I’m Still Talking to Women…and This is Why

Hello friends,

Last July, I started 101 Core Conversations as a personal project. Why? My life has been full of shifts and transitions over the last few years. These events changed me.

  1. Midlife/Perimenopause –  a time of waiting, of uncertainty, where the question “is this all there is?” comes up quite often

  2. I quit my office job  After nine years, I quit with no real plan, not knowing exactly how I would focus my creative energy or where the money would come from

  3. My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer (one month after I quit my job) – I paused so that I could companion her through eight months of treatment

These very personal events left me with questions and compelled me to seek out the stories of other women.

I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone.

I wanted to know that my sister wasn’t alone.

What I did not know was how relevant this project would be RIGHT NOW.

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At this moment in history, women are going through a collective transition which makes this project even more moving and my drive to complete it more intensely focused.

I want to get to the core of women’s experience. The women I have spoken with so far have deep, important stories to tell about what it is to be a woman. Still. Now.

A little bit about my personal history and experience…

In college, I took a two-year honors Humanities survey course and read ONE book written by a woman:  The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (a book that completely changed my life and inspired me to make an oath to myself to read only books by women from that moment on – a promise I have, mostly, kept).

Recently, I checked the website for this honors course, and The Bluest Eye is no longer on the reading list. They have added selections that might be worth a read:  Christine de Pizan, Treasure of the City of Ladies; Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman; Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions (Women’s Suffrage, rhetoric).

As you can see, women have been writing about their worth for years.

Oh, and as an English major, I remember reading ONE book written by a woman: West with the Night by Beryl Markham (the professor was a woman).

What was I to conclude from this?

  • My voice mattered, but not as much as the voices of men
  • The titles of important literaturegreat thinker, and genius were reserved for men
  • Women’s weren’t given a voice for centuries (and in many parts of the world, still aren’t)

And yet…

After 20+ years of reading tons of books authored by women and from 50+ conversations with real life women, I have discovered:

Women’s voices, their stories,
their unique perspectives,
need to be heard,
collected, respected,
written down, and published.

Still. Now.

Women need to not only have equal pay for equal work and equal opportunity to play sports or serve in the military or political office, we need an equal place in history.

101 Core Conversations is my way of contributing to that history.

I’m on a mission to continue collecting these stories, and I need your help.

What can you do?

  • Click this link to sign-up for a conversation time. I have dedicated Tuesday mornings and afternoons for this, but if you need another time, please email me.
  • Forward this email to a friend who might be interested.
  • Share this post on social media. The more women who know about this, the richer this project will become.

So, yes, I need your help. I need your help.

That slogan “We’re Stronger Together” is actually true, and I can’t do this without you. I can’t do this without you signing up, passing this along, sharing it.

I invite all women 35 to “still alive” from anywhere, of any race, economic background, spiritual belief, sexual orientation to sign-up.

In fact, I might end up interviewing more than 101 women because this project has been so powerful. Bring it on!

And by the way, this is free. This is not a kickstarter campaign. This is not a marketing gimmick.

This is about me collecting your stories because I believe they matter.

I do sent out blogs and newsletters now and then because I believe my voice matters, too.

But right now, what I really want to do is hear your story.

Will you be part of the conversation?

Yours in truth,

Holly

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How to Make 2017 (just a little) Better

Hello friends,

Luxurious – that’s what the week last week of 2016 and the first week of 2017 felt like. Why? Because I gave myself time and permission to rest and reflect.

There were years of my life when I wouldn’t have dared. Time for myself equaled “selfish.” But now I know that alone time equals sanity…and progress.

Here’s the idea (yes, there is still plenty of time to do this):

Review the year that just ended + claim desires for the coming year =
live a life that feels more and more like your own.

It seems like a simple step-by-step process, but let’s get real. If you grew up like me, it’s not simple at all. Honestly, when I read “live a life that feels like my own”, I start to sweat a little.

Living a life that feels like my own? Who do I think I am? My OWN life on MY terms? I can just feel the fingers pointing…and guess which word is hanging from a flag at the end of those pointing fingers?

  • Selfish

What else?

  • Egocentric
  • Unrealistic
  • Entitled
  • Crazy (let’s throw that one in there why don’t we?)

Why all these judgments? It comes down to training.

