I’m a great believer in life happening just exactly when it’s supposed to. (Not that I always remember that but that’s one of the challenges of being human.) I am also not a lover of working alone or in a vacuum.
Seemingly out of the ethers in 2009 came a group of amazing women who have not only been trained by me, but have brought their varying talents to help create YOU University Coaching into a viable internet coaching and training business. They used their multifaceted gifts to partner with me in the same way my life partner has done in the past. Oh. I forgot to say that this miracle of synchronicity and connectedness has brought us together from all over the globe – Florida, Washington, N. and S. California, Oregon and Australia. While others decry the separation that the technological world creates, our experience is exactly the opposite. We may never sit altogether in the same room but we were truly a team.
Then life, which has a way of happening, happened to me. In 2014 my husband became ill and subsequently died in August of 2015. On top of all the other traumas of my life, it was not easy for me to live without him and without the beautiful relationship of mutual support and love that we had created.
Before you make your decision about becoming a YOU University Coach or going through YOU University with a coach, there are two pre-requisites that I want you to know about. The first one has to do with being willing to hold the attitude that you created everything about your life. No victim of anything. Somehow, somewhere, you created it all. You don't have to totally believe it. You just have to be willing to work from that assumption. The other requirement is that you have to be willing to deal with the emotional issues of your past by doing some very specific work that involves writing a kind of letter which includes five levels of emotion.
As a result, you will:
My name is Maia Berens and I will share with you the lessons that changed my life.
When I was a little girl and my mother was yelling, calling me names and belittling me, there was a tiny bit of inner understanding that told me I was not actually bad. Even when my ex-husband told me I was "too light for heavy work and too heavy for light work" and though I was always underemployed and underpaid, out of the corner of my awareness, I glimpsed something big in me trying to find itself.
All those times my ex-husband seemed to be trying to drive me crazy by relentlessly telling me that nothing I said made any sense, a hidden fragment of me recognized I was someone of intrinsic value with something important to teach.
When my own inner critical voices beat me up unmercifully, there was a whisper an upbeat, shadow of a smiling voice - right alongside those critical voices.
Now, after years of uncovering who I really am I recognize that that positive, upbeat little voice was the one linking me to my Real Self, my authentic connection to the Source of my Being, and by learning that those cynical inner voices are not genuinely me, I grasped how to change my negative thoughts and feelings. When I changed my negative feelings, my whole life changed. By learning to understand and satisfy the wants and needs of my Real Self, my life has become one of peace and acceptance that I could not have dreamed possible in 1979.
Whatever your circumstances, you can change your life by changing your thoughts and feelings, too. I fervently hope you will be able to meet your authentic self as well, your Real Self, and live joyfully ever after. I am going to share a short story with you - the story of my ever-evolving self - the story of my budding understanding that everything that is not my Real Self is an illusion. In it you may find parallels to your life or to the life of someone you know. In it, you will find out how my authentic self guided me and how, when I noticed and followed its lead, I came to know my Real Self just a little bit better than I had before.
I was sitting on the bed of my soon to be married childhood friend. Enveloped by my frozen spirit, I begged her for advice. I had been married for seven months and two days. I went steady with my husband for four years starting my second month in college. Living with him was much worse than dating him because I could not run away while he worked on controlling my every thought and deed.
I had escaped from our marriage two weeks before and was staying at my parents' house - the very place I could not wait to leave. I had gone to college to "meet a husband" believing that my parents and society had expected that of me. He was my second date in college. I stopped dating anyone else and stuck with him because I was afraid no one else would want me. Initially his looks and his interest in me drew me in. I also liked the spiritual and optimistic talks we had in the first few months of our relationship.
After that, I felt hooked –and stuck. The unspoken rules I breathed in from my family and Jewish middle-class suburban upbringing were so ingrained in me that I married someone I did not love and with whom I felt very uneasy. However, for me to be acceptable in everyone's eyes, I had to graduate college, become a school teacher and have a baby, in that order –all of which I accomplished with great success, by the age of 23. I believed I had to do these things even though I felt about him as I did.
Yvette asked, "How do you feel about being alone? How do you feel about breaking up?"
My response, "I don't know how I feel. I haven't the foggiest idea who I am.. . You know me better than I know me."
I was so deeply confused that I did not have the vaguest idea what I felt –or who I was.
For a week my husband had been sending me flowers daily because he wanted me back. Flowers did not persuade me. He visited my mother and cried to her and her best friend. My mother surprised me by saying that she supported me in whatever I decided to do. So there was no pressure from my mother.
Then he called my aunt and then my aunt called me. She tried to talk me into taking him back. She ended the conversation by asking, "How would you feel if he died?" Now I knew what I felt. I felt guilty. I hung up the phone and shortly after called my husband and asked him to come to my parents' house to talk. We talked. We decided that it would be a good idea to date again to see where that would lead. But I let him convince me to let him stay at my parents with me that night. We conceived our daughter that evening.
On October 19, 1966 at St. Barnabas Hospital, Livingston N.J., the first of our four children was born.
It was 1980. I was thirty-seven. My four children ranged in age from six to fourteen. For the preceding six months, I had been a stay-at-home mom unable to work because I felt scared,fragile, confused, stuck and emotionally spent all of the time. I hardly slept. I cried at the drop of a hat. I had headaches and faintingly strong neck spasms. An inner voice screamed that I was too fat, deeply flawed and useless. For years while trying to sleep, I had fantasized about running away; however, because I thought I was unable to take care of myself, much less four children, I stayed and suffered. I had been married for fifteen years.
