Um, excuse me.....super wise wisdom AND a Keanu Reeves quote?? Yes, please!! Honestly, you are very likely to hear me say "yes, please!" to almost anything this wonder woman proposes! I'm so excited to offer you Myla Rugge's interview today. Myla is a powerhouse - founder of Mom Prom, champion of moms everywhere, and one of the few people I know who can tell you the VERYTRUETRUTH about motherhood, and have you laughing and agreeing while you listen! Myla has been a friend for several years now, and I'm thrilled she agreed to participate in this project. Take a minute to check out her deliciously deep dives into some great questions, and I'm sure you'll see just how wonderful this amazing woman is!
What do you think of Myla's answers? Do YOU have a favorite Keanu Reeves quote? How about a fave super hero? Share in the comments and let us know!
When/how do you find time to play?
I try to play a little every day. If that’s not possible at least once a week. Sometimes it is wearing a tiara or a rainbow headband to the grocery store. Sometimes it is making my friends laugh on a phone or video call by telling a story or sharing an observation. Sometimes it is chatting with the person in front of me at the grocery store or complimenting the mail carrier. Sometimes my play comes via clothing - fun shoes or a funny t-shirt. Sometimes it comes through literal play, like playing Uno or Mario Kart with my family.
Play to me is a form of self-care. It is vital that it is part of my life. It is how I move through the world. It is one way that I feed my soul.
What false stories, myths, or constructs have you believed about yourself? How have you or do you let those go or shift/change them?
For a lot of my life I was told/have been told that I am “a lot”. The implication is that I am too much – too loud, too tall, too sarcastic, too honest, too outspoken, too unladylike…. When I was younger I think some of that was true, well, not true exactly, but an understandable opinion. I was very loud, talkative and didn’t have much of a filter. Everything I thought came out of my mouth. Sometimes I didn’t know what I thought until I said it or until started talking. I didn’t understand that my words could affect people and that sometimes there were things that should remain “inside thoughts”. I didn’t have to say everything out loud.
As I got older, I learned what an extrovert was and I began to understand that talking through my thoughts/thinking was part of how I had to live. As a young adult I tried to surround myself with friends who understood and appreciated these qualities about me. As an adult I found a therapist who I could process with. Growing up I really didn’t care what people thought of me, but at the same time I kind of did. Through years of self-reflection, I embraced that there are things I am good at that other people weren’t and vice versa. I also realized I wasn’t for everyone, no one is, of course. I grew more into myself. I am not “too much”. I’m just not for everyone. Working on that concept and really internalizing it has lead me to true self-love. Now I am working on make sure I am open to feedback from others, but I filter it through what I know to be true about myself.
How do you walk through challenging experiences or grief with people you are close to?
Challenging experiences, and grief especially, are deeply personal. The most important thing I keep in mind when supporting someone (or going through something myself) is that they way someone reacts to my pain/challenge/grief is ABOUT THEM. I try very, very hard to not do that to others and to understand when people do it to me. Everyone has to go through what they have to go through. The best way I can support someone who is struggling with a challenging experience or grief is by listening and acknowledging their experience. I have practiced and, I think, become quite good at, making sure it doesn’t become about me (what it would be like to experience what they are experiencing, how I would feel if that were happening to me, what my fears are, etc.) I strive to be authentic and honest, to share my experience as a way of connecting and saying “you are not alone”, but not hijacking their experience and making it my own.
Grief is its own special thing. I like this quote by Keanu Reeves (I know, right?!? Love me some Keanu!) “Grief changes shape, but it never ends.” It is a club no one wants to be a part of, but once you have lost someone close to you, you understand that you are never healed, you are always healing. It is an active state. People often try to say things to make you feel better (“he’s in a better place” or “you’ll feel better eventually” or “you’ll get some closure eventually.”), but I often find these things make you feel worse and more alone. I try to remind myself that talking about a lost loved one is what people often want. Talking about them keeps them alive, in a way. But, really, the most important thing of all, is offering support/advice/etc. rather than just giving it. Most of the time what people really need/want is a hug, an ear and someone who will walk alongside them no matter what.
