Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Book, Introduction

Welcome to my first chapter of my book! It's a little long, but enjoy!

[-ginning, -gan, -gun]
1. to start (something)
2. to bring or come into being
3. to start to say or speak
4. to have the least capacity to do something

2007, in my tiny little condo in Boulder, CO. I'm watching Oprah's 20th Anniversary Special with tears rolling down my face. Her story about the first day on her talk show (after years of being a TV reporter) has forever changed my life. After this interview on her new talk show, everything got silent inside of her as she realized I AM MEANT TO DO THIS! Everything in her past, everything that felt wrong or she struggled to do or that frustrated her with past jobs, it was because they weren't IT. This, on the other hand, this was her destiny, this was her mission. She was given a special gift and hallelujah she found it!

I remember the first time I talked about my "purpose" in life. It was over dinner with my college mentors, Sociologists Dr. John and Janice Baldwin. They teach a course in Human Sexuality the University of California, Santa Barbara, and which had opened me up completely... to talk so frankly about sex and anatomy! They were private in the course about their marriage, but over the next few years I witnessed their bond, their love for each other, and I came to trust them completely. The Baldwins taught me optimism, based not solely on faith but on scientific studies about human productivity. I'll never forget, as I expressed fear and doubt about life after graduating, John said to me "you'll make the right decisions, you'll work hard, and by the time you're 30 I just know you'll have a good job and a car". It sounds so funny to me now (the car part especially), but at that time I couldn't feel into the future enough to believe that I was going to be okay. I didn't know what the hell I was going to do in a few months when it was time to do more than wait tables.

So, over tomato soup and a whole grain roll at the Good Earth restaurant, I lamented, "I'm just so lost, I feel like I don't know my purpose in life!". Janice looked at me with great compassion and patience and asked, "Why do you need to have a purpose? What if the purpose in life is just to be happy?". I played that over in my mind for years, particularly in my early 30's as I realized I certainly wasn't happy. I value what she said, and it still rings true to me that if all we did in life was to sit still in the simple things, the true things, like love, joy, kindness... perhaps more of us would be more fulfilled.

But back to my purpose. For years and years I was never able to shake this strong feeling that I have a mission in life, and I struggled with not being able to name it. I can hardly count the number of times "I just need something to live FOR". In my dark dark darkest of days, this need swallowed me up whole. I look back now on those shadow years and thank that damp soggy soul spanking! I went "there". I faced the desire for death and asked for it. I stewed in the "life has no meaning" pit and came back richer for it.

In 2005, I met a new and wonderful friend, Mie, who shared her "blog" ( with me. Back then, I'd never even heard of a blog. You mean you have a website where you put pictures of yourself and just talk about your life? I was FASCINATED. I went home and ate up pages and pages of her blog. It was such an intimate peek into her life and I was quite inspired.

So, I started my first blog! I named her graceopenheart and simply went mad. At first I posted everything, every feeling, ever meal, every picture. Soon, however, I began to spill over almost uncontrollably with my thoughts, my emotions, my words. I shared my blog with only my closest friends, and many complimented me on my writing and especially my "poetry". I remember feeling confused about this characterisation of my writing as "poems". I thought... these aren't poems, these are my feelings. I wasn't writing poems, I was just writing about myself. I didn't understand.

Over time, my stories became longer and more thoughtful, especially as I watched trends emerge. From the beginning, the blog was just for me, not "for" anyone else. Writing poured out of me (as it always has) without fear of what others think. It helped me express the excitement, disappointment, confusion and growth of the moment. Although I was praised for milestones, bravery, courage, honesty, etc., I continued to discount its meaning and significance. It was and still is my home, my touchstone.

After a year of telling my stories (and a large increase in readership - 100 hits a day from several countries - who are these people and how did they find my blog!?), I began to feel a bit self-conscious that I wrote so much about me me me! But it was SO fulfilling, more than anything. I would be struck by creative thoughts and I would race to write them down. I had one thought in particular that was "the message", but again I discounted it completely. If I could just get paid to tell stories about my feelings and my journey, take constant courses in self-growth and support others in their growth, I would be happy. The whiplash reaction was that this was very selfish, to want to be so self-absorbed, and that no one would read that!

