Overcoming Fire Flee-ing

My Ring of Fire

I am having a hard time creating my next blog post.  I think it’s partially because I don’t want to let go of Sooke.  I like seeing her picture whenever my blog site shows up, and being reminded of her ‘kind eyes’ and contented spirit.

I keep finding little signs of her all about the house.  There’s the obvious, hair.  (That will be with us forever.)  There’s also the toys.  I thought I had gathered up all the signs, but no.  Today starting my yoga practice, stepping back into downward dog,  I noticed her tennis ball stuck under the office cabinet.  I started to cry and downward dog collapsed into bout of sadness.

It’s odd how grief hits.

Like flames from a fire.

What might seem like a small flicker comes roaring up when it meets open air, and knocks me back or singes my hair.

Yesterday I published a new blog: To Skin or To Ski.  It was about how I was getting excited about my new winter community building project – skiing. You may have seen it briefly, that is if you looked quickly.

Last night, in the middle of the night, I trashed it.


Well, though it’s true that I am caught up getting ready for ski season, the post wasn’t a genuine reflection of me.

No.  It was a reflection of my desire to distract and move on, but not move through the grief I feel about the loss of Sooke.

Martha – that is Martha Beck – calls it fire fleeing.  Running from those deep emotions – like grief or despair.

I don’t like to admit that I am indeed a fire flee-er.

Run, Susie Run

It’s true. I sometimes like to run, Susie run from those less than comfortable feelings. In this case, it is ski, Susie, ski.  Frankly, I’m not even that good of skier. Maybe it is helpful that the the snow hasn’t arrived just yet!

It’s not just grief.  I am also flee-ing the left over feelings from my month up at Haven.

Prior to saying good-bye to Sooke, I had just returned from my annual Living Alive Phase program up at the Haven.

A month with folks is a long time. Especially when I’m with people who are sharing and inviting me into their darkness night. These people let me see their courageous steps to reclaim their voice, their heart, even their rage, and acknowledge their despair, and in a world that simply isn’t always kind or fair.

No, I don’t think I did such a great job of allowing myself to acknowledge and feel my own feelings that arise in holding a space for deep transformation for so many.

Sure, I am much better these days at working with what’s coming up inside of me all along the way.  However, a few things really touched me deeply during this Phase.

One that stands out, was the number of folks who were living day-to-day fighting the urge to quit life. Often there’s someone who is having suicidal thoughts, but usually it’s not so openly brought into the circle.  I was deeply moved by the times the group willingly invited, and created, a place for someone to step in and share the raw, real fight to live or die.  Equally touching was the response from others to not fix, but to feel.  To share their own anger, angst, and fear of what it was like to watch someone pull away and choose isolation, not knowing if they intended to come back.

So for me, at times, it was hard to hold, to wait, and let people find their way.  I do believe, though, that is my job as a leader.  To anchor in my belief that the greatest gift we can ever offer another human being is the gift to choose, and to have faith in their ability to make the right and best choice for their journey.  My job is to remain true and responsible for my own reaction or response, staying open and real, even when I don’t agree.  It’s not easy.

If I’m honest, I am rolling through various waves of feelings, (or flames.)   Some related to weaving the month of learning and leading.  Some from the waves of deep sadness that comes from letting go of my dear friend and beloved, Sooke.  Even other waves of the joy of being home with my honey and diving into making our work and world sing. I have to admit that does present it’s own flames as we adjust to coming back together.

There’s so much more to my life than snow and skiing! Still, maybe trashing that post was a bit harsh. Because it is okay to seek the bright spots, as long as it’s not to simply to avoid dropping into the fire.

This post, though not smooth seems more real. I’ll see if I can save To Skin or To Ski – if not just know one of those bright spots is seeing the snow fall on our mountain! Opening day is December 6 – until then – well no more fire fleeing.  (Okay, maybe just a little!)

Life is about being in it all – the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.


Interested in working with Susan.  Check out her Oh Sh*T! to Aha Coaching   or sign up for one of her Haven Programs in 2015:

Programs with CrisMarie Campbell









Letting Go & Carrying On

053(1)There are so many stories I could share about Sooke! She was an amazing best buddy to both CrisMarie & I. She arrived in our lives shortly after I made the move to Seattle in 2000, and she has been an integral part of our lives for the past fourteen plus years.

It wasn’t like things started easy for her. Yes, she was our clear choice when we went to visit a litter of puppies out in Issaquah. She made quite the mark with her calm demeanor and clear wish to keep her home tidy. (Even as a puppy she’d walk away and find an appropriate spot to take care of any business.) She slept peacefully in CrisMarie’s arms all the way home. However, we had a few moments of doubt about our skills to become puppy parents, and after a meltdown, called to say we did not think we could keep her. The woman who had so carefully screened us calmly said, “that would be okay, but we’d have to wait until tomorrow to bring her back.”

