Thrive II Preview

Party in My Head Life Part 2, The Voice that Became a Diplomat…The End of a Decade and a Paradox of the #MeToo Movement

Posted by on December 29, 2019 in Conscious Living, Thrive with 0 Comments

By Shelly Cofini

The diplomat voice in my head is so darn concerned with what is said and how to say it right. Being diplomatic all the time, sometimes shows up for me as a lack of confidence or even authenticity. Oh, the countless hours of lost sleep replaying conversations over and over in my head of the things I wished I'd really said. I would like to say this has improved over the years, slightly however sometimes it hasn’t really. How many times I am tied up for days in an upset because I couldn't say what it was that I was feeling at the time, or what it was that I wanted to see happen or even acknowledging how to hurt I was because I didn’t stand up for myself.  These are opportunities lost and lessons in the making. Moments in time where I allowed someone to invade my sense of being, my values, and basic human dignity. Simply because of living in the story of being a good girl, if I am good enough, I am diplomatic, well mannered, I will be accepted, well-liked and maybe even one day loved. Could I stand up for myself and say no or at least something?  anything? I have a few stories to share that delivered life lessons, life-altering kind of lessons. 


Ok, so you have one of those moments where you say to yourself something is just not right here. And there is that little voice inside you, one that exists at your very core.  A voice deep down in your bones that comes from a place of pure conviction. It’s the instinct that guides you. You know when that voice is there, that something is about to happen, and you’re not sure if its good or bad.  Sometimes instead of it being something you are just thinking, you let it slip, and it actually comes out of your mouth? inside voice, inside. voice, inside voice…outside voice. (God help you when that happens)

The diplomat voice in my head started so many years ago when I was visiting my hometown. My Grandma Wilma, my daddy’s mamma, decided to make me breakfast one morning.   I am guessing I was seven years old at the time. I stood in the kitchen and I watched in complete horror as she reached in the oven and grabbed a cast iron skillet and inside of it was used bacon grease with charred bacon bits and lord knows what else, (I thought dead flies) or better yet what else had been cooked in there,  gross. And in my mind, at that moment I was absolutely sure there were dead flies in that pan, icky! She grabbed a wooden spoon and in slow motion, I watched as she pulled a big red Folders’ coffee can off the stovetop, then I waited patiently as she reached in with the spoon and… yep, you guessed it? and pulled more used grease out of the can and dumped in the frying pan. What? I know right. I was shocked, speechless in fact. A big lump in my throat suddenly appeared and the little voice in my head was saying to me, “NOOOO, she’s not going to make you eat dead flies with your French toast?  What kind of Grandma makes you eat dead flies with your French toast?”

As I write this I remember the feeling of pure dread, watching that pan heat up and those used bits of whatever,  “dead flies or not” start to sizzle…it was at this precise moment I found my voice of reason perhaps not for the very first time but clearly the first time I uttered the words in my defense.  The little voice in my head, instead of staying in my head, blurted out…”You are not going to make my breakfast in that pan, are you?” I said this with a level of disgust that was hard to hide, not a curious question but rather a demanding, how dare you, kind of question.  Where was the diplomat? Oops…

Then I stood there waiting for her to recant, to apologize, to wash the darn pan, to do anything other than cook my French toast in it.  What I got instead was silence, pure silence, dead silence, you know the kind of silence you get when you hurt somebody's feelings only you don't know you hurt their feelings, kind of silence. Then came her tears. Oh Lord, what have I done? My Grandma Wilma was prone to crying when things didn't go as she planned. I made her cry. This was not good. I will pay for this. 

It was not my fault you see, in my defense I needed to explain how my little voice of reason was justified in making this particular demand. 

Brief Background.

My parents sent my brother Tommy and me home to Oklahoma every summer to live with my grandparents, both sets. We split our time equally to be fair to them both. Only truth be told, I personally preferred spending time with my mom's parents’ home and at the time, and I thought for good reason. My dad's mother tried to kill me on more than one occasion, ok so maybe not kill me but it seemed like it at the time;  this was a very real conclusion for me…I think my mother silently agreed with me too. 

