When All Else Fails: a Year of Surrender

It’s been over a year since I published my last blog post.  I’m well aware of how such a long lapse violates every best practice in the world of blogging.  But I don’t really care…. In our world of constant (digital) connection, sometimes you need to retreat and make space to reflect, feel what you need to feel, and heal.  Disengage from the triggers of Facebook.  Engage in authentic human connection with those who matter most to you, those who accept and love you no matter what.   Write for no other audience than yourself.  Prioritize self-care.  Give yourself permission to FEEL and, eventually, to HEAL.

And that’s exactly what I needed to do in my own time and space, while trusting that I’d know when I was ready to share my heart and soul online.  Over the last year, I’ve been mentally crafting this post about my lessons in surrendering, appropriately titled “When All Else Fails.”  I’ve held off from publishing for a couple reasons.  Firstly, I don’t feel comfortable sharing all of the details, especially those related to my loved ones, so I’ve been experimenting with ways to share without oversharing.   Secondly, I haven’t felt up to the vulnerability hangover I experience with every post, yet I know how much freer I feel when I share and how connected I feel when I discover that I’m not alone.

So bear with me as I delicately dance around certain details from this year of surrender…..

Over a year ago, towards the end of 2015, life dealt us a few unexpected blows in a row.  There’s a saying that “bad things happen in three’s,” which is exactly how it all went down.  First, my husband’s company decided to end their Alaska ventures, effectively ending my husband’s and all of his co-workers’ assignments in Alaska.  We immediately knew this meant we’d be relocating much sooner than we originally anticipated, but we wouldn’t know for a couple months where or when we’d move.  Not long after this announcement, a few of our loved ones shared saddening news with us, which weighed heavily on our hearts.  And then, as the final sucker punch, we miscarried a perfectly healthy baby.  This was our 3rd loss, and last attempt at giving our son a sibling.

To say that I was an emotional mess would be an understatement.  Even now- a year later- I’m still grieving and trying to process what happened at the end of 2015.  At the time, I distracted myself with the day-to-day activities of caring for my then 3 year old, and preparing for our rather abrupt move to Houston.  I couldn’t bear to look at his baby clothes and gear, so, as part of our move prep, I gave most of it away, which was the emotional equivalent of throwing kerosene onto my open wounds and then lighting a match (=white-hot-searing-pain).  Our relocation, combined with the overlapping holiday season, forced me to fake my way through daily life and pretend like I was taking it all in stride.  Looking back at myself, I honestly don’t know how I managed to keep it together as much as I did.  But truth is that I was overwhelmed by intense emotional pain, covering me in a heavy blanket of grief laced with disappointment, anger, and deep–seeded shame.

With 2015 ending so painfully, I realized that my only option was to surrender….to completely let go and trust God’s plan for our lives.  As go-getter who has white-knuckled my way through life, I couldn’t imagine a greater challenge than handing the keys to my life over to God, climbing into the back seat and staring out the window at life’s passing scenery.  At first, surrendering felt like I was giving up… like I was stepping out of the driver’s seat of my car, waving my pathetic little flag, and then lying down in the middle of the road to allow car after car to drive over me.  I felt like a quitter:  beaten down, discouraged, and flattened.  A total f’ing failure.  Being someone who doesn’t give up easily, this isn’t how I imagined my story ending.

Until my coach, Cassi, sent me a short piece written by Liz Gilbert, I struggled to differentiate between quitting and surrendering.  I just didn’t get it until I read this piece and then the proverbial light bulb switched on.  Here’s an excerpt of what Liz wrote about surrender:

“Surrender is what happens when you come to the end of your power. Surrender is what happens when you have searched to the bottom of your soul and found out this truth — which is that you really can’t do this thing anymore. Surrender is what happens when you don’t have any more ideas for how to fix everything. Surrender is what happens when none of your survival strategies work anymore — and your playbook is out of pages. Surrender is what happens when you turn it all over to God. You release your grip on the thing. You stop white-knuckling it. You stop pretending things are great when things are actually horrible. You stop putting on a fake face, or glossing over the problem, or lying. You face the truth that you are not the most powerful force in the universe. You turn it over to fate. You exhale, and let go.

There is always grace in surrender. There is always truth in surrender. There is always a great deal of human dignity in surrender. And what happens next is often very beautiful. You crack open because you have stopped fighting and pretending, and once you do that…anything whatsoever can now occur. Sometimes your true fate can only find you after you have surrendered. As Richard from Texas taught me about cracking yourself open in surrender…well, that where God can rush in. The universe can sometimes only work through you once you have surrendered.”

 

Suddenly, after years of believing that surrendering was just a fancy word for quitting, I experienced my AHA! moment.  This mental shift enabled me to practice true surrender at a time when I had come to the end of my power, when I had run out of options, when ALL ELSE HAD FAILED.  I surrendered to this devastatingly dark place… to my broken, grieving heart… to the uncertainties of our future….to my powerlessness.  I chose SURRENDER as my theme for 2016, and decided to practice the art of surrender whenever possible, trusting everything would work out according to God’s plan.

As the saying goes, “life is a roller coaster,” and 2016 has been no exception.  At the end of 2015, I felt like my ‘coaster went off the rails and bottomed out in the pitch black.  My only option was to surrender to this darkness and trust that I’d eventually find my way back to the light.  As I’ve roller-coastered through 2016, I practiced surrendering to all of unknowns in my life, regularly repeating my mantra of “trust and let go, trust and let go, trust and let go.”  Of course, life continuously tested my ability to trust and let go…from moving to a new city without having a place to live or knowing how long we’d stay… to finding a new home/school/gym/church/social circle/etc… to setting boundaries with family members… to an ongoing dental drama (read: no front teeth!)….. to countless doctor’s appointments and multiple surgeries… to anxiously awaiting results from cancer screenings… to the unexpected ending of a friendship I hold dear… to touring over 70 homes before making an offer only to lose out to another buyer….to having this same house fall back into our laps 10 days later when the first buyer walked away without reason… to the disappointing election results… to planning yet another move over the year-end holidays.. my “surrender” list could go on and on!

Despite the abundant opportunities to practice, I’m still haven’t mastered the art of surrender.  I am–and will always be–a humble student in the “School of Surrender.”  But what I will say is this: There are moments– like the one captured in this photo taken on Disneyland Paris’ Space Mountain roller coaster earlier this year– where I am riding in complete darkness and I am fully present, where I am energized and open, where I am free and one with God, where I have complete faith that my ride will bring me safely back to the light. These moments are fleeting–few and far between–but I have experienced them, so I know they are within my reach when I simply let go and enjoy the ride.

Space Mountain, Disneyland Paris, May 2016

PS: I also surrendered to my inner poet, a voice I’ve silenced for many years but desperately wants to express herself.  So here goes…

The Arms of Surrender

She admitted,

without pause,

to be one of THOSE types

who clung to life like a tick to skin

She was known as

a control freak

a white-knuckler

a perfectionista

(and a micro-manager, according to some)

She was both adored and abhorred

for her attention to detail

for her ability to deliver

for her “dedication”

She clung so tightly because

she knew no different

As a girl, this is how she learned to survive

Her persistence even earned her praise

Until one day, she found herself hanging onto the very end of life’s rope

She had tried everything

And nothing had worked

She didn’t know what else to do

But to let go

While she wiped the sweat from her brow, she loosened her grip, just a bit

Lingering here for a moment

Relishing in the tension

Between doing and being

Then she let go

Completely

And as she fell

She released all of the beliefs

which had held her back

which had kept her clinging

to that tangled, knotted rope

She stopped trying so hard to please, to be perfect, to maintain control

She stopped forcing herself to be anything she wasn’t meant to be

She stopped blaming and shaming herself

She stopped feeling like she was damaged goods, broken and irreparable

She stopped believing she was unworthy, undesirable, unlovable

She fell freely,

evenly,

gracefully

through baby blue skies and bruise-colored clouds

through the sun’s strong rays and the moon’s chalky glow

through the Milky Way and the galaxies far far away

And when she landed,

she found herself

lovingly embraced by

the Arms of Surrender

— Christina Zini, June 2016

 


Want to know more about Surrendering?

Surrendering, as I’m learning, is a constant practice…. Like a daily (or even minute-by-minute) practice of letting go of my thoughts, emotions,  desires, anything and everything I’ve got a firm grip on.  It begins with truly experiencing my emotions, not avoiding them or disassociating myself from them, not telling myself that I shouldn’t feel anger/fear/grief/jealousy/etc..  I’ve learned a lot from reading Michael Singer’s books “The Surrender Experiment” and “Untethered Soul.”  I also enjoyed reading John Ortberg’s “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.”  I’ve found practices like prayer, meditation, visualizations helpful. My nightly ritual of writing a “Love/Leave” list in my journal has helped me to capture whatever I appreciated or loved about the day and whatever I want to leave behind or let go of.  Thankfully, my “love” list is always longer than my “leave” list.  I’ve also found yoga, spinning and walking/running to help me release whatever is festering.  I’m also a HUGE believer in and consumer of therapy, acupuncture, and energy work.. but I wouldn’t have come this far in my surrender journey without the support and guidance of my fabulous coach, Cassi Christiansen!

 

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Are you there, God? It’s me, Christina

Images found on Pinterest.  Hand of God by Younsung Kim.

