How I Used To Be a Missionary with All the Answers: It’s Complicated.

This is the story of my shame.

Once upon a time, I believed there was only one way to God. So I became a missionary and went all over the world telling everyone how to find that one way.

It started back in college when I met some Christian students. They had something I’d never encountered—a vibrant connection with God. Within weeks, I had my own sweet encounter with Jesus. I ecstatically experienced unconditional love from the Divine, and discovered meaning in my life.

Then it got complicated.

I quickly experienced the group-think quality of my new spiritual community. They believed the Bible was the absolute word of God. I fought fiercely against that idea for a little while, but in the warm, persuasive circle of my new friends, my resistance was subtly eroded. And gradually I learned to do a kind of mental gymnastics. When something I read in the Bible or heard from the pastor went against my “knower,” I learned to think it was either because I didn’t understand it or I had sin in my life that was keeping me from seeing the truth.

Therefore, when my knower objected, that meant there was something wrong with me.

Can you say shame-fest in the making?

What is shame? Shame is the thing that tells you you’re inherently bad, and you need to hide your badness. Brené Brown says shame is, “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

Shame said I was bad because my thoughts were different from the group, so I hid my thoughts. Shame said my knower was bad and I wouldn’t be accepted if what my knower sensed didn’t conform to the Bible, so I silenced my knower.

But still, it’s complicated. My church experience wasn’t all bad. In fact, a wonderful, healthy side was also going on at the same time. I was learning authentic spirituality–love for the Divine, faith, prayer, joy, hope––at the same time as I was silencing my own voice. The authentic spiritual connection came in the same package as the stuff I didn’t agree with, and I chose to swallow the bad in order to have the good. Slowly, imperceptibly, my beliefs shifted to line up with the group, reinforced by positive affirmation.

Was I brainwashed? Sometimes it feels like it. But it wasn’t in a cultish way, by one megalomaniac of a group leader. It was just by the steady pressure of a group of loving people who were earnestly seeking a connection with the Divine. Acceptance came via conformity, and I wanted acceptance.

So over time, I took up the belief that Jesus was the only way to God. And that meant people would go to hell if they didn’t follow the one way. There was only one loving conclusion: I needed to tell as many people as possible about Jesus. And because plenty of people here in the U.S. were already pastors and preachers, I had to go to places where people still hadn’t heard of Jesus.

I had no choice: I was called to become a missionary.

On the one hand, I had an arrogant conviction that my denomination had the only truth. And at the same time, the more deeply I connected with the loving heart of the Divine, the more earnestly I wanted to give that gift to others. Then throw in my fascination with travel and seeing the world, and you have a completely mixed bag of motives.

So I spent 13 years being a missionary. I lived a complicated combination of deep spiritual connection and smug self-righteousness that we had the only way to God. On the one hand, there was a wonderful focus within the spiritual community on becoming healed people, because how could we tell people about a loving savior if we didn’t embody that love? I had mentors who were shining examples of love, courage and humility. I learned the disciplines of prayer and service to others. I experienced miracles galore. I become a stronger, better person.

On the other hand, shame shrouded me. I’m ashamed of many of the things we did in our efforts to save the world. Am I sorry I knocked on doors in lots of countries and tried to tell people about Jesus? Yes, it makes me cringe with shame that I believed so strongly that “we” were right and “they” were wrong. Am I sorry I helped smuggle Bibles into China? I don’t know. I believe humans should have freedom to read whatever they want to read, yet did we solve anything by offering one dogma to replace another? Do I wish I hadn’t done all the practical outreach: working in soup kitchens, orphanages, refugee camps, etc.? No, but I’m not sure that we really solved much of anything.

It’s been 11 years now since I left the church. My current spirituality is expansive and joy-filled and still developing. But for years, when people asked me about my past, I would say that I had worked for a relief and development agency. I went to evasive lengths to avoid any mention of evangelism or converting people or trying to save the world. The memory of believing we had the only truth brought on face-flushing, stomach-knotting, palm-soaking shame that I had been so arrogant.

And yet, recently a psychic told me she heard her guides saying, “thank you,” to me. “Thank you for bringing love, hope and compassion to people who couldn’t have received it any other way.” And she pointed out that my particular brand of Christianity was the only doorway to the Divine that I knew as an 18-year-old, and I followed my path with all my heart.

