We wrote poems in the margins before we pushed quotes into the Instagram feed...
If you haven’t checked it out yet, #7MagicWords is a weeklong community project. Sign up (it’s free) and you’ll be sent a prompt each day and invited to come up with your own magic word.
The goal is to create space for personal illumination, but it would be wonderful to spread the light wider too.
It took me a while to decide whether to present you with the classic “writing is hard work” passage. Either you’re saying “yeah, no kidding” or you’d want refute me with some redefinition what “hard” really is or you see writing as a nurturing, revitalizing creative act that has nothing to do with difficult.
Yep, I agree. With all of it.
A piece of me cries out “the good work - the right work - isn’t supposed to feel hard.” Another part of me thinks about grief and childbirth and laughs at the “agony” of typing. And then, I think about how sitting myself in front of a screen and drafting and drafting in hopes that I will say something true that matters to people so often feels excruciating.
But that’s the truth of it right there, isn’t it? Writing is all those things - the bliss, the pain, and the “oh my gods I must be insane to keep doing this, but I must!”
Are you familiar with Mercury Retrograde? Even if you barely know more than your star sign, you’ve almost definitely heard someone grumble “My computer crashed again! Is it Mercury Retrograde?”
Here’s the briefest possible description of this 3 ½ week period that hits us three times per year: Mercury, the planet that rules communication, commerce, contracts, and transportation, seems to go backwards and that tends to influence the everyday happenings here on this planet.
As a writer and as a Gemini and as a person who hangs out with people who put stock in the return of Saturn and the sign of the moon, I’m particularly susceptible to these forces. If you want to hear me throw the word “hard” around, it’s most likely to happen when I see we’re about to hit another patch of Mercury in retrograde and it seems to be messing with my writing or my next spontaneous plan. But, because I cannot hide under the blankets with a good long book for a few months each year, I try to flow through the hard stuff. I understand it may take a different sort of approach to find the bliss, make my peace with the pain, and smile as I say “it feels extra insane to keep trying to write and run a business right now, but here goes…”
The week’s Practice of Being Seen podcast features the intuitive psychotherapist and energetic visionary Keri Nola. She guides us through the vibrations of Mercury Retrograde and brings us deeper into the shadows that might beg us to dive deep during this period of reflection. As I said, I try to flow through the “hard” parts of Retrograde… Guides like Keri help me figure out how to actually do that.
Please check out the episode and let us know how these insights into Mercrograde (I accidentally said that several times yesterday… should we make it a thing?) help you flow through the next three weeks.
Keri’s insights help us debut (Re)Vision: Explore Your Stories, Shape Your Future, the first Practice of Being Seen Retreat for therapist-healers.
My favorite co-conspirator, Rebecca Wong, and I planned the launch during retrograde to mirror the retreat itself. This is a snippet from the invitation page’s FAQ section:
This retreat starts the day after Mercury goes retrograde. Do Rebecca and Marisa realize that? And if I have no idea what the movement of a planet has to do with the date of a retreat is this still the event for me?
First, yes, we did realize that Mercury begins its 3 ½ week retrograde period on August 12. And we planned our event accordingly. We are calling it (Re)Vision to celebrate the fact that this is the perfect time to look back, to take stock, to soak in your visions, and take a deep breath before the next stage of “doing.” Whether you put much stock in the effects of a distant planet’s movement or not, this is the perfect activity as we all prepare for the “back to school/back to business” energy of September.
If you’re one of my therapist friends or you have therapist friends, I invite you to have a look at what we have planned up in the Catskills at the legendary Menla Mountain Retreat.
My current work in progress describes how the Celtic Sovereignty Goddess guides women through the transitions of modern life. Why write a book about crowning the queen within if you can't rewrite a few rules along the way? Especially when I'm taking these moments to write to you and the rest of my beloved community of healers, writers, and creatives.
My little one is home with me today, and it might make more sense to hit the grocery store and put away all that laundry so I can empty the baskets and start the whole process again. But, instead, I'm giving myself permission to let her watch Moana for the twelfth time and I am using this stolen hour to do the dream.This is new for me. Until just a few weeks ago, I'd never allow myself to sit down and work on my creative projects before the kids' bedtime. It seems the Sovereignty Goddess is whispering: it's time.
Dreaming Time and Doing Time
This life I lead, as a mother and a creative entrepreneur, it offers ample time for dreaming.
Driving the kids around, throwing together yet another soup, dealing with all that laundry... When the girls amuse one another and when I remind myself that it's ok to turn off NPR (the madness in Washington will go on whether I listen to every news report or not), I find new vast new territories within my own mind.
Yes, this life with small children may give me time to dream, but it often leaves very little time to do. I have time for my clients, of course. I have time to co-create the podcast. But time to actually do my own writing? That has often seemed impossible...
But then, this book project awoke within me. Re-awoke, I might say, but I am not 100% sure that's a word.
With the spring rains, with the rising tides of my own life, and the churning waters of these tumultuous times in the collective, the Sovereignty Goddess rose out of the earth, out of the past, and out of my own past studies and told me it was time. (Get a taste of her magic here.)
And so, the S.G. gets my creative doing time every Friday, and she gets lots of dreamtime in between. And I feel more alive than I have in long, long time.
Out of the Barren Territory of "Just a Dream"
I'm realizing how much effort I have put into dreaming the dream, and how little I devoted to doing the dream. This long time habit has left me feeling barren and lost... I was terribly accustomed to the bitter cycle of feeling inspired and then feeling disappointed as all those ideas just faded into the ethers.
What about you... are you able to dream the dream but just don't have the time and space to do the dream?
I'd love to talk with you about how I can help you capture that creative energy and turn it into words on a page that touch the hearts of your readers and potential clients.
If I had one wish for you, it would be that you would stand sovereign in your story and in the marketplace. Sovereignty is at the heart personal fulfillment and professional success. When you are sovereign, you are the confident, compassionate ruler of your own life. You don't assume that you can control everything, but you are sure of your worth and guided by your dedication to the greater good. For the healer, therapist, or coach who wants to change lives with her vision and her work, sovereignty is a beautiful thing to aspire to.
But, before it was applied to the modern individual, “sovereignty” has belonged in discussions of royalty and statecraft.
At the heart of Celtic myth - and particularly Irish myth - sits the Sovereignty Goddess. She is divinity made flesh and an embodiment of the land itself. In order for the king to take the throne and guarantee the fertility of his realm, he had to win favor with this otherworldly woman. And then she took him to bed to seal the deal.
Across mountains meant to be her breasts and across rivers meant to be her blood or tears, battles were waged in her name. The Sovereignty Goddess did not rule, you see. She was the power behind the throne. Or, perhaps, it's better to say the power before the throne.
She supported his royal cause and she crowned the king, but then, she had to stand aside and let him define his own destiny.
Centuries later, when the Irish peasantry struggled under English rule, the Sovereignty Goddess represented dreams of independence. This time a fairy woman, the goddess would appear to young men in a dream and incite them to take a stand for themselves, their people, and their country.
(Does this sound a but like what you do for clients? You help them along their journey of becoming and giving them the tools to succeed on their own, right?)
History is starved of powerful women, so this influential creature is a welcome shot of the feminine. Certainly she got my attention when I was a student, just as she got the attention of the people who used these myths to understand their world.
But a couple of generations of feminist literary and cultural criticism has taught us that “and then a woman appears” is not always a sign of gender equality and empowerment.
