Rise Up, Sister.

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Too many of you have been held down

In large and small ways, in direct and indirect ways, too many women are dismissed, diminished and held back from their own greatness when, in an ideal world, we would all be lifted and supported by those around us, those who came before us.

Recently, I was talking to my daughter about ancestors. I was explaining to her how we stand on the shoulders of those who go before us in the best of circumstances. We are held up, we are lifted high. Our ancestors offer us a springboard by which we fly. 

To See, and live into, the Possibility Horizon

I told my daughter that my deepest desire, my most fervent prayer is that her father and I lift her high above our own shoulders so she reaches greater heights than we have. Tears stung my eyes and I realized once again, that is also my deepest desire for the women who seek inspiration through my writing and for the women who choose to work with me. I want to lift you up so you can see to the horizon of infinite possibilities in your life. I want to offer you space to heal and to know the support of someone who deeply believes in you and your capacity to realize the infinite possibilities that are calling you into the future.  

To be the Woman You Are 

Not many women I know were actively lifted up by their ancestors. I certainly wasn't, nor were my immediate ancestors. I would say that through sheer stubborn will and an abundance of inner fire I clawed my way past being actively held down by those around me. I am grateful for my warrior's heart. I am grateful to the people and the unseen forces and allies who believed in me and supported me.

In personal development, and Western culture in general, there is a damaging idea that we stand alone and that we, alone, control our destiny. But rest assured; circumstances, culture, violence, ancestors, genetics, the nature we have access to, our access to education -- we control very little of the outside forces that either help, or hinder, our capacity to rise, to lift others and to be lifted. Living in Zambia has amplified this truth for me -- any idea of singularly manifesting our destiny is faulty reasoning - it isolates us from seeking true support and opening to receive.


Whatever your work is, in whatever way you are called to lift others be it through raising children, working in a corporate setting, or running and building an entrepreneurial venture, it requires that you allow yourself to receive support. That you allow time for your own nourishment and healing. That you stay filled up to the brim to keep your spiritual strength.

I want you to feel the deep support of being lifted up, too, because wholeness and enlivenment begets the same. This is the foundation for the world that I want for every person, for all of us together.

There is Time.

This call to lift others can sound impossible if you are tired, if you feel unworthy, if you feel there isn't even enough for you. This can sound impossible (and actually, wildly distasteful) if you haven't been offered strong shoulders to stand on or time to tend the wounds of your own climb if your ancestors refused to let you stand on their shoulders. 

It may seem there is no time to "waste" -- our bank accounts, our communities and the world need strong women who know themselves and their power to create positive change. However, that is only possible when you have given yourself the space to receive what you need. It only comes when you've given yourself time to heal fully.  There is time for you: for your healing and from there, to vision and act on a new future born of your innate wholeness. 

For you. 

Please know that your voice, your heart, your vision -- all are necessary facets of creating an enlivened wholeness individually and collectively. Acknowledge what you've moved beyond. Acknowledge the ancestors you may still be climbing past and yes, honor the ancestors and the people who have supported and lifted you. Let yourself rest and heal. Give yourself the gift of someone, many someones, who will lift you up, who will celebrate your rise, who will help you see the horizon of possibility and help you take the steps to create that world. 

May you feel the support of many hands lifting you and in turn, offer your hands to lifting others in your time.

xo.nona

Living and Breathing Hope

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I wanted to feel better, that’s all.

That’s all, and it’s everything, isn’t it? For as long as I could remember, I longed for experiences of myself, and of life, that felt different.

I wanted to feel better (safe, secure, at ease) in my skin.

I wanted to break the legacy of addiction and violence in my family.

I wanted to be a good enough mother.

I wanted to feel safe inside of relationships with other people.

I wanted to feel alive, not slightly distanced from myself and life. Hell, I wanted to be able to feel, not freeze.

I wanted to know how to feel joy.

I wanted to trust myself, and life.

I wanted to make a meaningful contribution through my work.

I wanted to feel the wholeness that I knew, without a doubt, was at the core of my being.

This, and more, is my life today.

When I talk about trauma, I get excited — why? Because what I know is that surfacing, and bringing light, to the effects of trauma is not about giving up or being a victim — it takes incredible strength and vulnerability to open to the truth and own it. Ultimately, naming and healing trauma is about living, and breathing, hope.

No one talks about how the long-term effects of trauma can linger and prevent women from shining light in the world and making a powerful contribution. But it does — it’s at the heart of so much suffering and pain for women who long to do meaningful, life-changing work. However, as Dr. Dan Siegel says, “We have to name it to tame it.”

