UPDATE - Susi K - Extended update & ongoing journal
October 28, 2016 - 2 mos Post retreat #1
I rewrote my identity statement this morning. I needed to reframe a few things and revisit the way I want to live my life every single day. After the retreat, you will recognize some key thoughts/quotes from the retreat – things you will learn from Matthew and from the staff. I will be honest, sharing this actually scares the shit out of me. My fear that it won’t well received is raging and I am so deeply afraid of being criticized or laughed at. But the new woman who left the retreat, well she thinks there is wisdom in putting this out there because someone else might benefit - So I am sharing it in the hopes that it resonates with some of you...here it goes:
I was once a girl who faced my fear of the unknown and embraced an opportunity to travel to Italy to go to school. I didn't even think twice, I just got on the plane to go - knowing no one, not speaking the language. I never hesitated and it was an amazing journey of life and learning and self-discovery. The retreat was a big step for me at this stage of my life. It represented taking that journey again - only more figuratively.
I came to the retreat a recently divorced and heartbroken single mom of 3. At 49 years old, I really felt like losing my husband meant my life was over. What the retreat helped me to discover was ME and the part I had played in all the things that had happened. I had lost sight of the woman I once was and I completely lacked confidence. I lived and acted from a fearful place. I had become deeply invested in outcomes that I really had no control over. And I let other people define me instead of me defining me. I got comfortable there. But I wasn't happy.
From today forward I am fearless but not reckless- just no longer afraid of failing, no longer afraid of mistakes, no longer afraid of being hurt or used. Failure and mistakes are nothing more than opportunities to me. We fail one hundred percent of the things we don't try. I'm not going to get it right out of the gate every time but what makes it an opportunity is my attitude when it goes wrong. Falling isn't failure it is learning. When I get it wrong I learn what not to do. When I get it right I learn from that too.
In the past five years I sacrificed my confidence and I didn't stand up for myself - not in my job or in my marriage. I became a shadow so I wouldn't rock the boat. From today forward I have the confidence to stand my ground when I see something that doesn't look right or when I hear something that doesn't sound right or when I experience something that doesn't feel right. I have the confidence and strength to stand up for those who can't do it for themselves and I have the confidence to stand up for myself. I can face rejection or a lack of acceptance with my head high because my perspective has tremendous value even when no one else can see it or acknowledge it.
In the past I lived disconnected and cut off and I was guilty of withholding. I lived selfishly, in a walled off and self-protective space. I was ruled by my ego and my head and not by my heart. From this day forward I am loving and kind and genuine and open. And I live that way because I feel happier and better just being present and I truly love to make people smile and feel heard and feel valued and appreciated.
Everyone is carrying some burden that they beat themselves up over. I have been carrying around the things that I feel like I did wrong for a very long time. But I am capable of things today that I was not capable of yesterday. And if I treated other people the way that I have been treating myself they would call it abuse. From this moment on I'm going to speak to myself in a kinder voice. I am no longer going to be my own worst critic. Only love today...
From this moment on I am going to stop feeling sorry for myself! I'm going to stop using every bad thing that happened to me as an excuse not to live and love my life. And I am going to change my story! I am no longer a victim. I am in charge. This is my time! Real connections with people who truly matter and care about me won't be affected or ruined because I have standards. The fact is everyone will disappoint me at some point but I have to look at the total of what people do. And the key is to invest in myself and seek out the people who bring value and positivity to my life. Because I am the only one who is responsible for making me feel like enough and with that I will be strong enough to give to others. I want to be enough for myself and then give like crazy to everyone else.
I have been standing still for years out of fear and a lack of self-worth because for some reason I believe that I was inherently bad or flawed and unworthy of love and happiness and what I realized is that is utter bullshit! I am amazing and beautiful and valuable and the things I have been telling myself are an old tape from a very old script and frankly it is worn out and I don't need it anymore.
Believing in my value and loving myself doesn't make me selfish it makes me human. Accepting my specialness doesn't make me conceited it makes me honest. Owning that I deserve to be treated with respect starts with me. I am worth it and loving myself in an honest and self-honored way means I have more love and energy to give to the world around me and I want that to be my legacy! I choose how I live. I choose how I respond to the people in my life. I choose what works and what doesn't. And from this day forward I choose love over self-pity. And I choose it because I'm tired of self-pity being the excuse to hide behind the fear. I can do better.
