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.

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

Women Are “In Position”

Posted April 28th, 2020

Years ago when I first moved to Maine, I was taught how to play cribbage. If you’re not familiar with cribbage, it is a card game with a wooden board and little pegs that mark each player’s points and progress. I am convinced all true New Englanders are hard-wired for this game at birth, but being “from away,” it was as foreign to me as Maine, itself. Little did I know that years later, I would reach for this game as a metaphor for women leading us through these transitional times brought on by the pandemic we face.

My husband first introduced me to cribbage, but it wasn’t until his father, Clyde, played with me one day in their warm Northern Maine kitchen that I started to get the magic that can happen when strategy collides with “getting the cards” at just the right time.

At one point in the game, Clyde paused and examined the board carefully, looking at his pegs and then mine.
 

“You are in position,” he said.

Say what, now? He explained that, at a certain point in the game, it’s possible to predict which player is best suited to win the game. Being the competitor I am, I marveled at how this spry, octogenarian potato farmer was actually excited about the position I was in, seeming to celebrate me and my advantage—as if my “victory” would be his as well.

He went on to explain that when someone is “in position,” there is a level of heightened consciousness that’s needed (okay, so that’s my phrase, not his…) in order to make smart and effective moves. More than being careful or guarded, it’s actually about taking full advantage of every point available to you, peg by precious peg.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot these days as I consider the role women are playing in leading us all through this pandemic—you know, the one we’re in right now. Long before the news started reporting on the early and effective responses women leaders have had around the globe, I felt it in my bones.
 

Women are in position.

I know I wasn’t alone in that feeling either, as the women I work with nationally started to comment about it as well. But more than just a game to be won, this feels like a life or death moment, and the women I know are solidly at the helm, steady hands on the wheel, hearts and minds activated as they never have been before. I heard—and continue to hear—women say this:

“This is our time.”

“The revolution we’ve been waiting for is here.”

“We were born to lead through these times.”

What does this mean? We don’t have a clear answer to that yet. But look around you and you’ll see we’re living our way into that unknown with each passing day, steering our ship through uncharted territory in the darkest of nights with sketchy data to navigate, turbulent waters, and no sight of land ahead just yet.

It’s more than just change—that’s what will happen as a result of this time. Change is about having arrived somewhere, and we are very much in transit right now.

This? This is the time of transition—which is the psychological space of moving from here to there, where big questions and even bigger emotions hang out.

If you think about it, we are living the very definition of transition—that liminal space between here and there, when what you’ve known previously is no more, and what you’re heading into isn’t yet visible.

We don’t know how to be in this space because we are not trained to be in this space, other than to be schooled to avoid it at all costs. We are told this space has no value, and so many of us deny that it even exists, or ,at best, we’re told to tolerate it before moving on.

Think of what we tell a woman when she’s had a miscarriage. You’re still young…you’ll have another baby…
Think of what we tell someone who has lost their beloved. He’s in a better place now…you’ll fall in love again.
Think of what we tell someone who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. You’re strong….you’ll beat this…

These are not bad or wrong things to say—we’ve all said them before with the best of intentions, I’m sure, but they’re not acknowledging what it’s like for a human to move through transition—that space where they are neither here nor there.

She doesn’t want another baby, she wants THAT one. 
He doesn’t care that his beloved is in a better place, he wants him in THIS place. 
She doesn’t want to be stronger, she wants her healthy body back NOW.

Transition is often messy and wild and scary and dark. Which is why we feel so alone at these times.

No one can live permanently in transition because it’s not a pre-determined destination, but a process that unfolds organically. You cannot get your degree in transition (although I have tried), because it cannot be fully understood by the mind, nor can it be explained away by rational thought.

Transition asks us to feel—to let it have its way with us, to let it move us, shape us, reveal to us what our beautiful and tired brains can’t even fathom. To feel it all, is to move through it.

But consider the guides who lead us most through two of the most universal times of  transition. Who do we call upon when we are tired of fighting, in the most pain, desperate or willing to try anything?
 

We call on the women to lead us through transition because they know how to hold space for us to move between worlds.

We call on the midwives to help us bring a new life into this world, and we call on the hospice workers to be with us when we want to support a graceful death. These leaders—many of whom we don’t even know exist until we need them most—are generally women.

In my work behind closed doors with women leaders, we explore how being a woman deeply informs how we show up as leaders—and what we bring to that showing up moment. We talk about our training and social conditioning, sure, but we also talk about the innate skills we possess as women that are somehow embedded in our very being, like DNA. We consider all the things we bring to our work in the world through our being, and how we often dismiss or discount that as noteworthy because, you know, doesn’t everyone possess that ability? We unearth these things that come so naturally to us and feel so obvious—almost like common sense. We entertain that we are in possession of distinct medicine that has somehow been buried beneath our training and cultural conditioning.

