Category Archives: Courage

You get to have this.

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Oh my goodness friends, I’m moving. (I’ve been looking for almost a year in this crazy Bay Area housing market)

It feels like a miracle of endurance and faith and letting go.

It’s not fancy. In fact, it’s modest and the kitchen is tiny and the roof is pitched and the walls curve at funny angles. But I love it. Outside every window, all you see is trees… it has a big deck and two bedrooms with plushy carpet throughout. It’s cozy and feminine and feels like a treehouse. It has good mommy energy – like the redwoods surrounding it – feminine and powerful.

I feel safe there.

And the best part? There is another single mama who lives downstairs. Her girls are the same age as the boys. It’s the mommune I’ve always dreamed about! We have autonomy with our own apartment, but with another family living downstairs. We can share meals and play and look after one another. Plus, they have cats! Adorable cats!

When I did a walk-through with the mama from downstairs, my eyes pooled with tears, “Do I get to have this?” She beamed, “Andrea, you get to have this. What else do you want?”

And that made me think of you and us women in particular, and how our wants tend to go offline, how they get set aside in favor of other peoples’ wants. And we do this because we are kind and because we want to do right by our people and because we want everyone to like us and because we are afraid.

And after a while this becomes a habit… and we can’t even ask ourselves what we want without all the noise rushing in – what other people want, what we think we deserve, what’s practical, what we think we can get. It gets all muddled in there and you can’t tell what’s what anymore! or if you are worthy of any of it.

Is there something you want? A tiny thing? A big thing?

Close your eyes and imagine whispering it in my ear right now. “I want… (fill in the blank).”
Then imagine me looking into your eyes and saying, “You get to have that. What else do you want?”

Heart full of gratitude,
Andrea

P.S. Brave Blogging is going swimmingly! It is such a good class.
If you’ve been wanting to write more, please join us! It’s not too late.

Brave Blogging is when you’re afraid to push publish. Like today.

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I painted yesterday. As soon as I got a taste, I wanted more. I can feel it even as I type- I’m craving those colors, wanting to dip my fingers into cobalt, phthalo turquoise and yellow ochre. I want to squeeze those tubes of hot pink into my mouth.

Hiking has felt that way too. Anything that makes me feel better – sweating, creating, connecting, it all feels like the most potent medicine. I am like a starving person. None of it is lost on me.

Lost.

That’s part of this experience too. Where do I belong? Who do I belong to?

When the man I’ve been seeing for the last year broke up with me recently, I cried in my friends’ arms. My sweet friend that insisted on spending the night, who heard my voice shake and texted a few moments later: “I’m coming over right now and staying the night.”

She arrived with strawberries and whipped cream, wine, chocolate and two lottery tickets. And when the grief was overwhelming, she held me while I wept – a cry from such a deep, old place I hardly recognized it. A child’s tears… and I found myself saying: “He didn’t choose me. He didn’t choose me. I want someone to choose me…”

I want to know who I belong to.

“You belong to your boys,” the intuitive bodyworker said to me years ago. “You will always have your boys.” This is before I decided to leave, before I said those words: I can’t do this anymore… before everything unravelled.

Lost. In limbo. In between. Wobbling about.

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“That hurt we embrace becomes joy. Call it to your arms where it can change.” I read this line in a Rumi poem recently. I think he’s talking about self-compassion and the alchemy of grief. That’s the water I’m swimming in folks. I know I’m not alone.

 

 

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P.S. This is an example of Brave Blogging! Will you join me in doing more of it? Class begins on Monday!

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Because what we think we deserve is not enough.

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I wrote a piece for Postpartum Progress years ago about getting more help than you think you deserve. I wrote it as a love note to new moms, but I’m realizing that this mantra might apply to lots of other times in our life as well. (Like for me, now!)

Because what we think we deserve is not enough.
Because what we think we deserve is just the tiniest slice of what we actually need.

Because needing help, support, company doesn’t make you needy, it makes you human.

I’ve been practicing this lately and it’s vulnerable stuff. But honestly, I was in such a place of despair last week I really didn’t care. In addition to calling for support from my virtual community (oh my goodness. thank you) I also sent an email out to some local friends. It went something like this:

Hey sweet friends,

I’m not doing particularly well.

