Since the inception of Orchid Story, I’ve had a dream to partner with charity organizations to give back. I’m so excited that the first of these partnerships is happening now for Heart Week 2019! I am offering an opportunity to work with me through the Mended Little Hearts of Washington DC Silent Auction. One of the great services offered by Mended Little Hearts is the delivery of Bravery Bags to families staying in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) at Children’s National in Washington, DC. I have been one of those families in the CICU and they remain some of the most unsettling nights of my life. To know that people care, people see you, people have hope for you is such a gift. Anyone can bid on the auction - I invite you to check it out!
Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. They run the show. Our thoughts generate feelings which then cause us to act in a certain way. A lot of the time we run around on autopilot; we're not even aware of the thoughts that we have. Then we feel like life is happening to us. But what if we stop to ask ourselves what are the thoughts that are running through our heads? When we get to know those subconscious thoughts we can start to see how they aren't serving us. We can create new thoughts. When we put in the work to really believe in these new thoughts, we have the ability to change our lives. Our brains are neuroplastic, which means we have the ability to literally rewire our minds!
I first experienced the power of my thoughts controlling my actions back when I was a gymnast. Gymnastics is a great example because it's so easy to see how it works. For many years my main skill on beam was a roundoff backhandspring. (Wondering what in the world that is? Here's a video I found on youtube.) I was terrified, absolutely terrified of doing this trick and I did it for the better part of a decade. You know what made me actually do it and then land it? My thoughts. What do you think happened on days when I thought, this scares me, what if my foot slips on the roundoff? I was unlikely to get the guts to even throw it, let alone land standing on the beam. But on days when I thought, I've done this thing a million times, of course I'm landing it, I would do just that.
Now, as an adult who only does gymnastics on occasion at the trampoline park (see below...), I'm working on being super intentional with my thoughts. I have a belief that I am going to make a good living and serve with Orchid Story. If I was already living that dream, what would my thoughts be? How would I approach my day? My to do list? The person who coaches me on all of this is Brooke Castillo. She doesn't know me, but I listen to her podcast The Life Coach School and implement all of the tools she teaches. If this idea intrigues you I encourage you to listen to these episodes first.
Episode #157 Thought Creation
Episode #228 Believing Hard
Episode #248 Superthinking
I was sitting in a circle of about 40 people in the western mountains of Massachusetts. It was summertime with no air conditioning, but my Buffalo blood loved the lack of that frigid, fake air and felt comfortable in a sleeveless sundress. While there were a few women donning the trademark Lululemon insignias, it was mostly folks in label-free yoga wear or t-shirts and shorts. The clothes alone made me feel comfortable being there without knowing a soul. “Come as you are” would be the motto and these people would mean it.
We were instructed to write a one line response to, “Something you know to be true”. Our teacher gave us a beautiful example of the maple trees and smell of sap in Vermont. The first thing I wrote without thinking was, “I know how it feels to stand in a group of moms and feel utterly alone.”
I started to judge myself, thought about writing something else, something more positive, but I felt so at home with this group that I gently reminded myself to stop being critical and I shared it out loud. It was a deep personal truth that I had known for almost a decade, but never voiced to more than my closest circle.
We could analyze why I should or shouldn’t feel this way, but the point I want to convey to you today is that your people are out there, waiting for you to find them. Now that I’ve had time to reflect, I think the reason this particular truth bubbled up was because I was realizing in that moment the contrast of how different it felt to feel at ease with a group.
Maybe you fit in seamlessly with all of the communities you find yourself in. Great! But maybe, you are like me and while there are a ton of nice, friendly people it’s taken a lot of time to find the ones who make you feel good inside and figure out how to act when you don’t. It can be draining.
Which is why it’s so crucial to find the people with whom you feel like you can completely be yourself. It’s one of the reasons I love running this business - the people who enroll in my programs are my people! I’m sure it’s one of the (subconscious) reasons I started Orchid Story in the first place.
