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About peanut butter, shame, and old stories


I was journaling the other morning and flashed on a memory from close to 50 years ago…

I snuck into the kitchen when I knew my mom wasn’t there, opened the fridge, and got myself a spoonful of peanut butter — then devoured it and disposed of any evidence before I got caught. This was hardly the only time I took on such stealth activity related to food; this scene is an amalgamation of countless such moments. 

So, the questions you might be asking are these:

  1. Why did she need to sneak in the first place? What was wrong with having a spoonful of peanut butter?
  2. Why did she know to anticipate shame, if caught? What about the shame she felt in getting away with what was not allowed?

My behavior was hardly limited to peanut butter, nor did it end when I was young. I can conjure up memory after memory in which I was convinced that I needed to hide my behavior. Yes, around food, but also money, sex, anything not deemed “good” or “right.” And it persists. 

I am now 61 years old, have been in years of therapy and spiritual direction, am deeply familiar with self-reflection, have grown in profound ways, and am far, far from that young girl in a small dairy town in Eastern Washington. Somehow, it doesn’t seem to matter. All of these core fears and beliefs remain. No, they don’t hold the same power they once did, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t present, functioning, and often running roughshod.

How about a current example: 

When I order something on Amazon, both of my daughters receive a confirmation email. If they click on “details,” they instantly know what is coming my way. As you might imagine, this is distinctly problematic around birthdays and Christmas, but above/beyond those obvious and appropriate “secrets,” here’s what happens within me: I actually think about what I’m going to purchase (or not) based on my anticipation of their response.

I know! It sounds completely crazy. Cuz it is!! It doesn’t function as powerfully as it once did. I don’t give it a ton of credence. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still there. The pattern persists — and remains — at a DNA-level, it seems:

  • what I want is disallowed or “wrong”
  • not getting caught or hiding is my response
  • shame is a given

It would be really, really easy for me to launch into the story of Eve right now — all the ways in which that telling (not the story itself) has created and reinforced why I feel this way; why you probably do, as well.

There’s another story I want to tell instead. Back to the other morning, my journaling, and the remembered story of the stealth peanut butter…

As is my ritual, I type for about 45 minutes and then draw a card from my deck — just to see what woman/story/wisdom might show up on my behalf and speak to what I’ve written up to that point. The card I turned over? 

I swear: I can’t make this up.

The Unaccused Woman

Do you know her story? If you have heard of her, she’s been called The Woman Caught in Adultery. I despise this “name” for a myriad of reasons: she continues to be objectified, the man is not responsible at all, her “sin” is our focus, it perpetuates the belief that a woman’s desire is dangerous…I could go on and on.

So, I’ve renamed her The Unaccused Woman. Here’s the gist:

Jesus was traveling from town to town, drawing larger and larger crowds — much to the dismay of the religious leaders and teachers. In order to trap him, they brought a woman before him and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” He bent over and wrote in the dust with his finger as they kept demanding an answer. Finally he stood up and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” Then he returned to drawing in the dirt. When her accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one until only Jesus and the woman were left in the midst of the crowd. He said to her, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. He replied, “Neither do I.” 

This story makes mine about peanut butter (or money or sex or Amazon purchases) seem relatively inconsequential. But we have much in common — this woman and me (and you). Centuries and centuries have spoken of her sin. Centuries and centuries have guessed about what he was drawing in the dirt. Centuries and centuries have pondered and preached and pontificated about “he who is without sin throw the first stone.” Centuries and centuries have made this story about his power to forgive. Centuries and centuries have assumed she was guilty — and just “lucky” that Jesus happened along to save her. 

What has not been spoken of, asked, or considered (at least not nearly enough) is who she was in the first place, let alone who she became when all the old stories suddenly disappeared, when she was seen without shame, when she stepped into an expanse of grace. And we’ve certainly not asked what wisdom she longs to offer on our behalf when we find ourselves caught in old stories, reeling in shame (imagined or real), and repeating old patterns that no longer serve.

Perhaps it’s time we did. It’s what she deserves. It’s what we deserve — and desire and need! Whether it has anything to do with peanut butter, or not. 

“It helps me to be in conversation with the women who have gone before us because understanding the past illuminates how we got to where we are and how we might walk a brighter path into the future.” ~ Elizabeth Lesser, Cassandra Speaks

What might she say to you today, knowing what she knows?

The shadows are not your home; step into the light.

