Fear vs. Faith

I’m gearing up to have a baby (T minus 4 days), and I truly can’t think of an experience that intimidates me more than giving birth. It’s an extremely daunting thing to be sitting around waiting for, which is essentially what I’m doing right now. It’s such a big unknown, beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, and I know that there’s no way to truly prepare for something of this magnitude.

Sure I can stretch my hips, and have been doing that for the past week (yes, I should have started months ago), and can practice breathing and reciting some helpful mantras to myself, and yes I’ve been doing my pelvic floor PT in preparation, but let’s be real, I am walking into the biggest physical challenge of my life, and I simply have no idea how it’s going to go.

“Maybe you can make a little bit of space for thinking about it being a positive experience”, my therapist said to me last week, and I couldn’t help but smile at the irony. How often do I encourage my clients to do the very same thing, to shift their perspective, to make room for some positivity and faith, instead of only listening to and trusting the voice of fear?

Fear is just such an easy place for the human mind to go. We’re hardwired for it. Our brains are essentially highly evolved threat-seeking devices, designed to keep us alive, even if the cost of that is chronic hypervigilance and a persistent focus on the negative.

There’s an ego element to it too, I think. We don’t want to be blindsided, right? That’s such a pervasive idea, that by hoping for the best or even letting ourselves think positively, we’re setting ourselves up not only for disappointment, but for the shame that comes from being caught off guard. “I should have known better, I should have known not to get my hopes up”, that kind of thing.

It’s the belief that if we allow ourselves to get excited about the job interview, tell ourselves that we’re the best for the role and we 100% have this, it will be that much more painful if we don’t get it. And that makes sense. But how powerful is it to go into that interview believing that you’re going to knock it out of the park? How much might that actually influence the outcome?

There’s a reason professional athletes spend countless hours visualizing themselves making the successful shot. What our brains believe to be true about us influences our actions, which then influence outcomes. We show up differently, we’re more confident, we don’t spiral out over a small slipup, but instead recover and go on to make that winning goal.

I don’t need to go on a whole tirade here about the power of positive thinking, but I did listen to a fascinating podcast on pain recently, that’s been helpful as I consider labour. The guest, Dr. Rachel Zoffness, a pain psychologist, Assistant Clinical Professor at the UCSF School of Medicine, and the Co-President of the American Association of Pain Psychology, spoke about pain as a biopsychosocial phenomenon. And well that’s a whole mouthful to get out, what it means is that the experience of pain, which actually exists in the brain, is always influenced by biological, psychological, and social factors.

Biological factors are things like genetics, tissue damage, acute injury, diet, sleep, etc. Psychological factors include our thoughts and feelings and beliefs, states like depression and anxiety, our trauma history, and especially beliefs we have about the pain. Social factors include things like how supported or isolated we feel, socioeconomic status, and access to care. All of these factors work together to influence how much physical pain we actually experience. It’s kind of mind-blowing to consider. As she puts it, feeling supported can help turn the pain dial down, literally translating to the experience of less physical pain, just as feeling isolated or believing that we’re doomed or powerless can turn the pain dial up. It’s fascinating to think about pain in this way, and it actually gives me a little bit of hope about what I’m heading into.

To be honest, I’ve had glimpses of self-belief, moments where I’ve thought I can actually do this thing. I really do trust my body, so maybe I’ll be able to trust the process and not create more pain with my mind. And I have a Doula, and a super supportive partner, so maybe their presence and my sense of being cared for will help turn that pain dial down for me just a little.

They’ve been fleeting, but I’ve had these thoughts. And then I feel good for a few seconds, hopeful, even, that maybe it’s not going to be so bad. Then fear comes along and scolds me for being naive. Who do I think I am to imagine labour won’t be all that bad? How naive could I be that I’ve barely done anything to prepare for this and I’m somehow expecting it not to be awful? Fear tells me that it’s wiser, more realistic, more sensible, to brace myself against the worst rather than daring to hope for the best.

Out for a walk on Wednesday morning, I ran into someone who literally used the word “fun” to describe her labour experience. She said, word for word, “the whole experience was way more fun than I expected. The doctors and nurses were amazing. You’re going to be great! You’ve got this.”

I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear that. And while the concept of labour being “fun” is beyond my imagination, it sure was nice to hear an alternate perspective on the experience. I’ve heard enough horror stories in the last few months. It’s refreshing to have a little balance in the narrative.

It always comes back to balance, doesn’t it?

Going into this experience expecting it to be a walk in the park is unrealistic and could set me up for a seriously rude awakening. And going into it expecting only the worst is not only an unpleasant and unhelpful way to spend the next few days, but it could literally make the experience worse, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Perhaps the most balanced perspective of all is that I am entering into a grand unknown, and I will have no choice but to surrender to the experience, however it unfolds.

Wish me luck, and I’ll see you on the other side.


