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Where do you find your inspiration?

Art: Inspiration scifi art for writers

Here’s where I found my inspiration this morning… I booted up the computer to an inspirational video from the gig on the big project I’m working on.

It came from the initial research I did back in January and February. It is amazing to see how things start and where they end up, how it progresses. I think the same can be said for any project, gig or effort in life.

It often starts with the mundane steps. Though “mundane” or “boring” is a story we tell ourselves. In this case, I spent days in the archives (physically and online), and I found an amazing book and researched it as well. Now this brilliant video has been created out of that research by a lot of smart, creative folks, and I can’t wait to share with everyone! It’s one of those things where I can’t wait to see what happens next.

This whole process is a great reminder for life and for all things. Like building my coaching practice, building my business, being an entrepreneur or starting any dream. It first starts from the foundational work, the basics, consistent practice and dedication to showing up.

By showing up, day after day, the magic happens. You can have the magic when you do the work to allow it to happen. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

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Grief, the rinse and repeat gift

I just finished listening to a great podcast on grief, betrayal, loss and disappointment by master coach Susan Hyatt.  It was a good reminder for me this morning. I wanted to share it as it could be a good resource for you too.

I’m a life coach, but I can only do this kind of work and help my clients if I help myself first. I’ve done a lot of work in this area for myself and have helped my clients, such as those grieving the death of a child, their spouse and also working through betrayal and divorce. Yet I can also use helpful reminders from others, and I hire coaches myself.

Life it to give it. Do the work.

It’s interesting because I literally now am writing this blog post for the third time as the computer ate it twice. I think that is a great analogy for the grieving process. You go through it in stages, at different times. Life hands you the opportunity to revisit it and go deeper, through a new grieving opportunity.

It sounds weird to call it a grieving opportunity, but really, that’s what it is. Even when you graduate college, or get your masters, there is still more to learn, right? You are never done learning in life. Same here. To me it’s along the idea of a life lesson, and that we are souls in a human body, here to go to a soul school – life.

I am experiencing something that is definitely a “live it to give it” opportunity as we say in coach-speak. About a month ago, my dear friend of 25 years died, and I have been grieving his loss. In the last few years, there was something that came between us, and that makes for a more difficult grieving process and possible lack of the illusive “closure,” even though he was still my dear friend when he died.

There also was not an official ceremony, and I am a big believer in ceremony. Normally I would light a candle myself, pray, relight the candle for a period of days, pray some more. Yet this time when I learned of his death, I was literally on my way out of town. I believe today will be the day for my own ceremony. It’s a grey, rainy day, and the feel of it fits for me. I go by “feel” a lot as an empath.

I also am a clairvoyant/medium, and that provides me with another opportunity for working with my grief when someone I love crosses over. Yet it is still necessary to do this kind of work. Susan’s questions are similar questions I ask myself and similar to the work I do. She include a mantra that I am going to work with in this situation. It is a beautiful mantra, and you may listen to her podcast to learn more.

The other thing about grief is that fresh grief brings up the opportunity to look at other grief. There’s been more for me even just this past year….another friend who died in November, dear friends of 25 years moving to another state (final move was last week), quitting my job a year ago January when my Mom was in the hospital (and more related to that, Mom is fine), losing another gig before it started, illness of my cat, something about a man, etc. This has been quite a year. I have forgiven where that was needed, done that work, yet there is always room for more.

I also have gained so much – like a fabulous new public policy gig that I love, with people that I love, that also gives me the opportunity to begin to really work on my coaching practice and business. I believe there is a reason for everything, even when it does not make sense at the time.

It’s o.k. to pause and give yourself a moment. It’s o.k. to be sad or angry or hurt. Grief happens in its own unique time, and it is different for everyone – just like the pattern of every snowflake is unique. I think as a coach sometimes I focus on story fondling so much – i.e. not to do it – that sometimes I may not give myself enough time, allow myself to be a human, in a human body, having this experience.

I realized last week in grieving my friend’s death and doing the work with a coach, that it raised some things that I have worked on before, to give me the opportunity to go much deeper. Yes, “opportunity.” I mean that sincerely. Opportunity like this isn’t fun, but it’s always good/necessary. Over the last three years, I lost quite a few very dear, close friends, definitely in the manner of betrayal, tied into a former spiritual organization. It was a loss, yet it was also a blessing.

My life is much better now that they are gone, and I am so grateful for that – grateful that they are no longer in my life, that I can “see” and that I have the opportunity to do this work. I am also grateful for the lessons that I learned and what their presence in my life taught me along the way. Yet despite that gratitude, I realized that there is still hurt, sadness and anger at their betrayal and behavior to look at again. Anger is a stage of grief, and it serves as a mask for the root emotions underneath. Susan’s questions in her podcast are similar to ones I have asked myself in similar situations. Her mantra gives a great way to address this, and I intend to work with it here as well.

Last week when Susan put out this podcast, I knew I *had* to listen to it – definitely what I call a synchronicity or a meaningful coincidence. Some folks call them God Winks. Whatever the name, personally I find it is my higher self, my soul self, trying to get me to listen, to go back to school. I finally listened to it, and it’s awesome! I listened to it twice.

Time to rinse and repeat.

For any of you who are experiencing grief, loss or betrayal, this would be a great 10 minutes or less of your life.

Feelings, Emotions & Empaths

Feelings. Sometimes the word scares people. Oh no, that person expresses emotions, they have feelings! Then the judgment sets in. The dreaded they’re too “emotional.” I’ve had others tell me that emotions scare them, that they can’t handle emotions. I’ve heard others described as being too “emotional” or even had myself described that way. But what does that all mean?

What does that mean to not be able to handle emotions? To me it speaks of not being able to handle the emotions within ourselves, first and foremost. If we can’t process our own emotions, how can we handle the emotions of others? It is harder for us to process emotions of others because we can’t process our own.

And more than that, the emotions or feelings of others are not expressed to us always in a state of unconditional love – they can come with strings, with rules, with requirements and expectations and an effort to control us and mold us into what someone else wants. It is not accepting of who and what we are. It seeks to change us. So we can become trained to expect emotions and feelings to come with all that other “stuff” – and that feels bad. True emotion and feelings, when shared without all the added “stuff” or stories and manipulations is such a beautiful gift to share with someone.

But if you’ve never had that, how else are you going to react? What else are you going to expect? Experiencing unconditional love is quite a powerful experience, especially when you receive it romantically for the first time, and learning what it’s like, what it feels like. Pretty incredible stuff.

Many times in our lives the emotions of others may be expressed in an effort to manipulate us, to change us, to get us to be or do what someone else wants. Once you have experienced that over and over, it becomes harder to trust in the idea of unconditional love, and cleanly expressed emotions. Maybe you’ve never even had that experience. Or maybe you’re experiencing it for the first time.

Yet much of the fear and inability to handle emotions is really from the feelings inside yourself that you fear to face. What will you see if you do look within, if you let the emotions out? What have you not yet processed and healed inside of yourself? What betrayal, hurt or loss are you masking and holding on to? What are you using to stop yourself from feeling again as a buffer to keep the pain from happening again? What story are you creating about that betrayal and pain? What are you making it mean in your life?

It makes me think of cognitive behavior therapy and experiments with rats – if you keep getting shocked over and over, you expect the same thing to happen again. It becomes automatic as an initial response. You no longer respond, you react.

Sometimes it’s subconscious, and you don’t even know you’re doing it.

As an empath, I have the privilege, and yes, sometimes the burden, of being able to “read between the lines” and see, hear, know and feel what the other person is feeling on a subconscious level. It makes me a great friend and beloved (and really helps with my coaching and other work). It also comes with its own challenges. The challenge is in being able to see it and feel it all and yet still respond to the person on the surface of what they are saying, to meet them with where they are at, with what they acknowledge to themselves – not with all the feelings and things they can’t see yet themselves.

What are you afraid you will see when you look through the mirror of someone else expressing their emotions or feelings? What makes you uncomfortable in that mirror?

What are you making it mean that someone else is expressing their emotions, sharing them with you, sharing their feelings with you? How are you receiving those feelings? Is it with a clear vessel, or is there other gunk in there clogging up the works and tinging the water, dirtying up the clean flow of emotion and feeling?

When others have feelings for us or share their feelings in general with us, or express their emotions to us, it can be scary. Yet emotions in and of themselves are healthy, beautiful and powerful. They can be intense, and that’s o.k. too. Things can be felt deeply. We can be moved. We can move mountains.

When you’re an empath like I am, it’s even more so. Then when you put two empaths together, the energy spirals. It is an amazing thing. You feel your emotions, you feel the emotions of the other person, and you feel the other person feeling your emotions and get that back. Likewise, the other person feels what you’re feeling, and they feel their own feelings back that you’re feeling of their feelings, and so on. It’s like a circuit where the energy increases as it goes around and spirals up.

