Marianne Elliott

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The Bravest Yes

Saturday, April 18, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

30 Days of Courage: a guide to bravery in action

Everything that matters takes courage - Marianne ElliottWe get started on our next round of 30 Days of Courage on Monday — and I’d love for you to join us:

Do you wish you could find the courage to do what you really feel called to do? Are you holding a dream or desire that feels too big or scary to act on? Is fear getting in the way of you saying what you really want and need to say?

I made this for you.

A guest post from Christine Mason Miller

This essay was originally published in Skirt! magazine in 2011, and provided the inspiration for a book Christine is currently writing about her family.

I had been mired in angst as my husband’s son’s wedding drew closer. It would be an intimate gathering—only 50 guests—taking place on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, with a week’s worth of sun, surf and celebration leading up to the ceremony. Houses were rented, flights were booked and a taco joint reserved for the rehearsal dinner. A family wedding in paradise—what could be wrong with that? But that was the problem. It was a family wedding, and who was I? No one important—just the dad’s wife.


My husband and I had been together for eight years and married for four, but I had yet to step into the space waiting for me in this family, a step not taken because I didn’t believe the space actually existed. Even if I dared to ponder it as a possibility, I had no faith it was solid, substantive, able to withstand storms. I saw only one inevitable outcome—an immediate splintering at the first sign of trouble, the oasis revealed as a mirage.

It could have happened when I was 12 years old and my parents parted ways, or maybe it was from my own marital demise two decades later. Perhaps it kicked in after my mom’s second divorce, when all the aunts, uncles, and cousins I had grown close to vanished without a trace. No matter what the exact circumstance, the overriding issue was one of experience. Every family I’d known had fallen apart, so by the time I got together with my second husband, I had decided that a family was not something I was meant to have—a fact I accepted quietly, but with fierce, devoted conviction. During intimate whispers before falling asleep or the rare, emotional moments I let my overwhelming sadness over this loss pour out of me, my husband would try to refute my belief again and again: “But this is your family now.”

Really? I’d think, Because I don’t believe you.

My imaginings of what the week in Hawaii would be like were on constant replay: It was me—the dad’s wife—sitting on the sidelines. Family photos with the son, his bride, the mom, and the dad. Toasts made to the parents, acknowledgements made to in-laws. Meaningful glances between daughter-in-law and dad, mother and son. I saw my space in this gathering as separate and lonesome, a dotted line around me everywhere I went, keeping my role as the outsider firmly intact. I braced myself for all the varying levels of exclusion I believed would be part of my story—the only story—throughout our time in Hawaii.

The week arrived, and everyone got settled. Mornings were lazy, the water was perfect, and I relished my first time on a surfboard in years. Each day the group expanded, and every evening got a bit more raucous. I met aunts and in-laws, close friends and cousins. Every introduction an opportunity to test the waters, to see how I would be treated. Not wanting to miss the most subtle slight, the most imperceptible exclusion, I kept my senses on high alert, looking for proof that I was right—that I wasn’t part of this family, that I really didn’t belong.

After a few days of imagining myself as the keen detective, clad in a trench coat with sharpened pencil and tiny, spiral notebook to record the plethora of clues I was convinced I’d find, I suddenly looked down at my little black book and realized that nary a note had been taken. I had been so busy having fun—and being included in every way I could have possibly been included by everyone— that there was no “data” to collect, no need for documentation. Instead of writing down details of all the ways I imagined the dotted line around me was being reinforced, I wrote this:

No one believes you don’t belong here except for one person: You.

This took a little time to sink in, but once I opened myself up to all the clues that were proof of my belonging, the dotted lines vanished and the fuzzy view of my place in this family slowly emerged into focus. Once I made the choice to see myself not through my wounded, defensive lens but through the eyes of everyone around me, I understood where I belonged: right here, with my family. It was revelatory, confounding, and I felt slightly unsteady. But like the waves I was surfing in Hanalei Bay, once the force took hold of me, there was no way to resist its joyful power; all I had to do was stand up, secure my footing, and ride it in to shore, where everyone was waiting, arms open wide.

On the day of the wedding, I woke up early to the sound of our cheerful neighborhood rooster, cackling in celebration of a brand new day as he had done every day that week. As he continued to cluck softly just below our window, bright bursts of sunlight twinkled in and out of our room with each gentle sway of our curtains. As I lay motionless, with my husband’s rhythmic, dreamy breathing in the background, I experienced flashes of doubt—wondering if all I had seen and felt throughout the week was really real. What if it was another façade? What if I had it all wrong? But just as quickly as those questions drifted across my consciousness, another thought wafted in, flipping my doubts inside out to reveal something beautifully, profoundly simple.

