Unlike most, I am somewhat comfortable with taking risks and experiencing uncertainty. I must admit, I like change. I am not a masochist; I don’t relish change for the sake of change. When Ann Taylor Loft altered the cut of their Marisa Fit pant last spring, I loathed to locate another brand and style that would flatter my curvy build. However, I willingly suffer uncertainty if it dangles the promise of growth, opportunity, or challenge. “You quit your perfectly good job to start a business? Wow, you’re nuts!” Comments like this have been a common reaction to my decision to resign my job in June and launch a business. But my decision to launch a business is anything but impulsive, spontaneous, or whimsical. It has become an imperative. I have waited my whole life to create something of my own that might make a difference in the world. My drive to create this business was unquestionably formed by my earlier life experiences.
When I was thirty, I experienced homesickness for the first time in my life. I was pregnant with my son, my first child, and all I wanted was to be near my mom. Two years before becoming pregnant, my husband and I purchased our first house in Springfield, Pennsylvania – 6 miles from his parents. As “gung ho” first time home-owners, we dove into painting, decorating, furnishing, updating and gardening, creating a perfect family home! We were happy, kid-free “real adults,” but I was dying to get pregnant. We had created the ideal nest and I was pushing 30. After several months, I was pregnant. I imagined raising our kids in suburban Philadelphia, but my pregnancy experience changed all that. I still remember the tearful afternoon that we sat with my in-laws in their living room and broke the news that we planned to move to NH after our son was born. “Ugh” best describes the inner experience of that moment. Our baby would be their first grandchild, there was nothing but dread that hung in the air after our announcement.
Three months later, we took a huge leap of faith and made the move to New Hampshire with our newborn son, Jake. I was seeking maternal family connection, a “time gone by” place to raise our child, and a slower pace of life steeped in abundant nature. I was seeking roots. We left a place we knew, with abundant friendships and even more acquaintances, lots of family close by, fun-loving neighbors, and two great jobs (I worked at an elementary school across the street from my house). Relocating to New Hampshire, we knew no one other than “Gramma and Bumpo” (my parents).
The move was hard. It was beautiful and lonely, lonelier than I anticipated. It was so lonely that I often drove in search of rock walls and maple tree lined dirt roads. Jake sleeping in the car seat behind me and James Taylor quietly singing through the car speakers of my Subaru Forester. I was desperately trying to settle into the feeling of a new, quiet, socially voided world. We were living with my parents and an infant child. We had no friends, no neighbors, no community support. We did manage to purchase a home in Hancock, NH. Later, it would become the “place” I was seeking.
People often refer to “Currier and Ives” when describing Hancock. No lie! People in town leave their doors unlocked, take daily strolls in the village, rock in the rocking chairs outside the Hancock Inn. Kids ride bikes up and down Main Street and perform cartwheels off the floating raft at Norway Pond. I think I sought a kind of setting like this because I wanted to recapture what was really good about my childhood. At some unconscious level, I was trying to recapture the idyllic part of my childhood before I was ten.
I was born in 1975 and grew up in a historic colonial home on a busy street in Halifax – the South Shore of Massachusetts. The “South Shore” is a culture onto itself. The “South Shore” isn’t known for its “warm people” – we are a special flavor of “New England Yankee.” It’s hard to describe the South Shore nuance. The men tend to be of few words, “stiff upper lips,” and a restricted range of affect (think Dick Maul). The women have their own versions of being, many Irish Catholic, which for some means bombastic laughter and for others, quiet judgmental stares. Even as a little girl, I was always oriented in a way that didn’t make me quite fit. I wanted to talk about feelings. I had a lot of opinions that challenged others around me. I had bursting levels of energy and bounded from one activity to the next. I felt largely unheard, ignored, and irrelevant. I also lived with three brothers. That can quickly tame a free spirit. But there was a lot about my childhood that was really good.
