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Notice how far you’ve come, not where everyone else is standing.

Notice how far you’ve come, not where everyone else is standing.

A life of comparing and competing has consequences. Instead of making us stronger, it can cause us to feel anxious. Take the long view; trust that you are exactly where you need to be now, becoming who you are meant to be, at your own pace.

—Susie Rinehart, Fierce Joy


brave perfectThis content appears in my forthcoming memoir, Fierce Joy.  It is everything I know about bravery as a woman, a partner, a parent, a leader, an athlete, an activist, and a brainstem tumor survivor. My editors say it’s fast-paced and beautiful and funny. I say, don’t forget that it’s a love story. This is the memoir I’ve been working on in the pre-dawn darkness every day for the past two and half years. It’s about showing up real in life and at work and what gets in the way, namely perfectionism. It’s about love and death and living life to its fullest. It’s about choosing joy over fear and brave over perfect. It’s about looking underneath our fears to find unlimited joy. It’s about how our striving, saving, and performing to do things the “right” way is making it impossible for us to show up real. It’s about how Fear has become a main character in our lives, and a dangerous obstacle to real change.

Free Download: Overcoming Perfectionism

Free Download: Overcoming Perfectionism

The Opposite of Joy is Perfectionism

We are born with only two fears: the fear of falling and of loud noises. As we grow, our fears grow too. We worry about what we might lose, instead of what we might gain. We don’t think of ourselves as perfectionists, but we’re scared to try things that don’t guarantee us a positive outcome. As Brené Brown writes in Dare to Lead, “Healthy striving is self-focused. How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will people think? Perfectionism is a hustle.” The good news is that once we identify our kind of perfectionism, and see it as a lousy shield between us and the world, we can drop it. It helps to remember that our innate selves are brave. When we take risks, we actually start to feel more like ourselves.

Download My Free Guide

This resource will help you to stem the tide of perfectionism and the anxious feelings that go with it.

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brave perfectThis content appears in my forthcoming memoir, Fierce Joy.  It is everything I know about bravery as a woman, a partner, a parent, a leader, an athlete, an activist, and a brainstem tumor survivor. My editors say it’s fast-paced and beautiful and funny. I say, don’t forget that it’s a love story. This is the memoir I’ve been working on in the pre-dawn darkness every day for the past two and half years. It’s about showing up real in life and at work and what gets in the way, namely perfectionism. It’s about love and death and living life to its fullest. It’s about choosing joy over fear and brave over perfect. It’s about looking underneath our fears to find unlimited joy. It’s about how our striving, saving, and performing to do things the “right” way is making it impossible for us to show up real. It’s about how Fear has become a main character in our lives, and a dangerous obstacle to real change.

Learn more, read an excerpt or pre-order Fierce Joy here.

Don't run from anger or fear, but feel them, deeply.

Don’t run from anger or fear, but feel them, deeply.

How can I raise my daughter to be brave if I am afraid of being anything less than perfect? The trick, I’m realizing, is not to run from anger or fear, but to feel them, deeply. Before, I thought I was brave because I pushed past pain. But bravery is facing fear, being vulnerable, and sitting in discomfort with anger.

—Susie Rinehart, Fierce Joy


brave perfectThis content appears in my forthcoming memoir, Fierce Joy.  It is everything I know about bravery as a woman, a partner, a parent, a leader, an athlete, an activist, and a brainstem tumor survivor. My editors say it’s fast-paced and beautiful and funny. I say, don’t forget that it’s a love story. This is the memoir I’ve been working on in the pre-dawn darkness every day for the past two and half years. It’s about showing up real in life and at work and what gets in the way, namely perfectionism. It’s about love and death and living life to its fullest. It’s about choosing joy over fear and brave over perfect. It’s about looking underneath our fears to find unlimited joy. It’s about how our striving, saving, and performing to do things the “right” way is making it impossible for us to show up real. It’s about how Fear has become a main character in our lives, and a dangerous obstacle to real change.

