The Need for Community

NYC LOVEI’m really clear that I need community, connection to people with a common interest, passion, love. This is a recurring theme in my life, as I’ve been in and out of “groups”, “organizations” and “cliques”.

The need to belong has not always been healthy for me. The clique in junior high that ostracized girls we didn’t “like”, even if it wasn’t to their faces, was just plain mean.

The church I wanted to join, again, in junior high, only to discover that I wasn’t “good enough”, having never been baptized and never told that I could receive baptism with confirmation.

The cheer leaders. Oh my, the year I didn’t make the squad I could barely go to school I felt so left out and unimportant. My senior year when I quit because of the race riots in my school and my realization that our staff mentors were bigots. I couldn’t belong to that, so I went back to my forgotten dance class community.

And the drug years, painful community experience.

Even in my own family, I have felt both a need to belong and the feeling that I never would. The youngest of 7 double-first cousins, younger by 4 years than the next youngest, they were clumped together in six years. I was always tagging along, cute, doted on sometimes, but mostly left behind. I definitely never got the “jokes”. I cried when my cousins arrived and cried when they left.

I am reminded daily of my desire for community. When I moved four years ago, I left behind friends who I have known for decades. Friends who helped me navigate marriage, parenthood, divorce, caring for my ailing parents. Some have moved away, some have passed. Those who remain are only an hour away, but somehow that hour does make a difference as I work, search out new interests, networking opportunities, new friends, new community. Sometimes I long so much for “the old days”, it hurts. Then I remember I still have that community in my heart, I can reach out to old friends and I am grateful for the gifts.

I no longer bad mouth Facebook. I realize that it is, in a sense, community. I get to check up on what others are doing and smile with a sense of belonging when people search me out or are interested in my posts.

I started going to Omega Institute in 1986. I don’t think I realized that it was an attraction to the community that was created by like minded people for a common purpose. I just know I felt like I was at camp for adults and it became an annual pilgrimage to return to this community.

It is there that I met Debbie Ford in 2004 and found my coaching community [a few of us pictured above in NYC on June 1st]. Here I am at home. I feel loved and accepted for who I am. I know I can depend on my friends and colleagues to celebrate with me, support me and kick my butt when needed, all with love. We are far flung, across the globe in fact, but can all come together as a pair or a group, virtually or in person, whenever the desire or need arises. I can’t think of a day that I’m not in touch with one or more of my coaching community.

I have finally discovered that there is the gift of my shame and shadow of feeling like I didn’t belong in my own family. I realize now that my parents need for connection and community was different than mine. I have spent years thinking there was something wrong with me and then that there was something wrong with them. I celebrate leaving the blame behind and just being with “what is”. I have a deeper sense of being able to move in and out of community without feeling such a wretched loss and obsession with making “wrong” each time. I get to keep the love I have for individuals, even if the common cause or shared experience changes. I get to keep the “gifts”.

I affirm that I am a Child of God and Goddess. You are, too. In the big picture, owning this is what keeps me in the presence of “belonging”. We are all connected, one family, one community. All we need to add is LOVE.

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Finding the Gift

locust tree picI’ve injured my left heel. Just too much of something and it haunts me every time I do that something or sometimes something else. This morning my nurse practitioner confirmed it, “Yup, you injured your heel, maybe this, maybe that.” Bottom line, she advised that I lay off long walks and dance class for a couple weeks. Did she say A COUPLE WEEKS?!?!?!?!? Okay, maybe I didn’t hear that right. I’m already planning on going to dance class in a little while, my FAVORITE class, maybe I could just ice it at night. Yeah, I’m already icing. SIGH. Acceptance comes slowwwlyyyyy sometimes.

My heel was healing from five days of rest, but I went WAY overboard yesterday as I got back to my regular routine. So this morning I skipped whatever and wandered around our beautiful property. I took this picture of the sky through a blooming locust tree. I pruned out the dead wood of our blueberry patch. I was still. Three gifts right there.