Photo Credits: 1) Paige Locke 2) Hand of God” by Yongsung Kim 3) evangelismcoach.org

I feel compelled to begin this post with a disclaimer: this is a meaty, murky subject of which I have limited experience and knowledge. I’m not a theologian, a philosopher, a clergy member, a spiritual leader, or a devout yogi.  I’ve never checked myself into a monastery, a nunnery, or an ashram to sit in silence and experience nirvana for days on end.  The closest I’ve come is spending a (noisy) week at Bible camp in Three Lakes, Wisconsin, as a kid and then a (less noisy) week at a Six Senses spa in Thailand as an adult.   The only nirvana I’ve experienced is the one that smells like teen spirit.  I’ve always subscribed to the Christian faith, but I’m your typical lay person:  highly flawed with a faith that has waxed and waned over the years.  So now you can decide whether or not to continue reading…

Despite my lack of credentials and spiritual shortcomings, I am a truth-seeker, a contemplator, a self-improvement junkie, and, most importantly, a believer.  Stripped of my ego’s domination, I’m a sensitive soul who wants to be a channel of God’s peace and love in this world.  I yearn to know more about God and feel His* presence in my life.  I strive to be more God-conscious even though I’ve struggled to grasp what it actually means and how to achieve greater consciousness.  My desire to be more God-conscious often feels like an unattainable goal, like trying to run like a Kenyan when my body is built like a Swedish farm girl.  And yet, and yet, and yet…. I hear God whispering that it’s within my reach if I can learn to drown out the noise of our Earthy world and tune into His universal vibrations…the whole notion of “being in this world, but not of this world,” if you know what I mean.

Does hearing His whispers mean that I’m already God-conscious?  I think so. From my limited “earthly” understanding, God resides within us and we can access His presence anytime.  Each of us possesses the power to achieve God-consciousness, also known as a higher consciousness or transcendentalism.  This is a core belief of most faiths, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Baha’i, etc.   Just like the lesson Dorothy learned in “The Wizard of Oz” when Glinda the Good Witch tells Dorothy that she had the power all along and only needed to learn it for herself.  Close eyes, click heels, return home… Sounds simple, doesn’t it? So, why does it feel so frickin’ difficult???  I can point to experiences where I’ve felted His strong presence, such as the moment my mom entered eternal life, during a few deeply blissful meditations, and while worshiping to music.  I’ve also witnessed His miracles, and how He has answered prayers in the most unbelievable, inexplicable, mind-blowing ways.  These experiences have stirred my soul enough to CRAVE His presence just like I crave Trader Joe’s mini dark chocolate peanut butter cups… MORE PLEASE!!  Whenever I feel that God-consciousness eludes me, I consider all of the “evidence” of His presence, and remind myself of the ways I can satiate my craving through prayer, meditation, writing, and music.  So, I know it’s possible… yes, it’s possible.

But let’s face it… I don’t live in a constant state of serene meditation and prayer. In fact, my daily life is quite the opposite of serene: it’s chaotic, often unpredictable, and quite MESSY.  I usually wake up at the crack of dawn, after a night of tossing and turning, with a tiny human attached to my back or belly.  My sweet little Toots wakes up between 6-7 a.m. with a list of three year old demands: “Mommy, I need to go potty! Mommy, I want juicey please.  Mommy, watch Dora.  Mommy, I want clothes NOW.  Mommy, I want (fill in the blank).” I stumble out of bed, completely sleep-deprived, with God-consciousness as the FURTHEST thing from my mind.  I move around on auto-pilot, with my talkative ego dominating my mental chatter.  I’m aware that my thoughts are often small—I mean, embarrassingly petty and trivial—and my early morning emotional state is best described as “fragile.”  My day continues at warp speed while I juggle my son’s needs with household chores, meal preparation, errands, exercise, and my part-time coaching business.  Listening to contemporary worship music while driving 65 mph down the highway and sipping herbal tea is about as close to enlightenment as I get. In a blink of the eye, it’s time to give Toots a bath, read him a few stories, and put him to bed.  At the moment, bedtime involves lots of crying and protesting, followed by lying on the floor next to his bed until he falls asleep, and then eventually letting him sleep in our bed when he wakes up screaming.  My time to meditate and pray is reduced to a few minutes as I’m falling asleep and groggily giving thanks for our day, the miracle of Toots’ life, and His many blessings.  Then wake up, and repeat!

No surprise that I don’t feel particularly God-conscious…

So, how do I become more God-conscious while still going about with daily life?  I wouldn’t be much of a wife, mother, friend, or professional if I spend my days sitting in a meditative silence.  God certainly hasn’t called me to monkhood!  The only answer is this:  to slow down enough to listen to those whispers I hear and honor them… to slow down enough to notice all of the ways He speaks to us through nature, the people around us, and experiences…to slow down enough to savor the present moment without agonizing over the past or worrying about the future.  In my last post, LEAP! with your Heart, I referred to this inner voice as my heart, but others may call it their instinct, intuition, or gut feeling.  Regardless of the label we choose to describe this inner wisdom, this is God’s voice speaking to us.  He’s not the voice of shame, fear, anger, disappointment, or worry—gals, that’s your ego talking.  He’s (or She’s) the gentle voice inside us that encourages and empowers us, that loves us just as we are today, fabulously flawed.  When we let His voice flow freely, we experience His divine grace: a love like no other, a peace everlasting.

What I’ve come to understand as I’ve crafted this piece is that tuning into your inner wisdom IS God-consciousness.  We needn’t look outside ourselves to find it—it’s a gift, always accessible without any strings attached.  God wants us to be the uniquely beautiful, talented women that He created us to be.  He doesn’t expect us to be perfect and is quick to forgive our shortcomings.  He calls us to slow down enough to listen to our hearts and trust this voice to guide us in every aspect of our lives.  He challenges us to stand in faith…to trust and be patient… to believe…to be grateful…and to dream big.

*Note: I’ve used a male pronoun for God, but I actually don’t believe God is a “she” or “he.”  Some writers use “it,” but that didn’t feel right either.  God is God!

(Keep scrolling down for Discussion Questions/Writing Prompts)

Found on Pinterest

Found on Pinterest


Discussion Questions/Writing Prompts:

What does God-consciousness or Higher Consciousness mean to you? How do you connect with God or your Higher Power?  Think about some examples of when you’ve experienced God-consciousness, enlightenment, or however you wish to describe that awesomely peaceful feeling.

What daily challenges do you face in connecting with God or your Higher Power? What tips can you share with me and other women for listening to God’s voice (aka your heart, your inner wisdom, your intuition)?

As you become more God-conscious, tuning into that voice, what are you being called to do? What’s one action you’d like to take towards that calling?

For my fellow Christians, when I’m in need of shot of God-consciousness, this is one of my favorite You Tube videos to watch of Kim Walker-Smith singing “Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here.”  And when I’m feeling like I’ve totally lost the connection, well then it’s time to watch Worship Mob’s cover of “Say Something I’m Giving Up on You.”

LEAP! with your HEART

leap collage 2

(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

When you decide to leap, it has to be a decision of the heart.” –Jackie Bassett

Welcome back to LEAP!, an inspiring interview series featuring women who aren’t afraid to leap in the direction of their wildest dreams.  Hope you had a fabulous summer as you leapt in whatever direction your heart desired:  into a refreshing lake or a warm, salty ocean; into a frozen margarita or a dulce de lece gelato (or both!); into the arms of your loved ones or into the embrace of solitude.  After taking a hiatus in August, I had hoped to launch a new LEAP! interview this month, but a couple spontaneous trips combined with Toots’ birthday celebrations interfered with my writing time.  Starting in October, I’ve lined up a few extraordinary women to share their stories of LEAP-ing and inspire you to do the same.  In the meantime, let’s explore what propels our fearless LEAPers to take that first step towards their dreams… their hearts!

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In my LEAP! interviews with Jackie, Vicki, Rajka, and Cassi, I couldn’t help but notice a common theme: all four proclaimed that their heart led them to LEAP.  All four mentioned how their head often talked them out leaping—how their ideas seemed “crazy,” “impractical,” or even “impossible.” What made perfect sense to their heart didn’t make sense to their head.  Yet they went ahead and listened to their heart, soaring courageously into the unknown in pursuit of an intangible itch, an unmet desire, or a burning passion.  And look how beautifully each one has leapt and where they have landed in their journeys!

Recently, I was reminded (again) of how much easier life is when you let your heart lead the way.  How your head CAN help, but it can also hinder.  For six months, I agonized over a big, huge, life-changing decision: where to send Toots to preschool.  YEP- PRESCHOOL for my THREE year old.  After researching and touring several schools earlier this year, I secured him a place at my top 3 choices and then I spent six months debating which one was the right fit for us.  I say “us” because, not only did I want the best environment for my little dude, but I also wanted to find a school in a convenient location which suited my scheduling needs.  From the moment I started researching schools, I was drawn to one particular school- I loved their educational approach, the new facilities, and the teachers.  I could visualize Toots enjoying himself and thriving in the colorful, Montesorri-inspired environment.  My heart was constantly drawn back to this particular preschool, yet I agonized for MONTHS over this decision.  I wrote pro’s and con’s lists; I drafted schedules; I did multiple drive-by’s, even resorting to driving Toots to each parking lot and asking him, “Is THIS where you want to go to school?”  When I pulled into THE preschool, Toots remembered it from a previous visit and wanted to go inside and play.  I took his response as the final sign I needed, and I withdrew his spot in the other two preschools.  All along I knew in my heart of hearts that he’d end up going to this preschool so WHY did I spend soooo much time and energy contemplating this relatively SIMPLE decision? Really… WHY???????

Because I let my head get in the way.  My head was telling me that the schedule at one of the other schools was better- the later start/end times, the longer hours would better suit my needs.  My head was telling me that my friends sent their kids to the other two preschools, so I should do the same. My head was telling me that, if I sent my child to Preschool A, then he’d be missing out on Preschools B and C.  My head was full of fears for his safety, his health, his future, etc.  Basically, my head was telling me that my heart can’t be trusted to make such decisions…. about PRESCHOOL.  Yeessssss, PRESCHOOL.