My Grandmother Maxine, my mamma’s mamma was an immaculate housekeeper, everything always smelled brand new. Her house had modern appliances and was decorated with taste and everything was in its place. Even though my grandpa Tom smoked those little Roy-Tan cigars, you know the inexpensive brand you can buy at the grocery store with the plastic tip on it? (very smelly) and he chewed tobacco too; he either had one of those cigars hanging out of his mouth or a big lump of tobacco on the side of his cheek at any given time. (Sidebar, I secretly learned to love the smell of tobacco, I have no idea why but now I know, it reminded me of home).  I used to sleep in his undershirts as my PJ’s; the armholes were bigger than me. My point is you would have never known that there were cigars being smoked or tobacco being chewed in her house. Her house, the furniture, her car, and their clothes always smelled brand new. Everything was crisp and clean, actually, it was spotless, definitely germ-free, the house was “always company ready”. I learned this time, most valuable and very handy lesson from my Grandma Maxine. My house is always company ready. 

When my Grandma Maxine fixed me breakfast, she used a non-stick frying pan, just the right amount of fresh butter and she carefully fried up my French toast, added peanut butter and syrup and then proceeded cut it into perfect little one inch squares not too big, and not too small,  just right. My voice of reason said to me, this woman loves me and would clearly do anything for me…she even takes the time to cut up my French toast in tiny bite-size pieces. Who does that? I love her. Really, really love her,  she was at the time and still is one of my hero’s.

Back to Grandma Wilma, clearly, I hurt her feelings…she calls my Grandma Maxine and orders me to be picked up at once.  Which is secretly just fine with me. The voice of reason prevails or does it? 

Hold on. The story gets better.

I eventually had to go back to “that woman’s” house…I openly dreaded it as I was particularly accident-prone at Grandma Wilma’s. While some say I was too young to remember, I actually fell out of a moving car that she was driving, what? I was three. How did that happen?  No one knows for sure, however, I do recall seat belts were available at the time.  Hmmm, the plot thickens…When I was five or maybe six, I fell down a flight of wood stairs at her sister’s house in Iowa, she was directly behind me….was I pushed? I would later ponder over this. Events were being linked together one by one, little and big and no one will ever know for sure. Can you see how this conspiracy theory developed over time? She wanted me dead. 

The piece de' resistance was when my “voice of reason” failed me most then.  My Grandmother Wilma decided, post skillet incident…(this was her sweet revenge) to feed me an entire box of Exlax. She insisted, why,  you may ask? I haven't a clue to this day. It was chocolate, it tasted weird and I wondered at the moment why she was giving me so much? She said something about me not being “regular”. Well, duh, I was a gifted child, one might say exceptional. I had no idea what that meant. And not wanting to challenge her again, the diplomat and I acquiesced to her sense of authority. I was seven, not seventy. What was Exlax anyway? Oh, my goodness, where was my voice of reason then? You’ll be happy to know, that  I was not to be burdened by the problem for long. And this was the very end for me…it was at this moment, I clearly decided that she wanted me dead. I was convinced. Never again to be trusted. 

I will spare you the details.  They were indeed life-altering at the age of seven,  going to summer school with a full box of laxatives working against you. Embarrassing? You have no idea! My Grandma Maxine came to the rescue and what seemed like 3 days spent in the littlest room in the house, I was relieved. She was my hero. She was my safe harbor.  She was the woman who cut my French toast in perfect little squares. Everything was in order again. My voice of reason told me I would be safe and out of harm’s way. 

It was at this moment I clearly understood this voice,  was to be the very voice that kept me out of and got me into trouble for the rest of my life.  And needless to say, it was summer or two before I stayed with “that woman” again…Ah but there is so much more to the story…Regular? Really?

