The Bliss Blog

In conversation with a college student, the topic of confidence arose. He admits that he is not confident about much, despite being adept at many things. I asked him to list what he is good at and he was reluctantly able to acknowledge a few accomplishments that got him to this point in his life. What stunned me was his statement that he didn’t think he had the right to pursue a vision of doing what he loved because he might not be good enough at it to glean approval or affirmation. I enthusiastically reminded him that not only did he have the right to do it, but the obligation to himself to go after any dream he damn well pleased. No one had the right to take it away from him. He shrugged and said although I might be right, it was easier said than done for him since he had lived as if his beliefs were true and was so strongly identified with that mindset. The paradigm of Imposter Syndrome is not new to me since I too am hornswoggled by it at times. It is the idea that despite appearances and measures of success, one feels inadequate and will be found to be less than they are presenting themselves.

He also felt it was a sign of arrogance if he acted as if he had skills that he didn’t and if found to be an imposter, it would be even more embarrassing.  We then spoke about the ways in which competence and comfort can lead to confidence and vice versa. Anytime we embark on a new adventure with our skills not quite as honed as we want them to be, we face the fear. Each time we practice those skills, we strengthen them. I admitted that there are times when I have felt as he does. When I send my writing out into the world, I wonder who it will touch. I sometimes write for myself and hope that others reap the benefit. When I email query letters, there are times when I am greeted with a thumbs up, thumbs down or radio silence. Neither of the last two is any reflection of my talent, but rather a mismatch between that venue and me. I have learned to shrug it off and move on.

I reminded him that acting as if he was as wanted to be perceived would be a step forward in reaching his ultimate destination. Could he see himself being successful in his field and at ease in his relationships?  Not at the moment, perhaps, but he was in seed planting mode. I suggested that he become more comfortable with his discomfort and stretching a bit beyond them. He expressed a willingness to do that.

I shared my parents’ good guidance. My father would tell me, “They put their pants on one leg at a time like you do,” and my mother would advise, “Walk in like you own the joint.”  I wasn’t always comfortable doing that, but over the years, I have become more at ease in that mode. Head held high, shoulders back, making eye contact and as I added, ‘knockers up.’ It has served me well. I do feel competent and confident in most areas of my life and on the occasions when I don’t, I practice what I preach.



Had an interesting conversation with a young woman sitting next to me at one of my favorite healthy restaurants called Always Cafe.  It is where I go to take a breather from seeing clients in my therapy practice. It feeds the body, mind, and spirit of this crunchy granola hippie child, so I can return rejuvenated. On this day, the joint was jumping so I pulled up a stool at the counter facing the front window. A curly haired, hat wearing, bespectacled 20-something perched one over after asking if she could sit there. She had a book with her, the title of which I could discern, but had a  card/bookmark that appeared to have an angel on it.

She asked what I was eating and I told her that it was squash soup and a falafel wrap (strange combo, I know.) and she told me what she had ordered..something with beans instead of meat since it was Lent. She went on to share that she was Catholic and liked the Latin Mass and attended church daily and prayed the rosary throughout the day. She asked if I was Catholic and when I told her that I was raised Jewish and in 1999 was ordained as an Interfaith Minister. I explained that for me, it meant embracing a variety of practices. As I write about it now, it mirrors the idea of the food fusion I mentioned above. She inquired if I have a congregation and I informed her that I officiate at ceremonies and don’t want the politics of my own congregation. I take it on the road instead. Portable prayer. Have faith, will travel.

She asked what I practice and I said that I volunteer for various organizations and speak to strangers and hug them. I asked how she puts her faith into action. She looked at me like I had two heads. She responded that she wasn’t very good at that part. She works at a school as a cafeteria lunch lady and I encouraged her to speak to the children kindly and to smile at them and that would make a difference. She could treat people like Jesus did. She responded, “Oh, ok,” as if she was processing the possibilities. I said goodbye to her before I headed back to my office and gave her a heart sticker that I had in my pocket from Valentine’s Day when I did a Free Hugs stroll in Doylestown, PA. I thought about offering her a hug but had a feeling she would not be comfortable with that level of connection.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”-James 2

How do you put faith into practice?



