Are You a Wounded Decision Maker?

Throughout most of my life, I made decisions based on one thing: how I felt in the moment.

Turned out to be a bad idea.

Back in my early twenties, when I was starting out as an advertising copywriter, I chose to work for an abusive jerk in one of the most notorious hack agencies in New York. It was the place that invented that American icon, Madge the Manicurist. And working there was hell.

At the same time, I ignored an invitation to interview with Ed McCabe, the grand circus master of creative boutique agencies. He was the guy every young writer wanted to work for. He was fun, engaging and swept every awards show. But I blew off his entreaty.

Why?
Because I had no idea what I was doing. Blithely, I assumed I should just go on instincts, so I made a very bad choice.

The bottom line was that I didn’t know how to ask for help. Nor did I even know I needed help.

At age 20, I thought I knew all the answers. “All ad agencies are alike,” I told myself, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. So I chose rashly, with no preparation.

Thirty-two years later, I discovered I was still making the same mistake. Fresh out of a 25-year marriage and newly out as a lesbian, I was in no mood for circumspection.  I dove headfirst into a love affair with an unstable person.

A month later I came to my senses and walked away – only to return to her a month later on an impulse. A friend at the time advised me against it.

“You’re scaring me,” he said. But I ignored him.

After all, I always knew the correct answer … right?

Wrong.

Only in the last several years have I learned to make decisions slowly and with a great deal of thought. The bigger the decision, the more thought goes into it. It feels like an act of Grace.

Conscious decision-making has taught me that I am not alone. That it’s best to get feedback from trusted friends. So I’ve come to think of these wonderful advisers as my personal ‘board of directors.’

Friends talked me off the cliff of compulsive overwork when it was time grieve my daughter’s death. Others advised me to walk away from a potential abusive relationship, and run towards the woman I was really suited to.

Still others kept me from snuffing out my pain with an impulse to buy a painting I couldn’t afford.

In the end, each choice I’ve made has always been mine. But I’ve learned to make them with eyes open and all the options on the table.

In this way, conscious decision-making has saved my bacon many times in recent years.

Here’s the part I really love: this Zen-like approach to decision making is fun. The pressure is off!

Especially when I regard each decision as an experiment – one that may work beautifully, or, instead, become a ‘learning experience.’

No longer must I be the swashbuckling hero of the moment, swooping in to make a big decision with no forethought or research. No longer must I save the day the way I used to as a child in an alcoholic family.

Instead, now I can take my own sweet time. I can decide when I’m damn good and ready, and not a moment sooner.

Not surprisingly, the woman I am now married to is a beautiful decision maker. She vets every choice thoroughly, turning it over from all angles. She’s not interested in seizing every opportunity, but instead, in exploring the potential downsides as well.

She takes her time, and she is teaching me to do so, too’.

At times, it’s still uncomfortable to peel myself away from a rash decision. The old buzz of pheromones and the thrill of the adrenal rush sometimes beckon.

But I stop to reflect before I choose. Because I know that on the other side is excellent self care, which is far more sustainable than the sugar rush of a fast choice.

Do I still honor my instincts? Absolutely. It’s just that now I know how to sit with them.

The world will not end tomorrow if we don’t act today. We can act in good time, slowly and consciously, and so enjoy the warm glow of satisfaction from a decision well made.

May you choose well and slowly.

If you like this conversation about how to avoid making knee-jerk reactions, you might love my latest podcast with Chel Hamilton. She has a lot to say about overcoming ‘knee-jerkery’.

What If You Can’t Hear Your Heart’s Desire?

It is said that the greatest guide to living a prosperous, happy life of love is to listen to your heart.

Just follow its guidance and you’ll be all set. At least that is the conventional wisdom that drives us to eschew the ordinary life and set off on the road less traveled.

And yet … there seems to be a design flaw.

I don’t know about you, but I have one hell of a time hearing my heart. I know its wisdom is back there somewhere. But it’s lodged behind the ranting of my incessant, worried mind, a million to-do’s, and a cacophony of mid-life emotions.