What if these skills that live within us as women are the very things that we need from our leaders right now? What if women are not only “in position,” but are also carrying the keys we need to unlock the future for us all?
 

Would that be enough for you to consider yourself a leader, woman? Even without the oval office, the c-suite position, or the microphone?

What would it look like if we could all revel in women being “in position” as my father-in-law, Clyde, did that day in Northern Maine?

Because, after all, aren’t we all merely pegs sharing the same cribbage board?

______________________________________

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:

Tuesday, May 5th: Lael will be speaking at The Women Of The (Virtual) Chamber

For the first time ever, the Women of the Chamber will be hosting it’s quarterly gathering virtually and will be opening its doors to non-members to register for this FREE one-hour event. Lael will be speaking about what being woman has to do with being a leader, and why that matters now more than ever. She’ll also be fielding questions submitted by attendees both in advance and during the live event. Registration is still open, so head over to Portland Region Chamber of Commerce to get your free ticket now!

SheChanges with Lael: Online Courses are here! 

Coming very soon, I will be offering a suite of online offerings that will enable you to engage with me and my work without ever leaving the comfort of your home. This work has been in the works for a while—and thanks to so many of your for your enthusiastic requests for it—so I’m really excited to finally be putting it out there! First up will be a FREE offering that will take readers (on your own or with a book club) on a deeper dive inside the pages of my book Ignite: Lighting The Leader Fire, and I also have courses designed specifically with corporate women leaders in mind, as well as creatives and entrepreneurs. If you want to stay in the loop, be sure to enter your name and email in the sidebar of my website so your on my list and will be the first to know on GO LIVE day!

Power: Pure And Simple

Posted October 11th, 2019

I have this dream, and it begins with changing the language we use as women to describe ourselves—or any people, really, outside the construct of the white male narrative we’re all living in.
I have this dream about the word “empowerment” fading to obsolescence….
Instead of reading articles, seeing conferences and discovering entire organizations framed around “empowering” or “empowerment”, they would simply be about our POWER—the EM would be gone. As in:

Women’s POWER
Black POWER
LGBTQ+ POWER
Indigenous People’s POWER
POWER at the Margins

Do you see and feel how subtle that shift is? What happens in your body when the “EM” is taken off? More to the point, I wonder what your mind says about that? Does it get loud, noisy, start to “Yea….but…”, get defensive, annoyed at me because I don’t understand and have missed the point? Does Siri shout at you that she’s recalculating because we’ve dodged the satellite and have left a government sanctioned road?

Are we okay with the word “power” just as it is?

These are the places I play with women, and what gets talked about behind closed doors more often than you might realize. The women I know are irritated by this word “empower”. It doesn’t work for us, it seems, and I’m starting to get louder about it. For many women, it feels like it’s a word we’re told we should want—and when we actually don’t want it, we somehow feel like we’re in danger of getting voted off the island.
What if she’s already feeling empowered? Is she free to admit that to you or is there something wrong with her? Does she have to shrink or lie to fit in?
Is this how we might inadvertently be holding each other back as women? I think about these things.

When have you seen a leadership conference or a New York Times bestseller about “men’s empowerment”?  How often do we applaud corporate initiatives dedicated to exploring how we can “empower men?” Exactly. Because men’s power is presumed to be present already—so no one feels the need to talk about it.

But what if men’s power—specifically white men’s power—were exactly what we needed to be talking about?

Consider this: What if there were entire conferences, magazines, and books dedicated to “men’s disempowerment”? Can you imagine what the reaction to that might be from men and women alike? And can you imagine how bitter and resentful men might be if others profited financially off of this? Weird to even consider, right?
But isn’t that exactly what we’re getting at when we’re focussing on empowerment for women (and others, like people of color and LGBTQ)? We’re talking about our need to reckon and respond to the entitlement, centering, unchecked privilege, abuse and corruption of white men’s power…

See what I’m getting at here? We’re talking about our power in relative terms—relative to white men, that is. We’re talking about power as if we weren’t all born with it inside us already.

We’re not really talking about the root of the conversation: white men’s power.  So here’s my latest hunch: “empowerment” is actually a white man’s word…

What if the word “empowerment” was a tool of the Patriarchy—to keep it functioning?

Our words matter. They shape our reality. As a word nerd who actively plays with things like this, and as a midwife to badass women, I actually have loads of stories and evidence now that tell me I’m not alone. I hear and see the reaction women have to this word “empowerment” everyday in hushed tones behind closed doors.

