It’s not my fault!



Amelia sat on the couch full of frustration and longing, tears welling in her eyes. “I feel like everything is my fault,” she said. “My parents divorce, the fact that my brother doesn’t come around, my mom’s inability to love me, the problems in my marriage, it’s all my fault. If I were a better person none of this would be happening.” 

We had been down this road before. The idea of fault and personal responsibility for every negative event in Amelia’s life coming to rest solely on her shoulders. It was deeply ingrained. 

“We don’t have much time left,” I said, “our healing session is nearly over. I’m going to give you an assignment. I want you to practice saying, ‘it’s not my fault.’ Use it like a mantra. Say it out loud, say it when you drive your car, say it to yourself when you brush your teeth, tend your children, do the dishes and fall into bed at night. Let the words begin to find a home in your spirit and body. Begin now. Let me hear you say it.”

 “I can’t,” she said looking away, “because I don’t think it’s true. I just can’t.” 

I persevered. “Yes, you can. Whether or not it feels true, I’m asking you to voice the words. Do it now, here with me.” 

Amelia fingered a lock of her long brown hair, her brow furrowed and intent. The words were in there somewhere trying hard to come up. I waited, watching the clock tick away the final seconds of our time together, as a single tear fell quietly over the rounded pink of her cheek.

 “It’s not my fault,” she whispered in a barely audible tone. I cupped my hand behind my ear. “Say what? I couldn’t hear you? I may be going deaf. Louder, please!”

 She smiled at me in a love-hate way, like a kid being asked to eat spinach before being excused from the table. Amelia began to justify why she could not, should not, be voicing such things, her thinking eager to slip back into the familiar water of self-hatred.  

“I’ve heard all that before,” I said, stopping her, “what I have not heard are these new words. What were they?  I want to hear those words again.”  Amelia dutifully repeated the phase three more times, scheduled her next appointment and left.  

An hour later the phone rang. It was Amelia. “I’ve just been rear-ended in a traffic accident,” she blurted out. “This guy was following too close. I tired to get him to back up by tapping my brakes but he wouldn’t do it. When we got to an intersection he didn’t slow and crashed into the back of the van. 

I was stunned. “Are you alright? Do you need help?”  I could hear the roar of traffic as she yelled into the phone.  

“Nobody was hurt. The thing is,” she bellowed, “that it was terrible and wonderful all at the same time. A fire truck happened to be going by and stopped. One of the firemen got out, assessed the situation, leaned in my window and looked me square in the eye. And you know what he said?  He said, ‘it’s not your fault.’ Can you believe it? I had him repeat it because I couldn’t trust what I was hearing, but it doesn’t end there. I got on the phone to my insurance company as the police were arriving and the woman I spoke to was really sweet. I was rattled and anxious but she kept telling me not to worry because it was not my fault. She said that none of it was my fault. Karen I’m crying, this is so amazing and wonderful. I’ve never been so happy to be rear-ended in my life. I really get it now.  I feel like the universe just stepped in and delivered its message, and I get it now. I really get it.



Original Essence


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had grateful clients say, you changed my life. I am a completely different person now, so much happier and fulfilled.

How did I do it? I did it by bringing light to their dark places, creating a safe nurturing environment and by seeing the truth of their soul, then holding their spirit with respect and beauty until they learned to do that for themselves. I freed them to stand in the best part of themselves, but never changed their essence, which is an important distinction. They are not really different people; they are simply more of who they already were.  What I do is turn up the volume on their light and bring them out of hiding.

You could not change the essence of a person if you threw cosmic fireballs at it all day long − just not going to happen. 

 As parents many of us believe that we can shape and mold our children, but we can not. We can create a supportive loving environment and teach values, but that is all. I think if we could really understand that, in our heart of hearts, that it would relieve a world of parental guilt and all the, ‘what did I do wrong’, conversations that go on inside and outside our heads. 

 For example, my husband Gib is an athlete. His greatest desire was to have an athletic son, but he didn’t get one. He got a gentle sensitive boy with the soul of an artist, who had no desire at all to go crashing around an athletic field. In the end, the son felt he didn’t measure up and that he disappointed his father, while the father wondered what he’d done wrong. 

We are all unique. We all come in with a strong powerful core and mission, but when we don’t listen to that inner voice that carries our wisdom, and we let others define our purpose for us, we become sick, depressed or unhappy. 

