a part of our women’s world, and see it as a public service for us all.

______________________________________

Can I get an amen to that? Does any of this resonate with you over there or is this just my truth? If you like what you’ve read here, you’re really gonna dig my second book Ignite: Lighting The Leader Fire which will be released on November 15th. I go into this and much more in this book that is both a heat-seeking memoir and a fiery missive for women to assume the helm. 

Looking for more inspiration and want to meet more of your people? Stay tuned for these upcoming events:

Thursday, December 5th: SheSpeaks, night 1 

Five amazing women will be taking the stage with Lael at SheSpeaks to share their stories at this ever-popular annual event! Tickets are on sale now at One Longfellow Square and going fast, so be sure to get yours early if you want in on it this year!

Friday, December 6th: SheSpeaks, night 2

For the first time ever in the history of SheSpeaks, Lael will be taking center stage for the second evening of SheSpeaks to share stories from her own experience, and will weave together threads from her work with women over the years, as she celebrates the release of her second book, Ignite: Lighting The Leader Fire. Tickets are on sale now via One Longfellow Square and are going fast for this special edition night of SheSpeaks.

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 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! 

The Almighty Point

Posted February 15th, 2019

“What’s the point of doing it if it’s not good?” She asked.

I hear that question so often from clients. Hell, I ask that question so often, myself. So I can appreciate first-hand, how every slight detour or deviation from our “normal” day to day operations are often met with an elaborate vetting system with plenty of checks and balances and hoops to jump through to even give ourselves permission to do it.

At which, point, we’re so thoroughly exhausted from the Roberts Rules of Order in our head, we’ve long-since checked out and given up and crawled deep under the pile of other words that take the fizz out of our ginger ale, like “pragmatic”, “productive”, “valuable”, “good enough”, “worth it”, or my personal favorite “prudent”.

These are all phrases designed to get us “back on track” (who’s track that is, exactly, can be a whole other conversation). Bottomline: we’re off it.

So on that day, when my client asked herself that question, we paused. Rather than barreling through with the assumption there was a point, we actually spent some time actually considering that question—from a place of curiosity, rather than judgment.

She had been trying to carve out some time in her busy life to feed her creativity, deciding that painting was something that she wanted to do more. Except she was noticing she wasn’t—doing it, that is.

It was clear she was hitting something—resistance, fear, overwhelm, or some concoction of all three. Can you relate?

What’s the point of making art if it’s not good?
What’s the point of writing if no one reads it?
What’s the point of making music if no one hears it?
What’s the point of gardening if you don’t grow anything?
What’s the point of fighting for change if there’s always someone who is going to disagree with you?
What’s the point of trying something new if you won’t eventually master it?
What’s the point of slowing down if you will have a pile of work waiting for you when you return?
What’ the point of fresh-cut flowers by your bed if they’ll eventually die and you won’t see them when you sleep?
What’s the point of romance and intimacy if you don’t have an orgasm?
What’s the point of sending a hand-written thank you note, if it’s faster just to send a text or an email? What’s the point of being in a band if you never perform or make money?
What’s the point of giving something if you don’t get credit for it?
What’s the point of having a business if you don’t grow it?
What’s the point of crying if it doesn’t change anything?

What IS the point?

Of beauty?
Of art?
Of pleasure?
Of dreaming?
Of giving?
Of receiving?
Of getting lost?
Of making connections?
Of feeling our emotions?
Of speaking our truth?

Do you see what I’m getting at? We’ve lost our way. Ironically, we’ve missed the point in our feverish attempts to stick the landing of it.

This is the voice we answer to in our society. This is what keeps us in our heads, keeps us up at night, keeps us from trying anything new, scary, or different. This is the voice that makes decisions for us, and this is the judge that we plead our cases before when it comes to desire, pleasure and joy.

And yet our hearts keep beating, and our desire, it just. Keeps. Rising. Wanting.

We’ve lost our way because of our love of the destination, forward progress, the outcome and the return of our investment.

We’ve lost our way because we’ve forgotten that lines aren’t the only form us humans can take. And that there are more crayons for us to color with other than black and white, and maybe a few shades of gray.

We can curve and bend. We can wax and wane. We can ebb and flow. We can rise and set. We can wander and not be lost. We can be present and moving. We can be still and active. We can bleed and not die. We can be silent and engaged.

Women know this all too well, as we are designed to move this way. Naturally.

We are designed to have curves.
We are designed to have cycles.
We are designed to be inconsistent.
We are designed to see webs of interconnectedness.
We are designed to create new life inside ourselves.

But we’ve forgotten that, just like my client did that day.