My friend Cass Forkin invited a few friends and me to be her guests at the 50th Annual Four Chaplains awards Banquet at which would be honored as Humanitarian of the Year. Cass is the Director of the Twilight Wish Foundation which grants wishes for seniors.

Their mission “is to honor and enrich the lives of deserving seniors through intergenerational Twilight Wish celebrations.”

Their vision” is to impact cultural behavior by inspiring the way society views aging to make our world a nicer place to age, one Twilight Wish at a time.”

They have granted wishes such as tombstones, dentures, wheelchair and stoves, and adventures such as a cross-country truck ride, having a painting lesson with a famous artist and one I got to participate in, acquiring an autographed photo of Gene Simmons of KISS and four carved pumpkin images of the band members.

I have known Cass for many years and have witnessed first hand the dedication she has for this organization and the ways she puts her heart and soul into the work. She was clearly deserving of the award.

The group that bestowed the award was one I had not heard of but was deeply moved when hearing the story of the namesakes.  They were Lt. George L. Fox, a Methodist Minister; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, a Rabbi; Lt. John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic Priest; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed Minister. These men were assigned to the  U.S.A.T. Dorchester, which was carrying 902 men. On February 2, 1943, the ship was struck by a German submarine and rapidly took on water.  These four men were witnessed offering comfort to the terrified occupants who were plunging into the frigid water. In a supreme act of heroism, they each took off their life vests and gave them to four others. As the ship was sinking, they were seen praying. According to John Ladd, a survivor, “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.”

Their legacy lives on. In the hotel ballroom were numerous military personnel; some active duty and others retired, from all branches and of all ranks. Several were chaplains themselves. For this avowed crunchy granola, left of center, pacifist, being in a room filled with service men and women was a change from that of my customary crowd. I was delighted to hear, not glorifying of war, but a devotion to peace. As the story of the men unfolded before us, I was struck by the winding road that led the chaplains to the pivotal moment. One of them had nearly died at age 12 but lived on to become a hero. Each of them made a conscious choice to enter the seminary and the military. Each of them was assigned to the Dorchester and happened to be on board when the ship was attacked. It led me to ponder the concept of ‘meant to be.’ Was it pre-ordained that this event occur and that the four of them had their roles to play? 

There were others honored with applause who were families of the chaplains, survivors and those who died on that day.

I plan to visit the chapel which located in Philadelphia so I can immerse myself in the energy of such devotion.

This past weekend, I immersed myself in the juicy, playful, light, lovely, dark, soul deep, bone marrow core, Earth-shaking, birth-giving, uplifting, dance ’til you drop,  life-enhancing, righteously angry, shadowy, frightening, flirtatious, fluid realm of womanhood when I attended the Womanly Arts Experience created by Regena Thomashauer (a.k.a. Mama Gena). I had heard of her back in the early 2000s and was drawn to her calls- it -like- she- sees- it-speaking-truth- to -power-from -the heart- in -yo’- face-irreverent attitude.

Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts: Using the Power of Pleasure to Have Your Way with the WorldMama Gena’s Owner’s & Operator’s Guide To Men  and Mama Gena’s Marriage Manual are her triumvirate and she adds to them her most recent book, Pussy: A Reclamation. If that title is shocking to you as a reader of this column, remember that it is used as a pejorative term that was cast about caustically by the occupant of the Oval Office. Mama Gena and those who attend her workshops claim it as an empowering word. As she moved across the stage facing 900 some women who had traveled from many places on the planet (Nigeria, Denmark, Australia) and throughout the United States to New York City, she invited us often to see that part of our bodies as a source of creative power to call in the lives we desire. Her passion for this work is contagious. She presents a resounding clarion call for women to step out of the shadow in which they may have hidden and into the light, center stage, fully honoring all that they are.

What I loved (among many things) about the weekend, was the invitation to explore the myriad ways of being a woman. None was preferable to another. There were women from all socioeconomic backgrounds, educational levels, ages, body size and shapes, skin hues, spiritual traditions, physical abilities, and life experiences. The diversity was dazzling. Several generations from the same families attended. A woman in her 80’s whose youthful appearance belied her octogenarian status, proudly introduced herself to the cheering crowd.