That connection is palpable. It is somewhat akin to the idea Dion Fortune talked about in psychic and channeling work. She said that when working with someone else who has the same skills, it’s like having a battery added to the mix. She routinely worked with a partner in doing the work. You will also find magickal workers through time who work with a partner, particularly a spouse or beloved due to that increased connection. It increases and amps up the frequency and power of the work.

It also reminds me of the infinite reflection of mirrors within mirrors. It is the most incredible spiraling dance. It is intense, beautiful and powerful. Being aware of it, having awareness of it, is important. And when you do it with a clear vessel, the sky is the limit to the heights you can reach together, in stable flight. It reminds me of Eagle. Eagle is an ally and also is the highest expression of my sun and ascendant sign, Scorpio.

Emotions are positive, even the ones where we’re sad or mad. Those emotions or feeling states are healthy too – it’s o.k. The idea is not to stop ever having them again or to stop them up and end the flow. Let them flow cleanly. Not attaching to them, but honoring them, letting them flow and then continuing on.

Some have trouble doing that. There were times in my life where the intensity of being an empath was something I didn’t understand. Where I did not have discernment of what were my feelings and what were other than me. I was attached to the emotions, the feelings or to someone else. Having that discernment years ago made a huge life shift for me, with the most amazing gifts, and I’ve been able to pass that on to others. I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to explore it yet in a romantic relationship, but what I have been able to experience has been powerful.

Emotions can become unhealthy when we use our emotions and the power of our words to hurt someone else. To make them change. To manipulate them to do what we want. To use our love with conditions – I won’t love you or I won’t be your friend unless you do what I want, unless you change this, unless you bend to my will.

Emotions are unhealthy when we make our life dependent, or our feelings dependent, on what someone does or says. Wanting companionship and support, it is beautiful. When we take that to a standpoint of need of the level of neediness, it becomes unhealthy – “I will only be o.k. if she does this. Or, “I will only be o.k. if he does that.”

You can still be happy. You can still want it. But you are o.k. with yourself and with the other person the way they are. You don’t need them to change, and you don’t need yourself to change, to be o.k. and to be happy in your life. That level of need is not love. It doesn’t leave room for free choice, for following ones true will and for having respect and unconditional love for that other person. It also does not have respect for nor love for yourself. As within so without.

Unconditional love allows for the expression of feelings, sharing and showing healthy emotions and feelings, and that allows for intimacy between two people – be they friends or lovers. When I say “love”, this can be any type of love. Friendship, sisterhood, brotherhood, romantic love, parental love.

Unconditional love is a powerful thing. Yet it also just as importantly allows for non-judgment and detachment. And this is an incredible thing of beauty! If you’re in a relationship with a friend or lover, the idea of “detachment” doesn’t mean that you don’t care. Quite the contrary. It is not detachment from the standpoint of not having feelings. Instead, detachment is having love without conditions. It is having complete respect and value for the other person.

Detachment is…I love you for who you are without seeking to change you. I love you. I want you. I don’t need you to complete me. I don’t need you to fulfill some fantasy or expectation of who and what I want in my life. I am not attached to you. I won’t only love you if you do or are X Y or Z. I just want to share my love with you. I want to share my love for myself, for everything around me, and for you…just the way you are. I want to share my happiness and joy with you. And I love you more in return for loving me for just the way I am, for all of who I am.

To receive that love in return is something so amazing. You can have it with friends, family, lovers, spiritual connections – you can find it in many places. To experience total acceptance for who you are, to be appreciated and loved for who you are, with no conditions is the most incredible gift to receive.

In my life I’ve had this from family, from dear sisters, brothers and friends. I’ve also experienced it once recently from a man who has become dear to me, as a friend and whatever the thing is. He accepts me for who and what I am. He is curious about me, interested in me, for who I am, not who he might want me to be. He respects my yes and my no. Just as I respect his yes and his no.

Feeling cared about without conditions? That’s pretty amazing. It’s beautiful. And yeah, so it’s hot too. Because being able to do that for someone else, means that you’re in a place inside to do it for yourself first, at least to some regard. And that’s attractive. As within, so without.

Does this mean that everything in life or in a friendship or any type of relationship is automatically easy? Of course not. Does it mean that there is never sadness? No, I mean, what would life be if it was all painted with one color on the palette? Does it mean that there can never be pain? No. But it does means the pain is “clean” pain and not dirty pain with all our stories added into it, creating more suffering for ourselves and our loved ones or beloved.

We seek understanding, and we have respect for all of creation. We do not make assumptions, we do not take things personally, we use our word impeccably, and we always do our best in each situation and in each moment. (Yes, The Four Agreements, with much love and gratitude to don Miguel Ruiz and his family.)

Does this mean that we accept everything and everyone into our lives? No. It doesn’t. Sometimes my no may not work with your yes, and vice versa, and that’s o.k. It’s not personal. We can honor our boundaries and what is healthy for us while still holding that space of unconditional love.

It doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but it’s always worth it. And it’s always beautiful. After all, it’s magick.

Family & Farm Lore of the Civil War Era

This is a series of vignettes told to me as a little girl as it tied into the Civil War near our family “Century” farm in Northeast Missouri. Last night my parents shared something with me, a piece of cultural history from 140 years ago in the form of an article from a town near where my Mom grew up.

A newspaper article from 140 years ago prompted many memories of stories I heard while visiting the farm as a young girl. I am sharing the article, and also the stories, because I think the more things are illuminated on how they used to be, the inhumane and bad things that happened, the more can be healed by shining the light, and the more chance we have of not repeating horrific events as a society.

It is also why I have spent time visiting concentration camps in Austria and Poland and also Russian “camps” in Hungary when on vacation and other sites of atrocities. Honor those who have walked before, those who have walked in footsteps that we can never truly understand, sending healing, and sharing their stories.

I called my Mom this morning to speak with her about these stories from the Civil War and related farm lore and to have her refresh my memory on some of the details. Then I followed up with a little more research online to share as well.

Our Family “Century” Farm

Our family farm is in Northeast Missouri. It has been in the family over 100 years, since 1902, on my Mom’s Henderson side of the family. My mom Joyce Henderson Bilderback married Roger Bilderback, and they own our farm. Our ancestors on my mom’s side are buried in the area, and we regularly visit the cemeteries to place flowers on the graves, which really is a type of offering. When I walk our land, the ancestors walk with me. Their presence is so thick, and it is a presence of love and support and of gratitude for what we do to give back to the land and the area.

My Family’s Civil War Dead, Union Soldiers

One of our dead buried at a local cemetery there is David L. Wilkins, who fought with his brothers on the side of the Union during the Civil War, including Gettysburg, along with other locations. They all made it out of the war alive and went on to raise families. He is my Great Great Grandfather on my Great Grandmother Mae Willa Wilkins Northcraft’s side – he was my Great Grandma Mae’s father. She was a Wilkins before she married James Northcraft.

Newark Skirmish/Fighting

There were Civil War battles that took place near our farm, including in Newark, Missouri. There is a very old home there with bullet holes from that time that my Mom showed me as a little girl. It is still there.

The Palmyra Massacre

Palmyra is also near our family farm. It was the location of the Palmyra Missouri Massacre. There is an old hardback book by that name, which was my grandma’s and that my mom now has, which contains the first account of what happened. It has more details than you can find on the internet, and I will share some of them in this story, though for the story of what lead up to the massacre, you may visit HERE, which also contains links about Missouri slavery and the Civil War.

There were 10 Confederate prisoners in jail who were to be shot the next day on the town square in a firing squad due to the disappearance and presumed death of a Union sympathizer who had reported on numerous Confederate sympathizers. It was a threat and an act of revenge on the Union side, as it was reported, for the presumed killing of this Union sympathizer. This was an area of the country where there were those on both sides of the war – neighbor against neighbor. It reminds me of what I saw in Croatia, and the stories our Polish and Hungarian guides told us as they pointed it out, where some homes had bullet holes and others did not, as neighbors turned against neighbors there as well.

Here is the story that has been told of the Palmyra Massacre, as is outlined in the book… The wife of one of the Confederate prisoners that was to be shot the next morning in the town square by the Union side, had a large family, and she went to plead to get her husband released so he would not be shot. She gave a sexual favor in return. A young man around 20 years old and single volunteered to take this man’s place – Hiriam Smith (or Hiram or Hiran). The husband was released and the young man was shot on the town square with the other men/prisoners.

My Mom remembered his name was Hiriam Smith (she gave me that spelling), and I want to read the book to get the facts straight, as another website link talks about Hiriam Smith, but not in a way that he volunteered to take the other man’s place. He is buried somewhere in that area, and we had previously looked for the cemetery but still have not found it. It is in Lewis County. Mom says the book outlined the story as I presented it above.

