Who Do We Choose To Be? Another Reckoning.

Posted July 9th, 2021

I was sitting on my front lawn the other day staring at the two items in my online cart—one was a book, the other was a weapon. Clearly I had chosen to purchase these at some point in time, and I was struck by their stark contrast.

It felt like a reckoning or one of those moments of truth—like in the Matrix when Neo has to choose between red pill or the blue pill from Morpheus’s outstretched hands.

The book in my cart wasn’t just any book, like a light summer beach read (not that there’s anything wrong with that…), it was Pema Chodron’s beloved bestseller When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. 

The weapon wasn’t a fire arm or nunchucks (which I’m seeing as ironic now, because Pema Chodron is ACTUALLY a Buddhist nun…), but was a set of 3 Smith & Wesson Hawkeye throwing axes—10″ stainless steel ones, complete with bottle opener and protective nylon sheath.

So in difficult times, what do I reach for—the book written by the Buddhist nun that helps my heart to heal or the steel axes that promise both recreational and competitive fun?

I have openly and frequently admitted to being a woman of many contradictions (engaging in full moon rituals and going to monster truck rallies, for instance…), but this moment on my front lawn gave me pause, and reminded me of the core invitation of Margaret Wheatley’s book on leadership that I’m reading:
 

Who do we choose to be?

Am I heart-centered or axe-wielding in difficult times? I get to choose.

I would have rolled my eyes at this question a year ago and said I was being too dramatic (or “too” something else….) But on a drive off the beaten path up north recently, I noticed a number of large signs for Trump 2024 planted squarely on front lawns and road-side fields that demonstrated just how far some of us have moved away from our hearts. The large banner, quite simply, read: F*ck Your Feelings. 

It wasn’t just an isolated occurrence, as I saw that same banner again and again that weekend  as we celebrated our “independence” in these United States.

As a woman who has lived fifty-two years in this world, I am no stranger to being told my feelings have no value, purpose or relevance. I spent the first half of my life believing that, and the second half of my life actively undoing all that training. But something was different about this—almost like the word feelings was code for more than just our emotions.

I read feelings on that sign and felt this:

F*ck your opinions
F*ck your experience
F*ck your perspective
F*ck your difference
F*ck your desires
F*ck your rights

No wonder that phrase continues to ripple throughout my psyche since seeing it–like how your ears ring really loudly after an explosion.

F*ck your feelings? Really? Is that the invitation of our times on our roadways?

I wasn’t rolling my eyes anymore. I wasn’t dismissing my reaction as being too dramatic. If I’m being honest with you here—something I always aim to do—I was stunned. And frankly, I’m embarrassed, because to admit that is to acknowledge my naiveté and the degree to which I had once again shut my eyes beneath my rose-colored glasses and looked away from what has been right there, all along—in plain site: overt. unapologetic, and publicly sanctioned hatred and violence.

Which, of course, is to acknowledge my privilege as a white woman—and how I had been exercising it to benefit me, by looking away.

I thought about systemic racism and how so many conversations got ignited in 2020 and then stalled—or stopped. I thought about what it would have been like to have been a Black woman with two black sons driving by the sign that day, and how a younger version of them would have asked “Mom, what does f*ck mean?” I thought about the earth and climate change, and how we’ve shut our eyes and looked away from the crisis of this moment, hoping it would somehow resolve itself without disrupting or inconveniencing the humans that call it home. I thought about the words we use to shape our reality, and how they are increasingly violent and do harm.
 

I thought about what would happen if that banner had read “Feel Your Feelings” instead.

So as I sat on my front lawn that day looking at those two items in my cart, I sat with that question, “Who do I choose to be?”

I could have chosen to buy both items and laugh it off as me embracing my contradictions, after all it’s just a stupid axe-throwing game, right? But I’ve already told you I wasn’t laughing anymore about this. It felt like it was more significant than that—like a path in the woods that was forked.

I probably don’t need to tell you which item arrived on my doorstep a few days later.

The larger lesson for me (once again) that day was about keeping my eyes AND my heart open—however hard and uncomfortable. To see what is right there in the light of day, to feel my way through it, and to let that awareness and experience inform my daily choices.

To feel with my heart, rather than reach for the axe.
 

To invest my time, energy and money in heart-centered actions that help us all, rather than steel-centered games that benefit a few. 

I don’t know if you relate to this experience of cycling through forgetting to remembering and the renewal of commitment that happens as a result, but I’m thinking you might—that’s why I’m sharing it with you today.

I’d love to hear from you if you do, because one thing that helps on this courageous heart-centered path is to know you’re not alone.

We are cyclical creatures. We are beautifully imperfect and always a work in progress, never fully there. And we are full of messy contradictions.

But if I am to stay awake on this path I’ve chosen to walk, I would like to keep my eyes open—step by step, day by day—as I move forward, living and leading with heart.

Pockets Full of Vignettes and Gems

Posted April 16th, 2021

I vote for life imitating art.

You know that chicken-and-egg question we’ve asked ourselves throughout time—does art imitate life or life imitate art? I choose art.

I know it’s not a forced choice and that technically we don’t need to vote…but I’m here to take a stand for art.

So often in the sixteen years I’ve been in this business of SheChanges, I have heard people refer to me as a storyteller. I’ve often marveled at that because it’s not something I ever set out to be. And when I think of the word storyteller, I imagine someone entirely different. While I have received this from others as a compliment and have, at times, donned that mantle, it’s never felt like mine.

But I was on a long walk with my dog Max the other day and this other word came to me: vignette.

I stopped right there in my tracks and looked up the definition on my phone to see if what I had in my head was a clear match to the FUCK YES I was feeling in my bones.
 

Vignette | vin’yet |(n)

  1. a brief evocative description, account or episode.
  2. a small illustration which fades in its background without a definite border.
  3. a short piece of writing that is more focused on vivid imagery and meaning, rather than plot.

I learned that while vignettes can be stand-alone, they are more commonly part of a larger narrative.

That’s it. That’s what I do. And from where I sit? That’s also what women do.

