letting go

The End: Reflections on The Burlesque Experience & Life Itself

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Eight years ago this summer, a number of events and “chance” meetings and connections and sparks and ideas came together in a combustible, most unplanned, unexpected way, and me and my friend Matt (yeah, the Matt I’ve been engaged to for the last five years!) got this crazy hankering to put together a burlesque troupe. Our first Bust-Out was Halloween, 2009. Seven women, including me, performed our first burlesque acts in front of a roaring crowd of 500 at an outdoor party.

It was transformative. It was intoxicating. It was empowering. I wanted more, and I wanted to share that first time, again and again and again with other women.  Thus the Burlesque Experience was hatched from its mama hen, Les Femmes Aplomb. Would women want this? Would they sign up? The sure did and they sure would. Year after year. For seven years, twenty-four Bust-Outs, the Burlesque Experience has brought nearly 300 women to the stage, to strip and dance their choreographed burlesque debut for thousands of cheering fans.

What kind of woman has said yes to the Burlesque Experience? Every kind of woman.

For some women, the Burlesque Experience has been experienced as a stepping stone, a way to move toward bigger dreams of performing or producing professionally. I am touched and inspired by being able to support women and their sparkly dreams in this way.

For many others, the Burlesque Experience has been nothing short of a game-changer. A demarcation of where one chapter ended and another started, the point in their lives where they can look back and say I did that, and I was never the same.  Through their Experience, they accessed their power, they reclaimed their bodies, they made peace with their pain, they discovered their courage, they blew through excuses, and obstacles, and self-imposed limitations. They became unstoppable.

What happens when a woman becomes unstoppable? What happens when a woman falls in love with herself? What happens when a woman allows herself to give and receive support from other women? What happens when a woman gets on stage and performs a striptease for hundreds of people? What happens? Everything.

And by some miracle, or divine assignment, some force that some call the universe, some call love, some call God, I was chosen to do this. It was me who got to guide them to themselves. Me who got to share this with them, me who got to grow with them, celebrate them, love them. Of course, I could not do this alone. This work has been supported by countless women, and men, over the years, alumni, each of them knowing what potent medicine this journey is. They’ve shown up in countless ways. I am grateful beyond measure. And there I go, deflecting again.

See, so many of us, from a very young age are taught not to be “too full of ourselves”. I remember growing up, it actually was looked down on by the other girls if a girl even simply liked herself. If liking yourself got you exiled from the tribe, what else could a girl do, but learn self-loathing? God forbid, she actually love herself. Scandalous.

Growing up, I never heard a woman say “I am proud of myself.” And I think that’s a shame, and I think the Burlesque Experience has smashed that false and crippling humility to bits, one performance at a time. For what is the Burlesque Experience been about if not self-celebration? On this stage we celebrate ourselves. The nerve of us! Who do we think we are!? I have even shied away from praise, when it comes to the Burlesque Experience. It makes me uncomfortable. “It’s not me, it’s something bigger than me.” Yes, and no.

Today, as eleven students prepare to take the Burlesque Experience Bust-Out stage for their first time, and the Burlesque Experience’s last time, as we prepare for our last show tomorrow night, our last curtain call, our last celebratory toast, our last Afterglow Dance Party, I am overwhelmed with emotion, with gratitude, and yes, dare I say? With pride.

I am proud of myself.

We must allow ourselves to be proud of ourselves. Our daughters, our sisters are counting on it. The world is counting on it. There is nothing wrong with a woman celebrating herself. We must stop acting as if there is. Be proud of yourself. Do things that shock you. Be bold. Be brave. Be the kind of woman people say of, “Who does she think she is?” Be YOU.

Most importantly, be in love with yourself.  The world desperately needs women in love with themselves.

My work is not done. The end of this chapter means the start of a new one. I promise to you, my commitment to healing the world, one woman at a time is just getting started. I wonder what my next busting out will be… What will yours be?

