Erin, Author at Stratejoy


End of Day

Hold the phone.

This is my last post? Like, ever?

Forever ever? Forever ever?

(Let me just apologize now for that OutKast joke. I can assure you that “So Fresh, So Clean” is now on repeat in my head.)

I don’t know anybody that likes goodbyes. I’m pretty sure that I would be a little creeped out if you told me that you did, to be honest. And it makes me sad to think that my lovely period of semi-forced self-reflection is officially over.

I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I do know that:

The short story? I’m taking ownership of my life, and it feels good.

To my fellow Season 7 lovelies: It’s been an honor getting to know y’all. Thank you for your supportive comments and tweets, and it’s been super fascinating to watch your stories develop.

Miss Katie: Molly was totally right on in selecting you to be the go-to girl for Stratejoy. You are a bastion of hope and enthusiasm.

And, of course, to Molly: Thank you for having the courage and vision to create this fabulous community. To create such a beautiful space for us all to hang out and somehow still manage to do The Work. Even if doing the Holiday Council made me cry like nobody’s business. 😉

Although it’s tempting, I’ve decided not to leave you with the lyrics to John Cleese’s “(I Did it) My Way”. Promise.

Instead, we part with this:

That’s the funny thing about mazes: What’s baffling on the ground begins to makes sense when you can begin to rise above it, the better to understand your history and fix yourself. –Wally Lamb, The Hour I First Believed


Image credit: Paul Bica


A Note from Katie: Oh, Erin, you’re been amazing. I love your outlook, honesty, and bravery. Making the big decisions that you have (NEW JOB, DONE, WHAT?) is so hard, but I can tell you that I have no doubt that you’re making the best decision for you. Your big decisions inspire so many people, (including me!). Don’t you worry, I’ll be emailing you on the regular to get massive updates from you. EXPECT THEM! xo!

Cat Moon Glasses

Where do you see yourself (or hope to be) 6 months from now? A year from now?
Six months from now, I hope to be the owner of a fledgling digital communications agency. A year from now, I would like to have just returned from a 2-week holiday vacation and new year planning retreat, be running my own business full-time, and waking up when my body is ready… NOT when the alarm says so.

What’s the best book you read this year?
The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard.

Do you feel like blogging about your life made you look at it differently?
I was starting to look at my life differently before this, but I think that writing for Stratejoy prompted me to be both more honest and objective about the things that were going on.

Which current living celebrity do you think you’d be best friends with in real life?
Kristen Bell. Smart, classy, and yet not afraid to make a complete idiot of herself in the name of making someone smile.

Did anything happen during the season that surprised you?
I started dating my ex! (Yep. The one who helped blow my life apart.) Oddly enough, I feel like we are two completely different people starting a new relationship. Wish me luck!

What quote best summarizes what you’ve learned during the season?

My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure. –Abraham Lincoln

What is your guilty pleasure? What is it that totally lights you up that you’re afraid to admit to?
There’s not much that I’m afraid to admit to! I make myself look ridiculous on a pretty regular basis. I guess I’ll go with nerdy nonfiction books? I did geek out a little bit when I came across Naked Statistics at the bookstore last week. (And no, it’s not what you’re thinking.)

What is the biggest change you’ve noticed in yourself since we started blogging for Stratejoy?
I’m better at standing up for myself, and recognizing what needs to change in order to make me happier.

How did you fit blogging into your life? – Did you have a routine? Did it add joy or stress? Did you think about it over the week or just sit down and write?
For all my overanalyzing and planning in the rest of my life, when it comes to blogging, I’m pretty much a pantser. I work four 10-hour days, so I get a lot of my writing done on Fridays. Sometimes it was stressful, but I’m pretty sure I was adding pressure on myself to be Stratejoy-worthy!

How did people you know react? – did you share it openly, were family and friends supportive, did you censor yourself, etc.
I’ll be honest–nobody in my “real” life knows that I’ve been blogging for Stratejoy. I haven’t hidden it, but it never really came up in a conversation, either. For some reason, though, I’m comfortable sharing all this deep stuff with people I’ve never met, but the idea of people I know reading this stuff weirds me out a little bit!

Did you dig as deep as you could and open up as much as you could?
I always feel like my posts should be longer! I don’t know how to be anything other than succinct. But I’ve tried to always write openly and as honestly as possible.

