Welcome to Carol’s Corner, a blog where I riff on some of the topics that interest me (or keep me up at night) and hopefully will be of help to you!

March 9, 2021

Pitfalls of a Nice Girl

Pitfalls of a Nice Girl

Most women who consider themselves to be sensitive or empathic have one trait in common: they have been labeled as “nice girls.” I was no exception. I wanted to keep everyone happy. I said “yes” to things I didn’t want to do, even though inside my head I was screaming “no!” Would I take on this project? Sure! Will I watch your 3 kids on my first day off in weeks? No problem! I wanted people to like me. I didn’t want to make waves. But inside, I seethed. In essence, I didn’t have boundaries. When there aren’t clear boundaries, people can and will walk all over you. It’s not always malicious either. In essence we have trained them how to treat us. So how do we re-train them? How do we create boundaries that feel aligned with our Higher Selves?

Let’s start with examining the word “nice.” What if we substitute the word “nice” for the word “kind?” There’s a whole different vibration to the word “kind.” Kind always feels good because it comes from a heart-centered place. Nice often feels like we’re selling ourselves out because we’re doing something for others from a place of fear (i.e., “If I say ‘no,’ they’ll be mad at me). I’m not saying we should put a bubble around ourselves, impervious to the wants and needs of others. What I am saying is that when doing for others, it should feel good, inspired, and come from the heart—not from the scared voice inside our head.

The next time someone ask you for something, check in with yourself. Do you feel energized by it? Or do you feel instantly drained at the mere suggestion? Are you coming from a heart-centered place or a place of fear? Make the decision that feels good. This will take practice because, most likely, you’ve been on “nice girl automated pilot” for year or even decades. Each time you honor yourself, it gets easier and you strengthen your boundaries.

Sure, it’s going to be uncomfortable at first. When that first “no” or “sorry, I can’t” tumbles out of your mouth, people won’t expect it. There may be raised eyebrows, incredulous stares. Pay no mind and don’t make apologies or excuses! The more we try to explain our reasons for saying “no” the closer we slip back to saying yes to something we don’t want to do. It’s going to be scary at first. Your inner voice will do its best to get you riled up.

Shedding your “nice girl” persona won’t be easy, but the pay-off is worth it. You will feel your self-respect soar and you will notice that those around you respect you more as well. Now when saying “yes” to a request or invitation, it will feel great because it’s what you truly want to do, with no reservations or second-guessing. When this happens, you are not only honoring yourself, but giving others the genuine gift of your time and presence.

January 27, 2021

The Beauty of Surrender

The Beauty of Surrender

After I left corporate to strike out on my own, something interesting happened. At first, I had a surge of confidence knowing that I was finally going to live a purposeful life, a life that was Soul-aligned. But as the weeks ticked by and I hadn’t figured out what I was meant to do, I floundered. I could feel my confidence draining away. I envisioned my former co-workers judging me for squandering the life I once had—a life that had taken decades to build.

When I finally figured out what I wanted to do, I was excited. I had clarity. But soon impostor syndrome seeped in and once again I found myself questioning all my decisions. What had I done? Had I thrown away “security” for a pipe dream? Suddenly all my spiritual lessons about trusting and co-creating with the Universe seemed silly and highly impractical. I was scared—really scared.

Each month as I paid my bills, the pit in my stomach grew. My savings dwindled. Scarcity mindset overtook my brain. One morning I drove to the lake near my house, sat in the car and started sobbing. I was completely lost. At some point I looked out at the water and took a deep breath. A voice inside my head said “go visit Mother Mary.” I hadn’t been inside a church in quite some time, but the pull to do so was undeniable. I drove into town, my vision blurred from crying.

Upon entering the church, I saw that I was the only one there. I walked up the left aisle of the church and straight up to the statue of Mother Mary. I lit a candle an knelt in front of her. Again, the tears flowed. I sobbed and told her what had been happening in my life. I shared all my fears and perceived “mistakes.” I grabbed tissue after tissue as I recounted what had transpired over the last two years.

Eventually the tears slowed. I moved to a pew in front of Mother Mary and sat in silence. I felt better, as if I had released all the pressure in my body. I took some deep breaths. Calm washed over me. When I got in the car to go home, I felt different. I felt at peace. Yet, I wasn’t sure why. Nothing externally had changed. But then it hit me: I had surrendered.

The next day my energy felt very different. For the first time in a long time, I felt hopeful. Two days after talking with Mother Mary, two new business opportunities came my way. In surrendering and allowing something bigger than myself to take over, I had created a channel for good things to flow through. I felt connected once again.

Let go of the reins. Gently remind your ego that it doesn’t have to take the wheel. You won’t go off course. You are fully supported in every moment. All is unfolding exactly as it should.

