20151006_112001Having an apartment in San Francisco closer to my job means that my husband is now the traveling wayfarer in our marriage. (Someday remind me to write a post about how hot long distance relationships can be, okay?) But every three or four weeks, I head up the mountain to see my grandchildren.

Because I want my grandchildren remembering me as the cool grandma who made them think, I’ve started asking Sam, my 2-year old grandson, what he’s learned about life in the time we’ve been apart. I especially like this question because of the expressions it elicits from my daughter and her husband.

Usually Sam simply grabs his super cool, pedal-free Strider Bike and shows me how fast he can go while I applaud his derring-do. But sometimes Sam lays on me some deep philosophy about the pain of owies and the victory of band-aids.

When these magical moments happen, I listen intently to my little grandson-warrior’s dramatic tales of life v. death, and we commiserate together over the common human experience of falling, crashing, crying, and getting back up again.

After I kiss my little hero’s wounds, so valiantly won from battles with mankind’s archenemies: Gravity and Reality, he runs off and grabs his super cool, pedal-free Strider Bike. Because when you’re two years old you don’t get bogged down in yesterday’s owie; you get back on that bike, and you ride again.

Like I said: Deep Philosophy.

Recovering From Failure

Two years ago, immediately following my humiliating failure as a professional blogger-slash-community-builder-slash-entrepreneur, I returned to full-time, that is, paying work as a traveling labor and delivery RN. The last two years have been busy and fruitful. I thought I’d take a little time out to share what I’ve learned so far about failure, shame, humiliation, and the power of getting back up again.

Lesson #1: Make Friends with Loneliness

If you want to recover from having your ass handed to you on a platter or, as Brené Brown calls it in her new book, Rising Strong, lying face down in the arena, you’re first going to have to cuddle up to your new best–and possibly only–friends: Shame and Humiliation. Because when you fail, pretty much everybody else who can get away from you, will.

It’s true what they say, “Everybody loves a winner, but when you lose, you lose alone.”

When you fail, other humans instinctively avert their eyes. And the ones who don’t look away are either reveling in your defeat or demanding that you get over it as quickly as possible. Nobody has time for your suffering.

The loneliness that rides into your life on the tail of failure is horrible. This is where you’re going to find out the ugly truth about the people you thought you could count on. And this is where you’re going to sit by yourself licking your wounds alone.

Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset

You might be lonely but, like I said, you aren’t alone. Shame and humiliation are sitting right next to you telling you what a loser you are, how it’s no wonder everyone has abandoned you, and that everything is your own damned fault because you are stupid and worthless and why did you try anyway?

This the dark place. This is face down in the arena. The crowds have left for the victory parade, and you are not invited.

Loneliness is always the first stop on the bus ride to Failure Town.

At least you and I can take some small comfort in the knowledge that loneliness is not some strange phenomenon unique to us when we fall flat on our ass. None other than the great biblical King David wrote extensively in the book of Psalms about his shame and humiliation after being dethroned by the evil conniver, Absalom, and the loneliness he experienced after all of his so-called friends and his previously cheering fans abandoned him.

Expert_AdvicePRO TIP: Try taking your eyes off of your self-pity–just for a moment–and pay attention to the people who haven’t abandoned you. These are the people who will show up for your victory lap later. Don’t alienate them by being too much of a self-absorbed asshat while you’re lying there feeling sorry for yourself.

Lesson #2: Take Full Responsibility

They say everything happens for a reason.


Let’s just say for a minute that your failure might be your own damned fault. Maybe you were stupid and made a bad decision. That’s okay. Because…

Making a mistake is not a sin, and failure is not a crime. You aren’t necessarily a bad person because you made unwise choices. (Caveat: If you are reading this from prison where you are serving a life sentence for murder, this does not apply to you.)

Maybe failure is all you have left after you’ve been sent home when Going Big didn’t work out, but at least it’s yours.

Yeah, I get it. They done us wrong. It sucks and they suck, but that’s not going to help us now. The sooner we can get to the most honest narrative that doesn’t portray us as the victim of our story, the sooner we can take back our lives and move forward.

Unfortunately, while loneliness is painful, taking personal responsibility is often very hard to swallow.

PRO TIP: It requires a great deal of courage to take responsibility for your failure. I’ve found cultivating curiosity the sugar that helps the bitter pill of personal responsibility go down.

Lesson #3: Cultivate Curiosity

Cultivating curiosity means that you put down the emotional drama, step away from your victim story, and try to look objectively at what happened and why.

Expert_AdvicePRO TIP: Because it’s hard to look objectively at your failure while shame and humiliation are beating the shit out of you, help from a counselor or trained therapist may be in order.