I had set an intention when signing up that I would put away my tendency to be ON as a way of connecting with people. I planned to be fully present as a witness as well as a participant. An occupational hazard for me as a therapist and facilitator is to take care of others who I teach and counsel professionally and who I love personally. Quite the experiment and quite the challenge to simply BE. I know that once I sign up for a workshop, it has already begun and issues connected to the subject matter will arise. Not a surprise when a few days prior to the weekend, I developed a stye in my right eye and at some points over the weekend, my eye was so swollen that I looked like I had gone a few rounds in the ring with Rocky. I felt self-conscious and a bit grotesque and lizard-like when I looked in the mirror. It made sense to me since according to Louise Hay’s work, it represents anger. I also wondered what I was not wanting to look at. I think of myself as conflict avoidant and as a Libra peacemaker would much rather go for a win-win. I know there is much beneath the surface that is brewing and festering, ready to purge, just like that bacterial bump under my eyelid. Warm compresses, makeup-free eyes and anti-biotic drops were practical interventions. Breathing through the emotions that surfaced, sharing my feelings with Sister Goddesses (the term used for those in the community) who lovingly empathized.

A central issue arose that I addressed via journaling and conversation was one of comparison. Even though I (like every human on the planet) have experienced loss and trauma (the death of my husband when I was 40, both parents over a few year period back in 2008 and 2010, the destruction of our house in Hurricane Andrew in Homestead, Florida, an ectopic pregnancy, my husband’s diagnosis of Hep C all in 1992, fast forward to 2013 with the onset of shingles, and then a heart attack and kidney stones in 2014, I reasoned as I heard the stories of other women there of horrific trauma, that my stuff isn’t so bad, added to it that I have resources and learned resiliency skills. After all, I reasoned, I am a therapist who counsels clients who have experienced loss and trauma.  And as I heard other women sharing about their successes, I asked myself why I wasn’t where they were on that ladder. Neither are good for the heart or soul. I am learning to hush the inner naysayers.

We were encouraged us to brag about ourselves and be witnessed by each other. Women are not generally encouraged to do that, instead, we are given messages that who we are and what we do is not enough or shouldn’t be lauded. “Be humble.” “Don’t be too full of yourself.” “Keep your head down.” “Who do you think you are?” “Don’t shine too brightly.” Women are often intimidated by each other, not trusting each other.  In this safe setting, we could, with zest and joy brag freely. A rising tide lifts all boats and I was inspired by what my Sister Goddesses achieved as I thought, “I’ll have what she’s having.” The courage to stretch our comfort zones was heartily applauded.

My brags: Single mama of a 30-year-old son who recently married the love of his life. My wonderful ‘daughter-in-love’ thanked me for raising the man of her dreams. I am a self-supporting Renaissance Woman (writer/speaker/therapist/editor/minister/coach) whose work makes a difference. I am at ease with new experiences and meet friends daily. I embrace life full out, and do it physically via Free Hugs events. I did my first 5k in September. Oh, and I lived a dream into reality by interviewing the Dalai Lama in 2008.

I have come to recognize that I am an excellent provider. I took care of my son as a single parent and kept us in the same house by working several jobs. I provide support for the people in my personal and professional realms.  This I do because I can and because I want to. Another stretchy area had to do with willingness to be the recipient of other people’s kindness, caring, and generosity. I can talk a good game about the cycle of giving and receiving. One can’t exist without the other. And yet…I often push it away. A few years ago, a friend was offering me a  shoulder massage and assured me that she didn’t need or want anything from me at that moment. Yikes! Was that ever hard to accept?!

I sense it has been a stumbling block to attracting the kind of romantic relationship I desire. I want to be able to trust a partner to be strong enough to be an emotional and physical support. Needing to surrender in safety to someone willing to be in that role.

Both of these are works in progress.

A few observations that remain with me from the weekend. Mama Gena has a vital talent as a facilitator. She is able to skillfully open people up and do ’emotional surgery,’ and be able to close them up afterward so that they are not left gaping. Sadly, I have not seen that in every workshop I have attended. A second gift she has is that of presence. I watched her working with a participant and as she gazed at the woman, it was like they were the only two in the room, so focused was she.

I continue to do ‘this woman’s work’ every day of my life as I experience all the feelz full out and I celebrate the myriad ways of being a woman.