Imagine if this was the refrain, the over-arching truth, the wisdom that was inculcated into you from the earliest age. Imagine if her voice was the one you heard in bedtime stories, read in your favorite books, sang of in houses of worship…

You do not need to sneak. You do not need to hide. And you do not need to feel shame. Every part of you is wanted, allowed, and welcomed. Walk through your days in full expression of your desire, your wants, your opinions, your hopes, your emotions, your beliefs. Those hints of accusation, the possibility of risk, the fear of being caught? Never deserved, never appropriate, never yours to take on. And the shadows? They are not where you belong. So now, at last, step into the light and stay there. Stand in the spotlight, center stage, visible and glorious — making your own choices: wise, full-of-desire, and sovereign. It’s time. I am with you.

You are draped with dignity and grace. 

Imagine if this was the blessing spoken over you at birth, repeated at each meal, whispered as prayer while someone soothed your brow and tucked you in at night…

See yourself as I do — robed in velvet, beautiful beyond compare, shoulders back, strength revealed, no questions asked. And in moments and seasons when this vision feels far away, almost impossible, ask yourself: “What does dignity look like right now?” “What does grace feel like right now?” Both are givens. Both are yours. These two — as faithful companions — offer you a way of being that eliminates shame (by self or others), reminds you of who you truly are, and removes all judgment and fear. This IS who you are. Always. From the beginning of time and still today. No matter what. I promise.

Freedom and strength define you.

Imagine if this was reinforced at every turn, repeated in every moment of doubt, tattooed on your heart, the index card on your mirror, the magnet on your fridge…

Freedom defines you — not second guessing or holding back or being small of staying silent or enduring shame. Freedom defines you — so choose, and choose, and choose again: what you want, what you desire, what you believe in, what you know. Freedom defines you — not a man or a job or a culture or your social media numbers. Strength defines you — not compliance or compromise or peace-making or your bank statement. Strength defines you — so risk and speak and give and love. Strength defines you — in the most fierce and tender of ways. Knowing you have complete freedom is what gives you strength. Trusting in your strength is what gives you freedom. Both are yours. By divine right. By inheritance. As impossible-to-ignore truth. You are my daughter, my lineage, my kin.

My experience as a young girl is a small story. Not hugely significant, necessarily. But it offers me a glimpse into so many more stories that were yet to come — and still do. The peanut butter itself is not the cause or to blame; rather, it’s a symptom (and a source of discernment/wisdom) of something far larger, older than time, in my bloodstream…and in yours. 

We have been trained to see ourselves at fault, the ones to blame, deserving of being drug into the center of town and stoned. We assume that pursuing what we want — from the smallest thing to the largest — is going to get us into trouble…or cause it for others. We are fairly certain that we will somehow, some way, be punished. And in truth — every bit of this is all-too-often true! We’re not imagining it or making it up! Centuries and centuries have taught us these lessons, we’ve experienced their pain ourselves, and we’ve certainly witnessed them in others. 

Which is why a story like The Unaccused Woman matters so much. Which is why paying attention to the seemingly-smallest of stories in our own lives matters so much.

“You may think these stories are the stuff of ‘once upon a time’ and have nothing to do with you or your times. But ‘once upon a time’ is now, because the past is laced into the present on the needle and thread of stories.” ~ Elizabeth Lesser, Cassandra Speaks

Indeed. 

I hope you will pay attention to your own memories, that you’ll wonder about what they invite, and maybe even listen to the voice and wisdom of an ancient, sacred woman from long ago who has so much to say, so much to offer, and who longs for so much on your behalf. 

And definitely eat peanut butter by the spoonful!!


I write a letter every week — and email it every Monday morning. I’d love for you to have it: my thoughts, truth-telling, not skimming the surface. From my heart to yours. SUBSCRIBE.

1 quote and 3 (tiny) topics

The Quote:

Re-vision–the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new, critical direction–is for women more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival. Until we can understand the assumptions in which we’re drenched we cannot know ourselves. And this drive to self-knowledge, for women, is more than a search for identity: it is part of our refusal of the self-destructiveness of male-dominated society. A radical critique…feminist in its impulse, would take the work first of all as a clue to how we live, how we have been living, how we have been led to imagine ourselves, how our language has trapped us as well as liberated us, how the very act of naming has been till now a male prerogative, and how we can begin to see and name–and therefore live–afresh…not to pass on a tradition but to break its hold over us. ~ Adrienne Rich

Topic #1: Internalized Patriarchy

Ooooh, how this has shown up within me lately. Places and ways in which I default to deeply-held beliefs (even though I no longer believe them) and values (even though I no longer value them) that continue to wield their power in my psyche and day-to-day life. Ick. Ick. Ick!

