Trust – Self-betrayal, Stockholm syndrome and the Allure of poisoned chalice

“It is better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of one you don’t.” – Stephen Kellogg


The Betrayal begins with you

Trust – “one in which confidence is placed, belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, as a condition of some relationship (2) :  something committed or entrusted to one to be used or cared for in the interest of another, dependence on something future or contingent; assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary


Like most Americans, I have spent my life following the rules, chasing “the American Dream – a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work.”

Being an immigrant means taking attaining “the American dream” to a stratospheric level!  Most immigrants come to America to exceed all expectations of  ”life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. That usually means you have 4 or 5 options to consider as occupations.

Doctor. Lawyer. Architect. Accountant. Engineer.

Understandably  so.


Many go through tragedies, hardships and untold suffering to reach the United States. Financial security and success is of the utmost importance. At all costs, one must attain the upward social mobility and assimilation many desire, and be able to afford better opportunities and  lives for the next generation.

The thing is, we sometimes hold these dreams so tightly that  we are willing to sacrifice our ideals, our core values for the dreams we want. We betray our own trust as a result. And we allow our trust  to be usurped by those who hold the promise of our dreams.

This is self-betrayal.


Things get sssslippery with the  Stockholm syndrome:

“Trusssst in me…  Jusssst in me,

Close your eyessss, Trusssst in me… ”

(the Python’s Song) –  Kaa, the Snake

– Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book


First, the self-betrayal. We tell these lies to ourselves to rationalize the abuse we take for our dreams. We betray ourselves, our ideals, our loved ones… Then, pretending like things are okay when they aren’t. Hiding in shame. Wearing masks.

I have been thinking a lot  about Stockholm syndrome…  “a form of traumatic bonding,  which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other. The victim irrationally has positively feelings for the perpetrator including empathy and sympathy to the point of identifying with them, defending them or refusing to testify against them. “

Stockholm Syndrome gives you a false sense of  the loyalty and belonging… you feel honored for being chosen. You are special.You have been conferred with the honor of being selected – surely they are doing you a favor with the abuse.

Saying great things about the abusive bosses and work situations,  we defend them, rationalizing their behavior… We think “perhaps if I perform better they would be nicer…”  And when they occasionally refrain from abuse,  we see it as a form of kindness…

We award our trust to the undeserving…


The  fatal allure of  The poisoned chalice 

Then the rewards come…

That beautiful, mysterious, powerful poisoned chalice arrives and we thirstily drink… so desperate for approval, so deprived of affection…

We drink…

Power. Status. Acclaim. Fame. Money.

The poisoned chalice we drink is “a scheme or instrument for causing death or harm, especially one which eventually brings about the downfall of its creator; something which is initially regarded as advantageous but which is later recognized to be disadvantageous or harmfulsomething that harms the person it is given to although it seemed very good when they first got it.”

So, you drink the chalice.

What is your poisoned chalice? What compromises do you regret? What dreams have you buried?

What disconnects us from our ideals? What disconnects us from our inner compasses? What makes us comfortable with being exploited and taken for granted?

No wonder you feel drained. No wonder you feel as if you are dying. No wonder you have insomnia, the palpitations, the panic attacks.

You are being poisoned.

Thankfully, there is an antidote.



The Antidote – Trust as a foundation for Healthy Boundaries 

We join the rat race hoping to get somewhere. But, we are stuck in the hamster wheel, running, wearing ourselves out.

But you can choose to stop. This moment.

In life, suffering is inevitable. But I have decided I would rather suffer doing something I love than doing something I don’t.

“I would rather be at the bottom of the ladder doing something I love, that at the top doing something I don’t”…

No, I am not asking you to quit the job. But I am asking you to stop mentally.

Re-discover your why.  What are your core ideals? What is important to you? Why are you taking the abuse? How are you rationalizing the madness?

In Boundaries, Henry Cloud talks about the reversal of boundaries among those who have been violated or exploited. They keep the bad in and the good out. In healthy  relationships, boundaries keep the good people in and the bad out.

In order to maintain healthy boundaries, one has to become very acquainted with one’s value and have a strong foundation of supportive relationships. Then one can have a solid footing to remove the unhealthy toxic relationships for their lives.

Spend some time getting reacquainted with yourself. Get to know yourself again – get connected with your values, your hopes, your dreams… Get reacquainted with your Creator. Ask for help and support from healthy friends.

When you have a strong footing, dig deep and commit to cultivating trust in all your relationships. This will mean letting go of toxic relationships and settings. Trust that the Divine will take care of you!


