In it: The Evolution of Purpose

I have one Master’s degree in Special Education and another in School Administration. My entire career, I loved the “tough” kids and worked primarily in the behavioral/social/emotional support realm. I love adolescents and their inherent mystery as they individuate. I have trainings and certifications in mindfulness and trauma. I can run a school, relatively easily, and I work with only the most innovative educational modalities.

And then I walked away from it all. It wasn’t as though I ran away from it all, it was more as though I walked toward the calling that is Embodied Breath. It started to knock at my door, this soul’s calling, about eight months after I’d created a school. It felt early to walk away from that project, but I began to name it publically by last summer as the school turned a year old.

The process of naming this and walking toward it has been a combination of faith and fear the entire way. I absolutely have the skill and resume to excel in the field of education, and yet, I am not on a journey of career ladder ascension anymore; I am on a journey of purpose. And after a while, the academics, to me, were a distraction. There is soul work to be done. I only wanted to work with the heart and soul of students, and did not have enough interest in the academics to really serve any school wholeheartedly anymore.

You know what I was really good at in education? Getting a pissed off kid to soften to the truth of the hurt under their anger. I was really good at seeing through an act of aggression to the true heart’s desire underneath. I was really good at showing kids that they had an ally, that they were believed in. I was really good at helping to break the cycles of shame that kids who struggled felt as they were told, day after day in classroom settings, how wrong they were, such that they had begun to believe somewhere along the line that they themselves were bad. I was good at sitting with kids and helping them to identify how it was that they were going to continue to put one foot in front of the other such as to reach toward just the next part of their goal, and I was great at helping them anchor in their success when they made it. I incorporated mindfulness, gratitude, even quantum-style meditations that showed them it was possible for them to shift their mindset and shift their felt perspective.

I never fit into any mold, and did things out of the box my entire career. Here I am now - no box.

A few years ago, I was a school administrator, and there was a struggling student that had become the one student taking up 90% of our time, as she was struggling severely. In a meeting, I said what I felt that she needed, which was outside of the scope of how a public school could respond, and I was criticized for often taking “intuitive leaps.” I’ll never forget that day. I felt the judgement of the criticism, but actually knew that it was a strength of mine. Five months later, I would be proven right as this child took the road I’d predicted.

Intuitive leaps. They have a place. I know that now.

Sit a person in front of me, allow me to feel, engage, and assess how they feel, believe, and act, and you know what? I’ll nail it. Most of the time, I’ll simultaneously see the big picture, backward and forward, and have a spot on recommendation. I’ll at the very least give a solid suggestion and start a conversation, and it will be one that engages on a real, human level. I engage more deeply than most.

I walked away from the structure of education, walked away from a paycheck and predictability, to follow my desire to create a thing where I directly serve the hearts and souls of my clients.

Hearts and souls. That is the work. So many hearts and souls are suffering their own experiences of disconnection and perceived inadequacy. It truly comes down to those two things in my book.

Is this life coaching that I’m doing? It’s bigger than that. I don’t know what to call it, and I won’t know yet, because the truth is, it is still being shaped.

My heart longs to do the deep work of healing human connection. A man reached out to me a few weeks ago and said that he just imagined, having watched me on Facebook, that I could see his true nature, hold him accountable, and help him to succeed toward his goals. He said he was always average and wanted to feel what it felt like to excel. He wanted to get organized to start a business and wanted help with confidence and accountability.  I had zero doubt, immediately, that I could help this man. It was as if he were a grown up version of how I’d supported my students, but here he was, so ready. You show up like that in front of me, and I’ll put my everything into supporting you. Heart and soul - mine and yours.

When we go to school for career preparation, follow the rules of progression, which I did for quite a time, the path is laid before us. I started looking at the payscale of teachers a few years ago - an assumed reality of every single person participating in the public school system - thinking, “Are you kidding me?” Why is this okay? Why is there an assumption that this is all there is? I’m not saying I do this work for the money, I AM saying that we don’t often question why we participate in the given structures. It’s often not a box I’m looking to fit into.

The truth is, when your soul calls, there may not be a box already designed for you.  I remember this same feeling of “this doesn’t make sense” when I was sitting in the guidance counselor’s office as a high school senior, being asked to choose a career. Why choose a box? It just doesn’t make sense. I tried to choose, I did. And it served me well. But I’m saying, it wasn’t for me.

Is it logical to walk away from a paid position? I don’t know. It’s not logical in the sense that it’s not linear and it’s certainly not the norm. But is it logical to work in a job your entire life while your soul is beckoning something bigger? I say no. That is not a logic that I can agree with.

I’m in this in-between space, where my heart is grieving - not the leaving of a career, but a deeper level of realization now, three months later, that I am truly leaving it behind. And at the same time, I am stepping into an unknown, which is fear-inducing, to be true. It is also exciting, meaningful, and tests every bit of faith that I have. It actually requires new levels of expansion as I traverse both faith and fear.

If we live and work in soul purpose, and we answer a call, I am assuming that there is support to live in that kind of bravery, that kind of alignment. But there is no assuredness. This is incredibly shaky at times. I look to examples of others and listen to their stories. I watch the synchronicities and I watch what happens when I take action out of pure intention and alignment with Purpose. Purpose with a capital P. It sounds magical and it is. And it feels a lot more true than what happens within the walls of a school. To say that breaks my heart for children.

I’m in this in-between space. In the space before, I knew my place, and I could predict my impact, relatively speaking. In the space now, some days I might pray for impact and talk to absolutely no one throughout the entire day. I might write something and have no idea what the impact is out there in the world. This confuses me. I notice my heart longing for ever-greater truth, ever greater connection, and I trust that if I follow it, Purpose will guide me to the right spot.

