What is Your Genius?

by Amy on November 3, 2017

Wednesday was my four year sober anniversary. I was never a stereotypical “drunk.” But I loved to fill my free time with activities centered around drinking. Having wine at the end of the day, going to Happy Hour, Getting drinks with friends. I used to think I needed it to have a good time.Giving up alcohol was the best thing I have ever done. I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do… No body around me thought I had a problem. But inside I knew.

What I didn’t anticipate was that when I stopped drinking, all this space opened up. All of a sudden I didn’t have booze to cover up my feelings and give me something to do. The consequence? I had to feel my feelings and figure out why I was having them and then find a way to take care of myself so the feelings I had were better. I had to find things to do with my newfound free time.

The result? I found my genius. I watched the same thing happen to my mom who got sober when I was a child. In honor of her genius, I’d like to share some things I’m working on in my book:

Alcohol swallows up personality. Even those who consider themselves “normal” drinkers choose to drink at the expense of what the true self would rather do, the thing that, likely they haven’t even discovered yet because all their free time is given away to the lazier choice that seems harmless enough on the surface — wine tasting, getting drinks with friends, going “out.”  When that option is gone, a personality is born.

My uncle told me he never knew his own mother until she stopped drinking seven years before she died. That’s when he learned of her love for the outdoors. She’d travel to Canada with her husband where they’d stay on an isolated island with no indoor plumbing. There, they would fish off the front lawn and feed the entrails to Bald Eagles. The deer would come to the front door. Now that is a life.

There was a historian, an interior designer, a genealogist and a seamstress lying dormant inside my mother. The surfacing of her true self started soon after the drinking stopped when she began to fill the 1970s ranch on York Street with antiques — I remember many of them. Her first was an icebox. They used to keep food cold by storing blocks of ice in there, she’d tell me as she opened the wooden door revealing metal-lined compartments.

Slowly, she began to replace the trendy things of the day with things that had a story. My mother, the woman who used to lie inebriated on the couch warning me not to eat green lifesavers, became obsessed with genealogy. A key topic of conversation between the two of us — or anyone who would listen — was her latest discovery of a long-lost family member or her frustration over not being able to find said long lost family member. I would try to act interested.

And then she began participating in Civil War Reinactments, sewing all her own clothes. She was the “doll maker” at camp (because everyone needs a doll maker in times of strife).

Yes, my mother always had a project, staying joyfully engaged in something. On any given day it might have been a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle, her rose garden, a new civil war dress, an important genealogy discovery or a new spot of the house to wallpaper.

Genius. It’s defined as “a person who is exceptionally intelligent or creative, either generally or in some particular respect.” It’s funny how we save this word for “certain people” as if it could never apply to us. This is the great lie of our time. We all carry within us “exceptional intelligence and creativity.” Most of us have a genius that doesn’t get to see the light of day. One, because we don’t acknowledge it’s there and two because we don’t give our genius permission to be.

Genius is inside all of us, desperate to be unleashed. It came with us as part of the package the day we were born. But little by little we succumbed. We listened to the others — the little boy who informed us that we are ugly, or the third grade teacher who told us we weren’t that special, or the college councilor who told us we could never get into that school, or the parent who told us college was for meeting a nice man and getting married.

We learned from the earliest age that it’s “normal” to drown the self in bottles of whiskey.

Don’t listen to them. You don’t need the wine or whatever it is you use to fill up the precious space in your life. Just listen. Feel your feelings. You will find yourself. You will find your genius.

{ 7 comments }

My Double Life

by Amy on October 5, 2017

I found some photos of me posing in my underwear.

From twenty five years ago.

We were living in Los Angeles. Our neighbors were working actors. We’d see them on TV. He had a co-starring role in Beverly Hills 90210.

Once they told me I could get work doing beer commercials. As a femenist the thought of appearing in a beer commercial horrified me, but, I admit, I was flattered.

When you live in LA, it’s hard not to get caught up in it all. Hell if you live anywhere it’s hard not to get caught up in it all.

I was there to get an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Women’s Studies, writing about rape culture, reading Naomi Wolf, listening to Tracy Chapman, but I still wanted to be beautiful like the women on the billboards, the models I saw in the magazines and the actresses I watched on TV.

I thought being beautiful made me safe. If I could be beautiful my husband would want me, my mother would love me, I would go places in life.

Our culture worships beauty. My husband, my friends, even my own mother… to some degree we all, conscious or not, offer a special status to the beautiful.

