My Soul Songs: Optimism

There doesn’t have to be a silver lining in all things. But the blessing is that there’s one anyway–if you look for it. That doesn’t mean we have to be thankful for all challenges and tragedies. But we can be thankful for the learning, for the response, for the deep breath when we realize we are still here and we can move forward positively or negatively. It’s our choice. I choose to be optimistic. I choose to make something good out of every experience I can.


My Soul Songs: All I Was and All I Am

All I Was and All I Am

I thought all I was, all I had going for me, was being smart. At school, I had an identity and an escape. No one knew anything else of me or my life.

Then I learned that I was strong. I overcame illness and wowed everyone with my gymnastics and my spirit.

And when I prayed I knew I was happy. I knew I wasn’t like so many I saw around me. My energy was different. Silver linings filled my view and hope filled my heart.

My tear-stained pillow would be replaced with a bed of my own making. I ventured out to find my place in this world and I found myself.

I wasn’t “the pretty one.” I wasn’t “the creative one.” I wasn’t “the funny one.” I certainly wasn’t “the popular one.”

That’s okay.

I was so much more.

If I was to be just “one” I wanted to be “the joyful one.” But I realized none of us is one-dimensional.

I had to be shown my own reflection in the hearts and healers who came into my life over the years.

I had to help others find out who they were and what made them special before I truly knew how special I was.

Through prayer I learned I am loved and loving.

Through friendship I learned that I am a listener and I am heard.

Through work I leaned that I have both heart and mind to contribute equally.

Through illness I learned that I am beautiful and brave and won’t be beaten.

Through loss I learned that I am free to live this one life with all I have, to hold nothing back.

Through it all I learned to be true to all I am. I am so much more than smart. I am not just strong. I am blessed.

I head into 2018 knowing with all my heart that I am beautiful and brave and strong and true and free. I choose to live as I am for all of my days. I have so much to give and to receive. Blessed be. IMG_0187

My Soul Songs: Not Another Success Story

Mine is not another one of those stories of our struggles making us stronger.

I’m not saying struggles can’t make us stronger. But what about when they don’t? We’re somehow made to feel like failures if we can’t appreciate our trials, our sicknesses, our loss. Seriously? Sorrow shaming! Why do we do that?

… So this isn’t a story of gratitude although I’m grateful for every new day. This isn’t a success story although I’ve achieved more than I ever thought possible.

This is just my story. I’m not healed. I’m also not broken. I’m just doing my best to love and be  true to myself, scars and all. My struggles have simply revealed the strength I had within me all along and reminded me that time is too short to be anything but my best. IMG_5053

I Pray*

This is for all the little girls who learned silence and co-dependence. I pray you let yourselves heal. It will take years. And it will hurt. But it’s worth it when you realize how strong you really are. You’re amazing.

I don’t understand. He told me not to call again. But I thought he was my dad.

He’d raised me for nine years. He’d carried me out of movie theaters when my tears wouldn’t cease. He’d carried me to clinics and ER’s. He’d carried me through my advanced math classes.

He’d told me the whole room lit up when I smiled.

He’d also hurt me. He’d shown a temper like none I’ve ever seen. He’d crossed boundaries I couldn’t explain to most people. He’d taught this vivacious little girl to be silent. He’d shown me everything I wasn’t good at.

He’d said I was his little girl.
There’s a sad sort of beauty in the fact that I was always such a daddy’s girl. Every art project was a sort of homage to one of my father figures. These were usually of him, not my birth father or any other male role model in my life. They were of him. They were for him.  I wanted him proud of me. I wanted him to know how much I loved and needed him.

But he told me not to call. He wouldn’t be my dad anymore. So I cried, just once. Then I made a plan to move on. And it worked. I stopped being silent.

But I still remember. And, in the past few years, I’ve let myself cry some more. I was always a daddy’s girl. I loved him. I still love him, that part of him that carried me. But now I know I never needed him. I pray he understands.

*Praying by Kesha inspired this piece, and so many memories.

Not One of the “Pretty Girls”

Ann is the cute one. Claire is the creative one. I am the smart one.

