Tag Archives: Sheryl Sandberg

My Year of Fear

Over three years ago, I started Under the Tapestry with a question: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Over three years since my first post! Hard to believe!
Over three years since my first post! Hard to believe!

I answered the question by sharing my story, by putting my words out there, and engaging (with the internet) in an honest and authentic way.

It’s been stilted lately, though, this little blog-o-mine. And I’ve struggled to figure out why.


Last week, I enjoyed my first two days at Leadership Marshfield, a training program put on through the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MACCI) focused on enhancing the ability of potential community leaders to function effectively. It was an amazing experience and I’m really excited to continue with the program over the next 7 months… but it’s already had an impact.

Yay, Marshfield! I did this tiny town of mine!! {Source}
Yay, Marshfield! I dig this tiny town of mine!! {Source}

On the second day of the two day retreat, we were instructed to prepare to share our personal leadership hero(es) with the group… with a prop. Naturally, on my way home from day one, I stopped at the (brand spanking new and beautiful) Everett Roehl Marshfield Public Library to check out a copy of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. (Don’t get me wrong, I own it, of course… but a Kindle just doesn’t make a terribly effective prop, in my opinion.) It was actually on the cart behind the circulation desk to be reshelved, which made my heart happy knowing someone else had recently had their hands on it, and I brought it with me the next day.

Still my favorite -- find it on Amazon here.
Still my favorite — find it on Amazon here or check out your local public library!

The next morning, I stood up in front of the group and talked about my two leadership heroes:

(1) Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, who changed my entire perspective about what it really means to engage in my life, my workplace, and my community. She taught me not to be ashamed or afraid of what and who I am, to value myself for my talents and my passions, and to move forward, with gusto, whenever I’m able.

(2) Ronda Kopelke, Director of the Marshfield Clinic Center for Community Outreach, who showed me what an amazing manager and leader should look like, up close and in practice. She continues to teach me (literally daily) what it means to really care about the people around you and to help them understand that you do. She’s also shown me how to be solution-oriented and engage with people in a positive, respectful, relationship-focused manner.

I sat back down, and then Shelley from Roehl popped up (sharing at Leadership Marshfield is popcorn-style… mmmmm… popcorn) and was mad/glad that I stole her thunder/had the same leadership role model as her. Again, my heart, so glad!

I thought a lot about Sheryl Sandberg that day, chatted with Shelley about her and about Lean In at the ROPES course (yes, I did the mother effing high ropes!! impressed? I am! go me!) and thought about what it was that reading that book had done for me and how it had changed my trajectory in the first place.

Sheryl Sandberg was the one who had asked me (and the millions and millions of other readers of Lean In) that question that started it all: what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

And I did those things. A lot of them. The blog three years ago. The ROPES course three days ago.

But I had never thought about the converse question:

What does it look like when you’re living in fear?


I know the answer now. Not on purpose. Not because I want to. But I look back on the last year and I can see, so clearly, what it looks like when I am afraid and I choose to live there.

I run. Literally, metaphorically. All of the above. I ran from my life and from everything that hurt and was scary. I ran and ran and ran. A marathon. Until I broke my foot (not literally, I just pulled a ligament, but it hurts like a b, so there’s that). I ate my way through Festival Foods to run from feelings and stopped vacuuming my floors. I ran from real life. I said yes to everything and anything at work to run from free time and I have ensured that I’ve had none over these past several months. No time to think or dwell, only run. From one assignment to the next. One workout to the next. One bag of chips (or box of candy, carton of ice cream, etc) to the next.

Yeah, I ate a lot... but I ran a lot too. So let's let the photo be of that at this point ;)
Yeah, I ate a lot… but I ran a lot too. So let’s let the photo be of that at this point 😉

I even ran from writing and sharing and speaking and connecting. So much of me was just so tender and everything and anything could be salt in the wound without warning.

I have been afraid.


Of what, though, really? Grief after a miscarriage is one thing, but fear? I mean, fear that it would happen again would be rational… but you have to get pregnant first for that to be a possibility… getting pregnant is even less my strong suit than staying pregnant, so what then?

