Everything You Need

In the midst of life’s ups and down, I am grateful for that which is steady, familiar, and comfortable.

I haven’t always seen things this way.

Too often, I’ve resisted the “ordinariness” of my life. I’ve fallen prey to the myth that I should be better and more. I’ve been exhausted by endlessly waiting for something, anything, everything to change. I’ve searched and searched outside myself for a fix, for respite, for “salvation,” so to speak.

I still do sometimes. Thankfully, less and less.

These days, “ordinary” feels like respite. Better and more feel like lies (because they are). I rarely wait or hope or pine for change. And bit by bit I am learning to look within and somewhat-miraculously discover everything I need.

Even this is comforting: these slow-but-sure shifts.

“Comfort is so much more than bubble baths and chocolate. Not that both aren’t fabulous, but the popular conception of comfort is often about numbing out or escaping, not about truly finding a way to face into things honestly and authentically.”  ~ Jen Louden


True, deep comfort is found when we face things honestly and authentically, when we ARE our honest and authentic selves. The opposite is also true: when we are NOT our honest and authentic selves, (deep) comfort is impossible to find.

I came across a different expression of this truth in a book I read this past week (and highly recommend): Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May.

She says, “We ‘want’ in the archaic sense of the word, as if we are lacking something and need to absorb it in order to be whole again. These wants are often astonishingly inaccurate: drugs and alcohol, which poison instead of reintegrate; relationships with people who do not make us feel safe or loved; objects that we do not need, cannot afford, which hang around our necks like albatrosses of debt long after the yearning for them has passed. Underneath this chaos and clutter lies a longing for more elemental thingslove, beauty, comfort . . . “ 

“Chaos and clutter” come when we look outside ourselves for wholeness; when we forget that WE are what we need. Said another way: WE are the font from which deep comfort flows. 

Quite frankly, even knowing what I know now, it is still a struggle to trust all that dwells within me, to receive the deep comfort that is and always has been mine. I want nothing more. And I am certain that every bit of this—this learning to turn within—is a process, a journey, a heroine’s quest, an endless discovery, the gift of life itself.

“A woman discovers the way home to herself in a quiet descent into the richness of her own life. In the descent, she reverses the tendency to look outside of herself for salvation. In the “deep places,” she reunites with her essential self and reclaims her natural resources.” ~ Patricia Lynn Reilly

THIS is comfort, yes?

A woman who knows to live in ways that are not dependent on external circumstances, other people, better and more, success or not.

A woman who knows to dive deep below the surface to find respite and calm; to be and remain whole.

A woman who knows she can quiet the clamor and din, discern among pressures and demands, by listening to her heart.

A woman who knows that being her honest and authentic self is her birthright – whether or not that creates dis-comfort for others.

A woman who knows joy is to be found in the ordinary, in the rhythms and routines that provide both structure and support.

A woman who knows she has more to express, more to reveal, more to offer, more to give; who nurtures all that she carries within; who cannot help but birth ever more of her true-and-beautiful self into the world.

We’re invited to all of this and then some. We’re invited home . . . to ourselves . . . at last. Comfort, to be sure.

May it be so. 

It’s a relief to tell the truth.

“It’s a relief to speak the truth. I don’t have to pretend.” ~ Karen Maezen Miller

My thoughts about truth-telling are supported by two bookends. One the one side is my deep and inviolate belief that you already know your truth. It’s that know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within that cannot and will not be silenced; it never leaves you. On the other side is the acknowledgement that your truth-telling often comes with risk, cost, and consequence – which is the very reason you, me, most women, often forego it, tone it down, keep ourselves safe, all of the above.

What’s missing though, is what Karen Maezen Miller (above) offers in naming truth-telling as relief.

Without rest as promised-reward, truth-telling often remains too daunting and not worth either the effort or the exhaustion. Pretending then, becomes our default.

About pretending. 
We are conditioned to pretend from a very early age. We learn how to be what others expect, what others need, what others demand. And confusingly, our ability to do and be exactly this, is what earns us affirmation, praise, and belonging. (No wonder we’re exhausted.)

