Author: Monica Rai Silver

Fall Down 7 Times, Stand Up 8

Written by HOYH’s Director of Creative Therapies, Katrina Mendizabal 

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“I cannot possibly do more. She’s so much better than me. I wish I could do that. You’re asking me to do what?”

Sound familiar? We have all said at least one of these at different times in our lives. In fact, I said every single one of them in the same night during a brutal two hour roller derby practice. Ever heard of Roller Derby? This competitive roller skating sport incites many reactions but for me it comes down to these: sweat, tears, hitting, sisterhood, earning the right to name yourself (cool names like Banshee, Swizzle, and my own – Wild Fire), butts that defy gravity, great workouts, sore feet, and battle worthy bruises.

Sounds awesome, right? Derby rule basics can be explained like this: Two teams race around a track. Each team has 5 players. That five is made up of 4 Blockers (called a Pack) and one Jammer. The Jammer tries to get through the opposing Pack, whose job is to stop her. Once free of the pack, she races ahead until she laps the group and begins the hip and shoulder checking to break through again. Points are awarded for each opponent the Jammer passes. Still a bit hazy? Ever seen the movie “Whip It” with Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page, Kristen Wiig and Juliette Lewis? This’ll give you a better idea of what it looks like. [Just remember that Hollywood’s version of Derby isn’t entirely accurate…]

My journey with roller derby started a couple years ago, and it’s been a long and difficult process to become an initiated team member. But that struggle was worth every hard moment because of the many things I’ve learned along the way. The two most powerful lessons I’ve learned (so far) from skating on 8 wheels are:  How to fall, and how to love myself more.

How to fall is one of the first skills you learn in roller derby, because it’s the most important. You build everything else you need to be a good player on that foundation. The coaches want to make sure your body learns the best way to catch itself because you will be falling. A lot. And I mean, A LOT. During one practice we were learning how to do transitions (turning around while still moving), and I kept falling and falling and falling. I was getting so frustrated and muttered to myself, “If I fall down one more time, I will not get up.” A veteran skater rolling by heard me and said, “Fall down 7 times, stand up 8!”

At first I didn’t even comprehend what she was saying, but she continued, “We have all been where you are, we all know what that feels like. And no matter how many times you fall, you learn to get back up again.” And off she went as if she hadn’t just rocked my whole world with that one line. And as I kept thinking, I realized how veteran skaters seem to get up so much more quickly and easier, while it felt like a Herculean effort every time I tried to get back to my feet. There was something here, and it begins first with how to fall, because it’s in the art of “how” that helps you rise afterward.

How To Fall

Wild Fire Grounded-1

Wild Fire being helped back up after a fall…#Badass #Sisterhood

Derby women are required to wear safety gear; knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards and a helmet at all times. Secondly, we learn how to do different kinds of falls: There’s the one knee fall, double knee fall, and falling on all fours. Thirdly, we learn to always fall forward, as it’s easier to catch yourself and less likely to injure something. Fourthly, keep your hands in a fist so your fingers don’t get run over. And finally, rise up again.

The main reason we spend so much time learning how to fall and practicing the best ways to do so safely isn’t to stop us from falling. Nothing can. But strapping on our gear and using the tools we have helps us rise up faster and faster each time. If I’m not falling, I’m not learning, and I’m not pushing myself to try new things. And that’s exactly the place where real happiness and fulfillment exist. As I kept repeating the phrase like a mantra, “Fall down 7 times, stand up 8,” I couldn’t help but think about the other areas of my life where it applied. It’s not about avoiding the fall but giving yourself tools to fall safely, to make getting back up again a little easier. I was amazed to realize that because I learned how to fall, I was no longer afraid to fall. When you fall long and often enough, but with a plan of how get up again – this is the amazing consequence: Fear leaves the door wide open to Hope. 