It isn’t always easy

It feels silly to put out my usual newsletter talking about values and personal growth, with what is going on in Ukraine as we speak. But I’m committed to sharing this newsletter each month, and I have nothing to add to the conversation about Ukraine, no value to offer in terms of educating people or offering them hope or providing an alternate perspective. I suspect I am in the same position as many people reading this, simply feeling heartbroken and helpless and afraid of where this is all headed.

Wherever you are, and whatever the importance of being informed on this issue, I hope you are making some space for yourself away from the news, and taking time to celebrate what is good and hopeful in your own little world.

A theme that’s been on my mind lately is that, while I firmly believe living our values is the path to a meaningful and fulfilling life, doing so is not always fun. In fact, acting on our values can be deeply uncomfortable at times.

* * *

I shared a piece of writing last week about a complex issue going on in Canada. I felt compelled to share my thoughts, and the piece that was forming in my mind wouldn’t leave me alone until I had finished with it and put it out in the world. I shared it on Friday morning and felt immediate relief that I had done what felt right and important to me, even if it also felt difficult and risky.

Right away a few people reached out to thank me for writing it, to say they felt the same way as I do, and were grateful to see their own views being given airtime. And then a close friend texted to say that she disagreed with virtually everything I’d said. We went back and forth, both sharing things that the other had not heard or considered about the issue, and both of us (I hope) realizing that neither of us had a full (or unbiased) picture of what had gone on.

Being disagreed with, and potentially criticized, is the nature of putting my thoughts and opinions out into the world. I know this is an inevitable part of using my voice, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier when it does happen. In these situations, a frightened little part of my brain immediately jumps in to say “see, this is why you shouldn’t say anything” or “unless you know absolutely everything there is to know about something, you should just keep your mouth shut.”

It’s the same voice that has kept me from writing and sharing for much of my life, and it’s always ready to jump in and make me feel ashamed or regretful. In essence, the voice says that if I can’t do things perfectly and I’m not able to please everyone, then it’s best to just not act at all. Perfectionism and people-pleasing are core fears that hold so many of us, especially women, back from fully living our truth, so as much sway as that voice wants to have over me, I remind myself that being held back by fear is not how I want to live my life.

* * *

Talking to another friend yesterday who had been in a similar situation, I was able to offer her so much more wisdom and grace than I’d been able to offer myself. I told her that I thought she was brave for speaking up on a complicated issue, and that being able to recognize when we’re wrong and have the humility to acknowledge it is much more powerful than not speaking up in the first place. I told her that while having difficult conversations or being made aware of our own blindspots is uncomfortable, it is unavoidable if we want to speak our minds in this world.

Learning is uncomfortable. Growth is uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable. Talking with people who have vastly different perspectives and opinions than we do, is uncomfortable.

But uncomfortable conversations and uncomfortable emotions and experiences are how we grow. We must move beyond our comfort zones and into unfamiliar territory if we want to expand beyond the confines of our current selves.

So just a little reminder to lean into the discomfort, or at the very least, not to run from it. Also a reminder to give some thought to your values, as those can be signposts to help you know when you’re on the right path, even if things feel uncomfortable in the moment.


What I learned from my brush with COVID

I’ve written about the importance of rest before, and I stand by that. Respecting our need for rest is fundamental, whether we are healthy or sick, and doing so becomes ever more difficult in a society obsessed with productivity and optimization.

I come by my comfort with rest naturally, I think. People tend to lean one way or the other, either biased toward more of a doing orientation, or (like me), more of a being orientation. There are plenty of people who can’t stand sitting still, and even struggle to relax while on vacation, and there are others of us who need to be prodded to get into any action because stillness is our comfort zone.

Even when I was a kid and I loved nothing more than challenging people to races, swinging on the monkey bars, exploring a nearby stream or playing a game of baseball (yes, I grew up in a very small town), I would still frequently look to my cat, napping away in a patch of sun, and think “she’s got it made.” The idea that all she had to do all day was eat and find different patches of sun to sleep in seemed like a pretty ideal way to live.

I got hit hard with COVID earlier this month and let’s just say I was channeling my inner housecat for a while there. I was sick. Sore throat, crazy congested sinuses, and just this bone deep exhaustion that still hasn’t quite lifted. Of course it could have been much worse, and I’m very grateful that it wasn’t.

For the first four or five days of being actively sick, I couldn’t do anything. I would get out of bed and migrate to the couch, where I spent the entire day reading or watching TV, or some combination of the two. I truly couldn’t bring myself to do anything else, I was just so damn exhausted and miserable.

When we’re sick, the need for rest becomes impossible to ignore. And that’s a good thing, because we need to rest in order to get better. I kept reminding myself of this as I sat on the couch, passively letting another episode of Insecure autoplay from my laptop. I needed to save all of my strength for my immune system so it could do its job and fight this thing off, I told myself, as I settled in for yet another thirty minutes of mindless consumption.