Think about it. Women often don’t have time, permission or space to tell a whole story so we’ve adapted over time to communicate in vignettes. Look at the dearth of women writers, producers, and directors in the publishing, film, and music industries and you will see how infrequently we get access to the luxury of telling the whole story from our perspective. Look at the entirety of the narrative that has been written and codified for our world, and you can see exactly how HIStory has shaped ours—from our places of worship, to our places of learning and working.

As bitter a pill as it is to swallow for many, the reality is that women (as well as BIPOC, LGBTQ and all those relegated to the margins of our predominantly white male culture) have been reduced to speaking in sound bites. We have had our voices, perspectives, and experiences relegated to the sub-plot, the supporting characters, loosely referenced or vaguely represented in footnotes.

But here’s the thing: we’re fucking good at talking in sound bites. We’ve had practice in getting a word in edge-wise. And we’re efficient as hell. Who needs the long drone of a meandering story when you can get a quick and pithy picture that you can pop into the pocket of your consciousness?

That’s where the power of art comes in. That’s why it will get my vote every time.

Side note: it’s also why programs in the arts are the first to get cut in budget season, when money is tight or there is a time crunch at play. Power and truth (not to mention heart) live in art. What would happen to our world if that became central to our conversations?

Enter, stage left, the vignette. It’s a powerful, potent and pocket-sized little gem that can travel faster than a tomb. Let me ask you this: would you rather travel through life with a handful of precious gems or a suitcase full of encyclopedias? Exactly.

I’ve often described the people in my life as “grab and go” people. They come screeching in from their travels on two wheels with leaves in their hair or bugs in their teeth, big smiles on their face and a sparkle in their eye. They start their sentences with “So anyway….” as if no time has passed. I am that person, myself, so I get those people. I share their love of movement, their insatiable appetites, limitless curiosity, wild spirit of adventure, appreciation for the road, and openness to giving just about anything a try.

So much so, I’ve come to see my work at SheChanges as being a “pit crew” for these people. I offer a way station off the main drag. I meet them at their window as they pull in, often screeching to a halt, with tires smoking. I hold their gaze and offer them a focal point as they gas up, check the tire pressure and scrape bugs off their windshield. My presence offers them a moment of rest, a patch of solid ground, solidarity and brave companionship on their way from here to there. And when the opportunity presents itself, I offer them inspiration, insight or food for thought in the form of vignettes.
 

This is what I hear on most days when I crouch down at a window in my pit and hold a gaze: “What have you got on __________, Lael?”

These people, intuitively at first, sense that I’ll generally have something of value for them. They can see the glittering gems falling out of my pockets when I make my way to their window, holding their gaze. But what’s more, ours is a powerful relationship built on trust, safety and resourcefulness—and it grows and gets stronger with each visit. They do not give me their power or ask for my own—they meet me at a place where our collective power connects.

Maybe you know this if you’ve worked with me. But I imagine many of you don’t because I work with a select group of people 1:1. You might never have had the experience of me coming up to your window, crouching down with hands on my knees, my face suddenly appearing in yours as I hold your gaze in my way station.

Perhaps you’ve gotten a taste of it from me on stage when I speak. Or maybe you’ve read one or two of my books and have felt that connection with me because my writing feels like a conversation with you.

But what might be possible for our world if more of us had access to a powerful pit crew—in the dark of the night, in heavy fog, or raging winds? That’s what I want to find out.
 

So here’s my great experiment that I’m inviting you to take with me: join me as I work the pit.

I’m going to more fully leverage my abilities to distill large amounts of information, weave compelling and relevant vignettes, and hold a steady gaze for weary road warriors—for a wider audience. I want to give you a taste of the intimacy of a conversation that happens at those windows off the roadways, but without the need to work with me 1:1.

A couple times a month, I’ll be letting you into my heart and my head as I share the gems I’ve gathered recently. I’ll always be honoring the confidentiality of my clients and what we discuss—that’s sacred. But I’ll be offering vignettes to illustrate what I’m observing, themes I’m seeing, things we’re experiencing, and places we’re playing. I’ll share resources I’m using personally and professionally, and will be sharing those I’ve been given by others.

I plan to sync up these connections with you to the moon, herself, harnessing the power of her lunar energy to pull us all forward, together. One email will arrive in your inbox around the new moon and another at the full moon. If you want to receive them, all you need to do is enter your email on the homepage of my website. I’ll be doing these for FREE through the fall as I experiment (and rehaul/relaunch a completely new website!!!), but will eventually be migrating these intimate communications with my audience to a subscription-based model. And I will doing all of this OFF social media.

So here’s a warm welcome to join me in my experiment. Let’s see where it takes us.

Because this I know: we are stronger together.
You know what else I know?
We’re all connected—we cannot do this alone.
We need each other.

I will see you at your window this coming full moon. Forward this to your people in your travels and maybe I will meet them as well. Or not.

But here’s an invitation to join me in the pit with my vignettes and gems.

The (Re)Birth of a Nation

Posted January 8th, 2021

Years ago, as I rapidly approached the birth of my first child, I started to wonder (panic, honestly), “How the $&%$ is this all going to go down…exactly!?” My wise midwife gave me great counsel. She said that nature would run its course. She reminded me that my body was built for this and would know what to do. In the meantime, she suggested it might be a good idea to get myself an art project to occupy my mind as I was waiting for active labor to begin. Giving something for my hands to do would soothe me, she assured.

So as my body dilated and the mild cramps became more regular and significantly sharper, I pulled out my art supplies and I make this sign. which is now 18 years old. Something in me—or my wise body—knew that I would need to focus on the task before me, and to mitigate against distraction by alerting any who came onto the scene that there was something BIG happening—that new life was being born.

 

The sign, quite simply, read: Mother at Work.

 

This morning, as I got texts from clients that read: “What have you got on this, Lael?” my feet took me down to my basement and I started digging through boxes, muttering, “Please tell me I didn’t throw that out, please tell me I didn’t throw that away…” And then, all the way at the bottom of the box, I found it. My sign.

Mother at Work.