When you’re curled up on the couch reading with a mug of something warm, what’s the book and what’s in the mug?
Nine times out of ten, it’s a romance novel. I heart me some romantic suspense! My mug would probably contain some green tea. Or a peppermint mocha, if I need a caffeine kick.

What’s on your bedside table?
My phone, my iPad, lip balm, and a magazine. But that’s only because I just cleaned.

What were you like in high school?  What parts of you have remained the same?
I drifted around in high school. I knew a lot of people but only had a few deep friendships. That part has definitely stuck with me. I was more active in extracurricular activities, and pursued things because I wanted to, not because I “had” to. I need to get back to that!

Who are the top 5 people on your “list”?  (You know, the list…  Those 5 people you could sleep with if you magically met them and your partner would have to be okay with it, because damn! You just slept with Johnny Depp!)
Best. Question. Ever. Let’s see… Paul Walker, Alex O’Loughlin, Ian Anthony Dale, Jesse Williams, and Dwayne Johnson.

If you could give yourself 5 months ago one piece of advice, what would it be? How about you 5 months from now?
5 months ago = just keep swimming. 5 months from now = just keep swimming.

In the movie of your life, which actress/celeb would play you?
Melissa McCarthy.


Image credit: Peter Tootill

gym clothes

At the beginning of every year, I watch the premiere of NBC’s The Biggest Loser.

And, in the irony of ironies, I have often watched with a super-sized bag of fast food awfulness in my lap. This year was no different.

Obviously, the massive amount of work that these people put in to take charge of their health is inspiring, but at this point, I think I watch BL more for the trainers than the contestants. This season, with the much-heralded return of Jillian Michaels, it’s like my own personal trainer trifecta: Jillian, who somehow manages to both awe and scare me at the same time, compassionate yet ass-kicking Bob Harper, and life-loving, take-no-prisoners Dolvett Quince.

In the first episode, contestants arrive at the BL Ranch, are split into teams, and are paired with trainers. This year, there is a “child ambassador” assigned to each team who will mostly play from home. It’s all rah-rah… until they step inside the gym. Then the work really starts.

You see people vomit, fall off of treadmills, pass out, and give up… all within the first few hours. I’ve never done a six-hour workout in my life, much less one where I’ve been yelled at by a BL trainer.

I can see how the emotional strain would set in as quickly as the physical.

An over-400-pound man struggled just to stay on the treadmill. He gave up exercise after exercise saying that he couldn’t do it.

This man was also in a car accident where he critically injured his young son, causing him multiple fractures, a concussion, and dislocating his eye socket.

He spoke at the beginning of the episode about promising his son that he will change, yet even walking on a treadmill at 5 MPH spurred him to declare that he wasn’t capable.

But this is where the trainers come in.

“You’re capable of anything, honey. You are capable of anything, as long as you choose it.” – Jillian Michaels

Something changed in the contestant after he heard that reminder from Jillian. You could see that he had re-connected the reality that he got to make choices about how he lives his life. About what he eats. About how much work he’s willing to put in.

At one point, he is face down on the gym floor, covered in sweat. Bob gets right in his face, and says:

“It has to be this hard. It has to be this hard so that you will never, ever forget.” – Bob Harper

I have always been overweight. I believe I was in college the first time “obese” appeared in my medical history. That was fun to read.

I did Weight Watchers once. I lost 65 pounds and gained it all back in 6 months.

I joined a gym. Never went.

I trained for and completed a 5K… then went right back to sitting on the couch.

I am both gluten- and lactose-intolerant, yet I eat baked goods like they’re going out of style.

Before the holidays, I had to give up my pole dance membership for financial reasons. It put me in a bit of a slump, to be honest. Here was another thing that I started and didn’t “finish”.

I keep forgetting that I am making choices. And that I can make more choices.

I can choose to find ways to be active at home.

I can choose to put in the time to research recipes and prepare meals that won’t inflame my body.

I can choose to believe in myself.


Image credit: Heather Dowd.


p.s.  The 3rd Stratejoy Essay Contest is open for entries!  Ready to win the $500?  Be featured here at Stratejoy?  Yes!  The theme: “How has a transition revealed a more authentic you?”

p.p.s.  The next Book Club/Tribe Chat Fest is going to be about marriage and partners.  Juicy, juicy. We’re reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Love Story and will be jamming about it on February 13.

I have a wicked fear of heights, but somehow I’ve always loved flying on airplanes.

