Don’t forget to comment on my blogiversary giveaway; deadline to be entered to win is Thursday, January 31st.
And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming. Isn’t this quote a beauty? It makes me sigh with joy, for me and for all of you.
Renée—the Duchess—stands to the far left in the second pew, on the starboard side of the church. She wears a wide-brimmed hat embellished liberally with feathers. Elaborate hats are just one of her many unique calling cards. The Duchess dresses as an Edwardian lady would, with fans, handkerchiefs and parasols. She lives at Briar Rose Cottage with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Romeo. She refers to herself as a Lifelong Flaming Bleeding Heart Liberal.
She is a trifle eccentric. Gloriously so.
It was her voice that I first noticed. The Duchess sang the Episcopal liturgy with operatic theatricality, performing brilliantly for herself and for her God. A true romantic, she is resolutely unabashed, sharing her passions with an actress’s dramatic flair.
I especially revel in her creativity when conveyed in the written word. I often laugh out loud at her missives: “Morning is the cruelest time. Even with coffee, I look at myself and I am more than slightly blurred. Perhaps with sun and breakfast, the mystery will unfold.”
The Duchess is perhaps 15 years older than me (I am not exactly sure, as Edwardian ladies don’t ask such questions.) But we discovered in the course of one conversation that we are kindred spirits.
Two years ago, a shared journey cemented our friendship: For months, a deep depression gripped the Duchess with relentless tenacity. It mirrored one of my earlier experiences, so I instinctively understood. I sat quietly with the Duchess, serving her tea while encouraging her that the sadness would dissipate. Then last fall, when she had come out of the depths of her despair, she cheered me through a gloomy November week with a surprise High Tea, replete with Pims cocktails, cucumber-watercress sandwiches and chocolate éclairs.
Like the Duchess herself, our friendship surpasses description.
In early August, I entered the above 300-word piece in Real Simple’s First Ever Simply Stated Blogger Contest. Not only is it the magazine’s first blogger contest, it was my first writing competition entry EVER. I didn’t get selected as a finalist, but it was a very good exercise for me to have to be so concise about someone so alive and description-worthy. I hope I did you justice, Duchess.
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We have this really magical thing happening over here.
It’s what we hoped would happen when we started bringing women to the same place at the same time –
♥ women who own businesses and have started non-profits
♥ women who want to own a business, but don’t yet know how or when
♥ women who make creative things
♥ women who write inspiring blogs
♥ women who want to offer healing to our world
♥ women who want to bring beauty to our world
♥ women who believe that there is something called abundance
which simply means that there is more than enough to go around
♥ women who know how to be authentic and caring
♥ women who ask for encouragement
♥ women who share freely what they know
♥ women who believe that one member’s success is every member’s success
♥ women who celebrate together
♥ women who support each other on tough days
♥ women like you
being community for each other.
We asked ourselves what would happen if we could wave a magic wand over our businesses, other women-owned businesses, and our community.
We asked ourselves what we could accomplish with and for each other through an organization that was member-owned. An organization that is organic and flexible, developing and growing according to the needs and desires of its members.
We asked ourselves what a community that embraced abundance, accountability, balance, creativity, generosity, financial well-being, growth, honesty, individuality, and mentoring would look like. And feel like.
And behold! This is what happened!
It’s called the Magic Wand Collective.
It’s a community for Women Small Business Owners.
We have added 90 members since our launch on January 20th.
And it’s blindingly beautiful.
Visit our web site
Find us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter @MagicWandWomen
See our events on EventBrite
Join us on LinkedIn
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Approximately 16 years ago, one of my closest friends–
Well actually she turned out to not be one of my closest friends. Rather, she had come to view me as an obstacle to her desired “friendship” with my husband, who thankfully was not interested in trading me for her–
Anyway this “friend” looked at me and said the following:
You will never be well, because you want to be sick.
At the time I was living with a myriad of symptoms for which there seemed to be no clear diagnosis, though the word “lupus” was being bandied about confidently by my rheumatologist, who also assured me that I only had further physical deterioration to look forward to in the years to come. I was 25.
So when this friend–who obviously was not my friend–to whom I had freely given my heart and with whom I had opened up my life, said those words to me, it devastated me. It was like a punch in the stomach. A gunshot through my heart. A poisonous dart in my mind.
My deepest fear–which had surfaced and been pushed back down and surfaced again over the years–was that she was right.
One of my most entrenched beliefs was that everyone else knew better. That everyone else was better.
I, on the other hand, was:
Destined to be sick.
Because the cause of all of my failures and shortcomings was undoubtedly my inherent worthlessness.
And this fear clung on deep, deep down for dear life until I yanked and clawed it out and spoke it out loud in a safe space. A safe place where someone honest and loving and Godly could repeat the actual truth to me. She repeated it over and over, until finally I began to believe her.
It dawned on me: Perhaps I had been living with a lie.
The friend–who was not a friend–was very wrong.
She had told ugly, ugly lies.
