There was this piece of me—a young, vulnerable, desperate piece of me—who begged for someone to finally just tell me who the hell I was supposed to be, or do, or what my life was supposed to be about. Every time life intensified, waves of hysteria would swell from deep within me, the fear that I’d get it wrong… that I couldn’t trust myself to know what was true for me. I felt terrified that, without external guidance, my life would be wasted.
But then I started to explore what one of my early teachers called “the spirituality of the self”. I studied the way I reacted to the world around me, the way I allowed certain relationships, circumstances, and experiences to affect me. I learned I was powerful, far more powerful than I’d ever imagined, and that I could change reality by changing the way I was showing up in the world. In time, I released what no longer served me and made space for my truth to become my life. The artist, the lover, the priestess, the mother, the healer, the dancer, the writer . . . one discovery at a time, I hosted a reunion of the pieces of my soul.
This transformation was possible because of the supports I cultivated for myself along the way. My blog is an extension of my journals. I use it to share the lessons I’ve learned, powerful resources, and inspiring stories of my clients’ transformations. Dig in and find the information and inspiration you need today and keep coming back when you need another dose! If you can’t find what you’re looking for, email me your question and I’ll see what I can find for you.
“What’s your problem? You on the rag?”
I was in seventh grade the first time a boy dismissed reality by saying that I was having a fit of hormone-driven hysteria. He was teasing a classmate and being hateful to everyone who crossed his path, and when I stood up to him, he tried to shame me into backing down.
Clearly, he didn’t yet understand how hormones work. Nor did he know about my near obsession with getting The Last Word, or my astrological advantage (Taurus), or that I was in the early stages of my training as a verbal assault weapon. He was ill-prepared and I came undone. It’s mostly a blur now but I can still remember yelling at him, in front of many of our peers, “I might be on the rag but when that ends, you’ll still be a jerk!”
For the record, I was not actually bleeding at the time. I have no idea why, long before I could actually call myself a feminist, I felt the need to defend my menstruating self, but I did. I had a strong need. At the time, I knew almost nothing about myself, about what it means to be a woman and still, the idea that his cruelty could be washed away in a river of my blood infuriated me. It was a profound betrayal of truth and fairness, and I wasn’t, as they say, going to take it anymore.
Recently, a woman I’m connected with on Facebook posted something very thoughtful and respectful about a political trend she finds disturbing. The conversation quickly spiraled into an exchange between her and a man who was, in my opinion, being disrespectful. She stayed engaged, again very respectfully, and stood her ground. As I watched it unfold, I felt impressed by her ability to be so firm and clear but still keep it clean, especially when he was not.
Finally, he offered a long-winded conclusion, hurling himself onto the metaphorical sword, and left the conversation. The conversation continued in his absence and as everybody started to calm back down, I was mortified to watch it take a very old, painfully predictable turn. A full 25 years after that first school yard experience, I watched as that important and empowered dialogue/debate got chalked up to the woman’s raging hormones.
So, I’ve had enough time to grow up; educate myself; discover my life purpose; make, grow, birth, and mother children into their teens; figure out my sexual-orientation and learn to live in alignment with my integrity around it; start a business helping other women do the same; and still we continue to dismiss women who are standing strong in their personal power as being too hormonal to be taken seriously. That made me feel sort of crazy inside.
When I protested–yes, more articulately than I did all those years ago–the woman explained, “I don’t like that either, because I believe that hormones fluctuating just give women a keener sense of what is in alignment and what is not – it gives us less toleration for what is not. However, if you’ve been through fertility treatment, you know that the extra hormones do make you WAY less tolerant of BS and whatnot.” I clarified that being “way less tolerant of BS” does not cultivate it. This woman and her intensity, her unwillingness to tolerate BS, did not make that man behave badly. He behaved badly and she didn’t let it go.
There is a world of difference between me not putting up with your pushy antics and me causing you to act that way. And there is a great deal of violence against women that occurs in the gap between the two. I’ve seen this with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears, and the metaphorical she did not actually have it coming after all. To blame the monthly shedding of the lining of a woman’s womb for the violence, aggression, or simple ignorance that she encountered during those couple of days (or any other time that you need someone to blame) is a BS move if there ever was one.