Cultivating Trust:

1.In whom do you trust? Do you trust yourself?

2. Whose life are you living? Are you pursuing your own dreams?

3. What dreams have you buried? What dreams have you discarded?

4.  Do you identify with any parts of  Stockholm syndrome?

5. What do you need? Can you identify your antidote? Can you list Your core ideals?

6. From what poisoned chalice are you drinking? What red flags are you ignoring?

7. Whom can you enlist in your quest to find your own ladder?


Trust the Divine. Trust yourself. And trust healthy others. Cultivating this trust helps sharpen the intuition and discernment necessary to live your ideals, live your calling and change the world. Dare to trust! See you next time!

Yvonne Whitelaw writes for where she blogs about her quest to grow into her ideals in her “Live Your Ideals Project”. By sharing her lessons along the way (every Monday and Thursday), she hopes to serve and inspire a tribe of wholehearted warriors like you, to “live your ideals, live your calling and change the world.”

Alignment – Wholeness, Authenticity and Belonging while doing a FLIP

“Align what you do with who you are and you will become what you need to be.” – Jonathan Fields


It starts with Alignment:

Several months ago, I started Live Your Ideals Project with one question. “What would happen if I lived what I truly believed and aligned my life with my core ideals?”

That question became a quest to figure out how to be myself, be truly authentic in this world and has set me on a completely new path.

You know my story.

I am a Renaissance woman. A woman of eclectic talents, varied interests and skills. This has been a source of judgment and angst for me. I often admired and envied people who knew the one thing they were good at and stuck with it.

But doing this blog has set me on a path of self-acceptance, new experiences, deepened faith, a clearer worldview and the  courage to pursue long-held, even discarded and buried dreams.

I discovered that I had been living in compartments. I wrote about this in Integrity – Bringing all of who you are in service to the world.  Yes, I was authentic in each compartment, but I was fragmented. I showed up as different parts of me, depending on where I was.

Earlier this year, I found myself yelling at God, very frustrated because I didn’t know how I was going to integrate all the seemingly contradictory parts of my life. I was tired of fragmenting. I wanted God to send me my people instead of constantly finding myself marginalized because I didn’t fit in.  I needed to do something.

So I did a FLIP.  A Full Life Integration Project.


Belonging and doing a FLIP at Camp GLP:

A few weeks ago, I attended camp GLP (Good Life Project) hosted by Jonathan Fields, whose work has deeply impacted my life.  This was  “a summer camp for makers, entrepreneurs and  world-shakers.” Considering the fact that I had been away from medicine and public health for a few years and my path seemed to headed in a different direction, I needed new tools, strategies and skills to help me thrive in this new world. So, I was excited.

In addition to workshops and career frameworks  from acclaimed experts, the camp ad promised connection, a safe space for authenticity and vulnerability and fun. Right up my alley!

I showed up with one goal – Be myself… Fully, authentically, all of me.

Brene Brown talks about fitting in versus belonging. Fitting in requires changing who you are to be accepted. Belonging means being accepted the way you are. Being at camp GLP was one of the few times in my life I felt like I truly belonged. I didn’t have to fit in.

The perfect place for a FLIP.

Camp GLP was the testing ground for my FLIP.  I came with one question. “What would happen if I showed up fully, as myself?” ALL of me. Not Fragments. Not composites . No edits.

Have you thought about this? What would happen if you brought  all the parts you had fragmented? What would happen if you showed  up fully as yourself? Own your  story? All of it, instead of telling acceptable fragments?

What ensued at camp GLP changed me.

During encounters, workshops and presentations,  I heard my beliefs, my values, my worldviews articulated and echoed over and over. I routinely heard ideas I held dear but had never heard verbalized.

I knew I had found my tribe.

People shared ideas such as living aligned with virtues (you know my take on that!), making time for what’s important,  and mind blowing quotes such as “when you align the essence of who you are,  with deliberate action, with what you believe, you become a beacon, you radiate, people are drawn to you. Deeply embrace who you are.” (Jonathan Fields).

I even heard the term “full life integration”! (Kristopher Carter)

I felt magnetic and electrified. I was surrounded by the most incredibly wise, loving, and fun people… our hearts were open and we connected quite easily in  deep soul-stirring ways. I was bowled over by the belonging and connection I experienced.

