I don’t even know where to start this week – I’m reminding myself to take deep breaths – inhaling and exhaling long breaths and allowing myself to be enveloped in a healing flame and to see others – those I know and those I don’t – to be enveloped in a healing and loving light, too. To step away from the fear, the anger and the hate that fills the airwaves, the world, our communities and sometimes our own homes and replace it with this healing light. Not always easy, but it’s a must for me right now. It may be for you, too.
Sometimes, I find myself stepping back as if I am watching a movie or the latest Homeland episode, and that when I leave the theater or turn off the TV, it’ll be over with. But it’s not and for now, it’s clear to me that we must find that way to collectively raise our vibration – to have everyone, or at least a majority, buy into the fact that we can change the way we “do” things.
For the past several days, as I think about Paris, Beirut, Mumbai, the senseless acts of violence that take place daily in our own country whether it’s a shooting on a campus or the overwhelming numbers of young African-American men being killed for who knows what in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and other places… I want to ball up in a little knot and hide where it’s safe. But that’s not the way things change and it’s no way to live.
I’m being especially loving to myself, to those I’m around, to my husband, and to my friends and family. And for complete strangers, I also say a prayer every day acknowledging their light no matter the size of the flame. Surrounding myself with beauty, comfort and nurturing things and reminding myself that those things are a big part of life, too, and that it’s important to acknowledge them, partake in them and let them help me keep my vibration high.
So, I want to share two things with you – those messages you receive just when you need them. Oh, how perfect I think. A Cosmic Wink to envelope me and fill my heart and let me know I’ll be okay…
The first is a message from Lena and Jose Stevens, founders of The Power Path School in Santa Fe, NM, which offers an extensive experiential curriculum based on many years of study with indigenous Shamans around the world, as well as being authors of Secrets of Shamanism and The Power Path. You can find out more about them and their teachings at www.ThePowerPath.com :
“Dear Power Path Community,
We just returned from a trip to Peru greatly saddened by the recent events and violence in many areas of the world. And there are far more events both local and global happening than ever reach the news. There is much trauma, fear, confusion and despair and there is a danger in succumbing to matching this energy. It is a time when staying in the light and maintaining your higher vibration is absolutely necessary in order for you to be of any help.
We have been saying prayers for the victims, the souls who have transitioned, the souls who have been left behind, the souls who have lost their way, and all the souls who wish to help heal this great imbalance in our world.
What you can do:
- Be compassionate towards others who are having a difficult time.
- Be generous with your kindness and be accepting of what is (this does not make it right).
- Send love, compassion and forgiveness out to anyone who can use it.
- Send out an intention to help release the trauma, fear and shock patterns connected with any acts of violence.
- Take good care of yourself and your loved ones.
- Keep your vibration high and be around beauty, inspiration and gratitude.”
Practice being loving in your own home, workplace, community, and even on your own Facebook page – that’s where it starts.
Another article was shared with me this morning by a friend who must have known I needed it. It’s actually an article that will be published in the January/February 2016 issue of UNITY magazine. Katy Koontz, who is the editor-in-chief, knows that the article written my her daughter, Sam Friedlander, a college senior, is something that will touch many hearts right now. Take some time to read Something Called Peace – we all need to hear that there IS a thing called PEACE.
In the meantime, I’m sending out love and good healing vibes and working to stay high above the fear.
Can you join me? Will you?
- High School and College Students
- College and High School/Junior High Administrators
- Faculty Members
- Athletic Departments
- Student Athletes
- Fraternity/Sorority Members and National Staff
- Health Care Personnel
- Law Enforcement Officers
- Campus Security Officers
- Community Members
- Bartenders and Waitstaff
Did I leave anyone off? Let’s just be safe and say…. everybody.
If you haven’t seen it, this will be a good chance to check it out – The Hunting Ground, the landmark documentary expose of campus sexual assault shown at more than 1,000 colleges, will now air for the first time on TV. Sunday evening, November 22nd, you’ll be able to watch this film on CNN at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST.
