All posts by Susan Clarke

These Boots Were Made For Writing!

“Fearlessly writing down the crazy…”

This has become my new mantra.  I have been at a wonderful writing workshop in Sedona, AR with Betsy Rapoport and Pam Slim.  Wow! I am leaving determined to call myself a writer, and ensure that I put my butt-in-the-seat daily to write something, anything.  That may not sound like a solid clear intention.  But one thing I took from this weekend is that all writing counts – even the sh*t*y first, second, third or fourth drafts!

Yes, I have a story to tell.  I am not that concerned, at this point, if anyone else thinks it is critical for the world of readers. This is really just for me.  I have a very old belief that I am touch crazy and have been fearful of revealing that possibility to the world.  Oddly, my silence and vague drops of information may have made the crazy more of a consideration than simply telling the damn story.  So what the hell?!

I bought these awesome boots before I was heading off to Sedona.  They were not my normal style.  These were red leather, fancy cowboy style boots.  I had my moments of doubt before the final purchase.  Wore them around the house for My Writing Bootsthree days, wondering if I should invest the money or not, fearful I was spending too much and wouldn’t wear them enough.  Well, I finally decided to purchase and of course wore them the next day on the flight to Sedona.

They have now become my writing boots.  I love them.  In one of the many prompts we used for writing, my boots became the metaphor for finding my voice and stepping out of the crazy, quiet zone of fear and doubt.  So the boots have already gotten an awesome ROI.

There are many things I could share about the weekend.  However, I don’t want to reveal others or commit to more than is realistically possible for me to do.  So let me just say, I am writing.  I am a writer.  Stay tuned.  No worries – most of my crazy will never make this page.  However, when I am ready to share those stories, you can count on the fact I will be wearing my red boots!!!

There’s No calling “CUT” in Theater or in Life

CrisMarie is deep into another play, Private Eyes by Steven Dietz produced by Stumptown Players and directed by Scarlett Schindler here in Whitefish, MT. She is playing Lisa, the female lead in a five person cast. (Meet the cast here.)


This is always an exciting time.  I enjoy the energy and aliveness that reverberates around the house, as she becomes her character. First, there’s the initial thrill of getting the part! That generally doesn’t last too long. Because within a few days of the first rehearsal, there is that moment of awakening, when the workload becomes clear and the calling to dive into the part, sort of takes over everything else.  For CrisMarie, that’s usually when she’s getting down her lines.  This involves hours of walking and listening to the ipod with her lines and cues recorded.  Sometimes, it’s me that takes on all the other characters and makes sure each line is perfected.  This can be a very trying experience.  I am not always the best at reading through the script over and over. I tend to get distracted. Plus, I am also not always thrilled to give up hours of our days for her ‘extra’ rehearsal time.  The evenings are already a given. So I like having the daytime for us and our work.  Still, I know it’s the actor’s calling, and she loves it.

The second phase is really the hardest for her.  This is often when she may start to doubt herself or realizes that there is some greater challenge to this part that she may be avoiding while memorizing lines.  In some ways, I like this phase the best because there is the dive she takes into having to face her fears and challenge some part of herself.  Acting simply never seems to just be about lines and becoming a part outside of yourself.  No, I think that good actors always know the work comes from inside.  Discovering how the character is like some aspect of them and demands pulling from a well deep inside.  The vulnerability and courage it takes to not just do that work but also put that out on a stage.  Well, that is awesome. It also very similar to the work of leading a Come Alive or a Phase program, where people are diving deep into themselves and discovering the choices they make and how that impacts their world and their relationships.

Private Eyes Poster

It is why I often end up attending the show night after night.  Because it isn’t the same every night.  The script generally stays the same (though there are almost always a few dropped lines) but the people don’t.  There’s a chemistry that gets set-up with each show.  Not just between the actors but with the people in the audience watching.  It’s magical.  Some nights are awesome and others may be not quite so grand.  With theater there isn’t a safety net. So when it works, it’s amazing, and when it doesn’t, well it’s not like anyone can call “cut”.  No, when the chemistry is off or different, the actors have to dive deep, depend on each other, work together even if the lines are off or the moment gets lost.  That too is very similar to being a part of a month long intensive program where some days the magic isn’t happening but you still have to show up and count on the team and the people around you to hang in.

