The Light Bulb Testers


There is a special job held by certain individuals in your life: they are the light bulb testers. They may take the form of people you love and they may appear as people you hate. Yes, hate, as in the underbelly of love. Or they may take the form of the person in front of you ordering the last jelly doughnut.

Now you’re craving a jelly doughnut, aren’t you?

I digress.

This week, dare I say as an emboldened Aries, this month (!), I celebrate my 48th birthday. It was on 4/18 and I turned 48. (8 is my favorite number. And 4 is a multiple of 8 so that’s very cool. Plus it’s my sister’s favorite number.) Thank you to so many of you who wished me a happy birthday through phone, text, social media and snail mail. It’s been magical and fun and full of love.

And, I’ve run into a few light bulb testers.

That’s when, in the midst of my intense joy and gratitude, some individuals and events have brought darkness to my doorstep—and no jelly doughnuts.

So what are your choices when you are moving into a beautiful moment in your life? What if you are in that beautiful moment and someone takes a hammer to your light bulb no matter how many times you’ve dodged his or her swings?

You embrace the shattered light.

“What does that mean, Rebecca? Can you please be more specific?”

Yes, yes I can. Here’s what happened:

The day was full and beautiful. Love surrounded me—even in nature. I saw a heron, a seal and a super cool snail!


Then a light bulb tester came in the form of a conversation later in the day.  I made a boundary and declared, “Nope, not today. Any other day, but not today.” But I didn’t duck and I stayed in the conversation despite my intuition (which was a mistake) and I allowed that bulb to get broken. Then I stepped in the glass with bare feet again and again.

And my “old stuff” came up. The pain in my shoulder blade I hadn’t felt for almost a year came back. And do you know what I ended up saying after a few tears? “Thank you. Thank you God and the Universe because I know that this is part of a plan and this had to happen.” I didn’t know why and I didn’t need to understand why. (Though I tried for a moment.) And I let myself get really angry at the light bulb tester. I let that move through me so it wouldn’t ping around like a pinball in an old-fashioned machine. I wanted to kick myself for not trusting my intuition or for making firmer boundaries. But then I came around to compassion for myself and a softening for the hope I had for a light-filled conversation on my birthday.

Getting back to the light and burning brightly took a bit more doing. It was my super special lucky number birthday, so I took action. I prepared a delicious snack, watched a movie, went swimming and played with my son. And every time the memory of the last smash came back, I said, “I see you, but that’s not what’s happening right now. And I replaced the darkness with the faces of the people with whom I spoke that day. I replaced the feelings of lack, guilt and shame that were dumped on my doorstep with the firm decision that I was not going to accept that delivery. And days later, I’ve extended compassion to the light bulb tester, a compassion firmly lined with a boundary.

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Whether you believe in God, Source, the Universe or nothingness, there’s a plan. You have a chance to co-create it. I chose my reaction to that plan. I chose to embrace my uncomfortable feelings and move through them until I was able to pull another light bulb out of the box. I got plugged in again.

My grandmother Mama Chelo always told me, “You live in my heart, and you don’t even pay rent.” Be mindful of who gets to come into your heart and when. People do not have a right to be there, it’s a privilege. And sometimes, new people come into your heart and some people take a break from rent-free living. And that’s okay.

You don’t have to accept any unwanted deliveries and own other’s people’s stuff. We each have enough of our own stuff — no additional clutter needed.

Know that when you’re tested, the source of your light is limitless. There are always more light bulbs. Also, without the dark, your light wouldn’t burn as brightly. But protect your light. And when you need to, grab a broom and sweep up what’s been shattered. It’s okay for life to be messy. It’s a beautiful mess. Plug in again. It’s how you heal old wounds. And it’s how the world gets healed over time.

Aim your face and your heart at the sun, it’s the brightest bulb we have. And it’s a renewable source of energy. Just like you are renewable, every single moment.

This is one of the keys to living in the world.

And speaking of living in the world…here is the documentary from my stay one year ago at Drop Out on Orcas, an transformative writer’s residency. I spent 5 days in a beautiful house in the woods without cell or Internet working on the sequel to The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship. Spoiler alert: I take you to the place where the culminating scene in the novel occurs and I also create (and act out) scenes in the woods on the spot for the sequel.

I did a whole lot of healing in this magical place. I hope you enjoy it! Please share with friends!

Deep gratitude goes to the poet and visionary founder of Drop Out on Orcas,  Jennifer Brennock, for this life-changing experience.


