Ah, the metaphysical! It has fascinated me since my first encounter with a psychic at age 18. I’ve read countless books, hung out with and been friends with psychics and astrologers and healers, taken classes in energy healing, Reiki, healing with crystals, psychic readings, and more. I’ve owned a health food store for 8 years, been a massage therapist for 24 years, and specialized in Myofascial Release for 14 years.
I’ve played with sending distance healings to friends and relatives and a few clients with good success. I even sent distance healing to my grand-dog – and the problem resolved the next day!
I’ve collected and played with Oracle cards and pendulums for the past 38 years. I’ve honed my skills of intuition and paying attention to Guidance. Right now, my Guidance is telling me to offer my gifts online, so I’ve set up this website. I’m interested to see where the path goes from here.
There’s often a temptation to take ourselves very seriously in this human life, isn’t there? I am reminded with some frequency to lighten up – that we’re just playing. I’m not a “healer” – we may allow energy to flow between us and that energy may facilitate energetic pathways that allow the body’s natural healing abilities to manifest … or not. It isn’t scientific. I don’t know what Life has planned for you … or for me, for that matter. I just follow my Guidance in the moment and do my best.
I believe in angels and guides and otherworldly beings. I believe in healing light and love. I believe in things greater than can be measured by anything of this world. I love playing in this realm of possibilities and expanded consciousness. I’ll be writing about different experiences, intuitions, and inspirations that I have as I travel along my life path. I’ll share some of the more fun, interesting, touching things that I have experienced over the years.
If you’re interested in energy healing, Reiki, or psychic/intuitive readings, please click on “Home” at the bottom of this page. Please be sure to read the Disclaimers page. And if you feel so guided, come play with me!
I spend a lot of my time thinking about holding myself and others sacred – what that means, what practical steps can be used to achieve that state of being, and how that looks and feels. Underneath it all, there is an awareness of the miracle and sanctity of life.
I grew up with a religious background that, as I moved toward adulthood, I rebelled against. I disavowed many of the religious beliefs and training that had been pounded into me and had impacted my childhood and my psyche in some very negative ways. I kept the principles that made sense to me, that resonated with my Inner Self – and as a young teenager, I started saying, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” That remains how I think of myself.
Some of my early training remains deep in my cells. Thou shalt not kill, for example. And the Golden Rule, of course: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. While I have rejected many of the religious beliefs I was taught, I still embrace some of these tenets that do resonate with my deepest sense of right and wrong, and with my assessment of what it means to be a “good” person.
There are endless different paths available as one explores spirituality and our connection with the Divine – whatever we want to call that essence, whether it be God, Goddess, Allah, Source, the Universe, Life, Holy Spirit, Higher Power, or any of the many other names of the Life Force or Organizing Principle of the universe. I don’t believe it matters what we call it. For that matter, many people believe in all kinds of Deities and Spirit Guides and Angels and otherworldly beings of all names and identities.
I don’t believe the names matter. What I do believe matters is that our spirituality is founded upon basic principles and ethics that include the sanctity of human life, as well as love, respect, reverence, kindness, tolerance, generosity, forgiveness, and all of the qualities one would expect in our higher nature. Basic human decency. Compassion. Empathy.
Part of the reason that I rejected religion in general, is that I often see the above qualities missing. Instead, I see judgment, condemnation, and many forms of hatred being taught. Fear being pushed. I haven’t believed in an angry, vengeful God since I was about 14. The phrase “God-fearing” feels so discordant to me. I believe in a Presence of Love and Light.
So many atrocities throughout human history have been committed in the “name of God.” Somehow, I thought we’d move beyond that in this century, but I’ve watched with some horror as religions/churches have grown increasingly political, hostile, and aggressive. I saw the other day where Michael Flynn had declared there should be only one religion in the United States. How scary is that? These fanatics are trying to force their own religion onto everyone. It’s not okay. The concepts of “one true God” and “one true religion” are not only disrespectful of people with all other beliefs and experiences of the Divine, but also dangerous.
I was distressed to see a video a few days ago where a “spiritual” teacher/leader couple used their platform to spread divisiveness and conspiracy theories. They went so far as to advocate for an insurrection/revolution, portending that blood would spill like never before on American soil. They were very “righteous” in their cause. They also spread insane conspiracy theories about the Covid vaccines. Their words had the intention of dehumanizing people who’d been vaccinated, saying that the vaccines created “trans-humans” (no idea what that even means), and that people who were vaccinated could no longer think clearly, but were merely government pawns who’d lost their free will, and would be much more susceptible to demonic possession and such. Basically, they were spreading hate, the willingness to kill their fellow citizens over ideology, and dehumanizing and demonizing anyone who had different perspectives than they had.
The threats of violence and the lies were bad enough, but what made this particularly appalling was that they justified all of this with their false “spirituality.” She tilted her head at one point, listening to her “Guides.” She acted like all of this was channeled through her from some higher vibrational awareness – and that she and her listeners were warriors in a mighty cause – to take over this country and run it how they believe the Higher Realms dictated. What can one say about the delusional, incredible egos of these unbelievably narcissistic people, who sincerely believe that their way is the only way – so much so that they are willing to literally KILL people to force that way on everyone? It is terrifying. They are domestic terrorists pretending to be spiritual leaders.
How do I know their spirituality is false? Because true spirituality spreads love, kindness, and goodwill – not hate, intolerance, and fear. True spirituality demands reverence, compassion, and empathy – not dehumanization, judgment, and indifference to the lives and suffering of others. True spirituality espouses humanitarian ethics. Peace. Love. Helping those who need it. Caring. Any spirituality that lacks these things lacks any credibility. They are simply attempting a power grab.
I will never understand why people cannot just live and let live – why “An’ it harm none, do what ye will” isn’t a normal value that everyone carries. Or why some people stick their noses in other people’s business and try to control them. Yes, some rules make a society function better – traffic laws, for example, like driving on the correct side of the road. But why does anyone care who anyone else loves? Why create hatred for people who choose to live differently than they choose to live themselves? Why be so stuck in one’s own sense of “right and wrong” that they’d be willing to kill another human being over something that is none of their business in the first place? Ideologies are not more important than people! How did people ever abandon the concept of the sanctity of LIFE?
The thing I most don’t understand, though – is how anyone falls for these hate-filled missives as being even remotely “spiritual” – or a duty to “God/Spirit/whatever Name is invoked.” It is so very clear to me that a spirituality that is not rooted in the ethics of love, kindness, grace, compassion, empathy, etc. – is not a spirituality at all, but rather someone’s ego trip – and perhaps an “excuse” for other people to follow along and trot out their worst instincts and aspects of themselves, while pretending to be “righteous,” “spiritually guided,” or some other such nonsense. No true spiritual leader would ever advocate violence or harm against others.
Many of us are spiritual seekers. We find our connection to the Divine in many different ways – and while some paths may resonate for us while others don’t – and the Divine journey can be unique for everyone – the common factor of authentic spirituality is that it helps us to feel more connected to Life, more respectful of everyone’s innate value, individuality, belonging, and path – and more aware of the humanity and sacredness of every human being, including ourselves.
Shame. I am intimately acquainted with it. I know the hot sting as shame lashes across me. I know how it feels when shame’s poison oozes through my body, heating my skin, trapping me with its stinging talons, creating feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness. I can remember feeling so consumed by shame at one point, as I was entering adolescence, that I was embarrassed to walk in front of anyone, embarrassed to eat, embarrassed to talk, even embarrassed by my breathing! (Was I breathing too loudly, was I doing it wrong?) Basically, I was embarrassed to be human. Mortified at the thought of all of my imperfections being seen. So filled with shame that I could barely function. So, yeah. I understand the concept and feeling of shame. I’ve been there.
What I know as an adult that I didn’t know as a child is that I can refuse shame. I do refuse shame – and I refuse the people and institutions who would try to instill shame in me. I reject shame. Shame has no place in my life or in my body. How? – you ask? That’s what I’m here to tell you. Overcoming shame has been quite a journey.
I took my first step away from shame when I committed to a self-love path about 30 years ago. I was pregnant with my daughter and already loved her so intensely that I knew I needed to find a way to love myself, so that I could be the mother I wanted to be for her. I wanted her to love herself as much as I loved her. I wanted her to celebrate herself and her body. I wanted her to feel comfortable, safe, and powerful in her body and in the world. Instinctively, I knew I had to create that for myself if I wanted to model that for her. I didn’t do it perfectly – but I did the best I could each step of the way with what I knew at the time and with the energy levels and resources I had in each moment. I’m still doing that. That’s one of the things I’ve learned along this path of self-love – is to accept and even embrace my imperfections, mistakes, and yes, failures.
