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you have to keep moving forward

you have to keep moving forward

It is the night before our college graduation.  We gather on the porch of our apartment, boyfriends ditched for the moment, to imprint one more indelible memory.

I grab paper and pen and quickly build out a MASH (Mansion-Apartment-Shack-House) board.

Marriage options?  I ask, pointing to one of my best friends.  We call out names, recalling epic past crushes, honoring present partners, and throwing in someone terribly inappropriate for laughter, groans, or one more wash of embarrassment.

We continue with other categories: number of children, where we will live, careers, cars we will drive, ailments we will suffer (our irreverent humor at 22 not caring that we might be tempting the fates) and more.  And then we laugh our way through each one of our findings.

You are going to marry Alex and live in a shack in Bolivia (keep in mind that MASH does not know or care about what countries are landlocked) with your 5 children where you will be a surf instructor suffering from a goiter who drives a Volkswagen Thing.

We double over laughing at our predictions until the music calls us out into the night to say goodbye to our classmates, to dance one more time with those loves we have that we think we’ll end up marrying (our MASH results be damned), to whisper goodbye to this life and hello to the one we are transitioning into, to say see you later to each other.

*

Almost twenty years later, we gather every spring for a couple days to catch up.  In our hearts and heads, we are still 22, still girls just trying to find our way, still so fresh-faced and naïve and vulnerable.  And, yet, we are acutely aware that while we still feel like those girls, we are no longer them.  It startles us to realize how some 20 year old must see us today.  As old, adult, boring.  But you never saw my MASH board, we want to tell them.   The possibility and irreverence and crazy, crazy love captured there are our underpinnings.

*

This year, we have gathered in Washington DC for our two lightning fast days together.  On our full day together, we walk the monuments, taking in FDR, Eleanor, and Thomas J., and Martin.  And it is there, in front of Martin Luther King Junior’s memorial, our mouths gaping at the exquisite rendering that something clicks into place.

Isn’t it incredible to think that all that good he did was in his thirties?  Lylen asks.

Later, we are sitting around once more, not unlike how we did years ago on our apartment porch, our conversation meandering from base to brilliant, irreverent to vulnerable, our confessions coming in short order until we begin to admit that at this point in our lives, we thought that we would be somewhere else already.  Not geographically, necessarily, but in our careers, in our accomplishments, in our impact.  We are startled at the way that family crises and children have uprooted us, knocked us straight off our feet not for minutes or moments or months but for years.

We look at each other, shocked that the other feels this way.  We label her accomplishments.  We tell her what we don’t think she’s seeing and, yet, we know that while we each see what the other is saying, we also see what the 22 year old us saw and we know there is this part inside of us that calibrates just how upending family tragedy or turmoil has been for us and it is keeping score against what we thought could happen by now.

I tell them how my students always write in their body image autobiographies that their vision is ‘simply’ to do better than their parents, to have it easier than their parents.  And I tell them how it is such a bittersweet thing for me to read—sweet because I am so touched by what they perceive as their simple desire and bitter because I remember being right where they were and then, here I am, twenty years later, startled at how hard life is, how much it asks of you, how we don’t know that asking for the simplest things—a better, easier life than our parents had—is actually asking for everything.

And, then, after we have told each other over and over again, I didn’t know you were going through that, I didn’t know you felt that way, I am so sorry, I am so proud of you, we recalibrate.

There are {hopefully} so many years left in our lives.  There is time left to do the good we are meant to do in this world.  There is time left to take ourselves and our dreams to the next level.  And, this time, we get to do it with an awareness of how incredibly strong we are, with a deep appreciation not just for what we have weathered but how what we weathered made us better.

We name what we are thinking about for our futures, not like we are playing MASH and tempting the fates to choose for us what we will have in our lives, but like we are owning our personal power and choosing for ourselves.  We let our twenty-two year old selves go and welcome our truth, our experience, our amazing present self to the forefront, inviting her to do whatever it is she wishes without the pressure of expectations that exist in a vacuum and while standing upon the scaffolding that a beautiful yet difficult well-lived life builds.