“In the fullness of time, we become dizzy from swirling; our lives ache from being twisted out of shape; and our spirits become depleted from servicing others with our energy and attention.” ~ Patricia Lynn Reilly, A Deeper Wisdom: The 12 Steps from a Woman’s Perspective

To tell the truth, to NOT pretend, feels far more like labor than rest, far more like risk than reward because pretending is what we’re used to, what we know best, what we become best at. But to keep pretending, even though potentially “easier” (deceivingly so), chips away at our true self, our wholeness, our groundedness, our very experience of who we are as a woman in this world.  

In thinking a lot about this in the past few days, I decided to compile a cursory inventory of my own pretending:

  • I learned early that being smart, witty, and a “thinker” would get me the most attention from my dad. I wasn’t pretending to be smart, witty, and a thinker but I DID know, somewhere within, that it was required to feel loved. Being who he wanted and needed me to be allowed me to feel seen, heard, and valued.
  • As a teenager and through my 20s, I pretended in ways designed to summon male approval. It didn’t work a lot of the time, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t committed to trying. If I pretended to be what they wanted, surely I would be wanted.
  • During five years of infertility, I pretended to trust in God’s will by (trying to) believe in some higher plan for my life. The truth—what I really felt—was too dark, too hopeless, too devoid of the faith I had learned to display, no matter what.
  • During way too much of my marriage, I pretended that I was OK with what was happening around and within me. The truth would be too disruptive, misunderstood, the beginning of the end. Pretending felt like self-preservation, relationship-preservation.
  • In a later relationship, post-divorce, I pretended to be fine with his distance, his cutting sarcasm, his utter disappearance emotionally. Pretending meant I didn’t have to be alone.
  • In more than one corporate position, I pretended that feeling like I was the crazy one was normal; that it was “just the way things are” as a woman in leadership. Pretending meant that I could stay, that I had a seat at the table, that I belonged.

Now I know better.

  • The truth is that I am worthy of being seen, heard, and valued because of who I am – not because of what I do or how I act, even how smart I might sound.
  • The truth is that I am worthy of being wanted, period.
  • The truth is that the heartache of infertility was hardly a divestiture of my faith, but a fierce (and faithful) clinging to any faith at all.
  • The truth is that my marriage was pretend as long as I was pretending; what I was working so hard to preserve was not honest or real.
  • The truth is that being in relationship with someone who couldn’t stay, couldn’t express emotion, and wouldn’t honor me is not worth being in at all.
  • The truth is that I am not the crazy one; my seat at the table is deserved – even if not given or allowed.

The truth is that typing every one of the sentences above IS a relief, even now. Though some were a long time in coming, each were a relief then, as well. 

“It is a relief to speak the truth. I don’t have to pretend.”

Where have you felt the exhaustion of being someone other than yourself? What stories come to mind? What “inventory of pretending” might you compile? What blessed relief might you know if you did speak the truth, your truth? 

These are not easy questions. Answering them with intentional choice and bold action IS risky, costly, and full of consequence. But so is pretending.

You deserve to be yourself. You deserve to experience every moment of every day fully and completely yourself no matter what. You deserve to speak your truth. You deserve to never pretend at all. You deserve to know that who you are is beautiful, worthy, and wise no matter what. And that IS a relief.

About Being Ordinary

The desire, temptation, and lure to live an extraordinary life is strong; to figure out our “one thing;” to do, create, be, achieve, rise up, astonish, accomplish, shine.

When we consider this within the expanse of time, it is a relatively new phenomenon. For generations, life was shaped by survival and perseverance, seasons and hours, shelter and sustenance, tribe and family. Ordinary life took precedence. And somehow, in the midst of such, extraordinary lives were lived.

A few examples from the stories I reimagine and retell?

  • Hagar: a slave who was forced to bear the child of the man who owned her, she was then banished to the desert with her young son, Ishmael. He became the patriarch of Islam.
  • The Midwives: two Egyptian women who birthed the babies of Israelite women, they were ordered by the Pharaoh to kill all newborn boys. They did no such thing. One child spared was Moses who freed the Israelite people from slavery.
  • Mary: an engaged girl trying to make sense of an unexpected pregnancy became the mother of Jesus.