As a teenager, I read books by John Powell: Unconditional Love, Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?, Fully Human, Fully Alive, and more. Even back then, I was searching for unconditional love and acceptance. The problem was that I wasn’t giving those things to my Self! I was looking for them outside of me, thinking that if I could only find someone to really see me and unconditionally love me, then I would be okay. I wasn’t finding that love outside of me, no matter how hard I tried, which only served to increase my shame spiral and feelings of unworthiness. Back then, I fully believed that if I could get “pretty enough” (to my teenage mind, that meant “thin enough”) – if I could just get the “right look” – then I would find “true love.” I shudder now to think that I believed that so strongly, that I was so shallow and so brainwashed in that way – but such was the social programming when I was growing up. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t also have deeper aspects of me or that I lacked intelligence or other values and priorities. I was just so consumed with trying to find love in the only way I knew how – in the way by which I had been bombarded with disinformation through society and media for my entire life – that I struggled to see past that.
My deeper soul work and connection began when I went to the Midwest Academy of Healing Arts. There, I learned about soul retrieval and the undefended self and connecting to my Higher Self. I learned about honoring my Self and listening to my intuition and to my Inner Voice. I started to step into my authentic self and to find my own voice and power.
This work continued when I attended many workshops with HAI (the Human Awareness Institute) – and learned to love myself at deeper and deeper levels – and to accept ALL of me. In those workshops, where I got to experiment and play with who I am and what I want, need, and desire – and where I got to discover boundaries and to connect with an even deeper sense of Self – I discovered that complete self-acceptance and unconditional love for Self freed me from shame.
This happened concurrently with my involvement in the fat acceptance/body liberation movement – and the whole-hearted rejection of body shaming, which had been (up until that point) a driving factor in my life. Attending NAAFA (the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) conventions and celebrating bodies of all ages, colors, shapes, sizes, and abilities was transformative for me.
Which brings me back to shame. Shame lived in my body for many years. I had believed that if I could achieve a state of near perfection, that I could escape shame. What I learned was that as I embraced my humanity and my imperfections, I could release shame. I could refuse shame. Shame cannot find a home in me anymore. Shame may knock on my door from time to time, but it will not be admitted. The way I make shame move away from me is to embrace whichever part of me shame is attempting to attack. I’ve made a commitment to love my Self unconditionally – to allow “imperfections” and humanity and whatever else shows up in me. I’ve given myself the promise that I’d wished once upon a time to receive from someone else: “I love you now and forever. There is no part of you – in the past, present, or future – that I find unacceptable or unlovable. I love you unconditionally. You are safe with me.”
I realize that we are social creatures and that we all need to feel a sense of belonging and connection. I get that. However, I think that it is equally, if not more, important that we connect with our Selves – that we offer the kind of love that we all deep down crave and need to our Selves. I don’t believe that can actually come from anyone else. Other people may love us deeply – but we are the only people who can experience everything going on inside of us (what we can perceive of it, at least – there are vast areas of ourselves that don’t even come into our conscious awareness) – and we are the only ones who can hold unconditional love for all of who we are. And … we can love ourselves unconditionally even if we don’t do it “perfectly.”
Living in a world that constantly tells us – in whispers, screams, and shouts – that we aren’t “good enough,” that we aren’t “worthy” – that we are flawed and we need fixing, that we need to do things a certain way (not our own way) – can sometimes knock us off our center. It’s to be expected. AND … when that happens, we can hold ourselves in grace and compassion and return over and over again to unconditional love for ourselves. That gentle welcoming of ALL of who we are moves us into inner peace. We welcome the rage, the anger, the disappointment, the hopes, the dreams, the almost unbearable love we feel and carry, the grief, the confusion, the loneliness, the desires, the whole human experience that we live. We welcome it and we choose to love ourselves unconditionally. There is no shame in being human.
If we conform or even pretend to conform to what we perceive are society’s expectations of us – if we sell out who we really are and hide what we truly feel, need, desire, and want in order to “fit in” – then we sacrifice any chance at a real sense of connection and belonging. How many people have secretly worried, “If they really knew me, they wouldn’t like me”? How many women, particularly (although some men do this too), have been caught in the traps of people-pleasing, over-thinking, and anticipating other people’s needs, rather than considering their own needs? Is that actually connection, then? Is there a real sense of belonging when someone is busy trying to meet the needs of others (so they matter, so they belong?) rather than being valued and loved for who they actually are?
I am questioning whether we can have a real sense of connection and belonging if we don’t actually love and accept ourselves at a deep level. We can certainly feel love for others, of course. We can have a sense of being needed, a feeling of being of service – and that can make us feel good about ourselves in a way. But if we weren’t needed and weren’t of service, would we still be loved, would we still belong, would we still be wanted, would we still matter? I think that underneath it all, those are questions that plague people-pleasers and people who haven’t learned to deeply love themselves. We need to have a sense of worthiness that is independent of what we can do for or offer to others, that is independent of how we look or what we accomplish. Just by virtue of being alive, we are worthy of all of the good that life has to offer. We are worthy of love – of loving and of being loved. So many of us feel that we are only worthy if we look a certain way or if we accomplish certain things – as if we had to somehow earn our innate worthiness. And so many of us, as Thoreau once said, “lead lives of quiet desperation.”
What if we took the chance of allowing ourselves to be seen? Really seen – as we are. Authentic. Vulnerable. Powerful. All of it. What if we reclaimed all of who we are? Brought back all of the pieces that we discarded along the way because of shame and embarrassment? What if we honored our disappointments? What if we held compassion for all of the parts of us that we feared weren’t good enough or made us “less than”? What if we gave ourselves grace and humor for our developing bodies, our aging bodies, our perfectly imperfect, unique, diverse, human bodies? What if we gave ourselves grace and humor for the ways we’ve been in the world, the ways we now move in the world, the lessons learned and the lessons to come, and all of the experiences of our own lives? What if we held all of who we were, who we are, and who we will be in a space of unconditional love? How would our connections be then? To ourselves – and to others?
What if we knew – no matter who outside of us accepted us or rejected us – we knew that we had our own backs, that we would love and accept our Selves no matter what? Sit with that thought a moment. Sit with the possibility of holding that kind of love for yourself. What if the connection and belonging that we seek were really a connection with our Selves and a belonging to our Selves? And from that place of wholeness within us, we could interact with others without editing ourselves, without compromising ourselves, without betraying ourselves, without selling ourselves out for approval and the “security” of “belonging?” And thus, we were able to create the truly authentic and heart-centered connections with others that we so desire? What if we took our own power all of the way back into ourselves and had excellent boundaries around who we are, what we want and don’t want, and what we will accept or will not accept in our own lives? What if we held ourselves sacred?
There are many things that I could feel shame about in my life. So many things. Failed relationships. Failed business ventures. So many mistakes I’ve made along the way – and incredibly severe lapses in judgment at times. Severe! LOL Many people would be ashamed of my current financial situation. I’m not. It is what it is. I choose to focus on gratitude and to love myself. Many people would think I should be ashamed of my body. I’m not. I reject any body shame for any reason – whether it’s body size, shape, health status, or any other condition of the body. What anyone else does with their body is up to them and not for anyone to judge … and, for me, I don’t wear makeup or heels, I no longer shave my underarms or my legs, and I reject gender-based “norms.” I do shave my chin because it has gotten past the point of tweezing – and I’m not ashamed of the natural processes of my body, including hair growing on my face. It is what it is – and this is a truth for many women. I refuse shame. I hold my Self, my body, and my life sacred.
I don’t care if people who hold values that are not in alignment with my own values reject me. Wanting to be liked by everyone is a dangerous trap, as is looking outside of ourselves for love and approval. We need to give that to our Selves. Mona Eltahawy, a brilliant feminist, recently wrote, “If you’re wondering where along my menopause journey I am, it is far enough that if I hear a voice in my head saying “Oh my god, you can’t write about that!” I WILL IN FACT WRITE ABOUT THAT.” I love that so much. Stepping out of the box over and over again. Refusing shame. Holding unconditional love and reverence for ourselves and each other. We are sacred. No matter how we look, what we do, how we struggle, how we learn, how we move through this life, what happens to us, the successes and the failures we experience – we are sacred. Let’s hold ourselves sacred.
When I was 19, I signed up to go with the University of Michigan to a summer school program in Salamanca, Spain. So many people asked me, “Aren’t you afraid? You won’t know anybody!”
“Afraid?” I would reply, “No way! I’m so excited!”