Clearly, I’m being lead to walk my talk. I’ve been TALKING about finding a Pilates class I really love, having left THE VERY BEST [hear that Melissa?] when I moved four years ago. I’ve been TALKING about getting back to some of the Yoga classes that I adore. NOW I will pursue both of these and plan on following through until I find what suits me. I replaced my dance sneakers a month ago, BEFORE I injured my heel. I just ordered new walking/cross trainers. Mine were so OLD they were WHITE! [Do they even MAKE white ones anymore? I’m so embarrassed.]

June will be a month of exploration, experimentation, heel rest and a NEW VISION for my health and my work. This is precisely the kind of “opportunity” that I help my clients navigate. My turn, again.  Though I’m not thrilled about it, I am excited.   I feel as though this shake up of my routine is exactly what I need to step into a new expression of the ME that I already am.

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Hating and Loving My Body

As I prepare to travel to NYC tomorrow to assist at an event and see  some my beloved coaching colleagues, once again I am struck by my insecurity about my body and how I present myself to the world. I live a fairly simple life. I don’t have to “dress up” so I don’t. Suddenly I feel as though nothing I have is right, that I’m not right and I will stick out like a country bumpkin in the Big Apple.

Flash to lunch with my husband today in Saratoga Springs. I’m not looking at him, I’m watching people. No, that’s not true, I’m watching women. Not in a catty or judgmental way, but in a way that observes and compares. I hear my internal voice: “I would look awful in that.” “I wish I could wear shoes like that.” “Oh, that kinda works, I can put that together from what’s in my closet.” It amazes me sometimes that I am so insecure. I turn back to my husband trying to let it go of my internal chatter and listen to him.

Back home and another the trip to my closet. I remember the shoes I saw in town. Nope, don’t have any.  I have VERY fussy feet. Stylish shoes kill me. Forget heels.  I’ve had to give up long walks and hiking for a bit while I nurse a heel injury. Funny, I’m still taking dance classes. Can’t give everything up. Focus back on shoes. I have a pair of flat sandals and some very comfy, classy “Mary Janes” that will do and then notice my disreputable, UN-pampered toes. Wow. I’ll tend to them when I’m icing my heel later. Otherwise don’t pack the sandals.

Then the clothes. Mostly crops and tee shirts. At least my summer clothes are not the drab colors I tend to wear in winter. As I try things on, AGAIN, I wonder if this is too casual, that too old, this to “in your face”, that to out of style.

I’m almost hyperventilating by now. OK, I’ll wear this to dinner Saturday night. OH NO, we’ll walk to the restaurant, I’ll be limping, and it’s going to be 95 degrees! [Only a week ago we had snow Upstate. I’m wilting, wilting!] This will do for assisting on Sunday. Yes. I’ll bring a back up just in case I panic. I tell myself not to over pack, I’m making myself crazy. I’m not leading the seminar. I just need to be neat, clean and somewhat professional. NO ONE is going to NOTICE except ME! In fact, even if I WERE leading the seminar, it’s FINE!

I try on a few more combinations, just to be sure.  I look at my body while I try on clothes in front of my full length mirror. Goddess, if only I were just 10 pounds lighter. Sigh. I notice the crepe papery thighs which will no longer support ANY clothes that land over my knees. Another sigh.  I notice the little veins in my legs and think, “my Goddess woman, you are SO vain”. Then I laugh aloud at my pun.

I take a deep breath. Decide not to look too closely at the skin on my face and smile. The smile always works.

I realize even as I wish for perfection, I know it’s not possible. Never was, never will be. I’ve been conned from the time I was a little girl to strive for perfection and all I could feel was “not good enough”. I realize that I am not alone in cursing the aging process and the results of gravity. I realize that I can have all these feelings that amount to self-criticism bordering self-loathing and then….

I can know the opposite instantaneously. I can know in the deepest part of my being that I am a beautiful woman. A child of God and Goddess, and no mistake was made. That I am healthy, despite dealing with some aches and pains and chronic illness. That I love my life AND my body that carries me through my life. I can even imagine that those aches and pains exist to remind me to pay attention, take care of myself, love my precious self. I remember that the body I have was the one I was given and the ONLY one I will have this time around.  I recall that there are no do-overs and that my life and my body will always be perfectly imperfect. I am filled with gratitude and joy as I remind myself that all that matters is love.