It’s amazing to me how everything just falls away as you take off. Everybody stares out the window, whether out of fear or out of excitement, and just watches. For a few brief minutes, all of the passengers are truly focused on what’s happening in that moment.

Believe me when I say that I’m as impatient as the next girl. I can’t wait to be at my destination and usually start to feel a little boxed in on longer flights. I like to be on the plane… but then I. Want. Off.

I flew home from Michigan on New Year’s Eve after spending a little over a week with my family. I watched in varying degrees of horror and frustration as my first flight (to Chicago) was delayed by 20 minutes… then 45 minutes… then an hour. We finally departed 1 hour and 15 minutes late.

Because of our delay, by the time we arrived in Chicago, there was another flight already at our gate. This amounted to another 15 minutes of waiting before we were able to disembark.

We arrived at Terminal L, and my connection was in Terminal H. The really fun part? By the time I stepped off the first plane, my connecting flight had already started boarding.

Yep, you guessed it… cue frantic running/people-dodging through the corridors of O’hare. As in second-busiest airport in the country O’hare.

Going by my watch, it took me 11 minutes to make it from gate to gate. I can promise you that it felt like a freaking millennium. And at the end, I sort of felt like I was going to have a heart attack.

But I made it on the damn plane. I was on my way home!

It took a while for me to calm myself down. But when I did, I realized I’d paid almost no attention during takeoff–I was too freaked out.

I’d missed one of my favorite parts of flying.

And I almost beat myself up about it, too. Thankfully, the logical side of my brain won out and I searched for something to do. I opened my backpack, and grabbed the first thing I felt, which turned out to be my Holiday Council workbook.

I took it as a sign. I turned on some mellow music and proceeded to scribble and draw my heart out. 45 minutes later, I had a mostly-done vision for 2013. A plan. A to-do list that excited me for once.

Even better, I had a feeling of peace staring out at the moon and all those little dots on the ground.


Mug image credit: Kate Ter Haar, modified by Erin.

I’ve never been a resolution kind of girl. The concept seems to demand a seriousness of purpose, especially when you lead with a word like resolve. And then you have to hold out for a year with this business, just because you said you would?

Thanks, but I’ll pass.

Maybe it’s all the drama of the year, but the idea of big, earth-moving changes appeals to me. I deeply want for 2013 to be a magical year;  one like I’ve never had before. I want to claim 2013 for my own. But I wasn’t sure how I could really marry that with the idea of set-in-stone resolutions.

When I started participating in the Holiday Council, to be honest with you, I wasn’t sure I would find it that helpful. Dream big, say all the things I want to do in the next year, and then poof, it’s over. Leaving me with a lap full of things I already know I won’t do.

But part of me really wanted to stick with it. My gut would not let it go. So I listened.

For once, I filled in every part of every worksheet. I listened to every single call. I discovered that I was still stuck on 2012, and it was holding me back from making future plans.

More importantly, I discovered that I don’t want to make resolutions. I want to make revolutions.

I’m a visual thinker. I’m much better able to hold something in my mind if I can see it, so when Molly suggested developing a vision board, I was all over it. The first one I made was for 2013 as a whole:


I’m still working my way through the creation of specific goals for each year, and making vision boards for each major area. (I’m telling you, it’s a problem.) But I’ll give you a lowdown on the basics. Over the next year, I want to:

Get my financial house in order. I’m really over having difficulty paying my bills and accidentally overdrawing my bank account. I have 3 different retirement savings accounts, about all of which I essentially have no idea. I hate the constant fear that comes with financial slim pickings. I haven’t taken an honest-to-God vacation in years because I can’t afford it.

Treat my body like a partner and not an insubordinate child. I have several health issues, and realized some time ago that I always complain how my body fails me. It never dawned on me that, at the same time, I am failing my body. I know what I “should” do, and yet I don’t.

Make new friends. I want someone to go see a movie with. Or go to one of the theme parks. Someone who doesn’t throw a suitcase’s worth of baggage at me every time we meet to “catch up”. Someone who supports me just because I want to do something.

Say no to things that do not serve me. I’ll admit it: I enjoy feeling needed. I spend the majority of my day serving others, and most of the time I’m happy to do so. But if I take an honest look at it, few of those people consider the effort that I put in, and the strain that helping them might be placing on me and/or my life.

I need to create space for new things to enter my life, which means that some things will simply need to go.

