I was in my early twenties when I got my business degree.
I was in my early thirties when I ran the marketing department of a West Coast construction company.
I was in my late thirties when I started started my own language consulting business in Germany and became a potter and artist.
I was in my mid forties when I restored a 400 year old farm in Italy, and turned it into an elegant, creative guest house, hosting people from around the globe and creating art to be sold world wide.
I was in my fifties when I wrote my first novel, hosted my first women's retreat, and started coaching.
And it's taken all three of those decades to find my creative core.
At the age of 36, I found myself, after a business career in executive marketing and interior design that had taken me to corporations on both coasts, boarding a plane for Hamburg, Germany to join my husband who had just accepted the lead position running the German division of a large American retailer.
A super exciting opportunity for both of us. I could relax for a while and think about my next step, while he pioneered the company's German business. American retailers aren't known for their generous life-work balance policies, even abroad, and I knew I'd be spending a good deal of time on my own. I thought I'd be able to figure it out.
Part of me was grateful to live in a beautiful, wealthy European country like Germany. The other part of me fell down the rabbit hole the moment I got there. Ever sure of myself in the board room or at a business lunch, I found myself uncharacteristically lying in a fetal position at the bottom of my very German shower stall - morning after morning. I spoke almost no German. I knew it was going to be a challenge once I got to Europe, but what I couldn't fathom was how going from job to no job, language to no language, network to no network, long friendships to knowing virtually no one could kill my self-confidence and leave me feeling I had absolutely nothing to give - or receive. My identity was gone - or at what I thought was my identity. Dropped into the ocean somewhere on the way over.
As much as I wanted to, I knew I couldn't start a new career out of daily trips to the cafe to drink more coffee and eat yet another piece of cake pretending to be content. The growing tire around my middle and my unsatisfied intellect wouldn't let me.
I started learning how to conjugate verbs and order a beer in language school while running up mid-three-figure phone bills to my friends in the states, miserable and generally feeling sorry for myself because I had gone from knowing who I was (smart, sassy, and more than anything, employed) to not being able to ask for chicken legs at the butcher without a phonetically-sounded-out-lexicon and a box of tissues for the tears I'd cry on the short walk home.
Hamburg is a beautiful city but it has some of the worst weather in Europe. One particularly grusome November evening, walking home from class, I felt like the anti-Mary-Tyler-Moore on a corner in the pouring rain, my hat down to my eyebrows, wringing out my gloves, screaming to whoever would listen, "Why the hell did I leave? Why?"
The self pity routine got pretty old. My husband was busting his ass while I wasn't being forced to bring in a salary, complaining day and night about how tough life was, how shitty the weather was, how much I hated it, and how much I wanted to do something worthwhile.
It took three years to master German and grow a few friendships. I started teaching English - and started a small consultancy specializing in cultural coaching and communication for Germans working in the American or British marketplace.The cultural differences were something I had already learned first hand, and teaching English at an executive level improved my own native language skills. It felt good to be active again and among professionals like in the old days. And I was proud of myself for starting my own small thing in a foreign country and succeeding at it!
It was interesting, challenging work, but I had the feeling that something was missing. I had changed while I was sitting around eating all that cake and drinking all that coffee. Something profound. The things that satisfied me before didn't seem as meaningful anymore. My life had cracked open when I left the states. I didn't understand it then, but I've learned since. Traumatic events have a way of changing - in the most unexpected ways.
Then one day I walked into a pottery school and stuck my hands into a giant wad of clay, right on up to my elbows. My life has never been the same since.
I worked hard to become a good potter. But I still was very tied to the traditional business model and felt I had to learn to do pottery well enough to make it a "profitable" venture. This threw me back and I didn't learn as I could have because I was braking the flow of creativity with goals that should not have entered the picture at all during my learning phase.
I couldn't allow my creativity to just exist without quantifying it.
I thought I should be perfect at something I barely knew how to do. I was ready to make pottery part of the rat race. I didn't know any other way to approach it - that's the sad truth. It's all I had ever known.
Follow the money.
Yet deep inside, even with these profit-motivated conflicts, I felt a spiritual connection to the process of creating vessels - a connection that brought me an inner sense of peace and joy that I couldn't even express in words. When I was creating with clay I thought of nothing else -- not about the problems of the day or the crappy weather or what my life was really about.
It was just me and the clay.
That spiritual connection led to experimenting with other forms of art, and my life started to evolve into a creative palette of different media. Something about pottery and art felt spiritual, a sense that was far from my practical, profit oriented mentality. I didn't know how I felt about spirituality, but I knew I wasn't in complete control of the work I was producing. Something else had its hand on my shoulder while I was at the wheel.
Things were changing, and I somehow knew huge things were going to happen. I felt it like an earthquake, far below the surface, trying to shake loose my paradigms of safety, security, and a well-lived life.
The watershed came when my husband, having supported us financially in a super high-stress job that was taking its toll on him, decided he needed to get out of the hamster wheel or he might end up having a stroke or heart attack like several of his coworkers. He wanted more out of life, and I did too.
After months of throwing around ideas, we executed a radical plan. We sold our stuff and bought an abandoned farmhouse in Italy. I know that seems extreme. It was. Very. But we were ready to step away from the pressure cooker that is mainstream business and into a world where we could play a hand in our own destiny.
