It's Friday, and a Twitter friend of mine broke through the noise today to share his answers to a bunch of questions about himself and how he perceives life. I humbly share my own answers here, to distract myself from heavy subjects.
Explain your Twitter / blog handle. Well, the older I get, the wiser I feel – and the more I'm absolutely certain that I know very, very little.
Who inspires you, and why? The women whose stories I'm telling. They are ordinary, yet extraordinary, and I am humbled to know them. Also, my husband, who gives selflessly, generously, constantly and without hesitation. He's not perfect, but he's as close to perfect as a person gets.
Do you care what others think about you? Yes. I really, really wish I didn't.
What are you most looking forward to? Launching the Compelling Women podcast.
What is one life rule you follow? Be authentic. It's more rewarding and less complicated than the opposite.
What's your dream job? Telling stories that speak to women's souls. If I had the opportunity to travel to amazing places (i.e. Italy, France, Spain or Portugal – even stateside places like Austin, New Orleans, San Francisco or Seattle), that'd be icing on the cake.
Which fictional character do you wish you could meet? Abby Bartlett.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I used to practice being a conductor in my bedroom.
If you were a cartoon character, who would you be? Tiana, from The Princess and the Frog.
What skill would you like to master? Storytelling, obviously. Water color painting is a close second.
In what situation would you feel most out of place? In a crowded room of Wall Street execs. I've been there more times than I can count. I always had a glass of wine in hand.
What artist do you really like, but rarely admit to liking? Good old T-Swift.
What gets you fired up? Selfishness. Injustice. Arrogance. Abuse. Anyone who refuses to self-examine.
What annoys you most about the fandoms you're a part of? I can't possibly choose one thing about T-Swift fans.
What do you do to get rid of stress? I take so many epsom salt bubble baths that I should own stock in Dr. Teal's.
You have to relive one day of your life forever. Which day do you choose? This is so ridiculously hard. I can't choose when we got married, were in Italy or on our honeymoon, because the pups weren't there. I can't choose the day we got engaged, because I was super duper sick. I think the answer is my birthday last year. It was quiet, but perfect from start to finish. The Hubs was there for all of it.
How quickly do you jump to conclusions about people? Recently I think: "not quickly enough."
If you were a doll, what accessories would you be sold with? My wedding and engagement rings, a pair of real gold but fake diamond earrings, Jackie O sunglasses, a pair of leopard ballet flats and a black Italian leather purse.
What have you done in life that gives you the most satisfaction? Being the primary caretaker for our dog as he got sicker the summer we lost him. It was gut-wrenching, but also the most precious and important work I've ever done. He taught me how to love, be selfless and focus on the moment at hand. I really believe he prepared me for the day I eventually become a mother. That was his gift to me in the end.
What would be the worst thing to put in a pinata? Snakes.
What's the biggest waste of money you've seen? I saw far, far too much excess when I worked for Wall Street. But paying not to interact with 'peons' is the most disturbing. This happens in a variety of contexts, none better than the next.
What common misconception do you hate to hear repeated as fact? That all Southerners are backwards and ignorant.
Where is the best place to meet awesome people? I don't have a preference on this one. I've met amazing friends through work, other friends and, yes, the internet.
What food do you crave most? I am borderline obsessed with salted pistachios. For this reason we don't usually keep them around.
What TV series do you keep coming back and re-watching? I have watched The West Wing more times than I can count. For years I didn't have cable or an antenna, and I just watched the series over and over again. (Confession: I usually stop halfway through Season 5.)
Among your friends, what are you best known for? Speaking my mind and being protective.
Who of your friends is most like you? None of them. I can only handle so much of myself.
What was the most traumatizing moment of your life? Being physically manhandled and, in my mind, endangered by a very rich, even more powerful man (October 2014).
What's the best lesson you've learned from a work of fiction? "If a guy is a good neighbor, if he puts in a day, if every once in a while he laughs, if every once in a while he thinks about somebody else and, above all else, if he can find his way to compassion and tolerance, then he's my brother. And I don't give a damn if he didn't get past finger painting. What I can't stomach are people who are out to convince people that the educated are soft and privileged. ... Especially when we know that education can be the silver bullet: for crime, poverty, unemployment, drugs, hatred."
