Get Your Groove On, Virginia

Posted January 20th, 2017

Mrs. Claus and I had a rather spirited exchange this past Christmas season. It came on the heels of my SheSpeaks storytelling evening — the one in which I wore a long red dress, made an entrance strutting through the sold out crowd to Christina Aquilera’s Show Me How You Burlesque, stood proudly in the bright hot white light on the stage, and let it rip with my whole heart.

I have never felt sexier and more powerful in my life than I did that night.

And then I got offstage, went home, took off the dress and went back to normal life. No entrance song, no lights, no white hot lights, no stage. Just my everyday life, plus a sink full of dishes and a pile of back-logged work I’d put off until after the event. The magic was gone. Or so I thought.

It never occurred to me that I had woken up and tapped into something vital in me.

Shortly after that, we got busy with our preparations for the holidays, which included shopping for presents. Our two boys have historically written to Santa Claus each year, so I began prompting them to get on that task stat. My fourteen- year-old rolled his eyes and gave me the all-knowing wink that assured me he was going along with whole “believe in Santa” bit for the sake of his younger brother.

His brother, now 9, looked at me point blank and asked: “Do you believe in Santa Claus, Mom?” I gave him the same answer I have consistently given both of our kids over the years — and to myself in my life: “I believe in things we cannot see with our eyes. I also believe in magic. So yes, I choose to believe.”

And then I thought: “…or do I?” Because this past November’s election tested that belief mightily. I felt as if I had used up every last ounce of my hope in the years leading up to that one day, like I was swimming up to the surface from the bottom of a very deep lake using one big breath. Except I didn’t break through the surface. It just moved further away…like it was in sight of me, but not possible to get to. It was like that scene from the movie Passengers when  Jennifer Lawrence is swimming in the pool when the gravity lock stops working, and all of a sudden there is no surface, just a blob of floating water with her trapped in it. In the movie, gravity eventually kicks in again and all the water splashes back into the pool and she finally breaks through to air. But this? This shit is real. And I panicked, then got furious, until despair moved in.

Do I still believe? Back in December, I was struggling with this. 

We all ended up sitting down to write Santa Claus one night as we usually do, but I chose to direct my letter to the woman behind the scenes: Mrs. Claus. The one, I suspected, that keeps the entire operation running smoothly at the pole. I decided I would talk to her as I never have before, woman to woman.

It might sound strange, but writing that letter to an archetypal female was like sending out a prayer into the universe: Show me how to do this. Help me. 

And then the strangest thing started to happen. In the days and weeks that followed, I got some very clear messages and started to see the same things replicating over and over…things that didn’t make sense or seem related at first. Until they did.

I started to hear women talk about the familiar topic of self-care in new and different ways…like they meant it this time. For real. No more half-assing it. As if ensuring they stay whole and healthy was now much higher of a priority — even as the flurry of the end of the year activities kicked into high gear.

It’s like women were starting to get the direct connection to their own vitality and their ability to affect change. 

Somewhere in the mix, those conversations with my friends and clients (and myself) were shifting away from concerns about guilt and feeling selfish or self-indulgent to being about their ability to be more fully of service and the desire to assume responsibility for ourselves as women with more reverence.

One evening as my women’s circle gathered we were talking about the feminine (being feminine, the Divine Feminine, feminine energy), and the topic of our sexuality came up, as it often does. Someone mentioned that she thought she’d feel feminine when she became sexually active, but when she really felt it for the first time was when she learned she was capable of giving herself an orgasm. All. By. Herself. We talked about the power of being able to give and receive our own pleasure, and what an inherently loving act that is: Self-care. The words Queen and Goddess entered into the conversation having it, again, feel more reverent, as we started to envision our bodies as alters.

Photo credit: Anita DoreI was reminded of the story told on stage at SheSpeaks about the intersection of our sexuality and our spirituality and how it is has been systematically severed through our enculturation, education and religious doctrines. She called it a form of bullshit oppression.

“If our bodies are holy, then sex is worship”, she said.

That very same message seemed to be everywhere I looked after that. I felt as if Mrs. Claus was whispering hot sweet nothings into my ear all the way from the icy north pole. And I was listening.

I finally picked up Regena Thomashauer’s latest book Pussy: A Reclamation one night and I read:

“I had never thought to look at myself like this, to notice my own beauty….to my utter surprise, when I looked for my beauty, I was completely enraptured with my reflection. I found myself to be so radiant, so lovely, and so touchingly gorgeous…I realized in that moment that women have no clue about our own beauty; no clue about the connection between pleasure and time; no clue about this deep, delicious, endless replenishing source of divinity within each of us.”

Wait, what? Pleasure is my access point to an endless source of Divinity? And it lives inside my body? Whoa Nellie.

But it made sense. Something deep and wise inside me knew this. I had just forgotten how to find my way back to it amidst the shame, guilt, noise and all those walking heads preaching something entirely different. My body knew it was true. It always does. It’s just a matter of reconnecting my body to my head, and pleasure, I was learning, is the glue that will bind them together again.

