About Being In Control

A few weeks back I was in a place I haven’t been for two-plus years: wearing a lavalier mic, standing in front of a room full of people, training and facilitating. It was fun AND a bit nerve-wracking.

I used to do this almost every day in my corporate position: travel nearly every week to a new place and spend one or two days training folks on how to have effective conversations; leadership and professional development stuff. Different corporations. Sometimes execs and managers. Sometimes mid-level. Sometimes a particular division or team. Usually a tossed salad of everything and everyone. No matter how much was different about each place and group, the content stayed exactly the same. And so, NOT nerve-wracking. I always knew exactly what I was going to say every. single. time.

This time, I did not know exactly what I was going to say. This time I was not representing a company that owns proprietary content of which I am paid to be an expert. This time I was in a consulting role with content I created — which I’ve not practiced ad nauseum, memorized, rinsed and repeated. And, one other tiny detail: this time I was working for my sister! (No pressure.)

No surprise: all of this got me to thinking:

There is often a chasm between thinking about trusting ourselves and actually trusting ourselves. 

Whether it’s public speaking
or writing a book
or saying “yes” to a first date
or ending a relationship
or leaving a job
or speaking up in a meeting
(and a million more things besides). . .

. . . there is a moment, a minute, a month, what seems a lifetime, where we hesitate. Can I really pull this off? Will it even matter? What if I mess up? What will people think? What if I’m misunderstood?

I won’t speak for you, but in all of these examples and then some, one thing holds me back: I want to be in complete control of everything, really. Of myself. Of how everyone else will respond. Of how every single detail will play out. Of the results. Of the outcome.

And this need/demand? Wanting to be in control IS the chasm. And it separates me from what I most want, most desire, most hope for, most hope to be.

The logical follow-on question then, is this: if my need/demand to be in control (of everything, really) is the chasm — the gap between thinking about trusting myself and actually trusting myself — then what is the bridge?

I’m not crazy about the answer . . .

The bridge between thinking about trusting ourselves and actually trusting ourselves is letting go of control.


It would be great if I could tell you exactly how to do this. How to let go, give up the need for control, risk, step forward, do it anyway.

It would be great if there was some secret formula, some 3- or 12-step plan, some failsafe advice that, if followed, would guarantee complete safety and certainty while maintaining complete control (of everything, really).

There is no such thing.

So, it seems that this is what we’re left with:
The only way to let go is to let go.
The only way to give up the need for control is to give up control.
The only way to risk is to risk.
The only way to step forward is to step forward.
The only way to do the thing is to do it.

*deep breath*


I should tell you that everything went perfectly fine a few weeks back. Well, not “perfectly” fine. I made a few mistakes. Nothing fell apart. I didn’t fall apart. I lived to tell the story. I WAS actually able to trust myself. It’s a happy-ending story, to be sure. But trust me, I have TONS of examples in which just the opposite was true: I doubled-down on control, I refused to let go, I did everything I could to minimize even the slightest bit of risk. I still do.

When I remember these stories, I feel a kind of low-grade exhaustion seep into me. My shoulders slump. A sense of futility almost overwhelms. And what I realize is that everything I have been SO committed to keeping in my grip usually ends up either strangling me or sucking the life right out of me.

In truth (and when I extend myself some grace), I have more positive experiences and stories than just a few weeks ago: my TEDx talk, ending my marriage, quitting my job, starting my own business, writing a book. Even creating content and presenting it for the company my sister leads. And when I remember these stories, I feel invigorated and strong. My posture straightens. A sense of encouragement, even pride sets in. And what I realize is that when I let go of control, I am not OUT of control, but finally-and-fully myself. I can breathe.

So, what about you? What stories do you remember?

Where did you, like me, double-down on control? Where you refused to let go and held on even tighter still? Where you had risk-mitigation as your number-one priority? When you remember them, what do you feel?

Where did trust yourself . . . no matter how rickety the bridge you had to step onto? And when you remember them, what do you feel?

It’s probably too simplistic, but it feels true nonetheless: the fact that you can actually remember this latter group of stories, that you do have experience with letting go of control (and even surviving) means one really important thing:

You can trust yourself — again, every time, in all things, always.

