It was a faded gray and it had roll up windows, an AM radio and no AC. The heat worked sometimes.
The dash board had a gas gage and a speedometer.
A manual steering wheel was the driving mechanism.
I loved that car!
It took me on my first long trip from Ohio to New Jersey after Graduate school. There was enough space to stuff my meager belongings and drive off.
These days I still drive an import, just not a Japanese import.
My car has power windows, power steering, power adjusted seats that can be heated or cooled, a lumbar support that I cannot live without as well as a head support.
Air bags in the steering and the doors.
The dash board….
Well this is a thing of beauty.
I have a speedometer AND I can see a numerical display of my speed on the windshield.
The rest of the dash looks like I am in the cockpit of an aircraft.
I know when tire pressure is low. I know when there is a snail walking behind my car because of the rear camera. The car tells me when I am too close to objects in front and in back.
There are bells and whistles… Real bells and whistles that I have NO idea what they mean. I have to remember the sound and look up the sound in the 2000 page owners manual that came with the car.
I will NEVER understand this car! I won’t even try.
This car was the play thing of very inspired engineers and when the first one rolled off the line they all applauded and pretended that all the future buyers would give a damn about all the fancy schmansy stuff.
We buy the fancy cars and very few of us really give a damn about all the bells and whistles BUT we would never go back to the old car, like that first Corolla.
Yet, in our private lives, we keep using tools that are as outdated as that Corolla.
The tools we learned as a child to manipulate our parents, we try to use on lovers and partners.
The tools we learned in High School when we were first dating are the tools we insist on using in relationships that are way beyond the immaturity of High School.
We scream and pout as if we were teenagers and expect that people will just give up their positions to keep us quiet and happy.
We expect those tools to still manipulate like they did in the past.
We refuse to better equip ourselves to fully step into adult relationships.
What do I mean?
The tools I am talking about are readily available in e-books, book stores and libraries. It’s the billion dollar industry of the Self Help Movement; while most of us have purchased self help books, how many PRACTICE the tools inside?
It’s the practice of new tools and skills that will get us away from the “outdated dashboard” we keep going back to so that we can install a newer updated version.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.
I was never taught how to say No.
I was taught to be “nice” and say Yes to all that was asked of me and furthermore to be sure to do it with a smile on my face.
I did this for many years.
Almost killed myself doing this.
The few times I said NO to things, I did it with such anger and animosity that the people around me looked at me like a had two heads.
Like Medusa, if someone tried to get me to be reasonable, I felt like they were chopping off one of my heads and so two would grow in its place. The multiple headed monster was what I would become.
I stumbled upon the book The Power of a Positive No by William Ury quite a few years ago.
I read it, re-read it and read it again.
The simple tools for saying NO were right there.
But, would they actually work in real life?
How would I know unless I practiced them?
I was at a small conference once where I told one of the participants about this book and how it changed my life and she said, “make it into a workshop. People, women need these tools and many won’t read the book. Give them a taste and then tell them to get the book and feast on it.”
I called the workshop, “Not Your Mothers Assertiveness Training.”
I did the workshop.
A few paid to attend and the rest of the seats I gave away.
It was a hit.
People loved the work.
I encouraged them to buy the book and to inhale the wisdom inside.
I heard from them from time to time that they were indeed using the principles.
A few times when they called to complain that they were being forced to do one thing or another, I simply asked, “What’s your YES!” (read the book to understand this question)
They got it and did the required work to make the decisions that would work for them.
I am very fortunate to belong to a community of practitioners called the Daring Way™.
I got here the hard way, by doing the classes from Dr. Brene Brown and taking tests and following their rules and guidelines.
It was a lot of work and I loved every step of the way.
I was very happy to participate in a research survey that the community sent out a while ago and decided that I should do my part to further along the research that is the foundation of her amazing books and teachings.
So I logged in a began.