If at times you feel like an odd duck, this is me encouraging you to branch out. I know it’s one of those memes that we’ve seen too many times (FInd your tribe!) but maybe that’s because it holds truth. You may have to drive a distance to find them. They may be online. It may be a support group. Keep yourself open to opportunities to find them.
Actively searching for and finding community last year was good for my soul. I’m convinced it helped me build resilience for major life challenges that came soon after. When I think about the writing retreat in the Berkshires I feel full of warmth and connection. Just knowing those people are out in the world makes me feel less resistance and more positivity in my life. I think that’s what it’s all about - the connection. We all need this, require it in order to find contentment and peace. Maybe that’s why you are here, reading this. Let’s keep building this together - a community of people who believe that our stories, no matter how challenging, are our strength.
This one’s for my sister.
Every inch of my body screamed, "I can't do this again. I need to leave. I can’t handle One. More. Moment.” I felt agitation running through my veins, anxiety rising in my chest. Resentment and anger came bubbling up as I thought of all the families sitting down to their Thanksgiving dinners while I found myself in a room alone with my mom, inside of the assisted living facility we had moved her into two weeks prior. She was downright refusing to get dressed and come with me to join the rest of our family for the meal. Or maybe it was her disease, the PCA, that was refusing to come.
I took a step back and tried to breathe to stop myself from yelling. I wanted to yell all the time, at anything and anyone. At the squirrels who got in my way on the sidewalk, at the aide who should’ve had my mom dressed already, at my kids to put their shoes on. In that moment I wanted to yell at my mom. Then my sister, Dani. “It isn’t fair that you get healthy grandparents”, I would scream. “You get to leave for the holiday and go on date nights with free babysitters and have someone cook for you while here I am, stuck in this room.”
The thing was, I really couldn’t convince my mom to come with me. While I was seeing red inside of my reptilian fight or flight brain, I knew enough to know that I was not mentally in a place where I was going to be able to connect with my mom, get on her level, empathize. Get her dressed so I could be with the rest of my family who were already together, waiting on us. So I called Dani.
Isn’t this what we do as siblings? I would do this to no one else on earth (well, except maybe my husband - sorry babe). I’m so resentful in this moment, I’m letting my emotions get the best of me by attacking my sister in my mind, I know she already feels horribly guilty about leaving me alone to deal with the situation, and I decide to call her?
And, you know what? She answered.
Thinking back on it now, I have tears in my eyes. Tears of deep gratitude for Dani. Put yourself in her shoes for a moment. After months of crisis, I mean crisis every damn day for weeks on end where you are pulled from meetings at work and bedtime with the kids to take care of our mom. Off to the neurologist, the psychiatrist, the ENT. Off to the emergency room. Off to a meeting you’ve been called to with the director of the facility. It is only us. Her and I. We moved her here away from her village and so it is us and only us who are responsible. Dani has finally gotten an opportunity to take a moment to breathe. A few days where she can be with her two little kids and focus on them with her full attention because she knows that even if she gets called she can’t physically come. It’s a huge weight lifted for a few precious days. And I evidently wanted to sabotage it for her.
Not only did she answer the phone, but she answered it free of hostility, even though she had to know it was an SOS call from me before she picked up. We had been answering each other’s calls with, “What happened?” for the past two months. But on Thanksgiving she sounded happy and peaceful when she said hello. Immediately upon hearing her voice I started to relax. I put her on speaker and she spoke to our mom in the way that I wasn’t able. She soothed and listened and comforted. After we hung up, I got mom dressed and off we went.
For years people have told me, “It’s good that you have your sister.” For a long time, I wanted to respond by saying that having a sister doesn’t make the pain go away, you know. It’s still the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. “You’re reminding me of my sister because you want to create distance between yourself and this hardship I’m in; it’s easier to sugarcoat it with my sister rather than acknowledge the pain, isn’t it?” I wanted to say.