And now that I think about it, maybe this IS a sort of secret formula, a 1-step plan, some good advice (even if not failsafe) that does not guarantee complete safety and certainty, but that certainly reminds you of just how amazing and trust-worthy you already are — yes, again, every time, in all things, and always.

Take some risks in the days and weeks ahead, yes? Let go of control (even if only a bit). And trust yourself. You can, you know?!! Again, every time, in all things, always.

May it be so.


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I am NOT the Crazy One!

No big surprise: I love books! A ton of them are on my Kindle and most of the time I’m good with reading the “virtual” version. But sometimes I order the physical book, too. It’s silly, I suppose. There’s no need to have more than one copy. But the books I am most moved by? I want the “actual” thing in my hands.

Last week I did exactly this. I was re-reading portions of a book that has me saying, “I wish I wrote this!!!” more times than I can count. And though I’ve highlighted my my way through it in electronic form, it was clear that I needed wanted it in my hands and on my shelf. If it’s not on your shelf (or your Kindle), I highly recommend it: Cassandra Speaks: When Women are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes by Elizabeth Lesser. (‘Guessing by the title alone you can figure out why I’m so smitten!)

It is hard to pick from so much amazing content, but there are two quotes, separated only by a page of so, that I’m offering and reflecting on today. No question, they are on my behalf; I’m hoping yours, as well.

. . . we know the truth of our own experiences, yet we are told we are lying or overreacting; we can see consequences on the horizon, but it’s still “common knowledge” that women’s emotions cloud their vision, that we tend toward hysteria — even madness — and therefore are not to be believed. . . Far from women as a species being irrational, overemotional, hysterical, lunatic or morally weak,” writes the Australian author Jane Caro, “what strikes me about women and their history is just how damn sane we have managed to stay.

Even without knowing your story, I am completely certain that you have one or more experiences of being told that you are lying or overreacting. I am also completely certain that it’s amazing just how damn sane you’ve managed to stay.

Which also makes me completely certain that there have been (and are) plenty of times in which you feel crazy! And if not that, exhausted by all the mental gymnastics required to filter others’ version of your story and hang on to your own. *sigh*

It’s a lot of work: taking in so many messages, sifting and sorting through them to discern which ones are true, which ones are not, which ones need to be paid attention to, which ones need to be completely ignored, which ones need to be addressed, which ones need to be adamantly refused. . . And it’s not like we can flip a switch and enter into complete peace and calm just because we want to. It takes effort and discipline and determination and patience and so. much. grace.

Almost twenty years ago I held a leadership position at the seminary where I received my M.Div. degree. After a few months in the job I began to notice that female employees and students would come into my office, ask if they could close the door and sit down, and then say something like this:

“I don’t know how to explain exactly what I’m feeling or exactly what’s going on, but I feel kinda crazy. It’s probably nothing . . . It’s probably me, but…”

It ALWAYS had to do with a conversation or interaction they’d had with a man on staff. Time and again it was as if their words didn’t land, they felt slightly dismissed (but not enough to be sure), they were left out of the loop somehow, things just felt “off.”

Once I recognized the pattern and the more I heard the words “I feel kinda crazy,” I learned to say, “You are not the crazy one!” I’d explain what I meant, listen more, affirm their experiences as real and true (and sane), and then before they left, have them repeat out loud (with as much defiance as they could muster): “I am not the crazy one. I am not the crazy one. I am NOT the crazy one!”

The very fact that we feel crazy is EXACTLY the evidence that tells us we’re not!

Other people and the systems within which we live and work reinforce the internal messages that convince us we’re to blame, we’re the one with the problem, we’re being “irrational, overemotional, hysterical, lunatic, or morally weak.” Exactly the opposite is true!

It’s a form of gaslighting, of course. “Gaslighting at its core is always about self-preservation and the maintenance of power/control — namely, the power/control to construct a narrative that keeps the gaslighter in the ‘right’ and [the other person] in the ‘wrong.’” (Aki Rosenberg, LMFT)

It’s not enough, of course: repeating the mantra, “I am not the crazy one. I am not the crazy one. I am NOT the crazy one.” It doesn’t magically change reality. But it can actually help. It reminds you that you are not wrong. It gives you back the power that was always yours in the first place. And it is a way of offering yourself so. much. grace.

