I was listening to another of Jay’s older podcast episodes last week (surprise, surprise), and he had Glennon Doyle on to talk about How to Stop Asking for Permission and Listening to Other People’s Opinions. I highly recommend this episode, especially if you are LGBTQIAP and are having a hard time with the idea of coming out. Even if you aren’t, it’s a wonderful episode! Jay and Glennon discuss several topics that I found relatable.

One such topic was envy. I took a lot of notes, but I’m going to try and summarize what was said. Glennon said that envy is admiration that is holding its breath. She went on to explain what she meant by that. She said nothing hurts more than seeing someone do something that a braver version of yourself was born to do. Meaning that if we were more aware of where this envy is coming from, we wouldn’t envy, but admire.

She then said that we need to begin asking ourselves why we are envious and how can we use that answer to improve ourselves? Because that envy is pointing us toward what we are meant to do. Our purpose.

I thought about this for a while. Generally speaking, I’m not an envious person. However, there are times that I do feel envy. We all do. It’s a human emotion. When do I feel envious? Any time that I see a video on social media where someone is painting a beautiful picture, particularly if they’re using a method I’ve never seen before. This three-dimensional tree painting by Nicolas Abtan is one such example. My envy was especially strong with this one because I love trees.

Culbertson Mansion by Melissa Wiseheart, pen & watercolor, 2000.

I took art classes in high school and I occasionally go to Viva Art to learn techniques now. I’m good at painting, but I’m not great. Definitely nowhere near professional. I enjoy painting, for the most part. Sometimes I get stressed, depending on the techniques and/or the level of detail. I’m adding a few samples of my work here to illustrate what I’m talking about. I feel it’s necessary.

In the example of the Culbertson Mansion watercolor, we worked from a photo of the building, in a classroom setting, over the course of a couple of weeks. We began by sketching out the building in pencil and then tracing that with ink. Then, we filled it in with watercolor. This represents about ten hours of work.

Starry Night Over New Albany by Melissa Wiseheart, acrylic, 2021.

In the example of Starry Night Over New Albany, it was a two and a half hour class at Viva Art. We began with a blank black canvas. We were given chalk and instructed to draw the Louisville skyline. I wanted to draw the New Albany skyline instead, so I went rogue. I have enough confidence in my abilities to at least be able to apply the same technique to different buildings.

New Beginning by Melissa Wiseheart, pen, 2022.

In the example of New Beginning, I sketched this out in about ten minutes. It’s an idea I had for a future painting and I didn’t want to forget it, so I sketched it. The final painting will be more detailed and take considerably longer.

Culbertson Mansion was sent to a regional art competition and won an honorable mention. A couple of my artworks sold at auction when I was in high school. I was offered an art scholarship for college. I didn’t accept it. Why? Because “art isn’t a practical profession.”

Instead, I started out with the idea of being an occupational therapist. Practical. Then, I decided that wasn’t for me and switched to education, then to informatics.

I ended up just getting a degree in general studies because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I wound up at the library for thirteen years and loved most of them. It was where all of my interests combined. However, it became harrowing and it was time to move on. So, now I’m an insurance broker. Also practical. But I miss creating.

And that is the point of all of this. I’m envious of artists because it’s what I was meant to do if I had been braver all of those years ago, if I had taken the scholarship and risked the “impractical” choice. To verify this revelation, I thought about other forms of creation. I recently switched to a new hair stylist, my dear friend, Adam. He is an artist, but with a different medium.

I’ll digress here a bit to say that I lost a considerable amount of hair a couple of years ago, due to my medication. It has been growing back, but the new growth is very different. Chemo curls is a term I’ve recently learned to define it. Anyway, I had my first cut and style with Adam about a week and a half ago and just from the way he cut it, my hair looks like an intentional style choice, rather than a frizzy mess. Even when all I do is run a brush through it. It has given me such confidence.

To the point, Adam is an artist and I am in absolute admiration of his work. Not envious. So, what is the difference? The difference is that I don’t want to be a hair stylist. I don’t want to work with hair. That was never what I was supposed to do with my life. Hence admiration instead of envy. Glennon is absolutely correct.

Understanding this envy does a couple of things for me. First, it helps me to realize my purpose. If I know that I’m supposed to draw and paint, what are my next steps? To know this, I have to think about what I’m lacking. Patience, skill development, supplies, and time.

I always get upset with myself when I draw or paint something and it doesn’t come out exactly how I wanted. I just give up and tell myself I’m not good enough. Well, of course it didn’t come out how I wanted. I put ten minutes into it. I had put ten hours into Culbertson Mansion and it wasn’t quite up to my standards, either. I need to set aside time each day or each week and practice.

The second thing is that understanding my envy helps me to be less envious in future. Jay said, “You never don’t feel envy, you just entertain it for less time.” That is true. We can’t eliminate any of our human emotions, because we’re human. However, I can recognize when I feel envious and examine why, rather than dwell on the feeling.