Why I Wrote Fierce Joy

Video: Why I Wrote Fierce Joy

I hope you enjoy this short video about why I wrote Fierce Joy. It also describes the hidden treasure that leads to prizes for you!

If you’ve already embarked on the treasure hunt, you can submit your answer here.


brave perfectFierce Joy is everything I know about bravery as a woman, a partner, a parent, a leader, an athlete, an activist, and a brainstem tumor survivor. My editors say it’s fast-paced and beautiful and funny. I say, don’t forget that it’s a love story. This is the memoir I’ve been working on in the pre-dawn darkness every day for the past two and half years. It’s about showing up real in life and at work and what gets in the way, namely perfectionism. It’s about love and death and living life to its fullest. It’s about choosing joy over fear and brave over perfect. It’s about looking underneath our fears to find unlimited joy. It’s about how our striving, saving, and performing to do things the “right” way is making it impossible for us to show up real. It’s about how Fear has become a main character in our lives, and a dangerous obstacle to real change.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

I believe that we are capable of so much more than we think. But we’re scared as sh** sometimes. Fear is just part of the process of doing something new. We need to feel it, drop stories attached to it, and step through it.

—Susie Rinehart, Fierce Joy


brave perfectThis content appears in my forthcoming memoir, Fierce Joy.  It is everything I know about bravery as a woman, a partner, a parent, a leader, an athlete, an activist, and a brainstem tumor survivor. My editors say it’s fast-paced and beautiful and funny. I say, don’t forget that it’s a love story. This is the memoir I’ve been working on in the pre-dawn darkness every day for the past two and half years. It’s about showing up real in life and at work and what gets in the way, namely perfectionism. It’s about love and death and living life to its fullest. It’s about choosing joy over fear and brave over perfect. It’s about looking underneath our fears to find unlimited joy. It’s about how our striving, saving, and performing to do things the “right” way is making it impossible for us to show up real. It’s about how Fear has become a main character in our lives, and a dangerous obstacle to real change.

Fierce Joy by Susie Caldwell Rinehart

T-Minus One Month to Book Launch!

I CANNOT believe it, but my book, Fierce Joy ships one month from today. Huge thanks to everyone who has already reached out to me, pre-ordered it, and shared it with their friends. Pre-orders are very meaningful for authors, particularly newcomers like me. Please continue to spread the good word as we lead up to launch day. I am humbled by your enthusiasm and support. #fiercejoy is out May 15.

You can pre-order here: www.susierinehart.com/fierce-joy.

Help Me Plan My Book Launch!

We’re in the beginning phases of planning my Gratitude Book Launch tour and need your help! I’ll be in the Bay Area May 8-12, New York May 29-June 2 and Boston June 3-5. Can any of my amazing friends or followers help me secure public venues for a reading or speaking gig? Think out of the box and BEYOND bookstores (as they seem to be all booked solid). If you have an in or ideas on other spaces we can contact, please let me know!

My forthcoming memoir, Fierce Joy is out May 15.

brave perfect Fierce Joy everything I know about bravery as a woman, a partner, a parent, a leader, an athlete, an activist, and a brainstem tumor survivor. My editors say it’s fast-paced and beautiful and funny. I say, don’t forget that it’s a love story. This is the memoir I’ve been working on in the pre-dawn darkness every day for the past two and half years. It’s about showing up real in life and at work and what gets in the way, namely perfectionism. It’s about love and death and living life to its fullest. It’s about choosing joy over fear and brave over perfect. It’s about looking underneath our fears to find unlimited joy. It’s about how our striving, saving, and performing to do things the “right” way is making it impossible for us to show up real. It’s about how Fear has become a main character in our lives, and a dangerous obstacle to real change.

Learn more, read an excerpt or pre-order Fierce Joy here.

