On ham sandwiches and grief.

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I wrote this piece a couple of years back with and for my writing group as part of a larger braided essay that we have yet to share.

But I think my friend Dyana needed to hear it. And I think I needed to share it, as I approach the anniversary of my Mama’s death.

I hope you enjoy. And because this is a tough time of the year for so so many, I hope you find the ways to hug your people long and hard and true. And to delight in the foods that mean something to you.

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I want to talk about ham sandwiches. And a dear old family friend, we’ll call Auntie P, who called them sangwiches in her adorable Scottish lilt.

She was a child of the Depression. It’s true, she really was, but my grandmother mentioned this, like, A LOT. Perhaps as some way to normalize her best friend’s extreme thriftiness.

Auntie P herself said she was “frugal”.  I loved the way she said it - frugal. It was a foreign word to me when I first heard it, and I assumed it was another word for fancy. She also always spoke in “pennies”. “People in those big houses just have a few more pennies to rub together than we do, sweetie.” Somehow when she said that, it made me imagine that she had piles of pennies upon which to sit.

But back to sangwiches.

When I was about seven, Auntie P and her soon-to-be late husband H went on a trip around the world. On a ship. How marvelous. I couldn’t wait to hear tales of Asia and deepest, darkest Peru (from whence my beloved Paddington Bear came.)

But it was Sweden that she wanted to talk about.

“When we got off the boat, they were handing out free ham sangwiches. FREE! And you could line up twice or even thrice without anyone so much as batting an eye.”

I wondered what it was like to be a child of the Depression. It was hard to imagine sweet old Auntie P at any age other than her tightly permed blue rinsed hair, sensible sturdy flat black shoes and nude coloured knee high stockings would allow. And I could imagine plenty.

But at a minimum, I knew the Depression meant that bread was rare and butter was scarce and ham was impossible to find. I pictured her in her cot (it was a cot, when I thought of it) coping with the pain in her empty belly by dreaming of ham sandwiches.

Dreaming of a time when she might have piles of pennies upon which to sit. Traveling around the world by ship. Being met on the shore with free sangwiches. Dream-by-dream. That’s how I would have coped, in any case.

Did she go within? I’ve never been too sure. We certainly never spoke of it. But I know for a fact that she went without. A lot.

So every occasion included ham sangwiches. Easter, Christmas luncheons, afternoon visits, bridge parties, funerals, christenings, and birthdays and any justbecause reason you could think of. Sandwich-by-sandwich, we celebrated and mourned.

I suspect this was the tie that bonded Auntie P and my mother, their love of ham sandwiches. For my mother though, it wasn’t about the sandwich itself. It was about being made a ham sandwich. That was a devotional labour of love.

Now, I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead. I really really don’t. But I didn’t enjoy Auntie P’s ham sandwiches. You see, I was not a child of the Depression, so good quality Black Forest ham was plentiful in my refrigerator. But for Auntie P, ham was ham, and pennies were pennies that needed to be rubbed together, for whatever reason one would rub pennies together. Seemed to me the fewer pennies the ham cost, the lighter the pinkish hue, ‘til Auntie P’s ham was but one shade above white. More opalescent than anything else, slightly slick with gelatin.

But her delight in displaying the sangwiches was legendary. With flourish rivaled only by her best friend Milly, she would summon us to the oilcloth covered table with a “come and get it, dearies”. And my mother delighted that a ham sandwich, any ham sandwich, was served with love.

I hope you find ways the ways to hug your people long and hard and true. 

We would often go to the Copper Kettle for lunch, a sandwich counter marked by a huge marquee of copper sequins that flapped in the wind. I loved going there.  Not because the sandwiches were good – they weren’t much better than P’s, bless her, but mostly because of the sign and the ride. My grandmother would drive her fire orange Plymouth (that today would be called a muscle car) like a bat out of hell. Auntie P and I would sit always sit in the back bench seat, no seat belts of course, this was late 70’s after all, and as my grandmother took the corners like every corner was the last one she’d ever get to experience, Auntie P would squeal: “here we go ‘round the get together corner” like it was a midway ride.

If she didn’t say it, I’d worry she wasn’t well. Hearing her say that was as satisfying as the little green light when the power adaptor has made its connection with the MacBook.

But. That’s it, isn’t it?

Connection.

She didn’t teach me to knit, but we did spend pleasant evenings munching ham sandwiches and cross-stitching little kitten patterns purchased from the dollar store. The teeny stitches both confounded and delighted me. Auntie P’s patience was infinite even as her eyes failed and the lights were dim in her sitting room. My eyes were strong, my patience, less so. Three stitches done and I was anxious to see the green eye completed, not just a fraction of the pupil.

