Finding Authentic Connection…Virtually

Can I really feel a heart connection to a group of women I have never met in person? Apparently I can, thanks to Real Life Book Club (RLBC), the brainchild of Susannah Campora, a life coach and inspired trailblazer here in Denver.

bede89_75fad7261aa94ca2aa475fdaee4c5960.jpg_srz_p_438_185_75_22_0.50_1.20_0For the last six weeks I have been participating in a virtual book club through RLBC with seven other women, a few here in Colorado and the rest spread from Nebraska to Kansas to Canada. Each week we would “gather” for a couple of hours via google hangouts video calls.

Although I used to own a bookstore, and have a deep love of books and reading, I’ve always shied away from participating in book clubs.  Real Life Book Club, however, is a whole different kind of book club, and one that really speaks to me and where my passions lie right now.

Real Life Book Club is a personal growth book club that brings women together (in person as well as virtually) to share, to create, to support and to inspire each other into taking action in our lives.

Desire Map Book Image smallThe book my group read was “The Desire Map – A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul” by the brilliant Danielle LaPorte. This book asks us to dig deep and really uncover the feelings at the heart of how we want to experience our lives. This is no superficial fluff… this is real introspective, thought-provoking work.

Allowing myself to be really open and vulnerable is not always an easy thing for me even with those with whom I am closest. Initially I was more than a little tentative and anxious about the idea of delving into such deep contemplation with a group of strangers. And I was definitely skeptical about my ability to open up and connect via the seemingly impersonal computer screen.

It took a surprisingly short time, however, for those fears to dissipate. I was truly astonished by the level of connection I experienced with the other women in the group in such a brief period of time. Between Susannah’s thoughtful facilitation and the authenticity and openness each woman brought to the group, the way was paved for real connection and deep dialogue.

During one of the book club gatherings I was struggling with some overwhelming emotions and ended up crying on the call. I would usually feel embarrassed for allowing myself to be so exposed and raw in front of others but I only felt love and support and genuine compassion from the other women in the group. Embracing and allowing my vulnerability to surface (and knowing it’s ok!) is a practice I want to cultivate in my life. Being a part of RLBC was a perfect place to play with this.

While we were a group of women of varying ages, who were in different stages and places in our lives, the overlap in what we were experiencing or wanting to experience in our lives was astounding. There were countless times in our meetings when one of the women would say something that so perfectly captured what I was thinking or feeling that it felt like she was living my experience.

imagesThe six-week journey I took with these amazing women was incredibly eye opening for me on the kind of deep connection that can be fostered when everyone comes to the table with a willingness and open heart, whether we are gathering together virtually or in person.

It was also an invaluable opportunity for me to recognize that I am not alone in my challenges or in the stories I tell myself. Nor am I alone in my aspirations and desires to live an inspired life.

Finally,  Real Life Book Club reminded me how much it nourishes my spirit to share and be with others in real, authentic and affirmative ways.

4 Reminders Brought Home by Book Club:

  • Being vulnerable isn’t nearly as scary as thinking about being vulnerable.
  • When I let go of my assumptions and open my heart and mind amazing things can happen.
  • For me it is often more fun, more inspiring and more rewarding to journey with others than to journey alone.
  • Genuine connections can be formed in surprising ways – remember to stay open.

 

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What’s Really Going On?

At a family dinner this past summer my dad and I got into a heated discussion about the pros and cons of GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms). The conversation continued to escalate until another family member finally redirected the conversation. I patently ignored my dad through the rest of the meal and wouldn’t look at him…which was no easy feat as I was sitting right next to him and could feel him looking at me.

After helping with the dishes I left the rest of the family and went to my room where I promptly burst into tears. I love my dad dearly and have such respect for him. I deeply admire the man he is, and in so many aspects of my life, I rely on his guidance, his knowledge and his insight. I hated arguing with him. I also hated how I was feeling.Be grateful for the life lessons that challenge us_small

I had been in conversation with a friend the day before and discussed how I didn’t understand why people couldn’t just listen to and respect the opinions of others even if they were in conflict with their own thoughts. If I really believed that why was I so upset? Why wasn’t it enough just to agree to disagree?

I knew what I was feeling was about something much more than a disagreement on the value or drawbacks of GMO’s. Sitting in my room with tears streaming down my face and a great big ache in my heart I started a little personal inquiry. Sometimes when I can’t get to the root of something directly I start to ask myself questions. Doing this has really helped me to loosen up my thinking when I get stuck.

Why WAS I so upset? Did I feel like he wasn’t listening to me? Did I feel insecure in my beliefs and let his contrary opinion undermine my confidence? Was I embarrassed that we had argued in front of the rest of the family? No, none of that felt quite right. There had to be something more behind why I was feeling so distraught.

Finally it dawned on me. I wasn’t upset about the actual conversation. Honestly I couldn’t have cared less about the discussion on GMO’s at that point. What was really at the root of why I was so upset was a deep-seated resentment and anger at my dad about not taking better care of his health.