In my aerospace engineer husband's presence intense fear surfaced. Our roles of victim - me and verbal and emotional abuser - him - expanded. Our cycle of verbal free-for-alls increased. One Sunday in May at Santa Monica Beach, he and I stood fighting in the sun for so long that I acquired a case of sun poisoning which I had not gotten since childhood. A couple of nights later, after eight years absence, I planned to go back to a spiritual group's meetings. The meeting I planned on attending had already started at 7:00 p.m. It was 7:30 p.m. I looked in the mirror at my swollen, sun-poisoned face and weepily said to my reflection, "How can I go out looking like this? My 14-year-old wise-beyond-her-years said, "Mom, you said a lot of the people at that meeting have 100 pounds or more to lose. Who cares about your face?"
In a moment of clarity, I listened to her even though I hated how I looked and I hated to be late for anything. I was only 15 pounds over what I thought I should weigh and yet I felt grotesque and completely uncomfortable in my own skin.
At the meeting they said, “Get a sponsor.” They said a sponsor is someone who has what you want. I starting going to many meetings and three weeks later I heard an older woman speaker at a meeting who had what I wanted – humor, wisdom, thinness, brilliance. For those reasons, I asked her to be my sponsor. She agreed.
The loving support and connection I found in the group and from my sponsor helped the fog in my brain begin to lift. I heard so much hope there, that I went to a meeting every day.
At the same time, the frequency of my husband’s jealous, irrational third degree questioning sessions stepped-up. We began to see a counselor; however, with my husband present, I was afraid to tell her the truth about how I felt.
Around that time, I had my first session alone with this counselor . I told her that my husband and I were to leave the next day for a weekend in Las Vegas. Previously his abuse was verbal and emotional but now I was afraid that he would hurt or even kill me. An atmosphere of suppressed violence had entered our home. The counselor asked, “What are you going to do?” I noticed that even though she had had a couple of sessions alone with him, she was not saying my fears of him were irrational. I never remembered another word the woman said. I do not remember her name. I never went back. She said what I needed to hear when she asked non-judgmentally, “What are you going to do?”
As I left her office, I underwent a rare mental shift. My mind fully opened and I experienced perfect clarity. I knew exactly what to do.
I needed to get the little money that I thought was available to me out of the bank so I stopped and withdrew the $1,800 my daughter had in her savings account.
I needed to make a quick escape so I stopped for large trash bags in which to "pack". There was no time for neatly organizing suitcases.
Finally, I had to get the van from my husband when he came home at lunch since there was no way my offspring and our belongings would safely fit in the VW Rabbit – our 2nd car. Accordingly, while he was eating lunch, I casually asked him to switch cars – a common practice in our family depending on who was driving the children around. I acted as if nothing special was happening. I had practiced covering my feelings with an act my whole life – first with my scary mother and next with my scary husband. Only this time it was different. I did not feel scared. I just knew what I needed to do to make this hurried departure succeed.
After he left to go back to work, I collected the children, went to a friend’s house and called her divorce attorney. The lawyer told me that he would get a Temporary Restraining Order issued; however, if I seriously thought I could be hurt, I needed to get out of the neighborhood and find a motel where I could hide my orange and white VW van from view.As I was doing all of these things, I felt clear, strong and aware. I noticed I was not judging what I knew to do; instead, I acted without question when I heard my inner promptings.
Later that weekend, through a series of unexpected events, my husband figured out where we were hiding. Because I was in such a high emotional state generated by the expanded connection to my Real Self – and the excitement of finally coming to a decision and acting upon it - I no longer felt afraid of him. He came to our motel. I never vacillated from my conviction that this parting was the right thing for me to do - finally.
I had absolutely no idea how the future would unfold or how I would take care of my family and myself; but I knew without question that I would, that I could and that we would be fine. I had no fear – only joy and gratitude.
After two or three days away from our house, my ex-husband did the right thing and got an apartment for himself and let the children and I move back home.
My first job as a single mother was as a part-time waitress at a local fish restaurant. I felt many things about that job. I felt free to do a job my parents had not permitted because they believed that “nice Jewish girls don’t work as waitresses”; happy that my single mom friend suggested getting a waitressing job because I could “make the same money part-time as working full time in an office”; open and ready for my “what-am-I-going-to-be-when-I-grow-up” future to show itself. Between child support and what I earned as a waitress, I didn't make enough money to pay the bills, however somehow they were paid. I didn't have a credit card any more because about two weeks into our separation my ex had snuck into the house while I was in the shower and took the credit cards from my wallet. He was afraid I'd charge a lot and stick him with the bill. I felt so misunderstood. How could he be in a relationship with me for 19 years and not know that I would never do anything like that?
As irritated as I had been with his controlling, angry ways, I was grateful that he always paid child support and, after a year and the apparent easing of his resentments, he began to buy extras for the children and even gave them an allowance. This was great because they had some extra money. It was also challenging because they had more discretionary money than I would have for several years to come.
One day my attorney asked me how I could “make it” with as little income as I had. I cryptically referred to God with my answer, “I have help.”When I got lonely, I simply remembered that for the very first time in my life, I was not living with anyone who mistreated me and my heart was flooded with gratitude A very nice man began to approach me at OA meetings – as a friend I thought – and sat next to me when we went out as a group for coffee after meetings. As is customary and suggested in my spiritual program, members call each other to give and receive support. He started to call me. He was nice, humorous and creative. I liked him.