This time I won’t be here for opening night.  I won’t even be here for one of the shows.  I am heartbroken.  I love seeing CrisMarie on the stage, and I enjoy watching the team effort and commitment that goes into making Community Theater.  This show, Private Eyes, is on while I am up at The Haven leading a Living Alive Phase program.  This time we will each be doing work very close to our hearts but not together on the same stage.  So I am reaching out to all my friends, both here and outside Montana and inviting folks to come and see the show!  It’s a comedy. Based on the fun ride I have been having as CrisMarie preps for her role as Lisa, I have come to enjoy the variety of characters and the interesting twist the storyline takes.  I think it will be a great show, and I know it will be heartfelt and real, because that is simply the nature of Community Theater!!

For more details on dates and show times visit: Stumptown’s Online Ticket Sales    It at Kalispell’s historic KM building, which has an intimate charm.  Come to Montana.  Come see the show.

Family Dynamics – the Magnetic Pull

Family dynamics. Just when I think I have grown up and figured out how to be with my family, meaning I know how to show up like a whole person, not simply react and get angry, I find out, I was wrong.  That magnetic pull back into old patterns and old stories comes crashing back as I find myself dealing with my dad’s fading health.

Honestly, I thought I could handle this and that in so many ways we were clear.  When I visited, I stayed more current and primarily interested in my parent’s as people now.  Yet, my father’s declining health and the fact that we as family are being called back together, has me spinning.  I am not as good at staying out of the old stories or patterns.

Last weekend my father, at 92 years old, was admitted to the hospital with chronic heart failure.  It looked like he might not make it through the night.  Now, about a week later he is stable and wants to come home.  The problem is that he isn’t quite that strong, and my mother, though a nurse and quite willing to do all she can to make that happen, isn’t young (she is now 86) and strong enough to do that on her own.  We are all trying in our own way to figure out what is best.  There’s this timing piece of when to come to visit.  There’s fears that coming to visit may imply we are assuming he is dying.  However, not coming may mean not being there if he does die.

Of course, there are a number of difficulties here.  One, I don’t think we do a good job of talking about death and dying.  Honestly, for ten years my father has been going through near-death experiences and my mother has become more responsible for his care.  We don’t really talk about that.  Then there’s our own dynamics that come up.  Personally, I would prefer us all be together – Mom, Penny, Melissa and I – and Dad, if he is up for it, talking about death and dying. Yet, I know, or believe, others prefer to wait until after he dies or right when he is dying.  At that point, I think the conversation is very different. Still, as the youngest, (OMG, is that really still the card I am playing? You see it’s the family magnet!) I don’t say what I want.  I wait.  Oddly, I am not really certain what would happen if I just asked for what I wanted.  I am often the one outside of my family system known for starting the tough conversation, saying what isn’t being said. So it seems the family magnet is at play once again.

It’s all so hard.  Last week, I was saying good-bye to a friend, fifty-four who passed away.  In the past couple years, a number of friends between 55-65 have died.  Now, my father at 92 in so many ways has had an amazing life.  I hear so often how awesome it is that he keeps going.  Yet – I do wonder and feel guilty when I have a moment of wishing he was closer to simply letting go.  Okay, I said that, wrote it and feel horrible seeing it out on the page.  But I am not going to hit delete because I am not trying to be mean.  I just don’t always believe living longer is better.  I am not certain my dad’s holding on doesn’t come at a cost – may be a cost that is too great.

So many of my friends are facing similar situations with aging parents.  I do wonder if anyone else has those moments when they feel as I do or do most people just want their parents to live forever? Last night, I went to a silent auction for a the Tamarack Grief Resource Center here in MT.  There were a number of stories shared about how families deal with the loss of loved ones.  I had bought the ticket a while ago, mainly because a friend asked, and I thought a worthy cause.  Little did I know I would be comforted myself as I listened to the many ways people grieve and the importance of making space for that.

