Setting Fire to the Soul

While reading Anne Bérubé’s beautiful book Be Feel Think Do on the train yesterday, I was reminded of an experience I had roughly 30 years ago.

The year must have been 1987. I was in the fourth grade, sitting at the back of the classroom next to a girl named Lachelle. Our last names began with R (mine) and S (hers) and since the teacher sat all of the students in her classroom alphabetically by last name, our proximity left Lachelle and I no choice but to get to know one another.

Lachelle was someone I both feared and admired. She was outspoken, tenacious, and always getting into trouble. I, on the other hand, was shy, insecure, and afraid.

I can’t remember what day of the week or month it was when Lachelle asked me to look at something she had inside her desk.

Among the crumbled up papers and No. 2 pencils crammed inside, she pointed to a matchbox and a can of hairspray. I didn’t understand why she had them or what she planned to do with them.

Lachelle and I were seated all the way at the back of the room… the land of the forgotten students. And with almost 30 rambunctious fourth grade students in the classroom, there was no way our teacher would have noticed what happened next.

Lachelle surreptitiously slid the matchbox to the edge of the desk and lit a match. Holding the burning match with one hand, she grabbed the aerosol can of hairspray with the other and aimed it at the match. Suddenly a big, bright flame spit out of the can.

Before either of us could process what had just happened, Lachelle’s desk was on fire and all of those crumpled up school papers had turned to ash, floating slowly out of her desk and up into the air.

What happened next is a blur.

Neither one of us was on fire. Of that, I was sure.

I remember Lachelle tipping over her desk and screaming… which finally caught the teacher’s attention.

I remember running out of the classroom down to the principal’s office (the only thing my 10 year-old brain could think to do), not realizing that something inside me shifted that day. It took me years to realize that the events of that day taught me: So this is how you are seen in the world.

I never saw Lachelle again.

The next day at school, I looked at her empty, charred desk next to mine and I felt sad. For not knowing where they sent her. For not understanding, at 10 years old, that I thought the consequences of being seen meant getting into trouble and disappearing. I realized there was no middle-of-the-road option. It was black OR white. Lachelle was black and wanted to be seen. I was white and didn’t know how to be seen.

Now that everything is gray and I am unlearning all of the things I learned along the way, I am ready to set my soul on fire and be seen.

I hope she is still out there doing the same.

Never Doubt

This morning, I received an email that triggered an old thought pattern: ‘Oh shit, I messed up. I’m a disappointment and this guy thinks I suck.’

After meditating and noticing how quick I (still) am to judge myself, I stopped and reread the email. This time, I saw it through a different lens: ‘Wow, this guy is stressed. He sounds like he’s worried things are going to fall apart. He’s trying to maintain control and probably doesn’t realize the impact of his written words.’

I had written about this concept in an article called “You’re Not Fill-in-the-Blank” back in March 2016 and was happy to realize that I had automatically implemented my own advice from over a year ago:

Step 1: Reflect on why you feel wounded
Step 2: Stand boldly in your grace
Step 3: Practice self-care

After taking some time to reflect on how I felt about the job I had done (the one that my email sender was disappointed in), I realized that the project I had been assigned was not my strong suit. But this did not mean I sucked as a human being. It simply meant that I couldn’t (nor shouldn’t) know how to do everything. None of us should.


You can’t do everything. You are learning every day.
Forgive yourself for thinking that you are less than. 
And forgive the person who made you feel that way.
Never doubt who you are or the work that you do.
You do your best and are enough.


On Being Afraid

As I approach the one-year anniversary of the break-in of my house, I realized something:

I am afraid.

I am afraid that the same thing will happen again (not likely, but research shows that anniversaries of traumatic events can trigger anxiety, memories, and feelings associated with the incident).

I am afraid that I’ll be in the wrong place at the wrong time (in my case, I was at a dinner party when the break-in occurred, not at home where I still feel like I could have prevented the incident from happening…or at least deterred them from kicking down the door).

I am afraid of confronting the people who broke in to my house and not knowing how to feel (or furthermore, not knowing how I currently feel about them: angry, sad, forgiving?)

I am afraid of not being in control of my environment.

I am afraid of all of the mad people out there whose minds go to such a dark place that they can shoot at human beings like fish in a barrel.

I am afraid that our humanity is shifting and that the fear rising up in all of us has the potential to suffocate the pure, kind & altruistic nature that is inherent to all of us at birth.

I am afraid that if we don’t start talking to others about how we feel then we will never truly know how many people feel exactly the same way.