It’s also buried behind the subtle over-layer of apps, texts, emails, phone calls, appointments, traffic jams, calories, doctor appointments, instant messages, chats, whether to eat chocolate or not, and the frenetic microcosm of social media.

Bottom line: I can’t frigging hear my heart!

And yet … I know if I just stop and listen, like really stop and listen, I can hear it.

The fact is I don’t want to listen.

My heart will tell me that my constant ‘doing’ must end. That I must be willing to let go and hang out with the mystery of life for a while.

If I really want to feel my feelings, I must stop being so busy-busy-busy.

My heart will say that far more urgent than anything on my ‘must do’ list is my own – our own – continued healing.

Many of us are all in a state of subtle emergency most of the time. But we proceed as if this is the human condition. And yet … it’s not.

Underneath all the furor of modern life, we are calmly rational. Furthermore, we know exactly what to do at any given moment. In fact, our nervous system is always ready to chime in with its intuitive hit to set us straight. But really … we just can’t bear to hear it.

Then change might be required. Change for which we feel ill prepared. Change that might lead us to failure.

At least that’s what the ego thinks in its protective, if misguided way.

So we hang out in vagueness … longing for something … but unable to say exactly what.

 I have been quietly learning that I have no choice. If I want to be happy, I have to follow the directions of my heart whether I like it or not. Really, my heart’s the only sane driver on board.

Because when I slow down long enough to listen, life calms down. Then my faith returns and I remember I’m not alone. Instantly, I feel stronger, wiser. And somehow, I know what to do.

Bear in mind this: your heart will not ever try to set you off course. Nor will your heart ever try to hurt another. Instead, it only wants to lovingly steer you onward to become your best, every day.

That’s all that happens when you make enough time, and create enough peace, to finally listen.

What is your heart trying to tell you today that you may be avoiding?

You can find this episode below, or subscribe with any podcast player.

Here are the links to iTunes and Google Play!

 

 

The Eight Secrets of Emotional Self-Care

item-img1You hear a lot about self care out there – the massages, the meditation apps, the healthy walks. The apple a day.

But what about your emotional life? How do you live so your emotions generate less stress and more happiness?

Here are eight simple guidelines I find invaluable as I focus more and more on my own self care. May they serve you well …

1. Honor your emotions. Feel them, listen to them and let them naturally cycle through you. This is one of the wonders of the human organism. We are designed to constantly cleanse our psyches by allowing our emotions to move through us. But first, we have to allow them to do that.

Delaying, ignoring or ‘stuffing’ your feelings does no one any good. (P.S. This does not mean going off and dumping those emotions on someone else, willy-nilly. See # 3 below.)

Reminder: your anger and your fear are here to protect you. So let them do their job.

2. Realize it’s all about you and your mother. We are always processing emotional sludge, most of which we think has nothing to do with us. But actually, all of it has to do with us — and the gigantic filters we have that constantly trigger memories from our past.

When something challenging or even joyful happens, these memories pour through our subconscious. They can make us euphoric, just as they can render us mute with anger when, say, someone snaps at us.

Believe it or not, that oversized, white-hot rage you feel when a car cuts you off is a flicker from your past, albeit a strong one.
You can tell you’re triggered because the event usually does not warrant the huge reaction you have.

Good self-care means gently reminding yourself you are triggered. Then allow your feelings to flow in the quiet of your own private space, until eventually they resolve.

3. Become humble. It’s hard to be a humble human, and yet, when you are, you set yourself free. Humility means you don’t need to be perfect … nor do you need to be right.

In fact, you don’t have to be anything other than just good old you, as you are, right here and right now.

Humility also means everyone else gets to be the equally flawed creatures they are, as you remember we are all in this together.

Ironically, humility insists you give yourself the self-care you need first, so you can then turn your eyes in service to the rest of the world. It means listening with curiosity, then learning.