Lately I’ve been peeking out of my spiritual closet, telling parts of my story, acknowledging the things I did then that I wouldn’t do now. The woman I am now would make different choices today, but back then, I followed the light I had in the best way I could. As I start to speak my shame, little by little I can view myself and my journey with compassion.

The power of shame is broken when we come out of hiding.

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The Missionary Story Again

I just heard that the blog post I wrote a couple weeks ago was accepted for publication by elephant journal.  It’s a slightly different version that what I originally posted here.  The editors had me zoom out from my personal experience to a more universal lesson, so it’s about shame.  Here’s the link!

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/05/how-i-used-to-be-a-missionary-with-all-the-answers-its-complicated/

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The Time I Ran Screaming Out of Church and Never Went Back

Okay, so I didn’t really run screaming out, but only because I was trapped in the middle of a long row of people, and I was still entrenched in being appropriate and not making a scene.  But I would have…and I wanted to…

Back in 2005, I moved back to the US after working as a missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) for 13 years.  (If you want to read my story about being a missionary and thinking I had all the answers for everyone in the world, here’s the link:  https://mymagiccarpet.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/its-complicated-how-i-used-to-be-a-missionary-with-all-the-answers/.)  One of the first Sundays in my new city, I went to a Vineyard church, which seemed at the time like it would be a good fit for me because it was pretty similar to the kind of Christianity (charismatic/evangelical) that I’d been involved in for more than 20 years.

When I think back to that Sunday morning, I don’t remember anything about the first half of the service, which would have been the worship part.  I almost always liked times of worship, being in a group of people who were all singing about the beauty and love of God.  Even if the music was crappy, I usually felt strongly connected to God.  There is a loveliness I can’t describe in being surrounded by lots of earnest people affirming the goodness of the divine.  Over the years, I had hundreds of experiences of deeply sensing the presence of God during times of worship.  So it wasn’t the worship that made me want to bolt.

What I remember clearly is my reaction when the pastor started the sermon.  All of a sudden, I was completely enraged that some random man I didn’t know, who didn’t know me, was standing up in front of all of us and telling us how to live.  Surges of anger coursed through me, shocking me with their intensity.  What in the world was happening to me?  He wasn’t even saying anything I disagreed with at that point in my spiritual journey.  It wasn’t his content that triggered my furious reaction; it was two other things.  One was the fact that he was a man telling me, a woman, what to do, and I finally hit the boiling point about men being the primary leaders in the church.  (The missionary organization I was part of has one of the most open attitudes in charismatic circles about women in leadership, but over the years I still often felt the sting of being second best.)  I don’t know why it was that particular day that I reached the boiling point about men always running the show, but I did.

The other, even stronger reason for my reaction was that I suddenly was desperate to find MY truth.  After 20+ years of choosing to accept that the Bible was absolute, infallible truth, and always trying to align my inner being with it, even if that meant squelching my intuition, my ‘knower,’ I suddenly couldn’t do it anymore.  Again, I don’t know what caused that particular morning or that particular sermon to be the turning point for me.  I have no idea now what the sermon was about.  At the time, I didn’t even know any of this was brewing in me.  It just happened.  One day I was going along with the status quo, being a conforming Christian with lots of tidy answers from the Bible about how life works.  The next day, I was flooded with anger and shame about all the hundreds of times I hadn’t listened to my knower.

The reaction I had in that moment was visceral, intense, and frightening.  I wanted to crawl out of my skin, trapped there in the center of that row with about 8 or 10 strangers on both sides.  Julia Cameron says that, used properly, anger can be fuel, and my anger in that moment launched me on a journey of questioning that ripped apart everything I had built my life on.  Over the next weeks, I read through big sections of the New Testament, and with a red pen, crossed out anything that didn’t sit right with me.  (God sending people to hell?  I couldn’t believe in that kind of God.  So I crossed it out.  Men being the head honchos because Eve sinned first?  Nope.  Red pen time.)  It was one of the most empowering things I ever did.  I was finally acknowledging for the first time what I really felt, sensed, and believed about the divine.

I’ve never been back to church.