Cultivating a Real and Generous Teacher Presence

As many of you know, teaching is at the cornerstone of how I live my purpose in this world.  I love teaching because it facilities powerful emotional connection, it allows me to always be a learner, and because it is a laboratory for our inner-connectedness.  Most of us are teachers in some way, whether formally or informally, and I am honored today to introduce you to Jennifer Louden, a teacher and creator, who is sharing some of her thoughts on teaching and an opportunity.

Jennifer Louden

***

Think back on the teachers you’ve had in your life. Some come to mind immediately for their realness, their generosity, a certain quality you may not be able to name but you could feel. Maybe it was your fourth grade science teacher. Maybe it was someone teaching you how to care for yourself in a workshop. Maybe it was a parent teaching you to ride a bike. Whoever they were, they were present and you could feel their presence.

To be an inspired teacher – who does not burn out – cultivate your own real and generous presence. Doing so will feel good to you and it helps your students learn by creating a compassionate, safe learning environment and igniting the parts of their brain that need to be taken care of for learning to happen.

Here’s a few ways to deepen and enrich your teacher’s presence – try them out and see if they work for you:

•       Before, during, and after teaching, check in with your mind, body and emotions.

Ask yourself questions like:

Am I breathing? (Breathing deeply is helpful.)

Can I relax my jaw, eyes, belly, hands? (Let down your guard.)

Am I speaking to myself kindly?  (Self-criticism cuts you off from your students.)

What do I need right now?  (Your needs count, including going to the bathroom!)

Teaching on line, it’s easy to think your body and emotional state don’t matter – but that’s so not true!

•       Shift into an open, self-accepting state with an open, self-accepting mind. As much as you can.

 Be on the lookout for tension in your body and use that as a sign to take some full breaths and let go of any judgments that may have come up about yourself or your students. Letting go of “How am I doing?” and “Why aren’t they getting?” is a huge part of being present to what is unfolding and thus being able to respond to it genuinely.

•       Find meaning in what you are teaching – the material matters to you.

Take the time, especially when preparing, to connect to the material you are teaching and let it inspire you. Come down from being “the teacher” and be a student as you prep – let fresh insights noodle you or gratitude you know this stuff. You can recall when you first encountered these ideas, and how wonderful that was for you. You can recall students who have been changed by this material when you previously taught it.  All of these will help you find fresh meaning, and teach with more purpose and energy.

•       Savor moments of joy, a rush of “This is so cool!”

Forget being the teacher who appears cool or “this is old hat” – an outmoded model that doesn’t serve. Share your enthusiasm in the moment – and that includes during writing  or recording an audio or video if you teach on-line. Trust yourself and fly your freak flag!

•       Stay connected to yourself and your students – abandoning neither.

The adventure of intimacy with students can be a crazy pendulum that swings wildly between two extremes.

At one end, you might maintain a cool remove, protecting your own energy. You sacrifice being warmly available to your students and the learning that comes through lively engagement. At the other extreme, you devote yourself to being completely available to students, but sacrifice your own well-being by meeting all your students needs and wants. Burn-out anyone?

Both of these extremes are born from avoidance: The distant teacher is attempting to avoid being sucked dry or feeling invaded.  The over-available teacher is trying not to let anyone down or leave her or his needs unmet, and wants everybody to like him or her.

Instead, recognize it is impossible to meet everyone’s needs. You get to say “We don’t have time for that” or “I’ll be teaching a class on that next time” or simply “No.” You don’t have to answer impossibly complex or out of line emails, for example.

•       Genuinely care about your students – they can bug you but you consciously work to find some love.

We all encounter difficult students. Try looking for something you can love about him or her before you respond on a call, in an email, or on forums. Maybe you like her avatar or how he uses emoticons, or her backpack or his mohawk. Finding something to like and appreciate fosters compassion and takes (some) of the judgment out of your encounters, which allows you to maintain control of the learning situation for all your students, without shaming anyone or having that subtle edge of your voice.

***

I hope these ideas invite you to play the next time you teach. Presence changes everything. It awakens your creativity, your patience, and allows you to be fed while you feed others through your teaching.  It’s not always easy but it is always rewarding. Thanks for reading this!