I saw the film last April on the Dartmouth campus in an auditorium full of students, faculty, parents and community members. I am grateful to the film’s Oscar-nominated directors, Kirby Dick, a two-time Emmy winner, and Amy Ziering, who has twice been an Emmy recipient, for making the film and getting it out there on campuses and in communities. It has inspired a whole flurry of state legislation and has forced colleges and universities to examine the way they have handled or perhaps more accurately, not handled, sexual assault allegations on campus.
CNN will air the film with limited commercial breaks and a roundtable discussion titled “Sexual Assault on Campus” will be hosted by CNN New Day anchor, Alisyn Camerota, following the viewing.
The Hunting Ground’s extremely moving theme song, “Til It Happens to You,” performed by Lady Gaga and composed by seven-time Academy Award nominee, Diane Warren, has become a sensation on its own. The song’s video, directed by Twilight’s Catherine Hardwick, has received nearly twenty million views online.
The documentary premiered at the 2015 Sundance Festival who called the film “a shocking but ultimately galvanizing work of reportage.” Leslie Felperin in The Sundance Review went on to say:
“Indeed, all the numerous young women and men who come forward here to speak about their ordeals are worthy of immense respect and regard, but what is especially impressive about the film is that it doesn’t settle for being a mere catalog of crimes. In the latter half especially, focus broadens to explore the aggressive, macho culture that permeates party life on campuses across the country and draws a map of how Greek fraternities, who so generously endow schools through fundraising efforts, form and sustain that culture. Likewise, the worship of star athletes and school teams, and the massive sums of money at stake in college sports are shown to be part of the problematic puzzle that leads to the shockingly low rates of prosecution.”
I encourage you all to make time to see this film. It’s time for real change. Our kids go to college to learn about all sorts of things – being a perpetrator or a victim of sexual assault shouldn’t be one of them.
This month I’ve chosen to share my thoughts on the word grace. It’s one of my favorite words but not for my usual reasons. It doesn’t roll off my tongue in a way that’s pleasing—like gentle or invoke a physical response—like embrace or resilience. I love the word grace because it has so many meanings. Webster’s Dictionary provides eleven very diverse definitions. I’ll share the ones I enjoy most.
A Name: This one’s not in Webster but I couldn’t leave it out. The name Grace means Charm. It immediately brings to mind Grace Kelly; Princess Grace; Gracie Slick; a longtime girlfriend and the name of my friend’s beloved cocker spaniel—all charming!
A Title: Women and men of nobility are often called “Your Grace” as a gesture of respect. I can’t say anyone’s addressed me in that way but wouldn’t it be fun?
A Period of Time: During a “grace period” you won’t be penalized for going beyond the due date of a payment or obligation. I’m sure we’ve all been thankful for this definition of the word grace, probably more than once.
A Way to Act: Grace can mean doing what is right or proper but when someone comments, “She handled that with such grace” it suggests the person went a step beyond what’s right. When someone has to put feelings of awkwardness, anger or sarcasm aside to do or say the right thing then they are handling it with grace. It takes a little more effort.
A Way to Perform: I love this definition; the beauty of movement. A ballerina, Swan, Giselle, couple waltzing…all demonstrate grace with movement. Watching them leaves me feeling serene.
In Religion: In both Christianity and Judaism the word grace takes on a deeper meaning of love or mercy. In both religions it refers to God’s love freely given to mankind.
A Prayer: I may get a bit whimsical with this one. Many people say a prayer either before or after a meal referred to as Grace. There are standard prayers that some families rattle off with little thought, usually only on Thanksgiving or Christmas. You know—Bless us oh Lord…There are families who say Grace every night, having different family members take a turn. And then there’s my family, The Dolans. There have been times when we didn’t say Grace. Times when I said a “traditional” Grace every night before supper and then there was Grace at the holiday table. My mother-in-law made us all hold hands while I said Grace, a tradition we’ve kept in her memory. The other “tradition” is that no other family member has ever volunteered to say the prayer.