Sitting around doing nothing for a few days can feel lovely, especially when you’re expecting a baby and you know you’re about to essentially become a 24 hour a day nurse for the foreseeable future. And I definitely let myself rest. But by day six, even though I still felt exhausted, I started to not be able to stand myself. I wanted to DO something, to achieve some small little goal. I started by taking a shower, then doing a small cleaning of our apartment and a few loads of laundry before collapsing back on the couch. I felt exhausted by the simplest of household tasks, but I also felt good about having done them, and went to bed that night feeling buoyed by my efforts.

Maybe I overshot it, because the next day I was so tired I literally didn’t change out of my pajamas all day. My body was speaking, so I listened, and I rested.

The day after that I felt a little more energetic again, so I took a 20 minute walk and wrote in my journal for the first time in over a week. Again, despite expending energy on those things, I felt energized by having actually done something useful with myself.

And that’s this funny paradox with energy. Sometimes energy begets energy. Spending it actually leads to more, while doing nothing can begin to create an exhaustion of its own.

I’ve never forgotten a concept from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, that we are often more exhausted by the weight of undone tasks than we would be by the effort of actually doing those things. I feel the truth of that when I look around at my apartment and notice the water filter I have yet to clean, or the papers reminding me to call my insurance company. Even the sight of them feels heavy. The energetic drain of undone tasks is real.

So I made a little project out of undone tasks as I continued to recover in a slow and halting way. Each day I took a short walk and tackled a small task, something super simple, but that would give me the little jolt of accomplishment I find so energizing. There were days when I felt too tired to walk or do much of anything, so I let myself rest. And that rest felt all that more satisfying because I actually needed it.

As always, it’s all about striking a balance.

So which end of the spectrum do you lean toward? Are you someone who can’t sit still and is always doing, doing, doing? If so, here’s some encouragement to slow down and embrace stillness, even just for a short while.

And if you, like me, are at times in danger of becoming one with your couch, here’s a nudge to get up and DO something to remind yourself what you’re capable of.

Wherever you are, I hope you are well, and rested, and making space to do the things that light you up.


What’s your word for 2022?

Personally, I like the idea of using a new year as an opportunity to reflect and to set intentions, and one thing I find super simple, yet powerful, is choosing a word to represent my hopes or intentions for the coming year.

Around this time last year, I came up with the word lightness to capture my intention of holding things lightly for 2021. That was what I realized I needed most for the coming year. I have a way of taking everything really seriously, which can be a wonderful quality at times, but I’m not always great at balancing that with simultaneously holding things lightly.

I was really conscious of this intention for the first few months of 2021, having chosen a playful pink and blue crystal to represent my intention, and remembering my desire for lightness each time I saw it sitting on my desk. I would catch myself getting in a spin about something and then pause for a second and remind myself that holding things lightly was something I was working on. Sometimes this helped me shift my perspective, and sometimes it didn’t, but it was nice to remember that I at least wanted to lighten up a bit.

For quite a few months in the middle of the year, I basically forgot all about this intention. I would remember it fleetingly, usually upon seeing my crystal, but it stopped feeling like something I was actively tracking. As I started to think about my word for 2022 in the last few weeks though, I was reminded of my desire for lightness, and it’s been interesting to reflect on how that intention shaped my last year.

In looking back, I see that I let go of a lot of heaviness in the last year. I also took some risks that I had thought deeply about and taken very seriously, but it was ultimately choosing to hold those things a bit more lightly that gave me the courage to finally give them a try (ie. deciding to start a family). Staying connected to lightness is something I’ll probably always need to work on, but it’s encouraging to see what’s possible when I do.

As I thought about 2022, the first word that came to me was “open”.

For 2022 I want to be open. Open to what comes. Open to change. Open to new ways of thinking and doing and being. I’m due to have a baby in April, so being open feels like both a literal and metaphorical need right now. There are a lot of big changes coming my way, and I can’t think of a better way of approaching them all than with openness. 

So that’s it for me. And what about you?

What’s one word that sums up your hopes or aspirations or intentions for 2022?

If you feel like sharing, I’d love to hear it. If not, I hope you ask yourself this question and trust in whatever answer comes.

Wishing you a joyful and restful evening, and a Happy New Year.


What do you need to say YES to?

So often we are focused on, even defined by, our no’s.

“I’m gluten free” or “I’m vegan” or even “I’m sober”. These are identities based around what we don’t do. And while that’s helpful information, it certainly doesn’t form a complete picture.

As a coach, I’m always being told by my clients what they don’t want. What they don’t want to feel, or don’t want to do, or how they don’t want things to be. “I don’t want to be so afraid of what people think of me” or “I don’t want to spend the whole holiday rushing around like a crazy person” or “I don’t want to waste another year not taking my writing seriously.” Okay, so those are actually examples of my own “don’t wants”, since let’s be real, I’m as guilty of this way of thinking as the next person.