Special thanks to Kelley Kosow and my amazing coaching community for the delicious conversation last night about the duality of our shadows and emotions. I love you all.


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At Arm’s Length

I watched a short interview about Moms. The woman-on-the-street asked passers by in Manhattan, “What was the best advice your mother ever gave you?” The responses ranged from “always put on clean underwear” to “don’t EVER get married”. I’ve been sitting with this interview, somewhat disturbed, because for the life of me I can’t recall ANY advice my mother EVER gave me that was “best” or even “good”. Worse than that I can barely remember any advice at all!

My mom died more than 10 years ago. I still miss her. I had the blessing of leaving her at 18, with a return or two for short stints before leaving for good at 23. I had the added blessing of having my parents follow me to my rural community more than a decade later.  We decided to live on adjoining properties. Initially I went into shock and immediately into therapy. The good news is I received the gift of getting to know my parents as people, the good people they had always been. I grew from wanting to run away, as many children do and must, to loving them from the deepest part of my being.

As I reflected when I first “left home”, I couldn’t understand how two intelligent people could be such bad parents. When I look back with my high school friends and the long conversations we’ve had as adults about those days, my parents weren’t all that “bad”. One thing we have in common is that we all feel as though we raised ourselves. Our parents endured the Depression and World War II. They were thrilled to give us the things they never had. And they were clueless — of what we were doing and with whom. They didn’t create healthy parameters and boundaries. They rarely expressed interest in my life, though they were always willing to give rides to lessons, dance classes, friends houses and after school activities. They loved me and did what parents “do” for their kids.  They were so absorbed in their own Manhattan working, suburban living, lives — and simultaneously, they were confused, detached, over-engaged, under-engaged about parenting.

My mother held me at arm’s length. Afraid to be close, afraid to let down her tough armor, afraid I would see how vulnerable she was. As I got to know her as an adult, she began to let that armor go. As I learned to love, as I became the nurturer, she opened her heart.

It was a different Mommy that I saw when my son was born. She and my dad arrived at the hospital to hold their two-hour-old grandson and my mom’s eyes filled with tears of joy and wonder. My dad laughed and cried. He saw his grandson younger than he saw me. When my mother was in labor in 1951, he dropped her off at the hospital and took the train to the city to work, receiving the news by phone and seeing me in the evening, after cigars and martinis not doubt.

How things change. I know that grandparents are different than parents. Given close proximity, they have the luxury of spoiling grandchildren with the time and attention they may not have had for their own children. Yet my mother changed so much that she was almost unrecognizable.

My son recalls his Mimi as his champion. Recently, he told me that Mimi was the one person in his life who loved him unconditionally. I do believe that if unconditional love is even possible, Nick and Mimi had that. Mimi “got over” her terror of snakes, because she was determined her grandson would not be afraid of snakes. She took him on walks exploring the grounds in search of “Luigi”, as Mimi named all the snakes, large and small, corn snake to garter. There time together was precious, secrets told, songs sung, snuggles shared, books read, giggles and booming laughter. I could be jealous if it hadn’t been such a joy to witness this special relationship between Mimi and Nick, to know that my mother was capable of that kind of love and Nick was the lucky recipient. My son experienced something so special and precious that he will hold this love in his heart for a lifetime. He grew to be a kind child and young man, in part because of her love. He helped me care for her in the last few years of her life. He joked with her, made her laugh, helped with her walker, encouraged her to finish her salad. He was there at the end with her, as she had been at the beginning with both of us. Holding and loving, close and sure.

At arm’s length with Mommy [continued below]

Mommy and Me

Mommy and Me

With her grandson, close, heart-to-heart, vulnerable, loving, loved and in love. And it is all perfect. Nick and Mimi

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Thank You Debbie Ford

A week ago my mentor, teacher and friend, Debbie Ford, made her final transition into the light after a long journey with cancer. Though I knew that this day comes for each of us and I knew Debbie was gravely ill, I prayed for a miracle and I was stunned.