So yes, around the same time every month, my tears are more accessible, as is my anger, but I don’t believe that means I am suddenly wildly out of control. Quite the opposite, in fact, those are the times when I am at my best. I see more clearly, feel more powerfully, and more easily take action from a place of integrity. The intensity makes me more real–not mean or harsh or impatient–just real.
I believe in my heart that that is the best of me. And over the years, I’ve noticed that the more I honor myself during that tender and powerful time, the more access I have to those parts of myself when I’m not bleeding. I want access to my feminine power on all of the days, not just four or five days out of each month. I’ve found that menstruation is a very grounding time for me, and I strive to be that aware and that connected to my body all the time. I want to feel as deeply and listen as carefully as I do when my hormones surge like that. I want to have the strength to be true to myself every single day.
Plain and simple, that intensity that we experience just before and during menstruation is power. It’s not our only source of power but for many women, it is a sacred time during each month that our power rises up to meet us.
But if we want to feel empowered, we have to stop dismissing ourselves as raging lunatics when we bleed. We are all working so hard to cultivate equality and yet, we continue to perpetuate the myth that we can’t be trusted to be reasonable for a few days at a time, twelve or so times each year. And while it’s always good to bust this myth to the non-menstruating population, to cultivate the change we desire, we have to shift the way we perceive ourselves.
There are a great many resources available to help us explore this topic but for now, I just want to invite you to pause and notice the relationship you have with this tender time of the month. Now that you’ve read this, pause to take it in. Perhaps you can email it to yourself and read it again when you feel the intensity building. Just notice how you’re showing up in the world.
Maybe you can share it, invite the women in your world to talk about how they feel about this part of being a woman. If you have children, think about how what you’ve taught them. Do they know that bleeding isn’t a curse and that the emotional intensity is sacred? Pause to consider whether you’re stepping into your power or shying away from it, and if you’re pulling back, dig deeper into that impulse. The need for feminine energy is strong in all corners of the world. Now is the time to heal, to reconnect with our true strength. Once we access it, the shadow cannot outrun our healing, loving, creative light.
(This post was originally featured on Care2 on Sept 19, 2012.)
Once a year this country celebrates motherhood with an over-commercialized parade of bullshittery. Lots of the women in my world are triggered by Mother’s Day (read: all the holidays). It’s a perfect storm of unrealistic expectations, being stretched too thin, grieving the loss of those who mothered us well, and the great resurrection of old mom-related heartbreaks. For many, Mother’s Day cultivates a great deal more pain than joy.
If all you can summon Sunday is to hate Mother’s Day, then hate it. Suffer through it. Wallow in the pain that rises. Sometimes that’s what we need to choose for ourselves. And I say, just do it! Hate Mother’s Day. Hate it for whoever it was or is that’s making your heart ache like the six year-old inside you. Hate it for the one who rejected you, the one who abandoned you, the one who hurt you, and the one who betrayed you. Hate it with your whole heart.
But if you’re done feeling that way, take back Mother’s Day.
Stop allowing things you have no control over to wreck you.
Beat a drum. Read poetry. Touch the earth. Get some peace and quiet. Dance your ass off.
Do anything you can to release this pain by cultivating love for yourself, giving love to others, and finding something new to honor.
If nothing else, just consider the possibility that there is a powerful rebellion in refusing to treat yourself like the women before you treated you. You simply cannot bear to keep perpetuating this same old tired violence against yourself.
Choose love. Choose you.
****Trigger Warning**** This post contains information about recovering from sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
“Going to the dentist cannot be part of my self-care because it triggers memories of being orally raped. I have not been to the dentist in 15 years and I’m afraid my teeth are going to fall out.”
Dear Unruly Woman,
We all have our stuff, you know? Literally, every single person I know has something they’ve resisted doing because of old wounds. You are not alone in this struggle and you don’t have to be alone on the journey back to health.
If you were my friend, I’d grab your hands, lean in real close, and tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. I would promise you that there’s a way to make dental care feel possible if that’s what you want. We would talk about the trauma, how much healing work you’ve done, and what it would take for you to feel safe in a dentist’s chair.
I would ask if you know any dentists that feel safe. If not, I’d ask if you would be willing for me to ask around to find one who is sensitive to your needs. (I have oodles of women in my community who are rocking life after trauma, so referrals like this are usually easy to find.) I’d make calls and find a list of just right providers to consider.
