Thursday, October 28, 2010

Being Me. Being You. Being Us.

”To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. E.E. Cummings.

Lauren Kaminsky works in our Girls on the Run-Chicago office. You need to check out her blog sometime: Back in July, I made the trek with Katy Brown and Liz Kunz, from the International office to announce our exciting new partnership with Garmin. I had the opportunity to meet Lauren. I also had the opportunity to meet Olivia.

Olivia rocked! She was vibrant, fun, a little nervous, honest, real, present and best of all her fabulous OLIVIA-SELF. Last week Lauren shared with me a beautiful tribute that Olivia wrote to share her thoughts about our experience of meeting each other.

Here it is:

Hi, my name is Olivia, and I am a Girls on the Run participant. I have had a wonderful experience by meeting Molly Barker, the Founder and Vision Keeper of Girls on the Run. When I first found out that Molly was coming to my town I was so excited, but then all my joy was drained when I found out my parents couldn’t take me. I was so upset, I thought that would be the perfect time to meet my hero. Then out of nowhere my guardian angel appeared and offered to take me. She was planning on going and had to pass my house so she picked me up!

Once I got to the Garmin store in Chicago, Illinois, I knew it was a day to remember! There was a giant Girls on the Run poster and all the employees were wearing Girls on the Run t-shirts. I ran though the door and I was overwhelmed with excitement. Then we were led upstairs for the main event, when I caught sight of Molly. Her smile filled the room with glee. And then it was my turn to meet Molly. I was definitely anxious, and I had butterflies in my stomach, but as soon as she spoke my anxiety was gone. I started to smile and immediately we got into a deep conversation. She kept saying things like “I love to meet Girls on the Run participants!” and I was so excited that I was finally able to qualify in that group. Then when we were in the middle of a conversation of “silly bandz” it was time to listen to her speech.

Molly talked about girls who had a wonderful experience in Girls on the Run and girls who accomplished great goals and all that she said was inspiring to me. I was sitting in the crowd thinking. Thinking how Molly has helped so many girls my age with so many problems that can be solved with a life changing run. And I realized that I wanted to be like Molly when I grow up.

Wow. What can I say? I share this with you because it made me cry. It opened me up. It made me realize how important being true to ourselves is as we push the mission of Girls on the Run forward. It reminds me of how important our work is in the lives of little girls.

It reminds me of my humanity!

Speaking at the Garmin event and/or any large event is something I truly enjoy! I have found that revealing my innermost self is, ironically, a much safer thing for me to do with a large group of unknown folks, than with those I know intimately. There isn’t the same chance for being hurt. If someone I don’t know rejects me…well…I can handle that. It doesn’t matter…at least not at the same level of “matter” that I risk if someone I know, respect and love, rejects me.

And yet…truthfully? There isn’t a single person within my circle of intimate friends who would reject me should I share myself completely. Not a one. The ability to be that open rests not in their response to me, but in my fear of a response that never will be.

And so…lately I’ve intentionally and almost forcefully had to make myself be a friend…not only in being a good listener, but in being a good talker/sharer/revealer. It’s been a little bit scary to admit I don’t have it all together…that I still have self-doubt…still struggle at times with relinquishing the Girl Box messages…that I sometimes feel as if I’m blazing a trail on my own and without direction…to admit that I feel anxiety at times…wonder if I have the strength and courage to mother two teenagers…confused, cry at night and shout out in anger.

I’ve noticed, though, that the more open I am, the more I receive. It’s like the blockages which have limited me from sharing my fears have been removed and made room for more “others” to feel safe in sharing theirs with me. The depth of my conversations with people…all people…not just those I know intimately, now well up from a beautiful and richer space. We get to the stuff that matters more quickly. There is an immediate comfort with each other, simply because I am more comfortable with myself…all of me…the raw, the real and the vulnerable…the strong, the brave and the courageous.

