I have New Year’s tears.
I have New Year’s tears.
It’s 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon as I write. I’m still in pajamas and wondering what the hell I’ve accomplished today.
A lot actually.
My book is coming out next month and Dear God, I had no idea what was involved in all of that promotion/marketing/distribution/weaving miracles part. I thought writing the book would be the hard part. I had no idea that figuring out how to get books from printer to people would consume so much of my time.
I had no idea that at some point in my life I would have to accept credit cards.
But, this post isn’t about me.
It is about you.
It’s about the two women who asked me to dig into my soul and give them a little advice this lovely Saturday. They are both on the verge of their new lives and in the recon stage. The part where your old life is pushing you and your new life is pulling you and you start to lean toward the new life because it smells like baby powder and star dust. It feels like warm water and bath salts, like a cool breeze and green grass under your feet. Like fields of lavender brushing against your legs and it wants you to become so bad that you can’t help but put your finger near the socket.
They are taking the steps toward their purpose. The leap toward their destiny. The leaning in that requires new people to show up in your life and take your hand, this way sister, I’ve got you.
They asked some form or variance of the same question about my path, “what did you do?”
I think most people expect me to provide a list or bullet points. As if I have the formula. I guess I do. My answer? I started.
When I published my first LORE blog and threw a launch party I had no idea what the ever living hell I was doing. I knew my intention. Ish. It was in grays and cloudy blues, but I gave it room to take shape and form itself, to become brighter, more crystalline as it toddled and learned to eat solids. Curious eyes arrived at that launch party, wondering. I figured if I celebrated it – it had to become something.
When I announced my Love Letters project I only had a handful from women who wanted to share the things they wish they would’ve known when they were girls. I knew that if people loved them as much as I did then more would arrive. They did. Quickly.
When I started interviewing women on camera I had no idea what eyes would view their stories, but that the pure heart and soul showing up on the screen would take your breath away. I have a Letter of Intent for a show that may or may not become. I give room for it to become or to fall apart because I never set my heart on any part or storyline. I allow my project to grow into herself and I love her unconditionally.
When I wrote my book I didn’t know if it should be memoir, anthology or workbook. As the stories began to weave a pattern, a backbone, it became clear it shouldn’t be any of the above and I cannot wait for you to see it. It is beautiful. Not because it is my book, but because it is blessed with so many women’s intention and story that it is far bigger than me. It has its own energy, it’s own path and I’m simply astonished when I hold it in my hands.
When I began sharing my project with women I had no idea it would form a #girltribe, which is feeling more like a #girlgang these days. They are warriors who want to see the stories I’ve been gifted and intention created shared with the world. I didn’t know it would result in eight speaking engagements within one month of release.
I didn’t know anything, no expectations, no certainties, but I also live and breathe comfortably in this space, this in-between. It is a beautiful place of creation. You never know what will happen, but you can’t hide behind spreadsheets and what ifs. You can’t leave the life you were meant to create drafted in pencil, hiding in daydreams, in limbo wishing to become.
You can’t mourn a life you were never brave enough to birth.
There comes a time that you have to move from self-help books, podcasts, journals and day dreams to action.
You must take action every single day.
Move it forward just a little bit, whether it is an email, a question, a research project, a book to educate you on your new (enter dream here).
Activity begets activity.
Your new life is waiting. Breathing. Wanting to root into you.
**LORE: Harnessing Your Past to Create Your Future drops August 20th. If you’d like to pre-order a copy you can do so at https://lore-media.myshopify.com and it will be delivered to you the week of August 20, 2018**
I didn’t mean to watch the Royal Wedding. I was in a hotel room in Florida and woke up before my alarm clock. I laid there, wishing myself back to sleep, but Instagram called. I followed the arrival of the guests and then finally sighed and clicked on the TV, I can’t be the only one awake who isn’t watching it.
I didn’t get caught up like others. I didn’t cry. I don’t know them. I’m always happy to see people in love, but my interest wasn’t seated in their romance.
No, I was more aware of the tone of the ceremony. It was one of marked diversity and inclusion. It asked the world to move from lines to love. It was purposeful and resolute. There was deep symbolism and meaning. Every moment was perfectly orchestrated. I saw two people who not only love one another, but who also recognize they are offered a global platform.
They said the things they needed to say without saying a word.