What are some of the mantras or kind words you offer yourself to get through tough times?
-Everything happens for a reason. I know this is sort of a “lie” I tell myself. I don’t truly believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that the most important thing is not WHAT happens to me, but HOW I handle/process/think about it. Crappy things happen to everybody, all the time. I am afforded privileges that some things don’t happen to me. I know that the STORY I tell myself about what has happened is almost more important than what actually happened.
-Everyone is struggling with something. This has become especially evident since I became a mom and started sharing my experiences and listening to others’ experiences. It, of course, extends to all people, not just moms. But, sitting in a circle and listening to moms from all walks of life share how they feel about motherhood and what they are struggling with has been an inspiring and clarifying experience. Where once I might have seen a mom out with her newborn who looked like she had it all together and felt badly about myself, I now think to myself “she is likely struggling with things as a mom, too”. My compassion for others has increased, which, in turn, has increase my self-compassion.
-Its about them…AKA “What is going on with this person that they need to tell me this?” This is often something I deploy when I am receiving unsolicited advice, especially from a stranger in public. But, this mantra works with everyone in my life. For example, my friend’s discomfort with my decision or idea is ABOUT HER. I’ve learned how to be more aware of the way people operate and communicate with me. That doesn’t mean I don’t listen to what people in my life have to say, I just am better at filtering it through the knowledge that it is (likely) about them and how they would feel if they were me/making the decision.
-Be curious rather than judgmental. I usually do this by asking what questions. And to remind myself that my reaction to something is telling me something ABOUT MYSELF. Listening and paying attention to that can be hard, but when I do I ALWAYS learning something.
-When I’m 80 will this matter…? Sometimes things in life can get really stressful or I can get really focused on something that I am worried about. When this happens I try to take a beat and ask myself “When I am 80 years old will this matter?” I think Brene Brown has a version of this where she asks “Will this matter in an hour? A day? A week? A month? A year?” For example, when I am 80 will it matter that we are late to this orthodontist appointment? Or when my kid is 80 will it matter that he did 3rd grade online or miss three days of school to go on a trip? Probably not. This question helps me (re)gain perspective.
-This too shall pass, even the good. This reminds me to savor things when they are going well and to remind myself that nothing lasts forever. This one really helps me embrace that everything changes. This mantra calms me a bit and helps me have faith that things will be okay.
-Just try it…for a week. Sometimes I get stressed about how to solve something or what to try because I worry that the solution is the right one. Then I remember, “oh, right, I can just try it for a little bit and then if it doesn’t work I can try something else.” It is really freeing to realize that the trying is the most important thing, not finding a perfect solution the first time or ever, really.
-Notice. Pay attention. This is the key to mindfulness for me. Not meditating or breathing or whatever. Just noticing. It helps me be present in the room with my kids or relax in nature or be able to appreciate what is happening in my life. Sometimes I’ll challenge myself and think, “I’m going to go into the kitchen and notice five things about Rob (my husband).” It is always an eye-opening, rewarding experience!
-You can’t control how other people feel or behave. I can only control how I feel and behave. Embracing this has changed my life, especially my relationships.
Where do you find and connect to community?
Fun fact about me – one of my superpowers is creating community. I often am creating community for myself.
Seattle Mom Prom – Working on this all-ladies dance party, for the last fourteen years, has put me in touch with all kinds of women that I have learned so much from. The event itself is all about creating an environment where women can have fun, feel safe and connect. For me, Prom is really about creating community. There are many things I do (and don’t do) before and during the event to emphasize that “we are all in this together”. I am intentionally creating a space that allows for women to connect, including myself. It is EVERYTHING.
The Breakroom – This is a moms support group I co-founded and ran off and on for six years. It is a space where moms can talk about how they FEEL about motherhood rather than how to be a mom. I am in the process of relaunching it in the fall.
