129 Transcript: How to Help a Troubled Teen (with Claire Michalak and Elizabeth Wangler)
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J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 129. Raising teens can be hard as they navigate school and friends and emotions, but what happens when you have a teen who isn't making the choices you'd like them to make? Stay tuned.
Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.
J: Hey friends, welcome back to Vibrant Happy Women. I am Jen Riday, your host, and I am so glad you're here. I'm so glad that you take time out of your day to listen and that you want to live as your most vibrant and happy self. This is a movement and I am so glad you're part of it. I want to jump in today with our review of the week from Otavio. She wrote, “I started listening to your podcast on a whim. I liked the title, I thought, ‘I want and need to be a vibrant happy woman so I'll try this out.’ I can't say enough about how much I love this podcast. This is my ‘vitamin yes’ for every day. I take notes, apply strategies, and just cannot tell you how much I've needed your podcast. I love it.” Thank you so much, Otavia.
Well, as promised, we have an episode for you today all about teenagers and every teenager is special and every teenager struggles at some time or another, and that's why you're going to love this episode because my guest and my friend, Elizabeth Wangler and her daughter, Claire, they're both going to share their side of the story of Claire having some major depression in high school and getting into a group of friends that didn't help her at all, and then her mom sending her to a therapeutic boarding school and their journey of healing together. Oh, it's so beautiful, they're so vulnerable, and you're going to love, love, love this interview. As you know, I've struggled with a couple of my teens so this was really timely to get to talk to them. So without further ado, let's jump in to this amazing episode.
Welcome everybody, I'm here with Claire Mahalik and Elizabeth Wangler and we're talking today about their journey through an uncomfortable and difficult situation when Claire was a teenager; and I have teenagers so I'm really to talk about this. Welcome to the show, Claire and Elizabeth.
E: Thanks so much.
J: So let's start off the show with a favorite quote that you want to share today.
E: So one of my favorite quotes that I live by is, “Live the life that you love, and love the life that you live.” So when you're living the life that you love, it's really just doing things that you enjoy and being around people that makes you happy and working at a place that you truly love, and then also loving the life that you live, which means being healthy and happy and spending time with good people.
J: Mm. So there's a lot of choice it sounds like in that quote; you get to choose to love the life you live.
J: And choose the life you want to love, yeah.
J: Yeah. So, Elizabeth, you're Claire's mom and just for context, Claire, how old are you now?
C: I'm 23.
J: 23. And so I met Elizabeth in Santa Fe, New Mexico, we were at a transformational speaking program. I loved her so much and I loved her story that I heard there and I knew I had to have her on the show. But let's go ahead and dive into that story. Let's start with you, Elizabeth, you know, sharing maybe that traumatic… that traumatic night. That's how I remember you starting your story. (Laughs)
E: Ugh, absolutely. And thanks, Jen, it's not a story that's very pleasant to relive, but it has a very happy outcome, and it really did involve choice; so you were dead-on about that. One morning, Claire was 16, she walked into my bedroom, stood at the foot of my bed and said, “Mom, I feel suicidal and I'm scared.” I was terrified. I really didn't know what to do so I reached out for help. I called doctors and psychiatrists and psychologists to try to find help to figure out what to do about this and actually, nothing was working. Claire clammed up and really didn't want to talk to anyone, particularly not me, and our relationship was very strained at the time. So I got some advice to do an intervention with Claire. I was afraid I was going to lose her and so decided to do that path. And it was… I remember a Thursday night in October when 2 strangers dressed in olive green polo shirts came into our house and took Claire out of her bed in the middle of the night…
E: … and transported her to a therapeutic boarding school 1000 miles from our house. We were living in downtown Chicago at the time and this was in Arizona.
E: And that's when our entire lives changed at that point.
J: Oh my goodness. So where were you when the men came into your house?
E: Oh my gosh, I was sitting behind the house in my car. They told me… they said, “We'll text you when we're on our way, and your job is to go into her bedroom, grab her cell phone, introduce us by name, and tell her that they're taking her to her new school, and then you're to leave the house.” So I did that and ended up sitting in my car behind the building and I just sat there and shook; I was just terrified. I got the call that they were on their way to the airport and they asked me if I wanted to talk to her and I said no; actually, I didn't. I had packed her a backpack with her favorite pillow and a love note to explain that I was doing this out of love. But at that point, I collapsed on the couch for about 2 days and literally everyone in my family was against this idea. So I didn't tell anyone at the time; I just did it and told them afterward.