Here is his story according to a genealogy website, which does say that Hiram took the place (though does not mention his “volunteering” to take the man’s place as it does in the book) of the other Confederate man/prisoner to be killed:

“Hiram Smith (Confederate) – Enlisted as Private into B Company, 10th Cavalry (Missouri)
Note Spelling of name Hiram instead of Hiran
Scarcely 22 years old.
He was the replacement for William T. Humphrey’s (wife Mary) who was freed.
Buried in little cemetery in Lewis County.
A headstone was erected by Senator George W. Humphreys the son of William.
The headstone reads:
Hiram Smith
This Monument is Dedicated to the Memory of Hiram Smith
Who was Shot at Palmyra, Oct. 18, 1862
As a Substitute for William T. Humphrey, My Father src#3”

It is interesting because this monument described above, that was erected to Hiram Smith, was erected at the behest of the grown child of the man who was saved through his act of volunteering to be a substitute so his/her father might live instead.

This account of the woman and the release of the husband upon substitution for a volunteer may be found in the book, yet Wiki gives a different account of it, which is not wholly accurate based on eye witness accounts in the book:

“After the massacre, it has been claimed that Strachan spared the life of one of the intended victims (William Thomas Humphrey of Lewis County) in exchange for $500 paid by Humphrey’s wife. Strachan is also said to have violated the chastity of Mrs. Humphrey, whether as part of the bargain or not. (Capt. Griffin Frost, quoted by Joseph A. Mudd, “With Porter in Northeast Missouri”). In 1864 Strachan was tried for the rape of Mrs. Humphrey and other offences, including misuse of funds. Found innocent of rape but guilty of embezzlement, he was sentenced to prison and was released by General William Starke Rosecrans on the grounds of persecution and an unfair trial, even though his accuser was another Union officer.”

Note that in this account above, there was a bribe and also alleged rape of the wife seeking her husband’s release and no mention of the volunteer. That time still had a culture of repression of women, so her story could have been she gave the favor or that she was forced into it to get her husband back, and even if she submitted to it, did she really have a choice? Back then rape would have been very hard to prove, and the idea that he was even tried for it speaks volumes.

In addition, to the victor goes the spoils and also the rewriting of history, and since the “volunteer” who took the Confederate prisoner’s place was also on the Confederate side, the newspaper accounts of that day or official military reports from the Union army would likely not have promoted that version that the young man “volunteered” to do it, as it would make a Confederate out to be a hero. I tend to believe the account in the book, and I also step out of the which side who was on viewpoint…to look at this as an individual young boy who was caught up fighting in a war, and did something heroic at the end of his life to spare the life of someone else on a basic human level.

The Washburn Story and Servant/Farmhand Quarters

This is another story of what I saw growing up and visiting the farm. There is the Washburn property, where they built a large brick mansion. They were wealthy and had extensive farm ground as considered for the times. When my mom was a little girl, she used to call on the Washburn family with her mother. My mom’s family was not wealthy yet they did visit and were welcomed. My grandma Hendrson on my mom’s side was an amazing woman in general – loving, hard-working.

When I was a little girl going to the farm from Peoria with my parents for vacations, before we moved to St. Louis in fourth grade, we would pass by the Washburn property on the way there. On the edge of the property along the road, there were small quarters. They were for the farmhands who worked the land. I had asked if they were slaves, and they were not. Though I am left to wonder if their pay was very good and I am also left to wonder as to their true ability to make something of their lives and thus be able to move on if they chose to do so. I always wondered as a little girl how they could live in houses that were so small because they were the size of a room.

At some point as the structures were falling down, they were bulldozed down. The house and land are now owned by someone different as the last woman in the family to live there died. I was given a tour of the home several years ago. The furniture and everything is just as it was left, though in some disarray.

Lots of ancestors, stories, lore and history.

The Edina Sentinel Story – Black Man Threatened 140 years ago

This is why I am writing this blog post today, what inspired it, and it also was the impetus for the ancestors to ask for the stories above to be shared. There is a newspaper, The Edina Sentinel, which is still published today. Edina is the Knox County seat where the County Courthouse is located. In each newspaper, they publish articles from years ago. Last night Dad gave me one that had articles from 140 years ago, as published originally on Feb. 17 1876. There is nothing like seeing history in print to bring home how disturbing it actually was/is.

In this article, you will note that none of the white mob that went to this black man’s house were mentioned by name in the paper, and that the white women were degraded for living with him, and of course there was no justice for the black man who was threatened…

“Threatened – Jack Smith (colored), living about one mile northwest of Edina, reports that on Saturday night last, some eight or ten persons came to his house, called him out, and threatened to kill him and his son, a young man of some 22 or 23 summers, if they did not run off two white women that were living with them. Jack, being somewhat scared, promised to obey all commands. They then retired in good order to their homes. It seems that two women (white), one calling herself Sarah Hale, and the other Mary Harman (reported hard characters) went to Jack’s house some five weeks ago and had since been resting there in peace and quietude. We understand that on Monday last Jack was in town making arrangements for their shipment north.”

My parents also told me that maybe a week or so ago, an article was published from the same time period that talked about a black man being sold for one dollar on the Knox County Courthouse steps, stating that his owner sold him because he was “lazy.”

Wow. I mean, who has words for that?

I think it is important that a paper like the Edina Sentinel makes old history living again, so we always remember and never forget. When I read and see these things, and though I know it all happened, there is still that part of me that is always in shock all over again that people can do this to others – racism, religious intolerance, war. And yet it happens all over the world, in different guises, throughout history and into current day.

The more we are aware of history, the more chance we have of not repeating it.

Listen to the ancestors. They have stories to tell.

Change is Magic

Daffodils (Getty)
Daffodils (Getty)

Change is magic. It brings the hint of a fresh breeze on the air. The shifting of the seasons has so much power to help us make changes in our own lives.

I feel the energy of spring starting in early February, as the daffodils have sprung from the earth and the crocus make their appearance. Even through the snow that may be on the ground, they find their way, pushing through the soil. It is a time of new beginnings as the sun begins to warm the earth, melting the snow and ice, nourishing the land for the flowers to come.

It is similar with us and winter, if we take the time to work with the energy of the season and the change between seasons. In winter, we spend time indoors. We can use this time to go within ourselves. Look at our life. What do we want to change? What do we no longer need to hang onto? Clean out that closet, that drawer, that file, including the file of limiting beliefs in our mind…look at our life and what no longer serves.

There is still time yet. What can you gently release from your life to make room for new growth to come? What do you seek to create in your life in its place? Plant the seed of that intention, that Intent, in your mind.

A few weeks ago, I sold two pieces of furniture, antiques. I had them for a long time. I loved them, but I needed more space in my house, so I advertised them for half of their value and what I paid for them.

First I sold the armoire. It was unique – an English, walnut, knockdown wardrobe. Gorgeous. A couple who had left a western state came here with hardly any furniture. They bought an older house in North County, and they love antiques. Their house did not have enough closets. They came and got it with a friend, and they were so happy!!

The second one is an even better story. It was a beautiful lime green, velvet, full size Victorian sofa. A delightful young couple came. She had just bought her first home in the City. They were so cute! They had specifically been looking for a “lime green velvet Victorian sofa!” What are the odds, right?

I call this a synchronicity, a meaningful coincidence. To me synchronicities are like the breadcrumbs of life, giving us clues to the right path.

I had a friend at my house on both occasions so I wouldn’t be alone, and praised her for bringing her boyfriend. They only had a loveseat and were sharing that to watch t.v., so I told them to lay down, test it out. Seeing those two curled up on the sofa was too cute for words! Then, her Dad came with his truck. Just like my Dad did to get the sofa from the antique store for me, and has so many times for me in my life. They carried it out in the snow. For some reason, both of their plans had changed, and they were free to come that night. I love it when a plan comes together!

After this, several things began to happen, more things came into my life and others began to shift in both little ways and big ways. When you catch this flow of energy, it’s almost like what some might call a lucky streak. But I don’t believe in luck. I believe in magic. Here’s what happened so far…

  • I had this amazing opportunity for a three hour meeting with a writer interested in my work, and they attended an event that I threw as well.
  • I had a great meeting with someone that may have a political position for me.
  • I also had an interview for a new gig, and got the second interview while still on the phone on the first interview.
  • I realized before any warning lights came on that there was something wrong with my car and got it taken care of before it was a problem.
  • I received a check for the first time ever from my mortgage company for an escrow surplus that was almost the size of a mortgage payment.
  • An old thing hanging out there was resolved to my benefit and satisfaction.
  • Things shifted back to the better with a man I’m interested in.
  • My health began to shift for the better.
  • My Mom’s health continues to improve.
  • And I got carded. (Had to include that!)

Change is magic. When things change, magic happens in your life. It happens in little ways and big ways. It releases the flow of energy. Energy wants to flow, it doesn’t want to be stopped. Yes, it doesn’t want to be forced or pushed, and it may want to be eased or gently started to keep that balance in the process of change, but it does want to flow.

Change is good! I promise. Sometimes you may not immediately see it, but it always is. It opens so many amazing doors and brings such gifts when you gently release the old to welcome in the new blessings!

