Our November Real Life Book Club Social took place on our first, snowy evening of the winter season. Many of us thought the event might be canceled or that we might have a smaller turnout, but as usual sixty women showed up ready to be inspired.

We all crave hear the wisdom from our RLBC panelists. Every other month, three women are invited to sit in the hot seat and answer the kinds of questions that require courage and guts. They speak from their hearts until the love in the room feels tangible.

I arrived early for set-up. I wasn’t in my usual, pre-event hustle mode. I was too busy rehearsing what I was going to say when it was my turn to speak.

For the past three weeks, I had been secretly orchestrating PROJECT LOVE SHOWER for our Real Life Book Club founder, Susannah Campora.  She was going to ask me to introduce myself as a Real Life Book Club Leader and I was going to surprise her with a love bomb.

Recently, I had been inspired to write Susannah a little Love Letter. It’s been one year since I resigned from my world of catering and events to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a writer. Real Life Book Club serendipitously showed up the month I quit my job. I was in my first 6-week book club session, learning how to introduce myself as a new writer. It felt too weird. I had a hard time defining myself without being the Catering Director for Arrowhead Golf Club.

It was the first time I started publically sharing my story of eating disorder recovery. Oh how I was scared. They’re going to think I’m so messed up. This is too much. They’re going to think I’m THAT GIRL.   No one in my little RLBC group thought I was broken or weird. It was just me beating myself up for thinking I my story was too shameful to talk about.

I attended two more six-week book club sessions and continued to practice sharing my story. In Real Life Book Club, most of us share the piece of ourselves that we don’t always let other people see. It’s the part of us that’s authentic. It’s a new sensation to learn how to fully express our emotions without feeling shame.

Many of us are used to living life through our actions while masking our feelings.

Imagine a typical greeting between friends:

“How are you?”

A: “I’m good. I’ve been _________ (insert action)”

B: “Things are terrible. This happened and that happened and this is going to happen next.

These friends didn’t ask us what we’ve been doing or what’s happening, they asked us how are You?  We’re quick to move into action because it shields us from how we really feel on the inside. It’s how I’ve answered questions for most of my life.

Real Life Book Club has taught me how to check-in with myself, be a better listener and how to share my story to Brené Brown in front of 1,300 audience members. I wanted to tell Susannah I would have never had the courage to own my story if it wasn’t for her vision of Real Life Book Club.

I opened the Love Letter idea to all RLBCers and together we co-created PROJECT LOVE SHOWER:

[iframe id=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/wGT9UrUTkcM” align=”center” mode=”normal” autoplay=”no” maxwidth=”756″]

After our sweet moment, Susannah started the night off by sharing what Real Life Book Club, her start-up baby, has turned into over the past year; “Real Connection Rising”.  It’s true. Our community is about rising into the best versions of ourselves, the people we’ve always wanted to be.

Susannah never thought to herself, “I want to start a business.” RLBC was a vision that came to her because she kept saying ‘yes’ to the world.

She introduced Krystal Covington, a personal branding extraordinaire, by saying it is possible to have a fulltime job and a business. Her heart belongs to her start-up baby, Women of Denver. I was intrigued. I spent years excusing my lack of writing because I was working fulltime for corporate America. There was always a reason I couldn’t carve out the time or energy to focus on what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be.

Lindsey Rainwater, a Whole body Intelligence Enthusiast, Business Consultant and Conscious Living Coach is also a living testament that it’s possible to reinvent yourself in the corporate world. She talked about being an entrepreneur while working for a company, “I found myself in the same circumstances but with a totally different life.”

I remembered how many times I tried to start something up, outside of my standard 9 to 5 and over and over again, I failed. I couldn’t find the stamina or the spark because I was too caught up in office politics, big paychecks, and being a sales perfectionist. I look back and imagine how much I could have written and rewritten during two decades of work. If only I had known how to believe in myself back then.

Sarah Davison-Tracy , the founder of Seeds of Exchange.  Her passion is redefining the kula {community} + igniting connections with purpose, particularly among those who are impoverished, vulnerable and without freedom {yet} to flourish. She shared that some of her dearest sisters from Nepal once described their lowly role in the community as the boots or the heels of men’s’ shoes. Sarah pours her heart into helping them escape brothels and poverty.

Winter Red Coat

Susannah began by asking the women, “How are you living your most authentic life now?”