And I was! I went and had an amazing time! So wonderful, in fact, that I asked my parents if I could extend my stay – and ended up staying 6 months instead of 6 weeks. I went back two years later for the wedding of one of the women I’d lived with. It was such a joyous time that I extended my time again from 3 weeks to 3 months.
I was kind of fearless back then. I didn’t always make great decisions, particularly when it came to men. I drank too much at times. I made mistakes. I put myself in some bad (and potentially dangerous) situations. I suffered here and there. But things worked out. Life protected me – or, when I fell occasionally, at least carried me through.
I got pregnant, and, at around 26 weeks, went into premature labor. She weighed just under 2 pounds and lived only 10 hours. The grief was unbearable. I was lost in it. Before that happened, I had a fairly easy trust in Life – that everything would work out, even if things went sideways occasionally. When that happened, I not only lost that trust in Life, but also was so angry at myself! I should have been more careful! I shouldn’t have lifted those boxes! None of it was true, of course. I couldn’t have prevented that early labor. But that feeling stuck in me that I had to be more careful – I had to think of all of the things that could possibly go wrong and prevent them from happening. I had to pay better attention! Be more cautious! Life started to feel threatening rather than basically benevolent and supportive.
Do you know that feeling?
When I got pregnant again, I was jubilant … and vigilant. Terrified. When my baby was born, I was joyous – and more afraid than I’d ever been in my life. I checked multiple times a night to make sure she was still breathing. I was over-protective to an extreme, always imagining worst-case scenarios and doing everything possible to prevent any harm befalling her. When she went on her first kindergarten field trip – and I wasn’t chosen to be one of the chaperones – I cried until I threw up. I was so scared for her safety! She’s grown now – and it has been a series of moments of letting go – of me continually letting go of my illusion of control and the over-protective instincts which have been centered in my life for so long. It’s been a continual surrender back into trust – trusting Life, trusting her, trusting our paths – whatever they may be. It hasn’t been easy for me.
It struck me hard the other day how strongly that “Mom voice” – the one that catastrophizes everything, always imagining all possible dangers that must be avoided! – has become such a prevalent part of my thinking and personality, not just in parenting, but in every area of my life. This fear-based thinking has been controlling me for a long while now, shutting down almost everything that I start to get excited about, keeping my expectations low, silencing my voice, making me so much less than I am. I basically shut myself down at almost every turn.
I think of a business idea, then think of dozens of reasons why it won’t work, why it’s too risky, why I might as well not even bother, all of the stuff I don’t know or don’t understand, all of the resources that I don’t have. Or I look at job listings and focus on what I wouldn’t like rather than what could be fun about different jobs. I’ve got a patented, kick-ass invention – but I rarely talk about it and haven’t pursued opportunities with it as much as I could. I’ve given up so easily, time and again – snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, allowing fear and discouragement to easily overwhelm me.
I sign up for a dating site, all excited at the potential of a loving relationship and finding someone to share my life with – then get nervous and quickly close down my profile, thinking about all of the potential dangers and how it could really mess up my life – whether I get involved with the wrong guy, or caught up in a cat-fishing scheme, or attract some kind of violent stalker (thank you ever so much, Criminal Minds, for making me a paranoid wreck).
Rather than focusing on all of the good things that could happen, I’ve fallen into the dreadful habit of considering all of the potential risks, disasters, or various other “bad” things that could happen – and have managed to basically shut down my life, locking myself into a prison of my own fearful thinking. All of my caution and “control” hasn’t actually kept me safe at any time. On the contrary, terrible, painful things have still happened – and my fears and caution have only inhibited my aliveness and my life choices. My fearful thinking has shut me down and sometimes even left my will to live hanging by a thread.
Oh, sure. I’ve made a point to “live in the now” and “enjoy/appreciate every moment.” I have done that sincerely – and I am grateful for my life. I’m a generally happy person. The friend who has taken me in and is currently saving me from homelessness tells me that I’m one of the most cheerful people she has ever met. I wake up in a good mood. I’m always pleasant. It’s true. I’m good at being appreciative for what I have and feeling blessed. The reality is, though, that my life experience has been and is so diminished by my fear-based thinking. I know there is a life for me outside of this little room I spend most of my time living (hiding?) in. It’s time for me to expand my thinking and my life – and take some chances toward creating the life of my happiest dreams.
I’ve been working on living authentically for a few decades – speaking my truth (often in writing), being “real” (whatever that means, LOL), moving past my fears, releasing my shame. I’ve done a lot of things many people would be afraid to do. I’ve lived at a nudist resort. I’ve explored (a little) the world of BDSM. I’ve attended many workshops on intimacy, love, and sexuality. I’ve gotten up on stage and poured out my heart. I’ve had a kamikaze sort of style of vulnerability, though. I dive in, but then I pull myself back. I’ve done many things that might make most people feel a little (or a lot) uncomfortable – but the reality is that it’s been a long while since I’ve (voluntarily) done anything that makes me uncomfortable – or that I felt was the least bit threatening in any way. My risk-assessment hypervigilance has been off the charts – and I’m so tired of living this way.
So, here’s what I’m going to do:
I’m going to look for what could go right rather than what could go wrong.
2. I’m going to fantasize about what I want to happen, rather than what I fear could happen.
3. I’m going to take chances. I’m going to leave my profile up on the dating site and talk to some men. I’m going to move ahead with business ideas and/or job opportunities. I’m going to allow for the unexpected and move toward the unknown.
4. I’m going to allow myself to stay in a certain level of vulnerability and not pull back from it. I’m going to be curious. I’m going to admit, “I don’t know” about all kinds of things. I’ve started sharing my thoughts on Instagram Live – just jumping in and taking a chance! I’m allowing myself to be “good enough” – and to share who I am and what I do in a bigger way.
5. I’m going to trust that the Universe has my back – and lean into the belief that everything happens for a reason – and that I’m always in the right place at the right time – and that everything is always working out for my highest good – and that it’s okay to take chances, play, and even make mistakes. I can’t bubble wrap my life or keep myself or my loved ones “safe.” And there is no level of perfection required for a happy life!
6. I’m going to talk back to the voices of fear inside my own head – and allow myself to move past those fears and take chances. I’m going to do things that I don’t know how they’re going to turn out. I’m going to have adventures and meet new people and stop playing small.
7. I’m going to give my time and energy to thinking about all of the things that could go right – and to allowing whatever is ready to manifest to come forth.
8. I am going to move toward all of the things that I want in my life and stop allowing my fears to keep me stuck, playing it “safe.” I’m going to allow myself to live.
If you can relate to any of this, I’d love to hear what you’re doing to push past your fears and allow yourself to live your best life! Feel free to comment or send me an email.
Also, if you’d like to explore these ideas further and move more into living your own authentic, sacred life – I’m offering a workshop on 9/12/2021 (check it out!) – and I also offer one-on one counseling (check it out!).
Hey Everyone! Below is a description of a workshop that I’m going to be offering via Zoom on September 12th, 2021. It is a workshop that I would like to keep offering on a regular basis – and even in person one day when it is safer to gather in groups again. If you’re at all interested, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to either sign up or get on my mailing list for future events.
What would your life be like if you truly held yourself sacred? In this workshop, we’re going to explore this idea in depth.
My greatest passion in life is to create and hold safe space for people (including me) to be our full, authentic selves – in all of our uniqueness and diversity and sacredness. I want you to feel safe to explore, to question, and to be who you really are. Get in touch with your inner voice, your true feelings, desires, and beliefs. Who are you when you let go of perfectionism and approval seeking – and instead simply allow yourself to be fully human – to be YOU?
The purpose of this workshop is to help you to connect more deeply with your authentic self and to hold that Self sacred. Who would you be if you were not afraid? Do you live your life according to your social programming … or do you follow your inner compass, your own truth and values? Have you thought about it? Do you love and value yourself? Are you happy in and with your body? How about your sexuality? Your relationships? Do you use your power to create the life you want … or do you abdicate your power and feel like you’ve sold yourself out? Let’s see if we can reconnect you with your own truth and allow you to claim your power so that you can choose to live the life that you most deeply desire.
This is your invitation: *to consider what it means to you to be your authentic self *to explore your sacred sexuality (life force) – your feelings, beliefs, and desires *to develop healthy boundaries *to embrace your body with love and appreciation *to love yourself unconditionally, holding YOU sacred.
This workshop is based on my workbook, The Sexuality Reclamation Project For Women Workbook. It is not necessary to have the workbook, although it could be helpful for you. Order the workbook here.