What's something you'll never do again? Work in government affairs.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. If you are a person who watches the news or has a social media account or simply exists in a world where you interact with a variety of other humans, you already know this. It’s one of the saddest, most inspiring days each year, in that we mourn the loss of his wisdom and example while remembering his words and actions. From quotes about hope to reminders that injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere, his words tell us to rise in the face of adversity. To stand up for what we believe in. The 50th anniversary of his death in April will bring all of that emotion to the surface again.
He would’ve been 89 years old this year.
But today, as I think about the setbacks over the past year and look for hope in unlikely places, I’m thinking about the Saints. For those of you who don’t watch or follow NFL football, it’s playoff season. Yesterday, the Saints played the Minnesota Vikings, in Minnesota. It is the site of the upcoming Super Bowl, and their hometown team is in contention. It was a rowdy crowd.
Going into halftime, the Saints were down 17-0. This is a crazy deficit, even for the best teams in the league, but by the 4th quarter, the Saints had come back and were in the lead, 21-20. Then Minnesota scored, making the score 23-21. There was less than a minute left on the clock, and the Saints had only one timeout left. But they answered Minnesota’s score, making it a 24-23 game. There were only 10 seconds left on the clock. They could practically taste victory. All they had to do was stop the Vikings in their tracks. If they did, they’d be off to a championship game and only one game away from a Super Bowl.
But it wasn’t meant to be. In the last play of the game, the quarterback for the Vikings made a crazy, Hail Mary pass, and his wide receiver caught it. It’ll be the Vikings that head to that championship instead, the Vikings who’ll be only one game away from playing the Super Bowl in their own dome.
It was a heartbreaking, crushing defeat. The Saints had overcome so much in so little time. Individuals with mountains more sports experience than I will parse this game and that last play (already dubbed “The Minnesota Miracle”) for years to come. The Saints players will be sad for weeks, even months on end, then realize it was a hell of an experience.
What interests me, though, are Saints fans. They didn’t share the on-the-ground, out-of-body experience. They shared only in the defeat. But a video made the rounds this morning, of Saints fans lining up at 1:30am to greet the heartbroken team after their almost victory. They created posters, held balloon banners and screamed so loudly you’d have thought it was a victorious team they were thanking for the ride. But it wasn’t. It was a losing team, who desperately needed a morale boost. And Saints fans rose to the occasion.
Here’s hoping we mourn the loss of the greats today while remembering that hope springs eternal.
We belong to each other. Let’s take care of each other.
You’ve heard me say this before (so much that you're probably exhausted of it), but for the purposes of this blog post, it’s worth repeating: I quit my job in July of 2016. I quit it for more reasons than I can enumerate here, but mostly because it was leading me farther and farther away from who I wanted to be as a person. I quit even though I was scared about what came next, and had a lot of money and time invested.
I have never once regretted this decision.
Less than 90 days later, I got married to my husband. Our relationship is the opposite of my old career: in it, I have never felt MORE like myself. But this goes beyond me feeling loved for who I am; I also feel free to become who I want to become. This, in turn, makes me feel whole — fully ‘at home’. The inevitable bad days feel like opportunities for us to learn and grow.
I’m so, so proud of us.
Then suddenly, in October of 2016, all went quiet. There was no toxic job to occupy my time. There was no wedding to plan. There was, however, a husband who’d recently pursued his own dreams, who wanted me to spend the next few years (kid-free) setting up my next 30. There was space to do ANYTHING I WANTED. But having the freedom to pursue my dreams didn’t mean I had direction. I was lost. What did I want my legacy to be? Devoted wife and co-head of our family, yes. Those are easy. Beyond that, though, I knew next to nothing.
What WAS my life’s purpose? Did I even have a ‘calling’?