I do hope I can make that space for my family and for myself.  It seems my dad will be riding this wave for a while.  I must find the best way for me to take the ride as well, and we may not always agree on what that looks like.  What I do know is that this is not simply about my dad and his transition. This is really something that is impacting all of us.  That larger impact, I think, can so often be forgotten.  I don’t want to forget that. I also don’t simply want to live at the mercy of the magnet.  Sure the pull is there and may be worth looking at, but I don’t want to get sucked in or totally repelled away.  During this time, I want to stand in my own shoes, with family, family dynamics and all.




A Hero Gone, David Sobba

There are those folks who’s lives include so many challenges that you wonder how they have time to create a fulfilling relationship, raise children or help friends when their knees need fixing.  David Sobba was one of those people.  He faced more health issues over his lifetime, any one of which might have left a lesser person a victim or at least afraid of what’s next.  Not David.  He faced every medical crisis head on and still made time for friends, family, biking, skiing and yoga.

Yoga at Haramara
Yoga at Haramara 2009 – A healthier David

David died this week.  As a distant friend I wasn’t aware that he was once again so close to death.  Each time I checked-in with folks I would hear about another close call but that he was doing better.  Maybe I started to believe this could go on forever.  Here was a man who had been fighting cancer since I had met him five years ago.  Prior to cancer, he had faced a number of other often life-threatening and altering types of challenges.

Our connection had been around cancer.  There was a period where we were quite close.  I think he’d call because as a doctor his training and mindset wasn’t quite as open to miracles and crazy, less than scientific approaches, to cancer and medical issues.  My mindset is way more comfortable on the less scientific side, yet still not too woo-woo.  So we connected and had cancer chats.  I, of course, encouraged him to go to The Haven.  He did.  He also was willing to try many roads less traveled.  All the while staying in his practice as an orthopedic surgeon.

He fixed my knee when it needed mending and helped me get back quickly to yoga, biking and running.

David was a hero.  Maybe in some ways that made his cancer harder.  I don’t believe it was easy for him to rest, stop, slow down and sometimes see himself as un-able to keep doing it all.  I am not sure if he ever totally reconciled that piece for himself.  I think he was proud that he could head up the mountain even after chemo.  At some point I know he had to face that moment when the body buckles.  I also know that wasn’t easy.

For all the stories of Lance Armstrong and his seven Tour de France victories, I thought David’s RATPOD (a major bike ride to rise money here in Montana for Make-a-Wish) was much more heroic and noteworthy.  (Visit here for more on his amazing efforts:

I also believe in the end, he found some peace in a dear friend and the relationship they created.  As well, he took the time to really connect with his kids and those that were close to him.

No, I never said good-bye.  But I think that wasn’t the relationship we had.  There are many there to say good-bye.  Still, I wanted to find some way to say something.  Though my heart aches, I think David truly was bone weary and spirit-filled.  That was just how he lived.  I believe he took pride in that, and many were served with his efforts.  Rest now David, after a amazing fight and a heroic ride through life!


Bone Weary, Spirit Filled

I just returned from a wild, flurry of travel, work, family, friends and connection. I don’t know the miles covered but I did fly, drive, ferry and taxi – on either side of the country and across the border into Canada. I am bone weary. I am also spirit filled.

Baltimore, Vancouver, Nanaimo, Seattle, Lacey & Home!!
Baltimore, Vancouver, Nanaimo, Seattle, Lacey & Home!!

The trip was designed around a client event outside of Baltimore. It was a one day strategic session with a power company. What was best about the work event was that we got to witness and see the transformation from where we first met with them and now. The day was excellent and very full.

Baltimore was buzzing. With the Ravens playing for a spot in the Super Bowl and Obama just a short hop away signing on for another term. Celebrations and good cheer were easy to come by in the inner harbor area. We had planned a strategy session for Thrive! with a Boston colleague, Jessica Steward. The time spent was awesome. We dove into some great dialogue and I believe crafted a clear path towards our new refresh and Whole Person/ Whole Team approach to our business.

Aside from the work, we had great fun and deep dive discussions between sessions. When we got on our plane to Minnesota, we were both thrilled with the effort and excited about the next steps.