Again from Cassandra Speaks, Elizabeth Lesser says this:

I see changes afoot. I see bold women everywhere taking what used to be called a tendency to cause trouble and rebranding it as a tendency to speak up, to confront the gaslighting, and to make our culture more caring, communicative, and emotionally intelligent.

This feels like grace, too.

Not soft grace, tender grace, grace as traditionally “feminine” in quality and characteristic (like balancing books on your head while pouring tea in the most practically perfect way).

Bold grace, brave grace, fierce grace is what you deserve. Speaking up. Confronting the harm. Being caring and communicative and emotionally intelligent. So much more. And it’s what you model for the rest of us when you “know the truth of your own experiences,” when you celebrate the fact that you have somehow managed to stay sane, when you hold onto your version of your own story, your very life, no matter what.

May it be so.

About My Book

It feels WAY too far away to actually talk about, let alone celebrate, but still, I’m naming it:

On 10.3.23 my book will be published! Rewriting Eve: Claiming Women’s Sacred Stories As Our Own

I am relieved beyond words that 20-ish years of writing — and my deliberating and editing and doubting and pitching and starting over and sticking with it and frankly, just sheer endurance — is, at last, making its way into a book that I can hold in my hands . . . as can you. 

I can also tell you that it would be just like me to bypass every bit of this, to not note the significance of today’s date, to not let myself revel — even for a moment — in what I’ve accomplished, to not celebrate at all.

My dear friend Tanya Geisler talks about this often:

“[T]he Imposter Complex and its relentless requirement for perfection and certainty tries to keep us from celebrating our accomplishments, because what has been done is ‘not enough.‘”’ Or it could have been done better, faster, or more . . . something.

And so many of us have been conditioned to believe that celebrating our own accomplishments is far too much. Far too audacious.

And who are you to be larger than life, anyways?

Listen, I won’t lie.

Taking up the space the universe has carved out for you is not for the faint of heart. It takes tenacity and resilience and a reverence for ourselves that transcends the wee space around our toes. It takes boundaries and a willingness to rewrite the stories that were originally written to limit you and others like you. It takes support and a clarity of vision and a relentless fidelity to the promises you have made . . . to yourself as much as to others. It takes discernment and care and a trust in your ability to wield power in generative ways, even if you haven’t seen it modeled well before. It takes audacity. 

You can read her whole post here.

She’s right of course.

I feel the heat rise to my cheeks because I know that every bit of this applies to me, that she’d say exactly these words to me (and few choice others), to be sure. I hear the voices within that natter on: “It’s not that big of a deal.” “Don’t get ahead of yourself.” “Almost a year away yet?!? Sheesh! Let it go.” 

I don’t like admitting any of this. 

But I know it’s needed: my own truth-telling. I also know that when I name my patterns and proclivities — with empathy and large doses of grace — I become more aware, more awake, more myself. 

I also know that every bit of this beyond-ironic. 

My book speaks EXACTLY to Tanya’s words above and my own: truth-telling, believing I am enough (and not too much), “. . . rewrit[ing] the stories that were originally written to limit you and others like you.” It’s what I have done in 60,000+ words. It’s what I’ve been doing for the last two decades, at least. And every page of it is about what it means to see ourselves as sovereign, glorious, and amazing. It’s a celebration of women, their stories, their wisdom, and their lives: the ancient, sacred ones, yours, and mine. 

And still, I struggle to celebrate myself! *sigh*

So today I’m making an effort. I’m giving focused attention to unravelling the messages within. I’m trying to do just the opposite of what I’m predisposed toward. I’m choosing to celebrate this “small” thing in preparation for what’s coming in another 330-some days. 

In the same blog post linked above, Tanya quotes Caroline McHugh:

“[There] are individuals who managed to figure out the unique gift that the universe gave them when they incarnated, and they put that in the service of their goals…

And when we see these people, we invariably call them larger than life. Life is large, but most of us don’t take up nearly the space the universe intended for us. We take up this wee space ‘round our toes, which is why when you see somebody in the full flow of their humanity, it’s remarkable. They’re at least a foot bigger in every direction than normal human beings, and they shine, they gleam, they glow. It’s like they swallowed the moon.”

