Nobody Warned Me

Nobody warned me what this journey would be like. No one took me aside and said – your beliefs, your very morality will change on this adventure. So before I embark on the next endeavor within this adventure, let me share a bit about what I discovered. Cause I sure wish someone had warned me. Not sure that would have stopped me, but warnings are nice.

Jean on beach1. Forgiveness

No one warned me that I would learn deep lessons in forgiveness. Of myself. Of others. But sure enough, it came. I thought it was enough in my twenties to have learned compassion for those who I perceived wronged me because they too were caught in their own struggles and patterns, often spanning generations. But no, that wasn’t enough. It had to go further. I had to learn to forgive myself for the paths not taken, the options chosen that led to pain or failure, the consequences of what I had – at one time – thought was right action, but turned out to have negative consequences I didn’t want. I had to learn to forgive myself for hurting those I loved when I made difficult choices. And perhaps deepest of all, I had to learn to forgive myself for being hurt by others.

If this idea is new to you, please sit with it. Take agency for all the experience you have. Every emotion you have, you can be responsible for. Whatever – and I mean WHATEVER anyone has done to you, you can choose how to respond and whether to be hurt. If Nelson Mandela can walk out of prison and love South Africa and the people there, then you can get off your emotional victim high horse and recognize that you have a choice in whether to be hurt or not. Do you take the high road? And when you don’t, please forgive yourself. You are doing the best you can with what you have, right now. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

One of my favorite plays is Death and the Maiden where a woman who endured torture and rape as a political prison has a surprise visitor – the torturer – in her home and at her mercy… what should she do? It can be easy to claim moral high ground until you find yourself in such a position. And the only sane way out, I think, is to forgive even yourself.

2. Progress is nonlinear. 

Oh, the plans I have made! They are small next to the gifts I have been given by allowing myself to embrace what shows up in my life. Boldly. Embracing it boldly. Looking back, the most crucial decision points were not on any plan. When Jair mentioned thrivability to me in February 2007, I wasn’t looking for it. There was no plan. I felt in the deepest parts of my being a soft flicker that said – follow this. And over time it grew louder. When I think of the most crucial people in my life, there was no plan for them or how they would fit. When I look back at the Thrivability Sketch – it started as a light nudge from two advisors. I started it with small intentions. As the first steps worked, it got bigger. By the end it had doubled in size and was much more than I had imagined it would be.

When I look back on any given day, I am ashamed at how little of the task list is completed. Even when I look at a week of working, the actions are not adding up to what I want to have happen. And yet… at the end of a month, quarter, or year, I am always astounded at what has happened. Beyond what I could have dreamed. I can’t figure out how that happens. It must be nonlinear. So now I just go with that. I set intentions and then just work with what the universe and my network bring to me.

3. There is Life after the Cleanse.

When you first go through the cleanse – the detachment from worldly positions to seek a life of meaning, it is like a giant high. Euphoric bliss, I found my version of god, and it is purging possessions! I love thee. But no one told me there was life after the purge was over. I lost 50 pounds… no really, it was more like 2 tons. I dumped a 4000 square foot house, a husband, 70% of my belongings, city life, and just about anything else that represented my old life. That was 2002-2006. I got my coach training, and immediately went about double leveling up my integrity and alignment. Talk, walk. Talk, walk. Talk, walk. I was on a super sustainability high. I was even blogging for an organic lifestyle brand. And I still felt like a green fraud for a long time, like I wasn’t “sacrificing” enough unless I was living in the woods with a knife completely off grid. Well, no thank you.

But there is life after the cleanse. At some point you stop getting rid of worldly possessions and maintain some sort of balance of inflow and outflow of goods. At some point you settle on a fair-trade organic diet some percentage of the time, but not every bite. At some point, there is no high left. It just becomes the humdrum life of the everyday. You can’t squeeze more meaning from it. Would I feel just a little bit better if I went to the farmer’s market? Only if I feel like it. It doesn’t define me. I am not THAT.

Over five years after the purge, and I have completely adjusted to my new life. I am thinking about finally getting rid of some of the books that I hang on to. I don’t need to be THAT either.  And maybe that is part of the secret to purging. Hold up an item – ask, am I this thing? If you say no, I am not this thing, then you don’t need it. Just keep what you use at least once a year and that which you ARE. Everything else is just crowding your experience of life.

