What do you fill holes with?

Imagine you are lost, tired and starving. Lips parched. Eyesight playing tricks on you. Thoughts in your head that you can’t sort or organize because they have no beginning and no ending but each one feels more ominous and heavy than the last.

Now imagine you stumble suddenly out of the darkness onto a stream of water. Muddy and dirty but its WATER. In your lap-of-luxury life prior to this series of miserable events that brought you to now, you would have stepped through the stream, or over it.

You would never have considered it drinkable; worried about bacteria, disease, germs, contamination, etc. But here, today, this moment, THIS stream is as close to perfect as you can imagine.

You gulp readily, taking it in. The good, the bad. Consequences like contamination never even cross your mind. It’s salvation. Temporary and bound to have some sort of side effect eventually but it’s all you’ve got and you’re all in, drinking it up.

While the example above is rather extreme, and the likeliness of you being in a similar situation may seem fairly far fetched, it’s an effective way to set the tone for the scene I’m going to ask you to imagine next.

You’re at your desk. Your boss has just given you an assignment that took every ounce of energy to respond positively to. You feel exhaustion in your bones. The same old record, the scratch making the same section play on repeat. You decide you’ve had enough for the day so you begin the same route home.

You call your partner on the way and determine what’s on the menu for dinner. Stop at the store, grab the necessities plus a bottle of wine or two, you know, to go with the food. You arrive home. Take a deep breath and kick off your shoes. You can’t bear to repeat the same story about your day again, so you don’t.

You put on your best smile and greet your partner. Maybe you make a little small talk. Maybe you share a bit about how bad your day was with an eye roll and a joke, downplaying the deeper truth. Maybe you bare your soul and let it all out, feeling guilty that your partner has become a dumping ground for your stress. Pop open the wine. Commiserate. Drink. Numb. Sleep. Rest. Repeat.

Now maybe it’s not the job that’s the problem. Maybe it’s the partner. Or maybe it’s the wine, or the online shopping, or something else filling your holes, bringing temporary relief of your suffering. Who knows because things are muddled up and you don’t dare take too close up of a look at any of it; lest the delicate balance you’ve achieved starts to topple like a Jenga game that’s gotten too tall. Or maybe you stay so spectacularly busy that there is absolutely no time to stop and look.

How does this second scene sit with you? Think about it for a minute. Can you relate to any of it? How did imagining that scene make you feel? Take a deep breath, all sensations are just information. 

Perhaps you felt relief. You know this story, you’ve lived it, it’s in your rear-view now. If so, congratulations and keep up the good fight. Share your story. We need to hear it.

Maybe this scene got under your skin a little? Did it remind you of someone you know?

Or, did it hurt like a slap across the face? Did it make you want to punch, scream or cry?  Do you feel provoked? If so, you’re not alone. I can describe this scene so well because it was mine not so long ago.

I’ve taken to calling the above scenario as living with holes. And I can find examples of it almost everywhere I look. Just like the person at the start, lost without food and water (extreme holes in this case), you are almost forced to make choices from a place of starvation. So inevitably, those choices, while immediately gratifying, generally have no real lasting value or contribution. Which, you may have guessed, usually requires either a higher quantity or a change in hole-filling material.

In my case, I filled my holes with alcohol, shopping and busy-ness. I was also terribly afraid of being alone. So I also filled my holes with social outings and other people. I spent my days and nights, my relationships and my work in some form of performance.

Putting on the “right” clothes, the “right” job titles and the perfect smile so no one looked too deeply past the veneer. I was a master at riding the line between being genuine enough to establish healthy relationships and distant enough to not let anyone in on my real story. Until my hole-filling became a recognizable problem that I couldn’t hide from anymore. My addictions had become visible to others.

If you’ve been around my writing for a while you’ll know the journey from there to here has been long and varied. The short version, if you’re new, is I went on a self-discovery journey; giving myself the freedom to research and study whatever I wanted. As a result, and over a series of years, I dismantled my life as I knew it, including my marriage and my career. I started over and over and over again, each time getting closer to my kind of right (as opposed to everyone else’s).

Today I live in a rental home I love, with my two beautiful daughters who spend 50% of their time with me. These growing young ladies get to witness and feel my joy for living passionately;  I am deeply proud of the example I am setting for them as a human being, a mother and a woman. In addition, I have the most incredible people around me who know my entire story, the dark and ugly and beautiful, and love me deeply for all of it.

How did I get here? I got here by studying my life. By looking at my holes and at how they came to exist. At understanding my patterns of handling them and how I was mimicking what I saw or learned as a child. I got here by addressing my deeply ingrained habits and behaviors through coaching and therapy.

I got better at understanding MY personal needs and wants vs. what I was told/taught to want. And then, I worked on using my voice to ask for it. I worked on eliminating my holes, one by one so the fillers became less and less necessary. In the process, I lost friends. I lost family. A few times, I even lost myself.

Here’s what I know, now. Everyone has a story. Everyone has some level of desire that is currently unfulfilled. These unmet desires, if they are misunderstood or unclear, are the things that create the holes. The fillers we use for those holes, are the materials that make the pain of those unmet desires feel better. They make the disappointment sting less. They make identifying the root cause of the pain even less clear and solving for it, a less desirable activity.

Our holes cause us to feel shame in having conversations about our “first world problems” even with those we deem as our closest allies. The inability to talk about our problems and our hole-fillers without shame creates isolation and loneliness – another dangerous hole. Talking about our pain and what feels real for us, is not socially acceptable; however, hole-fillers are. Hole fillers are coping mechanisms that create camaraderie and distraction. They are known and celebrated for easing our discomfort. This relief is both temporary and potentially dangerous.

Sustainable relief and the ultimate release from hole-filling comes from knowing deeply who you are now, who you desire to be (if there’s a gap between here and there) and how you desire to live. It comes from knowing, with clarity, what kind of life you want to actively engage in building and feeling confident that you can make the choices that best serve your ultimate goals.

This type of confidence comes from self knowledge. From understanding where you are when you’re making your next choice (along the spectrum of starvation and fullness) and the intention with which you are choosing.