Holy S#*t! I was angry and resentful! What???! I don’t do anger and resentment. Well, surprise, surprise…apparently I do…and that shoved down, hidden away anger and resentment had just risen to the surface. The interesting thing was that I felt so much lighter when that realization dawned on me. It was like a huge weight had been lifted.

P1030505While my dad isn’t in poor health he isn’t in his optimal health either. I realized I was angry at him for not making a few simple adjustments to his diet and exercise habits that could have a profound impact on his overall health and longevity. I resented the fact that he is such a disciplined and principled man in so many aspects of his life but this one. And I was scared. I was scared about the day when he wouldn’t be around for me.  That realization still brings up a lot of emotion for me.

A few moments after this epiphany there was a knock on my door and I opened it to find my mum and dad on the other side. Probably in her attempt to clear the air so we could go watch our nightly installment of Homeland (we are coming to Homeland a few seasons behind but are busily catching up!!) my mum had brought my dad down to my room to talk to me about what had happened. Still hiccuping a bit from my tears, and with a shaking voice, I explained to my dad what I had just become clear to me.

It was probably not an easy thing for my dad to hear that his daughter was angry and resentful towards him. It probably wasn’t easy for him to see how vulnerable I felt at the thought of him not being around. However, true to the amazing man he is, he patiently listened to me, explained where he was coming from and then opened his arms and gave me a big, emotion filled hug.

While our talk that night was healing for the both of us it wasn’t complete, and there are more conversations to be had. However, it was an experience that was both freeing and illuminating. I am grateful that we hit this bump in the road and had the opportunity to share with each other in such a profound way.

Learning from a Difficult Conversation:

  • When something happens and my response seems out of proportion with the context, I need to pause and ask myself some questions to get at the root of what is really going on. More times that not what will reveal itself will have little to do with what just happened.
  • It is important that I am honest with those I love and share what I am feeling. It may seem scary at first but it is far scarier to keep those emotions and thoughts bottled up and stuffed deep down inside of me.
  • I need to remember that everyone is on their own journey. Especially when I love someone and think I know what they need I often want to jump in and fix things for them. When this desire comes up, it’s a signal for me to take a deep breath, meet them where they are and honor their process and their choice.

Have you been upset about something and then realized it was actually something else that was bothering you? How did you handle that?

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Feeling Blue

It’s one of those days. I’m feeling blue and nothing I do seems to shake the melancholy I’m feeling.

There is change in the air for some of my loved ones, and I’m definitely experiencing resistance to it. Change is always a bit of a push pull experience for me, but when the change is happening to someone else, and I am just sitting on the sidelines, it is harder for me to handle than change I am choosing or inviting in to my own life.  When it’s “my” change I have input, I have decision making power, I have choice. When it is someone else’s change, I am a bystander, waiting to see what choice they decide to make…even if that change inadvertently impacts me and my life.

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I’m a firm believer that it is up to me how I want to experience the ups and downs in my life. Today, for better or worse, I am choosing to sit in the heavy heartedness I’m feeling. Tomorrow, I will choose again. And more than likely I will choose differently.

 

 

 

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Clear the Clutter

Recently I went on a manic “clear the clutter” blitz of my apartment.  While the blitz started off as a procrastination tactic it ended up being a perfect reminder of how much my creativity and thought process is impacted by what’s going on in my physical space.

I am in the midst of a transition, and I am often bombarded by thoughts like “What am I doing with my life?” “Where am I going?” “Why aren’t I clearer about what I want?” These are weighty and overwhelming thoughts, and they often get me stuck in neutral with no sense of how to move forward.As I unclutter my life, I free myself to answer the calling of my soul

Desperate to shake off this “stuck” energy I broke away from my brooding one afternoon and took apart my kitchen. Over the next week that was followed by a blitz of my closet, bathroom, laundry room and office. When I started in on my office I felt such a huge sense of overwhelm. How was I going to tackle all the binders, the paperwork, the miscellaneous though possibly useful bits and bobs I had accumulated in my desk drawers?

I wanted to stop as soon as I started. But I didn’t. I chunked the room down and took one area at a time. Before I knew it hours had passed, and I had shredded hundreds of papers, emptied a good 30 binders, had 7 bags of garbage and a huge stack of office supplies to donate. Feeling the resistance and overwhelm then chunking down the project to something that felt manageable was hugely empowering and liberating.

I know that everything is energy, and this clear the clutter blitz was such a wonderful reinforcement of that knowledge. The weight that I felt lifted off of me when I cleared out and de-cluttered an area of my home felt amazing. To let go of “stuff” that had sat stagnant in my home, untouched and unused was extremely cleansing.

While I still have not fully answered the questions that have been looming over me, I can unequivocally say that clearing some of the physical clutter in my life has helped to loosen my thoughts and open up my creativity.

I know I feel alive when my creativity is being fed, and I know that my creativity cannot bloom when I am carrying around sluggish, heavy energy. Feeling open, lighter, less encumbered is a far more productive and fruitful place from which to contemplate Life’s big (or small) choices.

