Breathing…

I entered into my relationship with 2020, filled with hope. While I have felt the steady decline personally, each year since 2015, I resolved that THIS YEAR would be the difference.

It has been different.

It has made a difference.

While the things I had vowed to see done this year were not exactly petty/shallow:

  • finish my book.
  • complete my book proposal.
  • begin the publishing path journey.
  • do more yoga.
  • spend more time adventuring.
  • save more money.
  • focus on intentional quality time with my people.

They weren’t on par with the sci-fi movie we’re all about to live, either.

These weren’t bad goals, but they weren’t really flexible ones either. (except the yoga one, but that’s a bad joke.)

Today is the very middle of this very, very, very hard year. While so many of us have lost big, this year, I find my soul hesitant to say that it has been a “bad year”.

Sure- CRAP has happened. Finances are almost non-existent for many of us, and businesses/ventures we’d worked so hard to build- are simply gone. So much loss and devastation has happened, but for the first time in my adult life I am watching a world question what our part can be to insure that these losses are not in vain. That we, as a collective, can grow from them.

We were all forced into this global Pause, and for one unexpected moment we could not help but see that the earth could instantly begin to heal…

What about us?

Could we?

Within this Great Pause, we were pushed to take stock- stock of our resources, relationships and our reasons. For the briefest of seconds, we all stood terrified, on the same page reading the same words. We all tried to grasp the palms of one another as we simultaneously inhaled, and exhaled, and questioned if this was it.

The “big bad” is far from over, but once it became a symbol of old news and new normal, a majority of us went back to life as usual. We chose to forget the things we feared, which also meant we had to let go of the goodness of together.

Then one night, an angry man kneeled on the neck of another man, murdering him.

This tragedy happened before humanity had put enough distance between them and the season of Pause. Our human hearts were still a little exposed, a little raw and ready for something real to happen.

And the people rose up.

A dying man cried out for his mama, and told the world he could not breathe, and human beings of all colors came face to face with the reality that we have been choosing to barely breathe for the majority of our lives…

Fresh air is there, for the taking.

We saw this, in the Pause.

The Oxygen of together restores life. It does.

The bitter people call this idea divisive. They realize, but don’t admit, that change is scary and they are “happy enough” barely breathing. In the Pause they breathed so hard that their lungs ached, and while that felt cathartic in the moment, the moment was fleeting and the pain seemed overwhelming and scary.

Barely breathing sounds like silence.

It looks like shallow obsessions, for distraction’s sake.

It looks like consumerism- starvation for that next thing, because we’re internally convinced that will be the very thing that will make the ache to inhale subside.

The people who killed the Man who could not breathe, had titles to serve and protect. Can we not all see that this tragedy effects every single one of us? Because of them, (and other fear and anger driven officers) many have turned on all of the men and women also sworn to serve and protect.

This is not a Blue issue, this is a BREATH issue.

Those killers, they didn’t want to breathe either.

Killers do not always wear a uniform. When they do, they hurt their brethren too, because it distracts and divides the people. This world is filled with good people, and bad people. The bad people wear all types of clothing.

Sometimes good people are white, but generations of evil white action has made our light skin hard to trust.

Sometimes the angry, hate-filled “bad guy” is the one beating his wife and children, and the police save them and take him away.

Sometimes, as we’ve seen, the bad guy wears the uniform.

This isn’t a blue issue, this is an abuse of power issue.

It is a refusal to truly see, issue.

The people who stay silent and protect them, the ones who stay silent for fear of rocking the boat- the ones who stay quiet because they are “happy enough” in their ignorance- those people have been holding their breath beneath the water for so long that they can no longer even imagine using muscles to kick to the surface and gasp for air…

But what happens to them then?

They drown.

Have you tried reasoning with a hateful racist? You can’t.

You can not change the mind of a dead man.

In the Pause I learned that I need to breathe.

I NEED to fill my lungs with people and kindness, with unity, art and collaboration. I need to hold hands with everyone who is different than me.

I NEED to breathe in the wisdom and stories of others, and damn it, I NEED to see how my refusal to do so, for so long, contributed to the problem.

Last year one of the most important people in the world, to me, decided I was only worth her silence. She stopped talking to me, stopped regarding me, and in the journey of that decision, the oppression of her silence killed our relationship. I will always love her, but her silence killed a part of my heart that had spent nearly two decades connected to hers.

I am not angry at her. I hold only prayers for a beautiful life and a healing gratitude at the time we had together.

Silence is disregard.

Disregard is apathy.

Life cannot be sustained apathetically.

Silence is death. Often a slow, drowning death, and we may be so hell-bent on our refusal to inhale that we fail to see the Grim Reaper coming straight for us.

