Creativity as a Practice, Might Save You from the Quar.

Twenty years ago, if you asked me if I was creative, I would have dismissed you with a joke, moved on, and found it entertaining that you had asked me such a thing. No part of me identified as a creative. Sure, I went through a gift basket stage and a collage stage, and when I look back on those times, I wonder if I was trying to access a sense of creativity without really knowing it. I know that I found those things to be soothing to my psyche. 

Today I see creativity everywhere, right down to how I define creativity. I am an “outside the box” thinker. While I want my outer-limits to be defined, I want total freedom to frolic within them as I choose. And I hate a plan. I like to make things up as I go. I am a thinker, for sure, and I love to imagine possibility. For me, creativity and freedom seem intimately linked. 

The Quar has taught me something. People who have a creative practice – handiwork, ideas, interior design, music, or stretching into something uncharted – are doing ok. 

People who come to me exhausted, unfocused, and stuck, are not accessing their creative genius in any way.

I’m no Sandy Cheeks, but it feels like this is more than coincidence.

As is the case with the ‘Rona, we are often powerless over the removal of the thing causing stress (ie: the stressor), but we can control how we manage it.

Bottom line, stress is caused by not acknowledging our emotional response to the thing to which we are responding (sounds like a riddle, huh?). 

For me, this looks like, “It is what it is!” Or “Everything happens for a reason!” The perspective can be helpful, but backfires if I don’t also acknowledge those feelings of frustration or fear or loneliness that accompany my experience of the ‘Rona.  

It is a global human experience to resist difficult emotions. We push them into the darkness of our bodies, where we can no longer see them, but where they continue to live. We don’t want them, so we will them away. But they aren’t actually away, and when under stress, those emotions leak into our conversations, our minds, and our hearts. Our families see them, even if we don’t.

Have you yelled at your kids or husband lately? Leakage. 

Been critical of people on Facebook about how they are managing their beliefs about the ‘Rona? Leakage. 

Reacted to a boss in ways that you wouldn’t have before? Leakage. 

These reactions to seemingly unrelated things, are triggers that show us that we have pushed something into the darkness that is wanting to be seen and dealt with.

What is the best way to do this?

Have an ongoing practice of stress-reduction that help to mitigate the emotions in the first place. 

Because stress lives in your mind, heart, and body, your practice will work best if it comes from those centers, as well. You have intelligence in each of these centers and when you access it, your decision-making, processing, coping, and overall well-being, will always come from your highest intelligence. It will come from the wisdom of your life experience and learning, from your intuition, and from your most authentic emotions. What could be wiser than that? Creativity accesses all three Centers of Intelligence.

Creativity Accesses All Three Centers of Intelligence.

Here are some examples:

Music: I work with someone who made a choice to take some time off from work last fall and when the ‘Rona struck, was completely depleted by the prospect of not going back to work on his timeline. He wasn’t all that social to begin with, but he found himself withdrawing from his family and sitting in front of the computer, playing games or endlessly looking at fantasy jobs. When he took out his guitar, something he hadn’t gone near in months, something opened up for him. He started to spend more time outside and found time to play with his two young children. He actually enjoyed playing with them. He recently found himself planning a backyard obstacle course in the snow and spending time on his computer creating programs. He credits the guitar as the thing that opened this up for him. 

Don’t play an instrument? Take one up. But know that even listening to music, particularly classical music, lowers the heart rate and pours oxytocin into the brain. Simply put, music, however it is accessed, will support a reduction in stress hormones and an increased sense of resilience.

Interior Design: I’ve painted a bedroom and a bathroom during the Quar. I’m about to start on a large family room. The family has had beautiful conversations about what we want, from colors, to design, and how much time is realistic, given my work schedule. Whether you are planning something with your family, or doing it solo, your neural pathways are opening themselves up to possibility as you choose paint colors, imagine the room the way you want it, and engage in the physical labor of repairing walls and painting a new room. 

Visual Art: I walked into my daughter’s room last week and found paper plates covered with paint and canvases with butterflies, flowers, and smiles. She isn’t a lover of the hybrid schooling and misses her friends. She wouldn’t describe herself as an artist, but she is stretching into something intuitively as a way of getting her emotions unstuck. Thinking outside of the box is second nature to a visual artist. They are discovering and stretching their brains and hearts with logic and skill and beauty. And yes, they are moving their bodies as they sculpt, paint, or sketch. 

I could keep going, but you get the idea. I have clients who dance, sew masks, engage in storytelling and writing projects, and who walk without a plan, a phone, or a map and let their natural intelligence guide them. All of these use the mind, heart, and body. 

Tired thinking about this? You aren’t adding something to your plate. You are excavating exhaustion and stress from your body. Creativity is a practice and it just might save you. 

How my “little” Yin practice has become a prescription for Joy.