It was through Martha Stewart that I learned to knit and purl. The sum of my output to date includes three scarves and one lap blanket and a couple of things I've forgotten about. But the crowning jewel of my knitting prowess was a mohair afghan I knit for my mother when she was very very very sick. It was of the most exquisite fuchsia colour imaginable.

A little more purple than pink, but just enough pink to brighten her cheeks as she snuggled it in her chair, nibbling appreciatively, but with no appetite, on the ham sandwiches I would bring her. Lovingly prepared, crusts cut off, to mimic “fancy sandwiches” of the high teas she wished we went to with much greater frequency. Like, more than twice in her lifetime.

I speak of the afghan in the past tense because we had it cremated with her. It was clear to me she’d want to take it with her wherever she went. You know, when I saw her ashes, I half expected to see fuchsia mohair fluff among the pallid sombre gray. Gray that was a little more white than black, but not enough to be lively. No, anything but lively. Of course not. How could ashes of a dead mother be lively? If anything, it was a detached colour. Can a colour be detached?

The mind’s funny that way. I mean, I know how cremation works – it’s not complicated – everything in the path of the fire gets incinerated. But still…I had hoped to see that fluff.

We served ham sandwiches at her wake, of course. Ham sandwiches, and egg salad sandwiches, and cucumber mint sandwiches, and lemon bars, and nanaimo bars, and scones with clotted cream, and a whole other varietal of delights you’d find at high tea. It was a tough time. I had an 8 month old with a ferocious diaper rash, a father who was...mourning and a sister who…missed her mother. I organized every detail. Including the eulogy. The thank you roses to the nurses’ station. The obituary. In truth, I’m sure I forgot more details than I remembered, but I know for a fact that remembered to cut off the crusts. Remembering those details was how I coped. Task-by-task.

I don’t recall Auntie P’s funeral. I think I probably wasn’t allowed to attend. Too distressing for little girls, you see.

But there can be no doubt that her final get-together corner included ham sangwiches.

Or at least, I pray that this is so.

Unshakeable Confidence

Unshakeable confidence is the kind of confidence that you can count on and that won’t quit you.

But.

It’s not about never having your confidence waver. Nuh uh.

What we know about in these fiercely trying times, is that we need to hang onto something...and often that something is in our own capacity.

Now, to be clear, you may think I’m suggesting you don’t have confidence. Nope.
But I’m talking about the kind that you can count when it’s time to do the important stuff. Like...have the hard conversations. Make the big asks. Say NO. Level up.

I’ve made quite the study of this, as I am endlessly fascinated by what it takes for people to do remarkable things in times of adversity. How people step up, rise up, stand up when it seems like life is trying to keep them down.

I witness it in my beloved clients, leaders I admire and folx weathering the storms of uncertainty and those who have said: Nuh-uh. Nope. Not today.

There seems to be this through-line running through all of their experiences.

UNSHAKEABLE CONFIDENCE

So I’ve been paying pretty close attention and I do believe I’ve figured it out.

Actually...I KNOW I’ve figured it out.

Unshakeable confidence isn’t something you HAVE. It’s something you cultivate, practice, devote yourself to.

And when you practice it? You become FAR more resilient to the Impostor Complex when it shows up (and it will.)

You can see the Impostor Complex’s lies for what they are, and have a faster recovery when it tries to take you out.

You expand your capacity to bring in more, much more, of what you desire.

You know what it’s comprised of?

Lean in.

It’s about knowing what you stand for.

Knowing who you are and what you’re HERE FOR.

Taking right action from there.

Whether it’s swinging out on your dreams, hiring the team, raising prices, speaking your message to bigger audiences, or setting bigger goals.

Unshakeable Confidence is the practice of a lifetime.

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THERE are three cornerstones of UC.
Three legs of a stool, each with their own value and merit. Each of equal importance.

Integrity means you trust in what you stand for.

Presence means you know who you are and what you’re here for.

Action means you get it done.

Like I said: three legs of a stool. Each of equal merit and value. Each of equal importance.

And when all three are engaged, the stool is stable. It is unshakeable.

When you have Integrity and Presence engaged, you can TRUST in it.
When you have Integrity and Action engaged, you can ACTIVATE from it
When you have Action and Presence engaged, you can COUNT on it

Does that mean you will never wobble again? That you’ll never second-guess your decision?

No. Our fears and insecurities our life’s challenges get more sophisticated alongside of our own evolution.

But when we know what we’re up against, we can make better, more aligned choices when your foundation isn't cobbled together between your mood, worries about how much other people think of you and caffeine.

We can ask ourselves how we are honouring presence, integrity and action and make different choices.

INTEGRITY

You know the oft-cited saying “if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for everything?” Absolute truth. If integrity needed a bumper sticker, it would be that.

