Now is the time to create your new life story

An invitation to freedom.  Storytellers: Women Creating New Life Stories exists to support older girls and women in embracing their whole life story . . . in loving all that they are . . . in envisioning and expressing their new story . . . and in living in freedom and authenticity as leaders in their families and communities.

For small groups and individuals.  Storytellers offers small-group growth process to people-serving organizations and their female clients . . . small-group and individual growth process to older girls and women in communities-at-large . . . and facilitation of birth-story gatherings on request and several scheduled times a year in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Contact Ellen Antill for your complimentary consultation.  Email Ellen (storywomen60@gmail.com) or call (505-577-3930 MST) to learn more about Storytellers and arrange your complimentary consultation.

Ellen Antill, M.A., Founder/Executive Director, Storytellers: Women Creating New Life Stories storywomen60@gmail.com (505) 577-3930 MST

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Greater organization at home isn’t about perfection . . . it’s about peace

Dear friends of Storytellers,

By the end of August I’ll be transitioning from my Storytellers work to providing services as a home life coach through my new business, Thriving in Wholeness Consulting. Not only will I be assisting individuals in Santa Fe, New Mexico in bringing greater creativity and peace to their home environments by organizing, de-cluttering, and redecorating. I’ll be offering support, too, in addressing issues leading to disorganization, procrastination, and difficulty in letting go.  Also, I’ll be facilitating online groups for women and men all over the world, focusing on key issues such as balancing personal and professional life . . . practicing authentic, heart-based relationships . . . and navigating life transitions.

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I hope you’ll choose to check out my new website when it’s complete.  I’ll still be posting reflections designed to help you live — thrive — with greater ease, on a practical level and also within yourself.  Thanks for staying tuned.  I appreciate your encouraging support!

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How to flip the script

I’ve invited my friend, Elaine Pinkerton, to be a guest blogger on my site today.  Elaine is a published author in fiction and non-fiction, is passionate about issues relating to adoption and adoptees . . . and she has reams of inspiring stories to share.  Enjoy!

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Today I took a beautiful hike along a mountain stream.  Towering aspen overhead; their leaves fluttered in the cool breeze.  The New Mexico sky alternated between milky blue and cloudy overcast.  It was a perfect August day.  Instead of enjoying just being there, however, I was obsessing about a family problem that I felt I must solve.

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As we walked up a challenging trail, my hiking buddy Eliza helped me to see things differently.  “What if this?  What if that?” she queried, leading me to realize that the “situation” was not as dire as I was making it.  I realized that my problems were not insurmountable and that I was lucky, rather than “victimized.”  In other words, she helped me put life into perspective.

I’m re-visiting some of my earlier realizations about recovering from the invisible wounds of adoption.  As every adult adoptee knows, the deep-seated after-affects of adoption don’t go away.  It is impossible to change the past history that so shaped us as we grew up.  What we can change is how we regard that baggage.  It is something we must bear, and the stronger we become, the lighter seems the burden.  I think of it as ASCENDING.

For most of my life, I thought that happiness, success, achievement — in short, “arrival” — were somewhere in the distant future.  After this or that happened.  After my next book was published, after my son finally decided what to do with his life, when my house was finally organized.  After a decade of working to heal the wounds of adoption, I realized that what we have is NOW.  I’d had it with waiting for that possibly unobtainable state of feeling happy and secure.

I decided that it was enough to simply BE.  During my struggle to reach a degree of serenity, I discovered a few principles, thought patterns that work.  Whenever my mind wants to drag me back to the dark side, I remember the following basics:

  1. Stay within the confines of the day.
  2. Realize that you are enough.
  3. Learn how to take your emotional “temperature” and rein yourself in when your mind goes out woolgathering.
  4. Notice when you’re projecting.
  5. Allow, allow, allow things to be as they are.  Quit trying to fix everything.

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As Eliza and I reached the summit of our hike’s peak, I’d gained more than just 1,000 feet in altitude.  I’d gained a deeply helpful insight.  So much of life can be wasted in regret about the past and anxiety about the future.  But instead of feeling that “every silver lining has a cloud,” I would consciously choose to see the bright side.