Though seducing mortals and actually being a country is all very fabulous, it’s quite disempowering. The goddess is momentarily star of the origin story, but then she is pushed offstage until the hero decides to invade a neighboring kingdom in her honor.
With this in mind, what can a kingmaking, rabble rousing Sovereignty Goddess do for the transformation professional on their own quest to change the world?
Well, being an essential part of the prologue or “just” having a recurring role in the supporting cast is actually what being a healer is all about.
When you’re a therapist or healing professional writing in support of your own work, the Sovereignty Goddess can be the perfect model.
As the writer or the healer, you’re not the star. The reader is the hero. The client is the hero.
Your role is to awaken, inspire, support, facilitate. Though you hope to sustain a long term relationship with your readers and your clients, the focus is on their process and growth, not your role as guide.
Here are five ways to embody the Sovereignty Goddess and make a difference in your business and in people’s lives:
This St. Patrick’s Day, as we celebrate all things Irish (both pagan and Christian), I’d be grateful if you shared the Sovereignty story with your community - who knows what getting in touch with their inner Celtic Goddess might do for them!
Done. Cooked. Fried.
I coach busy women leaders, and this is what they tell me all the time:
"I spent years getting educated and now I don't have any energy to work."
Or "I love my work, but my kids keep getting sick and so I show up to my job and can't even remember what I'm doing."
This story of exhaustion is real and we could say it's simply an effect of modern life and leave it at that. But I sense there's more meat to this story. I believe women can re-write the story of their exhaustion and it starts with telling a new story from a new place.
Do I want women to lie about being tired? Well, actually, I see it more like the need to shed.
If we're going to bring peace and tranquility back to our lives -- and to the world -- we've got to shed ourselves of what keep us so tired. And that starts with our mind.
Our minds are useful tools that give us many gifts, but there's this other dimension that goes beyond the mind and it's urgent women begin tapping into this place. Why? Because no matter how many gadgets you use to measure the number of hours you're sleeping or how well you think you know your exhaustion, identifying with this story is ultimately draining. It won't make you feel whole, ecstatic and ultimately fulfilled.
Counting the number of hours you're sleeping at night -- telling yourself the story that you're just not a good sleeper or just not the kind of person who can get in eight hours of sleep every night -- is thinking that is done through ego-mind, and this is exactly what separates us from oneness.
People think ego-mind will free them -- counting those hours of sleep -- but most people who are counting the number of hours they sleep are not living fulfilled lives.
I'm not shaming science -- the research that tells us we should be getting a certain number of hours of sleep is often based on solid facts -- but instead I'm urging women to be cautious how we use it. Sleep deprivation is only an ingredient in your soup. It's urgent that we reveal the full recipe.
We must we teach women to tell the full story of exhaustion... to shake off this one-sided karmic drain.
It's no wonder women are so exhausted. When we tell only one side of the story throws us out of balance.
In scientific terms we've lost the balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of our nervous system. In human potential terms, we've stopped looking for our gold.
The story of exhaustion in women today keeps us stuck in a narrative that has taken us away from feeling wildly alive.
What if instead of being goal oriented -- looking for those perfect precious hours of sleep -- we searched for our gold? This is the story we must start writing. With technology extending our days and gadgets to tell us that we're not measuring up all here to stay, women need to take back the narrative on exhaustion and focus on our gold -- that place where were wildly ourselves and creative. This is the only way woman leaders of the 21st century are going to survive.
I remember a time when I was a young community organizer and all my mentors were exhausted bright women stuck in what I termed "the story of yuck." They were doing brilliant work, yet their stories were all the same: high output, but exhausted in mind, body, and spirit. Most were divorced, or not in healthy relationships. Nobody seemed to care or notice that deep down they were personally miserable.
Historically women's exhaustion story hasn't been much better. Exhausted women tended to go "mad" and take to our beds as a way to check out.
Today with so many creative forms of communication and the rise in popularity of mindfulness-based tools women have an opportunity to use our voices to change the story of exhaustion to one where we're fully checked in. We no longer have to hold on to the shame of exhaustion or identify ourselves as "exhausted all the time."
So how do we tell a different story? I suggest it starts with cultivating awareness, a deep consciousness. This is the "checking in" women so desperately need and it will only come if we rest more, specially using conscious tools like my favorite, yoga nidra meditation, a sleep-based meditation technique recently referred to as a "secret ... happy place" that's all your own.
Consciousness provides these gaps of nothingness and in the gap -- a deep pause -- this is when you can dis-identify with exhaustion. Not deny your exhaustion, but rather stay unattached to that story.
Think of it like a container. Your story of exhaustion is not the container, it's part of the stuff in the container. We tend to notice the stuff, right? We often say things like "I'm so tired all the time" or "I never sleep" because this is part of our stuff in the container. This is not the container. The container is your true story -- the gold -- and not everything moving through it. The story of your stuff is time-bound. You are not. You are timeless.
Yogis often talk about enlightenment as being when you are resting in the space of awareness. When you are the container.
I attended a training a few years ago at the Amrit Yoga Center and on my ride home on the airplane I found myself writing the words of my instructor again and again:
"You are the silence, not the sound."
This is the new story of exhaustion that women must start telling. A story born out of silence, not sound.
I believe that once women rest more, get silent, and start using tools that raise our consciousness -- that help us check in -- we will finally know without a doubt that we are powerful beyond our wildest imagination. Not Super Woman -- women aren't blind anymore, we know this isn't the gold -- but simply we'll begin to tell the version of us born out of awareness beyond our stuff. We'll tell whole truth in our own voices. A new narrative of women on exhaustion. It’s time.
Mother, writer & women’s empowerment leader Karen Brody is here to help you break the cycle of fatigue and reclaim your creative spark. She'll help you get some rest, chuck perfect & return to wholeness in your mission and purpose
NOTE: If your exhausted, creative heart says "yes!" to Karen's offering, send me an email by March 12 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will send you a special promo code for our community. You'll get an extra savings on top of the early bird discount!
Karen Brody is a dynamic mama changing the world, inspiring mothers, birth professionals and women entrepreneurs to “be the change” through their work, personal lives, and global commitment. She is the playwright of Birth - known as “The Vagina Monologues for childbirth” - and through Birth Karen founded BOLD, a global movement supporting birth visionaries to change the culture of birth. Today the BOLD movement includes The BOLD Method for Birth, a ground breaking “women’s empowerment meets childbirth education” approach, an advanced online yoga nidra meditation pregnancy and postpartum training and Bold Tranquility, a yoga nidra meditation company for women ready to wake up and be BOLD. Karen writes regularly for the Huffington post and has written dozens of articles and two health books.
“Women can have it all, but not all at the same time.” Brilliant, successful people from Betty Friedan to Madeline Albright to Oprah to Anne-Marie Slaughter are credited with this line. I don’t think anyone is irritated about plagiarism because truth is truth and amplifying shared wisdom raises everyone up.
I need to come clean: right now, I’m not occupied with writing a seminal feminist text or running the State Department or establishing myself as the ultimate media mogul.
Nope, my reality isn’t nearly as high profile or quite so life and death. It’s just as real though. I’m dancing with the daily truth about the choices that must be made: “this, not that.”
My “thises” include mothering sick children and tending to my own wintertime ailments. When I’m not tossing tissues in the trash, I’m taking on copywriting work and writing coaching commitments for healers who are changing the world, one client at a time.