Finding Contentment in Sadness and the Best Macaroni and Cheese on the Planet

I took you on my hike this morning and shared some of the helpful tools I’ve learned and applied in the last few weeks. I edited together all the nuggets plus a 15 second avocado meditation at the end! You can view the video here.


Some of the resources which I mentioned are included below:

  1. On allowing your feelings to move through you (rather than burying them with social media, food, TV, alcohol or busyness): Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach is a game-changer when it comes to allowing your feelings to move through you—especially conflicting feelings. The book has been pivotal for me in terms of changing my relationship to recurring themes in my life.
  2. On forgiveness and healing: I mention this SuperSoul Session by Caroline Myss, 7 Myths and 7 Truths about Healing which can be viewed here. While I’m a fan of Myss’ work, I don’t always like her tone or delivery, but this short talk is well worth it, especially the ending. It contains that apology and forgiveness exercise which I referenced on the mountain.
  3. On letting go of the effort to control outcomes: Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead and Change Me Prayers: The Hidden Power of Spiritual Surrender – both books are by Tosha Silver and can be found here. These books have felt like they have saved me–from my own thoughts–in the last few weeks. People tell you to surrender all the time, but she does it with such humor and great anecdotes to model it again and again.
  4. On letting go of anticipating and being prepared for every scenario: If you want to know more about the concept of hypervigilance, I really like this post titled Parentified Daughters as Female Leaders: Keys to your Emergence by Bethany Webster. The concepts also apply to sons, so if you’re a man reading this, it’s worth taking the time to click on the link.
  5. On boundaries which are essential to employ the tools outlined on my hike: I don’t mention boundaries in the video, but I did ask myself on the way home, “what’s missing?” “What else can I share to help folks test these tools in their own lives?” The most powerful tool for me has been to make boundaries, even with the people I love. Here’s one of my favorite short (6 minutes) videos by Brene Brown on that topic. 

I love you.







Crack the Egg: Finding Joy amidst Conflicting Emotions


Lately, I’ve had some painful lessons that have manifested in the most glorious joy. I have to share some of the things that have helped me. If you already live like this, and these insights are not a surprise, I’m so excited for you! Please share and teach me more!

Here’s what I’m covering: how conflicting emotions can exist inside of you and how you can still live with joy. This, my friends, is your ticket out of the nauseating amusement park called “Guilt Shame Judgment Landia.”

If you are reading this on the go, I’m giving you the gift of access to a meditation that helped me to reach this level of happiness. Sheila Pai, of A Living Family, created it. Her work is so comforting. And she created a special page just for us! Once you provide your name and email address, you can download it. You’ll get the meditation in your email box. I enjoy them and hope you do too! (By the way, her Nurturing You book is the kindest, most gentle self-care book I’ve ever enjoyed. I credit it with a lot of my ability to step back without guilt and just be.)


“You’ll always be too out of the box for me.”

One of my favorite blog readers wrote to me after my I Love You More Than a Boy Cheese Sandwich post. She said how happy she was to get back from church and see my email and then told me that I’ll still always be “too out of the box” for her. That was such a great gift. The fact that she is happy to read my words even if she’s not a charter member of my “woo-woo crew,” she can appreciate my love. So dear reader, it’s out of the box for us, and into the bowl!

What’s in your bowl?

So here’s the deal, it’s very, very simple: two things can exist in the same bowl. (Hint: you are the bowl.)

I’ll give you a personal example. During my son’s spring break, I was supposed to visit family. I was so excited to see everyone for Easter. And then my son got sick and we didn’t go. I was sad. And, because I have a lot going on in my life with work, the launch of my book and my impending move across country, I was also relieved.

Pretend I’m a mixing bowl: pour in sadness, relief and happiness too (because I could still be with my husband on Easter). I imagine them as salt, sugar and flour. It’s like when you are blending the dry ingredients in baking.

During this time, I was working with someone on my much deeper issues rooted in fear and courage. And when I was talking with her, I had a strong message to tell her to “crack the egg.” As we are charter members of the same crew, I had no problem telling her that I felt a figure, like a bear, leaning over me saying, “crack the egg, give it to her.” Honestly, at the time, I wanted to turn behind me with my best Philly girl self and say, “Alright already! I’ll tell her. Quit leanin’ over me!”

So I shared what I was told.

