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  • Braver Than I Knew

    “I am one.” “I am one!” I am one with the wind!” My heart shouted. Suddenly a hand on my elbow. 

    “I have a gun,” he said in a low tone. “Keep walking.”

    I was headed home from an after-school program and feeling so alive. It was 6:30 pm. November. I was 12. 

    I was in a good, well lit, neighborhood near Central Park. 

    I calculated: just one avenue to cross and three-fourths of a block and I’ll be at my building. In my head: A gun, a gun, a gun, okay keep walking. I can pull away at the right moment.

    It didn’t work. We passed a doorman and I mouthed the word, “Help!” 

     “Have a good time kids,” was all he said.

    I was shocked. That doorman saw me playing outside just the other day. Was he out of his mind? I was 12 and looked it; the gunman looked about 17.

    We crossed the street. The Central Park side of 5th Ave. I told him how ugly I was, how my father was a cop, how my parents would come looking for me. It was clear he didn’t want money. I had just learned what rape was that year when my cousin and I had snuck away from a family gathering to read True Confessions magazines.

    Sometimes even terrifying information comes at exactly the right time. I knew that if we walked into the park entrance I was done for. I had to find a way to talk him out of whatever he wanted.

    It was kind of like being in a car wreck. Everything slows down but moves super-fast at the same time. I kept talking to him about how he could do better than me, that I had a friend who would really like him, that I had my period, that my parents would find me in a matter of minutes.

    Steps away from the park entrance he inexplicably turned us around. We began walking back to the crosswalk near my building. It had begun to rain. He pushed me up against a car. Whoever invented dresses that zipped up the front unfortunately never thought of this situation. He began to feel around. I had long before left my body. I was totally in my head. How do I escape?

    Then he kissed me on the lips, and I came back to myself and screamed. 

    “I have a knife,” he said. 

    And then I knew he had nothing, and I knew I would get away. I must have kept screaming because he zipped my dress up all the way to my throat and ran like crazy. Suddenly I noticed that I was still holding my schoolbooks in one hand.

    Someone had been sitting in a car nearby the whole time. When he saw the guy run, he got out of his car and asked if he could help saying, “Get in.” 

    ARE YOU CRAZY?!?, I thought and took off across the street almost getting hit by a bunch of cars. I got home and called my parents who were at their Tuesday night get-together with friends and said, “I really think you should come home.” Well that sounded ridiculous until I said, “I wasn’t raped but…”

    So, I was brave. I didn’t crumble. I got away by using my wits and finally my screaming voice. What if I had screamed at the beginning? I never thought about those “what ifs” until I started writing this. It doesn’t matter. I managed to escape.

    The terror that continued within me was relentless for quite a long time. More powerful in some ways than the moments I spent trying to get away. I refused to go anywhere on my own for a year. Eventually, I found a different kind of bravery: Taking baby steps.

    Each time I did something on my own was a test. Would I be safe in the world?

    When people are afraid it really helps to look at actual facts. Not what we think could happen, but what did. Then slowly take one step at a time toward health. It also helps to talk. 

    At the time though counseling was taboo and my parents, as well-educated and loving as they were, didn’t understand how counseling would help in this situation. No one talked about this kind of thing back then.

    Most importantly, know you have inner strength. That even in the aftermath of the most traumatic experiences, you have strength you don’t even know you have. 

    The Antidote to Stress, Scared and Stuck

    Well Being

    We are constantly bombarded by news and lately much of it has been disturbing.

    We hear news of people all over the world acting out on their worst instincts. There’s news about the coming election that has many afraid for our country and its relationships with countries around the world. And, of course, there’s been plenty of news about violence and tragedy right in our own back yards.

    It’s been so overwhelming, that it’s created an atmosphere of fear and even hopelessness for many of us, and I was struck by just how close to home all this bad news is when I attended my water aerobics class recently.