We didn't really need to go so far as to buy a pile of rocks in a country where neither of us spoke the language to prove our point, but that's what we did. We didn't research it as thoroughly as we should have - and went with our gut. We threw ourselves over a cliff without a parachute.
That was quite an edge.
I cannot begin to explain what this change effected inside of me. I think I'm still processing it today.
Yes, another language to be learned, another culture in which to integrate. But it was much, much more. It was throwing caution to the wind and relying on our wits. It showed me how much I coveted safety and security because it was gone. And with it went the lid I had tightly held over every anxiety and fear I had ever had. I couldn't fake it. I was scared shitless from the moment we signed the papers. The panic and fear, along with depression, had been right below the surface most of my life, but bloomed in full when we started ripping apart this old house in Italy.
Through six distinct restoration phases, we transformed this dilapidated, abandoned property. We both more learned about stone construction, electricity, heating systems, roofing tiles, windows, doors and landscaping than we ever wanted to know..
The property served as a guest house for people from 21 countries, a professional kitchen and art studio for our years in Italy.
When all was said and done, we took away wonderful memories from our self - created life in Italy. We created our own way of existing. We saved a beautiful old structure that was falling apart, and now it's safe for generations to come. We entertained people from all over the globe. I made pottery and painted and cooked and taughted and gave workshops. Micha learned to cut down trees, and provided us with enough firewood each year that we didn't have to use fossil fuels to heat in the winter. He learned more about Piemontese wine than most sommeliers, and stocked our wine cellar accordingly.
It was a complete departure from our lives up until that point, one that was chore-heavy and driven by nature, one where every day brought lessons and learning about practicalities and life and Spirit.
It was during my years in Italy that I began exploring creativity, flow and spirituality. During my Italy years, I worked with shamans, energy healers and spiritual mentors to uncover my own blocks and delve into the nature of my deep-rooted fears and panic. As though by putting everything on the line, I had opened myself up allowing the pain that bound me so tightly to surface.
It was a very windy path. It's led to places in my own soul that I never even knew existed. Walls have crashed, new beginnings have emerged, anxiety has tumbled forth like rushing whitewater. All of that contrasted against a background of the bucolically peaceful and sublime country side, a house of stone built four hundred years earlier, and the chance to open my heart to the energy that Spirit had given me by providing me with this outrageously wildly beautiful experiment on a hill in Italy.
I wrote as a means of communicating with myself. Six years of blogging and a published novel were the result. I wore my heart on my sleeve. This inner unfolding led me to coaching women through change and the creative process, organizing creative retreats and giving webinars and creating workshops built around the creative process.
We arrived at a point in time when we knew we were ready to move on from this experience, for different reasons. The labor intensive nature of life on the hill was taking its toll. We became tired of inn keeping - and inn keeping is one of those professions that one should leave if it becomes too exhausting. We both wanted to try new things, test new waters, and move forward and plunge deeper into our already spiritually and creatively rewarding life. The inn started strangling our time, and time was starting to count much more, as we grew older each year.
During late 2013 and early 2014, I stopped blogging, teaching and coaching. I completely contracted because of the intensity of the change leaving Italy meant. Circumstances led me to understand that leading a public life, as I had done over the last few years, would be impossible for a while. I needed to focus on taking care of myself and once again, absorbing the trauma of change. I pulled back into a space where I knew intuitively I had to be. The next phase of my life would again be different than anything I'd experienced so far, and I needed quiet to think about what direction my own professional, creative and spiritual life would take.
During the quiet time, I came to realize
that my experience in business, creative and spiritual development, marketing, writing, coaching, restoring old buildings, and creating vessels and art have all flowed together in a way that is an interesting, soul-filled river. Swimming in it allows me to thrive, work and serve on practical, ethereal, emotional, aesthetic and spiritual levels either individually or simultaneously.
that I love and respect the symphony of creativity, business, and spirit.
that helping people understand the symphony within themselves is the best way for me to grow, unfold and develop further at soul level.
that happiness is something we can choose, even if we are surrounded by difficult and challenging circumstance at any given time.
that life is loved based, and the most difficult experiences that we have are the ones that will increase our connectivity to Spirit, energetic flow, and creative development.
that love and creativity are at the core of a spiritual life.
And all of these things now make up the foundation of where my journey is taking me.
We now live in Southern Germany on the edge of the Black Forest in a traditional "Fachwerk" house, with wooden joists and beams and lime plaster walls. It was restored by the previous owner, one of Germany's leading experts in the field of wood structure restoration. The house includes a barn and workshop that I will use as a pottery studio and atelier. My goal is to restore the barn into a spiritual and creative workshop space. I love being back in Germany. Finding this house was a small miracle and I really felt as though I was coming home the first time I stepped inside.
It seems we couldn't stay away from Italy completely. We've worked together to build a Piemont wine business here in Germany called Babarolo, and have bought a tiny house in beautiful Langhe region of Piedmont to restore and use as a getaway. I can't seem to stay away from restoring old homes - they mean so much to me.
So that's my story - so far. It evolves each day and we grow with it.
Please join me as we explore this loving, light-filled adventure that we are each living. If it's through commenting on a post or taking a course or scheduling one-on-one time with me, I am honored to share and be part of your story.