She wanted to know:

Where am I going with this?
Why does this matter?
How will this help anything?
How is this just not a waste of my time?
What if nothing changes as a result?
What if I suck and people laugh?
What if I’m good and I really am an artist?
What if I can’t stop?
What if I don’t ever want to stop?
What if it makes me cry?
Then what do I do?
What happens next?

Our poor, tired heads…they work so damn hard for us, don’t they?

But here’s the point, beautiful heads:

We’ve forgotten what rapture and presence feel like.

And that is critical to our humanity because it connects us to hope, each other, and this big beautiful blue-green planet we share.

We’ve forgotten how to live from our bodies.

And that is critical because so many of us are sick and tired and something’s gotta give at a time when many of us feel like we’ve got nothing left to offer.

What if it were the other way around?

What if we lived in a world where that values system were flipped, and the “point” didn’t really matter? What if we didn’t give away so much damn power to the “point”? What if the joy, happiness or fulfillment we were seeking, weren’t dependent on being seen, heard, bought or applauded?

What kind of a life would you be living then?

What would our world be like without so many points?

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Intrigued? Want to read more? The above excerpt is right off the pages from the unedited manuscript of my upcoming second book: Witch Ways: The Unspoken Ways Women Create Change. 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! 

The Pattern Of Questions

Posted January 29th, 2019

I don’t know what magic lives in a bathroom, but whenever I’m in the shower I start writing in my head and have my absolute best insights. And whenever I’m going throughout my day with my hair on fire, sometimes the only moment I get to stop — and be with my own thoughts — is when I stop to pee.

Maybe it’s something about water. Or maybe it’s the small, private space reminding me of being in the womb. But there it is. And in case you’re wondering I don’t have some weird fixation on all bathrooms — I assure you I won’t be spending time in yours if I don’t need to be—and I most definitely avoid them in public unless absolutely necessary. No, for me it’s about being in my bathrooms.

Ergo my problem of the ugly and cramped one at my office. It just wasn’t cutting it. So in one of my massive procrastination bouts when I found myself physically spent and damn near brain dead after the release of my first book, I was struck with an idea: I was going to turn that shitty little bathroom into a booth of inspiration! If my clients and I were going to be trapped in there a couple times a day, we were going to be surrounded by a bevvy of images and a plethora of quotes, making it a veritable boon of motivation.

Now if you think about a bathroom, there are two distinct pieces of prime real estate for women (not counting the mirror, because by then I’m all about washing my hands and getting out). The first is the back of the door, and the second is the space right above the toilet paper holder, right? You with me? Ski areas know this, and libraries are also onto this little secret. That’s where they know they’ve got a captive audience.

So naturally I thought long and hard about which of my selected quotes I would put in these two places. I felt a sense of responsibility. After thinking about it, I selected two of my favorites from the lot – the poem Now Works by Danielle LaPorte and The Good Life Project Living Creed (the original, not version 2.0) by Jonathan Fields. Danielle was above the toilet paper, and Jonathan was on the back of the door. And I swear every time I went in there, I felt like they were in there with me — not in a creepy way, but in an ear-whispering, soul connection, kindred spirit way; like I wasn’t alone or crazy in doing this work and saying yes to being on this path.

Danielle whispered insistently from above the toilet paper roll DO IT, Lael….don’t wait a moment longer. I know you’re scared and you can be riddled with doubt, but don’t you dare settle for less that what you know you want…be THAT brave…after all, isn’t that what life is about? Riding it hard and putting it away sweaty!? Whatever it is, Lael…do it NOW. Now WORKS!

Jonathan’s voice was relaxed and quiet, like we were two surfers hanging out together in the ocean sitting on our boards waiting for the next good wave to come along. His was the voice of the philosopher…or the stoner…saying Dude, do what makes you happy…we’re all making this shit up, you know? So if you don’t like what you’re being, tell yourself a different story, you know? Like, we can do that…it’s just a matter of giving ourselves permission and going for it, you know? There are no walls or chains holding us back, those are just in our minds…

I’m realizing as I’m writing these now, that these two are probably as close as I’ll ever come to have a board of directors or an advisory committee. Or even a mentor. I’m that unstructured and informal. Truth be told, I’m an artist. Roberts Rules of Order and Bi-laws will never be welcome in my bathroom.

One day I sat down and I saw this particular line on the Good Life Project Living Creed jump out at me. It read: Genius begins with a burning question, what’s yours? My first response was, “Just one?” It kicked up for me this this envy I have of many people I admire. I once saw a Brené Brown interview in which she had admitted she had never — not even once — watched the TED Talk that made her so famous. The one on vulnerability that went viral seemingly overnight. When asked how that could be, she responded that her decisions are governed by one guiding question, “Does it serve the work?” Apparently, after that massive explosion in popularity of her TED talk, she concluded that watching the video of herself telling that story did not, in fact, serve her work.