E: That would had to be the darkest day of my life at that point.
J: So you did it, you were totally alone in the decision and told everyone afterwards; oh my god!
E: I did.
J: How did they react?
J: Really? They thought you had done the wrong thing? Oh, man.
E: My ex-husband, I had involved him all along the way, but he took me to court.
J: (Gasps) (Laughs)
E: I know, I know. I won't go into the drama of that day.
E: But the judge threw it out, agreed with me that it was the best thing to do. My own mother refused to talk to me. Her solution was that I should knock Claire around a little bit, knock some sense into her.
J: (Gaps) (Laughs)
C: At least you didn’t do that.
E: Yeah, yeah. So she refused to talk to me after I did it. My former mother-in-law was actually really close to her, she thought Claire would outgrow it, told me to leave her alone. And her dad told me to buy her a car and to rent her her own apartment because obviously, she hated me. So…
J: Oh, man, that's so awful!
E: It was… it was ridiculous.
J: We're going to dive into how Claire was feeling in just a moment, but, Elizabeth, how on earth did you stay or, you know, come back out of that 2 day pit? I mean, what pulled you out? Because you're obviously blaming yourself and everyone's trying to blame you, how did you stop the negative thoughts?
E: It was a choice point.
E: I had to take a big deep pause and actually look at myself. Because what I realized is that, this was not just a troubled teen that I sent away, this had a lot to do with me as well. So I checked myself into the Hoffman Process, which is a weeklong intensive program to help eliminate and overcome negative love patterns. So I really took a deep reflected look at myself it's how I dealt with it. (Laughs)
J: Ooh, we'll come back to that in a minute because that's a great one topic I want to talk about that. But, Claire, tell us how you were feeling when you talked to your mom that morning and shared, “Oh my gosh, I'm suicidal and I'm scared,” what was going on in your life and how were you feeling?
C: So I feel like there was a lot of things that led up to that day. It was just constant every day, you know, I would wake up, I could barely wake up, most days, I didn't want to get out of bed. It was just a lot of depressed feelings; I mean, that's the best way to explain it. I didn't really know where my life was going. I felt like I wasn't ever going to get out of the feelings that I was feeling. I didn't know… I was just lost, is really the best way to explain it. And so, you know, I was really suicidal. I always just every day, I would think about how I just wanted to be dead. And really deep down, I think I wanted help and I didn't know how I was going to do. So, you know, I just remember being in my room one day and I was just thinking to myself, “I want to die. I want to die,” and then I was like, I just realized that it's so scary and I didn't know how I was going to get out of this, so I went to my mom's room as kind of a last effort and just told her what I was feeling and that I was terrified. And I… I mean, that's like the last thing I could really think of to do. So that's how I was feeling before I went into my mom's room that day and told her…
C: … that I was suicidal. Just to add one more thing about… and self-medicating.
E: Oh yeah.
C: And skipping school and hanging around with frightening people and drinking and doing drugs and I really felt helpless…
J: Skipping school.
C: … to know what to do.
C: And I think that a lot of parents are in the same boat of really not knowing what to do…
C: … when these things happen.
J: I'll just throw in right now, my 2 oldest were on the same path and have both just completed their therapeutic interventions and are both doing great; knock on wood. (Laughs)
C: Yay! Woo-hoo!
J: I know! Well, it's kind of timely that, you know, we connected and you could be on the show at this time, but, Claire, take us back to the friends you were hanging out with. How were they different than the people you might choose to hang out with now?
C: Oh gosh.
C: Honestly, now the people that I was hanging out with, I went to school in downtown Chicago so I was hanging out with honestly, a lot of gang members and just people who were skipping school; just really simply put it as the bad kids of the school.
E: And now, if I were to like see those people, I'd probably be scared of them.
C: I wouldn’t want to be around them (Laughs). So, I mean, now, you know, it's just so… it's night and day really the people that I surround myself with; before, they were just not very good people to be around and now I'm very conscious of who I surround myself with people who are going to help me grow and want me to succeed and aren't going to drag me down with them.
J: Yeah. Well, what made you choose those people? Can you remember what you felt and why you were drawn to them?
C: I feel like they were very similar to me. We all kind of were lost and we just all self-medicated together. And it's just, when you're around negative people, it's very easy to just be negative with them, you know?
E: If other people are negative, you can relate to them. It just… it's really contagious just the negativity and it kind of gets worse and worse; it's a downward spiral.