Release what does not serve. Let go attachment. Release that energy to flow. State your intention or Intent for the blessings you want to come in your life. Allow the movement. Release attachment to outcome. Let it flow.

Enjoy the magic.

 

Life All In

I used to talk about the idea of “work hard, play hard.” Kind of a life mantra, though I also really like the one I started using during my MBA program, “make work fun.” Yet both of these don’t truly capture it or me. I have something better, which I just realized today on my drive up to the farm – Life All In.

Work hard, play hard is great, but it also is hard. Why does it have to be hard? If you have a passion for something, anything, even work, then it isn’t really hard – it’s your passion. The idea of fun really doesn’t capture it all either. Fun is great, but it doesn’t quite capture that level of satisfaction that comes with doing or creating something of significance in your personal or professional life.

On my drive, I thought about how I like to do things, all things. What I really do when I’m getting the most out of each moment, each task, each mission. No matter what I’m doing, I’m always all in. Not everyone understands this, and there are a lot of folks that don’t live their life this way, and that’s great too.

I choose to live my life all in.

Being all in means that you are giving life everything you’ve got. You enjoy and savor it all. We’ve heard the adage of “what you put into something is what you get out of it.” More accurately for me, it is the idea that the more you put into something the more you’ll get out of it. I’ve had that as a belief since I was a teenager.

It’s the same with life – the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.

I live life up to the edge, full out, no matter what I do, with a passion and an intensity of focus. Gig? Bring it. Create something new? Bring it. Take up a new passion? Bring it. I’m all in.

There is no namby pamby about it. There is no hemming and hawing. There is no thought of “let me just stick my toes in and see if the water is warm enough.” I just know. Yes, I do my homework and my due diligence. I decide. And I do it. If it works and if I like it, I keep doing it. And I give it everything I’ve got.

I do things, and I do them with a passion and with an intensity for life. The few times I haven’t, to me it results in complacency. When you’re complacent, you’re not growing, you’re not experiencing all life has to offer in each moment. You’re stagnant. You’re not living your passion. You’re holding part of yourself back from the world, but more importantly, you’re holding it back from yourself. You dull your shine.

No matter what you do, do it all in. Let your light shine. Bring it. See how that shifts your life to this amazing brilliance and vibrancy. Even the little things all around you shift, and you see them with new eyes.

When I was young, that intensity for life perhaps burned a little too bright sometimes. Balance in life is always a great thing. Not all work, not all play, some rest too.

Now? That intensity is still there, but it’s focused into a fabulously hot, smoldering coal. It’s a fire that consistently burns and fuels whatever it is I want to do in my life. It is flame tempered with awareness of myself. Awareness of who I am, what I want, what makes me happy. It is awareness of what I can do, what I can’t do and what I choose to do.

If it makes me happy, I do more of that. Now. Tomorrow. The next day. But I don’t do it half-assed, I’m all in. This intensity of focus has made me a great lobbyist. A great friend. A great team player and leader. A great beloved. A great life coach and healer.

I don’t let limiting beliefs stop me. I don’t let fear stop me. I grab fear’s hand, partner with it and I go for it anyway. If it is something I want to do, I do it anyway, all in.

A lobbyist I worked with, whom I greatly respect, once said to someone about me as we were talking, “this one? This one here will go up to anyone and ask them for their yes, she’s not afraid to make the ask.” He was comparing me to others who he felt were afraid to make the ask. That was one of the coolest compliments I have ever received.

Got fear? Do it anyway. Anything else would not be all in.

Taking what I love and mixing in this intensity of focus allows me to accomplish so many things in life. I feel like I pack so much in, into every day, every moment, with so many different things and different people. There is this amazing tapestry that has been woven, with all of these gorgeous threads, creating this strong yet soft, textured, vibrant fabric. Sure, there have been holes in the fabric, who doesn’t have their challenges in life? But the darning of those holes has made the fabric even more robust, stronger.

It can take people, even my friends, a long time to discover and know all the threads of who I am and of what makes this fabric of my life, because it is such a rich tapestry, robust and full. I can be somewhat of a mystery, though it’s not intentional, there is just so much there to be discovered in the package of who I am. It’s like a present that just keeps giving with new surprises each day adding zest to each moment.

I find this intensity for life sometimes can be intimidating to other people, and I spent a lot of my life trying to tamp down the shine, especially in my personal life. I don’t do that anymore. Life is too short. I don’t apologize for who I am or for being happy. I’m happy and there is too much to do, too much to enjoy! I just keep shining.

I surround myself with confident, passionate people who encourage me to shine, just as I encourage them to shine, with whatever they want to do, whatever their hopes and dreams. You’ll find that my friends are strong people, who live their dreams, who know themselves, who do what makes them happy, who love what they do and who live life on their own terms.

Just as I live my life all in. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Present Moment – Lessons Learned from the Range

Present moment. We don’t have the future in this moment. We don’t have the past. We have the present. We have now.

Thinking about the future beyond what we need to do for our lives, creates worry. Worry wastes our valuable energy. Thinking about and replaying the past, perhaps reliving and beating ourselves up over things that have happened or things we would have done differently, or what we feel someone else has done to us or should have done differently, “should’ing” all over ourselves, causes needless suffering. We are the only animal that beats ourselves up over our past mistakes. If an animal makes that mistake, they move on – they are in the present moment.

When I’m shooting, it is very much an exercise in staying in the present moment. My meditative skills help my shooting. My shooting, conversely, helps further train my mind and thoughts to stay in the present moment. Sometimes I feel that my shooting is even a greater help in this regard than my daily morning yoga practice. Completely different feel to both, but absolutely the same ideas in play.

When you have a firearm in your hands, you can’t be thinking about what did or didn’t happen at work, what things you need to get done on your to-do list or how behind you feel in all of the things you want to get done. There is too much responsibility that comes with holding something in your hand that has such physical power. And there are too many little things to focus on to bring it all together for the shot to go off safely and on target.

Focus is absolutely required when shooting a firearm. It requires the right preparation, the right grip, a gentle and constant press on the trigger, and when the round breaks from the gun, you’re still not done – it requires proper follow through to make sure you’re set up for the next shot and that you don’t get in the bad habit of moving the gun too soon and throwing off your shot.

It reminds me of Hunt Seat in college, where I was jumping fences. When you got over the jump, you immediately turned your head and eyes to where you wanted to go, where you wanted the horse to go. You focus on where you want to go, and nothing else. Same thing here. You keep your focus on where you want the shot to go, keeping your sights aligned on target and gentle consistent movement. (By the way, I adored jumping and hope to get back into it again at some point, but one new thing at a time!)

The first time I shot my Glock 43, was at the end of the NRA pistol safety training at the range on July 24. It was an eight hour class, four hours on two nights. This was our second night. We had shot .22 caliber semi-automatics, and that was great and went well. There definitely was an adrenaline rush, which I have to say, is quite nice. It does something for me. Oddly, I also like the smell and what happens when a shot goes off. I also don’t mind getting my hands dirty, but I always was a bit of a tomboy as a child.

The difference between shooting a .22 and a 9 mm, particularly when you had never shot a pistol before like me, is a big difference. After the rounds with the .22, my instructor had us get out my own gun, and he helped me with it. He coached me through shooting my first six rounds from my own gun that night. He started off by telling me that we would try two rounds, and if it scared me that we would stop and put the gun away as he did not want that to ruin me for shooting in the future.

There really is that big of a difference in the sound, the feel, the pressure of the trigger, the recoil, vibration and the sheer power of the gun. He asked me if it would be better if he did it first or if I would be o.k. to do it myself first. I said I didn’t think it would make a difference either way, and he said to definitely be the first to shoot my own gun then.

When I went to shoot the first round (and each subsequent round), he reminded me about staying in the present moment. Align your sights, press gently, take the slack out of the trigger, press, press, press, it will go off when it goes off, press, press…

Bam!

Wow. Now that? That. That was something else! It totally made my socks go up and down, lol, as an old co-worker used to say.

He told me I wasn’t afraid of it; he was quite pleased. I was super pleased, though my eyes were probably a little glazed over by then.

Then he taught me to mimic a stronger grip by a push pull with my two hands on the pistol. Second round. Very nice. By the time we were done with six rounds, time was so fast and so slow at the same time. There was nothing but that moment, in that stall, in this weird communion with my pistol, and hearing his voice. If my mind would try to think or anticipate the shot, I heard his voice.

Gods I loved everything about it! Absolutely. Everything.

You’re supposed to be surprised when the shot breaks from the pistol. Why? If you anticipate the shot, you can end up pulling the trigger faster, or you might move the pistol early, misalign your sights and shoot off target. .

Stay in the present moment. Don’t rush. It will happen when it happens. Be patient.

Well, I haven’t always been the most patient person in the world. When I was in high school, I used to joke with my friend about my “id” taking over. “Id” was Sigmund Freud’s psychological term for the part of the self that wants immediate gratification and has a great focus on the physical and the subconscious.