It’s been about 11 years since that Sunday morning.  During that time, I’ve done lots of soul searching and exploring about what I believe and how I connect with the divine.  And it’s finally time to write about my spiritual journey.  But I can’t encapsulate my new spirituality in a few sentences, and I’m not going to try.  Instead, I’m going to end this piece with a cliff-hanger, and a promise of more installments to come over the next weeks.

Also, it’s time to put myself out in the world as a spiritual coach (not a spiritual guide because YOUR truth is in YOU, and only YOU can find it).  So if what I’m saying resonates with you, and you want help working through the tangle of religion and spirituality, I’d love to do a one-hour free session over the phone with you to see if you and I are a good fit for coaching.  Just shoot an email to cynthia [at] magiccarpetlifecoaching dot com, and let me know, and we’ll get something scheduled!

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It’s Complicated: How I Used To Be a Missionary with All the Answers

I used to believe there was only one way to God.  So I became a missionary and went all over the world telling everyone how to find that one way.

Right at the beginning of my freshman year of college, I met a bunch of Christian students.  They had something I had never encountered before – a vibrant connection with God.  Within a few weeks of being around them, I had my own sweet encounter with Jesus.  I was ecstatically joyful to experience unconditional love from the divine, and to discover meaning and purpose in my life.

Then it got complicated.  I quickly began to feel the not-so-nice side of my new spiritual community, an all-or-nothing quality of group-think.  The basis for everything was the belief that the Bible was the absolute word of God.  I fought fiercely at first against the idea of the Bible’s complete accuracy, because it seemed crazy for such an ancient book to have been preserved without any errors, but in the warm, supportive circle of my new friends, my resistance was subtly eroded.

And gradually I learned to do a kind of mental gymnastics.  What if I didn’t like what the pastor said in the sermon, or I felt uncomfortable with something I just read in the Bible?  For example, I hated all the crap about men being the head of the household, and only men being the leaders of the church, and I passionately questioned the concept of hell – that a loving God would do hell seemed so wrong to me.  But when something didn’t sit right with me, I was taught that it was either because I didn’t understand what it meant or I had sin in my life that was keeping me from seeing the truth.

So I figured out that when my knower objected, that meant there was something wrong with me.  I was desperate to be accepted by my new friends, so I learned to silence my knower, silence my objections.

But it’s complicated, because my church experience wasn’t all bad.  There was also a wonderful, healthy side going on at the same time.  I was filled with longing for a deeper connection with the loving God I was learning about.  I was learning authentic spirituality – love for the divine, faith, prayer, joy, hope – at the same time as I was silencing my own voice.  The authentic spiritual connection came in the same package as the stuff I didn’t agree with, and I chose to swallow the bad in order to have the good.  Slowly, imperceptibly, my beliefs shifted to line up with the group, and were reinforced over and over again by positive affirmation.

Was I brainwashed?  Sometimes it feels like it.  But it wasn’t in a cultish way, by one megalomaniac of a group leader with a charismatic personality.  It was just by the steady pressure of a group of loving people, people who were earnestly seeking a connection with the divine.  Acceptance came via conformity, and there’s a lot of power in group earnestness.  I wanted acceptance.

So over time, I took on board the belief that Jesus was the only way to God.

Once I had the belief that there was only one way to God, and people would go to hell if they didn’t follow that one way, there was only one loving conclusion to come to:  I needed to tell as many people as possible about Jesus.  And because plenty of people here in the US were already pastors and preachers, I should go to places where people still hadn’t heard of Jesus.  It seems absurd now, but as an 18-year-old, the responsibility to save the whole world plunked down onto my skinny shoulders.  I had no choice:  I was called to become a missionary.

But even in this mental progression, it’s complicated.  I was becoming more and more convinced that we, the Christian denomination I was part of, had the only truth.  And at the same time, my connection with God was becoming more life-giving and sustaining all the time.  The more deeply I connected with the beauty of the divine, the more earnestly I wanted to give that gift to others, out of a desire to love and serve.  On top of those two motives, throw in my fascination with travel and seeing the world, and you have a completely mixed bag of driving forces.

So I spent thirteen years being a missionary.  For thirteen years, I lived this complicated combination of deep spiritual connection and smug self-righteousness that we had the only way to God.  On the one hand, there was a wonderful focus within the spiritual community on becoming healed, whole people, because how could we tell people about a loving savior if we didn’t embody that love?  I had mentors who were shining examples of love, courage and humility.  I learned the disciplines of prayer and service to others.  I experienced miracles galore.  I watched myself and many others grow and change and become stronger, better people.