I’ve been taking some Yin classes with my (high school!) friend, Ellen (@friendlyyogabeans/@ohyesIwouldgirl), and am noticing that this way of accessing the intelligence of my body….is the same way I am dipping my toe into the intelligence of my heart.

Ellen is the only person I’ve ever taken Yin from. I had no idea what I was getting into, but it was early in the Quar and I saw “yoga” and “Ellen Olson-Brown” and had to do it. Plus, she’s fun and funny and the timing worked.

What she says about the body during class is so powerful and I can’t help but compare it to the inner work I am being called to do in my heart right now, too.

Enneagram 7s (that’s me!) are thinkers, which we support with our intuition, but we can forget that our hearts exist. Our hearts are where our deepest longings live. It is where we are in touch with our emotion ~ our pain and our joy. We need all three centers of intelligence to be whole … and I have spent many, many years using about 2/3 of my intelligence.

Ellen says things like, “push yourself until you feel that tug, that edge, and then relax around it.”

My inner work calls me to push myself towards my heart in this same way.

I place some attention on my heart, notice what is there, and relax into it. The edge, for me, is just allowing it to be there. Nothing to do about it, nothing to judge. Just notice it.

And she says things like, “Sometimes the body tells us we feel pain, but it isn’t really pain, so allow it to be there for a bit, and notice what happens; it might shift, but it isn’t used to holding this edge like this and wants you to know.”

Yup. My heart sometimes tells me, “Hells, no. Don’t go there. That’s a danger zone. If you go in, you’ll never come out. You will be feeling for the rest of eternity and there is no way you can handle all that feeling. That’s for other folks.”

But what I do, is try it out for a moment. I put on a recording of a meditation that pushes me a bit, and I allow it to be there. Sometimes, I pull away, like I was touching a hot flame. Boy, I had no idea that was a lifelong habit. I have spent my life being afraid that if I feel too deeply, it won’t ever end. But sometimes I get willing and I allow it. I trust it.

And I hear Ellen saying, “We don’t want to release the tension in our muscles because we are afraid our bodies can’t handle it. But try it and see. Just give those muscles a chance.”

And so it is with my heart. It’s not so much that I don’t like to feel. I love to feel. But I want total control over when and how and how much and when it will all be over. So I just don’t go there, because that is awfully complicated for someone who moves about the world as fast as me. I really don’t have time. Emotion isn’t efficient. It doesn’t make sense (hear me escape to the logic of the 7?).

But when I do, when I allow it, with a recorded meditation, or not, I am teaching my heart that it recovers. It actually opens up. It reveals (literally 100% of the time) something really powerful and true that I’ve kept locked away. It might be a painful truth, and it often is, but it is a truth that frees me up. Something is learned, revealed, explored, or brought out of the shadows. 

Whatever it was, was always there. I put all my energy into avoiding it, resisting it, and being efficient, which exhausted me. Now, my exhaustion is a clue that I need to check in with my heart. I am not tired because of the world, I am tired because I resist allowing the world to impact my heart. Instead, I think my way through it. I make it logical. I reframe it. I look on the bright side. This is all a part of being a Type 7. But this isn’t true. There is pain in the world and we can hold that, too.

So where I was once afraid in my body, my Yin classes offer small, corrective experiences to teach my body what is possible in there. Those muscles don’t have to be tense. Relaxation is possible and healing for all those parts of my physical self. 

And by the way, Ellen always gives us permission to come out of the position if we don’t want to stay there …. Nothing is ever prescriptive, it is always a choice. 

Just like in my heart. If I offer it the opportunity to learn that when I “go there,” I can always come out. I can always decide that it feels like too much today and I can choose to come back to it tomorrow. I have choices here that I had no idea I’d have (and sometimes I hear myself getting stuck thinking I have none again).

Because I offer myself  these corrective experiences to learn that I can handle the heart center, that I can allow for what is there to be seen by the rest of me, each time it gets better. It gets easier to access and I see more. And I feel whole when I do.

That is true freedom. Wholeness is freedom. Welcoming it all is freedom. Seeing truth is freedom. Being able to freely feel pain, allows me to freely feel joy. Real joy. Not the fake, sugary, optimistic joy. But real, wholehearted joy. And like with Yin, if I don’t go to that edge and feel that “tug” of the pain, I don’t get the release into the joy, either.

When you think, “That’s just the way I am,” know that it is not true.

I had a funny experience today as I coached with a team on Zoom. I share this with permission from that group.

We were discussing the possible return to the workplace and what they had learned about their time working from home.

C shared that she stocks up her fridge to give her an excuse to get out of the house and go to the grocery store. She leaves the house to buy food, for the sole purpose of giving it away. She just wants to be seen by people and she wants to do something for others who will then see her as valuable. Without this activity, she said she feels “bad.”

This is what she “needs” because she is “just that way.”

Her words made my ears perk up.

“Say more,” I said.