I’ve never put so much effort into myself; consciously piecing out how I can make my life better. But I have a feeling that in a year I’ll say that it’s never been so worth it.


Lights image credit: Free At Will. Collage created by Erin with images from across the ‘net.

My first published work appeared in my third grade school calendar. It was a poem about icicles. January. Picture illustrated by some fifth grader. The family considered it to be a Big Deal.

(And yes, my mom still has a copy of the calendar in her “Erin Box”. It’s right next to the macaroni picture frame from kindergarten.)

Fourth grade brought along the awesomeness entitled “Lion and Giraffe Make a Monkey out of Monkey”. That one was voted the best short story in my class. I kid you not.

Somewhere along the line, I started using my grandma’s computer and that oh-so-cool Print Shop Deluxe software to make a family newsletter. I’m relatively confident I spent an entire page covering dinner and a summer stock theatre outing.

High school introduced me to the world of and fanfiction. In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I relentlessly wrote boyband fanfiction for pretty much my entire high school career. Sometimes I split stories with a friend. Sometimes I crafted stories alone, usually for an email loop where my stories were delivered chapter by chapter to people who actually seemed to want to read them for some reason.

Unfortunately, the heavy demands of a college and then graduate education in the healthcare field required me to switch my brain over to the world of scientific literature and research analysis. I learned to extract what I could from a research article and use it to fuel some sort of report, for which I was usually at least a page short.

Yes, I’m that girl. The one who gets the assignment for a 12-page paper and turns in a 10-pager because I just can’t freaking write any more. I actually had a professor tell me once that she was tempted to take off points for a midterm paper solely because I hadn’t met the page requirement. She ended up giving me full credit because I had a logical argument, covered all the content requested, and had a ridiculously long reference page to back me up.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped writing for fun.

(I also picked up a wicked romance novel habit. The only one sad about that is my bank account.)

I’ve never been a journal girl; probably because I’m not all that into the whole self-analysis thing. I’d rather shove everything in a box and move on.

But as my life did one of those Earth-opening-up-and-swallowing-me-whole things this summer, something kept tugging at me to write again. And then along came Stratejoy.

As much as I feel like I need to write, every damn time I sit down at the computer, I get some resistance. All of a sudden the idea burning in my head doesn’t sound that important and… what’s that, Pinterest? Oh, you’d like me to spend the next 45 minutes creating my imaginary wedding? Sounds fantastic!

Something in me knows that writing these posts means being horrifically honest and admitting things that I don’t even acknowledge to myself. I can’t do anything less for the women of this community.

Now I truly understand that saying about writing being like opening a vein. I. Get. It.

Will I keep up this level of personal writing after Season 7 is over? Probably not. Much as I love y’all, this shit is hard.

But in the end, it is so worth it.

Image credit: Erin Kohlenberg

I am very familiar with grieving the loss of a relationship. Family, friends, boyfriends, pets. In my gut, I believe in the whole “you have to go through it to get through it” thing.

But I didn’t know that you could grieve a year of your life. Which is what I did while working through the first week of Holiday Council work.

(Although I’m sure the lovely PMS hormones and the wine I was drinking during Molly’s training call didn’t exactly help me out, either.)

Finding good things that had happened during the year was difficult for me. I tried to mentally go through each month and come up with something fun I’d done, somewhere I’d gone… nada.

And then we got to the bad stuff. The stuff that I thought I had gotten through. We were given 4 minutes to write out everything negative that had happened in 2012; everything we wanted to release.

In 4 minutes, I filled both the front and back sides of the paper. I was actually still writing when Molly called time.

I was also crying.

That negative shit just came right back up and smacked me in the face. But to be honest with you, it felt different this time.

There was some level of awareness that I was bringing these memories back for a reason: so that they could be let go. It didn’t hurt less, but it hurt differently.

At the beginning of the week, Molly asked the group to choose a picture that symbolized our 2012. I located one, but by the time I’d finished the training call on Wednesday night, it had somehow morphed into this:

And that’s when I started to recognize that a few good things did happen in 2012.

I felt so many things. After years of walking around like a zombie, I have done nothing but feel.

I also learned that I can survive. I can adapt, and I can push through.

Most importantly, I can grow. I can plant my feet, and I can grow.

Tree image credit: joiseyshowaa

I should have been many things.