The what, I have to assume, is failure. That infertility wins and this is it. And “it” is failure. A life of settling because I can’t do the thing I want to do. That I felt so strongly I was supposed to do. Meant to do even. Family is the next step — love, (schoooooool), marriage… baby carriage. Even my childhood rhymes said so!

It hurts to fail. And I can do physical pain, but emotional? Nope. I hate it. It feels bad to be jealous, too. And I felt like I had replaced my rose-colored glasses with green ones, everywhere I looked ultrasounds and bumps and even literal baby carriages that weren’t mine. Might very well never be. I don’t like those feelings. I don’t like to fail. So I ran, cowered, stopped vacuuming.


This September, the anniversary of all the bad stuff came and went. The missing heartbeat on September 11th. The surgery on the 16th. The black days immediately after when I felt like I couldn’t breath… and didn’t want to. A year later, I’m still here. Still moving. And slowly recognizing a haze of fear. Recognition.


I take you back to the scene in Love Actually when Mark confesses his completely unrequited love to Juliet (yes, I’ve literally already said this) and then walks away, saying to himself, “Enough. Enough now.” It’s like that. Just like that.

Enough now.

Time to move on. To stop being afraid. Or, at the very least, to stop running from it. To face fear head on. Like Brene Brown and FDR’s man in the arena (highly recommend Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly). But also like Shana Niequist in Present Over Perfect (my newest and truest literary love affair) — sitting with it, even when it’s uncomfortable. Letting myself feel it and living my life anyway.

We have a lot of moments in life that are before and after type moments. Things that define us. But sometimes the moment is longer than a moment. Sometimes the moment is more like a year. For me, it was a year of fear. A year spent running, but getting nowhere. Except back to life. And that’s ok.

A Liberal Feminist Response to Mr. Walsh: It’s Not A Competition

I am a liberal feminist. I am one of the women to whom Matt Walsh’s recent open letter was addressed. And I’d love to respond. Not point-by-point, because I don’t think the letter deserves it. Rather by making one important point:

YES, Mr. Walsh. Liberal feminists, such as myself, AGREE WITH YOU.

Boys in our society do have it rough– very rough, in many ways. There is no question that boys are often inappropriately labeled with psychiatric or emotional disturbances, that they are more likely to successfully commit suicide, that they are more likely than women to transgress in ways that are legally unacceptable and subsequently end up incarcerated. All of those things are true and concerning and very worthy of attention.

But here’s the thing… Mr. Walsh seems to believe that by addressing any problem, real or perceived, in girls and young women, we somehow dismiss these very real problems that plague boys and young men.

I don’t think that’s the case. And I think what Mr. Walsh fails to realize is that this is not a competition. To recognize and address a problem that primarily affects women does not take anything away from folks focusing on recognizing and addressing a problem that primarily affects men.

I am a liberal feminist and I am intrigued by the “Ban Bossy” campaign. I read Lean In and I understand that it’s a call for awareness– to be aware that we may be calling young girls bossy when the word bossy isn’t warranted. Similarly, we may be calling young boys aggressive when the word aggressive isn’t warranted. My logic takes me from point A (ban bossy) to this point B (think about the words we use to describe personality traits in girls and boys). Mr. Walsh’s point B seems to be something very different.

I am a woman and I am a liberal feminist. I do not consider feminism a dirty word because I know that to be a feminist does not automatically make me anti-male (or anti any other gender in between, for that matter, because what is feminine vs. what is masculine is, truly, a comparison of the average in a way that doesn’t recognize what really may be more of a continuum… but that’s another point entirely).

I don’t know Mr. Walsh except to know that he is a passionate and articulate man. I surmise, based on his two most recent anti-ban bossy, anti-feminism blog posts, that he is mired in a state of comparison that’s not necessarily doing anyone any good.

I’ve talked about comparison before– I truly believe it to be the (square) root of all evil. (Remember that sweet math joke?) I’ve also talked about the notion of promoting what you love, rather than bashing what you hate. As conceited as this is going to sound, I think Mr. Walsh could be much more effective if he embraced these two principles.