Letter to my daughter…You don’t need to prove your worth

Dear Daughter,

You are ten years old as I write this letter, meant for you to read as a young woman. This is your map to self. This is your map to safety. At ten, you talk to flowers, pose questions to the moon, go on brave adventures, and make up songs. Your lyrics are often about finding your way. When you are lost, unfold this letter and find yourself. Find me, too, holding your hand and your heart.

When you were born, you were bald and pink and curled up like a smooth-skinned armadillo, yet I thought you were absolutely beautiful. It was as if I could see and touch joy itself when holding you. And yet the fear that something might happen to you quickly filled me in equal measure and I would wake up with short, sharp inhales of fear.

Mostly, I feared that I was not good enough. You may feel that way sometimes, like you are not good enough, or that there is something wrong with you, because you can’t keep up with the world’s expectations. There is nothing wrong with you. There is something wrong with our expectations of women. 

You were born worthy.

Our culture celebrates women for their beauty or their extraordinary achievements. But when we don’t feel beautiful and when we aren’t the top performer, we don’t question our culture’s messages, we question our worth.

I want to set that straight. You were born worthy. It is not something you need to earn or prove. Your value is like my love for you; it is in flash-flood mode all the time, with no banks or limits.

I was raised to believe that I could be anything I wanted to be. But the way I internalized that message was that I must be great. And there were many times that I didn’t feel capable of being great. All I ever saw were the outer, perfect performances of women in my life. I never heard about their inner conflict, so that when I encountered doubt or my own imperfections, I thought that the confusion I experienced was uniquely mine.

I assumed everyone else knew exactly what she was doing.

Ask women for their stories, you will hear the constellations of struggle and courage that make up who we are.

The opposite of joy is not sadness, but perfectionism. When you are straining to do all parts of your life so well to rise above confusion and criticism, that’s what I call perfectionism. The world doesn’t need you to be perfect, it just needs you to contribute to the common good.

I want to rebel against the idea that our bodies are not already perfect, as they are. What if we praised our eyes, lips, fingers and toes, bones, shoulders, and muscles for all of their genius? What if we admired them the way we admire other natural bodies like the sun, moon, and stars?

At ten, you are in love with your body: the strength and speed of your legs, the joys of your flexibility, the power and grace of your muscles. Soon, you may think your body is something to hide and to hate. Listen. Your body is perfect as it is. You have your Nana’s angular legs and arms, your Grandma’s nose and wavy hair, my deep-set eyes and fair skin, and your own full lips and mouth. Your body is your connection to me, to your grandmothers, and to women around the world. It is the home of the umbilical cord and the womb.

Sometimes brave means to be bold, sometimes it means to be vulnerable

 

When I was a little older than you, I was embarrassed that I didn’t yet have my period. Then, when I finally got it, I was ashamed of my body. I wore baggy clothes to hide my shape, and I spat at my reflection in the mirror in disgust. When you get your period, celebrate. I’m serious. Your period may be annoying, but it is not shameful. By shedding the lining of your uterus once a month and building a fresh one, your body is teaching you to let go of what does not serve you. Your body is powerful and magnificent.

Becoming a woman is not just about your body changing; it is the process of discovering who you are by listening to your inner voice. Becoming a woman is growing brave enough to express yourself, even when you are afraid.

Sometimes being brave means to be bold, but sometimes it means to be vulnerable. Sometimes brave means to forge ahead, other times it means to be still. Sometimes it means to fight, other times, brave means to let go. What it means to be brave will change as you change.

“Mama, will my voice change when I grow up?” You asked me the other day. I guess you had heard that your brother’s voice will soon crack and deepen.

“No, no. Your voice will always stay the same,” I said dismissively.

But that’s not true. If you think about your voice as the instrument with which you author your life, and not just the physical sounds that come out of your throat, then it will definitely change. It will get lost, and you will find it again. You will lose it when you try to please everyone. To find your voice again, remember what you loved to do when you were nine, or ten years old, before others’ voices mattered more to you than your own.