On the podcast, we talk a lot about the various roles we play as individuals, as professionals, and as change agents. Often, it’s about “you can do more than one thing, but let's think about how that will feel...”
That’s what we explored in the recent discussion we had about Resistance & The Princess-Rebel Role Model. You can be both princess and rebel because, let’s be honest, we often want to be saved just as much as we want to change the world. But what does that really look like in practice? (Listen in and decide whether it’s something you can really do at the same time.)
But the act of podcasting - and doing all the behind the scenes work it takes to make it happen - creates a whole new bunch of “thises” and excludes a whole lot of “that.”
As you may have noticed, blogging about writing and the creative quest have been in the “not that, not today” pile for some time. That’s due to the concrete realities that contain our boundless universe and give our lives some kind of reliable shape. I assume you know these - very real the constraints of time and energy?
All this has me thinking about time and energy more than ever. I’m thinking about as discernment too. And I have a couple of resources for you to check out that speak right to what I know is a very common concern for so many of us - particularly those who try to fit parenting and entrepreneuring and client supporting and creating and self care all into one day.
Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder invited me to write about my tango with time. It felt good to offer up some of my finite number of hours to Stop trying to make time. Enter into relationship with time.
In the post, I talk about how “I enter into relationship with time so that I can see the relationships between my ideas and the work I want to manifest.” The patience and the resources it takes to enter into such a productive relationship rely on one essential thing: rest.
Karen Brody’s work with yoga nidra has long been a source of solace and support, and I’m thrilled to tell you that she has a nine-month immersion in yoga nidra coming up.
This sleep-based meditation is radically necessary and powerful, but that isn’t the only reason I am so excited to share the program… Daring to Rest: Wild Woman Writer is specifically for women who know they have a story to tell. A playwright and author as well as a yoga nidra expert, Karen is the perfect woman to combine story, sleep, and personal revolution.
It's as trendy to scoff at balance as it is to strive for it. When the contemporary tussle over a word becomes too much for me, I look to the ancients.
This is the latest image in my #365MagicWords series. As I am thinking of shaping time and prioritizing rest, and I am also thinking of the Eqyptian Goddess Maat who was the keeper of universal balance. The daughter of the Sun and the wife of the moon, she had great wings and always wore an ostrich feather headdress. She was the embodiment of justice and the grounding of reality.
A fine spirit guide for these tumultuous, over scheduled times, yes?
Stringing together sentences. Putting paragraphs in their place. Writing the stories that reflect your own clear truth and speak to the passions and concerns of your readers… How’s that going for you right now?
I have to admit, the whole writing process has gotten a bit… well, weird for me over the last few months. When I can focus, I can still make the words come together (copywriting work for healers and therapists with big hearts and big visions has been such a solace). But when it comes to developing blog posts, I feel completely stuck.
When information overload related writer's block hits, this is what I ask myself: what do my readers need to hear from me right now? (Maybe you need to hear that I’m struggling with the same post-election/social justice/what do we do now writer’s block that you have.)
I want to acknowledge what's going on in the greater world. There’s nothing worse than seeming tone deaf to the collective conversation. Plus, if I want to be authentic, I need to admit I’m immersed in the headlines and the editorials and the calls to action and ignoring them doesn't feel right.
And yet, I need to honor that my readers follow me to talk about writing and magic, not for my political opinions.
Silence isn’t an option - both because I have a business that needs me to build an online presence and because holding my tongue means diminishing my strength. So, now what?
In this time of confusion when it’s so hard to know what to say, I’ve decided to dance with my ideas and use my words in different ways. Lately, I’ve been called to express myself beyond the blog post, and I invite you to join me.
1) #365MagicWords: One month into this daily practice of sharing a word, an image, and a few lines of “my why,” I am so grateful I decided to commit myself to yearlong magic. Instead of thinking my way through some fully baked blog post, I use my intuition to pick up on the energy of the day. It’s been so revealing and so healing.
Alignment, comfort, flow, and movement are just a few of the words that reflect my feelings and guide my vision.
You can see my daily posts on Instagram, but I’d love for you start casting your only daily language spells. Please join the new #365MagicWords community on Facebook to share your words and your daily why.
2) The Practice of Being Seen Podcast: Did you catch the launch buzz last week? After a year of planning, my dear friend and co-conspirator Rebecca Wong and I released the first four episodes of the podcast. There’s another on the way tomorrow.
As we say on our brand new website, through conversations and interviews, we dive into stories, myths, and psychological insights that will shift the way you see yourself and your world. We don’t promise complete distraction from what's going on in the world, but we can offer an alternative to the stressful headlines with thoughtful discussion of what it means to adjust to the "new reality." This is where I’m focusing my “how on earth can we respond to this mess?” energy and I pray that it helps you in your own process too.
3) Take this time to work on your core message. I’ve been focusing on my own website and the content over at Practice of Being Seen.
It might not be time to pour your energy into the outrage of the day and news that’s upsetting your and your clients. Instead, it’s time to get to the core of what matters to your community, how they’re hurting, and how you can help them today and for years to come. Let’s talk about how my copywriting services can help you develop your message.
How are you holding onto your own magic and creativity, even when the news makes you want to bury your face in your hands? Tell me about it in the comments.
“Say the magic word, dear.” Maybe your first thought is “please.” Or maybe you’re thinking “abracadabra” or “open sesame!” There are as many magic words as there are tongues to say them. Luckily, there are only 365 days in a year.
It’s a daily project that asks for no more than a word and an image. Perhaps the word will wish to be wrapped in a story or anchored in a definition. Most often, I’m thinking I’ll let the magic work in the mind of the beholder (most often the be-holder of the smartphone who will see these images on Instagram and Facebook.)
We know words have power. We know a single word can resonate at countless frequencies, only finding its meaning and its truth when it lodges itself in a particular human mind and is held in a particular human heart.
We know that words form verses and books that shape faiths and cultures that dictate the fate of the world. We know that the Word came first.
And yet, we’ve also heard that talk is cheap and we live in an age when we don’t know if it’s safe to take people at their word. We're told not to be so sensitive about what people say and judge people by what they actually do.
With #365magicwords, I hope to deepen my relationship with the language I use. I hope to open word-shaped doors for others so they can discover new magic spells for themselves.
Do you want to join me? You’re invited to savor each word with me, and, if you’re inspired, to send your own magic words to the collective too.
365 projects have become something of a New Year’s Day tradition for me. And, even though the 2015 and 2016 attempts were “failures,” I count them amongst my favorite mistakes.
A couple years ago, Saundra Goldman asked me to write about the 365 Project as Creative Process for her Creative Mix blog. I’d had great success with my 2014 #365feminstselfie project and I was an unabashed cheerleader for the daily digital enterprise.
The first header in that post?
How to see and how to be seen
This phrase appeared well before Rebecca Wong and I named our Practice of Being Seen community and podcast. Now, as we stand on the precipice of 2017 and manifest this idea, I'm feeling the true magic of those words.
A 365 project has to be sustainable.
You have to be able to keep it up each day in five minutes or less. It has to offer you some sort of creative or emotional sustenance to be worthy of your energy.
A 365 project has to help you see and be seen.
The goal isn’t just to “do the internet” with a new gimmick. You show up for yourself first. You bring your curiosity, your desire for your integrity, and your belief in everyday magic.
When you lead with that energy, you create ripples of truth and connection that nurtures those who see you.