I knew this and so, despite my degree in women’s studies, I led a double life. I read The Beauty Myth yet spent hours in front of a mirror trying to get every hair right. I attended Take Back the Night rallies yet only allowed myself a fig newton for lunch. I worked at a rape crisis center yet believed that my worth depended on being desirable to men.

I am no longer that girl in those photos. Twenty five years later I am a proud mother who has given birth to three babies.

And yet…

A few years ago I went to see a surgeon who drew lines across my abdominals, grabbing the folds of extra skin left over from my pregnancies, drawing them down to demonstrate how he would do it. “You might have to walk crouched down for a month or so,” he warned. I can’t guarantee you will get your belly button back.”

As bad as I wanted to be that picture again, I also wanted my daughters to see me as I am. I wanted to show them that imperfect can be even more beautiful.

My double life.

I started to have pain in my pelvis. I started to have to pee at all hours of the night, eight, nine, ten times a night. My bladder would not, could not, relax enough to let me sleep.

In desperation, I contacted a healer who reminded me to breathe. Full breaths that begin from the belly. I looked in the mirror and breathed. Really breathed, letting my belly relax. I watched myself breath, hands over my lower belly and noticed that when I let myself relax I still look a little pregnant.

And that’s when I realized…

For ten years, I have not forgiven my belly for the herniated umbilical, the stretch marks, the extra folds of skin.

For ten years I have sucked it in, held my belly tight, never once purposefully allowing it to relax, never giving it a break.

I didn’t realize that I was punishing myself, that I was angry at and embarrassed by my form in the same way that for years, I was angry at and embarrassed by myself for not being who I thought I SHOULD be.

I never let myself rest. I chased awards, achievement, compliments, approval. I did everything in my power to avoid any kind of rejection, criticism or judgment from others.

And now I see… it is the same.

As I take a deep breath allowing my belly to do what it does I can tell you this, I can shout it from the rooftops:

I DON’T WANT TO BE THAT PICTURE ANYMORE.

In the same way that I embrace all the parts of me that I had been hiding away for so many years, I embrace the herniated umbilical, the stretch marks and the extra folds of skin.

No more hiding. No more double life.

I am grateful and proud of this incredible forty four year old body — for all that it has been through and all that it has done for me.

No more punishment. Only deep belly breathes.

Grapefruit is the oil of honoring the body.

{ 2 comments }

For Better of For Worse

September 15, 2017

This morning my daughter went MIA before school. We only had 10 minutes left before it was time to leave for the bus and she still hadn’t finished her homework, eaten any breakfast, brushed her teeth or put on her shoes. I found her outside barefoot with some neighbor friends playing with a remote control […]

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What They Don’t Tell You About Spin Class

September 6, 2017

I remember the first ever time I walked into a Burn Cycle class. My friend invited me to go with her… “First time?” She asked. “Yes…” I replied. That’s when she raised her eyebrows and gave me an ominous look that said sarcastically, “good luck.” Just getting on the bike itself seemed to require a […]

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The Great Time Blocking Experiment

August 8, 2017

  God this is a boring topic. But I just have to because so many of you are suffering like I was suffering. It’s summer. The sky is blue. The kids are home. I just got the Tennis Channel. It’s so hard to get anything done! I’m definitely not as ambitious as I once was. […]

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Chronic Sleep Deprivation — I had no idea!

June 8, 2017

It is said that If you put a frog in boiling water, it will jump out. But if you put that same frog in warm water and slowly heat it to boiling, the frog won’t notice the danger and it will boil to death. For years I have had to get up multiple times at […]

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An Open Letter to Introverts (From an Introvert)

May 18, 2017

  It all started in grade school. I couldn’t figure it out. Why did all the other girls get so giddy over slumber parties?   I hated them.   Most of the time I would go anyway and pretend to be having fun until I couldn’t stand it any longer. Then I would either retreat […]

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14,000 Things

May 12, 2017

Yesterday Ron’s sister would have been forty years old. She was killed in a car accident when she was 21. I happened to be talking to a friend yesterday who has brain cancer. The meds are hard on her. “But you know what,” she said to me, “I am so happy to be alive. I […]

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When the doer cannot do

April 14, 2017

It’s Thursday. I have had the flu all week. And today I learned I have a bladder infection too. Bonus! I cancelled a tennis match, a podcast interview, three tennis lessons (two for me and one for my kids), missed an entire week of jiujitsu because I couldn’t drive the kids, skipped the Facebook Live […]

