INTRO to this series of essays
Essay #1:  My mini-bio (my why)
Essay #2:  My social entrepreneurial journey
Essay #3:  Caregiverism 


• An early Interbeingist

• How racism and "othering" shaped me

• Owning my wisdom

I've often thought of interviewing as a catalyst for storytelling; interviewing people I admire, people with whom I share interests and passions, as I'm curious about the experiences which made them who they are. Our stories are unique. They create our perspectives and affect our actions and choices and how we see the world and choose to BE in this world.

I composed a list of questions I felt would elicit the details I'm most interested in learning about other people. I decided to use the same 7 questions as a guide, with me being the first interviewee, to share my story as requested.

1. Can you identify the first defining moment of Who You Are - the core of what drives and/or guides you?

2. What breaks your heart?

3. First defining moment of observing or experiencing this heartbreak?

4. Share any wisdom or personal truths you believe can contribute to personal or collective healing.

5. How have you incorporated your values and truths into your life and work?

6. What is your biggest life lesson or challenge?

7. What inspires you, brings you joy, makes you feel alive?

I'm 51 as I type my response to these interview questions in 2015; I started when I was 40 (kidding!!!).

Here goes…

1. Can you identify the first defining moment in your life?

Most definitely.

I’m one of those odd people with clear memories from as far back as toddlerhood. There were a few significant events in very early childhood, but the most significant event happened when I was six. This isn’t something I’ve shared with many people over the years. In fact, it had become such a basic, intrinsic part of me – like having hazel eyes – that I have rarely thought about it. It was only as a result of deep excavation on my part a year ago, triggered by my daughter’s spiritual and religious exploration, that this specific event came clearly into focus once again. In many ways, this event formed who I Am.

First, a bit of background: I was born in Alabama in 1963 and was always very sensitive and empathetic. I think many of you can identify with that, and how – especially in our generation – it was not looked upon as a positive thing to be sensitive and empathetic.

When I was two, my mom remarried, and we moved from southern Alabama to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have a hard time describing the family I found myself surrounded by without making them sound like horrible people, which I do not want to do because they weren’t/aren’t horrible people. NOT at all. What I can say is this: They are a fiercely loyal family when you’re related by blood. The fact that I wasn’t a blood relative made me an outsider to most of them from the very start. This was never so clear as when my little sister was born four years later. The contrast between the two of us as far as “belonging” was striking.

Plus, I was a sensitive, quiet kid. I don't think they knew what to make of me. It took about 10 years before I felt I belonged to any significant degree, but it felt good when it happened.

While they were/are loving, loyal, decent, hardworking people by most standards, their narrow-minded views and behavior cut me to the quick early on. Many of them are racist and bigoted; they used to take pride in and readily admit this fact. (It's only since Obama's election that this pride and easy admission stopped, as instructed by the likes of Limbaugh and similar public figures.)

I know that sounds awfully harsh – it IS harsh – but it's also a statement of fact. No sense sugar-coating it.  I'm usually careful to distinguish between racist, bigoted behavior versus labeling someone as a racist or bigot, but knowing these particular people my entire life is why I have no qualms about how I've worded this. Being considerate of others is very important to me, but I value honesty and authenticity even more than being polite, especially honesty and directness about what I perceive as harmful views and behavior. I will flesh out that particular impact on my life – and my ongoing conflict -- in response to another question to follow.

One thing I have always appreciated about my parents (and I do consider my stepdad, who passed away suddenly eight years ago, my dad, and I love him very much) is that they never forced us to go to church or to think or feel a certain way about God or religion. My dad was a non-practicing Catholic and my mom essentially a non-practicing Baptist.

I don’t recall having much of an interest in matters of religion or spirituality prior to the spring of 1969 and had no significant influences in that regard.

On the spring day in question, I recall going outside in the middle of the afternoon to play on the swing set by our home. I vividly recall that it was sunny and warm, with a gentle breeze rustling the leaves, brushing my cheeks.

As I swung, I began to hum and then sing (I have no idea what I was singing). The next thing I knew, I was overcome with ecstasy.

Even now it's difficult to find words to express what I felt and experienced. I had what can only be described as a spontaneous mystical, ecstatic experience. Out of nowhere. I know – freaky, right?