This is the ache and the invitation, isn’t it? Not just for me, but you as well.

We are loath to take up more space, to shine, to gleam, to glow. We WANT it to be true about us AND we struggle. Both at the same time. 

This? Being a woman who has figured out the unique gift the universe has given them? Putting it in service of your goals? Looking like someone who has swallowed the moon? It’s what I want for you, more than nearly all else. It’s what you deserve.

And yes, me too. 

May it be so.

Saying “no” (out loud) to shame

I’ve been thinking about shame a lot lately.

I know it’s showing up because in the seemingly-endless writing/editing of my book manuscript, the story I’m working right now is all about shame . . . or so we’ve been told. (No, it’s not Eve — though that’s true in her story, as well.)

Here’s the shocking thing: there is NO reference to shame in the text itself. Every bit of it, centuries of it, has been brought to bear by those who have told her story.

She doesn’t feel shame. It’s what has been overwhelmingly applied to her. Blech!

Here’s what I’m struck by: this is what we do in and to our own stories — apply shame to ourselves!

Why? Why is that so often our default?

Yes, there is MUCH to be said about patriarchy, capitalism, consumerism, and then some — cultural and ideological realities that prey on the fact that when we feel shame we stay in line, don’t get too full of ourselves, don’t feel empowered, remain convinced that we’re not enough, spend money to become enough, and never quite hit the mark (which starts the cycle all over again).

But even after we’ve named all this, parsed it out via good and ongoing exploration of our own stories, it still sits there and shows up again and again and again: the burden of shame.

And so I wonder (not surprisingly), had this woman’s story — and Eve’s and so many more besides — been told without shame, would we so easily, unconsciously, and repeatedly apply it to ourselves?

My answer (not surprisingly) is that we most definitely would NOT!

Our work is to discern, in our own stories, our actual life, if shame IS what belongs there, or if its what we (and others) have assumed, applied, and layered on after-the-fact. 

One way to do this, to parse through all of this conflicting story-stuff and shame’s prevalence, is to think about a time in which you considered breaking the rules, stepping outside the lines, following your intuition / wisdom / heart. You KNEW it would create a ruckus, that others wouldn’t like it, that you would be seen as stirring up trouble or not following protocol or being selfish . . .

Or think about a time when you did it anyway . . .

  • What did you feel when you contemplated this choice?
  • And if you went through with it, what did others “make” you feel?
  • Do those emotions (which I’m guessing include shame) mean that you shouldn’t have done it? That you were wrong? That you WERE selfish? (I’m hoping your answer is “no.”)


The insipid presence of shame either keeps us from trusting ourselves enough to make bold and brave choices that are in perfect alignment with who we truly are, what we truly want , and all that we deserve OR we do make the choice and then pay the price. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

Have I mentioned? Blech! So, back to the story and no actual mention of shame . . .

What if there was no mention in our own? What if we erased it? What if we didn’t give it a second thought? What if we understood it to be something that we’ve inherited and been taught to apply, but that doesn’t belong to us at all? What if we could eradicate it from our vocabulary and our lived experience?

What if, indeed!

And how would we do that, exactly?

Well, there are lots of ways, but here are two that come to mind:

First, we become acutely and intimately aware of when shame IS the emotion present (vs. guilt, humiliation, or embarrassment — to use Brené Brown’s vocabulary). We assess if it is REALLY what we feel or if it only seems like it because it’s what we are so familiar with — and/or if it’s what others expect and WANT us to feel (or are applying). And then we say, “no!” We refuse shame’s presence. We deny its power. We separate ourselves from the pattern or habit. We turn on our heel and walk a different way.

Second, not as alternative but as accompaniment, we reimagine and retell the countless stories we have been told about a woman’s shame — as though it were a given, just the way it is, commonplace, and to be expected. We critique our own assumptions and others’. And we re-vision those stories in ways that reveal their inherent beauty, wisdom, and strength . . . so that WE are the ones who come to see, understand, and value the same in ourselves.

