Aug 7, 2014
We sat outside the café in chairs that were almost wicker, but not quite. And so wobbly, I was afraid mine might break, but it held me as I sipped the house brew and spilled huge droplets on my t-shirt. We giggled and talked about the good and messy parts of our lives. Swapping stories the way only single moms and former single moms can do. I told her a bit more about my past, specifically, one issue in particular I’d been avoiding for too long because it’s so bloody complicated and I want to do the right thing but it’s not completely clear what that is yet. Describing it to her, though, I felt a little less crazy. And a little—just a little—more sure of my direction.
I have all these daily projects. A pitch a day. Writing 1000 words toward my memoir. Listening to The Hunger Games audio book with Sadie and Jermaine. Drinking water before every meal. They are, for the most part, going well. I’m a doer. I get jobs done. I could use a break. But I’m an all or nothing girl. I’m either working my ass off or I’m on my ass. I’m afraid that if I slow down, I’ll end up quitting. And I’ll lose the momentum I’ve been working so hard to build.
So, instead, I trudge. I make lists and check them eight times. I cross off line after line and move on to the next.
I keep going and going and going, usually, until something bigger than me gets in my way and forces me to stop and assess.
Last week, Sadie started Science Camp. On the first morning, I was getting ready and it occurred to me that I didn’t have anything I *had* to do that day. I had a few posts I wanted to write. A few words itching to get out of my head. But, for the past twelve weeks, I had written a post-length email every day that amounted to all the FML curriculum. Six days every week. It was weirdly exhausting. Now, I almost didn’t know what to do, not having something that absolutely needed to be checked off my list.
On the way to drop Sadie off, my friend texted to ask if I wanted to grab coffee. Normally, I wouldn’t. As the maker of my own schedule, if I don’t honor my work days, no one else will.
But. It just felt right. I know now that I needed to sit in that precocious chair and allow myself to be held.
The first year I was married, I gained 40 pounds. We’ve been married for just over six years now, and no matter what I do, I have not been able to shake those same stubborn pounds. I’ve tried just about everything save diet pills and liposuction. I even created an e-course to teach mindfulness—so that we may become aware of the food we eat and the money we spend. It has helped, but sometimes I feel I’m just more cognizant of the goat cheese as it’s going in my mouth.
I am frustrated that I can’t get it together in this area. It’s all I can do not to berate myself, whispering, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
After our chat, I took a long walk to think about my life. I turn 33 in tomorrow and that feels profound, somehow. I’ve been given more than three decades on the east coast of the United States that has provided a fairly comfortable existence compared to much of the rest of the world. Am I using my time and resources well? How might I do better?
What if, I wondered as I walked, I had to pick? Of all my work projects, what if I had to choose one to focus the majority of my energy? Which one would I select?
Last week, I read Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom in the courtyard of our apartment complex while my two-year-old pretended to ride his bike (he doesn’t quite understand how the pedals work). According to Dr. Northrup, when a women works to improve her life or her health, her entire family benefits from the fruit of that labor. I sat there, shaking as the insight hit my body in all the right places.
She invited me to listen to my inner guidance. I found myself wondering at the power of my creativity and intuition. I need to pick. I decided to slow way down so that I might choose wisely. I watched several episodes of the Good Life Project. I read about chakras and positive energy. I listened to my body. And I know now what it’s been trying to tell me.
When I came back from the Story Retreat, I told Jermaine that I felt like I needed a break. That weekend revealed to me how I’d been plowing away in one direction and although I’d covered a lot of ground, I was concerned that if I didn’t slow down, I’d get to my destination and realize I’d gotten on the wrong plane.
After the retreat, I did slow down. For a few days. That’s when I realized what my dream was—I wanted to create a safe haven for creative healers. And then, I promptly got back up again. Safe havens don’t make themselves.
I walked and considered all my projects. My budding speaking career. My dabblings as a freelancer. Life coaching. E-books. Teaching classes online. My first novel.
The memoir? Maybe. But there’s a lot of internal resistance. Looking back on my life and rewriting it in such a way that tells a good story and honors the people I have bumped up against is not light work. What if, I asked myself, instead of plowing away toward the finish line, I got really curious about what is keeping me from it. Okay, well then, maybe I could focus my blog redesign. Perhaps. It is the essence of the haven after all. But, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve got other work to do before it’s complete.
What about the passion to become my own publicist? Or the bio writing I do that really sees the client I’m working with. Ooh. Maybe the vlog that Jermaine and I have been brainstorming!
I love them all. And they feel blissfully aligned with my big, fluffy Eden-esque dream.
For healing. For healers. That is, I am learning, the core of who I am.