This year though, a deeper level of gratitude than I have ever felt before, came into my life. We have walked through the hardest days together, Dani and I. Facing the depth of this disease together, the stripping away of the woman we both love dearly has bound us together in the most beautiful way. We have chosen, time and again, not to scream at each other. Not to take our pain out on each other. But to support. To be the other person’s person. To love.
Now when people tell me how lucky I am to have my sister I close my eyes and say a prayer. Thank you for Dani. Please keep her safe. Please protect her energy and bring her peace.
Marathon time - our family raised over $12,000 for the Foundation and Curt finished the race in just over four hours. It was a day filled with all sorts of emotions - thrilled to be part of the event, moved by the runners persevering in freezing wind and rain, gratitude for the doctors that saved my son's life (like Dr. T pictured here), and devastated that congenital heart disease continues to take so many children away from us.
In late spring after a routine echocardiogram for my seven-year-old son, Griffin, we were told he needed more intensive testing. We headed north to Boston again in August for Griffin to undergo a cardiac catheterization and MRI. We knew there was a chance surgery would be indicated and sure enough, it was time. This picture shows Carly and Griffin at the rooftop garden on top of Boston Children's after we got the news.
This week we will travel to Boston for our 4th trip in 2018 for Griffin's open heart surgery. My heart is aching and I'm scared, but when I reflect on traveling to Boston for Griffin's birth I realize what a long way we've come. Back then, we had no idea what Griffin's life would look like and now I've had the great honor of being his mother for almost eight years. This disease truly affects everyone in the family and traveling far away for care takes a big village. I know how fortunate we are that we can make this happen.
I'm taking a little break from writing to focus on my family so you won't get my newsletter for the next couple of weeks. In the spirit of my new program, Sanctuary, I'm challenging myself to find a moment of sanctuary each day while Griffin's in the hospital and I'll be posting them on Instagram with the hashtag #orchidstorysanctuary.
This time of year can feel overwhelming for many of us; I invite you to come join me on Instagram and share your own version of sanctuary with me. I'd love to see how you create safe, warm, and inviting spaces for yourself amidst this busy season.
Finally, this year has held so much goodness and growth for Orchid Story. I want to say thank you to each of you for reading these words, sending me sweet notes, taking my workshops and classes and giving me all the good vibes. My hope is that by sharing my own stories of finding strength in my struggle you feel encouraged to do the same.
Once upon a time, there lived a woman with an enormous spirit who served as a primary school counselor, healer and teacher. She loved children completely and the children loved her too, so much so, they nicknamed her, ‘Golden Head,’ after her long golden tresses and warm smile. Each and every day, Golden Head gave herself to the neediest of children and, in return, the children were drawn to her, delighting in her love. But her co-workers were bitter and jealous, and tried all they could to cut Golden Head down to size.
“You’re not following the rules,” a teacher scolded, with a finger in Golden Head’s face.
“You’re not using the lesson plans,” jeered another, even more furious.
“You’re not teaching to the test,” scoffed a third, certain the children would fail.
The more her colleagues protested, the more the children were drawn to Golden Head-- to play with her, to listen to her stories, or simply to be in her presence. Until one day, Golden Head felt something break inside. Although she treasured the children, she could no longer give herself to a community that didn’t appreciate her work. So, frustrated, Golden Head spoke her truth, telling her co-worker, Ninny, exactly how she felt.
“I do not understand,” Golden Head cried. “Why do you begrudge me what I do best? Let me serve the children, for they are comforted on my lap. This is what I am called to do, care for the young. And you, Ninny, continue to serve the adults, for this is what you are called to do.”
Ninny did not take it well. “You are wrong-minded, Golden Head. You indulge the children so. As teachers, we need to be in charge, set the rules!”
“Yes, I agree,” Golden Head said. “You set the rules and I will tend their hearts, together we make the perfect team!”
“You are not fit to be a teacher. Leave my room at once!” Ninny slammed the door in Golden Head’s face.
Heartbroken, Golden Head packed her belongings and set out, hoping to find a new community of like-minded teachers and caregivers. But as she was leaving, her colleagues waved excitedly, “Goodbye and good riddance,” they sneered.