I wouldn’t uncover key parts of this story, until many years later in my 40’s, when looking at a picture of myself and seeing this little girl(me)in a perfect white dress sitting on the grass in the park. When I asked my mom, where did the dresses for Easter and other occasions come from? We were pretty poor at the time, so it didn’t make sense to me. Then she told me something so profound, I was awestruck, choked up, and cried all at once. And it taught me one very valuable lesson, your memory is not always accurate. My Grandma Wilma was so excited upon the news of having a baby granddaughter that she enrolled in a sewing class which was after hours meaning after a full day of work. She learned to sew over several months so that she could make all of my dresses of which each and every picture shows the detail, the styling, the effort and they were beautiful,  Easter, Thanksgiving, weddings and holidays. They were lace and dainty, beautiful and must have taken her hours to sew and as I now reflect back on those pictures of me at four, six, or eight years old, I was always “dressed to the nines” for the holidays. Then I stop and wonder, does this sound like the action of a woman who wanted me dead? Attending all of those classes after work, buying fabric and patterns and perfecting her sewing skills, came the epiphany…What did my seven-year voice of reason do? I made up a story that stayed with me until adulthood. I cried over the thought of her making my dresses, it was so thoughtful and such a sacrifice and so much work. The interpretations of things that happened, they were just random events, she never wanted harm to come to me. She loved me, just as much as any grandparent could. I didn’t find out until she had passed on about this. The dresses, the lessons, the pictures, but I now know. I was loved by my grandparents, in different ways, but by no means no less. Lesson; you cannot believe everything you think and no matter what you think, our memory about childhood events is not always accurate.

So, I ask you how well does your voice of reason resonates with you? Do you actually listen to it or have you tuned it out? I cannot tell you how many times I have talked myself in and out of situations or better yet into situations I had no business being in. I know that my Grandparents loved me, and they meant well. 

I know I prefer cast iron pans and used bacon grease on most days… Isn’t that ironic.

That is my voice of reason and I listen to it still…or do I? 

The end of a decade.

As I reflect on these events,  I wonder sometimes that growing up in an environment where we were told as children;  “children should be seen and not heard” and I wonder how did that impact my ability to claim my voice and actually use it? The diplomat and the decade that needs revisiting and parts of it need retiring or rather “ways of being” that need retiring, well now is a perfect time to revisit them. This decade will go down as a period in time that aged me beyond my years providing lessons, learning, healing and growing.  I understand and now know that claiming one’s work, worth, value and voice is simply a work in progress, it is not an event or even a series of circumstances. It is a willingness to persevere in the face of constant change and challenges that cause us to rise to an occasion and surprise ourselves while providing lessons for our learning and sometimes healing.  

So, the stories to tell about this decade for me…I can sum it up in one simple recurring phrase or better put,  a no overused label. So many labels. The one, the most recurring one for me is the Narcissist, of which I have experienced over and over and then the shock of it even being reflected on rare occasions in my own behavior. I really dislike labels because they box people in and box in our observers, inferring the use of that label again and again. There is little room for expansion after that. Just judgment, and we as humans are meaning-making machines.   I only use this label because a larger general audience is familiar with it now, in this last decade especially, and it is topical and super relevant for me. However, how I am going to relate this label, how I have chosen to use is it is not meant to highlight victim consciousness, rather share what happens to my voice, when I am put in pressure cooker situations and the manipulation that results and thus the learning/healing/growing that comes from it. 

It is time to get a new job description. Or a new label to work through. 

And I have used my labels enough…speaker, strategist, executive coach, chief revenue officer, chief strategist, business development consultant, emerging tech strategist, real estate investment expert, luxury real estate specialist, digital transformation innovator, fintech specialist, humorist, writer, spiritual warrior, giddy girlfriend, professional giggler, this list goes on…yep, the labels others give us, and those that we attach to ourselves. 

When I reflect on the events in the last decade there are a few stories that for me stand out. A spiritual teacher I know, and respect used this label in one of her recent workshops and it stuck like glue or better yet a sticky note on my forehead. Barbie, said its ok to be easy on yourself, sometimes you weren’t necessarily making bad choices you were simply being “Resourceful”.  Wow, I got that. And I have been that, in the last decade and have made some defining choices from that space. Although in reflection I am not sure I would classify them all as powerful choices rather just necessary or better yet, the better of the worst choice at the time. And that is where my learning begins. Being resourceful is great, however making choices from a scarcity mindset, in work, in relationships, in friendships, all will be greatly impacted by this way of being. Of not being enough… I like resourcefulness as it speaks to the ability to be agile. And agile is different from settling or selling out. Not enough however is lack, and lack is scarcity, and scarcity sucks, scarcity causes you to settle when you settle, you don’t make powerful choices; that is how the spiral starts and where it ends is anybody’s guess. Often a shit show…is likely to follow. 