December 9, 2020

Stop Panicking Over Your Purpose

Stop Panicking Over Your Purpose

How many of us have felt panic because we’re middle aged (give or take) and don’t know what our purpose is? We feel like we’re wasting our time or worse, we feel like failures. This was me for DECADES. I watched enviously as friends talked about their passions. I grew green when someone exclaimed, “I’m so grateful to know what I’m meant to do!” Sure, I was happy for them. But with every success story I heard, I became more panicked about my own place in the world. Why are we so hung up on this need to know what we’re meant to do? To tackle this question, I started to do some research and self-discovery work.

For years I would flit from one interest to another. One month I’d be revved up about getting my Reiki certification and the next, I had put it all on a shelf, like an expensive doll that was only for show. This happened over and over and I started to beat myself up. “Carol, you’re spending your time and good money on classes, workshops, books and certification programs that you don’t use. What is your problem?” Each time I embarked on a new path, friends and family would exchange glances as if to say “here she goes again, following a pipe dream.” I probably imagined that last part, but I felt a sense of embarrassment over the fact that I “couldn’t get it together.”

It wasn’t until years later that it all made sense. All this hopping from one subject to another actually had a Divine purpose. As I looked back at my life, all the dots connected perfectly. I would meet someone who recommended a book, then through the book I became aware of a course, through the course I would meet someone who turned me on to a workshop. On and on it went. Over time I started racking up new skills, knowledge, certifications and more importantly new human connections. Everything I was doing had been for my highest good and was unfolding perfectly and in Divine Timing.

When I left corporate after 22 years, unbeknownst to me, I had a treasure trove of tools. When the inspiration hit to become a coach, I was suddenly struck by all the resources I had at my disposal. Years of studying and educating myself on various topics was now paying off. My Higher Self knew that all of these tools would help me…when the time was right. I wasn’t ready 10 years ago. I had more to learn, more life experiences to live through.

If you’re feeling panicked about your purpose, stop and get curious! Follow the energy, that fire that lights you up. If the fire dims down the road, don’t worry about it. Don’t analyze it. If the desire to learn something new is coming through you, know there’s a reason for it. It might not reveal itself right away, but trust that no time is wasted.

September 13, 2020

Your Job: Time to Break Up or Make Up?

Your Job: Time to Break Up or Make Up?

Lately you head to work with a pit in your stomach. You pull into the parking lot with a growing sense of dread. You haven’t even made it into the building and you’re already anticipating a day full of irritations and battles. You brace yourself for another day at the office. When did the job change? When did your boss and co-workers become so annoying, so difficult to work with? But here’s a question: Did your job and the people you work with really change? Or, is there something else going on here?

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, to when you were interviewing for the job. You were nervous, but excited at the prospect of working for this amazing company. You went through four rounds of interviews and after each one you silently prayed that you had won them over. You knew you’d be perfect in this role! Then you wait. Days go by…nothing. You start to wonder if your carefully crafted thank you notes were over the top. “Crap! Maybe they didn’t like me. Maybe I didn’t nail the interviews after all.”

But then, the call comes. You’ve been offered the job! Euphoria rushes through your body and you’re already thinking about who you’ll call first to share the good news. You thank the caller profusely, fist-pumping into the air. This is everything you’ve dreamed of. Life is amazing! You can’t wait to start this new chapter.

The first few weeks on the job are a bit stressful, but you’re ok with that because of course, any new job is going to have some stress until you learn the ins and outs. Your manager is great—checking in with you frequently to make sure you’re acclimating and that you’re getting the support you need. Your co-workers are friendly, chatty, and helpful and you feel lucky to be a part of such a thriving team.

The weeks turn into months and now you’re about a year into your “dream” job. Lately, there’s been a subtle shift in your feelings toward the job. There is a never-ending stream of email requests hitting your inbox. You feel like you can’t get your head above water. Your manager is still checking in, but now it feels like you’re being micro-managed. The seeds of resentment are starting. Your co-workers’ chattiness centers around office gossip and incessant complaining. Cue the irritation. What happened to this seemingly perfect job?

It may be time to look at what you’re bringing to this dynamic. This isn’t about blame. But we have a lot more power over how our days play out than we think. Did the job, your manager, and your co-workers really change, or did your perception of them change? Each time you encounter resentment or irritation you have a choice: to let it go or hold onto it. Choosing to hold onto the negative emotions acts as an energetic termite, eating away at all the good feelings you once held about the job. Make this same choice day after day and soon you’ll find yourself wanting to leave the very job you once prayed to get.

But before you jump ship, get real with yourself. Have you been coming to work in the spirit of doing your best? It’s just as easy to assume that you’ll have a good day as it is to assume you’ll have a bad day. This may sound trite, but it’s true. As humans we have a natural penchant for the negative. It’s in our DNA. But we can change our behavior.

So, here’s a challenge for you. For the next 2 weeks, make a concerted effort to be aware of your energy. Be aware of your thoughts. If you catch yourself thinking something negative about your job, your co-workers, your manager—whatever it is-immediately replace the thought with something positive. It’s going to feel fake, maybe even silly at first. But it won’t take long before it becomes automatic.

