My Malicious Affair with Anxiety

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“Stay with me.
Stay with me.
Stay with me,” seethes my anxiety.

It’s so damn tender how she never leaves me. Does she love or hate me? Hope I’ll die as she strangles my throat with rose stems. My anxiety tells me not to write this prose. She tells me to shut the fuck up; locks my hands in handcuffs; throws a bag over my head and laughs as I suffocate.

Some days I manage to get out the door quicker than she snatches me back to bed.
Bolt lock it without turning back. But that’s not everyday. Most days my anxiety keeps me tucked under the covers in isolation. My hair damp from waves of panic attacks. Chest tight. My anxiety squeezes my heart so it pumps harder, and my stomach screams for nourishment. I won’t eat. “You don’t deserve food,” my anxiety lashes out. But I’m so hungry.

And there’s this part of me that is screaming for help. Reaching for a hand. Reaching for someone to rescue me from my enemy. But anxiety cuffs my hands – positions them straight in front of me; ready to fire pistols at anyone who approaches. My anxiety doesn’t surrender there. She twists my tongue, slices those I love with vicious words. By night I’m exhausted from battling my anxiety, so I curl up into her gripping arms. I let her smother me so tightly I can barely breathe. She pricks me with thorny rose stems to remind me how her love feels.

“Stay with me.
Stay with me.
Stay with me,” she breathes into my ear.

My anxiety doesn’t want me to get too close to anyone because they’ll leave me. At least that’s what she tells me. She confesses, “You don’t deserve to be loved or comforted. They’ll leave you in the dark and go to work or to live their life or to simply exist. They’ll all leave you…but I won’t.” That’s my malicious affair with anxiety.

I hate it most when my anxiety tells me to give up. When I try to fly away she threatens to push me off a roof. She promises to spend eternity with me. She’s eternally fighting a war for my love, bruising my heart when I battle back. And the worst part … I feel obligated to tell my family because what if I let her win? What if someone isn’t aware of my war? After all, my anxiety is a puppeteer, pulling the corners of my lips upward. But my family’s response repulses me at times. They don’t hear my cries behind cutting words and they don’t see me reaching for help behind cuffed hands that are shoving them away. How can I blame them though?

Sometimes I think everyone is just sick of it though; sick of the mood swings and grieving days. So I strike a match to light a candle and say a prayer, but my anxiety pours gasoline all over my heart and sets me into a raging forest fire, burning everyone in my path.

It’s too painful to suffer in silence. But do others really understand? Can they really understand? They see me celebrating one day and grieving another. Sure, my dad tells me to “tweak my attitude.” But I can’t just tweak my attitude, Dad. Not alone. Not alone with my anxiety locking me away. It isn’t that easy. Damn it. Why does he think it’s so easy? And my mom thinks I have control over this mess. I tell her I’m uncomfortable, overwhelmed, paralyzed. She tells me to choose my words. But I don’t feel I have a choice sometimes. There are days that my anxiety blazes too high and I can’t get control back. My brain becomes a dark hole that I can’t stop spiraling in.

So I look at my life and walk away.


Some days we need others to sit with us as we battle our demons…because sitting alone means having rose petals strangling our throats while we suffocate. It’s the boldest act to stand by someone’s side, even if they aren’t able to be vulnerable about their malicious emotional affair. People are fighting demons, inside their heads, and we can’t even see them. Try to reach out to someone who might be suffering in silence.

Otherwise, will you leave me alone in my malicious affair with anxiety?

#buildingbold

 

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What it Means to Love Me

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What if he was the one?

I can’t tell you how many times
I’ve pondered this question.

I need the type of man who won’t try to save me.
No.
He must let me walk through fires
because he knows I’ll survive.
And that my survival will
make me burn bolder.

I need a man who knows when to
wait for me on the other side of the flames
with a bucket of ice cold water.
Because he knows some fires
are too horrific to heal from alone.

Yes. that’s what I need.
The type of man who just knows.
He must know that I’ll survive on my own.

I haven’t met you yet.
I always thought it would be beautiful
to be a whole woman before I found you.
I finally know I’m getting closer to being complete.
Not needing you to complete me.