Best-selling author and personal growth pioneer Jennifer Louden is the creator of many things, include the popular course TeachNow. With 1160+ alums, TeachNow empower people who need more confidence, more income, and more power in their teaching – no matter the subject or level of experience. Join Jen for a free sampler of TeachNow March 19th at http://www.theteacherspath.com  and walk away with 7 actionable ways to dissolve sticky obstacles to teaching… now.

 

5 books for your self-awareness and self-acceptance journey

five books

In 1996, my college roommate and best friend gave me a gift that would change the way I approached life.

The Artist’s Way is billed as a twelve week course in discovering and recovering your creative self.  Doing the work laid out in this book fueled my self-awareness and helped me get incredibly clear about what I had to offer the world.  Because of this book, I realized how central writing was to my understanding of myself and critical in the work that I wanted to do in the world.  It inspired me to go get an MFA in Creative Writing.  I still do exercises from this book and constantly recommend it (I recommended it just last week to a student at Middlebury College when I was speaking there for Eating Disorders Awareness Week).

Thinking about the difference The Artist’s Way has made in my life inspired me to share with you some books that greatly encourage self-awareness and self-acceptance.  Are you looking for a book to gently inspire your personal growth, deepen your self-knowledge, and/or lead to motivation or acceptance?  Try one of these.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Considered the seminal work on the creative life, some people may see themselves as not creative and think this book has nothing to offer them, but it does.  Divided by weekly themes over twelve weeks, this instructive book gives your profound exercises to discover or recover a sense of safety, identity, power, integrity, and more.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

One of the most profound things we can do in this life is release guilt and shame and allow our vulnerability to actually be a gift to ourselves and to the world.  We build the most profound connections at our most vulnerable, and Brown uses her years of research to teach us how to practice daring greatly while inspiring us to have a new perspective on life.  Readers will especially enjoy the Daring Greatly Leadership Manifesto and the Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto.

Yogalosophy by Mandy Ingber

Yogalosophy is an action plan to re-pattern habits, develop positive self-talk, and channel emotions while using  intention, yoga, music, reflection and, if you would like, food as tools.  There’s an overview in the beginning and then a day by day plan with detailed instructions and photos for guidance.

The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte

Part inspirational guide, part instructional workbook, The Desire Map shows you why how you feel matters and then guides you in claiming what your core desired feelings are in a fun and thorough workbook.  Ultimately, the idea is that you choose how you want to feel in life and then make choices in your life that guide you to those core desired feelings over and over again.

Beautiful You by Rosie Molinary

Since The Artist’s Way got me started on this deep self-awareness work, it seemed appropriate to include my contribution to this effort on this list.  Drawing on self-awareness, mind-body, and practical techniques, Beautiful You is an action plan to give women what they need to champion and fully live their own lives.  Every day starts with a short inspirational essay and is followed by one action to take that day.  With experiences ranging across ages and experiences, Beautiful You is a choose your own adventure to build your self-awareness and self-acceptance.

Life is not a transaction.

summer day

“Well, it’s broken.”

We are in the urgent care, after a day spent enjoying the snow and it seems that final sled run has put more than just an exclamation point on Happy’s half-birthday.

The doctor moves towards us with the x-rays and points to the location of the break.  It would be easier if this were an arm break or a leg break. What we are looking at is a broken pelvis.

And so he immobilizes Happy with a soft cast—locking his body from belly button to big toe into a straight arrow.

“He has to stay immobile until he sees the pediatric orthopedic specialist tomorrow,” he tell us. “No weight bearing at all.”

And so we carry our six year old out like he’s a plank of wood being lifted horizontally over the threshold. We slide him into the back seat, feet first.  We prop him up on pillows and cover his hip in ice and let him listen to an audiobook much later than his bedtime while he eats dinner in bed. His dad sits in the chair across from him and just stares at him, memorizing every sliver of skin while trying to forgive himself that this happened on his watch. I read him extra bedtime stories, sing him an extra song, cover him in kisses.