I’ve always hated that word…
I’ve never understood that word…
I’ve never related to that word…
I never identified with that word…

“Empowerment” subtly points us to something “out there”, and suggests someone need to hold space for it to emerge and be turned on. This word suggests the POTENTIAL for power, not it’s presence.
POWER is undeniably and ALREADY here. There is no “getting”. It doesn’t need to be “given to”. It affirms it’s existence and gets down to the business of honoring, celebrating and expressing it.
Which is a wholly different conversation to have than searching, wondering, strengthening, and waiting—for our power to be discovered or emerge.

Women have not misplaced our power. It’s right here inside us. It is the source, in fact, from which every person was born.

What I’m talking about here is subtle and could easily be dismissed, but it’s distinct and important to acknowledge. Some might read my thoughts about this, hear my humble invitation to simply use the word “power“, and say it’s the same thing—the intention is the same, I’ve missed the whole point, and I don’t understand. And that’s okay, we can agree to disagree here. “Empowerment” is, after all, the sacred cow of women’s language—it’s everywhere and entire industries hold it as the holy grail.

But I’m old enough to know that my body doesn’t lie to me—and it doesn’t rise at the sound of that word, it waits. I trust her truth.

What I do know for sure is that women are more hellbent than ever on rising up. We’re no longer waiting—and this is good, and awesome and timely. My invitation, however,  is this:

Let’s leave our “em” at the door, and travel a little lighter as we rise with power.

______________________________________

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 haven’t been out here much because I’ve been finalizing the manuscript for my second book, Ignite: Lighting The Leader Fire (due out November 15th!!!) 

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

Thursday, December 5th: SheSpeaks, night 1 
Five amazing women will be taking the stage with Lael at SheSpeaks to share their stories at this ever-popular annual event! Tickets are on sale now at One Longfellow Square and going fast, so be sure to get yours early if you want in on it this year!

Friday, December 6th: SheSpeaks, night 2
For the first time ever in the history of SheSpeaks, Lael will be taking center stage for the second evening of SheSpeaks to share stories from her own experience, and will weave together threads from her work with women over the years, as she celebrates the release of her second book, Ignite: Lighting The Leader Fire. Tickets are on sale now via One Longfellow Square and are going fast for this special edition night of SheSpeaks.

The Stories You Might Have Missed—Or Want Again

Posted May 30th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

 

BOOM.

Yes, Lily. My thoughts exactly, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I did.

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

It felt like magic.

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

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

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

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

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

They agreed to share their stories with you.

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

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

Lael’s Intro: Sovereign

Anne Morin: Whispers Under The Words

Lael: On Making Shit

Louisa Irele: My Queendom

Lael: The Holy Grail Inside You

Corinne Mockler: Water Witching

Lael: The Game Of Life

Lyn Carter: Women’s Ways Of Knowing

Lael: The Golden Buddha

Nadine Farag: The Vessel Of Self

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

______________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Naked With My Truth

Posted May 18th, 2019

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

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

SNAP OUT OF IT! (smack)

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

Would you believe me if I said the Divine Feminine?

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

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

Everything just felt wrong.
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why was I still engineering small when I knew better?

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

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

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

FUCKETTY FUCK FUCK! WHAT THE FUCK?

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

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

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

Apparently She’s dangerous.

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

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

SNAP OUT OF IT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is me snapping out of it.

This is me not playing the game.

This is my sledge hammer self undiluted.

This is me getting naked with my truth.

______________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5 Antidotes For A Rugged April

Posted April 29th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need each other, now more than ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simply put, we are all experiencing transition. Together.

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

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

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

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

 

Divine Feminine Oracle by Meggan Watterson

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

The Serenity Prayer

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

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

 

Do Less by Kate Northrup

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

Brene Brown’s Netflix Special

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

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

Brene Brown

 

She Let Go by Safire Rose

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

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

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

 

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

The Power Of Women’s Stories

Posted November 21st, 2018

There I was, just minding my business on the northern line of London’s underground on vacation with my family and BOOM—I see it. Validation of everything I had been working toward all these years.

As we pull up to the Euston platform, the doors open, revealing this massive, not-to-be-missed sign that simply read:

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

And then the doors shut and we were moving again. I swear if there had been white doves released or the sound of angels singing in the underground that day, it could not have seemed more like a sign. It literally WAS a sign. I turned to look at my husband next to me and said, “Did you SEE THAT!?” Not waiting for his response, I started frantically reaching into my pockets or my bag to dig out a pen. Before he knew what was happening, I had spun him around and was using the flat plane of his back to furiously scribble the quote on a page of my London Lonely Planet book.