Forlorn, Golden Head ventured home where she shared the sad news of her day. “I’m sorry, my dear husband, I couldn’t take it any longer,” she cried.
“My love, I am with you,” Chief Redwood said, embracing her.
Then her sweet daughter, Big Hearted, spoke up, “I am with you, my sweet mother!”
And finally her son, Insightful One, chimed in. “It’s your turn mother, to do as your heart delights.”
Weary, Golden Head went to bed, hoping she might feel better in the morning. And there, in the space between wakefulness and sleep, Golden Head heard a familiar sound. It was the sound of the Grandmothers’ drumming, a drumbeat she had heard so many years earlier in her Shamanic Healing Circle. The rapid drumming carried her deeper and deeper into a dream-like state. Moments later, a Native American woman appeared before her, her face shrouded.
“Come, take the baby,” the woman insisted, thrusting an infant toward her. “Take her, she’s yours!”
Golden Head accepted the babe, holding her close. She was a newborn, searching for her mother’s breast. “What’s her name?”
“Emerald, of course,” the woman said.
Instantly, the babe grew sleeves of soft, green grass, verdant as spring time. Sprigs of leaves burst forth from a plume of wispy, brown hair. A crown of roses sprouted about her tiny head. The babe’s features reflected every race and nationality.
“Come, follow me,” the woman insisted, spinning round. Two long, black braids trailed down her back.
Golden Head raced after the woman through the darkness, clutching the babe, the rapid drumbeat calling her deeper into the vision. Suddenly, they were in a luminous meadow, clusters of elder woman chattering happily. It was a homecoming of sorts. Golden Head searched the crowd hoping to find a familiar face.
“Come, hurry up, you old crone!”
“Crone?” Golden Head protested. “I’m not old!”
“Yes, yes you are. You’re one of us,” the woman said, facing Golden Head. “You’re a wise one and Mother needs your wisdom now more than ever.”
“Do I have a tribe?” Golden Head asked.
“Yes, of course--you know your clan. You’re one of the Sisters of the Shamanic Healing Circle, the circle of thirteen young mothers you initiated so many years ago.”
Golden Head burst into tears of joy and sadness for she hadn’t thought of her spirit sisters in ages. Now the woman leaned in, allowing her features to come into full view. She was beautiful and ageless, seemingly Maiden, Mother and Crown at once.
“Are you my Spirit Mother?” Golden Head had a Spirit Mother in the spirit realm that had been reluctant to reveal her face, until now.
“My sweet daughter,” she said, gently touching Golden Head’s cheeks. “Mother needs you to do your work, you and all of your sisters. If you don’t step up, well the earth is in danger. She’s hurt and ailing, and she needs all of her daughters to give voice to their wisdom, visions, and life work. The men have gotten it all wrong—because, my love, they thought they could do it all alone. So, they need us, they need you, all of you, to step up.
“It is the time of ‘The Great Turning,’ when women step forward to join men, to bring balance to all things and all relations. And honestly, the man at the helm, he’s nothing but a big baby, throwing tantrums, for he’s frightened of the change that’s upon him.”
Abruptly, all went dark, and Golden Head woke lying next to her husband, Chief Redwood, who was sleeping peacefully. Yet, she could still feel the grandmother’s drumming, reverberating throughout her bones.
The drumming continued, rapidly beating all day and well into the night, once again calling Golden Head into her dream time. Indeed, when Golden Head lay her head to rest, Spirit Mother was already there; revealing her beautiful face. As Golden Head reached out to touch her face, it disappeared, like sand through her fingers. Spirit Mother took Golden Head by the hands and sat down on damp earth.
“Please, Mother, tell me, what is my life’s work?”
‘My silly girl, why do you think you are married to the Chief?” She chuckled. “My dear, you are a medicine woman, a shaman, a priestess; you have your own flock to tend.” Spirit mother draped a white shawl around Golden Head’s shoulders, and braided two white feathers into her hair. “One feather comes from your White Owl and one from White Dove, signifying your gifts of insight and love.”
