All posts by Susan Clarke

The Island of MisFit Toys & Finding Your Own Special Light!

Of course, almost everyone has heard of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph became famous one snowy Christmas Eve night, when he fully discovered his own unique light! Was a night when normal was simply not good enough, and Rudolph’s nose shone ever so bright!

T’was Santa that called him from that land of misfit toys and made him a hero for all girls and boys.

Hero of MisFits!!

Love the story!

Many assume that the North Pole, Santa and flying reindeer are simply a fantasy designed to entertain children. However, I do believe in the Land of MisFit Toys  – of that I know for sure. There is at least one regional hub that sits in the north. The Haven they call it, down here, of course.

I know this place exist because I happen to be one of those misfit toys that found my way there. Growing up I was always a bit of a misfit. I was too loud, too intense, or always too something. I struggled in school, wasn’t able to spell or read or be cool! Use to get teased and called funny names. Indeed, found it hard to play all the games. Yes, I could relate to Rudolph. I managed. I found ways to fit it and just figured some day I would either find a way to be normal or just be ok being me. I found some interesting ways to explain my differences, and looking back think I was quite creative. Still, there was always this loneliness and sense of not fitting in.

Then one rainy northwest day, I found myself at The Haven. T’was Ben that came to say, “Susan with your odd and interesting way – won’t you come to The Haven and play?” Well, I never really “saved Christmas” or anything that awesome. But I did take my odd and interesting way up north to the island where misfit toys find their way. There I discovered that misfit was simply another word for unique and different. I also learned that it might just be easier to stop trying so hard to fit in or convince others I was okay. That a little acceptance and compassion on my part would go a very, very long way.

You see it’s not about changing me or the world. No, it’s really about seeing what’s already there.There’s really is no normal or best way to be. There simply is you and there simply is me. If we could just get that different is cool. It really doesn’t mean we get kicked out of school. I think if that was the message we shared, there be no real reason to bicker and scream. No, then we could simply enjoy being on the team.

So this holiday time I strongly suggest: Don’t fight to be normal or simply exist. Remember the true spirit of Rudolph and the land he came from – it’s not about presents and being just right. It’s more about finding your own special light and shining it bright!!

Resilience: It’s not what you do – but what you do next that counts

My Marco, Polo; adventures have been wonderful. I loved working with CrisMarie and leading the Living Alive Phase ( a 25 day program focused on helping people heighten their awareness of their physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual selves and to live more fully.

The group was awesome, as was the leader team. There is always so much learning and richness added to my life when I get to be a part of such a transformational process in other people’s lives. Plus, this time I was working all month with CrisMarie and that has been a dream of mine for a long time. So it was quite amazing.

One of the lessons that really stood out for me this month was a simple reminder of an old quote I love to live by: It isn’t what you do – but what you do next that counts. When I was in my Masters program in Family Systems Counseling almost 20 years ago, this was a quote given to us by one of the faculty members. I can’t remember the author or even the story shared at that point. But I do remember thinking that this really is important when it comes to resilience.

We all make mistakes. Say things that we see impact others differently than we expected. Act in a way that results in unintentional negative outcomes. It is so easy when that happens to feel guilty or quit because of the belief that everything has been ruined. However, resilience is that moment when I have fallen or made a significant mistake, but instead of focusing on what happened I shift to what happens next. I don’t hang out in self-hate, pity or feel guilty. (Unless, of course I do. You know, I’m not perfect. More material for another blog.)

Resilience is when I pick myself up and get right back in the game.

Maybe it’s because I played sports most of my life, and in sports it is pretty clear that extra time taken to dwell on any mistakes results in the score just getting worse. Or may be I simply wasn’t born with a perfectionist gene. I came into the world curious and determined to try things and made lots of mistakes.

When working with people in a human, real way, it’s pretty important to be able to be a good enough leader not a perfect one. Things happen. Plans get changed. People are dropping into themselves and at times are terrified, angry and resistant. Sometimes I am open and compassionate and have no issues holding the space. Other times I hate that my best laid agenda/plan gets blocked, or I am not so willing to take the anger coming my way. It’s in those moments when I am less than my ideal self, that I say things or act in a way I don’t like. Often the group dynamics get worse or more challenging. I try to tell myself, “It’s not what you just did, but what you do next that counts.”

There were more than a handful of rich learnings like that this past month for me. Thankfully, I did remember and spent much less time making a bad moment a lot worse! I think even some bad moments turned into miracles.  That’s the thing, you never know.  Sometimes the mistake is really the greatest opportunity. Best to stick around and stay open to all possibilities.