I have found astrological charts to be helpful, because they expose the birth blueprint of each individual. I remember finding out about a trait from my brother’s chart and being surprised.

Really, I said, he’s wired that way? I thought he was just doing that to piss me off.

The point is, that people are who they are, and we can’t do much about it, except love them as they go through their changes. That’s the challenge we all have, to strip away the layers of information and experience, until we come back to our original essence, then celebrate that essence and take it proudly and boldly into the world. We are not here to hide, but to be ourselves as fully and completely as possible, while supporting others as they do the same.


paint-swirlMany people envision their ideal writing room as the retreat house I live in.  It is removed from the distractions of the city, looks into a forest of trees through a wall of windows, and is so still I can match the beat of my heart with the ticking clock. There is an abundance of light to balance winter’s grey and every piece of furniture pleases and comforts me. This has been my nest for four years now, a space that healed me when I fragmented. I saw too many clients in the city and had no resting place. I was the surgeon of the heart who dug deep into hemorrhaging spirits and torn dreams. I removed abscesses and lanced tumors. The colors of my days were drop-dead blood-tired red. The flood of clients that moved through my office door has been reduced to a select few who come by word of mouth and are willing to travel to the country.

 It was a day in March, two years ago, when I pulled a chair to the edge of the bed, propped up my feet and talked with my husband about imagining a different future. Maybe a film, I said. Perhaps I can share my work that way. I called friends who are filmmakers and had long discussions. In the end, we decided against film because there would be too many people involved and too much money out.  We found audio accessable, affordable and easy. And so we began in a friend’s sound studio, which sits at the top of 300 acres of pristine land on Ross Mountain. My conversation with Dennis, the owner was endearing. Yes, Karen, come! Ross mountain will give you its magic and you will leave yours in return, a perfect trade. 

We birthed three hours of material from months of editing and discovery. We’d found a new direction, and it grew. We hired website ladies who gave us the idea of a blog, making podcasts and breathing life into an old manuscript which was gathering dust in the closet.

This space has housed that kind of birthing, as well as the stagnant times when I question my life and abilities, cry at my altar and wish to be released from something that restricts my heart, something long lasting that defines my existence, but can not be named. 

My work here is almost over. I feel a stirring to move on – a hunger to rejoin humanity. The gypsy in me is packing her bags. Next I want to write in a house with other people where we can visit, lunch and inspire one another to be more. I am ready to reach again into theater and community.

Soon, this space will hold my leaving and a greater leaving still. The where of that destination I don’t yet know, but I imagine a villa, bicycles and the Mediterranean sea. I will spend half my time in Portland and half my time in sun. I envision a warm place where I can put pen to paper and hear my written voice.


I knew she was a single mother. They are my weakness, reflecting my own years of having not enough and choosing to be alone rather than grab another wrong relationship.  I agreed to see her for twenty dollars. A reading, I reasoned, could give her  perspective, a new foundation to stand on and send her forward with tangible hope. 

I quickly realized a reading would not be enough when I pulled back the veil of her life to find blood and large open wounds oozing with infection.

Okay, the healer in me reasoned. I must continue seeing her. My practical mind protested, going into matters of paying office rent, utilities and taxes. That part scolded me. These situations are not good for you. My healer bargained. Okay, I’ll give her six more sessions, then cut her loose.

By the eighth session she had claimed her strength and was moving with a warriors courage. This is the time, I told myself, to end our sessions. I practiced the speech in the morning mirror. I wrote notes to myself over lunch. Setting boundaries was never my strength. I kept reminding myself, it is not your place to take care of the world. You are a business woman, so behave like one. Before our session began I delivered my rehearsed speech.

“I’m sorry, I’d love to keep seeing you but I simply can not continue our twenty dollar fee.”  There I had said it!

She immediately burst into tears; floods, torrents, oceans of tears. “I’m so sorry, I’m so embarrassed. I know you deserve much more, but this small fee is actually more than I can afford.”