A common conversation in our household centers around not being transactional—not doing things just to do them, to check them off a list, but instead being self-aware enough to be really present for what we are doing with each other and especially with our boy. You have heard this parenting adage before:  the days are long but the years are short. Though I exhale every time I come out of putting Happy down each night, there is a simultaneous sting when I close that door—the awareness that there is one less time I have to put him down.

In bed, I start to problem solve the situation. If Happy has to be immobile for the next six weeks, I have to be prepared to teach him from home. I think through what I have to say no to, what I shouldn’t volunteer for, where we can ask for help.

The next morning, we load our little boy up into the car and drive to the city to meet with the pediatric orthopedist. As we wait in between tests and x-rays, we play I Spy a million times (which is 999,917 more times than I am usually willing to endure), I tap dance until Happy is laughing so hard I worry we might hurt him even more, I make up songs.  I don’t want him to remember this time in his life as “when I broke my hip and had to lie on my back bored out of my skull for weeks and weeks.”  I don’t want him to think he is alone in this. I don’t want his recovery to be just a transaction of ice bags and elevated legs.

And just as he is gulping air to recover from my tap dancing with spirit fingers, just after he tells the doctor that I am the WORST TAP DANCER EVER, the doctor tells us that his broken pelvis—which would have required surgery- isn’t really broken. There’s an injury there that we’ll have to treat, but it’s not broken.

The relief is like the release of a pressure valve, like a cannon of confetti being shot into the air, like saving grace.  And because we were present for the disappointment, the despair, the darkness the night before, we can taste the sweet relief as if it is fresh honeycomb. Our eyes well. We high five. We listen to the doctor’s instructions.

“What’s for lunch?” Happy asks as we prepare to leave.

“Whatever you want,” we tell him and he wastes no time saying, “Does that mean I can have a hot dog?” He’s lost none of his savvy in this scare.

So much of our world these days is designed to steal us away from being present.  Our smart phones, social media, streaming videos, overload of commitments and more keep taking us away. And then life hands you moments, moments that remind you (us) that what is most important is right in front of you, not on some screen.

This week, I want to encourage you to think about where you are being transactional and where you are being present and gently coach yourself into greater presence and less pressure. Say yes to what matters, no to what doesn’t and sing and dance like it might be the last time you can (even- or especially- if your people make fun of you).

Lessons in Belonging

COVER - final

Over a decade ago, I had the incredible good fortune of meeting Erin Lane in a nonfiction writing workshop.  I instantly adored her.  In addition to being a fantastic writer with a clear, true, unique voice, Erin is the best of souls.  She’s whip smart, thoughtful, funny, ironic, stylish, reverent and vulnerable and just so, so dear.  Also, she loves cupcakes.  Clearly, she is kindred.  I’ve loved reading her blog on faith and feminism over the years and am now so excited to share with an excerpt from Lessons in Belonging from a Churchgoing Commitment Phobe.  As someone who has always struggled with belonging (not just with churches but EVERYTHING), I was especially excited to dive into Lessons in Belonging.  Reading Erin’s journey and her wisdom has given me perspective on my own journey in belonging.

I have been to Outpost Community Church once or twice before I decide that it is a serious prospect. It is the kind of place that makes you take a second look after you compare it to other suitors. You’ll have to forgive its annoying quirks. But perhaps you hadn’t had the complete picture when you first met.

I try to give it a real go this time in the hopes that I might catch a glimpse of the Spirit, the lingering presence of God that has me scheming for ways to catch it in its natural habitat. This church seems to be one of those places.

Outpost has two primary things going for it. (1) I can bike to it and, from what I surmise, most people who go here can do the same and; (2) Said people seem to care. And it isn’t that they care about the right stuff (my stuff) but that they care about caring for each other. These criteria seem sufficient.

When I walk into the sanctuary, with its honey-colored walls and stately pillars, I see Bess sitting in the pastors’ pew, her petite body wrapped in marled yarn. A southern woman, raised in Waco and married to a Oklahoman, Bess entered the ordination process while working as an intern at Outpost. I think her brave. She lives in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Durham. She watches the two little boys down the block when their mother runs to the store. She attends the art opening of the woman who shares her duplex. She knows the names of the homeless men who stand outside the church and expects them to learn her name, too, if they are going to be real friends. She even tells them so, pressing her small, heart-shaped face close to theirs.