Because that’s what I’ve got: A reminder to myself (and instruction to others) that new life is trying to come through a very small opening in a body, which can be loud and messy and terrifying and yes, often dangerous. And yet it happens everyday, all over the world—often without a helpful midwife, a clean hospital, and certainly without an instruction manual.

It’s organic. It’s ancient. And it’s happening now.

I’ll pause here and check to make sure we’re on the same page: you get that I’m not talking about a baby in this case, right? And that I’m using birth as a metaphor for what we’re navigating this very week as a country, when so many people are asking “How is this all going to go down…exactly!?”

 

We are a nation rebirthing itself. We are the mother in labor, breathing hard and bearing down.

 

I joked with one of my clients this morning via text that I had the urge to drive to the nearest border and post a handmade sign that read: “Please excuse our appearance, we’re in the process of (re)contruction.” Because isn’t that what we do when we tear down a bridge and reroute traffic? Isn’t that pretty standard fare when a building temporary inconveniences its patrons in favor of a longer-term service that will benefit them? We don’t stop traffic or close the store—we simply post a sign, put up some drop clothes or mark the area off with orange cones. All of these are visual indicators that “this is temporary…”, while subtly implying “…you’ll thank us later, because it will be even better than before…”

So this? This is the dismantling of what was so we can make room for what will be. This is the tear in the tissues of our most tender place (our nether regions) that rips a wider opening for life to come through.

 

This is, as midwives call it: The Bloody Show.

 

And I will say—as a woman who has opened her body wide enough for two, ten-pound babies to pass through her, and also as a professional who has worked for 20 years with people giving birth to new phases and chapters and endeavors in their lives—it’s really, really, really hard to hold the belief that this is about NEW LIFE coming forth, when you physically (emotionally, spiritually) feel like you’re going to die.

It’s really hard. Damn near impossible. That’s the bad news.

The good news? Once that birth is set in motion, you actually don’t even need to believe in it for it to occur. How many times have you heard stories of teenage mothers that weren’t even aware they were pregnant or hid their pregnancies and then gave birth in the bathroom stall of their high school between math and gym classes?

 

You can be in denial and still give birth.

 

Which brings me to the other piece of magic that found me last night as I collapsed on our couch, exhausted without understanding why and mindlessly scrolling Instagram. I noticed someone new started following me and I couldn’t quite recognize the post of mine that they liked—it felt really old.

So I clicked through and saw a photo of Maya Angelou smiling at me with this quote: “You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise.” My whole body exhaled. And then I went on to read her words:

I’m experiencing some heartbreak with this latest news.
And I know I’m not alone.
I look at my children,
And I find I am holding my breath.
At times, fending off despair.
Blowing on the embers of hope within me,
Pleading, “please catch, please ignite.”
Help us help ourselves.

Again, my body exhaled. I saw the date of this post (June 2, 2017) and marveled at how something three years ago could find me at the very moment I needed it, like magic. And then? My jaw dropped as I realized those weren’t Maya’s words at all—holy shit, they were MINE. I had written that post two and a half years ago, inspired by Maya’s quote, and was reading my own words—how had I not recognized myself? My own medicine?

 

How had I become so distracted from the wisdom that lives inside me?

 

When people ask me what I’ve got these days, when trying to figure out these times and what to make of it, my response generally has something to do with this: The Divine Feminine at work. Because I do believe She’s working hard right now, focused, bearing down to deliver something better that we can’t even imagine exists.

She’s rerouting traffic, she’s posted orange cones and she’s gotten to work. It’s loud, it’s messy, it’s inconvenient and yes, even dangerous. That is the power of the Divine Feminine to deliver life, even as so many of us are still in denial that we’ve been pregnant.

She doesn’t need permission. She doesn’t need a brightly lit room and a scheduled surgical procedure to make it happen. Truth be told, she doesn’t even need to hang a sign on the door to explain herself.

She’s that focused on her task—on her mission to bring new life into this world.

So here’s the bottomline: we can put out our hands and catch this new life, we can stomp out of the room and pretend like it never happened, we can marvel at it or we can rail against it. Each of us gets to choose how we’ll respond, so that’s on us to decide now or later. But to some degree it doesn’t matter.

 

New life is coming. Some might even say it’s here.

 

So if you, like many of us, are wondering what actions we can take in this moment, maybe sit with this question: How will I respond to this (re)birth? What will I choose? What role will I assume?

There is room for all of us at this birth, but it’s not over yet so you’ve got time to decide. In the meantime, take note of the homemade sign still hanging on the door. Depending on how you choose to enter, it is both a gracious reminder and a firm caution of a mother hard at work.

 

A Letter To Myself in 2019: Of Course You’re A Racist

Posted December 28th, 2020

Hey there. It’s me, Lael.

I’m writing to you from December 2020 to prime the pump for where you’ll be headed in the next year. This is the letter I wish someone had given me a year ago. I think it might have helped on all those dark nights of my white soul.

So….2020. Here’s the deal: a raging pandemic will sweep across the globe (so get some masks), but believe it or not, that’s not going to be where you put your energy over the next year. I know, I know, sounds crazy, but stay with me here. .

In 2020 you’re actually going to be reckoning with something bigger and something deeper—something you might even think you’ve moved beyond because you’re a “good white person” (spoiler alert: there is no such thing.)
 

You, my friend, are a racist. Of course you are.

Did you flinch a little bit when I said that? Did you pull back—ready to refute, show me all the evidence as to why that’s not the case, or point to others instead? Of course you did. That’s what we do as white people. We spend countless hours—sometimes even lifetimes—tussling about with the “I’M NOT A RACIST!!!” debate before actually getting to the work of dismantling systemic racism in ourselves our world.

And in the process, we just keep repeating the same predictable cycle as good little soldiers of white supremacy—denying, dismissing, disassociating, discounting—kicking the can further up our road and repeating history (with more of the same) as opposed to making history (by choosing something different).

That is our white privilege at work.
That is what white supremacy is counting on.
That is exactly what we’ve been trained to do.
That is systemic racism working exactly as it was designed.
That is what will keep racism alive and well.
And that, my friend, is where we are complicit.

