Category: Women Supporting Women

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

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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…

Am I Buddhist?

Written by Brittany Johansen, HOYH’s VP of Connection

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At my new haunt in Austin this morning, sipping coffee and sifting through posts from friends. The place is basically empty. Over the two or so hours I spent there, roughly a dozen people came and went, most just grabbing some caffeine to go. The two giant great danes I like to bring everywhere with me are generally a conversation starter so I am used to meeting new folks, and I enjoy it too. This particular morning, though, varied greatly from the norm. Not sure if it was dumb luck or fate, but I only crossed paths with women. Women of all kinds and ones I will forever keep in the highest regard. There was the cop from Houston – animal lover and devoted sister. She travels to Austin and other cities once a week to deliver wine to various venues. She tells stories with confidence and finesse. I’d like to meet her parrots one day.

Then there was the brave and bold woman about to embark on a brand new adventure, out of her comfort zone and into something entirely new. It could have been easy for me to get lost in her sharp blue eyes and perfect jaw line, I admit I drooled a little at her flawless physical beauty – but her story was equally captivating. Listening to her big dreams was just as caffeinating as my cup of coffee. What was in the water this morning? Such heart-forward, powerful women. But it was my connection with one woman in particular that really set the tone for my entire day. To meet someone for the first time and be changed; this is magic.

Pearl. On top of her wonderfully vibrant and magnetic soul, her name was freaking Pearl. She was a gem, too. Not sure how the conversation started, but it flowed effortlessly. Time passed without notice. The tone of the exchange glided quickly from superficial to deep – another mermaid, I see. This was going to be good.

She told me she was Buddhist and I immediately needed to know more. Was she always? Her mother is devoutly Buddhist and lives a peaceful, equanimous life. Pearl laughed, “When your mom talks to ants you believe she is crazy. When they listen you think she might be on to something.” Apparently, believing that all life is equal (none greater than the other including humans and ants), Pearl’s mother was overheard trying to reason with the ants that had taken up residence in her kitchen. With all the sincerity in her heart, she encouraged them to leave and dwell elsewhere – she couldn’t keep them safe from those who did not believe they were creatures worthy of love, respect, and peace.

Is it just me or do you also want to hug her mom right now? The second story Pearl shared was the moment she realized that it all made sense; this oneness with nature, with animals, with all life. She had traveled home to visit her mom, and buzzing around her were two large bees as she entered the house. She yelled for her mother and begged her to get them out of the house. With all the majesty that she is, Pearl’s mother came into the room with a plastic shopping bag and asked the bees to leave because they were frightening her daughter. Included in her request was, “You’re scaring my daughter. I know you don’t mean her harm. Please come into this bag and I will bring you away.” And so the bees buzzed right into the bag and she carried them gently outside to set them free, where also, no doubt, she thanked them for their understanding.

As Pearl continued to discuss her beliefs with me, I thought about how the immense beauty in all religions makes it hard to limit to just one, but she does claim her one to be Buddhism. I understood this. Depth in a person demands diversity, acceptance, and our own truth that has been developed through countless curiosity and soul searching. Our insignificance in the grand scheme of all the greatness in the world keeps her humble and she said to me simply, beautifully, “I am nothing, so I am everything.”

This effervescent woman continued to educate me on her life as a child, a young adult, and finally as a married woman living thousands of miles away from her family. How she went to religious schools just to learn more about them, and how she traveled from her home country of Taiwan to the States bravely and courageously fulfilling her dream of working with children. Several stories later, I realized that I was in awe of this woman before me. She spoke with such intention, but it wasn’t too much – just enough to make it clear and thoughtful, but never uncomfortable.

As the wind picked up and distracts us from our mesmerizing interaction, my waitress (Pearl was my waitress, did I mention that?), turns to leave. Since I am not sure if we’ll another opportunity to speak before I leave, I decided to tell her how incredible she is because women need to celebrate other women for more than their outward appearance. Women need to be telling other women that they are smart, capable, and enough just as they are. I believe that Pearl, like every other woman on this earth, deserved to know all the things that make her special, that drew her so effortlessly to others. I told her she was fascinating, beauty beyond measure. She replied, “Then you must be too. We only see in the world what we have inside us.”

Honestly?! How does she do this, how is she this profound? I’m in love with her magic heart and profound truths. Is polygamy legal in Texas? Would she marry me if I asked nicely? Am I Buddhist? Am I all religions? Am I none?  (#curiosity and #soulsearching, see!)

The equanimity, peace and love she exuded brought out a side of myself that I could really get used to. There is beauty everywhere in this world, if you choose to see it. Pearl said, “Some people see with their eyes when they should be looking with their hearts.” Truth, my new friend. When you open your heart you will get hurt, yes. But you will also get love. You will also be found. You will also find acceptance, not just from others, but more importantly, yourself. Even if for just a moment, I urge you to find what is beautiful about your surroundings and soak it up as long as you can. Rinse. Repeat. Go digging for Pearls. Because sometimes you can walk into a restaurant and meet someone life-changing if you are open to 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…

Where the seed of HOYH began

Written by Monica Rai Silver, HOYH Founder + CEO

Intro Course - Hope

In December of 2007, after a desperate battle with addiction, I watched my husband leave our home and embark upon his own perilous journey to sobriety and another lease on life. The nature of this specific rehab included the family by inviting us (wives, parents, siblings) to participate in their family-system healing course from the disease of codependency and addiction. In the ensuing heartbreak and cracking open of prior patterns of behavior and incorrect beliefs, what I needed was support. What I needed, was someone who understood. And this need was driven deeper each week when I would glimpse intimacy in ways I never knew existed: These broken men (from all walks of life) would hold each other while they wept, would call each other out on aspects of denial and emotional sabotage, and would touch each other so gently – so innocently and with a vulnerability that made me weep as I walked through the frigid cold to drive home – alone.

The apparent unfairness was a blaze of pain; my husband got a sixty day (plus ninety more out-patient) sabbatical while I was completely alone to pay the bills, raise the children, feed the children, run the home, stave off collectors and foreclosure, somehow work for a paycheck, and all the other responsibilities that a couple is meant to share. And then, I was supposed to find the time and energy and resources to work on my own emotional health? Impossible, to say the least. And while the logic was clear; yes, my husband had to take those sixty days or he would die, it did nothing for the lonely ache in my own heart and the raw and unbearable hopelessness that followed me day and night.

And when I finally obtained some courage to share with others what I was going through, I was more often than not met with unsolicited, unhelpful advice or cruel judgment that threatened my already tenuous grasp on sanity and hope. What I wanted was the intimacy I watched grow between the men of that rehab. What I needed, was a support system of women who, instead of tearing each other down or endlessly comparing and striving to be more perfect than their fellow sisters, would simply listen to my struggles and heartbreak and triumphs. Listen, without advising. Validate me, without ulterior motives of dishonesty, gossip or self-aggrandizement. Empower me, in the spaces where I cannot see my progress because I am drowning in grief and the overwhelming details of my life. And be a Mirror for me, when denial would serve to keep me captive in self-pity and anger.

Slowly, as I chose to make room for myself despite the odds, some light began to filter through. And in that sliver of light came the inspiration and unquenchable prompting to create such a support group that I sought to find. When there is a need, there is opportunity to create the solution. And with the help of my God, my dearest friend and fellow warrioress Jen Sturgis, HOYH began on a cold winter night on January 30, 2010. Addiction may have been my detail, but it is not my definition. We all have our different details that make us need one another, and HOYH was born out of such need. Ultimately, it is a place where we may both provide and receive respite, service, relief, peace, inspiration and encouragement.

Since then, it’s grown into so much more…

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