Thinking About Fear On My Oprahversary

Thinking About Fear On My Oprahversary

My Oprahversary* recently passed: it has been one year since I met Oprah Winfrey at Oprah’s Life You Want Weekend in Washington, D.C., in September 2014.  Meeting Oprah was surreal and truly a dream come true, and listening to her speak for almost two hours was captivating and empowering.

What has really impacted my life on a day-to-day basis though was one specific thought I heard during the weekend.

In addition to Oprah, four other thought leaders joined her for the two-day event and each took the stage individually – Pastor Rob Bell, author Elizabeth Gilbert, poet Mark Nepo and life coach Iyanla Vanzant.

It was both Oprah and Rob Bell who spoke about a concept that has made the biggest impact on my life.  Marianne Williamson talks about this idea in A Return to Love, and it’s part of A Course in Miracles.

Anyone I’ve talked to about the Oprah event has most likely heard me share this concept, and I’ve thought about it almost every day throughout the past year to examine myself and to process and understand the actions of those around me.

It is simple, but life-changing.

Every action is based either in love or in fear.

Grace, respect, kindness, forgiveness, openness, cooperation, collaboration and positive feelings are based in love.

Negative emotions, anxiety, disrespect, anger, jealousy and hopelessness are based in fear.

I think about this with my own behavior and feelings; when I feel stressed or when something really bothers me, I try to ask myself why and identify what it is I am really feeling.  If something’s affecting me, why is that?  Of what am I afraid?  The fear is always there – sometimes very deep – and I find it when I take the time to really think it through.  Occasionally this process is quick for me; other times, it’s longer; and sometimes it does not happen at all.  It’s a work in progress. Michael Singer (author of The Untethered Soul) says, “Problems are an opportunity to really look at what’s going on inside.”  I think fear is this same opportunity.

Understanding this has helped me in my connections and interactions with others.  Previously, I may have taken something personally in a moment with a friend or a colleague that now I will often (not always…) see very differently.

When someone is operating out of fear, I know it has nothing to do with me.  I may be in the crossfire, but it’s not personal.  This has been liberating in another way too: realizing that it’s my choice who’s in my life – with whom I spend time, with whom I communicate and with whom I interact.  I have learned that operating out of fear creates stress and tension not only for the individual in fear, but also, on a different level, for everyone around him or her.

I do not want to operate out of fear, and I try hard not to.

I do not want to be around people who operate out of fear.  It is unpleasant and tense, and I don’t want that.  I can make a different choice.

Marianne Williamson says, “If you know what changes a heart, you know what changes the world.”

I know for sure it’s not fear.

Over a year later, I still feel so much gratitude that Washington, D.C., was one of the eight cities on the Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend tour.  It was an incredible experience – for the insights mentioned here – and so many others.  Since then, I’ve also had the opportunity to meet Rob Bell and hear him speak again.  When I think about Oprah Winfrey, I think about all that I’ve learned from her and because of her, and I know for sure I am a better person because of it.


*Thank you, Emily Peterson, for coining the “Oprahversary” term! ❤


Doing Hard Things

Doing Hard Things

“I can do hard things” has become a new mantra for me.  Over the summer, I did something that was hard for me for a day.  After that day was over, I did it for another day. And then another. And not too long later, I realized I had been doing it for a month.

And now I’ve been doing that same hard thing (which does not feel quite as hard as it once did) for sixty-four days.

It felt really hard for me to do. And it was.

But, I can do hard things.

The longer it went on, although it would have been so easy at any point to break my habit, the stronger, the more liberated, the more empowered I felt.

Doing this one hard thing buoyed my sense that I could do other hard things.

So, I decided to try another hard thing.

And now I’m on Day 29 of doing that hard thing.


Here’s an important truth about hard things: what’s hard for me may not be hard for someone else, and what’s hard for someone else may not be hard for me.  Hard things are personal.

The first hard thing – the thing I haven’t done in sixty-four days – is kind-of a ridiculous thing. If you asked me what it was, I probably would not tell you. It is also kind-of an important thing – for me. And that’s what that matters. It was something I knew was good for me, something that would help move me forward and grow.

I think that’s the best kind of hard thing I could do.  And it’s the reason why hard things are worth my time, attention and celebration – and why this was a good reminder that it doesn’t matter what the hard thing is, it only matters that someone is doing it.

I can do hard things.

You can do hard things.

We can do hard things.


A new sign in the hallway at school reminds students, teachers and staff of the same message.  Thank you, Barn Owl Primitives!



I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of protecting things that matter. We protect ourselves with locks, seat belts, routine doctor exams, healthy habits, sunscreen and more, but how often do you protect intangible things – like feelings, sacred times, dynamics between friends, special groups?

This is the kind of protecting I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

It started a few weeks ago during what I like to think of as a volunteer experience/family vacation.  This is a very special week for me each year in a very special place. Towards the end of this year’s week, a friend and I talked about protecting our time – specifically not letting anything distract us from what we are doing. It’s so rare to be immersed in a place, a cause, a group – and to be enveloped in such love, warmth and light for five full days. We were frustrated by something that was detracting from that, and we vowed to never let that happen again. Also contributing to this idea was the fact that I took a work conference call during my time there, which, after only a few minutes in, I realized was one of the poorest decisions I’ve ever made. Never again.  It could have waited. I need to protect experiences that are sacred and meaningful. I cannot let myself get distracted by nonsense or work – or other things that do not matter – when I am engaged in something that means a lot to me.

I’ve been talking to my best friend a lot about this too. She just started a masters program with classes two evenings per week on top of her full-time job. We’ve been talking about protecting her time. We’re both in a volunteer organization, and maybe what that means for her is she can’t say yes to everything like she’s used to. She has other commitments too, but maybe she may need to lessen her load some. On the three nights when she does not have class, she’s going to want to relax – and of course she’ll have homework to do too. We have to protect our time. Activities are important and help shape us, but they should come at a cost to us or to the personal time we all need for relaxing, recharging and rejuvenating.

And recently, one of the teachers at school was talking to me about her class for the new school year. It’s a solid group, having been together for several years and all returning from last year. She was telling me how special the children were and the bonds they have, and she said, “We really need to protect this class.” My eyes lit up when she said that. I totally agree. Why though? We need to protect this class because collectively they make a very special group. All children have valuable gifts and contributions, of course. Not all groups are so high functioning and cohesive though. What about their personalities click in such a way that allows the group to be easy-going and high-achieving with equal amounts of enthusiasm and talent? I am not sure, and I am not sure the teacher is either, but we know it’s special.

We know there’s something there that we don’t see with every class. And that’s why we need to protect it.

These situations are all different, but they have two things in common: they are special and rare, and the qualities that make them so are intangible. We spend a lot of time protecting ourselves from dangers – and we should. We want to live long and be safe. This is important. It’s also important to protect ourselves in intangible ways too. When something is special, I want to enjoy it, delight in it and love it. I need to protect my time at special places and during special experiences. When I am very busy and do have free time, I want to enjoy it and do what I love to do. I want to decide how I want to spend my time, and I don’t want to be on auto pilot. I need to protect my time.  When I realize that a group or a person or an experience is a treasure to me – because it’s unique and shiny and rare – I need to protect it. Not every experience – or time, or class, or person or group – will matter to me in the same way. I want to recognize what matters, feel gratitude for it and protect it as much as I can because things that matter lift me up, make my heart lighter and happier and create clarity for me.

This is the kind of protecting I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

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