A magna cum laude graduate.
A scientist or perhaps a doctor (had I applied myself enough).
A regular patron of some sort of fitness establishment.
A good Catholic.
A young manager.
A committed pianist.
A homeowner.
And God knows I should have been married by now, with at least one kid.

I am none of those things.

(Although my undergraduate GPA was 0.01 away from earning magna cum laude.)

I entered college as a French major. I seem to have an aptitude for languages and accents. But with no interest in teaching or editing manuscripts for the rest of my career, I was stuck.

So I switched gears and applied to the occupational therapy program. It seemed to match my natural skillset. At the end, I would have a masters’ degree. I could pursue my dream of earning a Ph.D. and teach.

My second semester into the program, being a practicing occupational therapist was not going to make me happy in the long term. But I finished the program anyway.

Almost 5 years into my career, I wonder how long I will last, and frankly, how the hell I got here. To a place where I am more or less punching a clock for a paycheck–cheerfully and gratefully so, but punching a clock.

I stopped playing the piano about the same time I got into the OT program.

I’ve never been anything other than overweight.

I don’t regularly attend Mass, and I most certainly have neither a husband nor children.

I should have checked many of the “life” boxes by now, according to everyone else. That’s certainly how I was raised.

But I’ve discovered all of a sudden that you apparently can’t treat life as one giant to-do list. Because when you do, you end up sitting on the couch at 28, wondering why things haven’t turned out the way you thought.

And you discover that in order to make a new life, you have to be willing to be courageous. Not brave, but courageous.

You have to be willing to get your hands dirty.

You have to be willing to look yourself in the eye.

And you have to be willing to lay it all on the line to stand in your truth.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

Registration for the Holiday Council 2012 is open!  21 days of  wrapping up 2012 and dreaming and scheming for 2013 + juicy writing challenges + kick-ass interviews with rockstar women + all the support and camaraderie that you could ever imagine. Want a piece of this? Let’s go!

(Image credit: Avinash Kunnath)

violation (n): the act of violating : the state of being violated: as
a : infringement, transgression
b : an act of irreverence or desecration : profanation
c : disturbance, interruption

I remember the first time somewhere I lived was burglarized. I was in college, and it occurred either Christmas Eve or early on Christmas Day. The sorority house I lived in was entered through a broken kitchen window.

All of the rooms had things missing; typically electronics but occasionally things like expensive purses or jewelry.

I remember getting the call that I needed to come back to the house to inventory my room, and arriving to find the house covered in fingerprinting dust.

The sight of black fingerprints all over my room–all over my house–has never left my mind.

Then there was the time someone attempted to pick the lock on my apartment door while I was actually in the apartment. That was fun.

And now it’s happened again.

I left my apartment for the first time since moving in. I went to Disney to spend the weekend with my mom. On Sunday, we went to the grocery store and then back to my apartment to pack lunches for the week and do a load of laundry.

And then it started. “Hey mom, did you move the Magic Bullet?”

She bought me one a few days prior and I specifically remembered having set it on the kitchen counter, still in the box.

No, she says. She thought that I moved it. I did not.

Alarm bells start ringing internally. I start looking around my apartment, and it seems that nothing is out of place. I must have moved it and forgotten.

And then I see it: my camera. Or rather, the space on the counter where my DSLR camera sat when I left on Thursday night. The camera bag is there. The battery is still in the charger.

The camera is gone.

So is about half of my jewelry, including my high school class ring and the sorority badge I was given upon my initiation.


After calling the police, I called the apartment complex’s office, where I discovered that there was another break-in in an apartment right around the corner from mine. We had almost identical stories: no sign of forced entry, things appearing undisturbed, only discovering things missing when we went looking for some specific object.

There was also another burglary in my building. That one had the door kicked in.

But the thing about this kind of violation (any violation, really) is that it never leaves you.

In the beginning, you want to stay in your apartment at all times, yet you don’t want to be there because of the bad juju. And there is bad juju.

Then you decided that maybe the logical conclusion is to fit everything you own into suitcases and live in hotels. That way you can keep moving. All your stuff could be stolen again if you stay in the same place, right?

And then there’s the continuous re-telling of your story. To the police. To the property manager. To your parents. To the maintenance guy changing your locks. To the coworkers curious as to why you’re taking a break to call your insurance company.

Oh, right, and there’s trying to sleep at night in a violated space. That takes some time.