    Our beloved teacher was late to class and when she finally arrived and told us that she had been pulled over by a policeman for speeding on her way to teach our class, she burst into tears.

    You see, she is a person of color and although she was quick to say that the policeman was a perfect gentleman and had followed all the rules, she also shared that she was afraid for her life.

    The fact that a fear that serious was part of this scenario is horrible and, unfortunately, it speaks to the reality of what’s happening in our world right now.

    I’ve heard so many friends and clients talk recently about experiencing anxiety, stress or a sense of stuckness; about feeling drained, uninspired or just plain numb. I can’t help but notice the connection between what’s happening “out there” and what’s happening “in here” – in our minds, bodies and souls.

    Of course, I’m not saying that we all don’t feel these things regardless of what’s happening in the world. But right now, it’s intensified – so, how do we cope?

    When it seems as though the positive energy of life has been sucked away, it’s important to think about exactly what that positive energy was.

    Often, it’s joy.

    In truth, we need to be able to find joy in the midst of our concern for others, our fear for the future and our own day-to-day worries. We need to realize that focusing on joy can bring us the balance, strength and clarity we need to evaluate what is causing us discomfort. We especially need to understand that when “out there” is chaotic and even crazy, that’s the time we need focus on joy even more.

    But what is joy exactly? Is joy the same thing as happiness? And how do we find (and keep) joy in our lives – especially right now?

    We’ll be talking a lot about joy over the next few weeks and I hope you’ll join this important conversation.

    Bringing joy into our lives is essential for our wellbeing. Spend a day with me exploring joy at my Accelerate Your Joy workshop on Saturday, Oct 1st. Right now, you can even bring a friend for free – find out more and register here.

    Accelerate Your Joy Button

     

    It’s Spring! Use this Season as Your Guide for Inspired Next Steps

    Nature is our teacher. All we have to do to see how to proceed in life is watch what’s happening outside our windows.

    Let’s send up new shoots. Get rid of the old dried up leaves and twigs. Open a fresh eye on the world. Let the still small voice that knows there is something emerging get a bit louder.

    All of us feel a bit dug under sometimes. I know sometimes I feel like there is so much to do I don’t know where to start and so I feel inundated. That’s when I take a fresh look at what is happening in my life, what is happening around me, where I am putting my focus and what I want to do next and why I want to do it.

    We are multifaceted beings, so underlying the tasks we are doing are the thoughts and feelings we have about those tasks.

    • What do the tasks mean to us? 
    • What importance do they hold in our lives? 
    • What are the benefits or the drawbacks? 
    • Are they essential or can they be removed from the list? 

    Sometimes it is good to sort all that out.  Sometimes sorting it out isn’t necessary. That is for you to decide.

    What does matter is taking a moment to breathe.

    Take stock of all that is happening; what you are feeling emotionally and physically; what you are thinking… and see if there is a need for or room for a different point of view or a different course of action.

    Often a change in focus opens up a completely different feeling about what comes next. We may have a new idea that allows the energy (e.g. your thoughts and emotions) to take a different route that helps you see possibility in a new way. Sometimes it means you have a new view on what already exists and sometimes it means you will make a change.  It may be as simple as cleaning out your sock drawer to help you  be and feel more organized.

    The idea is to stop and actually be mindful of what is going on inside and out. It gives you a fresh start.

    I find that any one thing I do that organizes my space or my thoughts helps me move to the next task with a different openness in my breath, openness in my thoughts, and a clarity about the next action.

    It is sometimes a surprise, but when we start re-organizing that which is around us, we begin to start a process within ourselves that opens doors to freshness; we see, hear and smell in the spring.

    Let’s take advantage of this powerful seasonal energy to take a deep breath and proceed with fresh hope and a new view.

    Spring is the ideal time to take the next step to accelerate YOUR next step.

    Choose the inspired life you want to live.