And I have the kids all weekend by myself.

I’m thinking having company would make a world of difference! If you have any pockets of time this weekend, or if your kids want to play, let me know.

XO

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And then a wash of shame came over me. And some thoughts: What’s your problem? Why are you so needy? Are you ever going to have your shit together? And I remembered that mantra again – Get more help than you think you deserve.

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And then there’s the other side… and I remember how honored I feel when a friend comes to me with the real deal of her life. How it feels like a blessing to be included and to be able to offer my support.

It’s intimacy.
It’s connection.
And that’s soul food for me. I’m guessing it’s soul food for you too.

So can we just make a little deal here?

Can we just declare right now that it’s okay to not have our shit together?
That it’s okay to feel lost.
Or lonely.
Or in need.

Let’s decide that it’s actually a gift to include others in our (sometimes messy) process. That by showing our own vulnerability, we make space for others to do the same. Let’s create that kind of world for ourselves, shall we?

Some years ago a friend of mine was telling me about an icky procedure she was going to have to do the next day at the hospital. “Do you want me to go with you?” I asked. Tears welled up in her eyes. “That would be so nice,” she said. “I didn’t know I could ask for that.”

And I LOVED being there for her. I felt so happy to be the person that got to give that gift. It was good. It was her medicine and it was also mine.

Yes. Yes. Yes to this.

We can ask for this.
We need to ask for this.

This is how we are going to survive the messiness of life. This is how we are going to thrive.

We stay connected. We stay real. We stop pretending. We tell the truth.

When we do this, we are shining a light in the dark places for each other. When we offer the light of our heart, our attention and our compassion we help each other move through to the other side.

And when YOU decide to be the brave one, the one that reaches out first… you give your loved ones permission to do it the next time. You create a loop of mutual support + connection that will not only feed you, but save your sanity. This is a crazy ride folks. We need each other. Let’s be brave together.

 

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P.S. Ready to do some Brave Blogging with me? The class begins on September 5th. More details here.

 

The alchemy of grief

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When I saw those words in my calendar – Grief workshop 10am-6pm – I thought “What the heck was I thinking when I signed up for that??!” And then I thought, I don’t have anything big to grieve anyway. I will feel like an imposter. 

But a few beats later, I remembered: Your marriage. You need to grieve the death of your marriage.
Oh yeah, that.

We do so much to distract ourselves from loss. We get busy. We numb. We hang out on social media, so we don’t have to feel our sorrow. Our aloneness.

As I walked into the meditation center where the workshop would be held, I felt it begin to bubble up in my chest… and the tears began to pool in my eyes. It was as if my body was already thanking me – thank you for inviting me to the party. Thank you for putting your attention on me. I never get invited to the party!

And I found myself so grateful that I had finally been invited to inhabit and express my sorrow somewhere. There was something to do with it other than suppress it or contain it.

Francis Weller writes and speaks beautifully about grief. I’ve watched this talk over and over again. (Watch the whole thing. It’s life-changing) He talks about the extent to which we can carve out space for our sorrow is the extent to which we can make space to feel joy. He talks about how we have become a flatline culture – with a narrow range of what we’re allowed to feel. He talks about coming together in community to grieve as part of our “soul hygiene.” That to “speak of sorrow works upon it.”

He spoke about how we have undigested sorrows… and that grief is a capacity we can build, a skill that we can strengthen. It requires courage and vulnerability. It requires a willingness to be with things as they are.

He says: “Grief might be the remedy that heals us. Grief is wild. It’s feral. And when we touch it, we are alive.

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There were about 70 people in the room and we began drumming and singing. I was amazed by the beauty of all the voices (just regular people singing, young and old) and how it sounded like the most exquisite church choir.

We broke out into small groups to share and did several powerful writing assignments using prompts like: I remember.. I wish someone would ask me… and my real grief is… 

Then the ritual began.

We had all brought special things to put on the altar – photographs, flowers, rocks, anything that felt sacred. And while the whole community sang a kind of mantra (putting us in a kind of meditative trance) we each went to the altar to grieve. You could do whatever felt right up there – shout, cry, be silent – while the rest of us held space for you. When you came back you were received by the community with hugs and loving attention.