Do I still make hole-filling choices? Of course I do. The difference is I know I’m making them and I understand why I’m making them. Self knowledge is the key. So next time you find yourself in a situation where you’re up against something that feels uncomfortable, ask yourself the following: How did I get here? Why am I making this choice? If I had a chance to chose differently, what would I change? And then, when the opportunity presents itself again, make a different choice and watch what happens as a result. Ask. Choose. Experience. Reflect. Repeat. 

One choice at a time, one moment at a time. And, grace. Please be gentle with yourself when you dive into this activity. It’s much harder to study yourself if you’re beating yourself up along the way.

Why am I telling you this? Because if even a sentence of the above resonates with you I want you to know that you’re not alone. Being seen and heard are basic human needs. This is my way of telling you I see you. Sharing my story is a way for me to say I hear you.

If someone you know popped into your mind when you were reading this, pass it along, so that person doesn’t feel alone, either. You passing it along says the same thing to the people you care about. It also has the potential to form a bridge; an invitation into a conversation that sounds something like: “I see you. I want to help you. Please tell me how.” Because those words are some of the most nourishing and healthy hole-filling materials available.

5 Reasons Why Your Divorce is a GOOD Thing

I’ve been divorced for a little over five years now. And while I still get a little emotional around what would have been my wedding anniversary; it’s because my life has changed so dramatically and in so many beautiful ways. I’m emotional with gratitude for the experiences I’ve lived, both before and after. I’m not sure I could have dreamed of the life (or love) I experience now, when I was married. It seemed down right impossible.

My former husband and I did our divorce in a really healthy and respectful way. We have a co-parenting relationship that makes me super proud. I know this isn’t everyone’s story. I’ve had divorce lawyers wide-eyed with jaws to the floor when I tell our story.

Divorce can be challenging. Life goals and dreams are disrupted. Your “person” is no longer yours in the same sense. All of this can be fear inducing and heart breaking (even if the divorce is amicable and mutually beneficial). For me the hardest part was not letting go of the “now”, it was releasing the dreams I had built in my head and heart for a future that would no longer exist. 

It took me a while to be able to build the list below. Depending on how fresh your wounds are; it might take a while for all of it to sink in, but I promise you, over time, it will.  

Reason 1: “This or something better…”. Let’s face it. No one gets divorced because things are going swimmingly. Regardless of who instigated the divorce, or even their reasons why, I’d much rather be somewhere I’m wanted, loved, honored and appreciated than anywhere I’m not. Yes, there’s pain. There’s also release from all of the animosity, frustration and “bending” you did as a couple to make life work. My favorite coping mantra for situations like this is “This or something better”. Meaning, if it’s not this thing I love (loved), then I get the chance for it to be even better. Take a deep breath into that one. 

Reason 2: I call this the “no more socks on the floor” relief. Make a list of all of the annoying little things or habits that your former spouse did that drove you nuts. Those little annoying things that you just “didn’t bother with” because either when you tried it didn’t make a difference, or you finally gave up after the millionth request. For me, it was socks. My former husband’s socks were everywhere. Under the desk in the office. On the floor in front of the TV. Under the kitchen table. On the carpet, in the closet – mere inches from the laundry basket. Frankly, they were where ever he decided to take them off, with his feet, at the end of his day.  It drove me nuts. No more husband? No more sock problem. {Side note: My former husband is an incredible human being. I will forever love him because he’s an integral part of my life’s story. Early in the divorce these little things calmed me down when the sadness set in. Think of the small reliefs as technique vs. a long term strategy. Not going to lie though, I’m still grateful to not have to deal with the socks.}

Reason 3: YOU become a priority! Depending on your experience of love and marriage, this will vary, but work with me here. When’s the last time you got to decide what you want to eat for dinner without consulting anyone else? When’s the last time you got to stay out later than would normally be “ok” just because you were having fun, without having to explain it to anyone (or worse being accused of doing something wrong/inappropriate)? When’s the last time you got to do something extravagant for yourself without having to justify the expenditure (be it money, time, etc.)?

Depending on how long you’ve been hitched for, there are so many things that get molded to find harmony in a relationship that sometimes, you don’t even realize you’ve given your desires over completely to the other person, until someone asks you how you want your eggs and you suddenly realize you have no idea how YOU like them cooked.

For the first time in what might feel like a lifetime; you’ve got the ability to choose for yourself. Scary? Yes. Exciting? Absolutely! Welcome home to yourself, darling. 

Reason 4: Space to learn who you are NOW. Again, independent of how long you’ve been coupled, in and around that time, you’ve grown and changed. Who you are IS different than who you were when you committed to your partner. Scientifically, this is true for your physical body, but it’s also true for your emotions, your heart, your brain…all of you. 

Maybe the following is less true for you but most married people I know (and it was true for me) have become something of a “combined” identity with their spouse. While both people continue to grow and evolve, it happens together. Individuality is key to what brought you together in the first place so this evolutionary merger, besides likely undermining your relationship, is also detrimental to each individual in the relationship over time. 

Kahlil Gibran says this best in The Prophet: “And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.” Are you the cypress or the oak? It’s time to find out. Take stock, not only of your growth so far but where you want to go next. It’s a blank page…what are you going to write on it?

Reason 5: You get to fall in love again. If you’re fresh in the post-divorce dating scene, chances are this one might cause some heartburn. It doesn’t make it any less true. Butterflies, first dates, etc. all get to happen again. The best part? This time you’ve got the knowledge, wisdom, experience  and opportunity to know exactly what you want (or make a concerted effort to try eggs in as many ways as they can be cooked, so you can answer that question (Thank you, Julia Roberts.)).

My point is, through every relationship I’ve had post-divorce; from the nightmare first date stories that became topics for my Toastmaster speeches to the toe-curling, romantic, dancing in the moonlight guy who disappointed a few weeks later with an unauthorized naked photo of me, to the quiet sensation of new love rooting in my heart and blooming spectacularly –  forever changing my relationship game; I’ve spanned the whole spectrum. And while not all of these experiences were note-worthy they were all necessary. Necessary in my personal evolution. 

It was necessary for me to get divorced so I could bloom into who I am today. The same holds true for you, darling. 