I totally get how ridiculous this sounds, and I feel slightly embarrassed that such a basic decision could occupy so much mental space for half of a year.  Maybe a few other mama bears can relate!  But now that I’ve made the decision and Toots has started preschool, I can look back and see it for what it was: just another exercise to reinforce the importance of listening to my heart…. trusting my heart to guide me even when facts and figures point in a different direction….then leaping HEART-first with courage and conviction as my wing-men.

I could share many more stories about leaping head-first vs. heart-first and what I’ve learned through these experiences. When I think about the times that I let my head call the shots at the expense of my heart, I remember the emotional distress I endured as a result: the grief, the melancholy, the disappointment, the desperation, the sheer panic, the anger, the self-hate, the SHAME.. all stemming from the misalignment between heart and head.  Looking back, I know that my greatest, most significant, most transformative, most KICK-ASS leaps happened when I followed my heart… like saying “YES!” to a last-minute assignment in Amsterdam, like starting up a conversation with the cute Dutchie sitting next to me on the plane, like launching a professional women’s network and mentoring ring in the Middle East, like leaving the corporate world behind to start my own coaching business and become a mama.  Oh the JOY that comes from leaping HEART-FIRST!

Perhaps I needed this “preschool” lesson to remind me that, although I’ve made a few “PhD-worthy” leaps in my lifetime, I must practice leaping every single day.  Some days, I need to take baby steps in the direction of my heart, and other days I need make toddler-sized hops across life’s puddles.  These mini-leaps prepare me for when it’s time to make another PhD-level leap.  By practicing the art of leaping heart-first on a daily basis, I’m ready for those life-altering moments when I’m standing on the edge of a cliff with my eyes closed, visualizing where I’m headed, taking a deep breath, and then LEEEAAAAAAPING into the unknown… yet with absolute trust and faith that I will land exactly where my heart wants me to land, exactly where I’m meant to be.

So, with this in mind, let’s start our new “school” year with some journal exercises to tune into our hearts and listen to this inner guidance.  I’ll be posting a weekly journal prompt on my Facebook page through the month of September to help you start this heart-centered dialogue and see where your heart leads you.

Week 1:  Reflect on an example of when you listened to your head (aka your logic) to make a decision and then reflect on an example of when you listened to your heart (aka your intuition or instinct) to make a decision.  What did you learn from these experiences?

Week 2: What tends to guide you in your own decision-making: your head or your heart? How can the two energies complement each other?

Week 3:  What is your heart telling you RIGHT now?  How can you learn to decrease the volume of your head and increase the volume of your heart as you make decisions? How can you learn to trust your heart to guide you?

Week 4: Re-read what your answers to the previous week’s questions.  Identify at least ONE heart-led step you would like to take before the end of September, and then define another step or two you’d like to take in October.  Challenge yourself yet be realistic.

“When it comes to LEAPING, I would say all leaps must come from the heart so listen to what your heart is wanting you to hear.  And trust it.  Always ask for signs and guidance and once you receive it, take a little leap.  If it’s meant to be, the little leap will lead to another leap and you keep following the little leaps until you finally ready to fly.”

-Cassi Christiansen

“Are you being the woman you want to be?”

And THAT, my dears, is how super coach Molly Mahar of Stratejoy opened her Q2 Review Community Spreecast in early July.

If you happened to read my first post of 2015, “A Year Without Shame,” then you may recall that I participated in Stratejoy’s Holiday Council at the end of 2014 and set my intention for a new year without shame, a year to experience la joie de vivre.  In support of my 2015 theme, I carefully chose my ways of being for the year:

My 2015  ways of being

My 2015 ways of being… Cue the yogis chanting “ommmmmm”

On a practical level, I defined my highest priority goals and supporting steps in my 2015 planner (sure do love me a good checklist!).  And so began the new year with the very best of intentions and highest of aspirations, along with an ACTION plan.  Fast forward at warp speed and the first half of 2015 is already behind us… WTH?  Together with Molly’s global tribe, it was time to review, reflect, and renew, asking ourselves the million dollar question:

“Are you being the woman that you want to be???”

I came up with an absolutely brilliant, superbly unique, never-thought-of-before response to this question:  I DON’T KNOW.  Yep, that’s what I wrote in my journal.  Clever, huh?  Truth be told, this question really stumped me.  Me, the self-help book junkie. Me, the former consultant turned coach. Me, who’s trained to ask these million dollar questions and tease responses out of my clients.  I should respond with a resounding “YOU BETCHA!” backed up with a plethora of evidence, right???  After pondering my less-than-stellar response, I then scribbled “MOSTLY.” I am mostly being the woman that I want to be.  MOSTLY.   Not never, not always, just mostly.  When it comes to being the woman I want to be, is “MOSTLY” enough?????

Initially, my inner perfectionist—who’s also known as my inner critic– told me that “mostly” wasn’t enough.  “Always” is much preferable to “mostly.”  When I let this voice say her piece, I heard a lot of “shoulda/woulda/coulda’s” and shaming for my shortcomings.  But let’s face it:  who is ALWAYS being the woman that they want to be? Besides Mother Theresa, who is ALWAYS God-conscious, authentic, joyful, creative, AND free-spirited every single second of the day?  No one… because we’re human…and, more specifically, we’re women… and our lives are deliciously messy.

Fresh off of a 2.5 week summer holiday with my family, I had plenty of examples of when I behaved FAR from the woman I want to be.   As Liz Gilbert eloquently describes in this Huff Post article, no matter how far I think I’ve come in my own spiritual evolution, I can completely lose sight of my desired ways of being and regress to my childhood self when I’m surrounded by my family of origin (a.k.a. Installers and Frequent Users of my “PRESS For Emotional Mess” Buttons.)  Despite all attempts to embrace my ways of being (PRAY! BREATHE! VISUALIZE!) and remain lovingly detached from the dysfunction (WALK AWAY!), I eventually lose my shit.  And my darling husband ends up being my “pooper-scooper” as he consoles me and assures me of who I really am…. I mean, MOSTLY am.

So, as I continued to ponder Molly’s million-dollar question, I began to appreciate being MOSTLY the woman I want to be for what it is:  fluid, flexible, with room for adaptation and growth.  Shall I say even a little FREE-SPIRITED???  Being MOSTLY the woman I want means I’m not putting ridiculous, unrealistic pressure on myself to be PERFECT (whatever that means!).  Being MOSTLY the woman I want to be means that I accept I will continue to make mistakes and learn from them.  Being MOSTLY the woman I want to be means that I’m self-aware enough to realize when I falter, forgive myself, and guide myself back towards being the woman that I want to be… the woman that I MOSTLY am.  And that IS enough.

I Am Enough

(Note: This is based on Stratejoy’s Joy Challenge Day 1: Develop Fierce Self-Love writing prompt. My responses are underlined. You can write your own by clicking on this link.  All credit goes to Molly Mahar and her team at Stratejoy for this great prompt about enoughness!)

I am full of love, light, and courage. I never give up. I radiate acceptance, joy, and peace. I struggle with shame and self-doubt.

And through it all, I am enough.

I am a woman who needs inspiration, trust, and faith. I am a woman who wants to dream big, dare greatly, and live wild and free. I am a woman who accepts imperfection. I am a woman who believes in miracles.

I am a woman. I am enough.

Sometimes I stumble, and sometimes I soar. It is hard for me when life is uncertain and I can’t see the way forward. And my heart sings when I let go and trust God to lead the way.

I am beautiful and broken and whole and loved.

I am always enough.


Are you being the woman that you want to be? How do you define who you want to be? How do you assess yourself against your “ideal” you? Who/what supports you in being this woman? Who/what gets in your way? I’d love to hear from you- feel free to message me (christina@shedreamsbig.com) if you want to chat!

For more about Molly Mahar of Stratejoy and her fabulous groups and courses (The Joy Equation, The Council, Summer Camp, Elevate Mastermind), please visit www.stratejoy.com.  Sign up for her newsletter to join her tribe and access her freebies!

LEAP! with Cassi Christiansen

leap collage 2

(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

Howdee Leapers! Happy Canada Day to my Canadian friends and happy 4th of July to my fellow Americans! Hope this latest post finds you in the midst of a beautiful summer (or winter depending on your hemisphere.)  Last month, we leaped with Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith as she shared her story of  transitioning from allopathic medicine to functional medicine and the start of her own practice. This month, I’m thrilled to showcase another one of my favorite women of the world:  my mentor coach extraordinaire, Cassi Christiansen of Ulumination!

In late 2011, I discovered Cassi when I was searching for a mentor coach as part of my training with CoachU.  I reviewed a long list of mentor coaches and read Cassi’s short bio, instantly knowing she meant to be my mentor coach. Not only do we share similar values and ways of being, we both left behind lucrative corporate careers to start our own coaching practices AND we both worked very hard to become mamas to our boys.  Not only did Cassi mentor me as I completed my CoachU training, achieved my ICF coaching accreditation, and set up my business, she simultaneously supported me through my pregnancy with Toots, transition to motherhood, and ongoing fertility journey.  Fast forward 3.5 years later, our coaching relationship is still going strong despite having never met in person (we’re working to fix that!).  She’s a woman whom I deeply admire and respect, and I feel incredibly blessed to call her as my mentor coach and profile her in my LEAP! Interview series.

