I Am Not Fine

I am not fine.

A long time ago, I told my partner that if he asked me how I am and I say, “Fine,” he’d know there was something really wrong.

I gave up answering that question with that response many years ago. I was going through a particularly hellish time in life and I realized somewhere along the way that when people would ask me how I was, I would suddenly muster all my strength, put on a fake smile, try to look strong, and say, “I’m fine, thanks. How are you?”

I didn’t want to burden anyone with my troubles. I figured, everyone sits by a pool of tears. Everyone has their issues and struggles. Why would I burden them with mine? I didn’t want to be a bother.

I also did not want to burst the bubble of being “the strong one” or “the bubbly, positive one.” Trying to keep up the facade added an additional burden to the painful times I was going through. I walked a long road to finally figure out it’s okay to have hard feelings and it’s even better to be in touch with them and be honest.

And, while I was getting real with myself, I also came to understand that I answered in that way because I didn’t want to be judged. I didn’t want anyone to know the Crazyville that I was living in.

But when we keep saying, “I’m fine,” and are covering over what’s really there, we can lose touch with our real feelings. We can’t properly tell someone else our emotions or process them if we don’t actually know what they are.

So I decided to get honest with myself and others. I might not divulge everything that’s going on, but if I’m having a hard time, I’ll say something like, “It’s been a little rough, but I’m here.” Or “I’m exhausted” or something else that at least touches on the truth of it if that is not the time to unpack everything going on.

During that time, I also realized that I would say “I’m fine,” when I was really being a bit masochistic, sacrificing my own needs and desires for that of someone else’s.

I’d say something like, “I’m fine. You can take vacation during that week. It’s my son’s graduation, but I’ll just take a red-eye to get there and back.”

What I meant when I said, “I’m fine,” would often be:
I’m dying inside.
I’m giving up.
I no longer have the strength and the will to fight.

I saw that “I’m fine” masks what I really wanted to say. The worst part is that when we do this we start to convince ourselves that we’re okay with not having the thing we actually really want, so we give up on having it, on hoping for it or something better. We are giving up on our hopes, dreams, and our Truth. We are saying that our wants, needs, and desires are not important and we should do without. This is a slow death.
More recently, I realized that Fine has another layer for me. I’ve been working to tease out the difference between being at peace and being neutral about something. Neutral to me equals Fine; Fine is that place where the passion, the emotion, the desire, the gusto is gone.

The reason this is an issue is that for years I told myself I was fine with making do. I know sometimes we need to make sacrifices for a larger cause. But what I’m dissecting here is that status quo of just getting by, of shutting off what calls to you.

Last fall I was flying home from leading a workshop and had finished my book, but had another two hours till we landed. I thought, okay, I’ll check out the TV options on the flight. I scrolled around and landed on the International House Hunters show. In this episode, they were helping people find their “dream home.” There was a woman who walked into a home and started to cry because it was so beautiful and perfect. She and her husband bought the house.

This struck me!

I thought: Wow, you mean you can have your dreams come true? You don’t have to make do with Fine in all areas of life?! (Mind Blown!)

I hadn’t even realized that I had put so much of myself into dormancy.

I think it’s my responsibility to live my life in the exhilarating intersection where my gifts meet the world’s needs, where I am living in alignment with my my truth. And that is an amazing, joyful, exuberant place to be. It is far, far away from Fine!

We are given dreams, desires, passions for a reason and, I believe we are meant to be happy. So I took this aha moment to heart as a wake up call to not settle for Fine, but to love into my life more and be a testament to Joy instead of Fine.

Photo and content © Copyright 2019. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.


The Spoon Vs The Bucket

bucketBeing half Finnish, I am used to going to Sauna. I have often thought that it is interesting that so many ancient cultures have a cleansing ritual, where we get rid of what physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually no longer serves us.  It is a way of releasing what is holding us back, keeping us in unhealthy patterns and reemerge back in alignment, back on a healthier track.

On Saturday, I went to a sweat lodge. Sometimes, when I go through one of these cleansing rituals, I have something in mind that is weighing on my heart. 

This time, I just stayed open to see how the universe would speak to me. It’s not that I didn’t have several topics that I could bring with me into the lodge, it was just that I realized I needed to even surrender my point of focus. Let go some more around what I thought I needed help with. 

So, there I was in the heat and the darkness with seven other souls, receiving the blessings that Merrick offered up following the ancient ways of his people. 

My experience is that you just never know how your body, mind, and heart are going to respond to this experience. Will I be able to handle the heat? Will I feel light-headed, nauseous, or cleansed? It is no accident that this warm, dark space calls us to let go of control. It asks us to surrender physically, which often allows us to lay down our other walls, boxes, structures that keep us in our narrow thinking, our old ways that we have grown out of. 

