Month: February 2019

Truth Without Judgement

We all know the old cliche “everything happens for a reason.” Bleh!  Yet, when life does happen it is often how we deal with it that makes us who we are.  So, how do you respond when it hits the fan?

 

Show Notes:

How do you respond when it all comes crashing down?  It wasn’t until coming face to face with her own suppressed trauma that Priya Patel truly understood what she was meant to do.  This is how the Intention Table was born.

In 2015, Priya began to unravel her life and began the quest to break through the barriers of hidden trauma. To help herself, she wrote and developed a robust curriculum, now known as the Intention Table. It includes programs that stimulate the body’s senses and cultivates an open present relationship with yourself through self love.

She launched the first of four programs in 2018.  Known as the Eating Meditation Experience, the first program is her take on a Zen Buddhist meditation practice.

Priya says: “I knew that I was disconnected from my body and myself and I knew that right here in front of me what was my drug of choice, food, was actually going to be a tool for me to heal myself by becoming very present with every piece of food during this meditation practice. And literally seeing it for what it was and seeing beyond my pattern of behavior, seeing beyond my needs to create intimacy with self and others. I unwrapped and unraveled to see the beauty in this eating meditation practice. So it became about me connecting to myself.”

Before launching the Intention Table Priya first created these programs to help her discover who she really is, but most importantly,  she says: “just to connect me with truth without this sense of judgment, you know, just seeing things for what they are.”

 

Links:

www.chasesplace.org

itsasensoryworld.org

http://www.gaiaflowyoga.com

www.theintentiontable.com

The Intention Table – Facebook

 

Transcript

Welcome: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

Intro: Hey Pod Sisters. My guest today is Priya Patel. Priya is a certified mindfulness, meditation and Yoga coach that has a profound understanding that our bodies are faithful partners that carry the load life may present. Her teaching philosophy is the concept that housed in every one of us is the intrinsic knowledge and capability to heal even the most devastating of wounds. Prior to coaching adults, Priya taught children with special needs and specialized in the sensory system in communication. In 2010 her holistic approach to education led her to co-develop a school for children with special needs that today serves over 40 children in Dallas, Texas. In 2015, Priya began to unravel her life and began the quest to break through the barriers of hidden and suppressed trauma. To help herself, she wrote and developed a robust curriculum, now known as the Intention Table. It includes programs that stimulate the body’s senses and cultivates an open present relationship with yourself through self love. It is being used to help unravel, accept and move through life with a love based attitude. Priya’s gift is teaching people the art of self-inquiry to exercise the choice to meet circumstances, people in challenges with a love based attitude versus fear. She helps people see the truth within themselves, excavate deep rooted emotional wounds, unravel and reverse hardwired behavior patterns and let go of stories that are holding them back. So without further ado, here’s Priya.

 

Susan: Hey Priya, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m so excited you’re here.

Priya Patel: And I’m so happy to be here with you today.

Susan: I think it’s really, not funny haha, but interesting how we were connected. I don’t know if you totally know this backstory or not, but I happened to be at Kate Weiser Chocolate not that long ago, just picking something up and I met Barbara Bowman, and I had never met her before. She was a total stranger and we hit it off. She has a wonderful spirit about her and she said, “I have some people you need to talk with.” And you were one of those people.

Priya Patel: Oh Wow. No, I did not know the backstory.

Susan: All right, well I love that you know that now. She is just such a sweet lady. Now did y’all…This is, we’re totally going off regular script, but did you guys meet at Gaia or how did you guys meet?

Priya Patel: Yeah, we did. We met at Gaia Flow Yoga. We both practice yoga there and then we both went through the teacher training program there and that’s kind of where we met. But then her and I became friends outside of that. She invited me to a women’s retreat last January and they kind of basically took me under their wing as one other women that they have as part of their group. And so it’s just been like, you know, a group of empowerment and unconditional love that I’ve kind of found with the group that she’s kind of invited me into. So that’s how I know her, and I did not know, I thought she was a friend of yours and I didn’t realize you guys were complete strangers. You’re right. She has this complete vibrancy about her. I can see her just randomly speaking to a stranger and connecting people.

Susan: And it was so interesting, you know, sometimes when you tell people you’re doing something like this and you’ve created this platform, you would be surprised as how many crazy pitches I get. And I was shocked. I didn’t know that was a thing, especially a smaller podcast. It’s not like I’m on the Today Show every morning or something. And so when people start talking to you, you’re like, “Yeah, that sounds like a great idea or whatever and thank you for listening or blah, blah, blah.” But she was totally different. She just embodied this beautiful spirit and I was like, “I totally get where you’re coming from and I’m connecting with you and absolutely I’m going to make this happen.” So I really appreciate her doing that.

Priya Patel:Me too.

Susan: But anyway, I haven’t talk…I need to reconnect with her because I haven’t talked with her in a while because she and I have kept up a little bit it.

Priya Patel: Yeah. She’s been a big supporter of this new company that I started. In fact, she helped me last week with an event. Like, she’s just been a big supporter.

Susan: Well that is fantastic. I’m so glad to hear that. And since we’re kind of already talking, maybe we should finally, because I started off this way, jump into this conversation and talk a little bit about you and what you’ve been doing. Priya, you are clearly a very accomplished educator. Would you share a little bit of your background story with us and kind of how you came to start the school and then ultimately I guess the Intention Table curriculum and how did yoga fit into all of that?

Priya Patel: Yeah, interesting question. So, I had been really drawn to working with kids with special needs since I was a kid myself. And so by educator what you mean is, I taught special education for a number of years and like I said, you know, I had my first encounter with a kiddo with special needs at the age of nine, myself. And I just continued that year on forward and forward, forward bond, hang with kids with special needs. I was extremely drawn to it. And then, you know, as I got older that continued in many different ways in different positions, ultimately becoming a special education teacher. So I taught in California for one year and then I met the love of my life at that time and moved out to Dallas and worked for a really small private school out here called Chase’s Place. And it was a school for kids with severe to moderate disabilities. And I love that program and everything that they stand for. However, at the end of my two years, just because of financial needs for the nonprofit, they were not sure of how many teachers they were going to be able to rehire for the following year. That kind of financial fear or uncertainty pushed me to start my own. He’s my ex husband now, but at that point in time my husband was really very supportive, you know, for my own happiness and he was financially able to support the both of us and said, “You go ahead and start your own if you’d like.” And so I did, I started my own program out here called Happy Hands Learning, and what that included was a social skills program called Pure Play dates and then a preschool transition program, a Mommy and Me sign language class program and a community inclusion and outing program.

Susan: Wow.

Priya Patel: Yeah, it was a really beautiful company and vision that I had. But the problem that I faced was I didn’t have space of my own, you know, I was running these programs out of like other people going into their homes or having to pay a lot of money for other people’s space. And that’s where The Sensory World came in. They had this beautiful sensory occupational therapy gym and I was very familiar with sensory equipment coming from California. Yeah, it was very much a very big part of educating kids with special needs was what’s happening to the sensory system in California. And that was a very new here in Dallas. So I really felt very much drawn to them because they had the sensory gym. But what was amazing is that they have this back room that was not being used.

So they had had a preschool program that they were running years prior, you know, a small program, but it wasn’t currently in place when I approached them about using their space to start mine. They very lovingly opened up their space. It was a woman named Erica and Angela, who are the founders of The Sensory World. They very lovingly opened up their space to let me try. And so I ran a summer school program there under Happy Hands Learning. We’re using this holistic approach to education and engaging the sensory system, really working on communication for those kiddos who are nonverbal or with emerging speech and language as well as functional living skills. Well, that summer program ended up doing really well, meaning the kids did really well that a few parents asked if their kids could stay past summer and just like that the school program was born.

So Angela wasn’t at, while I was there at summer, she wasn’t there full time. She worked her own full time job as a special ed teacher across the street. And then in the afternoon she would work double duty and come run the sensory world programs. And she actually took a leap of faith herself because you know, life was showing up differently for her and she came aboard full time. And so when she took that move, her and I together basically created this school program starting with really very low number of kids. Her and I created this program based off of her years of experience as a SLPA and a special ed teacher. And then as well as my experience as a behavioral therapist as well as a special ed teacher. So we were really combined four different modalities of teaching to create the school program.