5 Takeaways from Clearing the Clutter :

  • Everything is energy. Shifting physical “stuff” frees up my energy on an emotional, mental and spiritual level.
  • If an area of my life feels stagnant it is helpful to look at what might be stagnant in my physical environment.
  • Remember that clearing stuck physical energy always helps me unstick in other areas.
  • When the idea of de-cluttering seems overwhelming, chunk it down and make the idea manageable.
  • Each action, however small, is action and action breeds more action and more action breeds momentum.
  • Creativity cannot bloom in stagnant soil.

 

 

 

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Lessons From The Car Wash

For a long, long time I have had a serious phobia about the drive-through car wash.

You are probably rolling your eyes and asking yourself, “She’s afraid of the car wash?  Seriously??!”  Yup, seriously!

I used to love going through the car wash as a kid.  I loved the sound of the water raining down on the roof…the thump, thump, thump of the long cloth “fingers” as they moved up and over the car…the “WHOOSH” of the dryers sending water droplets scurrying away.

5 Lessons on Overcomign FearAll that changed one cold, winter night about 14 years ago.  I was living up in the mountains of Colorado running Verbatim Booksellers, the independent bookstore I owned in Vail, CO. My mum was flying in from the East Coast, and I was to pick her up after work.  Since I have a tendency to try to cram too much into a short amount of time I was running late by the time I left work.  I took one look at my car, however, and although I was behind schedule I decided I couldn’t pick my mum up in a dirty, winter-grime streaked car.

I pulled off the highway and raced to the local gas station and car wash, figuring I could get a quick wash and be on my way again.  It was dark that night, really, really dark, and the car wash was set up so that you had to make a super awkward left turn to get the wheels inside the guide rails and onto the conveyor belt.

I tried and missed.  I reversed and tried again, still not managing to get the wheels aligned between the rails.  I tried once more, over-correcting, and ended up getting my left wheels wedged between the outer rail and the payment kiosk.  Please note, I am a good driver, really I am!

No ifs, ands or buts, I was stuck, seriously stuck….and fairly panicky!  I tried to pull forward, I tried to reverse out but nothing worked.  Finally, I just had to gun it.  I can still hear the sound of metal on metal, scraping, crunching, grinding.  To add insult to injury my now mangled car was splattered with soap as I drove through the wash in an attempt to get out.

I finally made it to the airport, picked up my mum and explained what happened.  When we walked out to my car she just started to laugh…there at the curb sat my car covered in a splotchy, foamy mess of frozen soap with a crushed back left side.

With my tail between my legs I went back that evening to determine what damage I had done to the car wash. Amazingly enough there was not even a scratch on the kiosk against which my car had been wedged.  I seriously thought I had broken the car wash and was going to end up on the front page of the Vail Daily newspaper as the dumbass who had had an accident in the car wash.

Grateful that I wouldn’t be the laughing stock of my community I was still traumatized by the event, and since that night I had NEVER again driven through a car wash, preferring to pay the extra few bucks and hand over my keys to the attendant to drive it through.

 Fast forward to yesterday.  I had just driven down to Denver from the mountains, and my car was grubby and dirty. Once again I was picking someone up at the airport, and I didn’t want to show up with a filthy car.  Perhaps that’s the Virgo in me??!

It was a gorgeous day, and it looked like the whole city had turned out to get their cars washed.  The line was ridiculous.  I pulled up and told the guy I just wanted an exterior wash.  He told me to get into the relatively empty self serve drive-through lane rather than the full service lane I usually go through.  I looked at him with wide eyes, and with panic in my voice said, “But I don’t want to drive through!!”  He gave me a “hey crazy lady do whatever you want” look and just shrugged his shoulders!

Rationally I knew this fear was silly but it was still very real for me.  But, with the alternative being having to wait behind a boatload of cars for more time than I had, I decided to feed my fear a “suck it sandwich” and just go through the damn self-serve lane.   (credit for the term “suck it sandwich” goes to Jen Sincero, author of the fab book You Are a Badass)

 Taking a deep breath, I pulled forward following the directions of the attendant.  Managing to get my wheels easily into the track, I shifted my car into neutral and waited.  The conveyor belt started to move, the soft pitter patter of the water began and all of a sudden the little kid in me who had loved going through the car wash was behind the wheel.  I started to laugh!  This is what I have avoided for all these years?

While I may never, ever, go back to the scene of “incident” I know now that if I need to I can drive myself through the car wash without fear…a liberating thought indeed!  I also know that I still love the soothing feeling of being cocooned in the car as it is nudged along through the wash.  A simple pleasure that is now available to me again 😉

5 Things I Learned from the Car Wash:

  • Fears and phobias will be my loyal companions until I am ready to let them go.
  • The tighter my hold on my fears the more inhibiting they become.
  • Sometimes having to face my fear unexpectedly makes it easier to let it go.
  • Remember that it is up to me whether I allow my fears to hold me back or face them head on and let them pull me forward.
  • Things that I didn’t even know I was missing are available to me again when I let my fears go.

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