Time, rest, work, and the shaping of a writing life

“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.”

The "thises" and the "yeses"

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.

I’m also immersed in the Practice of Being Seen community for therapists and its delightfully demanding sister project, the Practice of Being Seen podcast.

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.)

The "thats" and the "not todays"

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?

The shaping of the time. The container of rest.

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.

Ultimately, yes, it does come down to balance

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.

Balance | #365MagicWords by Writer & Storytelling Coach Marisa Goudy
Balance | #365MagicWords by Writer & Storytelling Coach Marisa Goudy

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?

Your stories can heal and serve - but only if you're ready to tell them

Your stories can heal, protect, and serve – but only if you’re ready to tell them by Storytelling & Writing Coach Marisa Goudy
Your stories can heal, protect, and serve – but only if you’re ready to tell them by Storytelling & Writing Coach Marisa Goudy

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.

The good news: you get to choose what stories you tell. Choose the stories that nourish you and your audience.

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.

Well-balanced stories heal, protect, and serve.

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.

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.

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.

Discover Your Story Triangle

Writing Lessons From the Berry Patch

Lessons from the Berry Patch by Marisa Goudy #365StrongStories 144As is often the way with everyday magic, you don’t notice it even when it’s right under your nose. Or encircling your back yard. We lived in the house for a few years before we realized we lived in wild berry heaven. Our land bursts with joyful, succulent gifts every July, but we never noticed until we slowed down to a toddler’s pace and humbled ourselves to look at the world through the eyes of a child.

And now our second girl is a passionate berry picker too. She’s insatiable, really, but at least we know where to find her when we say “but I thought YOU were watching her!”

This need to chaperone a two year-old in a fruitful paradise that also features thorns, concealed ditches, ticks, snakes, and poison ivy brings life to a halt a few times each day.

When at my best, I'm a merry companion willing to tear my dress to reach that perfect cluster of sweetness. Then there are the moments when I’m itching to start dinner or do some writing or simply go find some shoes so I can satisfy the incessant requests for “Berries! Berries! Mama, ber-RIES!” without injuring myself.

We’re not just picking fruit in the berry patch. We're taking lessons in patience, creativity, and picking the perfect moment.

There are also the in-between times when it’s possible to be the present parent and take an expedition into my own creativity at the same time.

As I said, it took us a while to notice we even had something so wonderful to harvest. But now that we know what to look for and we’ve come to expect this annual burst of Mother Earth’s abundance, we have a chance to learn the berries’ stages of growth. And impatient pickers that we may be, we try to act accordingly.

We know the tight fists, tough beginnings, sparkling jewels, and shining stars. These are the prickly buds, the unripe fruits, the ultimate treat, and the beauty left behind when a berry has been picked.

You can develop and enjoy the harvests of a writing practice in the same way.

Now, think about that story you’ve been longing to tell, the idea that you long to pull out of your head and put on paper. Consider the post that you want to see take root in the hearts of your audience…

At what stage are you? What can you do and what can you expect?

Is it a prickly bud? Perhaps all of the energy still needs to be aimed inward. The idea still needs more time. Though things look quiet from the outside, there’s tremendous growth and organization happening within. The reward seems terribly far off, but the promise is huge.

You need to give yourself time to write some meandering first drafts and to let yourself spend time on the self-focused first draft. Allow. Explore. Practice patience.

Is it unripe fruit? Maybe the structure of the piece of writing has emerged and now you’re tempted to push it out into the world, even if it’s not fully ready. This is when you must remember that the surest way to a disappointment - and a sore stomach - is found when you force a still-in-process post or product in the world. Perfection isn’t the goal, but putting out something that you know is unready is a way of devaluing yourself, your story, and your audience.

Walk away from the piece for hours or days and return with fresh eyes. Call on a friend or think about hiring a writing and storytelling coach who can help you see the big picture and fit all of the vital pieces together.

Is it the ideal moment to harvest? With love, time, and attention - or water, time, and sunshine - that piece of writing is ready to emerge in all of its fullness. Oh, it tastes so sweet on your tongue and it will bring such pleasure and nourishment to those you share it with!

Hit publish and savor the sweetness.

Is it time to share the beauty? There’s a bit of sadness when you release a treasured idea into a world where it might be gobbled up or left to rot on the shelf. Trust that you nurtured your idea with attention and patience. Trust its inherent nurturing nature and promote yourself.

Let other people know about your little shining star. And what if you put it out there and no one seems to notice? Try again. We live in an age of media saturation and a lack of response isn’t a judgement of your work’s worthiness.

I wish I could have you over for a chat down in our berry patch. Let's try the next best thing: set up a free 15 minute consultation to discuss how I can help you get from first shoots to a brilliant harvest.