I was coming off a bit of a the world is changing kind of high. I had just watched Prince Charles reach out to Meghan’s mother, escorting her away from the alter as they supported their children by witnessing their marriage. This man, who will become King, also honored their family by walking Meghan down the aisle toward his son.
In those moments they were simply parents. Nothing more. Nothing less.
These are the moments that make me believe in people again. That make me fully aware that there is more good than bad, more hope than fear, more love than hate.
Until a bunch of women began posting comparisons of Meghan, a woman who just did what would have been considered impossible even a decade ago, to both Kate and Diana. Her dress was torn apart, her hair discussed in great detail and concerns over her minimal makeup were shared. Shared so that other women would join the discussion in a group-hating circle that would then be made socially acceptable by their complicity. Especially when toxicity begins with a compliment, “Don’t get me wrong, she’s amazing, but…”
They call this the Oreo Effect. Start with the good, say something terrible, and end with the good, so that the person eating your particular trans fat (or what they call constructive criticism in Corporate America) feel better about something negative.
If you ever start a sentence, “Let me start by saying…” or “I don’t mean to be a bitch, but…” check yourself.
Women have been programmed to take each other out. We are asked to compete with one another for jobs, security, mates, survival. We compare ourselves and others to feel better about what we consider our own shortcomings. At some point in time we believed we were unworthy in all matter of ways. I could go on for at least three more paragraphs about misogyny, the patriarchy, advertising and social influence, but you get the picture. This unworthiness, this competition, has become a hum in our veins, a social and cultural bias that has been coded into our DNA, and we don’t even know when we are doing it.
Start recognizing when you are doing it. Consciously monitor your internal talk. Do you judge others? How does seeing another achieve make you feel? If you aren’t happy for them, why? If you have to find something wrong, why? Recognize you’ve been triggered, send them a blessing, good for them, and dig in to why you are having a hard time saying something kind. I guarantee it has to do with you, your internal talk, your insecurities, and what you subconsciously consider failure or unworthiness.
Check your influence. Do you feel the need to share your negative thoughts with others so they agree with you or find you flip or funny? To feel right in your opinions? Justified? That’s you, girl. You need their approval. Why? Unless you are truly trying to build a band of #meangirls to yes you to death and tell you you’re pretty, recognize that negativity begets negativity. You don’t need it and you don’t need to attract it. You want good people in your life? Be good people.
I have such hope for women. I know in my bones that the world I’m leaving my daughter will be so much better and because of women I personally know or am reading about in the news. Women who are alive during my child’s adolescence. Women who are using their voices, their influence and their intelligence to change conversations.
Women like Meghan Markle who just told the entire world that she is here to make change and has the Royals in tow.
She wasn’t wearing a wedding dress, loves.
It was a cape.
2017 was lumpy. It was a working year. A writing year. A holy hell, I’m 40 year. It was the year I was doing the ugly work that comes with manifesting the new; the details, the calls, the rewrites, the identity crisis, the growth. It was the year I saw myself in all my truth and recognized the things I do really well and the things I don’t. Yet. There may have been an existential crisis on a sailboat off the coast of South Florida over my birthday weekend. My most seasick friend held on to the mast for dear life and announced, “One day you are going to say, ‘remember when I was losing my shit on a sailboat when I turned 40? God, look at me now….'”
I almost see her, the woman my friend described. She’s in the distance, but coming into focus. She’s the woman who has wanted to write a book for as long as she can remember. She’s the one who believes her life’s purpose is to leave her words behind; to help the women and girls that come next.
This is the most vulnerable I have felt in a very long time. I’m almost there. That woman will be me in 2018. I’m still awaiting my pub date, but… it’s happening next year. No more wishing, no more dreaming, no more talking. It’s here.
I want the book done and out in the world like a pregnant woman at 39 weeks screaming, “Just get it out of me!” At the same time I remember the days after Olivia was born. She was no longer safe. I had given her over to the world. Other people would touch her, teach her, have opinions about her, and I could no longer hold her within me, keeping her safe. What feels like my life’s work is going to be outside of me soon. All the speeches I’ve given, all the workshops I’ve facilitated, all the articles and blogs and lengthy, long-winded oratory will be yours. In a book. In your hands. Out of mine.
I only hope that when you read it you will feel the love and intention from which it was created. I hope you walk away from the book feeling lighter, taller, more powerful, more… something.