But my job as a coach is to help people uncover what they DO want.

How they do want to feel, what they do want to experience. It’s amazing how hard it can be for us to articulate what we actually want, when it’s dead easy to come up with long lists of what we don’t. In a similar vein, it’s so easy to focus on what we want to cut out of our lives, we forget how vital it is to put some attention toward what we want to add in.

* * *

A recent example for me was tv watching. I’d gotten into a habit a month ago of watching more tv than I felt good about, letting that be the default way I was spending my evenings and even daytime on the weekends when I was feeling too tired to do anything else. I was down on myself about it because I knew I was in an addictive cycle and that it was only making me feel less energetic and motivated to do other things, but cutting that behaviour out felt hard.

Then, totally unrelated, my friend Karoline kept telling me I simply had to read A House in the Sky, a book she loved and that I’d owned for years but never read. At her insistence, I picked it up one day and started reading and was immediately drawn into the incredible (and gut wrenching) true story of what this woman lived through. Suddenly I found myself wanting to read at night and in any spare moment I had.

Viola! My tv problem was solved. It happened without me even trying or almost even noticing, and certainly without any sense of deprivation or restriction. I just needed something else, another way to relax and turn my brain off that I actually enjoyed doing, even when I was tired.

I needed something enjoyable to move toward, rather that just focusing on what I was trying to move away from.

Speaking of deprivation and restriction, those feelings have come up a LOT for me in the last few years as I’ve adjusted my diet in order to heal whatever has been causing pain in my body. There have been a lot of restrictions over the years, and that can be a really hard way to live. For so long my focus was on what I was cutting out: sugar, dairy, gluten, grains, nightshades, FODMAPS. You name it, I’ve tried it.

And while that’s been an important part of the process, and being gluten-free makes a big impact on how I feel, I’ve felt so much more freedom in the last few months by focusing instead on what I’m adding in. Trying to up the amount of veggies I eat, adding in leafy greens, and focusing on always having a balance of protein, fat and fibre on my plate to keep my blood sugar stable.

This new approach of “what can I add here to make this more balanced?” feels so much better than being focused on what I can’t or “shouldn’t” have.

* * *

I’m pretty good at cutting toxic content out of my life, including the moment I finally unsubscribed from the NYT “On Politics” newsletter when, months after the election, I was still seeing the dreaded T word in my inbox every morning, leading to an immediate spike in anxiety.

But one thing I consistently forget is the enormous value of consuming content that inspires me.

The other day, based on the recommendation of a friend, I watched Jagged, an HBO documentary about Alanis Morissette and her groundbreaking album Jagged Little Pill. I love watching artists do what they do, especially singer-songwriters. It’s fascinating and so inspiring to learn about their journeys, the countless rejections they receive along the way, the inevitability of brutally harsh critics for anyone who wants to create anything in this world, and the decade or so of hard work that goes into any “overnight success”.

I LOVED Jagged Little Pill back in the day. That album came out when I was 12 and just beginning to pay attention to music. It was so viscerally and unapologetically emotional, and completely unlike anything else I’d ever heard. I was too young to understand the sex references or to have experienced real romantic rejection yet, but You Oughta Know lit a fire within me. It’s just such a powerful song. And the album is so much more than just angry. It’s sweet and hopeful and heartbreaking and deeply deeply wise, especially when you consider she was only 19 when she started writing it.

Like virtually everyone of my generation, as a teenager I sang along to You Oughta Know, Ironic, Hand in my Pocket and You Learn, but it wasn’t until my 20s that I would uncover the album again and listen to it end to end, and discover hidden gems like Perfect and Mary Jane and Not the Doctor. To say I could sing that entire album word for word would not be an exaggeration, and yet for all my love of her songs, I didn’t really know anything about Alanis at all. So it was fun to learn about her then and now, and deeply inspiring to reflect on the enormous impact she made with that one album.

I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, but looking back now, I realize how powerful it was to witness a woman who was unashamed of her feelings. A woman who said exactly what she felt with such razor sharp precision. It was intoxicating. I realize now that was the gift she gave to me back when I was filled up with my own angst and had nowhere to let it out. The gift of permission. To be angry. To be hurt. To be confused about who I was and what I wanted. Permission to feel all those things and to let them out as I sang along with her.

* * *

Permission to feel deeply is one of the greatest gifts art gives us. I had kind of forgotten that for a while, and thanks to that documentary, I am again filled up with inspiration to both consume great art and also to create my own.

And I haven’t done it yet, but since watching that documentary last weekend, I have a burning desire to take a long solo drive, listen to Jagged Little Pill at full volume, and sing my guts out. Knowing me, I’ll probably end up crying my guts out too and return home afterward feeling about 10 pounds lighter, and I’ll have Alanis to thank for that, all these many years later.

Permission. It’s a magical thing.