I used to search for you
all the time.
I wondered if you were the
boy at summer camp
who sang songs, staring into my sappy eyes.
Or if you were the boy who
I fell for on a hike
on my 23rd birthday.

I remember the last time
I wondered if I found you.
It was winter of 2015.
We were sitting in a Manhattan
coffee shop on a frigid winter day.
I didn’t want him to let go
of my crumbling body.

No matter how sure I was that
he wasn’t you, I wouldn’t be the one
to let go of our dead relationship.
All that survived between him and me
was the smell of moldy love lingering
on our clothes.

What if he was the one?
What if I never found love again?

He made me feel safe.
Yes, safe,
A haven where I didn’t have to face the fire
because I could throw myself into his arms.
Shielded from the flames.

That last heartbreak was such a tragic blessing.
Setting my world on fire,
leaving me to burn wildly.
With sirens singing to me as I sank.

It was too difficult
to stand up that day.
I sank in the fire like a
widow mourning her
dead husband.  

But there was this rage burning inside of me,
urging me to rise once more.
I fought the rage, but it only blazed
more wildly.
And every time I dropped
to my knees, the rage begged me
to rise again,
and again,
and again.

Until I rose to my feet and
began mending my
love affair with myself.

I stopped searching
for you that cold day
in 2015.
Because I realized
I was the one.
I was the one that I needed to love.

All this time,
I was begging for me.
And I was abandoning
myself to find you.

I know you’ll
love me so much,
but I want to love me
as much as you love me.

And I know when we meet,
I’ll feel love for you that aches
because it’s so damn beautiful
and tender and intoxicating.

But I will only know I’ve found
you because I will have felt that
beautiful, tender, intoxicating
love for myself
first.

So when you we meet…
please know to love me is to love
a woman who fights fiercely
to fall harder and harder for herself.

And when we meet…
you must trace my scars
to know the fires I’ve survived.
And then, and only then,
You’ll know I can handle the fire
Because I belong
to me before
I belong to
anyone
else.

A letter to the boss who told me I wasn’t good enough

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To the boss who told me I wasn’t good enough:

Thank you for firing me.
Thank you for spitting words in my face
Slamming the door and letting the glass shatter and cut me
Creating wounds so deep only my salty tears could heal them

To you,
I say thank you.

I worked my ass off for your company.
Made it into what it is today.
More profitable
More reputable
More marketable
I worked my ass off.
Remember that, asshole?
And what did I get in return?
“You are fired.”

You left me with lips wired shut from the secrets I kept hidden.
But I was taught long ago to use my words to shield my dignity.
And you, a misogynistic man, couldn’t bear the truth.
You were afraid of me,
an unapologetically bold woman.
Because I spoke my mind.
Because I stood up for my rights.
Because I couldn’t be silenced.

Although I can’t undo the past that has unraveled,
I’ve mustered up the courage to reveal my pain today.
So I write to you.

Let me lick my lips and prepare to part them to make way for my words.
Spread my legs into a strong stance that demands pride and respect.
Let me wire back the jaw that’s been twisted and formulate the words in a way that is mine.
NOT YOURS.
MINE.

I’ll expose the bullshit I swallowed.
You….
The one who told me I wasn’t good enough
slammed the door in my face
pushed me to the dirt
and made me kiss the ground on which you walked.
When you didn’t even deserve my slightest attention.

You threatened me, saying, “If I don’t fire you, you’ll never learn.”
Well….you were right.
Thank you for teaching me what I don’t want to be as a boss.
Thank you for teaching me how I don’t want to speak to my employees.
Thank you for teaching me how I don’t want to stampede over their bodies.

And to you, I say,
Thank you for firing me in China
over a petty little Skype call.
7,000 miles from home.
You told me to get on an airplane.
Thought you could buy my silence.

I never told you this…but you should know,
I never got on that goddamn plane.
There was no way in hell I was flying on that plane.
You weren’t going to hold me confined for 20 hours.
No. No.
No. No. No.

And just in case you don’t understand, let me make myself clear
Nǐ bù huì kòngzhì wǒ
That’s Chinese – your language – for you won’t control me.

So…
I dragged two suitcases from Hangzhou to Shanghai.
Unsure of how I’d get home, but I wasn’t going home on your dime.
7,000 miles from home.
I was afraid.
I stood on a hotel rooftop overlooking the Shanghai skyline.
It was so beautiful.