So, I will share a few stories about what that looks like for me. We are retiring a decade, I am retiring a decade, not too many stories however just enough to make my point.  

One of the things I came here for during this super fun incarnation is to work out the complexity of partnership/relationships. If you are an astrologer and look at my chart you would say it, “bless your heart”. I know huh…At least I got a grip on this now “50 something” years later and understand it that will continue to be a moving target for me. Acceptance and the eternal optimist that I am, nothing is ever impossible. I’m possible.  I will eventually find someone…who loves me, and I will love him, ahhh to love and be loved in return.

So, with that said, I attract with a flypaper grip people that gravitate towards my maternal energy, the fixer… you know that kiss my boo daily and make it feel better, please…uggh, I mean ah…next… For an intuitive, healer, and empath that may have disastrous effects. 

As I  reflect back on this last decade, I have had, in a relationship, or business partnerships and lastly some key friendships Eight give or take, different partners, personal or business, friends and at different times, some for a season, some for a duration and one life partner included…all definitively have the label of being a narcissist. I wish this was just me giving this label to them, but it is not…and I cannot kiss enough boo-boos to right all of the twists and turns or wrongs done by or experienced from them. Remember, that narcissists are acting out old wounds too… So a few really of these folks are great humans they are just super self-absorbed, some are toxic and no longer in my life and one was borderline sociopath, and too dangerous to be around even in the most benign environment, such as running into them at a local restaurant where their energy just permeates your very space and time reminding you why you will never ever go there again, in business, be it personal or friendship. Never ever ever…ever again. 

The gist of the narcissist is manipulation, in front of that manipulation is a very pleasing people person with loads of adoration, charm, wit  and compliments and behind that is someone like me who is begging to be needed and wanted. Underneath it is an undoing of part of the very fabric of who you are and leaves you wondering why and how you ever got into this situation in the first place it can be subtle or covert hostile, cunning for sure and always damaging at the time.  

Shocker…and we ironically all have narcissistic tendencies. It is part of our shadow…Ever used your charm or manipulated someone to get what you wanted?  With or without knowing it, and then claimed innocent? Or made them wrong for not getting it???

What blows me away is when I reflect on some of the things that happened, in the last ten years and how I responded. (how you relate to the issue, is the issue) There are times when my voice of reason should have kicked in…7-year-old Shelly, where the fuck did you go? 

Without going into the nitty-gritty details, I will share a few of these stories…

During this decade, I ended a long-term relationship with someone I was engaged to, the ending was not by choice however it became the right choice for me eventually. How did it end you might ask?  One night while working late at my office and I received a call from the front desk, informing me of a package that was delivered for me. A late evening delivery, strange? I thought, going down the elevator, am I being served? I nervously retrieved the package and returned to my office, settling in to open a FedEx package with contents unknown.  As I began to peruse the pages that accounted for an alleged several-year affair by my fiancé with another woman. She was so kind to include copies of hundreds of their email exchanges, really, like since the beginning and then a very thoughtful DVD of photographs they shared, many of them were nudes, nice touch… and then a culminating with a 10-page letter to me sharing her regret, and having recently moved out of state she wanted to clear her conscious.  She didn’t know I was his fiancé; she was told I was only a roommate. Ironically, it was so very sweet of her…and add insult to injury, that I had financially supported him during this time as he was unemployed…I could curse here but it would be purely for effect. The little fucker…ok, I feel slightly better. 

Late at night, office lights out, I sat frozen at my desk, as I perused the emails, photos, and letters over and over again…then I threw up… and then reread it again to be sure it wasn’t a prank. I had no idea. None. I called one of his best friends and asked if he knew in confidence, and he didn’t. And then I as I reread it for what seems like the millionth time,  I started to recognize the story he used with her, his excuses, his stories about me and then I knew it was true because he had said the very same things to me about his former girlfriend, the mother of his child…Let me be clear he and I did not have an affair however his living arrangement was not made completely clear to me until several years later. oh shit, then it really hit home. I realized that “the fling” occupied a space in the building next to mine. My new office, where I did events and coaching. Space “he” suggested I take. He suggested, right?  Who the fuck does that? I must have walked past her office every day for two years and smiled and waved, she was a neighbor after all. And then one day, post the FedEx package, it all started to make sense…missing lunch dates and his late coming home times, him picking me up at the back door because taking the stairs were good for me…so as not to be seen by her. I had no fucking idea, I know, and I am not dumb. I was just super focused, really super focused on work and not paying attention to the signs all the little fucking signs. I asked questions, he always had an answer. There were times when I felt like I was in the wrong…When I asked his friends, just to validate, am I that fucking stupid?  people he worked with, well they no idea either. A total anomaly. He was a serial liar. When people lie, I pay the price…very old story operating…another story for another day. 