I started to dig around some more and then found this in Christiane Northrup’s book Goddess Never Age:

“Our bodies are not designed to limit or contain our pleasure. They are meant to experience it as the medicine it truly is…If you want to live healthfully and as a goddess, you need to know how to work with your innate sex drive and spiritual life force, bringing it down into your pelvic organs and your female erotic anatomy. Spirituality and sexuality are two aspects of the same thing, despite the fact that they have been separated by many cultures and many religious for millennia.”

Medicine. Pleasure as medicine. What a delicious concept.

I thought back to how I felt that night on stage in that red dress, and how I had brought intention and a boatload of permission to myself leading up to that event to revel in my body with reverence — as if I were showering it with gratitude for being the container that allowed my spirit to stand in that light, be seen, and ultimately be of service. As if I were a holy offering — a wholly offering. I had finally done what one of my wise friends suggested I do years ago:

Find out who you are and adore yourself accordingly. 

But what about the regular days? When the sink is full of dishes and the magic feels far, far away? How could I bring that intention and permission I had given so generously to myself on stage to my everyday life? To the non-special days.

A trip to Target gave me a clue. I happen to be trolling the shoe aisles looking for winter boots for my kid, and my eye caught these thigh-high black suede boots with three inch heels. Now, I’m a pretty tall woman in bare feet, so when I wear heels, I’m extremely tall — people inevitably make the comment “You’re SO tall!”, as if I’ve stepped outside the bounds of acceptable size and taken up more than my fair share of space in the world.

But I couldn’t stop staring at the boots. And I swear I heard Mrs. Claus’s saucy voice in my ear breathing, “yeeesssssss.” So I bought them not knowing why…All I knew is when I put them on, something in me went “yeeeeessssss”. And when I coupled them with something spicy, the volume of that affirmation turned up even louder.

I didn’t want to wait for a special occasion any more. I wanted to be my own special occasion. I didn’t want to wait for a reason. I wanted to be the reason.

I was ready to embody who I am more fully and adorn myself accordingly. Just because I can. 

And the final bit of intel this whole conversation with Mrs. Claus gave me is this: I need to move my body more. I need to dance. I need to get my groove on more frequently so I could feel my hips move in circles and remember that I’m living in a woman’s body. And I need to do this in the company of other women who are also hungry for that movement, so we can feel the collective power — that “endless replenishing source of divinity” — that lives inside our bodies as it wakes up and comes out.

So I did. On Friday, January 13th I held a women’s benefit dance called HerMojo, and women came out in droves to dance out their prayers and find their swagger again — all for a good cause (resulting in a gift of $900 to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England). Together we swirled and stomped and sweat, and I was so keenly aware that somewhere in the magic of that evening prayers were being said with our bodies and visions for change were being conjured.

Medicine” was the word I heard again and again that night.  And it was.

I share all this with you because if you’re feeling at all like I was back in December — at a loss of what to do, angry or full of despair — check in with your body and see if it’s glued to your head these days. And if it’s not, reach for some pleasure (which I will tell you is heretical, but if you’ve read this far you’re probably good with that). Take a bath by candlelight, buy yourself some flowers for your bedroom, feed yourself chocolate, adorn yourself with oils, do something that makes you feel sexy, take yourself out to listen to live music and dance with wild abandon, or make love to yourself. But find your way back to your endless source of divinity that is waiting patiently somewhere inside you.

That thing I felt on stage that night? It wasn’t about the event or the dress. It was about the energy I had tapped into and allowed to flow through me. It was eros – that distinctly feminine expression of desire. As Regena Thomashauer writes about, it was that “golden buttery caramel feeling” that was fueling my vitality that night, having me feel like a Queen or a Goddess. Worthy of reverence. That is what I’m talking about. And it’s in you, too. We’ve all got it and we don’t need a stage to access it. It’s ours for the taking each day.

So find it. Grab ahold and adore it accordingly. It’s good medicine.

Just ask Mrs. Claus, the saucy vixen.

Want to get your groove on?

Come join me on February 16th for An Unscripted Evening
For those of you who attended SheSpeaks (or missed it, but heard about it), this might be for you. It’s essentially my version of a revival for heretics, misfits, rabble rousers and mavericks. Part storytelling, part improv, part book reading (not necessarily my own), this evening is me at my most real and authentic self. It’s me: Unscripted. In a sanctuary. Tickets are on sale now via Brown Paper Tickets.

Listen to and/or follow my podcast An Unscripted Woman
If you haven’t checked this out already, this is basically my creative response to requests for an audio version of my book. I’ve had a bit of a hiatus from this over the holidays, but will be loading up new episodes soon (so thanks for asking!). In each episode I read a chapter from my book and also do a riff at the end about what I’ve learned, noticed, and am aware of since writing it.

Check out the new events I’ve got coming up this late winter/early spring on my homepage
I’ve got some new experiences lined up for those of you who are not local to Maine, but might be hankering to connect. And yes, I believe I’ll be offering another HerMojo benefit dance sometime in April… Fun! Also, the video of my story I told at October’s SoundBites just became available, if you missed that event but want to check it out.