Golden Head remained silent, attentive.
“Yes, the young ones love you, because you’ve loved them so absolutely. And now, you’re being called to help all young women find their voice and their spiritual path on this amazing Earth walk we call life. You’re also an important guide for your own lovely children, Big Hearted and Insightful One, for they too need your guidance.”
Suddenly, Golden Head saw the face of a new friend, Sheila, a local Native American elder woman whom she had met at an antique shop nearby.
“Go, go back to Sheila,” Spirit Mother said. “Join her for The Sleeping Bear Ceremony. Remember, you are Mama Bear; you’ve become one with your spirit animal.”
Golden Head now saw all of her spirit animals dancing around her, many from her ancestral home in the north woods of Minnesota--Bear, Wolf, Horse, Deer, Moose, Owl, Red Cardinal, Turtle and Whale. Then, a second circle formed around the animals, filled with her spirit guides, her most beloved Spirit Father and many ancestors, all celebrating Golden Head’s initiation as Crone and Priestess.
Spirit Mother kissed Golden Head on the cheek and vanished, as quickly as she had arrived. Once again, Golden Head woke to her husband, Chief Redwood, sleeping soundly next to her. She wrapped her arms around him. He’s my sleeping bear, she thought, nuzzling his neck.
Golden Head fell asleep, grateful for the vision and pleased that Spirit Mother had finally revealed herself. Yes, Spirit Mother had initiated her into this new stage of life—maiden, mother, and now, Crone. Although, Golden Head preferred Wise Woman, she was comfortable knowing that her task would be shown to her in good time, in God’s timing, in Mother’s timing.
A few weeks later, Golden Head took a scenic drive with Chief Redwood to view the fall foliage. On their journey, she visited her friend Sheila at her antique store. Sheila plopped down on a soft cushion and invited Golden Head to sit down next to her. Golden Head shared the story of her vision; Sheila listened attentively, her smiling eyes shone against her bright, white hair. Afterwards, Sheila invited Golden Head to an upcoming Animal Spirit Dance. When Golden Head departed, she felt contented knowing that the two would soon meet again. As they drove home, Golden Head envisioned herself dancing with Sheila as Mama Bear and Great White Elk.
However you visualize your Heroine's Journey, (I've found it to be a helpful way to put things in perspective) the Dark Night of the Soul, aka the Messy Middle, is part of it. It's a human experience shared by all of us. In my role as a caregiver for my mom with dementia, I am smack dab in this place. It's kinda a tough spot. In case any of you are also here with me, I thought I'd share some things I've been thinking about.
Awhile ago I listened to an interview with Britta Bushnell, PhD on the Atomic Moms podcast. She talked about confronting the unknown by drawing upon the mythical story of Inanna, the Sumerian mother goddess of Heaven and Earth. It's essentially another version of the Hero's Journey, with a goddess as our guide. The messy middle is a big part of this story. Being in this place is critical to transformation. Eventually we will emerge as a beautiful butterfly. For right now though,
🦋 The length of time is unpredictable.
🦋 We are patient.
🦋 We surrender to the process.
Asking for help
For many of us, it's sooo hard to ask for help. Why? For me I think it's the fear of hearing "no" in response. Guess what? People do say "no". The kind-hearted, "Let me know how I can help!" people. Our brains like to turn this into a big deal: why should anyone help you? you're never going to get this worked out, you might as well give up. everyone is too busy to care about your problems. Sound familiar? The flipside is that if you get the courage to keep asking, there are people who say "Yes!" with the most generous, beautiful, compassion. Just last week I had a friend say no and a friend say yes. The yes was a big one - our neighbors used their airline miles to purchase flights for our family (!!). Still, my brain keeps returning to the no. We have to remind ourselves of the good around us, redirect our minds to focus on the positive.
This little nugget popped into my head last week and I've been trying to keep it in the front of my mind:
Let me hold your story for awhile so you can rest.