It was long, I was getting a little tired of it and considered not finishing but then something about the answers that I was giving really hit me hard.
A lot of the questions were about my feelings of worth and whether I felt my life was going anywhere and also, did I frequently compare myself to others?
Half way through the survey it occurred to me that my answers to statements like “I do not like myself” or like “when I think of my accomplishments I feel I have done less than others” ( I did not pull these from the survey, they simply reflect the sentiments from the survey), I found myself answering almost never.
What did this mean?
Simply put, it means this:
I liked myself.
I feel accomplished by any ones standards.
This occurred to me about half way through the survey THEN I was pumped to complete it.
I even told myself to BE HONEST, that Brene wanted honesty so I reread the stuff I had answered and carefully answered the rest…
And what do you know?!
I actually like myself and I actually feel good about what I am doing and feel good about being able to laugh at my mistakes and do not allow others to determine what I think of myself.
This is NOT at all reflective of how I felt just 10 years ago.
As recently as 2005, I was still comparing myself to others, beating myself up for not being up to par or not as good as almost everyone else in the my world. I was not a good enough coach, or writer, or business person, or mother or, or or. The list went one forever.
Also I was always catastrophizing. If one thing went wrong, it meant everything else was going to go wrong. If someone disappointed me, it meant I would be doomed to a lifetime of disappointments.
It was quite exhausting to live this way. I knew no way out.
I put on a great show of being outwardly confident but I was always on the look out for evidence that I was not good enough.
The evidence always came.
It came in the form of people’s words about my life choices (I was a bad mom because I was pursuing a new dream) or in the form of a societal or cultural message
(You are traveling too much. Who takes care of your home? One family member even asked who cooked food for my husband.)
The evidence was ALL around me.
I had to really close my ears and eyes to all the messages I was hearing. All the nay saying that was trying to get into my psyche.
I even had to listen to close friends and family tell me how silly and unrealistic my dream of doing something about ending violence in the world was.
After all, I did not have a degree in psychology, or any experience in the real world. I never worked at a not-for-profit nor had I had a job in the last 25 years!
Yes, they were lined up to tell me the way I was living was not acceptable to them, not at all.
I had to be deaf and blind to those voices all around me and to try to tune into the voices within my own heart.
The inner KNOWINGS that I wanted to do more, be more than a housewife (I had done that for 20 years) and I wanted to create change in my world.
I saw that survey as a way to go back into my past and to tell the younger me that she would be fine!
I gave her examples of the questions that would have brought her to tears just a few years before, those same questions that now brought a huge smile to her face, warmth to her heart and ONE single sweet tear to her eye.
The tear of clarity.
The tear that acted like a magnifying glass through which she saw herself in all of the accomplishments and all the experiences and all the loving people surrounding her.
I sent my younger self blessings and thanks for not ever giving up and always finding ways to burn off the fog of unworthiness and shame.
Thank you Dr. Brene Brown. You may still be collecting your data, but you have already shown me my results.
There was a time when I would have readily accepted that “people like like me” don’t belong on global and powerful platforms such as the UN stage.
There was absolutely nothing in my background that would have prepared me to think that I was worthy of this honor or to belong to this exclusive club. “Spoke at the UN” is indeed beyond my wildest dreams.
What right do I have to claim such esteemed membership?
I received this right from the other clubs to which I belong.
I belong to the club of the abused. I belong to the club of the oppressed.
I also belong to the club of the women who said NO MORE.
The club of domestic abuse ends in my lifetime…. the club of claw and scratch your way out of stinking thinking and claiming a life of joy and peace.
These are the foundations upon which I stand to celebrate the new club membership that I have earned.
I urge you to begin to name the clubs to which you have belonged and to begin to lay the foundations for and build the bridges to the clubs you wish to join.
I should tell you that I never dreamed of being in the UN club and that is ok. You see, I was laying these foundations as I strove for other memberships such as:
The club of women over 50 who do Olympic distance triathlons and come last and have the nerve to still feel pride.