That’s kind of how the school, I would say was born. And over time, you know, word of mouth and the program grew. Today, I believe it’s over 40 some children. I stepped out of the program. Recently, I exited the organization itself to kind of start this new venture. However, I stopped teaching and being program director two and a half years ago. I ended up fundraising for the organization together. The three of us ends up turning it into a nonprofit and now it’s been a nonprofit for going on four years—in its fifth year of being a nonprofit. So I ended up fundraising, so it kind of took…My direction wasn’t just the school in that organization. I ended up doing strategy and programming and fundraising and took on this whole new skillset, I guess you can say. But even like taking on that role, I believe had a bit of…What’s the word? A bit of responsibility with me really wanting to almost transition out and do something different. I’m really grateful for all of the roles that I’ve had there. And I still volunteer for them.

Susan: That’s really cool.

Priya Patel: I can’t leave. I do love the organization, their mission and I’m volunteering now.

Susan: Well, sure. I mean you’ve kind of helped launched it. For those of my listeners who are not in this world, could you tell us SLPA means?

Priya Patel: Oh yeah. So SLPA is Speech Language Pathology Assistant. So it is someone who, they cannot diagnose but they can treat under the supervision of the pathologists and that’s the license that she has.

Susan: Ah, got it. Very cool. Very cool. Thank you for sharing that story.

Priya Patel: Yeah, that’s kind of the birth of the school program at the Sensory World Academy, which I believe, you know, has led me to the birth of the Intention Table.

Susan: Yeah, no kidding.

Priya Patel: I know you had asked like how that started or why? To me the honest answer, it was born out of my own need to learn to be present with myself, but also to let go of myself at the same time, if that makes sense.

Susan: No, it absolutely does. In the month of October for the podcast, I did this fun 30 days of self care thing and really kind of tried to get into that and have a little something each day for each listener to just kind of—a little something to take care of themselves. And as I was going through it and putting it together, what I realized myself is, well, this is a great idea for my listeners, but I’m not doing this for myself. So that’s a problem. And I’ve noticed that stress shows up in my body in the oddest ways if I’m not taking care of myself: hive, anxiety, all of it. So I totally appreciate the fact that you’ve created something like this, how it was born out of something you needed. I think that’s very unique and very interesting.

Priya Patel: Flat out, like it’s just the truth that each one of these programs is, you know, something that I use or have used, I didn’t even realize that I had been living a life in fear making fear based decisions for a lot of my life, living with anxiety that was hidden and almost living on automatic. And like I said, like these programs are here to help. They were there to help me discover who I really was or who I really am but most importantly, what I feel is like just to connect me with truth, um, without this sense of judgment, you know, just seeing things for what they are.

Susan: Wow. That is such a powerful statement, “Truth without judgement.”

Priya Patel: Yeah. And a lot of that has stemmed from learning and teaching mindfulness because that ultimately is what mindfulness is, is to be an observer of yourself, as well as the consequences of actions. So it’s to be an observer of yourself, your actions, your thoughts as well as the consequences, but all of that’s without judgment. And really diving, doing a deep dive into mindfulness. I’m there to the point where, you know, I can see things for what they are without there being this concept of right or wrong or good or bad. It’s just this is what it is and now what? Versus having an emotion behind it and that doesn’t serve me in any way, shape or form.

Susan: You know, it’s funny, I’m actually finishing up a book by the Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu called Finding Joy. Have you read this book?

Priya Patel: No, I haven’t read it.

Susan: The Dalai Lama talks a lot about mindfulness and speaks a lot to that. Good or bad isn’t sometimes the issue, you just have to deal with “it is what it is” and go from there. Can you kind of unpack that a little bit for us? You’re talking about mindfulness. For those of our listeners who might be newer to this idea or maybe never really thought about that, could you kind of unpack a little bit of what that means and then what this curriculum that you’ve created with the Intention Table, what that is?

Priya Patel:Yeah, so as far as unpacking goes, I had a lot of childhood trauma that I had suppressed, and what I came to realize only as an adult is that I had developed a lot of coping mechanisms as a child and that became coping mechanisms as a teenager and that became coping mechanisms as a young adult, that became coping mechanisms as an adult. And it carried on. But I didn’t understand where they came from until the day that I did. It’s almost like you have this awakening. And unpacking can be very ugly, you know, it can lead to…My challenge was having a very odd relationships, unhealthy relationship to food or a very unhealthy relationship to work where all you do is overwork as a way to almost avoid yourself or avoid life’s circumstances. You create this distorted illusion of life around you. And when you unpack that can cause people to spiral.

Susan:It can and get worse in many ways before it gets better.

Priya Patel: Right. But I think because I chose to like literally…I basically looked at every piece of my life without any shame. You know, sometimes I didn’t even have anger towards it. That came later because that wasn’t even an emotion that I knew, but I just chose to say, “This is what has happened. Now what?” So it’s almost like mindfulness found me. I didn’t seek it, I just fell into it. And then came to realize what I am really looking at here and seeking here is this path of pure mindfulness as well as this path of Yoga. You know, I found yoga and I found a meditation and I found this eight lanes path to living life really, and came to realize that I was already following that and I didn’t know that it had a name or a term, but it was really learning to just be in the present moment and always come back to this concept of be here now, that the past really doesn’t matter at this moment in time, the future doesn’t matter at this moment in time. And so all of the would have, could have, should have makes no difference at all. So it’s almost in some way, shape or form, just surrendering now instead of surrendering later. You know, I had a conversation with somebody just earlier today and I was telling her, you know, have you ever had this situation and why were you maybe a year or two, three years down the line you say, “Huh, that was exactly the way that that should have gone.” You come to this understanding that whatever you went through with exactly the way that it was supposed to be, right? And then you have this immense sense of peace when you finally come to that conclusion. Now what I’ve done is basically surrender to the moment without there having to be this push or a pull three years later just to really saying, “This is exactly the way that it’s supposed to be.” You know, I’m surrendering now versus surrendering later and having this immense amount of peace. And I don’t know if that answered the question. I feel like I went off on a tangent.

Susan: No, I think it’s a beautiful, I think what you said was beautiful and I think…

Priya Patel: It’s not easy though. But it can be done. I’m living truth and living proof that it can be done.

Susan: No, I think you’re right. I think it’s not easy. Something Desmond Tutu talks about in this book is how he was able to do that and live through an apartheid, how Nelson Mandela was able to do that and be in prison for so many years.

Priya Patel:Exactly.

Susan:  And it’s not surrendering. I don’t want people to think what we’re talking about is surrendering to the bad stuff. It’s just recognizing that this is where you are at the moment. I don’t know because I’ve never been in a situation that bad. I’ve never been in apartheid. I haven’t been in prison for 30 something years. Shoot. I’m only 37, 36 or 37, I can never remember. So he would have been in prison like my entire life of what I’ve lived already. But I can imagine, you know, we’ve all gone through things or, in your case, I think I have too. We all suppress stuff from childhood to one degree or another.

Priya Patel: Everybody has their own extent of trauma, conscious or unconscious. Everybody does, like that is part of being human is to have this experience, believe it or not, have some form of suffering of some way, shape or form. I mean, I don’t people to think that I’m like saying that people deserve it. It is just part of human existence, and sufferings by one person versus another looks differently. However, what I’m saying is it doesn’t have to be suffering. You know?

Susan: That was said beautifully. You’re absolutely correct. And it’s just getting to that point for everybody in their own way that… And I think this is a beautiful way to do it. Tell us a little bit more about the Intention Table curriculum that you have developed because this is  a curriculum.

