For the past month, I’ve been nursing a mountain bike injury. I’ve been on crutches with two rolled ankles and my left elbow still won’t properly extend. In my mind, accidents are the universe’s way of shouting, “Hey! Slow down!” All I’ve wanted to do is elevate, ice and isolate.
The problem with craving seclusion is that my September has been filled to the brim with weekend excursions, writing deadlines and lots of meet-ups. I’ve pushed myself to “get shit done” despite the throbbing and the mild depression. Injuries take a toll on my mental health. I miss moving my body.
Last night I reluctantly arrived early to help Susannah Campora, founder of Real Life Book Club (RLBC) set-up the room for our September Social. It was the first time in a long time that I would need to be “on”. I wasn’t looking forward to the event with the same gusto I usually felt at our RLBC socials.
After an hour of mingling, seventy women sat down, ready to be inspired. Susannah opened the night by asking, “Did anyone in this room think about how nice it would be to just stay home tonight? Did anyone wear scrubs all day and battle through having to put on makeup?” A couple of us shot our arms up in the air and we all laughed. It felt good to laugh and even better to own my true feelings without any judgment.
Susannah began talking about how easy it is for women to go into survival mode when the going gets tough. We tend to take shallow breathes, forget about our bodies and become wrapped up with the thoughts in our minds. She reminded us to how good it feels to practice living life through our hearts instead of our heads. She’s speaking my language.
Susannah described what Real Life Book Club represents through a Brene Brown quote, “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Amen. Perhaps tonight was just what the doctor ordered.
Four RLBC leaders stood up and shared snippets of their Real Life Book Club journey into leadership. I heard my own story over and over again through their words. I love this community.
Shaunna Brallier talked about isolating herself from men and friendships for many years by focusing her attention towards a job that wasn’t feeding her soul. She’s now taking life by the reigns and mapping out her life coaching business, project by project. She plans to take a leap of faith and launch her new chapter in the coming months!
Amanda Brown Testa, a stay-at-home mama talked about a time in her life when she put herself last and got through her days with coffee only to find herself needing wine to go to sleep. Such an easy habit for us to get into to! She witnessed women speaking from their hearts during her very first RLBC session.
She discovered it’s okay to feel.
Sarah Murphy decided to be a leader because her boyfriend loved her enough to call her out. He told her she wasn’t living her life to her fullest potential, that she was selling her dreams short. Sarah brought her yummy, ActiveBlend protein pancakes to her first book club session and this week she’s meeting with product investors! She became a RLBC leader to stay inspired.
Lea Bett realized that her lifelong, introverted personality wasn’t allowing her to play big. She revealed how scared she was of showing up in her branding business and in life. The RLBC Leadership infrastructure has allowed her to feel safe and supported. She said this community is a space where everyone gets to have a voice. Preach.
I recently launched my first 6-week book club session and as the leaders took their seats, I felt a powerful surge of strength, community and team. When I look back at my own RLBC journey, it’s crazy to think that I might have missed out on being part of such a rich tribe. These women get me, support me, and believe in me. I’m glad I put on my face and came out tonight.
Tiffany Josephs, a lioness who’s life purpose is to express Love, Joy and Expansion led us through a guided mediation. She dazzled the crowd with a long, flowing red dress and created electricity in the room by combining all of our heartbeats as one. You kind of had to be there. She finished by slowly reminding each of us, “You are whole. You are perfect. You are already there.”
The night was about to get juicy.
Susannah sat in the front of the room with three panelists and asked them to answer questions from their heart. She started by addressing defining moments, the time in all of our lives when we know something has to change in order for us to grow.
Meghann Conter, fondly known as the Mistress of Marketing, empowers female industry leaders through her marketing super powers. Meghann is truly a marketing genius. I’ve worked with her and referred her like crazy ever since. She keeps it real which is beyond refreshing. She wore a pink and black polka-dotted dress and asked me all about my crutches. I fell in love with her even more and I’m not sure that’s really possible.
Meghann told us that despite owning her own company since 2006, she hit a dry patch a few years ago and met with a business coach for feedback. She discovered that two areas of her life (spirituality and love relationships) felt empty. She asked the audience, “Have any of you grown up with a religion that no longer resonated with you later in life? When you don’t feel connected to something deeper, where do you begin?” She surrounded herself with community, took spiritual retreats and created space in her life for more meaning. Three months later she met her current boyfriend of four years.