The club of 2 marathons the year I turned 50 and several half marathons in the ensuing years.
The club of founders for a non profit.
The club of motivator and encourager of all I meet.
So it is with this beneath me and behind me that I urge you to gain membership to new clubs. These memberships will require hard work. The price of admission will often seem to steep. In times of such stress, take a break, take a breath AND continue to strive. The membership is worth the effort.
Let us all belong to the club called “I too took a chance.”
Recently I was on a flight to an important business meeting. I was very organized and even brought my lunch from home so I would have a healthy choice.
I made it easy on myself, I packed the food in disposable containers and put it in its own bag so I could throw away the whole thing when I was done.
Things went very well, I ate a little, took a little nap and then ate some more. The attendant came around and I pushed the trash into the rolling cart myself.
Then, I had a thought… did I throw my telephone away in the food bag?
I reached under the seat, dragged my purse out and searched every nook and cranny on the inside.
I sat back and took a deep breath.
What was my next step?
Well, that’s easy, go thru the trash!
I walked to the back of the plane and told the attendants my dilemma and they gave me some gloves and I got busy.
I dived into the rolling cart of trash.
I was so happy to have the gloves and to have had the presence of mind to look for my phone while I was still on the flight.
I looked thoroughly. I did not find it.
I had to rethink… if it’s not in the trash then I must not have searched my purse very carefully.
So I walked back to my seat and emptied my whole purse and there, in a very hidden pocket, I found it. I smiled!
Let me tell you what was great about this event:
1. I never, not even once, called myself a name!
2. I never spoke disparagingly about myself to the attendants!
3. I never once complained about having to dig in the trash!
As I sat in my seat being grateful for the positive outcome I realized that there were hidden lessons in this experience.
What if we could identify the very important things in life that we lose, the VERY moment that we lose them? What if, we could arm ourselves with what we need, like gloves for trash diving, and we could happily get the work done?
We would get the work done because we would know that it was too important to lose.
The first time we lose our self respect, we go looking for it and not rest until we figured out what happened.
The first time we disrespected a child by screaming or physically abusing, we would stop and apologize and get help to treat them better in the future.
We would not blame them for our inability to be mature adults.
If we could really look at life and what we lose everyday the way we look at our prized possessions, we have a really great chance of keeping our humanity intact and we have a greater chance of keeping the relationships that are important to us.
Get those emotional gloves on and a start digging for the gifts you may have misplaced.
It’s your quality of life and it’s worth the effort.
I was speaking to a very dear friend the other day.
She said that she had 6 beautiful bowls that someone had given to her a long time ago.
The other day she noticed that there were only 3 and she realized that some of them were broken.
She felt happy that she had 3 left.
She began to tell her young daughter who had been helping with her dishes.
She turned away to do something and heard the awful sound…
She froze and realized that something had broken.
She did not know what it was. She turned to the sink full of dishes and saw her sweet daughter, shaking and fearful and she heard these words, “Sorry mom it was an accident, I did not mean it. Sorry mom.”
My dear friend said, “Now there are two.”
And then she smiled.
The worry on the daughter melted away and the mom showed her child how easy it was to show compassion and to to teach her child that mistakes can and will happen.
As my friend was telling me this story I saw the realization on her face that her child had been shaking because she fully expected to be yelled and screamed at.
My friend knew that she had been a teller and she had parented with anger in the past.
She also knew that she had been intentional in the way she had been parenting the past few years and that she had significantly changed the energy in the family.
She had been able to forge a deeper connection with her son and she had been showing her daughter what unconditional love really is.
Here, at this moment, it meant that she loved her daughter MORE than she ever could love those dishes.
She chose to NOT break her child.
She chose to parent with understanding and respect.
I have known this woman for a long time. I know how hard this woman has worked to get to a place of peace and tranquility.