I got to connect with people whose work I had followed for a very long time… Jonathan Fields. Jadah Sellner and Jen Hansard of Simple Green Smoothies. I got to personally thank Scott Dinsmore (and his wife, Chelsea), someone I deeply admire and whose Live your Legend blog reconnected me with the positive, fun, idealistic and friendly part of me I had discarded during my medical training.  I also found new experts I loved – Kristopher Carter, Cynthia Morris, John Lee Dumas, Rachel Gogos, Dr. Chris

I was a member of the Green Team (Go Green!) for the color wars and we were a fierce group of wholehearted warriors who tore apart the competition (at least as I remember it!) with games, tugs-of-war, hula hooping and races.

Authenticity, Wholeness  and Full life integration:

I experienced the full life integration I had been seeking. In all the parts of myself that were disjointed and had to be kept separate, I showed up fully. And I experienced connection and belonging as I authentically showed up and integrated each part. Such as:

Musician: I had spent most of my life running from music. At camp GLP, I ran to the music. I ran to a group of strangers playing music on a porch, immediately became the percussionist and found myself in a new band, Scotty and the Porchettes (Debbie, Greg, Scotty and David, Sherill and Jeffery). We collaborated and over 4 fun challenging hours wrote lyrics to “Camp GLP” to the tune of “Country Roads” which we performed at the talent show.  I also overcame paralyzing fear and played a cover of “Times Like These”.  I also spent a fantastic afternoon jamming in a fun garage band (with Eric, Greg, Jen, Ganesh, Jason, David, Phil, Jason and many others) led by a kindred soul, time bender and meditation maestro,  Kristopher Carter.

Global Citizen – I had deep  Conversations with fellow Third Culture friends such as Carolon and Marsha Shandur about life and belonging, travel and identity. We had bonded over similar experiences including growing up in cultures different from our parents and carving out our own unique identities.

Physician and Public health Advocate – During one of the sessions, I got to share my concern about high Physician suicide rates and  my passion for helping health professionals thrive. I have made it my mission to bring positive psychology coaching and daring way facilitation to physicians and other helping professionals who are either in crisis, or burning out or completely out of alignment with their ideals and living unsustainable lives. Camp GLP was the first time I said this mission publicly.

Positive Psychology Coach – Emiliya was one of my inspirations for getting trained as coach in positive psychology, so seeing her at camp GLP was an unexpected treat! I had fun walking in the rain, listening to Marsha review her storytelling piece in preparation for the talent show and being a safe, positive space for art.   On the ride home with Bill  who was headed to Baltimore,  I got to do what I love most. Bill and I had a terrific time coming up with solutions through my strategic coaching and Daring Way teaching.

Daring Way Facilitator : I am a huge Brene Brown Fan  and I bonded with several people who had read her books and taken her ecourses. I am a certified Daring Way Facilitator and it was wonderful to be around people who believe in this work on vulnerability, connection, wholeheartedness and shame resilience. At the talent show, some of us hung out at the back of the room doing power poses and  writing permission slips.

Humanitarian – I am passionate about service – a core ideal for me.  I spent a fun afternoon Making dream boxes for underprivileged children,  packing gifts and supplies into a shoe box (I decorated it myself!) to be shipped to a child in Chicago.

Jesus Devotee – I really enjoyed connecting with new friends discussions about faith – Carolon, Amy Yvonne, Matt Hilton… As a passionate Christian who dances, meditates, loves laughter yoga and really enjoys connecting with people of diverse religious backgrounds, I felt especially at home at camp GLP.

Working Mother: I really enjoyed talking about balancing work and motherhood with Stephanie Fields and Jamie Johnson.

Friend: Deep Soul connections with Lisa, Ann, Zen, Sherrill, Michel, Greg, Jeffrey, Susan, Marsha…


Your strength is in your FLIP alignment

These experiences are not listed as an exercise in Humble-brag. I have really struggled with reconciling my crunchy granola bohemian, nerdy scientist, truth telling activist, devoted worshiper, hard rocker, international, progressive yet conservative, non-conformist yet community-loving identities and interests.

I listed those experiences as an exercise in Gratitude.

Yes, I have many roles. It has been tough to keep them separate. I have no idea where I will end up.

I have no idea.

I have made a lot of mistakes, and I faced a lot of consequences as a result. Debt. Failure. Pain. Suffering.

But One thing I know – Nothing is wasted. I am very grateful for all of my experiences and I learn from them.

I am not going to pretend to be something I am not. I don’t have all the answers. But I trust that all will be well and I intend keep moving forward.