So while this post has taken a turn from my original intent, I’m giving myself permission to deviate.

And that’s what I’m offering you as well: Permission.

Forget all the no’s, and go out there and find something to say yes to. Maybe it’s a song, a poem, a book or a movie (hello Shawshank), but find something that lights you up and makes you FEEL. In fact, go ahead and make that a priority.

There’s more to life than our endless to do lists and self-improvement projects, after all.


The Power of a Single Question

Anyone who knows me knows I love my spirit cards, and I pulled one last Monday that was a true game-changer. I asked for guidance on what I was dealing with that week, and the card I pulled was the Phoenix. The Phoenix card is all about transformation, about freedom from suffering and past pain.

“The essence of the Phoenix is with us when we realize we have been suffering too long and something must change. We take a stand and decide to live consciously instead of being driven by the unconscious mind and its long list of fears and aversions…”

The card felt very apt, so I pulled out my journal and asked myself a simple question:

What would it look like to not be driven by my unconscious mind this week?

What came to me immediately was it would look like opening a google doc that day and getting started immediately on my group coaching project, rather than leaving it to the end of the week like I usually would, and feeling stressed and guilty all week as a result.

Because that’s the thing about procrastination, one of my most stubborn and long-standing habits. Putting things off doesn’t mean putting the stress of them off. When I know there’s something I need to be doing that I’m delaying on, the weight of that thing hangs over me day after day until I’m finally forced by a firm deadline to get it done.

Putting things off gives them extra weight, and each time I put that thing off further, the psychic weight only grows. Despite knowing all of this, and kicking myself each time for doing the same thing, over and over again, procrastination has long been a habit of mine.

So last Monday morning, looking ahead to my week, I made a commitment to live consciously instead.

I never intend to procrastinate. Consciously, I tell myself that I’ll get started on Monday or Tuesday and I even block out hours in my calendar to gradually tackle projects over the course of a week. But then I just don’t do it.

I get sidetracked by the voice in my head that says I just don’t feel like it today. The voice that says I don’t even know where to get started, so what’s the use? The voice that says you have all week, no need to force yourself to get started now, or wouldn’t it feel so much better to just deal with your emails instead?

It’s gotten to the point that I almost don’t even believe myself in those moments I’m hopefully putting things in the calendar, history having shown countless times that I’ll just blow past those calendar blocks and prioritize doing whatever else feels easier in the moment. Even though I intend to get started on something, my unconscious pattern is to put off anything that requires deep work.

I’m using habitual and unconscious synonymously here, because they amount to the same thing. Our unconscious mind is really just a series of habitual patterns of thought, ways of seeing and ways of thinking that have hardened into automatic patterns. Unconscious thoughts tend to lead to unconscious behaviours, which is exactly what procrastination has been for me, an unconscious habit born out of a very old fear:

What if it’s too hard and I can’t do it?

That unconscious fear and the patterns of behaviour I’ve developed around it have been leading me to act against my own best interests for much of my life.

But asking myself what it would look like to not be ruled by my unconscious unlocked something for me. It made me realize exactly what was going on. It helped me to see that despite all of my best intentions, when it came to working on bigger projects, doing work that challenged me, I was still allowing my unconscious mind to take over.

My unconscious mind wants me to delay on things, even when my conscious mind knows I’d be better off getting started. My unconscious mind is more comfortable feeling guilty and anxious day after day than it is getting over the hump of starting something daunting and instead feeling a sense of pride and progress each day.

And that’s exactly what I felt each day last week. Monday night I felt proud of getting started on the project, just opening the doc and getting some initial thoughts down. Tuesday I felt proud that I’d spent just 30 minutes on it, but that I felt connected to the project now, that I was in the flow of figuring it out. Wednesday I spent only an hour on it, but now I felt myself on a bit of a roll, and I knew when I came back to it the next day, I’d be able to harness that momentum.

Then Thursday I was too busy. I had a bunch of clients that day and just didn’t have extra time to devote to the project. But I wasn’t in a panic because I knew I’d already laid some good groundwork. And Friday morning when I woke up, instead of feeling dread and a sense of impending doom like I usually would, I took a nice long walk, had a coffee sitting by the ocean, and planned out my work in a relaxed way. It still took me four hours of solid work on Friday, and I still finished later than I’d hoped to, but boy did I feel differently throughout the entire process.

And that’s what it really comes down to for me, realizing that I want to feel differently than I’m (unconsciously) used to feeling. I want to feel productive at the end of my days, and relaxed and calm when I’m working on something important. And there’s no one else in the world who can give that to me, regardless of how flexible external deadlines may be. I have to create that reality myself, and I have to do it consciously.

So, with that theme in mind, I have a question for you:

What’s one habit of yours that, if changed, would make you feel a lot better day to day?

Put differently:

What’s one area of your life where your unconscious mind is sabotaging your best interests?