I can be silent no more.

I am breathing, filling these lungs.

There is no sort of. You either inhale, or you don’t.

You love, or you don’t.

You listen and learn, or you lose. You may not feel it today, or tomorrow, but it’s coming.

The Pause paved the way for changes like we’ve never seen. People rose up and protested for brunches and haircuts, and this bold action led to the opening of an unready nation…

Just you watch what happens when even more people finally begin to take real breaths, and rise up for LIFE. Black Lives Matter. We aren’t saying Only Black Lives Matter, but instead crying out that we take notice- injustice is killing and we all need to stand up and help.

Today, July 1st, I am inhaling the grace, wisdom and strength of the brave Black women I am befriending, the ones I am listening to, the conversations I am having and the ugly truths I am facing, regarding my own privilege and fragility.

I am admitting that this is not a journey I am fit to lead, and so I will listen and learn until forever. Letting go, further, of what does not serve this path towards an equal world, where differences will be celebrated and color radiates, in all shades, like the sun.

As my filled lungs exhale, they will practice the whys… with a voice that grows less shaky every single day, I will say-

George Floyd

Ahmaud Arbery

Tony McDade

Breonna Taylor

David McAttee

Elijah McClain

With this I will inhale again, breathing deep the awareness of an ill-designed system, and do what I can before exhaling…

Say their names.

And I will never breathe them all because there are just so many, but in remembering I can be moved forward. We all can. These horrors of a structured design meant to keep us afraid and on top, must not go on.

Months ago we sat frozen in fear as the entire planet seemed short of the very machines the hospitals needed to breathe for the sick people who could not breathe on their own.

Inhale

With a knee to the neck, George Floyd had his breath stolen, and the world rose up, giving breath to movement.

It is time for us to come together and breathe again. Black. Blue. Brown. White.

Exhale

four…

Growing up a little white girl, among a see of hispanic children was both hard, and it wasn’t. I mean, it WAS hard because I always felt like I didn’t fit in. Adding to that the fact that my mother was a smoker and the kids at school always made it a point to acknowledge that I was a Gringo, and stank. It also wasn’t hard though, because it was what I knew. I had no alternative to compare it to.

Childhood leaves us with the funnest memories, doesn’t it?

When I was a teenager I was living in a fundamentalist group home in (then) rural Idaho. Life was the sheltered sort, with the exception being church and youth group at a local “city” church. A mojority of the normal kids at church, living in their normal homes, going to normal schools and eating normal foods thought us group home kids were freaks. To be honest, their parents also saw us as dangers. It was an isolating and pretty scarring existence.

With this package deal attached to my early life development, there was also the personal feelings (SO MANY FEELINGS) that I had about NOT fitting in. Not feeling a part of things, sure. I had essentially been abandoned by my family and lived a daily life of rejection, so those feelings made a lot of sense.

I also didn’t WANT to fit in.

While everyone was listening to what was hot and trendy, following the current of what they believed kids our age were supposed to do, I teetered there, unsure.

Did I follow along, accept and finally achieve belonging?

Did I go with my gut and follow the less worn path of obscure movie tastes and worn out sneakers?

The struggle was real.

I believed the struggle would eventually subside as I matured into a woman, beyond the angsty years of teenagehood. I was wrong.

That eternal quest to belong equated itself with my sense of personal worth so deeply. Knit by (what I believed, at the time) the rejections, abuses and abandonment thematically designing my life, a melancholy hopelessness settled into everything I did.

I went into group home care in 1988.

I walked through that gate and into the real world in 1993.

I became a wife in 1994.

In 2017 I learned that, on the enneagram chart, I am a four.

Fours have big feelings. Fours are creative and artistic. Fours ache to fit in, but also want to dance to their own rhythm. (and their own, non-trend decided tunes) Fours are (likely) the 90’s emo kids. They are the ones not regularly depicted on screen, in film and television because they happen to (probably) be the real life people writing those characters and creating that art.

I embraced my four.

I connected with other fours.

Knowing these things, having these explanations, it’s like the comfort of filling the gaps I’ve lived with, unwhole, for my entire life. It also forces me to see where my flaws lie. The how’s and the why’s.

I am able to know “ok, these are things I’ll do when I’m at my emotional healthiest”, and “these are indications that I need to work some stuff out, because I’m struggling.”

So many times we’ve humorously mumbled about life not having an instruction manual, or people not coming with a guide.

Guess what? We do.

That is literally what the enneagram does for us.

Plainly put, it is EMPOWERING.