Anger Advocacy

Posted December 16th, 2016

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

So what do I plan to do about it?

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

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

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

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

Life In The Area

Posted November 15th, 2016

This is a repost from something I wrote last year. At the time, I was poised to release my book into the world, and writing this helped me to name what I was feeling. A year later, I find myself returning to my own words in a different context, but with a similar intention: To name what I am feeling in the wake of this election. Unlike when I wrote this, what I find myself facing today is not simply an exercise of navigating “what if…”, but engaging in the stark reality “here we are…” 

This is me throwing another rock to create ripples of change — for myself and others. And this is me, still standing in the arena, resisting my familiar urge to fight for change (for like you, I am tired of that stale strategy), and challenging myself to live my life as a prayer — asking myself what that means and how that looks for me today. I am sitting with that actively. And, like you,  I am mustering the courage to find out. 

When I posted this last fall, it received 2,500 hits in just a couple of hours — telling me, once again, I was not alone and had struck a resonant chord for many. Perhaps it will resonate again in the light (or darkness) of a new day. 

Originally posted: 9.25.16

View More: http://melissamullen.pass.us/shechangesMy son and I sat on the couch last night and looked at the proof for the cover of my book. He nodded, and then got really quiet. I asked him why.

“I’m afraid you’re going to get bullied.”

I was speechless. His one comment touched on two raw nerves of mine: 1) the intense vulnerability I am feeling in releasing this book into the world and 2) my sadness that he is growing up in a world that has kids fearing the likely reality – not just for themselves, but for their parents – of being bullied.

I don’t remember being afraid for my parents.

And he’s right. I am terrified. Even as I move forward. Because it is a reality I face. I support my clients in facing down that fear daily in my work, and with this latest creative endeavor of mine, I know that feeling all too well in my own bones.

Here’s the likely reality:

Someone will think what I’ve written is a crock of shit, a load of bunk, or pointless drivel

Someone will call me an entitled white bitch, an angry feminist, or a self-absorbed narcissist

View More: http://melissamullen.pass.us/shechangesSomeone will take offense to what I’ve written and will reciprocate by offending me

I’ll be called stupid, foolish, delusional or a whack job

Someone will say that buying my book is a waste of good money or reading it is a waste of valuable time

Someone will find a typo or a grammatical error on page 46 (to name just one) and will use it as evidence of my stupidity

Someone will say they are disappointed by my book…that they expected it to be better, more, different

Someone will feel the need to inform me of all the nasty and mean-spirited things being said about me that I might have missed

Some of these people will be well-intentioned, but many will not. Because sadly, that is the reality of the world we face. Monica Lewinsky’s TED talk touched on this, pointing out that we have made public shaming a blood sport in our society.

I’m not being dramatic. I’m being realistic. Even as I move forward.

When I think of “blood sport”, I think of gladiators and how they entered the arena knowing there was a strong likelihood they would die. They entered the arena with the intention of fighting for their life in front of a crowd that was hungry for blood to be spilled. I remember a similar sensation when I went to a monster truck rally with my sister, feeling an embarrassingly strong desire for some horrific crash to happen. Blood.

Part of me knows it is in our nature as humans to be drawn to death – we do it every day when we slow down at the scene of an accident: it’s called rubber-necking. But social media has taken this sometimes event and turned it into an everyday occurrence. It’s the new normal.

Brene Brown’s TED talk revealed her own experience with this phenomenon when she first sought to engage us with topics like shame, humiliation and vulnerability. I saw her speak recently to a sold out audience for her latest book tour, Rising Strong. She shared the story that helped me finally get off my ass over a year ago and start to write my book that was inside me.

Her story was about sitting in bed one morning in the weeks after releasing one of her books, and reading – even though she promised herself she wouldn’t do it – the scathing comments on Amazon. She was called fat and ugly and other horrific hurtful things.

It broke her heart, and damn near broke her spirit.

2015-09-25 10.26.30And then, she stumbled upon a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that helped her to see her own bravery – for having the courage to step into the arena and get messy, maybe even fail.

In that moment, she decided she would only take feedback from those who were also in the arena – those brave souls out there with her that were also taking risks, doing something that scared the shit out of them, and doing so publicly – agreeing to have their endeavors (good, bad or ugly) be seen by the masses, and consenting to be vulnerable.

Hearing her story was the catalyst for me saying yes to this book – for me going into the bowels of the arena, taking the creaky elevator up, and stepping out in the bright light, knowing there are most likely lions lurking and ready to pounce.

I want to be one of those brave people – like Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games, when she first arrives in the arena with the other tributes, many of whom become allies.

Except I’m not going to engage in a battle. I’m not going fight in the arena – I’ve done that, been there, bought the t-shirt. And I’m tired. It’s an exhausting strategy.

View More: http://melissamullen.pass.us/shechangesI’ve decided I’m simply going to be present in the arena – to stand on my patch of dirt and to live my life as a form of prayer. To burn with an intention so bright, I am luminous and able to be seen clearly by others.

