Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rebuilding on a Firm Foundation

Yesterday, I set out on a beach-walk that brought parkour to mind. I took a zig-zag route around large tidepools, leapt over puddles, walked on a variety of uneven surfaces and climbed over (and under) fallen trees and low branches, all the while keeping an eye on the incoming tide.
The need to navigate the hazards underfoot gave me an opportunity to set my mind on "intuitive" while moving at a steady pace, regularly glancing ahead to see how close I was to my objective, how close the approaching waves were, and what pools of water or muddy areas were in the way. For a good portion of the way, it was necessary to walk on barnacle-covered rocks and slippery seaweed. I've been doing this since I was a little girl, so it wasn't difficult, but it requires balance and a light, flexible step.
Seaweed and round rocks are slippery; barnacles are sharp, like teeth. Walking on this surface is a bit like ice-skating, requiring strength and flexibility at the same time.
In order to access the sandy stretches of beach, I had to weave in and out, backtracking at times. I knew exactly where I was headed, and the route I wanted to take, but it wasn't always possible to take that route. Sometimes, I would get near a sandbar and have to turn back, picking my steps carefully to avoid immersion (and ruining my sneakers), and find a dry way back out to the sand bars.

The air was salty and warm. Steam rose from the sand and seaweed as the sun shone down from the mid-day sky. There were sea gulls, a heron, anemones, clams and moon snails all around, and silence.

This walk was a good metaphor for my life, right now. In the silence, I found time, space and fresh air to do some writing (in my head). I haven't been writing here regularly since the end of 2012, and there is a reason for that:  I was attacked (in writing) by people I trusted deeply, people I considered dear friends. In a matter of a few weeks, a treasured relationship of many years' standing was destroyed by their vicious, groundless claims. While I know that there are two sides to every story, this blog is my place, and it will reflect my truth (a truth which, in this case, is informed, corroborated and supported by expert legal counsel).
Landslides on the beach are due to clay in the cliff; clay is an unstable foundation. I've made the mistake of building on unreliable foundations before; the result feels something like this looks.
This attack has caused me to feel unsafe; it has made me doubt my purpose, my work, myself and my perceptions. It made me pull in, like a turtle in its shell; it also caused me to watch and second-guess everything I want to write here. Bottom line:  I have been intimidated and afraid, and the time has come to stand up and be fully who I am.

I've been a student in the National Speakers Association's Northwest Academy for six months. We meet once a month, are instructed by professional speakers, and do homework in between class meetings. The presenters come from all walks of life:  sales, television, comedy, business consulting, image consulting, drama, etc. Each one has unique gifts, methods and lessons to teach us; I have learned more than I dreamed possible from the Academy, and I would recommend NSA to anyone who wants to develop their business and presentation skills. The fellowship is stimulating, and the leadership is top-notch and supportive.

We had two excellent instructors in the Academy last week:  Candace BelAir and Max Dixon. Both of them gave us valuable, useful, immediately-applicable tools - Candace focused on construction of a presentation, and Max dealt with physical presence and delivery.

Something unusual happened when Max was teaching. He asked if anyone of us was ever told we spoke too quietly. As a young person, I sometimes got into trouble for talking too much or laughing too loudly. Nowadays, I'm often told to speak up, so I raised my hand. Max invited me to join him in the front of the room, and instructed me to speak some lines. He proceeded to coach me until I projected as needed in order to be heard at the back of the room. It took several tries, but I finally did it.

The unusual thing happened right before I sat down again. Max was a professor at the University of Washington; he is an expert on acting, movement, diction, and presence, among other things. He understands, teaches and illustrates what enables us to move freely in this life - not just on stage. He looked directly at me, and said words to this effect: "You deserve to take up more space. You have a good brain, and you need to stop apologizing for yourself." It stopped me in my tracks, and shook me, because I've heard it before.

Where have I heard it? Katie said it, shortly before she died. She said, "Mom, you have got to stop apologizing."

When Max said practically the same thing, I listened. And that's why I am standing my ground here, now. If others want to tell a different version of the story - or if people want to listen to that version, without hearing my perspective, so be it. I wish them well.

I have lost so much that, when I think deeply about it, there is not much left of which to be afraid. By telling the truth here, I am claiming my space, and refusing to apologize - for a wrong I did not commit, for someone else's mistakes, mistaken impressions, or willful misunderstanding and misrepresentation of me.

I don't know what the end will be for my video; I don't know if I will be a public speaker, or not. Though I have made mistakes, I know who I am:  a child of God, a writer, advocate, wife and mother; a person of integrity who does her best to serve and bless out of a good, generous, loving heart; one who loves God and His creation, who seeks to serve with gratitude.

Candace reminded us last week that Oscar Wilde said, "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken" - what a great quote! It is enough to be myself. I am going to do my best to take the space I deserve, stand up for myself, write what is in my heart and stop apologizing - because my daughter said so, and she (and Max) have given me a powerful message.

"Goodness is the only investment which never fails." - Henry David Thoreau


ChiTown Girl said...

Hello, my long-lost friend! I've missed you. :(

I'm so sorry you've had to go through such a trying ordeal, especially at the hands of people you considered friends. I'm so happy that you're moving past it now, and listening to Katie!! =)


Elizabeth said...

I rarely say things like this, Karen, but YOU KICK ASS!

I am so happy to hear your voice here, strong and true, as always.


Karen said...

Standing ovation here! You spoke up, said it well and loudly enough!! Great job!

Anonymous said...

I am saddened that you have experienced such wounding, I read your words and hear truth, integrity and love....

Anonymous said...

I am saddened that you have experienced such wounding, I read your words and hear truth, integrity and love....

Busy Bee Suz said...

I applaud you for coming through this and taking a stand! You are amazing; you deserve to be heard. (in voice and writing)
That Oscar Wilde quote is my favorite and I say it all the time to those who I love.....as well as saying it to myself.
My other favorite quote is 'screw THEM'. LOL! Ok, I made that one up myself.

p.s I'm loving YOUR walking method....thank you for taking me on that journey with you.

Anonymous said...

The world needs your fierceness.
Lv, Carin

Jamie Z. said...

Long time reader but rarely comment. However, I wanted to say this posting blew me away. I am so sorry you were hurt so deeply. And so glad you are back. Your writing has made me think and taught me more than you will ever know. And I have certainly missed you taking up this space :) Thank you!

Ann said...

Another long time ready who never comments. Bravo for you! I look forward to reading more here on your blog.

Holly said...


Jennifer said...


I was SO delighted, just thrilled, when I saw today that you were posting here again. Your capacity for continuing to face pain, to regard it full in the face, and move through it with integrity ... it is moving and spurs me on. May you continue to be healing and soaking in wellness and goodness after the wounding you experienced.

When I read the part about Max telling you, "... you need to stop apologizing for yourself," I instantly remembered Katie's words to you, even before I got to your following paragraph about it, because that sentence she spoke to you has been burned on my brain, indelibly. I have always carried them with me, and think of them often, and her words have often stopped me from apologizing for myself (in the unhealthy way) -- her words to you have helped ME move toward wholeness and healing and, yes, taking up more space in the world.

So! Both you and your beautiful daughter are such bright lights in this world, and both of you continue to inspire and bless others.

And many rich blessings to you, especially in your work of being who you are, and standing up tall in that. You should! You are da bomb!!