Whether we realize it or not, you and I are a foot soldiers doing the work of system of oppression.

So of course you’re a racist. So am I.

That’s the bad news.
 

The good news is that in 2020 you decide to do something about it.

Having lived a little and learned a LOT in 2020, I thought I’d write this letter to you with some operating instructions that might help navigate all that. Consider what follows to be some field notes, if you will, to reference as you dig in in 2019 and take a hard look at your own behaviors and beliefs as they intersect with white culture and systemic racism.

It’s going to be a stormy year—some will call it a shit show. But perhaps these 11 things listed below can be channel markers to offer you a bearing in rough seas and help to guide you forward on your journey.
 

1. Nothing changes without first acknowledging this (say it with me): “Of course I’m racist.”

Start there. Keep saying it out loud. It will be hard at first and loads of people will run to your defense and tell you all the ways you’re not. Don’t believe them. I promise you the more you say this out loud and publicly, the easier it will get and the more it will pave the way for other white people to do the same. This one sentence is the most powerful tool you have. Use it. And when you look around, feeling self-conscious and vulnerable, and see all those other white people who are content to remain oblivious to their privilege and not engage in the work of anti-racism (I wish I could, but I don’t have time…I don’t have the emotional bandwidth…It makes me uncomfortable…It’s not my fault…I’m so overwhelmed…I don’t know how…) brace yourself, because you’re going to want to get up in their grille fast. And that? That will be a distraction from you doing your own work. Focusing on them instead of working on you is going to be really tempting, because getting judgmental and self-righteous is going to feel a helluva lot easier than getting honest and reckoning with your truth. But start with you. Stick with you. Choose to embody instead of interrogate, radiate instead of confront, and inspire instead of convert.
 

2. Change begins with either getting uncomfortable or getting vulnerable.

Pick one and come back for more. 2020 is going to give you a run for your money—fear will be rampant, unemployment will be high, morale will be low, and there will be a really loud and scary election in the midst of a pandemic. Distractions, excuses, and justifications will all be readily available and competing for your attention. At times it will feel like the whole country is on fire…and sad to say, this will literally be the case out west. But keep choosing to get uncomfortable, and vulnerability will follow as you move closer to your truth. Hear me when I say this: this is a good and healthy thing. Contrary to popular belief, these things will not kill you, they will make you—and us—stronger as a result. If you’re not feeling one of these two things on a regular basis you’re not doing the work of anti-racism. It will be hard and awkward, and I promise you, you’ll feel self-conscious and wonder if you’re doing it “wrong”. These are good signs of learning and being on the move—away from the status quo and toward a better future for us all. Be like Dory, and just keep swimming.
 

3. Racial literacy—it’s a thing.

Your mind will be blown away by all that you don’t know or weren’t taught. You’ll uncover major shit that was left out of “history”—like discovering the existence of a parallel universe. Let yourself be surprised and horrified—because you will be, plenty. You’ll feel like Harry Potter going through that brick wall on platform 9 ¾ for the first time, leaving the land of the Muggles and realizing there is a whole other land you never even knew existed that had been right there all along. Except it won’t feel magical. It will feel embarrassing, shameful and disgusting. And then you’ll get mad—full of rage that it took you until the age of 51 to even hear about it. You’ll look for someone to blame—a teacher, your parents, our founding fathers. This is all part of it. By never questioning or looking beneath the surface of what you were taught, you were complicit in this false narrative. It will be up to you to get fluent in racial literacy because our white supremacy as we’ve designed it relies on you NOT being fluent. The good news is, once you realize this you’ll be like a dog on a bone about it, pulling back the curtain right and left.
 

4. Racism isn’t about Black people. It’s about WHITE people (that’s you.)

It might feel like it’s an “issue” that doesn’t concern you, but you are at the root of it. Your ancestors designed this system—the one our country has baked into it—with you in mind. It benefits you even if you don’t realize it. The only reason it feels like it’s not yours is because white people don’t want to talk about, so it falls on the very people who are oppressed by systemic racism to address it—again and again. You’re a feminist, so think of it like this: violence against women isn’t really a women’s issue, right? It just feels like it because we women have a vested interest in it stopping. It’s really about men’s violence against women, but women are the often the only ones making sure we keep talking about it—because if we don’t, who will? It’s like that. So be the white person who talks about white people’s shit—because it’s our shit that stinks.
 

5. Shut up, listen, and reflect.

Seriously. Put your words away for a while. This will be hard because you’re trained to spout your opinion at every turn in the road. But once you do this, you will be able to hear and see that perspectives and stories (words written or told) in Black voices are everywhere around you. Just take them in like a sponge. And then go back for more. And Lael? They’re right. You don’t get a vote about other people’s experiences and whether or not they are true or valid. They are. They might be different, they might be uncomfortable or hard to hear, they might test everything you believe about yourself or this country, but believe them. Notice and resist the urge to “yeah, but….” them away. Let it be hard. You won’t die of embarrassment or shame. But if it feels like you will, try getting curious about yourself. Curiosity will be your super power here, and will help you move out of shame more quickly and show you how you’ve been trained. Understand how you were baked with the beliefs and behaviors of white supremacy inside you. Mine for the ingredients. Learn your wiring. Familiarize yourself with the foundation on which you were built as well as the roots of the ground underneath it.
 