I rationalize her passing. She was complete. Her worldly work was done. She was in pain. Her body could no longer support her spirit. In 14 years she published 10 books, produced a film, made countless live and TV appearances, had a radio show, led workshops, and trained coaches – all with a vision and mission that never wavered. She enjoyed life to the fullest and declared on her final call on Hay House Radio in December that 2012 was the best year of her life.

Through the roller coaster ride of this past week, I have barely been able to articulate what my 9-year experience with Debbie means to me. I have been raw, cry at the strangest times and laugh, too. [Last night in my dreams Debbie was helping me shop for shoes. If you knew her you understand the humor.]

Now as I read what colleagues and friends are writing, my own feelings of deep gratitude are bubbling up and taking form. I believe that meeting and studying with Debbie and her staff of The Ford Institute was no accident and was meant to help me fulfill my life’s purpose.  I can admit wholeheartedly that most days I don’t have a clue about my life’s purpose. And I’m okay with that, because Debbie taught me that the minute I “think” know who I am, I shut out possibilities and I’ve lost connection from my heart and divine spirit.

Dearest Debbie, Words can barely express my gratitude, but I will try anyway. Thank you for teaching me to love my fear as a path to faith.  Thank you for showing me that there is always another perspective, especially when I think I’m right. Thank you for encouraging me to love all my flaws and find the gifts in the darkest of my experiences. Thank you for teaching me that the greatest journey to the light is through the dark. Thank you for supporting me with a personal phone call when I was in one of my darkest moments, for simply listening with love and reminding me that I am a precious soul. Thank you for training coaches; I am grateful every moment that these courageous warriors of love have become my family.  Thank you for your willingness to believe in the divine, in God’s plan, even when it was painful for you to do so. Thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable; this more than anything gave me permission to share from my heart. Thank you for challenging me, kicking my ass and forcing me to tell the truth until it hurt and then learn that in doing so it wouldn’t hurt anymore. Thank you for sharing that every person who comes into my life is my teacher; that those who most push my buttons, with whom I experience the most conflict, are my greatest teachers. Thank you, Debbie, for pushing all my buttons at one time or another, so that I could learn to love myself and you in the process. Thank you for teaching that my outer world is a reflection of my inner world; that no matter how I try to change what’s out there, there will always be a struggle if I don’t rearrange my inner landscape. Thank you for encouraging me to stand in my power, to say NO when I mean NO and YES to me a lot more often. Thank you for teaching me that even the smallest choices matter. Thank you for cracking me open to finally realize that I am worthy of love and that every aspect of my life is important. For this and so much more I am grateful, Debbie.

Finally — thank you God, Goddess, Universe, all the powers that be, thank you for the synchronicity, plan, divine contract, fate or luck brought this powerful and courageous woman into my life. I am forever grateful.

My only regret is that I never had a picture taken with Debbie. My fantasy was that we would be together at Omega Institute every summer, well past our 90th birthdays, on this ongoing journey of life and love. And we’d wear great shoes.

I love you and miss you, Debbie Ford.

In San Diego, 2009, great excitement, with Debbie, staff, colleagues and friends at the debut of her film THE SHADOW EFFECT.

Debut of The Shadow Effect, San Diego 2009

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“Be Yourself. Everyone Else is Taken”

I’ve been struggling lately — wondering who I am, what IS my purpose, what’s next for me. A number of life’s events converged to bring about this past year of diffusion. I was knocked flat for nine months by a medical treatment for hepatitis C only to learn the treatment didn’t work. In the middle of it all I turned 60. I haven’t totally regained my former strength, I don’t know if I will and wonder if it’s possible or if it really matters. I’m writing a book that keeps changing. My husband just had orthopedic surgery. He’s strong and will recover well, but the whole experience makes us both feel vulnerable.

OK, I said it. Vulnerable.

I know that being vulnerable is part of my humanity. I know that being flawed is all I can be. It isn’t humanly possible to be perfect. I wasn’t a perfect student, parent, sister, daughter or spouse. I never had a perfect body or perfect health. I don’t have a perfect kid.  I am grateful that I’ve never sought a perfect life, how exhausting to strive for the impossible. My life is perfectly imperfect, the truth of our human existence.