Examining why I’m envious of artists has given me a renewed sense of purpose and an action plan for how I can be better. Maybe I’ll monetize it and maybe I won’t, but I’ll be doing it. I took the first steps already. I purchased some sketchbooks, a pencil set, and paint pens. My next step is to examine my weekly schedule and find where I can set aside time specifically for art.

The next time you feel envious, I encourage you to examine why. What is it that this person has or does that causes that feeling of envy? What can you do to achieve that for yourself? The answer isn’t always that you need exactly what they have, either.

Maybe you’re envious of someone with a fancy car, not because of the car itself, but because it signals success to you. What can you do to be more successful in your own eyes?

Maybe you’re envious of someone’s relationship. If it’s because you’re envious of them having a significant other, there are things you can do to put yourself out there more. It could be that you’re envious of their being loved. The solution to that is trying to love yourself more. If you self-hate, you won’t feel loved, even when someone expresses it to you.


I have always believed that encouragement is a better motivator than fear. It certainly is for me, anyway.

In most of the jobs I have had, fear was used to “motivate” employees. One example comes to mind immediately. At one of my former workplaces, employees were sent an all-staff e-mail to let us know that if we ever forgot to approve our time sheets again, we’d be fired immediately. That right there is a setup for failure. Threats cause stress. Do you know what stress does? It causes people to become forgetful. Aside from that, everyone forgets to do even routine things from time to time. We’re only human, after all.

Of course, people did forget and nobody was fired for it. The human resources person was just frustrated from having to track people down and decided to unleash that frustration in an e-mail. In addition to the fear and stress that the e-mail caused, it also caused a mistrust in the human resources person. Did this person ever mean what they said? What other seemingly insignificant thing might set them off? Would anyone ever be punished for a justifiable offense if they weren’t punished for disobeying the e-mail? Honestly, I still don’t fully know the answers to these questions. Punishment certainly seemed arbitrary there.

There are more extreme examples I could give than the e-mail example, but I’m not trying to call anyone out. I also wouldn’t know where to stop if I cited more than one example. So, let’s switch gears to the positive.

At my current workplace, encouragement and praise are used to motivate employees. It works. This company has been recognized as one of the best places to work in the area for multiple years in a row (seven, if I recall correctly). Employees are happy. Just yesterday, I worked late to help a client. I wasn’t required to do that. I could have told them that I would get to it first thing in the morning. My boss would have backed me up. However, because I feel empowered by my colleagues and I know this client is always grateful for any help I can give, I wanted to work past my time to get this done.

This never would have been the case in the fear-motivated workplace. In that situation, I lived to clock out. I tried to address this with that human resources person once. I was asked what could be done to improve customer service (I had originally been hired for my reputation in customer service). I suggested that some time and effort be directed at finding out what would make the employees happy, because happy employees perform better and are kinder to customers. I was told, “It’s not my job to make you all happy.” It was left at that.

There is some truth in that. Employers shouldn’t go out of their way to make employees happy. Their main focus should be on the business. However, in this particular instance, “it’s not my job to make you all happy” was actually, though perhaps subconsciously, being translated into “it is my job to make you unhappy” when put into practice. Hence, the fear-based motivation.

Now, I’m happy. My happiness increases my productivity and improves my customer service. I was very stressed Monday morning about taking my licensing exam and everyone on my team (we don’t really call them departments here, which I think is indicative of the culture) was so supportive and encouraging. My boss had even offered some study tips the week before, having gone through it himself once upon a time. When I returned that afternoon, having passed the exam, every person on my team congratulated me. It was apparently leaked to our human resources person by someone, because I received several e-mails from other teams yesterday. I also frequently receive an enthusiastic “thank you” from my clients and have very pleasant e-mail exchanges with some of our carrier representatives.

My point is, fear motivates a person in the short-term. It can have its uses. For example, fear of being eaten by a shark will motivate you to swim for your life. Constant fear, on the other hand, will wear you down. It is actually demotivating in the long-term. Encouragement and praise build you up and empower you from day one. They are always motivating.


Today, I’d like to tell a story. This story has come up for me multiple times in the last month, and you know what that means. Time to share.

A few years ago, when I was still working at the library, a management position became available. There had been one librarian who was the supervisor to all other librarians and the customer service staff. That position was being split into two roles, due to the sheer volume of staff we had at the time. I was qualified to apply for the customer service supervisor position, but I did not apply. It just wasn’t what I wanted.

One of my co-workers caught me in the office one day and asked me why I didn’t apply. I told him the truth. I was only interested in continuing my work in the Indiana history department. I didn’t want to manage customer service staff. His response was that I should be more competitive; that I’ll never get ahead if I don’t compete with everyone else. I reiterated that my goal wasn’t to get ahead, it was to continue the work that I was doing. He told me that all life is competition and then he asked, “When you play board games, don’t you want to win?”