Off the rink, HOYH is one of those “fall  safely” tools for me. It gives me emotional skills to protect my heart and guide me back up again after each stumble, and a tribe that encourages me constantly. When I’m down and out, taking a long kayak trip on the lake or guiding a group through whitewater on the Snake River helps remind me how strong and capable I am; breathing the fresh air helps me calm down and be in the moment. Laughing with my family and cuddling my dog Max gives me added comfort and a break from feeling pain. The sisterhood of roller derby include some of the most supportive people I have ever met. Unlike other sports where competition between individuals is fierce, derby veterans want newer skaters to succeed. They teach, coach, support, help the newbies (called #freshmeat) all the time! I wish society was based off of a roller derby team – lifting each other up instead of bringing each other down. Not to mention being able to hip check someone who deserves it. 🙂

How To Love Myself More

Roller Derby has also taught me some of the strongest self-love. Here’s the thing about derby athletes: They come in all shapes and sizes, and regardless of size they can kick your trash! They can do 27 laps around a rink in 5 minutes (a ridiculously hard feat, let me tell you), fall down 100 times and get back up, knock each other down over and over – all with a smile on their face. The amount of acceptance in roller derby is stunning and not something I have found elsewhere except for HOYH. I used to look in the mirror and only see my flaws. I used to walk down the street wishing I looked differently. And honestly, it’s still a struggle most days. But because of derby, there are now times I look in the mirror and smile. I smile at my thunder thighs and big butt, I’m becoming proud of my body and comfortable in my own skin because of what it can do – all because of the confidence I see in others on and off the track. I know there will be a day that I will look in the mirror and see only how stunningly awesome I really am. I can’t wait for that day…

Surround yourselves with people who remind you how amazing and powerful you really are. Do what it takes to learn what skills work for you to help you get up easier after each fall. Let go of what’s holding you back. And check out your local Derby community and attend a match for a front row seat of what it looks like to live unafraid! Then go home and strap on your safety pads; life is about to get all kinds of possible…

Forgiveness Starts With Panda Express

Written by Jennifer Sturgis, HOYH Co-Founder + Co-CEO

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“Mom, where are you? Are you here?” the voice of my fourteen year old son echoed into my phone. “Am I where?” I wondered, somewhat alarmed. “I’m on my way home from work. Where am I supposed to be?” Then the blood drained from my face – his spring choir concert. It was today! It was supposed to be at 7:00, but due to a conflict with scheduling the building it had to be changed to 4:15. Who schedules a choir concert for 4:15 on a Friday afternoon? I had completely forgotten. I would have had to miss work for the third time this week. But I had planned on going.

I heard him say, “Whatever! I’ll walk home!” then the audible click. It went straight to voicemail when I tried to call back. I could feel his disappointment, along with my own; heavy and hot, sink down to my stomach and settle like a pit. My face flushed. How could I forget? Just completely NOT remember that was today?

It had been a busy week, with counseling sessions, doctor appointments, parent/teacher conferences – all of which had eaten into my work schedule, causing me to leave early or come late three different days. Since the end of the school quarter was approaching, our nights had been taken up by homework and assignments to finish or make up. The single-mom-with-four-kids scenario is a real thing. A constant struggle. But today, as was more and more often the case, I refused to use that as a hall pass.

I have been working on being more forgiving with myself, but I found my mind filling with old negative self-talk. “How did I forget that? I can’t do anything right! My poor kids…all they have is ME and I’m a mess! I can’t do anything right! This is just one more instance where I’m a FAIL as a mother. Why did God give me these four children when so often I just disappoint and let them down? It feels like a week doesn’t go by where I don’t fail in some kind of major way! What is WRONG with me? What kind of mother does this?”

You know. Just the usual, brutal guilt trip that comes along with motherhood. As I often do, I willingly took the ride into familiar waters.