Find the #365magicwords project over on Instagram. And, if you decide to cast some spells and unlock the magic of everyday words, do use the hashtag and tag me so we can unravel the mystery together.
Integrity. I think we all love the idea of this word. We look for it in our leaders, our healers, our partners, and in ourselves.
And yet, when you look at the definition - “Integrity: the state of being whole and undivided” - that feels like a tall order.
Think about how challenging it is to avoid feeling divided between roles you play: the parent, the lover, the professional, the seeker, the artist, the activist, the peacemaker, and the Netflix binger.
And then there are all the professional roles that tug you in multiple directions: the healer, the advisor, the creative, the manager, the marketer, the accidental social media addict, and the person who empties the trash can.
For years, I’ve grumbled about this, but lately, I hear my voice growing louder as I growl “I cannot do all the things!” And sometimes it comes out as a whimper into my husband’s shoulder “I’m sick of doing too much and feeling like none of it will ever be enough.”
But, of course, it is possible to juggle and balance these tasks and responsibilities. It is possible to work and live in the midst of the mess and feel whole. It is possible to root into the core of who you are so you can grow many strong branches that “hold all the things” (or at least the things you actually need to hold).
This quest for integrity is why we have mindfulness, mysticism, meditation, and self care. Hopefully, this quest also brings us to comforting embraces that hold us together when we seem to have misplaced our own strength.
And, this quest for integrity is always furthered when we collect and write down our stories.
Part of my own journey toward integration is figuring out how to present my collaborative project, the Practice of Being Seen, with a community that knows me as Marisa, the writer and storytelling coach.
I do hope I have managed to communicate that POBS is a community for therapists that I facilitate with my close friend and colleague Rebecca Wong. And, starting in January, the Practice of Being seen is also a podcast that speaks to healers, therapists, and seekers of magic and connection.
This deepening collaboration doesn’t mean I’m leaving my “private practice” behind. It means that I’m able to strengthen my core and expand my offerings with the support of a kindred spirit.
Writing and storytelling - as well as relationships and self-awareness - are at the heart of what Rebecca and I are creating.
And so, we’ve designed a sweet little journal that is intended to help you record the stories and interconnected themes that you encounter in sessions with clients and in daily life.
I’d love to introduce you to our work at the Practice of Being Seen. And I invite you to participate and support our new venture by purchasing a journal that with further your own practice of seeing yourself and being seen by your world.
And, if you include a note that says "pen, please!" when you check out on PayPal, I'll send you a present that reminds you to tell stories that connect! (Act before December 31 to get your gift!)
If I don't have a chance to fill this space with words before the holiday bliss (or should we say blitz?) really sets in, I wish you and yours a warm and happy Solstice, Festivus, Hanukkah, and Christmas.
May you discover some time to write under the glow of some twinkle lights, perhaps in a journal you give as a gift to yourself!
And no stretch of time is tougher for us evolutionary service providers than all these themed shopping days that hang about Thanksgiving like so many tantalizing, calorie-packed desserts.
Our sky looks different from the warehouse scaffolding of box stores and the online giants. We offer stillness and introspection. We offer healing that may sting before it soothes. These time-honored paths to growth and lasting peace seem absurd in our doorbuster, free shipping, instant gratification holiday climate. There must be a lotion or a pill or a fuzzy slipper set that can do the same thing, right? Sigh. Of course not. But sometimes it seems like we’re the only ones who know that.
This weekend, I went to a "Small Business Saturday" event with a group of local women selling a number of products. It was a lovely little gathering. I came home with some budget-stretching makeup, super cute leggings, and a huge case of "not enoughness." Everything seemed so fun and effortless and it all smelled delightful. Selling clothing and essential oils seemed so much simpler than sweating over sentences for a living.
On the walk home, doubt and Christmas budget worries started to take over. But then, Rebecca Wong, my dear friend and Practice of Being Seen partner reminded me, “They're selling something, not creating anything. That’s not what you do, is it?”
Well, sure, selling is part of what every small business person has to do, but when you’re a coach, a therapist, a healer, or anyone else who offers time in support of another’s evolution... selling comes second. And it’s probably not the sort of thing that people are going for during the busiest shopping weekend of the year.
I just came across the phrase "self-evolved small business." This feels like balm to my tired, over-extended entrepreneur's soul right now.
All of us could use the reminder that we've all done something tremendous in hanging out the proverbial shingle and essentially creating something from nothing more than our passionate, creative caring hearts.
Creating something, offering something that comes from the core of who you are and standing in your truth... that's a truly special deal.
So, in the midst of all the consumerism and the holiday's special offers, I just want to invite you to stand in what you've created this year, stand in the space that you have created for so many people.
Breathe into enoughness. Breathe into your evolution. Breathe into the evolutionary spaces you create for your clients. Just breathe.
When you realize it's ok to sit out the late November salesy blitz, it's not an excuse to opt out of marketing your good work. Rather than creating reactionary social media posts about a sale you just thought up, use this time to plan how you'll promote and sell your service or other offering when the time is right.
Rebecca helped me see something else during our conversation this weekend… While we don’t sell stuff that’s going to look nice under the tree, we DO offer something that will help our colleagues transform their 2017.
If you’re a therapist, this is a great time to join our community, The Practice of Being Seen. And, since the one truly good thing about all these themed buying days is #GivingTuesday, we’re donating a portion of the community enrollment fee to the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center when you join today. Learn more & join us
It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the sun has some climbing to do before it reaches the horizon. The house quakes in the wind and I’m unaccountably sad that there are trucks collecting garbage in the freezing darkness of rural New York November. Somehow it seems tragic and strange that we live in a world that doesn’t have enough daylight hours to deal with its trash. Perhaps my cozy, privileged little bout of worry is forcing story into the hands of those hardened waste collection warriors.
It’s just a paycheck, lady, they might say. You keep to your words and those gigantic cups of tea, and we’ll work at the edges of the day to keep the world running smooth enough for the storytellers and the dreamers and mothers and all the rest who create pretty things for a living. After all, someone has to keep clearing away the scraps to reveal all that beauty you’re looking for.
That. That right there. That little paragraph is proof that there are stories waiting to be revealed in every conversation - real or imagined. Stories lurk in every moment of reflection. Stories even hide in the noisy blackness of a Hudson Valley back road at six AM.
Stories guide us toward the dawn. Stories anchor our worries and our blessings so they become real enough to be spoken aloud.
I didn’t wake up this early to fret over America’s waste problem or its labor practices, though both would be worthy preoccupations in their own time. I’m at my desk because I’m sleepless with stories and gratitude.
I’m here to offer 15 tiny gifts that are all more enduring than the latest soul shaking headline or the worries that race through your mind.
Early in 2016, 15 writers answered a call.
Fifteen writers joined me for my frightfully ambitious #365StrongStories project. Each contributed a story - of birthing, of dying, of living in spite of all the pain that these simple events bring forth.
With their contributions, each writer lightened the burden of a daily writing project that ended up demanding too much from me. After well over one hundred posts, in May I abandoned my promise to tell a story each day. My life wasn’t designed to produce and publish a story 365 times in a row. I’m not sure that anyone who is dedicated to tending and protecting her creative source would want to force herself into such an arrangement.
But the writers who joined me were doing so much more than helping an overcommitted #365project sister out. Each story was a gift: for me, for the readers, and for the writer who gave herself permission to lavish attention on her own tale.