I was stunned for a minute. Winning had never been the reason I play games. My reason was always to have fun with my family and friends. I replied simply, “No.”

“No?!” he exclaimed. “You mean to tell me that you don’t want to win when you play?”

“Exactly,” I answered. “If I win, that means everyone else has to lose. I’d rather that they win. I just want to play. I just want to be included in the fun.”

He was very evidently taken aback at that response and didn’t seem to have anything else to say on the matter. He left the room.

I think about that conversation often. In fact, it came up most recently this past week in my new job. I had my 90-day review with my boss. The very last question was “Do you have any comments, questions, or concerns?” My only comment was to say that I am so happy to be working for this company and on this team in particular. I feel like I fit in and everyone is so supportive and helpful. I told this story to my boss and explained that I have never been one for competition. I want to help others succeed. He said, “That is exactly why you fit in, because the culture of this company is to help each other succeed. When one of us wins, we all win. When one of us loses, we all lose.”

If I win and you lose, we all lose.

Robert Waldinger

Ironically, I recently listened to Robert Waldinger on one of Jay Shetty‘s episodes, wherein he said the above quote. Which is exactly what my boss said to me, only phrased a bit differently. The episode is titled How To Nourish Your Meaningful Relationships & The Power Of Quiet, but a lot of the conversation is about comparison and competition. It’s a fantastic episode and I highly recommend it!

Now, I’m not saying that competition is inherently bad. Competition can be good for us. It can inspire us and drive us to excel. I am saying that not all life is competition. There should be a balance. We should compete when necessary, but we should also look to see where we can help others succeed and what will be best for our own growth.

I know myself. I need some degree of anonymity and a good work-life balance to perform well. If I had applied for that management job and been chosen for it, I would still be doing it today out of a sense of obligation. And I would absolutely be miserable for so doing. Not taking that route, not competing for it, afforded me the opportunity to leave the library and start this new journey. This new journey feels right. I did what was best for my own growth at that critical juncture and it was the right decision for me.

The lesson I learned from all of that is that I don’t need to take every opportunity that comes along. I just need to take the right ones.


I’ve been pretty busy last week and this week, preparing to take my life and health insurance licensing exam. I didn’t want to go too long without posting again, especially as I’ve had something in particular keep popping up for me lately. When that happens, I know it means that it’s a topic I need to share.

Back in the summer of 2020, I was in a bad place. My health was rapidly declining, I was in danger of losing my job, and it seemed the world was falling apart. I stumbled upon something as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed. I should have saved it, but I didn’t. The gist of it is, you have to be intentional about what content appears on your feed because it’s too easy to be caught up in needless drama and negativity.

I thought about this for a while and wondered what I could do to curate my social media experience. I began by snoozing some friends for 30 days who had been increasingly negative with their posts. I found that by the end of the 30 days, not only had I not missed anything of any import, but I was marginally happier. This small test encouraged me to make some harder decisions.

I unfollowed, unfriended, and blocked people when appropriate. It’s a thing I wasn’t brave enough to do before, because what if they found out? Well, what if? They don’t live my life. They don’t know how constant negativity affects me. They may not even realize that what they posted is negative, or it may not even seem so to anyone other than me. It could simply be that something they said was a trigger for me, even if not intended that way.

So far, nobody has confronted me about being unfriended or blocked. If they ever do, I will be direct. I am curating a positive social media experience for myself and the content of their posts is not in alignment with that goal. That doesn’t place any blame or call anyone out and it gives an opportunity for everyone to consider what they do put out there. I’m not perfect. I have to check myself sometimes, too.

Next, I joined some Facebook groups that I thought might benefit me: an INFJ group, an Enneagram 6 group, a wholesome memes group, etc. If any of the groups I joined turned out to be more negative than I had anticipated, I left the group.

Kate Allan – The Latest Kate

Third, I liked and/or began following artist pages and individuals who repeatedly showed up in groups with positive content. Some examples are Kate Allan, Brené Brown, Kalen Dion, and Nathan W. Pyle.

Fourth, instead of scrolling past ads or recommended articles that made me sad or anxious, I started hiding them. When you do that, it typically asks why and then it starts suggesting those types of things less or not at all.

Last, I’ve started sharing and posting positive content. Some of it is what relates to my spiritual journey, sometimes I post what I know one of my siblings or friends really needs to hear, and sometimes I just feel guided to post a certain thing.

Here I am two years later and, while my life is not and never will be perfect, I am much happier. Of course, there are other contributing factors, such as my new job. However, I find that I’m a lot less stressed in my down time now than I was before this change. I’ve also noticed positive things coming out of this intentional curation. I’ve made some new friends and had opportunities that I don’t think would have come my way before.