Observe how it affects the people around you. Make no mistake—it will have an affect on the people around you. People are going to pick up on this new, more positive energy—even if it’s subconscious. Pay attention to your own feelings. Notice how your work experience has changed. How has your outer world changed to reflect your inner world? Is your perspective about the job shifting to a more positive state?

Now, if after doing this exercise you haven’t noticed any changes, great. That’s still good intel. It tells you that you have more to consider. But when I look back at my own experiences, I know there is a lot I could have done differently. Sure, I probably would have moved on from my jobs regardless. But while I was in these positions, I could have created a reality that was much more pleasant for me AND for the people around me. We are alchemists—all of us.

September 3, 2020

The Moon Circle

moon circle blog image

Last night I did something I’ve never done before. I attended a Moon Circle. I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know where it was, I didn’t know the woman hosting it, I didn’t know how many people would be there…lots of unknowns. The reserved, introverted part of myself was on high alert. But the curious, adventurous side of me was chomping at the bit to see what this was all about. The plan was to drive to my friend Tia’s house and then drive together to the Moon Circle location. Tia told me to get to her house around 8:15 PM. Normally at 8:15 PM I’m in my pajamas, watching TV or reading. But here I was, leaving to go somewhere in the dark. I felt badass. Then I laughed at myself for thinking that. Off I went, into the darkness. I couldn’t have imagined what was to come.

When I arrived at Tia’s house, she was finishing up dinner. She told me we’d be taking her boyfriend’s truck because the circle was at a campground and she thought it would be safer. I was glad I didn’t have to drive because driving somewhere I’ve never been in the dark is not my cup of tea. On our drive, Tia and I talked about everything under the sun, or rather, moon. At this point I should tell you that Tia and I had only talked in person twice before this night. This is a very new friendship. But with any soul-aligned friendship, it’s been fast and easy. Although I’m much older, somehow it just works.

As we got closer to the campground, the roads became narrower. It was really dark, but every once in awhile we’d get a perfect view of the moon and we’d both shriek like 13-year-old girls. We got to the end of a road and saw a sign for the campground. At this point Tia checked her phone for directions. There were no lights other than the headlights so we proceeded very slowly down the dirt road. Finally, we arrived at the right place. The woman hosting the circle was outside getting the fire going. Her two dogs came up to the truck to greet us.

Normally I would feel a bit of trepidation coming into a situation where I didn’t know the host, but I was made to feel instantly welcome. The night air smelled delicious—pine mixed with wisps of smoke as the fire got underway. There was a slight chill in the air. The sky was a midnight blue, peppered with stars. Behind us, the moon loomed large. It felt magical and I experienced a wave of gratitude for saying “yes” to this experience instead of cocooning at home. Just then another car pulled up. A woman jumped out of her car, carrying wine, a large glass jar of homemade tea, and snacks. It became clear to me that she and the host were good friends. Our circle was complete.

Tia and our host got the fire going and Tia lit some candles and incense. My senses were on overload and it only added to the dream-like state. For the next few hours, we talked like old friends. There was never a lull in the conversation, never an awkward pause. Wisdom poured out of each woman in the circle. It was as if each of us was getting a healing. We were tapped into something much more powerful than ourselves. Ideas and intense positive energy flowed all around us. Time was not linear. Hours passed in what seemed like minutes.

Then it came time to release what was no longer serving us. Tia came prepared with corn husks from the white corn stalks in her garden. She gave each of us 2 husks and a marker to write with. She instructed us to write what we wanted to let go of on one husk and write down what we would like to create on the second husk. She then requested that we tear off a small piece off one of the husks. This would be used to write a statement about abundance—something we wanted to attract into our life.

We each took turns reading what we wrote and threw the husks into the fire. What amazed me is how similar our sentiments were. Two women I had never met before expressed virtually the same thing I had expressed. I listened as each husk crackled as it hit the flames. I watched the smoke snake it’s way through the air, sending our messages to the beautiful moon. Tia told us to hold onto the husk with the creation statement. These husks are to be burned at the next New Moon—a time of intention setting.

As we closed the ceremony, we were shocked to find that it was well past midnight. I hugged my new friends and said goodbye, knowing that I’d see them again soon. Tia and I drove back to her house, excited and energized by everything that had transpired. As I got in my car and drove home, I couldn’t believe that it was after 1:00 AM. I could smell the pine-infused smoke and incense on my sweatshirt. I took some deep breaths in. I felt grounded, at peace, and very alive. When I got home, I stepped out of the garage and walked to the end of the driveway. I wanted to get one more look at the moon. I thanked her and headed off to bed. For the first time in a long time, I dreamed that I was flying.

July 1, 2020

Respect Me or Else!

respect blog image

Very early in my career I had a manager (let’s call her Pam) who would quite literally throw temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way. She’d throw things and slam doors when she didn’t get the respect she thought she deserved. She would march into people’s offices brandishing reports and other deliverables, screaming that they were incorrect or not up to par. These outbursts were an almost daily occurrence. She was flabbergasted when said outbursts didn’t garner a drop of respect. In truth, there were several people who mocked her and made fun of her behind her back—the exact opposite of the response she was hoping to get.