Bess and I became close in graduate school. We met in the opening chapel service and quickly discovered that we both liked to bike; the following day we made plans to ride to school together like some middle-school gang. All that was missing were the playing cards fixed to our spokes by clothespins. There were other things we held in common, too. In addition to staving off addictions to sugar-free gum and Diet Coke, we loved talking theological trash. We’d be walking around the perimeter of campus and I’d say something about how taking communion helps me remember who I am and she’d say something like “You could get into a lot of trouble with that kind of sentimental hogwash.” Maybe that is another reason I am here, too; a young woman like me isn’t just in the pulpit but walking around giving name tags and shaking hands and acting like there is nowhere else she belongs more.

I told Bess I would commit to coming to Outpost for the summer. An end date for commitment is like a lifeboat to one terrified of time’s expanse. Twelve weeks of going to the same church with plenty of Sundays off for summer travel? I can swing this. Plus, I hope it will appease Bess who has always been wary of my critiques of the church lobbed from the safe distance of a blog post. Better to actually build something up from the inside than tear it down from the outside.

My first Sunday back at Outpost, I notice three things:

One, it is a singing congregation. The worship leader, an older man with box-framed glasses, shouts out instructions to the congregation over the top of his piano. It’s ridiculous – shouldn’t someone give him a mic? – but the voices around me are so strong one has to strain to hear herself.

Two, it is a dancing congregation. This mainline, Protestant congregation is full of clappers, the type of folk who are always an eighth of a beat too late but look so happy doing it one forgives them their clumsiness. They clap and sway and even put their hands up like Perk does when she’s really feeling the Spirit.

Three, it is a peace-passing congregation. When it comes time to shake hands with a room full of strangers, people actually get out of their seats – and even their rows! – to shuffle around the sanctuary giving blessing upon blessing. They even make an effort to learn my name and stick their hands out without being all smarmy.

The people are so earnest here that I try not to focus too much on the fact that we are mostly a bunch of white folks in a city where two-thirds of the population are black and Latino. I try not to be too critical that they don’t bother to make the language gender-neutral in the prayer of confession, let alone in the sermon or songs. I try not to think about it too hard when we kneel and say that we are depraved, that “there is no health in us,” even now, even with all this grace. The people are so earnest, in fact, that I nearly forget to care about any theological differences we have.

We celebrate Pentecost, the occasion for the Holy Spirit descending upon the apostles in first century AD and causing a flurry of miracles and misunderstanding. The day marks the fulfillment of not only Christ’s promise to dwell with his followers and equip them for service in the world, but also the vision of the prophet Joel who testified on behalf of God to all of Israel: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Joel 2:28). The message of Pentecost was one for Jews and its converts alike, both those who belonged to the original covenant and those wondering if they could be adopted in.

And it all began with a sound from heaven and a hungry wind.

Excerpted from Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe (Crescendo, 2015) by Erin S. Lane. Erin works for the Seattle-based nonprofit Center for Courage & Renewal as an assistant program director for clergy and congregational leader programs. She has a master of theological studies degree from Duke Divinity School and is coeditor of Talking Taboo. Find more of her writing at www.holyhellions.com.

 

Friday Reflections

playing pool

Every Friday, I reflect on the week that has just passed by doing a little sensory exercise. This practice is a gentle, easy way to tune into how we are doing, what we are experiencing, and what we are grateful for while more acutely tuning into our senses. It’s a whole heart exercise with plenty of bodily input, if you will. Because this practice has been so good for me, I want to encourage you to do it, too. Building some gentle reflection into our weeks is a nice way to stay grounded while maintaining some big picture perspective. So please join me in this week’s Friday Reflections (with each sense as your inspiration, consider how experiencing it impacted your week).

Here is my sensory round-up for the last week:

tasting ::  arroz con pollo, pan seared brussel sprouts (Happy’s favorite vegetable now so a regular on the menu, an Asian-flavored cole slaw, stove-top popcorn, a delicious meal (tortelloni, roasted chicken, and chocolate birthday cake) at a new farm to fork restaurant in town.

hearing ::  wind like a hurricane as a fierce cold front came through (and, well, settled for a bit).

smelling :: candles.  Love the dancing light and luscious scent as we have been huddled inside against the elements.