So, why am I just talking about this now? Honestly, until the beginning of this year, I wasn’t in a place to talk about much of anything. Especially not publicly. This particular topic is for today because of what has happened in the last couple of weeks.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had a video call with Gina a couple of weeks ago. In our approximately one-hour conversation, one of the things she said to me is that my Facebook account has become her favorite thing about Facebook. She said it gives her such joy to see my posts in a sea of food pictures and rants. I honestly thought that nobody paid much attention to what I posted and I had just been hoping that the right people would see what they needed when they needed it. I was surprised to find that it was anyone’s favorite thing. That really encouraged me.

This past week, a couple of my friends messaged me to tell me that something I had posted was exactly what they needed. Then, today, I was catching up on some of Jay Shetty’s older podcast episodes and was listening to 8 Ways to Deal With Negativity. He talked about being selective about what you consume and said that what is on your feed is feeding your mind. It was primarily focused on news, but I think it’s applicable to most everything. At the end, he specifically says to “get curated.”

I hope some of this has been helpful. It’s a small thing, when you think about it, but it makes a world of difference.


Until last fall, I worked in a public library for thirteen years. I started in circulation and ended up in the history and genealogy department. For the last few years, I was the only person in that department. I catalogued. I researched. I taught classes. I learned how to read maps and legal documents. You can name anything relevant to that field and I was doing it.

At some point, colleagues began referring to me as the genealogy expert, the map expert, the local history expert. I felt like such a fraud. I’d had some formal education, but was still working on my Masters in Library and Information Science. Nearly everything I knew, I learned on my own from reading and researching. In the early part of my career, I was not confident in my ability to answer questions and was always verifying with one of my colleagues.

As it happens, I was usually right. I just didn’t believe in myself. I also couldn’t see how anyone else could believe in me. Especially when I often heard from a particular set of people that I was too young to know anything about history. That starts to sink in after a while and I found myself constantly thinking, I don’t know anything. Notice how I had dropped the “about history” part of it all. That became my internal monologue for so long. You can guess what that does to my already limited self-confidence.

In 2019, I attended a genealogy conference. Experts in DNA genealogy, utilizing technology for genealogy, genealogy databases, African American research, Native American research, German research, and many other topics were there. Most were from all over Indiana, but some were from elsewhere in the United States. I attended with enthusiasm, expecting to hone my skills and increase my knowledge. What I ended up coming away with was something much more valuable.

As I listened to these experts, I took notes on anything they said with emphasis or repeated. When I looked back over my notes, I realized that I already knew all of this information. Certainly, they know more about their respective topics than I do, as I’m sure they were trying to cater to the wide variety of experience levels in the audience. Nevertheless, knowing that I already knew all of the things that the experts were teaching gave me confidence. Maybe I wasn’t an imposter after all.

The truth is, I have always held myself to a higher standard than I hold anyone else. An impossible standard. I don’t know why. Even knowing that I do that, I find it difficult to give myself any grace in a situation where I wouldn’t hesitate to give it to others. I have this idea in my head of what an expert should be and I project that onto everyone labeled expert, but I cannot live up to it myself.

I always thought that an expert was someone who knows absolutely everything about a particular topic or field. How ridiculous is that? Nobody can know everything, not even about one specific topic. An expert is someone who is knowledgeable about a particular topic and never ceases acquiring knowledge about it. I am that.

Imposter syndrome is a term I’ve been hearing more and more as time goes on. And as this term is more publicly used, I hear people whom I’ve always considered to be experts or successful using it to describe themselves.

I’ve recently begun listening to Jay Shetty‘s podcast, On Purpose. I have been so engrossed in it, that I’ve been going back and listening to the older episodes. Just this week, two of the episodes were with guests who talked about having imposter syndrome: Dwyane Wade, a former professional basketball player and current entrepreneur, and Jim Kwik, a successful brain coach. How many others feel this way?

I’d be willing to bet that most of us do. When I turned 30, I asked my dad when it was that he felt grown up. “I still don’t feel grown up,” he said, at the age of 50. I myself still don’t, nearly nine years later. I don’t think most of us ever do. We just put on that facade because we believe it’s what the world expects of us. I think imposter syndrome kind of works that way, too. Many of us have been successful at or an expert in something, all the while feeling like we’re a fraud and afraid that someone will find out.

Somewhere along the line, some brave souls started admitting publicly that they felt that way. It has paved the way for those of us who were too scared to say anything to finally start feeling “normal.” When you think about it, “normal” just means that which we perceive to be the most common attribute. Maybe it is the most common, but I suspect that most of the time, it isn’t. Most of the time, it’s just our perception.

So, for years, I beat myself up over not knowing enough. I lived in fear of being found out to be a fraud. All of this because I perceived that everyone else knew, one hundred percent, what they were doing and I believed that I was the only person who didn’t. It sounds silly when I put it into words like that. Honestly, what are the odds that I’d be the only person in the world?

If you ever feel like an imposter, I encourage you to examine yourself. Look at what you do know and how well you’re doing. There’s no sense in comparing ourselves to others. We are, all of us, just trying to figure out our purpose and our path. Not all paths are the same. In fact, no two paths are the same.