Even though I’ve expressed and shared much of my vulnerability, I also see that there are layers of vulnerability. Just being willing to allow myself to be vulnerable is a courageous act. I’m not a victim and I’m immensely grateful for my life.  I live in gratitude; I have a wonderful life, even as I haven’t a clue. My opportunity now is to take the next step in embracing and loving the confused, aimless part of me and let go of the need to figure out who I am.

I sometimes envy people who are so sure, so solid in their ego identities. They don’t wonder who they are; they just DO who they are. At the same time, I appreciate the richness and depth of allowing myself to be in “not knowing” and surrender to “not knowing” as part of my journey.

So I write, coach, mentor, take walks, dance, nap, love, play, laugh, honor my needs, stay connected to others and, yes, plan for the future. I’ll be myself, because I truly can’t be anyone else.

(Be yourself. Everyone else is taken. — quote by Oscar Wilde)



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Baby Steps my A**

I’ve given up referring to “baby steps” as something “small”. Picture this: A toddler-in-training, pulling herself up on the legs of a coffee table. Phew. Wow, that was hard. Taking a step while holding on. Venturing to let one hand go. Teetering, grabbing with the second hand again, letting go and PLOP! Right on the bottom. There’s a reason why babes aren’t potty trained earlier, they need the diaper padding…

Back to the steps. Baby finally takes those first two independent steps! In her glee she squeals in delight and throws her arms up in the starfish stance! PLOP! But she is so delighted and well padded that she pulls herself up and tries again. These are certainly baby steps, they are made by a baby, but look how hard she is working! The concentration, the strength, the courage and fortitude to try and try again! PLOP!

This past Sunday I took a baby step walk up a small mountain in the Adirondacks. Small compared to the mountains I have hiked in the not-too-distant past. After 9 months of lying on the couch, not so much my choice but forced by treatment-induced illness, I’ve had to start over. I have a memory of what it was like to be fit and strong, I know it in my mind and my body has a cellular memory of those past hikes. It’s been very hard work the last 7 months to get strong enough to reach the top of even this small mountain. Like the baby girl I picture, I was excited, curious, delighted and exuberant when I reached the top, not even thinking about needing to get back down [if you’re a hiker you know this can sometimes be harder].

So the next time someone tells you to “just take baby steps” remember the teetering, tottering baby and how hard she works to accomplish those first steps. Though your well-meaning friend, coach or consultant may think it’s a small task, YOU know different. Your baby steps take commitment, courage, strength and fortitude. YOU rock and will probably do a little rocking, teetering and tottering in the process. Be proud! Show off your success and throw your hands up in the starfish stance!


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New Normal?

Are you noticing the catch phrase “new normal”? Governors Cuomo (NY) and Christie (NJ) are using “new normal” in the aftermath of destructive tropical storm Sandy. There’s a TV show this season called The New Normal (I haven’t seen it but it appears to be pretty darned cute) and even new normal music (thus far a mystery to me).

Something niggles at me about this phrase — it’s the word “normal”. Merriam-Webster’s definition doesn’t help.  M-W tells me that normal is essentially not deviating from the norm, rule or principle; conforming to a type, standard or regular pattern. I am not comforted. The degradation of our environment and the change in our climate is real. “Normal” sounds so comforting. Like: the baby’s temperature is normal; there’s no sign of mental illness, you’re normal; all of your husband’s tests are within normal range. Very comforting. It feels like BIG change is happening at alarming rates, not all of it good. Personally I would love to see a “new normal” of increased tolerance, real equality and world peace. Not too much to hope, pray for and expect. That kind of “new normal” would be extraordinary and so “not normal” as to expand the definition even further.

I am invited to re-evaluate my “new normal” on a daily basis, in essence creating my own definition based on how I fall out of bed on a given morning. OH, this is NORMAL for me, for the world, today. Hum.