Priya Patel: Yeah, so it’s a program, so very similar to when I started Happy Hands Learning. I started with four programs. With the Intention Table I started with – the premise is four programs. Each one of these programs are meant to help you fall in love with this concept of self discovery. Maybe not fall in love with it, but at least be present to the concept of self-discovery or an invite and self-discovery and unraveling of patterns of behavior, learning your desires, your wants, your needs, making choices that are right for you, which often if you have lived a life on automatic, you may not know. And so what we’re doing here with this company is learning to be curious about ourselves once more. And there are four programs. The one that I have launched officially is the Eating Meditation Experience. The ones that are in the works, our meditation curriculum, a journey curriculum that I’m writing myself and a trauma sensitive yoga program.

So those three are in the works, and the one that is currently in process and actually launched and available now is the Eating Meditation Experience. That’s a very ancient practice. It’s a Zen practice that I have created or made my own. So you know the Zen practice is using typically like one specific item, typically you’ll see them doing it with a raisin or a piece of chocolate and they’re really having you invoke all your senses to be present. So the reason why is my background as a special ed teacher and being very knowledgeable about the sensory system, as well as going through my own process of unraveling trauma, I became extremely disconnected from myself; pretty severe dissociation to the point where I couldn’t feel myself in my own body. I couldn’t even recognize myself in the mirror.

And one of the tools that helped me sometimes cope or deal with these things was food—and not in a healthy way. So I created a really unhealthy relationship with food. It was something that if I wanted to feel the sense of shame or guilt, I ran to food in a binge type fashion, and there was no invoking of the senses so I wasn’t, you know, the thing is food is extremely intimate. It is extremely, if you allow it to be, it can become the shadow side. And what I mean by that is you tried to create a sense of intimacy with food or through food. So intimacy might be lacking in your life, whether it’s with yourself or others around you, some people to escape to drugs or sex or alcohol, I escaped to food and was trying to replace like intimacy with food and sometimes I controlled or over controlled and sometimes I under controlled.

And then I’m introduced to this practice of eating meditation only a year ago. And when I took this practice I realize, “Oh my God, this is marrying my whole life.” What I mean by that is I really have this whole understanding of this sensory system and then I knew that I was disconnected from my body and myself and I knew that right here in front of me what was my drug of choice, food, was actually going to be a tool for me to heal myself by becoming very present with every piece of food during this meditation practice. And literally seeing it for what it was and seeing beyond my pattern of behavior, seeing beyond my needs to create intimacy with self and others. I unwrapped and unraveled to see the beauty in this eating meditation practice. So it became about me connecting to myself. So you know what, when I’m disconnected from myself when I literally took the time to be present with, let’s say a piece of bell pepper and smell the bell pepper. So I may not be feeling my hand at that moment in time, but I can sense sensation in some way so bringing myself back to the sense of smell. And maybe I can’t feel my hands, however, but what I can do is I can see the colors in front of me. And not just see the colors, I ended up looking way beyond that. And this is Zen Buddhist practice. So you bring in this concept of the earth, this item came from there, this food came from the earth and looking beyond. And when you start to look beyond, things just kind of melts away and let go.

And it just helped me become more present with myself and bring me back to my self. If I feel myself fading away, I can bring myself back with these tools of tapping into our senses, which we’re born with these gifts of sites, smell…In fact, that’s how we learn the world as children, right? We learn and we’re bombarded with our sensors and our sensory system, but we learn specific information and then that gets on an automatic mode. And I’m basically taking myself out of automatic mode and constantly bringing myself consciousness. And for somebody who disconnect, you have to work to bring yourself back to consciousness. And this is just a very tactile, tangible, easy way. It is a meditation at the same time because what happens is, you know, there are many techniques or meditation that this one in particularly is using the vehicle food for one point at focusness. So I’m present with one single object for a moment in time and I use it as a tool to be still and to concentrate and to focus. And I naturally ended up closing my eyes because I’m feeling so connected. And then sometimes it’s not even about food or me personally, the food just kind of fades away and it becomes a vehicle to just be with myself.

And so what I do and what I’ve done is I’ve created a 45 minute guided meditation, but I’ve created this beautiful model and what I do, and it’s a three part process for the eating meditation. So it’s a 45 minute guided meditation, and then there’s a meal after the meditation. But what they are actually eating is a meal that has been created from ingredients that they have spent the time connected with. And that’s kind of the very beautiful piece right there that you know, now they’re going to eat a meal after connecting to something. And they may have known that or may not have known it depending on who they talked to, what reviews they’ve read. But it becomes this kind of pleasant surprise for them to see ingredients and eat them in a different way after spending 45 minutes with them differently. And then the last piece of the puzzle of this eating meditation experience is facilitated conversation around the table where we have conversations that matter, conversations…One, about our experience where we kind of get to dive into how present we may or may not have felt, emotions that may or may not have come up, senses that may or may not have been awakened. And then we see where that conversation takes us and often, I end the night with a question that takes us around having conversations around the table. For the last one that was recently, I just asked the question, you know, being that it’s the week of thanksgiving, next week and a day of gratitude; do you think we’ll get to the point of a culture where gratitude can be for every moment without this concept of good or bad? And that question took us around the table for like a 45-minute discussion or whoever was on the table just having a meal. We’re still eating at the same time and kind of this concept of breaking bread together. We share this experience together. We came there as strangers and here we are having this very intimate night with each other and possibly leaving transformed or at the very least discovering something about ourselves.

And that’s the first program that I’ve launched, Eating Meditation Experience. I have created my own model for eating meditation and INTENT and “I” stands for Invite. Invite the sensitives. “N”is notice and “T” is Transformed. “E” is Explore and Nourish and “T”, Think, and I have different pieces that I talk about under each one of those. And so I go over that during the meditation. And all of this work, you know, it’s things that I’ve been studying this past year extensively to create my own

Susan: That’s really beautiful and an amazing concept. I think especially here in the US. I’ve lived in New York City, I’ve lived in South Carolina, I’ve lived here now for 10 years. And we don’t do this. We’re not good…. I shouldn’t say we don’t. That’s an overarching, combining everybody into one. But I think as a society we choose not to do it because there are so many other things we fill our time with. And I say fill, because I mean, we all have a digital device that we’re sitting here messing with all the time, and to do something with such intention with strangers… And I would think most people don’t realize just how intimate something like that is going to get by the end

Priya Patel: Yeah.

Susan: Is it emotional? I would presume it will be emotional. I’m an emotional person. I would be crying by the end.

Priya Patel: I posted something on my Facebook just a few days ago from me. Like this was the first time that I actually closed…My last one I close my eye and I actually participated just to get a sense of what it feels like to participate with the crowd. But typically, I keep my eyes open and I’m watching everybody. It really is beautiful watching people just be with themselves and you know, even just inviting, you know, one, the phone is away. It’s a three-hour experience. The phone’s away the entire time, you know, and they don’t want their phone. They don’t miss it. They’re not missing it. It’s just away. And just to see people…One of the hardest things that you see or hear with meditation is that “I can’t be with myself. I can’t sit for that long.” And just to see them come out it and then say, “Wow, the 45 minutes went by so fast.” That is really beautiful. And then to see people be respectful of each other and have a conversation. I’m still learning to moderate. This is just a piece that I really wanted to have a part of the program because I had felt like I didn’t really have people to talk to them and I wasn’t even necessarily wanting to like dive into—and I still don’t like, I don’t dive into the X, Y, Z of my life history because at this point in time it doesn’t matter. And I just want people who are like-minded that I can talk to about things in the world, things to me that matter or concepts that matter or how we can work to better ourselves. And so the questions that I present are all questions about south discovery. So maybe it makes us think about our senses for this one particularly, maybe our sense makes us think of, are we only grateful for the good or can we become to be grateful even for in that moment time we think of as bad, you know?

And so can we leave this experience not transformed but curious. And that is my end game, or goal with it. And it is beautiful to watch it unfold. I feel like a curator and that’s why I say this is a curated experience. I do feel like a curator and I’m watching art take place and it’s like the humans, the people at the table are the art.

Susan: That is beautiful. I know these programs are offered just in the DFW area at this moment.