I hope you welcome all the new that it offers.
Just like I will welcome this new year that I know in my heart is filled with so much joy, healing, love, blessings and a bunch of adventures I haven’t even dreamed up yet. I’m strong enough to take those wobbly steps into my new.
Will you join me?
Open hearts. Open minds. Always.
“What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?
It is a question that continues to surface. I’ve answered it a thousand times, yet, again and again, when life seems difficult, it arises. I’ve included it in my book as a guidepost when understanding self, and offer it as same in workshops I’ve facilitated.
Yet, here I am again, ruminating on the same question.
At first, and much like most parents, I immediately answered, “My daughter,” when I thought about the best events or experiences in my life. Becoming Olivia’s mother, has been the best, albeit hardest, thing I’ve ever done. This little person made me a mother and a much better woman. I am calmer, more insightful, and conscious of the being I’m gifting to the world. When once asked what my job is, she told her teacher, “My mom is my guide and protector.”
Olivia knows I’m a banker and an author, but to her, my job is far more complex and soulful. I have written since I was thirteen years old, but becoming her mother created a focus I never had before. I always knew my words were powerful, but raising a girl in a world made for men gave them direction and clarity.
The next thing that came to mind was my faith. I was raised in a very religious family, but never once felt as if I was connected to the God of my childhood. Everything was rote, prayers were memorized, allegiances feigned. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties and someone asked, “Jeanette, you keep saying ‘I was taught to believe.’ What do you believe?” that I realized I had no foundation of faith. I was stunned, “I’ve been told what to believe my entire life. I have no idea.”
I was connected to nothing. I was jealous of those who would kneel before alters or offer their supplications to a God I couldn’t wrap my head around. I wondered what it was like to have that feeling and to believe in something. Then, in a very quick span of time I lost three friends in death, one to the messiness of life, and my husband in divorce. I needed to hurt, to bleed my stories and be stripped down to the flesh and marrow before I was ready or able to fully open myself up to something bigger than me. I have often said, “I found my faith,” but it would be more correct to say that faith found me and has not let me go.
The third best thing that has ever happened to me was finding my voice. They say you pick your parents. If I did, I picked a mother who kept me small, quiet and frightened, so that I could rise above, squeak, warble and then sing. I had to be held tight, silenced and shushed so that I could truly understand the power behind the words that sit so deeply within my chest. She once asked me not to write about her when I’d posted about being raised in the shadow of addiction. Rather than fight, I asked her to allow me to own my story. She thought I was writing about her, not realizing that she gifted me this story as it was the framework of my childhood. I’d received three messages from women who were also raised by alcoholics and addicts just that day, thanking me for finding the words they themselves couldn’t. I shared that with my mother, explaining that by using my voice I’d helped someone else.
My voice, it seems, is my most powerful attribute.
I have words within my veins like lace and cobwebs. They were put there by something bigger than me and they want desperately to be seen and heard. It has been through my daughter, my faith and my voice that they have found their way out of me and onto the page, the stage and into the hearts of others.
The best things that ever happened to me brought me to my purpose.
Now tell me, what is the best thing that ever happened to you?
Let me tell you about my city.
In the long shadow of the strip, beneath the glitz and glam, is another community we don’t tell you about. It would ruin the allure the ad men work so hard to create, and let’s be honest, tourism is our lifeblood. The city I’ve called home for the past fifteen years is tight knit, philanthropic and we have enormous heart. We are all a few degrees of one another, referring to ourselves more often as a town as opposed to a city. As a close friend said today, “Las Vegas is big and worldly, and small and tight. It’s what makes us magical.”
We don’t advertise it when we convince you that the things that happen in Vegas stay here, but you got a glimpse of it late Sunday night when a man chose to use our hospitality against us, picking off friends and loved ones from his perch on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. An FBI profiler was interviewed on the national news as he referred to the venue on the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Tropicana as “a killing field.”
What happened in Las Vegas did not stay here. It moved the world, and sadly, close to 600 families who are either mourning or holding vigil for their loved ones as I write.
While my family is safe, I have too many friends who have lost someone. After seeing how the national news coverage of Irma varied from my family’s local news coverage in Florida, I tuned in to watch our local news stations. They did an amazing job. Yes, there was panic and rage, but there was humanity that you didn’t see. There were heroes and volunteers. There was incredible leadership. I am proud of our community leaders for their class, professionalism and poise as the day unfolded. I have heard many times that our police force and casino security teams have trained and prepared for a terrorist attack. They were at their best as was our entire city.