It’s not to be taken lightly, this work of shaping ideas into something that has a beginning, middle, and end. Turning twenty-six letters into a code we can all understand and then deftly splicing and slicing the words in their own divinely inspired order so that they make a story… that’s alchemy. And alchemy is transformational magic.
[tweetthis]This work of shaping ideas into something with a beginning, middle & end is not to be taken lightly[/tweetthis]
And so, now that the sky is brightening and it’s time to launch my girls into one more school day before the Thanksgiving break, I want to take a moment to thank each writer and to offer their stories to you as the gifts that they are.
Before the family arrives, before you’re up to your elbows in stuffing and sage, and before you have that next glass of wine, read a few of these stories.
May they offer comfort. May they offer inspiration. May they remind you of what you have lost and what you still might find.
Read Doubt and Annie D. by Suzi Banks Baum when you’re rumbling with creativity, self-doubt, and missing your babies.
Read Knowing Motherhood by Barb Buckner Suárez when you’re struggling to find your own voice while still honoring those who taught you to speak.
Read Echo Grandma by Evelyn Asher if you’re separated from your loved ones and are seeking creative ways to connect.
Read When Elder Becomes Child by Tania Pryputniewicz if you’re carrying a parent as you hold tight to stories of the way life used to be.
Read The Woman and Her Irishman by Brenna Layne if you have an ancestral mystery to solve.
Read Traveling Distances by Peggy Acott when you’re journeying to a meal you’re never going to forget.
Read Luis: A Study in Breath by Liz Hibala because we share this holiday with our animal companions too.
Read As I Remember It by Ginny Taylor because the past is often full of pain and survival and we need to honor those memories.
Read The Inconvenient Allure of Solitude by Maia Macek if you just want to slip away from the table to be blissfully alone.
Read Dance Camp by Sara Eisenberg because you need to experience your body through movement, not through overeating.
Read Walking Home by Dawn Montefusco because you need to root into your core beliefs… especially when certain members of the family start talking politics.
Read Stand Here by Stan Stewart if someone in your family is struggling with addiction.
Read The Martyrville Messenger by Lois Kelly if a loved one’s illness keeps you close to home this year.
Read Up the Mountain by Sharon Rosen to dive into the sensations of the body and savor the blissful and the brutal.
Read Never Evens by Kelsey Rakes to prepare yourself for the unexpected - especially if you’re expecting.
Are you ready to tell your own authentic, compelling stories? Learn how the Story Triangle can transform your writing and your practice.
Someday, it might be fun to tell your grandkids that you had a front row seat for what will surely go down in history as one of the most infamous elections ever. Since every person must tell the story from their own point of view, there will be hundreds of millions of versions of the 2016 presidential race, and they’ll only have one thing in common: each story will have a beginning, middle, and an end.
Eventually, you’ll have the perspective to understand when and how the story started (it probably wasn’t the day the winner announced his candidacy).
You’ll figure out the turning point (surprisingly, it wasn’t the day the Access Hollywood tape was released).
Already, some Americans can tell you the last line of the story: a 3 AM victory speech.
Others are still waiting to figure out how their story ends.
[tweetthis]If you have post-election writer's block it's because you're still living your story[/tweetthis]
It's important to note that having an unfinished election story does not imply that you refuse to accept the results of the American democratic process or that you're into the whole #notmypresident thing. You could say it's more about the state of your heart than it is about making plans to move to Canada.
Here's a quick self-test to see if you're in the camp that's still waiting for an ending:
(Oh, and should you fit the unfinished story profile you probably appreciate pantsuits and the color blue, but that’s sort of a side issue at this point.)
Ultimately, you see the 2016 presidential race as something that’s about a lot more than the person who sits in the Oval Office. You understand that many of the the people you care about and work with can’t get back to life as usual in our post November 8th world.
You’re in touch with all of the feelings of shock, outrage, confusion, and emptiness that make you fantasize about taking to the streets or hiding under the bed. (And you probably vacillate between the two options in the space of a minute.)
A wise friend, a therapist and writer, who has been writing boldly into the most troublesome issues of the day kindly advised me to "give yourself a chance to wait until you regroup and heal."
My response? "Well, I guess I will be doing a lot of writing from the other side of the grave."
As a writing and storytelling coach for therapists, healers, and people in the transformation business, it’s my job to be two steps ahead. I’m here to support people who write to deepen self knowledge and publish content to support their practices. I show up online in order to model that process, but how on earth can I do that when I have no idea what I really think and I feel unqualified to offer guidance?
That sort of extra pressure only makes the writer’s block even more painful, of course.
But then, I remind myself that every honest person who has shared any insights over the last week owns the fact that they’re stumbling along unmarked paths with everyone else. Many have found a way to say… something. Few of these pieces feel complete or definitive, but that’s ok. Certainty is a lie when you don’t know the story’s real ending.
What eases us through this time of confusion?
Stillness. Being aware of the mess. Feeling all the feelings. Kindness. Compassionate conversation.
We actually heal confusion by admitting that we’re mired in it and, as much as we hate to admit it, when we realize that confusion has a measure of power over us.
We collectively achieve clarity when we refuse to rush a story to a neat little ending before its time.
The good news? The wonderful news for therapists, healers, and transformation professionals? It’s your job to hold and keep safe the stories of others. Even if you’re a teacher and it often feels like you're called to perform and convey information, you’re also someone who witnesses and supports others’ growth.
The kind of work you do is about listening. It is the kind of work that asks you to respond to one person’s needs. It does not require you to fully articulate the new left wing agenda or how to reverse this new racism and misogyny sweeping America or how to decide if it's better to protest or pray.
Your work requires you to be articulate in long moments of silence and to hold space for clients going through their own dark nights, through their own stumbling confusion.
Your clients don't need to be guided to the end of their own election story. Your clients need you to help guide them back to themselves.
[tweetthis]In the #election aftermath, it might be better to be a story holder than a storyteller[/tweetthis]
Even as your work may call you to be fluent in the language of silence, please don’t silence yourself if the words are aching to come through.
I invite you to rely on your writing practice (as well as your meditation practice and other healing modalities that calm and unbind your soul) to find your way through your own confusion. And I invite you to heed the call to share those ideas when you trust the moment is right, when you trust that you must be heard.
Here are 3 things I know as I write beside you through this time of uncertainty:
(And, yes, it's based on the Story Triangle that I use to help writers connect with their readers and their own truth. Click here to learn more. )
1. Self-focused first drafts are essential. Anne Lamott gave us permission to write “shitty first drafts.” By all means, feel free to write utter crap as long as it means you’re getting words on a page.
But please, please, please don’t allow yourself to write lousy versions of what someone else told you to think or what you assume the people want to hear from you. Write for yourself first in order to discover the truths within you.
2. Keep your audience in mind. What does your reader need from you? Why are you writing in this particular public forum? The territory you cover on a Medium post will likely be very different that the ideas you share on your business blog.
Know your platform and know its audience. When you get that SFD into the final draft, it needs to be re-crafted according to the needs of your reader. Do they need reassurance, do they need resources, do they need you to raise a ruckus, or do they need respite from all that election talk?
3. Remember that complete, compelling stories are everywhere, just waiting to be told. The great big election story is still being written as we see what a You Know Who presidency looks like, but there are countless little stories to be told along the way.
