Category Archives: Courage

I’ve been afraid to share this.

And there was a new voice
Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
-Mary Oliver, from the poem The Journey

It happened the other day on the phone with Kaiser. We had scheduled some sort of psych evaluation after I had requested therapy – EMDR to be exact.

When we got on the phone, I explained that I had a sort of backlog of trauma that I wanted to address – from childhood sexual abuse, to my son’s seizure disorder, to an incident that happened only a few months ago – a date gone awry, a scary man, fleeing his home in the middle of the night.

“I’m a mom,” I explained. “The show must go on. I haven’t had the time or resources to process this and I know EMDR does wonders. I would love to find someone who does that.”

She asked me the standard questions – Are you thinking of harming yourself or anyone else? Are you eating? Are you sleeping? That sort of thing. After the interview she said, “Well, I’ve determined that you don’t need therapy, but you could come to our resource center and take one of our classes. How’s that sound?”

I was aghast. My jaw might have dropped. And then my voice (the most fierce and self-loving voice I hardly recognized) came through. “Honestly?” I began. “This feels unacceptable. I just told you about a history of abuse and trauma and that just weeks ago I fled from a sexual assault and you don’t think I qualify to have therapy? I’ve been with Kaiser for 7 years. I’ve gone through having small children, a panic disorder and a divorce. Up until now I’ve never called you to book therapy. And today, when I finally ask for help, you tell me that I don’t qualify? That it’s not bad enough?”

By this time, I’m crying on the phone. “I’m a very contained person. I know how to talk about this stuff and sound like I’m okay. But let me just tell you, I’m NOT okay.”

She thanked me.
She told me she was glad I spoke up.
And then she booked me an appointment with someone who does EMDR.

I’m sharing this for a few reasons: One, because this is a victory around voice for me personally. This is the culmination of a lifetime of work around loving myself. This is a symptom of progress! This is also about claiming my power. I haven’t known how to advocate for myself. This was a first.

Perhaps more importantly, this is reflective of a culture that tells women, “It’s not that bad. Why are you being a drama queen? You’re just trying to get attention. At least he didn’t…”

These messages are designed to keep us quiet.

It was a small thing really – advocating for my right to get support, to know that I’m suffering and to get help. But it’s also HUGE. I couldn’t do this as a child. It wasn’t safe. I didn’t know how to speak my truth. I didn’t think anyone would believe me. So I turned all that grief inward. And it became depression, anxiety and despair.

I’m still afraid people won’t believe me. I’m afraid, even as I write this, that you will roll your eyes in a gesture of “well isn’t she dramatic…”

But this is what we have been trained to do. To do to each other… and ultimately to ourselves.

I’m sharing this because our stories matter. And somehow, me finding my voice has everything to do with you finding yours too.

When I was at Spirit Rock meditation center recently, the woman giving the talk had us come up with intentions – things we wanted to focus on and cultivate in ourselves. “What about power?” she began. “I often ask my clients this and they say, no, no power isn’t important to me. But that’s because we think of power as power over others… but that’s not real power. That’s fear. We need good people with power more than ever now. Power and goodness.”

Power has become one of my daily words of intention now. And it’s the fierce, loving kind of power:

The kind of power that protects.
The kind of power that tells the truth.
The kind of power that is clear and strong and brave.

Sometimes power is ruffling feathers – it’s choosing being self-loving and protecting over needing to be perceived as nice.

Goodness and power. Side by side.

 

Do you have a secret project in you?

We all have secret dreams. Secret little (or big!) projects that no one is waiting for, that we wonder if we are crazy to imagine, that we talk ourselves out of on the regular.

It’s that book that’s been stirring in your heart, that blog you’ve been wanting to be faithful to, the podcast idea, the e-course, the paintings you want to make into greeting cards…

What is your secret project?

Maybe you haven’t even spoken it aloud.
Maybe you initially shared it with the wrong person!
Maybe you need a safe place to get the nurturing, support and love that project needs. Maybe you just have no idea how to begin!

Earlier this year, I started a tiny project mastermind or a group of totally delightful creative women. We all have different projects (myself included!) + we met on video every week to check in, to share, to break through the stuck places, to celebrate. It was the best part of my week.

That group will be continuing! But I’d like to create a new circle + include YOU as well.

Sessions begin Friday, September 7th, 2018 at 10am PST

Every Friday for 6 weeks: 9/14, 9/21, 9/28, 10/5, 10/12
Time: 10am -11:15pm PST
Investment: $350-

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not so much a course as a way to get support + accountability and advice around our respective projects – ie. blogs, books, podcasts, e-courses. We will do some writing together + sharing.