We are at a point in our collective story that we are really ready recognize the impact that toxic stress and trauma has had on us individually and as a society. It wasn’t until a wise therapist I hired in my 20’s named trauma as the root cause of what was keeping me from what I wanted, that I felt truly empowered to heal. It wasn’t until I named trauma as having an impact on my work that I was able to unravel the residual effects of said trauma and truly begin doing the work I know I’m here to do.

Naming our wounding is an act of living and breathing hope.

For anyone who knows me, you know I am a perpetual optimist. I believe in myself, I believe in the goodness of humanity. I believe in our capacity to heal and to rise and to create in powerful, meaningful ways. Inside of my optimism is also a deep understanding that to be the women we are here to be, we must have the courage to turn and face our demons. To reach the full expansion of our light, we must be at ease in the dark. We must be willing to do the hard work of healing — not fixing, but healing.

And, when I say healing, I mean being truthful with a capital T and in that truth, being exquisitely kind to oneself in embracing the full catastrophe of being a fragile, and strong, human (not indulgent, not destructive, but truly kind and loving in a fiercely protective way). I mean doing the hard work of knowing yourself and what you need. I mean honoring the evolution of being who you are in every moment. I mean healing as continuing to be honest in the ways you show up for you, your life, and your work. 

The only way out is through

I say this all. the. time. To my daughter, when she is struggling with a tough math problem or a challenging issue with friends. To my clients, who are struggling and want to get to the good stuff NOW, thankyouverymuch. I say it to myself when I am really wishing for things to be easier. The only way out is through. To stay with ourselves is the deepest healing. It is the path to hope.

The long-arm of trauma for many women in business is the confounding barrier it creates that says, “Go no further or you will be hurt — or worse.” It is terrifying. It makes no sense. It is the tender edge, it is the place where fear is amplified beyond what seems normal. It is the space where women often turn back, giving into the overwhelming sense that they simply cannot go any further.

At the same time, we are told in personal development to JUST DO IT. That it’s simply outdated beliefs that need to be addressed or fear or karmic energy patterns or whatever. This isn’t bad information. It can be all those things AND, if (as a woman who is experiencing the residual effects of trauma) you are unable to get over it, or think a new thought, or heal the karmic pattern or take a different action — shame ensues — often unintentionally adding a new layer of traumatic impact, unconsciously affirming that moving forward is too dangerous.

Let’s Take a Different Approach

Right now, The Trauma Sensitive Business is open to three more women for 2020. Whether you feel called to this work or not, I’m interested in seeing us, collectively, bring light to the impact our wounding has on so many of us working in the personal development arena.

Not every woman who has experienced trauma experiences long-term effects, however, it is worth it to stay curious and ask the question — do you believe that your nervous system on high alert, or trauma, is playing a part in how you (or your clients) are, or aren’t, living life? Building a business of meaning?

If the answer is yes, I invite you to use these questions as a place to begin and, as an important consideration if you have clients who seem unable to move in the direction of their dreams. Consider that it isn’t a personal failing, but instead the wisdom of the trauma-body keeping your clients (or you) safe.

What will it take to create a sense of safety? Establishing a sense of safety and presence is vital for women who have experienced trauma. Running a business will, at least for the first few years, be activating a sense of being in danger — it brings up fear of failure, financial concerns, it amplifies any wounding we have around using our voice. The opportunities to feel terrified are vast and endless. So creating a sense of safety, grounding and being present to what is happening right here and right now is incredibly important. Routines and practices of self-care are not a “nice to have” they are necessary for women who have experienced trauma to be able to feel good and thrive. Cultivating safe relationships in which to be supported in expressing what is true is paramount. Devising consistent and stable systems and foundations will help to soothe the frayed nervous system.

How can I be unfailingly on the side of non-harming? To push yourself, or a client, beyond the comfort zone when trauma is a factor is, simply put, harmful. Moving more slowly, and with incredible compassion for the trauma that might be activated, is the fastest way forward. This includes monitoring internal language and the way that we speak to, and about, ourselves (or watching for dismissive or harsh words in your clients about themselves). Moving at your own pace, or the pace of your client, may seem incredibly ineffective by societal standards. However, the pace that society moves at and insists on is inherently traumatic for most people already. For those who have body psyches that respond with fear more readily — move slower than slow. Not only is it affirming to acknowledge the impact of trauma with kindness, but it’s healing, and it creates a foundation of strength, authority and success to move at a deliberately slow pace.