And guide it does, this Purpose, this mysterious pull that ever-expands me from the place of my heart. Every time I greet the fear of the next step into the unknown, I am stronger. Every time I am able to meet someone’s heart and soul and watch them take another step of their own, I just know that I am where I am meant to be. In that space, where humans let their guard down, get vulnerable, get honest, get emotional, and then break through their own stuff and heal because it’s safe to do so - it’s everything. It’s service. It’s Purpose. It’s my offering, dear humans. There is no where I won’t go when you are ready to go there.

For the fun of it, here I am, teaching mindfulness in a circle of students last year. And here's to all the circles to come. 

Shoemaker_Teaching_Image 2.jpg

All is calm, All is bright... and getting brighter still.

As I sit this morning, writing, I remembered this old post from a previous, private blog. This is a repost, written Christmas time, two years ago.

My tree this year still went up the weekend of Thanksgiving, because if I'm going to put one up, I'm going to enjoy the thing. But this year, only cloth ornaments, because - kitten.

The reasons "why" behind the actions continue to relax as healing as continued as the norm, thankfully. Creative efforts now go into developing Embodied Breath, but not for lack or perfectionism. Rather, to evolve a project from a place of purpose and passion. Less busy work, more true heart work. (On my knees grateful.)

This year, my Christmas tree is pretty much just a tree. The need to handcraft is almost entirely relaxed. Any sadness of lost tradition and ornaments now on his father's tree at another house, I didn't even think of until now.

Ode to the process... Deep bow to our internal evolution...

Keep on, bright ones.


December 2015...

...I feel I need to write one more explanation of this endeavor before I dive into the grit of the blog (and subsequent book).  If I begin posting about the day I gave birth to my first child, at age 19, and how that event left a mark on every decision I've made ever since, readers may be a bit taken aback.  Thus, friends, a soft overview written from this cozy couch position.

Pictured above, my Christmas tree.  Clearly, since I've used the word "cozy" and already have a tree erected and fully decorated by December 6th (truth: it was up November 28th), I am a fan.  I'm not a fan of Santa or Jesus or even family tradition, I am a fan of my Christmas tree.  How, one may ask, does a Christmas tree have anything to do with this blog or a memoir of post-nineteen year old birth?  Perfectionism, dear ones.


To put it laughably mildly, giving away a child seriously fucks with the course of your life.

Thereafter, there is no normal.

For me, the manifestation of this entire event was to strive.  Implicit was the understanding that if only I had had it together, I could have raised my baby.  And so if only I could get it right from here on out, I'll be able to feel whole again.  And so it went.  Through three college degrees, a marriage, and a second child.  None of which were a mistake, hear me now, but that is to say that this shit really played out.

So as I look at my Christmas tree, it seems to exemplify the the undertones of perfectionism that pervaded (note: past tense) my daily life for approximately the last fifteen years.  I don't quite feel the same drive to succeed now as I had (much more to come on this topic) but the evidence of this manifestation is all around me, and for one example, on this tree. Ornaments: hand-felted, ceramic, sewn, drawn with my child's sweet toddler-sized skill and hand. Ornaments purchased at the Ten Thousand Villages post-Christmas sale annually with more religion than I bring to Christmas itself cover this tree.  The tree is sweet, and perfect, really, and all of these treasured ornaments still bring me a lot of joy, even if I can now take a step back from the domestic striving that created it all.

Now, I do love beautiful things, and I love to create.  A marriage of craftsmanship and perfectionism is likely at play even now, because if we're going to create, let's have some standard of quality.  In fact, even this season, my son and I crafted real-deal Cone 6 clay ornaments, let's be honest.  It's the reason why that has shifted now.  Before, it was to feel whole.  Now, it is to create beauty.  And this blog (and subsequent book) is to tell the story of the changes that allowed for that transformation.

I also make beauty, and finding it, a priority, and I'm absolutely appreciative of this.  I love the simple way pothos flow over the rim of a small white pot in my kitchen.  I love the quilts I've made, for their heirloom quality and memory and purpose.  I love even my magazine pile, for it's haphazard nature, invitation, and promise.  I love what I've created in this life, all things considered.

My son told me this week that my husband's (still working on that "ex" prefix) girlfriend and he have matching corncob pipes.  They also have matching interests in motorcycles and large trucks, and matching sales jobs in a gear shop with a bar.  He always had wanted less responsibility than I had forced on him.  I was spending our relationship playing out trying to fill the hole in my heart, and he... well, he was looking to be loved in a really fundamental way that I didn't yet understand.  Apparently, in his defense, the new girlfriend has formed negative opinions of me based on what she knows of our relationship.  If only I could have been more fun.  You're so right.  If only I could have thrown more darts with whiskey in hand instead of evenings spent at the sewing machine.  But it's not so simple.  Because to say all of this is to essentially, at the core of it, say "Why couldn't you have just gone back to normal after giving away that baby way back when?"

We certainly lived out the manifestation of that single event of childbirth and adoption throughout our marriage (my daughter, let it be known, was not his).  Me, desperately trying to make sense of what in the world was meant by "enough" and him living that down alongside me.  Bless him.  May he be throwing darts in pure whiskey-induced bliss alongside his current love if that's what they choose.

I have now come to realize that absolutely nothing and absolutely everything is actually perfect, from the way life plays out to the ways we mistakenly attempt to shape our lives.  It is real life I intentionally choose to allow to unfold, observing interconnectedness of past and present with reverence.  In this way, ornaments can be ornaments, quilts can be appreciated as art, and blogs can be a healthy creative expression of life lived.  Beauty is there all the time, whether or not we choose to simply see and enjoy it, allowing it to unfold, or attempt like hell to manifest it.  And bless us, whichever path we choose.