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Elaine Pinkerton, author and educator, avid hiker and grandmother of three, holds MA degrees in literature from the University of Virginia and from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Writing is her first love, but she’s held many other jobs, including ski coach, technical writer, defensive driving instructor, and elementary school librarian.

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She is a freelance journalist, with articles published in Runner’s World, Family Circle, New Mexico Magazine and Tumbleweeds Family Magazine.  Her published works include the book The Good-Bye Baby, A Diary about Adoption.

A lifetime of keeping a diary, combined with the desire to face the issues of growing up as an adoptee, resulted in The Good-Bye Baby, A Diary about Adoption.  After the deaths of the four people closest to her, she reviewed the written past, as reviewed in her diaries.  The resulting insights helped her shed the past and know the way to a future.

To learn more about Elaine Pinkerton, or to contact her you can email her at deardiaryreadings@me.com or visit her website http://www.elainepinkerton.wordpress.com.

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Storytellers is evolving into something new . . . Thriving in Wholeness Consulting

Dear Fans of Storytellers,

I appreciate you reading my Storytellers posts over the last couple years and sharing them with friends, when inspired to do so.

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By the end of August I’ll be transitioning from Storytellers to providing services as a home coach through my new business, Thriving in Wholeness Consulting. I’ll be assisting individuals (many of them in the Santa Fe, New Mexico community) in bringing ease to their home environments and, if desired, in addressing underlying issues leading to disorganization, procrastination, and difficulty in letting go. Also, I’ll be facilitating online groups, for women and men worldwide, focusing on key issues such as balancing personal and professional life . . . practicing authentic, heart-based relationships . . . and navigating life transitions.

If you’re interested in learning more about joining an online group, or if you live in the Santa Fe area and would like to discuss home coaching, please leave me a comment here.  Also, feel free to email me at storywomen60@gmail.com.

I hope you’ll stay in touch as Thriving in Wholeness takes shape.  It’s going to be a while before I have a new website up and running.  I’ll try to keep you updated on my progress.

Thanks very much for your encouraging support!

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My mom’s surprising legacy — healing for my step-dad and me

Today, July 23, 2015, is the 2-year anniversary of my mom’s death.  Following a fall that shattered her hip, my mom’s mild Alzheimer’s progressed to the severe stage and she died just 6 months later from Alzheimer’s-related complications.

The speed with which mom’s disease progressed . . . and the swiftness with which she was no longer the woman — the mama — I had always known . . . was a nightmare to experience.

My step-dad, Leo, lived intimately with the nightmare of my mom’s decline, day-in and day-out.  He and my mom were married nearly 43 years and were completely devoted to one another.

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Leo’s and my relationship, however, often felt disconnected.  This wasn’t because of a lack of effort.  There were disappointments that were never resolved . . . and sometimes we didn’t seem to like each other very much.  Frequently, we ended up communicating with each other through my mom.

When Leo (living in southern California) and I (my mother’s only child, living in Santa Fe, New Mexico) realized how seriously ill my mom was in the aftermath of her fall, I told my step-dad that our relationship would have to change.  “We’re going to need to learn to work together as a team for mom, for each other,” I said.  He agreed completely.

After spending nearly 3 months in a rehab facility, my mom returned home to Leo,  but it was a home she no longer recognized.  Her mental and physical states had deteriorated so dramatically that we needed to hire 24/7 nursing care for her.  In the brief months before she passed away, I made frequent trips to California.  In between those trips I was on the phone every day with Leo and with home-care, medical, and insurance people.

The week before she died, one of the last confidences I shared with mom was that I would look after Leo, that she didn’t need to be concerned for his welfare.  She was visibly relieved to hear this.  Mercifully, I feel it helped her let go.

In the 6 months between my mom’s fall and her passing, Leo and I worked very closely and steadily, in-person and over the phone, to ensure she received the highest quality care and that she was as comfortable as possible.  We came to depend on one another as we’d never done before.  My mom was no longer there to act as a buffer.

As Leo and I navigated the horror of my mom’s disease and talked through our feelings of loss and fear and grief, we began to understand each other.  A new door of relational possibility slowly opened between us.