At the time I certainly didn’t have words to describe what happened to me. As I grew older and read accounts of the “oneness” many report with psychedelics, that resonated. (No, I wasn’t given magic mushrooms; drugs have never been part of my experience).

I was overcome with an awareness of an omnipresent energy.

I wasn’t the least bit afraid. On the contrary; I felt completely safe and loved. I felt joy -- ecstatic joy. I felt that I fully belonged and was wholly and completely accepted in this world.

My heart was so full I thought it might burst. I was crying. I was awake – vibrantly, almost excruciatingly awake. I had this sudden awareness that everything is connected. I was connected to the sun, the leaves, the gentle breeze, the dog barking in the distance. I knew I was connected to every single person on the planet, those I loved dearly, those with whom I was merely acquainted, and complete strangers on the other side of the globe.

Expansive, that’s the word often used to describe such a mystical experience. My awareness of myself and of life in general expanded exponentially in that one afternoon, and never receded. It's as though that experience -- the feeling and knowing -- became part of my DNA.

In recent years, thanks to Thich Nhat Hanh, I discovered a word to describe the expansive awareness: Interbeing. I now refer to myself as an Interbeingist, and I mention Interbeing a lot.

I didn't tell anyone about my experience. Actually I don't recall ever speaking of it to anyone until recently, when I found myself exploring and debating the concept of Absolute Truth. Even as a child I knew I would seem crazy, or crazier, if I shared what I felt. My type of compassion, curiosity and creativity were ridiculed by most people around me in my formative years. Again, they simply didn't understand me. I can't imagine how I could have shared what I had experienced when I didn't really have the words for it and feared how it would have been received.

I apparently didn’t seem any different to anyone, but I felt profoundly different. Stronger. Being an outsider didn't bother me as much from that day forward, though certainly there were times when I felt hurt by not belonging. I still do. (Don't you agree that this is likely true for everyone, if we're honest with ourselves?)

I had always been sensitive and empathetic, but this new awareness of our Interbeing amplified this significantly. While I became less sensitive to any real or perceived harm to me, I was even more sensitive to others' pain and suffering, vigilantly alert to anyone being othered, made to feel as though they don’t belong, as though they're less than – of less value or worth.

Interestingly, this Interbeing experience occurred mere months before six years of sexual abuse began (not in my home). I do believe the strength I gained from my experience that spring day may have saved my sanity, not only from childhood trauma but quite a few others to come.

The most profound gift within this early awakening was not only the recognition of my innate worth but everyone's innate worth. From that day forward, for the most part I maintained this knowing and have what I would call an internal sense of reverence. This reverence supports my ability to maintain extraordinary faith in Humanity, in spite of our weaknesses and acts of inhumanity.

For me, an unwavering belief in our Interbeing engendered a powerful drive toward equality and fairness – empowerment -- as well as an equally forceful rejection of injustice and inequality.

Interbeing and, when necessary, compassionate detachment, have been key to my journey ever since that spring day. Please don't get me wrong: Self-doubt and inner conflict are not unknown to me, nor are remorse, deep depression, anger, frustration and excruciating pain. But those struggles don't prevent me from recognizing that I am worthy of love and joy and peace and whatever else my soul desires. I often think perhaps the greatest gift I have to offer is holding that same knowing and faith in Humanity for others when they don't have the strength to do so.

Knowing this aspect of my story provides context for my entire journey and my "why."

2. What breaks your heart?

Many, many things break my heart. Because of who I am as just shared with you, most pain and suffering affect me.

What breaks my heart the most is when people feel unloved, unworthy and that no one cares; when people feel powerless and in absolute despair; when people feel they want to die because they feel they literally cannot afford to exist or that they are of no value…that they don't matter.

People abusing one another (spiritually, emotionally and/or physically), people abusing creatures and the most vulnerable, people abusing the Earth, and people abusing themselves all tear my heart asunder. Feeling separate and disconnected from All That Is leads to myriad forms of abuse, dehumanization, inhumanity and destruction.

For me, the common theme of my personal heartbreak is "othering." We even "other" ourselves.

Apathy, indifference and complacency – not caring – break my heart. The way we avoid eye contact with one another, as though we're all invisible, allows us to ignore anyone or any situation which may cause us distress or discomfort.

So many people are as afraid of being seen as they are of not being seen.