Zoom Reunions – When the pandemic started, I reached out to some old friends and started having a weekly Zoom call. Then I started a call with the women from my high school basketball team. And then I started another Zoom call with people I went to high school with but hadn’t spoken to in decades. That call became a bi-monthly call. All three calls have happened for over two years and have no signs of stopping. During the hardest days of the pandemic I needed to have nostalgia and FUN in my life. These calls helped me cope with the uncertainty we were all feeling. They help(ed) remind me of where I come from and what I have already survived.
Mama’s Comfort Camp & My Momma Network – these are two closed/secret Facebook groups that I often lurk in, but don’t post in. I find it really helpful to have a safe place where moms can share their experiences and get support. I get so much insight from hearing about the experiences other moms are going through.
Myla Rugge is a community builder, researcher, educator, life-long learner, and creator of FUN! She is passionate about helping people – especially, moms – with whatever they need. You can learn more about what she’s up to at www.mylarugge.com
Monica gets into so many great topics in her interview - chronic illness & cannabis use, perfectionism in parenting, body image, books, and more! Originally, I met Monica through the local birth community. Over the years, we stayed in touch even as things changed in our lives, and not too long ago, she participated in one of my Seeds of Connection cycles. Monica is a deeply caring and passionate person, and I think you'll connect with some of her answers.
Do you have thoughts about cannabis use? How would you answer the questions Monica chose? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!
If disability or chronic illness is part of your experience – will you share how this affects how you navigate the world and interact with others?
In my early twenties I was diagnosed with several autoimmune diseases (lupus, RA, fibromyalgia, and chronic kidney disease). Initially I followed the advice of all my providers and before I knew it I was on over two dozen medications and I didn't recognize myself in the mirror anymore. I struggled to form relationships with others, I struggled to be a good mother. I tapped out emotionally from my marriage assuming if I was repulsed by my body and my attitude my husband must be as well. I dove into roles that left me severely depleted and depressed (but served others) because I was attempting to prove my existence was worthy. I became more and more sick, and gained over 100lbs due to depression and meds which further plummeted me into the idea that I needed to be a worthy servant of others or my life served no purpose. In 2014 I did something I swore I never would; I tried microdosing cannabis, and it changed my life.
I'm now a huge proponent of cannabis for those with chronic pain. Not only has it helped my body physically but emotionally I'm in such a healthier place. Instead of bitter and depressed I show up in love, acceptance, and abundance in the way I interact with myself, my family, my husband, my friends and my community. All of this has had a positive effect on the way my chronic illness manifests both physically and emotionally.
While I still have flares that require me to have days I'm rendered incapacitated those flares used to last weeks. Where I used to be so depressed and push myself further and further into flares, cannabis has allowed so much emotional healing that I now am able to create and hold healthy boundaries. Sometimes that sounds like "I'm really sorry I can't make it to girls night. I feel my body needing extra rest, and I work really hard to avoid flares. Enjoy, and I hope to catch you next time.!" And sometimes that means I push my body to do something I know will exhaust me but plan accordingly with extra days of rest after.
I used to spend months on end crying myself to sleep, disappointed in what my body isn't able to do that others can. Perpetuating self hate because my body was "failing" me. Through healing I've come to understand that my body has navigated trauma my whole life, and at a certain point that unhealed trauma manifests as autoimmune diseases. And while I may never be able to "cure" myself, through cannabis, connection with others, and lots of shadow work I've come to be proud of what my body is still capable of in spite of all its been through. I have even modeled for a boudior photographer to showcase body positivity which was a huge leap for me.
That mindset shift has allowed me to show up for myself and others in a space of love and gratitude instead of depression and depletion. With that mindset shift, I can truly serve others while also serving myself. I can interact with my environment and others from a place of wholeness and grace without the self loathing and anger that used to propel me.
Are you a parent? What has parenting taught you about caring for another person or being curious about them?