One morning as I was settling in to respond to some emails, she came over to my desk and rested her arms on the walls of my cube. I knew she was there, but I didn’t look up immediately. I let out a loud sigh in my head. “Here we go,” I thought. She rapped on the cube wall with her knuckles—“Knock knock!” she said with fake cheer. I willed myself not to roll my eyes as I looked up at her. She didn’t wait for me to say anything and immediately jumped in. In her best patronizing voice, she asked me if I was aware that the mail counts we had been provided by DP (data processing) were off. “I haven’t looked at them yet. I just got in.” She cocked her head and smiled, but only with her teeth.

“Well, I think you and I need to go and speak with Ken. He’s screwed up these counts multiple times and I’m sick of it! He’s so careless!” She shoved the “green bar” report in front of me so that I could see for myself. “Ah” I nodded, not really looking at the data. I knew what was coming next. She was going to go on a rampage, confront poor Ken, embarrass him in front of his co-workers and make their relationship even more contentious than it already was.

You see, Pam took every error as an afront against her. If someone handed in work with a mistake (or God forbid, multiple mistakes) then obviously it meant that they didn’t respect her. As green as I was back then, it was clear to me that Pam had some serious self-esteem issues. If you’re curious about the health of your own self-esteem, a quick way to know is to ask “How easily do I get offended?” Pam may have appeared as hard as steel on the outside, but one sharp word and she fell into a fit of angry tears.

I remember when she was working on an important project and for months had to work closely with three men from IT. The three men worked in a small room dubbed the “think tank.” Pam’s office was upstairs yet she constantly accused them of leaving her out of important conversations. Finally, one of the men said, “well, you’re welcome to come down here whenever you want.” Pam felt vindicated for a moment. But things quickly went from bad to worse.

Almost daily Pam would get in a rage and cry that they didn’t take her ideas seriously. She’d go to anyone who would listen, telling them how mean these men were to her and that they didn’t give her any respect. One of the three gentlemen from IT asked if she wanted to take a walk and talk it out. His heart was in the right place and for a day or two, Pam seemed better. But soon things were back to the status quo.

I know there are many women who are treated unfairly by men in the workplace—no doubt. But I got to know all 3 of these men really well and they couldn’t have been nicer and more supportive. Still, she was not getting what she wanted: respect. So, she tried to take it by any means necessary. It’s no surprise that not only was this not an effective approach, but she got a reputation for being a loose cannon. She was considered too emotional and unpredictable.

Most of us learned early on that you have to earn respect. It’s not given “just because” and it certainly can’t be demanded. But Pam never learned that lesson and what’s more, she didn’t want to look at her part in the equation. She embraced her victim and gave her power away willingly. She spent her energy demanding and manipulating and ruined her professional reputation in the process.

When I look back on all the managers I’ve had (and there were many), I remember her being one of the absolute worst. The leaders I admired most had a calm presence. They treated everyone equally. They were consistent. They gave accolades freely and used mistakes as teachable moments, not to shame. They never tried to gain respect. It wasn’t even a goal. It simply was. They had healthy self-esteem and self-awareness.

I often wonder what happened to Pam. Even though she made my work life a living hell, I’m grateful for the time I reported to her. She was a shining example of what NOT to do. Years later, when I became a manager, I modeled my behavior after the managers who impressed me. Eventually I developed my own style. From this mindful, empowered state, I earned the respect of my team members without slamming one door.

June 3, 2020

Out of the Shadows

shadow image

As someone born into privilege, I was blind to what was happening outside the cozy bubble of my town. While in grade school I studied history and social studies, never thinking that I wasn’t getting the whole story, let alone revisionist history. When I got to my junior year of high school, I became more curious. I widened my social circles, became friends with people outside my race (although I had to go 2 towns over to do so). This was the mid-80s and where I lived, kids of all ethnicities were being brought together through music and dance. It was fun, it was innocent and in my memory everyone “got along.”

It wasn’t until I entered college that my eyes were opened. When I met my roommate for the first time, everything seemed fine. But as soon as she found out I was dating a Puerto Rican boy back home, she stopped speaking to me. She and a friend started bullying me. One day she intercepted a letter from one of my best friends. Enclosed were pictures from the previous summer, including pictures of me and my boyfriend. My roommate and her friend opened the letter and tore the pictures up, scattering them in the hallway. They called me names and my boyfriend worse names. I was shocked and enraged and I couldn’t understand why anyone would do something like that. That was my first real taste of indirectly experiencing overt racism.

I transferred schools the following year and decided to minor in cultural anthropology. That first year I took an African-American History class as well as an African-American culture class. It was the first time I had been taught by black professors. I’ll never forget them. Dr. Toney and Dr. Mwaria—two powerhouse women who taught me more about African-American history and culture in one semester than I had learned in 12 years of grade school. They exposed me to Maya Angelou, Malcom X, W.E.B. DuBois, among others—people I had never heard of in grade school. The more I tried to educate myself the more I realized how much I had to learn.