A Living Prayer. I write about this in my book, but what I essentially mean by that statement is that I want to live life with the intention – for me, for women, for us all – to be free. To be who we are without all the apologies, explanations, justifications, qualifications, and ramifications.

Because I want more people in the arena. I want a crowd. A village. A party. A revolution.

I want the arena to be where it’s at, and I want the stands for spectators to feel barren and desolate…unappealing to the masses.

So I’m being very public with my experience of writing this book – which includes my process of entering the arena. Brene Brown (and Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, Glennon Doyle Melton, Anne Lamott, Danielle LaPorte, Tama Kieves, Christiane Northrup…as so many more) did it for me, so I’m paying it forward.

If you’ve found your way to SheChanges and you’ve stumbled upon this – and read this far – I’m going to take a wild guess that you are poised to enter the arena in some capacity.

So for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Shame doesn’t help
Trying to talk myself out of my fear by telling myself I have no reason to feel it? That is just piling shame on top of fear – a toxic stew for the soul. And yet it’s so seductive, it lures you in without even realizing it, like sirens on the rocks. Here’s how that looks: just this morning, I stumbled upon an interview with Aberash Bekele, a Ethiopian woman who was imprisoned at the age of 14 for three years for killing her abuctor-cum-husband, only to be released, exiled from her country and family, having to go silent about her experience for fear of her life being taken. THAT woman has right to be afraid, not me – the western white woman with advanced degrees and a life of privilege. What right do I have to be afraid? Truth? Absolutely – a solid case. Helpful? Not in the least. Shame silences soul whispers and snuffs out desire. It tells us we are not worthy and have no right to feel what we feel or want what we want. There are plenty of people who will do it for you, and we have no control over that. But what I’m learning is how to catch myself when I am actively participating in my own shame.

Naming and feeling your fear feels counter-intuitive, but it greases the skids and helps you move forward
Wanting something with your whole heart means you run the risk of getting heartbroken. It just does. I sat with a client yesterday who was poised to go after her dream with her whole heart, and had hired me to hold her to that intention. We talked about how “scared” and “uncomfortable” would be her new metrics of success. When we started to drill down to specifics and brass tacks, I saw what I often see in my clients (and have felt in my own bones): paralysis. Fear moves into terror, which has us want to hold perfectly still – not breathing, not moving a muscle, hoping the feeling will recede. But it doesn’t go away. It lingers, and we soon find ourselves stuck and lacking oxygen. This was the case with my client yesterday and when I paused at that moment and asked what she was feeling, she burst into sobs and was unable to speak. What we touched was her fear: what if I do this and I fail? By touching it, we honored it – we made it right, we allowed that fear to come into the light of day and have an audience with us. Which allowed the death grip to be loosened, the breath to return, and the body to relax and feel safe again.

Hang around with brave people
This one is tricky to navigate. What I’m talking about is not the people who necessarily comfort you, but those who inspire you to come out from behind yourself (into the arena). Many times they are in the arena themselves. But more often than not, they are the people that don’t see you in harms way or in danger – they see you on an adventure or a mission. They don’t soothe as much as they agitate, like that cycle in the washer that gets out the stubborn stains. In the coaching world, we call this technique “calling forth” someone – locking eyes, saying “I see you”, and standing fiercely beside them in the face of fear (or doubt, anxiety, the unknown, obstacles…) Brave people are the ones that see life as an adventure to be lived. Brave people have fallen down and would do it again in a heartbeat. Brave people know how to “feed your strengths…pet the tigers…and don’t worry about the amoebas”, as Tama Kieves writes about in This Time I Dance. Brave people love you too much to have you stay where you are. Find them.

Shake it off…literally
Rochelle Schieck, founder of Qoya (although she’s quick to admit Qoya founded her) taught me something so valuable when I attended one of her dance experiences this past summer at Meggan Watterson’s REVEAL immersion at Kripalu. Her premise is that when women dance, they remember they are wise, wild, and free. At some point during this guided dance experience, she tells a story about a gazelle being chased by a lion. She points us back to our animal instincts, when she shares that after the gazelle is out of harms way it begins to shake. All over. Not because it’s afraid, but because it is systematically inviting the fear to exit its body, one appendage at a time. So she has women do that – shaking hands, hips, butts, heads, feet – showing us how the earth is able to receive that fear from us and use it as compost. The result? More lightness, heat, and vitality. Try it. Shake one hand really hard for ten seconds or so, and then stop and hold it up next to your other hand. Notice a difference. Yea. So if you’re feeling scared, nervous, anxious, overwhelmed, overcome: shake.

Ask for what you need
And know that this will change, sometimes daily. This is often the hardest bit for women, because asking for what we need takes us into the realm of feeling selfish, guilty or needy (all variations of the shame theme above). Having navigated this over the last year, I found the muscle I’ve needed to strengthen the most was providing specific direction to those in my life on how I needed them to be with me. For instance, I would tell my husband and sons that I was in a deeply creative hole, and so if I seemed overly distracted or preoccupied, I need them to understand it was because I wasn’t really here in this realm, but was far, far away – deep inside myself. In another example, I told a group of women I meet with regularly that I just needed to give voice to my shame so that it could be witnessed by someone outside myself, asking them to resist the urge to rescue, fix or soothe me in that moment.  What this has required of me is a degree vigilance and self-awareness I didn’t know I possessed. But when I was able to connect my needs to the service I was seeking to honor by writing this book, I was somehow able to become a better wing woman for myself.