One of the hardest and yet most beautiful pieces of living with chronic illness is being a mother. In 2019 our family endured a horrific trauma. It required that I step up as their advocate and protector in ways I could have never imagined and during a time where stress wrecked havoc in my body. It meant that I put the role of their mother above any other title I valued including doula, daughter, friend,family member and wife. It required my husband to do the same.
And in doing that something beautiful came out of such darkness. Our children felt deeply loved. They started breaking out of their shells and living in ways radically different from what we ever witnessed. Ways that felt undeniably true to themselves. We broke free from the mundane of everyday life and found time to sit and talk and truly listen to one another. To gain curiosity about the way we all believed, our dreams and our passions. We sat with one another in such incredible pain and rawness and found ourselves concluding the conversations feeling heard and respected instead of burdened with disconnect.
Caring for one another in such a monumental time of need was transformative. We all found that we could be open and honest with one another, no longer fearing that we had to abide by these social norms we had expected of ourselves when we tried to give the illusion of being "perfect". For a long time I did everything I could to be a "perfect" parent. I read the books, I exhausted myself trying to meet the unrealistic bars set by pinterest-perfect parenting, I hid my illness from them and my chosen medicines in fear of being judged. And in a lot of ways I look back and see how trying to play perfect prevented me from being the version of me they needed.
When I took perfectionism out of parenting I learned I could have age appropriate open and honest conversations with my children about my needs as someone with chronic illness and in return they could be open and honest with me about their needs. We began to care for one another in deeper and more genuine ways than ever before. We eliminated the need to beg or plead for that support. We leaned into the practice of caring for one another so much so that it became natural and effortless. The more I dug deep into caring for myself, I realized I showed up as the mother they needed. But I also saw the more I openly cared for myself the more I caught them doing the same. Before I knew it, all these things I used to think I needed to escape the proximity of my children to enjoy (yoga, meditation, reading quietly, alone time) I could now practice freely right at home and with boundaries they respected. And then I started noticing they would enjoy these tools with me and alone. By caring for myself openly and in front of them they saw the shift in how I am able to show up as their mother and in return that they also have the tools to care for themselves and others. And that has been so beautiful to witness through the eyes of parenthood.
Is it difficult or easy for you to show up as yourself and be deeply “seen”? Has it always been like this for you?
My entire journey being documented for anyone to see has definitely forced me to question how I show up as myself and what it feels like to be deeply seen by both those close to me and complete strangers. If you asked me 3 years ago if I would be openly using and educating others about cannabis (especially as a mother), that I would be brave enough about raising awareness for body positivity that I would be modeling as a plus sized boudior model, or that I would openly be sharing my struggles and triumphs of living with autoimmune disease while navigating raising children abuse survivors I would have resoundingly said "absolutely not!!!". And yet here I am, walking this path with a raw honesty I never thought myself capable of. What I've come to realize is the more I show up as myself, the less I care about the opinions of people who would rather tear me down than choose to "see" me and grow with me. I used to be paralyzed by the anxiety that one day everyone would realize I was not this perfectly happy, had it all together version of me I exhaustedly pretend to be. Now I celebrate the good days and learn from the bad, and have love for those doing the same.
Now my circles are so much smaller and I work hard to show up as my most true self. Some days that's someone who has it together and is full of joy and connection. Other days that's someone who is really struggling and needs some space and communicates that in a healthy way. But everyday it's beautifully imperfectly me, and for that I'm really proud of my growth. My life is filled with genuine connection and people who choose to love and accept me and my family in our wholeness.
There are still moments where the old thought processes creep in and I feel the judgement of being a mom who uses a still stigmatized form of pain relief, or the worry that there may be more judgmental comments on one of my modeling images than there is empowered, or that people may think I'm weak for sharing the challenges I face health wise or the things my family has endured. But then I remember this isn't about pleasing everyone. Because for every person who chooses to close their minds and judge there are so many others opening their eyes to my journey and truly seeing me! My hope is that they see their own ability to heal and help others do the same through me showing up as my truest self.
What are your experiences or relationship to your body and “body positivity”?