Around that time, I started to investigate “what I want to be when I grow up”. I didn’t know what my talents were - so I started with what I thought I might be good at. In college, I had majored in Mathematics because I always got A’s in High School math. That's why I used the same weeding out process I had used before. I was good with my hands and pretty craft-y so I decided to take some graphic design classes while working at the restaurant. Each time I got a homework assignment, I was fearful that I'd not be able to do it. However, I could. I got A’s in my classes. The insecure perfectionist still lived in me and so I naturally assumed I would have to become a “great artist” to succeed in the graphic arts field.
I applied for a graphic arts position doing paste up and layout – a real beginner’s job. I got the job; however, I quickly found it boring. I did not really know what it took to be successful in the art world and I realized that I probably would not become the Picasso of commercial art, so after a very few short months I began looking for different work. Besides finding satisfying work, I had five people including myself to support. I needed to make more money.
For the next year, I worked at a series of sales jobs – leaving each one because the companies went out of business or I was unable to make enough money at that job.
I had never conceived of a time that I would be supporting a family. My upbringing taught me that I would be a “help to my husband” - that I would probably be a schoolteacher and go back to work when my kids started school. All the same, I had a slight inner sense that each job experience was teaching me something and improving my ability to succeed in the future. It was almost like building a career path though crunched into a very short timeline.
That nice friendly man asked me if I would like to attend High Holiday services with him. I was not particularly religious but figured, “Why not? It might be interesting to attend services as an adult.” Moreover, it was enjoyable to spend time with a man who obviously liked me a lot, treated me respectfully and thought I was of value.
At around that time, a friend helped me get my first insurance sales job.
That "nice man" and I continued dating. He wanted to marry me. There were a number of things about him that I particularly liked. I liked the made-to-order grandparents for my children. His parents were thrilled to have “grandchildren” and my children were thrilled to have grandparents. The energy of it all swept me along. At any rate, I had a very muzzy idea of what marriage was about so I figured, “He wants to do it. Why not?”
Around this same time, he began working at the same insurance office as I did, doing the same sales job. He proved to be a shooting star – starting out doing well and quickly fizzling out.
Concerning my spiritual program, inasmuch as I am and was an enthusiastic, optimistic personality and my emotional health and life were growing at such an obviously speedy rate, I was asked to lead and speak at many meetings. I began to overcome my great fear of public speaking because I found I was an “instruct-by-example” teacher and it was my beginning-to-be-successful life I got to speak about. I went to many meetings, understanding for the first time the spiritual nature of the program. I did a suggested personal inventory and began to get a glimpse of the power of making amends and of forgiveness – particularly self-forgiveness. I created a caring community of spiritually minded people who loved me unreservedly. I spoke with my sponsor, gaining daily wisdom and new perspectives from her. My mother had taught me to be grateful that I could see and hear. The spiritual program taught me about daily gratitude lists. My sponsor taught me to be grateful for everything, even the hard stuff in life.
In January of 1982 on the stage of a well-known Los Angeles comedy club owned by his cousin in front of 200 people, that nice man and I got married. I sewed matching outfits for my children and the bride and groom. We looked a bit like the Von Trapp family of “Sound of Music” fame.
One day early in 1982, I was pulling out of the alley behind our apartment and another car crashed into my car door. No one was hurt; however, I was a wreck! My insurance might go up! I felt like a victim! My life was hard enough! When I told my sponsor about it the next morning she asked, “What did you learn from the incident?” “What did I learn?” No one had ever asked me anything like that before. People had either been sympathetic (friends) or made me wrong (mother and husband.) I was completely blown away. I will never forget that day and it was over 20 years ago. That one little question had utterly changed my life. I had a new tool and, more importantly, a new perspective.
On a Thursday morning about six months later I woke up knowing that I could not give another chunk of my life to a relationship that would never work. I had married a man addicted to his own failure. He was untruthful to himself and to me. When I spoke to my sponsor that morning, I told her how I felt and what I was going to do about it. I also told her how embarrassed I felt because we were married for such a short time and received gifts – my excuses went and on and on. She asked me, "Who are you embarrassed in front of?" At the top of my list were my high school friends – who, by the way, lived 3,000 miles away and with whom I had very little contact.
I got another quick look at how what others thought was running my life. My sponsor also asked me, “Did you have fun at your wedding?” I did. She had a knack of turning difficulties into positives. That quality worked quite well to help me continue uncovering the buoyant and optimistic nature I inherited from my father. I asked “that nice friendly man” to move out.
The following Saturday he moved out.
Because of the potential discomfort I might feel by running into that "nice man", I felt the urge to change which meetings I attended, however I decided that I did not want others to continue to control my life. If he felt uncomfortable being in the same room with me, then he could go to different meetings. I was willing to ride out the discomfort.
Around the same time, my sponsor suggested I begin looking for ways to deal with my anger. Me? Angry? She must be kidding.
I lived in a family where the unwritten, unspoken rule allowed only my mother to get angry. Or so it seemed to me. I remember being four and experimenting with spitting at my mother. She washed my mouth out with soap. I think that was the last time I tried to express any anger to another adult.
My sponsor continued to explain that I may have never really expressed any anger and that it was still inside me. She asked me what feelings I could list with which I was familiar. I didn't know where to begin. Was this something I should have learned in school? Should a normal mother have taught a normal daughter about the subject of feelings? I didn't know whether to look inside my heart or my head. I inferred from what she said that there were many human feelings. Nevertheless, I came up with a pitifully short list – “hurt”, “sadness”, “happiness”, “pain”. When I read it to her, she suggested I be open to any place where I could learn more about my feelings. Because I was open to change and expectantly looking for my answers to come, within days a friend called wanting me to go to a weekend workshop called Making Love Work (MLW) given by a young married couple named Barbara deAngelis and John Gray. I did not really know what a “workshop” was. As a single mom, I did not have any discretionary funds; however, my friend wanted me to go so much she loaned me the money.
