My life as an egg

When you numb your pain you also numb your joy. ~ Brene Brown

I have one more thing to write before 2015 begins after all.

Yesterday, I had a panic attack about being alone. I don’t mean not being in a relationship, I mean feeling disconnected from the world, away from East Coast family and friends. I never had panic attacks until I lost my relationship and job in 2012, but I guess they are a form of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), maybe? Most of them are about finances, but this was personal. With these moments of panic often come moments of clarity and enlightenment.

While I took a big risk by moving across the country for a new life and I love to travel to new places, I’ve never really opened myself up completely to opportunities or people since I moved. I have RSVPed to events or get-togethers with people I didn’t know, then chickened out at the last minute. I wanted to go, but I was afraid. Sometimes I attended, but I would quickly exit. I just arrived home from Hawaii and realized that while I was there, I did the same thing. I spent a lot of time with new friends that welcomed me into their fold, but I also would retreat to my hotel when I could. Part of that is because I’m an HSP and crowds and activity can overstimulate me. However, I also think it’s because I am drained from keeping my guard up.

On Christmas Eve, I watched one of my favorite movies again, French Kiss, but with different eyes. It has comedy, romance, France, a great wine moment, and it has a woman like me, a crazy chick who takes a risk that goes against her grain. However, she discovers along the way that she had been living a very closed life.

As I thought of all of this, it hit me. I am like an egg, closed, afraid to break open. I’m afraid of someone breaking through the shell that I’ve built around me for two and a half years. I’m afraid of not being accepted. I’m afraid of rejection. I’m afraid to really live. My chiropractors have known this for seven months, as they have had to open me up physically nearly every week.

In 2015, this egg will be ready to crack open. What good is an egg with an unbroken shell? The shell is meant to be removed to get to the deliciousness inside. I know it will be a process to let go of my fears, but it’s all about baby steps. It’s about peeling the shell away one piece at a time. And just wait until you see what’s inside of me.



Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Autumn in the vineyard

Autumn in the vineyard

If I could describe this year in one word, it would be crazy. Who in the hell packs up and leaves the life they know, their comfort zone, their family, their friends, their people, the South, the reality they have known all of their life, and moves across the country to start a new career? I’ll tell you who. This crazy girl.

It’s been a roller coaster of a year. The first phase was bliss: I can’t believe I live and work here. Every season is gorgeous, well, except the pouring rain right now. I pass famous vineyard after vineyard every morning on Silverado Trail and in the beginning I was thinking, “Holy shit, I LIVE here!” There’s wine everywhere. People drink and give wine away like it’s water. I have about 90 bottles right now and started out with 24 when I moved and I am drinking wine multiple days per week.

The second phase is reality. Napa is expensive. My apartment is a third of the size and over triple the rent of my apartment in Virginia. Fresh food is abundant, but costly. Gas is higher than in much of the country. My old car had two major, unexpected repairs. Health insurance finally kicked in and I realized I need a dentist, doctor, and medications. I also needed a veterinarian for my cat. Reality exists in Napa Valley. I finally went to a chiropractor after having been in pain since December 2013 and realized that’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. Because of my chiropractic care, my overall physical and mental health have improved. I no longer have the pain I had. I’ve cut out most of the daily medications I was taking for allergies and other things. I now take one allergy medication and a couple baby aspirin per day (confession: I’m terrified of having strokes like my mom and uncles had, even though I’ve never smoked like they did). I also discovered along the way that I’m not really like about 80% of everyone else. That was a big reality check. There’s also the reality that every job has its good and not-so-good days, even at a gorgeous winery in Napa Valley.

The third phase I’m going to call the holidays alone. It’s the time of year when my dad passed away. My mom is in a nursing home in North Carolina. I’m in a place far away from my people. Strangely enough, in a place that is often festive with an abundance of wine, food, and events galore, it’s been hard to connect with people here. I knew a ton of people here via social media, then I arrived, but my social life is meh. There’s also the “I have no one to spend the holidays with” syndrome, which has been going on since 2012. This is my third year trying to arrange things so as to not be alone. In fact, this past month, my coping mechanism has been crazy-ass travel: Philadelphia, Seattle twice, and Asheville. I needed to get away and be with my people.