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seeing ::  the Circle de Luz girls get so excited about running our annual 5k as we kicked-off the journey this past Saturday with shoe fittings (each girl gets a pair of shoes that are just right for her feet and a jog bra), tie-dying of our race shirts, goal setting, our first training run, and lunch.

feeling ::  a bit brain dead.  Happy was out of school for four days and because I didn’t want to just plop in front of the television, we’ve been playing, reading, writing, cooking up a storm but my professional brain feels a bit squishy.  It’s like riding a bike though, right?  It’ll come back with a few trips around the proverbial block.

wishing :: for and making space.  My calendar is pretty full for the next five weeks so I’ve got to make some space to meet my responsibilities.  That might mean that I am here a little less often on Wednesdays and Fridays as I get over the hurdle.

What about you? What were your sensational experiences this week? Please share!

A Body Warrior to Meet: Kathryn V. White

a body warrior to meet

A regular feature on the blog years ago was A Body Warrior to Meet.  In it, I featured women from around the world who shared insights on their relationship with themselves.  It was an inspiring way to show that self-acceptance wasn’t exclusive – we could all embrace it- and a way to share the grounded tenderheartedness and deep wisdom that I was seeing in so many people with whom I had the pleasure of interacting while doing this work.

In Beautiful You, the questions for Body Warrior to Meet where shared as one of the exercises (Day 162) and I offered to share readers’ Body Warrior answers here on the blog, if they wished.

KV White compressed for web2

Today, I am happy to introduce you to Kathryn V. White, a writer, artist, and mystical cosmonaut who enjoys sharing her adventures in expansion through her art and writings. Her dream is her creations help transform our world to be a healthier, wiser, and more joyful place to live. To this end, she shares life-affirming short stories and has written the book, Rumble Tumble Joy: A Journey for Healing, Inspiration, and Wholeness.

What do I love about myself?

I love my curiosity and creativity.  My curiosity keeps me going, even when times feel really tough.  My curiosity combines well with my creativity and ensures I express myself in tangibles—such as writing and visual art.

At one point in my life, I turned away from painting.  I struggled with the idea that everything I created as art meant the destruction of something else.  However, the calling was too great to ignore and, after deep spiritual explorations on this issue, I made a personal commitment to painting.  I was curious to see how my life would change by acting on this intention.  And my life certainly did.  (But that’s another story!) In addition, I now have over 120 acrylic paintings (which are wonderful gifts of self, from self, to self) that I created over one five-year period.

I find that sometimes insight, wisdom, and healing can only be found after we physically express ourselves through a creative process.  It’s a paradox.  It’s also a great gift that we can share with each other.

My biggest challenge in accepting my body and beauty:

It has changed as I move through the years.  When I was younger, it was accepting the curve of my thighs.  Now, I don’t agonize so much over any specific body part.  I do think about aging and how to stay vital.  I’m very aware of the unhealthy constructs the media and society have created to pattern people to hate and fear becoming older.  Caroline Myss points out how our society is very much about living as long as possible without aging.  Now there’s a construct that brings unhappiness with one’s body!

I take time to keep myself healthy and do things that give me joy.  I know that nurturing myself is more than what foods I eat, it is the music I listen to, the movies I watch, the books I read, the conversations I share—not only with others, but my own self-talk.  Exercise and stretching are integral to my health as well. (My two awesome dogs help with making exercise more fun!).

RumbleTumbleJoy_FrontCover

My biggest support in learning to appreciate myself: 

One support for me was taking an intensive women’s class dealing with body image and self-acceptance many years ago.  Through photography, writing, and sharing I learned to appreciate my body and the diversity of female shapes and sizes in general.  The gifts from this class stayed with me long after it was ended and the experience was a midwife to my writings that are now published and available on Amazon as my book, Rumble Tumble Joy: A Journey for Healing, Inspiration, and Wholeness.  Just as other people’s books have helped me to move forward in my life, my intent for this book is to provide inspiration and a helping hand to women and girls as they work to move through their low self-esteem and body issues to a place of more wholeness and self-love.