Even though many kids have taken the election results pretty hard (who else loves an elementary school kid who is still heart broken because we don't have a “girl president?), children are resilient. What stories are they living in the present moment?
Look for the ways that hope is being wrapped in a beginning, middle, and end. How are people uniting and taking positive action, despite the heavy November clouds?
Do you have stories that are begging to come through you? I can help hold space for you to tell them, support you as you clarify your ideas, and help you craft your words.
Right now, America is made up of two kinds of people. No, I don’t mean Democrats and Republicans.
As a citizen of the interwebs, you’ve made a choice: you’re either someone who posts about the election or you’ve decided to keep your personal and professional feed free of that political stuff.
Maybe you stay silent because just don’t really care about who ends up being president. If you’re in the transformation business , however, I bet that you care deeply about how America’s leadership affects the individual and the collective.
You either add to the conversation or watch from the sidelines based on your personal tolerance for controversy. And, you likely decide to speak up or shut up based on how you think publicly picking the blue team or the red will impact your professional online presence.
How is it working for you? Is it tough to stay quiet or are you regretting the last time you hit “share”?
Oh, but wait a minute. You might be part of the third camp.
You might not be broadcasting the latest video from your preferred candidate’s campaign, but you might be taking a stand on hot topics from the latest rally.
In 2016, issues like sexual assault and the treatment of disabled citizens are shot with political nuance. Addressing them at all seems to say a lot about whether you lean left or right.
Suddenly, if you’re a therapist and you’re talking about something you’ve been trained to detect and heal, like the repressed memory of sexual trauma, it means you’re “getting political.” And while you may have a vast community of colleagues and allies who will support your statements - and share what you write - you also open yourself to a whole tide of partisan fervor that you just don’t have the bandwidth or the stomach to handle.
[tweetthis]As a healer, speaking up about the #election is about the personal, political & professional[/tweetthis]
Just this week two clients - who both tell me they generally prefer to ignore all things political - have sent me pieces about Trump’s comments and how they opened past wounds and how the election is hurting their clients, especially the kids.
These women and I have built a great deal of trust. They sent me raw drafts that dove deep into the pain and the confusion that so many experience every time they look at the news.
Clearly, they needed to explore this territory. And, because the issues were so timely and so painful, it wasn’t enough for these therapist-bloggers to keep these thoughts tucked away on a private page.
Let’s be clear: we all need to explore this territory. Divisions run terribly deep in the US these days, but at the end of it all, we all share a country. We need to do that with greater grace and decency after November 8.
All of us who dare talk about taking a “holistic approach” understand that when one of us bleeds, we all bleed.
Telling and sharing tough stories helps more people understand what that really means.
[tweetthis]We need to tell & share tough stories to show people what #holistic really means.[/tweetthis]
My first task as a writing and storytelling coach is to simply take in what’s being said and then reflect it back to the writer. Sometimes, that’s enough.
Typing it out and sharing it with a trusted audience of one may take the charge out of the idea so the writer can let it rest. It may also reveal that the topic is too intimate, unprocessed, and unhealed to go any further.
But, if the writer still feels like she has an enduring passion for the topic and trusts that the words come from "scars, not from gaping open wounds," we begin the editing process that leads to publication - somewhere.
To be sure about whether it’s worth taking the time to really untangle the ideas and perfect the rough draft, I ask a few questions:
Let’s dive into the question of timing for a moment. Ultimately, your decision to invest yourself in a piece of writing that relates to the shock of the moment is largely reliant on the clock.
The election season will end soon - thank goodness! The release of Trump’s Access Hollywood tape is now considered the turning point in the election, but the headlines have moved on to Wikileaks and talk of rigged elections.
This is what always happens. As devastated and incensed as people were about the death of a Syrian toddler, the Brock Turner case, the shooting of unarmed black men and police officers, the mainstream media and the majority of the population have moved on.
Like it or not, the collective attention was soon invested in the next outrage and, occasionally, the nice warm fuzzy (yes, little bird who landed on Bernie’s podium, I am looking at you.)
In the moment when these big stories take over, however, the multitudes are hungry for news, for fresh angles, for provocative opinions. But still, attention is a rare, fleeting commodity.
There’s such a narrow window of time to vie with so many other content producers - including many professional writers whose lives are built to accommodate staying up all night to be among the first to comment on the latest scandal.
Have I negated everything I said about passion for a topic and the writer’s natural and healthy desire to explore an idea and be seen?
I don’t mean to. It’s just that I value your time and your precious writing gift so much that I want you to be sure you’re lavishing it on the topics and ideas that feed you - spiritually, creatively, philosophically, and professionally. And I want you to be aware of the trade offs.
I want you to be sure of why you’re writing the piece.
Do you need to say it publicly in order to sleep at night? Will raising your voice about this particular topic improve your bottom line or bring you some online visibility that helps you build a platform over time?
In that case, yes. Stay up late and turn those jagged paragraphs into powerful prose.
[tweetthis]Writing about the latest #election controversy is also about why you're in the transformation biz[/tweetthis]
Robert Cox is a therapist, podcaster, and writer who sees the headline, feels the feelings, and starts writing. I got to know him and his writing through the Practice of Being Seen community. It was June when I had a chance to edit the first column he posted over at the Huffington Post, but his response to the Stamford rape trial still sticks with me.
And all of the brave work he’s done since, standing in his power as a trauma therapist and a dad who needs to speak his truth and address the toughest issues of the day continues to impress - and reach an increasing readership. When I decided to write about whether it’s worth writing about the election, I knew I needed to get his perspective:
Much of the reason I do it is grounded in my belief. I was inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "The Cost of Discipleship" written just prior to his going back to Nazi Germany - even though [American theologian and ethicist] Reinhold Niebuhr was begging him not to. Bonhoeffer’s point was that I cannot claim to follow Christ if I am not willing to risk everything.
So every time I start to think about the risk, how it might be seen by licensure boards, will it cost me professionally, blah, blah, blah....I hear his voice.
I think about what the world would be had it not been for men like him. Then writing seems small, but something I can do.
Election topics are hard. In a few weeks will the topic still have longevity and hold interest?
She brings us deeper than “it’ll be old news so soon” and invites the writer to see the enduring personal stories that lie beneath. That’s exactly where my writing coaching client and Practice of Being Seen community member Lanie Smith took a piece that once had the working title “Trump & Rape.”
When I sat down to write this piece, I thought that I might take a political stance. I thought I would urge you to stand up and fight back, but something has shifted.
There is no urgency. My protective armor has loosened now that the emotional threat is behind me. Fear of my own grief, tears, and pain is no longer fueling immediate action. With this experience has come a peaceful acceptance. This is the power of emotion.
Lanie’s post, Trump & Trauma: Beyond Blame talks about reactions - both her clients’ and her own - to the Republican candidate’s comments about grabbing women. Ultimately, however Lanie reminds us that memories of sexual assault plague survivors long after reporters have moved on. Lanie evolves through reaction and brings her readers toward healing as she finds her own sense of resolution.
That means the news is going to bum you out and piss you off. It’s going to make you want to hide under a rock and raise hell. It’s going to make you despair the state of the world.
You’re also a healer and a visionary. You’re able to take the news that broke your heart and, through the alchemy of your writing process, turn it into the golden insight that mends the hearts of your readers and clients.
Sit with your rage and your sorrow. Pour them into a selfish first draft that dwells on your pain and your personal reactions. Then, if you’re called to dive deeper and write further, ask yourself how you can move beyond exposing the madness and speak up for your values and also offer solutions.