I choose to be fully aligned with who I am. And I truly believe that because life has purpose,  if I stay aligned with my ideals and fully integrate all that I am with what I do, everything will fall into place.

The other day, as I was writing this post at the local library,  I met a man named Theo. When he heard about this blog post topic, he offered his perspective. He described the different talents, skills and facets of our lives as strands which have to be woven together.

I wholeheartedly agree.

I really believe that bringing all that you are, and fully integrating these roles, gifts, talents and interests by weaving them together makes your life one strong braid.

You can bring the musician, the traveler, the accountant, the physician, the public health worker, the writer, the poet, the global citizen, the mother, the wife, the friend, the activist, the bleeding heart, the gardener, the sculptor, the attorney to one place.

You can weave these strands together to form a good, fulfilling and impactful life.

If you wonder whether there is a place for you, ask yourself if you are bringing all of you. Chances are, you won’t know where you truly belong unless you bring all of you…

So,  this is where I am.  Where are you?

We are on this journey together. So, how do we find our way in this world?

By doing FLIPs.  By living fuller, more integrated lives and as Jonathan Fields says, “by using being ‘lit-up’ as a metric of success.”

So, what are you waiting for? Go on, do a FLIP!


 Cultivating Alignment

1. What parts of yourself are you hiding? How are you playing small?

2. What are you afraid of? What is keeping you fragmented?

3. What do you need? Really? How can you live a more integrated life?

4. Whom can you enlist for a FLIP support?

5. Who needs your support in living a more integrated life? Can you help them?

6. What is remaining fragmented and out of alignment costing you?

7. What action can you take right now to get into alignment with your values? With who you truly are?


WE are strongest when the many strands of our lives are woven together. Instead of using only certain gifts, why not use all? The world needs your light. Shining your light illuminates others and gives them permission to shine theirs. Shine on!

Leave your comments below. See you next week!


Yvonne Whitelaw writes for where she blogs about her quest to grow into her ideals in her “Live Your Ideals Project”. By sharing her lessons along the way (every Monday and Thursday), she hopes to serve and inspire a tribe of wholehearted warriors like you, to “live your ideals, live your calling and change the world.”


Creativity – The Gift of Consistent Imperfect Action

“Unexpressed creativity is never benign…” – Brene Brown

I am a recovering perfectionist. For most of my life, Perfectionism  stopped me from sharing my creativity with the world.

I am currently transitioning through a processing phase after an intense time of growth and expansion in my life.  So, it is tempting for me to disappear instead of showing up to create something.  Many creative endeavors have been aborted because of my fear of what people would think, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of imperfection, the fear of being ordinary…

I am letting go of all of that. As a wholehearted warrior, I have to show up in the Arena, and allow my creativity to be seen. I have to bravely throw down the gauntlet and say ‘here I am’.

So, on a lark, a month ago, I decided I was going to tweet a haiku a day. Other than the 5,7,5  syllabic pattern, I knew nothing about haiku. I was also completely new to twitter. My desire to tweet a haiku a day was totally spontaneous. I had started a twitter account as a pledge to use my voice the day Maya Angelou died. And I am just realizing the irony that she was a poet. It never occurred to me!

So far I have tweeted Haikus about the mundane, the sublime, the highs and the lows… anything goes…

I show up daily and say to perfectionism “not today”. It helps with the fear of judgment… I just show up, yes imperfectly, but I show up and do the work.

Today’s short blog is a love offering… I hope it inspires you to go create something – anything.

Here are a few Haikus I’ve written so far. I will compile them somewhere on this site. You can also follow the twitter hashtags: #yvonnetrieshaiku #100daysofHaiku

Enjoy! Then go create something.

My first haiku:
“A haiku a day
My desire to twitter
So this is my first.”

a few others:

“Dare to shine your light!
Darkness doesn’t stand a chance
Show up and be seen.”

“Beauty so profound
The sound of children singing
Healing to my soul.”
“World domination.
Chris Guillebeau inspires.
Then hands you baton.”

@DennishaPratt #mommaneeds
“Breakfast!” Scream my girls.
Pounce with glee, awaken me.
Only 6 o’clock!

Quiet library.
A blast of the song “Happy”
sends his blues away.


Choosing gratitude,
when fear beckons and taunts me.
I know joy is near!

#campGLP #transition #withdrawal
Reentry from space.
Status quo impossible
While trailing stardust.

Sometimes your spark goes out
Get around Kindred fires
You’ll ignite again!

Rise from your slumber.
Create. Connect. Celebrate.
Don’t go back to sleep.