This is why your audience missed your best story

If they can sleep through fireworks #365StrongStoriesIn a third floor loft with giant skylights opening on the fading summer dusk, two small children closed their eyes and fell asleep. This isn’t much of a story until you understand that it’s Independence Day on Cape Cod at a condo just a few blocks from the beach.

The mother watches the glow of fireworks on her children’s slack cheeks before she slips into her own oblivion. There are families saying “ooooh!” and “ahhhh!” all across the neighborhood, but the booms and cracks are just a lullaby to everyone at 19 Grove Lane.

This two year-old and this six year-old have come to their grandparents' house to be stuffed with marshmallows and wrapped in red, white, and blue dresses. This is the week when bedtime is a fairytale and adults hurry kids to get to the beach to catch the tide, not to get out the door to catch the bus. We are a family who believes in much of the patriotic excess of July 4.

But just not this year.

That word might not mean what you think it means - at least not to everyone

Vacation only has 8 letters, but it has a billion different meanings. For some, it’s hammocks and lemonade. For others, it’s mouse ears and princesses. For some it's hanging off a cliff or shooting down the rapids.

Then there are those who use the word to describe packing up the kids and throwing them into a house with a bunch of people who share the same gene pool but enjoy vastly different daily lives. We then add in some sand, salt, sugar, and pour adult beverages on top of it all and V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N spells emotional and physical marathon full of the joys of victory and the agony of defeat.

Vacation looks a lot more like survival (another 8 letter word) than relaxation.

In our case, July Fourth fell on the fifth day of our holiday and we were too worn out to care about sparklers or bonfires or the rockets red glare.

It’s Not Your Fault Your Audience Couldn’t Tune Into Your Story

If my kids and I could drift off during a huge fireworks display set off a few thousand feet from our beds, your ideal readers could definitely miss your blog post. Heck, your audience may well miss the fact that you’re blogging or podcasting or newslettering at all!

We live in a world of distraction. We live in a world of too much stimulation and too little human stamina to take it in - even when it’s wonderful, even when we said we were coming to town just to experience it, even when it’s part of being happy enough 21st century Americans who hold out some hope that Washington will look like Jed Bartlet’s city some day.

Yes, it might occasionally be you, the storyteller, who needs to shift the story to meet the needs and interests of the audience.

But it’s likely that you’re telling a splendid tale and pitching it at just the right people but they’re just too full or too tired or too preoccupied to absorb it.

So what do you do?

You can always try again next year when everyone is a little older and wiser, but the good news is that you probably don’t have to wait 365 days to try to put on the show again.

If you’ve got a story that you believe in, keep nudging it into the world. Not with pyrotechnics that wake the neighbors. Not in some annoying, spammy “read my post, dear Facebook group I never participate in unless it’s for self-promo!” sort of way.

Share it in a way that feels like an invitation to learn or enjoy something really meaningful.

Remember that a lack of response isn’t necessarily a judgement on the quality of your story. It’s timing. It’s overstimulation. It’s proof that we’re all just fragile humans trying to balance FOMO (that's "fear of missing out") and a wee bit of self-care.

Do you have a story that you're really proud of that your ideal readers missed out on? Leave a link in the comments below and I'll do my best to share it with my community.

Never Evens by Guest Storyteller Kelsey Rakes

Never Evens by Guest Storyteller Kelsey Rakes“Is the back door locked?” I ask my husband, and he nods. He doesn’t remind me that I’m the one who locked it. He doesn’t mention that I’ve already checked it three times because the rule is only odds, only odds, never evens. After two years together, he knows better than to question the invisible manufacturer’s warning seared into my flesh: may contain irrational fears and compulsions. I don’t know if there’s ever been a time when I didn’t have to count to prevent imagined disasters, didn’t have numbers running in the background of my mind like the radio static of a channel that won’t be ignored. Checking and counting and tapping and counting and checking are the only ways to keep the uneasy ghosts of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder at bay.

Now that I’m pregnant, I find myself reciting appointment dates over and over, and I seek out stillbirth statistics in an effort to quell the endless feelings of dread. Though the odds are in my favor, the numbers won’t leave. They won’t quiet.

“What if our baby’s first words are ‘Is the back door locked?’” I ask my husband.

“That,” he says, “is an awfully complicated sentence for a baby.”

“But what if he or she is anxious?”

He presses his cheek to my shoulder and kisses it five times. “It won’t matter. We’ll do everything we can to help them be happy and show them they’re loved.”

This isn’t enough, and we both know it. There are so many pieces to this, so many questions and fears and hopeful wishes that I can’t possibly begin count them all.

This thought soothes me.