I went home that night and I said nothing…my voice of reason had abandoned me. I pretended that I didn’t know or see the FedEx package and its contents for the next 30 days.  Holy shit was that an ass-kicker. I thought, and I processed, and I thought some more. I went home, and I ate with, and I slept next to the person I thought I was going to marry one day, and I was just numb. With school dropping off and picking up his daughter, softball games on the weekend, it was business as usual. I wanted and desperately needed to get past the anger and hurt, before confronting him. So, thanks are to God, the universe, whatever divine process was looking out for me at the time during all of this I happen to be getting my Masters in Spiritual Psychology and I had a community I could lean on. And then one day I had the epiphany,  I came to one critical conclusion; what if underneath it all…it was me? I understood that I had been running a story of “not being wanted,” and after much processing and some, ok a lot of tequila, I surmised, what a better way to validate the limiting belief, my story right? Really for me to bring in a guy, an amazing guy who will cheat on me in order to prove to me over and over again that I am not wanted! Limiting belief in its perfection being played out daily and then through the divine, synchronistic and corroborating evidence…he gets caught but never confesses. Perfect!

Our stories, our interpretations, and the meaning we make of our lives will always deliver a timely lesson to test us…and the degree by which we pass the test, well then, the material will simply dissolve and go away. So ultimately, in order for me to heal,  I forgave him, not for him but for me, I wanted to, rather needed to, retire this outdated, outmoded story of “not being wanted”… so I took 100% responsibility for my reality, I brought him in…I didn’t pay attention to the signs and overtime, in the end, he took a job in another city, he commuted for a while then moved away and slowly, he eventually admitted he made a mistake many years afterward…however it was way too late for me, and I never go back. And then it ended, and it ended at the right time for me in a way that wasn’t a total heartbreak, there was a child involved too while she was not mine, I loved her as if she were. Ironically, all these years later, he and I didn’t stick but she and I did…and for that I am forever thankful.

During this super fun time of change, I had a long-time business partner and someone I referred to as a family or certainly a very close friend. We were inseparable, we traveled together, spent social time together, and we worked a lot. One day, unlike any other day, we are enjoying lunch at our usual spot, business is going well, our awarded team was growing, and I have been busting my ass on new ventures…literally 24/7.  And on this day, he tells me at a lunch; rather surprisingly, ok, shockingly… that he never really wanted an equal business partner, now we had been equal partners for a few years; of which that he had unequally, to his benefit, benefitted from for years. What he wanted an assistant he said…I sat speechlessly. I rebuilt the team and his business, and his complaint was that when we would go to meetings that the participants would speak to me and ask me detailed questions (I was always over-prepared) and that bothered him. So being a pleaser and a fixer, I  suggested perhaps we formulate a strategy for meetings that would leave him feeling more empowered. He said, “I don’t have a strategy for meetings, I just go and wing it”. Then, I suggested that we switch up roles that would make him feel comfortable in meetings, that were not pleasing to him. 

So, here was his earth-shattering suggestion; that I go to meetings with him and remain, silent unless spoken to, (my IQ fell 50 points, just listening to this shit) and that only at the end of the meeting after everyone has spoken,  if I had any questions, could I ask them. It was the single most humiliating moment I have ever experienced. (Voice of Reason: What the Fuck? childhood story running…children should be seen and not heard) How did I draw this in? I am sure if I were a man at that moment, I might have punched him, although I know that would not have solved anything, perhaps liberating if only for a moment. I briefly thought about throwing my drink at him, and again that didn’t solve what was systemically evident. I mean this was coming from a man who said that feminists were the reason for the 70% divorce rate in Orange County. Right? So, after a few months of serious reflection, thank you voices in my head.  UGH…It was clear to me that he was threatened by me. And he offset this by manipulating and ultimately making me feel incompetent. Our several years' prosperous partnerships did not make it to the end of the year. And in an attempt to cover up my leaving, he lied, he lied to my friends and he lied to colleagues, he lied to his girlfriend now his wife and she lied too about what really happened and why I left. The stories I heard were gross misrepresentations of the truth. In fact, they were totally made up.

