It’s amazing how much incredible potential awaits us when we’re intentional about how we meet with disappointments and challenges. There’s an opportunity to either open ourselves up to a different, unplanned possibility or to respond with resistance. It sounds pretty simple when you put it that way, but when emotions are involved, choosing the former is easier said than done in the moment.

I met with a disappointment recently that was just so… visceral. Meaning that it tapped into all my little kid stuff. I really wanted to cry about it, even though to an onlooker (which I decided to be at the time) it might not have seemed like a big deal. I did, however, lend myself some grace by acknowledging that it was incredibly disappointing. And, the source of said letdown didn’t even have a valid reason for seriously raining on my parade, which almost added to my little kid reaction of being angry and resentful.

Well, maybe it did for a minute. And I’m okay with that.

But, ‘the thing’ clearly wasn’t meant to be, I decided. It was an appointment for some serious self-care that I’ve been kicking the tires on for literally months. Not like a hair or nail appointment, mind you. Those are low on the list these days. This was to address, in a beautiful, sanctuary-like setting, a core physical issue from giving birth (six years ago) that I just haven’t had the time or resources to address yet.

So maybe I’ve been kicking the tires on it for more than a few months.

I arranged childcare (which I almost never do), someone to feed the forty-ish horses where I live so I could take the entire afternoon to myself…

Anyway, the point is that it cut very deep in this weird way to have this symbolic thing canceled, and seemingly so carelessly.

With an afternoon all to myself suddenly (which again, pretty much never happens) I was truly stumped about what I would do with my newfound free time.

Take a nap? Clean my house? Exercise? Really rather underwhelming choices given the nature of my original plan. So, I opened myself up and decided to not try and figure it out, but rather let it come to me.

About a day later, I received a message from the owner of the ranch where I live, Dawn, asking if I’d like to do a horseback riding session with her. To give context, I live on this amazing horse ranch and care for the horses here on a regular basis and I’m very intimately connected with them. I love them. It’s like having 40 of the most amazing relationships you can imagine, right outside my front door.

Interestingly, though, I don’t actually ride horses that often. Something I’m intending to remedy.

What’s more, Dawn isn’t just a Teacher of Horsey Things. She’s… tuned in. Profoundly intuitive (which I’m convinced has something serendipitous to do with this story). She’s fabulously connected in and a power for good in the universe. And, any time spent with her just has this way of elevating you from a deep place – like standing in a beautiful, grassy field with the wind blowing over you and the sun on your face on a spring day. I love her too.

Perfect! It wasn’t my first lesson of course, but in a way, each one feels like the first time if you’re open to that possibility.

In the past, I’ve come into these sessions with an idea of what I might like to chat about, learn about, etc. (because it’s really not just about learning how to ride, there is so, so much more happening in these times). But in this case, I honestly didn’t even have the bandwidth to make that decision, so I decided to not decide and just come in completely open.

I worked with a horse named Stella, Dawn’s suggestion and again, serendipitous. She’s a Belgian draft mare, which means that she is very, very large. We already have a relationship that I love being a part of, but up until this time it’s been about canoodling (she’s very affectionate) and being the one to bring her her dinner a few days out of the week.

Prior to coming to the ranch, Stella was all by herself for five years. No other horses, no other herd mates (like goats, sheep, or cows)… Really one of the worst circumstances for a horse as they need to have herd members in order to feel safe in the world. It’s just how they’re created and the herd dynamic is a truly beautiful one.

Horses have this profound ability to reflect back to us what’s happening internally – even things we aren’t aware of. They show us how we’re showing up in the world, and it’s completely unbiased, unfiltered feedback. What a gift.

I began the session with Stella with what’s called ‘groundwork,’ which means establishing a connection with everyone’s feet on the ground, i.e. walking and maneuvering to enter into a new kind of communication and… create connection. In our case, it was in a new context from our usual ‘barn relationship.’

What I immediately encountered was that my giant friend, with her giant feet, was not only happy to walk with me, but wanted to walk really close, as in a few inches. And, with her giant head on my shoulder. I love Stella, but this was proving to be challenging, was generally awkward, and I could feel my ankles and toes cringing with each step (of hers).

Interesting. I’m no rookie to horses, and if it had been a horse I didn’t know as well it might have been easier to ask/tell her to give me space. It probably would have. But for some reason, not only did I not put my finger on the fact that she was too close right away, once it was pointed out to me I found myself fumbling a bit regarding what to do about it. Also interesting.

Maybe because she’s such a dear friend? Because I have empathy for her and love her and just want her to be happy and feel safe? And yet ironically, what was going to make Stella feel the most safe in that situation was me taking charge (because horses need us to do so) and setting some… boundaries.

Oh, that word.

