The Narrowness in My Narrative

Had the wonderful experience today of catching up with a dear friend, Ernie McNally.  It all started when I was paying bills…

Indeed that is where the story begins.  I don’t enjoy bill paying so I put on my headphones and randomly picked a playlist.  The list I picked was one shared by my friend, Ernie.  As I listened and wrote the checks, I had this odd sense of gratitude and joy.  Not my usual feeling state while doing bills (even if that is recommended).  Though I admit it is a feeling state I often imagine my friend experiences on a regular basis.  So I chuckled.  I often wish I was a lighter, easier, less intense person. Lighter and easier, I think, fits Ernie, but not less intense.  No – that intensity just comes out very differently in us.

Oh, I digress – which is the nature of a narrative.  Though not the aspect I was planning to write about!

After bill paying, I noticed an ache in my chest.  I decided to explore and turn towards the feelings.  Soon, still with my headphones on, I was crying and very aware of the current shifts and changes in my relationship to Ernie.  I was missing him and decided to write him an email as I listened again to the playlist and cried.  It was a rambling email of how I missed him and knew our lives were presenting us very different playgrounds. Though I knew he needed to be doing what he was doing, I hadn’t figured out our new world together yet. His world had been quite like mine in recent years until his health took a odd, life-threatening turn and he went with it. The committees and circles we shared suddenly weren’t the same – he was gone and of course I didn’t want to bother him. It was his health and that was way more important than my wishes that he could still be a part of planning and leading at Haven. Mostly I just wanted to thank him for the tears, laughs and memories his music had offered to me and to say I was still connected. I just was not so sure of our new narrative – our worlds seemed so different.

I hit send.  I wondered if it was a good idea.  But I had felt so close and did want to reach out.

I'm Cool! I'm Calm!
I’m Cool! I’m Calm!

He called.  We had a wonderful time talking about curiosity and what that actually might mean.  We spoke about what it’s like to live with cancer or something shaking at the roots of your foundation and offering you a moment of ‘nothing to lose’.  We spoke about intensity – each of our ways with those strong feelings that wrestle inside us and how in some ways we can be like ducks – looking cool on the surface and kicking and paddling like mad beneath the surface.

I came away from the call thinking about my stories, my narrative.  My stories about myself, about him, about others.  I like my stories.  That’s how I create and paint my world.  However, I also came away thinking about the possible narrow -ness that might came with my narratives. Like my story of his health being more important than a rambling email from me, that he’s a lighter, easier and more grateful and I am not, that I am too intense. These little story-lines that continually slip in and narrow and define my narrative – of course that is until a song or something shakes me up and the narrative takes a turn.

I love the word narrative. It so obviously offers it’s own shadow-side so we have a  chance to notice we might be narrowing our world with our story. The odd paradox of being human, we are able to imagine, to write and rewrite the narrative of our lives. The challenge is to not let the narrative become too narrow. To not imagine we have the whole story or even the best part of it right. But isn’t that what good friends are for, to listen and share stories and to damn well not let either of us get to narrow and our narrative!

HootSuite – Really?

With our new website,, now up and running, I find myself much more interested in exploring the vast territory of social media.  I realize most of you reading this are far more advanced than me.  I admit I have only in the past six months spent any significant time on Facebook.  Yes, I have solid number of connections in LinkedIn – but honestly have not done a g4878039reat deal to really advance those connections.  It all seems so time consuming.

My good friend and CIC (Chick-in-Charge) of her own company VivoTeam Consulting, Renee Safrata, has tried to help me.  There have been various in person visits where she’s taught me to tweet, and it was Renee, who launched my blog site and got me moving in the online world.  However, her efforts were only sustainable when we got together.  I did not follow-through, and of course, after a bit of time away from Tweeter, Facebook, LinkedIn, any of these fast advancing mediums, I would lose my skills, forget my password, and soon I was back to email!  It is amazing my blog site has survived, though I often hear now that blogging is way out of date.  Still, I love it – so I will stay with it!

However, with the new launch of I have a new drive, intention and commitment-to-action for diving further into the online world!

I have been getting some great new excellent advice from my coach, Jessica Steward.  The first bit was to pick one medium and get good at it.  Well, that left me to my own indecisive methods and resulted in no major progress.  There are many personality labels that might explain my inability to advance based on one focused activity – ADHD from the DSM IV, high INFP in Myers Briggs, and high Quick Start in the Kolbe Index – just to name a few.  Personality assessments are a bit like social media – lots to choose from – all have possibilities for adding value and some insight into my psyche – though none can really take away my own self-responsibility for how I interact with my world – which basically  does not involve focusing on only one thing at a time.  (even if it would be good for me!!)

So my friendly expert, Jessica, mentioned HootSuite – which I just thought was too funny!  The name alone was cause for a smile and giggle. So of course, I was willing to give it a try.  The interesting thing about HootSuite is that it offers one platform for many social mediums.  All you experts are likely about to say, there are many other platforms as good, worse, more personal or business-focused out there, that do the same thing.  Please don’t let me know that.  I have decided to try ONE, and since HootSuite generates a giggle in me – well, that’s where I am starting.