Kimberly Alexander, Growth Strategist, speaker and best-selling author of The Results Map series opened up with her “Aha” moment. She was going a hundred miles an hour while working at a corporate job. One evening she pulled into her driveway and noticed sidewalk chalk drawings from her kiddos. She saw that they had drawn the family, but they hadn’t drawn her in their family picture. Kimberly was so disconnected from her real life that she was vanishing from it. She resigned from her corporate career, knowing that her days would remain busy, but that it was up to her to put a stake in the ground and make a choice on how she wanted her days to be spent.
Hilary Silver, a relationship expert, mother and wife pleasantly surprised me when she said, “I believe in anti-defining moments.” She explained that growing up, her life had been a progression of feeling lonely and invisible around her family. She decided at an early age that something was wrong with her because she couldn’t seem to cultivate relationships. In college she realized, “nothing was actually ‘wrong’ except the belief I was holding onto that something was wrong.”
I had felt like something was wrong with me for 24-years while I privately stayed in a relationship with bulimia. How profound to experience that kind of self-realization at such a young age!
Susannah asked the ladies to share a big leap they’ve had to take in their journeys and how they confronted fear during that defining moment. Kimberly responded,
“I’ve taken a lot of leaps in my lifetime. I think when we’re scared to death, it means we’re moving in the right direction.
Entrepreneurship is like shooting for the next shooting star, over and over again.”
I related to Kimberly because resigning from my catering career last year to write full time means ‘outing’ myself each time a person asks, “So what do you write about?” I share my story even though it’s scary every time. I tell them all the stuff we don’t talk about, that I’m a person who has struggled with body shame, food secrets and making peace with the words, ‘big girl’.
Last weekend at the Lighthouse Writers Book Project retreat, I read five lines of my work to a room of 70 writers. As the line of willing readers became shorter, I couldn’t feel my hands, my ears turned crimson and my arms tingled so bad that I imagined I would fall face first at the podium, crutches splaying in all directions. I started with, “I was 11 years old when I discovered how to binge and purge.”
Sure, I could have chosen to read five generic lines that would have kept my secret private, but I want to keep shooting for those shooting stars too. Being scared and pushing through it means something. At least this is what I keep telling myself! Keep going.
Kimberly divulged the pressure she’s feeling from creating two employee positions in her company. She’s now responsible for two more families and their mortgages. She compared the weight of responsibility like going down a log ride, scary as hell but oh so much fun! Kimberly believes, “If you understand your purpose you can do anything! It starts with purpose because this is your foundation, your calling. It’s what keeps you up at night and what pulls you over on the side of the road to sketch out an idea.”
Meghann piggybacked off Kimberly’s words, “If you are truly exploring your life’s purpose, it’ll feel like you are tapping into the deepest part of your core. You know you were meant to do this, no matter how hard it gets, not matter how much you have to eat ramen noodles to get there. You’ll tell yourself ‘fuck yes! I’ve found it’. There is no job that could pay you 10x more because you’ve already arrived. You are home.” She went on to say, “I don’t even think fear exists. Fear is really just excitement in disguise. When I’m on that log ride, my hands are high in the air on the way down.” All of us cheered with enthusiasm. I’m so glad I made it tonight! I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else except in this moment, receiving all this inspiration!
Susannah finished the evening off by asking the ladies, “What are some tools that help you overcome every day fear?” All three panelists shared the importance of self-love and self-care.
Hilary responded, “All fear feels the same. Deep down there is an underlying belief that we can’t handle it. The truth is that if we learn to fully trust and love ourselves enough to figure it out, we will never be afraid.”
Meghann said, “I was an only child-I mean I’m an only child- a fact that hasn’t changed as far as I know.” We all giggled. She continued, “In my thirties, I realized I thought that love came from the outside. I was raised in an incubator of love with my parents and my extended family, but I didn’t know how to love myself from the inside out. I’ve learned to have my own back, to take care of myself mentally, physically and spiritually. All parts of my life are integrated and when one part is out of order, I feel it everywhere.”
Kimberly reminded all of us that as women, we need to learn how to receive, especially gratitude. “As women, we tend to blow off compliments. We’re in the habit of giving away everything that we have to offer. It’s a game changer when we begin to fill ourselves up. Relationships, bodies and business-it all starts with us.”
I walked away last night knowing the community of Real Life Book Club is where I belong, where I was meant to be during this new chapter in my life. I’m so thankful to have this group lift my spirits, especially during the times I need it most.