This being my third go-round, I pretty much know the drill. I had the office and non-emergency police numbers programmed into my phone when I moved in. I know that you need a case number to provide your insurance company, and it would be super helpful if you could provide receipts to verify an item’s purchase price. (Magic Bullet = check. Camera = check. Jewelry = not so much.)

I still haven’t figured out how to sleep well for the first few nights.

(Image credit: Carquinyol)

I hate it when reality comes to kick me in the ass.

My mom came for a visit a couple of weeks ago. She had a conference in town and decided to bookend it with a stay at Disney, and because I now live so close, that also meant more than one trip to my apartment.

Now, I know you don’t know my mom. She is polite, gracious, smart, funny, and the mother of all perfectionists. And she has definite ideas about who I should be.

She’s willing to support me trying to follow the Paleo diet, but not a pole dance class.

She’s willing to support me going to yoga, but when she sees my bracelets that read STRONG and FEARLESS, she cocks a brow and asks why I would wear them.

She encourages me to continue working at a job where I can already see the writing on the wall. Why? Because it’s a steady paycheck and health insurance.

She shops with me for t-shirts and jeans, but not strappy high heels. Because, naturally, the only place I would wear those is in my pole class, which makes them stripper shoes.

My mom is supportive of the rule-following, head-down-and-nose-to-the-grindstone girl I was when I lived in Michigan.

I am not that person any longer. And it seems the more I share the woman I am becoming, the less I seem to fit the mold of “acceptable daughter”.

Last December, I got a tattoo on my left wrist. It’s the symbol for om–yes, as in chanted meditation om–which, among other things, signifies the belief that everything happens in this moment. I got it for a multitude of personal reasons, but at the front of my mind was the realization that I need to live in the present.

The tattoo did not go over well with Mom. Why? Because now she was one of “those” moms: the ones with kids who have piercings and tattoos. Because at 27, I had made a decision that clearly signified that I was going to head down a path of stupid decisions.

Me, the one with the masters’ degree.

Me, the one who doesn’t drink.

Me, the one who spent 4 months making sure it was something I truly wanted before I committing to the ink.

None of this mattered. I was now casting her parenting skills in a bad light.

My confession about pole classes was met with silence at first. And then a line of questioning into my motives which actually ended with me having to confirm that I had no intention of becoming a stripper.

She didn’t ask about why I wanted to study pole.

I would have had her watch a video of Natasha Wang or Jenyne Butterfly; ladies who truly make pole dance look like art.

I would have told her that I wanted to actually connect to my body and what it meant to be feminine.

Sensing another fight and another instance of disappointment, I gave up trying to explain myself. So when the day came to pick my mom up from the airport, I packed up my grip aid, my meditation supplies, my sage, and my 7″ platform heels.

I packed away me, and I’m at war with myself because of it.

Part of me believes that there is no shame in trying to avoid conflict, especially if I can see it coming a mile away. The other part of me says that I’m not being honest.

Because you know what else I discovered? It’s not about me becoming the woman I was always meant to be.

It’s about her. It’s about my mom, and the fact that I’m making choices she never would have made. It’s about not supporting actions that do not fit in her world and with her perception of her family’s roles.

It’s not about me. And for the first time, I can truly see that.

(Image credit:

In many ways, pole dance is a great metaphor for the challenges of my life. I am still about as much of a newbie as you can get, but even in two months, pole has taught me some valuable lessons:

Learn when to hold on and when to let go. I spent the majority of my Tuesday class sliding down the pole when I needed to stay put. Super discouraging. Determined to get the grip I needed, I walked into my Thursday class with the mindset that I was going to hold on as if my life depended upon it.

Of course, that was the night that we learned spins that required me to loosen my grip, and because I was so focused on holding on, it was damn near impossible for me to let go.

Go with the flow (or in this case, spin). Pole choreography is so unnatural to me. Early in life, I learned how to play the piano. Much of classical piano training emphasizes knowing how to execute in a precise way, then practicing over and over. It’s the reason I can still do warm-up drills without thinking even though I haven’t touched my piano on a regular basis in years.

I was taught early on to first learn individual parts, then put the together in a technically precise manner, and only then to add in some “artistic flair”. This is exactly the opposite of what occurs in pole dance–one of the major concepts to learn is to keep moving.

There is no time to stop and start over when you are wrapped around a rotating metal tube, especially when your feet are off the ground. Your only option is to keep going and create something new, something unplanned.