Doesn't that feel like fresh air? We can think of "me" as G-d or the Universe or the Divine or a friend, but I don't think it has to be a person. We all need the opportunity to set aside our burdens for a moment to catch our breath and look around.
I opened the email and scrolled. Here's what you should do. Here's why that's not the right decision. Here's where you should look and who you should talk to.
When I first started getting these emails from people who do care about me and my family a couple of years ago, I would feel the need to consider and explore all the options presented. I didn't want to overlook something important or fail to consider an option.
Over the years, I've gotten much more clear about who has a say in the decisions I make for my family. Instead of "Thanks for your input!", I'm turning to "Thanks, but this is a personal decision and we are not looking for outside opinions."
I know some of you reading this today are in the middle of a big decision. If not a decision, perhaps a time of transition or a time of hardship/messiness/distress. Everyone and their mother wants to give you advice about what to do. Does this ring true?
I've made several huge, even life or death decisions for my family, and I'm currently in the middle of another big family decision. I thought I would share what I've learned in the event that you too feel like a sailing ship at the mercy of the waves and weather.
1. Who's on your team? You know, the decision-making team. It should be people you trust 100% without a single ounce of doubt. All other voices get shut out. Be ruthless. My therapist taught me a visualization where you picture a safe. Open up the safe, put all of those outside opinions in there, close it and LOCK IT.
2. There isn't a right decision. I mean, maybe sometimes there is, but in my experience, there is often not a perfect solution or an obvious right one. You are not allowed to beat yourself up for making the "wrong" decision later. I've been stuck in this trap before and it can lead to dark places that are hard to pull out of. I continue to work on untangling myself from the idea of a right or wrong decision.
3. Make peace with yourself and let go of the outcome. Even when we do all of the research and have the absolute best of intentions, sometimes it doesn't work out the way we want it to. Sometimes the decisions we make go against the wishes of the person we are making them for. Your job is to look at the absolute biggest picture, the eagle's view, and ask yourself no matter what the outcome is, will I be able to live with this decision?
I hope this brings you a little bit of comfort. I'm over here, in your corner.
The Orchid Story Community, in their own words.
Remember the prompt I sent out a few weeks ago: What is one thing that motherhood has taught you this month? Our friend Michelle wrote on the prompt and sent it to me! You guys - this is what I have been asking of you and one of you actually did it - YAY!! Please use Michelle as an example and try it. You don't have to send it to me, but if it's as awesome as I think it will be, I would love to share it. I really hope to add other voices to this newsletter on more of a regular basis.
Questions by Michelle Small
The other night I saw something that just didn't seem right. I ask, "What happened today?" Silence follows. I ask, "Did this happen at recess? Who were you with?" She stares at me with her lips as straight as a line and her eyes completely glossed over. I tell her I love her and I am only trying to help and she holds her hands up to her ears and walks away. Exhausted, I want to just yell after her “Fine! Forget it!!” I look down and there is my five year old, laying on the ground incredibly lethargic - an instant sign sickness is coming since he rarely ever is still for more than 20 seconds.
I give my daughter some space for a moment while I try to get my son to get up and put on his pajamas, knowing tomorrow I will likely be taking him to the doctor’s office. He refuses so I ask him “What hurts?” “How do you feel?” “Are you hungry?” He stretches his arms out and whines, “Momma. I want momma.” I give him a hug and then he lays back down. I let him lay there while I go search for the thermometer and check on my daughter. She is in tears and yells, “Don’t ask me anymore questions!!! It is too hard to talk about it!!!”
Reflection on my quest to help them both, I am realizing that asking a bunch of questions - a strategy that always helps me and also my students with their comprehension - is not always helpful. In motherhood, I am learning, sometimes silence can produce the answers. Sitting quietly with my son after taking his temperature (he didn’t have one at the time), I was able to check in with my gut feeling to know he needed to go to the doctor (he wound up having a high fever the next morning and an inflamed throat that needed medicine). Since the blow up with my daughter, I have stopped the constant peppering of questions and wait for her to cue me she is ready to talk. Amazingly, last night, she asked if she could read to me a part from a book she was reading. This book is one I actually recommended to her and, for the first time EVER, she took me up on the recommendation, AND now she wants to show me a part she likes and connects with. I feel like I finally have a win.