When my husband falls asleep, I press my hand against the smooth, hard skin of my naked stomach and count the baby’s kicks. One, two, three, four. Four tiny, wordless promises.

Although the language is an alien morse code, I’m somehow fluent -- so, with the tips of my fingers, I gently reply.

One, two three, four.

Kelsey Rakes #365StrongStories Guest storytellerKelsey Rakes is a writer who enjoys poetry, picnics, and poetry about picnics. Her life is a constant work in progress.

What's your story? Please submit to the #365StrongStories project.

Walking with my daughters, a boyfriend, and my earbuds

Biking with my daughters, a boyfriend, and my earbuds #365StrongStories by marisa goudyThis year, our snow days are being used to honor the beauty of May. We get to celebrate our freakishly warm winter with bike helmets and sunscreen since we didn’t need to use those days waiting for the plows to come around. My six year-old learned how to ride a two-wheeler this week, so we’re heeding the siren’s call of the rail trail. As I push the toddler in the stroller, my big girl stays close. She wobbles as she tries to match my walking pace because, unlike the evening before when she gleefully peddled ahead, she seems to need to be in my orbit right now.

There’s a sweet jolt when I realize “this is one of the perfect moments.” I sense I’m reliving a scene from thirty years ago. It’s a different setting and there are new characters in the starring roles, but here I am hoping one daughter will fall asleep and praying the other doesn’t fall off her bike, just as my mother would have done.

There’s a thread through time, braiding us together. Our connection will never snap, even if my mother and my daughters will never walk the same trail together. I feel my own first-grade memories entwine with this moment, and my pace slows with the weight of my gratitude.

Of course, there’s one vital element that separates this particular idyllic scene from what my mother might have experienced. It’s not 1986. It’s 2016. This mama has an earbud plugged into her head and occasionally has to say “wait, what did you say?” as she fumbles with the pause button.

I’m not even sure why I think I need the extra stimulation. My phone is on my hip (the better to count my steps) and it seemed like a good idea to multitask and keep up with the “you must listen to this!” recommendations from colleagues.

Of course, I am only able to open up to the grace of my children’s magic and my mother’s blessing when I stuff the wires in the stroller and decide to be present. I’m not surprised that being there with my girls is more fulfilling than one more grown up filling my mind with more stuff to do and consider and change.

If I’d still been walking in two worlds, in this perfect spring morning as well as someone’s basement recording studio, I can’t imagine I have exuded the welcoming, present energy that invited my daughter to say, “Mom? I have a boyfriend…”

I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to take a breath and respond with a few gentle, open-hearted questions if I were half listening to something else. I am sure I would have squawked “what!?!” and crushed the moment flat.

But this isn't a post by a saintly iPhone free mother

Thing is, this experience probably isn't going to change my behavior - at least not completely. There will be many more bike riding/ stroller pushing outings this year and I am sure I’ll take headphones with us most of the time.

I want to be honest with myself as much as I want to be present with my kids. That means I need to balance the feeding of my mind with the caring for my children. It means reflecting on my own needs and those of my family, making conscious choices, and practicing compassion through it all.

It also means getting the support where I can get it. If there isn't a loving grandmother or a village of other moms around to help us deal with the tough moments (ahem, MY FIRST GRADER SAYS SHE HAS A BOYFRIEND), the advice and comfort may need to come through that nice recorded voice from my iPhone.

An important note:  that podcast I was listening to was Laura Reagan’s Therapy Chat. Do check out this brilliant, vulnerable episode called Worthiness, Perfectionism, and Self Compassion when the moment is right for you.

Writing Prompt: Well, what did you expect?

Writing Prompt: What did you expect? #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyOur six year-old has never had “a sleepover.” Until last night, she and I had only been apart for three nights since her birth in 2009. Her first night away from family wasn’t spent on her best friend’s floor and it wasn’t part some Girl Scout event in a church hall. Nope, we sent her to the woods.

We’re blessed to have the Wild Earth organization in our town. They offer legendary summer camps as well as weekend programs all through the school year. We trust these dedicated counselors to care for our girl and initiate her into a forest wonderland that she couldn’t access with her parents clucking “be careful!”

Moira was phenomenal. The youngest kid of the group, by all reports she was up for every aspect of the adventure.

She’s home now and we are so grateful to have her back and hear her stories of the dragonfly she healed, the donuts she ate, and the unicorn she met (the program, Mystwood, has a profoundly mystical element). And yet…

Even after all that magic and bravery and sense of accomplishment, there been has all sorts of frustration and anger and sadness today. As Moira herself said, “I didn’t think I would come home and feel yucky!”

Shifting from a children’s paradise in the woods where fairies cavorted in every tree trunk to a rainy day Sunday with all the same old family rules is hard. Transitions are never without their challenges.