With Cassi being the one who is usually asking the questions, I couldn’t wait to turn the tables and ask her a few deep questions during our recent interview.   Although I already know a lot about Cassi given that we’ve been working together for a few years, I discovered even more similarities as she shared her story of leaving behind her HR VP job to become a coach.  When Cassi shared how she used to feel physically sick every Sunday evening, I remembered my own struggles with anxiety attacks and stress-induced illnesses when I worked as a management consultant and HR professional.  Like Cassi, I was forcing myself to be someone I wasn’t meant to be and secretly suffered as a result of my efforts to succeed at any cost.  As you will hear in Cassi’s interview, she finally took her big leap into coaching after letting go of her fears about money and status and listening to her inner voice which told her to TRUST.   For me, I made my big leap after my mother died when I realized that I simply couldn’t wear the mask any longer.  My inner voice told me to follow my passion for empowering women and realize my own dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and a mother.  What I love about our similar stories is that our leaps were so FAITH-based… we finally listened to our inner wisdom, trusted it to guide us, and became the women we were always meant to be.  What could be more POWERFUL than that????

So, without further ado, I hope you will take 30 minutes out of your day to listen to Cassi’s big LEAP! and read the interview highlights below.   I guarantee she will inspire and motivate you to listen to your own heart and make your next big LEAP!

XOXO

Christina


“When it comes to LEAPING, I would say all leaps must come from the heart so listen to what your heart is wanting you to hear.  And trust it.  Always ask for signs and guidance and once you receive it, take a little leap.  If it’s meant to be, the little leap will lead to another leap and you keep following the little leaps until you finally ready to fly.”

-Cassi Christiansen

Photo credit: Heaven McArthur

Photo credit: Heaven McArthur

Climbing the Ladder

“I’m a true blooded Oregonian.  I lived in Portland for the first 40+ years of my life in Portland and, then 4 years ago, we made a leap and moved to Bend, Oregon. We moved here just because we wanted to be here and raise our son here.  My career started with my degree in psychology and, when I graduated, there was absolutely nothing I could do with that degree.  I took an entry-level position answering the phones and, after a couple of months, I was then promoted to an entry level HR position. My first task was filing employee paperwork and files, so I literally started out as a file clerk. I then spent the next 14 years moving up from an entry level position to the Vice President (VP) level. I got to a point in my career where I had reached my goals- I was the first female VP and the first female on the Senior Management Team- and thought ‘Now what I am going to do?’  That’s what led me to coaching.  I hired a coach to help me and thought, ‘She has the coolest job ever, I want to do what she does.’ So, I went back to school to become a coach.  Since I was VP of HR, I started an internal coaching program so I could use my gifts and passions within my current role as I had never imagined owning my own business.  However, it didn’t take long to determine that, if I really was going to do the work I was meant to do, I’d have to leave corporate. This was the scariest decision of my entire life.  It took me two years to make my decision because it was so scary to me.  That was about 13 years ago and I have been coaching ever since.  I have built my whole practice around working with leaders who want to share their gifts with the world and make our world a better place.”

Being Pushed to LEAP!

“Leading up to my leap, I had reached most of my goals and climbed the corporate ladder more than I ever imagined was possible for me.  From the outside, it looked like I reached a pinnacle of success, but, on the inside, I was absolutely miserable.  Looking back, I can now see what was going on.  I had set goals which would make me look successful, like ‘I want to be the first female to do these things.’  What I really didn’t think about was who I would need to be to make them happen.  I worked in a good ol’ boy, patriarchal environment, and, to get to a VP level, I really had to be someone that I wasn’t. When we go against who we are, especially for an extended amount of time, it takes a toll on our soul.  That’s what happened to me- I was absolutely miserable.  On Sunday nights, I would literally get sick and vomit just thinking about going back to that environment.  At the time, I would blame the environment I worked in, but now I can look back and see that I was getting sick because I was being someone that I wasn’t.  My body was responding from a physical place by saying ‘This isn’t okay. You’re not being who you were meant to be in this world, and we’re going to give you every sign possible.’  At this same time, I was trying to get pregnant and I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility, which meant that the doctors couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to conceive.  So, I was convinced that my stressful work environment and being someone that I wasn’t were the underlying causes of my infertility.  Being miserable and trying to get pregnant really initiated my leap.  It literally felt like my soul was dying on the vine and that I was being pushed to do something different. I HAD to do something different.”

Getting Over Fears

“Once I found coaching, both for myself personally and then by becoming a coach, I knew that is what I was meant to do, but I was TERRIFIED to make the leap.  I never wanted to own my business because my dad had owned his own biz while I was growing up and it was a nightmare.  I always swore I’d get a steady, secure job with an every other week paycheck and benefits.  As an HR VP, I was making more money than I had ever imagined I could and had my corner office and parking spot.  I had worked for 14 years to reach this level, so I was terrified to give it all up with not knowing what was on the other side.  The other aspect was my ego.  I felt proud to say I was a VP and there was instant credibility in being someone who had ‘made it.’  Plus, I started coaching over 15 years ago when it was still very new.  When I said I was a coach, people would ask me, ‘which sport?’  So going from a VP to a something that no one knew about wasn’t easy on my ego. “

Trusting my Inner Voice

“Once I started coaching people, I knew I couldn’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself as coaching is all about moving through our fears and doing it anyway.  I knew I wouldn’t be as strong of a coach if I didn’t ‘walk my talk.’  I would not be where I am today without the self-development work I did with my coach.  We did the same work that I do with my clients now, focusing on questions like ‘What are my greatest fears? What’s the worst case scenario? Who have I been created to be and what have I been put on this earth to do? Why haven’t I given myself permission to be that person?’  During the two years leading up to my leap, I prayed daily and ask for guidance.  My inner voice kept saying, ‘If you have the courage to do this, you will be taken care of. I heard that same message for two years before I had the courage to believe it, trust it, and then leap.  Without my spiritual beliefs, I would have NEVER had the courage to LEAP.  People always ask me what I would have done differently, and I tell them that I wish I would have listened to my inner voice and paid attention to my body sooner.  This experience taught me to listen and trust myself, so now it doesn’t take me two years to make a decision.“

Co-Creating with Spirit

“I have a constant dialogue with my spirit.  My belief is that we co-create with the bigger Spirit, so it’s not just what I want, but what Spirit wants for me.  I often tap into this when I wake up and say my gratitude prayers for the morning and then I ask Spirit to show me the way, guide me towards what I am supposed to see, and trust what shows up.  I walk a lot outside in nature.  When I’m stuck with a question, I’ll go out for a walk, asking Spirit to show me the way and give me an answer by the time I finish my walk.  It’s hard for me to sit and meditate, so I like walking meditation better.   I also love yoga as it enhances my body’s ability to hear and sense Spirit.  Sometimes, I write in my journal if I need to work through something in a linear fashion.”

Finding support and encouragement

“First and foremost, my biggest supporter was my husband, Jeff.  He married me as a HR VP and enjoyed all the perks that came with a big paycheck and great benefits.  However, within a few years of our marriage, he saw how miserable I was- he would watch me cry and throw up on Sunday nights and remind me that no job was worth that.  He encouraged me follow my dreams even if it meant a huge lifestyle change for us.  Second was my mentor coach, Pam Richarde.  Without her and the work we did together, I would have never leaped.  Thirdly, I worked with a self-employed consultant, Catherine Meeks, at my former company, and she was the first woman whom I truly admired for what she had built on her own.  Because this was the late 90’s, I never had a role model of a female business owner before her.  She believed in me more than I did myself and would always ask me, ‘What the hell are you doing here? Why are you putting up with this?’  Besides these three people, most of the people around me did not support me.  They thought I was crazy for giving it all up and told me that I would regret doing it.  But I think this was important because it made me trust my inner voice and Spirit even more.

Spirit, Lead Me…

“I’ve been coaching now for over 15 years and I still absolutely love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.  My practice has evolved and changed over those 15 years as I used to only focus on working with women leaders but now I work with men and love them just as much.  My work has become much more spiritual as I truly believe coaching is about creating the space for Spirit to work through us.  I’ve been doing more corporate retreats which I love and would love to branch off and start offering more personal retreats that include nature, yoga, and connecting with Spirit.”

Parting Wisdom

“Pay attention to your spirit, your intuition. Listen to that still, small voice which is calling out to get your attention.  Even if you don’t know exactly what it’s saying, take a little bit of action based on what you’re hearing.  Very rarely does anyone go and take a big leap overnight. It’s really just a combination of little leaps that lead you to the big leap.  The world is waiting for you to take those little leaps, and, before you know it, you can take that next big leap.  Don’t lose sight of how important little leaps are, because they help you gain momentum you need to take that big leap.  Even if you’re scared and unsure, please take that little leap and trust that it will take you in the right direction.”

“I believe that we all have been given a special gift and it’s our reason for being on this planet… is to share it and if we don’t share it, we will never live out our full potential and shine as brightly as possible.  So Leap, Shine & Love Yourself through the Journey and know your journey was meant just for you.”

Cassi Christiansen

Photo credit: Heaven McArthur

Photo credit: Heaven McArthur

Want to connect with Cassi or hire her as your coach?

LEAP! with Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith

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(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

Well hello there, LEAPER! Welcome back to this inspiring series of LEAP! interviews featuring everyday women who aren’t afraid to LEAP in the direction of their dreams.  I launched this interview series in April with Jackie Bassett, and then followed in May with Vicki Flaherty.   This month, I’d like to introduce you to another one of my favorite ladies:  the UBER-talented, “stylishly healthy,” and ALWAYS admirable… drumroll please… Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith!!  Dr. Rajka is a superstar of a leaper– she’s an American Board Certified Family Practice Doctor, a Doctor of Functional Medicine, an entrepreneur, a blogger, a world traveler/expat….  Oh, and did I mention that she’s the mom to two adorable kiddos (Liam and Liv) and the wife of a jet-setting Kiwi who works on global construction projects?