She went on to describe that in addition to the grocery store outings, she has worked like a dog lately, even with her toddler. She speaks to her supervisor almost daily and has been out and about, doing whatever parts of her job that she can. She stays active and solves problems as a way of dealing with quarantine and her unmet need for validation.

Competency is her Enneagram type’s way of dealing with life. And then there’s the going to the grocery store so that she can give away food.

Self-Deceit is what separates her Enneagram type from reality. If she can feed her ego by being a really fantastic worker and being of service to her friends and neighbors, then she can deny (for now) the feeling, conscious or not, that she is inadequate.

She was doing what her type does. She identifies with Enneagram type 3w2.

With that, T showed us his stocked pantry closet. Multiple boxes and canisters of many items. No fewer than 10 containers of instant coffee (not shown). He shared that he feels anxious if he doesn’t know he has what he “needs.” He, too, says that he is “just that way.”

Last March, the last meeting I had before I no longer consulted on-site in organizations, was with this man. He was telling me to take all of my money out of the bank; we needed to have cash on hand because we’d lose everything if “Coronavirus really took off.” He had a very clear plan, as if he’d been thinking about this forever. 

Because he had. 

He has been concerned about security and safety his whole life. He really wants to know what’s real, so he sugar-coats nothing. He assumes you want the same. He really wants others to meet him where he is; to respond to him with the same level of emotion that he is putting out there. This is his type’s way of dealing with difficulty. His emotional realness was really pushing my positive outlook’s buttons that day. 

He was very clear on what had to be done and was sharing his “facts” with everyone in the office; even those of us who didn’t want to hear it. 

Angst is what separates his Enneagram type from dealing with reality. If he can feel anxious about something happening in the future, he doesn’t actually have to deal with the present. 

He was doing what his type does. he identifies with Enneagram Type 6.

And then there is me. I am no fan of grocery shopping. But I want what I want when I want it. I want to be happy and I don’t want to feel the pain of not having what I think I need.  I want people around me to be happy, too. If they are happy, I am happy. 

One complaint can throw my whole mood off. My desire is not really altruistic; it is all about me. 

Because my type demands “happiness” as a way to feel safe, I can easily assume everyone else has an intolerance for anything less than “wicked happy,” too, right?

As I shopped in March, I told myself that I had to buy everything they want or need,  and with that, “We’ll all be GREAT!” 

Positive outlook is my type’s way of dealing with difficulty. 

All of my fridges and freezers were STOCKED. Before you go yelling at me, I already know. And don’t forget that I had 7 people quarantined with me. Yes, I am a walking COVID meme. 

Gluttony is what separates my Enneagram type (read: me) from reality. If I have enough love, food, furniture, or office supplies, I can deny the pandemic.

I do what my type does. I identify as an Enneagram Type 7w6. 

So all this time, I’ve had trouble describing why your Enneagram type and the tool of the Enneagram is helpful to have.

It isn’t about WHAT is happening.

It is about WHY it is happening.

In our coaching group today, we had lots of laughs, but we also unpacked how our Enneagram type predicts the issues that will come up for us and cause us to suffer. It also predicts the things that motivate us and bring us closer to Presence. As a spiritual tool, it give us something to pray about, to meditate on, and a North Star to set intentions around. 

More than anything, it identifies the lens that, when not present, exhausts us, upsets us, and keeps us afraid.

Once we see that, we can make choices about our next steps. Until we see that, we are walking around the world, unconscious, telling people

“That’s just the way I am.” 

Shining a Light on the Shadow of My Racism

White Exceptionalism.

There’s a new term for me. 

In Layla Saad’s book, Me and White Supremacy, she uses this term to refer to people who feel like they are finished with their self-examination of racism, have passed the test, and are good to go. As if once they are “woke” they don’t have to continue their awakening. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I feel like all the work I have been doing to dismantle areas of my personality, areas I didn’t even know were there, has prepared me to hear from BIPOC in a way I was unable to before.

How do I know?

Because I can’t unsee all the times that I have ignored BIPOC who tried to tell me that I am part of the problem. All the times I said, either to myself or out loud, “You don’t understand me…I’m different.” Or frankly, “You don’t understand racism.” The balls (or ovaries) on me.

I really thought I’d done the work and had conveniently surrounded myself with people who reinforced this belief on my behalf. People who called me to ask me for my thoughts or people who told me “I don’t mean you.” The ego loves to hear, “everyone else but you.” My ego certainly did. I still catch my ego in the act of loving that, despite knowing the truth.

I’ve had this awareness ~ like a big “aha” ~ that the reason I had been led to the Enneagram as a tool and accompanying spiritual work (literally, daily), over the last several years, was to wake me up for this.  Prior to that, I was blind to my own racism. Racism was a shadow that followed me 24/7 and while BIPOC could see it with clarity, my white friends were complicit with my ego; they either did not see it, or did not call me on it. 