Gah! I wanted a governing question so badly in that moment. And now that I was staring at Jonathan Field’s gentle ask about what my burning question was, I was starting to feel like something was wrong with me….like I would never be able to be a gracious host to genius, like I was an unfocussed, unproductive lazy sack of shit who was forever destined to be a classic underachiever. All that is untrue, of course — but I couldn’t help but feel like I was doomed to forever wander aimlessly without something like one of those questions to anchor me. Did I even have a burning question? Why wasn’t I burning?

But if I’m to be really honest — and that’s what we’re doing here, right? — I don’t think I want a governing question to guide me. I don’t want to be burning. I don’t want a hard gaze on any one particular thing. I don’t want to doggedly pursue or ferret out answers to a pointed inquiry. In fact, the more I think about it, I don’t really have much energy around any of the traditional questions such as What, Why or How. Honestly? I kind of don’t want to know the answer to those. They just don’t give me juice.

How is it, then, that I’ve managed to design an entire business around my ability to be curious?

Because what does give me juice is noticing patterns in things — hearing, seeing or experiencing something and being able to recognize an arc that binds them together like a luminous thread. Pulling back from a multitude of data points and inputs and saying, Huh, have you ever noticed that this piece and that piece always seem to be present when that thing happens? It’s what my clients pay me to do every day with them — to help them see themselves in their lives as they’re living into a particularly bold stretch of their journey.

Apparently that’s what creatives do in the world. The performance artist, Amanda Palmer, totally nailed this realization for me when I was reading her book The Art of Asking. She said that the hallmark of artists is that we collect things, we connect things, and we share them with the world. Amanda talks about seeing a leaf as a young child and saying, have you ever noticed that the veins in a leaf look like the back of your hand? She says that sometimes the lights go on in their eyes which made the sharing worth it. And sometimes she’d get laughed at.

That. Is. Me. I think it’s why so many people refer to me as a storyteller — something that I had never set out to become, nor saw myself becoming.

While I don’t believe in having one governing question to guide my life, I can’t help but notice a clustering of questions that has emerged as I’ve been working with women one-on-one and in small groups and large communities over the years. Rather like the subtle rock pilings called cairns that mark trails above treeline or the faded blazes on trees or boulders along a pilgrimage, these questions have consistently appeared over and over to me throughout the years—enough so they form a pattern.

What’s happening to me?
Can I really want this?
What the hell am I doing?
Am I willing to make an ass of myself?
Can we be done yet?

Houston, we have a pattern. And an ancient one, at that. When you consider how a woman grows, births and nourishes another human life inside her body, these questions are often present for her. When you consider falling in love, these questions ring true. Something deep within each of us knows how to be guided by these questions—to see them as markers of movement— and yet…we have forgotten them in our relentless quest for “knowing”.

Inside these questions live our desires—the hopes, dreams, possibilities that inspire us to get out of bed every morning and believe in ourselves and each other, to believe in the power of love, the beauty of our world, and the gift of contributing to our conversation. These questions ask us to unearth and give voice to what lives inside our hearts, so that we might manifest it outwardly as an offering to our world.

Inside these questions live our humanity—the doubts, fears, and anxieties that bind us to each other as humans on this planet, reminding us that we are not alone and independent, but are all connected and therefore interdependent. These questions ask us to reckon with our discomfort so that we can rein in our unchecked egos.

Inside these questions live our humility—our insecurities, imperfections, and organic nature that remind us that we are animals and not machines, and as such are limited, inconsistent, and always changing. These questions ask us to live with the paradox of I’m not that special/important and I am special/I matter.

Inside these questions is a call to action and service—to assume responsibility for the life we have been given, and to get busy living it as an active, creative, resourceful and whole participant, and not a numbed, passive or entitled spectator. These questions ask us to be self-serving so that we may be of service to others.

These are the questions of a seeker, a sojourner, a pilgrim. These are also the questions of a misfit, a rebel, an artist. This is me, and these are the people who gravitate to me.

To be led by these questions requires a boatload of trust and a willingness to hold multiple truths. It also demands that we move in the face of the unknown, feel our way forward, and learn to navigate ambiguity, contradictions and messy terrain.

Notice I didn’t say it requires comfort, skill, patience, grace or a fancy degree? Nope. Those are myths I intend to debunk on these pages.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

The above story is an excerpt from the unedited manuscript of my upcoming second book: Witch Ways: The Unspoken Ways Women Create Change. 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.

 

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.