I AM better.
Life is simply too short and every moment counts and I don't want to reach the end of my life and say I wish I would have…I am never going to say I wish I would have again! And I know I'll be OK no matter what because I've been through some of the worst things I can imagine and I'm still standing. Because I am brave and strong and resilient. Because I have value. Because I know my worth. Because I have self-love. The trick is not avoiding the pain - The trick is not minding the pain. The trick for me is finding gratitude for the pain and accepting that the pain is just another part of life and without it I don't truly know or appreciate joy!
My character won't be evaluated on anything that someone else says about me. My character will be evaluated on how I respond to the things that people say about me. My character won't be evaluated on only one thing I do. My character will be evaluated on how I live every single day. I don't need someone else's permission to be great. I have an obligation to be great.
From this day forward I am doing the things that feel right to me to show love and kindness and confidence and I am doing them fearlessly. I am bringing joy and creativity and a unique perspective to the people around me because I am fearlessly sharing my love of life and nature and art and myself. I am a positive role model for my children and for the coworkers who I oversee and influence. The greatest example I can set is living a life of integrity.
From this day forward I don't just talk the talk I walk the walk. I live a full and abundant love-filled, music filled life that is shaped by my confidence in all things and my fearless approach. From this day forward no one defines me but me. I live and love the way I choose and I act according to my values and my standards and I no longer give a flying fuck what other people think.
November 10, 2016 – 3 mos. Post retreat #1
So many of the women from my retreat week are heartbroken and grieving after our disastrous election yesterday. I woke up tearful and confused and sad about what my country appears to have become, but then I started thinking… 4 months ago, I was heartbroken, struggling, unsure of myself and very confused about where I needed to go. Now, my life looks completely different from the way it looked when I arrived at the MH retreat in August
-On October 9, I ran a half marathon, my first ever and I am almost 50.
-I am in better shape today than I was in my 30’s. I ran a 5K last Saturday and dare I say it was EASY!
-On October 12, my divorce from an emotionally abusive and philandering husband was final.
-I got my work/life in balance and I went back to volunteering as an art docent for Hands on Art and teaching art to kids in inner city schools in Compton and Lennox.
-I started volunteering for my nieces’ amazing charity Play it Forward and helping her provide PE equipment and coaches to underserved schools in the LAUSD
-I started putting myself out there socially and now I am getting invited to events, parties and all kinds of adventures constantly
-There is no end to what I can accomplish with the right tools and the right frame of reference.
-I believe I am now on a higher path (my true path) to help others see what their life can look like.
I signed up for the Platinum pass and will be attending the May/June Retreat in Fort Lauderdale because I can’t wait to see what else I can accomplish.
When I am confused or sad or “broken” I write…so I wrote something - Maybe it is worth sharing and maybe it isn’t, but it is meaningful to me and I know you will “get” it and maybe you know someone from the retreat circles that needs to hear it.
Ok so I have been thinking about this a lot and here is where I am landing...
If you have a roof over your head and food on your table and clothes on your back then you are already better off than 2/3 of the population of this planet. Think about that for a second...
Maybe you didn't get the president you wanted, but that has NO BEARING on your day to day life. The sun still came up this morning. Your kids still love you. Your neighbors are still your neighbors - they are still the people who will grab a hose if your house catches fire.
The fact is, people (on both sides) desired change. People wanted change, so they voted for Mr Trump. People wanted change so they voted for Hillary. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter who won if we keep our eye on how many people were seeking deep transformation for the country and for themselves - maybe you don't agree with everyone's choice of how to obtain it, but at the end of the day, the desire is still the same - there is common ground if we stay centered and seek first to understand.
And now, moving forward, we have a personal responsibility to ourselves and our children to manage our energy wisely and to BE THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE. Don't turn your backs or turn a blind eye simply because you don't agree. Offer compassion and non-judgment and try to learn. We have an obligation to keep the energetic balance steady and loving for the sake of our country, for the sake of our children, for the sake of our future.
Avoid getting dragged into the drama because when you let yourself get sucked in, you ultimately lose. Your energy gets drained and you ignore the fact that you have a choice about how you act and react. Do not succumb to fear and hurt and hate. Be a force of hope. Be a force of good. Be a force of light. I have faith in this country and in its people.