And I thought…
What if I just slipped?
Danced 35 stories in the air?
I’d have 35 words to say before I’d smash against the ground.
How much would it hurt them?
No, I’m not talking to you, asshole.
I’m talking about my family and friends.
The ones who would never make me kiss the ground that doesn’t deserve my kisses
My family… the ones who would never slam me to the ground with ignorance.
How much would it hurt them… every single story.
35 stories worth of pain.

I decided to use the body I’ve been given to fight back
MY BODY. NOT YOURS.
MY BODY. NOT YOURS.

I took the legs that had fallen and stood up again.
Dusted the dirt on my scraped knees and began to seek help so they could heal.
And decided I wasn’t strong enough to carry the weight of your bullshit

But I was strong enough to stand up and let go
Of the burdens of my secrets.
And now…
hey you,
the one who told me I wasn’t good enough.
I’ve been liberated.
Free to spread my wings and fly on my own terms.

So let me lick my lips and prepare to part them to make way for these words.
Spread my legs into a strong stance that demands pride and respect.
Let me wire back the jaw that’s been twisted and formulate the words in a way that is mine.

To the boss who told me I wasn’t good enough…
Thank you for being fertilizer.
I’ve drank water daily.
Showered myself with sunlight.
Grown – slowly but surely.
Blossomed into a garden.
Grew a pair of wings
And found my way home
7,000 miles
Yes
I flew 7,000 miles
On my own wings
And I began building bold.

With love and a smear of my blood,

The one you tried to break

 

What’s Your Truth

We are told to push, to hustle, to strive to be the best…but what’s the best? What happens when we give our “best” and others tell us it’s just not good enough; even worse, we tell ourselves it’s not enough.

Today I needed to take a major pause to confront the reality that I was barely living in today or tomorrow, and was spiraling far into the future. Afraid. Paralyzed. Playing the scenes of my past mistakes repeating themselves over and over again. I panicked and worried that I wasn’t “strong” enough to fight on. And then I remembered this: pause and breathe and be and exist and experience all of the difficult emotions that come with life. I remembered to take off my mask. We must take off our masks. We owe it to each other not to perpetuate the pressure of perfectionism that washes over social media. After all, there is a story behind every picture we post on social media.

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My story?  I fly, yes, I fly. I fly away and forget about my inner child sometimes. She wails, but I keep flying away. Fleeing. And there’s a deep story behind this photo: a woman who flies between Building Bold, tutoring, and working at a college. A woman who has restless dreams that keep her awake at night. A woman who is so, so eager to dream all day, and a woman who is so tired from flying. Yes, she’s tired. She hasn’t taken the precious moments this week to pause and care and love and water her soul.

She doesn’t want pity though. No. She wants to share and hold space for others to let go of the pressure. And she wants to hear other women’s truth. Yes, she wants to hear your truth. 

And with the rise of a breath she makes a choice. She makes a choice to dig. Yes. To dig her way to air. A little at a time. Her fingers are cracking and filthy from the dirt. But she doesn’t stop digging. Does not. Until she reaches her inner child’s cry. She picks herself up and cradles her inner child. An abandoned child. And just like that she decides to keep fleeing. But this time she decides to keep fleeing to her inner child. Yes, she will fly to her the moment she hears her crying. She will collect all of her love and tenderness and offer it to this child. 

She is MY inner child. And SHE is Building Bold. 

What’s your truth? Declare it. Own it. Share it. #buildingbold

You Know that Feeling?

 

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You know that feeling?
You’ve been pushed too far out in the ocean.
The riptide twists your limbs into knots.

Head bobbing
in and out of the water.
You can’t see the shoreline.

Water filling your lungs.
It doesn’t matter who tries to save you,
you’ve been pushed too far out.

You know that feeling?
That feeling when it is too much.
Too much to keep battling the riptide.
You are screaming words to deaf ears,
but it doesn’t matter that no one can hear you.

You wish every word that came out of your mouth
would go back to its owner,
the daemons in your mind.
You’re spitting up words with water;
words that don’t belong to you.