Here’s a quick example…

My book is scheduled for publication in Fall of 2023. (I know: champagne, confetti, all that!) I’ve struggled in celebrating. Why? Because I’m going a hybrid publishing route vs. traditional. And why would I have any ambivalence around this at all? Well, because of internalized patriarchy! Somewhere, despite my better judgment, I believe that being acknowledged and chosen by the powers-that-be actually matters. I want the value deferred upon me by those same powers-that-be. The potential cash-advance? Well, that validates my value even more, yes? Ick. Ick. Ick!

The internalisation of patriarchy is not a fault. Its unnecessary, unrealised legacy women are carrying. We don’t even realise when and how patriarchy has seeped into our identity so much that we hallucinate its compulsions as our choice. ~ Emila Dutta

I don’t like it! 

Here’s what I do like: 

Internalized patriarchy — when seen and named — has a definite upside: the places in which we feel the most resistance, the most confusion, and even the most shame (3 markers that signify patriarchy’s presence, to be sure) serve as powerful sources of discernment. The things we dislike and fight with/against the most are the very things that afford us opportunity to listen to and trust our own wisdom, to remember who we truly are, and to say “of course!” as we acknowledge our sovereignty and strength. 

Topic #2: Re-visioning and Assumptions

By way of review: 

Re-vision–the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new, critical direction–is for women more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival.

Rich is right, of course: When WE look back, when WE see with fresh eyes, when WE enter an old text (which includes our own personal texts/stories) from a new, critical direction, we do more than just survive: we finally and exquisitely thrive! And not just us, but all women, all of humanity — past, present, and future!

Mmmmmmm. SO much here, yes? Yes.

But wait, there’s more!

Until we can understand the assumptions in which we’re drenched we cannot know ourselves.

“…the assumptions in which we’re drenched.” I love this phrase and it weighs so, so heavy on my heart. Her words describe, in so many ways, what I am always talking/writing about when it comes to the stories we’ve been told, the ones we tell ourselves, the culture in which we live, and so much more. Naming these is what I focus on with clients and strive to consistently name in my own life over and over again. It’s definitely what I reveal (and re-vision) in my book. And every bit of this, to Adrienne Rich’s point, is so that we can know ourselves. 

And that? Knowing ourselves? It matters more than all else, is sacred above all else, is worth more than all else. 

Topic #3: (Trapped and) Liberated by Language

Again, by way of review, the final sentences within Adrienne Rich’s quote:

And this drive to self-knowledge, for women, is more than a search for identity: it is part of our refusal of the self-destructiveness of male-dominated society. A radical critique…feminist in its impulse, would take the work first of all as a clue to how we live, how we have been living, how we have been led to imagine ourselves, how our language has trapped us as well as liberated us, how the very act of naming has been till now a male prerogative, and how we can begin to see and name–and therefore live–afresh…not to pass on a tradition but to break its hold over us.

When we re-vision, when we acknowledge the assumptions in which we’re drenched, we cannot help but see and name how language has both trapped us and liberated us. Too often, this happens through language that’s been spoken for us, around us, and about us. Stories. Roles. Assignments. Stereotypes. Value. Worth. These have defined us, shaped us, and yes, (mostly) trapped us. 

Adrienne Rich is not alone in naming this. Brené Brown speaks almost exclusively about it in her latest book, Atlas of the Heart:

If we want to find the way back to ourselves and one another, we need language and the grounded confidence to both tell our stories and to be stewards of the stories that we hear. This is the framework for meaningful connection.

The key is to make language our own, to claim its power and beauty, to take agency, and to move from being trapped by it to letting it be the source of our very liberation. Ultimately and paradoxically, the very things, experiences, even people that have oppressed or bound us, when named with language, are what enable our freedom.

  • When you honestly name and put language to the harm of your past, you can then step into freedom from it.
  • When you bravely name and put language to your fear, you can then experience a life that is freed from such.
  • When you fiercely name and put language to your truth, you can then begin to live in uncompromising, unedited, and freedom-suffused ways.

All easier said than done. All the work and journey of a lifetime. All deeply sacred.