I applaud her willingness to change the way she used to parent and to seek new ways and to know that she was doing the best for her kids.
Most people say, “My parents did it this way and I turned out ok.”
My view is why just settle for OK when we can be wiser and better than OK?
Let us thrive as parents and constantly better ourselves so we can raise a brighter generation. One that will know more than we will ever know and will be in charge of the welfare of our grandchildren.
Betsy Rapoport is my friend and she is a an amazing coach for writers. I saw on Facebook where she was hosting a writing class…A Memoir writing class.
I have been longing to write my memoir. I know, I know, I don’t NEED a class…after all I write blogs and I just get an idea and begin to write, much like I am doing now.
Somehow though, when I think of writing a memoir I get all flummoxed and confused and I don’t know where to start.
So, when I saw her class offering, I jumped on it. I registered on line and I began to communicate with her about accommodations etc.
I was thrilled to get the homework list…I love homework.
And there… as I read the list, I laughed out loud.
Here is what was on the list:
What memoirs have you read, and what did you like about it?
What scares you about this class?
What excites you?
Send a sample of your writing, preferably a work in progress.
Simple enough, right? So why my outburst of laughter?
I immediately wrote an email to Betsy and it sounded a little like this…
I have not completed a whole memoir of anyone, only bits a pieces from folks like
I tend to get bored!
I have read loads of other books. I love to read!
The thing that scares me about this class is that my life cannot fill a memoir.
The thing that excites me about this class is that my life is too much for one memoir.
I have NO unfinished works of writing, but I can start one.
Then I pressed Send.
I waited for Betsy to say something like, “you are not at all qualified for this memoir class” or “if you have not even read a whole memoir why would you expect anyone to read yours” or “perhaps you have nothing in progress because you are not a writer.”
Let me tell you why, IF she had said any of the above or worse, it would NOT have affected me in any way.
In 2003 I had decided to do an Olympic distance triathlon.
I began to search online for a trainer, one that would train a newbie triathlete and a rank beginner.
I finally found a web site that touted training beginners and that looked promising.
I began to complete the on line form.
1. What distances do you currently swim? And how often do you swim?
My response: I do not know how to swim competitively and I used to splash around in the pool with my kids when they were young. I know how not to drown. I have not been swimming in a very long time.
I should have added “I hate wearing a swim suit.”
2. What races have you participated in and what was your finish time?
My response: I have not participated in any races so I do not have a finish time. I do not like to run. I like to walk a lot.
3. What cycling distances do you currently do and what is your average mph?
My response: I used to ride with my kids in the carrier seat about 18 years ago and still know how to ride a bike.
I figured they would see I know how to walk and I know how to ride a bike. I know many women my age who do not know how to ride bikes. I thought I was going to be just their type.
I pressed Send.
I got an e mail from someone at the site wanting to find out if I was serious about the Triathlon. If I was why did I not insert the values they needed to create my program.
I assured them that those were indeed the facts and that I had ZERO numerical values to input.
I never heard from them again.
So I began to train on my own and my dear friend Donna was my guide and helper and General ass kicker.
I began to walk slowly with Donna I would count the concrete squares on the path in my town to see how far I had walked.
Then one day I was able to run 5 concrete squares and then walk again.
I felt like calling the trainer to tell them how great I was doing.
I did not.
I bought a really nice bike and some of those clip in shoes and almost killed myself. I used to have to tip over onto the grass to try to get unclipped.
I got tired of falling so I went to spin class and practiced biking with my clip in shoes and also practiced clipping in and out…. but those were stationary bikes so I still almost killed myself when I began to practice on the real bike.
I tried to find a swim teacher who could teach beginners and got fired from about 3 teachers. One guy even took a video of me in the water and showed me what I looked like.
I looked like a spider, I had arms and legs all over the place.
That video was not pretty because I had this image of myself slicing thru water as I had seen Mark Spitz do in the Olympics.