{As an aside, the psycho-spiritual work I both participate in and teach to clients, required me to explore some really, really dark places in myself while people I have come to love, acted as my witnesses (which I think, now, is an essential part of this work); they held me accountable and continue to love me through it. I had to be willing to do that work, so that I can now do the work of dismantling my own racism, which, like the Enneagram work, will be a lifelong project for me.}

I must have known, at a subconscious level, that I was being prepared to look at my role in white supremacy because as I reflect, I see that over the last couple of years, I started following the social media accounts of more and more leaders in the BIPOC community. I had always taken an interest in racism and classism, but as an outsider, not as a participant. It was all academic. It was absolutely, as Layla Saad calls it, “white exceptionalism.” This was more of that.

And then Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. 

My heart broke. I felt responsible. Honestly, it was the weirdest thing. I spoke about it with my teacher and my group….it felt egotistical to feel responsible and yet I did. I think I was confused because I was holding on to being a “white savior,” while also holding “white exceptionalism,” along with a deep, subconscious, “inner knowing,” that I am, in fact, part of the problem. I was holding all of those parts of this without the clear awareness or language. These were all shadows and the light was approaching them.

After Ahmaud Arbery was murdered, something felt different. It was not academic. I felt it in my heart. It physically hurt. I felt broken. Where I used to treat racism as something I had to learn about but was apart from me, I actually felt like I had participated somehow. I was no longer an outsider to it.

Something opened up. Everything got clearer. What lived in my shadows was clear now. This is what they mean when they say the light shines through those cracks that made us feel broken. 

Like the work of thinning out my ego, thinning out my racism is not “either/or.” I used to think I was either racist or not. Now I know that I am both/and. The paradox of illuminating my own racism while also being an accomplice and ally to BIPOC is clear. 

Being a good ally is not about not being racist; being a good ally REQUIRES me to see my racism. Over and over again. I have to be willing to hold my racism and my anti-racism, my white supremacy and my ally-ship, my need to understand in my brain and feel in my heart all of the pain that comes with this, while not making it all about me. 

What I have learned is that I will always be part of the problem.

For what it is worth, I feel whole. I feel open ~ a bit broken open, but open, nonetheless. The parallels of looking at the darkest places of my personality and looking at the darkest places of my racism are uncanny. Until I wrote this, I didn’t actually see that they go hand in hand. I think that my own racism is a dark place in my personality. To yield to that means that I have to give up the illusion of “better than.” And as I give that up, I see yet another paradox. When I relinquish “better than,” I embrace, “BETTER OFF,” both individually, and collectively. 

Until my white exceptionalism came out of the shadows, I had no choice in it. Now that I see it, I do. Now that I know better, I’m committed to doing better.


We Can’t Hit a Bullseye if We Can’t Even See the Dartboard.

How avoiding certain parts of myself, keeps me from showing up in the world and having the impact I want.

The dog got me up at 4:00 this morning. While we aimlessly wandered around outside, I was reminded of those early morning, semi-awake times with toddlers. Remember? Barely awake on the couch, one eye open to make sure they weren’t playing with knives, but definitely not totally aware to what was happening in the room.

That’s how I feel about my life sometimes now. I’m connected to some parts of myself and completely disconnected from others. I have these shadows that run the show sometimes, but I can’t actually see them.

After Sparky and I made it back upstairs and he had curled up in a ball by my side, I was acutely aware that the world had been moving for three hours while I slept and I had missed it all.

Cuz this is what I do.

There is a pattern I’m seeing about my experience of reality. I take in the world with my mind and decide that I’ll be ok – in fact, everything will be ok – as soon as I “figure it out.”

“I just need to figure this out and then I’ll be all set.”  Or, like today, it might be:

“I just need to figure out generational racial trauma, and then I can be helpful.” 

So here is the pattern: I stay moving, awake, and occupied in my mind because when I am still, and just sitting in the experience of being on the planet right now, I feel all sorts of pain. To see me in a chair without a phone, computer, book, or music, is to see me in a chair weeping.

So I Do. Not. Sit.

Not only do I not want to feel pain, I want you to be pain-free, too. So sometimes, I won’t even let you have your misery, either. Because frankly, when you are hurting, it messes with the illusion of reality I’ve created about the world.

So I occupy my mind with a to-do list, agendas, plans, and anticipating my next great thing. All so I don’t have to feel those primal emotions of grief, shame, and fear.

What I’m learning, though, is that this is the least effective way to get on the other side. Whether I feel the grief, shame, or fear right now is irrelevant. Awareness of pain is not a requirement for feeling the impact of pain. The pain is here, whether we feel it or not. We act it out on our families, our friends, our coworkers, and ourselves.

Instead of feeling it, we put a shit ton of energy into NOT feeling. In my case, my brain is exhausted, thinking and overthinking. Planning and anticipating. Reading, and watching TV, and learning all I can so that I can “figure it out.”

But the reality is, our world, including me, is experiencing a lot of hurt right now. Welcome to the world of reality.