Rajka and I met in 2010 when we worked together with a handful of other women to launch the Qatar Professional Women’s Network (QPWN) in Doha, Qatar.   I immediately admired Rajka’s professionalism, her “can-do” attitude, and her personal warmth.   Our friendship blossomed when we shared a hotel room (and a couple bottles of Cloudy Bay Sauv Blanc) during a mission trip to Ethiopia to benefit the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation and the Yezelalem Minch Orphanage.   After this experience, Rajka became a huge source of support and free advice when I was going through fertility treatments, and she happily threw my baby shower and gave me TONS of hand-me-downs when I was pregnant with lil Toots.  She was the only friend who brought me meals after my miscarriage and after I gave birth to Toots.  Rajka even let me practice my coaching skills on her while I was first starting up as my biz, and I learned so much from that experience.  Although we both left Qatar, Rajka has continued to be a loyal, encouraging friend.   Can you tell how much I love this lady????

To be completely honest, I could write an entire essay about how brilliant and beautiful Rajka is, but you are here to read about her story of LEAPING!  So, here are the highlights of our interview.  As always, I encourage you to listen to the 30 minute recording as well as reading the summary… some many great little nuggets of inspiration are tucked away in my conversations with Dr. Rajka!

XOXO Christina


 “Functional Medicine looks at the root cause of a disease, rather than just treating symptoms with medication.  We look at balancing four realms: the mind-body, the energetic/spiritual, the physical, and the biochemical.  Finding the imbalances and getting them back into balance is where we achieve optimal health.”  – Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith

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Photo Credit: Sheryl Patrizi

Getting to Know Dr. Rajka

“My name is Dr. Rajka Milanovic Galbraith, originally from Cleveland, Ohio.  I’ve known since I was 5 years old that I wanted to be a medical doctor. I was inspired by my own pediatrician- I thought he was so well-mannered and I wanted to be like him.  What I didn’t know is that allopathic medicine wasn’t going to be my whole goal.  By allopathic medicine, I mean being a physician who prescribes medicine.  For the first fifteen years, I practiced traditional family medicine.  I delivered babies, and took care of the babies and their moms in the hospital. I worked with children through to geriatrics, along with performing outpatient procedures.  I joined a great practice in the Pacific Northwest, just outside of Seattle, Washington.  From there, I ended up meeting my husband, and imagined that we’d live in one community for the rest of our lives. We’ve really been on quite an amazing journey since those early days in the Pacific Northwest.  After 7 years in the Pacific Northwest, we moved to Chicago for a couple of years, and then spent 8 years living as expats in Doha, Qatar.”

Embracing Integrative Medicine

“When I had a little breather while we were expats, I started to ask myself where I was going next. That’s where the first leap occurred when I transitioned from traditional allopathic medicine to a more integrative, holistic practice.  What inspired me to go this route is that there were a small percentage of patients who I just couldn’t get better, and I’ve had a long interest in integrative medicine to treat patients. This stems from my Eastern European upbringing. My parents are from Serbia and would often use home remedies to treat illnesses, such as applying lard and garlic to our feet when we had fevers.  Although we dreaded the lard and garlic, it always broke the fever! Additionally, I was inspired by my own experience with a fertility acupuncturist while living in Chicago.  She had me doing acupuncture and guided imagery work to support our efforts to conceive our first child.  I just knew there was more to optimal health than just prescribing medication.

Leaping from Allopathic to Functional Medicine

“The leap into functional medicine fell into place when we lived as expats and I decided to become more entrepreneurial.  I saw a need in the expatriate community to educate expats on good healthcare abroad.  Repeatedly, I had friends and former patients approach me for advice, so I started to give general guidance through my blog called ‘Expat Dr. Mom.‘ Through my research for my blog, I found a compelling article by Dr. Mark Hyman on Functional Medicine.  I also met a physician who trained in Functional Medicine who told me that her training in functional medicine was life-altering and she could never go back to traditional allopathic medicine.   Once I found this field of Functional Medicine, I started to re-train myself while continuing to work in Qatar and doing telemedicine consulting work from Qatar back to the US.   We were interested in relocating back to the US when I found an opening for a Functional Medicine physician with a practice in Boston.   The job was a great fit, so we relocated to the Boston area in 2013.”

Getting Over Fears

“One of my fears stemmed from traditional medicine’s tendency to criticize integrative healthcare.  Would I be able to practice something that would be questioned by my colleague down the road? However, everything I’ve learned to date is backed up by research.   We all know that there’s an art to medicine, so when we don’t have research, we treat and tweak the protocol for each patient, perfecting it along the way.  Secondly, I was concerned about where would I train and would I learn how to apply Functional Medicine.   However, I overcame this fear by training with the Institute of Functional Medicine and then landing my current position which is a working fellowship, enabling me to work while being mentored and trained along the way.”

Leaping with a husband and 2 kids

“My husband, Kerry, works in the construction industry, which is totally different than medicine. He’s the yang to my yin, so we complement each other and he always gives me an honest answer.  He’s my biggest support.  When I showed him the job opening in Boston, he told me that the next career move was mine.  So, when I landed the job, the kids and I relocated while he continued to work in Qatar for several months.   Together, we have two kids, who keep us on our toes and trying to balance it all.  Sometimes this means getting up at 5:30 a.m. to get myself ready and cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner before we leave the house at 8:30 a.m. “

Next BIG LEAP!

“I’ve always wanted to have my own practice.  When I was practicing traditional medicine, I wanted to have a boutique-type office where patients experienced a highly personal level of care.  With Functional Medicine, I am now leaping to launch my own clinic. Part of it will be in person visits and part of it will be health optimization (via telemedicine) which can I can offer to anyone, anywhere.  I can connect back with people who live abroad and want optimization of their health.  I plan to start with a couple days in the office and then follow-ups with phone and/or skype.  I was planning to start my new business in August or September, but I recently had my first health optimization consult after receiving a number of referrals from abroad.  This opportunity to start my own practice stems from my husband landing a fabulous job in the Chicago area, so we’re relocating back to Chicago and then I’ll be starting my practice in a new city.”

Tips for Making a Big LEAP!:

“If I am faced with a tough decision, I use guided imagery and yoga to bring clarity.  I usually sit with a decision, let it soak in, journal about it, and then reflect.  I also go to my resources, like my husband and like-minded friends, to support me.  My tips are:

  • Surrounding yourself with like-minded others and leverage resources online like meetup.com, BNI for marketing yourself, and Ellevate, a global women’s network
  • Hire a coach
  • Set goals and track your results.”

“Dr. Rajka’s favorite mantra: Balanced and calm. Focused, flexible, and strong”

Want to connect with Dr. Rajka?

  1. Subscribe to her blog: drrajka.com
  2. Follow @Drrajka on Twitter or on Facebook
  3. Contact doctorrajka@gmail.com if you are interested in a consult

 

 

Mother’s Day Unspoken

Source: Pinterest

Source: LiveluvCreate.com

Four years ago, on Mother’s Day of 2011, I spent the day shuffling between my bed and the bathroom as I miscarried my first child.  What I remember about that day is my unending flow of tears… the uncomfortable cramping and heavy bleeding… holding what was left of my baby in the palm of my hand and not knowing what to do…the absence of tenderness in my breasts… the emptiness of my barren womb…. and an overwhelming feeling of utter devastation.  The stark white bathroom tiles offered little comfort as I laid on the floor next to the toilet, begging God to reverse this sick joke and give me my baby back.  Surely women don’t miscarry on Mother’s Day??? Oh yes, dear, oh yes they do.

My heart was already thick with grief having lost my mother to ovarian cancer just before Mother’s Day in 2010.  The news of my first pregnancy had buoyed me through the first anniversary of her passing, giving me comfort and renewed hope for the future.  While my husband was cautiously excited, I was beyond certain that this baby was a divine blessing and an answer to our prayers at a time when we needed it most.   What I hadn’t expected was that this pregnancy would end in miscarriage– that the little soul who had built a small nest in my womb would take flight much earlier than I expected.   Curled up in fetal position, I comforted myself by envisaging my child, whom I named Gabriel, joining my mom in Heaven.  She had always wanted to be a grandma, and she finally had a grandchild to call her own.

After my miscarriage, I felt shattered in a way I had never imagined.  I struggled to socialize or work as I attempted to hide my fragile emotional state.  Only a few friends had known that we were expecting, so telling people about my miscarriage also meant telling them that we had been pregnant.  Inevitably, this would lead to questions about us trying to get pregnant, which I just couldn’t handle.  I stayed close to home and grieved in silence, until I finally felt like I could open up about my loss to more of my friends and a few colleagues.  Many of them reacted with empathy and compassion, validating my grief.  One friend brought us a meal, which was a touching gesture that I will never forget.  Not knowing what to say when I shared the news of my miscarriage, some friends made comments like, “At least you know you can get pregnant,” in a feeble attempt to offer me hope.  One friend reacted thoughtlessly by saying my baby wasn’t really a baby- her underlying tone was “get over it.”

But I couldn’t get over the loss of my first child, and frankly I don’t think I ever will.   About 6 months after my miscarriage, we conceived our “rainbow” baby (a rainbow baby is a baby conceived after a loss).  After experiencing some light spotting not long after my pregnancy had been confirmed, I drove myself in hysterics to the OB-GYN’s office for a repeat HCG blood test.  While I anxiously awaited the results, I sobbed on an exam bed, begging for God’s mercy.  I felt absolutely certain that I was miscarrying again.  When the nurse explained that my HCG levels had tripled overnight, I looked at her in disbelief, and my tears of anguish transformed into tears of gratitude.  Although the spotting only lasted a day, my OB-GYN took every precaution with me during the first trimester, which included supplemental hormones, regular blood tests and ultrasounds, and a long list of things NOT to do.  The usual “laissez-faire” approach to pregnancy wasn’t an option for me.