One of my favorite quotes is by Joseph Campbell, “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”

And now that I have The Police stuck in my head, I’ll end today’s musing.


The last few years have been a time of complete change in my life. I’ve lost some friends and made some new ones. I changed jobs. I’m discovering my faith. I’m discovering myself. These haven’t been easy changes and I so often feel like I’m going crazy, yet it all feels right.

In 2019, I stopped hanging out with the majority of the people I used to hang out with. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them, but I felt like I wasn’t growing. I was just doing the same things every day and I wasn’t getting anywhere. About six months later, I met (or in some cases reconnected with) my soul family. These people radiate light and love, even when it isn’t intentional. They encourage my growth and they helped me find my path.

I was raised Methodist from the time I was born. When I was about twenty, I stopped going to church. I had no idea why, really. I still believed in God. I guess I just had started to feel like religion wasn’t serving me. It wasn’t helping me become my best self. There was such a divisive feeling when I stepped through the door of my church. I tried visiting other churches, but nothing felt like coming home. Coming home is the feeling I expected to feel when I would finally find the right place for me. I became discouraged and I gave up.

I started having “church” on my own. I’d sit under a tree or on a park bench and read my Bible and sing. It didn’t feel right, exactly, but it felt better. Then, I began questioning things. My brother was studying theology in college and I remember asking him why we separate religions so much. Even, within Christianity there are multiple denominations with different core beliefs. But my question was more basic than that. I asked, “Aren’t God and Allah the same being? Are we just creating walls where there don’t need to be any just because we use different words?” He said no. He said that God is God and Allah is Allah. But, he didn’t explain why. That was it. The end.

I didn’t realize it then, but that was probably the beginning of my long spiritual journey, the beginning of my awakening. Perhaps it would have gone more smoothly without the constraints of my indoctrination and conditioning. Perhaps if I had known then that I’m never going to please everyone, so I should do what makes my soul happy, I would have had an easier time of it.

Regardless, I pressed forward. I can see now where everything that is important to me has led me here. Everything. Genealogy, even. As I researched my ancestors for a lineage society, I was reading an obituary for my fourth great-grandmother and realized that it was the first time I had ever thought of her as my fourth great-grandmother. I had previously thought of her as my fourth great-grandfather’s wife. She is related to me by blood, so why did I do that? From that point on, I was more intentional about understanding connection and understanding individuals. Even those who are no longer living, whose stories I have to piece together from a collection of documents.

I have always felt like a black sheep in my family and I know why that is now. I’m breaking cycles. I’m breaking with my family’s established religion. I’m breaking generational curses. It can be lonely at times, but I’m also ideally suited for this task. I’m an introvert. I’m introspective. I’m an empath. I absolutely do need and have received guidance from my soul family, and I count myself so fortunate to have found them when I did.

As a child, I spent a lot of time in nature. I grew up on the family farm. I was often in the creek, in the woods, in the barn, all over the place. Nature was all around me. I’ve always felt a kinship with trees. I was heartbroken when the willow tree in our backyard died and had to be cut down. I was devastated when my great uncle allowed a logging company to come in and cut down trees in the woods, forever changing the place that I loved.

There is a rather steadfast maple tree next to the driveway. I park my car under its shade. This tree has been “dying” for probably a decade now, but it keeps going. It keeps growing. It keeps giving. In a lot ways, that tree is me. And I don’t think I realized that until right this very second. Anyway, during the lockdown of 2020, I tried to be intentional about getting outside to get some sun and fresh air. I spent time with the trees again. After that, I started laying a hand on the maple and thanking it for the shade and the shelter it provides to my car.

I noticed as I did this more frequently, that I started to feel less stressed, more grounded. So, I kept it up. One day, I was leaving the house to go to work and I heard a voice as clear as if someone had just spoken to me say, “My name is Gertrude.” I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was the maple tree. And I know how crazy that sounds. But it was so real.

I struggled with it for a while. How could a tree speak to me? Why would it speak English and not Entish, or whatever? Was I losing my mind? Would I know if I was losing my mind? I couldn’t reconcile this with rational thought or within the confines of my faith. I spoke to my dear friend, Meghan, about it. She suggested that perhaps the tree spoke to me in English because we are connected. She clarified that maybe it spoke to me in its language, but I heard it in my own. Like translation. And that made all of the sense in the world to me. Because my whole life is translation. I read people’s expressions and body language. I hear their tones. I hear what isn’t being said. I translate all of that into understanding someone. And now, it was happening with a tree.

I spoke to Jason about it, too. He said the tree spoke to me because I had established a connection by touching and talking. He said Gertrude is probably my spirit guide. Now, I’ve heard about spirit guides and I had always thought they were animals. I also always thought that because I’m white and of European descent, that wasn’t something I’d ever have. So often when people talk about having a spirit animal, what they really mean is that they identify with a particular type of animal, and to use the term “spirit animal” is cultural appropriation. So, to think of having a spirit guide made me feel like an imposter. I am understanding it now, though.