Priya Patel: Yes. That won’t be long. We’ll put it out there to the universe. My goal is, I mean this is going to take some time, but it’s not too far off. So right now they’re offered here. I co-office out of this workspace called the Common Desk and they have locations in Oak Cliff, Plano, Fort Worth.. And so I’ve done eating meditation. I just launched this company four months ago.

Susan: Oh Wow!

Priya Patel: Yeah. But within these, I just decided to go for it. And so I call it “Inspired action, that’s imperfect action inspired. I know that I’m meant to do this,” specifically this eating meditation. The other pieces of the puzzle are still coming like, you know, the yoga curriculum and the meditation curriculum. But this eating meditation is, I felt inspired, like it was like a message, like you have to do it. That’s what I call inspired action. The imperfect action is make the mistakes that I need to make now so that I can make it better, and I just keep doing them. And the next one gets better and then I’ll do one more and that one will get better. But I wanted to take this out and to the masses. And what I mean by that is people often don’t even know that they have a lack of connection to themselves. Some people don’t even know because there’s all that they’ve ever known is to like live life a certain way: social, cultural, self imposed expectations. And so to me, food is one of the most intimate—other than sex where there’s this actual connection in a different way, eating is one of the most intimate things that you can do. And eating is also as human beings something that we need to survive. The number of restaurants that are out there in any city of the state or the world is endless. And so I started in 2019, I’ll be taking this in the DFW metroplex into restaurants. And so there’ll be 12 where I’m creating the experience with my own cooking or perhaps with catering from restaurant and then 12 experiences in restaurants with specific chefs that I’m creating partnerships with.

So that’s where I’m starting to create where, okay, this is how I’m going to take it to the everyday person. Because you know, the everyday person, one, I’ve heard so many people struggle with, “I don’t know how to meditate. I can’t meditate. I’ve tried,” and this is a really great introduction to stillness, because it’s a tactile, tangible thing and food is something that we do, like I said, as humans to survive. And so that’s the direction that it will be going in 2019. But my dream and the vision is that this becomes a model that I am putting into wellness resorts that it becomes part of an experience. So I’m in the works right now of creating an academy where I’ll be training facilitators how to lead this practice and how to execute this model. But all of that in due time, you know, this is, like I said, I’m four months in but there’s definitely a vision and there’s definitely a plan.

Susan: Well, you are only four months into this particular business, but you’ve created businesses before. You’ve done this before and you clearly know your stuff. You’ve been doing this a while, and I love how you’ve been able to connect your past as far as your past experiences and your past education and just your whole life seems to have brought it all together.

Priya Patel: Yeah. It’s so funny that you say that because I really believe like had I not gone through what I’ve been through as a kid, had I not had the challenges that I had in my marriage, had I not had my role of teaching these amazing kids who ended up teaching me so much. I don’t think I would be able to do this.

Susan: No, you couldn’t be here.

Priya Patel: Yes. Even fundraising and having a knowledge of strategy and creating partnerships, like I learned all of that over these past few years. But a lot of it is also what’s happening right now, like to me not only has everything had to have happened the way that it happened, but I also believe that it is because I have done a lot of heart healing, a lot of heart healing. There’s no way that I could be doing what I’m doing right now if my heart wasn’t healed. Because what I’m doing these past four months have been…There’s been a lot of ugly in it, a lot of good in it, a lot of gray in it. But I feel like I’ve been swimming in complete unknown. Had I not been right in my heart, had I not been right in my mind, I would not have been able to have swim in the unknown. That’s been a really important, is just being in the unknown, what I’m doing is like I said, I’m taking inspired action. Like I believe, like I know that I know that I know that this is what I’m supposed to do, but that’s how I know. The rest of it is almost like this game of chess or this game of stop, look and listen. Really it’s stop, listen and then look, like I have to constantly keep checking in. And if my heart and my mind weren’t right, there’s no way I’d be able to check in.

So yes, everything happened the way that it needed to happen, but I also have to dive into a certain amount of healing in order to create. It’s almost like you let go. There’s also a Zen, or a Buddhist or a yoga mentality is you let go to expand. And I feel like I really let go of like everything that I’d ever known, including myself in order to create. And what I’m creating, I feel it was bigger than me, like it’s bigger than me.

Susan: Well, you are absolutely right that you have to let it all go in order to be able to create something new. I have been where you are and I totally understand what you’re going through. It is normal, and I want all of our listeners to know that too. It is not easy creating something out of nothing, but when you know it’s what you’re supposed to be doing, then you have a drive. And that’s one thing that I say at the beginning of every podcast is I believe, I firmly believe that there is something inside each one of us that only we can do. And that is the point of this podcast is to encourage and inspire and empower women to find their thing so that they can share their story so that they can encourage other women to do the same thing. I really believe in the power of sisterhood and where we are right now, at least in the states, I have a few listeners who are not in the states, but I feel like if women can come together and support each other and encourage each other to try these hard things to reconnect with themselves and then figure everything out.

But you are absolutely right. You said you’ve made such a point that you had to be in the space in order to be able to do it. You had to be right with yourself first, and you said it much more eloquently, but you have to be right with yourself first before you can do the next thing.

Priya Patel: Right. And I think the other big piece of it is like I think all humans, not just women, but specifically myself, I’m going to speak for myself. I am a woman. I lived in fear quite a lot of like financial fear and this fear and that fear and a lot of my decisions were fear-based and I’m kind of learning to… There is this…God, let me see if I can remember it; one of the quotes that stood out to me. It’s a John Lennon quote. Basically he says, “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”  And that’s from John Lennon.
Susan: That’s beautiful. I’ve never heard that.
Priya Patel: Yes, it hit me so to the heart, because I had said like, you know, when I chose like burned the house down on everything that I’ve ever known, I said, “I choose life and if I choose life, all of these things that are in that quote has to be there.” Imperfection, not for myself but I took it one step further, not just imperfection of myself, imperfection of others, right? It’s not just acceptance of myself, the acceptance of other people and their imperfections. And in order to see my ability and to have this potential to create, I have to love myself.
I will say that I definitely lacked self-love. And I love what you had said about the sisterhood. So, we started out this conversation, and I know now why it started out, the way that it did with you bringing up Barb. She gave me a sisterhood. She’s given me a sisterhood and we speak on the phone once a month where we share with each other our dreams and our desires for the month. And then at the end of the call they’re right there behind you saying, “Yes, yes, we believe, and we want this for you too.” So you have all these beautiful sisters right there behind you sharing with you the good, the bad and the ugly without judgment and just this unconditional love. And a lot of people have said to me, “Gosh, you’ve only had this company for four months, but it looks like you’ve been around for like a year at this, that or the other one.”

Don’t believe everything that you see. You know, perception is one thing. I am doing well, but I believe that my company is being pushed forward because I have the support of some amazing women behind me. You know, I joined a women’s networking group. I didn’t know why I was joining a women’s networking group. I wasn’t an entrepreneur at that point in time, but I joined the E Women’s Networking Group and I wasn’t even an entrepreneur that moment in time. But literally after I joined that, I was like, “Uh-huh. I joined E Women’s Entrepreneur Group. I meant to be an entrepreneur.” And even that is a sisterhood. And I’ve met some incredible women who are opening doors for me because they believe,  and you know, it’s women supporting women. Some of my first chef partnerships that I’ve made have been with women who are just like, yes, sister, we love what you’re doing. We love that you’re just diving in. You know, they’re just opening the door. And I haven’t had that. You know, I’ve had friends, I’ve had good friends and close friends, who unfortunately have come and gone. And at this moment in time, I really needed a support group, a sisterhood. And I feel blessed to have found it in so many different ways. You know, one, this group that I meet with once a month and get on the phone with once a month as well as my women’s networking group

Susan: That is just…Oh, you just…Oh, I just want to clap. Yes. That’s all I can say is yes to everything you’ve just said. Oh my gosh, that is phenomenal and amazing and I am so happy for you, but I really appreciate you sharing that with our listeners and just what a difference it made in your life. That’s so cool that you kind of put it out there in the universe that you know, this is what you needed almost. And it showed up.