Brené Brown says that “the antidote to shame is empathy.” For ourselves! And according to Kristen Neff, self-compassion is the key — which includes self-kindness vs. self-judgment, acknowledging our common humanity vs. isolation, and mindfulness vs. over-identification.

Think of it!! If empathy and compassion had been our implicit and overwhelming response to Eve’s story, to that of the Woman at the Well (the one I’ve been working with), to countless women throughout time, and ourselves?!? Everything would be different. I have to believe it still can be.

This week, maybe start small. Notice when shame rears its ugly head — and how it makes you feel. Then quietly (or loudly!) just say “no.”

Another thing? When you see shame being applied to other women — whether on social media, in a book or film, on the news — say “no” again. Out loud. And in its place, apply generous doses of empathy, self-compassion, and yes, grace.

You deserve a story without shame — past, present, and future. Every woman does — past, present, and future.

May it be so.


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“I’m so proud of you!”

I have had conversations with clients in past weeks where a sense of self-pride showed up . . . and then was semi-quickly questioned or felt a little squirmy. I get it. We look to, deserve, and hope that others will say they are proud of us, that they see us, that they are thrilled by all that we’re doing and all of who we are. But to acknowledge it in and of ourselves? Yeah. It feels kind of odd and unfamiliar.

What if it wasn’t?

Think of an infant who begins to smile. We lather on the praise! When they reach for something or say a first word or take those tentative first steps? We cheer and take pictures and fawn all over them. Understandably! But at some point that slows, even stops. At some point in our own story, others’ enthusiasm started to wane.

In the absence of consistent and celebratory praise doubt begins to creep in. We start to wonder what we’ve done wrong, why the people in our world aren’t responding to us like they once did. Our sense of self begins to shift, dependent almost exclusively upon external stimuli; how we feel about ourselves is determined by others’ expressed feelings — or lack thereof.

Yes, over time, we mature and grow. We don’t depend on others’ oohs and aahs the way we once did. We learn to read cues and body language. And if we’re emotionally healthy, we self-soothe; we affirm ourselves. But something is lost, even damaged along the way when we stop receiving, even expecting praise. Because we deserve it!

Here’s my point in all this:

You deserve to be blatantly and boldly proud of yourself.

What runs through your mind, your heart, even your body when you read these words? When you hear me encourage (even insist) that you state them, repeat them, believe them?

Your spontaneous answer? The one that immediately sits at the tip of your tongue? It matters. What IS that resistance? What is that niggling voice nattering on about? (It would be super-helpful to write it all down…) THAT voice? The one that tells you that being proud of yourself is arrogant or egoic or nonsense or ridiculous or a waste of time or impossible? Uh…it is NOT telling you the truth. Lies. From. The. Pit. Of. Hell.

You deserve to be blatantly and boldly proud of yourself.

Listen closer. What does the deeper voice within you have to say? What is underneath all the chatter — where wisdom, courage, and hope live? What do you actually hear that allows and invites you to feel proud of who you are and all that you do?

You deserve to be blatantly and boldly proud of yourself.

Now, take a deep breath. What do you feel when you give yourself permission to float and soak and revel in just how praise-worthy and incredible you are? Think of all you have learned and let go of and said “no” to. Think of all you have invited and allowed and said “yes” to. Ahhhh. Yes. That. You! What if every evening for the next week (let’s start small, shall we?) you took just a few minutes before going to sleep to write down all the things you are proud of in the day just completed? From the minutiae to the mammoth. Some examples:

  • I got up before my alarm went off. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I made the bed. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I only drank two cups of coffee. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I didn’t eat the leftover pizza for breakfast. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I did some amazing writing today. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I drank lots of water. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I didn’t lose my temper with my kids. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I told my kids how proud I was of them. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I called _____________ and told her that she matters to me. I’m so proud of myself!
  • I sent an email to someone I’ve been meaning to reach out to for months now. I’m so proud of myself!

You get the idea.

As you read this list was there even a little part of you that rolled your eyes? It’s too much. It’s unnecessary. It seems silly.