We’d meet again to talk about the list of options. I’d tell you how they responded to my inquiry, why I felt like they could be trusted, and what all they were willing to do to help you feel safe. If any of them resonated for you, I’d ask permission to make an appointment for us to visit them to talk about what’s possible. If it felt true for you, we would go check them out — share your concerns, ask questions about what lies ahead, and listen to their ideas about how to help you feel safe. If it went brilliantly and you felt ready, we’d make an appointment to have your teeth cleaned.
We’d make a plan for that day. I’d go with you if you wanted. Hell, I’d gather an Unruly village to go with you, if that’s what it takes to make you feel safe. I’d go back with you. I’d hold your hand. The dentist would explain their every move before they made it. If at any point you felt even remotely unsafe, the dentist would stop and wait for you to be ready to proceed. If you were unable to continue, we’d leave and come back when you are ready to begin again. We’d do this as many times as it takes for you to heal these wounds and meet your dental needs.
(There’s also something called sedation dentistry, which allows you to be asleep while your dental work is done. If the trigger is so extreme that it couldn’t be released with less intense approaches — and assuming you could feel safe under those conditions — that’s another option we could explore.)
If you were my friend and you lived here in Minneapolis, I know exactly where I’d take you. Our family dentist and her extraordinary team would give you as much time and energy as necessary to help you feel safe enough to proceed with treatment. I know this because they held my hand off and on for the last year. Before we found them, it had been nearly 10 years since my last dental visit.
If you can make these calls and have these powerful conversations with dentists, do it. If you can’t, ask someone who loves you to help. If you can’t bear that, email me and I’ll help you figure out how to find a safe place to secure dental care in your city. I have no idea how all of this will land (or if you’ll ever even read it) but I want you to remember the most important part.
You deserve this. Yes, I’m sure.
You deserve to fully recover from this pain. You deserve to feel safe. You deserve to be supported. You deserve to release every single thing that keeps you from loving your body. You deserve to have your needs and desires met. You deserve to say yes to you.
I can feel that you have already healed hundreds of little pieces of the fallout from this trauma. When you’re ready to tend to this one, you will heal it too.
Love and truth to you,
Christy, The Unruly Woman
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Every now and then, two people hire me to support them both through a tender time in their relationship. We work on whatever feels true for them and the intentions vary a great deal. One topic that almost always bubbles up is conflict resolution. Recently, I “heard” to ask one couple to work with me to create a list of rules to help them make better choices during times of conflict.
What I love most about this list is that these aren’t my ideas about what’s best for them. I asked each of them to write me their (unedited) wish list of ways to bring their collective best at times of conflict.
Partner #1’s ideas
Partner #2’s ideas
These 13 house rules are the final product of our work together:
Are you bringing your best self to the conflicts in your home? Do you think a process like this could help? What do you need from your partner? What do you need to remember when the going gets tough?
Image: Andrius Petrucenia via Flickr
When I was young, an adult in my life explained the reasons she was leaving another adult in my life. She noted three qualities about him that made staying together feel impossible for her. The Voices In My Head (before I knew anything about them) noted that these were the three exact same qualities that made him attractive to her when they first fell in love. She’d grown to loathe and resent him for what was once desirable.
I’ve been in and out of love enough times in the last forty years to make sense of this. We are drawn to partners who embody that which we ache to have in our own lives. The one who doesn’t play picks a partner who is playful. The one who feels a little too carefree picks a partner with a strong work ethic who pays all of their bills on time. The one who holds back picks a partner who goes all in.
At first, it is exciting to be with someone who brings to the partnership that which we crave. We enjoy having a light shined onto whatever we’ve hidden away in the shadows. The fearful one finds out they are brave. The worker bee finds out that sometimes it’s really nice to just be. The talkative one learns to enjoy the sacredness of silence.
Our togetherness invites us to expand and grow.
In the early days, our togetherness is supported by the passion and excitement of falling in love. We lovingly explore one another. We patiently listen. As we bump into them, we joyfully embrace one another’s wounds. We respectfully analyze conflicts. We carefully hold our partner’s heart in our warm, gentle hands. We expose ourselves and protect one another. We are brave and united.
Love heals all things… until it doesn’t.
Time passes and things begins to get complicated. Our togetherness calls forward all of our old wounds, seducing us with illusions of our earliest heartbreaks, fun house mirrors projecting the qualities of those who hurt us decades ago onto the one we call beloved today.