You saw our secret weapon: our people.
My Facebook feed looked much different than yours did on Monday. We used it to find each other, find loved ones, connect families, get to volunteers stations, raise money and inform. Thousands turned up at United Blood Services and volunteers arrived to feed them while they waited up to 8 hours. Allegiant Airlines stepped up to cover flights, casinos and hotels covered rooms. Our city raised over $2.5 million through GoFundMe.com in one day. Matches up to $1 million were offered by Zappos and the UFC announced their own contribution of $1 million.
We met hate with love.
While tragedy and humanity were intersecting in our town, national correspondents and commentators turned our city into sound bytes and stirred up frothy political debates. I picked a fight on Twitter with a guy in Chicago. He argued the #vegasstrong trending hashtag was as “vapid” as sending prayers and thoughts. It was personal and I had to step away from the keys. At that moment we’d take your prayers, your cash, your blood. But, I knew what he meant. The world was ready to talk Second Amendment, but we weren’t. We just wanted to make sure everyone we loved was alive and the ones who were clinging to life had the best chance of survival.
As we work to stabilize, my thoughts are shifting from response, grief and healing to those of action. Just a week ago I was in Sun Valley, Idaho at Alturas Institute’s “Conversations With Exceptional Women.” I thought many times today of the one piece of advice actress and activist, Patricia Velasquez, shared with the audience as she talked about global humanitarian efforts and the complacency we have to avoid, “Don’t get used to it.”
This cannot be our new normal. We cannot get used to mass shootings and gun violence.
I never thought I’d see the words Massacre next to Las Vegas in a headline. I am unable to travel to Arizona, having forgotten my Allegra D, and get more at another pharmacy. It doesn’t matter how bad my eyes are watering or how scratchy my voice is, there is no sympathy. There is a system that tracks my allergy med purchases across the country, yet one man was able to amass an arsenal of military-grade automatic weapons and thousands of bullets designed to explode inside human beings that allowed him to murder or seriously injure almost 600 people.
Let this end with us.
Use your voice. Use your votes. I don’t care what side you are on or if you have guns at home, today should never have happened. This is not a partisan issue. This is a human issue.
I ask, for every single person who has been touched by this tragedy, please contact your representatives. Utilize this link to find out who they are based on your address and let them know we aren’t interested in testing the love, light and emergency preparedness training of another city.
Let them know you are not interested in further loss.
A revolution begins with the people.
Please do your part.
I chose the word HONOR.
I’ve thought about the word HONOR so many times in these last six months, but as life goes, we tend to get stuck in the muck. We get covered over by it, suffocated by decisions, bills, frustrations and we forget the vision board, the Wish List, the promise we’ve made to live a bigger, badder life.
Until this weekend when I found the answer I was looking for, but not in the way I expected.
For the past ten years I have made a pilgrimage to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City whenever I visit. It began as a way to connect with something grander, which also scared the ever-living-bejeezus out of me. I lit a candle, I prayed. It felt good. Something about Saints felt comforting. They were human. They’ve messed up. Better to ask for absolution through someone who could be like, “Look, she’s trying.”
I know my Saints, where they are placed throughout the cathedral, and they have brought me great comfort for a very long time. I prayed to one for my daughter. Another for my family. Another for my own pains and plights. As I entered St Patrick’s on Sunday, steps sure, and a calm I’ve never quite been able to explain settling over me, I found each of them to be behind plastic sheeting, covered in scaffolding. I would leave one, defeated, simply to walk behind the alter to find the second and the third all covered, kept away and under construction.
I stood in the middle of this grand place of worship, hope and peace feeling as if I’d been abandoned, how is it that only MY Saints are under construction?
Then I sat down, and while prayers were offered for peace in our current global climate, the tears came as I said a real prayer. The messy kind where something in you breaks open and you realize you’ve just been found. The prayer, the offering that doesn’t require circumvention, a team, a conduit, a guide, I get it. I don’t need to search outside of myself. I need to honor myself.
I’d allowed myself to get caught in the noise, other’s opinions and smudged words and intention. No more paralysis while I await the person, the book, the Saint or sinner to tell me where I am or where I’m going.
