"A year ago, bundled up in my rental car parked on a tiny Greek harbor in the dark, I am talking with a coaching client / friend.
She needs to make a big decision and when I close my eyes, I can hear that something thick is in her way, something that has little to do with logistics.
She talks some more. I listen some more.
Then, as is often the case when someone makes the space for us to truly explore our own nooks and crannies, something important bubbles up, warm and soft, perfectly ready for me to catch it: she shares with me that she had often been told that she was noncommittal, or as some of her friends put it, “a quick quitter.”
I can hear the weight that these opinions have had for her. I can almost see the tight tapestry that their strands have woven, over the years. A rich, protective and familiar tapestry that was now getting in the way of her heart’s bright light and of what it was trying to tell her.
So I make a suggestion. A quiet, small and quite huge suggestion.
I ask her to drop the story.
This suggestion made her laugh and in her laugh there was relief as if a window had just opened up onto a sweet horizon. Suddenly my little car felt a few degrees warmer, too.
This morning, I receive these words from her:
“I keep reflecting on what a journey the past year has been. In one of our very first coaching conversations, I talked about a story I carried - that I was noncommittal or as friends said a quick quitter.
Your advice was drop the story.
I dropped the story and within a year I am engaged.
Isn’t that fascinating!?"
What a change we can make with the words we use and the stories we tell - or choose not to tell.”
Our stories. The stories we have made - or most likely have adopted - about who we are and who we are not. About our skills and our defects. So many stories. Stored in our very own Story Book.
In my classes, we call these “the tissue papers.” The thin and often numerous tissue papers that get in the way of us shining our light brightly. Often times, there were not placed there with malice or an intent to hurt us. They just floated our way and took hold.
One of my stories was that I was not good at math. Or numbers of any kind. Therefore, I was not good at money. This was actually a convenient story as it absolved me from dancing in the world of financial abundance, which kept me safely tucked away from the things I had seen such abundance do to a person, as I was growing up.
Of course, shopping at the food bank turned out to not be all that convenient either and I can physically remember the exact moment I dropped that story. Or maybe it dropped me.
One moment it was there and one moment it was gone.
All of a sudden, I was (and still am) able to do math in my head, to look at spreadsheets and analyze them almost at a glance. Not only that, but I am now able to connect with how much I love playing with numbers and yes, money. Especially when it comes to making it do pirouettes and add ease and happiness to many lives.
There are more stories in my Story Book, and I bet you have your own, too.
Today, I invite you to check in with yourself and with your own Story Book. What’s in there and is it being a good friend or is it getting in the way of your life?
And then, I invite you to very simply … allow some of these stories to let go of you.
Wishing you a lovely rest of the day...
As Carol and I walked down from our dreamy little roof top apartment and into the Caribbean-ness of the street, we were greeted by a man waiting for his bus. He smiled, said “Bonjour!,” and asked where we were going. I smiled back and told him that we were on our way to catch a boat that would take us to the picture-perfect island we had been admiring from our terrace. He nodded approvingly and said that if he did not have to go see his doctor today, he would have loved to come along. “La prochaine fois!” I said (“next time!”) and we waved each other goodbye.
The way I had for the past two weeks, I turned to Carol to give her the English version of the exchange.
Except that this time, I knew that I wanted to give her some cultural context, not just translate the words, lest the Essence of the conversation would be gravely misunderstood.
The little daily back-and-forth between men and women, in the country where I grew up - and on this French island as well.
The quick moments that cannot be called flirting because really, they’re not.
The tiny things a French man will do or say that will make a French woman feel seen and well… womanly. No matter her age - nor his.
I remember my grandma, in her late 70s, being tickled pink because her grocer had noticed that she had been at the beauty parlor since he had seen her last. In less than one minute he had made her day, and trust me when I say that none of it was weird.
Growing up in Paris, being acknowledged by construction workers was routine and not once did it feel threatening nor disrespectful. And yes, I know I am going to get some emails about this. Different cultures.
When I went back to Paris three years ago and after a painful 16 year absence, I had fears. Would I remember how to be, over there? Would I no longer love it? Would I love it so much that I would not want to leave? Mostly… would I belong? As I climbed the stairs out of the metro for my first view of the gray-white buildings that watched me grow up, my heart felt thick inside my chest and my throat narrow. Eventually, the thickness of my heart made its way to my eyes and tears fell silently while I looked up.
I stood there for a long time, deeply enveloped by a moment I had dreamed about for almost two decades. Suspended in time, the healing was happening at the same rate as I was realizing how deep the wound had been.
And then, I heard it. A man’s voice, sightly accented and calling out to me. Telling me that I was beautiful.
Just like that, I was home. I turned around, smiled at him and waved. He waved back and I was on my way. Nothing creepy, nothing scary, zero feeling of having been insulted or invaded.
Wanting to give this background to Carol before I translated our bus-waiting friend’s words, I knew I had a special task in front of me. I wanted her to get it, and I also knew that the concept had plenty of opportunities to be misunderstood.
