finding bravery

Nancy Schatz Alton is a Seattle writer and mom. She joined me and a cohort of mothers last weekend to start nine months of personal exploration, working and playing toward growth and achievement. She'll be writing in the coming months about her experience of the Badass Mamas workshop. Welcome, Nancy.  - Jenni

If you can become the monster in your nightmares and speak in its voice, it invariably reveals itself as a loving guide. That which we fear most is trying hardest to help us. ~ Martha Beck

The morning after the Badass Mama’s retreat I woke up late and terrified. I thought to myself, “Who do you think you are that you can change your life in one year?” And then my inner bully answered back, “What if you don’t change your life? THAT would be pathetic.”

Why am I feeling kick-back from a Badass Mama’s opening retreat? The term “Badass Mama” seems to contradict this feeling that sits in the pit of my stomach. I signed up to join a brave and loving circle of strong, confident, powerful mothers. I spent 22 hours this past Saturday and Sunday with 7 other strong, confident and powerful mothers.

While sitting at a table as Jenni led us through steps that will guide us into a year of changing our lives, I thought: Ahh, this is why people pay life coaches! You can’t change your life alone. You need someone to lead you and support you and cheer you on if you hope to move forward in your life.

I walked into the retreat at 3pm on Saturday afternoon with few expectations, just glad to have almost an entire day to focus on me. Holding a pressure cooker full of chili, I walked into a house of strangers. Granted I know Jenni. She’s coached me through my daughter’s anxiety, taught me how to lead her and how to help her ease her restless mind. I trust Jenni; this is why I signed up for 9 months of twice-a-month meetings, plus an opening and closing retreat.

I’m looking for more support in my life, to be surrounded by women who are familiar with how I am raising my children, women who have learned about attachment and child development through the lens of Gordon Neufeld. Maybe it sounds nutty, but it helps to know these strangers I am meeting this weekend also approach parenting with this base of knowledge guiding them. So I placed my chili on the fancy red stove, threw my duffle bag on a bed and joined 7 women in an opening circle.

Can I tell you that I expected magic from this retreat? I sat in this opening circle and waited for the magic to appear. Are you waiting for me to hand you some magic too? Here’s the magic: Jenni asked us all to step into a brave space instead of a safe space. What does that mean?  That means we need to feel the fear and be brave and step into the space anyway. She also asked us to not give each other advice.

Bravery and no advice: this is the magic I found at the Badass Mama’s retreat. Maybe you’re looking for a list of what we did at the retreat but what you really need is bravery and no advice. OK: here’s what we did. We played and danced and ate really good food. We sat at a table and Jenni walked us through goal setting and how to start to work on those goals in a very tangible week by week way with the support of the people in this Badass Mama’s group. We committed to getting to know each other by meeting with each person outside of the twice a month groups. Jenni asked us to step into our own swagger, to take up space and walk with confidence in the world.

But mostly Jenni dropped the ideas of bravery and no advice into my brain. This is how I say hello to the fear and step with some kind of swagger into my day anyway. I’m terrified that I won’t be able to change my life even though I now have concrete steps to follow for the next 7 days and a person to call on for support. I’m terrified but I am also brave and I know I can handle the next 7 days.

And that no advice part? At the closing circle Jenni asked us to remember one moment we will take with us from the retreat. I’m taking the moment where I shared my biggest fears and I felt the group hold me in that moment and the no advice part is exactly why I could feel everyone holding me. No advice meant I was doing nothing wrong. My feelings aren’t wrong and how I’m living my life isn’t wrong. No advice means no judgment.

That holding up I felt in that circle of Badass Mamas? That’s the support I’m looking for and I hold it inside me as I walk bravely into my day. I’m taking the word swagger too, and remembering when I don’t feel full of swagger, there’s 7 other women out there nearby practicing bravery and swagger, too. Now all we need is some Badass Mama swag.

Find more of Nancy on ParentMap.