The summer after my sophomore year of college, my boyfriend picked me up in a classic red Corvette. He was working part time in a body shop specifically for Corvettes and because he was doing excellent work, his boss surprised him one day by letting him take one of the cars for the night. We thought we were pretty cool, tooling down Route 9, that is until we were pulled over by 3 cruisers. “What did I do?” my boyfriend kept repeating as they dragged him out of the Corvette and into a cruiser. I started to cry. They ordered me to get into driver’s seat and follow the cruiser to the police station.

They ended up letting him go, having had no real reason for bringing him in. They had suspected the car was stolen. He drove me back to my house in silence. I didn’t know what to say. I knew he was embarrassed but I also knew there was rage right under the surface. I felt it for him. I’d like to say that was the only time something like that happened, but over the years I witnessed similar incidents over and over. Yet, I could never REALLY put myself in his shoes. Almost 35 year later, I still can’t and I never will.

So, now what? What do we do as we watch things go from bad to worse? We each have to figure that out for ourselves. But since I’m giving my 2 cents, I’ll say this: Continue the conversations, continue to protest, continue to vote, continue to stand up for equality, continue to educate yourself and educate others. We are all one. That is something I know in my bones. We can’t give up until everyone sees this and they’ll only see when they come out of the dark.

May 12, 2020

The Calling

Sun through the clouds image

In recent months I’ve been called to explore a new and different direction in my coaching practice. Don’t get me wrong, I love to help people uncover their path and will continue to do so. But I have received several “hits” that there is more to do. I need to dig deeper, connect to some of my old wounds and use those experiences to help others. Sure, I’ve touched on some of the trauma I endured in my 20s and even in my 40s, but truth be told, I’ve known for a while that I was only scratching the surface. In a world where we’re having to wear physical masks, I’m aware, more than ever, that I have to remove the last of the unseen masks and reveal some deeper truths. There’s a reason I had to learn certain lessons and now those reasons are being revealed to me.

We’ve heard expressions such as “she lost her voice” or “he lost his power.” But I don’t believe you lose your voice or your power. It may feel lost because it’s so deeply enshrouded in layers of dense memories and trauma. But underneath the murky sludge is a beautiful, perfect, inner flame, just waiting to be revealed. It took me a long time to learn that the amount of crap a person takes is in direct proportion to their self- worth. Once the scale tips past the point of what you’ll accept, only then will you leave a bad situation. At least that’s how it unfolded for me. I stayed in bad relationships and toxic job situations way longer than what was healthy.

Part of it came down to my people-pleasing personality. I was always nice. But was I? That’s what people thought. In reality, it was a coping strategy. Be nice, don’t make waves, don’t make a fuss. It’s no wonder that years later, while watching the movie Frozen, I connected to Elsa’s character. I felt a twinge in my heart when her father told her to “conceal, don’t feel.” I learned from an early age to make everyone else’s life easier, to make them feel better. Yet, the more I did this, the worse I would feel. It’s not as if I were respected or loved more. Under the surface, under this “nice” façade, was rage—rage at myself for allowing people to walk on me, rage at those who took advantage of my “niceness.” Everyone took generous helpings, of what I was freely offering, leaving my plate empty.

Yes, we teach people how to treat us. But it goes deeper than that. Why do we teach what we teach? What’s the payoff (because there’s ALWAYS a payoff)? Look around. If you have people in your personal and professional life who treat you like crap, why is that? This isn’t about “blaming the victim,” but we have to start asking questions. I had been aware of what was happening, but it wasn’t until the ripe age of 51 that I questioned why it was happening. What was my part in the equation? What patterns had I carried over from childhood? What wounds had been covered up long ago but were still festering under the surface?

I thought I had already dealt with my “stuff.’ But I needed additional healing. I needed to dig up the dirt, even though I didn’t want to. I had to see it to clean it. I had created a persona that was put together. It had taken years to build her and I was rather attached to her. But that persona wasn’t real. It was not me and all the Divine that I truly am. It was a shell. It was the façade of a house on a movie lot—no real rooms, or depth or running water—a 2-dimensional structure. If I wanted people to see the real house with all its many rooms with flaws, dust and clutter, I was going to have to demolish the façade. I was going to have be vulnerable and let people see ME.

Once I decided that I had to learn about myself, I hired my coach—a man who was more like a spiritual guide. I cried many times in those early sessions and felt my words caught in my throat. This is common for people who have stifled their voice. Years of not speaking your truth, not giving yourself permission to scream, “HERE I AM IN ALL MY POWER AND YOU CAN’T HURT ME!” starts a flood. Once the voice is unleashed, it’s as if the dam breaks. That might look like choking sobs or it might look like a jolt of energy as, once again, you connect to your power. Out of the shadows, the internal flame now exposed, can grow bigger and brighter.