I grew up with a mother who yo-yo dieted her whole life. By 13 she had me adhering to a MLM "nutrition" scheme furthermore instilling the idea that my body was "too big" . While I may have had more curves than some of my classmates my size 5 body yearned for love. Struggling with autoimmune diseases and infertility in my 20s coupled with four term pregnancies and many more losses I continued on a journey of hating my body. In 2010 I did my first boudoir shoot as a gift to my soon to be deployed husband. I remember feeling so scared and ashamed during the shoot, but man when I received those images I never felt so beautiful. However I quickly fell back into self loathing. As I took care of myself less my weight continued to balloon until I convinced myself I was meant to look like a disheveled mom for the rest of my life.
My hatred towards my body came up over and over again as I worked through years and generations of trauma. And before I realized it my young daughters were beginning to judge their own bodies or deal with classmates judging them. This was a huge wakeup call for me. I didn't want to follow in my mother's footsteps and raise daughters who felt unloved in their own skin. But I knew I couldn't bullshit my way through teaching them body positivity. I had to walk the walk. So I started doing little things to take care of myself. I nourished and styled my curly hair instead of throwing it in a frizzy bun. I began to wear clothes the accentuated my body instead of hiding behind baggy clothing. I started incorporating nourishing food and vitamins in my diet and committed to outdoor adventures instead of staying behind saying I needed "rest". Not only have I gained confidence in myself, but I see that shine in my daughters. One of my biggest commitments to sharing body positivity has been modeling for Lilac & Fern Photography. Nicole strives to empower all bodies to feel celebrated, and while I was incredibly nervous it's become an amazing outlet to challenge how we define beauty. For ourselves, for our children and for a society deeply confused by what we've been conditioned to believe is desirable.
What book(s) have influenced your ability to see connections between yourself and others or yourself and the natural world?
One of my favorite ways to grow is to listen to success stories of those who've walked similar paths or navigated similar experiences. I believe shared experiences connect us in profound ways. Right now the book Call of the Wild: How we Heal Trauma, Awaken our own Power, and Use if for Good by Kimberly Ann Johnson has really helped me as I'm ready to integrate the last few traumatic years and use what I've been through to help others.
The book focuses on our innate ability to sense our needs and triggers at their most primal level, heal our trauma, and navigate life as healed and helpful individuals. In working through the book I've come to understand the ways in which myself and others are acting and reacting to life based on the ways our lived experiences have shaped us. Also in ways we connect to ourselves and the world around us based on those experiences. It has allowed me to have a better level of empathy for everyone around me and myself. Moreso, it provides solutions so I don't feel hopeless in my efforts to heal. I'm grateful to be in a place in which I'm ready and able to do the work while also realizing others may not now or ever choose to be there and that's okay too. The exercises and insights in each chapter build upon the previous and digesting the book in pieces has helped me feel connected to healing and learning to reconnect with my environment and those around me at my own pace so I carry these lessons as learned skills and not a temporary solution. I believe when people see you committed to healing and witness the positive changes at play it highly encourages their curiosity as well, and sharing this sense of wellbeing is something I hope we all benefit from.
Monica Weber (she/her) is a doula turned full time budtender, cannabis educator and Ganjier in training. She enjoys helping people discover how cannabis can help manage chronic pain and mental health while empowering people to love themselves and heal their trauma. Monica lives in Fort Collins with her husband, 4 children, 2 Great Danes, 2 cats and a hamster named Kai. Monica loves to listen to and share life stories, paddleboard and explore all Colorado nature has to offer, and laugh with her friends and family. Monica agreed to take part in the Practicing Together Project because she has found connecting with others and sharing experience has been pivotal in her own healing journey and she hopes sharing with this collaboration will help others find hope, resources and connection. Her favorite way to get creative is write and art journal, a practice she became comfortable with during Crystal's Seeds of Connection group. You can connect with Monica and learn more about her work at her soon to launch blog www.cannamamamonica.com or on Instagram: @cannamamamonica
It's been fun getting to know ACE through networking in our local birth community. She brings creativity and enthusiasm to her work as a birth doula. Our local families will be lucky to have her support! I hope you'll take the time to read her interview. I'm so grateful that she agreed to participate in the Practicing Together Project!