Little did I know or trust, but this is exactly what I intend to do. It never occurred to me when I started my blog that my stories would inspire and motivate people. I've always known I would write a book someday, but thought it had to be about a topic. I thought, well, years from now, I'll know what to write about. I finally heard the answer in a whisper and I'm now listening... write about myself, tell my victories, my struggles, my stories. People want to read them and I want to tell them.

Thank you Oprah for telling yours, the WAKE UP to your "calling". She heard it, she felt it, she knew it. As I listened to her everything snapped inside of me. I wanted to scream out to the world, I KNEW it! I KNEW there's something I'm meant to do. Thank God I persisted. Thank God I didn't let that nagging question go. I kept seeking. I recalled part of Oprah's story about how she had tolerated many things she disliked or that didn't feel right in her past jobs. I felt that way. Over and over I felt like I *should* like some great job or great opportunity that stood in in front of me. I tried to convince myself, to force myself. But it never worked. But I didn't. I sank.

And so I didn't give up. It took me two full years, but now I've started. What changed? Why now? After years of praying, please please help me find my way... the time is here. Am I ready? HELL NO. Am I qualified to write a book and launch myself into this future I've known I'm here to live? HELL NO. Do I really understand how this is going to look and going to unfold? I REPEAT, HELL NO.

But if there's one thing I know for sure, it is this:

I'm starting with "I believe in you".

At the start 2009, I made an unreasonably huge pact for life with my closest friend. We committed to living life full on, bigger than we've ever been. We had "created" our dreams before, but up until this point we were simply compassionate witnesses of each other's journey.
That night, I asked her to hold me to what I call "going all the way". To me that means that I'm leaping off every cliff and going to become bigger than I can imagine. The first step from there was to say more about my mission, to really define it specifically.

So, I say I'm an inspirational writer and speaker who motivates and empowers women, because I SAY so. I started a wedding planning business a few years ago, and the MOST difficult thing was standing outside the door at my first wedding fair and thinking, "I cannot just go in there and introduce myself as a Wedding Planner". After a 40 hour professional training, a new and beautiful website, stunning business cards, I didn't think I was qualified. Are you kidding me? What more could I have done? Oh, I can't call myself a Wedding Planner because I haven't yet planned a wedding.

I gulped hard and walked up to vendors and said, "I'm Helen and I'm a Wedding Planner". And that is what I'm doing now. I'll never be qualified, I'll never be enough whatever-you're-supposed-to-have-to-be-someone-special bullshit! This is the ultimate challenge in creating my own reality and it's a damn mind bender! I've never faced this and seen this so clearly. I cannot question and doubt my power if I want to "go all the way". And what is the proof that "I am that" (whatever I say I am)?

I've discovered that all miracles start with me believing. I have to believe in me. I have to believe in my purpose, believe I will be shown the way, believe I deserve all of this goodness, believe that I'm born to do something great. If I don't believe in me, I will look around and listen for people to encourage me. I'll lean on other's opinions of me and become propped up by how great they think I am. Likewise, I'll be knocked down quickly by other's criticism. Of course we all need encouragement, and yes we all need friends who believe in us! But it starts with me. It begins and ends with my core belief that I am good, I am great.
And so with that, I begin!


  1. YAY! I'll buy it. I'm ready for the pre-order on Amazon. You go, girl!

    I love how you begin again and again and again. Isn't that all there is, really?

  2. Ironic timing!
    Guess what H?
    I read this JUST YESTERDAY.
    You are INDEED called to write.
    Clearly EVIDENT.
    My prayer for you is to keep the stamina and "Just Do it." FINISH IT. Doesn't matter how long
    it takes but don't let it slip away. By the last edit of my book (What Students Need, Want, and Love) I was ready to lose my
    mind (time, years, effort, set-backs, mistakes, change of mind...). However, when you see that baby PUBLISHED and MAKE MONEY- it all is worth it. In my case, when a teacher/colleague tells me that s/he used one of my teaching strategies and that it "totally WORKED"/"awesome" - THAT IS my true reward.