On the other hand, I’m ashamed of many of the things we did in our efforts to save the world.  Am I sorry I helped smuggle Bibles into China?  I don’t know.  I believe humans should have freedom to read whatever they want to read, yet did we solve anything by offering one dogma to replace another?  Am I sorry I knocked on doors in lots of countries and tried to tell people about Jesus?  Yes, it makes me cringe that I believed so strongly that ‘we’ were right and ‘they’ were wrong.  Do I wish I hadn’t done all the practical outreach – working in soup kitchens, orphanages, refuge camps, etc.?  No, but I’m not sure that we really solved much of anything.

And yet, a psychic told me recently that she could hear her guides saying, “thank you, thank you, thank you,” to me, “thank you for bringing love and hope and compassion to people who couldn’t have received it in any other way.”  And she pointed out that my particular brand of Christianity was the only doorway to the divine that I knew about as an 18-year-old, and I followed my path with all my heart.

It’s been eleven years now since I left the church.  My spirituality looks very different.  I’ve explored many things and pieced together my own truth.  I’m a lot less sure about how the universe works, and a lot more sure that we are deeply loved and connected.  I won’t say more about it here, but the time has come for me to do a lot more writing about it – stay tuned.  Whether it’s through writing or leading group programs or doing one-on-one coaching, I want to help others untangle religion and spirituality.  My deepest heart motivation really hasn’t changed:  I want to help people connect to the divine.  But now I know how to do it with open hands, nudging people to find their own truth, instead of trying to impose mine on them.

If this resonated with you and you’d like to talk about your own journey, let me know.  I offer a one-hour free session over the phone if you think you might be interested in being coached.   (Contact me HERE.)

Love,

Cynthia

MagicCarpetLifeCoaching.com

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Psst! What You’re Thinking Isn’t True – (How We Constantly Believe Things That Aren’t True)

I might piss you off with this post.

Right now, you believe hundreds of things that aren’t true.

Every day.  Every single frickin’ day, you and me are hanging onto beliefs that aren’t true.

Does that rock your world?

Think about it.  How often do you come across something you’re thinking (usually about yourself or a person in your life) and you say about it, “I know it’s not true, but it FEELS so true”?

Here’s a list of some beliefs you might recognize:

  • I’m never gonna get this right (about whatever – relationships, career, money, etc.).
  • There aren’t any good (single men, single women, jobs, etc.) out there.
  • I’m a bad person.
  • I’ll never be good enough.
  • I can never do anything right…I always get everything wrong.
  • I’m ugly.
  • I need (him/her/them/my partner/my parents/my children) to love me.  I need them to treat me better.  I need them to respect me.

These beliefs cause us suffering.  If you don’t believe me, just pick one of your juicy ones, and purposely think it for a minute and see what it’s doing to you.  Does the belief make your stomach knot up?  Does your heart race?  Do you internally lash out at the other person?  Do you feel weak?  Want to hide?  See? — it’s causing you suffering just to think that belief.

But what if…just what if…when a belief is causing you suffering it’s actually because IT ISN’T TRUE FOR YOU???

Yeah, I know:  it’s hard to get your head around that idea.  But play with me for a minute.   Let’s say you’re holding the belief, “I’m ugly,” but you can say, “I know it isn’t true, but it FEELS so true.”  And let’s say that belief is causing you a lot of suffering.  But that belief is pretty arbitrary, right?  I mean, isn’t it just as likely that it’s true that you’re not ugly?  Or that you’re beautiful?  In fact, you’ve already told me know you it’s not true even though it feels true.  But despite knowing it’s not true, you’re choosing to hang onto a belief you can’t prove one way or the other, or that you already know isn’t true.  Weird, huh?

So what if…just by chance…the belief that brings you joy, peace, bubbliness, and a sense of connection with yourself and others…what if THAT belief is true? WHAT IF THE TRUTH IS ACTUALLY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU’VE BEEN BELIEVING?