    Why a Group for Women About Life?

    goddessMany years ago I had a serious back injury. I was working at a flower shop to earn extra money and get a discount on flowers for my wedding. It was kind of silly. I was taking a break from my regular job as an Art Therapist and thought I should be making money while I was taking the important step of getting married. Goes to show that doing something that we think we are supposed to do or be – in my case, independent; an equal partner – doesn’t always work out the way we think it will. Actually it really backfired. I ended up lifting a planter. It was a huge, empty planter. Who knew it was incredibly heavy?

    Well that was a week before the wedding. It was a big mistake that launched an incredible journey. Not only did it create a difficult start to our new marriage, it taught me what it meant to heal from the inside out.

    It took months and months. Unbelievably, when I was almost back to normal, I got rear-ended at a red light and the healing process began all over again. I guess I hadn’t gotten the full message yet. Once again, I was flat on my back.

    For over a year I read all about healing. I listened to meditation tapes. I read all about the body and I read all about people. I read science fiction, biographies, most significantly heroes’ journeys.

    Among the books that changed my life and perception were The Goddess Within by Roger and Jennifer Woolger (now unfortunately out of print), and Goddesses in Every Woman by Jean Shinoda Bolen. Both books spoke to a need for connecting with different aspects of ourselves and bringing balance into our lives.

    During that time, which I call “my time on the moon,” I began to wonder what I wanted to do with my career and focused specifically on how I was bringing these aspects of myself into the light and into balance. Specifically, I wondered what I would want to attend if I was interested in expanding myself and looking deeper into who I am and how I could be excited about my life.

    After much thought, I created A Group for Women About Life, because that’s the program I wanted to experience. I wanted to participate in creating community, exploring all aspects of being a woman and a human being alive on the planet right now, something that would actually have an impact on the way I thought or the choices I would make going forward.

    When I created the program I really had no idea how powerful the process I had designed was. Oh, I knew it would be fun and I did know it would be impactful and that people would learn more about themselves and their relationships and position in the world, but I had no idea just how impactful.

    I had no idea that people would find a fresh way to look at their relationships, or find the courage to change jobs, or start businesses, or choose to heal very old wounds, or be able find community where they once felt alone. I knew that people would benefit from awakening the parts of them that had been asleep because of fear or inactivity. But I didn’t know what it would mean to have every aspect of the self actively awake and working in concert. Amazing – really amazing!

    After seven years of running the program I stopped to give birth to a new creation, my son, and begin a different journey. Now it is time to bring this program back. We are in a time of great change. We need our internal lights to be on and working in concert – and getting there is a delicious journey.

    Sometimes when we operating based on what we think we are supposed to do or be, we don’t have the whole picture because there is another part of ourselves that hasn’t spoken up yet. Sometimes the voice of our culture is stronger than our own. Sometimes we hear our own voice but it is a one-sided conversation. We don’t use all facets of our intuition to make the best decision – even though often the information is within us waiting to be tapped.

    I think I would not have worked in the flower store if I had been fully in touch with my true strength – my aspects of Artemis or Athena. I think if I had been in touch with my Demeter aspect I would have taken better care of myself. Maybe, if I had been in touch more fully with my Persephone, I would have looked deeper within. Had I been more in touch with my Aphrodite aspect I might have been more focused on the relational adventure of joining with another person – my husband to be. I don’t know what decision I would have made back then, but I know with all those beautiful voices chiming in and helping me be fully awake and balanced it probably would have been a better one.

    I am so excited to invite you into this sacred and exciting journey once again. It is a wonderful, fulfilling ride.

    To learn more about A Group for Women About Life, get on our update list. If you are ready to sign up right now, schedule an enrollment call with Liz.

    For men who are interested in a similar transformative journey please click here  and we will be sure to keep you updated for future programs.

    Uh Oh! It’s the Holidays and We’re Getting Divorced!

    Along with all the joy the holidays bring there is often a lot of discussion about the challenges and stresses of being with family. All the holiday hype can make it difficult to get to those warm feelings of home, the deep connection we have with our loved ones, and the joy of being together. When we add divorce to the mix all sorts of difficult questions and stresses show up.