I’m a true Scorpio girl, so the idea of immediate gratification is a natural home base for me, though a rather un-evolved base if I stayed there all the time, lol. But this idea of patience really works for me in shooting. Again a great metaphor and lesson for life. Patience is a virtue, which also was a focus of our work when I was in Job’s Daughters (a Masonic organization for girls).

All happens in its own time.

To me this also is the idea of not having expectations. So many times we have expectations of ourselves and of others. Expectations create conditions. We have conditions on our love, even on our love for ourselves. i.e. “I’ll only love myself if XYZ,” and insert your poison there. Conditions versus unconditional love.

Having expectations creates unhappiness. Being free of expectations leaves us free to be who we are, and it frees others to be who they are.  It leaves us free to love ourselves and to be happy, living our life fully in each moment. Taking our time, squeezing all the sweet juices out of life and savoring it. Taking time to press the trigger, gently, slowly and enjoying the shot when it happens, in its own time.

Anticipating the shot, what it will be like, when it’s going to go off, all of that is having expectations, which throws off your aim and your shot. Another lesson and a great reinforcement for how I choose to live my life – stay in the moment, do not have expectations and don’t take anything personally. What others do or do not do has nothing to do with you. It is about them.

Your expectations create a story about how someone else’s actions are about you. They are not about you. The gun doesn’t care about your story. You use your expectations to create chains around yourself and around someone else. Release your expectations and you find freedom, and happiness in that freedom.

I started taking private lessons, and I have only had one so far, though I have a lot scheduled this fall – I have a lot to learn! And of course, there will be much practicing between sessions. When I bought my pistol, I wasn’t exactly sure what my plans were, other than home defense; and as you can read in prior blog posts, I quickly decided that this is something I wanted to have available to me in the event that my life was threatened. To me that decision requires a great deal of practice and work. It’s a big responsibility.

In my first lesson, there was a regular target, and I was supposed to show my instructor how I was shooting. So he had me shoot a magazine, which in this case is six rounds. I did that. He had two suggestions. A slight change in my body position, which was awesome and more natural and comfortable.

Then the other was something he noticed I was doing when shooting. After the shot went off, I would pause before getting my sights aligned again to see where the shot went. So you can imagine that, as he said from a practical standpoint, if you ever really need to use your gun, having that muscle memory of that pause is not a good thing – you need to immediately get back on target so you can shoot again. I tried it without the pause, getting my sights aligned and back on target, and it was amazing. So we quickly moved on to learning how to move and shoot at the same time. I’m practicing that with an *unloaded* [emphasis added!!] gun at home, so no worries!

I think this is another great metaphor for life. Doing the work, then looking at the outcome before continuing the work – i.e. looking to or worrying on the past and not staying in the present moment. You can’t do anything about the past, all you can do is stay in the moment and get yourself together, work your plan. Or in this case, get your sights aligned on the target and press the trigger, do the work. You can’t do anything about where the prior shot went, and you can assess it later for ways to improve once you’re done with the work.

I also practice dry firing at home with a quarter balanced on my sights, which another instructor at the range taught me – great recommendation! She also is a great instructor. The idea is to keep the quarter balanced on the gun’s front sights as you pull the trigger, and that the quarter stays there. Trigger control. Smooth press. Here again, of course, the gun is absolutely unloaded, thus the words “dry firing,” yet all the other safety principles are still very much at work as well.

I have been going to the range about twice a week, and I have worked myself up to firing 150 rounds each time, so about 300 rounds each week. I quit bothering with using two targets and just use one each time; I kind of like the big hole in the middle when I’m done, satisfying. I also have found that it takes me a lot less time to effectively and accurately shoot 150 rounds than it used to as well, which has just kind of happened over time with a lot of practice. And yes, my instructor told me that would happen as well; he said to just focus on the mechanics of my shooting, the accuracy, and the rest would come.

In my life I never thought I would do this. Never thought I’d be into it. It completely surprised me. I’m totally into it! Hook, line and sinker. And pretty good at what I’ve done so far because I’ve employed all of what I have been taught. It’s been amazing, and I can’t wait to learn more! I’m in this one for the long haul.

I’m still in awe, each time I press the trigger, and each time the shot goes off, it’s…damn. It is pretty freaking awesome to be honest. The control and presence required for the outcome I want, is also another great metaphor for life.

Presence. There is so much in that word.

Sometimes people look at me, particularly men, and though they try to hide it and are quite respectful, I can see that they get a kick out of it. I get a lot of smiles. It doesn’t bother me. I look at it from someone else’s perspective. Here’s this little 5’2″ blonde girl, red boots, winning smile (so I’m told!), and she does this thing…and she is doing it well. It’s just that it’s unexpected. I don’t mind delivering the unexpected. It’s kind of fun being a surprise, an enigma. I’m a Scorpio girl after all!

I do so many different things, and love so many things in life, and you just never know what you’ll learn about me next. Of course, neither do I – who knows what I’ll learn about myself next?! And that? That is priceless.

My Life, My Body, My Terms

This post will weave quite a story, so I hope you’ll stick around for the end… For years I’ve been afraid of anesthesia. Really since it first came up, whenever that first surgery was. The process of surgery, everything related to it. No one ever understood, though I have incredibly patient and kind friends who have always helped me out.

I did hypnosis early on when I had to go under fully for the first time. It didn’t seem to help much. In the meditative work we did, there was a box to look in, and I apparently was not ready to open it. That was about 15 years or so ago.

I never really knew why I had this fear. I wasn’t like other people. Everyone else I talked to wants to be put under and not know. They just could not understand or relate to me. Me? I could not stand the thought of not knowing everything that happens during surgery. I refused any pre-medication, and chose to have anything done while awake. No matter how utterly painful it was, like the uterine ablation, I wanted to be awake for it all. A little bit of morphine and that was it.

My very strong meditative skills worked wonders in those situations, and when I got into the operating room, it was game time, and I made it work. I controlled my blood pressure, I breathed through the incredible pain. But why would I choose, adamantly choose, something so painful?

I always thought it was because of several news shows I saw, like on 60 minutes and 20-20 that do the more in depth segments. They were on a kick about surgeries for a while. One was what medical staff in different examples were recorded saying with undercover recordings during surgery. Things they said not just about their own lives but also denigrating towards the patient. Then there was the one that talked about how patients are put under but don’t end up completely under, yet they cannot say anything. They are effectively paralyzed and feel all the pain of the surgery.

I had some anesthesia for my first sinus surgery, but I was awake. Unfortunately, it did not do much to negate these fears. The whole atmosphere in that operating room was very nonchalant, and completely unlike any of my later experiences. Yet it set the stage.

In my next surgery where I was completely under for the first time, my first arm surgery, they switched me out of the surgery gown when I wasn’t making memories yet. I “woke up” and saw I was in a completely different gown that had been done without me knowing. Not helpful.

Combine all that with the fact that anesthesia makes me very ill and some level of fear is understandable. Yet my fear was so intense and overwhelming. It was by sheer will and determination that I made it to each of the surgeries where I had to be put under. For the ones I had to be completely under, there was one sinus surgery, two arm surgeries and then one final surgery where I finally figured it out in 2013.

I’ve had a busy last two years since the last of three uterine surgeries in June 2013. And though after that surgery, I figured out the source of my fear, I have been so busy recovering and reclaiming my life that I didn’t take time to think about it much since working through it that summer.

When I was threatened in the park this June, it scared the hell out of me. And then two weeks later, the attempted car-jacking. I was rather nonchalant about the car-jacking that I avoided. I mean, I rather easily got away, right? No big deal. But through that, as I wrote about in my last blog post, Taking Back My Power, I am not a victim and I will never cower in my own home again.

This is where things get interesting again. Stay with me for a moment, and you’ll see the connection. It is something I don’t talk about…

I bought my gun (a Glock 43), joined the range, and since mid to late July, I’ve been talking classes, training, practicing and taking private lessons. I’ve been doing amazing. And I love it. There is just something about shooting that resonates in my core. The partnership with the gun. The mind-body connection. It just does it for me. Couple that with great instructors and a range staff that is so welcoming to women. I worked through the intimidation of just going there in the first place.

I feel like every step I take, every time I practice, I take back my power. I have known who I am for a long time. I am confident, centered and strong. I am happy and love my life. I do what makes me happy. I know who I am and what I want and I live my life on my terms. Yet I cannot deny that the events this June really impacted me this summer.

A week and a half ago I had my first private lesson. It was awesome! Before that lesson, I was watching lots of videos that weekend to learn more, and I had watched a video about retention. That basically means keeping your gun when under attack. In this case, the woman and her husband simulated what looked to be a sexual assault. The man was on top of her, sitting on her pelvis, and she was showing how she tactically was going to draw her gun and retain it in this situation. (If you want to see it, click HERE and then that part starts at 16:14.)