More than 2 years have passed since the door opened.  In that time Leo’s heart and mine have softened toward one another in astonishing ways.  We’ve talked every day, we’ve shared fresh aspects of ourselves, the large and small encouragements and challenges of being alive.  At times I’m sure he still must shake his head at some of my choices, and I get frustrated with his 95-year-old perceptions . . . but we see each other a little bit more clearly all the time.  We step away from judgement and more into loving acceptance, bit by bit.

A couple months ago I was preparing to visit Leo.  During our phone call the night before I left, I felt his energy shift.  A new level of honesty was present.  He said, “It’s been a long time since you were here, E.B.  It’ll be really good to see you again.”

Although those simple words may not sound monumental, I heard an unfamiliar vulnerability in them.  I felt like Leo truly needed me.  And I realized, for the first time, that I needed him.

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One night after dinner when I was in California, I asked Leo about the change I sensed in his tone during our phone call.  He acknowledged that he felt it as well.  “I know you so much better now,” he mused.

I feel the same way, Leo.  I know you better too.  At the same time the respect and trust between us keeps expanding.  It’s the miracle that happens when 2 people show up for one another and embrace healing.  It’s the evolution of love.

 

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Being lonely or being alone – what do you choose?

In celebration of the Summer Solstice several weeks ago, I drove to Abiquiu, about an hour north of where I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Some of you may know that the American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, lived in Abiquiu for much of her life and painted some of her best-loved works there (O’Keeffe’s painting, “Pedernal,” is pictured just below; my photo of Pedernal is included  at the end of this post).  The vastness of the land and sky in this part of the world is breathtaking.

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My Abiquiu trip was, for me, a rediscovery of the joy in independent adventuring.  On my way there I realized that for a long time not adventuring on my own had been another way I’d been hiding from being alone.

As an only child of divorced parents I spent a great deal of time by myself and had mixed emotions about it.  I savored the reflective quiet of solitude.  Still do.  At the same time, being alone also made me feel abandoned somehow, like I wasn’t loved.  Like I wasn’t special.

Much of my sense of abandonment gained more power when I was 6 and my father left my mom and me.  Certainly, this event was a root cause of my staying bound up in unhealthy relationships for many years.  Until my Abiquiu road trip, though, I hadn’t made the connection between my long-standing fear of being left and my lack of daring to travel independently.

For decades I unconsciously cut myself off from something I truly loved — exploring the unknown, solo — because I believed a lie about myself.  That is, “If you’re alone, then you’re lonely and unwanted.”

Of course, hanging back from exploring new geographies on my own is simply a metaphor for how I’d been approaching my whole life . . . choosing to feel sad and unworthy when I was alone.

The absolutely miraculous news is that I’m not aloneThis is a revolutionary truth that I’ve been chewing on for quite a while.  Even when there’s no one else in my physical presence, I have my own wise, peaceful company as well as the spiritual richness within and all around me.

“Lonely” was an unfortunate label I learned to apply to myself when I was alone.  But it’s not in my vocabulary anymore.

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Show me the way to go home

Six years ago I set out on a fresh path in a new town, leaving my husband and the home in suburban Phoenix we’d owned for many years.

For the first two years of my adventure, I felt pretty rootless, like a wanderer, living as a guest or caregiver in other people’s houses.

Then I rented a cozy, peaceful casita in Santa Fe, my “Hobbit House.”

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When I finally unpacked my books and dishes and stocked my own refrigerator, I sat on the kitchen floor of the Hobbit House and cried.

What was it that I’d been so hungry for in those two years when I was floating, unmoored in a material sense as well as in my soul?

I longed for a space in which I felt safe and comfortable enough to be myself, where I didn’t need to answer to anyone or ask permission to plant flowers in the back yard.

I dreamed of walking in my front door any time of the day or night and having no one to take care of . . . of being as noisy or as still as I wanted to be.

I yearned to create an uncluttered space in which to write and read and meditate . . . with no interruptions.

I lost myself in imagining the vibrant colors I would paint my walls . . . and felt sublimely content when I pictured the complete absence of TV!