We can allow our togetherness to heal us, or we can allow it to destroy us. We can accept Love’s Invitation, or we can close our hearts and alienate the one we treasure the most. We can celebrate our differences or we can make enemy of the very aspects that made us ache for our lover in the beginning. We can do our work or we can perpetuate against our partners the very violence we experienced when we were young.
Our togetherness invites us to expand and grow. Let us accept the invitation.
Bring the truth with love. Seek connection. Support one another in all of the ways that feel true. Play together. Take responsibility for what we bring to the table. Stay unless it feels true to leave. Laugh and cry. Learn one another. Touch with gentle hands. Make mad passionate love. Know what matters and do it together. Leave space for bullshittery. Watch the moon rise and count the freckles. Nourish the heart, mind, and body. Choose tenderness, even if we don’t understand. Ask for forgiveness and give it. Dream and remember but know that this moment is the only one that really matters. Say yes. Be brave. Open our hearts. Lay the stepping stones we can choose to walk together tomorrow.
Our togetherness is a choice we make every day. Can we accept Love’s Invitation?
At other times, I seriously feel like I’m going to lose it. An old, violent, wounded part of me rises up and tries to take over.
I feel like yelling and the words that fill my mouth are hateful and unproductive. I want to hurl them, like hot coals, at the source of my rage. It feels like my blood is boiling inside my veins. My thoughts are dark and angry, the life that was dreamy just a few minutes ago suddenly feels hopeless. The anger tries to consume me.
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I tell my clients that starting your own business is like going to boot camp for your money issues. Well, motherhood brings up every single thing that remains unhealed within us. It’s like going into battle against all of our old baggage. And from what I can tell after almost 18 years of training, it lasts… well, basically, forever.
It started the day I found out I was pregnant with Romeo. Yes, literally the first day. I’d had a miscarriage the year before, a tender experience that started when I found blood on the toilet paper after using the bathroom. Still quite high on my expectant state, I was shocked to realize that, once moistened, the pretty little flowers on my toilet paper looked far too much like blood. I panicked.
Yes, I actually panicked in the racing-heart-echoing-in-my-ears-and-room-spinning-around-me way. It was as though the heartbreak of that moment (where I found blood on the toilet paper) was just hanging out in my body waiting for the perfect moment to pop up and scream for attention. I’m still here! Even after I’d cried a thousand tears about different aspects of the loss, that particular piece was still waiting inside me.
That moment happened more than 18 years ago, long before I knew the word “trigger” or what it meant. It shook me, deeply, and it happened many times–my body flash flooding with fear each time–before I was brave enough to mention it to my midwife. She lovingly encouraged me to buy white toilet paper for the duration of my pregnancy. And so I did.
I’ve been doing this work too long to ignore the fact that every time I need to teach something, I am prepared for that experience by living the learning. I’ve been putting off offering this workshop for four years and I’d be lying if I said this inevitability hadn’t occurred to me. (Also, it’s just a really tricky topic to cover and it wasn’t time until now.)
So naturally, I (finally) scheduled this workshop for July and my very own Trigger Happy June kicked into high gear. It peaked on Saturday when I was watching the fourth nurse make the sixth attempt to get an IV started in my (nearly 16-year-old) baby’s arm. She’s always been terrified of needles and had been so very brave for the first six attempts, but she was finally coming undone.
She was clinging to The Beautiful One (my partner, Dyani), sobbing and calling out that the vein search was hurting her. That was my own personal version of hell on earth but that still wasn’t the thing that triggered me.
It was the way she never moved the outstretched arm that nurse was digging around in. It was the way my beloved daughter–already a week into the throat pain, 24 hours since she’d eaten any solid food, and hours since she’d gotten any measurable liquid past the abscess in her throat–was falling off the edge of reason and still strong enough to give this nurse an actual shot at finding a vein.
Couldn’t cope. Honestly, still can’t. Even recalling it to share here brings tears to my eyes and leaves my heart aching. Later, Dyani and I were talking about it and both admitted that we wished we had stopped the woman sooner. Heartbreaking. And to be honest, I’m not sure what exactly did me in. Was it all of the times that I was stoic when I should have said that whatever was hurting me needed to stop? Or was it that I didn’t say no, or that she didn’t say no? I can’t even tell… it’s too soon. More work to do on that one.