And I was vulnerable. So I took the ugly, ugly lies in and gave them a swanky place to live. I let them spread out and make themselves at home and they even invited more lying, cheating friends in.
I didn’t know how to distinguish truth from a lie.
And I did not set out to prove her wrong, but my life today declares loudly the truth about me:
I am more whole than I ever imagined I could be.
I am beautiful.
I am loved.
I am filled to the brim with potential.
I am at my best when I am sharing my authentic self to the fullest extent.
I am joyful and well and strong and courageous.
And you are all of those things too.
So hold your head high.
No matter what anyone else says or thinks.
I have lived with lies too and I am telling you the truth.
Your life will prove it out.
It’s a little sultry and foggy outside and if it was 10 degrees warmer, it would feel just like a May evening Jeremy and I spent in New Orleans six years ago, strolling hand-in-hand along cobblestone streets.
Instead, he is in Washington DC with Jesse (week-long father-son trip over Father’s Day…Can you say AWESOME dad?) Plus, Dylan is with Sheila and her family at her Aitkin cabin.
So, I am home. Alone. And though I love my family very much, I am more than content for the time being.
I remember distinctly that when I was a young woman–nearly 20 years younger than I am now–the prospect of being alone made me feel nothing but apprehension. I had married young (21) and still had much to discover about myself. For me, a day of solitude was like spending the day with a stranger. I wondered:
Which thoughts were my family of origin’s thoughts? Which were uniquely mine? Which pastimes gave me joy vs. those which were Jeremy’s favorites? How could I possibly get it all straightened out and recognize my true self, distinct from all of these outside influences?
As life would have it, I became very ill at the age of 25. Experiencing severe arthritic pain and fatigue and faced with a devastating diagnosis of lupus, I took some time off from work. Part of the process I created for prioritizing my health included stretches of time alone, searching out joy that was truly my own. Each morning for several months I woke up to a relatively schedule-free day. Days that, aside from doctor’s appointments, included simply leaving our apartment and setting out to walk. Walking was very painful for me at that time, but essential therapy.
While walking, I intently listened–to my heart, to my thoughts, to my energy, to what made my heart sing. Gradually–and with much determination–I discovered what it was that I truly felt, wanted, needed, cared about, enjoyed. I began to differentiate.
Differentiation is a natural process in committed relationships that involves developing more of a self while growing closer to your partner. Men often sacrifice their relationship to hold onto their sense of self. Women often sacrifice their sense of self to stabilize their relationship. Differentiation is about having it both ways: having a stronger sense of self and a stronger relationship.
People screaming, ‘I got to be me!’ ‘Don’t fence me in!’ and ‘I need space!’ are not highly differentiated. Just the opposite. They are fearful of ‘disappearing’ in a relationship and do things to avoid their partner’s emotional engulfment. Some create distance; others keep their relationship in constant upheaval. Declaring your boundaries is an important early step in the differentiation process, but it’s done in the context of staying in relationship (that is, close proximity and restricted space). This is quite different from poorly differentiated people who attempt to always ‘keep the door open’ and who bolt as increasing importance of the relationship makes them feel like they’re being locked up. The process of holding onto your sense of self in an intense emotional relationship is what develops differentiation.- Passionate Marriage by David Snarch
As I have grown up emotionally, as I have become more differentiated, solitude has become a good friend, offering me a place to reconnect with myself in the midst of living out very strong relationships. I have learned to remain very closely connected to my family of origin, husband, children and friends, while recognizing that I need to also continuously cultivate a strong sense of self.
“Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature.” – Albert Einstein
So now I know. With 24 hours of solitude to embrace, the issue is not WHAT I will do. It is HOW MUCH I can squeeze in.
It’s astonishing to me now that there have been many times in the past when I was so depressed and anxious that I didn’t want to live. And now that I am feeling better? I wish that I had the equivalent of 5 lifetimes. There is so much to see and do and try and experience and so many people to love. Now that I feel better, I want to catch up on all that I missed in my first 40 years.
I could happily spend this 24 hours of solitude doing any or all of these things: Painting our bedroom, blogging, working on my bloggers e-course, working (I know…but I love what I do and designing a web site is so creatively satisfying!), reading, going to the library, running, doing yoga, gardening, cooking, going to Value Village and Tuesday Morning and Marshalls, getting a massage…and sleeping in. And I know that I will pick a few of these and make the best of it.
So now that I recognize myself–as I continue to become more differentiated–it turns out that as much as I love the people in my life, I also really enjoy hanging out with me. And it’s essential that I do so. So I make sure that happens sometimes.
And apparently I also love umbrellas with pink polka dots and tops from Anthropologie and horse-drawn carriages and sultry temperatures.
And trips to New Orleans with my Jeremy. Even in the rain.
So I make sure that happens too.
It’s all part of becoming differentiated: Having strong relationships and a strong sense of who God created me to be as an individual.
I’m learning. xo
One of the key components of Anna’s retreats is silent breakfast.