I was absolutely famished for the freedom to invite lots of friends over to cook and eat together, to sing and laugh and tell stories as far into the evening as we wished.

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But wait.  Let’s go back for a second to me, sitting on the floor, overwhelmed by emotions, unpacking pots and pans in the Hobbit House.

My tears were not simply a sign of relief about having a private physical space again.  They were about knowing I’d just taken another step toward claiming my authentic self, the woman I’d envisioned myself becoming before I ever set out on my gypsy quest.

Today I dearly love my Hobbit House.  It symbolizes all the expansive learning and growth and transformation I’ve experienced in the last four years.  And it still takes my breath away to see how my bedroom comes alive on summer mornings with quivering leaf patterns from the trees outside.

At the same time, I feel ready for more space and light and enough room, at last, for those gatherings of friends and loved ones . . . and a bigger bathroom counter and more than one closet, please!

So I’m calling in a new Santa Fe home, the next space to provide shelter and warmth, a space to be a witness to the changes yet to blossom within me.

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When I see the dancing leaf patterns on the walls, I’ll know I’ve found the right place.

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. . . and what happens when relational compromise seems impossible?

(Hey, it feels reeeeally good to be writing again!  I’ve spent the last couple weeks in various stages of recuperating from bronchitis . . . and am profoundly relieved to be feeling almost like myself again!)

In my last post (“Wanna learn the art of compromise? Start by loving yourself.” 5/7/15) I promised I’d write a second piece on relational compromise for lovers and spouses . . . and here it is.

Compromise

I have a history of relational brokenness.  Some of these break-ups were directly related to my inability to live in my truth and effectively share what I did and did not need in my relationship.

For many years when a particular relationship became too painful, my “compromise strategy” was to bolt and run!

It wasn’t that I was unwilling to compromise.  I simply had no idea how to stand up for my own opinions.  I was scared to death of being criticized or abandoned.

What happens, then, when compromise feels impossible?  Whether the roadblock occurs when lovers have fairly non-existent communication skills . . . or whether two people are keenly practiced in compromise skills but still cannot agree on certain key issues?

As sad as it seems, when partners have no solid foundation of self-love and no process to guide them through the tough elements of being a couple, they very often split up.  Or they choose to stay together and co-exist in a cold, bloodless (or bloody) kind of hell.

Even in a relationship where spouses care deeply for themselves and one another, shattering discord can arise around core values that are radically different . . . or have shifted over time.

For example, two conscious, committed people may begin their relationship on the same spiritual path.  After a decade one partner may feel absolutely called to a new kind of belief process that the other simply will not support.

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Or, lovers who know basic relationship tools, backward and forward, and who never planned to be parents . . . suddenly learn they’re going to have a baby.  For one partner there’s over-the-top ecstasy about the pregnancy.  For the other, there’s a total inability to imagine being responsible for a child.

These kinds of scenario’s can drive apart the most dedicated couples.  There’s no “right” or “wrong,” no “good” or “bad” in choices that come from these situations.  Quite often the decisions have nothing to to do with how much partners love one another.  Rather, individual positions may reflect marrow-deep and essential personal truth.

It takes vast courage, creativity and insight to maintain your relationship under these kinds of circumstances.  Sometimes it’s possible.  It takes incredible wisdom to discern if it’s time for the relationship to end.  Sometimes this can be the path to take.

No choice is easy.

Even in the absence of workable compromise, though, it’s in relationships that we learn to stretch and change and grow and forgive.

It’s in relationships that we learn to love.

 

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Wanna learn the art of compromise? Start by loving yourself.

Let’s talk about the art of compromise in your relationship with your spouse or lover.

I mean the act of working through those 101 seemingly small issues that require you and your partner to share your needs and arrive at some level of agreement.

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“Let’s go out with Tom and Allison tonight.”

“I really want to hang my mom and dad’s picture over the piano.”

“I need to set the alarm for 5:30 tomorrow morning.”

At first glance, these statements reflect situations that may ask for very little in the way of compromise.

But what if one or both partners have a “my-way-or-the-highway” attitude?  What if they have trouble identifying their needs or are mortally afraid of even minimal confrontation?

