A Whole New Year


I turned 45 last week. As I stand smack in the middle of my 40s, I can tell you with honesty and humility, this decade has made a liar out of me. Over and over and over again. Things I said I would never do, I have done. Things I swore would never happen, have happened. Things I thought so solid, so sure, so certain . . . not so much anymore. Paradoxically, this pattern of untruth has led me to place where I am beginning to embrace my truest self. Forty-five finds me on the brink of a new adventure: I’m going back to school to earn my certification in spiritual direction. And no one is more surprised by this turn of events than I am!

I left the academic world in 1996. I left the professional world in 2001. Never, ever, in a million years, did I think 2015 would find me returning to both. This blog has been a safe space for me to chronicle this transition. From turning 44, to going to Wyoming, to figuring out homeschooling, everything seemed to be pushing me to reconcile who I was with who I wanted to be.

Writing from Wholeness was a watershed in this process. When I published the first post of that series back in June, my dear friend Emmie (who I am lucky to know in real life) left me a comment that literally changed my life. It was short and to the point: “I really think that you should be a spiritual director.” When I read her words, I honestly felt an alignment in my body that was so strong, it felt physical. My whole body said “YES!” I had no choice but to listen.

I have been in spiritual direction for over three years, yet I still stumble over the words when I am asked to explain what exactly it is. “Soul companioning”, “sacred conversation”, “deep listening”, “holy witnessing” are all phrases that have been used to describe the relationship between a director and a directee. (And just to confuse matters further, some in the profession eschew the word “direction” and all its derivatives entirely.) Suffice to say, it is a subtle practice that is nonetheless a powerful practice which “supports, test, and encourages our direct relationship with God and the truth of our own souls. It helps us to risk embracing the often disorienting transformations that emerge from becoming vulnerable to the most subtle yet substantial reality of our lives: our soul-life in God.” Or so says Tilden Edwards, author of Spiritual Director, Spiritual Companion.

Having an inspired experience via the internet and making it happen in real life are two totally different things. But once I had the vision of myself as a spiritual director, I could finally channel all that transitional energy into something concrete. The past six months have grown me in ways I didn’t even know I needed to be grown. I have been forced to clarify what exactly it is I want. I have had to figure out what I was willing to give and give up to go back to school. Late last year, I was accepted into this program and have already started my studies. (Hello ten-page papers! Hello required reading!) It feels scary and exciting and absolutely delicious.

Speaking of delicious . . . I cancelled my birthday cake order with Vincent, because I found this recipe for no-bake coconut cookies. All I can say is, they are better than the best chocolate cake in the world, which is saying a lot. A whole lot. However, as I have said before, I have been known to lie . . .

27 thoughts on “A Whole New Year

  1. I’m so thrilled for you, Sheila. Gives me faith that if we truly listen to ourselves, we’ll find the answer we’ve always needed to know…and the answer for us that’s right at the current time in our lives. You’re gonna rock being a spiritual advisor!

    • You really hit the nail on the head. I was writing in my journal this morning about it has been such of journey of showing up as exactly who I am – for better or for worse and how this is both the easiest thing in the world and the hardest. But how I keep getting confirmation in this along the way. Yesterday I found out about mentor at the Haden Institute (this is the person who will be guiding us through the certification process). She has a really cool bio that ends with the line, “Her passion is exploring the intersection between creativity and spirituality.” I just started crying.

      This feels so right.

  2. Dear Sheila,
    Your course sounds wonderful. I am a closet Jungian (I’ve read lots of books and saw a Jungian therapist for a year) and I love dreamwork, so it is very appealing to me…Goodness, between this and your equine enlightenment I am feeling very envious of the way your life is evolving :-) How exciting. If you ever have time you might like the book “Healing and Wholeness” by John A Sanford. I read it about 20 years ago and remember it really resonated with me.
    I guess you won’t have much time for blogging – or will your blog become more about your new journey (or, new journey = new blog?)?
    Will you continue to homeschool? I have to admit I’m struggling at the moment. First week back for us and I really didn’t get a break this summer as we had relatives here for 3 weeks (nice, but not very restful LOL), then throw in Christmas and planning my new year and the six week school holiday was GONE! So I am dragging my feet and wondering why on earth I chose this path….but I’ll get over it :-) I probably feel this way this time every year!
    Blessings to you, Cathy x

    • Hey Cathy,
      Great to hear from you!

      A closet Jungian? My, my. You just get more and more intriguing to be. And for the first time, I wish we lived closer. I will record that book title. Thanks.

      Blogging . . . yes . . . I’m letting it evolve. I feel like this blog (and me!) has been in transition over the past year. So much less about homeschooling, so much more about the inner work process. I have a post percolating about this. I still like blogging – the writing and as a way of keeping in touch with people. I just need to be free enough to let it be whatever it wants to be that day. So, Yes, it will be about me new journey. But I’m not sure how this will look exactly. I may lose readers and I may gain readers. But the number of readers has never been what it’s been about for me.

      I know that feeling of not feeling like you’ve had a break with the schooling. We have moved to a time limit system for the day. We do school from about 10am to about noon and then we are done. For the most part this is focused time and we are all attentive to schoolwork. This feels doable and also lets me feel like I am doing something more than homeschooling with my day. So yes, we are continuing to homeschool, just differently. It feels good.

      Love to you!