Ann is the funny one. Claire is the strong one. I am the responsible one.

Ann is the social one. Claire is the gifted one. I am the quiet one.

The quiet one? Ugh.

First of all, I am not quiet. I never have been. I have, however, felt silenced much of my life. Even though I’ve never been fully silent, I have felt the burden of the expectation. Worse, I always knew my sisters were just as smart if not smarter than I was. And I am responsible, yes, but what choice did I have? Who wants to be defined by a necessity? I want to be defined by my spirit, my mark on the world, my soul song.

For decades, though, I have felt defined not by my authentic self, but in comparison to others. In my social group, I heard echoes of my parents’ characterizations of me. Sarah was the smart one, the responsible one, the quiet one. Why couldn’t I be cute? Fashionable? Fabulous? And why do so few people realize how funny I am?

I’m a natural leader. I get things done. I’m successful. Why not be known for those things? And aren’t I talented, a gifted singer and strong athlete? I can hold my own in just about any circumstance, and people usually like me once the get to know me. How can I make people understand I’m so much more than the labels of my youth?

More importantly, how I can stop hearing those labels in my own internal dialog with myself?


“I’d like us to be more understanding with Paulina, more inclusive,” I coached. “I think it must be hard to be one of the beautiful people.”

“Oh, right!” my colleague burst out. “Let’s all feel sorry for the pretty girl. Sorry, I can’t do it.”

We both laughed. Neither of us had ever been known as “pretty girls.” We had both been raised by struggling families, developing more scrappiness than poise we felt. We talked about this often. We’d grown increasingly assertive in our years. We knew how to fight for what we wanted. And, right or wrong, we assumed Paulina had just always been given what she wanted. In fact, my concern for her feelings, and my belief we should be more understanding came from a very conscious belief that she did not know how to handle NOT getting what she wanted because she’d been so privileged in her life as a 5’11”, built like a ballerina, blonde, blue-eyed, upper-middle class, ice princess. And, my colleague was right, no one is or should feel sorry for that.

The real problem is that no one, not Paulina, not anyone, is defined by those first impressions. But we’re all judged by them. Whether fighting the label “smart one” or “pretty one” or any other social short hand derived avoid actually learning about and understanding others and, instead, classify them into manageable data points in our schema, we are all limited by the labels assigned to us.

In the best case scenario, we acknowledge that these classifications are short cuts we are all prone to take but also acknowledge that they are not pathways to understanding–and then allow people and our relationships to grow beyond those classifications. This needs to start with ourselves, though. Because, the worst case scenario is we that we limit ourselves to those classifications and allow ourselves to be constrained and defined by them. They then become more than labels but fully developed stories we tell ourselves. Like these:


I am smart. I should do better in math because I am smart. Smart people are quiet and read a lot and stay home on Friday nights and do well in school. Smart is not popular. Smart is not pretty. Smart is not athletic. Smart is not funny. And I can’t do anything that makes me look stupid or that I might not be good at. People might think I’m not smart. And smart and Sarah are synonymous.

I am responsible. I can’t go out and have fun or take a day off. I don’t dare use all my vacation days when I have so much responsibility at work. I need to put the needs of others first, always, and make sure everyone is taken care of before I take care of myself. That’s the responsible thing. Because some people aren’t responsible. I need to be responsible. For everyone. That’s how responsible people live and happiness only comes from knowing I am seen as responsible and everyone feels taken care of. That’s how I’ll fulfill my role.


Narratives like this pervade our minds. They’re not all bad. They’re not particularly inspiring either. And they deny so much of who I am and what I can contribute and the countless other gifts I’ve been given by the universe. Isn’t the truly responsible thing to do to maximize all of my god-given strengths and skills? Isn’t that just smart? Isn’t it also fun, creative, and adventurous? I am fun, creative, and adventurous!

So why to I have to remind myself this almost daily in order to honor my impulses and desires and objectives of joy in this life? And why is my dear sister with social anxiety still trying to live up to being the funny social one? And when will Claire and I realize our own beauty and cuteness? And how can Paulina break free of the narratives we have attached to her in all of her beauty?