When the student is ready, the teacher appears. You guessed it, this workshop dealt largely with healing the emotional past and learning about feelings. During the course of this 36-hour weekend workshop, I participated in exercises meant to guide us into, out of and through our feelings. We learned new ideas about forgiveness, love, emotions and the effect our childhood had on our current life and relationships.
I did not cognitively learn much or, actually acquire the tools offered; rather I underwent another shift and expansion because I released so much anger, hurt, sadness and fear from the past by doing what they asked us to do. I actually felt that event altered my DNA. It must really have showed because when I walked into my Monday morning sales meeting after the workshop, my boss asked, “What did you do over the weekend? You look completely different!”
A couple of months after the MLW workshop, the shine on my “new me” began to cloud a bit. Because I wanted to choose when I felt good and not to feel good just because of attendance at a workshop, I decided to volunteer to work part-time for the Making Love Work company in exchange for attendance at workshops so I could master the tools and techniques to use in my daily life.
As I became more and more involved, I built another loving community with the Making Love Work participants - this time with people who had different tools than those in my spiritual groups. The thing that was unusual and distinct here was learning how to express not suppress feelings and do it appropriately and quickly.
I learned a kind of letter-writing tool that covered five broad levels of feeling in a particular order – the order in which it seems they naturally occur if we have not been programmed by our families to feel them differently. I began writing these letters often. I wrote them to my mother who had been dead since 1976. I wrote them to my father who was still alive but I followed the MLW advice not to give the letter to anyone who did not understand the process. He certainly did not nor had any interest in learning.When I was upset with them, I wrote these letters to other members of my MLW community who had agreed to receive them. My first letters were very stiff and almost academic. I did not actually feel the feelings in my body as I was writing the letters. However, feelings unfroze in me anyway. The effect of all this interaction with feelings was that I became more and more aware of how feelings affected my body – where in my body I felt them. I gained an emotional education by writing my feelings and forgiving people who had hurt me and made me angry.
The combination of constantly being willing to directly express my feelings and going through the fear and discomfort I had had about expressing feelings and, additionally, interacting with them in writing and not having to express them to the people who affected me in the past, was my schooling. It opened the door to my high emotional intelligence quotient.
Growing up I was taught it was not polite or safe to say something that might not be popular with the person I was feeling it about; however, what I never understood was that negative feelings pile up and cause resentments, misunderstandings, disconnection from self and distorted views of those in our lives.
Remember this was 1982. There was not a lot of support any place to tell the emotional truth. It was such a revelation to me to walk into a place that said, “Tell the truth about how you feel right away and that’s a good thing”. It was an experience akin to beginning to learn to tell the truth to myself. I had begun to be able to differentiate the negative from the positive voices. The negative voices sounded critical, like my mother, and did not feel good in my body. The positive voices sounded optimistic, empowering and supportive – and felt that way in my body. Those positive voices brought me freedom from the gigantic fear of being on my own that had plagued me. I was discovering that I had the fear because of all the scary things my (negative) mind was always telling me would happen if I were on my own.
The following year, Barbara deAngelis and John Gray saw something in me that I did not know was there. In being asked to head the Making Love Work Assistants’ Team, I moved closer to uncovering my Real Self as I began to discover another one more of my talents – my leadership skills. I also discovered a great deal about how feelings flow and how negative feelings simply cover up what is underneath –which is always love.
John and Barbara taught forgiveness. “Forgiveness” as a concept did not live in my awareness as separate and distinct from anything else that had to do with healthy relationships. I began to understand how liberating it is to forgive. I learned a definition of forgiveness – “to give love as before” - that did not condone bad behavior but did eliminate the constant thinking about, being angry and hurt about what “they had done to me”. This definition freed me and allowed me to cut what felt like negative energy ties with people who had “done me wrong”.
The unconscious question I had been asking was, "How to have relationships that work?" and Barbara and John were teaching two important aspects of that: 1) how to heal the past so it was not in charge of how I had relationships or who I had them with; and, 2) how to empower myself.
After ending a 19-year mess of a relationship with my children’s father and then ending the quick year and a half relationship that couldn’t succeed because I didn’t really know my wants and needs, and then learning the rudiments of healthy relationships, I began yearning to try out my newly found emotional intelligence in a loving and healthy relationship.
Bart was someone else’s husband. I could not conceive of him – or any other married man - as a potential mate or even a date. He and his wife, who were having their relationship challenges, had become good friends of mine through MLW. They were in my very first workshop. His wife was a “girlfriend” of mine and he was a nice man – her husband. He was shy, he was loving, and in a very brotherly way, very nice to me. We had a growing friendship. His wife often came to me for support. The three of us often met in the Making Love Work setting and frequently went out for Thai food with another female friend on Saturday nights.
Shortly thereafter Bart and his wife amicably separated. He had no immediate place to stay and it was perfectly natural for me to have asked him to stay at my house, as my youngest daughter’s room was empty for the summer while she visited her best friend in Israel. He and I almost immediately allowed our friendship to blossom into a relationship.
One day having just made love, I looked up and experienced a "veil" lifting from eyes and I instantaneously saw Bart as the person I was in love with. I took a very big risk in being completely truthful about my feelings with him when I realized I had fallen in love. He told me he thought “we might have something together” however first he needed to complete his healing from the break-up of his 17 year marriage. My heart flew when he told me that he trusted what my heart was saying.
He was amazing in my experience of men. He was (and is) good-looking, loving, smart, creative, generous, encouraging, nurturing and unswerving in his support of me. I felt so blessed and somewhat tipsily in love.