If either of those questions speak to you, I hope you choose to answer them for yourself. Sometimes the right question in the right moment can change everything.

Here’s to powerful questions,


Enough already!

I recently read a book of essays called Enough, by Shauna M Ahern. In it she spoke of her own journey from chronically feeling like she was not enough, to realizing her own wholeness, as well as her journey from always striving for more (money, success, achievement, etc.) to realizing that what she already had was enough.

It’s kind of a radical story. A woman coming to decide her weight doesn’t determine her worth, a successful food blogger letting go of a site and a mailing list she spent a decade cultivating, and an entrepreneur deciding the hustle simply wasn’t worth the cost to herself and her family. It’s almost anti-American to step away from the cult of productivity and striving for success, and instead choose to live a simpler life.

It’s inspired me to think about where in my life I need to say “enough!”

And what about you? What’s an area of your life where you can let up the reins a bit and relax into where you are, instead of always straining for more / better / next?

Perhaps it’s your relationship with your body, a place where many of us are never satisfied. No matter how good others think we have it, or how much “progress” we’ve made, there is always another area of concern, a new part of ourselves to obsess over and criticise and try to wrangle into submission in some way.

Or maybe it’s money. We certainly live in a culture that tells us more is always better and enough is never really enough. Even if you’re comfortable and safe and all of your basic needs are met, so many of us imagine that true happiness and freedom lie just out of reach, and if only we had just a little bit more money, all of our problems would be solved.

It could be your career. That’s something I hear from a lot of people I talk to. You’re happy where you are… for now. But what’s next? And when will you get there? And what will that timing mean, relative to your peers?

Our bodies, our bank accounts, and our careers are some of the top ways in which we compare ourselves and compete with others, so it’s no surprise if these ring true for you.

For me, my sense of not-enoughness is mostly related to my career or other ambitions. Sure I have more clients than ever, but do I really have enough? And yes I’m writing and sharing once a month, but is that really enough? Sure my coaching makes an impact in my clients’ lives, and my writing touches people here and there, but am I really doing enough to fulfill my purpose in the world?

It’s like I have the belief that when I arrive in the magical land of enough, I will feel differently. I’ll feel safe. I’ll be able to relax and enjoy my life.

That’s the great lie we tell ourselves. That external achievements or gains can ever make this feeling of not-enoughness go away. This is also the great lie told to us by our productivity obsessed, consumerist society and the beauty industry and all the other industries that thrive off of making us feel unworthy, then offering us products and services to fill the void they’ve created.

In other words, there’s a lot of noise we need to shut out if we’re committed to recognizing our own wholeness. Noise from the external world, and plenty of noise within our own minds as well.

For many of us it feels unsafe, scary even, to sit back and actually feel good about where we are.

It’s uncomfortable to allow ourselves to feel satisfied and grateful. For many people that feeling of contentment is so unfamiliar that it’s immediately followed up by the fear of being blindsided. We’d rather be constantly anxious than ever caught off guard.

I don’t have all the answers, unfortunately. I don’t even have most of them. But one thing I will say is that gratitude can be a powerful antidote to this feeling of not-enoughness. Stepping back and being grateful for what we already have, instead of discounting it or taking it for granted, is a good start in acknowledging the fullness of our lives.

In a strange way, having a recurrent foot injury has made me much more grateful for my own body. Sure I’m perennially disappointed by my thighs, but I sure am glad I can walk! Each time I manage to go for a hike or run to catch a traffic light without pain, I’m filled with gratitude for the simple privilege of being able to move.

Another helpful practice is simply to notice that scarcity voice when it comes up, and to name it. Oh, there’s that not enough voice again, telling me I’m not thin / successful / productive enough. Notice the voice and name it for what it is. Notice how it feels in your body when you get hooked into that voice. Decide if that’s a voice you want to continue to listen to.

Comparing ourselves with others is another thing to pay attention to. It’s something we all do constantly, and social media certainly isn’t helping any of us break that habit. So try to notice when you’re getting into comparison mode and choose whether you want to continue down that track. As Theodore Roosevelt once wisely said:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

There is joy to be found in realizing that we are enough, just as we are.

Wishing you joy, and a reprieve from the striving,


Get out your rose-coloured glasses

With the news coming out of Afghanistan, the fires burning up Northern California, and the seemingly never-ending pandemic, it’s been a tough month to stay afloat emotionally. Feeling heartbroken or depressed right now is totally normal, of course. There’s nothing healthy about being relentlessly happy in the face of tragedy or existential threat. In fact, it would probably require a great deal of denial to do so. But I don’t think it serves us (or the world) to be completely overwhelmed by our own despair either.

As always, it’s a balance.

And, as always, I’m right there with you in trying to strike that balance in my own life. It’s an easy time to feel like there is nothing but ugliness in the world, and that is a perspective I’ve been wrestling with for the last few weeks.