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God, Source, Spirit, The Angels, The Muses…

April 6, 2017

I am driving down Broadway Boulevard. It is Summer 2008. The twins are about six months old. Looking through the rearview window, I see them strapped into their car seats. As usual, Anthony is not happy. He is doing that thing he does before an all out crying fit. Alice is looking at me. Her […]

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Show Me A Successful Entrepreneur

March 10, 2017

Show me a successful entrepreneur in the service industry and I’ll show you a person who loves themselves enough, loves the work enough to let themselves fail. Somebody who is willing to get out there despite the possibility of bad hair, typos, toilet paper on the shoe, awkward exchanges (Them: Nice to meet you. You: […]

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How to be a Winner

March 2, 2017

Last week I beat a really good tennis player. In straight sets. 6-2, 6-2. If you don’t know tennis, I pretty much kicked her butt. “Wow, my back was really bothering me today.” This is all she had to say after the match. I lost to her a few months ago so I’m pretty sure […]

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Be here, now

February 24, 2017

A few nights ago, my husband said something mildly stupid that hurt my feelings. I am as soft-bellied as they come. I get my feelings hurt with an astonishing frequency. It is one of the many downsides of having a moon in Scorpio. Anyway…We were in bed, my back turned against him. I was convinced […]

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Stop Expecting Them to “Get” It: Why Some Partnerships Fail

February 9, 2017

“What’s on the agenda this weekend?” My husband asks. I open up my planner. “Battle of the books in the early afternoon Saturday, then Jazmina’s Quinciniera in the eve. Then Sunday is Janina’s birthday party at the pool.” “I’m not going to that,” He says. “But…” I answer. “I work all week and I don’t […]

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How to Think When You’re Overwhelmed

February 2, 2017

  I figured out the main theme of my book. This is the theme that informs everything. It’s the big “So What?” of the book. I was talking to my friend about it the other day. She asked me if I knew the theme when I started writing. “I haven’t wanted to start my book,” […]

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Saint Ron: Why the Truth Hurts (If You Let It)

January 27, 2017

“You should be canonized for putting up with her all these years.” This was a comment made about me to my husband. The same person I blocked to escape his poisonous text messages found a way to get to me through my husband. I won’t lie. When I heard that he said this about me […]

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5 Survival Tips When You #$%^& Up

January 20, 2017

I was recently invited to play on a bad-ass women’s tennis team. Wanting to make a good impression, I volunteered right away to practice doubles with a group of women. Got a babysitter and everything. On the night of practice, I got to the tennis club ten minutes early. Nobody there… “Strange,” I thought as […]

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Setting Boundaries with Setting Boundaries

January 12, 2017

For a long time my dream was to create a successful six figure, and then multiple six figure, coaching practice. After achieving the $200,000 a year mark I considered going for $500,000 a year. I created the business plan, I had the team in place, but I never made it. “Being an entrepreneur is the most lucrative […]

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We March

November 1, 2016

She is in a dark room, there is music on the other side of the door, and voices. She is crying and afraid. She doesn’t like being in here in the dark, alone. But no one hears her crying. Then the door opens and a man looks in. She can see the outline of his […]

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The Adult Brain of a Bullied Kid

October 6, 2016

We were on a bus, heading into Portland for a field trip. It was going to be a great day. We were going to try sushi for the first time and see China town. I was in seventh grade. Sitting on the bus, the girl next to me was leaning up against the window talking across […]

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35 Excuses Keeping You From Being Happy

July 27, 2016

No excuses. Just happy. My mom used to call me a “malcontent.” I hated it when she called me that. But now I see that she was right. I always had a reason why I couldn’t be happy. Here are a few excuses I used to make that kept me from being happy. Chances are […]

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You are five.

February 25, 2015

Who were you when you were five? When I was five… I loved flowers — I vividly remember the plants from my childhood – the sunflowers in my backyard, the rose bushes by the patio, the filbert orchards and the Oregon grapes with berries you couldn’t really eat. I loved to swim – that feeling […]

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Stop Chasing Happy

November 24, 2017

Every five year old knows you can’t be happy until you’re six because you get to go to preschool when you’re six. But the preschoolers all know you can’t be happy until you turn seven when you get to go to school all day. Every seven year old will tell you however that you can’t really […]

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