I heard the Reverend William Barber speak earlier this week. One of the things that he said that really touched me was that when we are in a dark place, we don’t have to believe that it’s a grave. It could be a womb and perhaps it’s time to push out of it, into the Light.

I knew I didn’t want to be in a grave about any aspect of my life, and so what would be the opening, I wondered.

I sat through the heat of the first session, remembering to listen to my body and be sure to take care of myself. 

Oh, the second session was so much hotter! I felt sweat literally pouring off every part of me. It wasn’t that I was glowing, perspiring, or even sweaty. It was a torrent. 

And I thought…good! Get rid of all that, get rid of everything that I no longer need, that no longer serves me physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially! How can I live more fully in alignment with my Truth, my purpose?

I went into the third session, and found myself at that point where I was hoping I could make it through the next person’s prayers. Hurry, I thought, because after he spoke, we would again have the option to go out of the lodge and cool down. I was almost at my limit. I had my head in my lap, trying to find slightly cooler air. 

I made it and moved outside in the open air. I sat on the ground, leaning against a stump. I drank my water and poured a little over my head to cool myself down a bit. It was at that point that the water bucket came out of the lodge and Mike was going to fill it back up in preparation for the next round. 

I asked him to pour some water over me, thinking he would take the ladle and put water on my head that way. Instead, he took the whole bucket and gently poured it all over me, bringing me so much more relief than I had imagined. 

I sat in the faint light under the crescent moon and cried, not because I have been suffering so much, but because here I was asking for a spoonful and the Universe gave me a whole big bucket! I cried because I realized that so often, my mindset is around just surviving instead of thriving. The spoonful would have cooled me down enough to walk back into the lodge. The bucket allowed me to fully embrace the fourth round where it would be my turn to speak. 

I cried because Spirit has much bigger gifts for us all, and if we are just open to them and don’t close ourselves off, thinking that we only deserve this small portion, we are able to live much more fully into our gifts and into the abundance of the sacredness that is all around us. 

So I sat there, letting go, quietly crying in thanks for the relief and release that Mike unknowingly gifted to me. 

It is amazing how often we bless one another with a simple act or presence. We unknowingly bless one another in ways that are profound beyond our understanding.

And so, again, I was reminded to get out of my own way and not box myself into a grave that stifles and mutes my gifts when I only look to the teaspoon instead of the bucket, the thimble instead of the ocean. 

This was a call to allow the bounty and beauty of this universe to work in me, through me and my fellow souls, and to relish the abundance of the gifts along the way. 

Photo and content © Copyright 2018. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

The Lesson You Need To Keep Learning

IMG_5729Do you have a lesson you find yourself having to “learn” over and over?

When you realize where you’re at, you think: Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m here again!

If you have one of those, I feel ya! I’ve just been in one of those places!

My lesson is around how to live through busy times. My old go-to response would be to just push myself harder. That obviously works for the short-term, but is not sustainable for the long-haul and it leaves me totally zapped.

For example, here’s a typical scenario. I had a big presentation to give at the NM Women’s Leadership Conference on July 19. July 19 was also the day I was bringing my son to the airport at 5 am after an amazing 10-day visit together. I had prepared for the workshop and his visit by really pushing to have all my ducks in a row for the presentation before he arrived. I had also work with my clients as much as possible so I would not have many sessions during his visit. I was still working, but not as much.

So before he got here I thought I was doing a good job because I was still doing my normal self care of meditating and exercising daily, and eating well. That was great. Good job, Steph. However, I also really pushed myself to get everything squared away before he got here. I’d stay up late, got very little sleep, maxed my schedule out with all kinds of meetings and to-dos to push, push, push. Kind of like going 100 MPH to then be able to coast.

So, the end results:

  • A great time with my son. We went on an amazing road trip and did all kinds of fun things locally. We had such a great visit. It was a blessing and a joy!
  • An awesome workshop! The presentation went really well and was so fun to do.
  • Everything is great, life is all right-side up, and
  • I’m exhausted.

The weekend after the presentation I took Sunday as a Sabbath day. I did not touch my computer, I silenced my phone and I just relaxed all day.

But what I found is that my exhaustion is deeper than what one day can give me.

I woke up Monday morning still feeling wiped out. All the following week I tried to make sure I got 8 hours of sleep every night and be more gentle with myself. But, a week out, I was still trying to right myself. My throat felt scratchy and I felt like I just didn’t have my normal energy.

As I looked back at why I was feeling the way I did, I thought, “Darn it, I know better!” I know I’m not supposed to push myself at that level. I’m not supposed to just muscle through.