Also I tried to wear cute swim suits with frills and decorations all over and was told that those suits would cause drag in the water. I knew what they knew… my unstreamlined body was causing drag in the water, not these three cute frills on the suit.
I did not give up.
I continued on my very unorthodox way of training.
Six months after attempting to engage the online trainer, I completed my Olympic Distance Triathlon.
I was dead last.
I never gave up.
In the hotel lobby that night, I heard a seasoned triathlete say, “man I got out of the lake, I got kicked in the face and got pissed off!”
I thought, man I never even thought of getting out of the lake and I wondered if I was the spider who had kicked him in the face.
Start where you are…. it’s your only choice.
See you at your finish line, I will be smiling and waiting for you, no matter how long it takes.
I was visiting a very close relative a while back and the conversation turned to a favorite brand of candle she loves. I am always aware to bring some of those candles for her. She is in the winter of her life and a candle makes her happy.
The last time I brought candles, I had intentionally brought more than she could use in 8 months. I remember being in the store and purposefully filling the basket with more than I had ever purchased.
So, during my visit, as she is filling me in on the stories of her life, she says in a sheepish whisper “you forgot to bring more candles.”
I was quite shocked and thought for a few seconds that I had not sent the full compliment of the candles I had bought just a few months ago.
“You are out?” I asked.
She said, “Almost.”
I asked, “How many do you have?”
“A few.” she said.
I have history with this person and her inability to say the truth without having to twist it to serve her purpose.
“Few” is not a number.
I pressed, “How many do you have?”
She looked very uncomfortable and squirmed in her chair and said, “One big bottle and eight small ones.”
My first instinct was to lash out and say, “Why are you so greedy?!”
I did not.
Instead, I got up, went to the kitchen to get a glass of COLD water to calm down and then I went back to sit next to her.
I said, “I want to ask you a philosophical question.”
She asked what that word meant. I explained. She seemed to understand.
I began to ask her how she felt when she though she did not have enough candles for her immediate needs.
She answered as best she could and after a few more questions, she said
“I feel afraid that I don’t have enough.”
Then I explained the concept of scarcity and abundance. It took me about twenty minutes before she understood. I was not rushing her, I was not rushing myself. I had actually already accepted that she may not get it and that would have to be ok.
She did understand the concept. Then I said, “How might you feel if you BELIEVED that you had enough candles for your immediate needs?”
She said, “Well, if I use them all what about the rest of my life?”
I asked her “How long are you going to live?”
She said she did not know.
I said, “None of us know, we all just like to pretend that we do!”
So again, I asked about her how she would feel if she believed she had enough.
She said, “I would feel comfortable.”
I asked her to choose the believe in “enough and abundance” instead of “not enough and scarcity.”
She asked if I thought it would be wasting money.
I said, “I think it’s a waste of money to buy more stuff for you to STORE, instead of you using the STORES of stuff you already have. I could use that money for things that are immediately necessary instead of using it for stuff you already have.”
I do not know if she got the concept, I felt like I had done a good job of explaining and using an example with which she was familiar.
My question of you is this…
Do you get this concept?
Whether it’s as simple as candles or food or money?
Do you know when you have enough?
I invite you to look to your own life for your areas of not ENOUGHNESS!
If you are human, there will be many.
Take just ONE small area and do some inquiry around it.
Ask a friend to help you with the inquiry.
Ask a friend who LIVES in the abundant philosophy. You will know which one, they will be the ones who are happy and joyful and always ready to give to others.
Let me know how this goes for you in the comments below.
I have never had an altar and I found the instructions of building one for myself just not me, not something I would do.
I looked around and found that, really, my home is my altar and I made that comment to my dear friend.
I felt it was egotistical to say my home was my altar, that it placed attachment to my things. And perhaps there is some attachment to a few of the items.
My friend reminded me that my house used to be my prison and that transforming it into my altar was a major accomplishement. I sat with that thought….