But I digress. Jason said that Spirit comes in many forms. Animal, tree, ancestor, pretty much anything. And things started to click. Because I also wondered, why Gertrude? And I suspect that I know now.

Mildred Gertrude Springer was my great grandmother. I never met her, but I know her story well. At the age of two, she lost her mother to tuberculosis. Her father was so grief-stricken that he left her with her grandparents and traveled the country. He would check in via postcard and send money, but was largely absent from her life. When she was an adult, she had six children. The two youngest both died before they were two. One of pneumonia and the other drowned. Grandpa said she was never the same after that. She was paranoid of losing everyone. I can imagine how that trauma affected her. She never did go by Gertrude, but I had thought way back when I still wanted to have kids that if I ever had a daughter, perhaps I’d give her the middle name Gertrude after my great grandmother.

That, I believe, is why the maple revealed herself to me as Gertrude. Gertrude is the personification of a soul who so deeply wanted to protect everyone and everything that she held dear.

Last summer, I went on a ghost tour. Many of the people on the tour had protection charms and things like that. I was told at the onset that I didn’t need a charm because I was protected already. There was no further explanation given. Just that I was protected already. By what? I didn’t know then.

Last fall, I was pet sitting for Jason and I had a morning appointment for a haircut. The front door is never used at Jason and Adam’s house, so it’s blocked off by a weight bench and a dog bed. I let the dogs out into the backyard before leaving, as I do, and everything was fine. I let them in. I put on my shoes and grabbed my sweater. I went to open the back door and it wouldn’t open. All of the locks were unlocked, but it would’t open. The doorknob turned, but it wouldn’t open. I couldn’t for the life me figure out what was wrong. Eventually, I gave up and decided to squeeze past the things blocking the front door and leave that way. I did so, and when I arrived at the intersection, I knew why I couldn’t get out. If I had been even one second earlier to that intersection, I don’t think I’d be alive today. As I pulled up to my green light, a truck with a trailer ran its red light and barreled through the intersection, narrowly missing me.

When I got back from my haircut, the back door opened without issue. I don’t know if the words “freaked out” are an accurate description of the feeling I had, but they’re certainly close. I texted Jason and explained what happened. I told him I think his house was protecting me. He said it was Gertrude. I didn’t understand because Gertrude is a tree and she lives at my house. But, Jason told me that spirit guides aren’t confined to their physical forms. Gertrude was protecting me.

Again, something I couldn’t reconcile with my faith. I thought about it and I believe that if you can’t reconcile or rationalize something like that within the confines of your faith, then either you don’t understand your faith, or your faith is wrong. I believe that I have a better than average grasp of Christianity. I’m no theologian, but I understand more than most. So, the conclusion must be that my faith is wrong. And that makes so much sense when measured against everything else that I had been experiencing. I still believed in a creator, but not so much in all of the rest of it. And I found that more often than not, instead of saying “God,” I was replacing that with “Universe.”

As I continued down this path, this way of thinking, more and more things in my life started to go right. I had more synchronicities. I had more encounters with nature. Things like a groundhog tried to get into my car when I spoke to it, and a robin came to visit me and would not be shooed away. It didn’t leave until I spoke to it. I told it I am alright and asked it to go and it did so. Butterflies were everywhere. Mushrooms were everywhere. In fact, I was standing in my driveway talking to Meghan about dinner plans one day and mentioned how much I was craving mushrooms. A couple of days later, Gertrude had started growing mushrooms on her trunk. My sister, who is into mushroom foraging, said that they are edible mushrooms.

I’m a spreadsheet person. I like logic and order. So, I decided to make a spreadsheet. In the column headers, I listed all of the synchronicities and unusual encounters that came up for me. Then, I looked up the spiritual meaning of a groundhog, a mushroom, a butterfly, etc. For each word that was listed, I entered it into one of the rows on the first column and filled in the box under the item(s) it went with. Then I counted how many filled in boxes there were for each word. I made a word cloud with those words, the one with the most occurrences being the biggest. I wanted to know what the Universe was trying tell me.

And it all made sense. Transformation, Awareness, Enlightenment, Good Luck, Protection, Rebirth… This is Awakening. But now that I know that, what do I do about it? I talked to Jason about all of this and he suggested shamanism. He recommended his mentor, Gina, to me. I did make initial contact back in early December, but between my awkward anxiety and my lack of spoons, I didn’t follow up until last week.

We met via Zoom this morning. I was so nervous to tell Gina about everything, because I know how crazy I sound to others, even though this is the most sane I’ve ever felt to myself in my life. She first asked me about my faith, which I get because it has to be difficult trying to explain shamanism to someone whose mind is so confined by the constraints of their religious beliefs. The beginning of my answer was, “I’m not the same person I was even three years ago. At all. Everything has changed.” We went from there.