I’m fortunate to have friends I can be and usually am my truest best self around who remind me, “you know you want to go on this adventure, Sarah!” or “you’re gorgeous!” or “your laugh makes you who you are!” We should all be so fortunate.

They hold me to being my best self and not subjugating myself to others, to my labels past or present, or to the narratives I told myself all those years in order to be who my labels told me I should be. I think, as women, we are particularly vulnerable to these types of narratives and, thankfully, particularly watchful of them in what my friends and I call, our soul sisters. In fact, it seems we are better at seeing the tell-tale signs in one another hiding our light and falling prey to the dark shadow of our old narratives than we at feeling the shadow we hide ourselves in.

I am learning to longer feel bad about about that, to longer judge myself for falling into old patterns that lead, per my narratives, to enabling others even martyring myself and holding back my humor and energy and adventure and silliness. I accept that I am simply in the process of rewiring my brain, carving new neural pathways in an effort to avoid those that have been so well worn. This is going to take time and it’s time beautifully spent asking myself daily how I honored my truest authentic best self and what I can learn from the day’s successes and struggles.

Living mindfully and giving myself permission to be myself and to be imperfect even at being myself–which used to seem like something I should just be naturally good at–is harder than following the old narratives. It just is. But it’s liberating too. And every day I feel more and more joy and more and more in love with the world. Who’d have thought a girl who used to cry herself to sleep riddled with anxiety as young as six could feel this way and have this much confidence? But I do because as hard as it is to be mindful, it was starting to hurt to be otherwise.

I even wonder how much of the stress I put on my heart, mind, body, and soul contributed not only to the anxieties I developed but to the lesions on my spine associated with the most pervasive narrative I fight–a woman living with MS. But just as I am learning to no longer define myself as just smart and responsible and quiet. So I definitely will not be defined by MS. I am so much more than this or any label and its associated narrative.

MS did make me face this struggle with my labels head on though. Overnight, following a terrifying and numbing flare up, I had to redefine who I was and what I said about myself as well as what others said about me. This was no longer a choice. My old narrative no longer were enough. Can you be the responsible one if you know someone might have to take care of you some day? Can the smart one also have cognitive fog? Oh, and I was so done being quiet. Who knew how much time I had to say what I wanted to say?

Challenge accepted. Project redefining Sarah, also known as acknowledging and becoming my true self, was set in irreversible motion.

I now hope to be defined by my authentic self, deep and complicated and full of life in a way that defies labels. I hope I can help all the “pretty girls” and the “smart girls” and “funny girls” learn that maybe they are all of these and none of these all at once. We are women who break through labels and refuse to accept the old narratives of those labels and, instead, create our own narratives of complicated, messy, beautiful lives. After all, why settle for a narrative, a work of fiction, when one can have a reality and make a real mark on this world?

The world deserves this contribution, not just another false narrative. So, are you ready to shed your labels with me Ann, Claire? Paulina? What about You?



My Soul Songs: Look Up

You seek answers.

You seek healing.

You pray for hope, for signs to follow.
Stop crying for your angels.

Stop begging for mercy.

Stop looking where you’ve already been.
Just look up.

There it is.

The light of God is already there.
Receive the warmth.

Receive the glory.

Receive this new day as a gift for the taking.
Be assured.

Be thankful.

Be one who stays in the light.
Just look up.

There it is.

The light of God is already there.

My Soul Songs: Not Unlike a Rose 

MS is invisible even as it unfolds. 

Fighting MS is completely an inside job. You might never see what’s deep inside my soul as we laugh and go about our days like nothing’s wrong. 

And, like a rose, I will blossom. Like a rose with its thorns, I am beautiful and protected in my frailty. I might not have thorns but I sure do have plenty of fight. And I require plenty of care. 

Consider yourself warned. And appreciated. 

My Boy

I would give you everything.

For you, I would do anything.

I have lived for your every potentiality.

I have vowed to be available to you for all time and eternity. 

Even though you no longer need me, I need you to love me. 

And I’m so thankful that you do. 

You will always be my boy.