I stand by the philosophy that my soul didn’t come to this planet to have a specific job, or marry a specific human. My soul is here to learn and grow. Each experience I have in this human lifetime is a part of that growth. And, as with all things, I can fight it and make myself miserable, or I can embrace it, arms wide and heart open and trust that on the other side, dazzling beauty and soul-nourishing love are waiting. 

Trust that things are unfolding for you, too, exactly as they’re meant to. Trust that what you’re seeking is just around the corner. Trust yourself. 

 Missing one daughter, but notice the joy on every single face in this photo…
Missing one daughter, but notice the joy on every single face in this photo…

A townhouse, an alchemist and a raven

In July of 2018, the date of my last blog, I was saying goodbye to the first house I had purchased as a divorced mom of two little girls, shortly before I took an abrupt departure from my corporate career (and my self confidence incidentally, but that’s another story). 

Since I’ve shared last, I’ve moved homes twice. From my owned property of ~ 3200 sq. feet to a ~ 1500 sq. foot rental townhouse and from the townhouse to a rental house that’s 9.8 miles West and now walking distance to my daughter’s schools, all within a nine month window. 

Needless to say, when downsizing to the degree that we did, there is an element of purging that has to happen. Not to mention the work and effort involved in moving twice in a short window, which ushered in, as you might have guessed, even more of a release. 

When I wrote the last blog, I had no idea where my girls and I were headed. I couldn’t have predicted we’d end up in my youngest’s daughter’s best friend’s previous rental. I could also not have predicted my relationship both to material things, to coping mechanisms (like alcohol) and to myself would change so drastically. 

Sitting in my office, typing this blog, I feel more at home than I have felt in the 20 years I’ve lived in WA state. Both physically in the space I’m in with my butter-colored walls and windows that were built in the 40s, but also in my own body, heart, mind and soul. 

I started 2018 with a friend asking me (electronically) if he could do anything for me, what would I ask for. The words I typed were “Material and location freedom as a single mom with two kids.” Asked and answered my dear reader but oh my, I wish I had put some qualifiers in that request regarding ease and pace. I also know, well enough by now, if I had, I might not have gotten here and it has been SO worth it. 

Shedding, as I have, over the last 9 months, has also created such incredible space for “new” to arrive in the form of people, ideas and yes, in some instances material things. I’ll give you the bullet point highlights, each of which could easily be a blog in their own right but for now…highlights:

  • I did some deep work with a powerful and gifted coach, Lola Pickett. www.lolapickett.com

  • I took Lola’s empatholgoy course (which I can’t recommend enough) if you’re an empath and/or in a relationship (of any sort) with one.

  • I traveled to Paris, France, a bucket list trip, for the first time.

  • I started writing a book.

  • I started studying alchemy, which, I discovered is at the heart of who and what I am; I am an alchemist. 

  • I created a multi-media piece of poetry that was a gift for my brother and his new wife; putting my writing out in the world in a more unique way (that also feels more vulnerable). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTCcoAJEMzI&t=1s

  • I stepped into a deeper level of wisdom regarding my use/abuse of alcohol and have successfully started a sober curious journey.

  • My heart was activated when I very unexpectedly fell in love with a man I grew up with (the relationship ended quickly; the activation was the key element).

  • I started my work as an executive coach for Amazon employees.

  • I started doing Reiki for dogs as a volunteer at the Seattle Humane. This work has transformed (read: deepened, broadened, strengthened) my skills as energy healer. 

  • I discovered pieces of my life that I miss from my corporate days and began actively searching for more income I love to generate, outside of my personal business, that uses my brain and stretches me in different ways than my coaching and card reading work. (After discovering that there’s so much more room in my days than I originally thought).

And last, but clearly not least, I revamped my business and my product offering so that my brand and my conversation with the world continues to evolve as I do because that, after all, is why I do this work. There’s a new look, a new feel and a new feathered spirit animal.

Life is very rarely the ideal picture that we have in our minds or were told/taught it “should” be. 

My commitment when I started my business and writing was to open the doors to my view of the world. To share my “mess”. To create a place for context, juxtaposition, vulnerability, and honesty. To invite people into a conversation by exposing my truth at a level that felt visceral (to me), in the hopes that others would find a sanctuary; a place where they could come to be who and what they are, authentically, 100% of the time. 

To that end, I’m here, sharing, again and now with new stuff locally and more stuff in the works. 

  • I’ve got a local, upcoming tarot card reading event that I’m thrilled to be at for the second year in a row with an amazing purpose; https://interactive.king5.com/konnected-2019/. Three-card readings for free all evening long during the event.

  • I’m relaunching my healing hours! An hour of guided meditation and reiki, hosted in my new sanctuary. Donation-based so everyone can have access. The schedule is here

  • I’m working on a Self Discovery Library. Think of it like a pocket-Lani. I’m building a resource library, with downloadable workbooks that give you a step-by-step guided list of questions and actions to help you sort through whatever challenge you’re working on with a goal to help you gain some level of clarity for your next steps in conquering that challenge, all at your fingertips and for a fraction of my coaching fees. 

Stepping into the unknown

I remember when I first got divorced, a friend who had also been through a divorce told me that “all the firsts” were particularly painful. First holidays, first anniversaries, first birthdays etc. were a challenge and then, after a while, what was awkward becomes normal. 

I’m reflecting on this idea now because what’s most poignant for me in the moment are my lasts. 

As I sit in front of my fire pit in my back yard, watching the stars in the sky in between thoughts, I’m honoring my last summer in the mediation garden that I built last year. I’m listening to the lighted water feature that’s a few feet away, enchanted by the amber glow and the stream of water as it cascades down, knowing this will be the last evening I can claim that I own this thing of beauty. 

This is my last evening as the owner of the house I currently call home. Tomorrow I become a renter for a month and then, I walk away to start my next adventure under a new roof.  

This was the first house I purchased after my divorce. I bought it as a director for a global travel company when my life was corporate dialog and activity: fitting the “act of living” around the core of that existence. 

I walked away from the title and the money just a bit over three years ago having no idea where life would take me. 