I want us to have a space to create MOVEMENT and flow around whatever little seed of a dream is stirring in our hearts. To not wait. To be supported in beginning and have a place to keep celebrating the process and encouragement to keep going. Still sound good?

If so, click the link below:

Big hugs + love to each of you,
A
P.S. Not sure I mentioned, but these masterminds are tiny… 3-5 women in each pod with me. You will get a lot of coaching + attention + clarity for your project. These spots will likely go fast! So let me know if you have any questions…

This is how it turned out.

It’s tempting to be in fantasy about someday. That fuzzy, happy-ever-after when you get the job, the romantic partner, the family. The bank account is full of dough, the house is just right, you are slim and trim + know how to pick perfect avocados.

You know, when things finally turn out.

Even though my Disney fantasies of partnership and marriage have pretty well broken down, I still have some version of this someday fantasy in me. When I finally feel loved and seen, when I feel safe, when I can stand on solid ground and this ambient anxiety will go away, when my person, my true love arrives.

I still harbor the tiniest bit of hope for that.

And yet.

I do a little thought experiment sometimes and ask myself, “If you knew you were going to die in five years, then what?” Suddenly everything comes into focus – the life I actually have, the house I live in, my gorgeous kids, the relationships and friendships and love around me – THIS is how it turned out. This is that someday. The someday I fantasized about decades ago!

This is it.
It’s not perfect.
It’s ever-changing.
There are highs and lows.
But THIS is how it is.

Lao Tzu says it so beautifully below. (He wrote this poem in the 6th century. Apparently, we haven’t changed much!)

Always we hope
someone else has the answer,
some other place will be better,
some other time,
it will turn out.

This is it.
No one else has the answer,
no other place will be better,
and it has already turned out.

At the center of your being,
you have the answer:
you know who you are and
you know what you want.

There is no need to run outside
for better seeing,
nor to peer from a window.

Rather abide at the center of your being:
for the more you leave it,
the less you learn.

Search your heart and see
the way to do is to be.
Abide at the center of your being.
— Lao Tzu

This is how it turned out: Me, typing in my friend’s living room in Oakland, the sun shining outside, heading to San Francisco for a photo session later. My kids, at their dad’s house, safe, going for a swim at the rec center this afternoon.

If your this-is-how-it-turned-out reality today feels too harsh, here’s another buddhist saying that gets right to the point: Right now, it’s like this.

This one is great to practice with because it is an invitation back into the present moment. It honors the impermanence of things (our ever-changing reality) and also that this too shall pass (the good and the bad).

How do we have our desire for things to be better/different and also honor what is?

That’s the million dollar question. And it takes practice! Lao Tzu instructs us to abide at the center of our being, which is to say, speak and act in alignment with your true self, your heart, your inner wisdom… this is the path that will get you where you need to go.

 

Tooting our own horn + the concept of mudita*

One of my favorite words in the world is mudita… It is a Sanskrit word that means sympathetic joy or vicarious joy.

It’s the genuine pleasure we get from celebrating others.
It’s the deep joy we experience when someone we love is happy.
It’s the vicarious joy that arises when someone shares about something great in their life.

As an example, imagine a big fluffy dog that just arrives at the beach. Can you imagine the glee with which they run toward the water and all over the sand? Did the mere thought just bring a smile to your face? This is mudita. Isn’t it wonderful?

Recently, a friend prefaced her share with, “Not to toot my own horn but…” and then went on to talk about something totally wonderful that happened to her! We have grown up thinking that it’s impolite to share about our successes and victories. Women especially. We feel that we need to dim down, not get too big for our britches, not brag... or people won’t like us.

This might keep us safe, but it also keeps us small.

This is one of my biggest core wounds. You know how it goes. My two best friends turning against me in grade school very suddenly in a one-day-you’re-in-the-next-day-you’re-out kind of abruptness. Without any explanation, I was left to come up with my own – Don’t shine too bright or people will hate you. They will turn against you. Stay small.

Ugh. It’s hard to write these words. My inner critic is having a field day – Are we not over this yet???!! That happened in the 5th grade! Are we still talking about this??

Apparently we are. Ha!

But back to mudita. Cultivating mudita is a buddhist practice… it grows our compassion, it opens our hearts, it leads to wisdom.

I actually love it when people toot their own horn. They/you should do it more often. I want everyone to toot away! I want you to toot right now. Let’s create a culture of mudita where we delight in each other’s happiness. Where we celebrate each other’s success. Where your joy is my joy and your success is mine too. Let’s inspire each other + lift each other up, shall we?