We need bright white lights in the swirling mess of red and blue. If you’re feeling called to write and publish your response to the latest jaw dropping revelation, we need your shining voice to show us the way through.
What do I have to say about how to live a good life that hasn't been shared or said a million times before?
Jonathan Fields asks this question in the introduction to his brand new book How to Live a Good Life.
I know you've asked yourself the same thing. My clients wonder - and worry - about this all the time. I know I've wasted too much delicious writing time stressing about whether the world needs my words.
Truth is, whatever it is, it's almost definitely been said before.
You probably don't need proof on this one, but here it is. I had written most of this post before I picked up Jonathan's book and saw my own concerns reflected back at me. But, he wrote on and trusted his voice. Since that's what I invite people to do every day and since I do try to take my own advice, I'm publishing this anyway.
A loving reminder for you, the writer who is afraid to dive into a big topic because the luminaries in your field have already written brilliant books on the subject:
The big names... they're fulfilling their mission to awaken and inspire the multitudes. The rest of us - the brilliant "not yet household names" and the beautiful "don't care to ever be household names" - right now, our mission is to make those messages REAL for people.
A reader may be ready to change everything thanks to Love Warrior, but all Glennon can do is inspire from afar. Daring Greatly may crack a vulnerable heart wide open, but Brene isn't a clinician, she's a researcher. Jonathan charges $1000/hour for consulting, and while I believe that's a completely worthy investment for certain people, there's a lot of vital, sustainable work to do at the $100/hour level too.
The desire to transform, to be happy, to lead meaningful lives? These are timeless human needs. Wise people have been trying to crack the good life code and help others do the same from the very beginning. (Honestly, listen to Rob Bell's series about the Wisdom tradition and prepare to be amazed at how ideas presented in the ancient Hebrew feel utterly contemporary.)
Yes, all the truth tellers in the world of transformation, healing, and consciousness are essentially talking about similar things. That happens when people start discussing what's true and what's real.
As a healer, a therapist, or a coach it's part of your job to take the stuff "everybody" talks about and make theses truths your own. And, it's your job to help people own these truths.
You dive in and connect these big, ubiquitous concepts to your own stories. You bring the essence of who you are to the page. You don't speak to everyone, you speak to the ones who you wish to serve.
And then you put your work on your blog or in elsewhere in your marketing because you know people who are seeking and hurting need your perspective - and your help.
That's how you show your potential clients that you get it, that you get them. That's how you build a business and change your corner of the world.
It's not about being the first and only creature to share an idea. It's about speaking the right words in the right tone to the people who have access to you and your transformational magic.
It's about making meaning and building a connection with the people who matter.
Write it anyway. Write it now. Click the button for a printable PDF that will remind you to make it happen.
Do you keep a journal?
A regular writing practice is good medicine. Writing keeps you going through times of frustration and confusion. When you fall into the rhythm of your own words you can keep fear and loneliness at bay… at least for a little while.
As you make and keep writing dates with yourself, you become stronger. You get to know what you really think and how you really feel.
And, if you’re a lifelong diarist, if you ever need to do research on something like what true love’s first kiss feels like, you have exclusive access to a primary resource. (Or at least I do, but that’s another story!)
If you’re a professional in the transformation business who wants to change some corner of the universe with your ideas, a writing practice helps you become the person who not only thinks brilliant thoughts, but who also changes lives with them.
As someone who has carried around a journal since shortly after I learned to use a pen, I figured I knew every trick in the blank book of personal writing, but then I met Monica Kenton of the Spiritual Innovation Lab and she revealed a secret that every journal keeper must know:
Use your own journal as a book of answers. When you’re stuck and seeking guidance, ask the greatest authority on your life: yourself. Think about what you need to know and then open your journal to a random page.
Monica shared that idea last month in a workshop at Camp GLP (the most wonderfullest gathering for creatives and entrepreneurs EVER!). I’d forgotten about this magic trick until now. But, as I sit on my front porch, trying to force out a blog post in a few stolen moments while my sick toddler naps and I try to ignore my own sore throat, I realize that I just might have access to exactly what I need to write for you today.
Seeking a taste of my own wisdom, I flip to a random page.
Only July 17, I was up at 5 AM and feeling simultaneously filled up and emptied out by motherhood. Mothers of young children are creatures of the dawn, so I’ve seen the day from this angle countless times, but this wasn’t always the case.
That morning, I scrawled:
In high school, I wrote a story about a world trapped in the eerie half-light of dawn. It was fantasy - and not only because it featured druids and all sorts of enchantment. In truth, I wasn’t all that sure what dawn looked like. Sure, I got up in the dark to catch the bus, but I was too busy putting together my mid-90s flannel ensembles to look out the window.
At sixteen, I was breaking that rule that begs to be broken: write what you know. Who can blame me? When you’re just desperate for something to happen to you, it seems like all you know are curfews and boys who just don’t get it. It’s almost impossible to write stories when you’re inside them - especially when you think the story you’re living is too limited. As a result, I turned to the completely made up.
Here’s the thing: I think it’s possible to write what you know even if your story is full of unicorns and dragons (and you haven’t seen one - yet.).
If that story was about yearning to be kissed by the one and a teenager’s longing for freedom, the silver horned creatures and the weird atmospheric conditions would have been completely believable and wonderful.
Thing is, I wasn’t writing a truthful story because I wasn’t willing to live the part of it that was completely accessible every damn morning.
You wander into “fraud” territory when you write about a daily planetary event and don’t actually bother to go looking at it. You’re out of step with authenticity when you ignore that you and your life have a part to play in the stories you tell.
But we're not kids anymore.
So much has happened to get you to where you are - so many terrible mistakes and private joys and worrisome truths. There’s an inherent challenge embedded in “write what you know” when what you know is too private or stressful or in-process to share in public.
It’s a downright punishing statement if you’re a healer or a clinician who helps people solve problems and find peace and happiness when your own daily life is full of conflict and confusion and frustration.
But what DO you write about when life is hellish and your brand is meant to offer clients hope and solace?
I’m taking this July journal entry literally. If you can’t write about what’s happening in daily life, you must be able to write about what it means to stand in the stillness of dawn and tune into something bigger than your dramas.
Watch the sunrise. Why would your ideal client benefit from experiencing the stillness of dawn?
Give yourself permission to see that sunrise through the shadows that cloud your vision, through the hopes that blur your sight, through your biases that create your perspective
Even if every writer in this community wrote their next blog post about a sunrise, we’d all write something unique and show up as OURSELVES in the page. We’d offer some specific medicine that would help our own communities of clients see themselves more clearly and heal their lives.
I invite you to get up early tomorrow. Make a cup of something hot and strong. Get yourself to a window or snuggle into your coziest robe and face east. Then, go write. Please share the link in the comments or tag me in social media so I can see this particular sunset through your eyes and the eyes of the people you're writing for.
Not sure how to turn this sunrise into a story? Check out my You, Your Stories, and Your Audience course. Send me a message and let me know you learned about the class through this sunrise prompt and I’ll throw in a free 45-minute consultation. (A $110 value!)
There’s a time to live the story. Then there’s a time to tell the story. But, even as you’re living the story, you must keep writing. All you might be able to do is fill journal pages with jagged, oversized script that describes dark fears and overflowing emotions. Perhaps you’ll only scribble a few disjointed thoughts on the back of your ragged checkbook as you wait for the bank teller. It might be a sentence scrawled in fuchsia crayon as your toddler works on her latest masterpiece.