I was listening to a podcast from Rob Bell called the Robcast recently. (The Robcast is my current version of church.) In this episode, Rob is talking about how we are given only the knowledge we can handle in the moment because, to know it all, would essentially short-circuit our ability to process. 

As I reflect on the last five years of my life, I am comforted by this statement because it rings with truth. 

If you had told me five years ago, that I would sell my beloved house (my former sanctuary), become divorced, quit my job, start a business that wasn’t successful (in conventional terms), rent a house filled with enormous spiders, be the victim of a home break-in, which prompted the purchase of my current sanctuary, to turn around almost four years later and sell that one, I’m not sure I would have been functional. 

Add into that mix a dementia diagnosis for my mom, her transition into a nursing home, the decline of my father’s health (and his wealth to care for my mom), and the death of my beloved dog; well, you get the point. I think it’s fair to say it’s a damn good thing I didn’t know all of that was going to happen. 

If I had, I might have shied away from taking the first step. The steps that also led me to myself; to my self love, my self confidence and my strength. The steps that took me to spend as much time with my family across the US as I could manage. 

The steps that took me sky diving for the first time, prompted me to tattoo my mom’s handwriting on my body, carried me through a 10-day silent meditation retreat and brought me to a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa. 

The steps that brought me some of the most amazing humans I’ve ever known who have rallied around me to form my “created” family. The steps that have showed my daughters, by example, that there is more than one way to move through this fast paced, technology-powered universe. 

So yes, there’s been a lot. In all frankness, I wouldn’t trade a damn moment of it. 

My resilience is one of the many gifts I discovered along this path. 

So as I sit, for a final time as the owner of the fire pit upon which my feet rest as I type, with absolutely zero idea of where my daughters and I will live next; I’m humbled, grateful and curious about what the universe has in store for us. 

I trust that it will be exactly what (and where) it’s supposed to be. I also trust, that in divine timing, I’ll have a better vision of the road ahead. Right now, I’m sticking with what I can see before me: the water, the fire and the stars. 

Safe journey, my glorious fellow traveler. 

Until we meet again,

Lani Catherine

 

Don’t take this for granted…

I remember when I was younger, my mother used to comment on her hands (a lot). Always saying how “old” they looked. Another of her favorites was “You can always tell a woman’s age by her hands.”

With my mom now fully in the throws of her dementia (she’s late stage 6, early stage 7 (and there are only 7 stages)), she’s still concerned with her hands and how they look. She points at them, at the various flaws she sees and makes a “yuck” face.  

I have a gorgeous and very dear friend who LOVES jewelry and at her age, in the mid 60s, she refuses to wear her rings because it calls attention to her aging hands. I believe this assessment is rooted in the generation in which my friend and mom were raised. 

I believe this because when I see their hands, I don’t think age, I think wisdom.

This dear friend also sings in her community choir. Each spring and winter season there is a concert. I always attend and I always bring my daughters. 

The concerts are wonderful. Even more wonderful than the concerts, are the choir members and the musicians. These humans have lived full lives. What I see when I am in that room and they are all on stage is YEARS of collective wisdom. 

I see the stories of their lives written on their faces. I hear the power of their wisdom as it resonates in their voices as they sing. I witness their joy and heartache as songs pull different emotions; reflective of the stories from their lifetimes. I feel their understanding. I honor their journeys to the moment. 

I feel blessed to be in witness and a recipient of this beauty; this gift. 

One of my most prominent memories when I was pregnant with my first daughter was the freedom to wear what felt good to me. I’ve always been rather petite, albeit athletically built. It was different to feel the weight and roundness of my pregnant body. Each day I would dress, first and foremost for comfort. The last thing I thought about was my “presentation” or how I looked. 

It was revolutionarily freeing. 

For the first time in my life, I had ZERO control over what my body looked like and I embraced it fully. I reveled in my denim skirts with elastic waist bands, tightly fitted shirts stretched over my proudly protruding belly and my cowboy boots because it felt good to contain my swollen ankles.

I felt zero shame and a significant amount of fascination in every ounce of my body simply because my focus was on growing a human being inside of me. (Two kids later, this concept still blows me away.)

When I am in that concert hall, listening to my beloved friend and her fellow choir singers doing their thing, I am again, gifted with the same freedom; this time from outside of myself. The freedom to pursue joy and comfort.

This is the dream I have always had for my parents. To feel the freedom to embrace and share their wisdom and life experiences. To revel in their collective and individual journeys. To throw caution to the wind and explore the things they never gave themselves permission to do. To stop holding back because they were not “qualified” by society standards or it wasn’t an “appropriate” thing to do. 

Their current reality however, is different. 

My parents are, quite simply (at the moment), lacking reasons to celebrate. 

Their “golden” years are anything but. Instead, in a recent conversation, my dad called them the “rusty” years. 

This rust has eaten at Mom’s brain leaving her unable to talk or speak a complete thought. Knowing that I am her baby, as indicated by pointing at me and rocking her arms cradled back and forth, but unable to speak my name. 

The rust has eaten at Dad’s lungs rendering breathing and processing oxygen a significantly difficult task. 

This rust is now eating at their life savings because of the medical help my mom needs just to be safe. 

My entire family is working diligently to find a way to help them restore their joy and freedom, their stimulation and comfort; simple things their illness has robbed from them. 

These are basics; basics that a fully functioning human being takes completely for granted. There’s another quote that comes to mind as I type the last sentence: “Youth is wasted on the young.” 

I don’t agree that it’s wasted. I do agree that at some point in our lives we will take advantage of our precious human bodies. We will drink too much and eat foods that do not serve our systems. We will deprive our bodies of sleep, perhaps we will add a toxicity to its system that it tries diligently to work through as to not harm us permanently. 

Your healthy body is a gift. 

Your joy, access to joy and power to create joy, is a gift. 

Your youth (regardless of your age) is a gift. 

My advice? Do not squander these gifts. Do not take them for granted. USE them to create the foundation of the life that will serve you late into your years. Drop the need to please. Choose what feels best to you. Embrace joy and freedom. 

At the end of your days, let your hands be a statement of the work you’ve done to leave the world a better place than when you entered it.