And what I know about integrity is this:

  • it’s comprised of relentless obedience to your vision
  • it’s about honouring your word
  • it’s about operating from authenticity
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For me, Business Strategist, Author, Podcaster and Community-Builder Tara Gentile is the literal epitome of integrity. In business and in life. As long as I’ve known her, she has been driven by a desire to build another way of dispersing power...a New Economy. One where outsiders become insiders become leaders and collective wisdom reigns supreme.

It’s what she stands for and what she stands in. Over the years, this vision has been refined and expressed in new and innovative ways, from an actual co-working space in Oregon, to its current iteration: CoCommercial, the online business brain trust and virtual office space for over 700 and counting members.

Her word is her code and her code is all about lifting up others. And she shows up with pure unadulterated authenticity. Who she seems to be is who she is.

She is integrity. And her vision is blossoming as a result.

TO be clear, she is also steeped in presence and action. Integrity and action actually are her set points, but she’s done work with PRESENCE.

Consider:

  • What do YOU stand for?
  • What visions are you obedient to?
  • Do you honour your word?
  • Do you show up authentically?

Integrity, my friends. Nothing, and I mean nothing beats it.

PRESENCE

There’s a reason Amy Cuddy wrote an entire book devoted to it...she posits that they opposite of Fear is not Fearlessness, but rather PRESENCE.

And to me, Presence comes down to three things:

  • it’s about grounding into your POWER
  • it’s about knowing who you ARE and what makes you YOU
  • it’s about having reverence for that sacred being that you are

It’s about placing value on what you are, WHO you are...the very things that are not fleeting. And the very things that are not outside of you, like your numbers, fans, followers and dollars in the bank.

Presence is in knowing who you are, where you come from and where you’re going.

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Take Lena West, Business Growth Mentor to unapologetic women entrepreneurs. (Even by her HANDLE you know that she knows who she is.)

I had the honour of spending nine months with Lena in the Starring Role Academy and let me tell you, day in, day out, Lena was rooted in her seat of POWER, knew who she was, and was a model for us all for being reverent for the gifts she’d been given. And that knowing who she is (and isn’t) gave her the space to be wildly generous and expansive within the context of her massive capacity.

In fact, within the halls of the Academy, we started to adopt her catch-phrase “I’m here for that.”

It was short form for I’m not here for everything, but I know what I know, and I know who I am and I know what I’m here for.

Feel THAT presence? #I’mhereforTHAT

Unmistakable and unshakeable.

Consider:

  • What are YOU here for?
  • Are you rooted in your power?
  • How well do you know your values?
  • How do you practice reverence for the glorious being you are?

ACTION

People think confidence creates action.

Nerp.

Action creates confidence. PARTICULARLY action rooted in integrity built upon presence.

Hesitation creates the mountains...action moves it.

But action isn’t all heft and rigour and sweat all the time.

It’s vulnerable, and tender.

And:

  • it’s about a willingness to fail
  • it’s about being resilient
  • it’s about being tenacious
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And when I think of ACTION? I think of Starring Role Academy Alumni Maggie Patterson and Brittany Becher of Scoop Industries. These two mega Mavens are unstoppable (tattoos are coming, I’m told)

When the online industry zigs, they root into what they do best and keep on going, better, stronger, more powerfully than ever, releasing some clients and bringing on even more that were truly aligned.

When Maggie realized that she had been hiding behind her work, I saw her pushing herself out onto social media compelling people to invite her onto their podcast.

When Brittany calls herself out for holding back in perfectionism, I see her swing out and say NO to it (I’ve been following along on their “Say NOvember” Instagram challenge)

Action looks like asking for what you need.
Action looks like saying NO.
Action looks like receiving.
Action looks like DOING.

Action looks like getting it DONE like these two Unshakeable, Unstoppable Small Business Bosses.

Consider:

  • What do you make happen?
  • What are you willing to risk?
  • How well are you cultivating resilience in yourself?
  • What does tenacity look like for you?

And here’s where things get massively fascinating for me.

You know how I’m always talking about the Impostor Complex and the coping mechanism that we go to to avoid feeling like an Impostor?

Perfectionism, procrastination, diminishment, comparison, people-pleasing and leaky boundaries?

Welp, turns out they are

  1. Confidence killers,  AND
  2. Important keys to the unshakeable confidence puzzle

Got that?

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We KNOW when we’re not honouring integrity, because we are stuck in:  leaky boundaries or people-pleasing.

We KNOW we aren’t honouring presence, because we get stuck in: diminishment or comparison.

We KNOW we aren’t taking action because we are stuck in: procrastination or perfectionism.

Super handy to see that, right?

Okay.

Now you know.

Which stool leg has your confidence feeling wobbly? What needs attention?

