Category Archives: Courage

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sexy Grounded Power Fairy.

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“Sexy grounded power fairy! That’s it!” I practically shouted this on the phone during my coaching session with Rachael Maddox.

We had been exploring 2016 -what I’m calling in and what my spirit is moving towards. She helped me explore this through the lens of archetypes which was new to me and super powerful. Turns out this year is a lot about transitioning from one archetype to another – growing into a new version of myself, becoming the grown up expression of me, my essence in full bloom.

We started by identifying my current archetype (one I’ve identified with for a long time) which is some kind of magical fairy – innocent, playful, spontaneous, magic. She loves color and beauty and moves toward joy. She brings light… “

But as much as I love her (and her gifts have taken me so far!) I feel the rumblings of something new. My new life is calling for a grown up version, a heartier version, one who can handle being a single mother, one who can manifest big things… She isn’t afraid people won’t like her if she shines too bright.

What should we call her? Rachael asked.

“I don’t know… “ I began, “but the words coming to me are sexy, grounded and powerful… maybe we just call her sexy-grounded-power-fairy for now?”
“SEXY GROUNDED POWER FAIRY! THAT’S IT!” Maybe Rachael shouted this. I don’t remember.

I just remember I got chills.
And the name stuck.

I’ve been trying this out. What would sexy grounded power fairy do? She would take a look at her numbers right now. She would open these bills. She would ask for what she needs. She would say no and not give an excuse. She would just keep writing…

She’s still got the magic, but less of the magical thinking.
She’s got all the innocent beauty, but doesn’t disown her power, her pleasure or her joy.
She speaks her truth in a grounded, compassionate, heart-centered way.
She’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers.

How about you?

What are you moving towards this year? Who are you becoming? What would you call her?

p.s. And if you need Rachael to take you there, you can find her here.

 

Good enough mom.

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Photo by Andrea Scher

He texted, “What question do you not want me to ask you? What question would you find disconcerting?”

I didn’t write it. I didn’t dare. But what came to mind was this: Are you a good mother?

Because all I can see sometimes is how I fail them.
How I’m not good enough.
How I don’t read to them long enough, and I shout, and I don’t volunteer in the classroom.

I hear about homemade muffins + family dinners and I think about our meals –  haphazard, no one staying in their chair, at least 3 different meals at play, not enough vegetables.

I think about the cavity on Nico’s tooth, the one right in the front – how on earth did he get a cavity there? and I can see how I delay getting him to the dentist. I imagine him with a gold tooth right there in the front and I feel mortified. I’d rather they just pulled that sucker out. He doesn’t need it, right? It’s just a baby tooth.

And I can see of course that this is all about me,
and that hidden part of me,
those two words inscribed somewhere inside my wounded heart: not enough.

And of course I will take him to the dentist, but I can already see myself rehearsing my lines – “I told him he needed to brush ALL of his teeth, someone (not me) has clearly been giving him gummy worms…”

However you slice it, there it is – bad mother.

Do all mothers feel this way?

I suppose if I really thought I was a terrible mother I wouldn’t be writing this – the shame would keep me hiding. But how do you get to good enough mother? and what is that anyway? There’s no way to tell.

Imperfect mother. Maybe I’ll make a t-shirt that says that. Or maybe we need a hashtag #imperfectmom

I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this. Maybe so I don’t feel so alone. Maybe so you don’t. Maybe we’ll all start wearing t-shirts that say funny things. Maybe it would help in those moments when you stare at that other mom – that perfect mom – from across the playground. Maybe it would help if she had a shirt that said, “I don’t know what I’m doing either. I’m totally in over my head. Let’s be friends.”

 

One day you’re a dog. The next day, you’re in space.

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“One day you’re a dog, and the next day you’re in space. Can you even imagine?”

This is what my friend Peter said to me more than 20 years ago. He was referring to a movie that I can’t recall the name of right now, but in it they refer to a dog that was sent into space.

We marveled at the thought. “It’s not like you could have told the dog ahead of time or prepared it for orbit. It happened just like that- boom! One day you’re a dog. the next day, you’re in space.” Peter shook his head.

That’s sort of how it happened for me – crossing the threshold. It came out in a blurt during a therapy session. “I can’t do this anymore. I’m not staying in a miserable marriage for the rest of my life.”

Everyone’s eyes got big. And when I say everyone, I mean my husbands’ and the therapist.

“I don’t even think I can do it for one more second.” I added.

Orbit.

A lot happened after that. There was a lot of yelling in the months to follow. There were a lot of tears. I slept at friends’ houses. It was scary and terrible.

One day you’re a dog. The next day you’re in space.

I didn’t plan for it to happen that day, nor did I know how clear I was until the words fell out of my mouth.

My friend Nate had asked me earlier that day, “If you were a natural disaster, which one would you be?” I scrunched up my face, perplexed. “I’d be a forest fire,” he declared.

I thought for a moment. “I think I’d be a lightning storm.  A bolt of electricity. Sudden. Precise. Not too much damage.”

It’s a year later now and we are still living together, just starting the mediation process. There has been a lot of healing.

But what I really want to tell you is this: Sometimes life changes like that – one day you’re a dog, the next day you’re in space.

No one prepared you for it.
No one warned you or reassured you.
They don’t even speak dog.

And yet, there you are just the same.

 

When you can’t blog for a really, really long time.

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What do you do when you can’t blog for a really long time? Or as my kids would say, “A hecka long time.” It hasn’t been writer’s block exactly, but something that I’m sure writers go through – especially ones that write about their lives. What do you write about when everything feels so private? When it’s not all your story to tell? How do you navigate the waters of truth when your truth is just one of many?