What would radical healing look like for me? The question caught in my throat. Is this it? Of all my glorious projects, is the thing I’m supposed to focus on me?
In a lot of ways, I’ve experienced healing. In sabbath. In writing. In church. In family. In friends. In love. In life coaching. In shalom.
But, there are places in my life that never feel quite right. Those 40 pounds come to mind. The weight of a toddler always on my back.
I have a hunch. To create the kind of haven I’m dreaming up, and to love Jermaine and my kids wholeheartedly, I need to experience marrow-deep healing myself.
Radical, subversive healing. All my heart. All my soul. All my strength. All my mind.
And so we enter this year of healing. Or longer, if that’s what it takes. The kind of healing that has the power to intrinsically change me.
Brandyglows isn’t going away. I’ll still be blogging. I have a few fun launches on my sleeves. I do plan to finish my memoir by the end of the year. But I am slowing down. For a little while, the lens is shifting focus as I make my peace with wobbly chairs.
Because I know Something Bigger is holding me.
Here’s to the 33rd year. Here’s to intuition. And healing so powerful you can’t not put it first.
Jul 21, 2014
I think shalom should be a color. Almost like periwinkle, but with a hint of sea-foam.
I have 14 unwashed loads of clothes. Maybe I’m exaggerating. It’s two huge piles. One of them used to be clean, but they lay on my floor so long that the only right thing to do is to wash them again.
We are mostly unpacked. I’m pretty damn creative when it comes to small space organizing. Anything can be interesting if you turn it into an art form. In other news, Jermaine put Rocky’s brain, our main computer, in our coat closet. Yes. It’s important to name your electronics. I’m currently typing on Adele. She’s a Mac.
I spent most of this morning hiding from my kids, writing my to-do list for this week, and avoiding starting any actual work. I love Mondays.
My best friend came to visit last weekend. She has six kids. She brought two of them. I already had two of my own. Four kids is a lot. Jermaine watched all of them while Andrea and I gallivanted off to thrift stores Saturday morning. It was blissful. I wrote him an IOU.
This is my last week teaching FML. It’s been exhilarating and exhausting. Because moving in the middle. We learned a ton. I think I pretty much kicked ass teaching it. And I’m ready for it to be over. Stoked to tighten and fine-tune my material this fall and open it up again at the beginning of 2015.
I had an epiphany last week. Or two weeks ago. I don’t remember. A honing of my purpose and message. I want to turn this site into a whale of a respite. A safe haven of creative healing for creative healers. Brimming with resources to help you help the world. I watched It’s a Girl a few days ago (horrible, wonderful documentary) and stayed up past midnight talking with friends about all the injustices of the world. I can’t be all the things. I can’t save this fucked up world by myself. Which is probably a good thing because most of the time, I have no idea what I’m even going to feed my kids for lunch.
But together—man! I have a few gifts. I can write and I can speak on large stages. I can dream wild dreams and hope in places where there doesn’t seem like there should be room for much hope. And you! You have gifts, too. And sometimes our insecurities get in the way of our purpose. That’s okay. But you’re doing it. You’re out there, sweating and bleeding in the name of love and that means something. It matters. Together, we can restore some flipping shalom.
So, self care. That’s important. Space to dream. We need that, too. Clarity and direction, I rock at that shit. This is living out your dreams in real life. Figuring out what the heck that means. It’s not always pretty. But it’s worth it. On all the levels.
Jermaine is going to help me redesign this place into a wonderland for you. Last night we had this amazing discussion about all the beautiful things we wanted to create for my site. And then he said something that offended me. It escalated quickly and before I knew it, I had said something moderately ridiculous and we had both huffed off into different rooms. I curled up on the purple couch. I knew I needed to apologize. It wasn’t his fault. But I couldn’t bring myself to get up, so I just stared sadly at the bookcase.
And then the bedroom door opened. I apologized before he could. It was the least I could do. He climbed on the couch and held me tight. Restoration in real life. Sometimes, this is what dreaming big looks like.
I’m probably not going to be posting super regularly over the next five to six weeks. I’m working feverishly behind the scenes to spruce up the joint and make it all sparkle and glow. But if you’re a creative healer—an artist, a writer, a pastor, a therapist, an entrepreneur, an administrator, a teacher, a student, a dog walker, a mom, a dad, a foster parent, a survivor, a volunteer, a doctor, a nurse, an art journaler, an app designer, an illustrator, a nanny, a housekeeper, a waiter, or anyone else passionate about making the world a better place—this site is for you. And I value your input.
If you could dream up your perfect safe haven site—a place you’d want to go if you were having a crappy day—what would it include?