I’m going to be sharing ideas, asking questions, inviting/guiding participants in writing exercises and guided meditation, and facilitating group discussions/shares where we can learn from each other. The size of the group will be limited to eight women – your participation level is up to you. It’s okay if you just want to listen and absorb, also okay if you want to share with the group.
If you sign up by August 31st, you pay only $89. If you sign up between September 1st and 12th, the workshop is $111.
To sign up, contact me at email@example.com. I will send you billing information, a Zoom link, and other details/logistics you’ll need to know about this beautiful day we will spend together.
Do you ever say “yes” or “okay” when you really want to say “no”? Do you default to “politeness” rather than speaking your truth, taking up space, defending yourself, and/or standing your ground regarding what you actually want? Are you able to check in with yourself and say and do what needs to be said and done to meet your own needs in any/every situation? Does “no” come easily when that is what your truth is? Do you ever endure discomfort (physical, energetic, or emotional), rather than speaking up, figuring “it’s not that bad” or “it will only last a little while”? Can you ask for what you want, need, and/or desire in each moment – even if that means saying “no” to someone else’s wants, needs, and/or desires?
If you’re anything like me, “no” often doesn’t come as easily as you would like it to come. In fact, while I’m quite tough and outspoken in the pretend conversations frequently happening in my own mind, my reality in the outside world is that I often don’t speak up for myself or speak my truth/s in the ways that so easily flow in the privacy of my mind or when I’m speaking for other people. I’m great at standing up for others, defending others, offering others support and encouragement to take up space and stand in their own truths. I want to be great at standing up for myself and my own needs and desires as well.
Just recently, a friend had a talk with me about how she witnessed me saying “yes” to a request with my words, while everything in my whole body and energy field was saying a strong “no.” That incongruency isn’t going to work in my life! I’m so adamant about ideas such as that a person can change their mind at any time in any sort of sexual encounter – and has the absolute right for the encounter to stop, no matter what is happening – even in the middle of intercourse. When “yes” becomes “no” – that’s it!
This isn’t just true in sexual encounters. This is true in every aspect of life. It’s so important to be able to speak our truth/s about what we want and don’t want! Being able to say “no” is an essential skill! Now, I realize that sometimes if we want to keep our jobs (for example), we may be required to do things we don’t particularly want to do. We have a choice, though. We can look for a different job. We can look for other solutions. We can quit. I’m not saying that it’s easy or that it’s always clear-cut. I’m simply saying that we often have more choices than we realize – and also that perhaps if we used our “no” wherever that is our truth and it is possible to say no, then that could move us toward feeling more empowerment in our lives. I want that, for sure! Do you?
How do you know if you’re a “yes” or a “no”? Feel into your body. What is your body saying to you? Do you feel tightness or restriction? Where? Do you feel lightness or opening? Where? Does it feel like a possibility or request opens you or closes you? Paying attention to these signals in your body and pausing a moment to breathe into them and allow awareness can give you the space to make decisions that are in alignment with what you really want. My friends in the tantric world, with whom I just assisted at an Energy Sex Facilitator Training, suggest that anything other than a “Hell YES!” or a “Fuck YEAH!” are a “no.” “Maybe” is a “no.” Just practice saying “no.” You can change your mind later and say “yes” if you want. The opportunity may have passed, but there also may be some room for negotiation.
Communication is so important! Being willing to be open and communicate your truth is a gift, not only to yourself, but to everyone with whom you interact. Owning your “no” is truly the first step into worlds of “yes!” and creating the life you want!
In my goal of living my life as authentically as possible, I realize how important my “no” is. Especially when interacting with other people – in order for people to be willing to have more intimate relationships with me, they have to be able to trust that when I say “yes” that I mean it – and I’m not just defaulting to politeness or people-pleasing, but that I’m actually a “Hell YES!” Being able to say “no” is an important step in building trust and authentic relationships, which is absolutely what I want. Hell YES! to that! Also, it’s okay to be awkward! I don’t have to do this perfectly! This is a new skill for me! I mean, yes, I’d mastered it when I was two years old, but that mastery was lost in further socialization to please others – even at the cost of sacrificing Self. I’m unlearning so much! It’s okay! I’ve got this! You’ve got this! Perfection not required!
It’s a daily practice and I choose to have fun doing it. Yes, it’s out of my comfort zone. Yes, it requires me to pay more attention and to check in with myself when anything comes up. It’s not that hard! I just need to get out of the habit of trying to respond to everything immediately as if other people don’t have the capacity to wait a moment (or however long it takes) for me to check in with myself. The PAUSE is important! I give myself permission to pause regularly and check in with me! I choose to be willing to disappoint other people if it means taking care of me and being true to myself! I choose to live in my Hell YES! and stop pushing my meh’s and maybe’s toward reluctant or obligatory yeses. I don’t owe anyone my time, attention, or life energy! I want to be as clear as possible in my energy going forward, this barometer of feeling guiding my way.
I just received an open invitation to spend some time with someone. I’ve just finished a 16 day workshop where I was surrounded by about 30 people most of the time. All I want right now is time alone. I saw myself trying to talk myself into making plans with this person. “She’s only here a few days. It would be a good opportunity to talk – blah, blah, blah.” You know what? NO! No, I’m not going to talk myself into something that is most definitely not a Hell Yeah! Yes, it could be a good experience. But no, it’s not what I really want right now. So, “no” gets to be my answer. I don’t need to be afraid of missing out or of letting someone else down. I need to trust my Inner Guidance and Knowing – and allow myself to hear my inner “yes” and “no” – and act accordingly.
This post has been dealing with the ability to say “no.” Next time, I’ll talk about the ability to accept “no” from others with grace and ease, and without becoming discouraged or defeated. Receiving “no” can have its own challenges! A lot of the time, we avoid that by not even asking for what we want. Let’s look at that! I’d love to hear your stories of your relationship with “no”! Feel free to share below! Also, if you’d like some support around your choices, self-love, body image, and/or sacred sexuality, please check out what I have to offer!
Several years ago, I followed very clear guidance I received on what to do with ideas about an invention, which were gifted to me during my experience of driving repeatedly between Florida and Michigan – and the resulting pain that accrued in my body from those long drives. For the full story and more information on my invention, click here.
I applied for design and utility patents. I sought out manufacturers for the various components and found the perfect company to put it all together. I fired the first manufacturing company I’d hired and went with another that I liked better, even though that meant sacrificing thousands of dollars. I assured myself that it was a business lesson well learned – and better to change course than to throw good money after bad. I went through all of the processes – getting licenses, insurance, permits, etc. – all of which seemed like a big deal and a lot to go through. And just before my product was to officially launch on Amazon, I fell and broke both arms. Go, me!
To make a long story shorter (because this isn’t even the point I’m getting to), my great idea that I was sure would make me millions, didn’t get very far at all. I sold a few dozen. Most of the people who tried them really liked them, but my business didn’t expand, as I’d been sure it would – by word of mouth, the bit of promotions that I was doing online, and by having sales booths at local events. I ran out of money, motivation, and trust in the Universe.
Frankly, I was angry. Build it and they will come? Do the work and the Universe will rise up to meet you and open the doors you need opened? Have a positive attitude and you will create what you desire? Crap, crap, and more CRAP!!! I did all of that! I invested everything! I believed and committed 100% and made the effort! I got counseling from the Small Business Development Council. I wrote to everyone I could think of – and got invited to The American Dreams Academy by the Home Shopping Network. I did everything right! And then I ended up going through a bankruptcy and spending the next few years, not financially secure as I’d expected, but literally struggling to survive, working 60-80 hours a week and still not making enough money to even have my own place, much less a savings account. My bitterness at the Universe and my disillusionment and resentment were enormous. WTF?!?
Fortunately, I had good friends who allowed me to rent a room in their homes. I stayed in one place for a couple of years, in another for a little over a year. When the pandemic hit, I’d already turned in my resignation at the high school where I was working at the time. I was planning to move from Florida to Colorado, where I’d already lined up a massage license. I did make it to Colorado, but due to the pandemic and being in several high risk categories for Covid19, I couldn’t work as a massage therapist. I actually tried to do so and had a panic attack, running out of the tiny, unventilated office before my first client even showed up. I couldn’t collect unemployment since I’d voluntarily resigned from my teaching job – and I watched my already meager savings rapidly evaporate. I was given some respite from receiving the stimulus checks and my tax return, as well as a few cash gifts from friends, which have (so far) allowed me to keep my car. I am coming perilously close to that not being the case, but am maintaining my faith that everything will work out.