It really bothered me, and I didn’t know why. I watched it a few times. I mentioned it to my instructor in our lesson and said that it had bothered me. The instructor told me that he would rather see me use anything else to get out of that direct situation. Stab him with anything available, go for his eyes, anything. Get away, and then go for my gun to stop him coming back after me. He said that if I shot him like that when an attacker was on top of me, unlike in the movies, it would not be in the right location to have stopping power, and he would try to kill me.

Odd as it may seem, that conversation and his words and advice made me feel a whole lot better about the video. As I said, the lesson was so great, and I’m really looking forward to the next one!

Earlier this week there was a meeting of The Well Armed Woman, and the session was on home defense. It started with a video of a simulated home invasion, with the woman running to her safe room, in this case her bedroom, locking the door, calling 911, and yelling warnings to the intruder, who then breaks through the door coming directly for her and she shoots until he stops.

In that meeting, there were so many great tips on mundane and important things to do around your home from a safety standpoint – lighting, locks, etc. Excellent information! Also in that meeting, were many stories about personal experiences by those in the room, including of the instructor. As an empath, I could see, feel and hear everything they described as if it were my own. Being an empath is like having empathy, but on steroids – you feel for someone, but you feel for them as if it were your own.

I felt a little off after that meeting, inside of myself. I went into the range and did the live fire portion of the meeting. It was awesome! For the second day in a row, I had shot 100 rounds – most I ever have and with the same accuracy. Putting some of my training into play – totally rocks! My instructor gives great advice – he’s really good at his job.

Then I went home. And I was terrified. Somehow none of my exterior lights in back have been working and it was black outside, as much as it can be in the suburbs anyway. I have a detached garage, and I had to walk from the garage in back, in the dark, go in my backyard, past the dark grade way stairwell, until I finally got in the house where I proceeded to turn on all the lights. That night, I went to bed with my gun loaded for the first time. I had been waiting until I was good enough. I’m good enough now.

Of course since then, I’ve already done a ton to implement what was recommended and have an electrician hopefully coming next week.

In any case, that night and the next day, I realized the connection back to what I realized after the surgery in June 2013. And more. The threats of murder and assault in the park, followed by the attempted car-jacking, had really brought all this up apparently for me to deal with, so I looked at it again.

When I finally figured it out a few years ago, and I’ll explain what “it” was here shortly, I told the anesthesiologist after my big surgery. He said if I told people they would understand. He was amazing. This huge fear of being under anesthesia, i.e. what would happen when I was out…

The first story below is the reason for the fear. And it connects in with why the home defense class scared the crap out of me earlier this week. Yet make no mistake, I’m so grateful for that class, the details and that topic in general, and want to know, learn and practice a lot more.

When I was in college, I was a junior when I transferred to American University in DC. I was working on a campaign plan for a congressional candidate from Missouri as part of my campaigns and elections class. I did not know many people and was quite alone in those first few months. I did not know my roommate very well.

I went to an extremely late night dinner with the congressional candidate. It was a Friday night. He kept calling to postpone the time due to PAC/money meetings running long. It never occurred to me to have any concern. We were supposed to go over the campaign plan that I was writing. I drank some beforehand because I was nervous for what I thought about as this big meeting with a congressional candidate on the work I was doing. I had a few kalua and creams. I was tiny, a size 2, and I didn’t eat a whole lot back then and of course was waiting to have dinner, so it was on an empty stomach.

I had on my nicest outfit. College students don’t have lots of those, and we were middle class and could not afford the school I was going – my parents gave everything for me, and Grandma would buy things for my parents, I had work-study, scholarships and loans. So this night I had on a white long sleeve, button front white, soft and kind of silky shirt. I had on a black skirt and a black belt.

When the congressional candidate finally showed up, we went to dinner. I use that term loosely as “dinner” consisted of wine and some fruit/cheese. I was so young, like 19 or 20 and really naïve. After I got drunk, I wanted to go back to my school. I kept repeatedly making that request. He took me back to his hotel room instead, which he was sharing with another man who was in bed at the time. I went to the bathroom and threw up. Everything was fuzzy to me.

I asked again to go back to my college. Instead, we ended up at a different hotel and he took me to a room. I kept wanting to go home. This was before cell phones, and when I finally got to a land phone, I tried to call my roommate and tell her, but she didn’t know me well yet. He took the phone away from me, and he told her I was find and that was that. I couldn’t leave. I had no money, didn’t know anyone else and was in a strange city. It never would have happened at my first college – my roommates would have turned over every stone to get to me.

I passed out. When I did, I was on the edge of the bed, curled up, on top of the covers. I woke up, stilling laying on the bed…with his hands under my clothes and all over me. He was behind me. It took me a while to figure out what was happening, even where I was.

As soon as it clicked in my head, I flew off of the bed, turned around and started screaming at him. He was a smooth talker. He knew I could ruin his political career, even back in those days when no one cared that much about things like this in politics. I was so out of it. Terrified. I finally said I wouldn’t say anything and that I wanted to leave. He gave me money for a cab.

Thank god it wasn’t worse. I’m really lucky. I don’t even want to think about what else could have happened.

I never told my parents (and I’m blocking my parents from any Facebook posts I do of this link, so if you know them, please don’t tell them).

I only had told very few. Until now.

So what happened to me? I never labeled it. I knew it was wrong. I blamed myself because I got drunk. Because it was a strange city and I didn’t know my way around. Because I didn’t have any money. Because I was so incredibly fucking stupid.

I did my best to forget about it. My roommate was of zero help and she didn’t get it at all. I wasn’t close yet with my soon to be great best friend I met there. I mentioned it after the campaigns & elections class one night to one of my fellow students finally, and it was so hard to say, but I also felt she didn’t get it.

So I ignored it and went about my business. I had to finish my class. I had to finish that campaign plan – on this candidate.

I did what needed to be done.

Lucky for me, my will and determination kicked in and instead of my grades falling, I nailed it with a 3.8 and graduated Magna Cum Laude. I loved college.

A few years later, when living in my first house, I took a bath – a very long one – and I made a recording of everything that happened and my experience. I still have that cassette in my nightstand. I have never listened to it again. Yet somehow I never really thought that this was important. I was fine.

Now that I’ve done research this week, I immediately found that for women who go through what I did, that it is *incredibly* common to have fear of surgery and anesthesia. It described *exactly* how I felt about it and my experience! In my third uterine surgery, I was in the hospital afterwards, and they did many things that exacerbated the whole situation post-surgery. I was physically and emotionally traumatized by the surgery and the hospital stay.

I worked through it. I embraced it. Through that, I am this even more amazing woman than I was before.

And I remembered the words of the anesthesiologist, “people will understand.” The anesthesiologist who could have left, and did not know about this, but who knew my fear. Despite the operating room being late, and thus my surgery running late, and him being many hours over on his shift, he stayed to be with me when I woke up and started making memories. He held my hand and calmed me in my terror when my friend wasn’t with me yet when I woke up. And he came to see me the next morning in the hospital. He was the shining light of the whole experience. He was a mirror of unconditional love and safety for me to see myself and to know I was safe. I will never forget him and what he did for me.

Let’s talk labels. Back to, what happened to me? Let’s look at some definitions…

• According to the U.S. Justice Department, “sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”

• According to Miriam-Webster, sexual assault is “illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent (as because of age or physical or mental incapacity) or who places the assailant (as a doctor) in a position of trust or authority.”

• According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, “sexual assault is a crime of power and control. The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:
o Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape
o Attempted rape
o Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
o Fondling or unwanted sexual touching.”

And there it is.

Mine was without consent. I was incapable of giving consent – I was passed out unconscious with no awareness of what was happening. I was being fondled, and there absolutely was unwanted sexual touching.

I was sexually assaulted.

I never used that word until this week. Before now, I was like, well, I wasn’t injured, beaten, no one had a gun or knife on me, he didn’t rape me, so really, no big deal, I’m fine, right? I minimized it. I compared it to what happened to other women, and I completely discounted my experience. Apparently that is very common too through my research. Couple that with my embarrassment and shame from being so stupid and putting myself into a situation that allowed this to happen.

Yeah. So that happened. I was sexually assaulted.

It didn’t end there. Other traumas can amplify the ones that came before.

A few years later, I was at our favorite nightclub downtown, Evolution, where we went several times a week. A bunch of us had been out and had an amazing time. I’d been too drunk to drive home and asked to stay after hours in the bar, which I did. My friend did not. She went to a friend’s truck, who was a bartender friend of ours. When she was alone, a man (I use that term loosely) broke in and drove off with her, parked in a parking lot and violently beat and raped her. She kicked out the windshield of the truck trying to get away from him. He dropped her off naked in north city and we finally found her at Barnes Hospital in the wee hours of the morning, after looking for her all night.

Then there was an eight hour deposition for me, appearing at the trial of the rapist and speaking in front of the rapist and of course her going her separate way from all of us due to the trauma she experienced.

I could have been her if I had chosen to go with her or if it had been me instead of her. It shook me to my core for a long time. Looking back, I’m sure more so because of my original experience with sexual assault. After my friend was raped, even when the movie Braveheart came out I could hardly watch it. It was horrible watching that rape scene, and it’s just a movie.