Owning our truths helps us with one another too. For instance, I know that if someone on my team is an enneagram two, they will be prone to saying “yes” and people pleasing. Knowing that, and asking a lot of them anyway would be exploitive and selfish. Additionally, being married to an enneagram nine has helped me realize he isn’t passive or apathetic, he is simply prone to not cause ripples. At his unhealthiest, this can be dark and explosive. Knowing these things helps me love and respect him the way he deserves. It helps me see all of him, and love him.

If you don’t know where you’re at, or want to learn more, I strongly recommend the Road Back to You, by Ian Cohn. Also, in this week’s episode of the Collective Podcast, Abbey Howe is hanging out and chatting random ennea-info with us. Her youtube channel Enneagram with Abbey is super fun and informative. (As is Ian Cohn’s podcast!)

A powerful thing…

A million years ago, we crossed into a new millennium.

I found myself a twenty-three year old divorcee with a trail of miscarriages, health issues and heartbreak in the jet streams behind me. Because I’d become a wife so young, and essentially achieved grown-up status as a child, in many ways it felt like I was beginning my life again.

With all of the change, why not add in my first solo-cross country move? I took a position in rural Kentucky and a Greyhound took me on the thirty-six hour adventure to my new life.

Prior to this unexpected chapter, I had always been the girl who prided herself on having an easier time forming friendships with guys, over girls. Sure, I’d had girlfriends, but I found it so much easier to be real with my guy friends. And then, suddenly I was in my new life, making new connections and friendships.

FORTUNATELY for me, the housing situation paired me with the sweetest girl, who I am still so grateful to call one of my dearest friends. Because we worked such long, and often opposite, schedules- it wasn’t super regular that we hung out. Quite often, the early foundation of our friendship was laid, brick by brick, around our shared kitchen table over Kraft mac and cheese, with music videos in the background and generic soda. We learned not only to laugh, and share, together- but I learned to heal and grow though that.

A few times, our days off aligned and we were able to take the winding mountain roads into town for a meal and some shopping. On one of these particular trips, normal for most girls but so foreign and mysterious for me, she mentioned needing lipstick.

I did not wear lipstick. In fact, I wore minimal make up. I didn’t love it, I didn’t understand it. I had never had anyone show or explain much of it, to me. I knew that my mother was glamorous and all about beauty, when she was in the mental health headspace to care about such things, but I’d left home long before I would have any interest in such things…

At some drug store, in small city Kentucky, my adorable friend Laura taught me about lipstick. She taught me about color matching, to the back of my hand, and about how a good lip color can bring with it the power to change an entire day.

Over the course of our months living near each other, this special girl would become the first deep female friendship I’d really know. She held my secrets and listened to the things. She would co-carry the load of inside jokes and sway with me to the rhythm of Dave Matthews, which was the very first magical thing to bond us. She would read a hilarious book, and then loan it to me so that we could swoon and talk about the same things. There are a thousand things my friendship with Laura shaped about my life, and the chapters of life that would unfold. I remember so much of it, etched clear as day, in my soul. The most prominent of memories though, is that Tuesday afternoon in the make-up aisle.

The truth us, a good lip color can deeply impact a lot of things, but the pure & honest friendship and support of another woman has the power to change the world.

I tell this story in this week’s episode {76} of the Collective. That is about the extent of what I bring to the table really, because our guest Katie Allen is an absolute FORCE and as she shared about reconnecting with herself, (and lipstick, I won’t lie) I was happy to just absorb her awesomeness. Women supporting women is a powerful thing!

and here we are…

A month ago I launched a mini, limited-run series on my podcast.

A month ago I prepared to celebrate turning 44.

I was hosting a giveaway for movie tickets and, for the most part, one month ago it was business as usual… We knew what the news was saying, and we heard what others were warning. It is so easy though, to live in a state of voluntary tunnel vision, isn’t it?

We human beings can pretend really well.

I was among the many, who grew more anxious about impending March changes, and yet somehow still felt blindsided when reality, Shelter in Place orders and infected numbers continued to rise…

Season three of our show was set to premiere mid-april. A powerhouse of a virtual conference was being designed for a few days later. Enthusiasm for both things was HIGH. Despite the looming threats, we had no idea how that would impact us, and how could we? The only thing we’d ever seen, remotely like the world suddenly feels, today, played out on the big screen.

When I line up guests and topics, for the show, I take a pretty organic approach. I usually follow the opportunities that come my way and seldom have to chase down a person. The upcoming season three was no exception. Most guests were scheduled and confirmed, by Thanksgiving. We were set to begin recording in March. It had all gone together so smoothly, it was easy to feel a sense of accomplishment as the calendar turned…

Ironically, there were several mental health experts, therapists and coaches lined up. As my team and I connected, via zoom, to meet our guests, mini therapy session began to unfold. While taking care of families, responsibilities, our lives and going through the minute-by-minute changes the world was sending our way- we were there on screen together, processing with experts along the way.