Leadership takes a lot of curiosity, courage and humbleness. Mostly though, it takes resilience. Taking action, seeing the results and being willing and able in the moment to self-correct as needed.

Now, back home I am aware that my travels and detours have resulted in some important projects and relationships being left unattended. I have no regrets or guilt. I just need to step back into this game and clean up any mess made in my absence. I am on it!

“Marco!” “Polo!”

As a Martha Beck coach-in-training I have been reading and working through her tips for Finding My North Star.  It sounds like an awesome idea, figuring my true purpose and setting my direction to arrive at that defined point in this lifetime – cool!

However, I have yet to really get the north star concept.  Instead my life is a bit more like the game Marco, Polo.  In case you never played this game it usually takes place in a pool or lake.  One person must close their eyes (or be blindfolded).  They call out “Marco” and all other players must respond, “Polo”.  The unsighted person calling out Marco must find the sighted Polo people.  Usually the Blindfolded person is diving in various directions with limited success as the sighted ‘Polo’ folks quickly move about to avoid getting caught.

As to how this applies to my own life, well I seem to have quite wild swings in my directional course.  One might think I am simply like the Marco blindfolded person, calling out and waiting for the next marker to call back, Polo.  Once I get a signal, off I go chasing to find the source.  Truthfully it is not a bad way to live.  I am  very present focused.  However, my north star seems more like the vast milky way, not a single star calling out and laying out a clear path.  I go every which way.  May be there is some course being mapped by a much higher source than myself. But just like it was playing the game long ago, I often feel like my life is more test of blind faith with random movements, than a path laid out by a clear guiding star.

Last month I had a fairly good idea of the months ahead.  I was planning on being at home, focusing on redefining our business and doing some solid ground work on our book.  But there was a very loud, Polo, so instead I am off to Canada again.  This time with CrisMarie for A Living Alive Phase program.  The exciting part is that we will be leading together.  The difficulty is that our plans to fully articulate the new ‘thrive! will likely go a bit background as we focus on the day-to-day demands of our group of follow travelers.

May be there is a path. It does seem as though we are getting a clear message that instead of simply focusing on corporate work we need to make plans to engage in working with couples and individuals in a personal mode as well. Again I am simply going on faith, listening for the universal equivalent of “polo” and calling out when I am feeling lost.



Off I go.

Spicing Up My Palette

I am out on an Artist Date.  For those of you who are not familar with Julia Cameron’s Artist Way the concept, Artist Date, may be misleading.  I don’t really consider myself an artist nor am I dating one.  No, an Artist Date is time spend with myself exploring and discovering what awakenings my creative inner spirit.

Today I have simply been walking down a couple blocks of Whitefish.  Stepping into the stores that I usually pass by and seeing what lies inside.  It’s been quite fun.  I am always surprised the things that I discover that I have likely passed by a hundred times and never noticed.

Today I got caught up in reading those funny signs, “Follow your dog and find the meaning of joy” – love that one.  Or another – 10 Reasons Men prefer a Gun to a Woman – You can trade a 44 in for a 22 – okay so not all of these little signs are appealing to me, reason 1 was enough on that one to move on!  !  Still I went throughout the store reading all could see.

Next I visited the Imagination Station, basically a children’s store.  Loved the color and variety of possible activities.  Couldn’t help but wonder, wouldn’t offices be far more appealing to work in with that kind of color and potential for play and some fun.

Next came a few classic Montana Galleries with paintings of open space, horses, bears and the Rockies.  Wow, I do live in a great location.

I finally arrived in my favorite coffee shop and simply had to sit down to write.  I admit I often resist taking an artist date.  But once I am out and about, I find my heart sings and I am quite drawn to write.

I do indeed think Julia Cameron’s recommendation that one regularly takes time for a Artist Date is a wonderful idea.  Even for those who may not consider themselves artist or don’t think they need any new inspiration.  Taking an Artist Date in your own hometown can simply be a great way to open your heart, spice up your life and who knows may be you will decide to paint, draw, write or sing.

Honestly, I do believe we are all artist creating our own life.  We can either spice it up on occasion with some new inspiration or just keep using the same old brush strokes.  It really is our choice.  Today I am glad I decided to spice it up a bit!!

Back to the Post!

Life is busy.  I have every intention of getting regular post up on my new site.  Instead I am writing articles for 406 Magazine (a Montana magazine for women) and articles for the return of our Thrive! newsletter!!  These are exciting things but also take me away from posting blogs.

It doesn’t help my writing that we also have been experiencing awesome weather here in Montana.  That means I want to be out of my bike or paddle boarding or simply sitting on the deck.  This also makes posting blogs more challenging.