Dived into portal.
Discovered utopia,
Returned immortal.

Open heart, blue sky
Trees whispering to the wind

New friends rocking out
An impromptu garage band
Good times with KC

Loved camp GLP,
Dared to be me, now I see
My soul has found home

Sometimes life sends you
Portals to your desires
Be brave and dive in!

Hard conversations
are rarely fun to practice,
but worth the effort.

Sometimes the phone rings
It’s exactly who you need.
And the healing starts…

At Destiny’s ledge
Jumping off wholeheartedly.
The net will appear.

Put me in a box?
Ha! That box does not exist!
What a waste of time!


Have a fantastic week!


Yvonne Whitelaw writes for where she blogs about her quest to grow into her ideals in her “Live Your Ideals Project”. By sharing her lessons along the way (every Monday and Thursday), she hopes to serve and inspire a tribe of wholehearted warriors like you, to “live your ideals, live your calling and change the world.”


Joy (Part 3) – Daring to Unleash Your Song and Dance

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”  – Rumi



This is one of  my core ideals.

I was always the bubbly one. Easy dimples flashing. I played hard. A tomboy. Ever giggling, laughing hard,  running as fast as I could.

I was one of those blessed with a high joy set point. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel things. It was that in spite of my circumstances, I could always see a silver lining.

And then, life began to happen.

Darkness began to creep in. My life was full of secrets. Fear and negativity began to overtake me.

Tragedy. Hardships. Abandonment.

Exploitation. Betrayals. Insecurity.

Each left their mark. The smiles grew dimmer. The glimmer replaced by a furtive look.

I know I am in trouble when I go for a long time without smiling – in fact during residency, I went 6 months without a smile!

But Joy saved me over and over again.

I love that Brene Brown in her book ” Gifts of Imperfection” talks about letting go of our need to be cool and cultivating song and dance. These are my two favorite things to do.  As a kid I could be found in front of the class, dancing, singing, entertaining my audience – I mean, my poor classmates!

Dance was my first love as a child.   I dance with complete abandon – “like no one is watching”. Turn on some great music and I just dance. I can’t help myself.

It is the one of the few activities in which I find that  I am truly free and actually in bliss.  Another is performing music – singing and playing guitar.

I have found myself a few times this year, surrounded by strangers at  conferences (World Domination Summit) dancing my head off, or rocking out in a talent show on guitar (camp GLP). I have accepted this fact – it’s  when I feel most like myself.

Life is short.

When was the last time you danced with glee? Who cares if you “don’t have rhythm”? The truth is, everyone has rhythm… you have a heart beating within you. Well, that’s rhythm!

I spent most of my life hating my voice. Now I realize I wasted a lot of time wishing for another voice when I should have used the one I had. I am making up for lost time. It can be tough to find the courage to use my voice. But I am surrounded by those who encourage me to use it and that takes the pressure off.

After spending decades running away from music, I choose to face the music. Actually, nowadays, I run to the music.

Last term, I brought a guitar to my daughter’s class and sang from three  “Pete the Cat” books. What fun to be surrounded by 14 six-year-olds singing – “I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes!”

Some  like to sing in the shower… Who hasn’t belted “All by myself ” by  Celine Dion in the car?

One of my favorite movie scenes is in  “To Rome with Love”  in which an ordinary man is discovered to have an beautiful operatic singing voice in the shower. But he can only sing in the shower.  So the shower stall is brought to the stage for his performances.

You don’t have to wait until you are happy before you dance or sing. Dancing and singing  will make you happy.

Some confuse joy for flakiness, polyannish oblivion, nonchalance and ignorance.

But, it takes a lot of courage to be joyful. It takes guts to stare at hard situations, mind-numbingly challenging  conundrums and say, “I choose joy. I choose to dance. I choose to sing.”

Yes, it helps to acknowledge tough, dreary situations. But research has shown that getting into a positive state helps you harness creativity for problem solving. I have experienced this again and again.

Creating space for joy means creating space for creative solutions.

Next time you feel stuck, ask yourself the following questions.

What brings me joy? What makes me laugh out loudly? Do I dance enough? When was the last time I sang out?

One of my favorite people in the bible is King David. He was a musician. In fact, he danced so hard that he danced his clothes off! How awesome is that? My kind of guy!

Let’s get rid of the straitjackets and let loose.

Time to celebrate!