Apathy toward those who are homeless, anyone differently abled, the elderly, and those who can't find any bootstraps even though they are desperately and diligently searching; apathy toward events like Selma and Ferguson; horrors like Sandy Hook and too many others to begin to name. Our societal traits of apathy and avoidance and cavalier attitude of "who cares?" are dehumanizing and destructive, not only to those we turn away from, but to ourselves.

There is another specific group of people who break my heart: The "rise above" people.

I've encountered many who say they are compassionate but choose to "rise above the illusions" of this world and its inherent suffering, rather than be pulled down into others' reality. I do understand the need for compassionate detachment at times, but the "rising above" approach is a bit different. The intention is different, the message conveyed is different. For those who are truly honest with themselves about their intentions, "rising above" may very well be a path of great service to Humanity; there are as many different paths as there are perspectives. However, I believe some choose this path out of fear, not due to any so-called higher level of consciousness or ability to see through illusions and "rise above." They simply do not want to face fear and pain.  (Edit to add: There's now a term for this: spiritual bypassing.)

Such avoidance of truths and dishonesty with self breaks my heart.

My heart may have been shattered repeatedly due to personal pain, loss and grief but, believe it or not, I feel much of this pain – when faced head on and not ignored -- is part of the wide scope of beauty involved in Being Human; a beauty I tapped into that spring day and have used as a touchstone ever since.

I've learned that gratitude and pure joy can be breathed in more easily and deeply when the heart is broken wide open. Having experienced tremendous loss and pain, including the loss of my first child, Joshua, provided a stark contrast, allowing me to more fully appreciate…everything.

That said, I am not a masochist. I do not believe we must go through hell on Earth in order to experience more joy, love, wellness, or peace. I personally believe that's part of the evolution of our current human experience: To embrace our interconnectedness without our psyches and hearts having first been shattered and torn asunder.

3. First defining moment of observing or experiencing this heartbreak?

"While I became less sensitive to any real or perceived harm to me, I was even more sensitive to others’ pain and suffering, vigilantly alert to anyone being othered, made to feel as though they don’t belong, as though they’re less than – of less value or worth."

Remember when I wrote that in response to Question #1? That is how my sudden awareness of Interbeing initially affected me, and set the stage for heartbreak.

When I was made to feel like The Other as a child it was painful. Yet it was much more painful for me to witness someone else being othered, devalued, disrespected, or dehumanized. I could not only empathize in a deep way, it's as though I knew a grave, almost cosmic assault was occurring. When one hurts, we all hurt.

There was one defining moment in terms of the heartbreak of Othering. I'd say this experience catapulted me onto a very specific path.

I was 10, living in the same place where my Interbeing experience occurred, in a predominantly white suburb of Pittsburgh. I went to school in the same school district from the third grade through high school. The school district was comprised of three municipalities which had a socioeconomic hierarchy; I lived "on the other side of the tracks." Many people were never aware of where I lived; I think that had more to do with my misplaced, youthful embarrassment of living in a trailer than the actual location. But that's another story…

There were literally only a handful of non-white students the entire time I was in school. There were also never any non-white teachers and, sadly, I don't think that has changed much.

(By the way, regarding racism, I've lived in various states throughout the US and have seen that racist behavior is alive and well everywhere; it only hid beneath the surface over the last few decades, like a festering wound. Overt, ugly, dangerous racist views still exist and remain embedded in our systems and institutions.)

The Archie Bunker character on "All in the Family" was my family's hero. Even though Archie's fear of change resulted in narrow-minded, bigoted, racist views, Archie was still lovable. The same is true of my dad, though he and some members of his family had/have a streak of meanness that I don’t recall Archie displaying. I’m aware such hateful behavior is steeped in fear, and I do try to have compassion, but the victim's pain outweighs the pain of the perpetrator for me.

I don’t think a day has gone by in the last 41 years that I haven’t thought about one of the most extreme manifestations of othering I witnessed at age 10.

I invited a young classmate, a friend to my home to play; she was one grade behind me in school. Sweet, soft-spoken Rainy was also a black girl.

We were in my room playing when I heard my dad come home. The walls were thin, and the tone of voices, if not actual words, was always heard. I don't know what was said between he and my mom, but I do know the tone was very intense. The next thing I knew I heard him bellow: "Get that goddamned ni**er out of my house NOW!"