I had absolute freedom. I had the ability to choose whatever I wanted. I could keep a tight grip on my laundry list of familial sorrows; I could continue to carry around my sad sack of stories and spill it to anyone who might listen, so they would understand why I had no family, why I didn’t really belong here. People would know my woes, and I could go to my grave clinging to the hollow satisfaction of having proven my theory to the end. I could make that choice.

Or I could let it go, just like that, and, unburdened at last, step into the circle that had embraced me all week long, in the sun and the surf and the joining of two souls. I could make that choice. Right here. Right now.

Could I let it all go? Was it really that easy?



Absolutely yes.

Christine Mason Miller - Marianne ElliottMeet Christine.

Christine Mason Miller is an Author and Artist who lives in Santa Barbara, California. A revised, second edition of her 2008 book Ordinary Sparkling Moments: The Art of Finding Yourself will be published by North Light Books this fall. You can follow her adventures at






Finding the Courage to Stay the Course

Friday, April 17, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

A guest post from Brigitte Lyons

Sitting on my shelf is a book that terrifies me. A gift from my husband, I never made it past the fourth chapter.

I should have read this book. I’m the kind of person that always finishes books, even when they give me nightmares. I waded through Joyce Carol Oates’ We Were the Mulvaneys, which should come with a trigger warning. I read Stephen King’s Pet Sematary and Christine when I was 13, setting myself up for a lifetime of low-level anxiety.

But this book, which sits so innocently on my shelf and boasts the label, “National Bestseller. The book EVERY small-business owner should own,” stopped me in my tracks.

Beyond Bravery

Thursday, April 16, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

A guest post from Natalya Pemberton

I must have been about twelve years old. A blonde kid in a bathing suit, at the top of a tower on a gorgeous, Sydney summer day. A man gave me a plastic board with hand-holds in the sides. “Sit on the board, lean forward, and don’t let go.” I did as he said, heart racing. I looked down as water rushed over the steep incline. Wondered whether I could really do this. I’d barely made the waterslide’s height limit. I’d never been up this high before. What if I accidentally let go, or sat up, or fell off? I absolutely wasn’t ready. But the attendant was, and there was a line of people behind me, waiting. I tightened my grip on the plastic board and pushed off. Scared, but doing it.

The Courage of Conviction — Or Lack Thereof

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

A guest post from Tara Gentile

“We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved,” wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Tegel Prison. Bonhoeffer had faced over a year imprisoned by the Nazis for conspiring against Hitler and the Third Reich. He was a pastor, a theologian, and a committed pacifist.

He had the courage to risk his principles for the good of people who would come after him. In doing so, he shook his own belief system to the core. In his own “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” moment, he decided to do so that others might have the chance to live in a world not plagued by mass slaughter. Eventually, he paid the ultimate price.

The courage to begin again

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

A guest post from Laura Calandrella

I walked out on to the deck and took a seat in one of the lounge chairs.

It was a beautifully sunny day and I knew I could easily blend in with the sunbathers at the edge of the pool. No one would suspect why I was actually there.

The minutes ticked by, each one bringing me closer to the first swim practice I had been to in 10 years.

If we were anything, we were honest.

Monday, April 13, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

A guest post from Laurie Wagner In 2005, when my oldest daughter was 10 years old, she and her little sister were sitting in the back of my husband’s truck while he stepped into the store for milk. Leaving them alone in the car wasn’t the worst thing that happened in the five minutes that […]

The Moment Courage Stepped into My Life

Saturday, April 11, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

A guest post from Ryan Sallans The room felt as if it were shaking up and down until there was gentle pressure placed on the top of my knee. I looked down to see a brown leather shoe holding me in place, anchoring me to the moment. The shoe belonged to my therapist, who was […]

I went into the fire. We all did.

Friday, April 10, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

A guest post from Maya Stein A few months after my 40th birthday, I inherited two teenage boys. Let me explain. In May 2012, I fell in love, quite unexpectedly, with a woman who lived three states away. We had been casual friends for a few years, and had only recently gotten closer. I was […]

The Old Skin

Thursday, April 9, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

A guest post from Laura Simms “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” ― Joseph Campbell But what if the old skin doesn’t want to come […]

The Courage to Disconnect

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

A guest post from Leslie Forman 11pm, Monday night. I’m lying in bed after a long and stressful day, scanning through my phone one last time before I turn off the lights. An email from my boss pops up with a short but fundamental question: What’s the rationale for the way you’re organizing the website […]

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