How about these?

Andrée de Jongh saved hundreds of Allied airmen escaping from the Nazis, and Freddie and Truus Oversteegen spent their teenage years luring Nazis to their death by seducing them. Frances Perkins was the first woman to serve on the US Cabinet. Aung San Suu Kyi spent fifteen years on house arrest in the name of non-violence and democracy. Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb ran in the Boston Marathon after being rejected because she was a woman. Amani Al-Khatahtbeh started a pioneering publication by and for Muslim women. Rosalind Franklin discovered the double helix structure of DNA. Sybil Ludington rode twice as far as Paul Revere to warn about the British. Mary McLeod Bethune served on FDR’s “Black Cabinet” working as an activist for education and civil rights. Lee Miller spent years photographing all the heroic women of World War II. Gertrude Bell was a legendary explorer who helped establish modern day Iraq. [Source]

In her book Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly tells the true story of three black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. In an interview, she said:

History is the sum total of what all of us do on a daily basis. We think of capital “H” history as being these huge figures—George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Martin Luther King. Even so, you go to bed at night, you wake up the next morning, and then yesterday is history. These small actions in some ways are more important or certainly as important as the individual actions by these towering figures.

Generations of women have gone to bed at night and woken up the next morning. They have birthed life into the world in every form. They have sustained and saved life in infinite ways. They have survived life itself. Each of these are “certainly as important as the individual actions by towering figures.”

Ordinary women cannot help but live extraordinary lives. 

I’m certain you have stories of your own:

  • When you say no to anything that compromises you or others.
  • When you choose courage over compliance.
  • When you risk everything on behalf of what you know to be right and true.
  • When you refuse to let your boundaries be breached yet again.
  • When you love who you love—regardless of laws or opinions.
  • When you do the hard and ongoing work of acknowledging your own internalized racism.
  • When you demonstrate, lobby, and vote on behalf of women’s right to their own bodies, their very choices.
  • When you speak up in a meeting at work even though doing so goes against the grain.
  • When you refuse to internalize patriarchal messages that intentionally have you doubting whether or not you are enough.
  • When you do not believe the overculture that says you only matter when you are young and beautiful (and that we must endlessly strive toward and purchase such).
  • When you stand humbly alongside other women who have known harm, violence, bigotry, and bias that few of us can begin to imagine.
  • When you refuse relationships that require your silence or perpetuate your shame.

It is in living an ordinary life that YOU are extraordinary. 

Not because you try. But because you survive and persevere and “be” – day-in, day-out. Good and bad. Easy and hard. Joyful and excruciating. Wins and losses. Gifts and hassles. People and places. Normal, everyday, ordinary.

Nothing more. And certainly nothing less.

If, in the mix of all that you write a book, or stand on a stage, or build a successful business, or raise a family, or get a promotion, or take a demotion, or make your mortgage payments, or crochet an afghan, or nurture a garden, or (fill in the blank), it will be because you have – in obvious and ordinary ways – taken the next step, done the next thing, walked through the next door, lived through the next day. NOT because you have pushed and prodded and persuaded yourself to be more amazing and incredible than you already are.

You being you is extraordinary.

Last week, in one of Jena Schwartz’s beautiful posts, she included this quote from Anna Quindlen:

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”

That same wisdom could be stated this way, as well: The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being extraordinary and *just* being you. Because, after all, you being you is extraordinary!

May it be so.

The Devastation of Hope

Last week I watched someone I love ascend into the heights of joy only to descend into its complete opposite. All within a span of about six hours. It has been excruciating to witness, acknowledge, experience, and allow. I feel completely helpless, barely helpful, and tongue-tied to say anything that might offer a modicum of comfort. There is no sense-making, no sufficient explanation, nothing that can possibly console.

They sit with the devastation of hope.

In the in-between moments of texting and talking, shedding my own tears, and worrying about them, I have noticed particular snippets of thought flit through my mind. Shards, really. Sharp and glistening daggers of truth.


Hope, as an emotion, an experience, an aspiration can feel dangerous, even foolish.