Rainy and I just stared at one another in shock for a few seconds. I felt paralyzed. Even though hearing my dad raise his voice always unnerved me, I wasn't paralyzed because of his anger in that moment. I was paralyzed because I was absolutely mortified at the heartlessness and viciousness of what he had just done.

Survival probably made Rainy act while I was still in shock. She said, "It's okay", then smiled, got up and calmly – and I must say with incredible dignity – walked through the living room, past my mom and dad, and out the door. I just stood there in the hallway and watched; my dad never even looked at her. I was hoping he was ashamed of himself, but it seems that wasn't the case. He was seething and was trying to contain himself, likely not knowing at whom to lash out.

I don't remember what happened after Rainy walked out the door. I recently asked my mom what was said between them that night; she said nothing was ever said about it once Rainy left. Not ever, as though it never happened. Mom said she regretted not saying something to Rainy's mom, who was always so very, very kind. My mom was mortified and angry that my dad did that; she did not share the same worldview he did...thank goodness. But, like so many people in the face of cruelty and injustice, she remained silent. That event scarred both of us that day but that doesn't compare to the impact it must have had on a very young Rainy.

I can't imagine the wound inflicted that day on a 9-year-old child from the spewing of such hateful words by an adult. I only know how painful it was for me to merely witness it and how it has impacted me ever since.

Amazingly, the few black kids I went to school with and lived near never held what my dad did against me. We all remained friends throughout the years, in spite of him. I was always grateful and astounded that those kids had the courage to still be my friend – and that they even wanted to.

I don't recall ever speaking about the specific details of what happened. Rainy never mentioned it either. Years later, as I made friends with a few more black kids in the general area, beyond school, I recall saying, "You know about my dad, right?" I felt I had to warn people. They'd just nod and say, "Yeah, I know." I remember one dear friend saying he heard that my dad was in the Klan. When I told my dad that, he was proud. I don't believe he really was in the Klan, but he was perfectly okay with people thinking he was. And I basically group up in that environment...with that mindset and worldview.

Needless to say, I realized at an early age that, even though it hurt at times, I was basically okay not fitting in with my family. The sad thing is, many people would be amazed to realize how many people like my dad are still out there. They're passing the ugliness down to the younger generations, so it's not going to die off with my generation. I became a bit of a warrior about racial and other forms of injustice and Othering thanks to my dad and other family members and the many people with similar views I met throughout my life, across the country.

I never hid my feelings from my dad or anyone else. They knew I felt their beliefs were ugly and small-minded and very, very harmful to others. I'm ashamed of them. I have hurt their feelings a lot over my lifetime; my anger and frustration got the best of me multiple times. Sometimes the inner conflict between loving them but hating their beliefs and behavior has been brutal (for all of us, I would imagine). I struggle with having compassion for the fear which lies beneath such views and behavior -- the fear of change, the fear of anything and anyone perceived as different. While I always feel badly when I hurt someone, the harm caused by my family's "Othering" views and behavior isn't something I choose to remain silent about.

It's integral to my story. And our stories MATTER.

I pushed back harder and harder as I got older and have become estranged from many family members. I wish them well and hope they know if they need me, I'll be there and that I do love them very much. The strained nature of our relationships – which I take full responsibility for -- makes me sad and at times guilty, and the inner turmoil about it never completely leaves. But my personality is such that I don't do blind loyalty or allegiance well.

I don't do silence in the face of bullying well -- and I absolutely view racist, bigoted behavior as bullying.

The same awful thing that happened that day with young Rainy would likely have happened with anyone who wasn't white, straight, Christian and born in America. Such fear-based, ignorant (in the truest sense of the word) hatred is rarely targeted at one group of people.

Over the years I tried to find Rainy. I wanted to talk, as adults. I wanted to say something to acknowledge the pain my dad inflicted upon her that day, and to apologize for it happening and to thank her for being kind to me, in spite of my dad.

Thanks to Facebook I've reconnected with many former classmates. A little over a year ago I wrote one mutual friend from childhood and asked if she knew how to reach Rainy. Turns out she had just seen her, at a large family reunion of sorts. She even posted a picture of Rainy; I recognized that smile instantly, 30 years later.

I was so excited – I was finally going to be able to contact her and say what I had envisioned saying for years! She has been part of my journey every single day. I wanted her to know that.