Ready to dance?
Cultivating Joy through Song and Dance:
1. When was the last time you really let loose? In the shower? On the Dance floor?
2. What is holding you back? What are you afraid of? What is your shower stall? Bring it with you!
3. Feeling stuck? What can you do right now to get into a more positive state?
4. What is your favorite music? Create a playlist.
5. Have you ever created original music or dance? Can you learn any of your favorite dances or songs?
6. Do you know anyone who dances or sings freely? Can you enlist this person for a song and dance session?
7. How can you cultivate a joyful practice in your life? What can you do consistently starting today?

Dare to sing and dance like no one is watching. Guess what? No one is really paying any attention. Most people are self-absorbed anyway. Why not have a go at it? I hope you dance!

Would love to hear from you! Leave your responses below! See you next time.

Yvonne Whitelaw writes for where she blogs about her quest to grow into her ideals in her “Live Your Ideals Project”. By sharing her lessons along the way (every Monday and Thursday), she hopes to serve and inspire a tribe of wholehearted warriors like you, to “live your ideals, live your calling and change the world.”





Joy (Part 2) – Daring to Play for Delight’s sake

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.”― Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

When was the last time you played? I mean, really played with abandon?

I spend a lot of time on playgrounds. As a stay-at-home mom, I sometimes find myself dictatorial and militant with my playground rules.

“No, don’t do that!” “Hey! Be careful!” “Stop running. You’ll fall and break your neck. (or teeth… or poke your eye out)”.

What a party pooper!

When I learned about the importance of play as an avenue for cultivating joy, I decided to loosen up. Yes, I am mother to some fearless kids who give me palpitations with their daring feats on the playground. But, this is what play is about.

Delight. Freedom. Adventure.

I love the squeals of laughter that permeate the playground. I love the explorations, the excavations, the innovations.

I love the new, easy, often temporary friendships that spring up. Hearts opened through play. Shared interests, imaginary quests. I love it.

Somehow, all of this gets lost as we grow up. We get saddled with bills, responsibilities, pressures and expectations. Suddenly, our reputations are at stake. We cannot afford to look uncool. So, we stop playing. We stop acting like we care. We know the pain of being laughed at… Shame.

No one wants to be left out.

Having fun seems irresponsible. A waste of time. We are much too serious for play.

Then we wonder why we have the blues. That internal listlessness is trapped energy waiting to be harnessed through play. Play takes the pressure off. It opens our hearts and minds to access parts of ourselves we have long forgotten or never discovered.

I am learning that play taps into our inner creativity. Since the pressure is off, our minds are free to wander into unexplored territory. New ideas spring forth.

I will never forget the day that changed how I show up at the playground. One day, a woman and her step-daughter came to the playground. The little girl was playing like most kids do – swings, slides, monkey bars. But, her step-mother?

My mouth hung open as she jumped on to the monkeybars, swung back and forth like a trapeze artist, did flips and somersaults and even hung upside down. I was so impressed. I used to do those moves as a kid.

As a kid, I was a tomboy- really rough on the playgound. I was very strong and had boundless energy. I was always pushing the safety limits on the playground. Then, I don’t know what happened. I just stopped playing. And as a parent, I became this overly cautious, highly critical joy-disruptor.

After seeing that woman on the playground, I decided to get re-acquainted with my playful side.

I can now be found on the squealing on the swings, whizzing by on the slides, awkwardly attempting the monkeybars.

The thing is, I have decided to let go of cool. I would rather have fun with my children, really engage with them on the playground or even  play by myself, than sit around caring what people think and wondering whether I am making a fool of myself.

This has been liberating. And it has helped me with other aspects of my life. I find that I am able to be more courageous, more creative and more open to new ideas and people.

I  want to get in this state more often and stay in it longer. This childlike, unassuming, wholehearted freedom to explore, create, laugh with abandon… Really throw myself into experiences without being self-conscious and embarrassed about anything.

We put up armor – the “grow up and be respectable” armor… but we allow our inner spark to die when we do so… The masks we wear threaten to become permanent when we stop cultivating play.

And of course, play doesn’t have to be only taxing physical activity. How about games?

I have to consciously remind myself to have fun. I love board games, group games, card games… And I could go for years without playing. I love playing guitar. Even Legos. Same neglect.

All the things that bring me joy through play, I have had to re-embrace. Sometimes, I forget, and slip back into my old nagging, overly catastrophic-predicting ways. But, I am returning more quickly into the delight of play.

How about you?

It is practice after all… Everything takes time and effort, even something as simple as play!

So, wanna play?