Priya Patel: Yeah. You know, funny enough, last October I created a vision board. I’ve never made one before. And what was on, there were pictures of women together that said “100% real.” And to me that was, oh my God, I was asking for a sisterhood, and I had actually even put on there a woman that…And then next it said, “Be your own boss.” So I hadn’t even made plans to have my own business, but I guess I really did. You know, like I hadn’t even left my organization. I hadn’t really thought about leaving the organization. But as I look back I think, you know, “Wow, I had already put it out there and I didn’t even realize it.”

Susan: Well Priya, I want to be respectful of your time and I really appreciate you coming on today, but I feel like I could sit here and you forever. You have found his sister in me, for sure.

Priya Patel: Thank you for letting me tell a little bit about my journey.

Outro: Wow! That’s all I can say. I loved chatting with Priya. My brain was spinning the whole time with ideas, as I’m sure yours was. Priya’s love of self-discovery is a prequel to our upcoming 30 days of finding your everyday extraordinary. As you know, March is women’s history month and you know what? Our foremothers, just like us, every day extraordinary women who had discovered and were doing their thing. So, for the month of March and in honor of women’s history, we will be working towards finding our own everyday extraordinary. I have some fun ideas and plans ahead that I can’t share with you yet, but I can’t wait to tell you about them. So until then, I’ll see you soon.

 

Your Voice Matters

Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire

photo by Hunter Lacey

Speaking your truth and using your voice.  It isn’t something that comes naturally for many of us.  Even in the worst circumstances it can be a bridge too far to cross.  And yet… What if?  What if you took that leap?  Would the risk be worth it?

Show Notes:

Is speaking your truth something that comes naturally to you?  Have you ever been too intimidated or maybe even scared to use your voice?  Liz Navarro is a professor, public speaker, writer and communications expert.  She and I both participated in the 2019 Dallas Women’s March and in this episode we sit down to discuss our experiences.

In some ways it was easy for each of us to jump in and get involved.  Yet, there were challenges to participating as well; especially this year.  We each share why it was important for us to individually march this year.

While the march itself was peaceful and full of a sense of camaraderie we acknowledge the underlying fear that participating can be intimidating and that initial fear of the unknown can and probably has prohibited others from participating either now or in the past.

We both recognize that it can continue to get better, but I think we were both pleasantly surprised that (at least at the Dallas March) a fair representation of women and men from all walks of life appeared to be represented.  A hopeful step in the right direction towards equity and everyones voice being heard.

photo by Hunter Lacey

 

* A special thank you to the women who shared their voices with me for on the spot       interviews at the March!

 

Links:

https://www.liznavarroco.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RZrZrLcLR0
interactioninstitute.org

madewithangus.com
https://hunterfolsom.com
https://www.instagram.com/hunterfolacey/

 

Transcript

photo by Hunter Lacey

Intro: Welcome to “How She Got Here – Conversations with Everyday Extraordinary Women.” It is my belief that every woman has something inside her only she can do. The more we share the stories of other women, who have already discovered their thing, the more it inspires, encourages, and empowers other women to do the same.

photo by Hunter Lacey

Susan: Hey Pod Sisters, I had the great fortune to sit down with my friend Liz Navarro and chat about our experience at the Women’s March this year in Dallas. Liz is a professor, public speaker and writer. Her goal is to help others find and share their voice. She has even helped me with some of my written content. Our hope is that by sharing our experience, you’re encouraged to share your own voice. I also interviewed a few people on the street at the march, and I’m excited to share that raw audio with you too. So without further ado, here is Liz.

 

Susan:  Well, Liz, this should be a fun experiment this morning. I’ve already told my guests that this is not our typical conversation or typical interview, and I’ve kind of introduced you a little bit, but why don’t you go ahead and tell our audience a little bit about you?

Liz: Yes. Well I’m so excited to get to talk to you today. I am just here I guess as in a lot of different roles. One is that I’m a mom and so that’s like one of my primary places that I probably entered the Women’s March, and another one is that I’m a communications strategist and I’m also a public speaking professor, and so kind of everything that I do centers around the idea of encouraging and empowering people to use their voices. And so that’s I guess kind of the place that I’m entering this conversation from today and maybe part of why I wanted to go to the Women’s March in the first place was so that I could exercise that in my own life and not just in a way that I am working with other people. So that’s where I am today.

photo by Hunter Lacey

Susan: That’s really cool because I kind of felt the same way. I don’t know…When was your first March? Did you do it in 2017 and 2018 and then 2019? Or was this your first one?

Liz: So, this was this one in 2019 was my very first March.

Susan: Ever?

Liz: Yeah, it was my very first March at any time ever, first Women’s March, first any march. And so it was a brand new experience for me. I had wanted to get involved before in both 2017 and 2018 and I didn’t. There were a lot of different reasons why probably. I think, you know, one that is easy is that I had a little baby at home and it was just a logistical thing. I was actually looking back at some of my Instagram posts from 2017 or 2018 and I read that I guess in 2017 my daughter had a fever and it was cold and we stayed home, but this was the year I guess that I first jumped in and got engaged. But I know that you got involved earlier, so I would love to hear about your experience too.

Susan: Yeah. So Will was probably…2017, Will was about two and four or five months, so almost two and a half, and my background as my listeners know, and I won’t go all the way into it, but coming from a women’s college and understanding a little bit more of the women’s movement and women’s history and understanding that we haven’t always gotten it right but it’s always still worth striving for and fighting for, it was something I was thinking about in toying with. I never really intended to go to Washington, DC. More so because I think at the time where we’re at in Dallas, Texas, I wish I had known you then, because I didn’t know anybody who was going. I didn’t know anyone who was going to be participating or involved. Later I found out that I knew somebody going to DC in my family, but even she was kind of very quiet about it and not wanting to rock the boat too much. I’ve kind of thrown all the wheels off since then and be like, “Whatever, this is what I am, this is who I am and this is what I do. So if you don’t like it, great, you can move on.” But that took a while to get there. So in 2017… No, go ahead, go ahead.

Liz: Well, I was just gonna say I think it’s really hard to get there, and you probably touched on one of the biggest reasons why this was my very first year is because in 2017 or 2018, I hadn’t been in Dallas that long and it was the exact same situation. It was a, I believe in this and I believe in the movement and I want to be involved, but I think I’m a little too nervous to show up and be involved by myself, and I didn’t really know at that point who to reach out to to join me. And this year, while I do think I’ve come a little bit further and in where I stand myself and I probably could have been brave enough to show up on my own, I knew that I wouldn’t have to because I’ve kind of plugged myself into a community of women who wanted to be involved. I knew you would be there, I had other friends to go with and that just really helped and it made me think a lot about, you know, other people who might not be there yet and how you reach out to them and kind of give them that invitation to show up but not to feel like they’re showing up alone.

That is such a good point. In 2017, that was one of the hardest things. In fact, I didn’t really make the decision to go—and I didn’t attend the March in Dallas. I attended the one in Austin—and I didn’t make the decision to go until probably, like I had the hotel room booked and everything. But I didn’t really make the decision to go until maybe the week of. And I was like, “Okay, I’m actually going to do this.” And it’s really funny; the reason that I ended up going, it wasn’t…I mean, I kinda thought I might know some people there. I did end up meeting up with randomly an old high school friend and her mom, who I had not seen in years who is also from South Carolina who wound up in Austin randomly. But it was just one of those things I would…My husband asked me of all people, he said, “You know, in 30, 40 years when Will asks you, where were you that day…” Oh, I’m getting teary, “…what are you going to tell him?” And I was like, “Okay, well that solidifies that. I’ll be back later.”

Liz: “I’ll see you later.”