I was stunned to learn two days later, from the same mutual friend that, shortly after the picture was taken, Rainy had a heart attack.

She did not survive.

Anything I do in the realm of standing up and speaking out against othering is done in Rainy's memory, now more than ever.

The fact that systemic racism still exists, and the fact that many people of all ages still view their white skin as being superior to people of color in 2015 seems to shock people. Their shock is the only thing that surprises me. I guarantee you'd be hard pressed to find a person of color who is shocked.

While many white people are waking up to the ugliness of racism, imagine living it.

Most racist behavior isn't nearly as overt as what Rainy experienced that day. It is systemic -- literally part of the structure of our systems and institutions -- and often subtle. It's insidious. Even more often I find it's not consciously intended, as too many people aren't aware of their biases and hurtful ways of being. As a dear friend shared recently, it's akin to "death by a thousand cuts."

I don't know what happens when our bodies die, but because I believe that we are energy and that energy merely transforms, I like to imagine Rainy and my dad have connected and are both at peace. I like to imagine that some sort of reconciliation took place upon Rainy's passing, and that upon his passing my dad experienced the wonder of Interbeing and that his entire perspective on life shifted and expanded.

I also like to imagine that he now understands me and may even be proud of who I am and what I do.

4. Please share any wisdom or personal truths you believe can contribute to personal or collective healing.

I've already shared a few personal truths discovered early on that have remained with me, namely an awareness of our interconnectedness and staying open to empathy and compassion.

There are two other key but vitally important bits of shareable wisdom that were hard-earned and only took hold in a more reliable way in the last 10 years. They may sound trite but, for me, employing these two tools have been immensely helpful to me. The third bit of wisdom came about as a result of writing this essay and looking back at my life and journey.

1. Nuance, seeing more situations as gray, rather than black or white. The world is complex. We are complex. Black-and-white thinking may be easier, but it's rarely helpful or truthful.

2. Bill Keane's quote is well known: "Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present." We're advised to "stay in the moment" all the time. But, like so many words of wisdom, it is much easier said than done. But the thing is, when I finally learned to do this reliably, when I learned to release the past and not worry about the future but to be in the now, it was as though a huge burden was lifted. This was key in me coming through my latest crucible experience.

3. It really is about the journey. When my daughter was little I recall wanting desperately to show her that dreams can come true; that if we're passionate about something and it brings us joy, our dreams can become reality. I wanted her to see that anything is possible, so long as you don't give up (but if the passion wanes, then it's perfectly okay to release dreams that no longer fit!). Whenever my creative, social entrepreneurial path hit bumps (or walls), I was most concerned about disappointing my daughter. I so very much wanted to model an alternate, more caring, integrated path.

What I realized in writing this essay is that I DO believe I have been a good model for my daughter. I have remained true to my core intentions and dreams and haven't given up on any of them because the passion remains. I have been immersed in the journey, day in and day out, learning to balance my desire to reduce suffering and increase joy, being focused on and appreciating the now. I've learned to find peace by trusting my process. Only now do I see how far I have come and that it really is about the journey.

As I write this, I'm in a fairly clear-headed/clear-hearted space. The last few years have been a new level of hell for me but, having come through it, not only intact but feeling much stronger, focused and committed, I have the courage to share more of my deepest feelings and personal insights. I don't mean to sound preachy or as though I have great wisdom in what I write next. It's just that being in the space I'm presently in, I'm sharing as much for my benefit – as a reminder for when I hit another inevitable rough patch – as well as anyone else. I offer the following as my personal truths, for your discernment…

There are six words which summarize my beliefs and any wisdom I've gleaned:

Know Thyself, Know Interbeing, Know God.

It starts with honesty. We must learn to lay ourselves bare -- to ourselves. Get to know you, the depths of you and all that you are; keep nurturing this relationship with self because we change, sometimes subtly, sometimes drastically. Learn to love, accept and forgive yourself, brokenness and all. This may be the greatest gift we can offer the world. We must also remember it is an ongoing process: There is no there there. Life is an ebb-and-flow experience. Practicing how to stay aware, balance and integrate all aspects of ourselves – the light, the dark, the joy, the pain, the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual -- is an ongoing learning process, a process with many cycles, in and out.