    But despite the to-be-expected potential irritations of being thrown together for a yearly visit with family, I think this time of year gives us a unique opportunity to have a really great holiday outcome, whatever form your family may be in at the time.

    Specifically, we have the opportunity to choose to see the good that is possible by having a vision for the kind of holiday and family experience we want to have.

    That said, when people are in the middle of what some might call a family crisis – a separation or divorce – there can be even more obstacles to seizing that opportunity. So here’s how it tends to go in the typical divorce or separation. It starts with assumptions like:

    “It’s going to be awful or stressful.”
    “We’re going to fight about where the kids go.”
    “It’s going to be heartbreaking.”
    “We’re not going to agree on what to do.”
    “This is going to be really artificial.”

    These are only a few of the stressful thoughts we might encounter. Some of these end up as self-fulfilling prophecies:

    We are so on edge, we end up responding to things we think will happen instead of creating what we hope can happen.

    So, how can we make the shift from just getting through the holidays to actually enjoying aspects of them without a full load of stress?

    Even though the stages of uncoupling can be difficult – and even though everyone’s situation is different, and even if you might prefer to simply escape – there is much you can do to make things better.

    Those of you who’ve worked with me on divorcing differently know that putting your vision first, and making inspired choices that bring you a better outcome, is key to not just surviving, but to thriving during a separation or divorce.

    Here are a few tips that will help you create a peaceful and hopefully joyful holiday, despite all the challenges you might be facing. Use them as a your guide to approaching divorce differently this holiday season.

    1) Be prepared for that rise in your emotions. Being prepared can actually help you stay more balanced.

    2) Consider how you can keep your usual holiday routine – especially if separation or divorce is new to you. For example, if going to that great vacation spot is what you’ve always done, figure out how you can still do just that.

    3) Think about what you really cherish about the holidays and present it clearly and simply with “I” statements in order to begin a discussion about options for how to celebrate. If you’re making a request, be ready to suggest a compromise or alternative. For instance, you might say, “Christmas Eve has always been the most special time in my family and I would like to take Sally to see her grandparents that night. How would you feel about taking her to be with your parents on Christmas afternoon?”

    4) If your focus is keeping the family together, find a way to keep the continuity of family by planning a special, time-limited event. You can also design certain guidelines regarding behavior if you’re concerned that tension will cause emotions to erupt. Example: Decide together that provokers of bad feelings (sarcasm, criticism, harsh tone, petty arguments) are off limits for the event – and remember to think creatively: you can take separate cars or decide together what topics to avoid. Essentially, you are making an agreement to keep things agreeable for those moments or events, which is a great way to build a foundation for going forward when children are involved.

    5) Envision what is meaningful to you while also considering what’s meaningful to others: What do you know about what is important to your soon-to-be ex partner, or your children, about the holidays, and how can their wishes be incorporated?

    6) Know when it’s best not to try to be together and plan accordingly.

    7) Breathe!

    There is no one correct way to do this – and there is no rule that says this new way of doing the holidays has to be terrible.

    Most importantly:

    There is no rule that says your way has to be typical, traditional, or the way it was.

    This is a time to create new traditions. Traditions that fit your personal circumstances and that bring a new and different focus into the holiday mix.

    And, certainly, there may also be sadness and a yearning for what you thought would be wonderful for a very long time. So, allow yourself to honor that sadness and begin to create something that you are comfortable with for this year.

    You may change how you do things next year, but listen to yourself regarding what you need this season – YOUR VISION – and have a heartfelt holiday.

    Wising you the best in the New Year,

    Liz Goll Lerner
    Your Inspired Choices

    P.S. Be the first to get my new Divorce Well & Thrive webinar for more on what it means to divorce well and how to begin to create YOUR OWN PERSONAL VISION for a very different kind of separation or divorce. It will arrive in your in-box as soon as it is ready!