Our paths divided in Minnesota, CrisMarie came back to Whitefish for play rehearsals. I headed towards Nanaimo for a Faculty Steering Group meeting at the Haven. The ease and grace of the trip fell a part a bit at this point. My flight was redirected to Great Falls, MT for refueling due to some concerns about Vancouver weather and a possible diversion. We did make it, but two hours late. I still thought I would easily make the late night flight to Nanaimo but at the last minute the flight was cancelled due to FOG!! OMG! I was stunned. I found a bed and tried to pretend the fog would lift by morning.

No – when I woke at 4AM, I knew I had to make my meeting. I gathered my things and dashed downstairs and convinced a taxi to race to the ferry terminal across town. I just made the 5:15 AM ferry to Nanaimo. Me and ten other truckers. Two hours later, I arrived. Exhausted but ever so grateful to see Cathy, there to meet me and give me a big hug.

The meeting started quickly and we dove right in. I thought we had an awesome day. Mostly because we had the time to really have deeper dialogue and wrestle with our concerns and our direction. Sure, it wasn’t all easy but by the end of the day we had a strong plan for moving forward. So again I was fulfilled.

Next stop Seattle. But first a foggy drive south with another dear friend, Susa. It wasn’t an easy drive with all the fog and having had a long day.

Bone Weary, Spirit Filled
Bone Weary, Spirit Filled

But we had some great time to just chat and catch up. I landed at my sister’s totally wiped.

Normally, I would try to visit a bit but I was too tired. My plan was to get up the next day and drive down for a visit with my folks. My dad, 92, was under house arrest from his doctor – for two weeks. He was not thrilled. And honestly I think we were all a touch worried about how they were doing. I had a nice visit. Had the chance to fix lunch and take a walk with my mom. Mostly, I just liked the contact. At this point in their lives they live fully, and I think they are both aware that life isn’t a long- term guarantee. Each day and every hug a bit more important to stay in for.

I did get to visit with my sister and brother-in-law for dinner before catching a late flight home.

I’ve been home for a 24 hours now, and I am just very grateful for the trip. Bone weary from the travel, the distance and the effort but fulfilled by the wonderful connections and real, raw work that got done along the way. I call that spirit filled.








Are you ready? – To Be Living Alive!

Back in the early 80’s, I arrived at The Haven for a Come Alive.  That five-day program changed my life – I did literally come alive I arrived with a belief that I had about three to six months to live due to an advanced cancer process.  So I had nothing to lose.  I discovered and witnessed something that ignited health, well-being and possibility inside of me.  There’s a story to tell but honestly it’s not the one I want to write now. (Though I did write an earlier blog on that.) No, I want to write about what happened after Come Alive.  Because Come Alive was like being shocked back into my body.  However, I don’t believe I learned much in those five days about how to sustain that aliveness.  Sure the tools were there but five days is five days.  I tasted life and there was something I discovered worth living for, but I didn’t really get how to live that day-to-day.

No, that came later to me.  Again another program at the Haven, this one Living Alive, also know as the Phase program.  This program is a twenty-five day intensive.  Yes, it can be taken in two parts.  However, I recommend the twenty-five days if at all possible.  This program takes the Come Alive and breaks it down.  Suddenly, I’m responsible for breathing every day, speaking up and checking in.  I have to do the working to relate and discover the richness in my follow travelers.  No one is pushing me.  I really get to see how I opt out or jump in.  I discover patterns that get in my way of creating the relationships I want, the life I want.  In twenty-five days I really cannot hide from myself.

Now, twenty-five plus years later, I lead the Living Alive Phase I. Over the years between interning, assisting and leading, I have taken this journey many, many times.  Yet, I don’t think I often market the program.  I do recommend it to folks but probably not as much as I could.  Why?  I don’t know.  That’s really why I wanted to write this blog.  I wanted to tell people about this amazing offering that truly is life-changing.

Living Alive Phase I – Participants’ Stories from The Haven on Vimeo.

I don’t know why The Living Alive program is not always filled.  There seems to be so many people who are dissatisfied with their life in some way – either work or relationship or health.  I hear and see many people looking outside of themselves for answers and frustrated by the results, yet continuing to spend lots of money asking someone for the ‘right answer’.