Figure it out as you go
The phrase “I don’t know” has become a familiar traveling companion over the past twelve months. In fact, not only am I saying that phrase with more frequency, but I’m also believing it. I never thought I’d get to that point, but it speaks volumes to my relationship to the unknown and the degree to which I’ve had to acclimate to feeling uncomfortable, exposed, and vulnerable. Because the reality is, as my friend Kate has been known to say, “none of us know what the fuck we’re doing.”  I have taken such solace from that over the past year. It’s what has helped me not feel so alone. I used to look at accomplished women and tell myself a story about how confident, supported and fearless they must feel. Then I heard Kate’s mother, Christiane Northrup speak in front of a group of women this summer about how being at the edge is always lonely. Always. With tears in her eyes and a heart full of gratitude, she shattered my perception of her life – having me see that just because she has written countless books, done PBS specials and been interviewed on multiple occasions by Oprah, she was no less impervious to fear and vulnerability than I am. Fear, it seems, is a constant companion at the edge – and in the arena. Necessity is the mother of invention. Feeling fear (and doubt and insecurity) is an prerequisite to figuring it out.

View More: http://melissamullen.pass.us/shechanges

So I will not be engaging in a battle in the arena. I will be living my prayer and inviting you to do the same.

I will be thinking about the wise friend of mine who told me that my job was to throw my rocks into the water – and to stop expecting to see all the ripples it creates.

“Just keep throwing rocks, Lael.” 

I will be thinking about the woman I will most likely never hear from or read about. The one who picks up my book in the middle of the night, relates to something I’ve written, and doesn’t feel so alone as a result.

I’ll be thinking about her.

She will have made my trip into the arena worth every moment.

Want to learn more about being a living prayer?

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

Make a plan, rally your friends, and reserve your ticket to SheSpeaks for December 8th
If you’re looking for some mojo, some inspiration, some light in the darkness, or some kindred spirits, SheSpeaks is for you. It’s an evening of women’s storytelling I’m hosting on December 8th. This will be the 7th SheSpeaks I’ve held (and it’s generally a sold out event) but the first time that I’ll be holding it since writing/releasing my book. And the theme? A Living Prayer. Eight speakers will be taking the stage to explore that theme with me that night at One Longfellow Square, and tickets are flying off the shelves. So if you want in, make a plan and don’t delay — tickets are on sale now at One Longfellow Square.

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

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

Be on the look out for some of my favorite blog posts to be reposted this month 

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.

My Latest Leap

Posted June 23rd, 2016

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

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

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

Brave people. 

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

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

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

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

So here’s my latest endeavor.

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

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

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

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

Here’s to leaping. Together.

Word Food

Posted October 8th, 2015

2015-10-08 09.17.53I am a huge fan of words. I have often said that my idea of heaven is being alone in a bookstore with no sense of time, just being able to roam endlessly among all those words.

Books are my happy worm holes.

I have been known to spend days – weeks, sometimes months – with my face winced in something akin to physical pain as I search for just the right word to describe an experience I’m having, an event I’m creating, or, most recently, a book I’m writing.

But it’s always so worth it, because when I finally find it – or more aptly feel it land in my bones – it’s such a delicious treat, like warm, dark chocolate mixed with a dollop of honey and a dash of cayenne melting on my tongue.

Words are my ultimate accessory.

I wear them like earrings, stack them like bangles and wrap them around me like the most luxurious pashmina. I’ve never been a fan of gems or jewels – much to my mom’s chagrin who insists to this day that I will eventually love them. Words are my jewels, and I wear them like a priestess.

Upon my death, I would love nothing more than if those whose lives I have touched gift me with their favorite word, writing it in red and kissing it before offering it to the ground with my ashes. Morbid, I guess, but I think about these things.

Words like “fecund”, “luminous” and “effervescent” send electric currents of pleasure through my body. Indeed, I do believe words have the potential to be the ultimate sex toy. And don’t just take my “word” for it…read some poetry or pick up some erotica and try it for yourself.

For many women, the right word has the ability to transport us to the feminine energy in ourselves like a high-speed lane – traffic jams, red lights or construction zones be damned. It’s right up there with nature and movement when it comes portals that help us to plug into our bodies and our truth.

I love fiction, but what really nourishes my soul are the stories women tell about their own lives. The ones that make me weep and laugh and moan. The ones that make me not feel so alone. Or crazy. Those books.

In fact, it was that very gratitude I have felt many times from reading another woman’s story was the inspiration for my own book’s dedication:

For the woman who feels alone. Or crazy. Or both.

2015-09-14 10.59.40Those are the women for whom I wrote Unscripted – the ones who lay awake at night thinking, “Am I nuts…does everyone else have this figured out but me?”