I did a better job than I’ve done in the past. And, I didn’t do as well as I’d like to. I did a great job doing my normal self care, which includes daily meditating, exercising, eating well. Yes, I skimped on sleeping well, which is an area I know I need. I can rectify that.

The big aha! is that I need to actually schedule in blocks of time and space. Yes, literally. I need to make sure that every morning is not full of meetings, no matter how fun or important they might be.

I realized that my elixir is space. I need space in my schedule to feel healthy and whole because that is where I create from. This literally means I don’t schedule more than 3 morning meetings a week.

My next two months have a lot going on. And, I have been careful not to wedge in activities throughout my days and weeks. I am putting off even fun things like coffee dates with friends to make sure I have enough blocks in my schedule.

So, instead of burning my reserves by pushing, I need to do what seems opposite of what I thought I needed: when the going gets tough, become more spacious.

It’s a work in progress, but I’ll keep you posted on how this experiment goes.

Photo and content © Copyright 2018. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Choosing Between Two Commitments

IMG_2915Have you ever had that experience where you are pulled in two different directions? Where you have agreed to, perhaps, volunteer to lead a day at the soup kitchen or you have a big work deadline, and your child’s team makes the playoffs and their game is at the same time.

A while back I had an experience that shifted my world view. I am someone who, once I make a commitment, I stick to it. If I tell you I’m going to do something, I will do it.

Over the years, I often felt the tension between a commitment to an entity outside of myself (work, community, charity) and my own or my loved ones’ needs. I realized that I would sometimes sacrifice my loved one or myself for my commitment to another entity.

Through the years, I became more aware of this disconnect. I worked to have fewer commitments, to have less on the calendar, to allow for more empty space.

The big shift happened one time when my daughter was visiting me. We were supposed to have some friends over one evening. My daughter came to me that afternoon. She was really burned out and needed some down time. She just didn’t have the energy to be social.

In the old days, I would never have cancelled the dinner plans. I would have wanted us to muscle on and put on a brave face. “We wouldn’t want to offend our friends.”

But, this time, I asked myself, what was most important? What was the goal here? It became perfectly clear. I called the friends and cancelled.

WOW! That was a first!

The reward was my daughter felt heard. We both relaxed and had a lovely low-key evening on the patio, talking for hours. The evening was a gift.

This was a lesson for me. The world did not shatter or fall apart. I was not deemed a “bad” person. And both my daughter and I felt tended to and fed.

Instead, I learned to stay focused on what was truly most important. Sometimes it’s not clear and there are ramifications for our actions. But asking the question, “What is most important?” helps guide the ship.

Photo and content © Copyright 2018. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.




Stepping Back From Time Crunch

stopwatchFor much of my adult life, I have been wrestling with Time. I tried working harder, stretching myself to do more, and multi-tasking my butt off to try to get ahead. But I just never seemed to make any headway.

It took a long time, but I finally realized pushing harder doesn’t work. What was needed, was a shift.

So, I altered my point of view from seeing myself jumping on the hamster wheel and feeling like I’m constantly chasing the clock to thinking of time as spacious.

I suspect that we as a society can wear “busy” like a badge of honor. If we are busy, we get strokes to our ego. We look important, competent, like a good person. And that can feel really good! But, it is a double-edged sword. Being busy means we are probably not taking time for self-care, we may not being doing our best job on any one thing, plus it really ramps up our blood pressure and stress hormones.

So I stopped buying into the attitude that “busy” is the norm.

I shifted my perspective from “I’m busy” to “I have all the time in the world.” It’s amazing how pivoting my point of view changed everything. Even if I’m in a situation where it could feel like the clock is “against” me, it’s like time stands still.

The parameters I put in place to live this out include some tools.

When time gets tight, I do things like take a deep breath and pause before I move forward on anything. This allows my frontal lobe to engage more so I’m more present and better able to respond from my best self.

Then, I make a list. Somehow, capturing what needs to be done on paper puts everything into perspective and I’m able to make a plan.

And, here’s a biggie, I also just say no to more things and have less on my schedule. I try to remember that my time is precious and I can’t get it back.

I realized that what I do should be important, even if it’s doing what looks like nothing. This allows for space and time to create, and it respects me and my real needs or the needs of those I love. I’m not just rushing on, ignoring my truth. This feels real and respectful and is a joyful place to be living from.

The bottom line is, when an opportunity presents itself, I ask myself if this moves forward what is important. Sometimes going out with friends is the perfect thing to do, and at other times, I’ve realized I need to say no. Feeling like I don’t have to agree to do everything is incredibly freeing.