Always … we are learning as we go.

4. Know (and express) your boundaries. Being clear on your boundaries and setting them in a kind way is a great life skill.
Sometimes we don’t get to do that as kids, so we are learning now as adults. Which is great!

The key is to honor our emotions (see #1 above) and then find the courage to speak up kindly. Requests work well here.

If you feel shy about this, keep this in mind. People often appreciate it when you are clear about your boundaries. Then they don’t have to awkwardly wonder, guess and try to accommodate you anyway.

5. Own your own stuff … and nothing more. Good emotional self-care would include only being responsible for ‘your side of the street’. Take note if you come from an abused background, and you tend to say you’re sorry a lot.

You don’t have to apologize to someone who dumps on you for no good reason, any more than you have to apologize for inclement weather.

That would be someone else’s business … not yours.

By the same token, always be honest when conflicts happen. So if you actually do need to make an apology, you do so.

This is how you find your way back to true ease and freedom –- which is the heart of emotional self-care.

6. Forgive and set yourself free. That sticky pile of resentments you’ve been carrying around is a massive energy suck. Within those upsets is usually a piece of you, also waiting to be forgiven.

The fact is that conflicts are seldom one sided. It takes two people to make a snit. But once your issue forgiveness yourself and the other person … and you own your own part as well … your heart can relax. And your soul can breathe once more.

7. Stay out of harm’s way. Your emotions are always on, like finely tuned radar, reading the people and places all around you, scanning for safety.

So it’s worth noticing when you find yourself feeling a bit uncomfortable or even mildly frightened by someone else, or the place you are in. That’s when you may need to leave. Or, if you can’t, simply pull down your ‘invisible shield’. That would be your inner protective armor, which is always at the ready waiting to help.

Also bear in mind that you can still love someone, and even respect them, though you may not want to spend much time with them. (I’m thinking of difficult family members here.)

Above all, be true to yourself. Your guidance system is on for a reason.

8. Be patient with yourself. Did you know that you are a work in progress until the day you die? But then, isn’t the point of life to learn, evolve and grow?

That means you won’t ‘get it right’ the first time, or maybe even the fiftieth. But you might just do it the fifty-first time.

Here is to your tender heart.

If you serve her well, she will most abundantly serve you.

Why Is It So Difficult to Know What You Want?

woman standing by gauzy curtainsIt is said that the greatest guide to living a prosperous, happy life of love is to listen to your heart.

Just follow its guidance and you’ll be all set. At least that is the conventional wisdom that drives us to eschew the ordinary life and set off on the road less traveled.

And yet … there seems to be a design flaw.

I don’t know about you, but I have one hell of a time hearing my heart. I know its wisdom is back there somewhere. But it’s lodged behind the ranting of my incessant, worried mind, a million to-do’s, and a cacophony of mid-life emotions.

It’s also buried behind the subtle over-layer of apps, texts, emails, phone calls, appointments, traffic jams, calories, doctor appointments, instant messages, chats, whether to eat chocolate or not, and the frenetic microcosm of social media.

Bottom line: I can’t frigging hear my heart!

And yet … I know if I just stop and listen, like really stop and listen, I can hear it.

The fact is I don’t want to listen.

My heart will tell me that my constant ‘doing’ must end. That I must be willing to let go and hang out with the mystery of life for a while. If I really want to feel my feelings, I must stop being so busy-busy-busy.

My heart will say that far more urgent than anything on my ‘must do’ list is my own – our own – continued healing.

Many of us are all in a state of subtle emergency most of the time. But we proceed as if this is the human condition. And yet … it’s not.

Underneath all the furor of modern life, we are calmly rational. Furthermore, we know exactly what to do at any given moment. In fact, our nervous system is always ready to chime in with its intuitive hit to set us straight. But really … we just can’t bear to hear it.

Then change might be required. Change for which we feel ill prepared. Change that might lead us to failure.

At least that’s what the ego thinks in its protective, if misguided way.

