I was standing with my nose about ten inches from the glass on the picture framed in a tiny corner made by two standing walls, one large and white, the other, only big enough to hang this tiny picture on that I'm standing too close as to be appropriate, but I can't help myself.
Someone at dinner had said to me, "So, you're an artist."
And I had fumbled around and managed to insecurely say "Yes" to that statement.
Three years in a row I've been selected for this particular Juried Art Show... and still I felt like an imposter, in a world I wasn't worthy of.
That moment in the gallery though— with my nose as close to that glass as I could be without being asked to leave — a full body sensation came over me.
I let it wet me and crash to the ground with a shudder.
What a wave. What a joy. Feeling the feelings, deeply, with my whole self.
I am happy.
Anything that moves me to FEEL something.... music, poetry, painting, photography, video, sculpture, dance, food, sex, whatever....
Art IS real.
I feel immense gratefulness for being moved by this tiny piece of blue paint on the wall and simultaneously the live music that is being played by the band a few feet away... I feel thankful to be alive.
I can sense there is a place in the world for anything that elicits this type of emotion. There is a beautiful reason for anything that moves me to feel my own humanity.
Even if it's not the greatest shit you've ever seen, if it moves you, it is Art.
It is worthy.
If it moves you, it is magnificent.
Five days later, I am getting out of bed with a depression unlike anything I have experienced since my last brutal heartbreak, ten years ago.
Groggy, from staying up till 4:00 am, I shuffle from my bed to make coffee, questioning my reason for getting out of bed at all.
"There is no place for my work in the world. Will I have to abandon everything, and go back to real-estate development in order to survive?"
Gratefully, a vivid awareness takes hold of me, "You must walk your path with greater integrity now, You do not stray, You pray, and you do not stop praying. But you might stop DOUBTING."
I don't have any idea who voted for who for in the recent election. I voted for Hillary, and upon fully conceding that Donald Trump had actually won the election, I sunk into darkness.
I didn't expect that this election would bring up very real and very personal woundings for me. Ones that I have managed to silence and bury, rather than bring voice to carry to the light.
I had thought, perhaps, I wouldn’t share the stories of discrimination and sexual harassment (as a female professional) ever.
I loathe, that I am a statistic.
I have suffered the gender wage gap, I have been the target of discrimination as a woman in the workplace, I have been stalked by my male boss. I have been involved in a sexual harassment case with a prestigious, and married, CEO.
The lawyers said mine was "The most egregious case of sexual harassment they had ever seen." The law firm took up an entire city block in downtown Bethesda.
I haven't wanted to be yet another woman with a victim story.
I have never considered myself a victim.
When I resigned from my former career, I had discovered that I was being paid literally half of the standard salary of a person with my title and position. That made it near impossible to replace me when I left.
What it came down to in the end, was business.
To me, it was personal. It was my life.
I learned the psychology behind that experience, it's called The Confidence Gap. In studies of business-school students, men initiate salary negotiations four times as often as women do, and when women do negotiate, they ask for 30 percent less money than men do. Why would they pay me more, for work I was already doing? Men don’t accept the responsibility before the title, promotion, and raise are solidified, but women often act to prove themselves first, then expect to be rewarded. Which is rarely the case.
It was a health crisis, I call “all systems fail”, that would take me to my knees and make me question everything, including whether I wanted to go on living.
The decision to resign from my career, felt like a life and death decision. If I didn’t put my health first, and make my life a priority, no one else would.
When I left corporate America, I thought it was to save my life and to get healthy, I thought it was temporary. I hoped I was going to fall in love and get married.
What life had in store for me, however, was something much greater than I could imagine.
This week, however, I am grieving. I am able and emotionally aware enough to allow myself to feel the feelings of betrayal and heartbreak from deeds done nearly a decade ago.
I grieve with other women who have been sexually harassed, assaulted, or abused by men they respected and trusted, who now have a man as our President, that bragged about groping women without their permission.
I hurt with other women and minorities, who have worked hard to earn respect in our professions and communities, that now witness large segments of our nation embrace, applaud, and elect a man who treats women as inferior and spouts fear and hate as rhetoric.
A man who has made the statement "Grab her by the pussy" a household meme.
I'm not a woman who's easily offended, but even I find that statement outrageous. And I've gone to bed with some reprehensible men.
For many years, who I had blamed, was myself, I participated fully and completely in the system.
I believed in the system. I upheld the system.
Until the realization that the system, I so vehemently endorsed, was heavily weighted against me, and quite likely was going to kill me as I worked myself into a health crisis.
Then one day, I found myself on top of a mountain, contemplating jumping from the cliff, a real cliff, not the glass cliff.
In those moments of contemplation, I realized that I did not want to be dead, and if I did not want to be dead, then that must mean I want to be alive and if I want to be alive then there must be another way to live.
I’ve been walking myself off that cliff ever since. When things get tough in my life these days, I go back to that cliff and I remember why I made the difficult choices, the ones that terrified me.
I remember why I chose my health over prestige, why I choose personal freedom over security, why I choose hope instead of fear, why I choose life instead of death.
I had to find myself first, I had to turn inward and discover the truth of my existence, and despite the brokenness, fall in love with myself, before anyone else could.
It is more important, now more than ever, to be who you came here to be and stand for what you believe in, to be a steward of substance in the world.
We can spend the majority of our lives, searching for the answer "out there somewhere", thinking one day we will finally "find it!" and everything will be different. But that's not where the answer lies, the healing and the love, and the peace you are seeking lies within, and at some place and time, you have to become still enough to go there in order to find what it is you are looking for.
I was grateful, I had a healing immersion scheduled with a client the day after the election. I spent half the day sitting on the earth in prayer, and the other half offering a wellness treatment to another human being.
The following day she wrote me, "I feel happy! For the first time in several weeks; I feel a genuine happiness inside."
I heard the voice inside. "I do not stray from my path, I keep walking even when my legs are shaking underneath me."
I have struggled with finding the words to explain and bridge the gap between my ambition in the real estate development world and my experience of the Spiritual and profound. In the days following this recent election, I have felt, my story, my entire story serves a purpose, and there is healing to be shared in telling the whole story, not just the pretty parts.
When the intensity of my internal thirst for meaning and longing for purpose became greater than my fear of the unknown, that is when I came to know presence of the Divine in my life, and in all things.
Now more than ever, I am committed to walk my path with greater integrity. As a light bringer, a truth seer, a woman, and a leader.
Humanity is very divided. It is our individual responsibility to help heal the divide by healing ourselves first; by listening to the soft voice within you that is calling you to your own inner awakening so that you may align with your highest good — then by holding space for and guiding others to come into alignment with their true self and purpose for being in the world.
By learning to open our hearts with love and forgiveness, and expand our own consciousness, we contribute to the greater expansion of consciousness as a whole, exponentially.
I am doing whatever I can do to contribute to the world to help us feel connected, hopeful, kind and loving to each other and the complex stories we each carry. This is my life's work. My calling. My art. My offering to the world.
I know that within each one of us is an important piece of the great mystery, I know that each of us are here to contribute something magnificent to this earth and I know that only you can offer your piece. Only in coming together, in desiring to understand the other, with compassion for the other's pain, will we begin to understand and see the greater good that lies ahead for us, and the world.
I implore you, if you are suffering, reach out, ask for help, don't isolate, CONNECT, and find the courage to do what you came here to do. What the world needs now is your most magnificent self.