When It’s Time, You Know.

atlamak

Change is hard.
Especially big change.
Especially when that change will require us to restructure and redesign our entire lives, will demand that we disappoint, inconvenience or confound others.
I’m in the midst of such a redesign myself, as we speak. As you might or might not know, I made the decision earlier this year to wrap up my seven-year project, the Burlesque Experience, and to transition away from facilitating group events and programs altogether. This coming summer semester will be the very last B.E. session, after twenty-two incredible seasons.
This has been no easy decision.
I love the Burlesque Experience. I love teaching, and hosting and facilitating, and holding space. These aspects of my work have given me immeasurable joy, satisfaction, connection, creative expression, pride, glory, humility, and have taught me so much.
I’ve fallen in love, again and again, with hundreds of brave and gorgeous women I’ve shared my work with over the years.
“I am who I am because of the women I’ve surrounded myself with.” – Salma Hayek
For the last eighteen years or so, I’ve been creating and hosting programs and events for women in Dallas.  For the last couple years, I have been doing some major “inner” renovations. I’m not talking new curtains or throw rugs in there- I’m talking about knocking out walls, foundation repair, restructuring the whole place, room by room. As I’ve been changing, so have my drives, so have my desires. (Well, of course they would.)
One desire that has grown stronger than ever, accompanied by a quickening, an urgency of sorts, is the need to buckle down and write. And what I have recently come to understand is that I cannot create what I want to create when my creative energies are dispersed all over the gosh-darned place.
I described to a friend recently, my life was feeling like watery Kool-Aid. When you water down the Kool-Aid, to stretch it out, everyone gets watery Kool-Aid. I want to be potent. I want to be concentrate. I don’t want to live my life diluted.
The truth didn’t hit me in the head like a lightening bolt. It seeped in, little by little, subtly tossing tiny clues here and there, until the tiny clues became wisdom, became truth.
Until I was ready to acknowledge my truth.
One day, my feelings turned to knowing. My curiosity turned to clarity. I just knew, I was ready to close this chapter.
I had to look hard at all of the elements of my business, my brands, to really get clear about what it is I wanted to keep doing and what it was I wanted to stop doing. I realized I still am very passionate and devoted to my private coaching clients. That is very much alive for me. I feel like I could coach privately for the rest of my life, I love it so much.
And I also knew that in order to tap into the creative energy I needed to do my other work, and explore other aspects of myself, my purpose and my soul’s desire, I had to let go of some things.
I am ready to turn my attention to other desires and dreams. I am ready to shift and evolve into the next version of me.
It’s hard to point at any one reason or circumstance and say “that’s why”, though I’d love to be able to.
See, I love a compelling story. And I usually need one to motivate me to make any important change in my life. Yet one of the things I’m learning is that, in actuality, I don’t require a story to make a decision. I don’t need to explain or justify to others, or to myself, why I’m done with something when I’m done with something.
Something doesn’t have to go bad or fall apart or hit bottom or become painful before I am done. I’ve been there, too, many times.
But not this time. This has been so hard, because I hate disappointing people. But I’m also learning that sometimes choosing for me means you might be let down. Can I be okay with that? I’ll never be a person who “has no fucks to give.” That’s not my style. I have a lot of fucks and I give them freely. I care about what others think. I don’t like hurting people. And I also must choose what’s best for me.
Many years ago, a friend shared with me that the word “decide” actually means “to kill.” This has always stuck with me. Especially when I need to make a decision. Think about it. Genicide. Matricide. Suicide. Homicide…
When we decide what it is we want, what direction we want to go in, who we want to be, something else has to die. No wonder we avoid deciding.
As I move into these new directions, wrapping up one cycle, immersing myself in new endeavors and cultivating new desires, it’s bittersweet, indeed. But I know it’s right. I trust myself.
So what is it that you, my friend, are avoiding? What big change needs to be made? What are you pretending to not know?
It’s scary, sometimes, clarity. Because it requires us to do hard things. I think that’s why we’ve gotten so good at pretending not to have it. I have it now. And I will not pretend.
I’m leaping into the unknown in many ways, letting go of what I know, to explore what I don’t know. I’m willing to let go of feeling like an expert to embrace being a beginner. I’m once again in uncharted territory. It’s bittersweet, terrifying, exhilarating, promising.
What about you?

The Stupid, Terrible Choices of the People We Love

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One late, balmy night this past summer, I’m on the phone with my little brother, my brilliant and very gifted and very drunk brother. He’s a thousand miles away, literally and figuratively. He has struggled with alcoholism for half of his life, he is crying. He is bottoming, though at the time, I’m worried it’s the end. He’s talking like it is. I am terrified.

I plead with him. I know he can’t go on this way, it’s gone too far, it’s gone on too long. His body is tired. His soul is tired.

“This is not your path.” I sob to him. “God wants something better for you.”