Here’s why I’m keeping the faith – and some of what I’ve learned from these past few years: even though I don’t have financial security right now, I do have a roof over my head. In fact, I split time between the homes of family and a friend, so I have two roofs over my head. I do have food to eat. I still have my computer and free internet access. I have moments of stress, fear, sadness, and grief – but my life is mostly quite happy. I spend my time with people who love me – and they love me just for me, not for money or anything I can give them, which hasn’t always been the case with some “friends” and “loved ones” in my life previously, who have used me over the years. I’ve also learned to receive, which hasn’t been easy for me because I’ve felt good about myself for being a giver. Receiving feels vulnerable, whereas giving felt more like I had control and power. I am learning the important of balance – and that receiving is as essential/important as giving.
This time during the pandemic has actually been a healing opportunity for me. I spend a lot of my time writing and doing creative projects that bring me joy and pleasure. Yes, I’ve been applying to jobs all of these months – and while the closed doors have been frustrating and discouraging, the reality is that they’ve given me the time and opportunity to publish my own books and work on other projects of mine.
But more than that, here is what I want to say: had I initially met with the success that I expected years ago, had I made the millions I was expecting – I would have missed out on some very important people, connections, events, opportunities, and lessons in my life. For one thing, this website and my online healing/coaching practice wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t have gone down this road – I would have been in my own little house somewhere writing novels and enjoying my solitude. I wouldn’t have moved to Colorado or spent time in Arizona, because I could have bought my family a house near me in Florida.
Had I not moved to Colorado, I wouldn’t have found Awkwardly Zen – my friends and tribe, which has become a very important part of my life. I wouldn’t have given talks on Self-Love and Sacred Sexuality and Boundaries. That wouldn’t have opened up other doors to other interviews and classes and opportunities to help people. Yes, there is still not much showing monetarily, but the connections I’m making with people are priceless. Had I not been spending some of my time in Arizona, I wouldn’t have been able to assist at a Sex Energy Training in Cornville upcoming in July, 2021.
There are countless ways my “failure” to become financially wealthy, when I expected to meet with that kind of success, has had a positive impact on my life – even though on the surface financial insecurity may seem only negative. Finally for now, though, had my ego not been broken down enough for me to get out of my own way, I would probably not have had the courage to publish my books. I had to get to the IDGAF stage in order to own ALL of me – and to be willing to stand in the world in my own truth, authenticity, and vulnerability. I had to get to the point where I felt like I had nothing left to lose in order to claim my own life, strength, power, and identity in a very public way. (Not everyone has to get to that point for the same result, but I’m a very stubborn Taurus who craves comfort and tends to be conflict-avoidant, so yeah – I had to be dragged kicking and screaming, my typical MO, LOL).
It must have been necessary for me to be broken down and to face possible homelessness, and to experience the fear and despair of living in uncertainty about the future, in order to develop more compassion and empathy and a deeper perspective on life. I’m not saying I have everything all figured out (far from that!) – but I am miles down the road from where I started – and these paths I’ve traveled, as painful and scary as they’ve been at times – and as joyous and healing as they’ve been at other times, have been essential to my overall life path. This brings me to the conclusion that maybe the Universe knows what it’s doing after all.
There is no amount of money that would have been worth missing out on the friends I’ve met or the lessons I’ve learned or the opportunities I’ve had – and will have – because I didn’t get what I thought I wanted. After years of despair, discouragement, and struggling just to survive, living with near constant stress, I’ve actually had a very healing year this past year – a year where I’ve been nurtured and sustained by family and friends (who’ve supplied me with shelter, food, and even some occasional cash to keep me afloat). I haven’t been busting my ass, working 60-80 hours a week just trying to get by, like I had the previous few years. Weirdly, all of my needs are met without even having a paycheck! I’m not saying there’s no stress or that I won’t need a paycheck (or other influx of money) soon – just that my daily life is actually much better now – and my financial situation (thanks to not having to pay rent, etc.) isn’t appreciably different from when I was overwhelmed with and exhausted from work, barely staying ahead of the steady influx of bills.
That said, I’m starting to sell my invention again, hoping to help as many people as possible and finally make my millions. I’m hoping that this time, Divine Timing is on my side. And if it doesn’t work out that way for some reason, then I’m going to trust that’s because there are better paths for me and more important things on the horizon for my life. I’m going to put my faith in Divine Right Order and know that all is well. Maybe I’ll even stop stomping around and complaining that I did everything “right” and petulantly questioning why am I not being appropriately rewarded for my efforts? There is wisdom far greater than that of my ego at work. I’m going to lean into that and trust my path, trust the NOW that unfolds in each moment before me. Live there.
Embracing Awkward is a compilation of some of my poems and short writings I’ve collected over the past 30 years. It is my journey into accepting and loving myself in all of my humanness.
I’ve been contemplating my relationship to “Awkward” lately – how I’ve avoided that feeling my whole life as much as possible. In my book, I tell the story of how when my daughter was little, if she sensed an awkward moment coming in a movie or TV show, she would jump off of the couch and go flying out of the room at a dead run, yelling, “Tell me when it’s over!” I felt a little sad that she did that – because she missed all of the best parts! The funny, the heart-felt, the poignant, the very human moments that were what actually made the story.
One night as I was trying to fall asleep, it occurred to me that I do that in my real life. Instead of hanging around for the awkward moments – and allowing whatever might come (laughter, tears, arguments, awkward conversations, the unknown), I have my own version of running out of the room, avoiding having to deal with anything that makes me feel the least bit awkward or uncomfortable. How sad! And I not only do that in relationship to other people, but I’ve also had a way of closing myself down inside – that separates me from my own Self – from my own life force, my inner voice, my feelings and passions and desires.
As I’ve faced loss, betrayals, disappointments, and incredibly painful moments in my life, I’ve battened down my feelings with my very oft repeated mantra, “It doesn’t matter.” That is spiritual bypassing, in case you don’t recognize it. I’d tell myself that the Universe has a better plan or that everything happens for a reason. I’d coach myself to “put love first” and let slide the things that would pull me out of love by (rightfully) upsetting me. “It doesn’t matter.” “All that matters is love.” I’ve been an expert at spiritual bypassing for decades – but that isn’t the whole story.
The other part of the story is that spiritually bypassing was useful in helping me to avoid dealing with awkward situations and feelings – both with other people, as well as inside myself. It’s the inside myself that really concerns me. I mean, yes both – with other people too – but if I’m gaslighting myself, denying myself access to my own true feelings, that’s a major problem for me. And yes, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing when I kept repeating to myself, “That’s okay. It doesn’t really matter.”
When I’ve said, “It doesn’t matter” over and over, the message I was getting internally was that I don’t matter – that my feelings, desires, wants, disappointments, dreams, etc. – none of that matters. I was shutting myself down. I’m well aware that when we shut down any part of ourselves, when we dim any area of our emotions, we shut down and dim everything. We can’t shut down our disappointment without also shutting down our joy and hope. We can’t shut down our anger without also shutting down our passions and love. I mean, yes, of course I still have felt love – but the reality is that when I tamped down my other emotions so much, there was a sort of deadening in me that’s difficult to explain. I almost felt like I was bound inside – as though each denial had placed a layer of gauze over me until I was nearly mummified.
“It doesn’t matter” and “I don’t care,” when they aren’t true, have done incalculable damage to my Inner Being and to my relationship with Self. I’ve done this dance to some extent my whole life, between burying my feelings, just going through the motions of life, then excavating my feelings and allowing my vulnerable, awkward self to step out into the light. Then back into hiding, only able to take so much before I needed the “peace” of numbness, checking out. Of course, my Spirit doesn’t allow that for very long before she rises back up and demands to be seen and to be able to breathe.
I’m currently in a phase of stripping off the gauze and allowing myself to see what’s there – and while I’m doing that, to dance with Awkward. I’ve personified him in my mind. I sat with him the other day, feeling the physical and emotional sensations I have in my body in his presence. What I noticed, is that much like fear and excitement, Awkward produces those same sort of vibes and reactions in my body – a fight or flight or freeze response, tingling all over, nausea, a sense of something that feels like dread, but might be excitement. It’s an interesting experience, to stay physically and emotionally present to Awkward. I’m going to try to do that more often – because I really want to set my Spirit free. I deeply want to live from my own truths and to follow my passions and desires and inner voice. I can’t do that if I keep running from Awkward – because a lot of the things that matter to me are sitting right there next to Awkward – and the only way to get to them is to approach him. I’m training myself to think of each potential encounter with Awkward as an opportunity to move toward, rather than a threat to run from (respecting, of course, when I don’t have the energy to deal with such an encounter in the moment).