Intrigued?  I want to offer you a resource:  the amazing author and teacher named Byron Katie.  (She goes by Katie in person.)  Do you know that there are a few enlightened people who are alive today who don’t believe their thoughts are true?  Byron Katie is one of them.  After many difficult years and a lot of desperation, she woke up one morning and couldn’t believe her thoughts were true.  And she found herself to be free.  And she created a way to help the rest of us become free.

When I coach clients 1-on-1, we look in depth at the beliefs that are causing them suffering.  We ask if those beliefs are true.  We find opposite beliefs that are more true.  And the amazing thing is that when we find a belief that is more true, the original belief loses its power.

Sometimes it feels like magic.

Want to know more? Curious about being coached?

 

Resources:
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Introducing the Towering Mr. List

I woke up at 5:00 this morning, and I was lying there in bed, thinking about my to-do list.  And just by thinking about what was on my list, I triggered waves of anxiety.

Grrrr…I HATE that!  It makes me so mad at myself.  I hate that I can just think about what’s on my list, and my whole body goes into fight/flight/freeze mode.  Racing heart, clenched stomach, sweating palms.

So this morning, I tried to do some thought work with myself.

The first step in the thought-dissolving process is to pinpoint the thought that triggered you.  For me, it was, “You have to get everything done.”  ‘Everything’ means everything on my to-do list, which wouldn’t realistically be possible even if I could set aside 3 full days to work on it without any new incoming tasks.  My to-do list is LOOOOOOOOOOONG.  But even if I know logically that I couldn’t get it all done no matter how much time I have, I still FEEL like a lot of the items on the list are very urgent, and just thinking about them all brings on waves on anxiety.

As I lay there, I started to ask myself the rest of the questions in the thought-dissolving process, (is the thought true? how do I react when I’m holding the thought?, etc.) but I was inspired to try a different tack, a different coaching tool.

I personified my to-do list.

In other words, I imagined a cartoon character of a towering list, a huge strip of paper about 40 feet high, named Mr. List.  Huge, tall Mr. List.  And at his feet was a little cartoon version of me, only about 6 inches high.  Mr. List had a voice kind of like the Grinch, and there was Grinch-y music in the background, and he was stomping around, singing, “You can’t get everything done,” over and over to me.

Guess what happened?  I started getting more and more anxious.  In fact, I thought, shit, this isn’t how you’re supposed to do this personifying tool.  The personified character is supposed to have a benevolent message for you, but I’m just making myself feel worse.

Stomp, stomp, stomp.  Swaying back and forth.  “You can’t get everything done” – ba boom – “you can’t get everything done” – da dum.  Over and over and over.

Aaaaack!  I had just created a monster in my mind.

But then suddenly I had the most amazing insight:  Mr. List was TELLING THE TRUTH!!!

And the truth is – drum roll – I CAN’T get everything done!

It sounded so mean and taunting and scary as Mr. List stomped and sang at me, but he was actually telling me the truth!

And once I could see the truth, I realized that the lie which was causing me so much suffering was the lie, “You can get everything done.”  And the reason that was causing me so much anxiety was because if I CAN get everything done, then the obvious corollary for me is, “You SHOULD get everything done.”

And as I took this in, the most amazing sensation of peace and lightness and relief flooded through me.  Mr. List wasn’t taunting me – he was trying to get me to stop fighting reality.  I can’t get everything done – that’s reality!  And accepting reality is SO freeing!

What a heavy burden I have been heaping on my shoulders for years, believing the lie, “You can get everything done.”  It was making me work like a madwoman, never satisfied with the results.  I don’t have to do that anymore!  In fact, to take it one step further, I SHOULDN’T get everything done today.  That would be crazy to even try or push myself towards.

So today I’m singing along with Mr. List, “You can’t get everything done – da dum; you can’t get everything done – ba boom!” with so much joy and gratitude in my heart!  And the wonderful thing is that when I’m not stressed out and anxious, I can get a whole lot more done.

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The Tale of the Turtle (Or How NOT to do Custom Orders)

When I was vending at a big belly dance festival, a woman came to my booth and asked if I ever made turtle pendants. She was from a few states away, but I was acquainted with her because she comes to this festival every year, and a few years ago, she had me make one of my dragon pendants for her.

I had never designed a turtle pendant, but I love turtles, and creating one fits into my overall artistic style. She looked through all the cut stones I had on hand, a big mixing bowl full of them, each in its own little baggie, but didn’t find what she wanted, so I gave her directions to a local rock shop.