Even with this level of commitment, I am still far, far behind in my marketing campaign.  However, I am taking a stand and doing my best to lean-in to this new world.  Please note, I will try not to bug the hell out of folks.  I am hoping to discover ways to utilize HootSuite to share meaningful material.  It’s so difficult to know what works.  It seems the best option is to communicate in many different ways – blogs, articles and books (old school), hashtags, tweets and endorsements (a bit newer school), plus making sure there’s some time built in there somewhere for good old face-to-face (no not Skype or Facetime) – but real-live contact with someone.

My main purpose in life is about making connections and communications between people real and authentic, and like it or not, the internet has become a space that plays an important part in making that happen.  So I’m in – HootSuite here I come!

Also please check out the new pages on this website.  There’s one on Living Alive Phase I @ The Haven and Couples Alive @The Haven. (Did you notice I added the links so you only have to click on the link to go there? I know. Very cool, huh?!)  If you have friends or family who might find these links helpful, please pass along.  Also, if you have taken a Living Alive Phase and want to share your take on the value that added to your life, please write me back or even send a video of your own making!  Same with you couples out there who may get this and want to share how the Couples Alive Series helped you.

Living in this digital age does make relating all the more challenging, interesting and important – connected means so much more!





Celebrating The Haven!

Awesome Haven Cake!
Awesome Haven Cake!

What a wonderful weekend!! The Haven is celebrating it’s 30th Birthday, sort of all year, but this past weekend was the signature event. It was a celebration of the past, the present and the future of The Haven. Those that put the weekend together, Rachel, Louise, Morag and all of the Haven Staff, did an amazing job. This is their busiest time of year, Kids in The Spotlight ( a truly awesome experience for children – nothing else like it) a sellout each year for five weeks, finished it’s 2013 run on Friday morning. Plus, a wedding party on the island was taking all of the available rooms arriving Sunday afternoon. Not to mention, the start of Teens Alive and Come Alive on Monday. So even making this happen was a challenge. But not only did it happen, the weekend was a delightful experience and gathering of the old (folks who had 30 plus years of Ben and Jock programs and experience) and the newer, those who have become Haven folks under the Haven Foundation. It was wonderful.

For me, it truly was like seeing the many, many layers of my own transformation and the people I can only call my ‘human heroes’ – those that have embodied and invited me to discover the life possible through open, honest relating. Not always pretty and polite, but real, raw, authentic and alive!

It was so fun to participate in a ‘worldwide’ streamed visualization led by Ernie and Cathy McNally, and I giggled as various memories surfaced from my own 28 year Haven epic! Next, was an amazing artistic adventure and co-creative process designed and facilitated by the wonderful Marlyn Farrell. I was resistant to go and came away loving the experience. There were so many magical moments and this post could just be a blow-by-blow of the weekend. But really that isn’t my main point. Still I am reminded of just how special The Haven is and my wish that more people knew of the place and the people that have made it possible for so many to transform themselves, their relationships and the world around them!

The magic of being together for a Haven Sunset!
The magic of being together for a Haven Sunset!

Of course, that magic does exist elsewhere, I don’t mean to imply that only at The Haven can one be transformed. No, but it is a very special place. Possibly because there are so many different types of leaders and people who come. It is a a place for the odd duck and the average Joe. It welcomes the righteous and invites each of us who come with our own set of assumptions to consider being a bit more curious. There are often strong opinions and people on missions. Yet there is this space that opens and allows for the most defended and the most vulnerable to sit together in a circle and simply be, breath, feel and converse. If that doesn’t help, well there’s dancing and music and great food. Not everyone walks away happy and blissful. No, that is not the purpose. The Haven is a space for all to come, to be, to speak, to join and to discover. Without answers or a right or wrong, just people being together. It is amazing what that alone creates!!

That is what was being celebrated this weekend. The space, the literal space and the metaphoric space that allows for transformation. Indeed, over my 28 years here, I have rediscovered myself so many times. I have connected and seen worlds and universes well beyond my limited physical possibility, and I am deeply grateful!!

Sunday morning we journeyed into a possible future for The Haven. The story boards and designs were collaborative process of dreaming BIG and looking at the reality of a property on an island with limits and by-laws. Again creating that tension that comes and builds when there is an opening, a curiosity, and a dialogue, allowing for a leap of innovation to take place. Yes,  The Haven is now shaping itself, utilizing all of it’s magic. People coming together to dream, to wrestle with reality, to wrestle with assumptions and use that juice to move ahead. No decisions were made. But I saw the possibility and the folks that were going to be furthering the plans, and again I was amazed. I have no doubt magic is in the making. The Haven Institute isn’t a static, still point. It is growing and transforming, just as I am. I may or may not like all the directions The Haven moves, but I love, that much like me, the property, the place is living and breathing and carrying on!!  Happy Birthday Haven!!

Susan Clarke is a long standing faculty member at The Haven Institute. She leads The Living Alive Phase I, with CrisMarie Campbell, October 16-November 10, 2013 and Couples Alive I – Foundation, Communication and Boundaries, Oct. 7-10, 2013. Susan Clarke and CrisMarie Campbell are also founders of thrive! inc., a coaching and consulting firm helping teams, individuals and couples make the leap to better results in their relationships, work and lives.