Tell me, what small or large thing are you celebrating right now? What are you proud of?

I’ll start. One of my photographs was in a fancy pants magazine this month!! Lapham’s Quarterly!

I’m also very proud of my most recent work in black + white. I’ve been breaking some new ground with my portrait sessions and feeling excited and inspired! Toot! 🙂

What are you proud of friends? Could be anything – personal or professional. It all counts.

Creative practices save me.

We have a choice (moment to moment) about where we put our attention.

This doesn’t mean that we deny the pain + suffering that’s happening in the world (or in ourselves). These things are very real. This isn’t about pushing away what we don’t want to see, but about making conscious choices about where we put our attention – do we tend our fears or grow our joy?

When you’re a sensitive creature (like me + probably you too?) you can get really swallowed up. Just going to the news + social media sites each morning, I can feel myself armoring up for the assault on my system. What’s happened today? What new tragedy, betrayal, political firestorm… I try to let in what I can let in + be in action where I can be in action… but holy smokes. It’s a lot.

What I know (as someone who ebbs and flows with depression and anxiety) is that creative practices save me.

They save me by reminding me of my own light.
They remind me of the beauty in the world.
They keep me calibrated. Buoyant. They keep me connected to my truth.
They help me turn my attention toward the goodness.

I practice these things in my micro-world so that I can show up and be a certain kind of person in the macro. My intention is to be a bright light in my community and be a force of healing and good. It does not do anyone any good for me to get swallowed up by the news and crawl into bed feeling helpless. Or collapse into a what’s-the-point-it’s-all-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket... which I definitely feel sometimes.

And so I practice. I practice strengthening my joy muscles.

The practice really started with me carrying my camera every day + and getting more present – What’s interesting about this moment? What’s beautiful? What’s the light doing? What are the juxtapositions of color that I can see right now? Ooooooohhh…. look at those lemons against that blue sky. Click. Click. That’s so beautiful… and my energy would slowly shift.

These little photo safaris became like medicine for me.

And we always offer the medicine that we most need. 

And so… I offer the medicine of these creative practices + waking up to beauty because that’s what feeds me and nourishes me and I want to share it. That’s why I’m here and why I do this work.

I focus on photo classes because they are so accessible and easy! We all have our little phones with us and can take 10 minutes each day to remember that there is another reality that lives in real time alongside our default one.

The camera becomes this wonderful little tool for our joy + well-being. Let’s amplify our joy together.

$49 Class begins this Monday, July 30th, 2018

Hit reply if you have any questions! It would be great to have you.

 

What does it cost us when we hide?

I got quiet over the last several years. Separation, divorce, dating… suddenly my stories were not just my own but intertwined with others in very real ways. I wasn’t sure what I could share anymore. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Everything felt too private + I was afraid of being judged. Aside from my weekly writing group, I stopped writing entirely.

This has been a huge loss to my spirit.

There’s a price we pay when we hide, when we cut off our voices, when we stop sharing our truth (even to ourselves). My joy has suffered for it.

I did this most of my life. Kept my opinions to myself, only said what I thought others wanted to hear, was polite and didn’t make waves. It’s a good survival strategy – one that can keep you safe. And for a long time, that’s all I really wanted.

It was through art that I finally found my voice again. I painted and made jewelry and took photographs and it was joyous to find this other language for my heart to speak. With visual art, no one could tell me I was wrong or silence me… it was just my expression. A language all my own.

Writing has been a different edge. It takes much bigger courage for me to share this way, especially when I am out of practice. But I am coming out of hiding! Peeking my head out of the covers because I know my spirit is hungry for it. Starved for it in fact.

What does it cost us when we trade our truth/our voice/our creative expression for safety?

Aliveness, connection, joy.

For me, it also means feeling alone in the world. Not lonely exactly, but alone in my experiences. All those years of sharing so openly with my community here reminded me that we are all suffering in similar ways. We all hunger for the same things. We all want to feel seen. We all want to feel connected to each other.

It takes courage to lay the words down, to share our art, to push publish. Our ego will try to shut it down – This is crap. What can you possibly say that hasn’t been said? No one’s going to read it anyway.

And yet. The impulse is still there. The hunger to connect, to share what’s in our hearts, to be of service in some small way. The hope that if one person is touched, it will be worth it.

So here I am, sharing the tiniest window into my heart. Baby steps. Inviting you to stick with me for a while and create this gorgeous little community anew.

And because I always like to offer a question back to you: Can you think of a time when you were hiding? What happened? What did it cost you?