A couple of months later, Bart decided to move away from L.A. to make sure he had not just become dependent on me. He wanted to make sure that this quick jump from one relationship to another was not just a “rebound” relationship. I missed him terribly: however, we often talked, wrote and visited.
After some months away, Bart called and told me he rented a house – with four bedrooms. “Oh, really?” I realized that he was telling me in his own subtle way that he wanted us all to be together as a family. I made plans for the children and me to move in with him.Twice at the beginning of my relationship with Bart, I allowed my love "trance" and denial to override my responsibilities as a parent. The first was leaving my children with my ex who loved his family but really did not have great parenting skills. My daughter captured the truth of their experiences of living with their dad when she said, “It’s like having no parents.” The second was, instead of waiting until the school year ended, I moved the kids near the end of a before school was out for the year.
In Northern California with Bart, I found out what it is like to be in a healthy relationship daily. When I was with my ex-husband, I used to look at couples walking on the street talking to each other and wonder what they could possibly have to say to each other. With Bart I learned what two people could have to say to each other day after day – that everything we thought about and experienced could be of interest to a compatible partner. I found out what it was like to have someone believe in me and see my Real Self – oftentimes when I could not. I found out what it was like to have my love cherished. I began to realize what partnership was about.
For example, one day I was upset over something. I began to talk about it. We – the kids and Bart and I - were cleaning up from dinner. Bart suggested we continue the conversation while we went for a walk alone. The kids went to do homework. We went for a walk. You'll remember that I was unused to openly expressing any distress in my life when the other person might not like it so it was still a very big deal. Bart encouraged me by telling me that he may not like that I was angry and he may not even like what I felt BUT HE DID NOT WANT ME TO CHANGE. We did not know it at the time, but this was part of the bedrock upon which our relationship was to be founded.
For business reasons and because the children preferred returning to Los Angeles, after a year or so we moved back to L.A.
In our discussions about our relationship, we were not sure we saw a reason to ever get legally married. After all, we have both been married twice and we are 42 and 50, respectively. We certainly were not going to have any more children. However, our relationship naturally grew deeper by virtue of the connection we felt and the openness of our communication.
One day in 1986, we decided to put our money together and opened a joint checking account. The day the box of checks arrived, Bart went downstairs to get the mail. I was sitting on the edge of the bed while he opened the box. He looked inside, got down on his knee in front of me and showed me what the checks said. The bank had given me Bart’s last name!
Bart looked into my eyes and said, “I guess God wants us to get married. Will you marry me?” Two months later, we married. Whenever I tell that story, I fall in love with him all over again.
On May 11, 1986, five of our combined offspring of seven and several friends married us. We adapted and embellished processes that we learned from our Making Love Work experience to include in our wedding service - exchanging love publicly by finishing the sentence “something I love about you. . .” back and forth and “the reasons I want to marry you are . . .” Our vows included “supporting each other in any ways the other wants to grow.”
Our children spoke the actual wedding vows as our loving “ministers”. Several friends expressed their love verbally including Bart’s ex-wife who also catered the feast and baked a wonderful cake decorated with live flowers and little bride and groom bears that my youngest son bought us. John Gray led all present in a wonderful blessing and with an actor’s perfect timing, my 12-year old daughter ended the service by saying, “You may now kiss the bride”. By formalizing our union in front of “God and everybody”, we solemnized our commitment to each other and added another level to our bond.I had become very tired of my low-paying jobs. My inner urgings were leading me to earn more and to create a more financially abundant life for myself and my family. I began a new sales job that came highly recommended by a friend making more money than he ever thought he could selling a financial product to school teachers. I pursued and obtained the job.
Our 6’ 1” female sales manager was an inspirational, bossy powerhouse. She knew how to motivate her team of top-performing salespeople to new record successes. She knew that using my love of Spirit and of helping others was the best way to get me to work 70 – 80 hours per week. I cried almost every day, finding the rejection of cold calling and prospecting for clients very painful. I learned to use affirmations for the first time. My first affirmation created with the help of my boss was, “I easily earn $100,000.” It worked so well that my IRS 1099 for that year was “$99,999”! I met many new people and made friends with someone very special, Beth.
I misinterpreted some of what I learned in my spiritual meetings about “surrendering my ego” by letting my boss control me more than was perhaps healthy for me. Whereas other people on our sales team succeeded without domination by our manager, I began to feel that my success could never have happened if it were not for my boss. We were two players in my school of life – me once again being the “good little girl” and she being the almost not-to-be-pleased mother figure. The way I could please my mother was by doing things exactly as she wanted me to. The way I could please this woman was by doing things the way she wanted me to – even if it was at the expense of me. Other team members overcame their discomforts by creatively approaching prickly sales situations in their own unique ways. I, however, became stuck in trying to do it “her way” thereby continuously feeling ill at ease.
Even as I experienced this pain coupled with accomplishment, I had a feeling that I had an opportunity to heal the relationship I had with my mother by overcoming how I childishly dealt with my boss. Awareness – messages from my Real Self – arrived and ultimately taught me the subtle ways I continued to give myself away.
My teenage daughter told me I was a workaholic. I did not want to hear it. I had to work this hard and this much. Isn’t it amazing how wise 14-year-old girls can be? First, my oldest daughter virtually sent me to OA as I freaked out about my puffy face and now this daughter saw what I could not. Unfortunately, I still could not listen or hear. I was definitely working out my “mother stuff” with my boss.