[And for those of you who have asked about the latest ETA on my book’s release…an update: I’m doing a “clean read” of the final manuscript this weekend, and am on track to upload it to CreateSpace on Oct 19…which would hopefully put me on track to release it by Halloween (how perfectly auspicious, right?) So almost there!]

One of the hardest things I’ve had to do over the past year in writing this book out of me, is to intentionally cut myself off from those books that nourish me the most – the stories written for and told by women. Why? Because I had to go down into my own worm hole (so to speak…). I had to tune out all the other voices of women so I could hear just my voice in this noisy world…to create a void for the quiet whisperings of my soul to talk to me.

That was really, really hard. And I can’t tell you how many times over the past year, I’ve picked up and put down books stacked beside my bed written by Amy Poeler, Meggan Watterson, Kitty Cavalier, Amanda Palmer, Sera Beak, Christiane Northrup and Brene Brown with a reverent nod, promising, “someday soon, my tasty morsel…I’ll be back for you.”

And I’m happy to report: That day has come. There are days I never thought it would, but sweet mercy, it’s here! And just in time, too. Right on track – even despite my impatience and fit-throwing foot-stomping.

Having read my own manuscript no less than eight times cover to cover – after having been brought to my knees writing it – and with my last “clean read” in sight, I cannot tell you how excited I am to tuck into someone else’s words and stories other than my own. Honestly. The prospect literally makes me drool and, no, I’m not being overly-dramatic.

2015-10-08 09.19.09Yesterday, while I was waiting for one of my clients to arrive, I literally turned the wheel of my year. I have this framed wheel in my office that represents all the seasons, the elements, months and, of course, words I associate with each season.

Turning that wheel a quarter turn four times a year, helps me to orient myself with the seasons of me, turning my attention and intentions toward the invitations embedded in each season. People have called this framed thing,  “art”, but I’ve always resisted that notion, seeing it as entirely functional. Let’s just say it’s functional art I made.

So yesterday I turned the wheel a quarter so that the fall – September, October, and November – was on the top left, and the winter – December, January, and February – came onto the scene, stage right. I had a moment of grief – for the summer that had passed (it was an insanely good one), and for the year I had spent writing this book (now it would live in print instead of my body).  Turning that wheel yesterday gave myself permission to grieve what has passed and to move into what is becoming.

I went home that night and finally – blessedly! – felt ready to read another woman’s story. Sure, I still did that thing I do – reading the acknowledgments first, checking the front matter for the publisher, reading her bio, making note of how she chose to format her book – but mostly, I allowed myself to be fed by another woman’s story.

And it was so damn nourishing, slaking my parched soul instantly.

2015-10-03 17.20.39The book was literally called The Book of She, and it arrived on my doorstep this past weekend after having pre-ordered it six months ago. I have long since been a fan of Sara Avant Stover’s, so I was delighted to lay my hands on this book that I knew came from the depths of her soul.

A soul sister’s soul.

My eyes landed on a particular phrase as she set the context for what she calls the Heroine’s Journey: “…the feminine teaches most potently through storytelling…

I put the book down and wept. 

The full magnitude of my book – and what I had put in it – started to flow into my heart. I had just spent over a year of my life gathering, writing and weaving together pieces of my story. Many, many pieces. Which means that I had been generating nourishment for the feminine of any woman – or man – who chooses to feast on it.

This was me feeding the collective feminine in us. 

I felt so honored, and bowed my head in gratitude at the gift I had been given to write this book. I bowed to myself (such a new behavior for me) with gratitude for saying yes to that ask. I bowed to the feminine, for patiently waiting for us to get ripe and ready. And finally, I bowed to all those people out there who are courageously giving the feminine a voice and an honored seat at our table so it starts to flow over us in wave after wave, nourishing our tired bodies and worn out spirits.

I felt pride – as if I had brought a really good dish to a pot luck dinner. It turns out my words are food. And my book – the one I hope to put in your hands very soon – was me replenishing some word food from others that had nourished me over the years.

And with that happy and full heart, I tucked into a good book and ate.

Food For Thought: Your Worth

Posted June 10th, 2015

2015-06-03 14.47.09This is the latest in a video series I’m calling “Food for Thought”, where I explore a topic that seems to be really present and relevant among the women I know – which includes me.

Since posting this video on my YouTube Channel last week and hearing how it’s resonated with women in the SheChanges community, it seems like it’s a timely topic – one that is collectively being chewed on by women.

Rock on. For all you’re worth.

My Next New Thing: Food For Thought

Posted June 3rd, 2015

2015-06-03 14.46.09I am always so grateful when a period of intense introspection is rewarded by a sudden burst of inspiration.

Argh…BOOM! Ahhhhh…. YES!

It so good to get to the other side after walking over hot coals (which to be clear, means having myself sit still, “do” nothing, blow shit off, let the house look like a bomb went off in it, make space, get silent, and go inward…) Good times, indeed, let me tell ya. But so worth it.

That was the case for me earlier this week. When I got clear (again) on why I’m here, what that means to me now, and why it matters. But most importantly, it had me arrive at the doorstep of what comes next.