Although most days I feel like I am where I want to be, there are some days I really struggle. I miss people from the East Coast, I battle loneliness, and I have sleep issues from the stress of such a big life change. Sometimes it feels like me against the world. I owe an apology to those I’ve maybe leaned on a little too much this year, but I am thankful to have you, too.

Today was one of those challenging days. Both the rains and my tears flowed most of the day. However, at the end of the day, I discovered an unexpected blessing. A much-needed blessing. It was in that moment I truly felt like the Universe may not have forgotten me after all and I was filled with a bit of hope. After the rain and tears stop, there’s something beautiful to behold. Someone at work told me that when things get crazy tough, just go running through vineyard to clear my mind. I think she’s right. Running through the vineyard sounds like a much better idea than tears.

I’m ready to get back to the bliss phase in 2015. And admittedly, it’s still there inside of me when I allow it. I still say to myself, “Holy shit, I LIVE here!”


Hi, I’m Beth and I’m an HSP. My Sunday Ah-Ha Moment.

Being Sensitive is a Way of Life (source:

Being Sensitive is a Way of Life (source:

Today a friend shared a Huffington Post article with me, accompanied by these words, “This really is you, Beth.”

I read the article, “16 Habits Of Highly Sensitive People.” This might be the single most important piece of writing I’ve ever read. I didn’t even know there was a label for people like me, HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). I wish I had known earlier that I experience life and the world differently than 80-85% of the population.

In elementary school, my teachers called me “a sensitive child.” My classmates were much more harsh. They called me a “crybaby.”

I cry when I am angry. I cry when I watch commercials, videos, TV shows, and movies. Twenty years after the movie was released, I still cry when Mufasa dies in The Lion King.

Music like this often gives me chills and brings me to tears as well.

I am still afraid of the Flying Monkeys and the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. That movie terrorized me when I was a child. Now I understand why.

I will do anything to avoid conflict. I try to repress my thoughts and feelings so as to not offend anyone. In doing so, I make myself physically ill.

I have uncanny attention to visual, written, and spoken details and I often remember exact conversations – words exchanged, as well as when and where the conversation took place. This attention to detail makes me a great travel planner and wine club manager, but all of these details about everything swimming around in my head often overwhelm me.

I often have trouble sleeping at night because I can’t turn off my world, thoughts, and emotions. I feel like I am always connected, whether I want to be or not.

I love to spend time with people that I really like and who really like me. But put me in a place full of people I don’t know and I become anxious. I am torn between being polite and staying anyway and plotting my escape. I opt out of large gatherings of people and prefer one-on-one and small-group interaction.

I am more empathetic than most, which means I feel what you feel, both the bad and the good. I take your burdens upon myself along with my own. Sometimes the weight is unbearable.

I prefer to work alone. My ideal work environment would be to work at home, at my own pace. As a college professor, I managed to strike a balance between performing in a classroom and my 10 required office hours. I was a pioneer in online instruction at my former college, because I preferred this method of delivery and flexible scheduling. I recently changed careers and I work an 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. job in an open office with five other people. I have found this environment to be stressful. I love when my colleagues are out of the office, not because I don’t like them, but because it’s more quiet and I work better alone, setting my own schedule and working through my to-do list.

I can’t count how many times people have told me not to take everything so personally. Believe me, I don’t want to. It just happens. I am like a Bounty paper towel. I absorb the world around me and it becomes a part of me.

At this moment, I’ve never felt more validated. Thank you to my friend for finding this article and sharing it with me. What a relief, there’s a method to my madness after all. It’s called being highly sensitive and it’s real. I’m Beth and I’m an HSP. I’m different than 80-85% of you reading this. Please bear with me as I begin to learn how to better fit into this world. If you are someone who feels like me, let’s connect.


My Thoughts After Nine Months in Napa

Napa Valley Sign by Bob McClenhahan

Napa Valley Sign by Bob McClenahan

Sometimes I can’t believe I live in Napa, yet it’s been nine months since I moved. It often feels like an out-of-body experience or a dream as I am commuting to and from work via Silverado Trail, which has to be one of the most gorgeous commutes in this country. Napa Valley is amazing and I know my heart is here to stay in wine country, but I still feel like I am in limbo when it comes to my career and relationships.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the past nine months:

1. Leaving what was comfortable was and still is difficult, even if it wasn’t good or even healthy for me. No matter how beautiful a place I am in or how lucky I appear to be, I am reminded daily, especially thanks to social media, how hard it is to leave the other life behind. I had to create a whole new life for myself and it hasn’t been easy adjusting to a new schedule, career, and work environment. All are very stressful, even if they are for the best in the long run.