What’s Jazzercise got to do with it?

I went to Jazzercise with a friend last week. When she asked me, I thought about the last time I did it – circa 1982 – and the fond memories of doing the grapevine across the floor of a grange hall in Santa Cruz. But all these years later, I was nervous. It was a relief to notice that almost everyone in the room was much older than me (phew!) but of course, that did not stop them. They were whooping and moving so fast, I could hardly keep up! I felt awkward and out of place. I didn’t know the steps, I was sweating way too much. I forgot to bring water. My out-of-shape body wouldn’t comply. I just wanted to hide, or quit.

But here’s what happened next.

I noticed a trans woman in the middle of the room. She was wearing a full on Jane Fonda style Jazzercise outfit – complete with a leotard, headband, leg warmers and jazz shoes. She looked ah-mazing! And I thought, Dang! If she can be that brave, I think I can handle fumbling around a little bit in this church…

This has everything to do with whatever brave adventure you are on. Maybe you are trying to find love. Maybe you are getting your creative voice out there. Maybe you are a new parent or searching for a job that aligns better with your spirit.

It’s scary to put ourselves out there.
It’s frustrating to look around when it seems everyone else has figured it out and we haven’t.
It’s hard to fumble about and not know the moves.

It takes courage to do new things.

As I usher a group of amazing women through my Conscious Dating course, I can feel the edges and resistance – theirs and my own.

This note is a little love letter to that scared part of you. The one that feels like the whole world is watching. That is afraid to be visible. That is afraid you don’t belong. That you’re somehow doing it wrong and everyone else is in perfect step…

And when we practice courage in one area of our life, we can use those stronger muscles in areas that matter even more to us. We increase our capacity to be uncomfortable, to be a beginner, to look a little silly and off key.

Where in your life can you practice courage? It will be in service to something even greater. I promise.

Pebbles in the river of motherhood.

As Ben lay his head down on the pillow, he said with unbridled excitement, “I can’t wait to get my white belt tomorrow!” I paused, “Ben, I don’t think they give out white belts the first day of class. Don’t get your hopes up, kay?” His face immediately crumbled and squished into a cry and tears pooled in his eyes. “I’m not talking to you!” he shouted. “You just ruined all my happiness!”

I didn’t mean to make him cry, I wanted to protect him. But when he said it, I knew it was true. I was ruining all of his happiness. His desire was pure and full of delight and I squashed it with the hammer of practicality, of don’t-get-your-hopes-up-kid.

“He is the enlightened one,” the psychic said. “He is the teacher. He’s going to say things that piss you off, but they will be true.”

Like that time when he was 3 and was going on about something 3-year-olds go on about, and I was nodding, “Mmm, hmmm….right honey… ” And maybe my voice was a little too sing-songy, a little too preschool marm, because he looked me square in the eyes and said, “Mom, when you talk to me like that it makes me feel like you’re not listening to me and like I’m a baby.”

At eleven, his truths are more advanced.

I stomped around the apartment the other day, angry, slamming cupboards, throwing dirty socks a little too violently into the hampers, muttering under my breath about how I always have to clean up everything on my own and how the boys need to step it up…

And there he was on his bed, shaking his head, tears streaming – “You’re just angry mom. And you need someone to blame. So you’re blaming us.”

Oy vey. The truth-speaker strikes again!

I am like a pebble in this river of motherhood and I am getting knocked and tumbled and polished – made softer and more beautiful (I hope) save for all of the pain and bruises of the tumble.

My own mother used to shout a lot – at salespersons at Nordstrom’s, cab drivers, servers at restaurants. My sister and I would hide in the clothing racks in the Brass Plum section, mortified. “Is there anyone here who can take my money??!!!!” she’d yell at the empty cash register. And when I had to face the salespeople later, I would smile at them apologetically, trying to gain their favor, attempting to disassociate myself from my mother and the “incident.”

I couldn’t imagine saying to my mother that she was angry, that she just needed someone to blame, but I’m sure I felt it. I preferred to stay buried inside those circular racks of blouses, invisible.

How to turn your flaws into your gold.

Is it possible that the things we consider flaws in ourselves can actually be our gifts? Is it possible that by embracing those places we try to suppress, hide from the world, feel ashamed by, we can alchemize them into something like a superpower? Could they actually be our gold?

For this alchemy to work, you first need to bring an open mind. Consider this a thought experiment, something to try on, not something to necessarily take home. You only get to take it home if it feels resonant, like an authentic YES for you. Otherwise, you get to let it go.

Ready? Let’s begin.