I learn and grow by questioning, but I am learning that isn’t how my kids necessarily learn or grow. It also does not seem to be a method to helps them to open up to me about what is going on in their lives. For my kids, the more questions I ask, the more unwilling to share they become. My daughter gets tense and stressed and my son just flat out ignores me and/or dances around (sometimes with underwear on his head) repeating my question or words in a sing song voice and refusing to answer them (He is feeling better today!).
It is SO hard for me, but I am learning to look for those opportunities to sit in silence or just side by side, waiting for them to be ready to share. I won't stop asking questions, but I will start pausing more before I do. It will help me decide if the questions I am bombarding them with will produce the answers I am hoping for.
I show up here each week to show you that it's possible to work through the stumbling blocks that life throws at you. That even when you feel like you are being pelted, pelted, with obstacles, there is still room for you examine your story and improve your emotional and mental well being. I love to connect with you. I love bearing witness to your stories as you vulnerably face them.
I have grand plans for Orchid Story. But they only work if I am understanding who YOU are and how to serve YOU. With that in mind, I created a quick, 5 minute survey that I want you to complete. Click the button below to get to the survey. To entice you I have a fun gift box for one lucky winner with a copy of “Your Brightest Life Journal: A Creative Guide to Becoming Your Best Self” by Caroline Kelso Zook (pictured above), a set of 10 Staedtler colored pens, and a $5 Starbucks gift card. The perfect kit to take with you for me time at the coffee shop. Just complete the survey to be entered. You must provide your name and address where indicated on the survey to be entered to win.
I’m so excited to share with you that I am presenting at the Connector Conference on Saturday, October 13 in Rosslyn, Virginia!
My breakout session title is: “Your Story as the Bridge to Your Inner Self“. I would absolutely love to have you there with me. In addition to my session, there are lots of other opportunities for you to reconnect with your calling, community, creativity and confidence.
I’ve been a friend of Charmed Cardinals, the force behind this conference, for a while and really connect with their mission of having members reconnect with all the pieces of their lives to feel less fragmented. You will get so much value out of attending the conference.
I hope to see you on October 13!
I've had a rough week full of disconnection with my nine year old daughter. Today I noticed she was getting dressed without prodding, brushing her hair and doing what she needed to do to get out the door on time for school. I was so proud of her and she seemed so beautiful and precious to me in that moment. I made eye contact with her and smiled. Not a huge wide-toothed smile, but I felt my facial muscles move into the place they go when I smile.
She stopped in her tracks when she saw me staring at her and said, "What?" Let's just say I sensed some venom in her voice.
I just love you and I'm proud of you.
Then why are you giving me that look?
I'm smiling at you babe.
That's a frown trying to be a smile.
Here I was showing up with the absolute best of intentions trying to connect and she still didn't see it this way. How bad must it feel when I'm reacting out of a place of anger or irritation? It was a reminder of perception and how much our kids feed off of our energy. We have to literally ask them the question to make sure we are on the same page.
This applies to all relationships in our life. With our partner, at work, with our friends. Unless we have the courage to check in, "You seem a bit off today, did I say something that upset you?" we could be two ships sailing on different rivers, in opposite directions.
I wrote today's post in response to a podcast interview question from the amazing Maria Alcoke of The Engine Mom podcast. Use this question that Maria asks all her guests as your writing prompt for this week:
What is one thing that motherhood has taught you this month?
For those of you without kids, simply substitute partnership or yoga or nature or life for "motherhood". I’d love to read your response - email it to me!
Last Friday I took myself on a date to a little village called Lucketts, about an hour away from home. I went alone. I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by all aspects of my life: work, home, personal. I was approaching the end of registration for the class I am currently teaching and I had gotten myself into a frantic state of constantly refreshing my email and lashing out at my family because I was so wound up about people registering. I also had an important phone call to make that I had been putting off for days because I just didn't have the energy to deal and engage.