So when the threats were made against me this June (i.e. murder and assault) by those three guys in the park, two of which I knew, and they knew where I lived…and then avoiding the car-jacking just two weeks later, it unknowingly brought this back to me.

Then earlier this week, seeing videos of reenacting violence, and feeling those stories from others in the room, I made the connection. Another gift.

I have also been stalked by three or four men that I broke up with, one of whom tried to force his way in my front door. I also have been sexually harassed on multiple occasions.

Being raped is one of my greatest fears. I told my instructor in our first lesson, after talking about the retention video, that I hope I am never in that situation. He said he hoped not too.

But if I am, I will have more options than I did before. I am thankful for the safe and encouraging environment and folks at the range, and particularly for the excellent instructors.

This is my life. I choose. No one will choose for me. I am smart. I am not stupid. It was not my fault. I am strong. I am determined. I know who I am. I am happy. I love my life – my life. No one will take it from me. And I will keep living it…on my terms. That’s what I do. It’s who I am.

My Story of Taking Back My Power: Threats of Violence & Carjacking

As a certified Martha Beck life coach, we have a saying, “live it to give it,” and through this blog post, that is what I am doing – standing up and claiming my power so I can help others to claim their own power. What do you do when you’re physically threatened? When three men talk about assaulting you and murdering you? While they are walking immediately behind you?

For me, the first thing I did was have the thought that this can’t be real, and I tried to do nothing. I mean, who does that? Why would someone do that? Why would they do it to me?

I quickly realized it wasn’t about me at all. Rather, it was all about them and this story that they created. It wasn’t personal in that sense. I get it. Yet to them it was personal and directed at me. They were trying to bully me, intimidate me and make me live in my smallness, not in my bigness. We all should live in our bigness, at least that is where I’m happiest. Sometimes those who live in smallness want to pull you down to be small like them.

To them, and all like them, I say no. Not only no, I say hell no.

This isn’t something that I ever really had to deal with before. I have had an amazing life so far. Very successful. Great career, friends, family, house, car, farm, things I enjoy and my spirituality. A safe, full and happy life. Sure there is always some petty stuff or petty folks around in life, but no big deal. Life is good. Who expects to ever have this happen?

This was in June. And just two weeks after that, three men attempted to carjack me.

Today, I say no. I will not be silent just to allow everything to be quiet, to be the victim. I am not a victim. Like the old adage, what would the neighbors think if they knew? Seriously. What of it? Screw the proverbial neighbors.

A little back story might be helpful.

It all started when I joined a spiritual organization. Turns out that they had a great deal of politics, drama and all that stuff that one might associate in great novels about the medieval royal courts. I do politics for a living, but this was far different and so insidious. Bow down, kiss the ring, worship at the altar.

It wasn’t a cult or what the organization said it wanted. Yet the organization had some things that remind me of a cult, and I was to find out later that my parents felt it was one. It started with leadership that folks blindly followed, pontificating on the words, chastising others who did not agree with the world according to what they felt was right for their idol, and then did things in the name of this idol and organization to which they shared this great love…and obsession.

Doing bad things supposedly in the name of a leader. Doing things to prevent others from living their own dreams, following their own paths. Doing bad things and saying bad things about those who didn’t drink their koolaid. It was the followers, but ultimately, there is a tone set at the top, behaviors of what you will and won’t accept, and ultimately, the poison reached the top. Those that are rewarded continue, those that are punished stop. These folks and their behaviors were rewarded and promoted by leadership.

Sound like a group I’d be in? Um, no. I was for five or so years, and it wasn’t like that when I started. At the point where I started to figure this all out, see it and stand up for myself, I was very close to the leader. We were great friends, like brother and sister. In addition to the close personal relationship, he had promoted my work, promoted my involvement in his organization, encouraged my public work, mentored me. I built infrastructure for them here, promoted his work, built up community and donated and raised a lot of money for this organization and its work. I began to teach publicly and became a minister. It’s what I do – I build things. I am a doer. I am loyal, dedicated and motivated.

All of this attracted a lot of jealousy for my success. There were folks gunning for me. Crazy, right? I mean, this is a spiritual organization, no? It was surreal. Sometimes I still cannot believe that it all happened. How do you go from that to this? In the back of my mind, or maybe rather still in my heart, I hope one day there will be a realization as to what has been created, but at this point, I know it will likely never happen.

The only politics crazier than politics is religion. At least in politics you know the rules.

I successfully got myself out by getting officially kicked out of the organization. I found peace and happiness and love with it all. I would not stop my own work. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I continued to do the work, and instead started my own non-profit spiritual organization/church and built my life coaching and shamanic healing practice. I had hope for things to heal in the future.

Freedom. Peace. Love. Best. Thing. Ever.

That final shoe was the spring of 2014, or so I thought…

Each year there is a big event where folks have booths. It is both a fundraiser and outreach to the community. I had built and led this other organization’s booth and effort there for three years, and then in 2014 did my own for the first time. It was a resounding success. I accelerated my teaching work as well, which likewise was a great success, along with my shamanic healing work and building my coaching practice.

This year in June, we had our second booth, and I taught a workshop there again as well, as I have every year, which was wildly successful. The entire weekend, we were harassed, stared at, followed, stalked at our booth and around the venue location by many members of this other organization. It happened the year before, but this year was much worse [emphasis added]. We endeavored to ignore them and stay as far away from them as possible.

My philosophy is that the more the merrier to do this kind of work – there are an unlimited number of people in the world seeking help, healing and spiritual growth. Just go with the flow, find your right place, do the work, and let the rest go. It’s all about the love.

At one point that Sunday I was walking down the row of vendors with two friends who were formerly in that organization as well, though what happened next was clearly directed at me. Three men from that organization literally ran up loudly and directly behind me. It startled me, scared me. I kept walking at my normal pace to pretend it did not impact me. I did not know what to do.

I feel like I stepped out of my body for a moment, it was so surreal. I will never forget their words or the way I felt as a result of their physical proximity, the large stature of the one directly behind me and the vileness in their voice and manner.

They were only about a foot behind me, and definitely in my personal space, when the one directly behind me loudly called out to the other “I don’t want to be an accessory to aggravated assault.” The other replied. Then the man behind me called out loudly again, “I don’t want to be charged with murder.”

I still kept walking at my normal pace to pretend it did not impact me. Finally I saw the security booth and we walked up to it, and the men went away.

Yeah. That…happened.

I got through the rest of the event somehow, and when my responsibilities were over except for tearing down and packing up, I was in complete shock. Numb. I could not do anything. I cried. I could not help pack up. As I write this, it makes me sick to my stomach and I am a little shaky, even though I am perfectly safe now of course.

We reported it to the event organizer since this time it involved a threat of physical violence. I don’t know if anything will come of it as this other organization has a lot of power, and for the record, we did not ask for anything to be done as we do not want to make waves or cause any drama. Our goal is and was to keep it all quiet for everyone’s benefit. I tried unsuccessfully to report the physical threats to the police, which made me leery of ever reporting any violence or threats of violence in the future.

My own town’s police did come to my house, gave me tips to stay safe in my home and said they would have patrols watch my house. That helped, as well as my friend staying over that night just in case. Two of these three men had been in my home in the past for an event I had held, so they knew well where I lived, and after this, how could I put that past them?

For at least a week I was highly afraid in my house. I would keep my lights on at night and keep the blinds closed like the police told me to. I was vigilant. That has quieted some now for me, but I always keep an eye and ear out even in my home.

I don’t know that I think these men would ever do something to me physically, but I was scared. And that pissed me off. It made me angry. It made me afraid. It made me ashamed – ashamed because I allowed these people to bully and intimidate me. To keep me quiet. Ashamed because I did not want them to know how their vile behavior impacted me.

Not only did I not tell anyone about this except for my very close friends and my parents, it also resulted in my unknowingly withdrawing a little more into myself, which I am just now realizing. From my job, from my friends, from my work. How I have felt these last two months compared to how I felt before June at that event are quite a marked contrast.

If truth be told, I am still pissed off, and I am still angry that these men could try to intimidate me and try to take away my sense of well-being and security on such a base level. Men that I knew. Men for whom I had been a spiritual teacher/mentor. I continue to do the work, but the last two months have been rough. And nothing happened to these people who had this abhorrent behavior.

I did have an attorney send the organization another letter, demanding an immediate cease to this behavior, including at next year’s event like this one. In the back of my mind, I think I hoped for an apology by their leaders who set the tone that allowed this to happen, and their promotion of these folks and approval of their past behaviors, which allowed this to happen. Though the reality in my mind was and is that the best I could or can hope for is that it would at least not cause them to further attack and slander me. I guess the best news is no news in that case.