Mmm hmm. (If so, scroll back up to the part about listening and listening some more, about taking a deep breath, about feeling…)

I can’t prove it, but there MUST be a direct correlation between our resistance to self-expressed pride and being stuck and/or afraid. And I believe there is also a direct correlation between our practice of self-expressed (and much-deserved) praise and our lived capacity and courage! ‘Seems like it’s a hypothesis worth testing out, yes?

I know how hard this can be.

I know how much effort it takes to overcome all the lies we’ve believed, the stories we’ve been told, the messages we’ve consumed, and the lack of praise we’ve often experienced.

I know all too well how easy it is to slip into self-talk that tells me to remember my place, to not be too full of myself, to definitely not be too much.

I know how trapped and straightjacketed I have felt when that self-talk has taken hold and become “true” in my own mind.

And I know just how much it has cost me when I’ve not trusted my own wisdom, demonstrated agency, stepped forward in courage, and held onto hope. *sigh*

One antidote to all of this is giving yourself permission to name just how amazing you are. Did I mention? You deserve to be blatantly and boldly proud of yourself.


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For Days of Self-Loathing

I came across a poem a few weeks back by Nikita Gill. The corner of the page was folded down — evidence that I’d read it before. I have no memory of such, which surprises me — given how worth-remembering it is. I’m pretty sure you’ll agree…

Affirmation for Days of Self-Loathing

On the days you find the mirror hard to look at,
remember there is a myth which says<

the face you have in this life
is the face of the person you loved most

in your last.
I know it’s just a myth

but think of how much more love
you would give yourself if it were true.

No matter how much has changed in my life over the years, how much I have changed, one thing has remained the same: my highly-honed and quick-to-activate self-critique. It’s caustic, harsh, and sadly, seemingly endless. “Self-loathing” is an accurate naming.

I don’t like admitting this.

It’s not all of me, of course. It’s only one voice I hear. Sometimes I can completely ignore it and other times dismiss it out-of-hand. I don’t even agree with it most of the time, but still, it remains — sitting in some dark recess of my mind, waiting for a moment to spring, and muttering under its breath in the meantime.

I sometimes hear myself say, “Oh, what I’d give to weigh what I did when I was 20, 30, 40, even 50…” Or I look closely at my 61-year-old face and wish for the skin I had during those same decades. But here’s what is true: I was just as critical of what I saw even then! I was just as unsatisfied. I was just as self-loathing. By sake of comparison, there was nothing to complain about! So, here’s what is even more true:

Self-loathing has nothing to do with our weight or our skin or any manner of things we might wish were different; it has nothing to do with the mirror at all!

We have internalized the belief that we are not acceptable as-is. We always want something to be different, something to change, something to be altered or adjusted or improved. Always! It doesn’t seem to matter if we’re 16 or 61, the pattern persists.

There has to be a better way, a braver way, a way to finally-and-at-last see ourselves as beautiful and whole no matter what.

A few mornings back, I woke up to this question:

What if I WAS the person I loved the most?

What would that mean?
What would that require?
What would I start doing?
What would I stop doing?
How would that feel?
Who would I be?

There are a million more questions that flow from these. I hope you’ll give yourself the time and space to ask them, that you’ll let yourself hear your most honest and vulnerable answers. Not the ones that rise up, unbidden, from the self-loathing voice that natters on. Instead, the ones that barely whisper from deep within. Harder to hear, to be sure; far more reliable and true.

It’s hard to imagine, given how familiar we’ve become with self-loathing, but were we to love ourselves the most, all the voices (and demons) within would be silenced — forever and ever, amen.

Underneath self-love (and an end to self-loathing) is something even more primary:

We must believe we are worthy of love in the first place. Others’, yes; our own, even more.

I wish there was some simple formula for this, some mantra we could repeat, some genie in a magic lamp, some potion to drink, some switch to flip. There’s no such thing. (But oh, the efforts of Capitalism to convince us that there is! We are bombarded by formulas and mantras and magic and potions and switches the instant we open Instagram or Facebook.)

No simple formula, *just* a life. This life. Your life. And mine.

A lifetime to let go of self-loathing. A lifetime to disbelieve and unlearn the lies. A lifetime to hear and trust our heart. A lifetime to allow, even welcome self-love. And maybe, if Nikita Gill is right, other lifetimes, as well.