She told me spring break was coming and she didn’t have enough food for her children. She was going to ask her x-husband’s mother for a loan but hated the way the woman made her feel and her reluctance in giving it. I went to my desk, pulled out my checkbook and wrote her a check for two hundred dollars. Boundaries have never been easy.

written 4-16-08

Miracles Happen

 Her hand is extended in friendship. The gesture is genuine and wanting. I place my hand in hers, taking it ~ touched by the gesture and the sisterhood implied. But another part of me is cautious, not because of her. I am cautious because of the courage a real friendship requires. I am a coward in this area, afraid of what will be asked of me. Not asked, maybe but demanded. I must be honest, dead honest to be close. I am so easily hurt and the sting is lasting. It feels so hard to say, “When you did that, I felt this. It felt ungenerous. Did you mean to hurt me?” I have chosen instead to be distant all these years.

My oldest sister did mean to hurt me. She schemed and planned. It was her occupation and she was masterful. How can we leave Karen out, she wondered. How can I get rid of her? She formed groups of exclusion. Oh Karen, we were just talking about what we were all going to do, and we all decided that we did not want you to be part of it. We think you wouldn’t be of much use.

What was it in her that needed to destroy me and why? This older child who hated me was my care-giver and only available parent. We’re old women now, but the relationship remains, except I no longer engage in opening or extending. She still waits coiled and ready to strike. I ask in gestures and words. Can we stop this yet? Can we give this up? The answer is, No. Her position is set.

 What I had not fully realized is how this relationship has colored my ability to reach towards others. How quietly and subtly I have folded my hand behind my back or deep inside my pockets, when the thing my heart needed most was to extend forward, placing the warmth of another’s willingness inside the courage of my own. Honesty is required. I must speak and not be silent to create what I desire. I must risk that my words will fall on gentle soil.

Why does love require such courage?

Love should wash over us naturally and with ease the way the sun rises each morning or the way water laps gently and consistently against the shore.

Maybe love is that way after all, once our fears are put to rest and our wounds healed. Maybe in the end, it’s all that easy; but for me, I’m thinking probably not. For me, I will need courage, honesty and willingness. Maybe I can do that more easily now. Maybe miracles do happen.

written 7-27-08

The Pearl

I hold a pearl in my hands. It glows in radiant colors of white, pink and barely visible flecks of  gold. People ask me what I hold, but I can’t tell them.

A few people know about the pearl. When they see it, the glow penetrates every cell and they walk away different, a little confused, smiling, laughing or crying. They are changed because the pearl lights up the core of them and they are made warm, like sitting in the lap of a much missed, yet unremembered mother.

Sometimes I try to tell people about the pearl. I search for words where none exist and come up empty, making shallow outlines instead of substance. I search for language they know. I say the pearl is like a rock, but they are afraid of rocks. They fear their force will smash the view from their window.

That’s alright, I tell them. It’s like a rock, but not really. I try again. I tell them about rubies and emeralds. I speak of their value, sparkle and light. Too expensive, they tell me, too much for my jewelry box to hold.

I don’t ever use the word pearl anymore. I gave up.  The radiance of it’s glow defines me and it’s light has made rivers through my body where tiny veins used to be, yet, I am speechless.

I look at others over an unspoken canyon. They suffer in their sleeping state, their eyes barely open, their mouth yawning from fatigue. Yet, I am silent. It is mysteriously not my place to build the bridge across the abyss.

 And yet, I long to help, all the time knowing what it takes from me to pull up a chair, open my hands and reveal the light.

Some come to look into the expanse, but most don’t, and that is just as well, as I am solitary and my hair is already white. It is those who glow from the experience that tell others to make the effort. Travel down country roads, they say, past fields of wheat and trees heavy with peaches. You’ll find a woman in a wooden rocking chair. She will let you in.

And so I wipe away the patterns of the day with a sponge, an eagle feather and a candle. I anchor myself in warm folds of earth, connect to the heavens and farther still, then open my door and embrace their courage. I offer tea and transformation.

The lids of my eyes drop closed. I inhale, exhale. Slowly, slowly pulling my hands from the pearl one finger at a time. Words travel the space between us, landing firmly in their heart. The soul opens to truth and forgotten memories made welcome.

They are coming out of a long sleep now. Remembering the truth of who and what they are. Humbled in appreciation, they bow before the altar of their soul. I am the source, they say in amazement. I have come home.

Shadows of white, pink and barely visible flecks of gold churn around and through their essence as they open the door  to journey back into their lives.

written 7-7-07