So it is that we hang out there in vagueness … longing for something but unable to say exactly what.

So I have been quietly learning that I have no choice. If I want to be happy, I have to follow the directions of my heart whether I like it or not. Really, my heart’s the only sane driver on board.

Because when I slow down long enough to listen, life calms down. Then my faith returns and I remember I’m not alone. Instantly, I feel stronger, wiser. And somehow, I know what to do.

Bear in mind this: your heart will not ever try to set you off course. Nor will your heart ever try to hurt another. Instead, it only wants to lovingly steer you onward to become your best, every day.

That’s all that happens when you make enough time, and create enough peace, to finally listen.

What is your heart trying to tell you today that you may be avoiding?

Is Your Inner Four-Year-Old Running Your Life?

 

mad child

 

Who is in charge of the decisions you make?

You … or an angry, fearful child who lives in your heart?

I ask because it might be time to get to know her.

You know she’s in charge if any of the following ring true.

 

 

  1. You find yourself drawn to difficult people in love or work … kind of like all those kids who bullied you in the schoolyard or your tough parent.
  1. You spend money too freely – or perhaps not often enough — getting a physical rush of satisfaction when you do so, despite any financial or personal mayhem that may ensue.
  1. You eat that last jelly donut or drink the extra martini, even though you REALLY ARE trying to stop. Because … well, it’s been a hard day.
  1. Financial, career or business chaos seems to follow you around, no matter how hard you try to shake it.
  1. On some level you feel addicted to excitement and drama, even though you ‘know’ it’s draining and debilitating and you’re sick of it.
  1. You consistently attract people who encroach on your boundaries in some basic way.
  1. You find yourself feeling mad for no reason sometimes. And really, you can’t help it.
  1. You long to do things you can’t get started with. Or finish the ones you have started. Yes, you’re scared but … why?
  2. Procrastination is second nature … though somehow things always finally happen. But not without a fair amount of adrenaline.
  1. You buy things on impulse only to return them later – or stockpile them in a room or closet filled with unused items. You don’t really know why.

Chances are some of this is true for you, it’s time to meet your inner child.

Honestly, the foot-stamping or frightened little self who lives in your heart is so entwined with your life that there is little you can do WITHOUT her involvement. And sometimes she feels completely out of control.

For most of us, our inner child operates like … well … a four-year- old. Decisions get made and impulses followed that mirror that distinct 4-year- old logic. Which is why the last jelly doughnut is impossible to resist.

Our inner child becomes the source of many of the unbreakable patterns that show up again and again in life. And it is not until we begin to work with this formidable power source that things can begin to shift.

For me, I’ve had to spend active time first of all finding my inner child … and then just plain old listening to her. I began this work in earnest after I noticed I’d attracted a string of difficult women in my life in love and friendship.

Yes, they reminded me of Mom. Point made.

I experienced a palpable gut-level fear around these women … the same fear I knew as the kid who got bullied at home and at school. But there was something deeper going on as well. Somewhere behind the annoyance and upset was anxiety ,,, as well as a strange, subtle desire to feel that feeling.

It was all incredibly familiar. So when I found one of these women it was an auto-yes to engage.

It’s this kind of recognition that can begin to break the log-jam and end the pattern. So I began calling my inner child out into the sunlight so I could get to know her, day by day.

This happens by sitting quietly, tuning in and inviting ‘Little [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE]’ to show up. When you do this, you may be surprised how she appears.

In the beginning, my inner child, Little Susie, was pissed. She was furious really, because I’d shown such a complete lack of interest in her through my entire adult life. I was taken aback.

First I had to just listen while she had a nervy tantrum. But over the weeks that followed, she began to lighten up. At the same time, I began to tune in to her more and more deeply.

In my imagination, Little Susie sits on my lap when I meditate. I stroke her head and tell her how much I appreciate her. I ask her what she needs.

Inevitably she just wants me pay a little attention to her. Or maybe take her to the beach.