This seems to be the common “wisdom” of our culture: achieve, keep your head down and opinions to yourself, behave, don’t ask for too much, and quit your crying, you baby. Ouch.

So when I discovered there was another way, I practically BATHED in it. Living my life according to my desires? Fabulous.

Here’s some of the Q & A that helped me clarify and own my desires
{hint:  you might want to try it, too}

What drained my energy or just didn’t work in 2016?

  • Those times I thought I needed to “be on call” to fulfill the needs of others, so my energy went towards waiting around rather than moving forward

  • The chronic pain in my hip/SI joint/pelvis (more on that later)

  • Those times when I let self-doubt swallow me up

  • Basically, anytime I slacked off or dialed it in at the expense of my vision and passion

What felt really good in 2016?

  • Writing with others once or twice or sometimes even three times per week to strengthen my own voice and hear the genius of others – writing groups, yes!!!

  • Adding “walks and talks” to my regular life rotation – way better than sitting around drinking coffee

  • REAL conversations – Where does it hurt? What brings you joy? What has changed your life? That’s what I want to know.

  • Gratitude over grumpiness – okay, okay…I didn’t always succeed, but when I did, it was fabulous

  • More time outside by the river

My “Best of” 2016:

  • 101 Core Conversations – I have spoken to over 50 women about transitions in their lives, and my life has been forever changed. If you haven’t already, click here to schedule our talk!

  • Word Gathering – writing with brilliant women every week and encouraging them to find their writing voices has been one of the best things I have ever done.

  • Collaboration – Working with Tami and Nikki on our super secret project has kind of blown my mind. These women are the real deal.

  • All the yoga stuff – Pelvic Floor teacher training with Leslie Howard in NYC, weekly classes with some of the loveliest people in the world, my own personal practice and exploration of breath and gentle movement.

  • Books and podcasts – learning from folks who have forged the trail before me has been super helpful (I’ll see if I can get a list of my favorites together, you know, if you want).

Bonus question: What does the new year look like if it is full of the good stuff?

Wow. Well, filling my life with the good stuff feels a whole lot like living a life that is my own. What says “good” to me?

  • Going deeper.

  • Asking the hard questions.

  • Setting intentions based almost entirely on how I want to feel.

  • Collaboration and connection over crushing the competition.

  • Getting real even when that the hardest thing in the world to do.

  • Moving my body in all kinds of ways – walking, yoga, strength-training, dancing, play.

  • Strong relationships full of honesty and caring and love.

Bonus question #2: What will you do to fill your life with what works?

  • I’ve got a list. Right now, it’s my own, but I’m sure I’ll be sharing it with you over the course of the year. What’s your list look like?

I’d love to know what you found out about yourself by giving these questions a try. If this is your first time, yay!

Even if you’re an old pro, let me know what your life might look like in 2017 if it’s full of the good stuff!

Yours in truth,

Holly

The Question You Don’t Want to Answer

As the year draws to a close, thoughts often drift toward self-improvement aka “resolutions.” But what if, rather than resolving to improve yourself, you started the year with a little self-reflection?

You see, those guilt-inducing, setting-myself-up-for-failure resolutions have never made much sense to me.

Self-reflection on the other hand – well THAT, as the kids’ say, is  my jam.

For the last 3 or 4 years, I’ve taken a day (or two or three) for self-reflection at the threshold of the year.

I’ve done it with Danielle, Lisa, Leonie, and, this year, I’m doing it all over the place. Danielle has a couple of great options (email at hollyAThollyholtDOTcom if you would like me to send them to you).

I’m most looking forward to Tami & Nikki’sRestoration, not Resolutions” day-long in-person retreat.

For those of you without time or inclination to take a WHOLE DAY for self-reflection, here’s a short and sassy trio of questions – baby steps, dear ones, baby steps.

Look back at 2016 and answer the following (inspired by my girl, Danielle):

  1. What worked?
  2. What didn’t work?
  3. What were the highlights?

And, perhaps, if you’re on a roll, you might want to wrangle with this bonus question, the one you don’t want to answer. Okay, it might just be me, but, man oh man, this question, it brings up all the stuff. Here goes:

What are you so naturally good at that you can’t even see it?