December 13, 2016– 3 mos. & 2 weeks Post retreat #1
(just a couple weeks after reading the 3 mos. letter I wrote to myself at the retreat)
It was great to be able to see what I said to myself and it is even better to see what I have accomplished. I have had some amazing things happen in the last month - those 1% shifts have really paid off! And naturally I wrote something about it. So i have to share this with you because I know you will completely understand where I am coming from...
I have always believed in the power of manifesting opportunities by defining what I really want in my life and then opening myself up to the possibility that the universe will deliver it for me as long as I go about living the best life I can and being the best version of myself I know how to be. After the retreat in the summer, I decided that I needed to make some definitive changes because I really didn't feel like I was doing things that had true value to me and one of my goals was to make time for things I valued. So I decided to take on going to fifth grade science camp as a cabin leader, and I started doing more with the south bay conservancy hands on art program and I joined the "reaching out" program and started teaching art in the inner cities, and I started working more directly with other parents on the elementary school yearbook. These were all things that made me feel more connected and like I was doing something important and giving something back. I also started doing things to create more opportunities with the kids, creating real memories and spending time together - because they are growing up so fast and I don't want to miss out on anything if I can help it. I also realized that I felt like I was stagnating a little bit with my job and that I needed to find a bigger opportunity and that I wanted to make more money. After all the times we talked about goals on the retreat, I took a page from the goal setting playbook and I thought a lot about what that opportunity looked like, I defined the job I wanted in the context of my skills and what impact I wanted to have. I was very clear. I outlined a number of steps to get me there. Then…I sort of let it go for the holidays and figured I would dig into the steps and the actions to achieve it after the new year...
Well today I had lunch with one of the owners of the company I work for and that bigger opportunity dropped in my lap...I knew I had already taken a lot of steps post retreat and was implementing day to day shifts in my approach to the work. I had done so to get control of my work instead of letting it control me. I had done so because I wanted time to pursue other activities outside of work. Little did I know that those shifts were being noticed. Little did I know that I was working smarter not harder.
I am still reeling trying to process it all. But If I ever doubted before I don't now. And if I am being honest I have to admit to a certain tinge of guilty pleasure about the fact that my ex husband made the choice he made and broke my heart and broke up our family and then lost his job and gained a ton of weight and aged 10 years... while me… well how does the title of Vice President and a $30,000 bonus and a big salary increase sound...?!!?!
However you look at it - God, Karma, the Universe, free will – my decision to go to the retreat and manifest my best life - well it really is an amazing thing.
I had what it took to make my life great all along. And I have to thank Matt and the whole team for reminding me who was in charge of my life and to keep the faith and to be open to the possibilities and for sharing all their hiccups and successes with me so openly because it really helped me believe...and then create!
January 28, 2017 – 5 mos. Post retreat #1
So... I decided to throw myself a birthday party. I turned 50 and I wanted something epic. The old me would have hinted and waited for someone to put something together. The new me rented a venue and hired a band and a caterer and sent out invitations and guess what – OVER 100 people showed up… FOR ME! Friends and family came from all over. It was amazing. I have never been more humbled and grateful.
Feb 16, 2017 – 6 mos. Post retreat #1
So... I have to tell you a little bit of a success story...
I used to have a completely irrational fear of getting up and speaking in front of groups of people. I can trace it back to an incident in the fourth grade when I was selected to do the Pledge of Allegiance at the morning assembly. I got up to say the words every student in America knows so well and I completely blanked - couldn't remember a word of it. I was mortified and ran off the bandstand in tears. From then on speaking in public or even going up to a group of people and talking produced a massive stress response. I would shake and sweat and feel sick. I had to start working on ways to address it but the fear response was physical and palpable and had taken on a life of its own. Didn't know what to do!