Be proud of the story that your hands will tell because someone like me, who is watching you, will be inspired and honored to learn from what you’ve done in your lifetime. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. It doesn’t have to be amazing. 

I pray only that your stories are authentic to you and that you have the mindfulness to value them for the wisdom they have the power to impart to others.

 

 

 

A fork in the road

After having recently finished Tara Mohr’s Playing Big, a book I highly recommend (note: it’s written for a female audience), there’s a line that repeatedly keeps playing audibly in my head.

The line is “my slice of the truth to tell”. 

Tara’s reference in this comment addresses a common misconception among women that if they don’t have a degree or are not certified or an “expert” in something then they don’t feel “qualified” to be able to speak or share ideas on the subject. I know, that in my own life, this is truer than true. 

I call myself a coach for lack of a better title but I do not have a coaching certificate. (Which is frankly why I hesitate to use the title). When I went through the process involving the research and expense of a coaching certification I realized, early on and very quickly, that I wanted the strength of my services to come from my diverse passions and interests and to be less rooted in any one specific program or method. 

Learning is a strength of mine; I’m always in study of something new that fascinates me and I incorporate as much of that knowledge into my work. I allow my life’s experiences to take me in what ever direction I’m intended to flow. Sometimes that direction surprises me.

Sometimes it takes me to places I never intended to go. I’ve recently had a fork in efforts that has caught me off guard and made me feel that sense of “Who am I?” to which I now respond…THIS is my truth. 

The essence and root for me of  “my slice of the truth to tell”, as I personalize Tara’s words, are  that my own personal experiences are enough for me to speak from because they are my experiences. There is no one else on this planet like me (or like any of us) therefore, the experience I have is unique. That I have the lens and the ability, permission and dare I say, responsibility to share my view.

This was reinforced last night, before I sit today writing this, by a line in my Desire Map planner that said “Your scars are someone else’s signs of hope”.

As a result, this post will follow one prong of the new fork because, at the primary moment, the lightening bolt that has hit me on this very close-to-home topic, is all consuming.

My beloved mother, Sonjie (SON-ya), has Frontotemporal demential (FTD) aka Pick’s disease. By as much as my family can calculate going back to really early symptoms we mistook as something else, we think perhaps she’s been sick for 9 years or so. She was officially diagnosed 3 years ago. 

Dementia itself is not a disease, it’s a description of a collection of diseases that all have common symptoms including memory loss and lack of ability to execute on the normal tasks of day-to-day living. Alzheimer’s is the most common. 

Pick’s disease affects the frontal lobe of the brain first and most significantly. This part of our brain is the part that controls personality, emotions, behavior and language. We first noticed an issue when it was obvious in her language.

It was, however, when we connected the symptoms backwards across time that we realized a lot of my mom’s idiosyncrasies were connected to this disease. I’m not sure if this common or not, as it’s not the simplest to research however with my mom, what’s happened is that all of her uniques qualities, things as a child that would make me roll my eyes and say “oh, Mom…” have been exponentially amplified.  

One example is her desire to make sure everything looks “right”. Whether it’s on her person, or in her home; presentation has always been important to my mother. She was hyper-vigilant when I was a child.

With her disease, this manifests in the inability for her to sit still. She’s always fussing with this and that. Or when someone like me, her comparatively messy and expansive daughter shows up and puts things here and there, I can’t tell you how often they disappear because she has “stashed” them away to keep things clean.  

Over the course of time, watching my mother’s disease progress, especially at a distance (she’s in New Hampshire and I’m in Washington state), has been – well, everything you would expect it to be. 

There have been moments, because it’s not 100% in front of me, that I can live my normal day-to-day without much disruption and days when I feel helpless because my capacity to be there is limited by time, resources and a 6+ hour plane flight. 

It’s only recently, as my mom’s decline has been more pronounced and we are getting into the thick of needing more help; as our conversations have gotten less and less and the ones I have with my dad have become more ominous, that the gravity of the situation is weighing heavy. 

A I prepare for a trip a to see my parents in less than a week, the immenseness of what I’m flying into is hitting me. My mother has recently been further affected by a series of mini strokes which left her brain bleeding which even more deeply diminished her already limited physical resources. 

My family is remarkable. She’s surrounded by 3 of my 4 amazing brothers and sisters and their spouses and some life-long friends who have also been a tremendous amount of love and support.

My other “out-of-town” sister from Denver was just there last week during my mom’s week of rehabilitation making plans for the inevitable with the local funeral home and talking to social workers trying to gather as much information to plan ahead as possible.  

Being so far away, it’s been challenging to avoid guilt. As a result of my distance, I’m finding myself turning to the internet to try and help close gaps and solve problems that have arisen as her health continues to decline. 

What I have found is a terribly broken and confusing system and, gratefully, a whole host of advocacy groups trying to make a difference. 

I’ve always been bothered by the fact that as we age, we are asked to make decisions for our future; decisions that have a massive financial and legal impacts on our comfort and security in our elder years. 

These decisions require a lawyer and a financial planner and one more key thing, foresight. 

We know now that we are supposed to “save for our future” and it wasn’t the kind of knowledge my 80-year old father or even my 69-year old mother grew up with.

It wasn’t until my dad’s final job in his career that he had a 401K plan and then he stashed away the maximum amount. At the maximum it wasn’t going to make up the gap in time where a retirement account didn’t exist. 

Knowing I’ve heard stories like this in the past from others, I dug in and did some research. It won’t likely surprise you that our population is living longer. What might surprise you is the Alzheimer’s Association quotes that 1 in 3 aging adults will have some form of dementia. 

Dementia diseases are incurable. If all the primary caregivers of adults with dementia (like my father who up until a few weeks ago was my mom’s primary caregiver) were paid, it would be valued at approximately $450 billion dollars and raise the cost of money spent on dementia care (vs. what’s nationally funded by Medicaid) by 116%. (www.TheSCANFoundation.org- Who pays for Long-Term Care?)

All those sobering facts and statistics can be found on the internet.

Here’s my version:

My parents will have to spend half of their estate in it’s entirety (until they can prove that half of the estate has less than $2,500 total) before Medicaid will kick in because their Medicare insurance my dad just switched to in order to save some money is now essentially worthless for my mom’s condition. 