6. Unmute yourself.

You’ll feel the urge to keep quiet about what you’re learning because you won’t feel ready, good at it, or know enough. You’ll talk about it being a private conversation, and that will be code for feeling shame. You’ll be afraid of getting “caught” not doing or saying something right, and at some point you’ll decide not to saying anything at all. But do it anyway, because to stay silent is to stay here—and complicit. Talk with white people about what you’re learning—share the mind-blowing insights, demystify the “work” of anti-racism by opening the door to another white person. Let yourself inspire others. You’re going to be experiencing a lot of pandemic humor in the next year to get through it, so I’ll put it this way: be a positive contagion. Infect others with a good virus. And? Stay in your lane. You’re going to hear this phrase a lot, and at first you won’t understand it. Then you’ll resent it. This will be your whiteness showing, as you’re taught that you’re an exception and a free agent who controls her own destiny. You’re taught that the whole world is your oyster and yours for the taking. In 2020, you’ll learn just how wrong that is, and worse—the impact it’s had on others. In the coming year, Black Lives Matter will take center stage more than ever before and grab the mic in this moment—as leaders, agenda-setters, and influencers. White people won’t like this, and you will be one of them. But you’ll soon learn that white people have historically just taken things without asking—and you’ll learn how to show up in service without stealing the stage or redirecting attention back to you. This will be a game-changer.
 

7. Practice, practice, practice.

Do you remember when you first started using clip-less bike pedals and you kept falling over because you couldn’t put your foot down to stop the fall? Do you remember when you fell down skiing and people in the lift lines thought you were having a seizure because you didn’t know how to get back up? That. You’re going to feel a LOT of that in 2020 and this means you’re actively learning. Also, you’re going to be noticed falling down and making mistakes, and this, too, will have a purpose. By you doing this work publicly, you will be making it safe for others to try and fall down as well. Resistance, denial and defensiveness are going to try to get you at every turn in the road. Expect it, and do not take the bait. It’s hard at first, but like with anything, with practice it gets easier. And here’s something helpful to remember when the going gets tough: this is a marathon, not a sprint. This is not a one and done sort of fix. Keep your foot on the gas. This will keep you inspired and moving forward even when it’s hard. It will also remind you that any other choice (stopping, coasting, taking your foot off the gas) will support racism (you’ll get a major insight early on that there is no such thing as “not a racist”, only “racist” or “anti-racist”). In 2020, you’ll choose being an anti-racist. Keep choosing it daily. And know that this choice will be the rest of your life, not just a moment in time. That might sound daunting to consider now, but I promise you, it will start to become second nature. Remember when banking became remote with ATMs and then we moved to online? It’s like that—a big deal at first, then the best thing that ever happened to banking, right? Which brings me to…
 

8. Resist the urge to do it alone or privately.

The desire to crawl under a rock will be powerful. Resist it. 2020 will show the degree to which this country is divided (spoiler: KAMALA WINS!), but this will be the year many of us white folks learn the power of pooling together our resources—be it financial power as consumers, learning power as anti-racists, or influencing power by sharing our platforms. We’ll start to share our mistakes and be inspired by our fall downs and get ups. We’ll learn from our fuck ups, failures and mis-steps, rather than burying them. The bottom line is no one will know if you’re not doing this work, but if you do it as a family or with a peer group you will be building in accountability and can process what you’re learning with them. Solve for that. Pull up a chair and have a slice of humble pie. You are not the only white person who didn’t know what you didn’t know. It’s not that you’re stupid, it’s that you didn’t see the water you were swimming in. This, by the way, will be the inspiration for you to create The Beach for white women in your community to gather and do anti-racism work together—and bonus!—as a result, you’ll donate $2,400 to the Loveland Foundation’s Therapy Fund because of all the registrations!
 

9. Holds multiple truths.

Yes, it is absolutely about you and it’s also about the system in which we are all operating. Yes, you are kind and you do harm. Sure, you didn’t mean it and you still had impact. Yes, you didn’t ask for your privilege and you still have it. Maybe you’re not directly responsible for our history of white supremacy and you are contributing to it daily just by existing. Yes, you might be self-aware and you also are blind. Yes, you are smart and you are ignorant. It’s simple and it’s complex. It’s multifaceted and it’s straightforward. It’s right and it’s wrong. See what I’m getting at? Your brain is going to rebel in 2020 with all of this because it won’t be able to reconcile all that you’re asking it to hold. Seek expansion instead of reconciliation. Look for the contradictions, see the paradoxes and feel the tension points. Seek the scary edges instead of the comfortable middle. Seek the yes/and. Drop the habit of either/or. This will serve you well and increase the capacity of your brain and heart.
 

10. Reframe your mindset from despair and overwhelm to hope.

The fact that you’ll be navigating a pandemic in 2020 will make everything seem dire. There will be much fear, lack and hardship. Everything will seem chaotic and you’ll be reminded of how little we humans actually control. You won’t know how to do this at first, and that will be hard because you’ll feel like you’re drowning with no land in sight. But keep looking for ways to switch your mindset from bad to good. Get creative about keeping your eyes on the prize. And remember that you are swimming against a powerful tide of training that has a vested interest in you NOT leaving this comfortable shore of whiteness on which you were born. Many will tell you this is who we are and there’s nothing that can be done. Don’t believe them. Imagine something different is possible for us. Live—and fight— daily for the future of a country in which you could be proud to live. Reach for this lifeline from Valarie Kaur (you’ll come to love this woman and everything she writes…) when you need it most: “What if this darkness we are feeling isn’t the darkness of the tomb but the darkness of the womb? What if our America is not dead but a country that is waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labor?…What if this is our nation’s greatest transition?” Imagine something greater than your worst fears—if not for yourself, then for those who will come into the world behind you like your grandchildren. Be an ancestor that leaves the world better than you found it and doesn’t just repeat history.
 

11. Begin anywhere. Just choose something. Anything.

This might seem obvious to say, but I offer it because this will be the #1 excuse you’ll reach for to avoid engaging with this work and feeling what you’re feeling. In 2020, you’ll hear a chorus of (formerly known as) “good white people” start to wail: I don’t know what to do…” and it will conjure images of Gary Larson’s boneless chicken ranch from The Far Side cartoon—only instead of chickens, it will be white people draped limply over corral posts and in pools on the barnyard floor. You will relate, and it will be seductive. In those moments, choose action. Open a book to the middle. Start listening to a podcast in the second season. Insert yourself in a conversation without understanding the context. Support BIPOC owned businesses. Make a donation to an organization that supports the safety, financial security, and freedom for BIPOC. Learn about Black Lives Matter, ACLU legal defense fund, the Loveland foundation, or just Google Anti-Racist. Play with numbers and start counting how many books, movies, Netflix series that come into your home or workplace center black lives? Learn the names of all the innocent Black and Brown bodies have died at the hands of police brutality? How many BIPOC are in your inner circle? Count them, Lael. It’s hard data and will be very revealing. You know how to do this. Don’t wait for an invitation. Don’t wait for the perfect thing to find you. There is no perfect thing. Pick anything. It doesn’t matter what, but don’t be a boneless chicken.