Yet I am intent to get a post done today.  Now that the sun is not directly on the porch I can be outside AND blogging!! There is hope!

Those who have been followers, I want to ensure you that even though I have been sharing the challenges of my transitional period, I am doing very well.  Indeed I love my life in most moments.  I like challenges and can re-frame and find purpose in most things.  I am sharing this because I have had a few folks who were regular blog readers ask me if I was doing okay.  Honestly it never occurred to be that folks might worry.

Let me share a few updates:

Bailey  – I have crossed paths with my favorite boxer a few times now.  He seems very happy and SETTLED (not a word I would have used to describe him when he lived with us).  I have also enjoyed hearing many tales of his summer hiking, SWIMMING (another thing he never entertained with us) and just riding through town in the front seat of Rick’s jeep.  I have to say Rick and Bailey make a great team!

Work Transition – Of course we are still on a journey to re-creating ourselves.  However, I believe we are well on our way to some very exciting and inspiring times.  As I mentioned we are both writing for 406 Magazine both a personal piece and a business focused piece.  That is fun!  We are also re-launching our Thrive! newsletter so that will be coming soon.  We have found in this transition our sweet spot in the area of relational dynamics and healthy conflict.  It is a creative time where we are finding our own voice and bringing back pieces of our work that really fit who we are.  Sure we have our moments of tension, conflict and frustration.  However, I have always believed that is a good sign of forward growth and new possibility.

Friends and Community – I won’t say there aren’t still some moments of heart ache when I realize there are some close friends who are no longer in my life.  So there is still some sadness that gets stirred up.  However, with folks having moved on, I have also discovered new friends in some wild places.  We have found new connecting points in our community here, on Gabriola and at the various spots we travel virtually and literally.  I feel quite grateful and fortunate.

I think I have shared enough updates so those who may have been wondering can feel confident that transition, though at times uncomfortable, can also be a source of aliveness and possibility.

This isn’t the most exciting post but hopefully does provide an update and a renewed commitment to blogging!  Time for that bike ride!!



Sexy, Alive & Loving at The Edge

In the past month my life has been busy, alive and very engaging.  Through the month I have also been doing my best to stay open and loving in my life and partnership with CrisMarie.  Because we have each been doing things separately that stir up our creativity and call on us to ride waves and risk falling, our day-today living as included fighting, laughing and clinging.

As CrisMarie stepped more fully into Nina and the show was such a big success.  I had both the thrill and threat of hearing just how sexy people thought she was on stage.  I watched as she bought her aliveness to the part, to the team and to each show.  I sat with her when she cried on closing night.  I listened as she expressed her fears that she wouldn’t get another part like that.  I held back my own fears of being left behind for another starring role or some sexy guy and that was simply the first two weeks of August.

I didn’t even mention my riding of the waves as I headed off to Columbus and took the lead with in a room of Presidents.  Or dealt with my demons while writing pieces for my book, that may take 10 more years to write.  I have already mentioned the various stages of transition I have been traveling through this summer. So no need to say more.

Indeed it has been a journey.  As the show ended and we boarded a flight to Toronto for a major week of work with one of our clients, we were both wondering if we would be able to rise to the occasion.

We did.  The week went quite well.  Though we had been working separately as we came back together there was a grace and ease that made the week enjoyable.  It’s what we love.  Being co-creative and working together from our respective strengths.

We then traveled to the other side of Canada to Gabriola to lead Couples Alive II, The Edge.  How perfect was that!!  We had been living at that Edge for months.  Though I would not have thought of it that way.  As we went through the week, working with a group of couples, we drew upon our own lives to reveal humanness, realness and aliveness that comes when relationships are about both being together and being each ourselves.

Loving is a verb, it’s active and fluid.  Loving at the edge is like surfing or riding waves.  Sometimes our life does feel like we are on a bigger boat and the ride is quite stable.  Other times I imagine us on a small racing sail boat – much faster and far less stable.  And there are those times when we are on individual paddle boards – riding the waves separately while staying close and heading in the same direction.  I can even imagine times when one of us is sitting stable on a boat while the other is surfing some big wave.  That to me, is loving on the edge.  Being willing to ride the waves – together.  It isn’t always easy.  I do get a touch jealous when my sexy partner is alive in her life and I am not on that same wave.  Still I do enjoy watching and know it isn’t about her shutting down her sexy self.  No, it is about me being willing to step out myself and trust that we can both ride the waves.  Meeting and loving at our respective edges!!  Sexy, Alive and Loving!!