“How do you know my path?” He seethes, half slurring, half yelling at me. “You don’t know what God wants! Who do you think you are?”

His words feel like a sock to my stomach, they take the wind out of me. Because they’re true.

I know what I want, of course. I want him to be happy. I want him to conquer this disease and experience a life of healing and wholeness. I want him alive.

But how can I, for one minute, ever pretend to know what someone’s path is?

And can I open to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, this actually is his path?

How arrogant of me to think for one second that I know what is “best” for anyone.

To differentiate my opinions from “what is best” is a lesson I have learned, again and again, the hard way.

And sometimes, I learn it in a miraculous way. As of this writing, my brother is several months (sober date 9.2.16!) into his recovery. He is connected to a sober community, creating a new life, with new aspirations, supporting other addicts, after we weren’t sure he would make it out that time. He made it out. He’s fighting the fight, one day at a time.

An addict may need to bottom before they can rise from the ashes. And we need our missteps, bad choices and mistakes to find our way. In fact, our missteps, bad choices and mistakes ARE our way. This goes for others, too.

Even when we think we know what’s best for them.

When we think the ones we love have wandered from their paths, it behooves us to consider that this is exactly their path.

It’s something I have to remind myself of, over and over again, especially in my work as a life coach. And as a human being.

It’s not an easy pill to swallow, when ideally, I’d love to see everyone I love and care about happy and “fulfilling their potential”, a phrase I’m growing a little leery of, truthfully. Do we ever fulfill our potential? CAN we ever?

I have big, exciting visions for the people I care about, picturing what I think is their best, what I think they deserve, what I think they can achieve, what I think they should do.

Ah yes, a loving kind of arrogance, but arrogance nonetheless.

A friend writes me, frustrated and broken-hearted that her best friend has again fallen for Mr. Wrong. This time, she’s ended up penniless and homeless after he booted her out unexpectedly. “She is so lost. It’s killing me.”

A client laments over the poor choices of her young adult son, destined, she’s certain, for a life of tragic tales. He just got fired from his job for copping an attitude. He’s smoking too much weed. His girlfriend is under-age. He’s headed down a frightening path, and my client doesn’t know what to do. “He’s my baby.” She cries. Yes, he’s twenty-seven. But he’ll always be her baby.

My response is probably not what they want to hear.

Can you trust that this is their path?

Can you believe that Life is smarter than you?

Are you willing to surrender the idea that you know what is best?

It’s hard to watch people we care about fumble, and ache, and fall, and fail. It’s painful, heartbreaking, even devastating, at times.

We can choose to love them, hold them in prayer. Help, when and how we can. Show up ready to work when they’re ready for change.

But we must be cautious when we find ourselves thinking we know what is best for them. That’s our own agenda. And who are we? And what do we know?

What we think is best may be very, very different of what they came here to experience.

Let’s stop pretending we know, in this great mystery called Life, what is best for anyone.

Our opportunity here is to practice trust. To love without conditions. To take care of ourselves.

Our invitation here is to practice surrender. Again and again.

And yet, isn’t it always?

Let me tell you about my 2016.

Photo by Dee Hill.
Photo by Dee Hill.

It happens every year, right around this time. I get to feeling super reflective, looking back at the year I am completing, culling and sifting through the details to find the juice, to find the gains, the growth, the stuff to feel proud of.

AND I start getting antsy as hell for a brand new year. A clean slate. A fresh start. I itch for it. I crave its freshness, its potential, its possibilities.

Like clockwork, here I am. I’m ready.

There’s no denying, for millions of us, 2016 has been an intense, eventful year of shifts, transitions, collective loss, collective grief, fear, and pain.

AND everything else.

While yes, we’ve been challenged, we’ve also been blessed.

I’m not suggesting we ignore our pain, or bypass our struggles, pretending they didn’t exist, but let’s widen our scope, to really take it all in. There was so much good. If we want to admit it.

Before we move into 2017, I want to present to you some some questions for reflection.

Take some time to consider, journal, contemplate, make art, chat through the questions and answers with friends, whatever! It doesn’t matter how you do it, but it does make a difference when you do it.

I’ll go first.

If you asked me what I learned this year, I’d tell you this.

I am far more powerful than I realized. I can do what I thought impossible. I am my own hero.

I learned that I can’t do it alone.

I learned that my body is my friend. I’ve learned that my body is boss. I learned that my body is an animal. She’s a mammal. And she’s far wiser than I ever gave her credit for.