My house was not a home for so many years, it was a place to hang my hat. Home is where the heart is and there was no love amongst the walls, no trinkets of adornment, no comforts with its furnishings or the people who resided there.
As my divorce came and went, the house had become mine to do with it what I wanted. No compromise with others, no decisions made just to please another. I was and am free to do what I want. Awareness for what I needed became apparent as the cast of characters in my life stepped off the stage. As I had looked to others in my house of life for the love and acceptance, I had to turn to self-love and self-acceptance.
The walls that held secrets of the arguments, the abuse, the anger and resentment, I had them plastered over. Part of my history that were painful building blocks of who I am today, I’m stronger for it. Plaster and paint gave a fresh page to a new chapter. The house is an eccentric museum of my life and the things I hold dear, the memories and experiences which have shaped me in this lifetime. The books I loved reading and those I would love to read. Treasures and antiquities from my adventures. Colors and fabrics that bring me comfort.
Even a toy from my childhood with a hole and a torn eye sits on a shelf, a reminder of family vacations when they were still fun, and I was innocent.
Like an onion, each item is a layer of my life and peeling away one layer only brings about another.
The structure that, in the past, held no charm and had no atmosphere, now welcomes everyone once they cross the threshold. The energy of my altar is one of peace. It’s a place where every room invites you to stop and sit a spell. Blow the dust off almost any item on the shelves and there is a story of wonder and discovery to be told.
On the floor are framed photos of people and places I love and one day they will finally find their place on a wall. My tribute to them.
My home is not finished. It’s a work in progress as is my life.
I am sitting with a bunch of guys in a dressing room at the local hockey arena. Everyone is taking a break from a game of men’s floor hockey, drinking a few beers, and telling tall tales.
Then it begins…comments about the wives and women in our lives:
“I came home the other day and the house wasn’t even clean. What the hell is she doing all day while I am at work? Sitting around growing her ass or what”
“I told her I was coming here and it was blah blah blah, you never spend time with me. Of course I don’t, all you do is nag”
“Did you see that girl in the bar Thursday night….she had huge guns, they were amazing”
“I totally took her home, banged her, and showed her the door…”
And so it goes. Degenerating into inappropriate jokes and comments that no one in that room would say in public or outside of a room of a bunch of men drinking beer and kidding around.
Now, with my new realizations around Gender Based Violence, and the treatment of women, I need to stand up and say:
“Ummm….hey guys…this isn’t cool, you know. Aaaahhh…talking about your wives this way isn’t helping how your son sees women. That, ah.. that girl in the bar is someone’s daughter. Do you want someone talking about your daughter that way?”
Dumbfounded silence mixed with shock, and looks of “who the hell invited this guy?”
Jackson Katz, in the Ted Talk below, clearly explains why focusing on women when talking about gender based violence is wrong, and why this focus needs to shift to men, and what men are doing (and not doing about it). He also clearly explains that men need to become leaders around this topic, and that the true battle will be won, not in public, when we are openly defending women, but within the small groups of men where so much of this harmful talk continues in a “safe zone”.
I hear what Jackson is saying, and it terrifies me. I want to be this leader. I want to make sure my son’s view of women is healthy. I want to protect all the daughters out there. I want to help eliminate violence against women.
Writing for Indrani’s Light Foundation – check.
Helping train others to help women in shelters – check.
Speaking out about gender based violence in social media – check.
Share the message with local schools and other people – check.
Stand up, in the moment, in a group of guys, and call them on their bullshit statements.
That one I NEED to work on, and it isn’t going to be easy.
But I am going to try.
If you are a man, or have men in your life who could use help developing this leadership, and taking this plunge, share Jackson Katz’s video and let’s get started.
Your donation will be used towards eradicating gender violence, training community leaders and sharing behaviour-change tools with people who are ready to leave violence behind and create a brighter, more peaceful world.