Needless to say, I was a complete mess through most of my pregnancy.  I felt horribly guilty that I wasn’t more excited about my pregnancy—I absolutely wanted to be pregnant, but I was still traumatized by my miscarriage and the anxiety associated with a “high-risk” pregnancy.  I realized that I would never experience the same carefree excitement that most of my friends experienced during pregnancy.   In losing my first child, I also lost my innocence as a mother.  There would be other losses, but none would be as devastating as my first miscarriage on Mother’s Day.   The way I viewed the creation of human life was forever altered.

But maybe this was just the lesson that I needed to learn, although I would have preferred a gentler alternative to this emotional triple shot to the chest. Because what I gained through my miscarriage was a greater appreciation for life: how miraculous it is, how fragile it is, and what an extraordinary gift it is.  The miracle of Gabriel prepared me for the miracle of my take-home baby (aka Toots).  Because of Gabriel, I became acutely aware of just how badly I wanted to become a mother and what I needed to change to make space for another miracle to unfold in my womb.  So, despite all of my anxiety while pregnant with Toots, I also felt (and still feel) tremendous humility and gratitude– I knew that the life growing inside of me was such a divine blessing.

What I also learned through both my mother’s death and losing Gabriel is that a mother’s love transcends all boundaries.  While we often crave physical presence, the love between a mother and her child flows freely, unbound by the human form.   Nothing ever stops us from being in the presence of our mother or our child.   Experiencing this spiritual connection has comforted me during times of grief and heartache, reminding me that their love is not confined to this physical world.  All I need to do is find a quiet place, close my eyes, and connect with their love… God’s love… a universal love which floods me with its golden-white light and soothes my soul.

So, when Mother’s Day rolls around, I prefer to spend the day in quiet reflection, soaking myself in maternal love.  I hold my precious son tightly in my arms and whisper my deepest thanks for the miracle of his life.  I thank God for choosing me to be his mama and trusting me with his life.  As I hold him, I silently honor my angel babies, as well as my mother and grandmothers who are no longer of this world.   I step into their presence and feel their love and encouragement surrounding me.  Then, I take some time to remember my friends who too are missing their moms and angel babies. Sadly, several of my friends have lost their babies in utero, just after birth, or as children:

  • A resilient friend who experienced multiple miscarriages before the arrival of her baby boy. She was the first person to openly talk about miscarriage with me.
  • A high school classmate who has publicly shared her stories of miscarriage and infertility through her blog and newspaper column. She is now the proud mama of twin girls.
  • Two courageous girlfriends whom lost their first daughters in utero and were induced to deliver their stillborn angels. Both friends went on to give birth to rainbow baby girls who are the lights of their lives.
  • A dear friend, who is a mom to two teen boys, an angel in Heaven, and a preschooler. She lost her sweet daughter to a heart defect when she was just a baby.  A few years after her daughter’s death and a few miscarriages, she gave birth to her fourth child (another daughter).
  • My childhood friend, Sarah, who lost her son, Jack, to pediatric cancer.  His legacy lives on through Gold in September and the I Back Jack Foundation.  She is also the mother to Annie (Jack’s twin) and little Tommy.
  • All of my friends who are still waiting for their rainbow babies. If I know your story of loss, then I remember you and your angels and I pray for your take-home baby to arrive soon.

To these friends I say:  Although our society may not recognize you as a mother or may not recognize ALL of your children, I hope it comforts you to know that I do.   I hold you and your babies in my heart today.  May you find time to quietly honor them and experience that unbreakable bond between mother and child.

XOXO

Christina


Have you experienced pregnancy loss or the loss of your child?  How have you coped with your loss? How do you feel on Mother’s Day and other trigger holidays?  How do you honor your angels and connect with their spirits?

If you or a friend would like support in dealing with pregnancy loss, here are a few resources in addition to joining a local or online community:

http://miscarriagesupport.com/

http://www.aplacetoremember.com/

www.fertileheart.com

For family and friends who want to support you:

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-loss/supporting-others/

Are you struggling to conceive after a loss? I’m here to listen and support you.  You may also find my FREE download with tips for improving your fertility naturally helpful when you are ready to start trying again.

 

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

LEAP! with Vicki Flaherty

leap collage 2(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

Welcome back to LEAP!, an inspiring interview series featuring women who aren’t afraid to leap in the direction of their dreams!

I hope you enjoyed last month’s interview with Jackie Bassett.  This month, I’m excited to feature Vicki Flaherty, an IBM leadership development professional, a poet, and a breast cancer survivor.  Vicki and I met in 2007 while working on an internal project at IBM and I immediately felt a strong click with her soulful way of being.   After I left IBM, Vicki became one of my first coaching clients and I learned so much from our coaching relationship.  She was—and still is—one of my favorite clients because of her openness, vulnerability, and willingness to go DEEP.  I chose Vicki for this interview series because of a significant leap she took after being diagnosed with breast cancer.  This leap culminated in her published collection of poems titled, “Mostly My Hearts Sings.” As you listen to my interview with Vicki and read the highlights, I hope you will feel inspired to listen to your heart, connect with your own truth, and tap into your creativity just as Vicki has learned to do.

Below are the selected highlights from my recent interview with Vicki.  However, I highly encourage you to listen to Vicki’s interview (approx. 30 min).

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback!

XOXO Christina


 “Listen to your heart and be intentional about how you want to move forward in the world. Listen to your truth and let your truth guide you.”—Vicki Flaherty

Vicki Flaherty

Vicki Flaherty

Meet Vicki Flaherty… PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.  Learning & Development Guru.  IBMer. Runner.  Yogi.  Gardener.  Writer.  Poet.  Breast Cancer Survivor.  World Traveler.  Lives an “abundantly delicious life” with her husband, Jim, in the heartland of America (Iowa).

A Calling to Help People Succeed

“About 20 years ago, I worked for a small start-up company in workforce development and was awarded a corporate award called ‘Helping People Succeed.’ I didn’t realize it then, but that was the sign on the path of my career.  Today, I’m an IBMer and thrilled to work in the learning organization in leadership development. I’ve worked for IBM for 17 years and I’ve had 3 or 4 careers so far.  I started in our services organization doing consulting work to start, then I switched to doing career development work, then I moved into our learning organization, and have shifted into leading programs related to leadership development.  My latest responsibility is to support new executives in making that transition to the executive level, which is a pretty big leap in our company.  One of the initiatives I’m leading now is around mindfulness, bringing mindfulness and focus to the work that we do, and helping leaders to do this.”

Awakening the Inner Poet

“In 2005, I had gone through a workshop which was a very powerful, transformative experience.  Through the workshop, I determined that I wanted to find my joy, and I hadn’t even realized that I had lost my joy.  The workshop began this awakening process, and I started to dabble with poetry and words.   It was an important impetus to how I handled being diagnosed withbreast cancer in 2011. I’m very achievement oriented, but I didn’t always slow down enough to experience what I was feeling or celebrate what I was accomplishing.  With cancer, there were a lot of experiences and feelings I never experienced before, and I found myself needing an outlet to understand what was happening.   I sat down with a piece of paper and a pen and started writing some words that described what I was thinking, feeling, and experiencing.  The words started turning into phrases, and the phrases started connecting together.  Suddenly a river of words and emotions was flowing and felt so cathartic.”

Leaping into the Darkness

“My poetry helped me process what was happening and lean into my fears.  I tend to be a very positive person, so, when I experienced negative emotions, I often didn’t have words for what I was feeling.  I knew I was going to have to physically change my body and the poetry helped me move through this. My poetry helped me get comfortable with putting my heart out there and being vulnerable.  I showed parts of me that felt very intimate, but I felt such power and comfort in sharing my poetry and knowing that others could relate to it.  I wrote a poem called ‘The Struggle,’ which is about the dark side of myself that was so difficult to face.”

The Struggle by Vicki Flaherty
feeling the walls
surrounded in darkness
in the cocoon
no light
only tiny fragments
of hope linger
in the air
like smoke
from a fire smoldering
into the unknown
tension thick
like mud unsure
what’s in here
even more uncertain
what’s out there
fear filling the air
wanting desperately out
struggling against the edges
the barriers
holding things in
spinning circles
dizziness pushing ‘round
falling to get up
only to sit still
in the gray silence

© 2015 Vicki L. Flaherty

Leaping into the Light

“Even during this cancer experience, I leaned toward finding the light, finding the grace, finding the opportunity and possibility, while going through struggles and moments of darkness.  The poetry told the story of my diagnosis, my journey to acceptance, the dark moments, the coping, and the release toward the end.  Sharing my poetry, being vulnerable enough to share my deepest feelings – was my LEAP.  Facing head on my emotions – the dark and negative ones, the ones I typically rushed over or pushed away – was the opportunity that came with my cancer diagnosis and treatment.  My book, ‘Mostly My Hearts Sings,’ really opened the door for me to more fully listen to my heart and follow it, especially in my work.”

Leaping with Grace, Joy, Hope, and Faith

“Through my journey of looking inward, I found parts of myself to call upon for support.  I have a friend named Grace who brings calm and confidence to me. I have a friend Joy who brings light and gratitude whenever I go. I constantly hold Hope in my heart and she helps me to dream and make the leaps towards my dreams.  I hold Faith in my gut and she gives me the courage to let go of my fears and believe in things that I can’t see but I know might be possible.”

Leaping into the Future

“When I interviewed for my current leadership development job, it took a lot of courage to be completely authentic and honest during the interview process.  I wanted my new manager to understand that I was going to be bringing not only my mind to work, but also my heart to work.  I’m bringing that singing heart to work, and I have some great opportunities to let my heart sing at work, especially related to cultivating a culture of mindfulness.  As for my poetry, I’ve written more poetry since I published ‘Mostly My Heart Sings.’ I’m thinking of pulling together another collection. I’m open to the possibility of publishing more, but I’m not sure what it will look like yet.”