As I became deeper embedded in my healing journey, and so thankful for the people who were by my side, I chose to abandon the traditional words and create my own prayer. Okay, I’ll admit on some occasions it was a bit long, especially when the aroma of Thanksgiving dinner was passing each bowed head. And yes, it was a bit emotional, as I gave thanks for the family and friends walking this journey with me. But my Grace held a deeper meaning than any traditional version. A few years passed and on one Christmas Eve, this table of people who would never volunteer, made fun of me—in a loving way of course. “Here we go.” “Oh boy, is this going to be a long one?” At the next family dinner I began serving without saying Grace. I wasn’t going to be the center of a joke, no matter how badly I wanted to say a prayer before our meal. Immediately someone said “Aren’t we going to say Grace?” No, I casually replied. “Why not? We have to say Grace!” Oh, does anyone want to say it? “No, you have to.” Hmmm, I secretly thought, it worked. I said Grace, kept it brief and have continued saying it at family dinners ever since.
I’m sure there are many words that have multiple, diverse, meanings but grace is the one that I relate to and love. Although my family may not be thrilled with my sharing the “saying Grace” story, I think I handled it with …grace!
Roberta Dolan is a former special education teacher with a master’s degree in counseling. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Roberta has made it her mission to end the silence of sexual abuse, lend support to survivors, and educate others on preventing child sexual abuse through seminars, her blog, Write to Survive, and website www.RobertaDolan.com. Say It Out Loud: Revealing and Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse (She Writes Press 2014) is Roberta’s first book. A unique blend of memoir and how-to, the book offers strategies for healing from any type of personal trauma. Roberta is available to speak to book clubs, women’s groups and organizations on Healing and the Power of Saying it Out Loud.
For all of the articles and podcasts and books that tell us we must learn how to say, “NO” – we treat that sage advice as the new rule to follow. “Can you join us?”… NO! “Would you like to? … NO! “Have you ever thought about doing?” … NO! “Can you help us out?”… NO!
Sometimes, saying NO is an act of self-preservation. We’re overdone and run out of anything left to give. But, what if we’ve been saying NO, not because we don’t want to do something, but because we’re afraid or we don’t want to appear foolish? Suppose NO is keeping us from experiencing life?
Just this past week I read an interview with Shonda Rhimes, the forty-five year old television writer and creator of amazing shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. A single mom with three children and a big, busy career, her life was full. She said NO to lots of things. However, she now admits that the reason she was so quick to say NO to interviews, to cocktail parties, to speaking appearances was that she was terrified of saying YES. So she kept her busy life and comforted herself by eating lots of food and snuggling with her kids.
At Thanksgiving in 2013, she was challenged by a remark her sister made after she told her about all of the high profile invites she had received and was planning on declining. Her sister said: “You never say YES to anything.”
That one remark became a wakeup call for Shonda and on her birthday in early 2014, she made a pact with herself to change her ways. She would say YES to things that scared her (within reason) and from that moment on, not only was she doing things she hadn’t allowed herself to do before, her life was transformed.
She spoke at her alma mater, Dartmouth. She appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and attended various other functions she had previously shied away from. She also learned how to say NO to protect her time by setting boundaries on when she was available for work or to answer phone calls or emails. When she said NO, it was to protect her YES time.
She also said YES to taking better care of herself. She began eating more healthy meals and exercising on a regular basis. And… she lost over 100 pounds.
Shonda Rhimes is continuing with her new YES behavior, and on November 10th, her new book, Year of YES: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person will be released. She is sharing what saying YES has done for her.
I salute her big time. I am amazed that this successful and wildly talented and creative woman is like so many of us when it comes to saying YES to things that can challenge us, make us grow, and add more meaning to our lives. We say NO because we’re focusing on what we think we should be doing or because we’re just too afraid.
My move to Vermont helped to stimulate my YES muscle and refine my NO muscle. YES to more exercise. YES to exposing myself to creative pursuits. YES to more cooking and trying new recipes instead of cooking the same old same old. YES to doing more home entertaining. YES to taking time to find out about my surroundings by exploring.