The alchemy of this process was palpable. You felt transformed by it.

Francis spoke beautifully about how it was an alchemical process – “how bringing some heat to it transmutes it into medicine. We feed the fire with our attention, our compassion, our curiosity and our affection.”

It’s taken me months to write about this, but as I ride new waves of grief, I needed to remind myself again.

That by bringing our sorrow into the light we have the opportunity to heal.
That by bringing loving attention and compassion to it, it softens and changes in our hearts.
That by taking it out of the shadows and into community (even just another person) it becomes an offering of healing for all of us.

Thank you for being part of my loving community that helps witness my process – my joys and my sorrows. I believe we are all lifted up by this energy and I’m so grateful.

 

Oh my goodness. You all blew me away this week.

Wow.

I sent a call out this week for metaphorical doulas… stories, kind words of support and encouragement to help me across this incredibly hard threshold in my life. I am so honored and blown away by your responses – your blog comments, your wisdom, your love-soaked emails. Oh my goodness. Thank you.

You burst my heart wide open.

And I cried for the rest of the day. Not out of fear or sadness, but out of the pure joy of being connected.

Thank you for you reflecting my spirit back to me.
Thank you for reminding me of all the kindness + goodness in the world.
Thank you for the understanding that we are never alone in whatever we are going through- that we are all just walking each other home.

An unexpected serendipity happened that day as well.

One of my oldest friends (who I consider part of my soul family) immediately called when he saw the post in his inbox. I burst into tears as I answered the phone (we haven’t seen each other for almost 10 years) and it happened that he was flying into SF the next morning.

We met the next day for lunch and as I sat down, he placed the following pieces of paper in front of me:

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There were a few more pages… and he instructed me to check all the boxes that felt right to me.

It was one of the kindest possible things.

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Big heart-full of love thank you to all of you for being a part of my community. I am wowed by you and feel so grateful for each and every one of you.

XO Andrea

P.S. You will be getting another missive from me today with a video describing my upcoming class – Into the Mystic. Excited to share that with you!

Crossing the threshold. Calling in the doulas.

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I don’t want to tell you about the rage I felt this morning, how I feel so close to the bone these days that sometimes I’m just a little nub of a thing. I don’t want to talk about the electric current of fear that shoots through my body at 3 a.m. each morning and how I have to talk myself down to sleep again. I don’t want to talk about how being a grown-up feels really hard right now and I wonder if I’m up to the task.

This season of grief looks like that these days – moments of touching into despair and feeling how unsettled and afraid I feel about creating my new life.

Last week I was hiking by myself and the tears started to burn my eyes. I began to cry, then sob. And when others passed me on the trail I would try to hold it together til they went by.

I thought of my friend SARK who, in the wake of losing her beloved partner this year, has been “grieving deeply and living wildly” and I remembered her advice from a conversation we had a few weeks ago. I called her in a mess of tears + she encouraged me to go there completely, to feel it fully, even exaggerate it. She said: 

“The fear is that the grief will swallow you up, that you’ll stay there forever. But the truth is, if you let yourself feel it fully, you’ll get bored at some point and think – Okay, now let’s go have a sandwich.

And so I was in and out of those feelings all day long – letting myself feel the layers of fear. Feeling  untethered in the world. Feeling like I’m not strong enough for any of it.

And then it passed.

I’ve been likening the process of divorce at times to childbirth – except that I’m giving birth to a new self, a new life.

And this season feels like the transition period in labor. For childbirth, transition is the storm before the calm. (Believe it or not, the pushing phase is considered the calm) It’s the moment when it’s so painful and difficult you lose all hope. It’s the moment when you feel like you’re sure you’re not strong enough, you’re not made for this, and you find yourself shouting “Just take this baby out of me! I can’t do it!” Or “Just give me the drugs!” Or even thinking that this whole having-a-baby thing was a really bad idea. 

It’s the moment when you need the most support and encouragement because (excuse my French) you are fucking exhausted. And the thought of doing it for even one more minute sounds impossible.

But you can’t go back now. It’s all in forward motion and his baby is coming out.