That was my first mistake, but at least it was an honest one. I should never have sent her to choose stones without me. Normally, when people want certain stones that I don’t have, I look online and find ones that I know will work, send them the links, and let them choose. There are all kinds of considerations about choosing stones – both design and metalsmithing issues – things she couldn’t possibly have known.

She came back with a bunch of stones, and my heart sank.

I realized in that moment how much knowledge and planning goes into the designing of one of my pieces of jewelry. There was absolutely nothing inherently wrong with the stones she chose, except that they just wouldn’t work for the design idea she was talking about.

But I didn’t say anything, and that was my bigger mistake. I agreed to make the piece. Why? Because I was being a people-pleaser. She had just spent a bunch of money on these stones, and she was all excited about the idea. Plus, I really wanted the money that her deposit would bring in. So I pushed my concerns aside. I thought, well, I’ll just make it work — somehow.

After the festival, I stalled on the project for months. Finally, I forced myself to tackle it. I drew the shape of the turtle itself, and cut it out of silver sheet. And I was really pleased with it. Also, I made bezels for about half my client’s stones and placed them where they were supposed to go on the silver cutout.

But they just didn’t look right to me.

I moved stones around and tried everything I could come up with, trying to force the stones to look like a turtle’s shell.

I prayed.

I pleaded for the design to come together.

No luck.

Finally, I just gave up. I realized that I couldn’t make a piece that I didn’t feel good about artistically, and that I needed to just give the woman a refund and return her stones and apologize for not listening to my knower from the start, when she came back from the rock shop and showed me what she had bought.

As I made the decision, a feeling of utter relief washed over me.

Then I thought, “I wonder if I have a stone among all my cut stones that I could use as the turtle’s shell, so I could at least salvage my cute turtle shape that I already cut out, and just sell the piece to someone else?” I reached into the mixing bowl full of stones, and the very first stone I pulled out was a green teardrop of something called serpentine. I set it on the silver turtle cutout shape, and it was perfect. More than perfect. As you can see in the photo, the point of the stone teardrop was a little off-center, and in my design, the teardrop shape of the shell was a little lopsided to give a sense that you were looking at the turtle slightly at an angle as it swam.

I was dumbfounded. I started to cry. Here was my perfect turtle, staring back from my workbench at me. I’ve probably had that stone for more than 5 years, and never found the right design for it.

But just because I ended up making a turtle that I was really satisfied with didn’t mean that she was my client’s turtle. So the best thing I could think of to do was to offer her a choice: refund her money and mail her stones back. Or, if she looked at the photos and fell in love with this one, it would be hers.

And apologize either way. Ask forgiveness for being a people-pleaser and not listening to my knower.

So you can guess the rest of the story. With fear and trembling I sent off my email. She said she liked it from the photos. So I mailed it to her. A few days later, I received this email:

“I got the turtle on Saturday, my birthday!!  I love it!!   She is bigger than I thought from looking at the picture.  Definitely would have bought her if she had been on your display.  Thank you so much!!”

Sometimes it feels like a long road to walk my truth and only my truth. But I’m so grateful that it seems to be getting easier to get back on the road when I stumble off.

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A Lesson in Hope

I don’t usually use my blog to talk about my health issues. But I want to share something that’s going on with me because so many of you reading this are women who are 35 or older. And I told myself that if this – the thing I’m going to talk about – worked for me, I would tell it to as many other women as I could.

I just turned 50, and I was miserable from December of 2014 to just about 6 weeks ago.

  • I was weepy. All the time.
  • I wanted to kill my husband.
  • I felt totally foggy and brain-dead, not able to concentrate.
  • I was waking up every night in the middle of the night and being awake for two hours.
  • I was exhausted all the time.
  • I was gaining weight.
  • I felt anxious about everything.
  • And libido? What’s that?

About the only symptoms that would normally appear on this (oh too familiar) list that I wasn’t dealing with were hot flashes and night sweats because they were being controlled with synthetic estrogen and progesterone.

Back in December, I had my ovaries removed, so I was flung into instant surgical menopause. And it made me completely miserable. Hot flashes 6 or 8 times a day, soaking night sweats every night, plus everything I listed above. My regular gynecologist put me on synthetic hormone replacement – pretty much the standard in the American healthcare system.