Ultimately, however, this discord is rooted in our expectations.

Our daughter expected the high of her experience to last. We assumed that she would return tired but happy to be back with her folks. At some level, we probably expected her to be grateful to us for sending her somewhere so amazing (yeah, that one is quite silly).

Your expectations - and particularly all the ways those stories are defied - those are often a source of conflict. And, as you probably know, conflict is pretty much essential to story.

Think about when your expectations stirred up trouble or caused you pain. Write into a situation when hope and reality were mismatched. There’s a compelling story in there, I promise...

Learn more about what makes a story compelling. Join me for The Story Triangle, a free online class I am offering on May 11.

Reserve your seat

When All Else Fails, Tell a Story Like a First Grader

The Chase! by a 6 year-old guest author + Banshee, the cat #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyOne day a cat was playing in its back yard.

A dog saw the cat and started chaseing after it. They chased eachoter all over town.

The cat did not get tired and the dog did get tired and the cat ran all the way home safe and sound!

The END.

By Moira, age 6

(Mama added paragraph breaks, but flawless punctuation and terrifically cute spelling errors are the author's own.)

What did we learn today, class?

Besides the fact that cat rule, we learned that all good stories have a beginning, middle, and an end.

The status quo (playing cat) is disrupted by conflict (dog appears on the scene), rising action (the chase!) takes you to a climax (cat triumphs) and a satisfying resolution (home again).

Next time you worry that you're not a storyteller, remember that you wrote the perfect stories when you were in first grade.

Refusing Fear Despite All the Unknown Tomorrows

Refusing fear despite all the unknown tomorrows #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy, writing coach for therapists, healers, coaches“You working? I so proud of you.” Sticky palms move from my cheeks to lock around my neck. I still marvel at how much strength is in those tiny arms and how much hug that two year-old body can muster.

It is all childhood trust and wonder. Her words outweigh her in an awesome way. Of course, she is mimicking a phrase my husband and I have offered her and her sister a thousand times in a thousand ways. But in this moment, she is so much more than a sweet-faced parrot. She is offering up the gift I needed right then. She is injecting meaning into yet another morning spent tapping keys and pushing against the digital tide.

At the same moment, Terry Gross’s familiar voice introduced the day’s Fresh Air guest. A man - Charles Bock - had written a novel inspired by his wife’s two year bout with leukemia. Soon, the author was talking about what it was like to throw a birthday party for their three year-old just days after her mother’s death.

I’m making lunch and sipping “tea” poured from a tin pot into a plastic cup. I miss every other sentence of the interview, but I promise myself I will catch the podcast later. But I know I won’t. I know I do not have the time or the strength to listen again. All I can do is spare some splintered attention to entertain one of my darkest fears - that lurking cancer demon that might be destroying this perfect life this very minute.

Even though this story hurts a heart that already feels too sodden and tender today, I do not change the station. After all, there’s nothing special about my pain. My family cancer stories are not so close as to make this conversation unendurable. It’s my childhood friend’s mother who died before 60 and a brilliant woman (who I long to support with more than prayers) who is in the brutal thick of it right now - these are the women I think of as the fear seizes my chest.

Listening began to feel like some sort of test of honor and endurance. Can I hold the exquisite tenderness of my toddler and the terror that we might not always be counted amongst the lucky ones, the healthy ones, the “touch wood all is well” ones?

No amount of prayer or gratitude or pride will guarantee any of our stories have a quiet ending at the conclusion of a one hundred year journey. Switching off NPR and singing along to a forgettable song will not weaken the monsters of accident and disease that might lurk around the next corner.

There’s no way to assure the safety of everyone I love. I cannot force my own cells to behave themselves. But what I can do is make sure that my fear doesn’t steal the sweetness of the next giggle or grown up pronouncement from that little girl’s lips.

All any of us can do is control whether we lose today wondering about an unknown tomorrow.

Can we be honest about the kids' birthday party thing?

Bouncy House Birthday Confessions, #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyIt is possible to be deeply grateful, even as you the shudder shakes your spine. You realize that all little girls have the same ear-splitting screech and your daughter is not the only one who could break glass with her heedless enthusiasm. That's something consider as you cling to the corners of the joyful, germ-infested pit of a childhood birthday party venue. Even if the noise is making your vision blur (funny how the senses seem to get so muddled in the midst of extreme stress), you can also pray that your kid will be so funned-out after the party that she'll be happy to go home and color. Or stare at the wall. Silently.

If it's an especially good day, you can find another parent who looks equally as sick and terrified. You can sidle over and - using hand gestures and exaggerated frowny-faces, if necessary - express that you too understand the birthday party obligation to be worse than 28 hours of labor. You may understand each other well enough to stick to walls of the next celebratory obligation like a small colony of anxious barnacles.