As a leader in this type of work, it is hard to let this information be known. I don’t play into drama. I am realizing that this is not drama – this is my life, and it was threatened, and this is why it was threatened. Why have I allowed myself to be so afraid? to hide? I have never written about this in any fashion publicly until now. I have barely even talked about it to anyone.

I have a life. I have a gig. I have a coaching practice. And sometimes you just need to stand up for yourself, take your power back.

I take all of my power back. As I take steps to reclaim my peace of mind. My safety. My security. It’s mine, and I won’t let three men steal it from me.

And they weren’t the only three men. There were to be three more. (As an aside, it is funny that the other organization is led by three men as well, but I digress.)

Two weeks later, I went to do a radio show for my gig. It was in the Central West End. It wasn’t the best neighborhood. I was in the parking lot and just got off the phone with my Dad saying that I needed to get off the phone and get inside before I was carjacked. Hello? Intuition anyone? A sign from God perhaps?

Then I saw three men crossing the road in front of me. I said to myself that these men were going to try to carjack me. There is only one entrance by car or foot into the parking lot where I was parked, which was off of an alley. I was about to get out of the car, but I still had it running. I would never sit in my car even for a moment without it running and without paying high attention to all around me. I try to never sit in my car at all.

I paused. Then I put my car in reverse.

It all happened so fast, this entire sequence of thought and reaction. They came onto the parking lot. I kept asking myself if it was really happening, but I knew it was. Before I knew it, one was on my rear bumper on each side of my car and I could not see the third. I immediately started backing out rather quickly, without any real concern as to if I would run them over or not. I knew what was happening, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to worry after anything but my own safety at that point.

I made it and drove out. I was in shock. I looked back in my mirror and saw them pretend like they were going to get into another car (they did not of course), and then they immediately hustled off and disappeared down the alley.

I did the right thing on many levels to protect myself. I have questioned what else I could have done. I realized that could have driven off sooner. At the time, I didn’t want them to think I was assuming they were going to attack me – i.e. I was concerned for their feelings. Yep, seriously. That was an actual thought in my thought process. Finally my intuition would not let me think anymore and I just did – I drove away and almost ran over them.

I was shaking and had to still find another place to park and do the radio interview. Somehow I did the interview and did a great job.

Before the live radio show started, the radio host could tell something was wrong, so I told her. They wanted me to report it. I didn’t. I mean, after what happened two weeks before, it wasn’t worth it to me. I could not have identified them, and their whole pretending to get into another car thing made me feel like what if I were imagining it? I was not.

A friend even described to me how they work in teams and position themselves. Then later my employer told me that she had been there two weeks prior and felt unsafe and noticed similar people, which she never told me. I’m not stupid – if I knew that, I would not have gone there in the first place. The radio host walked me to the car. I was impressed by her on many levels. I also know I won’t go back there.

It is just hard to believe when something like that happens to you. When either of these things happens to you personally. Time is both fast and slow at the same time. It’s like the moment sort of steps out of time.

I decided at the end of last month that I was never again going to be afraid in my home. I was done being afraid.

Done.

I started yoga every morning at the beginning of July. I started zumba once a week. I am building up my physical body and strength. I started playing piano again, which is also a mind/hand connection. I am building up my mind-body connection on all levels. I also plan to begin some type of self-defense/martial arts training in the fall. All a series of beautiful blessings.

I joined a range, studied a lot, bought my first 9mm (love my Glock 43!), had safety classes and began shooting instruction. Turns out it is more meditative with a mind/body connection, and silencing the mind with the breath, than even yoga is for me. Another blessing. Who knew? And, I’m very good at it.

I still have a lot to process through with this, and I’m working on it. Finally speaking out and saying something somewhere – here – is my next big step. In coaching we say live it to give it, and that is what I am doing. There is no room for this in my life. Doing this work now will help me to help others in more ways in the future.

Being silent gave away my power. It made me a victim.

I am not a victim. I am not silent. I am Sheri. And I take back my power.

What is Shamanic Healing?

On the top of the Pyramid on the Sun at Teotihuacan, Dec. 31, 2014
On the top of the Pyramid on the Sun at Teotihuacan, Dec. 31, 2014, Dawn of a New Dream, with the don Miguel Ruiz family

Most folks have known me over the last 25+ years as a highly driven lobbyist. Though I am no longer a lobbyist, I am still in the field of public policy, as Director of Public Policy for a local non-profit, educating folks on important public policy issues impacting long-term consumers. I am also a Certified Martha Beck Life Coach, a Shamanic Healer, founder of a spiritual/charitable non-profit and an ordained minister.

Whew, that’s a lot of hats! But I like it that way. I have always worn lots of hats. From a shamanic standpoint, we call them masks. Each one is a part of who I am. Together, with a lot of other masks, they make up the whole of me. But yet, not quite. I do not identify myself with any of them really – they are all labels, words to create an understanding, a picture or a story of me, and I am not attached to them. We all create and wear masks as a part of our ability to relate with others and to identify ourselves to others.

I bring all of who I am to every aspect of my life – to my public policy work, to my business and to my charitable work. I am always my authentic self, I just do not put every label or identity on myself for everyone I meet. There were times in my life where I was very attached to many things, such as to the identity of being a lobbyist. I allowed it to define me and who I am.

When we are able to detach from identities, beliefs and things, we can heal and balance ourselves. This is part of my life coaching and shamanic practice. Through this process, working on myself first, I have healed myself in so many ways and found a great sense of peace and happiness. Sure, things happen in life, but I am able to navigate the rougher waters and transform myself in the process, creating new beauty in my life.

A great book on the topic of attachment is from don Miguel Ruiz, Jr., The Five Levels of Attachment. It explains how we attach ourselves to beliefs, others around us and the world to the detriment of ourselves and our authentic or essential self. Overly attaching to things, people or situations, also ties into issues with having and maintaining healthy boundaries. In drawing on ancient wisdom for finding your true self, don Miguel, Jr. explores the five levels of attachment through which we cause suffering in our own lives, which are: Fanaticism, Internalization, Identification, Self Preference and Authentic Self.

I also recommend The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz and The Fifth Agreement by don Jose Ruiz, “be skeptical but learn to listen.” The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
  4. Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

The Ruiz family members are shamans, practicing in the Toltec tradition. I have studied with them online and in person. Over the last 15+ years, I have had extensive shamanic and metaphysical training from many organizations and teachers, including intensive studies with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. (read more on other pages at http://www.sheribilderback.com). And yes…all this while being a lobbyist too!

I do all of my life coaching and shamanic healing sessions via phone, which has proven to be quite powerful for my clients. Shamanic healing done in this way is called “distance shamanic healing” – an apt term. The idea behind distance work is that all times are one time and all places are one place, that energy connects everything like a web – think of the internet and how it connects everything, kind of like magic!

But what is shamanic healing?

The idea behind metaphysical, shamanic or spiritual healing is that over thousands of years our ancestors from every continent learned how to access spiritual sources of power, compassion and wisdom, which otherwise are ordinarily accessible just through dreams, myths, and near-death experiences. The shamanic, spiritual or metaphysical practitioner is trained to contact these sources, in what is called non-ordinary reality, and bring back healing and answers for the benefit of the individual and the community in what is called ordinary reality.

For more on this, you may wish to read Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner. Through his extensive anthropological work, Michael Harner distilled the core principles and concepts that proved consistent between indigenous societies around the world, into what he calls Core Shamanism. He created the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.

As a practitioner of metaphysical, spiritual and shamanic healing, I use drumming, music or rattling, to enter the shamanic state of consciousness to access spiritual sources of wisdom to be used for the benefit of the client during the session together, or to guide the client on a meditation. This may involve various metaphysical methods and/or core shamanic healing methods, such as power animal retrieval, shamanic divination, spirit ally ‘medicine’ retrievals (i.e. energies from the spirits), shamanic extractions (i.e. removal of things that don’t belong in the energy bodies and that can cause disease) and soul retrievals (i.e. we can lose pieces of ourselves through trauma and various situations in life, which can cause illness or hurt our ability to heal from illness).

Author Louise Hay gives a great description of the word disease as “dis-ease.” The idea is that when we have disease or illness, there is an unease or a lack of ease with ourselves and our body. There is something that is disconnecting us and our mind, body and spirit connection resulting in or contributing to illness in the body. When we work to heal the mind, body and spirit connection, we can aid in our healing. Life coaching and shamanic healing work helps us heal the mind, body and spirit connection.

There are many sources of studies and many traditions of shamanic healing and other methods for which I have been trained and that you may wish to research (shamanic healing, crystal gemstone healing, Reiki and more). Please note that these are metaphysical, shamanic and spiritual services. I am not a licensed physician, and my services are not medical treatments. A good basis for the concepts involved may be found in the article/interview with Michael Harner, Shamanic Healing: We are Not Alone.

There is so much more that I could share here! I think this provides a good overview. Wishing you love, happiness and health!

P.S. If you’d like to learn more and perhaps schedule a session with me, you can email me at bilderbs@earthlink.net for a free 30 minute “Let’s get started session.”