Living Alive isn’t about giving answers.  Basically, the premise is that you have the answers inside of you, and you just need to learn your path to access your wisdom.  In addition, in relationship to others, there is a tremendous amount that can be learned and discovered about yourself and the patterns and things you do that hinder or help you find that fulfillment.

Living Alive is journey of self-responsibility, choice and curiosity, not about the ‘right’ answer, but the process, the pain the joy in being fully alive even when it hurts.  That may not be for everyone.  But if you do want that, I say put you money into spending twenty-five days exploring the amazing possibilities that exist when relational health becomes the avenue to transformation.  Step in and invest in your own inner wisdom and finding the answers that fit for you.

Yes, this is a bit of a marketing pitch.  I am leading the next Living Alive Phase I starting April 17 (less than a month away!!) and I am excited about a great group of people who are interested in self-discovery and aliveness.

Are you? So I am putting my voice out there and calling those who are looking to sign up.  I would love to see you there!!

Susan Clarke is a long standing faculty member at The Haven.

Leap of Faith

My word for the year is a phrase, “Leap of Faith”.  I was going to simply stick with the plan, one word for the year.  At first I thought Leap – however, that did not quite fit.  Faith wasn’t quite right either.  Then I saw this picture that I bought earlier in 2012 while taking Sooke to the vet.  I love it.  There’s the elder duck leading the way out of the nest up in a tree and then the little ones, look out and then finally, leap.  Their wings seem so small and incapable of flight.  Yet, there they go!

It's time to fly!!
It’s time to fly!!

Sometimes I feel like those little ducks.  Yet, I am much closer, may be even older than the mother duck pushing the babes out of the nest.  If I reflect on my life as it is now, I do see both, and in many ways both are taking a Leap of Faith.  Sure, the more physical evidence of the leap is seen in the baby ducks.  However, that mom, likely has some inner angst about what is about to happen and must have tremendous faith to step out of the way.  I relate to both.

This year we plan to re-launch Thrive!.  This in many ways will be a Leap of Faith.  We intend to bring our whole selves to this new business.  This means we no longer want to have our lives compartmentalized.  In the past, we had our corporate presence and we had our various more personal pursuits.  The revitalized Thrive! will be designed to integrate both.  We plan to maintain our work with leaders, teams and organizations, and we also will include our strong belief that business is personal.  That the corporate world would greatly benefit from embracing a whole person/whole team approach.  In many ways this concept is really mother bird speaking.  We know this concept is a mature and vital path that works.  We have been embracing it ourselves for years and have built a powerful partnership that continues to ignite and sustain our health, wealth and relationship.

The baby duck part of the leap is simply being willing to step out fully as who we each are and who we are together.  Last year we started leading the Couples Alive Series couples programs up at The Haven.  The Haven Institute has always been like a safe nest where I can learn and develop.  So it was easy to step into leading together.  We didn’t question out value or wonder about being accepted.  We simply brought all we have learned through being together for over twelve years and assumed if we were open, real and curious we had lots to offer any couple – same sex or not.

Now we want to be more transparent in who we are out in the bigger world, to take the leap of faith and trust that we can fly. Sure, may be not everyone will like discovering we are not simply a business partnership.  However, I believe until now our biggest doubters have been ourselves.

Aside from the work transition and re-launching, I am also leaping into the world of writing.  I have been writing for years.  It has been my path for integrating and revealing to myself my inner world.  More recently I have stepped further out.  Through my blog and writing for 406 Magazine.  Yet I don’t think of myself as a writer.  I don’t fully commit to that path.  This year I am making the leap.  I have signed up for a kick-off workshop with writers I know will challenge and encourage me to go deeper and broader.

So my phrase, Leap of Faith, fits for me.  I am both mature and quite young at what I am jumping into.  I have a solid foundation that I can count on and I am ready for new ground and possibilities.

Though what intrigues me most is the space between the young ducks just launching themselves out of the tree and the older duck giving the push.  That space is where faith becomes something beyond leaping into the vast unknown or holding faith in that which is known for someone to step into.  The space is yet another aspect to leap of faith.  I believe it is that middle ground.  I must leap.  My wings are not young and new – my wings are scarred and older.  I have known the pain of crashing into the ground and failing to fly.  Yet I must still step from the tree and take the leap.  Knowing I have the heart and courage of being both young and old.