I admit I am this mom. And though I am a little worried about seeming like an anti-social ingrate, I kinda hope it will mean that we'll get fewer invitations.

Except today, we went to one of the loudest, germiest spots of all, and I am still smiling. Even though I briefly lost my two-year-old and I had to bellow like a belligerent foghorn to get my older daughter to get her shoes on, I am still smiling.

In truth, I am a bit concerned. Have children finally broken me? Am I going to be the mom in the bouncy house at the next shindig?

Oh, wait, those spine-quaking shudders just began again. Eek... What if I actually become the mom that learns how to play?

This morning of motherly mayhem seems anything but productive, but it proves that you can use your experiences and craft them into stories that help you connect with your prospective clients. Learn more about how to do this at the free Story Triangle webinar coming up Tuesday, April 5.

Save my seat!


The Shame of Shushed Story

The Shame of a Shushed Story, #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy
The Shame of a Shushed Story, #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy

“Oh honey, let’s not tell that story.” The words flowed easily from my lips but they were terribly hard to hear, hanging there in the air. I’d delivered them as kindly as I could in the voice of a woman with too many worries and too little sleep. All I wanted was the oasis of a quiet shower and to make it to my first cup of coffee before anyone pulled hair or screeched or required a bandaid.

But I know that silence and distrust and disconnection are born of distracted admonishments. This was a tiny sin that hinted at a deeper darkness.

My six year-old was remembering the beach house that the family rented for several summers. Her memories of eating a dozen clementines gave way to remembering when one older family member had fallen and knocked out a tooth.

I don’t like that memory. It was upsetting and it wasn’t pretty. I felt the pain and the worry of that Cape Cod morning. The guilt that I hadn't been very helpful at the time was (my excuse was morning sickness, but that seems paltry now). None of these thoughts were going to ease me into what was going to be another challenging day, so I shushed her and kept moving.

As I dive deep into what it means to tell stories, I'm learning just as much about how to receive and keep stories. Stories need to be held and reviewed when they bubble up. When they are stifled they become the monsters of shame and doubt and fear.

In trying to protect myself from unresolved hurts, I create new ones for my daughter. In trying to stifle the pure, spontaneous sharing of memories, I am creating new ghosts that are bound to be much more ghoulish the next time they come around.

I am a storyteller. I ask people to walk into the shadows with me so that we can appreciate the light. That means I also need to allow others to tell me their stories - even when I find them unsettling or inconvenient, even when I want to wish the memories away.

Learn how to tell your own stories with greater sensitivity and awareness. Join the free online class, The Story Triangle, on April 5.

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On Being a Woman With Stuff To Do While Children Are Underfoot

On Being a Woman With Stuff To Do While Children Are Underfoot, #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyIt's spring break week here. At a playdate today, my friend asked how I was going to have the time to get out today's #365StrongStories installment. While we spoke at three this afternoon, I had absolutely no idea. I  just knew or would happen somehow. This yearlong writing project has forced me to get even more vigilant about carving out for "me time." But trying to make time to work and create isn't a new problem - it's as old as the concept of women with stuff to do even with kids underfoot.

This story is excepted from last year's post on the trials and tribulations of meeting writing deadlines even during spring break:

My stepmom kindly recommended I take off my coat and get some work done while she took the kids for a walk.

Clearly I was exuding deadline stress, and I risked infecting everyone around me.

How could I be surprised that I couldn’t get clear on my writing and I felt choked with “bad mom” guilt? I wasn’t asking for the dedicated creative time I needed and so I was spreading myself too thin as I tried (and failed) to dot it all. 

I felt like a fraud, offering advice from and “I’ve got this” blogging pulpit when I was actually just being a terrible, distracted house guest with a couple of needy dependents.

Gratefully, I took that gift of thirty minutes free of mom responsibilities to check back in with my real message, my lived experience, my own imbalance.

I think I found a story worth telling and I drafted a new container to tell it. And then I discovered the space to walk to the beach with my girls – twice.

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“But how can it be a good story if it’s so sad?”

“But how can it be a good story if it’s so sad?” #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy “But how can it be a good story if it’s so sad?” It was hard to make out the words because she was burying her face in my belly, but I understood exactly what she meant.

It seems impossible that we could love something that awoke our darkest fears and left us in a weeping puddle. It seems like madness that we would subject our children to such pain. But, like countless parents since the beginning of humanity, I’d merrily offered up some entertainment that would terrify as much as it delighted.

Within thirty seconds I figured out the basic plot of The Song of the Sea, the fantastical animated Irish film about the silkies - those seals who came to shore and became human women for a time. This is another mystery of story - why would we devote so much time and lavish so much emotion on something so predictable?