One thing I have noticed is that as I move into Awkward, just like when I move into fear – it’s not as scary or as painful as I’d anticipated. On the contrary, the further I step forward, the more they seem to dissipate – and I’m left with moments that just feel … real. Normal, even. The heart-racing sensation shifts into an inner calm as I notice I’m still breathing and that nothing terrible has happened to me. Part of this has been made possible by the deep commitment to self-love that I have made over these past years. I know that I have my own back – and that regardless of what happens, I will come away still loving and supporting myself. I may need to lick my wounds, but at least I am no longer denying they are there – that’s a big step in the direction I want to be heading. And you know what? I believe that if I can manage to stay open, even to my disappointments, that something else wonderful might come along to fill that open space – since I’m no longer stuffing it with the “it doesn’t matter” gauze.
Below is a video performance of a poem that I wrote called, Oh Awkward, My Lover. It is not in this book, but will likely be in a future collection. I want to warn you, should you decide to watch it, that it does mention a private anatomical body part. I’m embracing Awkward in my life as much as I can, which is not all of the time – but moving in that direction. Sometimes, we may need to run and hide from Awkward and rest and rebuild our strength. I do invite you to consider and explore your relationship with Awkward. It can be very rewarding. Also, as more of us embrace Awkward, it creates space for others to be themselves too. Can you imagine the wonderful world we could create if we all felt free and able to be and express our authentic selves?
I’ve got boundaries on my mind. It’s a topic I’ve contemplated for decades, but I feel like through a confluence of circumstances, I am finally stepping into my own truth and power around boundaries. I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out, but I am saying that I’ve come a long ways down this path from where I used to be – and a great deal of that has to do with having learned to hold myself sacred and love myself unconditionally. I’ve been working on those two things diligently.
Here’s the thing: when I hold myself (my life, my heart, my body, my sexuality, my time, my skills and talents, my training and experience, etc.) sacred, and when I am committed to loving myself unconditionally, then healthy boundaries become not only easier, but more clearly necessary and assertively expressed and defended.
Now, my expression of my boundaries is not necessarily “perfect” or “ideal.” I had an experience the other day where I may have been able to handle a situation better if I’d had time to think about it. In the moment, I was not afforded the luxury of time, so I just spoke my boundary imperfectly – and that’s okay. The essential thing is that I didn’t allow someone else to steamroll over me. I didn’t allow something that I found unacceptable to continue. I expressed that this wasn’t the time or place for what this person wanted to talk about. I set a clear boundary around what was acceptable to me. I was polite, but not people-pleasing or overly concerned about protecting the other person’s feelings (which had totally been my M.O. previously).
This happened in front of a group of over 30 people. I did express a few minutes later, openly, that perhaps I hadn’t handled establishing the boundary I needed as well or thoughtfully as I could have. However, the point to take away – is that the essentialthing is to express our boundary, particularly when someone is crossing it, no matter how well or poorly we do so. Our first obligation is to protect ourselves and our own interests. Other people get to take care of their own emotions and behaviors around whatever is being expressed. I can be as kind and considerate as possible, but it is most important that I express whatever boundary I need in the moment, that I stand up for myself and my needs and rights.
So, what are boundaries and why do we need them?
Simply put, a boundary is “a line that marks the limits of an area” (Google). In an interpersonal sense, boundaries are the lines we create that mark the limits of the various areas in our lives – what we are willing/not willing to allow into our lives, relationships, and experiences. Boundaries are expectations of how we want to be treated, and enforcing our boundaries includes how we handle it when someone crosses our lines. We can have boundaries in virtually every area of our lives – work, personal, sexual, family, friends, strangers, clients, community members, etc.
We need boundaries for a variety of reasons, particularly so that we can protect our own lives and interests. Other reasons include having a healthy separation between ourselves and other people. As the old saying goes, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Boundaries allow us to establish our own sense of self and to feel safe within our own domain – and to determine how we choose to interact with others. Boundaries help to ensure that we are not taken advantage of, or violated, or abused. Boundaries help to make it clear what we are willing to accept in our lives – and what we are not, so that people can know what is expected of them in their interactions with us. Boundaries help to create intimacy – because they allow the safe container of being able to express our needs, wants, desires, and limits – when we know that the other person respects/will respect our boundaries. Boundaries also help social and business interactions to run more smoothly.
So, a quick look at a few different types of boundaries. We may have work boundaries such as that we will only do work that we are paid for, we have certain salary requirements, we will not work “off the clock” or hours outside of our contract, or perform tasks that are outside of what we’ve agreed to do. These boundaries prevent employers or clients from taking advantage of us. We may have a boundary regarding not dating anyone that we work with – because we don’t want to risk having awkward feelings in the workplace resulting from a failed relationship attempt, for example. See, we get to decide how we want our lives to be. We get to be at choice about the experiences that we want to create for ourselves – and we get to choose what “rules”, “lines,” or boundaries we want to have. That is our right. We also get to choose how important various boundaries are to us – and how we will handle each situation if our boundaries are violated. More on that later.
Other boundaries could include how we allow our family and friends to treat us. We may have boundaries around other people expressing their opinions about how we should be living, what we should be eating, who we should be dating (or not), how we should be acting in our relationships. In fact, we may put a moratorium on “shoulds” and have a boundary along the lines of, “Respect me and my space and choices – and don’t tell me how to live or give me unsolicited advice if you want to spend time with me or be in my life.” There’s the line. Some people have had to clearly state boundaries with their families at holidays, “Don’t make comments or suggestions about what I eat or drink. Don’t say anything about my weight if you want me to show up. My weight is not up for discussion – and if it is brought up, I will leave.” You can be as clear and direct and firm in your boundaries as you like.
Here’s the thing: you get to choose how you’re willing to be treated. You get to draw the lines. You get to say, “Here’s how far you can go with me” or “Here’s what you can expect from me” or “Here’s what I am willing to agree to.” And then you get to expect for your boundaries to be respected and honored! You get to expect the people in your life to treat you the way you’ve made it clear that you want to be treated – or to expect a change in the relationship. Now, some boundaries are more important than others – and there are some people to whom you may choose to give a little bit of leeway – but when it comes to important boundaries, I think that we need to deeply consider how much we are going to value and respect our own selves and lives, even if it means letting go of some relationships. Maybe letting go is what is needed to wake someone up – and you might choose to give them one last chance if they seem to have learned their lesson. But really, one last chance, otherwise they won’t believe you are serious about your boundaries – and they’ll come to believe that you’ll always forgive them and take them back. I think it’s a mistake to ever let anyone believe that.
Communicating our boundaries – not as hard as we often make it out to be.
Think about it. Why do we find it so hard to communicate our boundaries? I think that for a lot of us, people-pleasing is our default setting. Many of us don’t hold ourselves sacred and don’t truly feel the right to even have boundaries. Some of us don’t feel like we are important enough or deserve to have boundaries – or we worry that we’ll be “more trouble than we’re worth” if we have strong and clear boundaries around how we’re treated or what we’re willing to do/not willing to do. We may be afraid of losing jobs, relationships, approval, and/or respect if we speak up for ourselves and our own needs. We may be afraid of being seen as selfish or “high maintenance” or some other undesirable label. We are often afraid of disappointing or displeasing someone else – but what about how we disappoint ourselves? Is that okay? I don’t think that’s okay! I am the last person that I want to disappoint! I want to put myself first. Yes, with consideration for others, but managing my own life is my job.
I’m not waiting around for someone else to read my mind about what I want, desire, and need – and hoping they choose to give it to me. I’m also not going to silently endure mistreatment – or even being treated in ways that I simply don’t like – because I’m afraid to say no (for whatever reason). NO!
I only know this because I’ve spent so much of my life doing those exact things. I’ve endured years of being disappointed in marriages because I wasn’t clearly stating what I wanted, needed, desired, and expected. I wasn’t setting clear boundaries. I wasn’t saying, “No, that doesn’t work for me.” Rather, I was busy trying to protect his feelings, trying to make his life happy so that he would think I was the best wife in the world, trying to prop up his ego when he was disappointing me. I was protecting him, not myself – and actually, not the relationship either. Relationships don’t survive when we sacrifice ourselves and allow our needs to go unmet, or our (spoken or unspoken) boundaries to be violated.
On the rare occasions that I’ve worked for other people (I’ve been self-employed most of my life), I’ve accepted being grossly underpaid. I’ve accepted working off the clock for free rather than being paid the overtime they should have been paying me for the excellent job I was doing. I’ve accepted supervisors treating me with less than respect, talking to me like I was below them rather than like an equal human being. That is unacceptable to me. Looking back, I wonder why I wasn’t speaking up for myself and setting clear boundaries – and walking away from any relationship, job, or situation that wasn’t working out for me and my life. Why did I stay? Why did I put up with the things I put up with? Why didn’t I even speak up for myself? Why didn’t I hold myself sacred and have my own back? (Answer: I just hadn’t learned to do that yet. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.” I’m doing better now. I am on a campaign of fierce self-love and holding clear and firm boundaries.)