One of my super powers has always been to make others feel good. The shadow side of that is that I could make them feel bad just as easily—not even meaning to. I can be blunt. So, in the beginning, after my dam broke, I wanted to get everything I had been holding in, out. I would bring up injustice wherever I noticed it. I could tell I was rubbing people the wrong way. “So what?” I thought. “They will hear me!” Mama Bear was out of her cage! Gradually I learned to harness this power, but not bury it. It’s a balance.

I quickly learned that not everyone was going to resonate with the new me, or rather the real me. I had to find my tribe, forgive those that hurt me. I had to forgive the ones who only loved the façade. As I became comfortable standing in my power, the “noise” fell away. Now I get to do deeper work with members of my tribe and I can’t wait to help them unmoor their true selves from the docks of playing small. I’ve also learned that my purpose isn’t fixed and my path isn’t linear. By accepting the call, I can’t go wrong—whatever that call may be. Time to raise my voice, but this time not from a place of rage. This time the voice bubbling up is one of power, hope and healing.

November 17, 2019

Baggage Claim

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I love to travel. But there’s one thing that completely stresses me out. No, it’s not the flight or going through security. It’s when the baggage carousel starts up. I watch as unfamiliar pieces of luggage start circling around, my stomach in knots. Mind you, I have never lost my luggage (knock on wood), but yet each time I travel I have this low-level stress permeating through my body. Five black suitcases pass by. A colorful hard-shell suitcase slides down onto the carousel. A woman rushes to claim it. There’s my friend’s suitcase…Where is mine?! I see a tan piece of luggage circling toward me. My spirits lift for a moment until I realize it doesn’t have the red tell-tale tape around the handles. All around me people awkwardly grab their suitcases from the carousel. Finally, my tan, slightly weathered suitcase makes its appearance. I can actually feel my body relax. Hello, old friend. You scared the shit out of me once again!

Why is it that we’re so happy to see and hold onto our own baggage? This is true with luggage and it’s true with emotional baggage. Divorce, illness, deaths, lay-offs, failures—all the tough things we go through—we use to define us. We hold onto these experiences, label them and continue to carry the stories with us into the future. Often, we’ve been telling the stories for so long that we don’t stop to ask “is this still true today?” For the longest time one of my stories was “I can’t exercise that much because I have asthma.” It felt good to let myself off the hook. But here’s the thing: my asthma was under control and had been for quite some time. I simply didn’t want to put this particular bag down. Having asthma was who I was and it gave me some odd sense of comfort. It was a story that started off true DECADES ago, but was no longer true. This piece of baggage no longer served me and I had to let go of the handle.

What about other people’s baggage? That’s a whole different story, right? Whereas we cling to our own baggage, we want others to drop theirs…STAT. How many times have we heard things like “he’s a nice guy, but he has a lot of baggage” or “I can’t date her—too much baggage.” Guess what? We ALL have baggage. Every single one of us has life experiences that we’re carrying with us. Some of us have taken the steps to work through these issues and now, what used to be a steamer trunk, is a small cross-body, barely noticeable. Some of us are just starting to deal with our “stuff.” Some never do. We’re all at different points on the journey—not better or worse—different.

It all comes down to how you deal with these past experiences. Are you going to let them define you, causing you to become smaller than you were meant to be, or work through them and use them as stepping stones to a greater life? The choice is yours. But wouldn’t it feel great to drop all the things that no longer serve you? Wouldn’t it be freeing? Trust that you can put the bag down. Give yourself a break. You don’t have to claim your baggage anymore. Give yourself the gift of traveling light.

October 2, 2019

The Hidden Gift of Becoming an Empty Nester

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I had heard the term “empty nester” most of my life and never gave it much thought. That is, until I became one myself. Sure, I knew it was going to be hard to say goodbye to my daughter, Chloe, when the time came to drop her off at school. But I wasn’t prepared for the wide range of feelings and emotions that bubbled up. No one had ever talked to me about that. I got comments such as “what are you going to do when she’s gone?” Or, “you two are really close and I bet it’s going to be really hard for you.” Gee, thanks.

I had been gearing up for D-day (drop-off day) all summer. Chloe was very excited, and, thanks to modern technology, had “met” her roommates via Facebook, email, and text well before school started. She and her roommates had the obligatory calls about how they wanted to decorate their room, what the color scheme would be, who was bringing what, etc. The parents’ job is simply to pay for it, which I did after a very lengthy trip to Target. Chloe filled our cart with all the essentials. It brought back a lot of memories. In so many ways, things had changed since I had gone away to college. But this shopping trip wasn’t much different from the one I did with my mother almost 25 years prior.

Soon move-in day was upon us and I managed to keep my emotions in check during the drive to the school, the countless trips back and forth from the car to the room, and even during our goodbyes. Chloe was excited and happy which made me happy. But when I got home, everything changed. The house felt different. It was eerily quiet and everything felt strange. It was as if I had walked into a vacuum, like there was a void where Chloe’s energy should be. I remember telling myself “it will be ok; she’ll be back for a visit soon.” But suddenly the tears came, slowly at first and then turning into full-blown sobs. I cried for a long time. When I finally peeled myself off the couch, I had a thought that I had never had before: “Who am I now?”