The company promoted me to manager as my boss was promoted to vice president. Because I still thought I could not do the new job without her support, we followed her to Dallas. I once again moved my kids. By this time my youngest son, age 13, was living with his dad and over the four years we lived in Dallas moved back and forth several times. My 14-year-old daughter came with us. My oldest son, then 18, came with us also and tried out living nearby but on his own. My oldest daughter was now 22 and independent. Bart had his own business that he could run anywhere.
In 1989 I finally, and in a friendly way, broke the employment and emotional ties with my boss and began to work independently. Because I finally knew I could, I attracted the perfect financial services job for me. I worked with doctors at the Dallas Medical School helping them with financial and retirement planning. I continued to make very good money now working days and a very rare night. For the previous 3 years, I had worked four or five nights a week.
I had never feared not having enough money until I made lots of it. No matter how much I made, I still had fear.
For months early in 1990, I felt strange - somewhat separated from my inner feeling. I had a vague sense that something important and challenging was trying to surface to my conscious mind. So I began to look for some help. I found a 4-day program that worked with people who had had abusive childhoods.
Over the course of that program and in the months following, I began to have Twilight-Zone-ish memories of childhood sexual abuse by my father. As horrific as the thought was, I knew it made sense because of some of my behaviors, inner restrictions, body hang-ups and self-esteem issues. I was once again one of the fortunate ones. My willingness and ability to heal emotionally helped me through the pain and unreality of it all. My husband was very supportive. Those memories came up only when I was in a caring, loving relationship with a uniquely gentle partner. My unconscious mind knew it was the right time to heal.
Bart and I traveled from Dallas to Houston several times to see our friend, John Gray, and attend his new workshop, The Power of Love. A few Dallas friends came with us. Bart and I convinced John to come to Dallas to teach and when he did, we rented space and enrolled participants for his workshops.
In 1992, Harper Collins published John Gray’s book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Dallas was one of the cities on his book tour. Bart and I worked with a very large church in Dallas to help create an event for the still largely unknown John Gray. Six hundred people attended! The excitement about his book and his gender communication information grew.
By this time, my children were scattered. My youngest son and oldest daughter were living in Los Angeles. My youngest daughter was in college in San Francisco. My oldest son was in the Army. I wanted to return to Los Angeles so I could be with my family and friends. What were we still doing in Dallas? Almost as soon as we decided to return to L.A., I unexpectedly made a very large commission and we were able to move much sooner than we thought possible. Around this time, I was beginning to notice some subtle physical symptoms of weakness, soreness and ill health.
In Los Angeles, I was running out of physical, emotional and spiritual steam. In roughly a year and a half of making almost no sales in my financial business, I could not seem to make myself do this unloving-to-me job any more. Concurrently, I physically crashed. My intuition guided me to a nutritional solution for my many symptoms including the early stages of breast cancer. I made healing my full time job. I was never afraid that I would not get well. I knew I would. I knew I was doing the right things for myself. I finally and fully saw how unloving and unnurturing to myself the financial services work was for my non-confrontive nature. I vowed, “I will never again do work I don’t love.” I was still not completely clear on what all my gifts were; but I knew I wanted to help people heal their childhood hurts, as I had been able to. By the end of 10 months, I was almost fully recovered and ready to move on in my life.
My younger daughter was getting ready to graduate from the Drama Department at San Francisco State. We were going to see her last college play. We gathered our Northern California friends and family for the event. By this time, John Gray was famous. We had not seen him much because I had been sick and he had been busy becoming famous. He and his second wife of 10 years, Bonnie, wanted to attend my daughter’s performance and invited us to stay at their big new house on the top of a hill in a town north of San Francisco. Over the course of the weekend, John wished aloud to find a way for us to live near them and work for him again. As if by magic, the opportunity arose.
I was so excited. I was finally going to be doing work that was almost my dream – helping others by teaching them some of what I had learned. This journey’s path was a winding one. The job John offered us was giving Mars Venus workshops on a cruise ship line for about six months. Having almost fully recovered from my illness, I was ready to start something new and Bart had been tinkering with ways to teach John’s material for some time. We decided that we would take the job. It meant putting our stuff in storage and packing up our life for a short time.
Just when 75% of our belongings were in storage and we were expecting to leave in a matter of weeks, we received a call from John’s office that the whole cruise ship thing was postponed. I freaked. Not only was our stuff in storage but we had given notice on our means of making a living and our apartment in Los Angeles. Two hours after the first call, John Gray called with a solution – to come stay in his now empty “old” house until the date for leaving on the cruise ship arrived.
We left for Marin County. While waiting for the cruise line arrangements to be made, we realized that there really were not any Mars Venus Workshops without John. We began to mull over what that kind of workshop might look like.
The date for departure never came. The whole cruise thing fell through permanently. We didn't care. We had created something we thought was quite wonderful and felt highly energized by it. We created the concept of Mars Venus Institute.
We had never been that eager to spend six months living in a tiny ship’s cabin. We were now living temporarily in a large home in a redwood forest in one of the most beautiful spots in the country. And, we were creating.
While hanging out in John's Mars Venus environment we had been hearing that many people around the country had made inquiries concerning the possibility of teaching John’s material. Some people had even taken his Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus book and started teaching the material on their own. An idea hatched. What if John Gray had an organization that created workshops then trained people to give them?
As Bart and I were putting the final embellishments on a proposal to John on the subject of creating a workshop training company, the doorbell rang. It was John. He asked if he could come in. He then proposed to us exactly what we were about to propose to him! Mars Venus Institute (MVI) was born.