What strengths can I draw on? I suspect that one reason it’s so difficult to talk about trauma, is that it goes against what I call our cowboy conditioning — that stiff upper lip, “I’m fine”, boot-strapping, mentality. I get it. However, what I know for sure is that every woman who has experienced trauma is incredibly strong and has amazing internal resources that are moving in the direction of safety, healing and vibrancy. It is so important to remember the strength that you possess and the innate instinct for healing that you have shown throughout your life. So it’s possible to talk about the impact of trauma, and at the same time acknowledge your strength — not just acknowledge it, but call on it. To recognize and honor the strength you possess and to build on it, to utilize that strength as you move forward in new ways.

You are invited: live and breath hope, sister.

I’m not a therapist and I don’t play one on TV, but I am committed to making a meaningful contribution to creating the world I wish to live in. Naming, and working intentionally, with our individual and collective wounding is a pathway to living and breathing hope. I want to live in a world where more people are celebrating the strength of experiencing post-traumatic growth. I want to live in a world where our organizations (micro, small and large) aren’t being impacted by toxic stress and hidden trauma. But mostly, what I want is for you to shine. For you to feel empowered to move forward at your own pace, into the fullness of who you are — beyond the trauma.

Join me to create your Trauma-Sensitive Business

I would love to support you in your own vision of living and breathing hope, my sister.

xo.nona

True Beauty Series: #1 "Burned"

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This is a love story.

More than ever, I know that my story has never been anything but a love story.

Talking about illness and past hurts is tricky territory — the human inclination is to look away or create distance, “Oh poor her, that is tragic.” Please save that kind of pity for something else. Because this story, my story, is every woman’s story to some degree.

I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t suffer at least a little bit in the present moment from upbringing, culture, ingrained patriarchy and misogyny, violence and/or trauma.

I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t secretly walk around with demons that haunt.

I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t in some way diminish her story or her incredible power in some way.

Not to say those women aren’t out there, because I’m sure they are. I understand that the women I circle with tend to be like the mythical Phoenix bird — rising from the ashes over and over again in a brilliant burst of light and transformation.

So, please remember, this is a love story. An ongoing story of repeatedly rising from the ashes of outdated, painful and downright violent ideas and behavior so I can freely do the work that I’m here to do and be the person I’m meant to be. My hope - always — is that you, too, will see your own strength in my words and rise from the ashes, blazing, for all the world to see.

Burned

I spent my childhood summers seeking an elusive state of "tan" and instead found myself burned, repeatedly and often. Recently I did the 23 and me DNA testing and literally, I'm 99% Northern European -- I was the poor kid that burnt (sometimes blistering) and then went from bright red, to an even paler shade of white with a few new freckles thrown in for effort. 

Why would I be so intent on being tan? Tan women were beautiful. Beloved. (Think: Farrah Faucet) It was also widely circulated among the women of my family that to be tan was to "look thinner": which was the ultimate desire of the women in my life. 

Never mind the intelligence, strength and love these women embodied -- they wanted to be thin. Never mind the incredible work they did in their communities — they wanted to be beautiful. To be cherished and loved. But when I was a kid, that definitely required thinness and a “hot bod”. And tan was part of the equation. 

I know. I know. It's heartbreaking. The ridiculous cages that women were put in, and continue to live in, make me weep for the world.

We are so much more than the cages of societal expectation. 

True Commitment

Tanning beds came to town when I was 15 and then, it was game on. I committed to my tan (often burning in the tanning beds as well) and stayed tan year-round for 3 or 4 years. I have pictures of me at 16-ish and I'm that weird orange-brown color that screams, "TANNING BED". 

Even at the very tannest my skin could ever be, I did not feel thinner or more lovable or even remotely good enough. I had been date raped around this time and, added to the developmental trauma of alcoholic (recently recovering) parents, the cruelty of "friends", and the raging misogynistic air that I lived and breathed in -- being tan could not cover, fix, or mend the confusion, anger, rage and grief that was burning inside of me. 

I felt ugly, broken and unlovable. I took up drinking. It was the most reasonable response. I have nothing but compassion for myself at that age and every age since. 

"You have melanoma"

When I was back in the U.S. this summer, I had a suspect spot on my chest biopsied, and thank goodness I did. I wasn't expecting it to be anything but maybe a dysplastic spot - a bullet dodged. However, it ended up being mildly invasive lentigo maligna melanoma, which, not surprising at all, is most likely to be found in people who experience frequent burns. 

Being burned is a thread that wove itself through much of my young life -- both literally and metaphorically. I spent a good deal of my 20's and 30's burning myself and letting myself get burned. Again, both literally and metaphorically (though no more tanning beds -- I was over that look.) hoping beyond hope to feel good enough for love, for appreciation, for worthiness.