A betrayal unlike any other, one that I never expected, including a cover-up,  which had consequences to its participants with many more layers than I can or am willing to share here right now; through this, I experienced learning through shame, a victim of theft, being the brunt of lies, blame, reality for me a heartbreaking level of betrayal…and while ultimately awarded a bittersweet win in arbitration, and vindication on paper, in the end, nobody really wins here. I suffered, my team suffered, however, the outcome was that I learned a great deal about who I am and how much I can persevere in the face of adversity even from those you love.  Narcissists’ don’t always know what they are doing to other people because the story they are living in is so deeply rooted in their psyche they may not even have access to things like their own stories of abandonment, not being wanted, not being loved and the beat goes on and I promise you, they will do it to you at whatever cost. 

The Paradox of #MeToo

While all of these stories are just brief eclipses in time, they, lead us to a path, and this last story I will share bridges the ending of a decade and leading me to the #me-too movement paradox. 

So being super “resourceful”… I connect with an old acquaintance in the hopes of doing some consulting work. He shares with me this amazing opportunity and could use someone with my skill set, so we agree and off I go into the world of emerging tech and start-up land. I bring on a team of super capable, highly intuitive and very grounded super smart women. We were excited and ready to rock it. Ready to learn and to work and while there were major bumps, we navigated in the first year, like funding issues, payroll issues, market focus, product focus, we moved and we collaborated, we fought, we postured, and ultimately, we survived. To recount everyone has narcissistic tendencies, it is not gendered specific by any stretch. When we got through the growing pains and we finally settled in on what seemed to be a viable road map, we started to notice as a collective some subtle and not so subtle power plays that emerged…they,  the this is “mine, mine, mine” egos were started to surface. And those egos were taking credit for our work. 

There may have been a moment where there was a collective oh shit felt, however, none of us called it out, occasionally we did in private over a glass of wine or margarita, but fuck… we did nothing about it. 

So, here is the thing that stands out about this experience. Super simple;  the way we were treated and the things that were said to us on a daily basis by men who have sons and daughters was appalling, like quit your job and file a lawsuit appalling.  I get as do the rest of the participants in this story that we had virtually no HR department, we were a start-up and that was a challenge, right along with getting consisting of funding and having a clear concise roadmap to guide us. Leadership woes.

None of this is my rub, here is my rub, while I and others were getting bullied by C-suite of which technically, I was a member and my female co-workers were getting similar treatment, each of us getting our own collective spew to spit as us on a pretty consistent basis, pushing and prodding for performance before a product was ready to go to market. I know we all got it,  that we were bootstrapping it. What I have a challenge with most, is not necessarily what the boys club did with their boys crushes praising each other on how well they did by working less and accomplishing less too…Look, if you’re an entrepreneur, you get used to the wild wild west over time and simply ignore it…However, what is most interesting to reflect on, is that we had a girl collective, we had each other’s back…and as a collective we were kicking ass, daily we were each getting our own dose of toxic rhetoric under the guise of politically incorrect humor from our peers and management. And we did nothing about it, other than an occasional that’s not funny, or hey that’s not ok.

C-suite pushing down this kind of culture prevailing in its, ok to scream at you, ok to yell at you, it is not ok to tell this to a co-worker  “Jess, you need to get your vagina stapled shut, so you can’t have any more baby’s and focus more on your career”, yep he said it, we all heard it, “it was a joke” and it a poor one at that…and we got those kinds of “jokes” daily,  And as a collective, we took it daily…what has eluded us all in retrospect, is that we didn’t stand up and we didn’t walk out, by saying that is not acceptable conduct now or ever and there is the rub and perhaps the paradox. Women are so concerned with the labels that get attached when we stand up for ourselves or other women.  We would go home at night elated on our wins and simultaneously defeated or deflated on the constant degrading rhetoric, elated on our strides and strategy only to have jokes made at our expense about, performance, our dress, emails, gender, and how we related to each other in meetings. 