If you asked me what I let go of this year, I’d tell you this.

I let go of the story that I want or need alcohol in my life. I let go of the story that life was too hard without it. I let go of the story that life was no fun without it. I let go of the belief that “I can’t.”

I let go of the need to change my body before I love her. I said bye-bye to diets, once and for all.

I let go of my excuses. Most of them, at least.

If you asked me what I gained this year, I’d tell you this.

Confidence. Power. Strength. Understanding. Pride. Self-trust. Intimacy. Inspiration. Love, love, love. Lots of love.

If you asked me how I changed this year, I’d tell you this.

I used to think I knew what freedom was. And then I found new freedom. I got out of my own way, once and for all. I have re-built the broken trust I had with myself. I let love in. I learned to be supported. I did brave things, and got braver in the process. I took chances, I stretched, in my life, my relationships, my business. I made myself proud, very proud. I discovered things about myself I wasn’t aware of, by getting sober. I discovered more of my shadows. I discovered more of my light.

If you asked me to create a picture of myself, in relation to this year, I’d show you this.

I am turning, I am spinning, to a rhythmic beat, my arms extended, stretched in the air, my head thrown back, I am dancing, I am smiling, I am laughing.

If you asked me to sum it all up, this big, outrageous, intense, helluva year, I’d tell you this.

Thank you. Wow. Yes. Ahhhhhh… Hell yeah.

What about you?

What did you learn this year? How have you changed this year? What did you let go of? What did you gain? Create a picture of yourself, in relation to this year. And sum it all up.

I want to know.

*****************************

A gift for you! Download my printable Old Year/New Year Card Game. Great for parties, circles, journaling, or long walks on the beach. Grab yours here. It’s free!

The Truth About Changing

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“Nothing happens, and nothing happens, and then everything happens.”
– Fay Weldon

There’s a recent shifting, a new understanding in me that has basically turned my world on its head.

It’s challenged everything I thought about life, about change, about habits and healing. It has turned my business beliefs upside down, it’s shaken up my entire coaching practice and belief system, and yeah, it’s big.

And it’s so awesome. So liberating.

I feel an opening within me that has become bigger than me, I free-fall into it. I’m still not 100% sure how to integrate this new understanding into my business, and exactly how it will impact my life coaching practice, and my life in general. It is monumental.

I do know my work is becoming much richer with this new understanding,  much more loving, and compassionate, and effective.

Wanna know what it is? It’s this:

Everything is perfect. There is nothing to fix.

Your path is your path. Your unfolding is yours. There is no reason to force yourself into changing. In fact, it won’t work, if you are forcing it.

Having built my business on helping people change, as you can imagine, this is a game-changer.

Lately, I wonder if much of the self-improvement culture we live in today isn’t a bunch of bullshit. By our relentless pursuit of being “better”, we can never be enough.

If I witnessed a flower bud, and said “Flower bud, you are perfect, just the way you are. Don’t change!” would I stop it from blooming, at its own natural time? NO. It was designed to bloom.

If I witnessed a flower bud, and said “Flower bud, open. Open now. You were meant to bloom. Work harder. Push. COME ON! Why are you still a bud?” would it open any faster? NO.

Yes, it was designed to bloom. But at its own perfect pace.

Just like us.

Is an unopened bud any less perfect than an flower in bloom?

There is no forcing evolution. Evolution will not be forced. Emergence cannot be rushed. Blooming happens when its meant to. Not a minute before. Not a minute after.

The problem with much of our self-improvement thinking is that we are spinning our wheels, spending so much time, energy and money trying to shape ourselves into better versions, new and improved, always, relentlessly trying to change. Wondering why we can’t change. Wondering why we can’t shake this habit or that dependency. Frustrated as hell that we can’t reach that same goal we’ve had for 20 years, or that we haven’t succeeded manifesting our deepest desires and are still not the people we want to be.

We are missing the point.

And we are missing the perfection available to us in the present moment.

Am I saying don’t try? Of course not. Your desire, your intention, your trying is how you will get there, when the time is right, after all, but we also need to take into account the natural, organic ways we shift, when it’s time to shift.

We change when it’s time to change.

A caterpillar when it cocoons does not weave its humble abode around itself to cozily sprout wings and emerge all butterfly-beautiful, oooh! No. It’s a much uglier process than that.