My big take away is that this little girl was just plain bewildered by the circumstances of her childhood all those years ago. And so all that anger I bottled up inside has begun to finally dissolve.

I no longer auto-rant at myself for opportunities missed and mistakes made. Nor do I lose my head when I’m scared. Instead, I tune into this sweet little soul’s innocent heart. If I made a mistake, I assure Little Susie that the world will not end. If I’m afraid, we hug each other and hang on for dear life for a while.

Most of all, we now both know it’s all going to be okay.

We are all children of the Universe throughout our lives. It is when we can recognize that and feed ourselves accordingly that life becomes more and more beautiful. And so we become more and more transparent, allowing Grace to shine through us.

Take a moment right now to close your eyes and say hello to the little one who lives within. If it would help to dig out an old childhood photo, do it. Leave it somewhere where you can see it often and be reminded to check in.

Chances are she’s been waiting for you.

A Pep Talk For Anyone Who Needs to Let Go

fingers hanging onQuestion: what do you long for, dear friend?

What, in your heart of hearts, do you know you could have if only …

If only, what?

You won the lottery? You had more time? You didn’t have this blasted [INSERT PERSON, PLACE OR THING] holding you back?

If so, then it could be time to surrender — but only if you are willing to let go. (And I do mean completely.)

Here’s the catch.

It’s damn hard to let go.

Most of the time, we think we are all powerful, wielding credit cards, cell phones, tight schedules and big demands. Yet behind all of that posturing is our fear.

We are afraid the ghost of our suffering will catch up with us, that bad memories will bombard us. Or that we’ll run into that former lover, the one we’d do anything to avoid, in the Safeway .

We fear we will lose our steely grip on control and be brought to our knees by circumstance. We are afraid that by losing everything, we will crumble to the ground and die.

Yet when you have nothing — when you finally let go and fall apart — then you are finally free. In that moment, you learn the truth: that all of this resistance and suffering you’ve cooked up is unnecessary. Then you start to see that you can have anything you want … if only you will allow ourselves to trust the Universe to bring it your way.

Ranier Maria Rilke wrote: “Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”

This is the hard part. If we can just relax into that receptivity and stop the incessant striving and pushing, then life can finally, truly turn our way.

Perhaps for you that critical surrender means letting go of a treasured client or contract you’d wanted forever. Without that guaranteed source of income you think you will never make it. You believe you will simply dissolve, and cease to be the glorious You you keep trying to be.
Ah, but friend, what if …

What if the Universe has something better prepared for you that you can’t even fathom?

Can you let go and surrender into that infinite possibility? This is when your heart opens, your love for the world expands and you are finally set free.

When I gave up my 23-year marriage, my big showcase home, my identity as a nice straight lady, and then, subsequently, the woman I thought was the love of my life, I began to surrender and truly fall apart.

For a while I roamed around, staying with friends here and there, not sure exactly what to do. And then, incredibly, my daughter suddenly died. And so, in a curious way, I was reborn. Yet, believe me, I still tried to hold on and avoid the sinkhole that was my grief.

I launched a business only 8 weeks after Teal’s death because I was afraid to stop. When that, and a subsequent business both quietly dried up  … well, then I had to let go even further. By then I was retreating frequently to my beloved spiritual retreat — a hippie haven north of the Bay Area where clothing was optional, and you could float around in the meditation pool for hours gazing at fig trees and the evening stars.

Then my spiritual retreat center burned to the ground in a wildfire. So if I wasn’t free before … well, now I was. Like seriously.

So the big lesson became detachment and taking each day as it comes.

But here’s the punchline — I. Truly. Am. Happier.

And all I had to do was let go. Completely. Unbidden, an abundant writing contract landed in my lap. Then a new speaking career was launched. Just yesterday I had a call from a literary agent asking me to show her my memoir when it’s done. Oh yeah, I found the love of my life — and I even get to marry her.