We officially began to create workshops based on John’s Mars Venus material. We then began training corporate speakers – Mars Venus fans and therapists from all over the world who wanted to teach these workshops. It was in this role that I discovered other Real Self talents. I not only found that I could write but I could create and lead trainings to instruct those interested in gender communication and then instruct them how to teach their audiences. I was a natural born Life Coach. I had no formal training thus far; however, in my coaching role I helped our Facilitators figure out marketing plans. I helped them sustain their personal power by releasing ineffective behaviors to step into their real and successful selves.
For the first couple of years this job was wholly satisfying. Creating and supervising workshops was fun. Meeting people from around the world was very cool. Occasionally getting to travel on a big private plane was exciting. For three years, my youngest daughter was our employee and creative partner. I loved working with her and seeing her daily. However, my workaholic ways continued to plague me. I had little life outside my job, the people I worked with and my husband. There were politics in working in any company. I naively believed that would not be true in a communication company. I was wrong. There were jealousies and favoritism and hurt feelings.
In June of 1999, we purchased a fantastic condominium in beautiful Sausalito and felt blessed to be able to do so. Logically we couldn’t qualify for it or afford it; however, our magic continued and we unearthed exactly the amount of money we needed in stocks that Bart’s dad has willed him to complete the deal.
In 1999 and 2000, the Mars Venus world was going through a great upheaval. I had several upsetting experiences with a newly hired and offensive CEO . Since I no longer allowed any ill-treatment in my life, it seemed like the right time for me to quit. The Universe had once again cooperated by giving me a nudge. I stepped down from my job as director of Mars Venus Institute. Bart remained as president and tried to save the floundering company. I was deeply upset over the loss of my adopted Mars Venus family. Unconsciously I had Unconsciously I had appointed John and his wife as “parents” and the other employees as siblings.
Around this time, Bart and I began attending a Life Coach training course.
A short 10 months after purchasing it, we sold our gorgeous condominium in Sausalito because now we had only one income. The “Dot Com” boom in nearby San Francisco created a hot real estate market and we received windfall profits. We moved an hour north to Petaluma having bought and restored a mobile home. My time was full making another a new home, beginning to coach more formally and recovering from the very traumatic ending of Mars Venus Institute. The Mars Venus story was a long story but was is not my story any more.
Less than two months later Mars Venus Institute closed its doors. Now Bart had no job. Within days, a friend contacted Bart about a consulting job in Las Vegas. Bart and I were scared and confused. We had just spent 5 years with a regular income and being part of something. We were now without income. We had big profits from the sale of our condominium and did not know exactly what to do with them. We had some formal Life Coaching training but neither of us yet saw ourselves having what it took to get a coaching practice going. I never liked Las Vegas so moving there seemed almost impossible to conceive of. I could not see what to do next. Anxiety so clouded my thinking, I felt no connection to my intuition.
We moved to Las Vegas. My husband started a consulting job to develop and invent a toothbrush sterilizer. You've probably seen the infomercial on TV. I had a few coaching clients and was again getting us settled.
During a casual visit to the home of Bart’s boss, the owner of a multi-level marketing company , the topic of having written workshops for John Gray came up. His ears perked up, “Are you a writer?” I answered, “I guess so. Although I have never published anything.” He then asked, “I have some ideas about a book I’d like to be able to give my networkers about success. Would you like to write it?” I told him that I also had some had ideas on success and was not interested in ghost writing. We came to an agreement. I was to be paid to write!
For many months, I worked on the book every day. Sometimes it took me two weeks to put together the right sentence. I began to build confidence in my creative abilities inch by inch. It was slow going but I was thrilled to be doing it and – wonder of wonders – very patient with myself.
After September 11th and my patron’s need to focus on his business, he discontinued his financial interest in the book project. Ultimately, I self-published my own ideas in Once Upon a Time There Was You: Three Magic Secrets to Finding Your Real Self.
About a half a year later, we were notified that an investment we had made with all of our money might be in jeopardy as a result of September 11th. I experienced moments of fear, however it took many more months before all hope of ever recouping any of the money needed to be abandoned. The repercussions had been tremendous for everyone involved in this apparent scam. We had lost everything. Bart and I entered an otherworldly time of almost daily palpable fear.
Having decided I would rather be broke in Los Angeles with friends and family than broke and alone in Las Vegas, I traveled back and forth from Las Vegas to Los Angeles staying at a number of friends’ houses and trying to figure out how to get a life and a place to live in Los Angeles once again.
Then Bart’s consulting job ended. No jobs and no money. We were both overcome with contagious fear for many months. The tools acquired over all of these years did not seem to work anymore. For the first time in over 23 years, I begin to think it might be better to die than to live daily in fear. I saw no way out. I was 60. Bart was 68. Where would money come from? What kind of job could people of our age and talents hope to get?
In March of 2003, Bart and I were both in L.A. for the weekend. Usually we reserved our limited time in L.A. for our closest friends and family exclusively. This time we had said “yes” to an invitation to watch a movie with some acquaintances on a big TV at a local hall. As soon as I walked up the stairs, I saw a woman who Bart had been coaching who asked, “Do you want my apartment in Santa Monica? I just decided to move back to Texas.” “Yes!” Once again, I did not know how we’d do this. I only knew we would. My intellect knew I was grateful for this magic but I could not quite feel it.
We moved into our apartment. Not only was this my old neighborhood, it was next door to one of my closest friends, it was several hundred dollars below market rates on the very expensive Westside of L.A. and - two of children also acquired apartments in the building within the year!