*****

So, to (finally) wrap things up…

  • internalized patriarchy is a real thing — which is why:
  • re-visioning matters.
  • understanding the assumptions in which we’re drenched matters.
  • naming how language has trapped us matters; letting it free us, even more!
  • doing every bit of this not alone makes all the difference.

All of this, on repeat and with constancy and dedication, is what can and will change the world. Needed now more than ever, yes? 

May it be so.

About Ukraine (and a woman’s anger)

My predominant emotion related to the war on Ukraine is anger. Which then begs a few questions:

What am I to do with the anger I feel? Where do I direct it? How do I express it? DO I express it at all?

Ukraine aside (which I only mean grammatically, not literally: that conflict and Ukraine’s people deserve to be front and center in our minds, hearts, and voices), we struggle with these questions all of the time — uniquely and painfully as women.

We are on the fence about our anger. We feel it, but are pretty sure we can’t let it out. At the very least, we just don’t know how.

There is a reason for this. Lots of reasons, actually.

We are not fluent in expressing our anger, we are afraid that we’ll be seen as too emotional, we feel it in our body but rarely let it be expressed through our words or our actions.

How many times does a woman say, “I’m so tired,” because she cannot say, “I am so angry!” How many times is women’s anger deliberately miscast as exhaustion? ~ Soraya Chemaly, Rage Becomes Her

It is rarely a question of whether or not we’re angry; rather, whether or not we express it; whether or not we feel like we can. Because, of course, the pressure to NOT do so is visceral and fierce.

It’s possible that in learning to express our anger as women — about Ukraine, about injustices, about the fact that we apparently aren’t allowed to express our anger in the first place — that we will be the ones who usher in the desperately needed change…in our own lives, our own worlds, and the world as a whole.

*****

There was a day — well, decades really — in which any “unacceptable” emotion, especially anger, would have taken me straight to certainty. The certainty that I was at fault, I was doing something wrong, I needed to get myself fixed/right/in line if I was feeling anything that was disallowed or would not be handled well by those in my world. Sheesh. It exhausts (and angers) me to even acknowledge this.

Thankfully, this is no longer my default — at least most of the time. I can see, with perspective (and the aforementioned decades), that I have moved from certainty to curiosity — and with it, into far more grace.

Now, I start with curiosity — about my experience(s), my thoughts, my spontaneous responses and emotions. No self-contempt. No “right or wrong” language. Complete permission to look closely, to wonder, to consider more, more, and more still. I ask myself questions and, without judgment, let myself answer — whatever comes, allowing all of it — allowing all of me!

Letting ourselves be curious about ourselves is one of the kindest, most compelling, and ultimately transformative things we can possibly do. It is what walks us ever-closer to healing and wholeness, to authenticity and integrity, and yes, to honestly and boldly expressing our anger.

    How might we apply this in light of Ukraine?

    • What do I feel about what I’m reading and seeing? What words describe my response and mood?
    • When have I felt these things before? How did I respond? What did I do or say? What did I NOT do or say?
    • Where do I see a lack of righteous and justified anger in my world? How does that make me feel?
    • Where IS righteous and justified anger being displayed? How does that make me feel?
    • If I were to express my anger at this situation, what would that sound like and consist of? Where might I do that? And if I can’t/won’t, what new data does that give me to be curious about?

    The value in curiosity around what we feel, what we don’t feel, what we express, what we don’t express allows us to stay in conversation with ourselves instead of dissociating or shutting down out of frustration, fear, or feelings of helplessness.

    Next, I dig deeper. I research and reach out. I want to hear the voices of other women. I am hungry to sit with more than *just* my own thinking and experience. I dive into anything I can find that helps me understand my anger better — through the lenses of culture, scholarship, history, psychology — all that will remind me that a) I’m not to blame; and b) I’m not alone.

    [A note: because I am talking about anger, specifically, it is important that we NOT take the blame for our inability to express it, our fears, our confusion. As we continue, you will see that this is a socially conditioned response for women. You are NOT to blame!]

    Recently, that digging returned me to the book mentioned above: Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chamaly.

    Hear her voice:

    Even the incipient suggestion of anger — in themselves or in other women — makes some women profoundly uncomfortable. In an effort to not seem angry, we ruminate. We go out of our way to look “rational” and “calm.” We minimize our anger, calling it frustration, impatience, exasperation, or irritation; words that don’t convey the intrinsic social and public demand that anger does. We learn to contain our selves: our voices, hair, clothes, and most importantly, speech. Anger is usually about saying “no” in a world where women are conditioned to say almost anything but “no.”