Even though I haven’t lost a 100 pounds, I’m amazing myself. There’s a whole new world out there if we just allow ourselves to take part in it – to say YES. And, there’s so much we can just let go or at least tame down if we learn to say NO to what we have allowed to fill all of our time.
So, I’m continuing my YES project.
And, if you start your year of YES… what will you be saying YES to?
I grew up in a small town in southside Virginia where everybody knew your name. They even knew the name of your third cousin once removed. Even though I left that town on the first plane I could get on after college that was headed west, I still have tons of memories about that little place and some of the people from my growing up years. Just the other day, a message on Facebook brought back a vivid memory.
One day after school when I was seven years old, my mother had to meet with another mom (Claude’s mom) about some PTA business. We headed over to Claude’s house and Ronnie and Wallace, two other boys about the same age were there playing with Claude.
My mother headed into the house and I stayed out back to play with the boys on the swing set. For awhile, everything was fine but then the guys ganged up on me. They pushed me to the ground and pulled my dress up over my head. I was kicking and screaming and started hollering the dreaded words, “I’m gonna tell!” Well, at that age, that can often stop all sorts of things from happening and it worked. I got up off the ground, straightened my dress and said, “Ya’ll are in trouble.”
Well, fast-thinking Claude said, “Wait a minute. Let me get you something.” – and off he went into his house and came out a few minutes later with a piece of apple pie on a plate for me. I guess that was supposed to make everything better. I politely accepted his gift and then proceeded to pick it up and rub it in his face.
Just as I must have seen on TV or somewhere else, I smished that pie all over his face and said, “There!” Well, needless to say Claude was sputtering and shouting, “Why’d you go and do that?” My only answer at the time was “Because.” Years later, the answer would have been, “Because you’re an a-hole.” At seven years old, I didn’t know the name for it.
When I think back to that time, I’m proud of my little self for fighting back and making a point with those little boys. That feistiness faded as I grew older and wanted their attention. Looking back, there were times when I wished I had punched a guy, rubbed pie in his face, or just walked away. But, for some reason, that option didn’t seem to make sense to me. I wanted guys to like me so I put up with a lot more than I should have and kept quiet about many things.
And, going away to college didn’t make things better. I started college in the early 70s – you know, free love and all that stuff. And, I daresay there are many men today who cringe at what they are reading in the papers about sexual assault on campuses and thinking how fortunate they are to have escaped being identified as a rapist. And, because I’ve talked with so many women about this topic, I know there are many from my generation who never cried “rape” but knew what happened to them on a date or at a frat house had nothing to do with consensual sex – and yet, they never said a word about it.
It wasn’t until after I was abducted by a stranger and assaulted that I found my voice and that little girl who could fight reappeared. Not at the time, mind you, because I was frozen with fear and he had a weapon that he made clear he would use. But, as I healed and found my strength, I also found my voice and the ability to help other women heal. That little pissed off girl full of vim and vigor came back determined to never let anyone take advantage of her or physically hurt her again. Just like when she was seven, she’d fight back with all she had.
So, that Facebook message from Claude stirred up lots of memories for me. He was letting me know that he was bringing a load (he’s a long haul trucker) up to Rutland – only about forty-five minutes from me in Woodstock. It would have been great to have a cup of coffee with him, but alas, on that day I was headed to museums in Massachusetts with my art teacher. It would have been fun talking old hometown stuff and this time I know we’d probably end up eating the pie.
The biggest thing this recollection brought up was how little ones often know intuitively what feels right and what doesn’t. No one had ever told me to sock the daylights out of someone if they took advantage of me. I just knew. And then, I didn’t because things got so confusing (like raging hormones) and no conversations were ever held.
Now I want to be there for young women who need to have a conversation – and, not just young women – all women who need to have a conversation – to find their voice and be heard.
One of my favorite quotes:
“Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.”
– Margaret Wheatley
I’m ready. Are you?