By jumping to a place of comparison, Mr. Walsh assumes that to promote something good for girls and consequently women is to bash something good for boys and consequently men. To promote an ideal of leadership rather than bossiness in young girls, as well as in their male peers, is not an emasculating thing… because the point is not comparison. All of Mr. Walsh’s concerns about young men are not only valid, but important and timely. They are worthy of attention and of intervention. Especially as they point to systematic problems with our educational system and a lack of appropriate behavioral health services. But before I could even think rationally about the importance of those things, I had to suppress my anger about the bashing of other things I think are important. And that made the whole article hard to stomach. I imagine a lot of people, a lot of liberal feminists, won’t even note the important points he does make as a result of all the bashing.

I would suggest that instead of using his time and considerable talent to bash the tenets of feminism, Mr. Walsh instead focus on bringing awareness to the problems that are clearly plaguing young boys.

The title of Mr. Walsh’s recent post is this:

An open letter to liberal feminists: girls don’t have it any worse than boys

To Mr. Walsh, I say: or course not. But just because girls don’t have it any worse than boys doesn’t mean we don’t have issues that need to be addressed for the sake of the future of young girls. And just as many issues ought to be addressed for the sake of the future of young boys. It’s not about comparison. It’s about improvement and progress. For everyone. Regardless of gender.

Matt Walsh has a popular blog. He discusses controversial things and more often than not, he seems to be looking to get a rise out of someone. That’s fine, that’ll get you readers, it’ll get you shares, views, clicks, and likes. But will it make life better for anyone? Perhaps that’s not his point… but dang, he could do it. He knows his facts about ADHD and over-medication, about suicide and incarceration. That’s awesome– he should talk about that, do something about that.

I also believe that Sheryl Sandberg and her organization, Lean In, know about the psychological impact certain ideals can have on young women. And that’s what they’re talking about, what they’re doing something about.

Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

Silver Lining: Poo and the Proverbial Fan

I know you’ve been reading along since that first post because you couldn’t wait to find out how this blog is a silver lining… haven’t you?  Well, the wait is over, my friend.  I’m about to tell you that story.

I love my job.  As I’ve mentioned before, I really didn’t even know such a job existed, but I also don’t know that I could have come up with any better of a fit for me if I tried.  (And I mean legit job, things like beach bum and pina colada tester don’t count.)  As this is my first real job out of school, I was a bit unsure how to react, though, when things got tough.  Not the work itself, but the interpersonal dynamics of working in a team environment.  (I know, could I be anymore vague?  Just seems like a situation in which I ought to use a bit of discretion, putting it out there on the Internets and all…)  Long story short, I took action, the poo hit the fan, things got craaaazy awkward and tense around the office, and a professional third party was called in to assist.  I was pretty sure my life was over and work would be crappy forever and ever after.  And that was the truth, for about 5 minutes.

The third party came in and I was resolved to keep my mouth shut.  (Yeah, it’s like I don’t even know myself at all.)  So naturally, when things got silent and awkward, I filled that space up with WORDS.


My mouth was like, “Ha ha!  Things may still be awkward, but at least that awful silence is GONE!”   But my brain couldn’t respond because it had totally checked out.  Yeah, this is a problem for me.

Except in this case, it really wasn’t.  I talked.  (Ok, let’s be honest, I suffered from a severe bout of verbal diarrhea.  At least it was just the verbal kind.)  But the good news is: it was contagious!  (Again, it’s cool, it was only verbal.)  And we all started talking and we had an honest and open dialogue and it was good.  Even more importantly, my favorite third-party-man told me about an article he’d read in Time Magazine about Sheryl Sandberg and it sounded interesting to me so he routed it over the next day.  Alarm bells went off all over in my brain (it had come back at this point)—I was excited!  I logged on to Amazon, bought Sandberg’s book Lean In, had it shipped overnight (seriously, Prime, best thing ever), and then devoured it.

I highlighted the book.  I called my mom and my sister and my friends from grad school and I made them all read it too.  I read passages out loud to my brilliant sister-in-law and I forced everyone in my office to borrow my copy when I was done.  I became an absolute Lean In zealot because I honestly believe it’s that important.  It’s empowering to know that even the brilliant and successful Sheryl Sandberg feels many of the same insecurities that I feel.  And she challenged me to do the things I would do if I weren’t afraid.  This blog is one of those things.