Well, Sooke I think knew we had doubts and that night slept peacefully in her crate for over eight hours! Not one peep or wake-up-cry in the middle of night. She won us over! We’ve never doubted since!

She’s remained solid and calm. I think she really only got rattled with metal gates, and was quite unhappy if we get into a loud power struggle. Over the years she’s learned to simply make her way to another room when we were fighting.  It’s clear she would not take a side and would only return once our differences were being dealt with in a more appropriate tone!

As a mutt, she had the challenges of taking all levels of puppy classes with only pure breed classmates. It never seemed to bother her in the least that she did not have a bloodline or paperwork to rely upon. She had enough personality and unique markings to make it clear she was indeed a breed and class of her own! (Although, we sometimes say, “Oh, she’s “Tibetan Timberwolf” to some of those pure bread owners!)

Since we are travelers for work, Sooke has always had her favorite second homes! In the early days, it was just day care and Teresa one of her favorites for years. Teresa had a standard poodle, Lily, who was always along for the day, and ever since those days, Sooke has loved all poodles that cross our path. For our longer trips, Sooke was generally able to tag along! She loved Gabriola and the various dog lovers who allowed her to visit their homes – Andrew Bing, Carole Ames, Harriet Cowan and others. She even joined me for at least one Living Alive Phase! Though once we moved to Montana, the trip was one that wasn’t possible.

Image 1
With her buddies, Nico & Dusty!

Sooke though took quite naturally to Montana! She introduced us to many of our best friends – Meg Wolfe and Steve Lull, the Stolte’s, Maria at Four Footers, to name a few.

Meg and Sooke were best of buddies. For Sooke, walking with Meg and Steve and their band of dogs – Vinny, Nico and Dusty – was heaven for a number of years! We simply called her visits to their place a trip to the Dog Spa!! And when Sooke wasn’t keeping herself entertained at the Spa she was totally adopted into the lives of the Stolte’s – what we called Doggie CAMP! Never once did she not jump from our car when we dropped her off for one of ‘hunting and gathering’ trips (otherwise known as WORK).

There is no doubt I am really writing this post for me – not for her. She is fine, I am sure. Me…I am left with a bit of a hole in my heart.

I know it was best. I know she was in pain and had been for quite a while. The much harder part was when her mind seem to be going. She seemed anxious and scared. Often simply standing and staring, like she did not know where she was, or worse, who she was. It is never easy to know when the time is right. I knew I needed a little time with her before I could say good-bye. It’s been a long time since we walked, or have been able to play freely out in yard. So I settled for sitting in the sun on our driveway. She loved the sunshine and would sit and wait for my return after a run.

P1010474So Friday, I ran and came back and sat for a while with her in the sunshine. It was a sweet moment.

It’s cold, wet, and snowy now, and I know these were the worse of days for her.  So I believe the timing was right. Still my heart aches.

I know she’s not really gone. She’s one of many paw prints that make up my heart.

Dogs have been the best of friends for me. Long ago my first dog, Appy, walked right along side me through cancer, and taught me to love.  Blackie was the best of buddies for many years, so loyal and loving. Then there was Bailey (aka I/O), who though only around a few years, left a forever mark. And now Sooke – she taught me so much about friendship, loving, and now it seems letting go and carrying on.

Loving you always , Sooke!

Oops! I Missed The Relational Part!!

Image 2It’s hard to believe I posted my blog about the Living Alive Phase 1 and somehow forgot to mention the most critical relational part.  This past month I have been working with Toby Macklin.  This is the first time we have worked together leading a Phase and it has been quite enjoyable!

There have been a few near misses due to both of us being more big picture and less detailed oriented.  However, we did find a way to ensure that all bases (well most bases) were covered. It helped that we had a great team and even a few with strengths in the area of process and structure!

We are different and I am certain that there were moments when Toby may have wished for someone a bit less chatty.  Just tonight at dinner with Wayne Dodge (another Core Faculty leader who also leads the Living Alive Phase 1 with Toby at times), I had to laugh,  as they dove into a rich dialogue about the  Latin roots of a word. No, I have yet to have that type of word play with Toby and enjoyed seeing the two of them banter.  I imagined their evening reflections on the day to be  slightly different then ours have been.  Which of cause is the real essence of relational.  Finding our differences, our similarities and accepting and working with and through both.   I like that we often had slightly different perspectives on something and yet our styles seemed to be complimentary overall.

In the end I discovered what might be our true common link – we both have a love for Harry Potter books and films!  How perfect is that!

I am enjoying laughing, learning and leading with Toby.  He even does an amazing impersonation of CrisMarie that wish I had captured on video!