I pictured my son walking home from school in his white dress shirt and black pants, feeling angry, embarrassed, and abandoned. It’s not about the walk – it’s just that his friends were riding home with their parents, who actually attended the concert. And it’s not like choir is his favorite thing, anyway. He is more of an athlete and cares more about sports than singing. It’s just that he thought I was coming. He was counting on me to be there. And I wasn’t there. The heaviness of that last sentence weighed on my shoulders like the story of my single parent life…

His father wasn’t ever there for him. In fact, he was in jail again. Incarceration wasn’t a new thing, just an embarrassing detail that occasionally changed. Somehow, knowing their dad was in jail was more upsetting to the kids than him being homeless, which is what he is when he’s not in jail. And now his mother, the only person he had left to count on, forgot about his concert. So he had to walk home, alone.

During that painfully quiet drive home, I was vaguely aware of how much I was probably over-dramatizing this in my mind, but I also realized that this was how it probably felt to my fourteen year old son. Then, surprisingly, my mind did something different than what it usually often did. It stopped in the middle of my mental and emotional barrage of negativity, and allowed one forgiving thought to bubble up: “Jen, you are doing the best you can. Your son will forgive you. He knows you love him. You’ve shown him that a thousand times in a thousand ways.”

I let that thought linger for a moment. It felt like truth. It didn’t feel like an excuse. It resonated as reality. However, the truth of it didn’t make my mistake go away in an instant. Amends still needed to be made and some steps need to be taken to use technology to better manage my incredibly busy calendar. But it felt like forgiveness was possible, not just by my son, but by me, too. I took a deep breath, and felt some of the heaviness lift from my heart. I couldn’t control my son’s forgiveness, but I did have control over mine. I could continue to beat myself up over this, or I could find a thread of emotional realism and start from there. I smiled slightly as I realized that the progress I thought I’d been making was actually, maybe, real.

When I got home, I walked downstairs to his room, ignoring his short text that said “Just leave me alone.” I knew he was pretty upset. I sat next to him on his bed, where he wouldn’t look at me. I sat quietly for a moment. Then I said to him, “I have no excuse for forgetting about your concert today, honey. I had been looking forward to it all week, actually.” I paused, letting that truth linger in the air. Deep breath again. “I can’t go back in time and change it. I missed it, and I don’t get a re-do! There are two parts of this that I feel terrible about. One, the fact that I didn’t get to see you perform leaves a void for me. I hate missing anything that you do. Two, the fact that I wasn’t there for you, and then you had to walk home – leaves a void for you. I’m so very sorry that I created both of those voids by forgetting today.”

Silence.

I took a risk and touched his arm, continuing, “You don’t have to forgive me right now, but I hope you know that I am truly sorry and that I will try to find a calendar system that works on my phone with reminders to help me better manage everybody’s stuff. I can’t promise I’ll be perfect but that will help me, a lot. And I also hope you know how much I love you and how important you are to me!”

Silence again.

“I know this doesn’t change things, but why don’t you let me know what you want for dinner. I’ll let you choose whatever you want. You can stay mad, but you might as well get something out of this, right?” I half-joked, hoping to lighten things a little. Still no response.

Then I walked out of his room. I knew he would probably eventually forgive me, but I also knew it wouldn’t be right then. He likes to stay mad for a while. But I did accomplish what I wanted to, which was not make excuses by reading him the very valid reasons from my single-parent-hall-pass. Like, “There’s only one of me and four of you kids and I can’t be everywhere” or ”Look at all the things I do for you”.  And I didn’t try to manipulate him out of his feelings by cajoling or blaming anything or anyone else. I validated how it felt to him by respecting his feelings, took accountability for my mistake, and offered my sincere apology. Then I let him decide how to feel about it. Deep breath again.

All I have control over is my willingness to be accountable, to learn from my mistakes, and to teach my children to do the same. Maybe he’ll stay mad at me for years, maybe he’ll be scarred for life, (both of which I doubt) – but something positive can be found here. There is always something to learn and something to teach from every parenting screw up.

About ten minutes later, my phone beeped. His text simply said “Panda.” I smiled. I guess we’re having Panda Express tonight, I thought. That was either the first glimmer of forgiveness, or his hunger was now greater than his anger. Probably the latter.  Well, that’s a start.