Bart and I continued to experience tremendous terror. All victims of catastrophes must feel like this – utterly at a loss. Being in our presence was probably like being with disaster survivors. In an attempt to begin to earn money, we started a multi-level marketing business that did not succeed. Later we realized it had its purpose. It helped us to have something to focus on, no matter what we did, the Universe believed me when I said, “I will never do work I don’t love any more.”
During this period, in a networking group I attended, one of the suggestions was to call other members encountered at meetings. I met another Life Coach who said something intriguing while introducing himself. I called him and he spent over an hour talking to me and then talking to Bart. The upshot of what he said was that if I took full responsibility for creating September 11th, my fear would disappear. I could not really understand what he meant or how I could do that, but because he generously spent so much time with us, the seemingly strange things he said stayed with me.
Sometime in October 2003 I began to investigate bankruptcy. I did not know whom to call to ask questions. It seemed too daunting to call an attorney and then I remembered that Beth – remember Beth? - the woman I had befriended back when I was doing financial services in the ‘80’s - had gone bankrupt in her past. I called her.
When she called back, I told her what was happening with us and the most unexpected thing happened! She wanted to coach Bart and me every week – gratis! She wanted to assist us because I unknowingly helped her in our financial planning days. For 10 years, she had been providing spiritual coaching for friends, family and corporate executives in the financial services world and now she wanted to help us. Beth is a very special woman. She has overcome bankruptcy, has lost over 200 pounds, amongst other amazing life-changing events ! She is loving, brilliant, insightful, psychic, grounded and totally on my wavelength. She began to teach us about how we created our lives the way they were and how we were fully responsible. She taught us many concepts and tools that helped us rise out of our pit of fear. With love, awareness and new tools we slowly climbed back into the drivers’ seat of our lives.
Someone suggested that 70-year-old Bart might teach school. He had been an engineer with a background in Physics and Math. He was not old and he never saw himself as retiring. As the hold fear had on his mind collapsed, he was able to see himself trying something new.
In due course, he began teaching Physics at a Los Angeles inner city high school.
I was coaching; I had created two websites; worked on a proposal for reality shows with Beth, her husband, Doug, Bart and two other wonderful women, Agnes and Lori – the All-American Transformational Dream Team. However, mostly I had been writing this book. Although the grave financial losses felt almost insurmountable, we had our life and perspective back and we had learned on a very deep level how to create what we want - and what we are here for.
In September 2005 we calmly filed for bankruptcy. What had seemed an overwhelming impossibility in former years - the specter of which had in some ways run our lives - felt now like an appropriate option designed for people with circumstances like ours. I knew we would recover our balance and our finances. I knew we would own a home again. I knew we were fine. I knew we create our lives. I knew we created this whole situation for our learning – and our teaching others so that they could transform their lives also. I had never fully accepted my power – and now I must and I can.
Starting in November of 2014, my darling husband had a growth under his arm. He went through much pain as time went by and other vvery unpleasant experiences with the whole thing. He had accepted that someday we die. He was 80 and on August 25, 2015, he left this life as we know it. As I am writing this it is six weeks since that happened. I have gone through much on the emotional, physical and spiritual levels. I am learning how to be alone although when I am peaceful and centered, I'm very aware that he is with me. Someday I'll probably write more about this but for now, this is enough.
I've had much love and support since Bart transitioned. I have one friend, Beth Fortman-Brand, who has called and/or texted me every day since July 24, 2015 when Bart had a heart attack from blood loss. One of the YOU University coaches, April Julson, you can see on our website and writing here in YOU University called me every morning for four months and continues to call every other day at this time (2/19/16) to "have coffee" with me. I live in California. She lived in Missouri.
It is love that propels them to give me so much love. They have heard me cry, whine, be everything emotionally that one can be. As time goes by I am more stable and more able to be alone and loving myself and being comfortable with it.
My life is about my growth and continuing to become all that I can be and help my clients and coaches be and do the same. My "final" big issue is allowing myself to receive financial abundance from the creativity and talent of my soul - to fully support myself in the style I want to which I want to become accustomed. So both April and Beth continue to support me in that direction by reminding me my worth and how to continue to "erase" old programming. I must be succeeding because an amazing thing has happened earlier this week.
April had told me about Periscope, a phone app created by Twitter that was used for social networking via video. I had put the app on my phone but didn't really get it. That day, a Monday, I had had one of the grief dips that happen periodically whenever they feel like it and I was coming out of it and decided to lie down for a little bit. I took my trusty phone with me and the impulse to look at Periscope entered me. I opened it and decided to record to see what happens. I started talking about how I felt and it made me cry. I turned off the recording and put my phone away. Later that day this is what I discovered. Chalene Johnson, "Life Changer | Motivational Speaker | Author | Fit Life Professional...", who is the queen of Periscope saw my video, featured it because of its authenticity and told people to follow me. Tuesday and Wednesday I was trending on Periscope and today, Friday, I had over 20,000 followers and over 300,000 hearts. My journaling community was bustling, I have a gazillion new Facebook friends and likes on my page and another of my coaches, Gina Bendel, is arriving tomorrow (we've never met in person and have worked together for 5 years!) and both of us are going to Chalene's Smart Success event which just so happens is nearby and in only two weeks.
UPDATE October 2017:
Grief does not let one decide it's path. And wow! have I had a crazy and often terrifying journey. I am grateful to report that although I would have loved to market myself when my 15 minutes of fame occurred, that was not to be. I have only fairly recently been able to return to work. I am very grateful that I apparently have landed and my grandchild living with me, the love and support of friends and family have helped me back into the world again. I am grateful.
UPDATE August 2018
I'm healthier and in better shape every day. I finally am putting the finishing touches on YOU University Coaching training and I have finally figured out how all can create abundance while training and after.