It was pointed out to me in a loving and oh so very insightful way that based on what I’d shared while giving Stella a good brush down prior to our work together, I’m struggling with… setting boundaries in a significant relationship with a friend. In fact, it’s been very, very consuming and disheartening. I’ve been allowing it to cloud the rest of my life, including my mood and productivity. How awful. And unnecessary.

And really, if I think about it, it’s not just that one relationship. I realize that I struggle similarly, as do most parents, with setting boundaries with my child at times (because yes is so much easier than no sometimes) but in reality, that’s what makes her feel safest and most held.

Once I ‘got permission’ (meaning I just needed to be reminded of what I already know) to let Stella know where I wanted her to be, we entered into this very sweet communion. We were walking in step, close but not too close, and with an intimate awareness of one another and our bodies in space together.

And, once it was time to actually ride together, the communion just continued. It’s a dance of communication and connection between two living beings that don’t speak exactly the same language, but who kind of do if the intention is there and the time is put in.

I walked away from that time feeling like I’d just taken ten naps (significant for a single mom running a business and working a ranch). So much lighter, so grateful for the insight gained. I learned that staying in confusion and slight frustration over poor boundaries that I’m allowing isn’t productive. And, not only do I know what to do about it (although I forget that I do sometimes), I should do something about it. It’s just better for everyone.

Thank you, Stella.

The Other Side of the Desk

It was only about eight in the morning, and yet it was already stiflingly hot. I’d been living in a strange land, the desert essentially, for almost a year and still had not made friends with that dry, oppressive heat. I don’t think I ever would have, and I’m glad I didn’t hang around to find out.

I’d been up all night on an extreme adrenalin dump, and while my body was exhausted my mind was still reeling. The event that brought me to this place (well really, I brought me to this place) had been a climax of circumstances that I won’t go into here, but will someday.

That story has many, many layers to it. And this particular layer is one that comes to the surface for me more often than not for some reason. So, while I’m not ready to tell the whole thing yet, I’ll take the proverbial pen to paper and see what comes about.

Back to being a stranger in a strange land.

My mind had been in such intense overdrive for so many hours (and months, really), that I found myself having to ground myself in where I was in the immediate moment to grasp at some sense of reality and safety. I found myself sitting in a small office, inside what clinical institutions work so hard to maintain as a “normal” home setting. I looked around at the walls for the first time and saw all the familiar state-mandated posters and certificates regarding health practices and other such required topics to be posted by law.

And, of course, there was the familiar vibe of crafty endeavors and crocheted wall hangings to further promote the feeling of hominess and normalcy.

I don’t mean to imply that there was any falsehood here. The thing is that I’d spent many, many hours of my professional life as a licensed therapist in offices just like this one. I know it’s a careful and thoughtful endeavor to make these settings feel as comforting and non-institutional as possible.

But none of that really settled on me until later. My reaction in the moment was more… visceral. Primitive. And it didn’t come to me until I allowed my gaze to fall on the young woman, probably about ten years my junior, sitting on the other side of that same damn desk. The metal one with the thick plastic top disguised as wood grain that typically graces the front of classrooms and high school counselors’ offices.

She was organizing some paperwork and explaining some necessary details to me, and in all my exhaustion and being mired in the absolute surreality of my circumstances, it hit me.

“Holy shit, I’m on the other side of the desk.”

Given the very intense and frightening nature of the events that had brought me to that point in time, this revelation was not the first wave of the gravity of my situation. But, it was one of the biggest, and the pull of its undertide into a completely new reality was both terrifying and, somewhere very dimly within me, welcome.

To be clear, I hadn’t done anything wrong to end up where I was. I hadn’t broken the law and was not in some kind of mental health setting. I had fled there by choice. Sort of. Really, there wasn’t much choice in the matter at all. It was a shelter in every sense of the word, and I desperately needed it at the time. I try not to assign blame to this time in my life, but I do think a healthy dose of accountability for the choices that got me there is appropriate. “How I got to yes” in the words of a supportive friend with who I would later process these events.

As it turned out, I would only stay in that place for a couple of days, and then would be on my way to climb my way out and into the light of an incredible, new story. I certainly don’t mean to oversimplify that, by the way. It’s been one hell of a ride, and the destination is and continues to prove nothing less than divinely providential. It’s been by far the most intense and rewarding endurance event I’ve ever participated in.

Back to that desk.

Part of my “institutional conditioning” from having worked on the other side of the desk for 14 years was that surely I would only be able to stay for a limited amount of time, maybe a few days to a week, and then be ushered back out into the world as quickly as I was able to be.

What I found, however, was quite the opposite. While I was eager to move on and face whatever this new chapter was going to bring (and it was very, very unclear at that time), I was surprised to learn that I would be able to stay as long as I possibly needed. There were, of course, requirements for remaining there that were completely reasonable and designed to promote the health of anyone needing to stay there.

