I was feeling pretty low yesterday, for a few reasons not worth going into here. Then Janet Riccobono called about registering for the Women At Woodstock East retreat in October. I’ve known Janet for two years now, since we first met at the original Women At Woodstock in 2012. Talking to her was like talking to an old friend. Which she now is – not an old friend, but a real one. Just hearing her voice and getting an update on her life was a pick-me-up. Maybe it’s true that when women friends are together, they literally produce more oxytocin – the cuddle hormone. I did feel like I was being warmly embraced.
Janet told me why she’s coming back to Women At Woodstock this year, her third time running. Her story was so beautiful, it involved so many caring women, it was so much the essence of Women At Woodstock, that I spontaneously asked her, “Would you write a blog post sharing what you just told me? It’s a great story.” She said yes she would, and I knew that she would follow through – probably she’d send something over to me next week.
Within three hours, she had sent this to my inbox:
Dear Ann –
I drove to WAW last fall (2013) and as I watched the clouds roll in, I talked out loud to my mom (who passed away in 2000) saying rain always made me think of her because she used to say it was good luck if it rained on an important day. I hoped she would be with me during the next 3 days as I was feeling a little naked knowing I was about to share my soul with almost strangers, yet friends at the same time; and since I was feeling so uncertain about the direction my business was or wasn’t taking I was also feeling a very old, familiar feeling of inferiority. Ya know the story, “oh, so many accomplished women…..yada yada yada.” Co-mingled with this was my own voice telling myself to drop the nonsense as I knew to trust this retreat. I had attended in 2012 and felt totally invigorated and motivated for months afterwards. After all, it’s why I registered for 2013 in the first place.
The recurring theme for me while at the retreat was my feeling of being stuck. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get out of my own way. Why did I feel like I had such a good business idea, capability to help people, paid good money to be coached by a truly brilliant teacher and mentor (…thank you Gregory Ann Cox, you’re priceless!), and yet, and yet the business was going nowhere and no one knew about me or it. On day one of workshops I listened intently to Gloria Loring during the Friends & Intimacy workshop. Her words were powerful. Her struggles seemed to resonate, different yet the same. Later in the day I found Gloria sitting quietly in the lobby & I sat with her & Kathy Welby Moretti for quite some time. It was the second time that day I was brought to tears by another human’s generosity and compassion. Kathy & I went back to my room and really talked for a long time and I had already known what an astounding woman she was, but in that time my respect grew tremendously. And my reason for being a WAW alum was becoming more & more clear.
After dinner that evening and the room cleared out, I went back to my room. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t focus on a book or TV, so I decided to wander the halls of the Emerson and check out the artwork in the hotel that I had passed dozens of times and never really paid attention to. I thought the stroll would calm me. As I got closer to the dining room I heard voices and was so pleased to see a bunch of women still hanging around talking. You, Ann, & I got a chance to talk for a few minutes but you were pulled away and I went and sat with Linnea Duvall. It would be close to impossible to impart the series of emotions I experienced with her, but in sharing my being “stuck” story with her she somehow managed to pull out of me memories about my mom and my upbringing; emotions that came from depths I didn’t know existed. After a few hours of tears & wine, hugs, and much understanding, I collapsed in bed and slept amazingly well. My soul felt cleansed. Linnea gave me a gift I could never repay if I had a thousand years to try.
The next day, among many wonderful other moments, I participated in the Mastermind workshop, and in my group was Ivy Slater, Angela Mason, and Gwen Gordon. All 3 women gave of themselves so intently, with undivided attention. They made me feel like they had at one time or another been in my shoes, and were there to lend the hand I needed to pull me out of the quicksand. With no discredit, I somehow still remained stuck. But to their credit, I realized that I was what was standing in my way. I just wasn’t sure why I didn’t feel the push I was so desperately seeking. I thought perhaps I had put all my eggs in the Women At Woodstock basket and I was asking too much. So……the next morning at our “goodbye” breakfast, Gwen approached me and told me she had thought about me & my “stuck” condition (!) and realized she had an unanswered question. (Hit me…please…) … so she asked, “What’s RIGHT about being stuck?” Well I could’ve been knocked over with a feather because it was EXACTLY the a-ha moment I had hoped for. And I KNEW the answer!
The answer was that I had created this personal life that had turned into everything ANY woman would want. A home I loved in a neighborhood I adored, a retirement plan that would pay some bills, 2 healthy, beautiful, grown children who loved me and had become my friends, and perhaps most importantly a man to share my life with who loved, respected, and supported me as well as made me laugh. So perfect for me, there was no one I’d rather spend every day with. And in that, perhaps having been through a divorce years earlier so I knew what a bad relationship looked like, I DID NOT WANT TO ROCK THAT BOAT. Would being busy and successful running my own business be what would destroy this perfection? Would he still be this supportive if I weren’t paying the same attention to him?
But I am secure in this relationship so I RAN home to share this revelation with him. And with all the sincerity and love he could muster he let me know he would be happy to ride my coattails and would anxiously await any minute I could spare for him, but GO FOR IT!!! We’ll share it together he said. Whew, life couldn’t have felt lighter than it did at that moment. Gwen, THAT moment wouldn’t have happened without you. Gratitude, oodles and oodles of gratitude for your astuteness, and your presence at that retreat for a life changing moment in my life.
Fast forward to January, 2014 after having managed many personal experiences like my daughter’s college graduation and a reunion of 20 in Myrtle Beach for that occasion, moving her then to Charlotte, NC to begin her new life, and throw in Thanksgiving and Christmas….I found myself at a holiday party. I was introduced to a group of women as Jan, you know, Rob Shannon’s girlfriend. WHAT??? That was the next pivotal moment. I must, MUST brand myself. How can my business grow when no one knows who I am??
So here I am, 8 months later. I have branded myself, am a member of the Chamber of Commerce, have done 2 speaking engagements as a life coach, have developed a workshop called ALIVE & Well (ALIVE = A Life of Involvement, Vitality, and Enthusiasm) that I will begin teaching at our local Community College on September 27, and developed a variation of that workshop as a New Life at Mid Life 90 Day Challenge, a group coaching workshop focused on creating and sustaining healthy habits. I also organized a group of women alternative practitioners in my community (chiropractic, yoga, pilates, zumba, healthy cooking & educating, etc.) called the Women’s Well Being focus group to help with my branding, to support other practitioners in the community by referring each other, and to educate each other in how we can be of service to the community. Not bad for 8 months’ work! I feel Alive & Well, so I want to be among the pioneers who redefine what being well is. And I get that from you Ann, and from Women at Woodstock. The confidence and the enthusiasm that I come home with after being at the retreat is a game changer. It truly is life altering. I am a living example of how communing together with women of my age, sharing experiences, and learning new things can maximize your life. Optimal experiences are what we come together to find, and we ( I think I speak for every attendee) certainly do find it. And we share it with every woman we talk to. We WANT women to also experience it. My life has changed because of Women at Woodstock and I am forever blessed and grateful for it.
Well, there ya go Ann. As I sit in my sweet life I write to you about moments that make it sweeter. And I’m listening to a great music compilation and feeling blessed. I can’t wait to see you! Thanks for taking time today to listen. You’re a rock star in my eyes.
What a beautiful, spontaneous outpouring of a story that is completely unique and yet is the epitome of the Women At Woodstock experience. I felt good again. Tears ran down my face. Yes, crying for happiness – again a quintessentially female behavior that we all understand.
Thank you, Janet. And I’ll see you in October.
P.S. Your website is super!