What is Your Story?

“When we share our stories, we are reminded of the humanity in each other. And when we take the time to understand each other’s stories, we become more forgiving, more empathetic, and more inclusive.” ~Michelle Obama

One of the things I absolutely love to do when I travel is tour cathedrals and churches. I not only LOVE history, but I love the peaceful feeling and the pure silence that we experience when we are in ancient religious buildings. The absolute quiet is unlike any other silence I have experienced.

There are two amazing cathedrals in Melbourne…St. Paul’s Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I visited them both and I had an amazing experience when I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral. I walked in and did what my Catholic upbringing taught me to do…bless myself with holy water and make the sign of the cross. As I began to walk toward the back of the cathedral a woman stopped me.

I loved seeing this plaque inside St. Paul’s Cathedral!

This woman had a name tag that said “Storyteller.” Her name was Holly. Holly approached me and simply asked, “Would you like to hear a story?” Holly’s job was to tell visitors the stories behind the beautiful stained-glass windows. I said “yes” and was immediately thrown back to my childhood! I listened to Holly tell me the story of the three wise men and I was enthralled by her unique storytelling abilities. She was animated, excited, and knowledgeable and told the story with such passion. Before I walked on, I asked Holly what made her want to volunteer to tell these stories in the cathedral and she said, “Stories make us curious and allow us to learn things about each other we may have never known. It is the element that binds us. Stories are part of our everyday life and I love sharing these stories with people. It reminds them of things they may have forgotten.”

Inside St. Paul’s Cathedral

Listening to Holly tell me a story made me begin to think about my own story. What is my story? Is it a story I would want others to tell? How do I want people to feel when they hear my story? Is there anything in my story I want to change? How do I want my story to end?

Before I left on this trip, I was not feeling good about my story. I felt like someone had hit the “pause” button on my story and it suddenly wasn’t going anywhere. The thing that we forget about our story is that we can create whatever story we want. We forget this because our lives move so fast. We are all moving at 100 miles per hour with so many things on our plate that we inadvertently put our stories on autopilot and just allow the story to run on its own, forgetting that we are behind the creative wheel. We sometimes feel stuck in our story. Maybe our lives are in a place where we feel as if we have no choice and have to play out a scene in our story because of obligation or because it is what others want and we are afraid to speak up and hurt someone’s feelings. Sometimes fear or money drives our story. Sometimes shame and feelings of low self-worth make us choose elements of our story that are not what we really want but what we feel we deserve.

As a Christmas gift to yourself, I want you to sit down and answer these questions. There is one rule to this exercise. You have to answer the questions with no “reality filter.” You are only allowed to write what you ideally want regardless of whether you think it can be a reality based on where you now are in your story. Got it?

The entire outdoor perimeter of St. Patrick’s Cathedral was made of rose bushes of all colors!

Some of you may not know the answers to these questions and that is OK. When it comes to what we want in our own lives, our creative muscles sometimes need flexing. One way I have found that helps me answer questions like these when I don’t know the answer is by watching other people. I watch how others are living their lives and ask myself if that is something I want. I also keep an ongoing bucket list of the things I want and I add to this list regularly. You can even ask others who know you well what they notice about what you like and don’t like. Start to become more aware of your life. Turn off the autopilot button and make each decision consciously and check to see how it makes you feel. You deserve to feel good!

As I head off to Sydney and we all enter a holiday week and the beginning of a new year, please take some time for yourself. Do what you love, be with the people you love, and above all, do something to love yourself. Make your story an amazing one!

Here’s to a great story!


Learning to Be with Yourself

“Learn to be alone and to like it. There is nothing more empowering or freeing than learning to like your own company.” ~Mandy Hale

I was recently sitting at the airport in Chiang Mai, Thailand waiting to board my flight and across from me were 3 young Australian men (probably in their mid-twenties) traveling together. As we sat there waiting for our flight to board, I could not help but notice that these 3 young men were doing something unheard of…they were all reading a book. An actual hardcover book! You don’t have to be traveling the world like I am to just look around and notice that 99.9% of the people in public, anywhere you go, have their faces in their phones. This has been something I have really become conscious of during my travels. I have seen couples, groups of friends, and employees with their noses in their phones, not talking, not interacting with each other, but rather interacting with their media devices.

I find company wherever I may be in the world…skin, concrete, marble…I don’t discriminate! LOL!