As parents, our lives revolve around our children. That’s not to say we don’t have our own interests or friends, but our primary role is to take care of our kids. What are they going to eat today? Do we need to buy them new clothes? How are their grades? Are they happy? How are they getting to soccer practice? The list goes on and on. For most of us, we don’t give it a ton of thought. It just IS. Until it isn’t. So, when the question “Who am I now?” popped in my head, I didn’t have an answer. And THAT freaked me out. No one had prepared me for this identity crisis. This was different than simply missing my daughter. This was way bigger. It was such a foreign feeling that it took a few weeks to process. It didn’t help that Chloe’s first pet, a big lovable cat named Leo, would sleep at her door, hoping she’d emerge. There’s nothing sadder than an animal missing his/her person.

As the weeks passed, I settled into a new normal. I became accustomed to the quiet. I still had moments where I felt like she would burst in the door any second, but the sadness had lessened. I became aware of some pleasant perks: no dirty dishes in the sink, leftovers were still waiting for me when I got home from work, and I had complete control over the TV remote. But on a deeper level, something interesting was happening, something that hadn’t happened in a very long time: I started to put myself first. Suddenly I had so much more space in my head for things that I hadn’t thought about in ages. That’s when I started realizing the hidden gift in being an empty nester. It’s the beginning of a second act and you can do virtually anything you want.

I suppose one could argue that I could have done what I wanted while Chloe was still living at home. But honestly, I simply didn’t have the energy. I think that’s the case for so many of us. Each year we go to work, we raise our kids, take a vacation here and there and repeat. We don’t resent it, and in fact, for the most part, we really enjoy it-both the good and bad times-because we love our kids. But it doesn’t leave a lot of time for our own self-development, our own interests. As an empty nester, you can once again start exploring what you want to do, what you want to experience, and what lights you up. It’s an extraordinary feeling of freedom and it’s really exciting to take your dreams off the back burner!

When I dropped Chloe off 10 years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the many ways in which my life would change. I started studying all the things that interested me. I attended workshops and conferences. I became certified in various energy healing modalities. I found a like-minded tribe. Being an empty nester gave me the time and energy I needed to follow my true path. It helped me build the springboard for what I’m doing now. Did I go through an adjustment period when Chloe left for school? Yes, of course I did. And you will too. Just like with any life change, you’ll learn and grow from it. But this time, after the dust settles, you’ll begin to get a glimpse of all the new and amazing possibilities and you’ll be able to fill your nest once again.

August 15, 2019

5 Tips to Increase Self Love Without Cringing

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“We are most alive when we’re in love.” -- John Updike
I wonder if Mr. Updike included self-love in that statement. I’ll be honest, for FOUR decades I didn’t have the best relationship with myself. The negative self-talk started at a very young age and even now, in my 50s, I have to catch myself and deflect the occasional “you’re not smart enough to have your own business” or “you look so old—all those years of sunning and slathering on baby oil is catching up with you.” I was so hard on myself that I attracted more of “that” in my life in the form of crappy relationships and jobs where I wasn’t valued. It makes sense since I didn’t value myself. It wasn’t until I started to consciously change my thoughts and words that my outer world started to reflect my new, internal way of viewing myself.

We’ve all heard a version of “you would never talk to a friend that way so why do you talk to yourself that way?” Let’s face it—in our society we’re wired for negativity, comparing ourselves to others and playing down our gifts. I’ve worked with several people who hated doing their yearly self-assessment as they loathed tooting their own horn. So how do we flip the script? How can we show ourselves more love in a way that doesn’t make us cringe? It takes some time and practice, but below are 5 tips that have helped me over the last 10 years.