And so I’ve been quiet.

And if you’ve been in courses with me, you’ve gotten windows into my process over the last couple of years. For those of you who have stuck around, thank you!

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What I really want to say is this: I’ve been feeling disconnected. From my voice. From the way I make my little ripple in the pond. From my community here.

And everything feels a little off kilter as a result. When we’re not connected to our purpose, it all just feels like going through the motions.

That’s it today folks. It’s not much but I’m hoping to break the silent streak. I felt better when I’m sharing and when I’m connecting with you. Thank you for being here!

 

My plea to the Universe: Show me that I’m not alone.

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Photo by In Her Image Photography

There is a soft, green, velvet couch in my living room. Last year, you would have found me there each morning with my hands to my heart, chanting a prayer. Every day I said the same thing through salty tears – please show me that I’m not alone. Please show me that I’m not alone.

I wish I could tell you exactly who I pray to- I could call it God, my guides, the angels, Spirit. It doesn’t really matter. Only that it helped me to do this one small thing. It didn’t take more than a few seconds for the hair on my arms to stand up, for the tears to start falling down my cheeks. It didn’t take long to feel connected to whoever and whatever was guiding me forward. As I contemplated the unraveling of my marriage, I would say, “If I’m going to do this, I need to know you’re with me. I’m not doing it alone.”

Every once in a while I would get little messages, like the day I sobbed outside a bakery in Berkeley while chatting with a friend. Where are we going to live? What am I going to do? How am I going to make it? She listened and soothed me with kind words and when I hung up, I looked down at my boots. Right below my shoe was a tiny discarded fortune from the Chinese restaurant up the street. It said, “No need to worry! You will always have everything you need.” I gasped.

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I took off my ring on the Bart train when I was riding to my friend Laurie’s house. I was nervous, so I did it quickly and zipped it into the coin section of my wallet. I looked down at my bare hands, which seemed so conspicuous. They seemed to glow bright with emptiness. I half expected someone to say, “So, you’re not married, huh?” (Which of course, no one did.)

I shopped for rings for months, searching for something that felt like just the right weight, had just the right stone. I wanted a ring that would be like an anchor to ground me, so that I wouldn’t float away. I decided on turquoise. And when I looked up the meaning it rang true – power, protection, intuition, healing.

I could tell you about dating and what these connections have awakened in me. I could tell you about the way I inhabit my body now and how I never noticed that I didn’t before. I could tell you about the days when I didn’t think I would survive it – the dissolving of my marriage – how I would call my friend Brigette (sometimes hourly) and cry, It’s too much. I don’t think I can do it…” and she’d say, “But you are. You are doing it. This is it.”

I heard on a radio interview that if someone is traumatized (like say you are kneeling next to someone who was just in a car accident) that it’s good to say things like, “You’re alive. The worst is over. Help is coming. Help is on its way.” As opposed to, “Don’t die on me!” like they do in the movies. This is apparently the worst possible thing you can say because all the person hears is “Die! Don’t die! Die, die, die!”

And so when people say, “My god. How will you manage? Are the kids going to be okay? If my partner left me I think I would die!” I want to grab their shoulders and say, “The worst is over. I’m happy. I’m alive. Help is on its way.”

 

The strange pull of what you really love.

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“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.
It will not lead you astray.” -Rumi

The 2014 World Cup changed our lives.

Nico started watching with Matt, peering over his shoulder on the couch, asking about various players. Which guy is the fastest? What team is the best? Is Messi the goodest? He started playing soccer constantly. Talking about it obsessively.

He started wearing shin guards every day to school.
He wore cleats to bed.
He didn’t want us to cut his hair.
He put on his Messi uniform every day even if it was filthy.
He instructed me to write a number in Sharpie on the back of every single shirt he owned to make them “soccer shirts.” Otherwise, he refused to wear them. (I totally obliged.)

Years ago I read a story about Alfred Steiglitz, the renowned photographer from the 1930’s who was married to Georgia O’Keefe. In the article there was a photograph of Steiglitz at maybe 4 or 5 years old. He had fashioned a necklace out of a photograph and wore it around his neck.

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.

When I think of my life as a treasure hunt it makes a bit more sense- the way I am always feeling my way toward the light. The way there are people and colors and joys that are like sparks for me and I remind myself that it’s okay to not know exactly where I’m going. That I can get all the way home, even if my path is only lit a few feet in front of me.

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I’ve been painting lately. Little studies here and there. Strolls through the aisles of the art store. My heart skips a beat when I smell the oil paints and see those spectrums of color on the wall. The other day, I bought a big block of cold pressed watercolor paper and lots of paint – expensive, but I didn’t care. I lay all those tiny tubes of pigment on the counter with a hunger I haven’t felt in a long time. The way the bristles feel when they brush against my palm, the way the pigment bursts on the toothy paper like a shooting star with just a drop of water. It’s a kind of bliss for me, one that I forget is available as I opt for more practical things like laundry and email.

I write this as a kind of reminder to myself and also to note that there is something about color and paint and using my hands that has everything to do with where I am going.

What is the strange pull in your life?

I heard a great interview with Maria Bello yesterday on Fresh Air. She was on track to be a women’s rights attorney when she took an acting class. She knew instantly that was what she wanted to do. She went to her friend + mentor Father Ray Jackson in tears and said, “Father, I don’t know what to do. I thought I was supposed to be of service in this world; acting seems like such a selfish profession.”

And he said the words that would set her free: “Maria, you serve best by doing the things you love most.”

What have you always loved?