I’ll take it.

Armor Off

Written by Monica Rai Silver, HOYH Founder + CEO. Excerpt taken from our Heartwork™ program; Heart2Heart (H2H): “The Tree of Your Heart: A Year Living in the Branches of Self-Love.” From the month of April, the branch of Vulnerability + Connection. Concept of “Arena” inspired by the Theodore Roosevelt poem and its reemergence by phenom Brené Brown, and her world changing research around shame and vulnerability. If you haven’t seen Brené’s famous TED talk, click here for a good time. #TruthBombsAwaitYou

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There is a call that comes, at different points in our lives, to come to the arena. And inherently we each know this – and so, in fear, we gather pieces of protection; carrying unnecessary armor to bind us away from loss and vulnerability, failure, disappointment and pain. I heard another call, and this time I saw it: Looking back, the pieces of heavy metal shed as I’ve done the work. Felt what I needed to feel. Owned what I needed to own. But now, I’m here, I’ve been standing in the doorway – the bars down, wide open expanse of being seen before me; shivering in the rising dust, with no one but me calling my name: Armor off. Armor off. Armor off.

I walk in, without anything to hide…

“It is not the critic who counts; not the woman who points out how the strong woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if she fails, at least fails while Daring Greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship In A Republic” speech. Pronoun edits by Monica Rai Silver.

I revel in this bravery, this freedom! I soak it in; the relief, liberation and room to breathe around the truth of who I am. I laugh and spin circles in all this space, hearing the echoes bounce around the stone and then back to my happy ears: The sound of my own Voice. It sounds like a chorus of joy, like every part of me is in agreement, accord, and harmony. With my hands on my hips I survey what’s around me: bare, open, beautiful.

“It needs my touch,” I declare, and set about making it cozy, making it Home. I move easily, unencumbered by the heavy armor and rusted metal I worked so hard to shed. Comfortable furniture is brought in, art, music, color, a magnificent #Crownbed, nourishing food: all tools in my Heartwork™ arsenal. I settle in, safe, protected, vulnerable, powerful, authentic, enough. My worth courses through me in the air like a living shield, a boundary between my Heart and the world outside. It is beautiful, here. I am making it my Home.

But even in that courage and determination, it is not long before I hear shouting from the stands, a cacophony of judgment, criticism and shame. And when I finally look out amongst the faces, the one I see most – is my own. A hundred different selves yell back at me, blaming, projecting, excuse-laden and unhappy. I feel the need to protect, to hide, to armor up. I shut down. The instant I do, I find myself in the stands, yelling back at an empty arena…

And I realize that I’ve left myself. I’ve abandoned me. No one’s done it to me, no matter the reasons my fingers are already ticking off, one by one. My muscles stiffen under the weight of the armor that automatically, like a faithful boomerang, magnetically re-attaches. With the darkness of apathy and self-pity sinking in, I sit heavily in my familiar, season-ticketed seat. The tears pool and I look around me. There are other people, here to be entertained by my imperfections, but not many. Far fewer than we (in the stands) want to believe. There are many more versions of myself, in various stages, ages, in their own pain and comfort zones. But more shockingly, are the weapons that wait in every single seat around my Arena. Weapons…to be picked up and used by whoever sits there.

I understand. I see. The gift shows itself and I am aware of where I am. I am aware that I have a choice. I am aware that I choose where I reside. So, I choose to remember Janette Grace’s stunning statement, “Surrender is putting down my weapons and picking up my tools.” Only weapons await me in the stands: judgment, criticism, hatred, projection, blame, victimhood, perfectionism, and codependency. But my tools await me in the Arena: Heartwork™, Connection, Vulnerability, Higher Power, Self-Love, Compassion, Rooting, Gardening, and so many more. These are my Super Powers. These, are my Heart. These, are Home.