2. I lost my social and support network in Virginia and North Carolina and it still hasn’t been replaced. Again, social media is awesome for superficial, virtual connections, but it still drops the ball when it comes to real-life relationships. Some of the people in Napa and Sonoma I knew through social media before I moved are still just social media connections, not real-life friends, like I hoped we would be.

3. Teaching is the hardest profession, this I know for sure. Towards the end of my teaching career, I had already made up my mind that I was going stop teaching after spring semester 2014, but the universe had plans for me to exit unexpectedly in late 2012. In my former life, I often worked 16 or more hours per day, in the office and at home. Now I work more like 8-9 hours per day during the work week and a couple of hours per day on weekends as needed, by choice. I am happy the teaching part of my journey is over, although I would not mind teaching informally about topics like wine, travel, and the lessons I’ve learned from my life journey. I’d love to be someone’s mentor.

4. No matter where I live, I believe I am destined to be a loner. I try to forge relationships both near and far, but they don’t seem to work out. I’m surprised that my last romantic relationship lasted over 15 years, but then again, we were only together twice, three, or four times per month, so maybe that explains why we lasted so long. I’ve never said this in public until now, but the last couple of years of that romantic relationship, I used to wake up at his apartment on weekends and think, “Is this all there is?” I think that was a big sign I chose to ignore until he kicked me to the curb. I deserve more in all of my relationships. I will NOT be an afterthought. I want people to think of me first or not think of me at all.

5. If I ever find myself connected to someone in a similar situation as me, feeling like they are alone in the world trying to survive and move forward, I promise that I will reach out and include them. It surprises me that we as a society are so oblivious and wrapped up in ourselves that we completely ignore the signs of someone who is reaching out for the human connection, for support, and for a genuine relationship. If you know anyone that is single and/or lives alone, please INCLUDE them. At least invite them to your gatherings, for God’s sake, and let them decide whether or not they wish to attend. It’s not easy being alone anywhere, regardless of a locale’s beauty and opportunity.

We are NOT too busy to be welcoming, kind, and inclusive to others. We are here to love ourselves and each other. Be love. Share love.


Daily Love: Growing Into Grace, A Review (Sort Of)

Daily Love: Growing Into Grace

Daily Love: Growing Into Grace

Mastin Kipp’s blog, The Daily Love, literally helped save my life after my Divine Storm in 2012, when I lost the person whom I thought was the love of my life and my teaching career within two months. I met Mastin at his Enter the Heart tour in Asheville, North Carolina in 2013 and have been anxiously awaiting his book ever since. I will meet Mastin again on October 13 in San Francisco for his Growing Into Grace Workshop.

Mastin’s book is more than I ever imagined. I read the book last night in one sitting. I could not put it down. It was a profound, mystical experience, yet written in a way that everyone who reads the book will be able to “keep what resonates” for them. I am still on my journey to Grace and can see great similarities between myself and my feelings and Mastin’s, even though our Divine Storms were quite different. I appreciate that Mastin not only shares his growth and journey, but includes and highlights the work of his peers and mentors, which helped him weather and thrive beyond his storm.

Mastin and me in Asheville

Mastin and me in Asheville

Having been under chiropractic treatment since May because my spine basically closed up as I cocooned myself from the world for the past couple of years, I really began to fully understand the mind-body connection. Opening my spine and my body has been synonymous with letting go of the past and gradually getting myself unstuck from all that happened to me. This book reiterates the connection between our minds and our bodies. If we deny our Hero’s Journey, it can affect our physical, emotional, and mental health, and the world will also not benefit from our unique gift.

There is so much more I would like to share, but I would spoil the book for future readers. I will conclude by saying that the content goes well beyond Mastin’s blog and allows the reader to better understand him as a person, a writer, and a spiritual leader of his generation.

To buy your copy/copies, visit this link. I have both the hard copy and Kindle versions and will receive a signed copy in San Francisco at the workshop. Perhaps I will see you there?


My beef with social media, aka the power and the pain of the written word, emoticons, and the thumbs-up symbol

Anyone know who William Faulkner was? If so, this blog post is for you. He was my favorite writer in high school and I wanted so much to be able to master stream of consciousness writing.