Beauty is:

At its deepest place, beauty is indefinable as it is beyond words and beyond the limits of any rendering. As an image, I find much beauty in the art of Georgia O’Keefe.  As words, I find much beauty in the poetry of Hafiz.  In actions, I find much beauty in those who work to make the world a more loving and healthy place.

Why I am strong:

I am strong because I don’t give up.  I am committed to my spiritual path and I don’t shirk from experiences for growth.  I seek to see the beauty and harmony of life at the same time I don’t deny its pain and suffering.  I am learning to accept the gifts of experiencing the duality of opposites that are an inherent part of this life.

Why I am beautiful:

Because like all that is and is not, I come from a greater source.

What women must know:

Develop your critical thinking skills, expand your heart, love your body, and honor your spirit.  Really look at the messages your family, your friends, the video games you play, the things you read, the movies you watch, the media, and society provide you.  Are they life-affirming?  Do they nurture you and others?  Do they support a healthier and wiser world?

You have to do the work yourself to discover who you are, what you stand for, what you will share that you have received from others, and how you will gift the world with your talents and wisdom.  You are always at choice; make that choice a loving one.

a recipe for sustaining ourselves

For the longest time, I only practiced self-care when I was forced to do so because, in some way, my body or mind couldn’t sustain me any longer.  And while that self-care ultimately would save me in those moments, it finally occurred to me that I could avoid the whole crisis cycle if I just incorporated basic self-care into my daily life.

Want to incorporate more self-care into your daily life?  Here’s a little graphic to give you some ideas to get started.  Choose one of these things that you can do daily this week (drink more water, get more sleep, keep a gratitude journal) and one thing you can do once this week (book any outstanding doctors’ appointments, do yoga) and then add another daily practice and once a week practice to your week next week so that you can gently but effectively build your own self-care muscle.

We spend so much time taking care of others and while our relationship with others is one of the greatest sources of vitality in our lives, it is only sustainable if we sustain ourselves.

 practicing selfcare

It’s NOT about the cupcake.

photo by Jill E. Williams

photo by Jill E. Williams

As has become tradition here on the blog, every Valentine’s Day, I tell the same story.  It’s the story of one of the biggest fights in my marriage to BF.  And though it seems like it is about a cupcake, I cannot stress enough that it is NOT about the cupcake:

This is the funny thing about our marriage.  BF and I are about as different as two people can be.  I mean, we are seriously different.  But this has worked to our advantage because it means we have to communicate and compromise about everything.  Anyway, because of our differences, we know that we’re not going to feel the same about most things, and so we just go into every discussion knowing there will be lots of communication until we get to the other side.  Since we don’t expect to see eye to eye on everything, we rarely fight.  Except when BF takes something that is mine. Without asking.  Because I just think that is disrespectful.

The most common thing I don’t want to share without being asked is my dessert.  Not because I want the sugar so badly (okay, maybe a little bit is that), I swear, but just because I think you shouldn’t take something that is not yours.  It would be one thing if he asked.  It would be another thing if I didn’t ALWAYS say, “I have a cookie in there I really want to eat, please don’t eat it.”  But I always do, and he never listens.

It’s enough to drive a woman who once won a Holly Hobby cake in a raffle as a four year old but was sick the day it came home and her family devoured it without saving her a piece bonkers.  No, there are no issues here.  Move along.  I just want to explain that my territorialness about sugar, I mean asking, has deep roots.  And I am forthright about it.  You’d think a boy would learn. But he hasn’t.  Or maybe he has, because just last week there was a mini-sugar situation in our house.  But this time BF didn’t eat my cookie (I made him his own set of cookies as a surprise and just asked to have one that I sealed away in aluminum foil for later), he threw it away.  And we survived it, and everyone went to bed happy at our house (or maybe I’ve just learned that there is no guarantee that one will enjoy any sugary goodness that lands in our house).  Unlike Valentine’s Day 2007.  Speaking of Valentine’s Day, happy day, BF.  I wouldn’t trade you for the world.  Or even a cupcake which I know is kinda hard to believe.