I could not get the image out of my head. I made a drawing. It sat unfinished on my floor. I looked at it every day. I pasted the dictionary definitions of “ubicada and desubicada” in the bowl for while. Then I only left “ubicada” because I couldn’t rip it off. The verb, “ubicarse” in Spanish is one of my favorite words. It means “to situate oneself” or some say, “to locate oneself.” When you feel “desubicada,” it’s like feeling out of sorts or discombobulated (another fabulous word).

Then, one morning, I finished my prayer meditation, and sat on the floor looking at the picture. I jumped on Facebook. I watched all of the events in Baltimore, Nepal and much more. And this poem came to me. I wrote it on the canvas.


Trust the Habit of Peace

Trust the habit of peace and unraveling

there is a knowing and a flailing

you are more than the sadness and happiness in this bowl

the ubicada and desubicada

you are the light of a mother in yellow pulling her son with fury out of the fury screaming sunshine amidst the burning

there is rubble in Nepal

Po po pushing for peace

some scared

and pushing our sons

Please now

the bowl of is, and is not, is overflowing


crack the egg

let it flow so we can find courage

prick up our ears

today is the Sabbath

today let us walk barefoot

and remember our piece of creation

your fingers and my fingers are the same

reach for me and let me pull you


You can feel safety again

plant seeds, water

phosphorescent photosynthesis

and open the window of your heart

let these words bring peace

Why Guilt Doesn’t Fit in Your Bowl

It’s tough for me to explain, but if I take that bowl of dry ingredients and crack an egg in it, then start whisking the egg together, it’s actually me. It’s all of me at the same time. It’s life. We can be happy and sad at the same time.

Guess what, here is the bonus insight: you can leave out guilt! Think of guilt as the needless genetically modified chemical-filled ingredient which you don’t want in your bowl anyway.

See, I could feel guilty that my mom bought eight pounds of mouth-watering delicious cheese for my spring break visit because she was excited to see me and I wasn’t there to eat it. (For the full impact of the cheese connection, you can read this post.)

Or, I could just accept what’s in my bowl: the sadness, relief and happiness. My persistent shoulder blade pain can be relieved if I just crack that egg and whisk it all together, accepting what is, while refusing to judge it.

Did you catch that? Let those feelings move through you without judging them. You don’t have to spiral into how you are a bad friend, son, daughter, spouse, parent or human being. And that’s what Sheila Pai’s meditation has helped me to do.

Wait! This just in from the inimitable poet Terry Spencer Edwards. Upon reading this post, she added something so insightful, I had to share: “This is indeed a powerful post. I got so much out of it, my sister. And it reminded me that if you don’t crack the egg, you can never fully bake your potential…and get yourself ready to create the next confection. Forgive the metaphor, but it is powerful to remember that the dry ingredients are good, important, essential, but they change into something else once the egg is cracked…something flowing, something that can rise.”

And that, my friends, is what co-creation is all about. That is why I invited you to teach me.


A few final resources to help you with the stuff in your bowl:

1. This radio show on Synthesis and Synchronicity by Maria Rodriguez was a major factor, as in life-changing, in the way I allow myself to receive and perceive information.

2. These resources about tribal shame, a concept unraveled by Dr. Mario Martinez in his book, The MindBody Code: How to Change the Beliefs that Limit Your Health, Longevity, and Success: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook post about it; Bethany Webster’s article titled The Importance of Enduring Discomfort for the Sake of Transformation.

3. Sheila Pai has created a loving, nurturing space in her A Living Family site. You already know I love her Nurturing You book. I also so wish I could be at her Mindful Mama retreat on May 16. She only has 5 spots left so if you are anywhere near Philly or want to fly there, check it out! She has some a cool e-course on Mindful Communications too. I just love the way she shows up in the world with compassion and connection.

4. Scorpio Moon resources: there are some major planetary shifts going on right now, including a full moon tonight. I enjoyed Carrie Ara Campbell’s comforting post about what to expect during this time. If you find yourself over-reacting or having “old stuff” triggered, it could be that you are sensitive to what’s going on in the world. As a conceptual anchor, it is believed that Buddha actually achieved enlightenment during the Scorpio moon. I also just learned valuable information on a call today from Christina Caudill about the subject. I think you can sign up here to receive the recording of that call. (I also must credit her with the fabulous term “woo-woo crew.”)

Phew! I am going to have to keep this post as a reference for myself because I’m still learning all of this. Thanks for sticking with me.