My choice made, I heave myself up from the seat and lumber toward the aisle. I walk down the dirt pathway, one step at a time, remembering that the Path from the stands to the arena is the “path to the feeling of worthiness.”  -Brené Brown. To accepting the truth of my worthiness. To feeling my worthiness.

With each step I feel the emotions of the stands and the Arena, and I understand that I will make many trips back and forth as I journey through this life. I can accept this, knowing that the gift is in recognizing where I am, and choosing where to go from there. Knowing, I am enough. Knowing, it is my choice.

With one final, exhausting stride – I step back into the Arena. The armor is gone, and the subsequent fear of being vulnerable takes its place. But I breathe through it, settling my gaze on the safe space before me: Home. This time, when I hear the jeers from the crowd, I will choose to stay here. I will first root in myself before I look up. I’ll acknowledge the message if it contains wounds that need healing. I’ll feel through the feelings it brings up. I’ll give gratitude for the lessons they contain. And I’ll do it all from the safety, empowerment and protection, real protection of the Arena. The Arena of my Heart.

“Vulnerability is the only authentic state.

Being vulnerable means being open for wounding, but also for pleasure.

Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty.

Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset.

Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it.

The new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things

can only come to you when you are vulnerable and open.”

–Stephen Russell

Embrace Your Inner Dragon Rider

[Written by Monica Rai Silver, HOYH Founder + CEO. Excerpt taken from a course in our Heartwork™ program; Heart2Heart (H2H): “The Tree of Your Heart: A Year Living in the Branches of Self-Love.” From the month of November, the branch of Joy + (In)Courage.]  

H2H NOVEMBER 16

“The brave women did not kill dragons. The brave women rode them. #SaddleUp.” Monica’s alteration on a Game of Thrones quote

You stand at the top of the mountain, bare and brave against the clarity of the cold air. But you are not chilled by the wind, because the effort it took to get here is pumping the warm steam of self-love into your lungs and all through your powerful body. And in the view before you, in this moment of stillness you see a red banner wave, trailed from an object in the sky. It has a message for you, now that you have paid the price to arrive here, one intentional step at a time. Now that you know how to listen to what is true, the command ricochets off the rock and echoes in your perfected ears…

Stand in the fire of your own heart! Let it flame. Let it sizzle with who you are. The furnace of your own heat is what the earth and sun and stars are made of. You were never meant to be an ice queen, but a torching, towering inferno of creative flame. This month is about being fearless! It takes courage to let the joy rise that was always there, smoldering in a neglected heap on the floor of your heart. It takes bold fearlessness to own your fire and be unafraid of how it torches the world. It can only offer your brilliance; it can only offer the fierce light of healing change. You will not consume the world with your darkness and rage; you will consume the world with your fire.

Joy is the only wind strong enough to support the weight of the wings of dragons, and finds freedom in the scorching breath of hot skies and dragon breath. #SaddleUp, my fellow queens. You are the kind of woman who rides the ancient creatures; hovering on the magical brink between this world and the next, simply because you are the rare class of woman who goes to the edge of death and by the blood of her own life brings forth new life. Who cares more for others than she does for herself. Who learns to forgive and accepts the true magnificence of her glittering soul. Who sacrifices the legend of her own name and legacy to be the boon for someone else’s story. Who understands that her innate power unleashed makes her potential akin to the God’s she worships. Love knows no bounds with us women, and it is our bane and our liberator, our catalyst and our shame, our potential and the feather’s that will be glued together until they have become wings.