Learning to be fully honest and to trust ourselves is vitally important; otherwise, we cannot be honest with or trust anyone else. With a strong trust of and faith in self, we restore our latent, instinctual inner wisdom and guidance known as intuition. To reside in this intuitive space -- in our NOW -- is the foundation of mindful empowerment and peace. When we see and hear, feel and communicate, do and "be" from within, the splendor of our interconnectedness is revealed, strengthening our trust and faith in ourselves as individuals and the whole of Humanity.

It saddens me how many people work hard so hard to escape themselves. Detach from the white noise of daily life and let yourself feel what you feel. I repeat: Get to know yourself. Discover your heartfelt intentions which lie beneath and why you do what you do…why you are as you are. Knowing your WHY is important.

I have found that, with this understanding of self and mindfulness, I can move through each day with more integrity and act with more compassion – toward myself and others. I embrace my openness to compassion and empathy, even though many in our society view such traits as weak. I am so comfortable with Who I Am that, even after being ridiculed on national TV by Glenn Beck when he was with Fox precisely because I espouse these traits in my work and advocate for the Common Good, I doubled down rather than backed away. To back away would not have been true to me. It wouldn't have been honest.

I believe very strongly that being and doing with the interconnectedness of all life in mind is key to our awakening and evolution – our survival as a species. A way to decrease suffering and increase joy, empathy and compassion.

My unfaltering belief in Interbeing guides me in all aspects of my life and has ultimately led to my current focus on a cultural transformation in the form of Caregiverism. Caregiverism gives voice to the truth that we each matter in this world. Whether or not we matter to others is beyond our control, but we can matter to ourselves and recognize that we do have inherent worth and affect the world; the type of effect is up to us.

I believe with my entire being that what we do matters. How we do it matters. Even more importantly our why, our intentions matter. Who matters: You matter, I matter, we all matter.

When my Yoda-speak takes over, I often say, "You can allow yourself to be damaged by the suffering in the world, or you can choose to be an active part of healing and transformation and be open to joy. Be or be not; do or do not. It is your choice."

5. How have you incorporated your values and truths into your work?

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them." ~ Dalai Lama

First and foremost, I try to live and work by this prime directive: Do No Harm.

Even if I don't feel I can help, I want to make sure I do no harm. It's that whole interconnectedness thing, don'tcha know. That applies to all aspects of my life, as for the most part, my personal and work values have been integrated, not compartmentalized. In fact, fragmentation and compartmentalization frustrate me immensely. I feel many of our problems could be much more effectively addressed – and many prevented -- if we could live more wholly.

As for how I have very specifically incorporated Who I Am and My Why into my work, below are a few highlights:

In looking back as I answer these questions, I now see how throughout my life I’ve been working to cultivate, incubate and model a more caring, collaborative, egalitarian world. In adulthood, this has been in the form of activism and social entrepreneurship.

I learned early on that Corporate America wasn’t for me. I excelled but, once again, didn’t fit. The lack of moral awareness, and often the active avoidance of it, constantly disturbed me. I also didn't see much in the way of foresight or innovative thinking. The "why" of any decision was always mo’ money, mo’ money, mo' money.

I began the path of a social entrepreneur before the term was known beyond a small circle, spurred by my passion for social justice and visions of a genuinely kinder, gentler, more sustainable society. This includes creating my first social enterprise: An organic mail-order gift basket company, the first of its kind, working with such mainstays as Greystone Bakery, and making use of local, organic body and baby care products. The items used were not only healthy, they were socially and environmentally responsible.

I've been focused on collaboration and cooperation, specifically in the form of actual cooperatives, for decades. I find worker- and member-owned cooperatives that have social and environmental awareness the most empowering type of work, and it is a structure that can be widely applied in all industries. Unfortunately, the US is remains far behind other countries in this regard. Only in recent years has this alternative business structure been given more widespread attention.

Community development and collaboration in support of other organizations, projects and endeavors has always been central to my intentions and vision, so I've been thrilled to see the attention being given to cooperatives and social enterprise.

Two months ago, as I contemplated how to pull all of my pieces together into one large puzzle -- from Wishadoo! to the various projects which have led to the community development social enterprise entity Our Good, to my close involvement in organizations like The Charter for Compassion and The Caring Economy -- I had one of the biggest aha moments ever. This aha moment not only pulls the various pieces of my work together, it also incorporates the bigger picture values I try to embody and have tried to share my entire life, both personally and professionally.

