Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Giving to others by celebrating your own life

I had my birthday last week.

I carry pain around my birthdays. Not getting the presents I want. Having anxiety that I am not popular enough. Fearing that no one will like my parties. Things like that. It all boils down to the thought that my birthday is a litmus test of how much I am loved, how much I matter. And in the comparison with others I have often felt ashamed, thinking I am indeed not popular, not worthy enough. Dan Greenburg suggests “that if readers have a sincere desire to make life miserable for themselves, they might learn to compare themselves to other people” (Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication, a Language of Life, p. 18). I have found that absolutely true for me.

Image courtesy to David Nayer

This year was no different, especially since I turned 50, so the thought that I should throw myself a BIG party with many, many people showing up was even stronger.

As anxiety arose, conflict increased, till I finally decided to take off the day before my birthday and focus on self-care.

It was the best thing I could have done for myself. After receiving empathy, listening to my heart’s desire, and nurturing my own needs, I felt peaceful going to bed, thinking “What can I give to others?”. This was a shift from “What should others give to me?” It was too late to make presents, even cards, so I let the question go, just appreciating the shift and this new intention.

I woke up delighted with my life and my birthday. I put on my new dress, an orange crown, and indulged in the phone calls, emails, messages, cards, and friends showing up. I had a big smile on my face all day. It turned out that the biggest gift I could give others was my joy, and my celebration of life, especially my own. And in giving to others, I gave to myself.

You want help to share your delight about your life with others? Contact me for a free, discovery session. I would be delighted to help, 512-589-0482.

Dance as if no one is watching

DanceCelebrating life

My eight-year old nanny friend dances when everyone is watching. She loves that. Her eyes grow big, she catches your look, and she swings her hips, sways her hands, turns, tumbles, jumps, swings and flic flacs. She shows everything she has ever seen on YouTube, and adds a little Maya to it.

I love watching her.

There is pure beauty in watching this young girl enjoy being her, and enjoy other people seeing her. There is no shame, no hiding, just the full celebration of herself. She thinks the world is way more wonderful with Maya in it.

And I agree.

I wished we all would think about ourselves like that: What a wonderful world with me in it.

Can you?

Maybe not. Maybe you experienced ridicule, neglect, criticism when you danced. Maybe you always had to strive for more, when you showed your soccer tricks. Maybe you were corrected, when you read your first book. Maybe you interpreted all these responses as indications that whatever you do, it is never good enough. That you are never good enough.

We are good enough

We are exactly as we should be in this moment: ourselves. A unique manifestation of life. Whether we are angry, discouraged, sad, scared, happy. We are always this unique opportunity to be seen for what it means to be a human in this moment.

And that is wonderful

Let us all dance as if everyone is watching.

And let us all love watching.


You want help to celebrate your life? Contact me, 512-589-0482. I would be honored and happy to help.

Thanksgiving with Paul

Have you ever met Paul Bussell? I hadn’t. I had never even heard of him. Till Thanksgiving 2012.

in 2009 I moved from the Netherlands to Austin. I had never celebrated Thanksgiving and wanted to start a tradition. I bought a vegan turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie. I was excited about sharing appreciation and a meal with my husband. He wasn’t. He fasts. That’s his tradition.

I decide to find someone else to share my meal with. Maybe a homeless person. Stuart! I’m always happy to see him, I enjoy our conversations and his big smile. This is the perfect opportunity to celebrate our unfolding friendship.

I spend 30 minutes driving around. No trace of Stuart. No trace of anyone else on the street, either. I give up.

On my way home, I see a homeless man pushing a shopping cart! I push down my brakes, run up to him and ask him if he wants to share my pumpkin pie. He looks at me, unperturbed by my offer. “No, thanks. I just ate.” He points at two Styrofoam boxes in his cart. “It’s amazing how much food people throw away. I’ll eat it in the morning. I first need to drink. Do you have beer?” I shake my head. “Do you want tea?” He doesn’t want tea. “Do you have a dollar, so I can buy some beer?” I’m in doubt, I don’t like to sponsor addiction.

He is willing to sit with me on the curb, while I eat my pie. Two minutes after we settle in, another car stops by. A girl jumps out, pushes a cup of orange juice and a food tray in his hand, and yells “Happy Thanksgiving!” as she runs back to her car. He puts the food in his cart. He gives me the juice. “I don’t drink that.”

He starts talking. About his imprisonment for stealing some Frankfurters, some buns, and five cans of beers. About living outside walls. About his ex-wives, who wanted him to give up drinking. About his blood. How he is O-negative and has a protein percentage that’s only found in 12% of the people. He tells about his family, his sister, the suicides of relatives. He tells about a French friend who used to bring him food. “I said ‘motherfucker’ in Spanish. I didn’t expect her to understand. But she did. She never wanted to see me again. I was angry, you know. Not at her. Just angry.” His favorite quote is from W.C. Fields “A man who loves whiskey, and hates kids, can’t be all that bad.”

After 45 minutes he wants to leave. He doesn’t trust the guy walking up and down the street, watching us. Paul doesn’t want me to get mugged. I give him $5. For beer. I wait till I see him walk into the petrol station shop. I’ve never seen him again. Will you say ‘hi’ if you do? He has the brightest blue eyes you can imagine.