Part of this scheduling less is tied to not feeling bad about saying no. I’m taking care of myself, and when I do that, my life is richer, more peaceful, and more enjoyable.

It took me some time to really integrate this, and there are times when I rush, but overall, the tempo of my life is much more peaceful.

So what comes up when you ask yourself, what more could I do with my one precious life? What if I wasn’t filling my schedule with an endless list of tasks and to-dos? What if I focused on what was really important in my life?

Here’s to more joy and less stress! Enjoy!

Photo and content © Copyright 2018. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

One Thing At A Time


“Just focus on one thing at a time. The data clearly shows that we can’t multitask and do things well. Just do one thing and do it well.”

Lordy, I’ve been telling my clients this for years. Heck, I’ve been telling myself this for years! And it is such strong, beneficial advice. And it’s true that we can’t multitask without losing like 37% of our brain’s bandwidth! (According to the American Psychological Association) No wonder we feel scattered!

But how do we do this?

I recently had those tiny little ants crop up in my house. Again.

This is not the first time they have appeared, so I wondered to myself, what is the Universe trying to get me to pay attention to? What do ants make me think of?

Well, they are busy. They are super busy, but each one has one duty and that’s why they are so effective! For instance, the queen does one thing: lay eggs. That’s it. She is not foraging for food or anything else. The survival of the colony depends on her doing her one thing.

But, as a human, I often struggle with the how. How do I tend to the different aspects of life that I want to nourish?

There’s the physical part: Am I getting my walk or hike in today? Do I have healthy, yummy food in the house to eat? Have I gone food shopping for that food?

There’s the spiritual aspect: Am I meditating? Am I feeding and being fed by my spiritual community? Am I going to Meetng? Am I involved in the life of the Meeting?

There’s the social part: Am I tending to my friendships that feed me? Am I involved in the life of my community and building it?

You get the point. There are so many facets to a healthy life that need tending. How does one balance them all? If one is out of whack, they all are. If I am working out like crazy and eating great food, but I am not in a job where I feel valued, that is going to affect me in all the other areas.

So how do we balance it all out?

I am no expert, but I suspect at least part of the answer is time, space, and presence.

To not fill my schedule so full that I am constantly chasing time, so there is space in my calendar to just be and to allow myself to hear that still, small voice from within that is always guiding me. And, in doing one thing at a time, I can be fully present to it and do that one thing well.

Thank you little ants, for the reminder that a mountain can only be climbed one step at a time. And, the call to relish that step, and the next one, and the next is what life is about.

Photo and content © Copyright 2018. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Letting Go: Spring Cleaning

It rained over the weekend. This morning rises clear, clean, and blue. An early March day with cherry blossoms and tree buds scattered along the path.

The grandmother cottonwoods were hosting turkey vultures in their branches. It’s funny how you rarely see them here, and on the East Coast they are so common. I take these famous clean-up-the-mess birds as another sign of spring.

As I walked the crisp morning path, I heard a scraping noise. I rounded the corner and saw the outbuildings of a long-vacant home being taken down. The front-end loader reaching up and crashing through the roof bit by bit.

Suddenly, I was surrounded with other people’s memories of that home. Someone had cared about this structure: the colored-glass windows, the roof’s cupola.

I was touched by a deep inner sense of our shared experience–the sense of breaking down and clearing away the old to make way for the new, and the mix of emotions that accompany that.

My aunt recently sold the home she and my uncle (before he died) lived in for the past 15 years. That house harbored family reunions, parties, laughter, sorrow, and tears. She is, at times, overwhelmed with the gathering up and sorting. Although she knows she doesn’t need to carry much of this to her next home, even the old and the used are saturated with bittersweet recollections.

Perhaps part of the breaking down is acknowledging what’s there. It can be sadness, old camping gear, regret, photos of unknown people, fear. If we allow the bitter as well as the sweetness to surface, we will have fewer accumulations physically and emotionally.

It’s almost like giving these emotions the respect of acknowledgement allows them to dissipate instead of us trying to stuff them down into another cardboard box and carrying them to the next home. And so, our emotions too need a spring cleaning, a breaking down and clearing out, so they are released from the burden of having to be carried.

Photo and content © Copyright 2018. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

She is waiting. Will you set her free?

IMG_3035I know it is dark and you are tired
and frustrated
and angry
and feel trapped.

There is a way out.

There is a better way.

You can stop trying so damn hard. Just be. Just be yourself. Your true self. The one who is Light and joyful.

Follow those things that turn you on, that make you alive, that bring you joy.

Those are the ways that Spirit is talking to you. Come, follow me. Follow the lighted path.