I am afraid…and that is okay. Without fear, there can be no courage.

You Will Heal On Your Own

I was alone the night I cut my head open. I was in the kitchen packing my things into boxes. There had been no eviction, foreclosure, or divorce. Yet I knew I had to leave my home.

I knew it several months earlier when the family of fox crept onto my deck and scratched at the door, crying out for something I did not have. And when I didn’t respond to their cries, they feasted on the fat groundhog that lived under my deck, leaving him gutted and belly-up in the grass for me to find.

I was a believer in animal symbolism and knew it was a sign.

When I clumsily hit my head on the glass kitchen lamp that night, I was angry with myself for rushing. For not paying attention. For everything not working out the way I had wanted it to.

As I wiped my arm across my forehead, a smear of red painted itself across my skin. I walked into the bathroom and looked into the mirror. A spot at the top of my forehead was open about half an inch, pulsing with garnet. I watched the blood pool along my hairline before deciding which path to take down my tired face.

I called my neighbor who came over with his first aid kit.

“Do I need stitches?” I asked him, already knowing his answer.

“No, you will heal on your own.”

When the scar formed, it tightened itself into the shape of a crescent moon…a symbol that priestesses used to get tattooed on their foreheads to represent their connection to the spirit world. I now know that this indelible symbol on my head is a reminder of the pain I had to endure before I could truly heal.

How Do You Handle Chaos?

‘What an odd question to ask,’ I thought. The question had been posed to me during a job interview…and as soon as I heard it, I felt my body tense and my posture change.

I struggled to find the words. “Fairly well, I suppose,” I replied.

The truth was: I had spent the last 40 years of my life separating myself from chaos. I now make a point to surround myself with people and places that are the opposite of chaos. But this takes hard work. We are not necessarily conditioned to walk away from things that are loud, flashy, and fast-moving.

Family life. The city. Toddlers. The life of the party.

And without chaos, there would be no order…right?

Some of us have to be pushed and prodded to be reminded of what a chaotic-free lifestyle even feels like. This is why we escape with distractions (wine, TV, WiFi), take vacations, or cry into our bed sheets on Sunday nights.

It should come as no surprise that the word “chaos” comes from the Greek word meaning “abyss” or “vast and empty.” When we finally walk away from chaos, we realize just how hollow it made us feel. And how hungry it made us for serenity.

Living a life without chaos is what I consider “living yoga off my mat” and I’m blessed to do it almost every single day. It’s peaceful and replenishing.

As for the job interview? Sure, I can handle chaos…but I certainly don’t want to anymore.



You Are Me and I Am You

To the person who’s afraid to stray from the ‘norm’: You are me and I am you.

To the person who struggles with her place in the world: You are me and I am you.

To the person who craves truth: You are me and I am you.

To the person who finds the courage to start over: You are me and I am you.

To the person who listens to the Universe: You are me and I am you.

To the person who isn’t ashamed of her mysticism: You are me and I am you.

To the person who dares to connect with another’s soul: You are me and I am you.

To the person who wants to be loved: You are me and I am you.

When we take off our masks, we are all the same.




Hire or Higher?

Seven years ago, I wrote a blog post about my frustrations searching for jobs. Back then, I was still motivated by money (like so many of us who need to support ourselves) and a big fancy title that would mean something to other people. I had not yet acquired the confidence that my skills and my talents were special because I did not believe that I was special.

Any job interview I landed back then felt like a fluke. It was similar to the feeling I had when I opened up my acceptance letter to graduate school in 2006. ‘Did they make a mistake?’ I actually thought back then. ‘Let me quickly enroll before they realize what they’ve done.’

The beauty about getting older is that we start to believe in ourselves. But this can take a long time. Or at least it did for me.

Several months ago, I stopped thinking about what other people thought. I loosened my grip on the Next Big Thing. I quit my job and sold my home. I moved to a different state and focused on the things I loved. I let nature be my teacher. I took on three part-time jobs. I faced the fear of potentially running out of money. I accepted the fact that my life did not look like the lives of my peers. I put myself out there and accepted both rejection and accomplishments with equal weight.

I did these things because I had no other choice.

As Rebecca Campbell writes, “When you realize that never ending achievement doesn’t bring you what you’re searching for, it is revolutionary. For it leads you to a place where there is nothing you need outside of who you truly are.

So when I received an email from a potential employer, his decision not to hire me felt like more of a release than a rejection. He wrote, “I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with you and appreciate – and am a bit humbled by – your interest in working for us.”