Somehow.

Transition can go on for hours, and feel like a freaking eternity. There are doulas, and nurses, and partners to help, but ultimately it’s your work.

Have you ever been in a season like this?

I could use your encouragement right now. Calling in my metaphorical doulas!

You know who you are.

 

On being perfect moms before we had kids.

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“Come on Ben! You have to toughen up!”

I say this to him after urging him to do his practice math test all morning. I say this after he’s blamed his teacher, math (for being stupid and boring) and me for not feeding him properly. (For the record, I have offered him waffles, latkes and a banana – all of which he’s refused.)

I can see he’s afraid, frustrated he doesn’t understand his homework and knowing he will likely fail his test. My heart goes out to him and I soften, “I’m sorry Ben. I see how frustrated you are. I’m here to help. Just stay in the game.”

But then he lashes out again – “Well if you would just FEED ME or actually HELP ME…” and then I lose it again. “I’ve been trying to help you all morning!!” I shout.

And then he collapses on the couch and looks like an exotic bird, his lips pursed in a frown, his hair dyed bright turquoise in a Justin Bieber-like do. And that’s when I say that regrettable thing about toughening up.

Whose line is that anyway?

I remember an adult saying that same thing to me as a kid and wanting to either crumple in tears or punch them in the face. It’s not a kind thing to say. And Ben, the ultimate truth-teller, says what I wish I would have all those years ago: “What kind of mom tells her son to toughen up?”

I put my hand on my heart this morning as I drove to an appointment. It’s part of a practice my coach assigned me, a way to speak to my heart and listen to what it needs. It’s part of some grief work I am doing right now.

“You are not a perfect mother,” I tell myself. “But you are a good mother. Your heart is good.”

We got through the practice test and Ben and I were able to recover. I learned a new concept recently – repair – which apparently is even more important than trying to make everything smooth all the time. If you can practice the repair, if you can trust there will be time and space and love in that process, then it’s like a bone broken and healed. It will be even stronger for it.

Before I had kids, I would hear people say: My kids are my teachers… and I liked that idea. I imagined them showing me how to be a kid again- how to be present, how to tell the truth, how to move through emotions and not cling to them, how to play. All of which appealed to me. But motherhood has shown me that they also teach us about our shadows.

They show us where we still have healing work to do.
They show us where we need to be more compassionate. Where we judge. Where we need to grow.
They show us that we are capable of making mistakes and saying horrible things and shouting.
They show us that we are the full spectrum of being human – the dark and the light.

This is humbling.

They are our teachers and they are also our healers. Sometimes I wish that wasn’t the case! I love that thing people say about how I was the best parent before I had kids. In fact, I just found an article on this topic that cracks me up.

This is for all the imperfect moms out there. With good hearts and potty mouths. With lots of love and lots of, ahem, healing work to do. 😉

 

The dark and the light.

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There are black and white checkered pieces of fabric wrapped around the trees here. Big swaths of textiles looped around the ancient banyans- limbs like octopus legs reaching out in all directions. The same checkered fabric is wrapped around the alters and carved stone statues. Even the curbs are painted in black and white stripes – a reminder of the light and the dark always being present.

“They’re not afraid of the dark here,” Juna told us that first night. We nodded our heads respectfully. “They hold both with reverence. They don’t suppress the dark or push it away like we do in our culture. They let it live in the light as well. Don’t be surprised if shadow stuff comes up for you here. It means it’s up for healing.”

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Maybe it’s because it’s so hot in Bali and we weren’t wearing many clothes, but the old shadowy voices arrived quickly. You’re too fat. You’re getting old. You’re not pretty anymore…. Body shame kicked into high gear. Your face looks puffy. Your thighs are rubbing together. Why were you so confident back home? The truth is that you are ugly, you’ve let yourself go, you’re not disciplined enough.

It’s embarrassing to write these words. I want to suppress this voice, this pain, and leap to the positive. I want to bypass this ugliness. I don’t want you to know this voice is alive in me. They’re not afraid of the shadow energy. They hold it in the light as well.