I went to a bunch of antique and garden shops out there in Lucketts. I strolled, admired, and moseyed my way around. In each store I went in I saw some version of this "gather" handlettering. It reminded me of fall holidays and being together with people you love. I came home and created my own version of it for you.
When I got in the car to head home I felt secure enough to make the tough phone call and, lo and behold, a student signed up for class while I was on my self-care date.
So here's what I pose to you this week. Two things:
Is there a word that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside? Use it as a mantra, make a handlettering, print it out from pinterest. Something so small can help us shift out of a rut.
Where can you take yourself on a self-care date? Oh no Rachel, you may be saying, you don't understand; I work long hours or I'm a stay at home mom/dad, there's just no way. There is a way. Can you miss one softball game this fall while your partner single parents for a morning? Can you ask the 8th grade neighbor to come over while you take a walk or get to the coffee shop? You are worth it. Your mind and soul need you to give them a little break.
I think and write a lot about living in the “and” of life. That’s the place where seemingly conflicting or contradictory feelings arise and the idea is to allow them both. Just because a feeling feels icky or maybe not what you “should” be feeling, you still allow it to be there and co-exist with your other feelings. I think we often stuff our feelings so quickly that we might not even notice them. We were told as kids, “It’s not scary” or “Stop crying, there’s nothing to be upset about” or “Everything is fine” and we ingest this for life.
My version of embracing “and” is about acknowledging and allowing the feeling. I think this is one of the paths to personal growth. I need some teachers along the way because this stuff is hard. I love to listen to Megan Hale’s version of this on her Wild & Holy podcast. Episode 12: The Underbelly of Expansion was all about how parts of us contract in the middle of expansion.
You know I always use myself as the guinea pig when I’m trying to figure something out, so I am going to use a recent anecdote to illustrate.
Back to School Night happened recently. The day of, I worked at my genetic counseling job, ran to the parking garage at 3:30pm, had my usual two hour long commute home, picked the kids up at their after care, brought my daughter over to gymnastics and then found myself in my kitchen with my husband and son. It was time to go to school for the event, but all I wanted was to sit down with them and rest. Going to school events can be challenging for me. No matter. I left with 10 minutes before the start of the session I was attending, plenty of time given the school is one mile away. Except I forgot about parking at school events. You would think we lived in Times Square. I parked about five blocks away, got out in my heels and started running. My good girl reflex kicked in and I didn’t want to make a bad impression on the teacher that might reflect poorly on my kid.
By the time I got the classroom I was dripping sweat and panting. Great first introduction. The teacher was lovely and calm, which eased my stress and I was feeling good by the time I pulled into the driveway back at home 90 minutes later.
Then my phone rang. I looked at it and saw the name of one of my mom’s caregivers. My stomach dropped, quick and hard. A very big part of my wanted to throw the phone into my bag and stride into the house to start the bedtime routine with my family, ignoring the call. Having been on the receiving end of these phone calls for the eight years since my mom’s diagnosis of a rare dementia, I have a strong hit of intuition when something is wrong. I just knew that answering the phone would lead to more action that evening. I didn’t want more action.
Let me pull apart here some of what I was feeling right in this moment:
Utterly exhausted from this marathon day and stimulated from a big shot of adrenaline knowing something has occurred with my mom.
Shameful that I wanted to ignore the call and proud that I can handle these moments of extreme stress.
Gratitude for having helpers that lovingly take care of my mom and resentment towards this disease that has taken over our lives.
I could go on. I think it’s so helpful to acknowledge and, as I’ve done here, write these feelings down. I don’t feel any shame now about these feelings. Processing them in this way is so helpful to me.
I did pick up the phone. There was an emergency. We dealt with it. Until the next phone call.
Your turn: Describe a scene where you had conflicting feelings. Then write out the actual feelings.