I am the person. I am my guide. I am my best advocate and advisor. I just forgot.
In my almost obsessive searching I was led back to…. me.
A thought leader may inspire. A friend may provide comfort. A prayer is a beautiful way to connect to that which is bigger than you.
But, without our inner compass, our compassion for our soul’s wisdom, our connection to whatever you call God, our respect for the answers within us, we are merely lost and looking, searching.
And, as the Delta Sky Cap told me today as he searched my name while checking me in for my flight home, “….And my dear, you have been found.”
I smiled, “Yes, I have, thank you.”
Be led back to yourself. Then HONOR that beautiful, alchemical self that is likely equal parts stardust and dry shampoo. You already know the answers.
My Dearest Livi Rabbit:
Yesterday you turned six and my heart hurt a little. In that bittersweet mom way that includes memories and pride. In that way that makes me want to wrap you up in my arms and tell you that I’ve got this, you don’t have to grow up any more, I’ll take it from here. You’ve already told me that’s not possible and I love the way you are so logical and so funny at the same time. You have the best sense of humor and dear God, girl, sense of self. I won’t have to worry about you in life. You know who you are and I promise that I will always honor that about you.
I love watching the new facets of your personality shine forth. I giggled inside when you hit the Emergency Stop button on the escalator at Dillards and then pretended you didn’t know who did it when the alarm went off. You slid your little hand in mine, your co-conspirator, eyes straight ahead as you trusted me to get you safely away without telling on you, “I won’t do that again.” I love that you trust me and oh how I hope that when you are hitting life’s Emergency buttons in the future you will trust that I’m still a soft place to land.
When you downloaded over $300 worth of Apple apps I shook my head. You very responsibly helped with chores around the house until we “paid off” your debt. Your heart hurts that I hide my passcode from your sneaky little eyes now, but we had a gorgeous conversation about responsibility and I saw how conscientious you are through and through.
I love what a big heart you have and I have adored watching you become a big sister to your dad’s new baby. Your voice becomes very soft and nurturing when you talk to him. You have a maternal quality about you and he is very lucky to have you. You will be the most important influence in his life and I know this because I know you. You leave little pieces of yourself with everyone you touch.
The other night you crawled into bed with me because your growing pains were keeping you up. You snuggled your head into my neck and told me I smelled like lavender before your breathing slowed and you fell asleep. I felt a tear slide down my cheek as I remember a very specific night in your nursery when you were only a few months old. I had just slathered lavender lotion on you, fed you a bottle and swaddled you. You dug your little upturned nose into my neck and made the same little sweet sounds as you breathed deeply at first and then fell asleep. I know these moments will be fewer and farther between, but I will always be here to comfort you, lavender or not.
As I told you the morning you were born – I will always choose you. I will always be here to advocate for you, hold you, help you, be your biggest cheerleader and safety net. I will try to do it in a thoughtful way so that you are wise and prepared when you experience the bad things we all have to in order to grow. When those lessons and heartbreaks come your way, I will be there with bandaids, snacks, be it Goldfish or wine, and a soul’s worth of support. You will never doubt that you can slide your little hand in mine.
You, my love, are so bright. You have the world awaiting you and I adore your strength, your voice, your inquisitive nature. You have pure light running through your veins. I am truly honored to be your mother. Thank you for picking me.
Love you to the moon and back, bigger than the Universe, deeper than the Ocean and more than chocolate or shoes,
We took a selfie one day, giggling in the snow. The snowflakes stayed in tact when they landed in her soft curls while my hair looked every bit wet dog. It’s an image, a moment, I can’t find in my phone, but forever burned in my brain.
We’d ski, drink spiked hot chocolate and share crazy stories. There were so many trips, date nights and dinners in pajamas with glasses of wine. Our friendship was one of ease and in the past few weeks I have seen her everywhere. In the profile of a woman at a conference in Salt Lake. In dark curls bouncing through a crowd. The freckles in someone else’s Instagram post. I randomly found myself in the same restaurant we were in during a blizzard in Utah. I ordered her favorite salad without even realizing that’s what it was until it was placed in front of me.
What are you trying to tell me, Briar?