This is the way triggers work. A present day experience feels (to the physical body) enough like an old, untended experience to drag it up from the depth of wherever we store old heart breaks, fears, and the rest. We experience today’s situation as it appears but all of this old emotion rises up, too. It makes the situation feel far more intense. It makes something that’s a little scary feel terrifying, a little frustration feels maddening, and a little bit of anger feels like the kind of rage that leaves a woman (me) wanting to scream vulgarities, shove a nurse out into the hall, pick up an adult-sized human, and run for as many miles as it takes to ensure she is safe.
It happened a million times in the middle of these two experiences. And I know it’s happening to other mothers because I hear the stories from my clients every day.
When our daughters turn the age that we were raped, we lose our minds and we don’t even know why. It does not matter how many times we vowed we would never hit them, when our kid talks back, the impulses rises hard and fast because that’s what we experienced as kids. When our kids won’t clean their rooms or do their homework or send thank you cards, we rant and threaten without even realizing that the parenting line is blurred by our own bad habits.
It happens over and over again. It feels never-ending. And the intensity is real.
But the invitation is real, too. It’s the invitation to heal these old wounds, to live without all of this history haunting us and our children and the rest of the people that we love. That’s why I’m teaching this workshop. Everybody deserves better… including you.
Join us for Unruly Essentials. We’re going to Reclaim Our Chill.
I hold the past against the woman I love.
There was lots of leaving when I was growing up. Divorced parents left me constantly leaving one for the other. Their U.S. Air Force careers meant that my brother and I not only traveled between them but between their respective assignments. I lived around the world and in many places here in the states. It was great in lots of ways but, of course, that lifestyle was also hard on my heart.
I learned early on that saying goodbye was unbearable. My young, unruly mind crafted coping mechanisms that included faking fights with my friends when it was time to move so I didn’t have to say goodbye. I knew many, many people in my early years and I’m not connected to any of them today. Needless to say, I made it to adulthood with some baggage around goodbyes.
I’ve written about this before (Leaving With Oprah and Getting Good At Goodbye) but as I prepare for the Trigger Happy July workshop, I’m flooded with awareness about my own triggers. Even after all of these years of working to release them, they keep popping up. Maybe it’s just good practice to get me ready teach these techniques? Yeah, let’s call it that… instead of me being a 40-year-old wrecking ball.
When we have conflict and The Beautiful One decides to take a break (so she doesn’t do anything she’ll regret), I lose my mind. I wish I could put lipstick or glitter on that to fancy it up, but plain and simple, I come undone.
Her exit is the lit match that proves I’ve been walking around this whole time with gasoline pulsing through my veins instead of blood. I catch fire.
Sometimes the fire is contained. The panic consumes me but I (somehow) keep my feet planted and my hands glued to my sides. While it rages inside me, I watch and wait. My true self pounds sanity back into my consciousness with the soles of her feet against the earth as she dances wildly around the fire within me.
She’s not leaving. She’s taking a break. I’m okay. This is okay. Pause is good. We always work through these. I’m okay. We are okay. Conflict is okay. Hysteria is not okay. Breathe. Breathe deeper. Okay… that’s right… breathe again. What’s happening here? What is gong on in my body? What do I need?
Sometimes it goes better. If I’m grounded enough–or aligned or connected or in my Priestess self or whatever it is “enough”–I take a few steps back. The heat that rises is real but it isn’t enough to set me afire. She takes a moment to return to center. I take a moment to return to mine. We reconnect and talk through the conflict until we find an understanding. All is released and another layer is healed.
But other times… it goes much, much worse.
That’s when I lose my mind. That’s when I do the same barbaric maddening crap I sincerely believed I would never ever do again. I throw whatever defenseless thing I have in my hand. I slam doors. I scream like a mad woman. I say terrible things to the one I love.
It feels unforgivable. I loathe feeling that way, even for just a moment. Dreadfully human. Completely triggered. It’s rare that my triggers unfold in this way these days but it is still alive in me. I know it is and I know it isn’t about her. It isn’t about us. It isn’t even about “now” in my life. It’s about a thousand old heartbreaks. And I know that I owe it to her and to myself to continue this healing journey.
In fact, owe it to myself and everyone–family, friends, clients, and even strangers–to accept the invitations they gift me when the old bullshittery rises from deep within.
So yeah… triggers. This workshop is one I will teach from a deep place of knowing. I’m ready to free myself. Are you?