What I learned, though, was that there were women who had been living there with their children for months. Hearing this was a mixture of relief that there was one less thing on my list to keep me up at night, and of the heartbreaking truth that this was the reality for so many women. And, I think, it was also an abrupt and necessary reminder that I could, and would, walk my way out of this one humble step at a time.

I’ve challenged myself around the thought that perhaps I was carrying any kind of arrogance or “that will never happen to me-ness” around that needed to be taken down a notch or ten. And honestly, I don’t feel that there was. I spent a long time on the other side of the desk, helping frightened kids with absolutely no sense of control over their circumstances feel safe in that very moment, that “intake” time to use a gross clinical term.

I remember those moments and kids as if I were just with them. And, almost ten years after having left that profession, I still do hear from some of them. I’m confident that, just like the staff members in that shelter who weren’t showing up every day for the glamor by any means, I put my heart and care into that work.

But, what I was carrying was a lack of acknowledgment that my choices would have a cumulative effect. And they all came in a flight of fury into that moment in time, sitting on the other side of that desk, sweating, scared, holding my six-month-old baby with no idea what the coming days, months, or years would look like.

I’m so grateful for that damn desk.

Sweating the Small Stuff (Don’t Do It)

I spent approximately eight minutes picking out toilet paper in the grocery store the other day. I didn’t exactly time it, and really – that seems like a conservative estimate (it felt like an eternity). 

I can’t explain exactly why.

Well, yes I can. So many nuances – double rolls, single ones, soft versus strong (I decidedly don’t need ‘strong’ toilet paper), flowers versus some kind of ridge-like texture… And maybe I’m having some misplaced residual trauma from the recent pandemic-driven shortages?

I mean, perhaps there was a time in the last year-and-a-half-ish where I found myself gripping my then-5-year-old’s hand, speed walking with laser-focused determination through a parking lot, and jumping in my car to race to the next store in hopes that just one, just one, bastion of plastic-wrapped hope would be left on the shelf. I even drove to town early to beat the rush of retirees that frequent the local grocery stores just for that purpose. They’re faster than they look.

But no, that’s not really the reason either. 

If I’m being honest, what was really causing this entirely unnecessary conundrum was finding just the right balance between cost and comfort.

I of course won’t go the cheapest route (don’t ask me why I know not to do that), but, at the moment of decision, I don’t really want to spend a significant amount of money (you know, in comparison to other necessities like water, milk, veggie burgers and so on) on, well, toilet paper. Go figure.

Because as I’ve learned (again, don’t ask me how, but I will say that I drink on average about a gallon of water a day), you typically do get what you pay for when it comes to this commodity. And even though I was rather annoyed with my indecision and careful scrutinizing at the time, it didn’t really hit me why it bothered me that I spent eight minutes of my life I’ll never get back attending to such a frivolous task.

It didn’t really hit me, in fact, until a couple of days later when my 6-year-old daughter came walking very intentionally (I could hear her coming with very deliberate footsteps – a sure sign that some proclamation is about to be made) into my room and announced, “Angel Soft is NOT soft!”

Hm. You mean I spent that time and mental energy and it was a fail anyway? Furthermore, and more importantly, was eight minutes of my life really not worth more than the few more dollars I could have paid to ensure a good outcome? Why did I do that, anyway?

And then I started wondering… Where else am I doing this in my life? 

What I mean, specifically, is essentially wasting my most valuable resource (time) sweating details that are really so trifling. I know I don’t do it in all areas of my life, thankfully. I keep fresh flowers in my home, I spend more to buy organic food whenever possible, my kid goes to a great school, I go to the pricier gas station…

But I do think there’s something there. It’s not about buying the cheap(er) toilet paper, necessarily (although I’ve since changed my thinking on this), but rather the process behind it. And that the outcome was that it was even worth a fraction of the energy I gave it. 

To be clear, I’m not promoting frivolity or financial irresponsibility. But what I am promoting is not wasting precious moments and energy becoming lost in the minutia of details that ultimately don’t affect the bottom line.

I’m committed to this whole “living as if” thing, meaning living into my future and being the kind of person who doesn’t need or want to spend eight minutes picking out toilet paper (among other way loftier, far more amazing things). And, acting accordingly right now. 

It’s kind of a new experiment for me, and it’s interesting to take somewhat of a clinical approach to my life and sit in the role of observer. I don’t believe that adopting the mindset and attitude of my future, evolved self only revolves around financial decisions and material goods, it’s far deeper than that, of course. 

But, I do have this little mantra that I strive to live by – the way you do anything is the way you do everything.

If I’m lost in the meaningless details over things that don’t ultimately matter or benefit the greater good, I run the risk of missing those bigger, more meaningful revelations and moments in time. And, not only is time precious, but energy is precious. I want to honor it and spend it in those ways that drive my vision forward, that manifest my dreams in real, tangible ways. 