The aha moment is, in a word, CAREGIVERISM.

The beauty and wisdom of Caregiverism – a model for cultural-spiritual transformation -- truly is a perfect encapsulation of how I have incorporated my values and priorities into my life and work all along.

Since you know that why matters to me, part of this series of essays explains what led to Caregiverism and the why, what, who and how of it.

6. What is your biggest life lesson or challenge?

TRUST. Trust has definitely been at the crux of lessons in my life, though I've only come to realize this overarching theme in recent years. I certainly see how my greatest lessons have also been my most powerful motivators.

It's almost poetic that the recent emergence from my personal crucible, combined with the realization that lack of trust lies at the heart of most of our issues in society, led me to have this laser focus on TRUST in moving forward.

It seems my personal struggle parallels our collective struggle.

Probably the most intense, painful lesson in trust involves my children. My first child, Joshua, was stillborn in 1991. The pregnancy was perfect; there was no known cause. On one hand, I always knew I couldn't have done anything differently, so I didn't blame and torture myself as having caused the devastating loss. On the other hand, not knowing what happened with Joshua made the pregnancy with my daughter a terrifying experience. Even though I cherished every single moment with her as a baby and her first years, there was always an undercurrent of fear. I was careful not to be overprotective or suffocating, but I was terrified on some level all the time. Losing Joshua, in spite of doing everything right, taught me that very little is in our control in this life – and that it's true that how we respond to things is often the only thing that does lies within our control.

When Taylor was around age 5, I knew I had to surrender and trust. There was really nothing else I could do; my fear would destroy both of us if I didn't confront it. Once I did, it was a blessed relief to surrender that worry and trust.

Don't get me wrong: It is a process, one which continues. But remembering to apply the practice of being in the Now has helped me tremendously; it helps me tap into my intuition more reliably and thus trust.

That was an EPIC lesson in trust for me, one I must revisit periodically. Within the lessons of this painful experience were many gifts, including the realization that pain is our common denominator.

Perhaps frustration and impatience are also manifestations of trust issues? I think so in my case, specifically as it concerns my path as a social entrepreneur.

Part of the beauty I can see in my own journey with trust issues is that, while I have been simply focused on doing the work day in and day out over the last eight years (at times admittedly frustrated by the seeming lack of progress in manifesting the totality of my visions), what has happened is that it seems many people who have witnessed the external, public journey with Wishadoo! have grown to trust me. They've seen me walk the talk over many years. I never said or did anything with that specific intention in mind; in fact, trust hasn't been overtly on my mind much at all until the last year. But one of the things I have come to realize as I face this larger journey of trust head on, and how that is what is lacking and must be cultivated in our communities, is that along the way I have earned the trust of others.

I hope my openness about my personal story adds to that trust. I hope that sharing details about my journey helps more people stay open to me, personally, as well as my projects and the model of Caregiverism. Caregiverism is very much about cultivating trust.

7. What inspires you, brings you joy, makes you feel alive?

Simple things like seeing the ocean and being on a beach fill me with joy; a long, solitary walk in beautiful weather fills me with joy; hearing my daughter sing fills me with joy; seeing a loved one come through a trying ordeal and experience relief fills me with joy; seeing others' joy (humans and animals) is infectious, and fills me with joy.

Creating fills me with joy. I simply love to create, especially when it fills a need or brings others joy.  Being in the flow makes me come alive. When what I create empowers myself and others, that excites me and makes me even more passionate about doing and creating.

Reducing suffering and increasing others' joy, when done in integrity and with the highest of intentions, fills me with joy.

When I feel someone really sees and hears me and they "get" me, that fills me with joy. When I feel I finally "get" someone else, that fills me with joy.

When I am able to pull fragments together in order to invest my time and energy more efficiently and effectively, that brings me joy. (Virgo here)

When I see others connecting the dots, shifting to a perspective which encompasses the same or similar bigger picture I see, that fills me with joy.

Brainstorming with others of like mind makes me come alive. Celebrating a common cause or goal fills me with joy.

When I am truly in the moment, immersed in gratitude, that brings peace, but it can also fill me with joy.

Finishing something that has been extremely challenging – like writing these essays – fills me with joy! That joy and gratitude is heightened when I know others appreciate whatever it is I have been working on.


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