I admitted to Juna that these voices were coming up, hoping that naming them would help. I stared at her adorable washboard tummy and all her delicious beauty as the words poured out of my mouth. Shame washed over me. I should be over this. I teach classes in personal growth. People see me as confident. I shouldn’t be talking about self-loathing.

This is how we layer shame on top of shame.

“If the shadow pieces are arising for you, that part of you is emerging for healing.”

That’s the word I chose for the week – healing. I chanted to myself softly: Shine a light on this. Hold it with compassion. There is more to heal here. But how? I thought. I don’t want to give more weight to these thoughts. I don’t want to fortify them. Am I created a deeper neuro-pathway? I don’t want to create a deeper groove! Again, it’s tempting to turn away from them and find better thoughts. Am I supposed to do affirmations or something?

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My friend Susan traveled with me the following week. We had found a luxurious place to stay in Amed, Bali – one with real air conditioning! and a private pool just for us. I told Susan about the shadow voices and how they weren’t going away. She asked if I had tried to talk to that part, ask it what it wanted to tell me?

Usually this feels corny to me, but I decided to try. I closed my eyes and imagined that part of me, the part that felt ugly and unworthy. “What do you want to tell me?” I asked.

I could see immediately that this part was old and small… and compassion welled in my heart. The answer came quickly: “I’m the part that feels unlovable. I’m the part that’s trying really hard to do everything right and look good so that I’ll be loved. I’m afraid.”

Ohhhhh! I responded. You have it all wrong! Your love-ability has nothing to do with your beauty. It’s about your spirit- not about the lines on your face or how good you look in a swimsuit! I remember you… I know how hard you try. There is nothing wrong with you and you are totally lovable.

It seemed so obvious in that moment. This very young part of me that had collapsed being lovable with being perfect. It seemed like a reasonable coping strategy at the time – do it all right and be adorable and everyone will love you.

Healing happens in spirals and layers… that’s what my friend and mentor SARK says in one of her books. Because I feel better now, it’s tempting to believe that voice is gone, that I’ve somehow conquered it, that it will finally be quiet. I wish that were true!

What is different, is how I relate to that voice. We have befriended each other somehow. By shining the light of attention on it, by trying to understand it, I have offered it a kind of love. I have offered myself a kind of love. The healing is real even if it isn’t linear. I will come back to this moment again and again and again… but I will be somewhere else on the spiral. A layer away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The moment I decided to be brave with my writing.

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It was back in 2004 and I was having a miscarriage. It didn’t occur to me to blog about it until a friend asked. “Are you going to share about it on your site?” Then he backpedalled. “Not that I think you should! It would be incredibly generous. I was just curious.”

It must have been the word generous that got me, because I started writing that very night. It was one of those times when my desire to serve, my desire to offer my story as a gift far outweighed any fear of being vulnerable.

I was amazed at the response.

Women from all over the world sent me notes of comfort, of empathy, of love. I had never felt so connected to my community… People who had never commented before came out of the woodwork. I got to see who they were for the first time – wise, powerful and compassionate. I also realized something important about the creative work we do –

We offer the medicine we most need.

I thought I was offering my story so that someone out there would feel less alone. But you know what? I was the one who wanted to feel less alone! Don’t you love how it works so beautifully this way?

Here is the original post.

Sending all of you love. And courage to be brave with your heart and your voice.
XO Andrea

P.S. This is of course also a warm invitation to join me in the Brave Blogging course. It’s going to be amazing!

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Courage interview with Rachael Maddox: Healing from sexual trauma

Hey friends,

So excited to bring you this interview today! It’s a brave + vulnerable conversation with me and Rachael Maddox. We talk about her work in helping women heal from sexual trauma and how we can all move toward our aliveness by listening to our spirit and our bodies.

This conversation is deeply personal and on a topic that has normally been taboo for me – sex. I originally recorded it for the Cultivating Courage course, but realized that there might be more women out there who need to hear it. So here it is! From our hearts to yours. Enjoy!

 

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Rachael Maddox is a life coach, a trauma specialist, a singer-songwriter and most recently the author of the book: Secret Bad Girl: A Sexual Trauma Memoir and Resolution Guide.  To see more about Rachel or work with her as a coaching client, go to her website here.