When I am not defined by what I have or have given up, I have a whole new world to create in terms of what I want to be.

4. Justice – There isn’t any.

As a kid, I had a very solid notion of justice. And as I grew older, it was important to me to be part of doing justice. And somewhere along the journey, I woke up to how much that was about me and not about anyone else. The world is not a just place. It isn’t fair. My playing sheriff isn’t going to make it fair. In fact, there are usually so many forces at work, that what is really fair has a very complicated and nearly never ending cascade of actions needed to keep balancing out the fairness.

What I needed most of all was to be okay with myself. Not anyone else. Not anyone’s actions. Just me and mine. This started as a light hint – a sense that I was the only person I had to live with for the rest of my life. Just me. No one else. But it built into an awareness that I should do what I needed to create the life that I wanted. And I didn’t want a life of chasing down other people for what they did or did not do. Creating my own life was much better than trying to bring about justice from others. It may seem really selfish, and perhaps it is. But instead of spending my night worrying about how someone had wronged me, I could sleep peacefully dreaming about what I wanted to do next. My mind-time was free of the anger of being wronged. I simply started to let go.

So when I got divorced, we didn’t fight over money. I didn’t worry about it being a “fair” or “just” division. Instead I focused on what would allow the kids to know they were loved and what was going to foster a healthy relationship with my ex. What did I want to go to bed at night thinking about? The toaster oven? No. I still have random moments where I think,  “what was I doing giving him so much of what we built together?” but those moments pass quickly. I can buy the stuff, if I need to. I can’t buy peace of mind or relationships.

Maybe justice is what we can give ourselves if we want to love our own life. This isn’t just “turn the other cheek” – it is turn the other cheek and forget-about-it rolled up together. I am trying to give myself the gift of that mind-time freedom to go about my life starting right now with what I have right here.


I wish someone would tell me what is coming down the pipeline next. What deeply held belief or assumption is going to get deposed next? And how is that going to feel? And what will it then get for me? If you know, please share.



4 thoughts on “Nobody Warned Me

  • “It must be nonlinear. So now I just go with that. I set intentions and then just work with what the universe and my network bring to me.” One of my teachers told me to put my attention where I wanted my intentions to take me. I don’t do enough of this but this is key.

    Thanks for writing this, Jean. I have watched you grow mostly from afar for many years. I remember the first time we met at one of MIchael’s Open Space’s years ago in Oak Park. You looked at me with those piercing eyes early in the morning when the meeting started and asked me what my passion was. The question intimidated me and took my breath away. Maybe it was before coffee 🙂 It’s likely you don’t recall our meeting. So many people in those days there were on such grand and gentle missions to change the world. I was touched deeply to be in the company of so many visionaries taking on the world with such certainty, while I dipped a toe in here and dipped a toe in there, working from a silent background, watching worlds get built around me – some on the Internet.

    My passion at the time was to find a way to sustain myself doing work that felt good to me and good to the world. But my goal was mundane really – and it has shifted greatly over time. maybe I’ll write about that some time.

    I can’t say what will happen for you next but I will say what happened for me at some point was that I saw that the exchange of energy was key to everything.. Energy in and energy out and vice versa. and for me this has a spiritual flavor, although I have known many adept energy gurus who have nothing to do with spirituality. These energy principles that you understand at your core so well certainly have something to do with Forgiveness. .

    What I do know this for sure, Jean, is that whatever happens next for you, it is sure to be surprising and I look forward to watching it unfurl from the charged energy net that is you.

    • Thank you Sally. Can’t say I recall the exact meeting, but I do remember knowing and being aware of you then. You paint yourself humbly.

      Flow has been a theme for many years, but it takes on ever more depth and meaning to me. I can imagine forgiveness contributing to the flow.

      Thank you for being you Sally. Gratitude. Hope we can find time for another delicious conversation over drinks and tater tots. 😉

  • Hi Jean –

    I just got to this post via the unconference link on Facebook liked by Lonny Grafman, so thanks Lonny. This is a beautiful post. It really speaks to me now and to my past. I enjoy the little reminders to live according to your passion that come to us in everyday life, and now they show up through our technology. Your post makes me breathe a little deeper and relax a little more.

    Thank you for your words,


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