The favorite buzz phrase as it came to be;  if you do this or that…” it would be a career-limiting move”…no power ego in play there…right? even with things you knew down in your bones was the right thing to do at the time. It was delivered as if that veiled threat would somehow bow us into submission. Well, it worked.  So, I have to ask why, and where was my “voice of reason then?” and it leaves me pondering this… why do smart women, super-smart fucking talented women, backed with an office tribe or no tribe at all, choose to stay in toxic work environments? We have all asked ourselves that question a thousand times as we come to the close of this decade. Maybe we stayed to protect each other or was the promise of something bigger by getting a potential exit or event. A stock that was dangled in front of us that had virtually no value, yet we were willing to work our ass off for it. Scarcity sucks. 

The paradox of the #me too movement that is now ever-present in media and right before us and right under our noses, we still we take it, and then take it again and yes, we stay. Women are coming forward and sharing their stories of how they put up it with for years, we stay for perceived security, for fear of retribution, we stay, and we put up with it, we work, and then we work harder. Barbie, a spiritual teacher posed this profound question to me today, “Why do men only do, exactly the work they are paid for? and why do women inherently feel the need to do more than that?”  

Look, I am not sure I identify with the label “feminist” and society’s interpretation attached to it, however, I do believe in gender equality in payment for the same work and it’s been proven that organizations that embrace women in leadership roles outperform those who do not. I will forever be perplexed as to why; we didn’t take a different course of action at this startup. We felt disempowered, maybe we felt our jobs would be at risk, it is clear to me now that even our board was culpable as well as the key perpetrators. So, the paradox…here it is, did we contribute to the behavior by staying? Did we enable it by laughing it off? And not calling it out.  Was there some part of us, that felt we were responsible for staying? And not defending each other more than an occasional backlash of “that is just not appropriate”.

End the end,  we couldn’t arrive at a compelling answer either, other than that while being “resourceful” we wanted and needed a job where we could be a collective and do good work. And gosh darn it,  wouldn’t it be nice if we could do that and be valued and respected and appropriately compensated while doing it…

“We” the girl collective no longer work together, we are friends and we often reminisce (perhaps not always fondly) about what we would have done different. We learned a shit ton of knowledge,  which was great for our resumes and most of it was trial by fire. And yet we were simultaneously demeaned from a culture driven by a naïve and immature leadership team that fostered a boy’s club “superiority” that was starved for more and more “Atta-boys”.  And occasionally, and rarely placated us with and “Atta-girl”.

Here is what I know… it’s not what you do, it’s who you are being while you do it,  that matters most. So be a better human being on the job and at home…humanity deserves that. And what if it were your daughter that worked in that environment? How you want to be treated in the situation. It is time man-up, fuck that… It’s time to women-up.

This last decade has taught me many things; I have a love and desire to help and impact people lives, I am a writer and a storyteller. I have a love of technology and the problems it can solve. I am an innovator. I have a keen understanding of how we can use our connectedness, spirituality and the global ascension occurring as a world collective to enable the rise of our humanity, our grace, our giving; our soul’s purpose to a higher calling. All this is needed to come to the aid of failing systems, outdated and outmoded structures, limiting beliefs, a gap in the hierarchy of needs, gender biases and financial disparity and hate. I am a disrupter. My diplomat will always be a part of who I am, however, learning now that I have a choice and a voice and can decipher when best to deploy the diplomat and when to say hey don’t be a dick. It’s not that attractive. 

So, all of this starts with getting straight with what it is…there are parts of our world that are broken, and not necessarily just people, and there are perhaps some disconnected belief systems. I believe that everyone has their own unique spiritual path, some people are our teachers, some people are our mirrors, and some people are here to deliver our lessons in order for us to heal, to grow and learn.  

To the end of a decade of learning, growing, and healing. Let’s hope the next decade includes labels, such as heart-centered, inclusive, collective, collaborative, mindful, courageous, peaceful and love…for me, I am looking forward to branding new labels for the next decade…personally I like, enthused, centered, inspired, discovered, admired, and truth-teller, peacemaker, playful and loved. Love, that is it. We are here to love

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