But you keep drowning.
Arms and legs burning from paddling to stay afloat.
So you let yourself go under.
You let all the heavy words push you down
Words weighing heavy,
Sinking you to the bottom of the ocean
Where no one can find you and no one can forget you.

You know that feeling?
You are so sorry but it wasn’t your fault.
It was the daemons in your mind.
That pushed you so far below the surface that you lose your voice
Seaweed floats in the water just like a
Flat line signaling the loss of your heartbeat.

You hear your name being called.
Chanting. They are chanting your name.
Your name. Chanting your name.
A name that someone else gave you.
A name that belongs to you.
A name.

Choking.
You are choking.
You are fighting for air.
You are fighting for a place.

Your eyes open slowly.
You can’t remember and you can’t forget.
It was a dream.
It was all just a dream.

 

 

To His Future Wife, You Are Lucky

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You are so lucky. He is going to love you forever. Please never take his gentleness and kindness for granted, for he will stick through the difficult times with you. I can promise you that. I know you might feel afraid sometimes, but he will listen to you; he will encourage you; he will make the darkest nights shine with stars.

When he looks at you, he is looking at you and only you.

Please take care of him. Do not lie to him; do not hurt him. Even if you are afraid, let your heart lead the way. Trust him.

Tell him you love him every morning and every night.

Leave him a note on your way to work to let him know how much you care. Kiss him as much as you want. Make him soup when he is sick and let him lay in your arms. Stroke his hair – he likes that. Make sure he has warm blankets in the winter…he will say he is warm and content, but spoil him anyway. Share every happy experience with him and keep a smile on his face.

You can tickle him and he will roll around like a kid. You can cuddle through the night with him and he’ll never turn the other way. He is loving and one of a kind.

I do miss him sometimes, but I know he is in good hands. I should tell you that we let each other go because I couldn’t make him happy the way you can, not because I didn’t love him deeply. Not because he wasn’t a best friend to me. We let go because he needed to find you. 

Do not let him down. Please take care of him. Give him every ounce of love you have.

Love him always. Make him the happiest man he can be. His past has helped to mold him into this incredible man that stands before you. He has written his story and it is time for you to read it. I hope he reads the chapter about me.

Weathering the Storm

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Sometimes I feel alone as I weather the storm. On social media, so many women appear to have it “all together.” Meanwhile, I sit alone with soldiers battling inside my mind and body. The battle is fierce, but I make a choice. I choose to keep it “all together.” I find myself climbing, striving and pushing. I move through the motions, but the pain climbs, strives and pushes me too. The battle is too brutal. I flee. Yes, I flee and abandon the pain. But the pain cries out like an abandoned child.

Days pass. And the pain catches up to me, stabbing at my limbs like a murder victim. I lay there, weathering the storm, alone and afraid. I begin to crawl instead of climb; struggle instead of strive; pause instead of push. But it’s not easy to climb, strive and push for days on end. My battle becomes vicious, until I can’t flee anymore.

And in a breaking moment, my friend is nearby. When I break open, to my surprise, she breaks open too. Our tears break with untold stories. Breaking open frees us. Yes, it frees us from the solitude of captivity. We take hands and decide to weather the storm together.

Sharing our pretty, ugly, scary, shameful, painful stories is bold – it’s an oasis.

How to blast past writer’s block

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I often feel a little fire ignite in my heart, it blazes so wildly, urging my fingers to the keyboard. 30 minutes later, I find myself staring at a blank document. It’s stress. That demon that extinguishes the little fire in my heart. The smoke blinds my eyes so I can’t write my story. The smoke swirls in my mind as I obsess over syntax, grammar, and style. While I live to share my stories, pressure and stress can cause writer’s block.