Well, I could predict that the pregnant mother singing so sweetly to her young son wasn’t going to make it into scene two. What I couldn’t predict was that wondrous journey and the magical images that would pull us along for the next hour and more.

These tales of otherworldly parents and children on a quest for happiness in the real world pretty much always end up the same. When I kept reassuring my six year-old that it was all going to end well I was pretty sure I was telling enough of the truth. After all, everyone was smiling in a sweet family tableau at the end. But my daughter couldn’t see all that through her tears.

While the credits rolled I reminded her of how much she’d loved the rest of the movie. I told her to think of how the children were so happy with their daddy even if their mama was off with the other fairyfolk in the sea. Most challenging of all, I tried to make her understand that the best stories are those that open our hearts to experience something powerful and meaningful. Considering that now, two days after that initial viewing, she wants to see it again, I can only assume she heard me. More likely, it’s just a testament to our devotion to stories that transform our everyday view of the world and make us feel.

Sorry, Shame: This Mama Is Too Busy Healing Her Girl to Sip Your Poison

Sorry, Shame. This Mama is Too Busy Healing Her Babe to Sip Your Poison. #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyWe didn’t quite make it a year between visits to the walk-in emergency clinic. There are three things I have learned from the early morning trip to have two-year-old fingers checked out after a door slamming incident:

  1. Telling personal stories on a blog means never having to guess when past major life events occurred. They also lend you strength you may have forgotten you had.
  2. My little one is accident prone, tough as nails, and sweeter than I thought possible. My big one never means to hurt anyone and her feelings may be more wounded than her sister's digits if we're not careful.
  3. I’m still woefully and beautifully imperfect. And I am still ok with that. Shame need not apply when I'm busy healing my baby and keeping the big girl from falling into the shame spiral.

Here's an updated 2016 version of that story from last year:

One of my girls had an accident this weekend. Though it was terrifying at the time, it ended up being relatively minor. Now I can claim a parenting merit badge my mom never earned: held my daughter as she got stitched up x-rayed and told she'd merely lose a pinkie nail.

It was an accident, yes, but it could have been prevented. I could have had my hands on the kids instead of sitting an inch beyond an arm’s length away lying in bed three feet away, utterly exhausted by another night of tag teaming sleepless children. I could have said “no, honey a five year old isn’t big enough to carry her one year old sister yet.” screamed "no, you will not slam that door just because your sister is trying to come into the bathroom!"

But I didn’t.

And we ended up at the walk-in med center, covered in blood all swollen up – and sidewalk chalk and dirt from what was supposed to be a typical Saturday spent in a yard just awakening to spring still in pajamas, eyes full of sleep.

We’re so proud of our girl for healing so quickly and handling it all so well. And I’m pleased to report that I’ve emerged from shame’s shadows. Truthfully, the horrible guilt dissipated within twenty-four hours. (Likely that’s because much of the swelling did too). 

Truthfully, I skipped shame all together this time because a shamed mama isn't a strong, compassionate, in control of her emotions mama who teaches her girls to be same.

No longer blinded by self-recrimination, I can simply hold my little one tight, overcome with gratitude and rendered speechless by how precious she is to me (and by utter exhaustion).

Yes, gravity won sibling rivalry made us all losers in that split second, but I forgive myself.

I’ve decided that I am mother enough for my daughters – even if I’m woefully and beautifully imperfect.

Permission to Read Signs Sent By a Friendly Universe, #365StrongStories 54

Permission to Read Signs Sent by a Friendly Universe, #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyThe morning was shorter than it was supposed to be. Our little one was awake half the night asking to use the potty and singing every song she knew, so we needed that extra hour of sleep. We missed the bus and I was crazy late for playgroup drop off, but this was my one, precious day alone in the house and I was going to do amazing things even if I'd lost 90 minutes already.

And then, on my solitary drive home, the school sent a text about early dismissal due to hypothetical snow. The afternoon just got a whole lot short too.

So I did what every brilliant American mom entrepreneur does when the going gets tough - I called husband to commiserate and think through how rescheduling my clients would impact the kid yoga/ decent dinner/ bath night juggle.

We were shifting gears from strategizing to complaining when I saw the birds. “Honey, I just need to shut up and drive,” I said. “I’ve seen a deer, a hawk, and a pair of cardinals in the last two minutes. I need to pay attention to something.”

As much as I may lament being married to one of those spectacularly practical engineer types, I love this man who says "I love you" and accepts animal totem sightings without question.

For a few minutes, I was one with the curves in the country lane. The protective swell of the Shawangunk Ridge and its mighty Mohonk Mountain House promised me that I am in just the right place at just the right moment.