I told her all that I’ve written here and then some. And when I explained about Gertrude, I could see in Gina’s expression that she knew what I had experienced. She knew because she had felt that before. And that’s when I knew that this was my path. This feels right. This feels like I’m coming home.


I talked before about finally being ready to change, and I thought I should talk about how that happened. That’s not to say it’s the same for everyone, but I think there are aspects of how that happened for me that might be universally true for everyone.

I was at a very low place in my life in 2021. If you’ve read my other posts, you have an idea of what I mean. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at the tail end of 2019. In 2020, I began taking medication to combat my autoimmunity. It works, but the tradeoff is that I’m now immunocompromised in the middle of a global pandemic.

I’m an introvert and don’t mind the isolation so much, but I live in absolute fear of catching COVID when I go to get groceries or gas for my car. Add to that the fact that I was working in a public library that did not require masks or vaccination, and my life was terrifying. Every morning, I woke up wondering if today would be the day that I would catch it and eventually die from it.

On top of all of that, my work environment was completely toxic. I used to be a fairly confident person. I’ve always been shy and awkward, but I had been confident in my skills and intellect. However, this environment turned me into a person who doubted myself constantly and lived in fear of the day that I would be fired simply because someone didn’t like me. This wasn’t unfounded. I had been written up for things I didn’t do, solely based on the word of a co-worker who didn’t like me.

Anyway, all of that to say, I was in a very low place. I was stressed and anxious all the time. I had been going to see my dear friend, Jason, for massage for some time. It was good for me, but I’m never one hundred percent comfortable with massage. Jason had been training in vibrational sound therapy and he recommended that I try that.

I booked an appointment for an hour. I’ll do my best to explain this process, though, since I’m face-down on the table when it happens, I can’t say for certain what Jason does with the singing bowls.

Jason always starts a session by asking me what my goal is for this session. Sometimes it’s stress relief, sometimes pain relief, sometimes unblocking. It changes what he does, but the general process is the same. Once I’m on the table, he instructs me to breathe deeply. As I do this, I can feel him moving his hands on my spine above my lungs. He incorporates restorative touch and Reiki into his sessions, so it’s one of those things. Probably restorative touch, because I don’t think Reiki involves actually touching anyone.

Anyway, when he does that, it’s like I can feel negative energy leaving my body. I know any skeptics reading this are probably thinking, sure, because that’s what I wanted to believe. I’m a skeptic, too. Even now. But, I know what I felt.

Then, he starts with the smaller bowls that produce the higher sounds. He moves them around so they might be on my spine, near my head, or by my feet. He may change the volume, frequency, or length of the tone. He works his way up to the larger bowls with the deeper sounds. The ambient soundtrack is the ocean, but I never notice it once he begins. I always visualize a forest. Trees are what ground me. They’re my safety.

As I feel the vibrations, I lose the forest visualization and start to visualize a dark void. It’s space, but it isn’t space. And with each vibration, I see ripples. Sometimes purple, sometimes blue, sometimes red. They vary in intensity. When Jason uses the largest bowl, I reset. I don’t know how else to explain it. I’m aware that I’m a conscious being, but I have no other thoughts or images in my mind. I just exist. Without thought, feeling, or emotion. This resets me. Like rebooting a computer.

Suddenly, I’m aware that there is a high-pitched sound and I hear Jason softly calling me back, asking me to take another deep breath. I come back online and I feel renewed. As I take this deep breath, I can feel Jason’s energy in my lungs, helping me breathe, and in my veins, helping my blood flow. I can only guess that this is the Reiki. I know it all sounds crazy. I wouldn’t believe it myself if I hadn’t felt it.

I talked to Jason about my experience. He explained that the “reset” was the vibration of the bowl mimicking theta waves. Theta waves are the brain waves that are active when you’re in that place between asleep and awake. The bowl triggered that state for me.

That was the impetus. That experience was what made me realize that I don’t have to feel anxious, trapped, or limited all the time. My over-thinking brain can find respite. My weary soul can find peace. I decided that I needed to find out how to feel this way all the time. Or, at least as much as I possibly can. I go to vibrational sound therapy once a month now, but I need to learn how to be at peace when I’m in the world. It’s easy to be at peace in a safe space with someone you trust. It’s harder to find that when you’re in traffic or up against a deadline. Yet, there are people who do that. I want to be one of them.

Thus began my spiritual journey.

For those of us who have begun our spiritual journeys, I think that trauma was the trigger for most of us. We had been in such low places and we needed to change to find a way out of that. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. You aren’t ready until you’re ready. However, I do think that trying something new to you, whether that be vibrational sound therapy, meditation, yoga, whatever, can spur that change without having to hit a low.

If you’re reading this now, I hope you find what brings you peace.


2020 and 2021 became a period of self-reflection for me, as it did for many of us. I wasn’t happy. I hadn’t been for a long time. People would say to me “just be happy” or “just be positive.” The thing about those types of statements is that they don’t tell you how. If I knew how to just be happy, I would have done it years ago. On top of that, you aren’t ready until you’re ready and no amount of people telling you to change is going to cause you to change.