I’ve had the pleasure of talking to women about their own experiences with writer’s block. A woman recently asked, “I love to write, but I feel so much pressure…how do you write?” Perhaps you experience a combination of creative writing blockers. As a writer and writing mentor, I’ve developed several mindful writing techniques. Trust in the process and you will move beyond writer’s block, into a place where you can create a bridge to other women through your writing. We all have a story to tell (and oftentimes many stories), and writing allows us to define and redefine OUR stories. Follow these tips to blast past writer’s block:

  1. Pick the story that is haunting you. I had the honor of speaking with author Mary Higgins Clark (a story which I’ll write about soon), and she told me to “pick the story that is haunting me.” If the story doesn’t come easily to you, I encourage you to try a SoundMind meditation to ground yourself. Then, ask yourself the following questions: “What is the story that keeps me up at night?”;  “What is the story I wish I didn’t have to hide?”; “What is the experience I’ll never forget from childhood?” There are stories that live inside of you and want to escape. Let them escape. As a cautionary tip, if you are like me, you might overflow with stories you need to write. Get clear on the story that is loudest for you right now. Jot down the other topics so you can return to them in the coming weeks. For now, trust the story that is haunting you.

  2. Write sloppy first drafts.  Forget about syntax, grammar, and diction. Commit to leaving editing to a later draft. Let your sentences bleed into each other. Let your spelling get sloppy. Just allow yourself to begin. Beginning is a bold move. With the rise of your next breath, begin. And when you get scared, stressed or frustrated, come back to your breath and begin again. Keep taking the risk of beginning to write despite the fear and doubt. Every single day. After all, writing is like painting on a canvas. You can always paint the canvas white if you don’t like your masterpiece.

  3. Get lost and found in your story. Take the writing process breath by breath, and word by word. Be patient with yourself. After committing to a daily writing practice, this will get easier. If you approach uncomfortable turns in your story, perhaps details you might have forgotten about a childhood experience, lean into the discomfort. Breathe. And trust yourself a little, my dear. The story might need to bleed onto the paper as tears stream down your cheeks. It will likely be messy. Writing often reveals our innermost secrets and scars; ones that we keep hidden and  bottled up inside. But you learn so much about yourself in telling your story.

  4. Own your story. Accept the reality that you might (and more likely will) face rejection if you look to publish or share your story with an audience. Your ego might become quite loud as a result. It might be  mean to you. Sometimes my ego tell some me: You aren’t good enough to make it as a writer, don’t do it. Get a full-time job. Be aware of the fear your ego feeds on, and be gentle in asking your ego to sit on the sidelines as you create your masterpiece. 

My fellow warrior, your story needs to be heard and I look forward to connecting with you through it. If you are looking for more tips, I will be launching writing workshops this winter! Keep writing every single day.

Mindful Living in NYC

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I’m sitting in a hot, stalled subway at Times Square. My phone has no service, yet there isn’t a single person who isn’t staring at their phone. I look down at my phone again….perhaps service is back? Nope. No service. The conductor shouts over a muffled speaker: “We are experiencing delays due to a malfunction at 110th street.” There’s a baby crying across from me. A few seats down, a heightened argument about a text message is ensuing between a couple. I scan the subway car, but there is no one to make eye contact with. Here sits a group of strangers. Stopped in the subway. The baby crying. The couple arguing. The strangers staring at their phones; phones without service. Again, the conductor declares, “We are experiencing delays due to a malfunction at 110th street.”

The woman next to me turns and says, “Those stupid phones, always causing trouble.” Shocked by her statement, I smiled. She smiled widely back at me, exposing her missing front teeth. I learned that she didn’t own a phone and that she lived “here and there”. With the rise of my next breath the subway doors opened. She stood up, smiled at me and wished me a wonderful day. Just like that, two strangers extended love and compassion in a stalled subway car.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of keeping up with the pace of technology and life, our bodies push through subway doors and we often miss the people we pass and the experiences we confront. It’s no easy feat to be mindful New Yorkers. It is possible though to be more mindful. Here are some techniques to carry you throughout the day and into a restful and restorative evening. (Disclaimer: these techniques all require you to take a break from technology!)

  • When you feel stress creeping up, just pause and breathe.

Let’s face it, this might happen every five minutes and that is perfectly fine. Gear up to practice this technique frequently. Bring your hand to the body part where you feel anxiety building. Breathe in and out; in and out. Focus on your out breaths. Count each out breath. Breathe in, breathe out, count 1…then breathe in, breathe out, count 2, and so on. This will help to elongate the space between each breath and calm your nervous system. Continue the cycle for about 10 breaths.

  • Repeat a mantra (silently if necessary) that resonates with you.