First, I must call bullshit on that saying, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me (exact words may vary). While I understand that I can choose to ignore words, I am human after all, and a (budding) writer, and words, especially the written word, stick with me. Words are powerful. That’s why we read and write, yes? I remember what I see and read, because I am very visual. I was one of those kids who read by dim light late into the night, until my mom would come in and tell me I was going to go blind if I kept doing it. (I did end up having to wear glasses starting at age 12). If I were to rewrite this saying, it would say, Sticks and stones may break my bones. Those will heal. However, words break my heart and my heart doesn’t forget.

Which leads me to social media. Yes, I know the beauty of it: connecting and reconnecting with people, businesses, interests, etc. That’s it in a nutshell for me. That being said, most of the communication via social media is by writing, whether it be status updates, comments on a status, tweets, emoticons, etc., and since social media is public, we tend to put out an image of ourselves that isn’t accurate. We often write (aka say) things to each other that we probably would not if we were standing face to face or talking on the phone, because there is this shield of distance implied in a virtual conversation or interaction.

This bugs the hell out of me. I’m so damn open that I just lay my life and feelings out there like a freaking store display, but I rarely have a reciprocal experience. Yet, I continue to put myself out there being Miss Nice, Miss Survivor, Miss Wine, Miss Travel anyway. Then I get to be judged by and compared to a jury of my peers (aka “friends”) with a thumbs-up, not a thumbs-up (What, don’t you like what I wrote?), a retweet (or not), a favorite (or not), and a slew of replies and/or comments that range from relevant, empathetic, sympathetic, kind, cool, to totally irrelevant, rude, mean, WTF, etc. Seriously, don’t the spiritual and inspirational people of today tell us that we should only focus on ourselves, not compete with each other, and not compare ourselves with each other? But there we are out there passing some sort of judgment every, single day by our words, thumbs-up, emoticons, and even silence and inaction.

This is what I’ve been struggling with for a while now. I miss interacting with people in real life and on the phone, where often a facial expression or a voice inflection will prevent a misunderstanding that is often missed in the written, virtual world. Sometimes I just want to say, Pick up the damn phone and call me! I want to connect with a human heart through the spoken word. I want to hear words and feel meaning and emotion while looking at someone’s face and into their eyes.

Words matter. Choose carefully. There are no do-overs.


Where were you on September 11, 2001?

Tribute in Light: September 11, 2011 (Shankbone)

Tribute in Light: September 11, 2011 (Shankbone)

A few years ago, I wrote a post about this topic for another blog, but the blog has since been discontinued, which is sad, because it’s like losing part of my writing history.

On September 11, 2001, my life was so different. I was a college professor in Virginia. I was dating a guy who lived and worked in the New York City area, so the events of that day hit close to home. I remember I was teaching a class via interactive television when the technician ran into my classroom and switched the channels as we saw the replay of a plane hitting the twin towers. It was and still is so surreal. When the first plane, American Airlines 11, hit, we thought it was an accident. When the second plane, United Airlines 175, hit, we knew. I dismissed class and the college closed, but my students remained glued to the classroom televisions. I made my way to my office and kept trying to call my boyfriend from my cell phone, but my calls would not go through. Finally he called me to tell me he was OK, as was his brother, who worked for Citibank. I was relieved for them, but heartbroken for those who lost their lives and who lost family members and friends. Silly me kept hoping for more miracles than actually happened. To this day, I still cannot believe the magnitude of loss of life.

During the course of that morning and day, we heard about American Airlines flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon, then United Airlines 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers attempted to gain control of the aircraft after it was hijacked. It was as if the destruction and death would never end. I will never forget this day or its moment in history. I still grieve for those who lost loved ones.

I still remember what it was like to fly after 9/11, how quiet it was when I landed at Dulles instead of National for a required doctoral class at George Mason. I remember seeing the smoldering twin towers from my weekly flights in and out of LaGuardia Airport for what seemed like a very long time after the events of that day.

I also remember the kindness that we shared with strangers after this tragedy. For a while after 9/11, people seemed to care more about each other. I saw more public displays of politeness and affection and less frustration and anger. It still breaks my heart that it took a tragedy like this to make us treat each other with more love and mutual respect than I have ever witnessed in my lifetime.

If there is one thing I could wish for this anniversary of 9/11, it would be for us to return to love, in spite of our differences, and in honor of all the lives that were lost that day.


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