Cultivating Joy through Play:

1. When was the last time you played? Really?

2. What do you consider play? What really delights you?

3. How soon can you start playing? Do you need to schedule it? Go ahead.

4. What creative activity makes you lose track of time? Can you create a consistent habit of it?

5. What keeps you from playing? Fear of being uncool? Time constraints?

6. What would you need to overcome this challenge? Support? Ideas? Find it. Google it if you need to.

7. Would you like to play with someone? Whom? Can you call them right now and make a playdate?


Life is short. Play enriches our lives in ways we can’t imagine and is critical for our mental, emotional, physical and even spiritual health. You deserve joy.  Creating room for play is one of the most self-compassionate things you can do. See you next week!


Yvonne Whitelaw writes for where she blogs about her quest to grow into her ideals in her “Live Your Ideals Project”. By sharing her lessons along the way (every Monday and Thursday), she hopes to serve and inspire a tribe of wholehearted warriors like you, to “live your ideals, live your calling and change the world.”


Joy (Part 1): Why You must Work for Laughs… R.I.P Joan Rivers.

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” ― e. e. cummings


Joan Rivers died today.

Funny enough, I have been musing about joy lately. Especially with respect to cultivating song, dance and laughter (Brene Brown). So, based on that, I drafted a blog post on cultivating joy focusing on song and dance. I will save that for next week. But I completely forgot about laughter…

Ok, I have a confession…

When it comes to comedy, real side-splitting, crying-tears, uncontained laughter, Joan Rivers has been somewhat of a guilty pleasure of mine.

The woman was funny! Yes, I would cover my face, extremely embarrassed at some of her off-color jokes but I loved her wit. No topic was off-limits or sacred to her.


And sometimes, as a God-fearing woman, I would have to turn of f the TV when things got a little too risque.

Still I loved her. She was one of the few comedians I loved unabashedly. I understood her. I didn’t agree with her most of the time. But I got her sense of humor. She always generated loud guffaws from me. Very witty!

I always thought her humor came to her easily. I thought she was just naturally talented and the jokes just fell out of her.

Until I saw her documentary. “Joan Rivers: Piece of Work” was a revelation.

There was a scene that I have never forgotten. It actually changed me. She shared that she writes jokes every single day. And showed a vault, a filing cabinet of thousands of index cards of jokes that she has written throughout her 50 years of comedy.

She was always working. Always writing. Always thinking.

That really stayed with me.

Joy is defined as “delight, happiness, the feeling of great pleasure.” (M-W Dictionary, Google)

On the surface, it sounds ethereal, like a feeling that just bubbles to surface. And it does, sometimes. My natural set point joy is high. I am a naturally bubbly,  happy and  optimistic person.


I have learned that I sometimes have to work at it.

I have to stay positive. I cultivate joy by doing the things I love and with the people I love such as laughing, dancing, playing guitar, playing with my kids, spending time with my husband, serving others, listening to children singing, writing in my gratitude journal.

By the way, Gratitude is the quickest way to tap into joy. According to Brene Brown, when we acknowledge and identify the things we are grateful for, we become joyful.

It is true. I have kept a daily gratitude journal for several years and I have noticed the same effect. Gratitude changes your perspective and realigns your focus on the things that are going well in your life.

So, Joy is intentional. Joy is a choice. And Joy requires practice and cultivation.

Joan Rivers survived many challenges and tragedies. She used her comedy to transcend them. Her husband committed suicide. She was a pioneer female in the male-dominated comedic world. She was banned from late night. And so on.

She used these obstacles as fodder for her comedic work. Sometimes, she was controversial, raw, and irreverent. But she did the work. She always showed up and never turned down a gig. She did the work to the very end.

I am intentional about joy nowadays. When I don’t make the time to cultivate joy, I find that I become crabby and short-tempered. The negativity seeps in and I am not so fun to be around.

So, I put myself on time-out. I take the time to reset, get centered and get back to the things that really matter to me. And I remind myself that it is all about the work. Creating the time and space for joy, and showing up for it.

So, today, I am really grateful for the laughs Joan Rivers has given me. I see them as gifts now and I cherish them. I am grateful for the lesson she has taught me with her incredible work ethic.

It is true. You have to do the work for laughs. Even if you are Joan Rivers. R.I.P Funny Fashionista!