I started asking myself these questions in earnest in the spring of 2013, but for three years, life intervened. In the fall of 2016, I began rereading the old books I’d bought on the subject, and buying new ones that I thought might inspire. I started paying attention to what I paid attention to, noticing what doors opened and identifying what about me other people gravitated to. I hung up post-it notes in the office of all the things I felt drawn to. I stared at them for weeks on end. After reading them so many times that I could recite them — coffee, a better world, food, peace, women, travel, love and stories — I figured it out while drinking coffee with my husband one morning: my life’s purpose is to be a matriarch, a refuge for other women.
It took another few months to realize I’d already been filling this role. Since I left my job, I’ve spent hundreds of hours counseling female friends — offering love, support, assistance. These women have gotten unglamorous DUIs, and finally decided to deal with the issues that led them there; been fired from jobs they hated but needed to provide for young children; had mini-breakdowns in other countries due to illnesses and infections; been beaten and almost killed by deadbeat husbands; reached a breaking point, because they’re 26 years old and responsible for the care of a dying father who never really fit that description; needed help with scholarship applications; had to confront cheating husbands; lost themselves while taking care of 4 small children; lost beloved parents; felt a lack of enthusiasm towards their ministries; and the list goes on and on.
I started to imagine myself The Wise Old Woman in a Disney movie: not the perfect looking princess, but the honest and empathic guide who helps said princess on her journey, who’s willing to help really anybody who makes the trek up to the snow-covered cottage at the top of the hill. I don’t offer advice unsolicited, in other words, and I’m not sure I help all the time. Sometimes I’m sure I learn more than they do. But I always try — sharing both my experiences and those of other women with this self-selected tribe. I make cups of tea, loan books, send little gifts, regularly check in.
It is the holiest work I’ve ever done.
Yet the calling isn’t just to be a matriarch; it’s to be a matriarch AND storyteller. These two things go hand-in-hand. Storytelling is an art, and one I’ve far from mastered, but I’ve devoted myself to the pursuit of getting better because this is the way to expand the tribe, make a bigger impact. Supporting women one-on-one is fulfilling, but not a full-time job. Some days I take 4 phone calls; some times I don’t get a call for a week. So, I started this blog, to share the occasional lesson learned or thought process. I share poetry and snippets of encouragement on Instagram, and I engage with the world about much less consequential things via Twitter. I’m working hard on my first book.
But my labor of love has been and will continue to be the Compelling Women podcast. The idea for it came to me on our honeymoon, and I ran it by the Hubs. He loved it. (It’s so simple!) This led to me spending a full 90 days obsessing over the name. Then I commissioned a logo, and lined up interviewees. I secured theme music. I sat down with those women, and listened to them tell their stories. I hired an editor / producer, who is himself a teller of stories. I invested money from my few gigs doing resume writing and event planning, which got this off the ground financially. I reached out regularly to the women, to introduce them to each other and explain that delays are the result of physical limitations, not a lack of passion.
On Friday, I sent my producer the first interview and the accompanying narration. I sent requested format and edits, too. We’ll tweak from there. The hope is that it will be published on February 1st. My publishing timeline has shifted (it’s starting three months later than planned, and episodes won’t be released every two weeks, but once a month), though this was arbitrary to begin with. A wiser me would’ve given myself more time and less pressure at the outset, but I’m a work in progress. What matters is that soon anyone will be able to hear the stories of these ordinary yet extraordinary women. I don’t imagine the podcast will garner a big audience, but that’s okay: I never intended to be famous. I intended to reach a few more women.
It’s important to note that the thing I’ve felt most ashamed of in my life — my authenticity — has led me to this place, and it’s a central requirement for fulfilling my life’s purpose. That’s because women don’t and won’t seek comfort or assistance from someone who isn’t authentic. In order to support them, I have to have their best interests in mind. They have to know I'm genuine.
I’m doing what I’m meant to do. Finally. I think that’s cause for celebration.
Here’s hoping you enjoy listening to these stories as much as I did. It’s been the most humbling and rewarding experience of my life.