At present, my parents have to make themselves poor. The money they have to spend won’t be spent on anything to celebrate their upcoming 45th wedding anniversary; it will be spent on installing railings and safety equipment in their home and the $4,000 a week, 24-hour nursing care that they need to ensure both of my parents are safe and comfortable, which again isn’t covered by their insurance. (My dad, at 80, with his own health problems is no longer capable of caring for my mom in her declined state.)

They will pay for in-home nursing care until we can get my mom a bed in a facility, somewhere, any of which is about $10,000/month until Medicaid kicks in (assuming the place we get accepts Medicaid) which essentially cuts the in home expense to about half and extends how long my mom can have the help she requires.

All the places locally where she is on a “waitlist” gave us a timeline for availability of approximately one year. We’ve been told the Medicaid approval process can take anywhere between 6-9 months.

If you’re doing the math with me on the expense and the approval timelines, my parents would need to have at least $120,000 in the bank just to cover my mom’s care (and nothing else) until they can get government help. My parents don’t have that kind of money. 

So then what? 

I don’t know. That’s what. 

After reading the NH State Plan on Aging written by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)  and the Bureau of Elderly and Aging Services (BEAS) – (Side note: there are more acroymns in this system than when I was working at Microsoft, T-Mobile and Expedia Inc. combined, to the point where I had to make myself a glossary just to read the documents. I wish I was joking.) 

It’s on the second page of actual content in the plan that references the budget cuts and hiring freeze which had left the NH State DHHS department running with 350 vacant positions (as of the writing of the document a few years back). It’s no wonder I haven’t gotten a call back from anyone when I called to ask about navigating this complex and broken system.  Did I mention that the aging population is growing exponentially? I’m sensing a huge divide in the people who need help and the ones who are in a position to actually help. 

There are resources in the market you can pay for; consultants and the like who specialize in helping families like ours navigate these waters but what happens in families that are less resourced than my parents?

My heart hurts as I write these words and it’s hard for me to go a day without tears; not only for my mom but for all of the other people in similar situations who don’t have my families’ time, resources and connections. My sister-in-law has been a hero. My mom calls her the sweet lady because she can’t remember her name. Honestly, when I see her next week, I don’t know if she will remember mine. 

It doesn’t matter to me if she knows my name. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to hold her hand and to smile at her and love on her. I’m grateful to have the resources to see long-term care facilities side by side with my dad and hopefully be in a position to hold space for him to grieve. Something he hasn’t really had a chance to do. 

Dementia has stolen my mother piece by piece. It has also stolen the life my parents dreamed of post retirement. 

The system that is supposed to be available to take care of her is broken. 

My mom has more help and champions than most and we are still struggling, frustrated and tired and I’m not even in the thick of it. My heart breaks for all of it.

There has to be a better way. I have no idea at the moment what that it is.

I don’t know where to start. I don’t know what steps to take. I know only that there’s a problem and I’m engulfed by a desire to fix it. I have no idea where this desire will lead.

If I’ve learned anything in my journey, it’s that when I get really emotional about something; it’s a sign and one I can’t ignore. 

I’ll continue to do what I always do; I’m asking each day for the divine and infinite intelligence of the universe to guide me to where I can do my best work and as opportunities make themselves known, I’ll lean in and learn and I’ll keep sharing it.

Because I’m the only me there will ever be and this is how I do my work in the world. 

In continued love and gratitude for you and your family, 

LC

 

 

Where can I pee?

In late May of 2017 I went on a dream trip to South Africa as part of Martha Beck’s STARS program. STAR stands for Self Transformation Adventure Retreat.

I had been planning the trip since before my divorce in 2013. I’ve written about the trip from time to time in various blog articles. Lately, I’ve been encouraged to go deeper on every level and exploring this trip is one of them.

I’m not a “surface” kind of person in general but I often hold back when I write. The way I live my life is unconventional to say the least.

I wrote my last blog about breaking rules. I never posted it.

I have enough of my own energy to sort through regarding what I want in my life, let alone having to deal with everyone else’s energy about the decisions I’m making so I kept the ideas in the blog private. I had written it shortly after giving notice at my muggle job which lasted all of about 5 months.

You see, people have cultural rules that they were raised with, often without question or scrutiny. We tell or hear the same story many times, then, because this is how energy works, we see it reinforced through reality and we simply believe it to be true. We are never taught to test the theory.

I’ve spent the last 4 + years unraveling most of the stories I grew up to believe were true. This is NOT a commentary on my parents or their job in raising me. I could not have asked for a more perfect mother and father for who I am. I could not have asked for a better family life.

I also knew from an early age that following the “rules” kept me safe and got me special privileges. I learned early on, that people were more likely to say yes to you if you were a rule follower. Trust was easier to earn and to maintain. Forgiveness was more readily available. Again; expectation (read: energy) reinforced by action.

Some of the stories I grew up believing:

  • Work isn’t “work” if it’s fun

  • You have to “work hard” to earn a living

  • If you are rich, you are greedy and “unholy”

  • You don’t bite the hand that feeds you

  • You don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself

  • You have to look, act and be like everyone else and they will like you – life is easier when people like you.

Before my trip to South Africa I had rewritten most of these stories:

  • Fun is possible in everything we do – taking it one step further, having fun is a priority

  • “Living” and “hard” don’t have to be in the same sentence – I don’t use the word “hard” much anymore to describe anything.

  • Money has nothing to do with spirituality, religion or behavior – it’s a means of exchange, period.

  • Biting is a self defense mechanism (and a primal response) when someone is feeding you poison.

  • Drawing attention or not – being authentic is paramount to breathing – if that draws attention – so be it.

  • Authenticity will attract other authentic beings – being true to who I am makes everything easier (because it doesn’t take any energy to be me in my most raw and authentic state) – whether or not people “like” me because of it is not my problem and not my business.

These ideas are my own and they work for me. I share them not to try and convince you to change any of your own stories. I share them only to show you that it’s possible to rewrite your stories and therefore, edit your reality.

One of my struggles before South Africa was how to integrate the spiritual person I am with the human I am required to be to run a household as a single mom of two beautiful young girls.