This question throws some boxing gloves onto my little friends, self-acceptance and self-doubt, and the little buggers get into a brawl. They fight for my self-worth. Here’s my process with this question:

  1. I’m not THAT good at anything in particular.
  2. Okay, maybe I’m good at…
  3. But you can’t make money doing that, so who cares?

Example. I’m REALLY good at meandering, wandering, communing with nature.

The day after Christmas, I meandered here:

 

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“Great. Where’s that gonna get you?” asks my self-doubting inner critic

(I call her Andrea).

“It will lead me to my purpose,” answers the wise old woman who lives next door to Andrea inside my heart.

Because in that moment, I remember that in this world exists Mary Oliver: one of America’s most beloved living poets, dog-lover, and expert at meandering and nature-wandering.

Ms. Oliver has dedicated herself to listening to the wise woman inside, and she wrote this line in her poem “Spring”:

There is only one question: how to love this world.

And in early November, I took this question and hours and hours of meandering as inspiration to write my own poem during the writing circle I host called Word Gathering.

As a year-end gift for you, here’s the poem.

Fingerprints

There is only one question:

     how to love this world

And the answers are like

     fingerprints

Pressed into sand

And exhales

     one by one

Letting go

     of anything that isn’t love

Letting go and watching

     leaves fall at the child’s feet

And those feet crunching 

     and skipping and kicking

Orange and red and yellow postcards

     down the sidewalk 

     to the end of the street

Where there are friends and dogs

Mothers and comfort

     And the only question I can ask is:

How can you not love this world?

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Gut Feelings

A few months back, one of my yoga students walked up to me after class and said:

“Wow! You look so good. You have lost weight.
You must be taking care of yourself.”

I paused, deeply inhaled, and answered:

“Actually, I’ve been sick.
I’m so happy I am able to eat again.”

I didn’t say this to put her in her place. I said it because it was true. I had lost almost 15 pounds due to a recurrence of Diverticulitis and subsequent side-effects from the antibiotic treatment. The recovery was slow and painful.

Here’s my confession:  I am a yoga teacher. I also have digestive issues. They go way back, have deep roots…and deep connections to my thoughts and emotions.

As a child, teen and twenty-something, I was THIN, underweight. People were always telling my mother how pretty I was. Well, I may have been pretty, but I was also pretty miserable. Because…

Skinny does not equal healthy.

For the first 30 or so years of my life, I suffered from almost daily stomach aches, constipation, nausea, depression and anxiety.

You see, I was a highly-sensitive, empathic child. I felt the anger, sadness, disappointment and rage of my classmates. And it all landed in my gut with nowhere to go.

Being sensitive to others has served me well as a yoga teacher (and as a writer), but it was hell on the playground. Particularly when it came to rough housing and competitive sports. Healthy, integrative movement was not offered. I sat on the sidelines.

I was not embodied.

And my quiet, sensitive self never “fit”, so I was convinced that anything I said or felt or thought was inherently WRONG. I held my wants, my needs, my opinions, and my gifts…in my gut.

All this holding in created “mysterious symptoms” that no doctor could explain for years.

Looking back now, I realize I simply didn’t have the tools that would allow life to flow through me rather than straight into me.

Until I found yoga.

It was not until I made yoga (and a good dose of self-care) a regular, dedicated practice that I begin to heal my emotional, mental and physical pain.

Which is why I decided to host a workshop called Gut Feelings.

In this workshop we will explore the intimate relationship between our thoughts and emotions and digestion. Our tools for inquiry will be breath work, meditation, slow/gentle yoga poses, guided writing exercises and self-massage.

I hope that by sharing my own story – and my discovery of the integrative power of yoga – that this workshop might help you digest your own life in a more compassionate way.

What does “I Am Woman” mean?

I am a child of the 70s. This was a time in history that introduced a woman who had never existed before.

This woman was beginning to exercise choice. She was choosing whether or not to work outside of the home. She was deciding whether or not to stay married…or to marry at all. She was choosing what to do with her body – from whether or not to have children and when to whether or not she wore makeup or bras.

Honestly, it was a bit confusing.

Since my mother stayed at home, this is what I saw reflected in my daily life. Mom cooked dinner every night (that alone is a feat I have never accomplished, ever), she was always there for my sister and me, she made our home clean, comfortable and softly beautiful.

My mother was a CEO level homemaker.