WARNING: You might have to try more than one counselor.

The first counselor I saw about losing my company gave me this sage advice, “Have you just tried being yourself?”

What the fuck sort of advice was that? Of course I’d tried being myself. That was the fucking problem, lady!

Turns out this lady didn’t know what a blog is. She wasn’t even on Facebook! She might be a perfectly great counselor for other people, but she didn’t have enough knowledge about how social media works–or what online bullying is like–to help me.

But I didn’t give up. I kept searching for a counselor until I found one who specializes in creativity. She’s been a godsend.

Cultivating curiosity made me able to take responsibility for my own mess I’d made.

At the very beginning, when the community of Generation Fabulous began turning into a business, I wisely sought out advice from a successful woman I respect very, very much. This woman told me straight up that the people I was bringing into my project were not suited to the task and, if I didn’t change my course immediately, my business would most certainly fail.

I knew she was right, but I told her that I couldn’t see a way out that wouldn’t cost me a friendship that meant a great deal to me. Then she told me something I wasn’t ready to hear: Your friendship is already over.

I hung up the phone after talking to this consultant, and then knowingly walked down a doomed path.

It took me four months to admit to myself a truth I’d known from the beginning: The minute my friend had said she wouldn’t be my friend anymore if I didn’t make her a partner in my business was the minute our friendship was over.

PRO TIP: Dig deeper. Your first take on the situation probably isn’t all that’s there.

So the deeper question is, “Why did this relationship mean so much to me that I was willing to work against my own best interests to keep it?”

In 2007, the year I became friends with this person, my world was falling apart. My 16-year old son was rebelling; my 18-year old daughter was getting married younger than I wished; and my mother had landed on my doorstep with Stage IV colorectal cancer, no health insurance, and owing $100,000 in back taxes to the IRS. On top of that, in March of 2007, I’d had a serious theological disagreement with the leaders of my church and had left, thus eliminating one of my primary support systems.

By the end of 2007, when this person, and a few others, came into my life, I was in a particularly vulnerable position. When these women picked me as a friend, I latched on to them like a drowning man grabs on to a life raft. And in 2013, when this proverbial life raft had turned into my version of Pi’s boat, I didn’t know what to do. All I knew was that I couldn’t let go or it would hurt really bad.

Because of my unwillingness to face the truth about my relationships, my inability to confront my fear of rejection, and my shame over not really knowing anything about how to run a business, I’d set up a situation where failure was all but guaranteed.

I can play victim tapes in my head all day long about how I’ve been wronged, but I knew from the beginning I was making a terrible mistake. And I made it anyway.

Lesson #4: Face Your Fears. Face Yourself.

A few months ago, Julie Stoian of Fabulous Blogging asked the following question in her blogger Facebook Group:

What is Your Greatest Obstacle in Writing?

What followed was a bunch of comments about lack of time, lack of ideas, lack of commitment, blah, blah, blah.

I call bullshit.

facing_fearThe greatest obstacle to any creative endeavor is fear, pure and simple. It could be fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of judgment, or maybe even fear of success–it doesn’t matter–at the end of the day, it’s fear that keeps us from expressing our creativity.

None of us want to fail, much less fail in front of everyone. It’s embarrassing. It’s humiliating. It’s shameful. And shame feels awful.

Ironically, shame can be found in success, too.

When Generation Fabulous was at its height of success, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was talking to big corporations, like Pfizer and AARP, and trying to fake it until I made it like they tell you on Twitter. But all I felt like was a frightened fraud.

At blogging conferences–where I maybe should have felt like a success–I was overwhelmed by all the people who came up to me expecting me to know their names, remember everything they’d ever written or said, plus help them achieve a blogging stardom I didn’t even believe existed anymore. Worse, I was scared shitless someone would figure out that I had no idea what I was doing. And the more successful I got, the more horrible I felt.

Then: Panic Attacks.

I’m an introvert at heart, not the extrovert I sometimes play on the Internet. I tried to compensate for my inadequacies with perfectionism. But perfectionism carries its own suitcase of shame since–deep inside–perfectionists know it’s all a lie.

More shame followed when it all fell apart. And I didn’t know what to do about that either, so I ran away.

I felt ashamed that people had rejected me. It was humiliating that people were talking about me behind my back. And the shame and humliation isn’t entirely gone. Whenever I see someone who has unfriended me on Facebook, or just plain ignores me now altogether, that same old shame revisits me. And suddenly, there I am again, sitting alone with my shame and humiliation, having those same old conversations in my head, right back to Lessons #1 and #2 where I’m recreating another useless victim narrative.