Last week though, I got tired of feeling low. I decided that as messed up as the world is, and as hopeless as I feel about certain realities, I still needed to remember that there is also beauty in the world.

So I made myself a little challenge: notice and appreciate something beautiful every day. Make a point of looking for beauty, and celebrating it when I find it.

Walking to a doctor’s appointment early Thursday morning, I came upon St. Ignatius cathedral for the first time. San Francisco has more than its fair share of beautiful buildings, but catching sight of this church in the fresh morning air kind of took my breath away. It’s such a grand facade, I suddenly felt like I was in Europe or something. My doctor ended up being almost 45 minutes late for my appointment, so I simply left the office and sat outside staring up at the church, in awe of the beauty that humans are capable of creating.

Thursday night I took a walk with a friend and made a point of appreciating the beautiful gardens and incredible foliage in Golden Gate park, as well as the intricately painted gingerbread style details on even the plainest of buildings in the Panhandle.

San Francisco is an exceptionally beautiful city, but like anything that’s familiar, it’s easy for me to fail to appreciate this, especially on foggy days when the light is flat and all the colours seem dull, matching my recent mood.

I’m blessed to live in a neighborhood where lots of people grow roses, so Friday had me noticing an especially beautiful rose on my lunchtime walk. I was so inspired to really notice and capture the beauty that I took a picture of it, and even looking at that picture now brings the incredible smell to mind.

As an aside, I highly highly recommend stopping to smell the roses. I mean it. I’ve taken to doing this since I moved here, and though I sometimes feel self-conscious and silly, I have never once regretted it. It blows my mind that I made it to the age of 30 without having any idea how glorious roses can be.

Over the weekend, things that struck me as beautiful included the smell of the ocean on an especially choppy morning, the almost obscenely bright pink bougainvilleas taking over a garage in my neighborhood, and the way the sunlight shining on a black bird revealed iridescent greens and purples on the feathers of its head and body.

What’s interesting, and perhaps not surprising, is that after consciously choosing to look for beauty in the world for just a few days, I began to notice it more spontaneously. All it took was a little practice. Let’s just say I didn’t set out to appreciate the delicate colors of the bird that was pecking at the donut crumbs around my feet while I waited in line for a coffee on Sunday morning.

So that’s it, that’s the simplicity of what I have to offer you this month.

A reminder to seek out the beauty in this world, to take notice of it and to breathe a sigh of gratitude for it. Choosing to orient ourselves in this way starts to build a mental habit, and just like with practicing gratitude, the world becomes a richer and more beautiful place. Even when all feels lost.

Wishing you beauty today and always,

Isn’t that Interesting?

I heard about a talk once where the speaker asked people in the audience to shout out the emotions or experiences they most want to have. You can imagine the answers, right? Things like: happy, joyful, content, confident, successful, and on and on. The presenter wrote those all down on one side of a black vertical line he’d drawn down his white board.

Then he asked the audience to tell him about the situations they felt defined them as people. What were the core stories or experiences that made them who they are today?

To this question, person after person told stories of heartbreak, loss, confusion, grief, rejection and failure. And so our presenter wrote all of those states and feelings down on the other side of the vertical line and then stood back to examine it.

“So here on one side of the line,” I imagine him saying (I heard this story second hand), “we have all of the things that humans want to experience.”

“And here on the other side, are all of the things that lead to growth and meaning, the things that ultimately make us who we are.”

I imagine him taking a long pause while the audience took this in.

“Isn’t that INTERESTING?” He said finally.

And I think it is.

How interesting that we resist and resent the very things that provide the most rich soil for our growth and evolution. In fact, we take it a step further. We seem to believe that we actually shouldn’t have difficult times or difficult emotions, that any difficulty is a sign that something is wrong.

I’m as guilty of this as the next person, don’t get me wrong. I hate feeling sad. Or lonely. Or having one of those days (or weeks, or months) when the colour seems drained out of the world and nothing matters enough to get excited about. It’s tough to see the value of times like that when we’re right in the middle of them, which is part of why they’re so hard.

It’s almost as if we believe that life should be all clear skies and smooth sailing, and anything else means we’ve veered dangerously off course. I suspect this belief that life should be easy is what leads to much of the additional suffering and self-doubt and anxiety that creep in when things are hard. In addition to struggling with something, we’re also telling ourselves the very fact that we’re struggling means something must be wrong, either with us or with our life.

But if I think back to the many hard things I’ve been through, the things that have indeed made me who I am, I can’t say I would change any of them. Sure I wish I learned certain lessons more quickly, or with less attendant pain, but hey, I’ve always been a late bloomer, and I learn things in my own good time.

There’s a beautiful poem by Kate Baer called ‘Things My Girlfriends Teach Me’ that finishes with this:

“When life throws you a bag of sorrow, hold out your hands. Little by little, mountains are climbed”


Imagine responding to difficulty by accepting it, instead of turning away and wishing it were different. Imagine trusting that the sorrow or the sense of failure and confusion are inevitable stepping stones along our path to becoming. I assure you, I’m nowhere close to this myself, but I am just starting to get the hang of saying “I feel sad today”  when I feel that way, and just letting it be what it is. To me this feels like an important first step.