So I am thrilled to take the a leap of faith into 2013.

Susan Clarke is a long standing faculty member at The Haven Institute. She leads The Living Alive Phase I, with Carole Ames starting Feb 13 – Mar 10, 2013 and Come Alive April 7-12, 2013, and with CrisMarie Campbell: Come Alive Oct 13-18, 2013; and Couples Alive I – Foundation, Communication and Boundaries, April 15-19, 2013 and Couples Alive II – Edge, Igniting Passion & Aliveness April 19-23, 2013.


The Heart of the Holidays

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”  

I love the holidays! This year has already been especially rich.  We just returned from Maui.  You are probably thinking Maui is the most wonderful part of the holiday – but no!  Sure sunshine, warm water and the beach are great!  But the most wonderful part of our Maui trip was being there with our friends, Jim and Renee.  Earlier this year, Jim faced a life threatening illness, kidney failure.  More than on one occasion we thought we were going to lose him.  So when they kept talking about Maui for the holidays, I must admit I wasn’t counting on that happening.  Still, they maintained their commitment and at the last minute we just could not let the opportunity pass and jumped on a plane to meet them.  Jim was inspiring.  He couldn’t swim and had to go every other day for dialysis, but his light was bright and an awesome reminder of why I love this time of year!

The simple joys of being with friends!
The simple joys of being with friends!

Yes, I love Christmas. Though it isn’t really about the religious story of Christ for me.  Maybe it was a winter’s night when he was born.  Granted, I think the story of baby Jesus makes a great reason to come together and remember that our differences can so easily be overcome with heart, connection and good will.  Isn’t that really the essence of the baby Jesus story?  Mary needed a place, there wasn’t any rooms at the inn and some people found a spot and made it cozy.  I have no doubt that some warm-hearted strangers helped Mary and Joseph out that night.  Child birth isn’t all that easy.  So I picture folks helping and gathering.  Now, whether you believe in the rest of the story or not, that part of the story for me is is the heart of the holidays.

I believe I have always loved Christmas.  I love singing carols, and when I was young remember well our friend Ruth ‘Charlie’ Brown gathering everyone to go to nursing homes and through neighborhoods singing.  It was fun and she not only did that in December, but throughout the year would call and suggest a night of caroling, just to keep the spirit of the holidays alive.  One July we were out in winter wear, singing our hearts out.  People loved it! They laughed, they sang and once again whatever differences folks might have had were bridged.

There were some harder and lonely holiday times.  However, no matter how dark things seemed in my life, the holidays always bought lightness and joy.  For a few years I worked on Christmas.  I didn’t have family around, and I would sign up for the Christmas shift.  I worked in the hospital pharmacy. We would gift wrap the IV bags and go room to room singing carols of all sorts.  The people who had to be in the hospital seemed to love our hospital cart and we of course had a blast!  When I was struggling with my own health, I gift wrapped my own Chemo bags and played carols which I found way more uplifting than simply getting the standard chemo IV.

There were a couple years there when I doubted I was going to be around much longer and was very lonely.  One year on Christmas Eve, I walked down the street to a local church.  They invited me in like I been part of the family forever.  The music was awesome and when I got home, I just wasn’t so lonely.  That was the same year I would head out to the airport and simply watch people greet family and friends.  Back then there were not security areas and anyone could be at the gate as people stepped off the plane.  I was inspired and would sit with tears in my eyes.  I doubt anyone ever noticed how much their joy touched my life and gave me the heart to keep going.

So yes, I love the holidays. May be it is because this is the time of the darkest and longest nights.  It can seem lonely and hard.  Yet the simplest things, pictures with pineapples, candles, songs, jumping on a flight to Maui, having turkey sandwiches with friends –  connect us.  Sure, people still fight about saying Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays. We shop and get way too caught up in the commercial side of things.  However, every year there are stories just like the baby Jesus story or Jim’s bright light – of people reaching beyond their differences or rising above life’s challenges.  People get together, sing, laugh share and fill the darkest night with the brightest light!  That is why this is indeed the most wonderful time of the year!!



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!