Turning towards her, this is what came out of my mouth. A strange version of the beloved Namasté:
"The man-ness in me sees, honors and cherishes the woman-ness in you. Away from notions of harm, ownership or anything other than this very moment, when I am in that place in me and you are able to receive me as such, we are well."
Thankfully, I believe that she understood.
Like I said, different cultures. Both making sense in their own countries.
And the boat ride that followed was 5 minutes of perfection, taking us to a movie-set worthy little island.
Life is good.
For most meals for about a week now, Danielle has been laying copious amounts of exotic food in front of us. From saucy meat stews to tiny cod fritters, mountains of root vegetables and savory bananas to artfully arranged delicious fruit plates, many of which we do not recognize. Even their French names often elude me as even though the island of Guadeloupe is legally French, this sure isn’t the food I grew up with, in the “Metropole.” It is exciting and it scratches our group’s itch for the Essences of Adventure and Discovery. Oh, and Nurturing.
Danielle and her mom Esther take their job of feeding us quite seriously and when we happen to not finish our plates, the looks that falls upon us can be intimidating. Once, I attempted to pass on something that came my way and was told with no room for negotiation that I would try it. I did and of course, I was glad.
If one was to not pay attention, Danielle Queen of The Kitchen, could be mistaken for a tough (and bossy) cookie.
After lunch yesterday, she and I lingered around the table together and I became privy to this particular cookie’s very, very tender center.
We first met Danielle when Carol and I had arrived two days early to get ready for the Retreat.
She and two other beautifully dressed women had welcomed us downstairs from our small temporary apartment, and between the two of them, holding their hands, was a little girl with sparkly black eyes and plenty of spirit. When Danielle needed to open the door to let us in, she asked someone else to hold Sasha’s hand for a second. Noticing my look of surprise, Danielle explained that Sasha was born at 5 months and did not have any balance. No drama, no weirdness, just what it is.
Yesterday, sitting around the table, she and I settled comfortably and talked about our lives. She wanted to know how many children I had. I asked her if Sasha was her only daughter.
She then generously shared a chunk of her heart with me and in the process, made mine grow a size or two.
Little Sasha was born to Danielle’s neighbors. She spent her first three months in an incubator before being sent home. A few days later, Sasha’s mom burst into Danielle’s kitchen and handed her the tiny baby who was unresponsive and without a pulse. As Danielle tells it: she was dead in my hands. The minutes that followed are not completely clear to me - either on purpose or not - but what I did hear and understand is that “Danielle did what she was called to do” and somehow resuscitated the baby. Sasha was then brought to the hospital where the doctors asked Danielle what she had done to bring her back - and may not have gotten a clearer answer than I had.
And that is when the tiny little girl died for the second time that day.
The docs did what they do and got her heart beating once again. Except that this time, they let both Danielle and Sasha’s mom know that there was no chance of her living a normal life. Her brain had been deprived of oxygen for way too long and “they were going to bring home a vegetable.”
This was too much for the baby’s mom and so just like that, Sasha was handed to Danielle, and Danielle, who thought that she was done raising kids - her own daughter in her mid twenties and living in France - opened her home, her arms and her heart to the infant whom she had already “birthed” once.
What happened next is that “an immense amount of love was poured into that child.”
Danielle and her husband arranged their lives around what needed to be done, always kept a wide open door to Sasha’s birth family and well… a village raised that baby, one miracle after the next, under the watchful eye of Danielle. Which explains a few things about the way she runs her kitchen.
As the weeks and months then years passed, Sasha grew and healed and eventually thrived. Danielle explains to me that a team of doctors comes once a year from the Metropole to check on her progress. Danielle also takes her once a year over there for check ups and therapies. She tells me that all along, Sasha has known what she needed for her own care - often to the huge surprise of doctors, and that Danielle took her cues from her.
I hear nothing about adoption, about whose child she is, nor about money. I hear only of ongoing love therapy and of the adoration for a child who according to Danielle, is a gift to everyone. She tells me how everywhere she goes, people are attracted to her and fall in love with her. She tells me that the only thing left now is for her balance to come back and that she knows that it will.
And then she tells me that this little girl means the world to her and that she is the one who was blessed the day she came to her. Then, she looks towards the ocean as she mentions to me that Sasha was born on Easter Monday, the day that Jesus came back to life, in the Catholic tradition.
I smile and bask in the richness of this special shared moment as my heart swirls in the gratitude that so far away from home - wherever that is - I am somehow home.
When I translate this story (which I am sharing here with permission) to our group, Matt, one of our guests, is inspired to say that “there is nothing that repeated applications of love can't solve.” I sure like this idea.
I also love that once again, I am reminded about how we Just. Never. Know.
It turns out that Tough Danielle is really Soft, Deeply Tender Danielle.
And I have a feeling that Bossy Danielle might have come in handy a time or two in the last three years, too.
Here’s to miracles, to dancing with life’s magic, to healing and to having our assumptions sent out for a little happy spin.