I hold enormous guilt. You see, we had a falling out before she died. I was there for her the day she was diagnosed with brain cancer and I was there for a long while. When she first fell into a coma her husband and I walked behind the bed the surgeons were wheeling her away in as we clutched each other and cried the big tears that you don’t wipe away. Then I went through a divorce and stories were twisted and I saw how the pain of my breakup was hurting her. After I shared my tearful side of the story I heard her sob after she thought I’d hung up the phone. I felt selfish. She was undergoing hardcore chemo and radiation therapies and I was talking about my problems. I decided not to talk to her about it anymore.
She tried to get us back together. She begged. She asked me to keep an open heart, to listen to her, to accept a marriage intervention of sorts. I stopped talking to her altogether because I was in pain. I was hurting and I was hurting her and it was easier to hide inside myself. So I did. She sent me emails, texts. I explained that it was hard to see her because I knew she was spending time with my ex and that we used to be couple friends. That I just needed some time to get over everything.
I didn’t have time.
She didn’t have time.
My ex husband called me almost two years ago, “Jeanette, Briar is dying and you are going to regret it if you don’t see her.”
The doctor had determined it was the end. She had maybe a week and I immediately left the office and went straight over to her house. I felt her in my chest as soon as I entered the room. It almost knocked me over. Her pastor and several friends were sitting with her while I wished them away. I finally realized they were there for her and whatever was about to transpire. They knew our rift was the last thing she had to resolve so were firmly planted, no excuses.
I took a deep breath to steel myself, “I have to say this….” The room got incredibly quiet, “Briar, I was never mad at you.”
She immediately started crying, “I know.”
“I was hurting and I was so broken and I didn’t want to talk to you about it. I was losing my family and never once was I ever mad at you. Never once. I need you to know that.”
Now, in hindsight, I realize I probably could’ve included another sentence or three, “I knew I was losing you as well. I was too weak to handle all of that loss at the same time. I’m a jerk.”
We both sat there crying, softly sobbing and nodding. No more words needed to be said and before long her pastor asked if he could say a prayer.
Briar lost consciousness soon after my visit and passed away several days later.
Sometime before that day and between the emails, texts and tears, I shared the biggest gift she ever gave me and I know it filled her heart. She brought me back to faith. I’d forgotten the God of my childhood and I found some semblance of him; different, more amenable and forgiving, in the prayers that came after Briar’s first seizure. I thanked her for helping me find the courage to give something bigger than me a chance again.
At her funeral her mother and I locked eyes and moved directly into each others arms, crying. I apologized through sobs and she shushed me, “She loved you so much. That was her unfinished business. You helped her let go. Thank you.”
I felt guilty for my tears, guilty that I was mourning someone I’d abandoned. I didn’t feel deserving of my grief or time with Briar before she passed. I ran from the loss rather than facing it head on. I also didn’t know that I was still carrying all of this with me until this past week.
When I saw flickers of my friend in the life of others.
I’d like to believe she was sending me a message. That she’s ok. That she’s at peace. That WE are at peace and all is forgiven. I don’t think she’d say it exactly that way. I’m pretty sure it would be like, “I’ve seen your tears. Cut that shit out. We’re good. Have you seen my wings? They’re ridiculous.”
She’d probably have a beer in hand.
Say the things you need to say to the people you love. Say them before you can’t. Forgive like its your job. Love them when they’re in front of you. Love them hard.
And, in the words of my friend, “Keep an open heart.”
Miss you Briar.
My inside-and-out beautiful friends at Kaia Fit asked me to guest blog for Valentine’s Day and I jumped up and down and said, “Yes, pick me!” It felt fitting as LORE turns two today! I’ve reposted my article for them below and I am so excited to spend a week with them in Belize in March to dig into the love letters process. Well, in between all the diving, hiking, yoga and such, I need a vacation.
Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers!
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is on the mind. I’d like to use this occasion to remind you of the most important love affair of all and that is the one with yourself.
I first began collecting and publishing love letters from women to their younger selves over a year ago. Successful women took off their shine to virally mentor those women who are still in the struggle. What I didn’t expect (nor did they) was the deep, cathartic work the writers would undertake. As I began to interview them about the process, it became clear I was on to something pretty amazing. Since that time I’ve been gifted stunning letters by incredible women. Donna Brazile, the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, shared that she felt it was important to reflect, pause, and give yourself credit for what you’ve accomplished. Emily Nolan, a plus-sized model and author, expressed the deep love she found for herself after years of severe body dysmorphia. Many themes bubbled up around forgiveness, boundaries within relationships and learning to ask for what you want in your life. Every woman shared how important the work had been, but one message stood out among the rest and on the heels of Valentine’s Day, consider it our gift:
You have to love yourself. First. Foremost. Always.