Just for today, in this moment, since that’s all I have, my “new normal” is an invitation to accept exactly what is. If I make “what is” wrong, I have absolutely no ability to create a sense of safety for myself in whatever circumstance I find myself in. I can only make change, even if all I can change are my perceptions, thoughts and beliefs, from this place of acceptance. “New normal” works as long as the comparison I make is not to yesterday or what I think tomorrow will bring.

Depends on your view…

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It’s Never Too Late to Dance [and sing and paint]!

My friend Donna, who is 50-something, is taking ballet lessons for the very first time. She wanted to dance as a child, but her parents couldn’t afford lessons. She enrolled in a beginner’s class for teens and adults and is thrilled! Her inner ballerina waiting patiently to be ‘en pointe’ has been birthed.

My friend Barbie decided when she was very young that she could not sing. It’s not that she couldn’t sing, everyone who can speak can sing. She was shamed into believing that she didn’t sing well so she stopped singing. Even in church, she would lip sync hymns. Barbie is singing karaoke! I wish she lived closer so she could dare me into karaoke.

And then there’s my friend Jane who took up painting after her kids had grown. She sells her work in local art shows and has a Facebook page as ‘artist’. Inspiring.

I turned on PBS Sunday evening and was delighted to see a report about the benefits to our aging selves of engaging in artistic expression.  Dancers are less likely to get Alzheimer’s Disease. AND dance is being used in forward-thinking nursing homes.  How does a person dance when confined in a wheelchair?  Arms, fingers, toes, facial expression and laughter. In addition, cognition and mood improves when people sing or have an opportunity to create art or even look at and discuss works of art. It all makes sense to me, yet artistic expression is often seen as something nice but not necessary and ‘The Arts’ are continually under-funded and sometimes completely eliminated in public school. What a pity.

Love what you love and do what you love. I’m not a ‘good’ dancer, but I love to dance and I will continue to dance until I take my last breath, whether on my feet or in my imagination. I don’t sing karaoke, but I do love to sing at the top of my lungs whenever I have the chance. As I approach another birthday, I’m exploring denied or delayed aspects of my artistic self.  I’m willing and eager to allow another expression my inner artist to be birthed.

The Arts bring heaven to earth and we could all use a lot more of that.

Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt and live like it’s heaven on Earth.” – Mark Twain

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul” – Martha Graham

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Taking a Break from Facebook

My husband and I spent a relaxing week in Maine. We visited a lighthouse, walked on a beautiful beach, went whale watching, road bikes, paddled around a salt marsh, hiked a trail, rested, reconnected and ate lobster! I chose an eccentric, off-the-beaten-path B&B that had a four star chef owner but barely any cell service and no internet available to guests. I immediately let go of that as a necessity. The work I thought I was going to do was easily put aside — I was on vacation after all. I checked my email a few times a day but only responded if it was timely or I felt like it. Though I posted a few pictures on Facebook and popped in a few times to check on my friends, after a few days I even let that go. During our time away, I realized that I have become dependent on Facebook.  Over the last few months I have stopped email notification for most of my private groups, as I noticed that I was spending way too much time checking in, not wanting to miss anything, needing to add my voice, my opinion.

At this moment I can’t explain exactly what it “looks like” to take a break from Facebook. I’m going to post this blog. I’m not going to shut down my page. What I do know is that there is something significant that I am on the edge of “knowing”. I’ve always felt a need to be important, though rarely the center of attention. I hate missing out. I used to go to parties I really didn’t want to attend. I couldn’t figure out if it was because I thought I’d miss something or because I wanted to be sure that no one would talk about me behind my back!

I got over that a decade ago and it’s been years since I’ve been consumed by the latest in pop culture, television shows and movies. I watch PBS New Hour, read Huffington Post and get news from other on-line news sources. I’ll admit it, I tend to be a bit reclusive without being an outright recluse! Truth be known, I’m not important at all, I’m rather BORING!  And my fear is the line between finding more “space” for me and being an outright recluse. My therapist calls me a friendly introvert. He’s being kind.

As I traverse the path of “less than” before, I want to be in the world but not consumed by it. I yearn to find that balance point and this is my intention.

I’ll see you on Facebook and maybe you’ll even see me, but not as much. At least not for a while!

Relaxing in Maine

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