Cultivating Joy: Laughter
1. What makes you laugh?
2. When was the last time you really laughed out loudly?
3. Do you have a consistent practice for cultivating joy? What do you do?
4. What are you grateful for? Do you have a gratitude practice?
5. What small step can you take towards joy right now?
6. What friend or family member can you enlist in a joy ride?
7. Can you smile, right now? Do it. 🙂

Take action. Joy is a deliberate practice. And as with everything, gets better with time. Show up and do the work.  Then leave your comments below.  If you enjoyed this post, share it! See you next time!
Yvonne Whitelaw writes for where she blogs about her quest to grow into her ideals in her “Live Your Ideals Project”. By sharing her lessons along the way (every Monday and Thursday), she hopes to serve and inspire a tribe of wholehearted warriors like you, to “live your ideals, live your calling and change the world.”



Faith (Part 2): Finding Your Way in the Fog of Uncertainty

“Now is the time to ask yourself, what you believe.”    ― Rob MacGregorIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Uncertainty can be disorienting.

The things you would have bet your life on, no longer seem certain. Doubts assail you. You wonder if the clarity you experienced on the mountaintop was a hallucination.

The valley. The pit. The fog.

Uncertainty can be unnerving.

The courage you had last week is nowhere to be found. Your strength fizzled away like waterdrops on a hot pan.  You feel faint.

The burden is heavy. The darkness thick.  The fear paralyzing.

What now?

I wrote about faith a few months ago.

I described one of my favorite movie scenes – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, on the search for the Holy Grail. In search of help for his dying father,  Indy  found himself on a precipice, needing to take a step of faith into a huge chasm, unsure of what laid ahead.  He could not see anything. He faced certain death if he stepped out and nothing happened.

But there was no where else to go. He had to take that step of faith. If he didn’t, his father would die.

This is where I am. Right now.

6 months ago, I took a step of faith and began this blog. I showed up. Through illnesses, weaning, travels, heartache, despair,  starting a business, trainings, job searches, I showed up. Twice a week, with a couple of misses.

I had decided on an experiment. I wanted to see what would happen if I really lived my ideals.

The grace that has met me through this blog has been astounding. I am truly grateful for the grace to write about a topic I am passionate about – living my ideals and inspiring others to live theirs.

And now I am at a crossroads in my life.

I am going to be vulnerable and share my truth. This is very difficult for me but here goes:

Do I continue moving forward with this blog and this new authentic wholehearted life? Do I continue my dream to write even more from my worldview – Live your ideals project, a live your ideals project for kids, life as a third culture renaissance woman, music, global travel, parenting, medicine and public health, wholeheartedness and the daring way, spirituality,  devotionals, speaking engagements, daring way facilitation and positive psychology coaching to help others thrive, have a medical missions foundation?

Or do I go back to the original plan – to apply for residency and finish what I started 6 years ago?

Or do I continue to apply for public health jobs as I have been doing to no avail for the past 19 months?

Either way, I will make a positive impact in the world. But figuring out which way to go has been excruciating.

What do I really believe? That is the question.

Here’s what I believe: 1. God has a plan and a purpose for my life. 2. I am uniquely designed for that purpose. 3. I am called to serve. 4. My core ideals and the Holy Spirit within me provide guidance for my path. I am not alone. I have people who love and support me. 5. It is up to me to listen to my life,  to pay attention to the signs on the road.

There have been detours, stop signs and barricades on my path.  For sure. But there have also been green lights and high-speed highways.

When I chose to really live what I believed, when I chose to live my ideals, the results have been overwhelmingly beautiful.

Now, that the fog threatens to overtake me, I have to remember what I truly believe and take a step of faith. I will let you know if a bridge appears in front of me.

What about you?

Cultivating Faith in the Face of Uncertainty:

1. What uncertainty are you facing right now?

2. What do you believe?

3. What step of faith can you take right now?

4. Whom can you call on for support?  In what ways can you risk vulnerability or  emotional exposure in order to honestly share what you are going through?

5. What toxic, negative, harmful relationships do you need to release? Can you set healthy boundaries with the naysayers?

6. In what ways can you dig deep to  display courage and dignity in the face of uncertainty?

7. What routine practices  (meditation, journaling, exercise) can you cultivate to maintain a sense of calm?

Fear can keep us from pursuing our dreams. The risks can seem unsurmountable. But you are not alone. You have your faith to guide you. You might need to dig deep, place your hand on your heart and step out. It could save a life – even yours! See you next time!

Yvonne Whitelaw writes for where she blogs about her quest to grow into her ideals in her “Live Your Ideals Project”. By sharing her lessons along the way (every Monday and Thursday), she hopes to serve and inspire a tribe of wholehearted warriors like you, to “live your ideals, live your calling and change the world.”