I want to be clear about something. I’m definitely not saying “life should be HARD” either. That mindset is super toxic, and tends to lead to fulfilled expectations.

There is no should here. Life is a mixed bag. It’s up and it’s down. Easy and hard. Heaven and hell, and everything in between.

One thing I’m noticing as we start to see a light at the end of this long COVID tunnel, is how much people have grown in the last year and a half. Visiting old friends in the last couple of weeks I was overblown by how much people have grown. Decades worth of growth seem to have been compressed into an extremely painful and difficult few years. And isn’t that interesting?

It’s hard to notice my own growth most of the time, but it’s been really evident to me how much the people in my life have grown recently, so it stands to reason I’ve done some growing too.

Maybe that’s something for you to reflect on as well. How have you grown during this last year and a half? What new capacities have you developed as you navigated all of the loss and uncertainty? What have you let go of during this time of forced reflection and paring down, and what do you know now that you simply couldn’t see before?

My guess is if you look for it, you’ll find you have a lot of depth and growth to celebrate in yourself. And isn’t that something?

Here’s to celebrating how far you’ve already come,


Letting Your Creative Juices Flow

The more time I spend talking to humans, the more convinced I become that we are ALL fundamentally creative beings.

I believe that all humans are not just capable of creativity, but that we long to exercise creativity in our own unique ways. I’ve been really inspired by two women along my own creative journey, Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron, who both have rather poetic ways of speaking about creativity.

Elizabeth Gilbert defines creativity as: “The strange partnership between a human being’s labor and the mystery of inspiration.

In The Artist’s Way , Julia Cameron’s legendary book on cultivating a creative practice, she states that “Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy

So if creativity is so natural for all of us, then what gets in the way? As far as I can tell, there are four main culprits that get in the way of so many potential creative moments or endeavors:

1) Cultural ideas about who is creative and who is not, or who is “talented” and who is not. We tend to be defined in this way early in our lives, by our teachers and/or our families, and this division can be damaging to our creativity, whichever side we’re on. Being told we’re not creative/talented can scare us away from something we love but are not yet skilled at, and being told we ARE talented often becomes a burden in itself, crippling us with a fear of failure if we don’t live up to the title.

2) Narrow definitions of what creativity actually is. The Oxford dictionary offers this classical definition: Creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. So someone’s a painter or a writer or they’re “musical”. But in reality creativity can take on so many different forms. In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about figure skating as a creative act, which allowed me to see that for me, surfing is a major creative outlet.

I tend to see creativity as any experience where we are engaged and in flow, we are connected with our intuition and inspiration, and we feel a sense of playfulness and freedom. That’s what creativity feels like for me, but I think everyone is entitled to define this for themselves.

3) Another belief I see a lot is that creativity is not “worth” anything if it is not “productive.” In this hyper-competitive world we find ourselves in, it’s easy to get caught up in the belief that if we can’t monetize something or turn it into a “side hustle”, then it must not be worthwhile. The idea of creating for its own sake is often seen as silly or even self-indulgent, as though everything we do must be productive in some way. For so many people, doing something just for the sake of it, just because it makes you alive, can be a revolutionary concept.

4) And, of course, old faithful, Fear. In my experience, creativity is all about following our intuition and trusting our unconscious when it takes over and starts directing the process. This can be incredibly frightening because it will often take us somewhere that we didn’t expect, and fear really hates the unknown. Steven Pressfield (https://stevenpressfield.com/books/) , another author famous for talking about the creative process, calls this fear “The Resistance”, which he describes as an internal force that keeps us from showing up as our best selves and doing our most meaningful work.

“The more important a call or action [is] to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

Oof. That one hits hard because I know how true it is.

So, what do we have on our side that counters this powerful resistance?

According to Elizabeth Gilbert, the essential ingredients for creativity are: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence and trust, and I think these are really beautiful antidotes to the beliefs and fears that often get in the way. These are qualities we all carry within us, and just like creativity, they are muscles that need to be strengthened.

If you’re feeling a desire to let your creative juices flow, or to reconnect with some of these life-affirming qualities, give these prompts a try. Insert your own name in the first blank, and see where they take you:

Dear ________, this is your enchantment, and I want to remind you…

Dear ________, this is your persistence. I was the one who got you through…

Dear ________, here is why you can trust me with your life…

Dear ________, this is your courage talking, and I want to remind you…

And finally, for that most crucial component of permission:

From the office of the principal. Dear ________, I am the principal and this is your permission slip. You are officially allowed to…

These may seem silly, but hey, creativity doesn’t always have to be so heavy.

Wishing you playfulness and trust,