Easier to read than practice, granted. I’m not talking self care. Self care is now almost medically approved. Many studies have been done to show the direct correlation between self care in all its iterations and life happiness, longevity and the avoidance of disease. I argue that one of the most loving things you can do for yourself is to dig in, do the work, learn who you are under all the layers you’ve put on and start to love yourself some you. Release all the stories you’ve been told and in that blissful, painful work you will begin to see the you your children and lover see. I’m here to get you started.
The instructions are easy. Imagine a younger version of yourself. Is she 5? Is she 8? Is she a teenager? When you see her, really see her, trust your gut. What do you want her to know? When I began this exercise I was completely blown away by my first sentence. I had an overwhelming desire to tell this dejected little girl I imagined that she was so loved, so worthy. The first sentence hit me like a ton of bricks,
“You will spend most of your life believing you are unlovable.”
I had to take a deep breath and sit back for a moment, shocked at how true that sentence was and how it had colored so much of my life and relationships. It is ok to take a moment as you write. Just don’t leave it because the feelings are too heavy. There is no growth without pain, my love. If you have to wait until the kids are in bed and you have your glass of wine and a box of Kleenex you do it. Give yourself the gift of time to feel your feelings. If that means you write one sentence and have to process it for several days before you get back to it, you are still on the path. I have found most women need time, because the unlocking of these truths have a bit of a whiplash effect. They bring up memories and misgivings that no child should believe about themselves. With all that said, if you begin unlocking repressed memories or find yourself reeling or having dark thoughts from what you begin to feel, please seek the counsel of a professional therapist.
As women have complete these exercises I have found that the ages they choose are typically aligned with the moment right before or during a tragic or painful event or memory. One writer, Chelli Wolford, a survivor of sexual violence, wrote to the four year old that was being molested by her uncle, “It’s not your fault.” It took her until she was forty to realize she’d carried so much of the responsibility for the behaviors of others on her shoulders and what a relief to finally put them down.
You will also notice that your tone changes. The harshness which you likely view yourself today, get it together, sister, falls away and is replaced with, it’s not your fault or you are perfect the way you are, love. You will find that you begin to guide your younger self with the tone of an older sister. One writer suggested that if we could be as gentle with ourselves today how much healthier we would be.
Once you imagine that younger version of yourself and start with your first sentence of the letter, begin to scan over the distance between that version of yourself and who you are today. How did that first message you’d share with your younger self play out over the course of your life and do you want to carry it with you?
Some questions to ask yourself:
What is one thing I’ve always known about myself? My greatest strength?
What is one thing I’ve always known about myself that was negative? How was it originally triggered? Was it reinforced by my family? Is it true?
What is the best thing that has ever happened to me?
What was your most humbling experience and what was the lesson?
What was I missing as a child?
Who or what do I need to forgive? Is that person me?
The act of writing the letter and referring back to it helps excavate old programming, memories and feelings that you’d like to release and offers you a chance to start fresh at a new point in your growth.
If, after you’ve written your letter, you realize you have something you’d like to share with other women or girls to further help our gender, I have the platform to do that and would love to publish your letters for others to read. If you would like to keep it personal, then thank you for having faith and trust in yourself to do the work and I hope you will share your experience with me.
I will be teaching a workshop at the Kaia Retreat in Belize in March and so look forward to meeting you lovely Kaia women in person!
An accomplished author and public speaker, Jeanette founded LORE Advocacy, a network of professional women who aspire to change the world through a gender lens. Jeanette also founded “LORE and Little Things” in 2015. It is a platform for women to discuss issues relevant to professional women and mothers. Her articles and “Love Letters to Myself,” a viral mentorship program, have been seen on Huffington Post.
During the day Jeanette is a Senior Vice President and Institutional Client Advisor within the financial services industry. She serves on the boards of Spread the Word Nevada, the President’s Advisory Council for The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and a large charitable foundation. She is a member of the Hall of Fame of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Nevada and a 2016 Vegas, Inc. Woman to Watch.
Connect with Jeanette at www.loreandlittlethings.com, on Twitter @msjwrites or Instagram @msjwrites and @loreandlittle. Letters can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.