Susan:  Yeah, exactly. “I’ll just go ahead and leave now.” And so I was…I’ll be honest, I knew that I was meeting up with some people, but I was terrified, I don’t think…No, Charlottesville hadn’t happened at that point and some of the other crazy stuff hadn’t happened yet, but was that side of me that I thought, “Will there be people who show up at this March and am I going to be safe?” I remember like veteran protesters, which is kind of a funny thing to say because I’m like, “Well, I don’t really totally feel like I’m protesting because…” Especially at the first one it was more like a feeling of camaraderie and like, “Okay, we’re all in this together.” And I had a 65 year old woman who was amazing, who I did not know, total stranger bought me a Mimosa before the March in the hotel lobby. I mean it was…I met some of the coolest women and some of the neatest people I wish I had kept in touch with them. But I remember reading some of like old school protestors saying things like, “Write an emergency phone number on your arm in fairly permanent marker in case this…Have a handkerchief ready in case there’s tear gas.” And I’m like, “Wait, what am I doing?” And of course—I shouldn’t say, of course, I guess we’re very lucky that nothing bad came of that and it was very much a peaceful situation. But there was definitely that underlying fear of what is this going to be? What is it going to turn out to look like?

And obviously, I mean you can look back on pictures from that year. And it wasn’t like that at all. And it was probably one of the best things I’d ever done. But last year I didn’t feel like I needed to do it. I didn’t feel like it was necessary. I felt like I was doing the work that I needed to do at that point. And then this year I just want to be re-involved and re-invigorated and re-engaged with the actual March and kind of read up on some of that energy. But what were you gonna say?

Liz: Well, I was going to say when you were talking about the veteran protesters and just preparing for the worst case scenario, that I think one of the reasons why I went into this year without that fear anxiety is probably because of the tone that was set in the first two Marches. I did feel like even though I wasn’t there, that there was just a sense of overall camaraderie and coming together and uniting in a way. But this year of course, was interesting because there were a lot of different factors go into this year’s Women’s March somewhat that were divisive and controversial. I guess, despite all of that, I didn’t feel unsafe, but I definitely had to think about, you know, why am I showing up? Like you talked about why this year you wanted to go back and be reenergized, and I had to really think about what do I want to stand for and why am I showing up now to this March and what is it representing for me and what is that representing for other people too?

Susan: That is such a good point.

Liz: Yes. I don’t have an exact answer for that. You know, I know why I wanted to March this year and it was not…I don’t think I was necessarily Marching against something. I think I wanted to March in support of something. I have two daughters and so I think there are definitely at the center, like you told that story about what are you going to say to Will when he asks you where you were and that thought always goes through my head with my daughters, you know, when they’re grown up and they asked me questions about did you stand up for women’s voices in this moment? What was it like to go through the moment of MeToo? And for me, I’m building a business around telling other people to use their voices, and I’m teaching students to stand up and use their voices.

So it was so important to me to make that statement to myself and to my daughters. But I think the biggest thing at the heart of the Women’s March for me is just that really central, very simple but game changing ability for women to be able to say yes or no to things and when they do say yes or no to things, whether it’s their careers or their lifestyle or their bodies, whatever that is, that they get to make that decision and they get to be heard when they make that decision. And for me, I think that was the simplest way to boil down why I wanted to March this year and what I wanted to stand for. So that’s kind of where I came in to this year.

Susan: And I really appreciate that thought. One of the reasons besides the camaraderie, you know, at the time we were in a government shutdown. And one of the things that happened in that shut down— and I don’t know how many people know this or how many people pay attention to what’s going on policy-wise or whatever, but one of the things that happened during the shutdown was the Violence Against Women’s Act expired. And you can kind of Google what that’s about, but it’s basically a program that provides funding to other organizations to help women who’ve been in horrible, horrible situations. And since the government has reopened, that was one of the stipulations in the Bill that they just put for that they would reinstate that funding. So it’s back up operational running. But going back to the MeToo movement, there’s just so many things I hear.

I hear people say things like, “Oh, well, women are totally equal now and blah, blah blah and why are you still marching? And what is the point of this?” And I realized that there has been so many things that have come from women’s movements over the years and there are so many places where we are included now, and I don’t want to minimize that, I don’t want to say that we haven’t accomplished things in this world because we obviously have, but I just think that there is so much still to accomplish. And going back to the whole MeToo thing, I think one of the things we have to think about is how women are treated from a policy standpoint. And that’s not just at the federal level, it’s at the local level, it’s at the state level. And especially in Texas—and I can’t remember the number. I need to go back and look it up and I’ll post it in the notes. I’ll post a link to this study that I’m talking about, but the number of rape kits that are untested in the state of Texas, and in all states. This is not just a Texas thing. This happens nationwide. And how some of them, you know… Go ahead, sorry.

Liz: Oh, I was just gonna confirm that. Yeah, there’s a huge backlog everywhere were like a person goes in with this horrible situation and have to have a rape kit conducted on them and then it just sits in a warehouse.

Susan: Or sometimes they’re destroyed. Some of them have been destroyed.

Liz: Wow.

Susan: Yeah, and so knowing that that was happening at the same time and the March was coming back up, I was like, “There’s just still so much to fight for and to raise our voices about and to be strong about and to think about.” That was one of the big things for me this year was, “Yeah, we’ve done a lot, but there’s still a lot to be done.” And as far as the women’s movement itself, there’s still a lot within the women’s movement that I think we need to think harder about: who’s included? Who’s excluded? Who’s at the front of the line? Who’s at the back of the line?” And I know you and I spoke about that, and I’ll link this as well. You and I spoke about that New York Times podcast episode about the Women’s March and how it went down in the earlier days, and are still a lot of improvement that needs to be done even today.

Liz: Yeah, and for me that was a big question too coming into this March, like I want to make sure that my Marching is making an inclusive statement, right? And I really had to think about that before I attended the March in Dallas, I had to think about what was going on nationally who felt excluded from the March and was, you know, my Marching somehow making a statement of support in, you know, excluding those people. And that’s definitely not where my intention was. And I didn’t feel that they at the Dallas March, I don’t know if you did, but I felt like there was a really strong camaraderie and that there were a lot of different types of people represented. And so I guess I felt validated and showing up for that March that there were a lot of likeminded people who are standing there in the same way that I was in just wanting to make a change in wanting to continue this forward progress in wanting to make women continue to be heard and to include everybody in that movement.

Susan: Yeah, for sure. I will say the one thing that I noticed this year that I didn’t see in Austin that I for sure didn’t see in pictures from Washington, and I don’t know if this was really the first year or if it happened last year, because I really don’t know. I need to go back and look and see if there’s way to figure this out, but there were a lot more men than I expected to be there. And the one in Austin I don’t think I saw… I saw maybe two, and I was really surprised to see men at this March this year.

Liz: I mean, I think it was great. Some of them had my favorite signs that I saw in the March. I saw the—I don’t know if it was a couple. It was a man and a woman marching next to each other and the man was holding a sign and it said, “Another day, another dollar,” and the woman was holding aside and it said, “Another day, another eighty cents,” and I mean I laugh because the signs were funny. That situation isn’t, but I think that the men who were there this year, we’re making a really strong statement. I saw families marching with their signs. I saw a father and son that were there marching. I mean because that’s the thing; the women’s movement I think is not just about women being heard in a certain way. It’s also allowing men to be who they want to be in the way that they want to be. And so it’s a really important consideration, I think, to make that men are as included in this movement as women are.

Susan: That’s a very good point, that there is really room in this movement for all people and all allies for sure.

Liz: And I know that probably not everybody feels that way. I think that’s one of the challenges now for the movement moving forward is how does that intention get translated to everybody that wants to find a place within the movement? And it seems like that’s a big conversation that needs to be add in reaching out to people everywhere. And I don’t know a good answer to that at this point, but I think conversations like this one are at least opening the door or hopefully opening the door to people who might not feel included, but who wants to be in some way.

Susan: Well, and I think some of these conversations even start at the most basic level and what I mean by that is if you are a heterosexual cisgender woman, that these conversations kind of start in your home with your spouse as far as your husband may be an ally, but he might say things sometimes that don’t totally jive or there may be some accidental mansplaining happening and things like that. So maybe even gentle conversation in your own home is not always a bad place to start with those thoughts and those conversations and just see where that goes.