And finally, I’d leave you with this—as a parting gift from the future that you are helping to shape now with your daily choices and actions:
 

There is much joy and vitality that moves in as a consequence of doing anti-racism work.

You might have read this letter and be feeling a bit overwhelmed. That would be natural. It’s a lot of information—a year’s worth of information—to absorb at once, so take a deep breath with me. After all, I’m here at the end of 2020 writing this, living proof that you made it to another year—and an EPIC one, at that! It’s not all heavy and hard and overwhelming. There are many shiny bits of joy, life-giving encounters and deep pockets of fulfillment as you do this work. Tap into this, and you will tap into something bigger than yourself. Hope and a vision for brighter future will be waiting for you as a result, I promise you that.

All my love and some hot coals of inspiration to keep you warm for your journey ahead,

Lael

36 Days

Posted September 28th, 2020

I want to talk to the white women I know for a minute, so come a bit closer if that’s you.

Are you feeling it?
That sense of urgency despite the exhaustion and overwhelm that ticked up a notch this September?
That reignited flame in the core of your being when you heard the news about Ruth and then Breonna?
That sense of “winter is coming” that feels very different and no joke this year?
That intense focus starting to happen inside you despite the noise that gets louder by the day and list of things to do that grow exponentially?

I feel it, too.
Those sensations are real and it matters now more than ever that we respond to them.
It’s not just you feeling them.
There are legions of women with you who are rising up in action, their eyes trained on the horizon 36 days from now.

Nobody knows what will happen the night of the election—or what will happen between now and then.
But I do know this:

I know how I will feel if I do nothing.
I know how I will feel if I choose not to participate in THIS moment…or the next moment.
I know how I will feel if I kick the can up the road or succumb to my excuses.
I know how I will feel if I just “mail it in” and take a few performative actions that make me feel good.
I know how I will feel if I just talk the talk, but don’t *actually* walk the walk.

Years from now, when my granddaughter (or whomever is the next woman in my line) looks at me and asks:
What did you do to fight?
How did you take a stand?
How did you respond?
What actions did you take?

I want to have answers for her.
I want to say more than I read a few books, watched a few documentaries, gave a few dollars, or put a Black Lives Matter sign in my garden.
These help, but I have more in me to give. I want to be able to offer her—and our world—more of a substantial answer.

I want to tell her how I used this one life I’ve been given to help dismantle white supremacy.

I want to be an inspiration to her to never lose hope. Ever.

As I write that now, that feels….daunting. Hard. Dangerous, even.
Like I’d be getting my hopes up.
Setting myself up to fail…to be disappointed…to be wrong about my belief in our humanity and what we are capable of creating together.

And yet. What’s the alternative?
To not….do? Not care? To roll over and pretend our house isn’t on fire?

That, my friend, is why I created The Beach as a gathering place for white women.

Not simply as feel-good invitation or a chance to put our money where our mouth is (100% of the proceeds to The Beach benefit the Loveland Foundation’s Therapy Fund for Black women and girls), but as a beacon that calls to white women, again and again, in these dark times. To gather us together, to do our work—however that looks to us individually—as white women. To show up in the dark, to move closer to the fire, to light our torches to the flame, and to bring it back out in the the darkness to let other white women touch their torches to ours for inspiration, motivation, and hope for our future.

I watched this amazing excerpt from an interview Pete Buttigieg did with Glennon Doyle the other day (no idea the context, but no matter).
She refers to a “moment of sobriety” she had when her eldest daughter pointed out that Glennon and her family weren’t *actually* marching for BLM, but were talking about how they wanted to. She then goes on to say (at 3:02) that since writing her last book (Untamed) she wishes she had focused more on HER WHITENESS as a topic, rather than social justice in general…and she talks about “the deal with the devil white women made…like, we will accept our proximity to power, and all the privilege/protection that gives us, but in exchange we will never ask for any real power, and we’ll stay quiet and grateful and the cost of that will be our full humanity.”

She talks about what her Black activist friends have been trying to tell her: “Don’t come here to save us. You people need to save yourself. You have lost your humanity. White supremacy has cost YOU your souls.

Holy shit. There it is. That call to white women again. Remember that….from Nov 2016? Back when so many of us white women didn’t get the concept of intersectional feminism yet?

That, my friend, is why I was moved to create The Beach. This is me coming to get my white people.

And when I say “moved” to create, I mean MOVED. Like I didn’t have a choice kind of inspired-moved where my fingers flew over the keyboard as I learned an entirely new platform in a week. The I-have-no-earthly-idea-what-I’m-doing moved where you just GO WITH IT and figure it out on the fly. That was me this summer. And as more and more women find their way to The Beach, I just refining it as I go.

I created The Beach in June, opened it for registration in July, and to date there are 21 white women as members, and we’ve donated nearly $1,500.
Some of these women became members because they liked the idea of donating to a good cause, and that’s awesome! Our money makes a difference.
Some of these women appreciated the curation and organization of all the resources I’ve gathered up for us in one place, and that’s cool, too—I’m happy to created the space to “grab and go” as we do our work as white women.
Some of these women hold themselves accountable and deepen their learning and racial literacy by writing comments or engaging to discussions, and that gives me tremendous joy. I LOVE connecting women.
A number of these women, however, have discovered the power of the LIVE Bonfire—the monthly call where we gather real-time.
I was TOTALLY resistant to doing these monthly calls, by the way. I did it because a number of women wanted them, but I didn’t think I would like it—much to people’s surprise, groups really aren’t my thing, and I thought I’d resent it.