We lived about a half hour from the ocean but on a hot summer day, we scoured the neighborhood for the stay at home mom that would allow us to swim in her in ground pool. We often ended up at the Maul’s house – five houses up from ours. We lived on Elm Street – a neighborhood of sorts, playing between back yards. We found ways to keep ourselves entertained. Growing up in the late seventies and eighties – “pre tech” and the era of free range parenting – we used our imaginations to fill our days. We built forts. We played in the woods and ran through the bogs out back. My brothers built half pipes in the driveway and rode BMX bikes. They climbed our fifty foot maple tree – to the top – and commented on the water tower in the distance. We caught snapping turtles and created makeshift habitats out of cardboard boxes. We came home for dinner when our parents rang the bell or blew the whistle. We played “capture the flag” with all the kids in the neighborhood until the mosquitos chased us inside. We were expected to be out of sight, out of mind. These memories are the really good parts of my childhood – these developed my capacity for ingenuity, creativity, community building, and a deep connection to nature. After all, I did organize and orchestrate a highly successful haunted barn with neighborhood kids at the age of 11. But on a warm June day in 1985, the Halifax I just described changed forever.
I came home to discover my father sitting at the kitchen table in a plaid sports jacket. He and my mother made the announcement that Dad was moving out. There was an immediate crushing pain in my chest, a lump in my throat, and a sickness in my stomach. I will never forget that somatic experience. I never have and neither has my body. The following four years were a blur of yelling, fighting, screaming, punching, police calls, restraining orders, absolute bedlam compared to the earlier part of my childhood. That’s not to say that my every day was that way, but what is true is that my “assumptive world” was shattered. The body experience I describe is one that has been triggered countless times in the years since. It’s what led me to want to work with children that suffer. I know, like many, the inner experience of dysregulation.
For all the years I have worked with children and staff, I never knew how to really validate or codify my way of supporting others. At least, I didn’t know until I met the concept of being “trauma-informed” or ACES (adverse childhood experiences) aware. It makes sense to me that my earlier life experiences calibrated my body’s stress response. My body remembers what my mind wants to forget; that’s true for all of us.
Launching my business, “HERE this NOW” is my commitment to spreading awareness about trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACES). Moreover, my business helps others address the truth that our health (physical and mental) is dramatically shaped by our early life experiences. We have the capacity to heal our bodies, thereby healing our work and family systems, our communities, our country, but we need a revolution.
We need a healing revolution. Pills and procedures aren’t cutting it. Our culture is further strained by the context of technology, individualism, disconnection, and materialism. When I say culture, I am also referring to our beliefs and social norms: “Pull yourself up by your boot straps;” “Get over it;” “Grow a pair; man up;” “Suck it up,” “People can be better if they’ just make better choices.” If “sucking it up” or just “getting over it” really worked, we would not have the most incarcerated, addicted, physically sick, depressed, anxious, and obese country in the world. And we do.
This has become my personal mission, my imperative – the reason I am embracing this risk, this change. I want to usher in cultural healing – so that the next generation may have a chance to redefine what it means to be American. Recently a much esteemed colleague of mine, Eric Bowman, shared with me the work of a revolutionary thinker and priest long admired – Henri Nouwen. Nouwen so got it; he wrote in a letter, “I have been increasingly aware that true healing mostly takes place through the sharing of weakness…not as a source of despair but as a source of hope.”
Healing is different for everyone, but I do believe for most it begins with shifting the inner experience and it is held in the seat of authentic connection. My healing has taken many forms – learning, love, body work, mindfulness, spirituality and faith, time in nature. I gain a growing sense of personal efficacy when I am “embodied” in nature – allowing the sight of a mountain ridge to fill my inner experience with bursting gratitude. When I allow myself to experience the growing warmth in my chest as I witness a beloved teenage student make a genuine connection with another person. When I make inner space for something others would call coincidence but I call, “God.” These have been my ways of healing.
I now understand that healing starts within, starts with an individual, and grows from there. Our country has suffered a whole lot of hurt. It’s time for our collective healing to begin. Will you be the one willing to hear this now – Here.This.Now?