When you are in doubt and fear, stop and ask, “Am I constricted, am I resisting? Or, am I open, is it easy?”

Follow the easy, knowing that the universe is dying to support you, to love you, to bring you joy.

We make it hard by getting in our own way. By thinking we need to be in control. By doing too much. By taking the reins and steering the damn train.

Let go.

Let the real you step out from the shadows. Let her emerge from the layers of should and to-dos that have been piled on her.

Set her free to take over your life and open your gifts, so the world can reap the joy of your being. So others can enjoy your gifts, your reason for being on this planet at this very time.

She is waiting, will you set her free?

Photo and content © Copyright 2017. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Opening Your Gifts

IMG_1510Tis the season…for giving and receiving gifts. There’s the hustle and bustle of shopping for everyone on your list, finding the right thing, something that won’t disappoint.

But what if it was easier than that?

What if in just letting go, in following your true path, the rest of the world would be given the greatest gift?

I know it is dark and you are tired and frustrated and angry and feel trapped.

There is a way out. There is an easier, a better way.

You can stop trying so damn hard. Just be. Just be yourself. Your true self. The one who is Light and joyful.

Would you like to follow those things that turn you on, that make you alive, that bring you joy?

Those are the ways that Spirit is talking to you, saying, “Come, follow me. Follow the lighted path.”

When you are in doubt and fear, stop and ask, am I constricted, am I resisting?

Or, am I open, is it easy?

Follow the easy, knowing that the universe is dying to support you, to love you, to bring you joy.

We make it hard by getting in our own way. How do we do that? By thinking we need to be in control. By taking the reins and steering the damn train.

Let go.

Let the real you step out from the shadows. Let her emerge from the layers of shoulds and piles of to-dos.

Set her free to take over your life and open your gifts so the world can reap the joy of your being. So others can enjoy your gifts, your reason for being on this planet at this very time.

She is waiting, will you set her free?

Photo and content © Copyright 2017. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Freely Accepting Gifts

IMG_0103In working through another layer of worthiness issues, I came across the realization that I have a deep-seated belief that I have to work hard at everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to know how to work hard and to be willing to do it when the need arises. My issue is that I was feeling this about everything, and that’s a big problem. That means that I’m setting myself up to have to work hard across the board in my life, from relationships to jobs to learning a new language to alleviating the pain in my neck.

I know where part of this came from. Good ol’ Protestant Work Ethic, mixed with some immigrant mentality—hard work is the key! You need it to survive. You need it to succeed.

BUT, when we believe that we always have to work hard, then we always have to work hard! We attract what we expect, what we focus on. So, if I’m expecting things to be difficult and that I’ll have to work hard, guess what? It’s going to be true. Smack the forehead!

I was driving to go vote the other morning and a radio station was giving money away. Awesome! Once I stopped, I texted the keyword to their number.

When I thought about winning the $500, I could feel this big boulder on my heart. It felt immovable. So, I thought, what is this boulder?

What was my answer? Guilt! Guilt at not having worked hard for the money.

Here’s the junk I’m feeding myself: When I work hard, I am a good, respectable, and worthy person. You survive through hard work. When someone works hard, they become a success. And, I should feel guilty if someone freely gives me something. (Ugh!)

So basically it boils down to me having to earn anything good in life. This flies in the face of my belief that this is an abundant, generous, loving, bountiful universe.

I don’t have to earn
The blue sky
The warm sun
The taste of a ripe strawberry
The comfort and joy of dark chocolate
The sunflowers outside my window
The coyote allowing me to follow her
The beauty of the jay
The gold of my egg yolks
A restorative, good night’s sleep

These were all just given to me. One gift after another. I didn’t have to work hard. I didn’t have to earn the love of this bountiful universe.

Plus, I know how much joy I get from giving to others. So why am I taking that joy away?!

So, why can’t it be easy some of the time?

If I step away from my you’ve-got-to-earn-it mindset and think about gifts, I realize that, for example, I’m really good at remembering people and names. I don’t have to do any of those tricks to remember a name. It just locks in the vast majority of the time. When people ask how I do it, I tell them, “It’s just a gift. I don’t have to work hard for it at all.”

I know some people are great with numbers, others have been bestowed with musical talents. Spirit blessed you. Sometimes we have to uncover it, finesse it, grow it, but the big part of the gift was just given to you.

Money can be this way too. Money can be given to me, to you, as a gift. You don’t have to earn it all the time. Sometimes, it’s just like a clear blue sky. You didn’t have to do anything to deserve it. It was just freely given.

I guess it’s a part of gratitude. I can just acknowledge this bountiful universe and stay open to its gifts.

Photo and content © Copyright 2017. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.