Expert_AdvicePRO TIP: Recovering from failure isn’t a straight line. You can’t rush it, or bullshit your way through with false bravado or by listening to Idina Menzel sing Let it Go a hundred billion times. Recovering from failure means slogging your way through painful feelings of shame and worthlessness, it means facing your worst self, and it means struggling to find a better self you can believe in again. It also means learning to trust yourself and others all over again.

Standing back up after life has kicked the shit out of you is hard, hard work, and anybody who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

Lesson #5: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Something Else

The last two years have been some of the most productive of my entire life and none of it would have happened if I hadn’t dared greatly and failed spectacularly. I see now that I have spent far too much of my life avoiding failure when failure was the next indicated step. I’m now left wondering how many times I’ve cheated myself out of life’s most glorious lessons and greatest opportunities that can only be had through defeat.

The failure of my business ended toxic relationships that could have ended better if only I’d been courageous enough to end them myself. It’s a shame that I couldn’t do that more gracefully, but I don’t need to stay ashamed. The hard truth is that some relationships have expiration dates, and those relationships had surpassed their’s.

Instead of shame, I can rejoice that the end of those relationships opened me up to new relationships with stronger women, like Jessica Gottlieb and Audrey Van Petegem, who don’t need me to feel lesser about myself to feel better about themselves.

I’ve also learned from this experience that I no longer need to approach my relationships with women like a seven-year-old standing on the playground just hoping I don’t get picked last for kickball.

If I hadn’t started a business, I’d have never been brave enough to quit my dead-end job on the mountain and try travel nursing. If I hadn’t risked becoming a traveling labor and delivery nurse (now that’s some scary shit!), I might never have learned what a good nurse I am, or how brave I am, or what it feels like to make–me, myself, and I–a six-figure income. (It feels fantastic, by the way!)

I rarely (or never) quote the poet Britney Spears, but since we just bought our tickets to Paris so we can go party in France next year this song feels especially right.

You want to know how to recover from failure? You better work, b*tch.



pearl_of_great_priceThe day after I published my last post I received a fiery dart disguised as a question via Facebook private messenger from another blogger who ironically markets herself as a “Christian Humor Writer.” This funny lady asked,

“How can you say [the child I aborted] mattered when you killed her?”

I presume this comedian’s question was rhetorical–borne not out of curiosity, but merely meant to hurt and shame–because she immediately unfriended me thereby blocking any reply.

You might think I felt shame or hurt after being called a baby killer by some woman I’ve never met, but what I felt was sadness because now she’s never going to hear the miraculous if decidedly very unfunny story of how Jesus saved even a wretch like me from being exactly what I confessed in that post that I’d become: A selfish, self-centered, battered and bruised, drug-addicted, baby-killing slut.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

shutterstock_163111787In the Book of Matthew, Jesus tells a story about a good shepherd who leaves his 99 obedient sheep to go find one who is missing. Jesus says that when this shepherd found his one lost sheep he rejoiced over it even more than the 99 who stayed put.

It’s been three months since I published that post about how it was I found myself pregnant and lying on the floor with the wind punched out of me by the father of my baby. But it isn’t shame that’s kept me from writing the next installment of the most important story I’ll ever tell. It’s fear. Fear is always the enemy of a writer.

Mostly I’m afraid that I’m not up to the task of telling this story because this story means everything to me. This story of God’s unwarranted love for me is my one and only precious pearl of great price. This pearl cost me everything. It cost me my self-worth. It cost me my self-respect. It cost me everything I believed about myself and about God. But most of all this pearl cost my child her life, and I can never forget the evil I did and the price my child paid to save a wholly undeserving wretch like me.

I also must confess that I’m afraid that after seven years of alienating most of my Christian audience, I’m about to drive away everyone else by publicly admitting that despite it all–and by “all” I mean all that American Christianity has become, and my myriad of ethical, moral and theological problems with it and everything I’ve said or written about my faith in the past seven years–thanks to this one holy and sacred encounter with the Divine, I remain to this day a true believer in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

I am the one sheep. And maybe you are, too. And despite my terror, this is me leaping over my fear to find you.

The Plight of the True Believer

Maybe the shepherd has already found you, and like me you also have a miraculous story of God’s unfathomable love and grace, but because others who seem to hold some religious authority have shamed you you’ve learned to keep your own pearl of great price hidden out of self-preservation.

Jesus taught his followers not to bother casting their pearls before swine. Like you, I have also been dismayed to discover that the swine Jesus warned his followers about are not always unbelievers but very often those who have risen to positions of religious power and authority. But why are we dismayed? This is exactly as Jesus found the world when he came in the first place.