So, a toilet paper decision-making process may not seem noteworthy, but the thought process behind it and resultant actions definitely are. Duly noted, toilet paper. Well played. 

Living as If

“Today is going to be the best day ever.” I heard these words from my 6-year-old daughter this morning, and I hear them on a regular basis. Not only does she speak this truth, but she speaks it into existence. When I ask her about the day during our nighttime ritual the icing is placed thoughtfully on the proverbial cake with a definitive, “It was one of the best days ever.”


These days aren’t always marked by some significant event, although today’s proclamation came in preparation for attending her birthday celebration at the Waldorf school she’s been attending since we began with parent-child classes there when she was around 2-years-old.


One of the very appealing hallmarks of what the Waldorf model has to offer is the celebration of events, beautiful daily rituals, and festivals to acknowledge and revel in stories that have been completely lost in our current culture – things like Michelmas, The Feast of Three Kings, and the Advent Spiral. I’ve pondered my daughter’s ability to manifest the best days ever on such a regular, authentic basis because I certainly don’t remember speaking that kind of joy into existence at her age. I do remember feeling it, though, around certain special days like family trips to the beach, birthdays, and of course, Christmas.


I’ve come to believe that she has been gifted with this precious ability through her experiences with a place that preserves these kinds of rituals and daily celebrations. In losing touch with this value, is this how we as a culture have become so detached from the joy of our present moment? The ability to not only see it but also bask in it?


My daughter seems to be so adept at claiming the day and truly immersing herself in all that it has to offer – and reveling in it at its completion by bedtime. And I have to wonder, when did I lose that ability? Did I ever have it? And dear God, will it be something that blossoms and unfolds in her, or will the world slowly dim this bright little fire?


While I acknowledge the wonders of childhood and the precious time of imagination and fantasy, I want, with all my heart and being, to preserve and nurture this for her so badly. Seeing this in her has caused me to realize the ways that I, myself, have been guilty of extinguishing this gift she seems to have. Without, of course, even realizing it.


Sigh. Such are the ways of motherhood. Parenthood, really, as I’m playing both the part of mother and father in our case. I choose to see it, allow myself to feel that tinge of sadness and regret, and yet not linger there. We evolve, and while it’s bothersome to me to think that I’m practicing being a better human being one very small, precious one that I have created, I can also exist in a place of grace for myself and commit to the never-ending journey.


And there’s the work.


I’m driven by nature, and always have been. I have a deep-seated fear of regret, and my worst episodes have been ones of complacency and lack of movement. While this keeps me on a forward trajectory, it’s also presented the risk of losing my ability to access joy in the moment, in the day as my daughter is so gifted at. What is the value of being driven and constantly striving if it becomes a tiresome, slagging burden in the here and now? How does one live into their future while captivating the beauty, wonder, and joy of the present?


It must come down to that tiresome, overplayed word – balance. Even as I write that I feel guilty for saying it. I don’t want to rain on anyone else’s Balance Parade, but I do wish we’d come up with another way to define the phenomenon of living joyfully, finding ease and acceptance no matter the circumstance, and not being/playing victim to what the day has to offer.


But maybe that’s it. Maybe that is the balance. What is the striving for? A future where the joy will suddenly manifest and life will flow like water? And to be clear, I define joy separately from happiness. Happiness is circumstantial. It’s often event-driven. Whereas joy, in my opinion (and some other folks’), is a state of being. It’s a condition, if you will, that allows us to feel that balance and ease whether we’re abounding or brought low (thank you, Paul).


So if that’s what I’m/we’re working so hard for, and focusing all of my intent, what would happen if I lived as if. Meaning, living that future right now, today. My current circumstances and environment are… heavenly. Beautiful. Incredible. All of the words and flowery descriptions you can think of. I know it, and my beautiful, evolved, loving circle of friends and family affirm it for me regularly.


And yet, I do hold a vision for the future that is even… dreamier. Bigger. More outwardly focused with the ability to touch and impact more people in deeper and more meaningful ways. And, I know it’s coming.


But what if I lived as if it were here today? I have to believe, and I’ve heard it said by some wise sages I’ve recently encountered, that living my future right now, will not only surely bring those circumstances about, but in more fantastic and expedient ways than I can imagine.


So I commit. I’m speaking it out to the universe. My decisions, even the seemingly mundane ones, will be based on what the woman living that future dream would do. Even as I write that, I feel that “joy state” being kindled within.


And to be sure, this isn’t just a selfish, self-serving mission. Although when my big vision manifests I will be over the moon and abundantly aware and grateful. This is me, taking up with my daughter to not only join in her ability to glory in the day but to model what it’s looks like to live it. Aside from actually giving birth to her and being the steward of the profound creation she is, it might be the most important thing I’ve ever done.