Leave a reply in the comments or email me at email@example.com. I’m all ears and excitement. And please, share this post with your other creative healer friends. Let’s paint the town shalom.
Jul 11, 2014
“I mean, you are the most embodied person I know. You feel all your feelings on the outside.”
She smiled at me and I wondered at her words. Me? Embodied.
Feelings, yes. I’ve got those in spades. But I’ve never considered myself an embodied individual. I’m not even 100% clear what that means.
I’ve been blogging for the past seven years (holy crap, has it been that long?) and just last week I figured out what it is I write about.
Not for lack of trying. When I focused my attention on blogging more professionally in the spring of 2011, my writing mentor, Kelly Diels, advised me to, more or less, pick my lanes. On her blog, Cleavage, she wrote about (in no particular order): Sex, Money, and Meaning. She suggested we pick three to seven topics we could ramble on about for hours every day.
“Also,” She asked, “What is your big, blue-sky dream?”
(She’s good. Three years later, still my favorite question in all the land.)
My answer at the time? To participate in the restoration of shalom on earth. And to help people find their own unique purpose so that they can participate, too.
“So, you help people find the meaning of their life?” She probed.
Nope! I don’t do that. That’s too big. It’s too much. Maybe I don’t know what I do. Because that’s too high a calling and I am not up for the challenge.
I ran back in my hole. I pondered. I mulled. I tried to articulate what I do—what I’m about—with smaller nouns and verbs.
Eventually I landed in a place that felt comfortable enough. On this blog right now, when I write a post, I’ll generally file it into one of three categories: Innovation, Feminism, and Shalom. Those, I decided, are my lanes.
But then I went to the Story Sessions Retreat last month and all my cars crashed into one another.
I attended Bianca’s Breakout Session, Work The Dream. She talked about the hierarchy. We start with Ideas. We move down to Dreams. From there we go to Goals. And finally, in the end, we shift into Tasks and Actions. It made a lot of sense. But the more I thought about it, my work didn’t add up like that. I’m full of ideas. I have goals out the wazoo. And I make them happen with tasks and actions.
But where’s my ruddy dream?
I felt the panic rising from my stomach, past my heart, and up to my throat.
I can’t not have a dream! I help other people find their dreams for a living! What on earth is going on? What am I doing? What have I done?
Seeing the fear in my face, Elora grabbed my journal and scribbled these words,
Your Dream >> Helping others create their own destiny. (???)
It helped. But I wanted something more. Didn’t I need to know my destiny before I could help others with theirs?
All throughout the weekend, I’d been getting texts thanking me for the Shalom Session I led at the retreat. Though I was touched and grateful, I began to understand now why I’d had a hard time accepting the praise. But also, thanks to a few wise story sisters, I also understood that my own unknowing didn’t disqualify the good work I’d done.
I walked away from that session flustered, but determined. Back at home, the fun began.
Honey (sometimes you have to call yourself honey), what’s your big blue-sky dream?
In my notebook, I wrote down these words:
My creative dream is to bring healing to people through my writing, preaching, and, ultimately, counseling. I want to write an epic series full of myth and hope and redemption. I want to preach good news that is actually good news. I want to get my MSW and continually add tools to my coaching—and eventually counseling—toolbox so that I can meet people whenever they are. And help them find the next right step for them.
In 2007, I felt the distinct call to become a pastor. And although it’s nothing like I thought it would be, that’s still the closest explanation I can find for what it is I do.
Destiny intermingled with Shalom. Too big or bust. Maybe I’m just a Double-D Dreamer. Maybe I can handle overwhelmingly huge.
Before the retreat, I’d been sort of obsessing over my blog. Am I supposed to write every day? Am I supposed to write every week? What the heck am I supposed to write about?
Shortly after I penned the paragraph above, my new lanes materialized.
First, I want to share bits of my memoir. Second, I want to write practical self-development tips for people who want shalom-y advice. Third, I want to share resoundingly helpful tips on how to write persuasively in a way that is honest and non-skeezy, for people interested in my copywriting services. And, last of all, a soapbox every so often. Because sometimes I just have to preach.
Those are my lanes. And you know what? It’s still Innovation and Feminism and Shalom. It’s just that I’m done with theory. I’m much more interested in practice.
It’s time I embodied those principles so dear to me.
That’s the dream.
This first appeared on The Story Unfolding earlier this week. I’m excited about this new direction my blog is taking. If you are interested in receiving posts like the ones I described above and a little something extra, be sure to subscribe below.
Jul 3, 2014
I’ve been avoiding this question. But I didn’t know why until recently.
We sat around the living room and gave each other words. We spoke life into one another, soaking in the breath poems. When it was my turn, Elora grabbed her phone.