While maintaining your breathing practice, repeat your mantra with intention. At a loss for mantras? Here are a few that work wonders for me: “I am centered”; “I’m in my truth”; “I’m safe. I’m here.” If you listen closely enough to your inner voice, a mantra might come organically to you!

  • Take a self-care hour after a day of hustling through NYC.

Instead of rushing to an expensive cocktail bar, treat yourself to a decent candle. (My favorite candle is Tocca’s Rosemary Pine – it is well worth the treat!) When you get home, put on pretty lingerie or comfy sweats, whichever you prefer to pamper yourself … this is just for you! Now it’s time to geek out to whatever gets your creativity flowing. Writing? Drawing? Singing? Simply allow yourself the space to express. You might be surprised with the masterpiece you create!

  • When it’s time to “turn off” your brain (which is impossible) and sleep, turn off your phone and turn on a guided meditation.

If you are one of the lucky who fall asleep easily, I envy you! For those of you, like me, who struggle with resting at night, turn to a guided meditation. A great starting point that I recommend is Positive Magazine’s meditations on YouTube. If you feel fancy, download a meditation app on your phone (just make sure your phone is on airplane mode). You can try the meditation apps Calm or Buddhify, and also browse apps that spark your calm!

More tips on living mindfully in NYC to come! Oh, and don’t forget to turn to a person on the subway and smile, maybe even say hello.

 

Crossing Paths in the Labyrinth

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When he reached me in a Manhattan coffee shop, I was nestled in a booth. He came down to my level, into my arms, gasping and breathless as he threaded his arms beneath my shoulders and curls. “Don’t cry,” he whispered, nestling his cheek as he hugged me tightly. My body wracked with sobs. The skin on his face was the canvas for his gentle sapphire eyes; the canvas for his smile, perfectly uneven, the left corner of his lip lifted slightly more than the right.

He loved my quirks, my spunk, my passion; he loved me. He loved my past and my present. He could have easily loved my future. The relationship wasn’t perfect; not even close. But it made me feel safe. Safe. Yes, safe, that feeling where you don’t have to face the pain in your heart because you can throw yourself into someone else’s arms. Hidden from the world.

I knew I was going to break his heart that afternoon. And it was going to break my heart to break his. Tears lumping up in my throat; my heart breaking a little with each passing second. My tongue played with different strings of words to explain. Explain that we weren’t walking in the same direction in the labyrinth anymore. All the while I was terrified of being separated. Lost in the labyrinth. Not knowing where my steps would take me.

Letting go of romantic love is absolutely terrifying. Instead of experiencing the nightmare of heartache, I have tied myself to relationships for too long. Too afraid to walk the twists and turns of the labyrinth. Too afraid of the unfamiliar faces who rush by me at  unfamiliar turns. Strangers. So oblivious to me. Too afraid to sleep alone. The night terrors come and I have no one to clench my body to. Too afraid to wake up and feel that dreadful pounding in my chest; the pounding where I can’t catch my breath and am being buried alive.

In that coffee shop on that frigid winter day, I did not want him to let go of my crumbling body. No, no, nono. My heart spoke loudly to me; no matter how afraid I was to let go, the relationship was dead. All that survived was the smell of moldy love lingering on my sheets. Meanwhile my mind spiraled with unanswerable questions: What if he was the one? What if I never found love again? 

There is something so beautiful and cryptic to letting go.

2 years have passed since that coffee shop nightmare. And I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to find my way out of the labyrinth as I meditate on the chaotic beauty that is my past. In this moment I know I’ve found my way out, back to the beginning of the labyrinth where I entered. But now I am more whole. It is a place where a man doesn’t need to save me. It is a place where in times of fear I let the stronger parts of me cradle the weaker parts of me.

I’ve also come to realize the beautiful reality that is crossing paths with other women and extending love and compassion. As we stumble in and out of the labyrinth, we don’t have to walk alone. If we open our eyes, we will see other women who are wobbling and stepping. Crossing our paths. Maybe once; maybe a dozen times. When we barely know where we are stepping, the labyrinth can lead us into roadblocks, but it is always redirecting us.

We all walk along the labyrinth facing confusing turns and unforeseen roadblocks. When we cross paths let’s reach out our hands to each other with love and compassion.