Free Once Again was born from my first coaching business, My UnRetired Life, which I started after I retired from the University of California.
My coaching clients kept telling me that they wanted to experience more adventure, creativity, and fun after working responsible jobs.
Some were entering full retirement, but many were in their 50's. They were smart, accomplished, intuitive, and introspective. They were often introverts (like me), quiet achievers who wanted to live with more ease and vitality in their next act. They had an entrepreneurial itch, a zest for adventure, or a last big career move that they had been planning FOREVER.
Almost all my clients had been what I call "old children." Thrust into duty at a young age, they longed to feel free to just be, without the shame of feeling irresponsible. They were telling me, in so many words, that they wanted to be Free Once Again. I wanted that too.
And so Free Once Again was born.
The place where quietly achieving women, mid-life and older, find the clarity and confidence to boldly live the life they've been holding safe inside.
Living your natural self means giving yourself Permission to 1) envision the life that pleases you and 2) make it so!
We start by showing up exactly as we are. Then we use expressive play that get you into your body and invite your naturally free spirit to emerge. You allow your Feelings to flow and Release the fear, doubt, and worries that naturally come up when you reach for what feels good and risky.
Next, You Envision the life that aligns with your spirit. Then we invite your head to join with your heart as you take SPECIFIC steps to Embody the new game of life that makes you feel yummy inside.
Finally, we celebrate you falling in love with your juicy new life!
It took me 60 years to realize that I was born to play out loud.
I entered this world loud (I was a colicky baby), but then went quiet - not speaking until I was two. But I was listening, taking everything in - a quiet, sensitive child, who figured out exactly what she needed to do to please her adults.
My need to please served me well. It got me out of my small town, into a good college, and then launched my career at UC Berkeley. I was living the typical 1980's Left Coast lifestyle: doing good work, making a difference, smoking cigarettes and becoming an activist. If my life wasn’t perfect, it was pretty darn good.
Until one day, it wasn’t.
I remember the exact moment my psyche began unraveling, clicking along a wide open highway at 70 miles per hour. There we were, my older sister and me in her beat-up Nissan, her beloved spaniel mix in the back seat and me, age 34, driving and available to listen to her for the entire 1,000 mile road trip while ranch land whizzed by the open window.
You see, I was always the one who listened. My sister, four years older than me, had severe OCD as a child, plus a bunch of other psych diagnoses that were added over the years. My signature expertise became my ability to connect with her. I could “handle” my sister the way no one else in the family could. I wouldn't be surprised if you were the responsible sibling in your family too. We have a knack for finding each other.
Now, at 40, my sister had a part-time job. There was a different air about her on this visit - she was more self-contained, less demanding of my attention, more at ease.
I was happy for her and for me. “Now maybe I can relax,” I told myself, staring out the window as my jet plane turned towards my home in the Bay Area. “Maybe now I can have my own life.”
I returned to my job at UC as administrative director for an education change program in the throws of massive growth. The job was perfect for me! I was used to juggling unpredicable and wildly disparate needs. I was the cool, calm center in the midst of the madness.
But something was off. I’d drag myself home after work to my little bungalow, curl up with my big fuzzy black dog, and just cry. For no reason. Everything was supposed to be fine.
Then, one day I snapped at my boss. I was shocked. Pat and I were so close! She was my mentor, comadre in social change, and more engaging second mother. A week or two passed and it happened again. My boss made some simple request and I WENT OFF.
I was scared I’d lose my job and terrified that I was losing myself. I didn’t recognize this person who erupted without warning, for no reason. I was never out of control.
I found a therapist I could see on my lunch hour and booked an appointment fast.
I talked about how since I was a little girl, sharing a bedroom with my older sister, I listened as she did her bedtime routines, over and over, and over. How I was the one who fetched her from school when she got stuck there. How she had been sent away for awhile, how it was a secret, how we kept many secrets in my house.
I talked about how I had missed dating in my 20’s, marriage, kids. How impossible the idea of falling in love felt, to be gobbled up like that. How competent I was at my work, and how that was enough. How no one there knew my secrets.
When the hour was over, I walked back to my office. I took a long, deep breath. My body hurt from the inside out, like bleach had been poured down my throat, harsh, and cleansing, and true.
Telling my story out loud was the first step of my lifelong journey to wholeness. I was learning how to become free.
In the three decades since I turned 34, life has been a spiral. Sometimes it has felt as if life wasn't moving at all or was repeating the same patterns. (The Universe has a way of showing us our unfinished business!) Yet, always I moved towards wholeness. A serious health scare in my 40's re-ordered my priorities towards health and connection. I discovered that I wasn't as straight as I thought, and when I was finally ready to love, the woman who would become my wife entered my life, just as I turned 50.
By the time I took an early retirement from UC Berkeley in 2012, I thought I had life figured out. I had no idea how much more I would discover, when I was finally free to develop a new relationship with myself.
I knew as I left my job that something had been missing. I had been hiding out in my career. I had stayed in a supporting role, leading from the side and avoiding the spotlight.
I wanted to challenge myself to lead from the front.
I soon discovered that I didn’t have a clue how to do these things!
I tried one business idea after another, some silly (cat video mugs anyone?) and some serious (a blog about doing philanthropy better). I joined the board for a local non-profit. I moved my widowed father to the Bay Area and managed more of the family business.
I spent years stopping and starting, trying to figure out what to do that would give me purpose, happiness, and meaning.
If it sounds like I was working hard in retirement, I was! How crazy is that??!!? It was a comfortable distraction, doing all that research and staying on the “thinking about it” side of life.
Finally, after years of searching, I found myself in a four-day seminar. The leader took us through a visioning meditation where we met our future self.
Suddenly I was clear:
Purpose isn’t something I had to find, it’s something I felt. It's just that simple.
Simply create a life where each day feels purposeful, joyful, and free.
This idea was thrilling! “I can do this,” I said to my future self. "I have been doing this my whole damn life!"
I sprung into action to start my certified coaching practice. I called it My UnRetired Life because I hated the word "retire." Everyone I knew wanted to move towards more life, not away from it!
I couldn't wait to help them get there!
My practice was up and going, yet something didn't feel right. It was hard to sustain my momentum. Something always got in the way: family obligations, projects only I could do, being a good daughter; being a good wife.
I worked my business in between all my other responsibilities. Maybe you can relate?
It wasn’t until I made a serious investment with my own coach that I began to understand that I was still waiting for permission to live my life. But why?
The answer came at my coach's intimate retreat. There I realized with a shock of anger just how much I had to control myself as a child as I waited and waited to get what I needed: my mother's attention, bedtime peace, freedom to play. I understood why I had made control the centerpiece of my life.
All I really wanted was to play, natural and free once again, like an innocent child.
So play we did. A bunch of baddass business women, jumping up and down on couches in a Chicago hotel until we collapsed in laughter.
Imagine creating this world for yourself, your family, your community.
Since my first transformational retreat, I have experienced, witnessed, and led women as they re-birth themselves.
I have seen the beautiful energy that women have kept wrapped up tight, release with compassion and play.
Leading transformational retreats is humbling, sacred work.
It is work that is necessary if we are to free ourselves to play our game of live with love.
It is necessary for every woman to bloom.
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