She read about the Throat Chakra. How it can get blocked when we’re not speaking our truth. She said at first she didn’t understand because she knows my words are true. But then she realized that my big fear is that no one will believe them.
I have TMJ. My jaw aches a lot and sometimes it’s pretty painful. I never do anything about it until it’s horrible. It feels like it hurts more when I put thought and intention toward those muscles.
She said she could see the words getting stuck in my throat. I am known for choosing my sentences carefully so that I can challenge people without offending them.
“But, I think,” She said, “Somewhere along the way, you stopped choosing. You stopped speaking altogether.”
Oh God. Did she really just say I lost my voice?
Voice is my word for 2014. I didn’t choose it. I didn’t want it. Not because it’s dull (although, it kind of is), but because I feel like I should be over it. Being a speaker/writer/poet/pastor/shalom-er/whatever you want to call me—shouldn’t I have nailed this already?
It’s what I do. It’s a part of me.
I am a voice for the voiceless in a unique way that only I can be. Right?
Sometimes it’s my children. When they can’t find the language to articulate their deep hurts or when someone has the gall to cause them pain. My voice is a ROAR. I am Mama Bear. Don’t mess with me.
Sometimes it’s my clients. Women with wounds no one should have to bear. And dreams that are, by all logical accounts, impossible and imperative. I help them find the words stuck in their souls.
Sometimes it’s guys. Men and boys who need shalom as much as I do. Who have been taught that it’s not okay to cry. It’s not okay to giggle. It’s not okay voice anything that might sound like a feeling. I listen to the words they don’t say. I offer the opportunity to be a different kind of strong.
I’m pretty good at using my voice to help other people. So good, in fact, that I never saw this coming. I approached Voice the way you would a business partner.
“I mean,” I told my word of the year, “I’ve got that down. I don’t need voice lessons. I already know my song. But I think you can help me help other people.”
I really believed that. I believed that was the issue. If I could use my voice for good and to benefit others, then I could be a legitimate voice in this world.
And that’s real. That’s a thing. It’s a good and pure desire. But it’s not enough.
Here’s the fear behind the fear: I’m afraid that if I use my voice—for myself—I’ll run over other people.
That’s why I stopped speaking. I believed the lie that there’s not room for both you and me. And if I want to be a good person, the only righteous thing I can do is step off the platform and let you have the spotlight.
If you search the hashtags #jointhestory and #voice on Instagram, you’ll see a whole lot of strong and brave women sharing their voice-finding journeys. Our lovely photographically-inclined Story Coach, Jennifer Upton, posed this question at our retreat two weeks ago and invited us to take a selfie, answer the question, and Instagram the glory of it all. At first, I volunteered to do it right there at the retreat. But when the time came I realized I had no idea how to answer that question.
Some days, I don’t even know if I have found my voice.
But here’s what this year is teaching me: That’s okay.
Because my Voice found me. And she is inviting to step on that stage and sing my heart out.
This post was inspired by The Rebel Diaries and all the goodness we’re gearing up to share in that class. It’s not too late to sign up—you have until Sunday 7/6 at midnight Central Time. Click here to learn more about what the course includes.
Photo Credit :: Jennifer Upton Photography
Jun 26, 2014
“Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” +Mary Oliver
My son is an inherently cautious child. My daughter, not so much. And I’m not either. So if cautiousness is a hereditary trait, I know he gets it from his daddy.
It’s kind of amazing to witness. I don’t know what it’s like not to jump in head first. But, of course, I’m cautious for him. I would never insist that he take the plunge before he was ready. I’m just so used to holding his sister back that it’s new territory to instead be inviting this child who ohsodeartome to take one more step into deeper waters.
He’s with his grandma right now and she signed him up for swimming lessons. Last night I got this text from her:
“Swimming lessons are the bom’ dot com. Ur son has a new outlook on water. Really cool seeing the transformation. Getting over the fear of water on his face . . . Just amazing!”
If I can set aside the fact that my mother-in-law uses phrases like “the bom’ dot com” on the regular, I can stop giggling long enough to see the magnificent beauty in these words.
In a Shalom Session today, I commented, “Sometimes God is a Comforter.” Sure, other times God is an Instigator, too. But so often feel like if we’re not growing, we’re failing. And that’s just not always the case.
I mean it when I say it’s okay to be where you are. I’m even learning that it’s okay for me, too.
Restoring doesn’t have to take your breath away. It’s okay if you need to sit this one out.
This was originally shared in my e-course, The Other FML. But I felt compelled to share it more publicly. If you love it, would you be so kind and share it with your people? Thank you. <3