Here we go:

I love cake.  Grocery store cake to be specific.  Give me some grocery store vanilla cake with vanilla icing and you have a girl who doesn’t need any other sustenance.

Anyway, for Valentine’s Day 2007, BF’s aunt gave us two cupcakes.  Grocery store cupcakes.  With a lot of icing.  I was so psyched about the cupcake that in the car, on the way home from dinner at his aunt’s house, I was talking about when I was going to eat my cupcake.  Yes, I am simple; I don’t play otherwise.  I know this about myself, but, here is the thing, I don’t ever get grocery store cake or cupcakes and so a little part of me was dancing inside from the rare impending sugar rush.

BF looked at me nonchalantly and said, “You can have my cupcake.”

“Are you kidding me,”  I asked.  “Because if you are, that is just cruel.”

“I am not kidding you,” he answered.  “I don’t need to be eating that.”  He actually said that line with a hint of self-satisfaction, as if he were mature enough to rise above the cupcake trance that I was so clearly in. But I ignored him because I knew that I needed the cupcake– both cupcakes.  Whatever, dude, be self-righteous.  I just want the cupcakes.

So I started planning, aloud in the car, when I would eat each cupcake.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,”  I exclaimed, as if he had given me something gold and shiny.  But this was better than gold and shiny.  Sugar is my gold and shiny.

Back home, I dropped my cupcakes off in the kitchen and then retreated to my office to work on whatever deadline I had approaching, and BF went to bed.  Finally at a good stopping place a couple hours later, I walked through the kitchen on the way to our bedroom.  My eyes darted to the cupcakes that I had so lovingly wrapped in tin foil.  Panic struck.  Even through the tin foil, I could see that one of the cupcakes was missing.  I opened up the foil.  Just one cupcake looked back.

Mercury rose through my spine.  I marched into the bedroom and noisily opened my dresser drawer, stomped my way into the bathroom, threw on every light, hummed my way through my bedtime routine until BF woke up with a jump.

“What?”  He asked, as he always does when he is awakened from a deep sleep (except for that one time I elbowed him to wake up his snoring self at the NUTCRACKER and he said something very different and not appropriate for the Nutcracker audience.  We have not returned to the Nutcracker.).

I turned to him, put my hands on my hips, and said “I can’t believe you would do something so tacky as to eat my cupcake without asking.”

“It was my cupcake,” he tried to reason.

“No it was not,”  I said.  “And that doesn’t matter because this is not about the cupcake.”

“It is too about the cupcake,” he insisted.

“It is not.  This is about you offering me something and then regretting the offering and rather than coming to ask me if you could have it back like an adult, you just did what you wanted.  That is no way to be in a partnership,”  I sneered.

“You’re just mad that I ate MY cupcake,” he volleyed.

“This is NOT about the cupcake,” I fumed and ranted and raved until we both just went to sleep.  And I promise it wasn’t about the cupcakes.  It was about what eating my cupcake without asking symbolized.  I swear.

In the morning, he looked at me when I hopped out of bed.  “I am sorry that I ate your cupcake,”  he offered.

“It’s not about you eating the cupcake,” I tried again.  “Don’t you get that?”

“Yeah, I do,”  he answered before leaving for work.  But I wondered all day if he really did get it.  Sure, I love cake, and I love the anticipation of cake.  But I also love sharing things I love with people that I love, and I would have been happy to give the cupcake back if he had just asked.  That night, he walked into the house with a six pack of grocery store cupcakes.

“What’s that?”  I honed in, my cake-dar on high.

“A peace offering,”  he answered.  “Now, you have five cupcakes all to yourself.”

I did a double take, clearly counting six cupcakes in the container.  “But there are six cupcakes,” the greedy little cake hoarder in me said.

“And one of them is mine,”  he smiled before walking into the kitchen, opening the case, and savoring his cupcake.

Wishing you the happiest of Valentine’s Day as you celebrate the love- whether it comes from partnership, child(ren), parents, siblings, friends, colleagues- you have and give in your life.  May nobody eat your cupcakes.

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