But I still felt weird. More than weird. Awful. I went back to the gynecologist and asked if we could adjust the doses or try something different. Nope, if the hot flashes and night sweats were being controlled, the doses were correct. I went to my primary care doctor and said, “I feel weird.” She did every blood test she could think of and said, “Nope, you’re fine.” The message I got was, (and I quote directly from the gynecologist), “No one ever dies of menopause,” and that I needed to just deal with it.

I got mad. And I got really curious. And I got determined. Several years ago, I had started reading about ‘bioidentical’ hormone replacement. And I knew there were doctors and clinics springing up all over who prescribe these. So I did a bunch more reading.

And what I learned was pretty amazing.

Three things stand out.

One is that the risks of bioidentical hormone replacement are much lower – proponents say non-existent – than synthetic hormones. (My regular gynecologist had put me on synthetic estrogen tablets which increase risks of blood clots, even though I had had a blood clot 5 years ago – yikes!)

The second thing is that the doctors in the bioidentical camp believe menopausal women should feel good. Vibrant. Energetic. Full of zest for life. ‘Uh duh,’ you say, right? Well, apparently ~thriving~ is not the goal in some parts of the regular medical system. Being told that no one has ever died of menopause is not a message that makes me believe that my particular gynecologist was concerned about helping me feel zesty. On the other hand, doctors in the bioidentical camp believe in bringing hormone levels back up to how you felt long before perimenopause even started. We’re talking back to how you felt around age 35. Does that sound unnatural? Well, so was the surgery I had to remove my appendix back when I was 21. But I’m sure glad I went with that. I like being here.

Finally, the third thing that totally interested me is that women produce a lot of their testosterone in their ovaries, which I no longer owned. I read a list of symptoms of women with low testosterone levels, and I had almost every one…and they had all started back in December. Hmm… But most American insurance companies won’t pay for testosterone replacement (even synthetic) for women. Also, synthetic progesterone, which I was taking, somehow bonds with any smidge of testosterone I was producing in my adrenals, which renders it useless.

So I found me a doc who does bioidenticals. He’s an MD, a gynecologist, and his entire practice is hormone replacement therapy.

Did my insurance pay for this? Hell, no.

Was it expensive? Yes, about $1200 to get started plus $80 a month for the prescription. (In following years, it should be only $600 plus the monthly prescription.)

Am I worth it? YES!

Do I feel better? YEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS! I started feeling better within 24 hours, in fact. I’ve been on them for about 6 weeks, and I feel vibrant. Energetic. Zesty.

I just wish I’d known about bioidentical hormone replacement when I was 38 and had my first panic attack and was put on Paxil, an anti-depressant used for anxiety. I was on that drug, which has known long-term effects, all through my 40’s. But guess what? Age 38 is about when women start making less progesterone, which is a calming hormone. I just wonder now how I would have felt if I had started bioidenticals at that point instead.

As I went through this process, I told myself that if this made me feel better, I was going to share this with every woman I could. Because even though no one ever died of menopause, it causes real suffering. But it doesn’t have to.

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Confession Time

Confession Time:  I’m a recovered Underpricer.

In my free class that’s coming up this Thursday, I tell the story of the first time I offered my jewelry for sale.  Two of my friends came to the event where I was vending, and they each wanted to buy a pendant from me.  I just looked back in my records, and I charged them $32 each for pieces that now I would easily sell for $150 or more.  I doubt I even covered the cost of materials.  They both kept saying, ‘are you sure?’  One of them tried very hard to stuff more money into my hand.  I wouldn’t take it.  I was just in such disbelief that they would actually want my metalsmithing work that I felt like I must be hoodwinking them or something.

I’ve come a long way since then.  Now, when I’m standing at my booth and someone asks a price, I tell them without hesitation.  And if I see that certain cringe or subtle shock that means it’s way more expensive than they expected, instead of feeling sheepish or wanting to offer excuses or discounts, I feel oddly proud inside.  Something wells up in me that says, ‘yup, that’s how much it’s worth, and you’d better believe it.’  It’s not cocky energy (although that sentence sounds cocky on paper).  It’s just a solid confidence.

NEWSFLASH:  You can become a Fearless Pricer too!