The caterpillar first must deconstruct, actually deconstituting itself into black liquid. Caterpillar soup. From those cells, something new begins to take shape. But not without becoming complete mush before then. And here’s something new that I just learned… in that black soup process, the old cells fight the new cells.

While the new cells struggle and work to become butterfly, what is old, familiar, outdated is still struggling for survival. Can you relate?

When making the changes you want in your life, there will likely be struggle. It won’t be easy. Sometimes you will be fighting for your life. I’m not saying don’t fight, don’t work, don’t try.

I’m saying trust the process. Trust your own evolution.

I also know that you can’t crack open a cocoon anytime you want to set the butterfly free. I’ve learned the hard way, when I was 10. It was devastating and I felt like crap, I had destroyed the butterfly before it was even ready to be born, by trying to rush its perfect process.

So this is the great paradox… when you want to change, work at it. But know that if it’s not time for change, it won’t work.

Everything is perfect. Nothing needs fixing.

When it’s your time to let go, you will let go.

When it’s time to release old habits, you will be able to release them.

When it’s your time to make painful decisions, you’ll bravely make those decisions (not without being scared, don’t get me wrong. Bravery and fear are by no means exclusive of one another.)

When it’s time to leap, you will leap.

When it’s time to know, you will know.

When it’s time to crack out of your shell, you will fight for your life to break free.

And when it’s time to bloom, you will bloom.

Applying this level of acceptance and trust to my life and to the lives of those I care for and work with has been challenging at times.

We want what we want, and we want it now.

But luckily, becoming this new version of who I am brings with it the capacity to accept and trust life, on life’s terms, and I know, when it’s time… it’s time.

“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
– Anais Nin

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The Old You, the Now You, the New You? All YOU.

photo by dee hill
photo by dee hill

So many people I work and play with come with a common need: to reconnect with part of themselves that they have lost.

I know this feeling. I’m quite familiar with it, in fact.  But I also know sometimes that being who we ‘used to be’ isn’t a fair or realistic option.

When I watch  one of my favorite shows, A & E’s, Intervention, and the family’s all joined together to tearfully read their pleas for rehab to their addicted loved one, something they often say jostles me. Many times, they’ll say something along the lines of… “I just want the old you back…”

But is it the “old” version of them that really needs returning?

I’m not saying I can’t or don’t relate to the despair of loving someone with an addiction, I get it, on a very intimate level, in fact.

I’m also not saying that I can’t understand the human inclination we sometimes have to wish we could ‘rewind life’ and go back to a simpler time, a more innocent time. I get that, too.

But I also think this: The ‘old’ version of the addict is the one that became addicted.  The one that was suffering, and numbing out in various ways, hiding secret pain, secret shame, and heading in the direction of the very addiction that brought them to the NOW. The exact and perfect now, the only place where NEW can begin.

Why not start right there?

So that’s what I’m reminded of when people I work and play with talk about wanting to be who they used to be…

“I used to be so free. I used to be so thin. I used to be so confident. I used to be so sexy. I used to be so strong. I used to be so happy…”  I get that, too.

But what I also know is this:  There is an even better version of you than the past version of you. After all, the past version of you became ‘outdated’ for a reason.

The NEW version of you will be a beautiful and organic combination of who you are NOW, and who you have been.

Take ALL of it… the good, the bad, the strength, the pain, the mistakes, the glory, the extra weight, the laugh lines, the attitude, the insecurities, the lessons, the mysteries, the tenderness and grace that you have earned along the way.

All of it is necessary for the perfect recipe, the magic formula, the miraculous terrain, the Divine Totality of the You that you are becoming.

Instead of striving for who you used to be, (she’s gone, after all…)  lean into the completely NEW, more exalted, more sovereign, more complete, more integrated, more healed and more experienced version of yourself.

And in your new glory, you can be thankful for who you used to be, who you are now, and who you are becoming.

Always, you are becoming.

*****

(c)2012 – Excerpted from my book, “Truth or Dare Living: Wild Adventures for your Sacred, Sexy Soul” available on Amazon.com.

Shameless

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photo by dee hill

“It’s hard to dance with the Devil on your back.”
– Florence + the Machine

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about shame, and it won’t be the last, unless by some amazing miracle, it’s eradicated once and for all. Maybe then I’ll write a blog called “Remember Shame? Me Neither.” But the odds of that are slim, so I’m going to keep bringing it up.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about the blocks to your most vibrant, radiant, sexiest life.  The toxic threats to your well-being. Those radiance-robbing sexy-stifling and fire snuffing habits that hinder our connection to our own inner light and diminish our joy and dull our experience.