But…I wanted to be Helen Reddy.

Remember her?

Helen Reddy’s song “I am Women” has been swimming through my head for the first time in years as a result of my unbelievably rich core conversations with extraordinary women.

101 Core Conversations is changing my life. If we haven’t spoken yet, please stop everything and click the link below right now. It would be such an honor to speak to you!

101CORECONVERSATIONS

So, back to Helen Reddy and “I am Woman” for a minute. She and this song totally inspired me as a child. I had forgotten this.

I didn’t truly understand what it was all about, where it came from, the violence, pain and persecution that had created it.

I just loved that in this song, women were strong, beautiful, independent, free, and courageous. They were not love-sick princesses in need of rescuing.

Still, I had no idea how to be that kind of woman.

I’ll be writing about my relationship to the damsel in distress in my next blog post, but let’s just say, I was more of a Sleeping Beauty than a Xena, Warrior Princess for a good part of my life.

I had to get older to learn a new way of being. I had to enter my 40s and teeter on my 50s to say “Screw it! I’m gonna do whatever the hell I want.”

Speaking of doing what you want, I did a little search for dear Helen Reddy on the handy dandy YouTube. Once again, she inspires.

She reminds me of my mom. Unapologetically comfortable in her own skin. Strong. Kinda invincible.

(Hint: watch it till the end)

 

No Accident

I was in a car accident this morning. No. Let me be clear. My car (along with four others) was hit by an out-of-control driver in a very large red truck.

IMG_1812Why am I sharing this?

I realized something even as his truck careened into the front end of my car. I realized that…

I trust the universe.

I knew in that moment that I would be fine. I knew that for whatever reason, my body was spared.

At the scene, I became fast friends with the other drivers who were hit. Although all a bit shaken, we were thankful that no one (no one) was injured.

And I was not angry nor did I feel victimized.

The poor driver of the truck was taken away in handcuffs. My heart went out to him. I wished I could heal his pain.

This does not make me some kind of saint but, rather, someone who knows that the self-care, self-healing practices that I have been doing for the last few years work.

Here are the practices that I credit for making this experience one full of grace rather than fear, anger or powerlessness:

  1. Daily meditation – I woke up this morning and went right to my cushion. I only meditated for about 12 minutes, but that was all I needed to set the tone for my day.
  2. Daily home yoga practice – I was on my way to teach my regular Saturday morning class, so I warmed up my body with a few poses. Any stiffness from my previous night’s sleep dissipated.
  3. Daily gratitude practice – In the moments after my car was hit, I said a “thank you” prayer. Gratitude filled my heart. I will enter this gratitude into my journal later today.
  4. Creativity practice – This includes writing, singing, painting, collage. All of it  keeps me in the flow of life so that I am better able to withstand “accidents” and surprises along the way.

As soon as I got home, I sat for a few moments, rolled on my foam roller to release any tension in my back, and took a few minutes to lie down in a restful savasana. I will also light a candle for the driver today.

Roll + Alter

Again, I am so happy that everyone involved was not injured. I also plan to take this calm, this trust into my dealings with the insurance companies…because, well, I am only human!

Mud Woman

My life has felt muddy lately. Quietly, internally messy.

Is it just me?

Lots of “aha moments” followed by self-doubt followed by manic creativity followed by comatose lying in the grass staring at the sky.

Stuff is happening here at the homestead. For example…

I’ve discovered that I don’t want this to be a one-way conversation anymore. 

I want to know more about…YOU! Soon, you’ll receive an invitation. I hope you say yes.

For today, here’s a poem I wrote back in January (inspired by a quote from Women Who Run with Wolves and a bit by Leonard Cohen and Pat Schneider).

Mud Woman
By Holly Holt

Mud woman, fertile 
She holds seeds
In the cradle 
Of her pelvis
And she dances
Even when you don’t know
She dances
Under lights; in shadows
She dances
Swirling soil up into a cyclone
Until it falls
Like confetti
Or floats
Like an idea
We leave home to look for her
And we meet her again
At our own doorstep
She lives in
She is hidden
Until we are cracked open
By sorrow, laughter, or grief
She knows just what we need
She is fantastical belief
And the smell of good mud
Clay like a balm
To our open wounds
But be sure, be sure
To let a little light shine through

January 29, 2016