That might sound odd – to separate the human and the spiritual. When I was first exploring my spiritual side – a side of myself I didn’t recognize or know, I felt as if it was a separate entity; an unknown being.

I wanted it to allow that side of me to learn without the stories and constraints of my upbringing and societal rules. As such, it was done secretively and in private, with just a few people to witness and explore these new ideas with.

Then I found out that the more I shared with my “right” people, the more I got to grow into myself, fully and holistically. The stronger my spiritual side got, the more confident, the more she became a part of how I presented myself to the world.

I lost friends. I confused the hell out of most of my family.

I built a new tribe filled with deep and meaningful connections.

South Africa helped me to stitch myself back to whole, the rest of the way. It accomplished this mission a few ways:

  • It was a new group of people; there were no preconceived notions on who I was, so I could be fully authentic and unapologetically me – testing my “holisticness” on a group of strangers.

  • There was space and silence designed into the program to allow for me to truly feel present (not distracted by life’s requirements like laundry and packing lunches.)

  • The location, surrounded by nature, in rhythm with the Earth and witnessing it’s harmonic ecosystem was pure magic.

  • I could feel my feet firmly on the earth and still be spiritually connected to all that is and understand what that sensation felt like.

I’ve always been best when I’m learning through experience so having the sensation of integration and peace helped me to know what “it” felt like. This made it easier to know and understand the sensation I was after, without the influence of my day-to-day.

Knowing the feeling made it possible to bring back into my “normal” life. I remember coming back and being so excited about this concept. 

Something else also came back from South Africa, that at the time, I didn’t understand.

While before I left I had shifted my view of convention to be a bit like the lines on the roads, designed to keep a flow and allow us to move around one another; I also much preferred the unpaved, unmarked paths we drove while in Londolozi. If someone had to pee, we pulled over and said human squatted behind a bush; just like the wild animals – only they didn’t care about hiding.

I didn’t realize my thought process had been altered until I was home and walking my dog one day. As we were walking I realized I needed to pee and that instinctively, I was looking around for a place to go.

“Where can I pee?” was the thought in my head until I laughed out loud and realized I’m in my personal neighborhood with houses all around and that while my dog was welcome to be his own natural, wild self, I could likely get “in trouble” for doing so.

When I shared this story with my coach she said “Yes; that makes sense, you are re-wilding.”  I accepted this statement because even if, at the time, it didn’t have a place to land in my heart and in my mind, the sensation of it resonated.

As 2018 started, I did my usual “start of a New Year” routine including revisiting my Core Desired Feelings (From Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map). One of my CDFs at the moment is wild. Not in the “crazy” sense but in the natural, from nature, of the earth, “original” sense.

I am a creature of the planet, subject to my own internal rhythms and routines, influenced by planetary alignments and seasons, by sunlight and daylight. I have a longing to get back to that natural rhythm. One that’s not disrupted by the laptop I’m typing on or the cell phone you might be reading this on.

To get back to how I felt in Londolozi, South Africa. One with the Earth and the creatures of God; in rhythm with it all.

I am a week away from going into the desert of California for a retreat unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It feels, to me, like a deeper exploration of the work I started on the trip last year and a chance to feel “wild” for a whole weekend.

My intention on this trip is to surrender to the wild nature of my own being.

To be as I was born to be. To honor the modern conventions which make it possible for me to travel and be present in a new state over just a few hours time and simultaneously to get deeper in touch with the natural part of who I am. To strip away the conventions for a few days and touch back to the present.

This seed, that I’m just beginning to witness. honor and understand, almost 9 months after the trip, is the special gift that South Africa gave me that I wasn’t even aware of (except for the tiny glimpse during my dog walk).

New ways of thinking, or, in this matter, deeply old ways resurfacing, come in small hints and suggestions. The seeds germinate and take root in our unconscious levels until they are safely rooted and growth can begin. (That’s generally when we become consciously aware that something has shifted.)

This is done for our soul’s well being before our ego can tear up the seed or overexpose it’s delicacy to our human brashness. The day I went looking for a place to pee on my dog walk is easy to laugh at. I spent a bit of time sharing it as a humorous story.

It was, however, cloaking a far broader, far more soulful endeavor that I’ve only now realized I’ve been on the whole time.

It’s one more step in becoming more of who I was born to be; before convention, society and culture made me who I thought I was supposed to be.

It’s getting back to that natural, organic version I’m craving to unite with.

It’s my re-wilding adventure and I’m honored you are here with me.

 

To Winter

When I look out into the world I see a significant amount of “efforting”. I see humans spending so much time striving for more and better. The pressure to “perform” that we put on ourselves is relentless.

Because I am a woman deeply connected to the Earth and to nature; it’s got me thinking that maybe we are all just missing a trick. So I’m one week into a new approach.

My intention for the next few months is to follow the season.

When I read Tom Rath’s Strenghtsfinder 2.0 back in my corporate days at T-Mobile I took the information I learned about my natural strengths seriously. The characteristic that came out on top for me was an “Achiever”. Per the report that accompanies the book: “People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.”

I also remember a reference to having accomplishments at the end of the day makes Achievers feel good. Yes, even on weekends.

My decision to follow the season means I’ve taken the season and personally, turned it into a verb; I told my acupuncturist that I was “wintering” for the next few months.

The best description I found for the winter season came from a very talented man named Cedric. I’m lucky to call him a friend.

Here’s what he wrote: “Winter. The season of transition and turnover. At first glance it is cold, lifeless, and stagnant. But Winter has it’s secrets. Life is hidden under layers of cold and snow. There is an energy and a way of life that the creatures of Winter follow. A flow that lacks the frenzy of spring, and the intense clutter of summer. Deliberate, intentional, and with purpose.”

Those words. I love them.

It is the perfect description of what I’m feeling right now: the desire to be deliberately quiet. Intentional in being present in the moment and purposefully not moving with frenzy.

Beneath the snow and frozen ground of winter lies the seeds that will bloom in the spring, the roots of the trees surviving on the light of winter, storing energy for the renewal and birth that spring will bring.