There are a bunch. So far, we’ve discussed old programming, self-talk, judgment and comparing. And there are more to come.

I’m personally acquainted with all of them, and have had torrid affairs with most of them. A few of them still call from time to time, looking for a roll in the hay. And I must admit, I sometimes take their calls. But I’m getting better about letting them go to voicemail.

There is one I know pretty well, and that is shame.

We go way back.

Chances are, you know it, too.

I’ve come to realize that shame is the most toxic and deadly of the bunch. I’m not even speaking figuratively. Get this…

“The body has a remarkable ability to manifest shame as illness or physical problems, because the hurt of shame registers in the brain in exactly the same way physical pain does. And it also produces inflammatory chemicals in the body that set us up for illness.”

– Dr. Christiane Northrup

There is well-documented evidence that those who experienced adverse childhoods that were heavily associated with shame, abandonment and betrayal are far more likely to have health problems later on and die sooner than those that didn’t.

In layman’s terms… this shit is poison.

I have my own theories, and I bet I could find the science to back them up, that shame is an underlying root cause of addiction, self-harming, eating disorders and other struggles and illnesses.

Are you carrying shame?

Isn’t it time to be free?

Sure, sounds great, Lisa, you may be thinking. But how?

The antidote for shame is worthiness. Do whatever you can to cultivate your own self-worth. It’s not easy for many of us, but I promise, it is possible.

And here’s the interesting thing I find about shame. It is rarely founded in fact or truth. And its roots are usually very old, and usually tracing back to when we were very young, and finding subtle, sneaky ways to stay alive, “evidence” if you will, experiences to match the shame.

There are many ways to release shame…

  • spend time daily cultivating self-forgiveness and compassion

  • journal your way through

  • mantras, affirmations and mediation have the power to rewire shamepatterns in your brain

  • remind yourself regularly that you did the best you could, as you knew how

  • have an honest talk with a trusted friend

  • work with a coach or therapist on specific tools and modalities

  • investigate shame-releasing processes and therapies (a simple Google search of “how to release shame” had about 74 million hits! Obviously, this is a hot topic.)

The important thing is that you do the work to release it.

I’m still working.

I can definitely feel the freedom that comes with less shame.

But hidden in small dark crevices, some residual shame lingers. It surprises me sometimes, popping up unexpected in a behavior, or even a dream. Lingeringshame around past mistakes and choices, religious mind-fuckery, old and decrepit messages I received as a kid, sourced from  what Eckhart Tolle refers to as the “pain body”, that deep-seated part of me that does not want to live without some degree of suffering.

I am gentle with myself (when I remember to be.)

I am patient with myself (when I can be.)

I am loving toward myself (when I come from my source, which is pure love.)

We are all works in progress. No one here is expected to be perfect. No one is.

It is also true that it is impossible to be your most radiant, powerful, beautiful, liberated self while carrying the weight of shame. It’s heavy.

Let’s get that devil off our backs, so we can dance, freely, with abandon, and feel what it feels to be completely and entirely shameless.

The Bravest Girl I Know

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Later this week, my daughter and I hit the road as I accompany her toward the next chapter of her adventurous life.

Maddi, who just turned 20, has decided to spend her summer working on an organic farm in Colorado. The trip will take us 13 hours, if we don’t stop. But we will. I want it to last.

This only child of mine, this brave, intelligent, bold and beautiful woman is my favorite person to be with. She’s funny, sensitive, insightful and has always been wise beyond her years.

This spirit of adventure that she possesses burns in her like a fire, and she takes on experiences like no one I’ve ever been.

Shortly after high school, she signed her first apartment lease.  Later the next year, she took a five week road trip all over the country with her best friend. She camped on the beach, she talked to strangers, she wandered unknown towns and cities, deserts and shores. She saw, firsthand, beauty I’ve only seen in photos.

Earlier this year, she saved her money, got a passport, and followed her heart across the ocean, to meet her British beau who she had only known previously online. She spent two weeks in the UK, returning home with London calling, new experiences morphed into new dreams and desires.

She bravely makes art. She bravely makes money making art.