What are the things that are holding you back from speaking your truths? Asking for what you want? Clearly and openly stating your boundaries?
What if you weren’t trying to seek approval from others?
What if you weren’t trying to protect someone else’s feelings?
What if you weren’t trying to manage someone else’s opinions/feelings/impressions of you?
What if you weren’t people-pleasing or over-giving?
What if you felt so protective of yourself (your time, your energy, your heart, your skills and talents, etc.) that it was easy to say “no” and to set parameters around what you were willing to do/accept – and not willing to do/accept? And to enforce and defend those parameters?
Same thing sexually and/or in relationships – what if you were so protective of your heart, your body, your sexuality, and your life – that it was easy to say “no” (and “yes”) and to set parameters around what you were willing to do/experience – and to enforce and defend those limits? And how would it feel if it were also easy to ask for what you do want – and respect and honor other people’s boundaries around whether they are willing to give you that or not?
What if you allowed yourself to stop caring so much about what other people think – and to deeply care about what you think and feel? (while respecting others’ boundaries, of course).
People ask, but wouldn’t that make you selfish and inconsiderate of others? No. It would make you honest, authentic, and a clear communicator – rather than fake, passive-aggressive, resentful, depressed, and all of the other ways we handle self-betrayal and an inability to clearly ask for what we want/need/desire, and effectively communicate our own boundaries.
Stop looking for outside approval! It’s an inside job! Your approval is the only approval you need! Yes, it feels nice to have confirmation/approval/validation from other people – but don’t ever rely on that or become dependent on that. Learn to trust your own counsel. Yes, be open to new ideas – but you don’t have to accept them – you get to consider and choose your own truth, your own path!
Don’t be concerned about being “right” – be concerned about being true to yourself, protecting yourself and your interests, and honoring YOU and your needs. We all make mistakes and are human. We also have our own unique perspectives, values, and desires for how things go in our lives. We can give ourselves and each other grace regarding this reality. And … we can pay attention to whether someone is making unintentional mistakes or whether they are consistently (and possibly intentionally) violating our boundaries. Also, boundary violations don’t necessarily mean that the other person is doing something “wrong” or “bad” – just that they are creating an experience for you that you don’t want or choose to have in your life. You do get to be at choice and to express your preferences – and if there is incompatibility with another person, you get to decide how you want to handle that.
Defending our boundaries.
Our boundaries are only as good as our ability to communicate them, defend them, and enforce them, aren’t they?
Before I continue with this thought, I want to offer you this reminder: we don’t have to like everyone. Not everyone has to like us. We don’t have to try to please everyone (or anyone) and we don’t have to take care of other people’s feelings. That’s their job. We are all in charge of taking care of our own feelings and lives. Yes, there may be many times when we want to consider the impact of our words and choices on other people – and we still need to be sure that even in doing so that we are honoring ourselves, our own needs, and our own boundaries.
I know that for most of my life, I have not clearly communicated my boundaries to other people. I have been too shy, too afraid, too worried about hurting someone’s feelings, or too unclear about my own worth to have clearly stated what I wanted, what I didn’t want, and what was important to me. I suffered through many situations simply because I didn’t say what was true for me or what I needed.
For example, I was a caregiver for my Mom the last four years of her life. She became increasingly disabled and needed more and more help. It wasn’t until the end when it became too much for me to handle that we hired another caregiver to help me take care of her. The thing was, long before that point, I was overwhelmed and I not only wasn’t asking for help, I wasn’t setting any boundaries. Mom wanted to get up early, so I “had” to get up early every morning, make her my first priority, and do all of the things that she wanted me to do before I started my own day. That was incredibly depressing for me – to never feel like I got to spend any mornings the way I enjoyed spending my mornings – like my life was just this series of obligations and totally out of my control. It didn’t occur to me back then to negotiate terms that would have made that situation more livable for me. I could have suggested hiring another caregiver sooner. We could have talked about letting me sleep in a little bit some mornings – and how we could work that out so that her needs were met, while allowing me a little freedom. We could have asked my siblings to participate more in her care. There were so many things we could have done differently that would have made the burden easier on me – but I never asked.
So, step one is to realize what you want your boundaries to be – and communicate them to the necessary people as needed. Pay attention to your own needs, desires, wants, feelings, etc. And realize that all of those things may change from moment to moment, so keep checking in with yourself – and keep communicating how you’re feeling and what you would like or how you would like things to be. I believe that a big component of this, once again, is to love yourself and hold yourself sacred. Many of us would totally stand up for someone else we love – but fail over and over again to stand up for ourselves. We need to develop that same passion and fierceness in standing up for ourselves.
Once we’ve clearly communicated our boundaries, the next step is to honor them. By that, I mean that we pay attention to our own boundaries – and defend them as needed. If I’ve made it perfectly clear to someone that I don’t want to be called before a certain time of the morning – and they keep calling me before that time, then I have to choose how I handle that. In the beginning, I may gently remind them of my boundary. After a couple of reminders, I may get more firm and say, “Hey, I’ve asked you to not call me before 8:00 am, but you’ve continued calling me before then. If you do it again, unless it’s an emergency, then I’m going to block your number.” That may be more extreme than you want to be – you get to choose how to handle it. My point is that there are consequences when I’ve clearly asked for my boundary to be respected and someone keeps ignoring/violating that boundary. I don’t need/want someone in my life who isn’t going to honor boundaries that I’ve clearly expressed.
Depending on what the boundary is, you might choose to have increasing consequences. Often, parents do this fairly easily: “If you do that again, we’re not going to get pizza Friday night. Keep doing it and you’re going to lose your phone and computer too – and push it again and that will be for the entire weekend.” It seems like parents feel like they have the power to set limits … and I wonder why so often, we don’t feel like we have the power to set limits in our own lives. That’s something that we could contemplate – a whole other rabbit hole I don’t want to dive into right now – but definitely power dynamics seem to play a role in this.
So, what are the consequences going to be if/when people violate your boundaries? I mean, it’s worth considering whether your boundaries are reasonable and fair. If you come to the conclusion that they are, then what are reasonable, fair, and enforceable consequences if/when those boundaries are violated? When someone doesn’t accept your “no” – what are you going to do? How far will you let them push you?
Here’s what I notice: if I speak up for myself immediately, without hesitation, I don’t have time to get angry. I haven’t sat in resentment about how this person is violating my boundaries, so I’m already not as emotional as I would be if I waited to say something. So, I try to say something right away – even if I haven’t thought of the “perfect” thing to say – or haven’t had time to think it through completely – or even if I haven’t clearly expressed a boundary previously and find myself needing to do so now. I just need to say something, no matter how inadequate or unrefined that may be. It can be helpful to have some phrases handy that you don’t even have to think about, such as:
“This isn’t working for me. We need to figure out a different arrangement.”
“That isn’t going to work for me. Let’s talk about how we can adjust it so that it works for both/all of us.”
“I’ve been clear about ________, and this isn’t okay with me. How are we going to fix it?”
“This isn’t what we agreed to, and this isn’t okay with me.”
“I don’t like that. Could we try this?”
What other phrases can you think of that you could use to express that you are not okay with the boundary violation in progress? Collect some applicable phrases for yourself so that you are ready to speak up for yourself as needed – without the sort of anger and frustration that so often erupts from feelings of helplessness and despair because we don’t know how to – or are unable to – speak up for ourselves. People who can calmly and clearly state their needs and boundaries don’t often tend to (or need to) get angry. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with anger either. Anger can be a strong signal that someone has violated your boundaries. Some situations deserve anger.
Finally (for now – this is just scratching the surface of this topic), you get to choose how serious each of your boundaries is for you – and what the consequences are if someone doesn’t respect them. There can be smaller consequences, such as, “If you don’t plan ahead and give me at least two days notice, then my answer will be no.” Or, “If you are more than 15 minutes late without giving me the courtesy of contacting me, I will leave.” Those consequences can escalate however you want them to. For example: “If you are late again without contacting me, I will not make any future plans with you.” Some people don’t care if someone is on time or not. For some people, it is very important to them. We get to decide. If it feels to us like an important part of respect and consideration for our time, then we probably don’t want to have someone in our life who repeatedly disrespects us and our time by repeatedly being late without even bothering to check in. If we decide that the person is worth the aggravation, then we can adjust our boundary for them, accept them as they are, and bring a book to entertain us while we wait. I can’t say that, though, without thinking that we teach people how to treat us by what we tolerate. Think carefully about what you are willing to tolerate – and ask yourself if that serves you and your life.