I finally got to a point where I wanted things to be different, enough that I was willing to change for it. The problem is, I didn’t know where to begin. So I started looking just generally for inspirational quotes. One that I stumbled upon was Paulo Coelho‘s, “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.”

I thought about this for a long time. Un-becoming. What did it mean? I had spent my whole life trying to become something. Trying to become the perfect daughter or the perfect friend. Trying to become a librarian. Trying to become a good Christian. Trying to become what I perceived others’ expectations of me to be. None of that made me happy. Honestly, it didn’t make anyone else in my life happy either. So, what was I doing?

In my confusion, I turned to music, as I so often do. Jewel is one of my go-to artists. I was listening to “What You Are” and the lyrics really jumped out at me.

I’d have to tell myself

“In every seed, there’s a perfect plant”

Everything I hoped to be

I already am


Everything I hope to be, I already am. Everything I am supposed to be is already within me. It always has been. So, why didn’t I know what it was, or even that it was there? I think it’s because, from the time we’re born, we are taught by our parents, grandparents, teachers, peers, coworkers, everyone in our lives, how to be and how to live. The problem with that is that they can only teach us from their own experiences and perspectives. Their experiences and perspectives aren’t ours and sometimes useful information can get lost in translation. Communication is largely a lost art.

The solution is to un-become. I have to examine all of these things I’d been taught to be. I have to sift through the information to keep the relevant lessons and discard anything that doesn’t serve my becoming the best version of me. This is by no means a quick or easy process. I’m still working on it and probably always will be.

Trying to figure out what is for you and what isn’t is hard enough. Know thyself. It’s ancient wisdom, but it’s so true. I’ve been learning who I am, at my core. What do I believe? What do I feel? What do I think? What do I want to be? What do I want to contribute to the world? What am I capable of contributing to the world? What makes my soul happy? How do I become who I’m meant to be?

So much of this involves shadow work, which I’ll get into another time, because the only way I can really know myself is to know the dark and the light, my weaknesses as well as my strengths. It’s difficult and scary and it’s so hard to love yourself when you admit these darker parts to yourself. It’s also the only way that you can love yourself. Light doesn’t exist without darkness. Strengths and weaknesses bring us into balance. They help us grow and they help us to help others grow, those whose weaknesses are our strengths.

These things I’d read and listened to had set me on the right path, but as if to confirm my path, as the universe often does, I came across another quote…

Finding yourself is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering of who you were before the world got its hands on you.

Emily McDowell

Maybe all of this is obvious to you. I’m a classic over-thinker and I need order, instructions for doing things. Hearing statements like “know thyself” doesn’t help me either. I need to know how. Since there isn’t one set of instructions that works for everyone, I just have to research. I have to read and listen. I have to talk to people who have been on this journey. I have to develop my own set of instructions based on the research and some trial and error. I have to find my own way. That’s hard for someone like me, but it isn’t impossible. I have already seen so much positive change come out of this journey and I’m really just scratching the surface at this point. I’ve been digging deep more recently, but my excavation is still in the early stages.

If you are in a similar situation, keep going. All of your progress is good, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now. I was frustrated for so long because I didn’t feel like I could see any changes in my outward life, or that anyone else could see any changes. But I did feel different. It’s because I had been growing, but I had been growing my roots, the part that nobody else can see. It wasn’t time to bloom yet. It still isn’t. My roots need to be strong.

Weight Tracking

I’m now down to 230.8 pounds. This is a one pound loss from last week. It makes sense. My diet has been about the same. I’m getting close to finishing up the wheat products I have, so that should help. I am going to make a depression cake this week, just to try it.

I do think that wheat might be a trigger for me. I’m still getting new abscesses and I haven’t had any nightshades. The reindtroduction of wheat was inconclusive. The thing that happened was that one of my pre-existing abscesses refilled. I have no idea if that was triggered by the wheat or a natural part of the healing process.

So, on May 3rd (next Sunday), I’m going back to paleo for probably all of May. Then, I will reintroduce wheat and see what happens. I may do the same with corn and grains after that.

Weight Tracking

As of yesterday, I’m now down to 231.8. This is about a one pound loss from the previous week. I’ve lost almost 25 pounds since the beginning of the year. My goal is to be below 200 pounds by the end of this year, so I’ve got another 32 or more pounds to lose. Completely doable.

I still haven’t gotten back to a mostly paleo diet. I have quite a few wheat and grain products in my house and I’m trying not to waste food. Once that’s all gone, I won’t buy so much of it anymore. I’ll just have the occasional rice and oatmeal, and maybe pasta now and then.

Finishing up the last of the wheat and grain is giving me a pretty good idea of how much I can eat and still lose weight. I can have two servings a day or less, depending on how much I want to lose in a week.