It was hard, and awkward, cathartic, vulnerable and all around necessary. Unplanned by us at all, we have weeks of conversations with really strong women, unfolding on the show. It’s amazing really, and humbling as I am once again seeing how important this journey is…

This week’s new episode is with Nicole Burgess. She is a psychotherapist, introvert empowerment coach and also has an awesome podcast! Within her interview the one thing you can expect is several jewels of wisdom and perspective. Nicole said so many healing and healthy things that I am sure you can hear me scribbling notes in the background.

Towards the end of this powerful episode, Nicole challenges us to determine an action step that we can do each and every day. I’ll admit, such a simple directive can be incredibly powerful during this season of uncertainty and self-isolation. (On her website, she has the opportunity for a free workshop that is also timely and relevant.)

Come listen to Episode 71, and learn along side us, better ways to get through this season, but also to give us essential items for our tool box of the future.

hoping & coping…

On April fourteenth, three years ago, I launched this tiny little notion of a podcast. The idea behind it was to build a platform for women, where they could safely share their stories. Period. There would be no political or religious filtering, no checklist of qualifications they would need to own. The truth is, women need women. This isn’t to negate that humans need connection, or that men are any less deserving of relationship. Those things are valid, but for THIS show, the heart was women…

I wasn’t sure what would come of it, honestly… Right off the bat there were some issues, not ironically related to the very heart behind why the show met a need. From the very start of its inception, years before, I was firm in stating that I wasn’t after growth or numbers, popularity or riches. While many felt my goal of “financially self supporting” was too small, for something I was so personally invested in- my heart was always for the woman out there who’d need the moment. I knew that whoever should be involved, would be, and have held to that. It turned out that something about the project resonated, and as more women came to the mic and exposed pieces of their journeys, a beautiful community began to grow. Women began to allow the light shed by other’s experiences, to illuminate the lies and shame they’ve allowed to hold them down. Women began to say (and believe) the words “I am not alone”. Beauty grew, in abundance, from the words brave women would speak.

Honestly, three years later, I can’t explain it.

I have had the gift of not only connecting with women from all parts of the world, but watching our community of women rise up to support each other. Nothing within my professional life has ever filled my heart with such warmth, as seeing that happen every day.

On April fourteenth, the third season of this beautiful little show was going to launch. The recording schedule was laid out and confirmed months ago. I am a planner, so it all fell together smoothly. (I also have a pretty great support team that give me life!) Approaching this third season, I was really starting to feel like I might finally know a little of what I was doing. We also, in our “down time”, brought together a beautiful virtual conference of EMPOWERING women. The energy was AMAZING, for all of it. The show is NOT financially self sufficient yet, but the conference would make that a reality. (coupled with our Patreon)

And then, March came and life imploded…

Women began reaching out more, asking for prayer, needing an ear, sharing their daily moments, and I thought about why we are here- and why the Collective Podcast began, in the first place.

Weeks ahead of schedule, today, our third season is launching. Our guest is Samantha Ruckles, who began an amazing kindness initiative in Australia, that is now recognized around the globe. Sam’s story is the PERFECT inspiration we need right now. (You can go here to get her episode)

In the next few weeks we have episodes coming that need to be shared, within this current world we live in. Episodes and guests who were scheduled months before we even knew anything about Covid-19 or could fathom things like self-isolation and worldwide shelter-in-place plans… We are showing up early because someone, even if it is just one person, needs us to.

As for the conference… It is this beautifully empowering day, (ironically already virtual) that has the possibility to leave every woman who attends feeling empowered, capable and more able to navigate this season of life. Is it something I truly believe can help women? Absolutely! However, the current climate of anxieties and emotions has numbed the enthusiastic energy from weeks ago. Where hundreds of women couldn’t wait for the tickets to be available, now many are silent. I get it, you can’t eat or practice hygiene with a virtual conference pass. I also know that, with the financial climate as it is, I may not be able to sustain the show without it.

If you haven’t bought your ticket yet, I’m asking you to take that leap of faith with us. Here’s the information about the Gathering, the brilliant women involved and what to expect. It is a modest price, with a percentage going to two amazing charities. We truly are better together! I know it is scary to spend money right now, but please know that our mental/emotional health is AS IMPORTANT as our physical health. It truly IS an investment, this group of women has the heart FOR YOU. FOR community…

And if it isn’t right for you, that’s ok too. As long as the Collective can be around, it will be. And when it no longer can, well, then I have to trust the divinity in that too…