How would you answer these questions? If you've given birth, did you have a birth doula? Leave a comment and let us know!
What are some things that were important to you as a small child that you can still see echoes or threads of in your life today?
A familiar value I hold with early recollection is inclusivity. While inclusivity in current discourse often relates to society and humanity at large, it often shows up most poignantly for me around specific individuals in group settings. My empathy toward outcasts and underdogs (if you will) impels my most compassionate thoughts and action. Each living being is precious and laden with value, deserving of unconditional recognition, even when it feels egoically threatening to bestow it. To see myself in the other and the other in myself allows me to more deeply feel into the love that pervades existence.
What are some things you have done in your life that you are truly proud of?
This is not quite a thing in my life I’ve done, as much as it is a thing I do (or a way I am, if you will). This is my persistent tendency to see the best in others. I am a naturally trusting person who is strongly inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt. The wonderful way that this shows up is that it’s so easy for me to feel deep, visceral love for others, even those I don’t know personally. Forgiveness has never been a struggle for me and excellent customer service can choke me up! The downside of this (other than a few incidents where folks have taken advantage of it) is the affect it has had on my self-esteem. My emphasis on the positive traits in others, coupled with a de-emphasis of my own, can result in psychological imbalances. Still, I wouldn’t trade the love this allows me to feel toward others for anything.
What are a few of your favorite questions to ask people you are getting to know? Why do you like these questions?
I learned of a game called Three Questions that I love using to get to know people better, particularly during hiking trips. You ask of them the following:
1) Their favorite color and three deep reasons why.
2) Their favorite animal and three deep reasons why.
3) Their favorite form or body of water and three deep reasons why. (IE ranging from rain, ice, the ocean, the Columbia River, or a bath tub)
Prompt them to introspect, paying attention to their responses and how they say them. The secret is that every answer they give is really about something else. Their favorite color represents the truth about how they see themselves; how they view their own personality. Their favorite animal is the truth about what they want in an ideal life partner. And their favorite form or body of water is the truth about their view of their own sexuality and their attitude towards sex (and some might even argue, towards life itself)
What is your relationship to or experience with your own emotions? Was emotional presence modeled for you when you were a child?
When in the grip of them, I typically struggle to put a finger on my emotions, yet I expect myself to be able to point at one on a feelings chart. I must say, I don’t know if I have ever actually felt any form of sadness, happiness, joy, or disgust in total isolation of one another. As I write this I realize my feelings are much more like a kaleidoscope—a dynamic menagerie of shifting shapes and colliding color. I wish our culture allowed us more grace and space to adequately acknowledge our feelings in real time. Or perhaps I should say, I wish I allowed this of myself. But writing prompts such as these are certainly a start; my participation a ripple toward greater understanding of the mysteries of the heart.
How does curiosity show up in your life?
The utter bombardment of everyday life can at times sap me of my curiosity for knowledge, new experiences, or connection. But one incredibly steadfast form of curiosity I have is the desire to deeply understand others. This often comes up during conversations where I’ll find myself probing to clarify what is being communicated, both verbally and non-verbally. I’ve heard that curiosity is actually more a function of the heart than the mind and this feels true for me—the more open my heart feels, the braver and more equipped I feel to explore reality.
Alexandra “ACE” Eberle (she/her) is an artist, birth doula, and mediator. She enjoys relieving suffering in others, navigating them toward joy and fulfillment. Ace lives in Seattle with her partner and two cats, Jacket and Jughead. Ace loves to snowboard, ride her motorcycle, and to play tennis and the drums. Ace agreed to take part in the Practicing Together project because I want to network within the doula community. Her favorite way to get creative is through sculpting and painting, both within the oil medium. You can connect with Ace and learn more about her work at www. alexandraceberle.com or on Instagram @alexandraceberle