We rise when we wish and Anna is up. She is already there, prepared to nurture us with her organic, fresh, nutritious foods and with our custom juice blends.
And as we start our day together, we move in silence. We share the silence, quietly living in the same space for approximately two hours. Some of us read, others write. We eat and drink at our own pace as the time set aside elapses. When the moment has come for the silence to be broken, Anna lightly taps a meditation bowl with a copper wand, creating a gentle ringing sound. Still, we are all reluctant to break the silence. It has become effortless.
What this experience offers–after one gets past the initial trepidation–is meaningful, peaceful and surprisingly potent. No pressure to speak or interact, yet in the deep companionship of beloved soul-friends.
I’m grateful that my friend Anne-Marie captured the essence of our shared silence in this poem. Even more, she has given me permission to share it in today’s blog post.
Thank you Anna, Anne-Marie, Erin, Sheila, Bev, Lizzie, and Molly
I met my adorable friend Anne-Marie through the miracle of Facebook.
My Jesse and her Carmen were in school together, hanging out in a close knit group of four friends they called their “posse.” And so Anne-Marie and I “friended” each other online.
One day she simply wrote something like this on my wall:
“I have heard that you like to garden and I’m looking for some advice. Would you be willing to come and look at my wee garden with me?”
Anne Marie grew up in Glasgow. So the word “wee” is bandied about quite liberally in her conversations. I adore it.
And so I said yes and we made a date so that I could meet her and visit her “wee garden.”
I really don’t “officially” know anything about gardening. But that, as you likely know, has never stopped me from giving advice or encouragement when it has been requested, regardless of the topic.
I went to see Anne-Marie’s “wee garden” and made some suggestions. And she was thrilled. I wonder if her husband Michael was quite as thrilled with what could have been perceived as meddling from some unknown and unqualified person. In any case, he was more than tolerant and I did try to be useful.
Fast forward a couple of years and Anne-Marie is now one of my loveliest friends. Jesse and Carmen still enjoy each other’s company, but Anne-Marie (or AMW as I call her) and I are fast friends. Kindred spirits. I told her recently that when I come to pick her up for some event or cooking class or retreat or something or other, I always feel as though I am stopping in to pick up my school chum. And that we likely will get into some kind of mischief while we are out. Something the tolerant headmistress would smile and shake her head about, looking fondly at us as we returned to our classrooms.
Yes, we are far too old for this, but it is the best way that I can find to describe how Anne-Marie makes me feel.
Over the years I have become Anne-Marie’s informal gardening coach. I even drove to her house with a basket full of ferns and other plants to transplant last year. She has made a lot of changes to her yard, even putting in a vegetable garden. She has been an exemplary pupil (smile.)
At the end of last summer I dropped in for a “wee chat” and Anne-Marie proudly showed her garden off to me, pointing out what had taken off and what hadn’t done as well during the season. She also mentioned that she and Michael were frustrated by a delphinium that–though very beautiful earlier in the season–had become prickly and was taking up a lot of space. She said that they were working hard to keep it happy but that it had become a real nuisance and was making it difficult to even work in that area of the garden.
As you may know, delphiniums are not prickly plants. So I was perplexed. And Anne-Marie wanted me to take a look. My plant knowledge is not extensive, but I am familiar with most of the major perennials that can be grown in this zone. Within seconds I was able to ascertain that this plant was most certainly not a delphinium. The delphinium was there, but completely crowded out by the tall unidentified nasty prickly thing.
I confidently told Anne-Marie to get it out of there. It was some kind of weed, and a pain-inducing one at that. And it certainly was not a delphinium, which is a very gentle and fragile plant by nature. We then went into the house, where she made me feel like the most successful gardening coach in the universe by proclaiming confidently to Michael and Carmen and both of their cats that “Rachel’s figured it out. It’s not the delphinium. It’s a weed. She says we can take it out.”
I went home and a simple google search confirmed that said delphinium was actually a stinging nettle.
To be fair, the foliage of both plants is somewhat similar:
“That was it alright. I just pulled the damn thing out of the ground yesterday (looking like a knight ready for battle I was so protected 🙂 – so the wee delphinium (that had been much maligned as being the root (ha) of the problem) looks very happy now.
It was great to see you on Saturday and wished you could have joined us for dinner – another time for sure!!
And this is just one of the reasons I love gardens.
In this story–as in many tales before and since–a garden has gifted me a dear friend and an opportunity for self reflection.
Perhaps it’s having grown up in a home where everyday life was constant fodder for sermon illustrations, but this funny experience instantly made a spiritual and philosophical impression on me. The question is:
Are you caring for a stinging nettle as if it was a delphinium?
Is there something or someone that’s hurting you all the time, crowding out the good things in your life and injuring you every time you get near it?
Are you nurturing this thing because either you don’t know–or can’t see–that it’s actually a nasty weed?
Or can’t you part with it because you’re not sure that the beautiful delphinium is there, just on the other side of the stinging plant?