I credit Olivia, you, the girls and the spirit of Girls on the Run for this transformation…a space for me to practice self-acceptance and the power of trusting others …and then finding the courage to translate that into my personal life…to step outside my comfort zone and get real..I mean REALLY real with those closest to me. To admit my humanness and love myself not in spite of it, but because of it.
What ways has Girls on the Run helped you become a better friend, partner, spouse, sibling, daughter, person in your intimate relationships. Let me know at

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm Scared and Excited, Both at the Same Time!

"Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable." Dr. Joyce Brothers

Alright folks. Remember a few weeks ago when I was incredibly nervous, overpreparing and thinking WAY too much about my TEDx talk. it is. In lieu of a post of any kind, I'm going to opt for sharing this. I have to admit it's a little bit scary putting myself out there into the universe like this...but where I keep coming back around to that all of us, whether we are young, old, man, woman, left-brained, right-brained...we all just really want to know that we are loved.

And I am now willing to see and know that I am, without a doubt, loved and therefore know that sharing my story and the depth of WHO I AM is okay, safe and may possibly serve as an invitation for you to know that you too, can do the same.

Please feel free to share with others. I'd love it if this helped grow Girls on the Run and allow others to see the depth of our work. Or perhaps to see something new about themselves and in the process, set themselves free.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Red Boot Unification Project

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Eleanor Roosevelet

My Red Boots (note capitalization) are causing quite a stir…Not a serious one, but something about the boots is connecting with folks.

Last week I was having coffee in Caribou and a woman walked up and asked, “Are you Molly Barker?” I responded, “Yes.” She pointed at my boots and smiled, “It’s those boots.”

If you don’t know why the boots are important to me, let me pull up a few words from a previous post to put them Into context.

Today I turn 50 years old. My daughter bought me a pair of bright red cowboy boots. There is something significant, for me, about getting red cowboy boots on my 50th birthday. Fifty used to seem old. I am not old. Old people do not wear red cowboy boots. Kids don't buy their mom red cowboy boots if they think she is old. I recall an interview with Gloria Steinem. The man interviewing her said, “Well Ms. Steinem, you certainly don’t look 43 years old.” Her reply? “Well, honey…this is what MY 43 looks like.”

On the bottom of one boot, my 12 year old daughter wrote, “I love you so so so much.” And on the other boot she wrote, “Now there is just more age to love.”

Throughout the many years of delivering Girls on the Run I am always moved by the stories of the women and men who share themselves with our girls and our program…the stories of what it was like…confined and limited by their buy in to the stereotypes, behaviors and fear housed within the Girl and Boy Box…and what it is like now, free of those limitations. The specifics of each story vary, but rooted down at the core of each one rests the universal and irrational belief that “Who I am, is not good enough.”

Awareness is such a funny thing. The expression that a “fish doesn’t know it’s in water until it’s not” is just so true. The older I get the more I realize that I’ve spent so much of my life confined by the box…a box that is often defined by my gender…which is a whole other box altogether…not even aware that I was in it.

I started to push against the walls of the Girl Box when I began to fight them. Alcohol, excessive exercise, men, work, self-loathing…what I didn’t realize back then…that fighting the Girl Box was unnecessary and futile. Fighting only fueled it more. Giving any of my energy and attention to my anger at it and toward those I felt perpetuated it, bought into the belief that it existed in the first place.

In reality, the whole thing is made up. There are no Girl Boxes, Boy Boxes, restrictions on our potential. Where the mirage comes from would take days to analyze and list. Advertising? Yes. The media? Yes. Our families? Yes. Our culture? Yes. Our social circles? Yes. Our need to fit in? Yes. Our fear? Yes. But the reality is this. The Girl/Boy box is a lie, an untruth, an imaginary made up context/filter that we fuel with our belief that it is real, that it matters, that if I don’t believe in it, I am crazy and will be left behind.

Take a minute…and imagine…imagine what it would be like if you were free to express yourself. Imagine how it would feel and how you would show up to the world if you knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that you were brilliant, magnificent, strong, and beautiful, just as you are.

Now, rather than imagine it, believe it…because you are. I am. We are. The only “thing” between you and your own magnificence, beauty and potential is your believing that you must be, act and conform to a set of standards that are non-existent, imaginary, make-believe.