Liz: No, I think that’s really true. I have to like jump in and give a shout out to my husband because I am lucky enough that I really feel very supportive and like I have a very strong partner in this, you know, the reason he didn’t go to the Women’s March is because we didn’t want to take our two girls out in the cold so he stayed home and watched them. But had we not made that decision, I think he would have been marching right there too. But, that’s just a privilege that I get to have, and I know that that’s not the case in every home or in every partnership. So I do think that those conversations definitely need to start in the home. And if it’s just kind of figuring out how and when to have them, I that for me having kids has opened up my wanting to make these conversations really, really intentional as well. And especially—not especially having daughters because it’s just the same if you have a son, but really making space for talking about what is it to be a woman? What is it to be a man? What do you get to stand up for and how do you just get to be the type of person that you want to be and live the lifestyle you want and love the people that you want and have the career you want? And everybody should have access to that. I think, you know, that was really central in the people around me at the march this year. I think that was something that everybody could come together and unite within. So it’s just bringing that often and giving those conversations of platform.

Susan: Absolutely. I totally agree with that. And I want to go back to a little bit of what you were talking about, about using your own voice because I know that there’s going to be some people—some of my audience are going to be listening to this who this may energize them and they’re going to want to know how to get involved in where to get involved. And I know one of the groups that I was there with actually this year, there was a brunch beforehand with Ignite. And Ignite’s been mentioned on the podcast before in previous episodes, but if you haven’t caught any of those, Ignite is a… It starts at a… I think it actually starts in the high schools and also goes into college, but it’s really encouraging of young women and femmes to get involved in policy and in politics in general at any level, be it local, state, federal, and getting them involved in what’s going on in their community and it’s bipartisan. And I just want to say that not everybody’s going to agree with this, but you know, we’re all women and at the end of the day we’re not always gonna agree. Even within the movement there’s just going to be things we don’t agree on. And that’s okay. We’re not supposed to be the same person and we’re not supposed to agree on everything. But going back to sharing your voice, every voice really does matter and everybody deserves a voice at the table.

Liz: Yeah, I totally agree with that. And I also think that, you know, some people’s fear in marching in something like this might be that they’re making a statement that they don’t want to make, right? Or that other people are interpreting their marching in a way that they didn’t intend and you know, to me the important part then about using your voice is to be able to say, like, to be able to define that for yourself and say like, “This is why I am Marching. And this is who I’m representing,” and if you’re not willing to stand up and say that, then other people can assume or misinterpret your intentions. So I do think it’s really important to be able to say that and to use your voice to make those statements so that you know, if you’re fearful that you’ll be misinterpreted, then you have to say what you mean and say how you intend to use that position that you have. I think it’s so important.

Susan: Yeah. And I really appreciate that you’re doing this everyday kind of in your career, both as a professor and as a content writer and even helping me with some of the things that I’ve done, and I look forward to working with you further on these because it really does help to have a second set of ears and eyes and to have that camaraderie with other people because sometimes it’s hard. It’s hard to stand up when others around you aren’t. And I know that there are people who are gonna listen to this and they’re like, they feel alone. And this is off the Women’s March, but it spawned from the Women’s March, which was something that I attended called the United State of Women in California, and it was very much, you know, a lot of this women’s movement stuff is considered progressive and all of that. And I think the United State of Women really had a very progressive slant towards it. But finding events like that or conferences like that that are about women…It can even be, I would argue, a women’s retreat at your church if you, if you do that or your synagogue or your mosque; just camaraderie with other women and sharing your voice and starting there. It really does help to have that network around you of likeminded people. And I think sometimes in this generation or where we are in history, that can be hard to find. But you were gonna say something.

Liz: Well, I was going to ask you that once you started finding that network was a, your experience that, you know, once you found that one or two really strong connections that they started to come to you more often. That was definitely the case for me. You know, once I finally put myself out there a little bit and started trying to surround myself. Like go to those little meetings just like you talked about, you know, just little local, small. I want to be around other supportive women who are maybe going through a similar life experience as me. Like you and I just had this conversation about when we both became new moms and finding other women who are going through that experience too. And you know, my experience in doing that was that once I started making one or two connections that those kind of rippled out and I found myself engaged in a bigger network and that empowered me then to be able to say I am going to go march this year and I have a lot of people in my network that I know are going to be there too. So it was a really important step for me to take that started out very small, just like I love the examples you gave of just kind of putting yourself in that position to find other people who can be supportive of you.

Susan: Yeah, absolutely. And I would say especially now in the world of social media, I think this is actually somewhere where social media helps because you can find a lot of these groups online. I’ll just throw this out there right now, feel free to reach out to me via private message or email and I’m happy to try to get you connected wherever you are. I feel like I’m at this point now where I probably know—okay, maybe not North Dakota or South Dakota, but I have a fairly good connection, especially in bigger cities, and those surrounding suburb type areas. And even in my hometown in Spartanburg, South Carolina—shout out!—these groups exist. It’s just sometimes it’s really plugging in and finding them. That can be a little bit of a struggle in the beginning, but once you’re there…

I know there’s one group in Dallas I’m very involved with, the Texas Women’s Foundation, formerly the Dallas Women’s Foundation and I’m on one of the committees for the foundation now, but it’s really funny. Anytime I’m involved with something that’s going on with them and I get together with these women, it’s like, “Oh my gosh, these are my people and I’m home and these are my sisters and this is fantastic and feeding off that energy sometimes is really helpful and really important when the days get long because sometimes they just do, even in just regular life. And I think, you know, there were friends that once I started—I mean, I’ll just be frank—once I started speaking out and being more open and honest about stuff, there were friends that kind of backed away a little bit and that’s okay. You know, that’s what they need to do and some of it was hurtful, but making the switch for me and being more outspoken was really one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself for sure.

Liz: And of course you know, your goal too is to give other people a platform through the podcast as well. And I think that is so important to me because I think one thing is that, you know, especially with the women’s movement or with anything, it’s really easy for us to focus on all the differences that we have that we’re bringing to the table. But I think something that you do really well in focusing on telling the stories of women or connecting with other women is that in those stories we can find all these places where we are really similar and not just be the places that we’re different. And I think, I guess that’s just a big lesson and a big part of the women’s movement is that we can look at it at face value and see maybe some of the stances that if you don’t outwardly agree with them, it could be a nonstarter for you to feel like you need to get involved.

But at least my experience while I was there is that while I’m sure like you already brought this up, women are going to disagree across the board. It doesn’t mean we’re all marching and we all have a 100 percent of the same beliefs or intentions or values. But I think that there is enough shared experience and if we really try to put ourselves in position where we’re getting to know other people and we’re listening to other people. We’re not just using our voices, but we’re listening to other people’s too. But, we have more in common than we have that’s different. And I’m trying to find those places too so that I can be able to connect to other women who aren’t sharing all of my values or who don’t prioritize all of the same things as I do, but we have similar life experiences that there’s just a way for us to connect, and I think that’s really important and I think that’s probably an intention behind the movement that’s not always practiced perfectly, but that it’s an overall goal that everybody’s trying to move toward.

Susan: You know, I really hope so. And I hope that’s something that we continue to work on because I know one of the bigger criticisms of the women’s movement since its inception, if you go back to the original one in our country,  the meeting at Seneca Falls back in the 1800s, was the exclusion or putting to the side of minorities. And at that point it was African American women and now it’s obviously much broader than that, but I want to make sure…

Liz: But it’s still a challenge.

Susan: It is still a challenge and it shouldn’t. From my standpoint, I don’t understand why people still act that way or behave that way. I want to say that that is something that I don’t condone by any stretch of the imagination, and that there are some voices that might be needing to be more elevated at the moment. Because I remember seeing a picture and it was talking about equality and there was a fence and there were people looking over the fence and each person had the same box, but they were at different heights so there were people who still couldn’t see over the fence. And equality is giving everybody the same box, but you’re still not at an equal level. Equity is giving somebody a big enough box for themselves so that they can all see over the fence. And I just want people to think about that going forward as far as with what they’re doing and how they’re sharing their voice and when they’re sharing their voice and who they’re giving their voice to. And this is something that on this podcast I think about regularly. And I know somebody’s going to say, “Well, you guys are just two white women sitting around talking about this.” And there have been multiple…I hope that I can insert some of the other voices that I caught. Because I ask people throughout the march, I stopped and talked to a few people and got asked them, you know, why are you here and why are you Marching today?