So, as usual, I’ve rambled, and a recap may be in order:

Work.  Trouble.  Awkwardness.  Third party.  Dialogue.  Lean In. Blog.  Silver lining.  Boom.

In addition to resulting in the conception and ultimate birth of this blog (waaaa!), I am grateful for the whole experience for several other reasons.

1)  I am an extremely sensitive person by nature and this whole experience really thickened my skin.  I endured a lot of crap in grad school and always expected that I would eventually develop that tough exterior, that I would stop taking things so personally, but I never did.  Until now.  My skin has grown so much tougher.  (Of note: my skin has literally grown thicker.  Just ask the nurse who did my IV before my endoscopy/colonoscopy.  I believe her exact words were, “Oh!  I’m sorry!  Your skin is much thicker than I expected!”  Totally worth the extra pinch to hear that!!)

2)  My confidence in the work place has sky-rocketed!  When I started, I was, to be blunt: mousy.  (Which isn’t that cute on a girl as big as me…)  I deferred to the opinions of others, rarely weighed in, and kept my head down as much as possible.  I don’t feel the need to do any of that anymore.  I express myself as calmly and professionally as possible, but I make sure that I am heard.  (The THREE of you I called “nerds” today at work may disagree; that probably wasn’t a very professional thing to say.  But you deserved it and you know it.)

3)  I demonstrated to my co-workers that they can count on me and I know that I can count on them.  We all went through this craziness together and although it wasn’t the ideal way to do it, I’d consider it a pretty good team-building exercise.  I work with some seriously amazing people and I love them.  I don’t know how I got so lucky!!

4)  Finally, I learned that there are a lot of different ways to make things better– even when the system is fundamentally broken, and that’s an important lesson for me.  Even when you can’t fix the problem, you can change your attitude and approach.  And sometimes that’s enough.  (At least in my limited experience, n = 1.)

So I guess my point is this: read Lean In.  And then do it– lean in, you won’t regret it!


(And by “you won’t regret it” I mean: you probably won’t regret it.  Who would have thought cloning dinosaurs would be such a bad idea?  Not me… but that guy leaned in, and perhaps he should have leaned back.  I think we can all agree that that’s a pretty extreme scenario.)

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Have you read the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg?

Yes?…  Excellent!

No?… I highly recommend it!  It’s truly excellent.  Link again, so you don’t have to scroll up.

Throughout the book, Sandberg asks her readers to “lean in” and actually do the things that they would do if they weren’t afraid.  My thing, my dream: start a blog!  (Should I be dreaming bigger?  Maybe…  this is just a start.)

Even the mere thought of putting myself out there makes my stomach churn and my second track (the negative, ever present, stream of thoughts that constantly plays through my head) say things like: “isn’t it a bit narcissistic to write about your own life?  who cares what you have to say?! no one is even going to read it!”  (Then my third tracks says: “and you’re going to put that on your blog?  You sound like a paranoid schizophrenic!”  But that’s a whole other series…)

So, I am working very hard to forget that track, to be done with the second guessing and the negative nelly-ness, and to lean in and do it anyway.  (Oooo… lean in italicized, that’s clever, I like it.)  To silence that second track: who else would I write about besides myself? Isn’t it a bit narcissistic, really, to think I could write about anyone else?  And if no one else wants to read it, that’s fine, at the very least, my mom is obligated.  (Hi, mom!  It’s cool if you just catch up before I visit.)   At any rate…  This is what I would do if I weren’t afraid.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still afraid (omg, do you hate me?!), but I’m also leaning in and leaning past that fear and doing this thing… this thing I really want to do.  Woot woot!

Right, so the blog does have a point besides just being a thing I really, really want to do.

This is a blog about looking for the bigger picture, the blessings in disguise, and the long-awaited silver linings.  The name “Under the Tapestry” is based on a really great analogy for just that… the idea that we’re looking up at the messy underside and the tangled threads of a tapestry that, from the other side, is really rather nice.  More on that to come, of course– tomorrow, I present the idea in the form of a poem, a picture, and as a pseudo-quantum mechanical theory.  You know, for fun 😉  See you then!