Suddenly a relatively simple exchange of ideas can turn explosive or icy, making honest conversation utterly impossible.

I modeled my non-confrontational relationship style after my mom’s.  She avoided conflict and expression of her real desires like they were twin plagues.  My father was extremely inflexible, authoritarian, and volatile.  In our house it wasn’t safe to disagree with him.

When I began my own married life, I called in a partner who disliked conflict and sharing of true feelings as much as I did.

You can imagine what a recipe for disaster that was!

The capacity to successfully compromise with your spouse or lover — to have genuinely truth-based conversation — begins with your love and acceptance of yourself . . . which leads to confidence and belief in yourself.

Since my newlywed days I’ve been on an increasingly focused journey of learning that my words and feelings are just as important as anyone else’s.

I’ve learned that I can disagree with someone without ending the relationship.

I’ve learned that taking the time to process differing opinions and reach compromise invariably strengthens connection.

No small potatoes for this former people-pleaser!

Next time: What about those issues you or your partner absolutely will not compromise on?

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Is social media getting the best of you? Or, how many followers do YOU have?

When I first joined Twitter about 8 years ago, its format was markedly different from the way it looks today.  I thought it was mildly interesting but really couldn’t see the point.  It seemed like a big gossip-fest . . . so I stopped tweeting.

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After that I focused primarily on developing a Facebook presence through a personal and business page.  To a lesser degree I established myself on LinkedIn too.

About a month ago, when I decided to refine my professional identity and streamline my website, I joined Twitter again.  And I’m having a blast connecting with individuals and organizations who share my passions.  Truly, it’s a beneficial business tool.

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn feel most helpful to me though when I can stay grounded in my own collaborative style of energy.  This means not getting sucked in to the “I’ll top you,” warp-speed vibe that often feels so pervasive, especially on Twitter.  As in, “How many followers to you have?”

Recently I realized that this is exactly what happened to me over the last couple weeks.  I’ve been giving social media way too much time and allowing its competitive emphasis to zap my juice!

Yeah, I know we live in an online world.  Each of us gets to decide the degree to which we interact electronically, according to the depth and frequency that feels personally authentic.  This includes how we want to play the social media game.

So, thank you, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all your social media kin, for the notable meet-and-greet opportunities you give us.  But I’m reclaiming some of my life.  There’s so vastly much more to do and be that has nothing to do with posting, liking, tweeting, or favoriting!

 

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So you want to be an actress . . . or, moving beyond performance

When I was a little girl piano recitals terrified me.  They made me want to throw up.  All the Chopin and Mozart that my 8-year-old brain had memorized would completely disappear on performance day.

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Speaking in front of my class or other public gatherings also made my stomach churn.  How I dreaded those required “extemporaneous speeches.”

Singing for others, however, made me only marginally nervous.  The more I sang — alone or in groups — the more natural and relaxed I felt.

Now, after a lifetime of virtually no experience performing the spoken word, how is it I find myself with a role in an upcoming production of The Vagina Monologues?

When I first thought about learning my two-page monologue, I felt intimidated.  I wondered if I’d lost my mind to get involved with this project.  I fervently wished I could sing my words, instead of speak them!

As I practice my part now, something really beautiful is happening.  I’m surprised to find that the mind-stretching process of memorization is actually fun.  Sure, sometimes an adrenaline rush causes me to flub my lines in rehearsal.  Of course, I hope this doesn’t happen in front of a live audience.  But it might.

It’s super-helpful for me to remember that spoken-word performance can be just like musical performance in that it doesn’t have to be perfect.  In fact, it doesn’t have to a performance at all.  I prefer to think of it as a sharing of who I am.

When I say I’m performing, I feel like I’m setting myself apart from those I’m speaking or singing for.  It feels oddly foreign.  Exclusive.  Not a communal process.

Playing a role or making music is about inviting listeners, as well as myself, to a deeper, more expansive way of experiencing life.  It’s about stretching my heart, transcending my old story of performance anxiety, and offering to create genuine connection with others.

See you on Opening Night!

Santa Fe residents: You can purchase tickets for the 3/14/15 performance of The Vagina Monologues at http://www.ripetolife.com/performances/

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