1.Choose a part of yourself you might be trying to fix. A perceived flaw. Something you try to hide from the world and feel embarrassed by. (You don’t have to pick the heaviest one, maybe start with something less charged)

2. Imagine how this part of you can be a gift. Literally, just use your imagination and riff on how this could be true, how this part of you is actually a gift. Make it up. Pretend. Act as if. And write for 5 minutes quickly.

3. Take it a step further. How is this piece of you actually your gold? How is this part of you essential in the work you do in the world? In the way you are of service? How is this piece of you JUST RIGHT?

Here are some examples:

One of my favorite coaching clients came to me with a lot of shame about how she didn’t want to be social, how she felt like she was always faking it, how she didn’t want to be out in the world in the way that the world was asking of her. She was feeling crabby about it.

“What if there’s nothing to fix about you?” I asked. “What if the truth (that you don’t want to leave your house much these days except for walks in nature) is neutral? What if there’s nothing wrong with you?”

There was a pause on the other end of the line. “Ohhhhh….” she said… and I could feel the wheels turning in her mind.

“What if you’re a radical introvert? Someone who needs a lot of quiet and time alone to fill yourself up. This is how you get energy and feel resourced for when you are out in the world.”

The idea that she was a radical introvert was a game changer. No shame. Totally neutral. And actually, maybe even something to celebrate.

What are the gifts in this? We mused together.

She is a writer. She is a reader. She has big capacity for stillness and contemplation. She wants to write a book and will be able to do this because she craves the time a writer needs to sit in the quiet with her thoughts and words.

She is also a wise and gentle being. (Especially when she gets what she needs from her radical introvert time!) She can be of service most when she nourishes herself this way. Her radical introversion is her GOLD. Not everyone can sit with their words/thoughts this way. She can.

Here’s another example:

My friend Mati Rose is an incredible artist and painting teacher. As we walked recently, I told her about this lesson. “Let’s try it out on you!” I suggested. “What part of you do you feel embarrassed about or try to hide?”

“Ugh. I’m disorganized. I’m messy. I feel like I gotta get my shit together. I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants all the time. I’m the opposite of Type A, I’m Type B! Whatever that is!”

“Okay,” I responded, “what are the gifts of being Type B?”

“Hmmm…. Well, I’m very spontaneous. We wouldn’t be taking this walk if I wasn’t spontaneous! (We had texted each other just minutes before we decided to meet) And it takes some willingness to be messy to do the work I do. To do abstract painting you have to be comfortable not knowing where you are going. You have to be willing to literally get messy, paint all over the place, to get somewhere interesting. You have to trust the mess, to trust the process, to get to something authentic.”

“What else? You’re doing great!” I cheered. “How is your Type B personality actually your gold?”

She got stuck there. Her inner critics started to creep in. So I told her what I saw:

“The process of creating is imperfect and messy. Your willingness to not be perfect gives your people so much space to be their real, human selves. You offer so much compassion to them because you know that the best work comes from when you are able to let go of doing it “right” and tolerate being the unknown/in the mess for a while. If you needed everything tied up in a bow all the time, you wouldn’t have any capacity for the intuitive painting process.

The ways you are Type B, make you a really safe place to try something new. It feels gentle and compassionate. True creativity is born from a place where you don’t know what’s going to happen. Your spontaneity is a gift in this way. You know that magic comes from not having it all figured out.”

Okay sweet friends. It’s your turn. Give it a shot and tell me what you discover in the comments!

P.S. This is the kind of lesson you will receive in the Conscious Girl’s Dating Circle. This would land squarely in the realm of self-compassion! By leaning into our authentic selves (and celebrating and loving all of our parts) we will more swiftly be attracting the right spirits into our lives.

Let’s date! I mean, let’s do it! 😉 And could you forward this note to anyone in your life you think could benefit from it?

I’ve been dating (mostly online) for the last few years and according to my friends, I am having a freakishly positive experience. I will be sharing lots of personal stories (juicy, tender + hilarious ones!) and creating a space where we can learn how to use our dating experiences to grow our courage, hone our intuition and cultivate more joy. In other words, there is a way to have dating be a delicious and meaningful end in and of itself and not just a means to an end.

You can find more details here! Class is $147, but enter the “EARLYGIRL” coupon code to get the course for $99

P.S.S. Off to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico today to teach photography! Follow me on Instagram + FB! I will be doing some serious color collecting + inspiration gathering there.

This is not about falling in love.

A tender little piece I wrote this week that sounded more like poetry than a blog post. So I dared myself to read it to you. xo