But if if you ask me now, the LIVE Bonfire I hold over Zoom on the last Tuesday evening of every month is where the real ass-to-the-fire magic lives.

 

Our September LIVE Bonfire is tomorrow night (Tues, Sept 29th at 7:00-8:00 EST), so if you’re reading this now, you’re not too late.) You can become a member and join here—in just a few minutes, easy-peasy.

As the Creatrix of The Beach, my intention is to hold space for white women (like me) to do our racial justice work, understand our whiteness, our privilege and the power we have to affect change.
As a member of The Beach, my intention is to show up to myself and my own work with my whole body, to get messy what I find, to get real with the truth, and to face what I have looked away from most of my life.

It’s working.

Women are saying things like this:

“The Beach calls are an amazing opportunity to reflect, learn and be inspired. Lael has created a thoughtful and intimate space. As usual.”

“Lael has put together a brilliant platform. As I explore my own complex feelings and deepen my understanding of anti-racism work, I’m comforted and grateful to have a space to connect with like-minded women. If you’re looking for a place to recognize and explore your whiteness for the first time, as I am, this is a wonderful place to do that.”

“The Beach has kept me accountable in doing necessary work to be educated about systemic racism.” It is a group that I feel comfortable sharing in, engaging in challenging conversations and taking steps forward to make a positive difference.”

If you’re a white woman reading this email, then chances are you relate to something I’m saying or doing—something in you resonates with something in me.

 

Maybe it’s our whiteness. 

Maybe you already know about The Beach—maybe you’re even a member.

Or maybe you’ve seen flashes of it and had intentions of checking it out, but life is so busy and moves so fast it just didn’t happen yet.

Or maybe you’ve never heard of it, but it’s finding you today for a reason.

Whatever the reason, I welcome you to come a bit closer.

“The problem with the 2016 presidential election is simple: White feminists did not come get their people.” – Brittney Cooper

That’s why I’m reach out to you directly today. I’m coming to get my white people.

And starting now, I’ll be popping out here on my blog with a bit more frequency with a gentle Lael nudge—maybe with a hot coal from our fire at The Beach.
Not to add to your long list or to “should” you or put any extra expectations on your pile.

But because we have 36 days.
And whenever women gather together with intention—magic happens and mountains move. This, I know.

Here’s an invitation to join us at the LIVE Bonfire tomorrow night (Tuesday, September 29th from 7:00-8:00 EST). It’s really quick to become a member, 100% of your registration fee will benefit the Loveland Foundation Therapy Fund, nothing needs to be done in advance of the call tomorrow nite, just come as you are with whatever you’ve got. Or not. But you will have activated yourself just by making the decision to join.

Here’s an invitation to share this email with the white women in your life. Keep it simple and just forward it to 5 white women in your circle. Tell them I said hi and welcome them into the fold. Assure them the women on The Beach are as discerning (and busy!) as you are, but you KNOW if you ask her directly, she’ll trust you and come. Use the buddy system and you won’t get lost in the muck and mire of the everyday.

Here’s an invitation to check out The Beach sooner than later. The first few sections are free for non-members (you’ll just have to create an account, but there is no obligation to buy) and will give you a sense of what’s waiting for you if you decide to become a member. You’ll know if it’s meant for you.

I’ll see you out there, Sister. Maybe I’ll see you as soon as tomorrow night at the LIVE Bonfire tomorrow night. Or maybe I’ll just meet you here and share what I’ve got from my pockets.
But feel me with you on this ride—right by your side.
xo

Lael

Lung Capacity

Posted May 19th, 2020

When I was in high school, I went through the rigorous process of becoming a lifeguard, learning water safety, rescue skills and the basics of first aid, CPR and how to mobilize someone in the event of a back injury.

It made sense that I was drawn to this, even as most knew me to be a runner. Water, it seemed, was my first home. My mom used to call me a fish because once I got into a lake, it wasn’t easy to get me out. I was born to be in the water.

The following year, I went on to get advanced certification in Water Safety Instruction (WSI), which would allow me to teach others how to become lifeguards.
 

Little did I know how much this training would come in handy during a pandemic.

One of the grueling feats we had to do in order to pass our WSI exam was to swim the entire length of an Olympic-sized pool underwater using only one breath. I don’t know if you have every tried this, but holding your breath for that long, while simultaneously propelling yourself underwater from one end to another is….challenging. Not impossible, but damn close.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that underwater swim these days as I’ve read the headlines, heard the “let’s return to normal” drumbeat start up, and felt the impatience of “enough already” with quarantine fatigue setting in.

I feel like we’ve all been collectively holding our breath, doing our best to propel ourselves through this time underwater—only without the advance lung capacity training, no concept of how long the pool is, and little to no comfort with being in the water, let alone swimming under it.

I still remember that panicked sensation of “I’m never gonna make it” in my body back then, when the only thing on the line was a failed WSI exam.

But this isn’t a test. This is the bloody show. The real deal. The live stream.

Thinking back to that moment, I realized the only way I could hold on for that long is because I knew exactly how many underwater pulls it would take to get me to the end. I also knew how best to push off from one end of the pool to get a good glide going. I had practiced it to the point where I only had to exert physical effort to get me through the second half of the pool—a long glide, then a series of highly efficient pulls I knew by number.

And still the panic near the end, always, as my brain picked up the little red hammer and cracked the pane of glass, sounding the emergency alarm.
 

Is that where we are collectively? Almost out of breath, panicked, hammers poised to crack the glass?

As I was thinking about my experience at the pool, I was reminded of a story I read in Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. You might of heard this story before, as it seems every culture has a version of the seal skin or selkie woman who had lived on land for too long.

As the story goes, this woman whose natural habitat was the sea, fell in love with a man who lived on land. Because their love was strong, she agreed to leave the sea, shed her seal skin, and live with him on land for a period of seven years. In that time, she learned to breathe air and walk on the ground, eventually giving birth to a son.

After her promised seven years, she asked for her seal skin back and was denied it by her husband who had hid it from her. He was that desperate to have her to stay on land forever. She started to panic, feeling her skin dry up, as her eyes lost their shine and her hair grew thin. It was her son, finally, that stole into the night to find her hidden skin and return it to her.