But when I hit a stop sign, I find my fingers fussing at the phone screen. I'm seeking solace or maybe just a podcast. For once I feel guided rather than addicted as I seek out a series I haven’t listened to in months - Tara Brach’s weekly teachings on Buddhism.

Without taking you on a tour of my most recent spiritual awakening, let it suffice to say that an episode called “Trusting Ourselves, Trusting Life” was like a love letter written to my spinning soul.

And when Tara offered up this sweeping prompt from Albert Einstein, it was like the arrow through my laid bare heart:

“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

The weather isn’t out to get me. The animals who come out to greet me might really be there to wish me well. I’m choosing to believe that this is a friendly world… how else could I push my little girls into it every day?

Your turn: what happened today that proved we live in a friendly universe? And if it felt like a hostile world, the #365StrongStories community will hold you through that too.

Doubt and Annie D. by guest storyteller Suzi Banks Baum, #365StrongStories 50

Doubt and Annie D, A #365StrongStories Guest Story by Suzi Banks BaumI wake up almost every morning happy. I crank open my eyes to assess the weather, then turn to my prayer practice.  I tug on wool socks, light a candle because Rumi says, "learn to light the candle." I close my eyes again. This seals the deal on my internal climate. I can handle calamity. Though I have ridden out usual mothering storms and some complicated travails, today's stratospheric turmoil has rocked me. Caused solely by my college-aged son, who'd just spent 18 hours with us, who left at 7:30 AM because he wanted to get back to school to the library. Here I am, saying goodbye, again. He is not off to the military, not off to the fields. He is not off to the hunting grounds or climbing on to a horse or a camel or a tank. He is getting in to his little car and taking his clean laundry and going back to school. But my heart cracks anyway, because wherever the destination, it is away and that changes me.

So I find myself in a curiously quiet house, no alternate sound track running in another room. The girl child is off on an arctic adventure in Manhattan. After 22 years of being accompanied, I am alone. They will be back; this nest is not cleaned out and orderly after the upheaving of babies, toddlers, or teens.

But look who has moved in! Doubt, the cold sister of possibility, has already chosen her bedroom. She chimes in before it is her turn to talk. She tugs away my equanimity and questions every choice. She loves to dangle the "who do you think you are" banner across my daylight. She glories in my prolonged dithering.

Then, Annie Dillard shows up:

The sensation of writing a book is the sensation of spinning, blinded by love and daring.

There is a bootstrap and I will pull it up today. I know what it feels like to show up blind with love, daring to move forward, even when I don't want to, even when Doubt casts her pallor over my day. I have 22 years of experience showing up for two people. Some days, I did not feel like oatmeal or elastic waist jeans pulled over thick-diapered bottoms, but I got them on anyway. Oats and jeans. Doubt. Take a seat. Take a number. Get in line.

Daring and love snuck in and I have work to do.

#365StrongStories guest storyteller Suzi Banks BaumSuzi is an artist, actress, writer, teacher, community organizer, and mom. She’s passionate about helping women find their creative voice and live focused, joy-filled lives.
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No, you can't have chocolate with your whine. Mama can. #365StrongStories 49

Would you like some wine with your chocolate? #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy There comes a moment in every child’s life when she stands at the top of the stairs crying “mommy, I need you!” It will be thirty years before she understands what mama is really doing when she calls, “Yes, darling, I know. Let me just get your cough medicine!”

Mother is actually going for a mouthful of Cadbury chocolate and a slug of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Good night, dear.

Entrepreneuring, Mothering, and Laundry Basket Despair, #365StrongStories 47

Entrepreneuring, Mothering, and Laundry Basket Despair, #365SttrongStories by Marisa GoudyI prefer mountains of laundry to mere hillocks. So, when I enter a marathon sorting and folding session, I know there will be plenty of time for introspection. Today, however, both kids are home thanks to some freezing rain and a minor fever. Turns out I can’t get much deep thinking done when I must constantly exclaim “Please do not knock over mommy’s stacks!”

So I’m left to consider the clothes themselves. Since I could tell you my life story by giving you a tour of my closet, this is actual fertile territory.

There’s this fuchsia Marks and Spencer sweater that’s just beginning to pill. I find this terribly disappointing and give myself over to a little bit of laundry basket despair.

Even in that moment I knew I was actually mourning the fact that I’m folding and refereeing rather than writing and planning. This was supposed to be a brilliantly productive professional day. But wishing I were entrepreneuring instead of mothering isn’t going to get these clothes in drawers or make me any nicer to my kids, so I focus on that sweater (and sounding kind when I beg the girls not to jump on the towels I’d just turned into relatively perfect squares.)