The fact that I ended up with melanoma — wow. The scorched earth of my past concentrated in a burning spot on my chest, right over my heart. For me, it was an invitation to lean in, to take stock, to reflect on how being burned has shaped me, and my life,

Making Meaning in the Best Way

I believe in the power of making meaning in ways that empower. Making meaning in ways that call the Truth out into the open. Making meaning in ways that affirm the beauty that is in me, and you, and in the world, despite the challenges and really, maybe because of the tension between where we are and what we know is possible. 

At the junction between obstacles and possibilities, there is an evolutionary tension carrying tremendous creative power. Every challenge we navigate through creates us.
— Chameli Ardagh

When I spent time compassionately bringing presence to my body, and the spot where the melanoma was found, I surfaced a lot of anger. Anger at a culture that constantly picks at women's flaws. I felt bubbling rage at a culture that values women (STILL) more often by looks (including thinness) instead of by strength, intellect, heart, and our capacity to make powerful contributions to create a better, more vibrant, and beautiful world for everyone. Anger at the ways that I, and other women I know, still play small and hide because at a cellular level, there is a fear that we are too much or not enough. Still. 

I now carry a scar and it means many, many things to me. It means I had melanoma, yes, but at a deeper level my scar is a visible reminder of the years I spent in tanning beds, trying meet other people's standard of beauty, a reminder of how much I wanted to be loved. It is a visible reminder of the violent ways women are told or taught to go against our own true nature.

This scar, this melanoma, is the years I felt unworthy being myself in my own skin. It is the self-destructive behavior, the violence I perpetuated on my female body because it’s what I learned was expected from society and our culture. The ways I bent and molded myself to others' expectations and desires. 

What is truly infuriating is that these storylines are still so pervasive and that women are still in the grip of these stories at all. It makes me want to scream. And let's face it: we are the lucky ones. We are the women who have the luxury of doing the hard inner work and mustering the courage to question the powers that be with relative safety. We have the option of walking out of our self-imposed cages and standing up to the people who would put us in our place as women.  

#TRUEBEAUTY

I’m lovingly naming this scar #truebeauty because it reminds me of the beauty - the true beauty of stubborn strength, emotional intelligence, grit, unfailing truth and resilience that I dismissed as part of my problem into my early 30's (too much/not enough/definitely unlovable). At 47, I thankfully see and appreciate the truth, the beauty, the power of what I’ve lived through and chosen and learned -- all of this has shaped and molded the #truebeauty that is who I am, who I've always been. 

What makes women truly beautiful, what makes us know we belong and we matter is being who we are, with all of our heart, on purpose — showing the world exactly who we are with no apology. It is breathtaking to see women be completely and utterly themselves — and I’ve found personally that to aim for anything less that full authenticity is not only exhausting but bound for failure. Knowing this, living this, is everything.

To burn on purpose

I burn with the passion of my strength and conviction that women have so much to offer the world. I burn on purpose with a vision for a world where women are focused on, and appreciated for, their powerful contribution to the greater good. And my scar will remind me to keep that fire lit, it will help me remember the Truth. 

All of the trauma, all of the times I was burned by others, or I burned myself in the name of being loved -- it strengthened me, tempered me. I believe with all of my heart, as the quote says, that our challenges create us. We have the capacity to take what happens to and to let ourselves be transformed by the fire, to let it teach us who we are and what we are made of. To rise from the ashes more ourselves — that alone changes the landscape of the world we inhabit.

We don't always have a choice in the circumstances of our lives. Many times we don't. It's true. But we always have a choice to respond with strength, with dignity and to meet the fire with the best of what we've got in the moment. To let ourselves heal and feel the pain all the way through and then... we rise. This experience with melanoma has reminded me that women hold a power that we don't wield far often enough -- women carry tremendous strength, wisdom and truth in our experiences, in our very cells. 

My deepest wish is that you read this and recognize a small (or big) way that you might be holding yourself in check. Perhaps you are quieting your voice to be more soft, more acceptable. Hiding your light.

Please stop.

Never has the world needed women to stand up, to speak the truth, to show their strength, to burn with purpose and passion for the good of all. I know amazing women -- look, I know you, don't I? Today is not my day to die (thank goodness) nor is it yours. Burn on purpose. Burn with your passion.

This is a love story — it was never anything but a love story. A story of seeking and finding the unfailing love that burns in our hearts for our own liberation, for the healing of humanity, for the freedom of women who don't have a voice, and for the earth and the children. This is a love story fueled by fire — not through compliance and silence and demure femininity, but by letting ourself burn with the Truth and the beauty and the power that is at the very center of our being.

Blessings to you, my sister.

Now go, burn bright. 

xo.nona