My spiritual teacher reminds me, time and time again, that my denial of reality makes me MORE inefficient in solving a problem, not less. My denial keeps me working really hard to figure it out. What actually needs to happen is for me to experience it in my body, mind, AND HEART.

When we aren’t working with what is, we are ineffective in our attempts to make things better.

It’s like having a dartboard in the basement but I am upstairs shooting darts at the family room wall.

So we keep missing the bullseye. Not only that, we get really, really tired trying. We feel frustrated. We double-down and keep throwing at an empty wall. We can’t even see that the dartboard isn’t there.

All day, I’ve been throwing darts at the family room wall. I connected with my group of seekers and they pointed out that the dartboard is in the basement. Ugh.

They invited me to experience reality. They shined a light on my shadows ~ those beliefs and ideas that are with me all the time, but that my ego structure won’t allow me to see (and hint: we all have these no matter how enlightened you think you are!).

I wept while I looked clearly at the world. I finally saw it as it is and also FELT IT as it is. I am experiencing the world instead of figuring it out. I’m all in, body, mind, and heart.

Even as I write this, I am dumbfounded by how much clearer I am. When I see things for what they are, without the beliefs about what “should or should not” be, I stop fighting what is and experience my place in it. Having a team of courageous people behind me to lovingly point out what I cannot see, has been essential to my aim.

It is so much less exhausting to shoot darts at the dartboard instead of an empty wall. When I am present to all of my innate wisdom, my gut, mind, and heart, and not just some part of it, I can always see where I want to throw the dart and might even hit a bullseye.

Coping with Corona: Nine Ways You Might be Succeeding or Struggling

A peek at how your Enneagram type might be leading the way in your thinking and believing with regard to this pandemic and what you might want to pay attention to in order to have more choice in how you respond.

I thought it might be nice to share the Enneagram perspective on coping with fear. To be clear, the Enneagram can be a fun tool; in the most basic of ways, it provides some validation of your experience and identifies places for people to connect. When used as a tool, your type can certainly help you to identify patterns of thinking and believing, but also provide a way to wake up and stop doing what you’ve always done. How are you doing? What have you found to be true about your patterns of behavior? Are they consistent with other times when you have felt fear or stress? We have them all in us, but are usually leaning pretty heavily into one type. I’d love to hear what you find for yourself!

If you are concerned with the rules and regulations, who is following them and who isn’t, you might be a type 1. Your work is to see the places your need for integrity starts to look like criticism (of yourself and others!). You don’t have to work so hard to make it all good, you and the universe are already exactly as you should be. 

If you are concerned with how everyone else is faring, who needs what, and how you can help, you might be a type 2. Your work is to ask yourself, “Is this mine to do?” Watch your own boundaries (burnout!) and notice your impact on those you are loving. You don’t need to prove anything. You already are the love you are trying to foster.

If you are concerned with doing all the right things, all that you think is expected of you, then you might be a type 3. You’ll try to be the best employee, the best parent, the best entrepreneur, the best coper-in-a-crisis and in so doing, you’ll have to recognize that in order to be this person, you also might be inauthentic in the process. Your work is to tap into the part of you who knows that you don’t have to bend over backwards to be valuable. You already are valuable. 

If you are concerned with showing the world that you are badass and don’t play by the rules, or that you can feel feelings like no one else, then you might be a type 4. Your work is to recognize all the beautiful things that make you uniquely you without having to effort them. You be you. You do you. Your inner beauty has never left you. 

If you are concerned with being the expert on the Coronavirus – having all the information (and usually just a step ahead of everyone else!), then you might be a type 5. Your work is to make sure to stay engaged with the world – with the reality of the world – and not withdraw into your mind so you can “think” about the virus and all of its complications. You already have the clarity you need. 

If you are concerned with keeping yourself safe and secure by finding “your people”, then you might be a type 6. Your work is to notice the factions that you are creating, the silos of people who enforce your sense of security or take away from it. You already are safe and secure. You know exactly what your next move should be without the input from all your friends and allies. Your inner guidance is always available to you. 

If you are concerned with making light of it all, finding the fun in it, at the expense of being real, you might be a type 7. You’ll try to help people see the good in it all, the bright side of things, and in so doing, might not see the suffering and the need others have to be heard. Your own pain might be a blind spot that you cope with by shopping or eating or some other thing (that you don’t even see as coping!). You don’t have to entertain, you are already the joy and freedom you are seeking.

If you are concerned with being invincible, powerful, and in charge, you might be a type 8. Your work is to see that your need to protect yourselves and others starts to look like bullying or aggression. Your work is to recognize your own vitality and strength that is there without having to create it. Your presence is enough. It is only by tapping into your own heart, letting down your defenses, and seeing others as connected with you that you will see that you have an important role to play and you already have everything you need to step into it without effort. You are the strength you are trying to create by “acting” strong.