Krystal was the first to respond, “I’ve lived so long as a perfectionist. I wanted to do what my parents wanted me to do or what I thought my mentors wanted me to do. I had a belief that I couldn’t make money doing creative stuff.”

This had been my career outlook too. How could I ever write for a living and make the same kind of money I was making in sales jobs? There was a part of me that felt like my parents would be disappointed if I quit. The truth is that they’ve only wanted me to be happy and fulfilled. This was just another invented excuse for me not to follow my passion.

Krystal talked about being offered a position that would pay significantly more than her current job and give her access to a powerful network of executives. Despite the money and the opportunity she followed her heart to remain in a role that both fulfilled her desire to work creatively and also have the ability to continue building Women of Denver.

Someone watched one of my WOD vlogs and told me, “I watch your videos every day because they inspire me.” That kind of feedback encourages me so much more than “I make more than anyone I know.”

Lindsey started off by sharing how much she wrestled with the word discipline. She began figure-skating as a three year-old. Her dad used to freeze over the backyard patio so she could practice. Lindsey skated competitively by the time she was six.  For many years, she had a very specific way she was supposed to show up for herself, her family and her coaches.

Once Lindsey was older, she had to unwind from the overwhelming word, “discipline” and learn to redefine its meaning. Overtime she discovered, “structure can be really beautiful when it’s done right and when we’re in alignment with ourselves first. I began to see discipline as an opportunity to build traction year over year with food and working out. I decided to do it for myself first by aligning with my truth.”

Susannah asked the ladies, “What have you had to let go of in order to be who you are today?”

Sarah began, “Part of my journey is being a Truth Teller. I didn’t think I was going to share this, but I feel welcomed to since Whitney shared her journey with all of us.” The room was silent and the two of us made eye contact while I raised my hands to my heart <3

“When I was 19 to 22 years-old, I had some messiness around anorexia. I almost died. I learned that the love we have for our bodies, our beautiful bodies, begins by loving the very wounds that took us down to begin with. We have so much to do. We need to be healthy. I needed to be healthy for my life.”

From time to time, Sarah still catches herself looking in the mirror and thinking, “Look at that stomach, that butt.” As quickly as she acknowledges the thoughts, she releases them. Now she “pulls the weeds before they sprout.”

Sarah reflected on Kintsugi, the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold. Rather than disguising the breakage, kintsugi restores the damaged pieces by putting each piece together with powdered gold. The result is more beautiful than how it originally looked. She continued, “The broken parts are once again made whole and this this wholeness is what is waiting for each of us. It takes courage to go to those broken places. We have to dig up compassion, oneness and love for ourselves and our bodies. I have to go back/get back to wholeness each and every day.”

Winter

Susannah shared that as a community, we have a lot more common than we know. She encouraged all of us to observe our beliefs about ourselves in order to work through anything that’s no longer serving us. It was powerful when she said, “In personal development communities, we think all we have to do is change our mindset, but there is so much more work to be done.”

I agreed wholeheartedly. I think sharing ALL OF IT is what heals us. It’s not about being positive all the time. It’s about being authentic with our feelings. I no longer live my life with half- truths about how I feel or about who I am.

I’m finally free.

Krystal finished the night by opening up about her views around finances. She was raised in a home that never discussed money. She knew her parents dealt with financial distress due to credit card debt and knowing in the past,  they had filed for bankruptcy. “No one ever sat me down to say-this is how you manage money, so I didn’t know.”

Recently her and her husband took on debt for new floors. Yes, they can afford the floors, but it still brings up a little anxiety for her. “I can have a bank account full of money, but I can still find myself stressed out about conversations around credit, debt and money in general. I kind of go back to being who I was when I was younger and afraid. I’ve learned now that I get to choose the relationship I have around my finances. It’s my time to choose.”

I’m amazed by the stories I hear at the Real Life Book Club Socials because I always hear a little piece of me in their words. I honor their bravery.

Susannah asked for final thoughts on what the panelists have learned from living their life’s purpose.

Krystal: “I’ve learned that we can craft our own story and that we can choose to own our lives.

Sarah: “I’ve learned to be loved, to see myself as worthy and to know I belong.”

Lindsey: “Our circumstances do not dictate who we are. We have the power to change our lives.

Another great Real Life Book Club Social filled with inspiration, goodness, hope and love. A special thanks to these three women for opening up their hearts and sharing their gifts.

More Real Life Book Club six-week sessions and events will be posted in the New Year.

Connect with Susannah Campora on Facebook for more details.

Whitney Gale Signature