There is something unexpected and sweet about this state of non-attachment. The usual supports are gone; unusual taboos are being lived. In the chaos you realize you are made of unique and beautiful stuff. So you discover you are loved and supported in ways you’d never imagined.

In that ultimate moment of self-reliance, devoid of all your usual props, you can finally know what you are made of. And what you are made of is love. You are not your judgments, your hurts or your long list of to-do’s. Nor are you your self-criticisms and your relentless drive for perfection.

No, dear friend, you are nothing more than your big, beating heart. The degree to which you can know and live this love is the degree to which you will set sail and honor the path you have been given.

There is no valor in holding back in the name of practicality. Do that thing you have been given to do in the small of your heart – the one that propels you forward with an ‘if only …’. That is where the magic is.

If it means some carefully constructed structures must dissolve as you face your worst fears, then so be it. On the other side of all that loss is simply freedom.

You will survive – and, in fact, you will thrive; I can promise you that. That dream of yours is like a great beam of love waiting to pour out into the world and light your path as it lights others. And in that divine consciousness is all the magic and power in the world.

Why resist, dear friend? Why not just dissolve? For I can tell you right now with a smile and an arm around your shoulders: Not only do you deserve it … we all do.

We truly do long for your gifts. So will you just surrender?

Why Women Over 50 Know How to Kick Butt

honey.blogIf you are a woman of a certain age … let’s say 50+ … you may have noticed something. You no longer give a damn what other people think.

All that ‘model behavior’ we are taught just has to disappear at a certain point. I’m talking about those culturally-approved cues we learn as young girls in our pre-teen years.

For those of us who grew up in the 60’s, we had models like TV spy Honey West and those chic girls from The World of Henry Orient. I also had my older sisters Sarah and Lisa, who showed me how the world worked.

Sometimes being appropriate required a certain amount of lipstick (but never orange because that would make our uber-stylish mother plotz.) Sometimes it required we sit decorously and listen to the men drone on for hours.

In my case, it also required I be straight instead of gay — something I knew about myself at age 20 but managed to successfully hide, even from myself, for the next 30 years.

I counted on role models to show me the way. As a kid, I loved Honey West because she was powerful, authentic and real. (Okay, she was hot, too.) My Honey West doll even came with a tiny black plastic revolver that she could tuck into the belt on her cat suit.

Tellingly, Honey West’s creator, G.G. Fickling was a pseudonym for Mr. and Mrs. Fickling because they didn’t think the wife’s name should be on the work. Even though Mrs. Fickling’s job was to provide Honey’s ‘style sense’ – as well as everything that made her a dynamic, but believable female character. (Gloria Fickling, thank you … wherever you are.)

So here we are today, and I can safely say not one of us wears a girdle. We may have left our marriages; we may even live alone and love our lives just the way they are. Or perhaps we’ve staked out ‘our turf’ in our marriages more completely.

We get, on some level, that this is it. Our last hurrah has arrived so we’d better damn well make the best of it.

Recently I published a novel, Transformed; San Francisco,  in which the female protagonist comes to terms with her long suppressed desire to be a professional dominatrix. She’s given up her position in New York society; her marriage was tattered to shreds after her husband found our she’d been domming around with six of his friends.

And why? Because poor Electra had to sneak around in order to be who she really was. Yet,Transformed cover thumbnailTINY when she changes her name from Pamela to Electra and moves to San Francisco to finally BE that dominatrix … she stumbles.

Can Electra really have what she wants? Like … really?

It’s almost hard to believe you can have what you want when you’ve been culturally programmed to defer to others again and again. Especially if what you want is way outside of the box.

So it becomes a question of giving up on ourselves. Will we? Or won’t we?

In 2010, I, too, came to San Francisco to seize the rest of my life. I left behind my 25-year marriage, came out as a lesbian and found my way to the real deal.

Sacrifices were made, but I am now happier in love and life than I’ve ever been. Mainly because I finally get to be me. 100%. Completely.