Know when to call it a day. I have learned that some days it’s better for me just not to go to class. You know those days–nothing can go right and nothing is going to make the day better.

That’s when the ugly green monster in me looks at the 50-year-old flying around the pole (or the undergrad who says this is her first class, but picks it up as easily as breathing) and starts to do some comparison–a test in which I damn near always come out the loser.

If thinking about pole turns from happiness to “let’s see how much I’ll suck tonight”, it’s time to take the day off.

If you think you are beaten, you are. Pole is as much mental as it is physical. It has been incredibly frustrating to learn that I just flat-out do not have the strength to properly accomplish many of the most basic moves. I don’t have the endurance that would enable me to learn the spins and climbs that brought me to class in the first place.

On the other hand, it has been even more frustrating to have to confront the mental challenges of pole. Why am I so afraid to trust that I can hold myself up long enough to try a new spin? How do I become comfortable leaning into moves that essentially have me falling backwards? Why do I automatically feel like a complete failure when I can’t accomplish something new in the first few tries? Why do I keep doing this when it hurts?

(P.S. It’s a damn good thing I don’t have a boyfriend. I have so many bruises right now–in completely odd locations–that he would definitely earn some raised eyebrows out in public.)

I am a work in progress, just like my practice of pole dancing. It is an incredible challenge and each class I attend forces me to choose whether I will beat myself up or whether I will keep a beginner’s mind and try to accept my performance for what it is–that of a student who is opening a completely new set of tools for engaging her mind, her body, and her soul.

Pole photo credit: brh_images, modified with creator’s permission

Confession: I took a day off of work when I was not sick. Not because of fun travel plans or to attend any kind of professional development what-have-you. I took a day off of work because I was afraid that if I went in for that 10+ hours, I was going to lose it. I knew in my gut that I would make some kind of bad interpersonal choice that would at minimum blow my coworkers’ opinions of me to pieces.

Call it a “mental health day” if you want. I called it a F— You Day, because it made me feel better.

(This is where I should back up a step and explain that I’m not really cursing out my employer. In fact, I’m quite grateful to have a nice, steady paycheck after my life got blown to pieces this summer and actually have no intention of leaving my job any time soon. But the bad juju brewing for the last few weeks finally boiled over. I found myself literally having to pinch my lips shut to keep from spewing some relationship-changing nastiness upon all who dared enter my space.

That, my friends, is what gets the F— You. I refuse to put up with bad juju.)

Turns out what started as an F— You Day ended as the date with myself I’d been putting off since starting Molly’s Fierce Love course. I got up, went to get some coffee, and planted myself on the couch to read.

Until noon.

I ate lunch without watching TV, reading, or doing something online. And for the first time in a long time, I can actually tell you what I ate without having to think about it.

I alternated between reading and writing (OK, fine, and watching General Hospital) for the afternoon.

I took myself out to dinner–again, relatively distraction free–and then to a crystal bowl meditation class. (Which, by the way, I highly recommend if you’re willing to check your assumptions at the door and give it an honest try. Major good vibes.)

And then a really funny thing happened: I went home and fell directly asleep. Not because I was exhausted, but because I was finally relaxed enough to just listen to what my body was telling me. I simply needed to rest.

I think that’s the lesson I really needed to learn from the first week of Fierce Love, which is all about the concept of self-care.

I’m not a girly girl by any stretch of the imagination. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that “self-care” used to equate to “mani/pedi, gossip, and cocktails” in my head–things I don’t either enjoy or participate in most of the time.

Maybe it’s not about indulgence or girliness or flat-out decadence. It’s not about doing what other people find to be relaxing. Maybe this whole self-care thing is really about stopping to listen to what my gut is saying:

“Hey there, remember me? The part of you that used to feel alive and purposeful? Quit ignoring me, will ya?”

Brick image credit: Stephen Boisvert

Oprah made me cry.

Actually, it was Iyanla Vanzant who made me cry, but it was on an episode of Oprah’s Lifeclass. Close enough, right? I don’t even remember what they were talking about, to be honest with you. I was just half-watching while I contemplated my homework for Fierce Love. And then this completely grabbed my attention:

“Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.”  – Iyanla Vanzant

Cue the Wile E. Coyote anvil-drop-on-head moment. I think I may have actually stopped breathing for a few seconds.