“Some women fear the fire. Some women simply become it.” R.H. Sin

The boundless hovels of self-expression find themselves in the ferocity of this month. Only brave women allow the audacity of joy. Be the bold breed of feminine who relishes in her conquest of believing herself worthy to fly the flag of ecstasy; to feel it, hold it crushingly against the chest like a newborn babe; fueled by the simple miracle of every breath, the gratitude of every memory, and the hope to be able to fly above the challenging storms. Joy is not for the faint of heart. Joy is for the dragon riders. Joy is for the woman who is fearless to feel the daring possibilities of life. Joy is for the soul unencumbered by the weight of her own failures and imperfections, but uses them to honor every woman that’s come before her, and all those who will look to her after she is gone. Joy is for the woman who knows that her story holds a place in history, who knows her emotions tinged with smoke and hopelessness and victory all bear engravings of triumph; small medallions pinned to the chest. Joy is for the woman who chooses to feel the work and do the work despite the years crawling in the mud trying to find and forgive herself. Joy is for the woman still uncovering her wings, refusing to cease excavation. Joy is for the woman who fails, and fails yet again, yet refuses to die. Joy is for a woman like you. I, am a woman for Joy. I am a dragon rider. #RideWithMe

“Rage on, oh dark rider! / I follow with a sword in my side / but with trumpets of God at my back!”

Joy is fierce and bold, fearless and fiery. It is raw – brutal in its intensity and stunning in its power to light the night. It is orange tipped flames on the scent of elation and thankfulness. It rides the strident edge of rebellion and revolution. It is the rapid-fire medicine that engulfs the self in the inferno of unfettered hope. It is, unequivocally, the most direct flight path home to the house of your blazing heart.

“The words give me strength, they carry with them a power greater than myself. Slowly, the echoes seep inward…and in the desecrated land of my soul, I lift my head from the wet and war-torn ground of this battlefield, and raise one shaking fist to the sky…and I scream a bloody and a glorious ‘Hallelujah!’ I will be heard! I will be healed. I will…be made whole.”

Your dragon will hear your call, and she will come. Climb on her powerful back, and take to the skies. The time is now. Some women fear the joy. Some women simply become it.

Where the seed of HOYH began, part II

Written by Jennifer Sturgis, HOYH Co-Founder + Co-CEO

if it feels like home

The seed of HOYH was planted within my heart sometime between the day I first walked through the doors of the Renaissance Ranch, where my husband was in rehab for drug addiction, and the day I left that program. I remember sitting there in the mandatory family group, wondering why I had to be there, since my husband was obviously the sick one. Initially, I decided that my attendance would help him in his sobriety. But it wasn’t long before I realized that I, myself, had some deep wounds that needed healing, and that the emotional fallout of these wounds was something I needed to be accountable for, regardless of my husband’s sobriety.

As my husband was able to focus on nothing but his own recovery while in rehab, I was raising four children on my own, as well as two teenage foster girls, going back to work for the first time in 4 years, and finding my heart slowly unfreezing from the numb, dead block of ice it had been since the first few years of my marriage. I remember looking around me at these family group meetings, and seeing some of the most beautiful, impressive, well-put together women I had known. We all came from different walks of life, but we all had one thing in common. The disease of addiction had brought us to our knees, and to a point where we had to acknowledge and address our own dysfunction and codependency. The learning, honesty and vulnerability that ensued, as we all made our way down the path of healing, was exquisite and life-changing. The bonds of trust and love we forged as we looked to each other for empathy, validation and acceptance, became an integral part of my recovery. I knew, after two months, that I was not done with my journey of healing and that I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to share my struggles and my triumphs with women like these, who fought on the same battlefield that I did and could relate to my life and experiences.

Giving up my own recovery and just focusing on the never-ending list of things to do and people who needed me, would have been easier than acknowledging my own emotional responsibility and ongoing work. But of all of my fears at that time, the biggest one was that if I didn’t continue working on my own recovery, I would pass this unhealthy way of being on to my children, and that the cycle of addiction and codependency would continue.

Monica’s vision, to continue the Heartwork™ that we had started in the family program, and to offer other women the same opportunity was an answer to prayer. It just felt right. We have continued the same way we started: We lift each other when we stumble, we love and celebrate each other’s triumphs, we encourage vulnerability and healing, and we reach out to other women who are looking for the same.

In that honest, vulnerable, heart-felt journey, we have since then cultivated a brave, compassionate tribe of women supporting women. And if this feels like truth, for you – join us. You are needed, important, and valued. We welcome you in…

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