Here is the back story on my “what comes next” moment with myself and what I intend to do about it.

Sourcing New Stories

Posted May 30th, 2014

2012-10-06 11.26.26I’ve been playing around with the idea of our stories as a source – and how the things we tell ourselves ABOUT ourselves can guide us…but only up to a point. My most recent thought about this is that around mid-life, our stories start to run out of gas…we reach the end of the line with them and they start to give us diminishing returns.

When you think about it, the stories we collect and share are really just evidence of the beliefs we hold dear. They serve to reinforce themselves time and time again each time we share them. Until they run out of gas and sputter out.

One such belief of mine is “I’m a fighter”.

I’ve long cherished this belief about myself, and have countless stories I could tell – of my childhood and having been completely deaf for nearly a year before anyone realized it…  living with my mom as she navigated a drawn-out and nasty divorce…being a division one runner…to being a woman working in the corporate world – that would serve as evidence to reinforce that belief of me being a fighter. Scrappy. Resourceful. Resilient. Fierce. Strong.

Earlier this year, my eldest son and I got totally sucked into the Divergent book series. The book is based on a dystopian society, where at the age of 16 you have to make a choice to identify with one of five factions – each one valuing a particular quality. We both flew through the books, knowing the movie was coming out soon, and were eager to compare notes. We both wanted to know which faction WE would have chosen for ourselves.

In my mind, it was a clear cut choice for me – a no-brainer, plain as the noise on my face. I would have chosen the Dauntless faction. This was the faction that valued courage above all else. They were the warriors of the society, totally badass – physically capable, mentally strong, fiercely loyal.

But I didn’t say any of this, I just asked my son to guess my faction. He looked at me thoughtfully, and said, “I’m thinking you’d either be Amity (which valued Harmony) or Abnegation (which valued selflessness)”. My jaw dropped. Images flashed through my mind from my life, and I felt ridiculously close to having an identity crisis.

How could my son not see me more clearly? How could he not get that my most treasured quality is courage?

After all, this was the SAME son, who when he was six on our vacation at a lake house accidentally knocked over a steel davit– one of those big hooks that held boats away from the docks – in such a way that it actually fell down on top of him, pinning the skinniest part of him to the ground. Had it not been for a railroad tie by his feet that acted like a fulcrum displacing some of the weight, he would have been crushed.  I heard his screams and came running outside. Without hesitation, I lifted up the davit and told him to drag himself out from under it, which he did. He was rattled, as were we, and we went to the ER to make sure he had no internal damage. “How much did that davit weigh?”, I heard the Doctor ask my husband. “About 500 lbs, the same weight as my motorcycle.” My jaw dropped. I had heard about mothers lifting cars off their children, but I honestly didn’t believe it. It hadn’t felt that heavy, but try as I might later that night, I could NOT lift that davit one inch off the ground.

Surely that act alone, would qualify me for the Dauntless faction.

In many ways, that’s who I am. I rally, I rise, I respond to the call, ready for action. Ready to fight, if need be. So as I listened to my son that day, I could feel myself DIGGING in. HOLDING ON.

Around this same time, I was reading the Desire Map and trying to solidify my five words that best described how I wanted to feel in life.  I put DAUNTLESS right at the top of my list. Other words followed like POTENT and RESOURCEFUL and SHINING. I wrote them on a pink sticky and posted them in my office.

And then the strangest thing happened. I noticed that every time I saw them, I felt exhausted. Drained. Uninspired. I sighed a lot when I looked at them. They depleted me just hanging out on a stickie, let alone considering putting them into action.

I told one of my friends, “It’s like all the fight has gone out of me.”

What I’ve come to appreciate through the convergence of a bunch of other events since that day, it that my masculine energy in me – the fighter in me – has been tapped one too many times. Depleted. It’s simply not working for me like it used to. It’s a story that has told itself out, making way for a new story to emerge – one where The Feminine energy in me is the main character. Which, to be quite honest, is a completely foreign concept to me.

When I went to an energy worker earlier this year, she said, “Hmph. Your entire body – especially your lymphatic system (the fluids that house your emotion and spirit) is stuck in fight mode. And fight is just another form of protection. Which means your body is afraid….and has been for many, many lifetimes. It seems it’s all you’ve ever known.” Oh. So I asked her what she thought I should do.

“Do? There is no doing here. Only feeling. And being. Everything right now needs to flow from your heart, not your head.”

Shit. Then I asked, “For how long?” And she just smiled. 

Yielding. That’s what I’m talking about here.

Yielding as means of sourcing my Feminine energy. It’s all about opening, receiving, allowing, and feeling my way as I go. Allowing myself to feel vulnerability as I’ve never felt it before. No fighting, no rising up, nothing to protect. Just some fresh new stories to live.

The preceding was a transcript from a portion of my own story I shared on stage at SheSpeaks, my evening of storytelling held 5.8.14. This particular segment was used to set the stage and segue to Erin Oldham, the fourth storyteller of that evening.