Parting Words

“Listen to your heart and be intentional about how you want to move forward in the world. Listen to your truth and let your truth guide you.  My poem, ‘Truth’s Whisper,’ is about tuning into your inner truth.”

Truth’s Whisper by Vicki Flaherty
My truth
speaks quietly.
It whispers
so that sometimes
it is hard to hear.
In quiet moments
of stillness
I feel its breath
upon me.
It’s voice is clear:
Be who you are, completely.
Your light is for giving.

© 2015 Vicki L. Flaherty

Want to connect with Vicki Flaherty, buy her book, and continue to enjoy her poetry and inspirational writing?

Mrs. Zini’s Final Lesson

 

Bonnie Marie Zini 9/26/1947-4/22/201

Bonnie Marie Zini
9/26/1947-4/22/2010

Five years ago, my beloved mom entered eternal life on April 22, 2010.  In memory of her life on earth, I decided to share her “final lesson,” which I wrote and delivered at her memorial service.  It’s not an eulogy- it’s a reflection of what I thought my mom would want me to share as we celebrated the end of her earthly life and the start of her eternal life.  Five years later and her final lesson still rings true for me… it’s so full of joy, hope, and promise.  Regardless of your faith, I hope this story brightens your day and brings you a little closer to God!

XOXO

Christina


 Mrs. Zini’s Final Lesson

Written by Christina Zini and delivered on 4/27/2010

Let’s begin with a prayer because that’s how my mom would have wanted us to begin…

Heavenly Father, thank You for this day and giving us the opportunity to celebrate my mom’s life together.  Thank You for the gift of Bonnie.  Thank You for her 62 years on earth, especially the miracle of the last 8 years.  Thank You for bringing such an amazing woman into each of our lives- we are so blessed to have known and loved Bonnie, particularly my Dad, Angela and me.  Thank You for bringing her home to You and giving her the gift of eternal life.  Although we miss her so much, we are comforted in knowing that Bonnie is in Heaven with You, free from pain and suffering, and full of infinite joy.  Amen.

Wow, wow, wow… thank you all for being a part of this special celebration of my mom’s life.  I’m deeply touched to see so many of you here today, and I know my mom is smiling down from Heaven upon us.

As you all know, my mom was an incredibly special woman with tremendous courage and enduring faith.  Although my mom had many talents, she was ultimately born to teach.  Not only did she teach a variety of subjects to her elementary school students, but she also shared her knowledge and abilities with her colleagues, friends, and family.  She taught us so many valuable lessons about life simply by being Bonnie– she was loving, kind, thoughtful, considerate, generous, courageous, trust-worthy, self-less, gentle, humble, fun, intelligent, artistic, vibrant, genuine, inspirational…I could go on forever about her attributes as she was one of God’s earthly angels!

Alas I do not intend to stand before you this afternoon and summarize the highlights of my mom’s life or tell you what you already know about this extraordinary woman.  Prior to my mom’s passing, my mom and I talked about what I would say at her memorial service.  This conversation took place less than two weeks ago in a rather unusual setting as we laid next to each other in the back of her car in the medical center’s parking lot.  My dad had his own medical appointment prior to my mom’s final appointment with her oncologist.  So, while we were waiting for him to return, I climbed into the back of the car and laid next to my mom for a brief, yet significant, mother-daughter chat. We rolled down the windows to enjoy the fresh spring breeze and stared up through the sunroof at the perfectly blue sky.  I curled up next to her, holding her hand and stroking her soft cheeks.  I told her that I knew she was going to Heaven soon. I told her that I was going to miss her terribly, but I accepted that God was calling her home.  I then asked her if I could speak here today and what she’d like me to say.  From that brief discussion, I then formed Mrs. Zini’s final—and perhaps most significant—lesson to share with you today.

First and foremost, my mom wants you to know and love our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  One of her favorite Bible versus is John 3:16.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  If you are blessed to have one of her beautiful hand-made driftwood crosses, you will know that she wrote “John 3:16” on the back-side of each one as a reminder of God’s love for us and the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

My mom always encouraged me to talk with Jesus about anything and everything- she’d say, “Just talk to Jesus as you go about your day.  He’s listening and He will guide you.”  Whenever I turned to my mom with a problem, she’d tell me, “Just pray about it, honey.”  I must admit that this answer often exacerbated me, but I know that she was right.  Perhaps even more compelling than simply telling me to pray about my worries was witnessing how she responded to her own challenges in life.

My mom was the ultimate role-model for believing in God, casting her cares upon Him and trusting His plan for her life.  As the cancer spread through her body, her trust in the Lord grew even stronger.  She drew strength from Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” She held steadfast to her faith, and did not fear dying as she believed in God and His promise of eternal life.

Astonishingly, upon reading an essay she wrote after losing her father at the age of sixteen in 1964 and a letter that she wrote to Angela and me in 1974, I discovered that my mom possessed an uncommon life-long faith: she’d been turning to God since she was a young girl.  In her letter written in 1974, she wrote, “You should never fear death. Love life and live it as deeply as possible when it is your time, but think only of death as the birthday of your eternity.”  My mom continued on by writing, “We shall all be together in a bliss which only the blessed with God know.”

Mrs. Zini so very much wants all of us to join her in eternal bliss- she hopes that her unwavering belief in God will inspire all of us to get to know Jesus a little better each day so that we can join her in Heaven someday.

Secondly, beyond knowing and loving Jesus, my mom wants each of us to discover God’s purpose for our lives.  Now, you are probably thinking to yourself, “Easier said than done!”  But, in essence, discovering God’s purpose for your life is quite simple.  Think about your strengths, talents and knowledge.  Think about how you excelled as a child.  Think about your passions and interests.  Think about what makes you special and unique.  God blessed you with these attributes because He wants you to use them here on earth.  The best way you can serve the Lord is by sharing the gifts that God has given to you with those around you.  When we share our talents, God rejoices—and He opens up even more opportunities for us to shine.

Sometimes, God’s purpose for our life is related to our current circumstances.  He may choose to present us with seemingly insurmountable challenges, such as cancer.  As the expression goes, God never gives you more than He knows you can bear.  So, when you are given a heavy load to carry, that means that God thinks you are capable of confronting this challenge with courage, hope and perseverance.  He’s giving you the opportunity to lean on Him and strengthen your faith.

Again, my mom is a great example of a person who understood God’s purpose for her life.  My mom knew that God wanted her to be a teacher and blessed her with the skills, talents and knowledge to succeed. In turn, she had an uncanny ability to quickly identify her students’ strengths and encourage them to excel. In her Life Inventory, she wrote, “My life has been full of meaning and purpose because I have been able to love and serve my family, my students and my friends through the love of Christ.”

My mom also knew that God wanted her to be His witness here on earth as she bravely battled cancer.  Another one of her favorite versus was Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  She knew that God gave her an incredibly challenging task, and she courageously accepted this mission.

Thankfully, I was able to understand my mom’s interpretation of being diagnosed with a terminal illness. When my mom was first diagnosed with stage III-C ovarian cancer, neither she nor I asked the usual question of “Why?”  We just knew that God wanted my mom to be His witness and an inspiration to those around her.  He trusted her with this critical mission.

In the words of Bonnie’s favorite Psalm, the Lord was her Shepherd and she followed Him accordingly.  My mom served in God’s Army here on earth by following His purpose of her life.  When her mission was fulfilled and God called her home, she fearlessly accepted the death of her earthly life and began her eternal life in Heaven.  My mom hopes that you too will discover God’s purpose for your life, embrace the gifts He’s given to you and bravely face the challenges He may place in your path along the way.

Now Ms. Zini would not be Mrs. Zini if she didn’t spread some joy during this final lesson….  I hear my mom’s voice saying, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice in God’s blessings. God is good!”  As she wrote in her Life Inventory, she wanted her memorial service to be upbeat and spiritually comforting because she is now- and I quote- “sitting at the feet of Jesus, free of Earth’s troubles and beginning my eternal life.” Always so positive and full of light, my mom saw the beauty in everything around her and considered herself exceptionally blessed.  My mom wants all of us to remember how blessed we are—even during toughest of times– and rejoice in God’s grace.

During that precious mother-daughter conversation less than two weeks ago, I asked her how she wanted us to remember her life.  She said, “Tell them I lived a kind, gentle life.”   A kind, gentle life—imagine what the world would be like if we all aspired to live a kind, gentle life?

In closing, I hope that you will always keep my mom’s spirit alive in your heart by remembering the special times you shared with her.  I hope that you will continue to rejoice in the blessing of Bonnie.  I hope you will feel inspired by her life and reflect on her desire for each of us to know Jesus and discover His purpose for our lives.

Let’s end with a prayer because that’s what my mom would want us to do…

Dear Lord, thank You again for blessing our lives with Bonnie- one of Your earthly angels who has taught us so much about You and how to serve You.  Lord, help each us to be more like Bonnie so that we too can know and love you, discover our purpose in life and enter your Heavenly Kingdom.  Help us to count our blessings and rejoice, even during tough times. Guide us in living kinder, gentler lives.  Amen.

LEAP! with Jackie Bassett

leap collage 2

(Credits: Images above were found on Pinterest and foryouyouyou.com)

Introduction to LEAP! 