I responded to the email and expressed gratitude for his kind words. And perhaps for the first time in my life, I understood that being turned down by people and positions not meant for us allows us to stay true to our higher calling.

Silly us for trying to detour from our path.

What We Think We Need

A month ago, I turned on the television to watch Casey Affleck win his Best Actor Oscar for his role in “Manchester by the Sea.” I felt extremely proud of him…this man I hardly knew. This man I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years.

The one and only time I met him was in 1999 at a restaurant in Boston. I was with my sister and we had decided to grab a late dinner after some last-minute shopping just a few days before Christmas.

It was about a week before “Y2K,” a non-event that threatened us (those old enough to remember it) with the frightening possibility that every computer system, streetlight, and bank would cease to operate in the year 2000. Y2K loomed like an apocalypse, and none of us were quite sure if we would all be left starving in darkness on January 1, 2000. As a result, we felt compelled to carpe diem and do things we might not have done otherwise…like bumping into Casey Affleck’s chair on purpose at a restaurant in Boston.

To my surprise, Casey politely stood up and asked if I was okay.

I wanted to tell him the truth (that I had deliberately tripped to catch his attention because Y2K was coming and we were all going die) but I didn’t. Instead, we chatted about the upcoming holiday. Before I knew it, my sister and I had an invite to his friends’ party at a nearby hotel.

The party was nothing special but I didn’t care because I was smitten. I was already lost in the fantasy that dating Casey was inevitable. So when he scribbled his phone number on a scrap piece of paper and handed it to me, it felt like an agreement.

Yes, we will do this…you and I. Let’s not date other people for the next two decades and suffer heartbreak after heartbreak. Instead, let’s agree to make it easy on ourselves.

At least, that’s what I thought I needed in my life at 22. But as Bethany Toews writes, “Forgive yourself for believing in something that was never really there. We were taught to hope for impossible things.”

The phone number Casey gave me actually worked, however, my brief conversation with his mother did not…probably because I was mortified to learn I had just called his parents’ house.

As I watched Casey win the Oscar (the award he wanted but didn’t think he deserved), I realized just how blissfully unaware we both were in our early 20s. In fact, few of us at that age have any idea how hard or strong life will make us. We can’t fathom how we will survive all of the mistakes, heartbreaks, failures, and near-death experiences. We don’t know why we will have chance encounters with people who make us dream big and long-lasting relationships with people who bore and hurt us. And when the successes happen, we will be mature enough to recognize them for the miracles that they are. We will stand in front of our people and say, “Thank you for seeing me. Thank you making me humble.”

You Inspire Me

“You inspire me.” That’s what the woman I met this afternoon told me. I laughed because we’d only know each other 10 minutes before she looked deeply into my eyes and said those three magical words to me. They were far better than “I love you” or even “I miss you” and they confirmed things for me…things I’d already known but (apparently) still wanted a stranger -someone not biased or related to me- to recognize.

Little did I know that her validation of me living my Truth would feel so powerful. It was similar to hearing Miranda July say, “You can do anything you want” and not meeting it with a knee-jerk “Yeah sure, Mandy.” Or reading Rebecca Campbell’s words, “In softening to our true nature, we each forge a path without even trying.”

Overcoming adversity is not a prerequisite to forging a new path, but after we’ve hacked through the shit with our metaphorical machetes, we come out the other side with bruised knees and battered souls and realize that, in fact, this life was designed so-very-perfectly for us. Sure…we struggle, we cry out with desperate pleas, we grapple with our decisions, and we wonder why things aren’t as easy for us as they appear to be for others. But then we fall to our knees, look up, and somehow arrive at a place where we understand that we are here to live a new life, not the one by which our past generations have been bound to repeat over and over.

This discovery is as perfect as the crescent moon scar that my kitchen lamp left on my forehead as I was hastily packing up my house last August…an incident that felt horribly meant-to-be, blood and all. When I learned that the Priestesses of Avalon have crescent moon tattoos on their foreheads, it once again validated what I knew to be true all along. That I continue to rise and inspire…magically and authentically. That we all do.

To Luna

I sprinkled your ashes next to
the biggest star
I could find.

You are the moon after all.

I did it knowing how often
I would be up there
looking at the beautiful view,
breathless and grateful for the climb.

Maybe you washed down the mountain
with the latest rainfall.

It doesn’t matter.

Because now you are back in the earth
and above me in the sky.
And every time I take a step
on the soft ground or look up at the sky,
I know you’re there.

You are part of the wind and the trees
and the sunbeams…
shining down on the field.

Lighting up new dreams,
helping me forget the ones
I had to let go.