This is our opportunity as women at mid-life. And frankly, I couldn’t think of a better age to be, wrinkles and muffin tops notwithstanding. Unlike our younger counterparts, we have had more of an uphill climb, but look what we gained in the process.

Like Honey West, we are not afraid to kick butt when we have to. So we can finally, totally be ourselves.

Thank frigging God!

PS. Please feel free to add to the conversation. Have you had your own Honey West moment?

The Gritty, Beautiful Process of Becoming Yourself

Lili_Elbe_by_Gerda_Wegener.401These days we seem to be generally all about becoming ‘something’ — especially as the year begins. We want to be thinner, richer, sexier, bolder, more productive yet more relaxed, more spiritual …. hell, even bustier.

We want our flawed and weak selves to disappear and be magically replaced by someone who is infinitely better.

As if we could be improved on just as we are.

I write this as a lesbian who for the better part of 40 years pretended I was not. It wasn’t safe to be me – not in a family headed by two people who were cluelessly homophobic. My story is not new. The repression of who we are shows up again and again through the generations.

Yet, it is a new day. I have been out and proud for more than five years, and seen the dawn of gay marriage in the USA. The growing mass acceptance of transgendered people is proof as well.

Not long ago my partner volunteered to work at a conference for transgendered families. Yes, that’s right. Transgendered families; parents whose children have decided at age six or eight or eleven that they are in the wrong body. There were hundreds and hundreds of people at this conference – it was a dazzling display of openness and self acceptance.

Next month I will publish my first novel in 25 years, which features a transman (female to male) character. Charley is a spy who happens to have transitioned at age ten. In the deep south. In the late 80’s.

Why did my co-author and I make this choice? Because it’s a story of deep self acceptance that must be told again and again.

In Transformed: San Francisco, the fact that Charley is a transman becomes irrelevant; his transition is not even discussed. More important is that Charley is brave, strong, grounded, and a little hopeless in love. That he is gifted with being both vulnerable and tough, sensitive and bold.

Charley is us and we are Charley – even when he blows off paying his taxes and gets suspended by the CIA, his employer.

We all must be ourselves just as we are … no matter what. If this requires special bravery, then special things are likely to happen. Even if the results are immediately disastrous, they make sense over time.

The Danish Girl, an exquisite film by British director Tom Hooper, comes to mind. The film is based on the life of Danish transgender pioneer Lili Elbe, who was the first person to change genders surgically. Her decision to become a woman ultimately killed her – but oh how she lived until her death!

Lili Elbe loved to walk the streets of Paris in her full feminine persona, often passing as the sister of the man she once was. Mind you, this was in 1912. The painting shown above of Lili by her beloved wife, artist Gerda Wegener, completely captures her essential femininity.

The Danish government, in an equal state of openness, honored Lily’s changed identity and even issued a passport in her new name and gender.

We hope that Transformed: San Francisco will help all manner of readers accept those who are different, yes. But for me there is always a deeper agenda. As a writer and speaker, I am here to remind people again and again to honor who they are, even the tricky bits.

Can we improve and learn and grow? Always, of course. But must we change what is essentially ‘us’ in order to fit in? To be ‘normal’ — whatever that is? No.

Rather, we must learn to love our own particular quirks.

For this reason, we included a second character in Transformed: San Francisco who longs to be a professional dominatrix. She begins the book as Pamela Delacroix, a Manhattan socialite who has just been booted out of town for serving as dominatrix to six husbands of friends.

Honestly, Pamela was just doing what came naturally, though there was certainly a better way to get the job done. Namely by leaving her repressed marriage, moving to San Francisco and staking her claim as a true dom which she does. Here she takes the name ‘Electra’ and gets down to business.

Life moves towards wholeness for my characters as they take risk after risk fighting a Christian extremist who believes such people are ‘sinners’. As I know we can, as well.  Emerging from writing this book, I know that a good story can open hearts and minds, just as The Danish Girl has.

At the very least, it has opened mine just a little bit more.