She is a gentle spirit but is not one to be taken advantage of. She is sweet, but no pushover. She is a Taurus, and stubborn as hell when she wants to be, and will buck and fight hard for her convictions. This is the child after all, who at age eight, wrote her dad and I an essay on why she wanted to be a vegetarian after months and months of our meat-loving resistance.  She has been a vegetarian ever since.

She has a sense of self that has surprised me since she was a tiny girl. It’s always been there, strong and sturdy, even through some challenging times during her adolescence, even while some of her peers struggled in frightening, heartbreaking ways. Even when her house was split in two, and she learned how to have two beds, two homes, she’s faced it all with courage.

She’s wild and tender, she’s fire and water.

She faces the world with curiosity, openness, willingness, boldness, and her heart in the shape of a big fat YES.

I want to be more like her.

As I think about her embarking on this new chapter, one full of mysteries and unknowns, bravely walking away from what is safe and familiar– her job, her friends, her parents, the only hometown she remembers, to see what is out there for her, my eyes well with tears.10264893_1442653222639366_400777618122208778_n

Of course I worry, like any mama, I worry a lot. But mostly, I champion for her. My heart pounds for her, my prayer is that the world will treat her gently and kindly, and if they do not, she can turn back around, she can change direction, she can try something new, she can always come home, she can always change her mind.

I hope her dad and I, and the people who love her, have instilled in her the tools and traits she needs out there, I think we have.

But funny thing is, I am who I am for the tools and traits she’s instilled in me.

Maddi, I’m rooting for you. Go be wild. Be brave. See it all. Taste it all. Feel it all. The world awaits you.

Own Your Story or It Will Own You

free-from-the-pastWe are composites of our stories. All that has happened to us, good and bad, are threads, woven into the fabric of who we are. Our strengths, our weaknesses, our gifts, our struggles all have our stories to thank for their existence, and when we can embrace and own our stories, they become testimonials for healing, for evolution.

Our battle scars become our medals of honor.

However, there is a huge difference between owning your stories and being owned by them. Let me explain.

For example, you may have been raised in a dysfunctional home. There may have been abuse. Addiction. You may have grown up frightened, unsafe. Your child’s heart may have been wounded. You may have had to fend for yourself, or devise strategies of protection to survive.

As you grow and mature, this story of growing up a wounded. frightened child becomes an important part of the fabric of who you are. Until it doesn’t work anymore. Until you are no longer being served by the tools and tricks you learned to get through life. Until the self-protection strategies begin to leave you isolated and unable to experience true intimacy. Until the methods of your survival become weapons of self-destruction.

When this happens, Life is calling you to create a different story. And if you accept the invitation, you can transmute the pain of your stories into your most precious assets.

You are where you are, you are who you are, because of your stories.

You cannot change the past. But you can change your relationship to it.

That is how you own your story.

But here’s where story owns you: If you are aware of characteristics or traits you have, or unhealthy patterns or limiting beliefs that are deeply rooted in the events of your past, and you continue to blame your story for the way your life is now, your story is owning you.

If your story is your justification for why you just can’t this or just aren’t able to do that, your story is owning you.

If your story has cemented you in a mindset that causes you continuous suffering, it’s time to bring a sledgehammer and bust your way out of that story, to transform the relationship you have to the story, so you can go about the business of living an amazing, beautiful life.

When you are ready to release the power your story has over the way things are now, you own your story.

When you can bless your story for the lessons and healing opportunities it has gifted you with, you own your story.

When you can say “I used to ____, but now I ___,” you own your story.

When you own your story, your relationship with the entire world changes.

You are no longer cemented. You are no longer bound. You can proudly advance your life from a healing, healthier place. You can bravely face your demons, to discover they are actually the most fragile, vulnerable parts of you, in need of deep love and radical acceptance.

When you own your story, Life opens up to embrace you, and says “Welcome home.”

Then, your victim story becomes a warrior’s tale.

Then, your shackles turn to dust around your ankles.

Then, others are enlightened and inspired by your redemption.

Then, you are truly free.

 

Avoiding the Void

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artwork: the void by ice pick lodge

“There is a Buddhist term that beautifully describes this stage — Sunyata,
which literally means “the value of the void” or “to strive after the void”…
value the time between for what it truly is– a primal state of pure energy,
the natural beginning of all creative acts, a fertile field of infinite possibility.”

– Barbara Stanny

I had some great plans when I finally got so many admin tasks off my plate, thanks to the support of my new assistant, Hannah.