  3. Good for you for pursuing your heart. I am 35 and find myself in an uncomfortable spot and very much at odds with myself about continuing down the homeschooling path or pursuing a second career. I want both, but I think I would be doing both things poorly if I tried to do them at the same time. I keep telling myself to be patient, that there’s time for another chapter later in life. I guess I have been hoping for that moment of clarity and alignment you described, but so far that hasn’t happened. Maybe I need a spiritual director! ;)

    • Hey Annie!!
      I hear you. The most important part for me was acknowledging the feeling that I wanted more from my days. This wasn’t easy!! But once I could say that out loud, things shifted. I didn’t know what it was that I wanted exactly, it was just “more than just homeschooling” – and not getting caught up in guilt for wanting more. I know if I had had this feeling 10 years ago, I would have ignored it until I was so resentful, I could picture myself just losing it one day and making a big bonfire of everything and anything that had to do with homeschooling. (ask me how I know this!!) Self-awareness is the difference. Inner work is the difference. Seeing those little signs (less patience, more yelling) and looking at what’s underneath them.

      I don’t say the 10 year thing to draw attention to age – I just know I did not have the insight into myself then that I do know. My advice is to get quiet and see what voices speak. Then listen to them. As hard as that is, let them have their say. And then see where it goes from there.

      Good luck to you and keep in touch!

    • Hey Annie,
      I was thinking about your comment again while I was in the shower (hope that’s not TMI, LOL) Anyway, I heard a great conversation that addressed the issue of wanting to start a business/career in order to justify doing something you love. Now, I don’t know if this fits into your equation one bit, but I do find the relationship between the two interesting. The conversation is also about practice and projects and is just fascinating. Here is the link http://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WQj5GgsL

      • Not TMI at all LOL :) So much great stuff for me to chew on here – thank you. And thanks for the link. I think the question about whether pursuing a career is a way of justifying doing something you love is a hugely helpful question for me to be asking. For me, I’m feeling very drawn to becoming a nutritionist but am not actually sure if I just want to pursue more *knowledge* about nutrition or whether I really want to commit to the realities of being back in the workforce. I need to let myself off the hook in the thinking that if I go back to school then that means I’m eventually going to go back to work (to justify the expense of the school). But, yes, I really really really am wanting more from my days. And I need to let go of feeling guilty about that. There are elements of Waldorf that I love and that have brought a lot of peace to my home, especially for my five-year-old, who really needed it. But there are other parts of Waldorf that feel very stifling to me. Thanks for letting me talk it out. I’d love to continue this conversation with you if you’re open to it.

  4. Congratulations! Life’s twists and turns are there for a reason. We are a bit North of Niagara Falls ( I had to read the site link). I look forward to reading about your new path.

  5. I remember reading Emmie’s comment and thinking, but of course! The trick really is getting quiet and listening. Reaching our 40s and having our kids get older really begs for some soul searching. I’m convinced that as Moms, we all need to find our own work that we are passionate about, otherwise those young-ins move on and we’re left feeling empty. I’ve seen it happen to too many wonderful mothers. So you are right on track! That doesn’t make it any easier, but I truly believe it’s a natural part of human development, Your time to share your gifts with the world. Happy Birthday to you! And thanks for sharing so eloquently here. (The no-bake coconut snowballs are on my list of things to make this weekend!)

    • Yes to all you said, but really, it is all about the coconut snowballs!! I didn’t know if you were doing any sweetener at all, but the combination of the maple syrup and the coconut butter? To. Die. For. AND coconut butter is on sale at vita cost right now. (Need to place my order before leaving for TX.) I just made a second batch of this little devils and didn’t dip them in the chocolate. As I was eating the dough straight from the food processor (ahem) I thought it would be a great alternative to cream cheese – even w/o the syrup. With the syrup, it would be great on pancakes and the like.

      It is from GNOFGLINS – or however you spell it. I got a membership to their site with one of the bundles and need to make more use of it.

      5 DAYS!!!!

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  8. Hi Shelia!

    Ok, so, it seems a little random commenting in July on a post from February, but I was searching for some info on the Haden Institute and the rabbit hole lead me here (which is funny because I’m a subscriber to your blog, but must have missed the post about Haden in the first place!).

    Anyway, I’ve been seriously considering applying to the Spiritual Director program at Haden and am on the hunt for more info than the website gives. Would you be open to answering a question or two about your experience so far?

    Thank you for this wonderful blog! I really enjoy your candor, vulnerability and creativity. My husband, daughter and I just moved to Asheville and we Waldorf(ish) homeschool. Reading your blog makes me feel like I actually know someone here as we settle into this new town and life. It’s comforting. :)

    Many thanks!


    • Wow, Kerri! I got chills when I read this.

      Absolutely. I would love to talk about the Haden Institute. When I applied last year, it was so helpful to speak to someone who had real life experience with the program. Want to talk on the phone or in person? Either sounds good to me. Why don’t you email me and we can set something up? slpetruccelli@charter.net.

      Looking forward to it – wow – more than you can imagine.

      • Thank you for the quick and enthusiastic reply, Shelia! I’ll email you this afternoon to set up a time to chat. I’m really looking forward to it as well.

        Spent a good deal of time last night catching up on what I’ve missed over here. Oh boy, do your recent posts resonate! Your posts about your homeschooling journey this past year gave me permission to take a much needed deep breath and start thinking about things in a new way. A comment somewhere along the way struck me – it was about coming to Waldorf in your 30s/40s and wondering if its more for mama or child. THAT struck a huge chord – so big I started crying (um, its so much more for mama than child over here it would seem). Looking forward to talking about however much your comfortable sharing about all of this, too. Thank you for opening up about as much as you have.


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