So, from my bowl to yours, I invite you to crack the egg, baby! It’s life, it’s love and the world needs what’s in your bowl. The world needs YOU! 

You are asking me to swallow the sun…

“Don’t let me down.” Remember that time when you believed that someone held the answer to your happiness? Remember when you had expectations and people met them? Hopefully you grew up with food, shelter and love. Some of us didn’t get all three at the same time. And it was then that don-don-don-doooooon, we were disappointed!

Thus began the hunt for people you could depend upon and trust. Your best friend. Your teacher. Your first love. Your spouse. And then, they showed their humanity, made mistakes and let you down. Now you are self-reliant and subscribe to the best approach: “I”ll just do it myself, it’s faster/better/easier/safer that way.”

Alas, it’s exhausting to live like that, isn’t it?

Expectations: To paraphrase author Elizabeth Gilbert in her TED talk about the weight of creative genius, she said that expecting someone to take responsibility for that genius is like, “asking someone to swallow the sun.” Sometimes the expectations of ourselves and others can feel like that: impossible, and a little dangerous.

As an adult, how can someone else be responsible for your happiness? Or your pain? I woke this morning with a new nightmare. Two people who played a part in a childhood trauma were in it. I confronted the one who played a passive role in the dream. And then I awoke. I could have berated myself for not being over that trauma with an, “I thought we were done with these nightmares!” I took a completely new approach and said, “Thanks God, for the object lesson. I release you, pain. I release this story. I rubbed my neck and stretched my shoulder and went back to bed. And then I thought, it’s time to write to you.

Event + Response = Outcome:  I could choose to carry the pain from the dream or the childhood experience with me in an active way. It could manifest in all kinds of areas and relationships in my life at work, at home, on the bus. Even if it lives in my subconscious, it makes up the parts of me that are more sensitive to those who have gone through something similar. And I’ll quote my friend’s mom, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

I had a wise woman talk to me about a friend who is in a lot of pain. There is nothing more that I can do to help her with that pain. The wise woman told me that she was “externalizing” her pain and that I wasn’t responsible for it. When I woke this morning from the nightmare, I had that experience of knowing whatever happened in the past is in the past and I don’t need to blame those individuals for that pain. I know who was responsible, yet I don’t need to carry the blame, hurt, fear and pain. What I have NOW in my life is joy, knowledge and lotus flower love.

If you are still interacting with people who “cause you pain” because you are related to them or you work for them, you still have a choice about how you react to those individuals. You can feel pain or look at them differently. You only have control over your response and that will impact the outcome. It’s that formula Event + Response = Outcome.

When being right is wrong for you: I think, at times, when my ego bubbles up the fear, it manifests itself in wanting people to do things my way. In having EXPECTATIONS. They need to operate with my rulebook. Because, I’m right. And when they don’t do it my way, when they don’t meet my expectations, they let me down. I’m disappointed. Does any of this sound familiar? Does any of this sound unhealthy? I’m laughing as I write this because it’s a joy to see the fallibility of this theory outlined. Go ahead, reread this paragraph. It’s preposterous!

La-Z-Boy, Bed on the Beach or Massage Chair: As an adult, you are responsible for your pain and your joy. Sometimes, we can externalize that pain and make others responsible for it. “Don’t let me down!” Or better yet, self-flagellation, blaming yourself for not meeting those high expectations–that can be a comfortable place to be. Lots of us know how to sit, wallow and stretch out on the La-Z-Boy of disappointment, pain, fear, hurt, abandonment and betrayal. The upholstery has that familiar orange and olive green pattern from your childhood. It’s soft and worn, the cushion fits your bottom just right. And there’s that adjustable handle you used to play rocketship.

Do we know how to sit in the joy? The happiness? The quiet contentment? What does that chair or bed look like? Make it one of those fabulous beds on the beach that you see featured on the cover of Travel and Leisure. Or make it one of those massage chairs you like to sit in at the airport or at Costco. Only it’s in your living room, a soft italian leather with shiatsu massage and a built-in television and music remote. You can use your visualization in times of crisis, “Where’s my massage chair? Oh it’s over there!” You can also call yourself out and say, “Stop playing rocketship already, this is getting old.”

I’m inviting you to find your place of kindness. Get comfortable. Start with yourself: be kind and forgiving. Then forgive those who let you down. That was then.

You have now. So stretch out, relax and enjoy it.

Rest n Your Joy by Rebecca Villarreal