There are fleeting, furious, broken, fabulous ideas that need to freed from your head, but not lost in the ethers. It's likely that they won't make much sense, but they are essential to the practice of living your life as it happens to you.
These notes to self will be tiny epiphanies scattered like beads from a broken necklace. This is not the time to string them together. It is not yet time for sense-making. This is the time for seeing and experiencing, for picking up each bead as it falls and sticking it to the private page with the ink of your favorite pen.
This is the time for shitty first drafts. For self-focused first drafts in which every sentence begins with “I.” This is the time for self-care first drafts that open up just enough space in your brain for the light to get in.
Right now, my heart and brain are so full that I cannot find the space to tell stories. You need a heck of a lot of free headspace to craft a meaningful story, after all.
A long stretch of interior mental hallway in which you can lay out all the pieces of story from beginning to end is best. There must be room to manipulate the ideas, to change the order, to stretch certain moments into long, important paragraphs because sometimes entire chapters are lived in a collection of seconds.
And, you need access to closets where you can shelve the bits of the story that are not fit for public consumption. Some of those are intimacies that belong in section marked “Private: just for me and those who have earned the right hear them.”
Another closet is marked “Process.” These are the personal memories that were necessary to your own becoming but aren't of much interest to a reader. Do remember, they have their own lives to live and the time they give your story is precious! Part of being a masterful storyteller is choosing what to share and what to hold in reserve.
The dramas that are cluttering my own everyday reality… they’re hard and they’re intimate. This is the walk through the shadows that eventually makes the lights burn even brighter. Right now, however, it feels an awful lot like being lost in the dark, but it’s all going to be OK. As my dear friend, relationship therapist Rebecca Wong, reminds me: the only way to truly find yourself is to go get lost and find your way back. Gratefully, I can say that my husband and my kids and I are all holding hands and we’re not going to lose each other in any of this.
Close friends, my mentor, and the members of my healing community know all the details. They hold space for me while describe I all of the pain and outrage and confusion. These conversations are slowly helping me reclaim the space in my head so, in time, I can lay out all the details and the feelings in a clear mental hallway and make a story out of them.
But even for me, a practiced writer who has trained herself to live the story and then write and publish it quickly and efficiently, it’s hard to jump the gap between “life is too real and I’m too full of private emotion to tell any stories at all” and putting something on the public page.
All of us in the transformation and vulnerability business, those of us who create a healing space and keep safe the stories of others… We all need the time and space and support to live our stories, to sort through them, and tell them when the time is right.
This need to support the storykeepers is one of the reasons that the phenomenal Rebecca Wong and I created the online community called The Practice of Being Seen for therapists.
Professionals who hold space for vulnerability and transformation need their own place to be vulnerable and they need their own tribe that supports their transformation. The Practice of Being Seen is a safe space for mental health clinicians to unpack and sort through their stories and discover how they shape their practice, their marketing, and their relationships.
I talk about the clear interior hallway you need to put together a compelling story… This community is like a shared extension of that place of truth and clarity. Our community serves as the passageway between the personal experiences and the public telling.
We welcome new members to this group four times a year and the door will be open for just a few more days. If you’re a clinician who is ready to look deeply at yourself and your stories and discover what “being seen” means to you as an individual and as a professional, we invite you to apply now.
(The official deadline is tomorrow, September 15, but we'll extend if to Tuesday, September 20 if you tell us you learned about TPOBS from this post!)
These roads are like grooves in my unconscious mind. They’re direct routes into who I really am, but they exist just a few degrees beyond the coordinates of my everyday reality. My daughters and I are driving through my hometown, but I’m not sure they know where they are. They’re focused on seeing friends and the promised ice cream cones and eventually getting to “Neana’s bench.”
I don’t live here anymore. That’s nothing new, of course. I left Cape Cod when I was eighteen just like every other kid with the means and the desire knows to do. But my family doesn’t live in this town anymore either. Strangers dwell in the house where I grew up. All that’s left of our name in this town is etched into my mom’s memorial bench in the church garden.
When we cross into Barnstable, I stop worrying about the most direct path between point A and point B. I trust that I still know seven ways to get everywhere (essential knowledge when you grow up in a tourist town). Soon, I realize I am not choosing streets, I am navigating time.
The lane to my elementary school. Lindsay DiPesa’s old house. The soccer fields that used to be a farm. The rec center where I was a camp counselor. My ex-boyfriend’s parents’ historic home. (Curiously, I ended up passing that place twice, but then, I always ended up back in that relationship even when I tried to leave!)
Every residential area, every sand strewn road has a memory rolled into the pavement. There are hundreds of stories I could tell my girls. Instead, we listen to the radio station that served as the soundtrack to my childhood, and I say nothing.
I’m hoarding my stories. I don’t trust my voice and I don’t trust the tears that threaten every time I remember what the parents of thirty years ago looked like when they stood with their kids at the bus stop on fall mornings. I don’t have the energy to weave these reflections into something that matters to my kids.
If I point out the library, I would feel obligated to say how sad I am that the tree where my mom and I played Piglet and Pooh was cut down to make more parking. If I describe how we used to rent videos from that village store they’ll want to watch something on the iPad.
My girls are still young. For now, I generally get to craft the container of their reality and control what influences their understanding of the world. The goal is to protect them, of course, but I also get to protect myself - especially when I’m lost in tender pockets of grief that are much too much for them to bear.
Telling them more about where mama played and worked and biked and learned might have added to their carseat experience, but it would have cost me too much.
I talk a lot about the Story Triangle and how you need to balance the needs and interests of your audience with your own needs and interests all while keeping an eye on what makes a story meaningful and compelling.
The Story Triangle is your guide as you tell a story. It enables you to appeal to your audience and honor your authentic voice and make the narrative work. It can also help you decide whether you can tell the story at all.
[tweetthis]Your stories can heal and serve - but only when you are ready to tell them[/tweetthis]
In an attempt to be a “good” mom who gives the gift of my own history to my children, I could have seized the moment and played tour guide. After all, every kid loves to know what things were like for mom and dad so they can squeal at our primitive ways and also feel connected over all the things that feel just the same. The commentary about seaside suburban life in the 80s and 90s would have filled the whole drive.
But that would have pushed me further off balance than any mama should have to bear, however.
The Story Triangle would have been pushed off kilter and, because these things have real life consequences, when you’re a family in tight quarters, someone would have ended up in tears.
The same is true when you’re a writer telling a story meant to build online community and attract ideal clients. Telling a story that’s too intimate and exposes raw wounds doesn’t serve you or your ideal clients. You get a massive TMI hangover and your readers aren’t so sure you’re the person to help them heal.
[tweetthis]In #privatepractice? Blogging about your own unhealed wounds won’t serve you or your ideal clients[/tweetthis]
The good news: my family still gets to go to the Cape frequently to visit my Dad and my stepmom, though it’s to a different town I’ll probably never really get to know.
I trust that next chapter of my story will be a cheerful one, and one that I’m able to tell with a strong voice. There will be many more chances to take that trip down all the lanes of memory when the girls are older and when my wounds are more fully healed.
There's something to be said for seizing the moment and telling a story when it's timely and fresh. But remember: the story, the audience, and you, the storyteller, are best served when you wait for the right healing moment.