I’ve always been a leaper-  no, not a leper…a LEAPER!  At a young age, I would leap onstage without hesitation and I’d sing, dance, and perform in front of hundreds of people.  No sweat!  I leapt early and often, which meant that I learned to LOVE leaping, how ALIVE I felt mid-leap, and where I landed.  Some of my greatest achievements happened because I leapt.  With a suitcase and a few boxes, I moved to D.C. to start my first job on the Hill after negotiating a way to complete my remaining grad school credits from our nation’s capital.  I quickly leapt from politics to management consulting, trading in my short walk to work for cross-country flights.  I said “hell yes!” to that last-minute overseas assignment in Amsterdam which was supposed to last 2-3 weeks (I stayed for nearly 9 years!). I offered my popcorn to the handsome Dutchie sitting next to me on an airplane.  I pushed to move my position to the Middle East and encouraged my Dutchie to do the same.  I founded and led a professional women’s network in a part of the world where women have been historically oppressed.  I left my corporate career to re-train as a professional coach and start she dreams big.  I jumped on a plane to visit a fertility clinic in Dubai when I ran out of options in Doha.  Despite my fears and many obstacles, I just kept leaping in the direction of my dreams: to develop and empower women, to start my own business, to become a mother.

I leap because I’m meant to leap, because I’m driven to leap, because I don’t want to live a leap-less life.

And I’m not alone.  I’m surrounded by inspiring women who take mini and massive LEAPS every single day.  With so many trail blazin’, risk-takin’, big-dreamin’ women in my network, I often reflect on how blessed I am to be surrounded by such talent and courage, and how I want to shout their amazing stories from rooftops around the globe.  I’ve been dreaming about this day for a few years now… dreaming about the day that I would launch an interview series featuring inspiring women who aren’t afraid to LEAP in the direction of their dreams.   So, I’m taking another LEAP as I launch the first interview in this exciting new series.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of “Lean In,” encourages women to lean into their careers, and I want to encourage women to go beyond leaning… I want to encourage women to LEAP!  I hope these interviews will motivate you to LEAP in the direction of your own dreams and give you encouragement for your journey.  No more excuses, just do it… you were meant to FLY!

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback, ideas, inspirations, passions, and dreams of leaping. Ready, Set, LEAP!

XOXO Christina


 

When you decide to leap, it has to be a decision of the heart.” –Jackie Bassett

Have you ever fantasized about quitting your job?  Just resigning and and then taking a looooong trip to Maui…. then coming home to start looking for a job that aligns with your values and passions, while giving yourself plenty of time and space for writing, meditation, exercise, connecting with your loved ones… just BEING present, reflecting on what you want most in life and how you want to leave your mark on the world.  Hmmm….sounds divine, doesn’t it??? Maybe even a little cray-cray? But oh how freeing, how FABULOUSLY FREEING!

Well, I’d like to introduce you to a woman who did more than fantasize about quitting her job, she did it.  Not just once, but TWICE. Yup, TWICE. Meet the courageous Jackie Bassett, a talent, strategy, and operations consultant who recently resigned from IBM to pursue her passion for putting people first.  Not only is Jackie a former colleague and dear friend, she is also one of my clients and a fantastic example of a woman who isn’t afraid to LEAP.  In our recent interview, Jackie shared her story, wise advice, and motivational quotes with me in hopes of inspiring other women who dream of pursuing their passions.

Jackie Bassett

Jackie Bassett

Below are the selected highlights from my recent interview with Jackie.  However, I highly encourage you to listen to Jackie’s inspiring interview (approx. 40 min).

On Learning to Leap

“Growing up in a small town in Illinois, my favorite pastimes as a kid involved reading home plan magazines and drawing sketches of my dream home.  At 8 years old, I ‘knew’ what I wanted to do with my life.  I started my career as an architectural engineer because I was good at math and science and I loved architecture.  About 7 years into my career as an engineer, I wasn’t feeling inspired by my job.  The engineering problems didn’t feel challenging enough– they felt like slightly different applications of the same formulas.  I found myself getting more interested in the business side of things, and I often went to my boss with ideas for how we could improve things.  He politely told me he really just needed me to be an engineer.  That wasn’t what I wanted to hear, so I chose to leave my job.  I took some time off to reflect and that’s when I decided to go to business school.”

On Leaping AGAIN

“After business school, I became an internal consultant at IBM.  I focused on strategy consulting, operations consulting, and, over time, talent consulting, which is what I found I loved the most.  Then a few months ago, after 8 ½ years with IBM, I decided to quit my job.  I still loved my job a lot – I had great clients, I worked on interesting projects, I had just been promoted to the senior leadership team, I was making good money, and I had the privilege of working with some really extraordinary people.  You might be asking, why on earth would I walk away from that?  Passion can really make you do crazy things!  It was becoming increasingly clear to me that my passion for people was so strong that I wanted a career that was more focused on solving people-related challenges.  So, I chose to leave my job to pursue my passion for the second time in my career.  This time, I’m pursuing my passion for people, specifically my desire to help companies thrive by putting people first.  My goal is to find a talent-related job with a company that has a people-first culture.”

On LEAP-spiration

 “Part of my inspiration came from my earlier life experience when I chose to leave engineering to pursue my passion for business.  It ended up being one of the best decisions of my life, and I can’t even imagine what would have happened to me if I had stayed in a job that didn’t inspire me.  So, I learned early on that taking the leap is a far better option than not taking it.  I’ve also found inspiration through the stories of other extraordinary people who took leaps and ended up the better for it.  One of those extraordinary people is my mom.  She is probably the most courageous person I know.  She has taken many leaps in her life, such as selling her home and business to travel around the country in a camper with her life partner.  After her life partner died unexpectedly, she decided to move to Hawaii, where my sister lives, and enroll in massage therapy school at the age of 60.  Today, she is one of the happiest people I know, living in Hawaii, practicing massage therapy and providing daycare for her granddaughter.  My own desire to lead an inspiring life is a big motivator for taking leaps.“

On Decisions of the Heart

“I couldn’t have made the leap if I didn’t feel strongly that it was the right decision.  When I tried to logically weigh the pros and cons, the cons outweighed the pros. So, I threw out my pros vs. cons list, because my gut told me it didn’t matter.  This was not a decision driven by logic–it was driven by my intuition.  When you decide to leap, it has to be a decision of the heart, not the head.  Your head will always try to convince you to play it safe.  I just know that, if I didn’t take this leap, I’d regret it.”

On Overcoming Fears

“My number one fear has probably been the fear of what people will say when I tell them I’m unemployed.  Unfortunately, we’re so often judged in life by our ‘professional label.’  When you meet people at parties, their first question is often, ‘What do you do?’  If I say ‘I’m an unemployed consultant,’ that’s probably not a great strategy for making good connections.  So, I’ve had to think carefully about how I answer questions like that, finding ways to tell my story in a way that communicates who I really am: someone who is driven by my passion, so much so that I’ve made major life decisions based on my passion.   I also constantly have to remind myself that what others think doesn’t matter, what’s important is how I feel about myself, and I made the decision that I know was right for me.

On Connecting with My Soul

“I’m not a religious person, but I’m a very spiritual person. Several years ago, I read a book by Neale Donald Walsh called ‘Conversations with God,’ which changed my life.  One of the main messages in the book is that we are creators of our own lives.  At some level, our soul chooses everything that happens to us.  I believe deeply that, by following my passion, envisioning the job I want, praying for it, and working diligently to make it happen, I will find the perfect job at the perfect time.  What helps me to connect to my soul is daily meditation- stepping out of my head, breathing deeply, and just being.  Daily reaffirmations that I’ve made the right choice and that I will find the right job at the right time are also helpful. Being able to exercise regularly makes me feel calmer, happier, and relieves the anxiety of not having a job.”

On My Support System

“I have an amazing family and such supportive friends!  I rely on my family and friends to support me through this big change.  My husband, Nigel, has been my champion.  He was incredibly supportive of my decision to leave my job, even though I think he thought it was a little crazy. He knew how important it was for me to make this leap. Every day, he helps me by giving me career advice, suggesting possible employers, and brainstorming blog topics with me.  In addition, my coaching with Christina has been such an amazing source of support.  I had reached a point in my career where I was just letting my career happen.  Our coaching sessions motivated me to be more deliberate about driving my career in the direction I wanted to go. I think everyone should have a coach, and I suspect we’d see a lot more people taking bold leaps if that were the case.”

On Looking Ahead

“In the short term, my plan is to focus on three things:

  1. Keep looking for that perfect job by networking- meeting interesting and inspiring people and having great conversations with them.
  2. Build my brand. I have a new website, peepsfirst.com, which is a blog about putting people first.  I’m focusing on creating interesting content, publishing it, and promoting it through social media.  Not only do I love writing, but I love that this will help me build my brand as someone who is passionate about putting people first.
  3. Keep enjoying this gift of time- time to write, time to read, time to exercise, time to reconnect with the people who are important to me, time to visit my family, and time to just be. Once I start working again, things will be extremely busy, I’m sure, so I’m appreciating the time I have at the moment.

In the longer term, I’m still figuring that out.  I will have a wonderful job where I can focus on my passion for people, but I don’t yet know exactly what that will look like.  Stay tuned!”

(UPDATE: Since the publishing of this post, Jackie accepted an offer to return to IBM in late June 2015 and is now working in an Organizational Development role within IBM Marketing.)

On Inspiring Others to LEAP!

“First and foremost, follow your passion.  I believe wholeheartedly that, if you use passion as your beacon to guide your decisions, you will live a life of joy and inspiration.  Believe in yourself.   In the words of Henry Ford, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’  This quote ties to my belief about having the power to create anything we want in life.  If we don’t believe it, we can’t create it.  Don’t be afraid of taking a risk.  Even though making the leap might feel like a scary risk, ask yourself: might it not be an even scarier risk if you don’t leap?

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”-Mark Twain

Want to connect with Jackie? 

jackie.bassett@verizon.net

Twitter: twitter.com/peeps_first

Facebook: facebook.com/peepsfirst

www.peepsfirst.com