    That last sentence makes me angrier still: Anger is usually about saying “no” in a world where women are conditioned to say almost anything but “no.”

    She talks powerfully (and painfully) about how these lessons are internalized by young girls — preschool and even earlier. She has endless research on how a girl or woman’s anger shows up in depression, self-harm, eating disorders, sexual exploitation, and endless other manifestations. And the topic itself becomes even more complex when she adds in the necessary distinctions of gender fluidity and race.

    This looking beyond myself, taking in the wisdom and work of others, especially other women, pulls me upward to a new level of understanding. It helps me take a deep breath and recenter myself. I can see my own behavior in light of a larger world. This doesn’t make it easier. It isn’t a fix or a solve — even an excuse. It’s a reminder that the story I live in is profoundly influenced by a much, much larger one. I need to be reading that story and understanding the way in which it’s shaping my own.

    How might we apply this in light of Ukraine?

    We remain informed. We research. We read articles written by people who are articulating fair and just critique. We broaden our perspective and understanding. And we pay close attention to any ways in which we can (and must) let our anger be expressed — through action, through generosity, through money, through time, through our vote…

    Perhaps most significant of all, we “dig deep” within ourselves and choose to feel everything: all the sadness, all the angst, all the frustration, all the rage, all the anger, and all the heartbreak. Curiosity serves me — an endless inquiry into my own beliefs, behaviors, defaults, fears, and hopes. Digging deeper lets me pan out, understand better, even rage more because it places my experience into a context with far bigger and more systemic issues. The dilemma, of course, is what to do with all the information I glean from my self-inquiry process and from studying and soaking up the perspective of others.

    I turn my attention toward “how.” More is required. Which usually leads me to even more questions: How do I express the things that make me nearly insane with rage? How do I do so in ways that I’ll be heard, in ways that matter, in ways that are anything other than a rant? (And is a rant a bad thing? Maybe it’s exactly what’s needed, called for, and appropriate in this moment!)

    The list of “what” we’re angry about is long. And the longer it gets, the more we feel the weight of it all and the equally weighty demand to keep it all in check. Which makes us angrier still!

    We must find “how’s” that moves us from the watered down, edited, censored version of ourselves (the version we’ve become fluent in) to women who are potent, honest, and unrestrained.

    Chamaly finishes up her chapter on “how” with these sentences:

    The more you know, the better equipped you are. The better equipped you are, the more efficacy and uptake your anger will have. Contrary to the idea that anger clouds thinking, properly understood, it is an astoundingly clarifying emotion.

    Any how’s, no matter how “small,” become the catalysts that usher us into how’s that are yet to come. Difficult conversations. A defiant blog post. Taking a stand. Deleting “friends” from Facebook whose content makes us insane. Speaking up. Standing firm. Saying “no.”

    And Ukraine?

    I’m resisting the temptation to delete or downplay my smallest of “how’s,” my smallest of efforts. I know better. Hardly reserved for big moments like what’s happening in the world right now, it’s our micro-work, the day-in-day-out commitment to our own real-and-legitimate emotions and their expression that has the capacity to change our individual world — and the world. I’m sure of it.

    We have been led to believe that others can’t handle our anger, that it’s too disruptive, that we will be misunderstood and misperceived, that we are too much, that the damage we’ll cause will be irreparable and probably isn’t worth it anyway.

    THIS IS JUST. NOT. TRUE.

    Here’s what IS true:

    This is the real danger of our anger; it makes it clear that we take ourselves seriously.

    I love this. Reframed, it could be stated like this: My anger makes it clear that I take myself seriously.

    That’s worth a meme or two, an index card on our bathroom mirror, a tattoo, and an on-repeat mantra that we actually come to believe.

    At the end of the day, our work is to learn to see our anger as gift instead of something we furtively work to control or hide. Because it is. But don’t take my word for it. I must finish things up with one more quote from Soraya Chamaly:

    Ask yourself, why would a society deny girls and women, from cradle to grave, the right to feel, express, and leverage anger and be respected when we do? Anger has a bad rap, but it is actually one of the most hopeful and forward thinking of all our emotions. It begets transformation, manifesting our passion and keeping us invested in the world. It is a rational and emotional response to trespass, violation, and moral disorder. It bridges the divide between what “is” and what “ought” to be, between a difficult past and an improved possibility.