Some real breakthroughs happened after the identity statement portion of the retreat. This was a big one - I had to take point and spontaneously speak to a group of 100 kindergarten parents. This was unexpected and I was completely unprepared. I had to get up totally off the cuff and unrehearsed. Ordinarily this would have sent me into full blown panic mode. Or worse I would have “hidden” behind other parents pretending I didn’t know anything. Instead, I put on my big girl panties and I just did it. I didn't shake or sweat or vomit. After, I figured I survived that so "what the hell" and I took it a step further. I walked around to all the groups of parents and introduced myself and spent 1-3 minutes chatting with each and getting to know their interests and availability! The PTA was able to fill some board and chairperson positions that they were struggling to fill and get a new crop of volunteers. This NEVER would have happened a year ago – I was too busy telling myself I “couldn’t”. 1% shifts in day to day life produce BIG life shifts in the larger picture!
April 25, 2017 – 8 mos. Post retreat #1
I have another completely exciting and mind blowing success to share. Back in November I was offered a huge promotion 3 months to the day after the August retreat. I started the new role officially in January and just this past week I had an evaluation where I was told I had been doing phenomenally well and my efforts were recognized and appreciated. I am going to receive a huge bonus and a 10% salary increase.
I will keep the position and if I am able to continue to perform for another 3 mos.there will be a follow up evaluation come July. If all is on track at that time, I stand to receive another 22% bump in my salary and will be named the permanent VP.
I knew I had to get control of my work so I could be a more consistent and stable presence in my children’s lives. Plus I came to terms with the fact that the last 3 years of my marriage were a roller coaster and the two years we were separated were not great either. The retreat helped me see that my inability to let go was hurting me and hurting my kids. Two months to the day after leaving the San Diego retreat, I was divorced. And a weight was lifted. My kids noticed a huge difference almost right away. I made a commitment to be less stressed and harried and to make time to listen to them. We focused on having dinner together as a family at least 1 – 2 nights a week (and this can be a challenge with Soccer and karate and dance). I insisted and it created some great conversations and interactions and opened the door to doing ‘adventures’ together on the weekends. All of these moments in time gave me the opportunity to connect with my children and reacquaint myself with the amazing people that they are. My youngest son finished 5th grade as the Student of the Year – a huge honor given by students, faculty and staff. My middle son is a genius (no joke) and is on the Principals Honor Roll at Middle School. He is also a budding magician and very entertaining. My beautiful daughter, after 12 years as a competitive dancer, just started her freshmen year at University of Hawaii as a marine biology major. She wants to save the coral reefs and marine eco system because of what they contribute to the world’s supply of oxygen. Pretty amazing right? And, lets talk about the 1% shift - I finally allowed myself to acknowledge that I had a pretty big hand in raising all of them to be the amazing people they are – I was and am the example! One of my goals in the retreat was to find more focus at my job and create better work life balance. I did it and NOW look at what is resulting from those shifts!!!! This is so amazing I am quite literally speechless and beyond grateful. Can’t wait to see everyone in Florida in June.
August 16, 2017 – 1 year Post retreat #1 and 2 mos. Post retreat #2
The changes in my life have been amazing. I knew I would come out of the retreat process with goals and tools. I also knew there would be challenges. What I didn’t know was how prepared I would feel to face all of them and consequently how much I would want to share what I have learned and help others have the same experience of their life. So much changed so quickly after the first retreat and I was blown away by the strides in my life. I accomplished so much that I needed to regroup and refocus and identify new areas for improvement.
The biggest challenge area for me going into my second retreat was authenticity in relationships – making real connections and identifying real friends. My second retreat was about being real and being vulnerable with the next level of people in my life. I had to get a handle on some of the relationships I was investing a lot of time and energy in…and some that I wasn’t investing in at all and as a result didn’t feel good about them.
In truth, I had to start protecting my energy and surrounding myself with more positive influences.
Since the retreat, I have had to set some strong boundaries. I have had to let a few people go. It was hard, but I simply told the truth. I have focused on people and things that bring value to my life and to whom I bring value. It has unexpectedly led to some profound changes in my day to day feelings and believe it or not, I am less stressed than I have felt in a very long time.
I even started dating again. And I am really proud of how I can focus on my standards and not feel guilty about having them. I pay attention to behaviors and if I see something that concerns me, I speak to it. It has even changed how I deal with my ex because I was able to let go of all the disappointments. He no longer has the power to trigger me like he did. I just don’t fall for it.