This sweater doesn’t owe me anything. It was some hand me down that I never even put on my first daughter because it always looked too fancy. With my second daughter, I’ve tried to quit hoarding pretty things for the day when our lives were perfect and posh enough to do them justice, so she’s worn it during trips to the grocery store. As I sit in the midst of this domestic mountain range, unable to control the weather or viruses or my own work day, I breathe into the realization that our lives will never be what the glossy catalogs tell me I’m supposed to be striving for.

We’ll have brilliant days while wearing our mismatched pajamas and we’ll suffer through others while wearing our newest and brightest best. Eventually, it will all come out in the wash.

Does Every Story Have to Have a Bad Guy? #365StrongStories, 46

Mom, does every story hafta have a bad guy? #365StrongStoires by Marisa Goudy“Mom, does every story hafta have a bad guy?” For some parents, this might be a straightforward question. (Perhaps: “no, not really, but most of the stories we like best do” would suffice.) In our case, the answer lasted the entire fifteen minute ride home from town.

My daughter had just seen one of the Minions movies. It's amazing we held out this long. If you earned a quarter for every Minion you spotted at the grocery store you could cover a decent part of your bill - their googly eyes stare at you from cookies and Band Aids and even the bananas.

Her voice was thin with worry and I could tell my first grader was feeling betrayed. That kind of product placement told her they were about sweets and treats, not about scary noises and tummy-churning plot twists.

So we talked about the stories she knows that don’t have bad guys. Everything from the Itsy Bitsy Spider to Wind in the Willows to nearly every Magic Tree House book.

We got to talk about individuals versus nature and how misunderstandings can make for a good story. There was a discussion of quests and journeys and how we like it best when the main character learns and grows and does things she never thought possible.

But this got me thinking about the stories that I’ve been telling - and whether I have really been writing stories at all.

I love stories with “bad guys” - it’s part of being human, this desire to see good triumph over evil. Ask many storytelling experts and they’ll say that conflict is THE defining factor. But when it comes to exploring conflict and antagonists every day in my own #365StrongStories project, well…

Most of these stories are drawn from my own life. I'm not a secret agent and I’m not a big fan of interpersonal strife, so what’s left?

The stuff of our imperfectly perfect, magically mundane everyday reality, that’s what.

We live powerful stories all the time, and if we’re lucky, almost none of them include criminals or violence or practical jokes with an edge. We’re thrill seekers who pick up novels and watch TV and movies so we can experience a vicarious jolt in our otherwise peaceful, bad guy-free lives.

But do our stories need a bad guy, dear daughter? No.

We may flock to watch megavillains fill the screen and we'll cheer at their demise. But we can still go home to create our own stories about personal realization and the revelation of another’s true character and know we've done work that's just as strong.

Viewing the Super Bowl through an Innocence Filter, #365StrongStories 39

Watching football through the Innocence Filter, #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy We’re a football family, but I feel there should be an asterisk beside our names. At our house, there’s a love for the game and even for the hype. But there is also a whole lot of ambivalence.

If not for my husband, I probably would never watch. That said, I admit to being completely obnoxious when my team is on the field.

We love losing ourselves in the drama of 4th and inches and we’re suckers for a good Hail Mary pass. Because the kids aren’t old enough for many movies that capture parental interest, we rely on 300 pound men to entertain us and help pass cold winter Sunday.

And yet, we’ve programmed our six year-old daughter to avert her eyes whenever a “bad” commercial comes on.

I've laughed when my husband says to me “It’s not television, it’s football!”  But how can I blame him for saying something so silly when I'll let the girls sit on the couch with him, exposed to the kind violence and sexism and commercial idiocy that I usually protect them from? (Such is the price of some time to myself!)

Feeling like a hypocrite is never fun, but last night’s Super Bowl freed me from that stress. I was able to see that we’ve struck a balance that works for who we are and what’s important to us.

You couldn’t miss that it was the “Pepsi Halftime Show.” When I asked my daughter if she new what Pepsi was she looked at me with wide-eyed certainty: “It’s a beer with lots of Pep and See in it.”

Clearly, football ads are not responsible for soda addiction in children.

And during Beyonce’s Formation on the 50 yard line, our toddler stared up at her and asked “Riverdance?” We rushed everyone up to bed before there was a full scale tantrum over the fact that the show did not include Irish step dancing.

The tides of mainstream commercialism are fast and insistent, but we seem to have created a little raft for our family that allows us to safely navigate those waters and have fun on our own terms.

What about you - can you make peace with the football menace and all the madness that surrounds it? (Yes, I know I am opening Pandora’s box considering all the ugly behavior of the players, but that’s not the sort of stuff that my kids see when they’re watching the ball make it down the field so it’s not part of this particular equation for me.)