    May it be so. May it be so. May it be so.

    *****

    Much of this content comes from one of my Monday Letters — a weekly email I send to my subscribers. Full of truth-telling. Not skimming the surface. From my heart to yours. SUBSCRIBE

    About hearing voices…

    Yes, let’s talk about hearing voices…And (just a bit) about RAISING our voices and being countercultural! 

    Over the past 8 months or so, I’ve been painstakingly recovering and republishing all my blog posts from 2004–2019. It’s a long story — why they left my website in the first place. And though some might argue the relevance of bringing them back at all, for me, they’re like an archive, a written history that documents much of my thought and certainly my growth for nearly 18 years.

    As I been plodding away at this monumental task, I’ve noticed something: what I was talking about at the beginning and along the way is what I’m still talking about today. 

    Yes, my writing has changed and strengthened. My viewpoints have expanded. My belief systems have pretty dramatically changed. And my life over those years? More transitions than I can possibly count! Still, in the midst — underneath it all — there are themes, patterns, questions, and a “voice” that has persisted throughout.

    I’m seeing this literally in front of me, but I’m convinced I’m not unique.

    If you could recall and recover where your mind has gone over the years, you would see the same: themes, patterns, and questions that have persisted, stayed, lingered. You would discover the “voice” that has been speaking to you all along — whether you’ve known, heard, or acknowledged it — or not. 

    So let’s definitely talk about hearing voices!

    WHAT THE VOICE KEEPS SAYING TO ME:

    I’ll certainly not get it completely right and there’s FAR more for me to hear and learn, but were I to take a stab at articulating what this “voice” has been saying to me all this time — yes, through the blog posts; but far, far more, it would sound something like this:

    You are enough. You are not too much. You don’t have to work any harder to be good or worthy or understood. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are wise. You are loved.

    [I’d bet money that the voice within you has been saying something incredibly similar. I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs.]

    It’s what I’ve been writing about on my own behalf and yours — over and over and over again. Not always blatant, often hidden between the lines, but infinitely present, nonetheless — speaking, thrumming, singing, calling me home to myself.

    Here’s the thing:

    I have not been hearing this voice (or writing about it) for so long because it’s distinct, unique, or special to me. Not at all! As I look back, I can see that this deeper voice within has been attempting to express itself, to make itself manifest in my life, because it’s what is TRUE. 

    Which is why I’m pretty sure it’s the same voice that you hear — that you’ve always heard in one way or another — that will never stop speaking within you.

    WHAT THE VOICE INVITES:

    The invitation now — for you and me both — is to let it speak, let it drive, let it lead, let its truth be undisputed, accepted, fiercely claimed, and fully trusted. No longer doubted. No longer whispering. No longer being shouted over. No longer silent. And certainly no longer unknown or unheard.

    The invitation now — for you and me both — is to acknowledge what IS true, what’s always been true, and then live it.

    Would another quick review help?

    You are enough. You are not too much. You don’t have to work any harder to be good or worthy or understood. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are wise. You are loved.

    You definitely don’t need 18 years of my blog posts to find and hear the “voice” for yourself. Weave together the threads of your life that reveal this TRUTH: where it has been whispering, crying, beating within, longing to be heard and trusted, shouting, and most-definitely showing up. YES, PLEASE! MORE, PLEASE!

    As a woman, you live in a world that is adamantly committed to you NOT listening to this voice. not believing it as truth. Because, quite frankly, if you did start listening, believing, trusting, and living this truth truth (that IS already and always yours), everything would fall apart: patriarchy, capitalism, colonialism . . . Yes, please!

    There’s still more that I hear the voice saying when I look back, look within, and pay attention. It’s for me, to be sure — and for you:

    Now, rise up. Trust yourself. Go deeper. Let go. Listen closer still. 

    Once we’ve heard what’s true, then we’re called to live it.

    Rise up. Stand up. Speak up. Don’t hold back.

    Trust yourself. Your intuition, your wisdom, that know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within.

    Go deeper. Into your own stories, into your questions and doubts, into the conversations that will invite the kind of transformation and life that you desire and deserve.

    Let go. Surrender. Open your clenched fists. Loosen your grip on others, on expectations, on demands, on control, on your endless self-critique. Breathe deep.

    Listen closer still. Drop below the surface of the raging river that is your mind and listen to your heart — the still waters underneath, the voice that’s always been there, the truth — period, the end.