I’ll never forget reading the passage where she slipped back into the water, thinking of all those summers I spent by a lake, slipping into the black water like it was my home.

Indeed, Dr. Estes writes about this very moment as “homing”—when we finally return to ourselves and our essential nature.

Maybe that is why I’m so keen on women leading us through these transitional times. This is nothing new for me, as my business is now fifteen years old, but the energy I’ve been feeling in my woman’s bones—indeed our collective bones in this SheChanges community—feels like it’s heightened, intensified, built to a crescendo.
 

Women are poised to take us home.

Something in us knows how to do this—without the training or certification proving it. We just know what needs to happen when panic sets in and staying on dry land is no longer an option.

Because, in the story, the seal woman doesn’t just take herself home, she takes her son as well.

“She took the boy’s face in her hands, and breathed her sweet breath into his lungs, once, twice, three times. Then, with him under her arm like a precious bundle, she dove into the sea, down and down and down, and still deeper down, and the seal woman and her child breathed easily under water.”
 

All it took to return to the deep ocean and remember we could breathe underwater as well as on land, was the love of a mother and the trust of her son to follow her lead.

I think about this a lot these days. Because we’re not in a temperature controlled, chemically chlorinated pool anymore with lane lines to divide us and clear stripes painted on the bottom to show us the way forward.

We’re in the big, blue ocean now and it is as wild as it is deep.
______________________________________

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 released last November (2019). 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 or want to do a deeper dive into your own conversation as a leader? Check out these upcoming events:
 

Ignite with Me for FREE: My Online Courses are here! 

My first online offering, Ignite with Me, was arrived today to the dashboard of all those women who pre-registered for it a couple of weeks ago. I had a BLAST putting together this five-module course that enables you (or your bookclub) to go for a deeper dive inside the pages of my second book Ignite: Lighting the Leader Fire, and is chocked full of new content, discussions, videos and exercises to take the concepts of the book and apply them to your own life— all without ever leaving the comfort of your home! This work has been in the works for a while—thanks to your enthusiastic requests for it—so I’m really excited to finally be putting it out there! It’s not too late to register (did I mention it was FREE?), so come on in and join us!
 

My talk at The Women Of The (Virtual) Chamber on May 5th

If you missed the actual event earlier this month, you can catch the replay of my full talk along with the Q&A at the Women of the Chamber quarterly gathering. It was the first virtually one of it’s kind, and I was really blown away with how many people came out for it—I’ve never quite felt energy like that in a virtual setting before. My talk was all about change powered by women—specifically what being woman has to do with being a leader, and why that matters now more than ever. If you’d like to check out the replay, you can find that over here at Portland Region Chamber of Commerce Replays

Getting Naked With My Truth

Posted May 18th, 2019

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

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

SNAP OUT OF IT! (smack)

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

Would you believe me if I said the Divine Feminine?

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

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

Everything just felt wrong.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why was I still engineering small when I knew better?

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

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

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

FUCKETTY FUCK FUCK! WHAT THE FUCK?

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

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

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

Apparently She’s dangerous.

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

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

SNAP OUT OF IT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is me snapping out of it.

This is me not playing the game.

This is my sledge hammer self undiluted.

This is me getting naked with my truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5 Antidotes For A Rugged April

Posted April 29th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need each other, now more than ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simply put, we are all experiencing transition. Together.

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

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

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

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

 

Divine Feminine Oracle by Meggan Watterson

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

The Serenity Prayer

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

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

 

Do Less by Kate Northrup

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

Brene Brown’s Netflix Special

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

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

Brene Brown

 

She Let Go by Safire Rose

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

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

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

 

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

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

Posted April 3rd, 2019

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

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

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

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

BOOM! Drop the mic, Sister.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Layla Saad
www.meandwhitesupremacybook.com/

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

What Is Happening To Me?

Posted February 4th, 2019

Imagine you’re minding your own business walking down a crowded city street and suddenly you feel the ground vibrating beneath your feet. You stop, unsure of what you’ve just felt and ask a fellow pedestrian, “What was THAT!?”

Distracted, the person glances quickly over at you and says, “What was WHAT?” You dismiss it, thinking you must have imagined something, and then you feel it again…and again…and again. Until you can no longer deny that something is happening even though no one seems to notice and nothing is making sense.

That is the best way I can think to describe this sensation of when your roots start talking to you. This is how it feels when change wants to come your way. Far from a lightning bolt of inspiration (coming down from on high..), it often begins from something deep down in our bodies (coming from down low…), where they connect with the earth. It’s subtle, until it’s unmistakably there.

Which is why it’s so easy to miss…until it’s not.

This is the place where we feel the most…off (off track, off kilter, off our rocker, off script), and go inward to see if we can sort it all out and make sense of it in the cover of darkness. “Feel” is the operative word here—as it tends to start there, with an emotion bubbling up in our bodies, even before we can put words to it. And because no one else in your skin, and can’t see or sense or understand what you’re feeling, this is also the place where we feel most alone. This is where difficult and dark things find us, like vulnerability, shame, guilt and anger.

Conversely, this is also where we can start to feel most awake and inspired, like we’ve come out of a stupor and are starting to connect to something bigger than ourselves. Something that matters. Some of us start to utter phrases we’ve never used in our lives…like “soul whispers” and “in my bones” and “warrior’s path” or “deeply of service.” Even the most cynical non-believers among are amazed by how drawn they are to this conversation that’s coming up from inside them because it feels strangely…familiar and therefore magnetic.

It’s also where time starts ticking loudly in our ears, and there is this weird sensation of urgency that rises up to our consciousness…having us use phrases like “life is short” and “now is the time” and “just do it”. Which adds to the angst of the situation, because we’re still sitting in the fog wondering…time for what? Do what, exactly? Which can be maddening, but also oddly intriguing.

But here’s what I do know for sure: Our bodies never lie, and if we want to move closer to our truth, it begins by moving closer to our bodies.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

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!