  1. Start monitoring your negative self-talk. Keep a notebook or notecard handy and each time you catch yourself thinking or saying something negative, make a tick mark. Then, replace the negative statement with something positive. It may feel a bit cumbersome in the beginning, but soon you’ll begin to catch yourself faster. Eventually you’ll create new connections in that noggin of yours and find yourself automatically reaching for positive statements.
  2. Have conversations with your inner child. Ok, this may seem weird to some of you, but hear me out. Have you ever watched a child being yelled at in public and you just want to give the kid a hug? Nobody wants to see a child suffer. Each of us has that inner child who just needs a hug! There are a couple of ways to go about this. You can either write a letter to your inner child or you can visualize meeting your inner child, making that part of yourself feel loved and safe. What would you say to him/her? What do they need to hear? I often picture myself at age 6. I get fairly detailed and notice what I’m wearing, how my hair looks, what my surroundings look like. You can pick any age you like. You can even do the same thing with your 21-year old self. It doesn’t really matter. Pick an event from your past where you had a rough time and comfort that version of you. Don’t be alarmed if this exercise makes you emotional. Tears are a sign of release. You’re purging some emotional goo.
  3. Practice self-care. So many of us treat ourselves last. We have no qualms about spending money and time on others and then get stingy when it comes to ourselves. If it’s in the budget, get a regular massage or take a class. Take a trip. Do whatever makes YOU feel good. If money is tight, you can still do things to show yourself some love. Indulge in a long hot bath or an afternoon nap. Take a break and curl up with a good book (or even bad tv). Take a long walk in nature. Treat yourself to a coffee, latte, or tea. The key is to do something that is completely for you. Remember it’s not selfish to love yourself. In fact, it’s one of the keys to a happy, productive life.
  4. Evaluate your relationships. This can be a tough one. It’s no secret that there are people in your life who lift you up and support you, and there are people who drag you down and drain every last bit of your precious energy. I’ll bet someone immediately popped into your head in each category. Cut ties or severely limit your time with the people who bring you down. Like pruning a rose bush, by cutting back the negativity in your life, you allow other parts of your life to bloom more fully. Trust me—I know how hard this can be. I allowed “energy vampires” to keep me down for far too long. But once you start this process, the proverbial albatross around your neck will begin to slip away.
  5. Cure your “comparison-itis.” Nothing, and I mean nothing, can sap the tree of self-love like comparing yourself to others. Since the beginning of time, humans have compared themselves to others. It’s natural. But what we’re seeing today is NOT natural. It’s keeping up with the Jones (or the Kardashians), but on steroids. Social media, filters, reality tv—it all has its place and can be really fun. But the flip side is that, more than ever before, people are feeling incredibly bad about themselves. It’s important to keep in mind we all have our own journey. Keep your eyes on your own paper, so to speak. Remember: if Jane or Jack have become incredibly successful, that in no way means that YOU can’t be successful. You have your own gifts, your own glitter. Spread it (or spill it) with abandon!

We only have one life (or at least one life in this particular body). I’m only going to be Carol Campos ONE time. And guess what? She’s pretty damned FABULOUS. So are you! Love yourself up every chance you get. If ever there was a love worth investing time and energy into, it’s the amazing person you see in the mirror.

April 1, 2019

Patchwork Pants

It was the last week in August, 1977 and I was just about to start 5th grade. I was both scared and excited. Middle School! I would have different subjects and different teachers. I would get my first locker! As I sat on the dock at my Grandmother’s cabin in Maine, thoughts of the upcoming school year swirled in my head. I pictured standing outside class, chatting with my friends, laughing and excitedly talking about our weekend plans. After all we weren’t babies anymore. Suddenly I heard my Grandmother call out to me. “Carol, I have something for you.” When your Grandmother announces a gift, you make tracks.

I ran up the cabin stairs. Grandma was standing on the screened-in porch. There was a white bag on the table. “I picked up an outfit for you for school.” I opened the bag and saw the prettiest pair of pants I had ever seen. They had a patchwork design of all different colors—blue, red, orange, pink… Grandma had bought a navy blue top to go with the pants. I thanked her, gave her a quick hug and ran into my room to try them on. I loved them. I wore them to the family campfire that night, careful not to spill s’mores on them. I had already decided that I would wear them during the first week of school. I felt certain that nobody else would have pants THIS cool.

When I think back to that first week of school, I don’t remember much. But I do remember very vividly what happened the day I wore my beloved patchwork pants. We had gym that day and because it was September, the weather was still nice and we played outside. The 5th and 6th graders didn’t have to change for gym and I was a little nervous about getting my pants dirty. I don’t remember what we played. Kickball maybe? Soon the teacher told us to line up to go back inside. We all dutifully lined up and started walking towards the school. As we walked, we had to pass another group of kids having their gym class. They were 7th graders and they were playing softball. Somehow, we all instinctively knew not to make eye contact for fear of being teased. We passed, heads down.

Just when I thought the coast was clear, one of the 7th grade girls yelled at me as I passed by, “Nice pants!!” A few of her friends started to laugh. A few of my classmates turned to look at me. Nobody said anything. My cheeks literally burned and I held back tears. When I got home, I took off those pants, threw them in a bag, and stuffed them deep into the trash, so that no one would notice. My beautiful pants, which mere hours ago had made me so happy, because they were pretty and colorful and DIFFERENT, were now something I was so ashamed of that I never wanted to see them again. I felt a mix of shame for not standing up for myself and embarrassment for not knowing that I should be wearing Levi’s instead of patchwork pants.

I have thought of that day and those pants many times over the years. It was the first time I betrayed myself and it had a lasting effect on me. It took time and experience to gain the confidence and wisdom not to care what people thought of me. It took time to trust that, if I loved something, it didn’t matter if no one else did. Feeling comfortable in your skin is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Invest in yourself. Whether it’s through classes, coaching, monthly massages, working out—whatever makes you feel confident, radiant and alive—do it. Don’t let the naysayers get you down or cause you to question yourself. Don your version of patchwork pants and live.