With two retreats under my belt, this is where I stand now… I call it Susi’s Lessons you are never too old to learn in life (and trust me, I can say that at 50!)…
My parents were totally unavailable and when they are around they were intolerant and abusive. My dad was verbally abusive and emotionally absent and cold and controlling. My mom was perpetually selfish and codependent. I was sexually abused at 8 years old and I was too afraid to tell anyone because I thought it was my fault. My brother got everything he wanted - all he had to do was ask and they gave and gave and gave. I on the other hand busted my ass every day for crumbs. I was a straight A student and the perfect kid but it was never enough. Finally I rebelled and I started drinking and staying out all night. I was an awful teen for a while, but I recovered my senses and went to college. I was raped in college by the captain of one of the sports teams. At another party I locked myself in a bathroom and crawled out a tiny window to escape another guy who threatened me. In my 20’s, I had a string of alcoholic and abusive boyfriends. I had a pattern. My brother was a drug addict and stole from me and then when I wouldn’t help him anymore he became homeless and disappeared for years and my parents blamed me. My first husband was infantile and abandoned me when I was 5 months pregnant with my daughter. My brother got clean and sober and came back into my life and then met a woman who he eventually married who “took my place” with the family. I was a struggling single mom and I dated some unbelievable assholes and tried to make a good life. Then Scott came along and here was this amazing guy who swept me off my feet and made me believe in the happily ever after. Well, we all know how that turned out...I married and then divorced a narcissist – but I ended up with two beautiful smart and amazing sons who I love dearly. And you know what, through it all, I am still standing.
I have often felt terrified that some of my darker feelings won’t go away. What I learned was that hiding from them, avoiding them, pretending I didn’t have them only made them bigger. But facing my fears - Looking at them and moving through them made them smaller and less frightening. Eventually they lose their power. My feelings don’t control me. I control them. And sometimes the best way to control them is to just allow them and then let them go.
All we have in this life is us, our life. I don’t think that being the best you can be each day is a bad goal. I think being able to say to yourself, “I did my best and that is enough” is an amazing accomplishment. I aim to live that every day. Sometimes I really suck, but I don’t stop trying to be the best version of myself, because at the end of the day, that is all I have got. And tomorrow is always a fresh start. I wake up a different person than I was the day before with new opportunities in front of me to live the way I want. Most of the time I end the day and applaud the effort. Maybe I didn’t get all the results I wanted that day, but as long as I tried it is worth rewarding myself for the effort.
Experience is a powerful teacher. But I have learned to be careful about the lessons I am taking away. I measure what I believe about an experience against the way I want to live my life and if the lesson doesn’t fit, I discard it. I never want to judge an entire group of people just because one or two of them were immature assholes. That isn’t fair to anyone, least of all me. But when people show me who they are, I believe them. That was a powerful lesson. So was learning not to ignore red flags.
I am often stronger than I think. I have more power than I believe. I don’t have to be miserable or scared or hurt – that is a choice. And when I decide I am done with something, then I am. So I guess what I am saying is that in spite of everything I am still finding things to be grateful for in every single day. Still looking for the positive things I can take away from every experience. Still striving for progress. And it isn’t really a matter of strength. There is no need to make comparisons because the truth is, I am no stronger or better or more grounded or more authentic than the next person, I just have a different attitude…and a whole lot more fun!
Septemeber 25 – 1 year and 1 month Post retreat #1 and 3 1/2 mos. Post retreat #2
I just spent the most amazing 5 days in New York with 8 retreat ladies. We had an experience of vulnerability, growth and healing that was unparalleled for me. I have always struggled with female friendships. Truthfully not sure I ever knew how to have them. I lacked trust. The retreat showed me an alternative viewpoint that I have come to cherish and I now know that I have an abundance of truly special ladies who surround me and lift me up continually. We spent 5 days together talking about every taboo subject there is – religion, politics, sex. We discussed our histories, our relationships, our children. We discussed our hangups and our fears. I experienced acceptance, understanding, empathy and unconditional love. I gave acceptance, understanding, empathy and unconditional love. For the first time in a long time I felt and enjoyed the experience of just holding space for another person to express how they felt. It was magical and I couldn’t have done it without the love of self that I learned at the retreat. Because you see, learning that I was going to be okay no matter what and that I was still going to be loved no matter what is what gave me the power to hold space willingly and unconditionally.