If you are concerned with being easygoing, relaxed, and unaffected by this pandemic, you might be a type 9. You’ll be agreeable, disengage from the frenzy, maybe check out with TV or video games…or nap a lot. Your desire for peace might look like neglect, apathy, and/or disengagement from your family or the needs of your community. Your work is actually to recognize that your presence matters. Your efforts to remain conflict-free and decrease stress actually keep you from connecting with yourself (your body, your heart, your mind) and building community and connection with and among others which is what we all need right now. You already are the peace you are seeking and your job is to unite people by engaging with the world as you were born to do. 

Want to learn more? Reach out to me or follow my social media. Lots of opportunities to be in community with your folks without letting your personality get in the way! We’re in this together. Let’s show up for each other with our right minds, our full hearts, and all of our body intelligence. Presence will help us be on the right side of this time in history.

How a few simple comments on Facebook grounded me in my own truth about family finances.

The family came to visit me on a pit stop while I walked 60 miles over 3 days to raise money for breast cancer research.

I’m one of the women they were talking about. 

It was on social media. A post. No one meant anyone harm, especially the OP. Really, she posted about the frequency with which she sees women like me; I didn’t feel judged, or criticized. Nothing but mad respect.

But when I read it, I felt a zing that pushed me to check in with myself; I knew it was more about me than about her or her post.

Then the comments came.

I felt triggered (when we are triggered, we often don’t know its about us, but it ALWAYS. IS.). It was then that my inner critic said, “See? I told you so, dumbass.”

The comments were the ones we often see. Where the experience of the person posting must also be the experience of everyone else. Where they state to the OP with awe-like wonder, “Wait, that REALLY happens?”

You know the ones where people want to respond to the OP and make sure they aren’t like the women the OP is posting about (and a reminder, the OP was actually doing a service, not spilling the tea).

And this was about money.

One of the big three.

Sex. Kids. Money.

Trigger city.

So you can imagine the comments.

Assumptions about how if one partner doesn’t know the deets of the family financials, it must mean the other partner is intentionally keeping secrets and holding all the power in the relationship.

Or that her head is in the sand. Naive, maybe.

Finally, it might be about blind love and trust and the implication that blind love and trust in a marriage is unhealthy.

Maybe.

The truth is, for me, there is some truth to all of it. 

At one time or another, my husband has made decisions about the money and not told me.

Sometimes, I don’t ask about the details. In fact, for years, I didn’t ask much at all.

There were times when I figured that he was earning the money and it was easier to have him hold that bag in its entirety. Why slow things down with conversation?

And finally, I do love and trust him. That has not changed. It actually never occurred to me that there might be other reasons to do things differently.

That is all true.

And, that’s not the whole truth. 

There are other truths, as well. THERE ALWAYS ARE.

It’s also true that I had 4 kids in 6 years. I “suffered” the privilege of choice and lived for years with both feet in the world of a working mom and both feet in the world of an at-home mom. I had a total identity crisis and presented myself differently in different places. I don’t actually have four feet.

So my work mom worked a ton, and my at-home mom was with kids and volunteered and joined boards. Instead of choosing one identity, I held both. You would not find one friend or colleague who would describe me as disengaged. I didn’t give myself a break. It was exhausting. I learned so much from that. It, that part of me, eventually became my wake up call.

I did not know how to sit still. I had been working since I was in 6th grade; first as a babysitter, and then by 13, at a farm because I didn’t need a work permit to work on a farm.

As a mother of four, I was knee deep in bedtimes that lasted for hours because I was giving 4 kids 4 baths every night and, since that was my only time with each of them alone, was reading to them each 1:1 almost every single night. I was going to do it all right. And by right, I mean perfectly. Bedtime lasted for hours. And then they’d get up and crawl in with us. Or want us to crawl in with them. Literally hours.

There were several years when my husband traveled. They were really little then. I spent those nights alone with the kids and it was hard for me (I then came to love those times being alone with them, but hadn’t learned to love it at this time in my life). 

The difference was that if I happened to be away, everyone worried about him. They’d invite him and the kids for dinner, offer to babysit (I was never gone more than 2 nights, I think?)….when he traveled, it was radio silent. It was expected that I could manage it all. And the truth is, I gave everyone that impression. I looked like I had it all together. I have come to see this now, but I felt invisible to those people who made sure he, but not me, got help with the kids back then.

I had my girlfriends who took care of me and I, of them. We had dinners together, in and out, we never woke a sleeping child so if a play date was happening with an older child, one of us dropped off AND picked up so that the other didn’t have to risk messing up whatever semblance of a sleep schedule was possible at the time. 

We loved and cared for each other (and still do) and since we all felt like we were sort of hanging on by a thread, we wove those threads together and soon we were sharing a blanket. 

There were notes from daycare to read, hours of paperwork to do, and Italian language classes (why, yes, we were the only non-Italian family who showed up at the Italian school on Saturday mornings to learn the language and culture!) to take. Soccer, skating, skiing, music hour at the bagel place, cousin time, and yes, work. Remember? I still had two feet in and two feet out. I was loving every bit of my life so much that I couldn’t let an experience get by me. I wanted it all.