Why hold onto it when there is the possibility of it slipping through your fingers? Why trust in something good when there is a definite chance that something bad will happen instead? Why have faith with no guarantee that it will be rewarded?

It’s understandable, really.

We have all had moments-and-seasons in which we know hope beyond measure. We let ourselves feel all the emotions of hope-fulfilled, of what it will be like when X, Y, or Z finally happens. We allow ourselves to imagine. We see the future and it is beautiful beyond compare.

Sometimes every one of those emotions, imaginings, and visions come to be and we soak in the gift and grace of it all. And sometimes (it seems, more times), what we hope for does not happen and we berate ourselves for ever believing it would. “I was foolish to think that this could ever be.” “I should have known better than to hope.”

As hard as it is to sit with loss, disappointment, and grief, I don’t know what the alternative is. Well, that’s not exactly true. I do know the alternative: pessimism, disconnection, severely lowered expectations, low-grade cynicism, numbness, all of the above.

And these? It’s tempting to believe that not hoping will keep us safe, that it will prevent us from ever feeling what is as close-to-unbearable as we can possibly get. 

But here’s the thing . . .

We are not safe from the realities of life—either the heights of joy or its complete opposite. This IS the reality of life—at least one fully and well-lived: allowing all of it, letting ourselves grieve, celebrating with abandon, knowing profound ecstasy, reeling in pain, everything in-between.

To try to not feel shuts us down and prevents us from really living. My therapist once told me, “The degree to which you try to avoid grief, Ronna, is the degree to which you will not know joy. The reverse is also true: the more grief you let in, the more joy you will know and feel.” (Reluctantly and over a very long time, I came to agree with him.)

And so, given these options, these realities, these truths, I will always, always choose hope. Yes, even the devastation of hope. 


The devastation of hope is a marker of just how beautiful our desire is, how worthy, how holy, how profound.

The devastation of hope is an unswerving commitment to what we deserve, what we know-that-we-know-that-we-know, what we will not not believe.

The devastation of hope is the evidence that our longings are worth having, holding, and honoring.

The devastation of hope is what invites us to the depths of grief, the most honest acknowledgement of loss, and the eventual return to hope’s embrace.

The devastation of hope is what enables us to hope yet again.


Part of a text conversation from a few days back:

Are you OK?

Not totally sure. But I will be.

The devastation of hope.
Hope, yet again.

And in between every one of these, so many tears. Theirs and my own. Over their sadness and grief, yes; but also in stunned gratitude for their honesty, their courage, their strength, their heart, their hope . . . despite its devastation.

What I am privileged-beyond-measure to witness in them IS the cycle, the ongoing truth, and an open-ended (albeit somewhat reluctant) invitation to a life that is full-to-the-brim with all the feels. Alive. Awake. Accentuated. Excruciating. Glorious. Beautiful. Grievous. Impossible. Amazing. Holy.


Even after writing all of this, I am clear about hope’s danger, even seeming-foolishness. What it costs and what it affords. What it threatens and what it invites. What we suffer and what it summons.

Still, I don’t know how to not hope.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

~ Emily Dickinson

“Hope . . . never stops – at all . . . “

May it be so.

About South Stars

I was talking with a client a few weeks back who can honestly and confidently state that she is strong and powerful and capable and competent. She’s 100% right about this!

Still, she is dealing with some things that have her feeling weak and wobbly and incapable and incompetent. She knows better AND she feels what she feels. It’s a conundrum, a paradox, a truth, a lie. And much like me, this has her spiraling a bit, feeling bad, berating herself, acknowledging her own ridiculous shame spiral.

I could attempt to talk her out of what she’s feeling. I could tell her what we’ve all heard a gazillion times: talk to yourself like you would someone you love. I could encourage her to see that she’s being overly critical, that self-compassion is deserved. (And of course, I could do all of this with and for myself, as well.)

Here’s the thing:

Our doubts and insecurities, our wounds and seen-patterns, even the negative thoughts that are completely contradictory to who we KNOW ourselves to be, are very, VERY good news! They point us to what matters, to what we care about most, to what we know-that-we-know-that-we-know.