The only thing between you and your highest self is you.

And that’s where those crazy Red Boots come in for me. Yeah…they are nothing more than a couple of boots, with a red pigment applied to them…but they represent my POWER…my power to step away from the irrational beliefs I’ve found myself buying into lately that I am getting “old” and that “old” means settling down, dimming my expressive self and slowing down somehow.

I am not done. No way, brothers and sisters. I’ve got a lot of work left to do in this world and these boots were made for walking…walking here, there and across the globe!

So I ask you…what talisman/token will you carry/wear/own that represents your willingness to shine, to be, to express yourself…to at last be free of the irrational thoughts and limitations you’ve allowed yourself to believe. What will you carry/wear/own that reminds you of your magnificence, brilliance and beauty. Go get it, find it, wear it TODAY. Why wait? WHY WAIT?

I know I often ask for responses, but in this case, I’m not kidding. Let me know. I need to know that I am not alone. Is it red boots? A gratitude stone to carry in your pocket? Is it a feather in your back pocket? What will you choose to set yourself free?

Let me know, right here, right now.

And while I've got’s a little psyche up song to get you on your way!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Girls on the Run Effect

“When we tire of well-worn ways, we seek the new. The restless craving within our soul spurs us to climb, and to seek the mountain view.” Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I came across this video a couple of weeks ago. It fired me up. It awakened something I hadn’t felt for a while. Restlessness. Take a minute and watch it.

Oh…I wish. I wish I could find a home for the restlessness in my spirit. It definitely ebbs and flows…but right now… I feel it strong, pulling, and tidal in its effect on me.

The spirit housed within Girls on the Run is immense, powerful and magnificent. Do you feel it? The wave? The movement? The call?

I remember the first visual tug of it. I was sitting on the porch of my Uncle’s beach house. November 1st, 1995. My son, Hank, was nestled softly into my arms. He was just six weeks old. The cold wind of approaching winter swirled around us while the sun, like soft down tucked into quilted comforter draped across our two bodies… persuasively warming me and my baby to find comfort in sleep.

We slept for a time…my feet firmly planted on the floorboards beneath…leaning back ever so slightly on the hard rocking chair. He and I were occasionally stirred by the creaking of old wood wrestling with the powerful strong wind.

I drifted in and out of sleep…the pull and push of much needed new mother-sleep with the overwhelming joy of wanting to stay awake and know the new life resting there in my arms.

When it just came--the vision of it--somewhere in between the conscious space of this world and the other one. I’m still so amazed by the clarity of it:

I was running…over fields and streams, fast and deliberate…first on the soft landscape of nature and then onto the hard asphalt of city streets and alley ways. When out of nowhere, they emerged…little girls. Tall, short, small, little, black, white, brown, long hair, short hair, ribbons, baseball caps, dresses and shorts. They were laughing, smiling, ponytails flying, arms pumping. They were breathing with intensity, smiling with joy and bounding with strength. Thousands of them came--from every corner, every alley, every street, every field, until I was lost in the sea of them--the movement, the joy, the push, the pull, the tug and lift.

We ran up what appeared to be an infinite set of steps to peak high atop, with our hands in the air, leaping for joy, running in place, smiles on our faces and a feeling of ONE. Our strength and power uniting us.

I feel a sense of that now with the breadth of the program and its incredible reach. All of us--coaches, council directors, volunteers, GOTRI staff—we are all running in that immense span of change, hope and love.

And yet to still feel this restlessness…to know Girls on the Run, to know that what we have is so beautiful, magnificent, transformative and available while so many girls are still tucked away, both realistically and metaphorically in alley ways, isolation and withdrawal.

I sit here now, oddly peaceful with the fact that our work will never be done, but hopeful enough to never, ever stop believing that it will be.

Where are you with your life's calling? Is there an ebb and a flow? Do you fire up and then bring it down? How do you balance your frustration, anger and restlesslessness with your hope, love and optimism? Let me know at