Lice and mono and Lyme disease and nutritionists. We’ve never had braces and we’ve never seen an allergist. Throw me a parade.

So, yes, not only did he control the money, but I begged him to keep it that way. 

He tried to get me to partner with him, but I. Had. No. Bandwidth. Left. 

Yes, he made decisions and didn’t include me because I was making decisions in every other area of our lives and for him to own this, I was so grateful. Decision-Fatigue is a thing, friends. For reals. 

I was earning money and had no idea how much I was earning; I didn’t care. I loved my work and was just grateful to be using my mind in a place where people thanked me for working my ass off.

They thanked me. I need to say it again. I felt appreciated and useful.

(Yes, it is a little weird that keeping 4 children alive didn’t make me feel useful).

Did having my “head-in-the-sand-naive-love-and-trust” mindset cost me something (pun intended)?

You betcha’. 

The four kids are grown and we are facing, literally, one million dollars in tuition costs within a 10 year period. Wrap your brain around that for me, will you? 

2017

Do I wish I paid more attention? Yup. Do I think I could have done better? Absolutely not. Like most other things, I would have approached it differently, but I am absolutely sure my mistakes would have been equally as impactful. 

Regardless, we were doing the best we could to keep our family functioning. I once dropped my youngest off at school, in my PJs, and the only words I could muster as she got out of the car, were, “Don’t get lice today,” while the principal held the door open for her to get out. 

Parenting at its finest, folks. 

And there is something else to all of this. I am blind to issues of self-preservation. If it even occurs to me at all, I procrastinate it. Food, money, time, order in the home….it’s not my thing. Really, none of it. 

Instead of knowing this (I learned this was actually a thing as I was approaching 50), I judged myself, felt less-than, and just saw myself as someone who couldn’t get out of their own way. I didn’t know that my instincts were different from those of you who are on top of your self-preservation needs.

My instincts lead with social organization. I lean in to groups, am comfortable with navigating the complexities of relationships, I can intuit social hierarchies, and who is likely to move towards, away, and against, others. I spent my time focusing on the social development of my children and keeping my own social needs met through heavy volunteering and community engagement. 

In fact, I can’t help it. It’s instinctive. It runs me. Maybe in the same way knowing the details of the money runs you. 

Look around. You’ll see. We are all run by something. Self-preservation, social, or intense experiences. We put one on top and will sacrifice everything else to get that need met. And we have no idea we are doing it. 

I sacrificed my self-preservation needs for the social needs of my children and myself. 

Ironically, I did this to self-preserve. It kept me alive. 

So before you judge that mom for not understanding the money, know that she has different instincts and different ways she’s leaning into her life. And she might not even know it.

Get curious about her.

Maybe even ask what she is honoring in her life? It may actually be more important to her. I guarantee you: if she is a mother, she’s not doing nothing.

Be gentle with her. She’s likely hard enough on herself for only being on top of 99.9% of her household and not that additional 1/10 of a percent. She holds herself to a standard to which no one else could hold her. While she is beating herself up for not meeting that standard, she is also beating herself up for not being more loving to herself.

Self-judgment is a place of familiarity for her. She knows things are hard and instead of just knowing that, acknowledging it, being with it, she is attaching herself to all kinds of stories about how it “should” be different. 

How SHE “should” be different. 

Is it important for her to know more about her personal finances? 

Is it important for her to partner with her partner and share the burden? Which might not even be a burden? Couldn’t it just be information? See how we create these stories? I just did, writing this. Caught me.

The answer is, “Maybe.”

Probably. 

But something would have to give, and imaging what that would be, what thing she’d leave to chance, is as daunting as having to think about her financial survival. Giving up an experience she wants to have or changing a habit might be terrifying to her. If she lets go of something, the whole blanket might fray and come unraveled.

She might come unraveled.

So stay curious about her.

Faith and trust

She’s probably busy being grateful for a husband who holds the bag for that ONE. THING.

Because it’s one thing she doesn’t have to hold the bag for.

So thank you for the comments. Yes, they triggered me, but they also forced me to look at those triggers and get curious about myself. They helped me to see that I was doing the best I could. That I had other things going on and I just didn’t know any better. And writing this helped me to see that there is not only one way to do things.

But there are better ways to do things. I trust that that that mom, like me, will do better when she knows better.

She’ll deal with the money when she is able. When she is willing. When she is desperate. 

Just like me. 

And she’ll be met with a kind, empathic, firm, yet gentle accountant who will know exactly what to say and how to help her. And she’ll learn. And she’ll do better. Because it will be the right time. The Universe is benevolent that way.

If they are so lovely, why do I want to chase them with a hatchet? Part One.

from The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Riso & Hudson (c) 1999

I recently spent 7 full days out of my home. I missed out on sending two kids back to school, was gone for an out of town family visit, and missed being home to support a child making a big decision in his life. And it was all worth it. 