[28:37 – 32:10]

Susan: There were several people who I asked if they would be willing to do this and because of their job or their position or whatever, they didn’t feel comfortable doing it. And so I just want to make the point that that’s how I feel is that I think everyone’s voice matters, everyone deserves to be heard in this. And I know we keep bringing this back up, but we are really all in this together because if one of us fails, we all fail. This is not a situation where, “Oh yay! I succeeded it.” It really in the end it doesn’t work like that. And I think we’ve seen that. I think we’ve seen how that works throughout history, you know, with my understanding of women’s history. Going to a women’s college, you learn a lot more women’s history. You see how it’s manifested throughout time and there are still so many things that we have gotten wrong. And I just really want to reiterate that I hope this is the turning point. I really do have hope because I see it’s not where it needs to be, but I do see more women of all backgrounds being included and I just hope that something that we can build upon and continue to strengthen

Liz: And that’s why I love talking to you because you are always able to bring it back to that place of just your really strong intention to be able to share other people’s stories, to make everyone feel included and to just do it in a really smart and thoughtful way, so…

Susan: Well that is very nice of you. I appreciate that. I don’t always feel like it happens, but that’s what the goal is for sure. If you, coming from a professor’s standpoint, if there was something that you could tell women who want to share their voice, who are scared, like where would you even start?. And I know that’s such a broad question because not all of us are in the same place. Not all of us come from the same place, but I’ll just make it me. I was an 18-year-old kid. I found myself at a women’s college somewhat by luck I realize now. And I was really forced into leadership roles because there wasn’t anybody else to do it other than women, like that’s what happens when you go to a women’s college, you’re forced into positions that you wouldn’t normally volunteer for because women are the only ones there to do it.

If I had not had that experience, you know, it went dormant for a few years and then the idea of this podcast and all of that kind of brought it all back around, back a full circle if you will. But I know that there are women out there who’ve never, never used their voice, never thought…Some have been told—okay, a lot had been told that it’s not our place. And sometimes they’re actually told that and then sometimes they’re subliminally told that through other messages. So how do we continue to nurture women to share their voice? What can we, I guess maybe not what can women do who aren’t trying to voice, what can women who are sharing their voice already who are in positions of privilege, be it because they have a platform or they’re in a shortened position at work or whatever, like what is it as women that we can do to continue amplifying and holding that door back and open for other women coming behind us?

Liz: I think, I mean that’s a great question. One thing that, I guess I would start with the place of like it’s obvious that there’s so many mediums now for you to be able to give yourself a platform. And so whether it’s just exactly what you did is creating your own podcast, and you didn’t even know how to create a podcast, but you decided to do it and you did it and now you have one and now you’re creating this space for other women to share their stories. And looking at you, it makes it seem like it’s so simple to do to just provide a platform to other people, but there’s so many of us who would just get stopped at the fact of, “Well, I don’t know how to do that, “or “Should people be listening to me and my story?” Or “Is anybody even going to come in and listen to this?” But I don’t know what your experience is but mine has been that anytime I’ve taken that risk to give myself a new platform or authentically tell a story about my experience, for example, last year I decided to apply to give a Ted Talk just because I thought it was something that would be challenging and that would be beneficial and that would be fun and that would be hard and it proved to be all of those things, but giving myself that platform, it spoke to a lot of different people that I didn’t necessarily know would be the audience. The other people came and said like, “Now I feel like I’m empowered to give myself a platform too” or “how did you do that? I think that’s something that I would be able to do,” or “you sharing your story really helped me kind of validate my own.” And so I guess what I would say is that women who are in that position who already have a platform, I think they need to be really thoughtful about who they’re inviting and giving that space to and making sure that it’s representative of a lot of different types of stories and stories that are not always the ones that are told.

And then secondly, for the people who don’t have a platform, like I would just say make one, give yourself one. And that’s easier said than done, but there are so many spaces, whether it’s just writing a post on a blog, creating a podcast, writing an Instagram caption. I think that most people who have taken the risk to say, “I’m going to put this out there as myself and I’m going to do it just for the sake of sharing this story with other people.” I think the experience is pretty much across the board that someone hears that, sees that, it resonates with them and then they feel empowered to get to do the same thing, so that’s where I would start. What do you think about that, Susan? You’ve done it before.

Susan: I’m pondering what you’re saying and of course, being the writer and speaker that you are, you say it so eloquently, and I will make sure to link your Ted Talk. Everyone should hear your Ted Talk. It was really phenomenal. It was one of the first things that I listened to once our friend, Caytie, web introduced us over email, and it people just need to listen. It’s amazing. And I thank you for sharing your voice. And I think you’re right. I guess at the end of the day we came to share our stories about the Women’s March, but I’m realizing now that what we’re really talking about and what this all boils down to is taking a risk. And it’s a calculated risk, but I think. I think that’s what we’re talking about is being vulnerable and putting ourselves out there and risking a little bit, and I think you have to take those chances and when you don’t take those chances in life, it’s stagnant. And I think when you take risks, although they’re hard and they’re challenging, many times they’re worth it and you end up…Even if it’s a risk that fails, it flops, you end up learning something from it and you end up being a better person on the other side. And I hadn’t really thought about it being about taking a risk until now.

Liz: Yeah, but it is one, right? I mean it is just showing up at a March, putting yourself out there, being willing to clash with other people, being willing to even risk your safety or your comfort. I think that’s a step that for me. It probably did prevent me from going to the first two Marches and this year for a lot of different reasons I felt more emboldened and more empowered to show up in that way. But it is a little bit of a risk. And I think for a lot of people just having a community of support, knowing somebody who’s there, knowing that it’s helped other people along the way, I think all of those things start to make the risk, like you said, a little bit more calculated, a little bit safer. And so I do think that, you know, even when someone else is the one who is using their voice, I think it is opening a door for other people and giving them some permission to use their’s too. At least that’s what I hope.

Susan: Yeah, me too. I really do hope that those that feel like they need permission because sometimes as women we feel like we do need to ask for permission for things that I feel like I do hope we’re holding that door open because really somebody hold that door open for us. At the end of the day, I mean we’re not the start of this. We’re surely not the end of this. I was thinking about this last night and I really realized that there are women who have come before us, that this has been their life’s work and I’m realizing now that it’s kind of turned into my life’s work on accident. This was never… I never thought I’d have to do this. I thought we were past this, but I hope that for future generations that this is something that we just continue to move the bar and to move the goalpost again, sports analogies. But yeah, I think that’s a good place to end. Do you have anything that you definitely want to talk about that we missed?

Liz: I think that’s a good place to end too. I think that brings everything full circle.

Susan: Cool. Well, I love it and I appreciate you doing this with me today. It’s so much more fun to have somebody to chat with rather than do it myself and just start rambling about stuff for, you know, 30, 45 minutes. So thanks for coming on and chatting with me. We should do this again more often.

Liz: I had so much fun. I always liked talking to you. I mean, that’s probably why we like working together so much because I can just sit down with you at a coffee shop for a couple of hours and then say, “You know what, where did we start here? Where do we need to go next?”

Susan: I know. And I’m sitting here in my closet office and I’ve got my coffee. So I had my coffee with me so you know, it worked out really well. I’m really glad you could do this with me today.

Liz: Me Too. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Outro: Pod Sisters, I really hope that this episode left you encouraged. I know it might be a little intimidating or even scary to share your voice in the beginning and that’s okay. As you heard, we were nervous too. Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me. I’m more than happy to try and get you plugged in wherever you are. Your voice matters and like I said, if one of us fails, we all fail. You can do it and we’re here rooting you on. Until next time, I’ll see you soon.