In case you’ve forgotten, you spent whole afternoons climbing trees, singing songs you created, and inventing elaborate treasure hunts. What if you devoted a day to no one but yourself and nature? And instead of trying to reach a summit, you explored around you, with bravery, curiosity, and imagination? Do what feels good, despite your fear saying, You will disappoint everyone and go broke. Slowly, through a daily practice of being brave, your fear will get bored and shut up, while your unique voice gets louder and clearer.

To find your voice again, remember what you loved to do at 9 or ten years old.

 

I can’t help but make a connection between our mutual love of treasure hunts and this crazy experience called life. How can it be that we can love these hunts so much, but be uncomfortable facing big uncertainties in life such as Will I find love? My passion? A way to save the world? It’s easy to get scared into thinking there isn’t a next clue. But I’m here to tell you that there will always be a next clue and you will always find it.

If you live like that, with bravery and trust, then life becomes one big treasure hunt, an adventurous game that is our privilege to play.

I have no solid footing here to tell you that you will never be left alone, or that your worth will always be recognized by others. To the little girl inside me, nothing is more murky than my value. Yet nothing is more clear to me than your value.

When you feel lost, know that I am with you. I am as much a part of you as your fingers, your toes, your beating heart, your wild instincts, your breath. Feel me listening to you, holding you, and giving you a loud, standing ovation.

Love,

Mama

Risk the Wildest Places

This morning, like every morning, I chose a random Mary Oliver poem to read. Today I stumbled on “Magellan.” And because I was procrastinating from the scary work of sending out my book for review, I searched Magellan on History.com. I read about his epic voyage around the world, how his slave, Enrique, might be the real, first person to circumnavigate the globe, and how Magellan died before reaching his goal. Mostly I was speechless by the sheer audacity of it all.

The biography never mentioned when he was born. I was curious. I typed in: “When is Magellan’s birthday?” February 3, 1480. I’m not kidding. Today is his birthday. What mysterious forces made me choose that poem and spend the morning reading about Magellan? What am I supposed to learn from this dead white guy? I think it’s best summed up in these lines from Mary Oliver’s poem about him:

“Let us find our islands

To die in, far from home, from anywhere

Familiar. Let us risk the wildest places,

Lest we go down in comfort, and despair.”

We need to be more daring. Take bigger risks. Go toward uncertainty. Magellan was brave enough to venture into unknown waters. He may never have left his comfortable life if he knew just how big the world was. Without knowing where he was going and what he would find, he and his crew sailed on, so that the rest of us could have a better sense of how round and beautiful our world truly is. (What did him in was not the voyage, but an act of superiority that he could easily have committed after too much Sangria at home.)

When we are willing to leave behind what is familiar and comfortable, we expand our imagination and our sense of possibility. We create new maps for others to follow. Maybe Magellan himself steered my fingers toward the poem today. Tomorrow is World Cancer Day. Magellan may have wanted to share with me the secret to living with cancer, to starting a new business, to putting a book out into the world:

Sail on.

None of us ever know what lies ahead. I’m pretty sure there will be some shipwrecks and mutinies. But in risking “the wildest places,” we might find a new ocean with yet-to-be-named whales that sing while they leap into the limitless sky. 

Sail on. 

I’ll be cheering you on as you make your next brave move.

Love,

Susie

image credit: Flick’r, Size4riggerboots

I’m alive because of Mary Oliver writing, “There is nothing more pathetic than caution.”

High winds, full moon, pen and poetry in hand, we head out. It’s the only way I know to honor the poet who gave me a deep love of all seasons. So that’s just what my friend Emma and I do. Long ago, I was Emma’s English teacher, introducing her to the poet, Mary Oliver, who passed on January 17th. I taught my students her poems because I wanted them to go forward knowing “You don’t have to be good.” Also, I wanted them to know that poetry doesn’t have to be written in dense, difficult language, accessible only to the few, and the snobby.