That’s why I’m offering this FREE one-hour training call.  It’s called, “Fearless Pricing for Creative Entrepreneurs – a Guide for Underpricers, Overpricers and Random Pricers,” and it’s packed with ways to start pricing your creative offerings appropriately and courageously.  I’ll be talking about some common reasons that creatives are Muddled Pricers, and I’ll share some simple techniques that can enable you to get past those obstacles, so that you can take your business from expensive hobby to money-making profitability.

This no-cost training is for you if you’re an artist, artisan or craftsperson of any sort, and you’re trying to sell your work.

How much longer are you gonna price yourself too low and end up resentful?  Or too high and not sell?

So I hope you’ll join me on the phone this Thursday, September 24th, at 1pm Eastern, noon Central, 11am Mountain and 10am Pacific time.  And don’t worry, the call will be recorded if you can’t make it live (but you have to sign up to get the recording).  So hop over here TO REGISTER to save your spot on the call!

Love,

Cynthia

PS.  If you read this and you’re torn between hope that Fearless Pricing might truly be achievable and fear that it’s too good to be true, you are exactly the person I’m talking to.  YOU!

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A Course Correction, and I’m Headed to My North Star Again

Picture your life as your sailboat, at sea on a dark, starry night.  You are trying to sail toward your personal North Star, your purpose, your passion, the life you were meant to live.  But the reason sailboats make marvelous analogies for our creative journeys is because most of the time you can’t sail straight toward your goal.  You have to tack back and forth, chasing the winds.  And sometimes you focus so much on the waves that when you look up at your North Star again, you realize you need a course correction.
I had a course correction recently.  Ever since I got trained as a life coach, I’ve imagined that I would have at least a three-part business, including coaching, jewelry making, writing and probably public speaking.  I’ve been intensely focused on jewelry for the past four or five months, creating a lot of pieces, doing lots of vending, and making lots of custom orders.
Early in July, I vended up in Vail, a great little Colorado mountain town.  I’ve done this event several times before, and usually I make a lot of money, but that day I didn’t.  And I left very frustrated because I had specifically asked the universe to send all the right people to buy my jewelry.  What had I done wrong?  I had asked the divine for something specific, and it definitely didn’t happen.  WTF????
Then, a week or so later, I drove an hour to have lunch with a fellow coach.  On the drive, I listened to a recorded class related to my coaching business and felt my passions getting very stirred up about coaching.  I love coaching people!  I love passing along the amazing tools I’ve learned that have opened the way for me to create the life I want!  I love it when a client has a major breakthrough!  My coach friend and I talked for 3 hours and all I could think was that I want more clients to coach.  As I drove back home, I listened to the recorded class all over again, and I had the strong sense that I had been neglecting my calling to serve people with my coaching skills.  I made the decision that it was time to focus again on my coaching.
But, I had a previous vending commitment a few days after that lunch meeting, so I had lots of jewelry work to do to get ready, and I didn’t do anything about my decision.  The vending was in downtown Denver at a street fair where I expected to encounter lots of people who would like my style.  As I was driving to the venue that morning, I begged the divine that I would be able to sell lots of jewelry and make some good money.  I was hoping to take in around $1000 for the day.  Well, I barely covered the booth fee and the food and parking for the day.  Plus it was freakin’ hot and lots of hard work.
On my way home, I was so upset.  All that work for nothing.  What about the divine answering my prayers?  What about manifesting things?  What was going on???
Then I got it.  I had been SAYING all week that I was willing to change how I was spending my time.  I was excited about the idea of spending a lot more time on coaching.  But in reality, in those few days since making my decision to change, I hadn’t actually DONE anything different.  I had still poured just as much time into my jewelry business, compulsively trying to finish a bunch of new pieces so I would have a certain amount to sell.  I THOUGHT I was listening to my inner guidance, but I actually wasn’t DOING the things I would have done if I had truly taken that guidance to heart.
So the universe had to be drastic to get my attention.  And this time, on this drive home, I REALLY decided that it’s time to focus on coaching, and that my jewelry business needs to be a side business, at least right now.  Yes, I’m still vending this weekend, up in Vail again, but I’m NOT going to obsess over how many pieces I have to sell, or work like crazy to finish a few more beforehand.   This time I’m making my course correction for real.
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