    And did I mention?
    You are enough. You are not too much. You don’t have to work any harder to be good or worthy or understood. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are wise. You are loved.

    Now, rise up. Trust yourself. Go deeper. Let go. Listen closer still.

    4 thoughts about NOT living a conventional life

    SUBTITLE: Why Discomfort, Unpredictability, and Breaking the Rules Matters.

    “Most of us live conventional lives. We want to avoid the discomforts that arise from complications. But the full, creative life must be open to unpredictability. Jewish wisdom urges us to open our eyes to the possibility of change, even to the need to break a rule. Sometimes the only way to grow is to take a bite of the apple.” ~ Rabbi Irwin Kula

    Fantastic. Powerful. And true.

    Here’s where we’re headed:

    1. a conventional life = avoiding discomfort
    2. a full, creative life = unpredictability
    3. change = breaking a rule (or two)
    4. growth = taking a bite of the apple

    Yum!

    When I look back at my own life, my adamant demand of avoiding discomfort (for myself and for others) has caused me to choose what is generally done or believed — at the expense of my intuition, my wisdom, my very heart. The opposite has also been true: when I have listened to my intuition, trusted my wisdom, and followed my heart it has always been outside of convention, incredibly uncomfortable, and most-definitely (ultimately) worth it.

    How about for you?

    • What stories come to mind? Where, when, and with whom have you diligently worked to sustain comfort (your own and/or others’), maintain the status quo, avoid discomfort and choose convention?
    • Think about your own experiences of being uncomfortable. Are they also the places in which you’ve gone against the grain, done what’s unexpected, and (hopefully) chosen what’s best for you instead of what everyone else wanted from/for you? What does that invite you to consider?

    Instead of resisting discomfort, how might we welcome it? Could we learn to see “complications” as a form of discernment; a trail of breadcrumbs that lead us to what is unconventional — and far closer to what we truly value and desire?

    Because I do not want to live a conventional life, discomfort cannot be avoided.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the “state” of my life, now 61 years old, relatively-suddenly living on the other side of the country with my sister and her family, changing pretty much everything. It’s not the first time I’ve done something like this: seemingly random and unconventional. There is a part of me that wants to believe I’ve been the one to make this happen, but I know better. In truth, it has been the unexpected, the surprises, the random and seemingly-crazy choices that have ultimately shaped the life that is mine.

    And just so you know, this pattern applies to far more than just “good” things! Some of the hardest seasons in my life were unexpected and completely out of my control — others’ decisions impacted me in excruciating ways, there were circumstances I could have no more predicted than flown, ramifications and realities were everywhere that I didn’t see coming. All unpredictable — and much to my chagrin. In the moment, the opposite of “full and creative,” but usually the means through which my life has found deeper meaning, more fullness, and yes, creativity, as well.

    When we look back, we see all the twists and turns our story has taken; a plot that has been far less conventional and far more full-and-creative than we might have ever imagined or predictably planned on our own.

    How about for you?

    • What thoughts come to mind when you think of allowing your life to be unpredictable?
    • Consider when you were most firmly grasping for control, what was predictable, and what felt safe. What words describe your life during those times?
    • What stories come to mind that you’d define as “creative and full”? How was unpredictability manifest in the midst?

    When we find ourselves in places that feel the opposite of “full and creative,” it is probably because the need to control is dialed way up; we (falsely) believe that life is 100% ours to determine and shape.

    [I certainly do not believe it’s all in the hands of fate. Agency and choice, will and determination — these things matter. Take heart: if you’re anything like me, there’s no risk whatsoever of these things disappearing! The challenge and invitation is allowing in the opposite, the unpredictable.]

    When/if life feels empty and dry, unfulfilling and exhausting, it’s the unpredictable that’s called for — which means letting go, surrendering, releasing our grip.

    I’m a huge advocate for breaking things: rules, traditions, assumptions, patterns, habits, beliefs.

    I haven’t always been this way. In fact, far more of my life could be defined by following the rules — no matter what! It ensured that I’d be loved, accepted, and allowed, even honored and esteemed. And every bit of that worked for me — until it didn’t.

    How about for you?

    • Do you agree that change cannot occur without rules being broken?
    • When have you broken the rules? What change occurred?
    • Can you name the rules that you’re afraid to break right now in service of your own change?

    It’s important to note that rules — especially those that we follow as women — are a) what is demanded of us; and b) the very things that perpetuate patriarchy’s harm. It is defiant to intentionally break them — and it is critical.