Yes, it is disheartening that the other 99 sheep may likely never appreciate our stories of God’s amazing grace and unearned love, but we cannot give them the power to silence us. They have become like the prodigal son’s older brother: resentful and jealous, consumed with showing off their own self-righteousness. Rather than feeling angry at the modern-day Pharisees God puts in our path, we should instead be grateful that we’ll never have their cross to bear. How heavy self-righteousness must be. Even more challenging, you and I must find some way to help our blind and deaf brothers and sisters shoulder the weight of a cross they don’t even know they carry.

Maybe you’re still a very lost sheep who has somehow stumbled upon this blog post and are wondering, “WTF?”. Maybe you’ve become worried that God will never find you. Maybe you even think God has stopped searching for you. Maybe you’ve been told by someone who holds some religious authority that God is no longer looking for the likes of you. This is a terrible lie. Please do not believe it.

Maybe you’re among those who think you’re a very good hider, and God will never find you if you have anything to do about it. Or maybe you just don’t believe God’s love and grace is looking for you because you don’t need it. Maybe that is true. Maybe some people never feel the need for God’s love and grace. Since that’s not me I admit I don’t really understand this. I seem to find myself in constant need of God’s love and grace. Fortunately for me, it seems that no matter how many times I wander off, God always comes looking for me again.

A True Believer?

Being a True Believer doesn’t mean I don’t have doubts about whether there is a God or not. I have serious doubts. But despite my disbelief, I cling to a hope that there is a God who loves us not despite our worst behavior but because He knows that when we’re at our worst is when we need His love the most.

In the months before my mother died, she said to me, “It really sucks to reach the end of your life story and realize that you weren’t the main character.” I’m not the main character of this story. If anything, I’m the villain. I fucked up my life beyond repair, and I have nobody to blame for it but myself.

That Christian Humor Writer reminded me of the gauntlet of angry, yelling “pro-life” protestors in front of the clinic I walked into on that terrible day in early February of 1985 on my way to have an abortion I did not want. It’s not very funny at all that not a single one of them put down their ugly sign to ask me what they could do to help me not kill my baby. Nope, that’s not funny at all.


I Do Not Regret My Abortion

Click bait. I’m shamelessly admitting that the title, I Do Not Regret My Abortion, is click bait. I’d have much rather entitled this piece, “The Story of Amber Danielle” but nobody would read that. And I want people to read this. I want people to know about Amber and what her short life meant, and […]

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Are You a Still a Christian?

In the past few months I’ve been asked if I’m still a believer, and even more importantly: Why? When I’m asked if I’m still a Christian I must admit I feel a little stab of pain. Does my life in fact so poorly reflect my faith? And I guess I must be honest and admit […]

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Say Good-Bye to All of Your Stuff: An Amateur’s Guide to Downsizing

That Fire Sale on my life I promised back in November of 2012 is nearly over. By this time next week, all of my earthly possessions will either have been sold off at garage sale, placed in a metal container at a self-storage unit, donated to the local humane society, or thrown into the trash. Downsizing is Not […]

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Living the Curated Life

Every month, I pay WP Engine® $50 to host this blog on a dedicated server. I also pay Bluehost money for some reason they’ve tried to explain to me over and over again but I still can’t figure out. Personally, I think it’s a racket. All I know is that last year when I stopped […]

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You Are Invited to a FLOR Design and Wine Event in San Francisco

This time next year we hope to break ground on our new house. A couple of days ago I stopped by our land before heading back to The City for this video to help remind me why I’m working so hard. Sometimes I watch this little minute of heaven while on my break at work […]

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Outlander Starz Season Finale: Spoilers and All

Warning: There be Spoilers here, and as a long-time reader of the Outlander book series I’m also going to engage in some cross-comparison between the book and this episode. Outlander Season Finale. Finally, Everything Wentworth Prison. I just finished watching the Starz Season Finale of Outlander, To Ransom a Man’s Soul, because my dearest husband in the […]

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How AARP Membership Can Save You Money?

I’m not sure of the exact moment when retirement became something I think about, but I do know it’s not anything I thought about at all when I was a young mom raising my kids. Frankly, if I’d been thinking about retirement I’m not sure I’d have chosen to be a full-time stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) for […]

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I’m off to Life@50+ National Event in Miami!

At the invitation of AARP, I’ll be attending the Life@50+ National Event in Miami, Florida next week as a social media champion. It wasn’t exactly easy squeezing in a 6000-mile roundtrip for a couple of days between shifts at the hospital, but since my personal mission and AARP’s corporate vision sync so well these days I took them up […]

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