I recently read an article in Psychology Today about the decline in emotional intelligence in the younger generations. A total of 70 studies were done on 17,000 college-age participants between 2001 and 2019. The results of the studies showed that access to technology was associated with a decrease in overall well-being, emotionality, and self-control (Fugere, M.A., 2021). There are many benefits to technology such as the ability to be connected to family far away, access to information at our fingertips, and for someone like me who is missing the “direction gene,” a beautiful app called “Waze” that tells me where to go when my internal compass fails me (which is often!). But these benefits come with a flip side. We have learned to use our phones to distract ourselves from reality. We have learned to create an alternate reality which we live through our phones on social media and other platforms. This has kept us from the human/human and heart/heart interactions that when experienced face to face, have a far different feel and outcome than when experienced through direct messaging on Instagram.

Great book with many profound lessons!

I have a theory. My theory is that we have become uncomfortable and unsure of how to be with ourselves. In other words, how to be alone with no distractions and no one else around. Just you. Alone. Just reading that sent some people into a panic. I remember when I first realized that my marriage of 16 years was over. I knew I had to leave but what kept me from leaving was terror, and I mean I was terrified of being alone. The fear of being alone drives many behaviors and keeps us from doing things that are for our highest good.

Traveling alone brings up some interesting “stuff” … the kind of stuff that makes you squirm and want to distract yourself. This “stuff” can range from a fear of being by yourself with no one else around to memories of experiences we would rather forget that creep up into our consciousness when we are not distracted by daily life. I have had 14 years of practice being alone but traveling alone is a whole different ball game. This has been one of my biggest struggles on my journey. I do not have the same distractions around me as when I am in my own home. There is nothing to clean, no shopping to do, and no errands to run…it is just me, myself, the local tourist attractions, Netflix, and books to read. And I have to say, even in the amazing places I have been, these all get old after a while on the road.

Don’t worry…I’m not always alone. My new friends Scott and Mel Stuart. Scott is a best-selling children’s book author! Be sure to pick up his book, “My Shadow is Pink.”

I was forced to sit down with myself and really look at why I become so anxious about being alone. This sounds easy but it is not! We have been conditioned to NOT feel and bury our feelings deep down with food, alcohol, social media, sex, and many other coping mechanisms that temporarily keep us from facing the inevitable. I put my coaching hat on and asked myself, “If a coaching client were to have this anxiety, how would I help that client?” I often encourage my clients to do two main things…identify and name the exact feeling they are feeling at the moment and look for patterns in their behavior. We have to know where we are starting from before we can get to where we want to go. So that is what I did. I realized I wasn’t feeling anxious per se, but I was actually scared. Scared of what? I didn’t know. So, I tried to see if I could identify any patterns. Did I feel scared in certain places, with certain people, in certain situations, at the same time or day every week, at night in bed, etc? When we can identify the feeling and the pattern, then we have the beginning of a road map to the solution.

What I have found so far (and, by the way, this is still an ongoing journey for me) is that I become anxious about the unknowns. I also become anxious when I think too far ahead and I play the “what if” game with myself. I realized that we will never have the answers to the “what if” questions no matter how hard we think about them so the exercise of being anxious about them is futile.

Santa apparently uses dolphins instead of reindeer in Australia!

Now when I start to feel anxious about being alone, instead of distracting myself with my phone and scrolling through social media, I have learned to feed my brain and soul with the things that make me feel good. Everything is about how you feel! Going for a walk, writing, reading quotes I have saved over the years, calling a friend whose thinking I trust to talk to, and listening to my favorite music (I actually made a ‘traveling playlist before I left on this trip!”). I have also been practicing just sitting and staring at the beautiful sunset or sunrise, meditating, or feeding my body with nourishing fresh foods from the local market.

Night view from my apartment in Melbourne, Australia.

Learning to be alone with only yourself is a work in progress and it is not easy. One day it will feel easy and the next day it will be very hard. I have learned to practice “radical acceptance.” Instead of pushing against how I feel on a bad day, I just let myself feel the feeling. I cry if I need to, scream if I need to, and sleep it off if I need to. And I don’t beat myself up for doing these things. I consider it the highest form of self-care.

As I sit here in Melbourne, Australia looking at the beautiful lights outside my apartment window on the 18th floor, I do not have the TV on or music playing…I am just writing in silence and appreciating the quiet, beautiful gift of being alive.

All by myself,


Why Emotional Intelligence is on the Decline: https://www-psychologytoday-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dating-and-mating/202111/why-emotional-intelligence-is-in-decline?amp