Because when you DO stabilize the stool:

  • You will have a faster recovery when the Impostor Complex shows up.
  • You will ask for the raise.
  • Say yes to the speaking gig.
  • Go for the book deal.
  • Build the platform.
  • Plan for massive growth in your business.
  • Stand up for what you know to be right.
  • Surround yourself with the best
  • Ask for what you need.
  • Pursue excellence, but remaining untethered to perfectionism
  • You become an EXPERT in catching yourself when you start to waver those coping mechanisms crop up
  • You expand your capacity to bring in more, much more, of what you desire.
  • And more is no longer a word that scares you….MUCH
  • Show up for you, for your work, for THEM, for your soul

That’s what I want for you.

Consider joining me and the 20+ women who have already stepped into the Starring Role Academy for a life-changing nine months of practicing Unshakeable Confidence and activating on your dreams. Fit is EVERYTHING. Hop on a 20 minute call with me December 5th only!

When Your Client Climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro

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...you’ll want to know one thing.

HOW?

How did he DO it?

So of course I asked.

And he shared generously and fully.

Lo and behold, he shared the six steps to doing ANYTHING remarkable (which loosely translated is the “Step into Your Starring Role” process…but this is his story, not mine,)
 

  1. Set the goal. Make sure it’s aligned and that it’s YOURS...and no one else’s.
  2. Prepare for the obstacles. And for him, there were three distinct levels of preparedness required:

  • Physical conditioning.

  • Getting the right gear.

  • Acclimatization. (Four days prior to the final ascent, they did a pre-trek walk to get used to it all. The altitude, the lack of cellular service, the cold...all of it.)

      3. Get the help...lean fully into the guides who are devoted to your success.

      4. Remind yourself all the times you did something terrifying and came out the other side (or on top, as it were.)

      5. Grind it out. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. No shortcuts.

      6. CELEBRATE. Reallllllly root into the magnitude of the accomplishment.

So this is all formidable and incredible to hear and I wanted no details spared. The highest I’ve ever climbed was the CN Tower...and it’s possible that I’ve reimagined history, and in fact, that I’ve only ever walked down...not up. Oy.

But what intrigued me the most in his recounting of the experience was the reverence that he had for the guides who lead them safely up, then down the mountain.

My client is a LEADER, through and through. A tremendously likeable person with strong opinions and high integrity, so I leaned in to hear more about what he perceived in his Kilimanjaro guides. I knew it would tell me everything I needed to know about him..to help him get to where he wants to be.

"Because what we admire in others tells us all we need to know about what’s available to us. With some attention."

TWEET IT!

He said that the guides had the group set off in the middle of the night so that the climb wouldn’t get too hot in the mid-day. But my client suspects that it was so that climbers wouldn’t be able to see the peak of the mountain in the dark and lose their cool knowing how far they still had to climb.

Lesson: 1 Good leaders hold the vision for the group.

Over the course of the climb, the guides uttered one consistent refrain...like a mantra: “pole, pole” which is Swahili for “slowly, slowly.” Everyone can climb quickly at lower altitudes. But over the entirety of 19,000 feet, fewer, slower steps will get you there faster. And more safely.

Lesson 2: Good leaders know the dangers of rushing. One deliberate foot in front of the next is the way to climb any mountain.

After about 4 hours of climbing, at around 5am when the group was tired and feeling like the climb was relentless, as if on cue, the guides began to sing. Like, really sing. Full-chested deeply spiritual singing that reverberated off the mountains and into the canyons. Lifting them up, up, up.

Lesson 3: Good leaders know how to lift the spirits of their team. They know how to show up and model what is possible, what is hopeful, what is helpful and what is resonant.

You can see why my dear client held such reverence for these guides, yes?

I’ve got some mountains of my own to climb these days. We all do. It’s helpful to me to remember to pay attention to those I also admire.

And then to drink deeply from those observations and remember that what I admire in them, I have available to me. As do you.

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In the Spotlight with Tanya Geisler, featuring Vanessa Mentor

Vanessa Mentor moves in the world as a Black Haitian Woman, Mom, Words Lover & Story Catalyst. She strongly believes that we all come to earth with the inner wisdom and personal resources that we need to live life with more grace and ease. Through her work, Vanessa creates sacred practices & experiences for women in their 40's who've left their person behind and now want to Become & Live Unrestrained in their Body + Mind + Soul.

In the Spotlight with Tanya Geisler: Tanya's Solo Show!

This week, I’m hosting ITS SOLO. I’m answering ALLLLL of your Q’s on the areas of my life that rankle my own Impostor Complex: parenting, speaking, coaching, business. The things that matter the most to me. Ask me ANYTHING about those topics. I'll bring it. With prosecco.