Going To My Happy Place

Posted May 22nd, 2014

The following is the transcript from my final piece of story from SheSpeaks, my evening of women’s storytelling 5.8.14, and set the stage for Donna Desilet’s story: Salty Tears, Salty Sea.

Lael on stage at Sourcing SheSpeaks B&W 5.8.14 - Melissa Mullen PhotographyI want to try something with you. You know when you do a guided meditation or one of those stress reducing things they ask you to go to your “happy place”? I want you to go there now. Get in your mind a picture of your happy place. You got it?

Ok, now by a show of hands, whose happy place is outside in nature? That’s what I thought… For many of us: the source we go to in our minds – if not in reality – when we need fortification, nourishment, connection, peace – is often found in nature.

I have two happy places. The first is on a dock on a lake in New Hampshire. I can go there in a flash and feel the wind come across the water and hit my face. I can smell it and hear the waves slapping and sloshing under the dock.

But my favorite happy place – the one I frequent most often – is in the mountains and I can go there in a flash if I need to. It’s on Mount Monroe, some of you might know it…it’s a small pip of a mountain just down from the summit of Mount Washington, and next to the Lakes of the Clouds hut. I’ve been to this place many times, but there was this one time… We hiked up after dinner to watch the sun set and were kind of bummed because it was pretty foggy and socked in. But we climbed up to the top and stood and waited. And then, like magic, we watched as this cloud came across the neighboring peak, dipped down into the ravine in front of us, and then crept up the other side of the ravine toward the peak of the mountain we were on, and then PASSED THROUGH US and went down the other side. I’ve never experienced anything like that.It still gives me goosebumps just thinking about that moment today.

But one part of that story that I’ve NEVER told – a part that I thought was silly and unrelated – was that while all this was happening on that mountain that day, this very cute British guy – one of the trip leaders with me – was standing behind me with his hands under my wind jacket, on my breasts. To the casual observer, it just looked like I was leaning back against him, while he was hugging me from behind. And I could make a case that it was very cold that evening… But Ed and I knew better. And now today, as I reflect on that moment and share with you that “hidden” piece of the story, I see just how relevant to my experience in nature – OF nature – it was. It’s an important part of my story because THAT was the moment – the first moment – I discovered the deep connection between nature and the erotic. 

Did you ever see that movie Chocolat with Juliette Binoche? She’s in southern france, with this glorious cape, and she tosses open the window and FEELS the wind calling to her to follow it. And she does, time and time again, despite the pleas from her daughter to stay in one place. I get that. I have felt that call of the wind many times in my life, and my response is always the same, to close my eyes, breathe deeply and look up. Almost as if I’m letting it know that I hear it, see it, feel it.

It’s sensual, really.

Some of you might not know this, but my earliest versions of SheSpeaks started out as something I called “Tribal Gatherings”. They weren’t really me, but they were relatively successful and I now see it was the seed for this event to bloom.  The first one I did was on the topic of SENSUALITY and what that meant. I remember that being such an expansive and generative topic for women, clearly striking a hungry nerve. We talked about how sensual had been reduced to sexual, when it was so much more than that. And we spoke of many things we’re touching upon tonight – the elements, the wind, warm rains, hushed snow, fireflies, certain foods, the smell of dirt, the warmth of red wine in the belly, the colors of a canyon or the changing blues in the ocean, experiences in nature like skinny dipping and campfires and sleeping under moonlight.

We got it, this group of women. But most recently, I’ve heard a number of men I know accessing – or wanting to access – a similar source inside them, I would argue The Feminine inside them.

I watched my husband have an experience like that this summer while we were on vacation on a lake in New Hampshire. I came out to the front screened in porch and found him standing there, awe struck, with his jaw wide open. I could see he was trying to make sense of what he had just seen, but couldn’t. When he was finally able to describe what he saw, he spoke about a “loon dance.” For those of you who don’t know what this is, apparently in the weeks prior to leaving a lake for the season, all the loons will gather in a big circle, flap their wings, call out to each other and, well, dance. It’s very rare that you witness it, because it happens in the early morning hours. But that morning, I could see it all over Todd’s face – he had witnessed something profoundly magical, deeply spiritual, and incredibly special. A once in a lifetime moment.  

A couple of weeks ago, a client used the word “enraptured” in an email to me describing how she wanted to feel. Upon reading it, I heard myself take a sharp intake of breath. Like the woman in my circle, I thought, “I don’t know exactly what that means, but I want me some of that!” I immediately looked it up and found it meant “intense pleasure” or “delighted beyond measure”. When I saw this client later, she said that she had ditched that word because as a “recovering catholic” she couldn’t get over how enrapture was too close to “rapture” (which not being Christian I had to look that one up, too).  Apparently it comes from the latin meaning of “to seize or take away”, and essentially means the end of the world. So it seems to a large portion of our society “intense pleasure” essentially equates to “the end of the world.

But here’s where I landed with all that. Nature is intensely sensual and so full of pleasure that we are easily swept up in it. Enraptured. It’s also right there, outside our window, wherever we look. We just have to slow down enough to notice it. Which means opening our eyes. And hearts. And asking our intellects to step aside for a moment.