    If we want change, because we want change (for ourselves and for our world), we must be fiercely committed to being rule-breakers.

    No surprise: I love this part of the quote the most!

    Eve’s choice to eat the apple is what moved humanity forward, invited life in a more expansive world, even brought forth vastly increased intimacy and connection with the divine (vs. the opposite, as we’ve been told) and yes, compelled growth.

    She serves as a woman’s best template, mentor, and muse. She provides a model of what it means to choose the unconventional, to be unpredictable, to break the rules, and yes, to take a bite of the apple.

    And yet, what we have inculcated and internalized (even if unintentionally and unwittingly) through her story is just the opposite! Which makes me completely crazy AND explains, at least in part, why it’s hard for us to follow her lead. We feel the tension when we are perceived as:

    swimming upstream
    going against the grain
    thinking for ourselves
    acting on our own volition
    choosing what we want
    listening to and trusting our own wisdom

    Every bit of this has been reinforced as “bad,” wrong, even sinful for thousands upon thousands of years!

    How about for you?

    • What is your very first thought when you hear Eve’s name? What data does that give you about internalized beliefs related to risk, trusting yourself, or being defiant?
    • What IS the apple you most want to bite? Can you name what prevents you from doing so?
    • Once again, look back over your own life. What are the experiences that have enabled the most growth? How many of those held an element of choosing yourself over others’ expectations or demands?

    Instead of seeing ourselves as defiant when we take a bite of the apple, we must recognize it as our truest nature; pursuing and cherishing growth is our truest nature!

    If you ever want to hear exactly what I think about Eve’s story (and the way it’s been told), listen to my TEDx Talk.

    *****

    One more time:

    “Most of us live conventional lives. We want to avoid the discomforts that arise from complications. But the full, creative life must be open to unpredictability. Jewish wisdom urges us to open our eyes to the possibility of change, even to the need to break a rule. Sometimes the only way to grow is to take a bite of the apple.” ~ Rabbi Irwin Kula

    May it be so.

    Telling Your Truth (and being a volcano)

    Why telling your truth often feels like a destructive volcano.

    • “be seen and not heard,”
    • keep our opinions to ourselves,
    • not upset the apple cart ever,
    • distrust our own voice,
    • make sure that everyone else’s comfort supersedes our own; and if all this weren’t enough,
    • believe we’re probably making a big deal out of nothing.

    When you tell and live your truth you are disrupting the status quo. That IS the world splitting open, the maps changing, the new mountains being made, the volcanoes erupting. Yes, please!!!

    • List out all the messages you’ve internalized; the ones that reinforce the belief you’re better off keeping your thoughts (and your truth) to yourself — from childhood, adulthood, education, religion, social media, TV, movies, magazines, novels, bosses, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, significant others, etc. Sayings. Cliches. Repeated phrases. Lessons-learned. Even the voices in your head.
    • Take a red pen, fat black Sharpie, or Shift+Command+X (on a Mac) and cross out every one that is NOT actually true, relevant, helpful, supportive, or remotely applicable now that you are older, wiser, and the amazing-and-empowered woman that you are!
    • Journal: What shows up for you when you walk through this exercise — elation, resistance, frustration, doubt? What do you feel when you realize just how much of not telling the truth has come from the assertions and demands of others and your culture? What if your experiences of keeping your truth to yourself aren’t your fault? How then might you respond?
    • What is the truth that’s sitting closest to the surface for you right now? You know the one. You know it needs to be acted on, spoken, lived. Yep, that one.
    • Write it out. Type it out. Give yourself space, time, and permission to say EXACTLY what you already know. You don’t have to act on it (yet). Just write and write and write. Let yourself feel what it’s like to express this truth in unedited and uncensored ways. No keeping it in, holding it back, or playing it safe.
    • Telling the truth (*only* to yourself) is not insignificant or inconsequential. It’s everything.
    • Often what keeps us from acting on our truth is the very long and legitimate list of risks, costs, and consequences we’re certain will ensue. You might be right. And if you are, as I stated above, that’s reliable data and discernment. But for now, all I’m advocating is one small, almost invisible act that aligns your internal and external truths; that closes the gap.
    • Give an opinion. State a definitive “yes” or “no.” Answer a question without side-stepping the voice in your head. Just one truth. Spoken out loud. Acted on. Every day. That’s it. (And then watch what happens over time. It’s like compounding interest, I promise!)