I’ve known for a long time that I need to be writing about my experiences with my own personal development; if my professional life is centered around supporting others to find what matters in their life, it feels like sharing my own path in finding my own higher calling could be helpful. Those 7 days away may have been the most impactful 7 days on my lifetime journey of self-development. It was not necessarily the course that had the impact; the immersion with a group of people who are also searching for something was what was powerful ~ I was with my people and that felt really good. And I didn’t even know I was looking for anything. Again, what to share….

Let me start with a little historical perspective. About 21 years ago, I was introduced to the Enneagram, which at the time, I took to equate with a personality test. I’ve flirted with it over the years, but about 4 years ago, was reintroduced to it as part of a coaching workshop. I then did some studying, attended a weekend workshop, and some answers started to evolve for me. So I dug in and have been studying weekly, in a group with a master teacher, for a year. This past week, was an intensive course at the Enneagram Institute with the man who “wrote the book on it.” Literally, co-authored the book I’ve been studying. It was powerful.

So what the heck is the Enneagram? I could say a lot about this, but the quick and dirty (which isn’t so quick) is that the basis for the types came from the first Christian monastics around 250 BC ~ people who wanted to understand what it takes to create community and who wanted a direct experience of divinity. Over time, what they came up with were the 8 things that distract people from God – they referred to these as the 8 ways one can “miss the mark” in their focus on divine-like living. Over time, literally hundreds of years, these teachings have merged with other traditions, spiritual beliefs, and modern psychological frameworks, to become what we now call the Enneagram. 

Russ Hudson, who, with Don Riso, co-authored The Wisdom of the Enneagram, refers to it as the “nine ways we forget ourselves.” It sounds beautiful, to me. The Enneagram describes the nine ways we leave our own truth, by leaving presence/consciousness and engaging in our “habits of usual” that help us to cope with the perceived loss of our natural gifts; our truth; our essence, if you will.  We all do this in varying degrees, but what I have learned, is that through a practice of mindfulness, or presence, I can quickly return to what is real for me. When I am engaging in my personality, I think it is who I am, but really, it is a coping mechanism for addressing all sorts of psychological processes that exist to protect me. But what if I don’t actually need to be protected? What if living in my truth is safe for me? 

It is. Paying attention to your essence and noticing when your personality has taken over or is fighting you to take over, is all we need to start this journey; the Enneagram is a framework for helping you to find your essence and your type will help you to see what typically distracts you from it. And while it actually takes a fair amount of vulnerability to live without constantly (unconsciously) defending yourself, paradoxically, I believe it is the safest way to go about living. Having your insides match your outsides is a pretty powerful place from which to operate in the world. 

If none of this makes sense to you, maybe you can related to this: do you often feel angst? Anxiety? Worry? Are you longing for something and not sure what it is? Do you wonder why your partner is so amazing but you sometimes want to chase them with a hatchet? Or wonder why everyone else’s kids seem more loving, responsible, and socially competent? Your answers might lie with the Enneagram. I use it to support leaders in the workplace, moms who are longing for something different, and teenagers who can’t understand why their parents won’t get off their backs. In its plainest terms, it makes clear what motivates us and gives us some direction about how to access that. Because really, what we think motivates us isn’t what motivates us at all. Ha! How’s that for mystical? 

I realize I haven’t even gotten to what I might want to communicate, so I’m going to do this in parts. Let’s consider this part one. Your teaser is here: My type is 7 (with a 6 wing) and it explains SO MUCH. This explains why I keep making shifts in my career, why I couldn’t sit still for the first 45 years of my life, and why I felt frustrated for much of my day, despite the fact that things were objectively pretty good. It also explains how I manipulate those around me and more importantly how to stop. The flip side is that it also helps me to understand why having a good, genuine belly laugh is my favorite thing in the world. It helps me understand why clients want to share their lives with me, and why I naturally see the bright side of a situation. It’s not just about our pain points, it is also about those things that make us come alive. Waking up to myself has been a powerful experience for which I am better. I’d also argue that my family is the direct beneficiary of this work. We are all better because of it. 

The Enneagram is dynamic ~ we move around in it depending on what parts of ourselves we need to call on in different situations. And we have levels that we shift throughout depending on what triggers us or how present we are in a particular situation. I’ve seen peoples’ “center of gravity” change ~ friends who seem to have gotten so much happier and more stable over time (moving up the levels) and others, who have developed personality disorders and really struggled (moving down the levels). There is more…but I’ll leave it here. It has been a game changer for me. The Enneagram explains it all. And more importantly, provides a path towards clarity and fulfillment. 

I had no idea I was even looking for something when I started this work; it was an academic exercise for me. And it seems I’ve stumbled across something that has nothing to do with academics and everything to do with wholehearted, authentic, living. Want more? Stay tuned. Want it quicker than that? Give me a call.