Now Emma is a teacher, sharing Mary Oliver’s poetry with her students. She points out that when Oliver describes the sound of the wild geese, she does not use the words “sweet or easy.” She says their call is “harsh and exciting,” just like the journey of finding our place in the world.

It was a funny scene. Two women in the dark, in very puffy jackets, sliding backwards on ice, clutching poetry to our chests in a powerful headwind. We found a great sitting rock in a snowy field and opened our books. Then we raised our voices to the moon and read poem after poem from Oliver’s prolific life.

All my life, I have roamed through fields and mountains, asking questions. What is this life and how do I fit in it? I thought I was lazy and lost, because others were busy making money or starting non-profits, while I was scribbling in my journal. But then I found Mary Oliver’s poetry. And it saved me. She, too, chose to spend her days strolling through fields, and was brave enough to ask, “Tell me, what else should I have done?”

In my twenties, Mary Oliver taught me that I didn’t have to be perfect. In my thirties, she taught me that all poems should have birds in them. In my forties, she is teaching me to face death, and love my life.

When I received a scary diagnosis in 2016, I turned again to Oliver’s poetry. And for the first time, I noticed how much she writes about death, and how unafraid she is of it. “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life/I was a bride married to amazement.” In her bold acceptance of the end, I found a key to how to live in the moment, “Make of yourself a light.” But still, I struggled with the end, and letting go of my life.

I finally wrote Mary Oliver a letter. I said, “Thank you for teaching me that paying attention is a form of prayer. In recent days, especially, I have needed that. I was told that I only have a few months to live. I could use your wisdom now. In “Gravel,” you ask three times, “Are you afraid?” And I want to shout loud enough for you to hear me, “I am.” I wake up in the middle of the night, and wonder, Have I made something “particular and real” out of my life? Do you have any advice for me? Can you teach me to let go?

I did not get a reply from Mary Oliver in the form of a letter. I never expected to hear from her. But I found answers in the shape of a fox’s den, and the remains of a dead rabbit at its entrance. I saw the bones and I noticed the healthy, playing fox kits, and I understood what she wrote in “In Blackwater Woods,” “To live in this world/you must be able/to do three things/to love what is mortal/to hold it against your bones…/and when the time comes to let it go/to let it go.”

Later, when I was faced with a tough choice about whether to undergo emergency surgery, I felt stuck. The safe thing to do was tell the doctors to perform a less-dangerous surgery that might buy me a few years. The more crazy choice was to tell the doctors to take big risks to try to save my life, for good.

I didn’t know what to do. Irrationally, I turned to poetry. I found my response in the last lines of Mary Oliver’s poem, “Moments,” “There is nothing more pathetic than caution/ when headlong might save a life,/ even, possibly, your own.”

I told the doctors not to hold back. Take every risk. Save my life. And they did.

Since then, I have a simple morning ritual that I have not broken. I wake, light a candle, and read a single Mary Oliver poem, chosen at random. Her words ground me in the wisdom of lilies and herons, grasshoppers, and goldenrod. The day and all of its chaos can begin, because I remember that I am a part of nature, not apart from it. And I remember that human nature, though tricky, bends toward love.

Yesterday’s poem happened to be “Flare.” “Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no./ Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also/ like the diligent leaves./ A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world/and the responsibilities of your life./ Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.”

I can hear Mary Oliver’s gravelly voice and see her strong hand, waving, as if to say, “Go. I’m alright. Move along.” Or in her actual words in the poem, “October,” “This is the world. I’m not in it. It is beautiful.”

Last night, under a full moon, with pen and poetry in hand, we had to agree. The moon was so bright we could clearly see our hands, the trees, and the trail home, despite the darkness. It was beautiful. Thank You, Mary Oliver, for giving us the gift of light, and the gift of words that save lives.

Love,

Susie

***