That is how I feel right now, like I need to gather energy and strength for the rebirth that 2017 will bring for me.

This is what I’m choosing to honor in myself and for myself.

I have a quiet December planned and a few amazing soulful deep dives in January. One surrounded by my tribe of Desire Map sisters, and one with the one and only L’Erin Alta of Sisterfire who I am blessed to have as my “soul coach”.

At the end of January I will attend a 10-day silent meditation retreat called Vipassana.

Vipassana means to “see things as they really are”. Every person I’ve talked to who has done this said it changed their life.

I am ready for that kind of change.

I’m still getting the hang of not feeling like I “have” to do something. I had always swore that if I were going to run my own business that it would be bespoke to me and my life. The stories of people slaving a way to build something never appealed to me, even if I’m technically wired for it.

If nothing else, it’s good practice leading up to 10 days of silence and meditation.

Here’s what I know for sure about my first week wintering; there’s a beautiful sense of freedom from the pressure to execute on anything and a welcome chance to be guided by whatever stirs my soul in the moment.

This feeling, time and space are precious and rare gifts and I don’t take a second of it for granted. It doesn’t mean it feels natural.

As I adjust my footing, my pace and give into my internal desire to hibernate I do so with the fullest intention on soaking up the energy for what’s coming next.

Deliberate quiet. Intentional Presence. A purposeful, graceful snow-like movement.

This is how I will winter.

A Change of Scenery

I was telling a friend of mine about my new Whole Body Compass product that I’ve gotten a ton of awesome feedback on.

If you need a refresher, it’s basically a single session where I take you through an exercise to teach you how to read your physical body response to positive (yes) and negative (no) stimulus. Then I walk you through a few exercises where you hone that sensation to apply it to decisions that you need to make.

It’s really powerful stuff made more powerful because I’m an empath and I can help you feel your way through.

This woman, my friend, that I was sharing this with said “Oh, like Martha Beck’s body compass”.

Which triggered my desire to want to change the name. 

I love and respect Martha Beck and fully expect to be in a financial position to attend her STARS program in Africa in 2017.  I have no desire to coast on her coat tails and/or copy her material.

I never knew her body compass existed before this moment with my friend so clearly it wasn’t a “copy” (and I’ve done research to confirm it’s somewhat different) but now that I know; it feels important to differentiate.

I started to brainstorm other titles. I like “The Power of Yes” which has been used for two separate book titles and a plethora of business and lifestyle articles.

Which got me thinking that writing about how most ideas we come up with that seem original might not be, even if they are original to us; in a blog.

Oh SHIT! It’s 11:08 PM Pacific on MONDAY night and I didn’t write my blog.

You know, the blog I’ve been writing for over a year, every week, published on Monday.

Today is Monday and I completely forgot. What’s funny is I just wrote an email tonight to someone saying it was a near perfect day.

This was shocking to me on so many levels and at the same time completely apropos to what’s happening in my life and what’s going on for me internally. If you came to my house you’d be able to tell by looking at the external mess I’m currently surrounded by.

In a little over a week, I’ll kick off 21 days of travel covering most of July. While this amount of travel might be overwhelming to some; I am grateful for the escape.

I am in deep need of a reset. Reinforced exponentially by the fact that I actually forgot to write my blog article this week.

Here’s my point.

My brain that got me to where I’m at now, with my business and my life can’t be the same brain I use to help me with my next steps.

To break out, to shift the pattern, I need physical displacement. I need to take a time-out from my normal life routine.

I know this about myself after years of studying what makes me tick.

My golf course gig helped a little. My new tap class did as well and yet there’s nothing like being immersed in a new location with different smells, sights, tastes and textures.

It’s amazing how quickly new things become routine in life when the start and end point is the same place.

When I return from my three weeks, I know I’ll be thrilled to settle back into my happy and familiar routine but I also know I will be a different human when that happens.

I don’t know what this means for my business or my blog.

I only know what this means for me.

I’ll have a fresh perspective and that will make all the difference.

Decisions, Decisions

Last week I shared my course in finding quiet and peace in the busyness of living. I’m also in the process of creating a new course. This one is about perspective and providing tools to shift yours.

As with all my creative processes, I start with what I know, and then work through the various exercises myself to ensure they do what I’m claiming they can do; in this case, help you shift your perspective.

In the process of construction; I’m realizing my perspective is, at current, sorely out of whack. Moments of light, followed by moments of pressure and heaviness.

The ones of pressure and heaviness seem to be having the most lasting impact.

In using my tools, all of which are helpful and solid; I realized the single biggest and most profound perspective-shifting tool is choice.

I can choose to concentrate on the low balance in my bank account, or I can choose to concentrate on ways to shift it.

I can choose what I want to do with my time today and tomorrow, when I’m on the golf course, I can choose what I want that to feel like; even if the forecast says 59 degrees and thundershowers.

My attitude and personality can reflect the weather or it can add some sunshine to what might otherwise be a dreary day.

Choice implies that you have the freedom to make a decision. We all do, in every moment; even if we don’t feel like we have a choice or we don’t like our perceived choices.

Knowing what to choose however can be where things get tricky.

I watch my 9 -year-old deal with this a lot. She has a significant fear of missing out and can often be paralyzed by the choices in front of her.

From simple choices like what to wear to more complex choices like which job to take when you have competing offers, there’s a connecting element in all of it. That element is YOU.

Your personal choices and decisions are driven by your wants, needs and desires. The most powerful thing you can do is understand your personal why. The reason behind your wants needs and desires.

This is all exceptionally personal to you.

I also don’t believe you can just “think” your way through anything. Your job is to feel your way through and to do that, you need to get your whole body involved.

So today, at the encouragement of a few people who have been through this process and given it rave reviews; I’m launching another new product. This one is a one-time 1:1 session designed to help you understand how to read your own body so you can incorporate your entire self into your decision making.

It’s the single most powerful tool I can think of to help you sort through the noise and listen to the deeply infinite wisdom of your whole being.

A 1 hour session; with a bit of pre-work and a live follow up a few weeks later; it’s impossible for this technique not to affect your life, your joy, your health and your search for balance.

Learn to read the most important person you know; You. Start here.