A little over four years ago, in a freak accident, I fell and broke both of my arms. Rods and screws in both wrists, the works. People tend to expect some crazy story – because, really – how does someone break both of their arms at the same time? Well, I was simply walking through a parking garage and stepped in a small hole I hadn’t noticed, lost my balance and fell forward. I caught myself with my arms out in sort of a push-up position (something that I had actually done many times before in my life with no injury at all) and watched with a sort of disbelief and horror as both of my arms visibly snapped above my wrists.
The reason I’m bringing this up today – is that I fell in virtually the exact same way this morning. I was helping my friend move some stuff in her driveway. I stepped on an uneven part of the pavement and before I knew it, I was catching myself with my arms in front of me. Just like in that parking garage, I hadn’t had even a second to think – I just instinctively landed with my arms like that. There were some metal bars that my hands landed on and it stung for a second, but I walked away from the experience uninjured. I immediately felt like there was a message for me there – partly to do with trusting the Universe and partly to do with nothing happens that isn’t meant to happen.
When I was a kid, I was a rough and tumble athlete. I fell on purpose regularly, practiced falling, imagining myself a football or baseball hero. On the tennis court, I reached for a ball or even dove for a ball many times, landing myself in a tumble. No harm done. And then there were the many times that I rolled my ankle wearing the slide shoes that my mom always told me to stop wearing because they didn’t provide enough support … and I kept rolling my ankle and falling. I am no stranger to falling – I know how to take a fall, how to roll out of a fall, how to catch myself. And yet, that one time, that ONE time, I had a very serious injury. WHY? Also, I’m older now. Why didn’t today’s fall hurt me? (I mean, I’m grateful that it didn’t, but it got me thinking.)
I learned a lot of lessons when I broke both arms – lessons that I wouldn’t have learned if something so extreme hadn’t happened. I learned who was there for me in my life and who wasn’t. My best friend at the time was someone who I had helped in multiple ways over the previous years, giving her money, babysitting for her, feeding her and her child regularly, doing all kinds of things for her. I found out the true state of our friendship when I was completely helpless. She was not willing to lift one single finger to help me. Ours was a one-way friendship. I could have seen that earlier, honestly maybe did see that, but ignored it because I loved her child so much. Nobody could have told me. Words would not have convinced me. How she treated me when I was in such desperate need was the only thing that could have made me see the light. After all I’d done for her and all of the meals I’d made for her, when I didn’t have the use of my hands … there were no meals for me, there was no help for me – she had nothing for me.
I was renting a room in the house she shared with her baby’s father at the time of the accident. I actually had to leave and go stay with someone else because my “friend” was so unwilling to help me. Can you imagine? Even so, after I’d healed and returned “home,” I let it all slide and allowed her to continue using me for another year. When her car died, I let her borrow my car all of the time, at my own expense and inconvenience. I rearranged my life for her to make her life easier. I clearly hadn’t learned yet at that point to have healthy boundaries. So, the Universe sent another painful lesson.
She found some other people, a couple, who would take her in, help her out financially, and provide her with transportation, so she took her child and left the house we were living in to go live with them. This wouldn’t have been so bad, I suppose, except that she abruptly cut off all communication with me and refused to allow her son to interact with me. This was a child who had spent almost the entirety of his first five years of life with me up to that point and I loved him like my own, we were very close. Now, he wasn’t allowed to even wave at me or look at me if we saw each other in the neighborhood, much less talk with me. It was a very painful and confusing time for both the child and me. Fortunately, his father and I remained friends and I’ve remained able to have contact with my godson through him. Now, what were the lessons there?
For starters, I learned to not ignore the signs of relationships being imbalanced or unfair. I learned to develop boundaries around how I was willing to be treated and valued in any sort of relationship (I had more lessons in that arena with a very disappointing business relationship after that, but it’s all lessons – I learn and grow). I learned more about myself, actually, and how to prioritize myself more in my own life and relationships. I learned that I needed to cultivate more mutual relationships – and that I needed to be able to receive as well as to give. I also learned that when I have needs, the Universe provides – often in completely unexpected ways.
See, when I was completely helpless, an angel who was a retired nurse stepped up to help me. At the time, she was more of an acquaintance than a friend – we didn’t know each other well. Still, she took me into her home and took care of me for two months and became one of my dearest friends. I one hundred percent believe that friendship unfolding as it has was – and is – Divinely orchestrated. A very important lesson for me in that situation was to learn to receive. That’s a lesson that I still struggle with a bit, because I’m much more comfortable with giving than I am with receiving. I like to be generous. I like to help people. And the reality is that I’ve always struggled with being able to accept other people’s help and generosity. A core fear from my childhood has been that of being “more trouble than I’m worth.” So, I’ve tried not to be any trouble at all. I’ve tried to be helpful, useful, worth having around.
The Universe has brought me to my knees multiple times in the past several years, where I’ve had no other choice than to accept help from others – even when I’ve had nothing to offer in return. When I was having cancer treatment in another state, several friends stepped up to take me into their homes and give me sanctuary and healing space. When I couldn’t even hold a fork, my friend fed me – nourishing not just my body, but my spirit. I’ve struggled financially over the past few years and I’ve had friends rent inexpensive rooms to me in their homes. And now, during this pandemic, when I’ve been unemployed and come to the point of having no money to even pay a little rent, family and friends have taken me in. It’s been humbling and not easy for me emotionally, but I have to say that it’s also made me feel loved and valued for me – not for what I can do for others, but just for me, just for existing. That is a lesson/message that I didn’t even know how much I needed. I’m still processing that one.
So, back to this morning. The fall that didn’t hurt me. The message that the Universe has got me and that my life is Divinely Guided. I’ve spent these past many months looking forward with some fear and trepidation and, honestly, despair. What would become of me? How was I going to survive? I didn’t see a path forward for me. I’m only 56 – was this going to be the end of the road for me? I haven’t been able to find a job since my job ended last June – and not for a lack of trying. I started this online healing/counseling practice on my own, but it isn’t even close to supporting me (yet). I’ve been worrying how I was going to make it. And then I got this message this morning.
The security of the money that I used to have was an illusion. It’s all gone now. It didn’t protect me. And yet, here I am. Still alive. Still have a roof over my head. Still am not going hungry – food is being provided for me. My life is still good even though I barely have any money (super grateful for the survival checks!). I could start panicking if I look a few months ahead and wonder if I’m going to be able to keep making my car payment or if I’m going to lose my car too. But I’m not going to do that. You know why? Because I’m going to trust the Universe. Because when I fell and didn’t get hurt this morning, the message I received was that the Universe has me – and that everything happens for a Divine Purpose, in the right way and at the right time. The Universe has always provided for me, and even though from my limited human perspective I don’t see how that will happen in the future, I do expect that to continue. Nothing happens that isn’t meant to happen, and what’s meant to happen, happens. I may not always understand it, but I do have faith in that. I’m holding onto that faith.
I’m working on a lot of projects, both personal and professional, and I wanted to share some links to some of what I’ve got going on. I’m more active right now on my blogs than on my IG accounts, but there’s some good content you might enjoy on all of the following links.
I’m excited to introduce a new blog that I’ve been thinking about doing for over two years now. It’s about my journey in managing my blood sugar naturally after a diabetes diagnosis. It isn’t just what supplements I’m taking, what foods I’m eating, how much I’m exercising, etc. It does (or will) include some of that too – things I’ve found helpful, recipes I like – but it’s more about what’s going on with me in various aspects of my life as I navigate this path – and how I’m dealing with my emotions and mental health, which have also been impacted by this diagnosis. When I was first diagnosed, I was scared and confused and didn’t know what to do. I’m hoping this blog, My Dance With Diabetes, will help people feel less alone and offer some good ideas.
On my personal blog, I share about different things that capture my attention as I move along this path of life.
On Instagram, I have three accounts:
Red Flags In Relationships – which is just like it sounds: thoughts about what signs to look for in relationships as warnings that you may want to pay closer attention to whether or not this is a beneficial relationship for you – and what part you may be playing in those dynamics. I also have a workbook out on Amazon, based on these red flags, that helps you to assess your own relationship/s and how they are meeting/matching up with (or not) your relationship goals and desires.
Thanks for reading. I’m just trying to do my part, as I’m inspired, to create a little more love, compassion, pleasure, joy, acceptance, space, and happiness in the world. I hope you find my work/writings helpful. Take care!