Prior to hiring her, I had hit a wall with productivity, my creativity was constipated. It seemed most of what I was spending my time doing was administrative tasks. I had no energetic space left for creating, innovating and inspired actions. I dreamed of a time when I could clear space where new ideas would magically rain from the sky and soak me up in magic creativity juice. The Next Big Thing was coming, I thought; I knew. But I also knew that first I needed to create space for it.

As Hannah got up and running, my plate did start to feel clearer. Even more powerful than the time that was being freed, I began to feel an energetic shift that seemed like an inner opening. It was a strange sensation. I was spending less time doing, doing, doing and more time just being. And umm, yeah, it felt incredibly awkward and uncomfortable.

The Doer in me quickly started guilting me, judging me for not being busy enough, loving to brand this new clearer space as “laziness”, scaring me about money and/or my inability to create it, if I wasn’t overwhelmingly swamped. But mostly the new void I had created– with the intention of finding inspiration there– was utterly and painfully unfamiliar to me. And sitting still in it? Wow… that was asking a lot.

So I scrambled to fill that empty space, telling myself a new story- a bullshit story- that I had actually created the void so that I could DO MORE. Yes, that’s it! More, more, more!

Blank space for recycling old creations, for making more happen, more events, more commitments, more money, fill, fill, fill that empty space…. quickly! Before I die. before I die of what? Insignificance? Before I die of non-productivity? Before I die of invisibility or obsolescence?

Okay, that may be a little melodramatic, but here’s the fact of the matter. I know I have reached a place in my life and work where surrender and pause is as necessary as winter is to spring.

I have been in nonstop output mode for the majority of the last decade. I have reached a point (I’ve been reaching it for a year or so, reluctantly) where a “creativity sabbatical” of sorts is required, where I can sit and be, and actually allow the blank space, without the mad, panicked reflexive impulse to fill it up.

Ohhh, this is no easy feat for me. As an entrepreneur who has been constantly creating “something out of nothing” in order to create my living, this “nothing” seems to begging for “something”.

And as “Destiny” (or God, as I sometimes also like to call her) should have it, I’m reading a most amazing book, Sacred Success: A Course in Financial Miracles by Barbara Stanny, (as quoted from, at the beginning of this post) and happened to fall on the chapter “Receptive Surrender.”

This entire chapter seems to be speaking directly to me, with its perfectly perfect timing, and oh, am I listening!

“Our frightened Ego, tasked to protect us, needs perpetual motion as a pretense for control. The Soul however, as our guide to Greatness, requires stillness so we can hear the secrets it yearns to share…” 

And then, she goes on to say this…

“Without endless activity, we’re left with empty space. And empty space gives way to painful feelings. Fear, self-doubt, anger, jealousy,shame– all those viscous demons we’ve been artfully dodging– will inevitably rear their ugly heads. Rather than experience the pain, we fill up the spaces.”

I can say that I am not consciously aware of any painful feelings that I have been avoiding. I am mostly pretty courageous when it comes to feeling it all. But I bet there’s something there for me. I bet there’s something that needs to be felt. And creating a clearing for it will lead me to the other side.

Then there’s this yumminess…

“Buried under the intensity of raw emotion lies a cornucopia of wisdom, freedom and ultimately, healing. On the other side of fear is where your power (and pleasure) lies.”

Yummy, right?

So here is my promise, to you, to myself. I will stay in this uncomfortable space, trusting in its divine perfection, and I’m learning how to be very choosy with how I fill my time, what I output, how I input, and mostly focus on being receptively surrendered.

What does that mean for you?

Less events on the calendar. Maybe less blogs or emails. Less yes and more no, perhaps.

But I dare you to join me, in whatever way your soul calls you to do so, to create some space in your own life, as a sacred surrender, receptively awaiting further instructions, to be with the void, to allow it, to stay in it, without the impulse to fill it with busyness and activity, and see what happens.

I will continue with private and group coaching, as well as the Burlesque Experience. But that might be all, for now. And I am willing to be okay with that. (Not that I’m okay with it yet, but I’m willing to be.) When the waves of guilt round “laziness” or panic around money arise, I will remind myself that I am receptively surrendered, and I need not worry or fret in the presence of the void.

It’s where the next me is gestating.

It’s where the next chapter of my life’s work will be born.

I have no idea what that will be. (Gulp!)

But I (think I can) be okay with not knowing.

And I absolutely trust, without a doubt that whatever it is, it’s going to be great…

if I can stop avoiding the void.