That moment forced me to acknowledge what I’ve known in my gut, but have been trying to ignore for a few weeks now–because change is HARD, damn it–

I don’t believe in myself. Something in me seems to be convinced that I don’t know how to do anything other than survive the day-to-day.

I haven’t given myself permission to be great.

I haven’t given myself permission to be joyful. (Not happy. Joyful.)

I haven’t given myself permission to be passionate.

Really, in the 28 years I’ve been on the planet, I haven’t given myself permission to be anything other than awake and alert. And in doing so, I’ve created a world where I’m unhappy. A world where I’m stuck because I’m afraid to reach for anything else.

My dad always says that I’ve been an adult since I was 5 years old. He might be more right than he knows.

I’ve never been a big fan of showing emotion beyond the public “I’m OK” face. Hell, I’m not even a big fan of feeling emotions, which is probably why it’s so difficult for me to just sit in them and not box them up for future un-analysis. Feelings, especially the ones that have come from the upending of my life, always seem to grab me by the throat and hold on for dear life, leaving me feeling frazzled and out of control. And I love me some control.

I can hear all of you shouting at your monitors. Just let go, Erin. Let it out, for God’s sake.

I can’t let go.

I’m afraid to let go.

I’m afraid that I will fall and there will be no one to catch me.

Realistically, I know that if I believed in myself more, I could start to turn into that joyful, woo-woo, dreams-fulfilled girl I have lodged into the back of my brain. (You heard me. Woo-woo.) I have to create space for that to happen, which means I need to unload this baggage. Hopefully without burying myself under an avalanche of emotional suitcases.

“We have to know what it is gonna cost you to become the truth of who you are. Because it’s gonna cost you.” – Iyanla Vanzant

For me, right now, the cost is pain. Fear. Uncertainty.

We’ll see how much I’m willing to pay.

Suitcase photo credit: Gideon

I’ve never lived through an earthquake, thank God, but I have to imagine that there’s a point where you simply wait to see if it’s over. Can you crawl out of your hiding spot and start to inspect the damage, or is there another wave coming through that will destroy the last thing standing?

I think I’ve been holding my breath since August.

I’ve been waiting to see if the new job is truly a positive change, or if just signed up for a different form of joy-stealing. Waiting to see if the new apartment in a new part of town will help with my peace of mind, and maybe some opportunities to make new friends. Waiting to see if I can figure out how to just be, and truly be myself. (Who the hell is she, anyway?)

All of this waiting for the other shoe to drop business has taught me only one thing: I’ve been holding back from fully committing to life.

The vibrations have stopped and the dust has settled, but I’m still sitting in the bathtub with the bathroom door firmly closed.

Molly posted a video a few months ago about the process of transition, which would have been helpful had I found it as my life fell apart, but really makes much more sense to me now. Underneath the video, she wrote, “…there is a point of CHOICE in your transition. When you hit the low part of change, you can choose disillusionment, hostility, or to move forward through gradual acceptance.”

Did I become disillusioned? Abso-freaking-lutely. I had a great plan for life up until a few months ago. I had a solid plan to improve my existing job quality, I had some solid (if overly nosy) friends, a relatively steady paycheck, and a guy who loved me. What the hell did I have now?

Hostile? You better believe it. Clearly, everyone in the universe was out to screw me over in some form. No one was to be trusted. Ever.

I realize now that those were choices I made; choices that elevated “fight or flight” to a whole new level. (That would be the aforementioned earthquake/bathroom metaphor. But I promise, I haven’t spent all this time in the tub. Super uncomfortable in the long term.)

But I hear that the thing about choices is that you can keep making them. And since I’ve already tried disillusionment and hostility, I think it’s about time that I tried the whole moving forward concept. I think it’s time to step out of the bathtub.

It would be easier to just keep moving without analyzing the situation. I wouldn’t have to stand in the middle of my life and inspect the pieces on the floor, let alone determine if I even want to pick any of them back up.

Is it better just to walk out of the figurative house and start clean, or do I stay and sift through the wreckage?

My knee-jerk response is to run, to leave it all behind and start again where I don’t have to even acknowledge the damage. If I try hard enough, I might even be able to pretend like it never happened.

I’m pretty sure it will also get me exactly nowhere on the scale of personal growth.

I need to own this shit if I want to grow. I need to do the work if I want to change. I can’t put new art on my walls if there’s still debris on the floor.

Anybody got a broom?

Photo credit: Brooke Anderson