Truth be told, I don’t think I could forget that moment if I tried. Inside that quote was validation of what has been steering me—sometimes pushing, sometimes pulling—all these years to bring SheSpeaks, my evenings of women’s storytelling, back to the stage year after year. Inside that quote was the answer to “So what’s SheSpeaks about, anyway?” And inside that quote was the energy of the crowds that poured into SheSpeaks evenings every year, their hunger to hear more and more and more women’s stories pumping through our blood as loudly as the music that greets people as they arrive each evening.

Women’s stories and their power to change our world seem like they are everywhere I look these days…literally.

Earlier that day in London with my family, we had stumbled on an exhibit by Jenny Holzer in the Tate Modern museum where she had literally papered the walls of one entire room with all the messages she has heard and collected over the years. She called them “truisms,” even though as you begin to read through them, it becomes very obvious that they are riddled with contradictions. Her exhibit poses one provocative question to those to find themselves surrounded by these “trusims”:

“How do you cope—within and without—when all these views are present, sometimes clamoring, sometimes fighting, sometimes murderous?”

Put another way, she’s touching upon the very things that I ask of women who take the SheSpeaks stage with me each year:

What do you see?
How do you feel?
What are you making of it? 
And where are you in all of that? 

And then I hear #METOO. I thought I was the only one who thought (said, felt, experienced…) that, and it’s so good know I’m not alone. And it’s not just women saying these things after the events, but men as well.

So many of us think we’re alone, don’t we? Maybe that’s the power of women’s stories—they connect us to ourselves and each other, and they have us rise individually and collectively as a result.

But women’s stories are everywhere, sometimes spoken, sometimes written, sometimes expressed as art, and sometimes seen on the walls of the underground. But what gives me hope is that they are taking center stage more and more.

When I came home from that London trip and I began to work with each of the ten speakers for this year’s SheSpeaks, I happened to stumble upon the Netflix special Nannette with Hannah Gadsby, and there it was once again… that validation…that sensation in my bones that telling our stories as women is some of the most important work of our times.

I can’t begin to do justice to the impact her show had on me because I’m still trying to find my words to describe how powerful it felt to me. So I’ll offer you some of Hannah’s words instead:

“Laughter is not our medicine. Stories hold our cure. Laughter is just our honey that sweetens our bitter medicine. I don’t want to unite you with laugher or anger. I just want my story heard and felt by individuals with minds of their own. Because like it or not, your story is my story and my story is your story.” 

This is why I do SheSpeaks each year. Because I see stories as some of our most powerful medicine in these times. All stories have value, but too often we only hear a select few repeated in a loop, and after a while those stories start to morph into facts…and then systems and cultures. But like the best medicines, the best stories are the ones that are still alive—and being lived.

Women’s lived experiences. That’s what takes center stage at SheSpeaks each year. You can’t rehearse that shit. You can’t fake it or make it up. Sometimes it’ll make you cry, and sometimes it’ll make you roar with laughter, but the stories each night are told from the heart and caught by an amazing sold-out audience year after year.

Photo credit: Ginger Soul PhotographySheSpeaks is like my sign on the underground wall. Each year, a loaded car full of people comes barreling down the tracks headed for somewhere. They pull up to the platform, the doors open, and stories flood into the bones of the people on the train. And then, just like that, the doors shut, and we’re moving again.

But you have to be there to see the sign. It’s not recorded, you won’t find them on YouTube, and you’ll only see still pictures of it that won’t nearly capture the magic. So now would be a great time to ask yourself: Do I want to be on that train December 6th or 7th (or both)?

If that answer is yes, you might want to pick up your ticket to ride at One Longfellow Square very soon—those cars on the underground are already getting full fas. And when it’s sold out, the doors of these two trains will close and they’ll head out of the station until it comes around again next year.

 

Thursday, Dec 6th will feature these storytellers:

Anne Morin
Louisa Irele
Corinne Mockler
Lyn Carter
Nadine Farag

Friday, December 7th will feature these storytellers:

Ashley Dobbs
Rosa Slack
Molly Neuner
Robin Hodgskin
Virginia Dearani

Re-Membering

Posted January 23rd, 2018

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

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

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

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

“So how do we USE that power?”

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

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

 

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

White Women Cake

Posted September 19th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was a watershed moment for me.

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

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

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

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

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

Anger. Even rage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good point. Why not, indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

And if women’s storytelling is your thing, save the date for this year’s SheSpeaks being held at One Longfellow Square on December 7th. The theme is “Life In The Arena” and tickets are on sale now if you’re a planner!