When my client tells me she feels weak and wobbly and incapable and incompetent, these very pains and irritants serve as irrefutable evidence of what matters to her, what she cares about most, and what she most definitely knows is true about her.

It’s uncomfortable to feel and name the contradiction, but it serves as a generous reminder of what is more true.

  • If we don’t allow for the fact that we feel heartbroken and hopeless, we won’t see that compassion and hope are, in fact, qualities and characteristics that we hold dear and do, in fact, have…in spades.
  • If we don’t allow for the fact that we feel lonely, we won’t recognize just how much we value relationship…and that we are more-than worthy of such, no compromising or compliance allowed.
  • If we don’t allow for the fact that we care about how we are perceived by our co-workers, our boss, our kids, our significant other, then we won’t see (sometimes with excruciating clarity) that we must speak our mind, stand up for ourselves, and unswervingly value all that we offer and bring.

Our most uncomfortable feelings are often profound gift and grace.


I once heard someone explain the idea of a “south star.”

We know what a north star is: a concept, belief, or inherent truth by which we set our course, that keeps us focused, that points us in the right direction. A south star is just as powerful. It shows us where NOT to go and what is NOT true.

  1. What are your south stars?
  2. Think about some recent situation in which your internal response was almost immediate self-contempt or irritation.
  3. Write out what you felt, the self-talk that poured forth.
  4. Now, for each of those things you just wrote down, name their exact opposite. An example: I am so lazy. It’s opposite: Intentional. Contributing. Present.
  5. So, “lazy” is the south star that points you toward and reminds you that, in fact, what matters to you is being intentional, making a contribution, being fully present. And I’d be willing to bet that you already ARE all these things!

Worth stating again:

Our doubts and insecurities, our wounds and seen-patterns, even the negative thoughts that are completely contradictory to who we KNOW ourselves to be, are actually very, VERY good news!

They point us to what matters, to what we care about most, to what we know-that-we-know-that-we-know.


As my client talked to me about feeling the opposite of who she knows herself to be, she was able to use those emotions to name the exact conditions that often lead her down that path. She could see how those circumstances a) almost always bring about the same result, and b) are actually possible to avoid and eliminate. Honestly naming what she felt (her south star), even though hard, guided her back to remembering who she truly is.

I hope the same for you!

As caveat, let me say that not every painful or frustrating emotion can be *simply* converted into a south star that leaves us feeling better about ourselves. I do not mean to paint some kind of patina over the hard and excruciating things that happen in our lives. And believe me, though I am a profoundly hopeful person, I am not one who looks for the bright side or seeks out silver linings.

I am, however, a woman who believes deeply in the wisdom inherent in every emotion we have — admitted, expressed, or held tenderly within. Sometimes they are south stars. And sometimes they are veritable craters into which we fall. Either way (and everything in between), I am committed to allowing them in myself and others, to giving them ample and generous spaciousness and grace, to trusting that they will not overwhelm, but will, eventually and at last, walk us home to ourselves.

May it be so.


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About Rest

In her book, Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto, Tricia Hersey says this:

“Rest is radical because it disrupts the lie that we are not doing enough. It shouts: ‘No, that is a lie. I am enough. I am worthy now and always because I am here.’”

It’s easier said than done . . . resting, disrupting the lie, believing that we are enough.

It’s the polar opposite of what the world promotes and pushes. It flies in the face of capitalism and hustle culture. It is radical. And it’s what I hunger for. Not just in terms of time, but deep within.

I’m asking myself some questions toward rest’s end. I hope they will serve you, as well:

  • Where do I feel the opposite of rest? What causes such, who causes such, and why do I persist in any of it? No shame. No pressure. Just awareness. (And rest.)
  • How might I choose rest as state-of-mind and way-of-being instead of succumbing to what others expect? WAY easier said than done, but it feels critical to growth and wholeness.
  • What are ways of being, practices, and rhythms that will call me home to myself, that give me permission to rest? No efforting. No harshness. Just curiosity and grace.

I fully intend to repeat Tricia Hersey’s words, again and again, “I am enough. I am worthy now and always because I am here.”

Deep breath.


May it be so.


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