J: Wow. Okay, so that's a dark picture. You told your mom, how did she react when you told her?
C: I… honestly, everything was kind of blank for me at that point. I don't really remember exactly how she reacted. We went to the hospital; I know that.
C: But I just… that day is kind of a blur to me; (unclear) [11:46] laughs now. I know that’s the big deal that…
E: Oh my gosh, I think my eyes are like saucers and my jaw dropped and the only thing I could think to do was to call Claire's doctor…
E: … who told me, “You have to go to the emergency room because, if something happens, you'll never be able to live with yourself.”
J: Yeah, yeah.
J: Well, Elizabeth, tell us more about being the mom before you… you know, you got this intervention, being the mom of a daughter who's with these scary people and doing the drugs and drinking and then skipping school, I mean, were you angry? Did you yell at her? What… what did you try to do to get through to her?
E: All of the above.
E: I tried. And I realized now looking back, I can see it more clearly now obviously, but that I was really trying to be a perfect mom and I was always trying to be the fixer. So I was always seeing all the problems and trying to overcome them and now, I realize that that's not the best way; it's much better to look at and focus on the things that are going right, and I could have encouraged more of that behavior instead of trying to curtail the problematic behavior. But, I mean, we had… sometimes, I would yell, and sometimes, I would ground her or try to put limits.
C: Often, very often.
E: Yeah, often. And sometimes, I would pray and I remember sometimes just trying to hold my heart open with love and think, “Okay, I'm just going to stand in love.” I remember one time when you slammed the door and the art flew off the wall and broke on the floor and I was just standing there trying to be light, filled with light, because I really didn't know what to do.
E: And the other time, I called the cops and they went and got you, and you ran out the house at 2 o'clock in the morning to run away, I called 911. (Laughs)
C: I’d only gone about the block away.
E: The cops walked her back into her bedroom.
J: Oh my gosh. I relate to all of this on so many levels. It's amazing how identical the stories are and I'm imagining anyone with teens like this will relate to everything you just said. And it's funny though, no one talks about it, and I'm so glad you guys have the courage to be here and share your story; it's going to help so many people. Well, let's fast forward. Claire, you got taken to the therapeutic boarding school in Arizona, what were your thoughts? Oh my gosh! And these men come into your room, what were your thoughts?
C: So when they first came into my room, I really thought I was dreaming because it was 2 o'clock in the morning so I was half asleep and I was literally pinching myself, like pinching my hand, telling myself, “Wake up! Wake up!” And then they told me that I was going to be going to the school in Arizona, and they put my hands behind my back and they walked me to the car and they were taking me through the airport. And I was literally screaming and kicking and crying and I didn't care who was going to see me because I had this boyfriend at home and I had all my so… well, what I thought at the time were my friends, but I just didn't want to leave any of them behind. So I was literally making the biggest scene at the airport at 2 o'clock in the morning.
C: And then, when they took me to this boarding school, it was more like a lockdown, honestly.
C: Everybody was wearing khakis and polos and walking in single-file line, not talking to each other; it was almost like a prison.
C: So that’s what it felt like.
J: Oh my goodness.
C: So, you know, I just was like scared and confused. But then, at the same time, the day that they took me out of bed, now looking back at it, it was the worst day of my life, it was very traumatic in intense, but then now, I look back at it and it was the best day of my life because, if that hadn't have happened, I would honestly probably be dead right now.
J: Right. Oh my gosh, such a turning point. And I'm curious, how did they let you on the planes, you know, on the plane when you’re screaming like that?
C: So they took me in, I was with the 2 escorts and one person was checking in at the front and the other one was sitting with me on the plane, and they were like, “Are we going to have to have both of us come on the plane with you or just one of us?” And then finally, you know, while we were waiting for the plane, I kind of was able to calm down a little bit and I was like, “Just one of you.”
C: And so, after… like when I was on the plane, I was still crying, but I wasn't being… I wasn't screaming and stuff.
J: Oh yeah; oh my goodness.
C: I probably looked like a crazy person, but they let me on the plane. (Laughs)
J: Yeah, yeah. Well, so you get to therapeutic boarding school, it feels like a prison, tell us about your time there and the transformation there.
C: So it all really… everything that I learned boiled down to 3 basic things. And the first one started with that, “You have to make a choice for your better life.” So, for example, the first day I got there, you know, I realized I really didn't want to be here and I just wanted to get out and I wanted to go home. And so, when you first get there, they have somebody assigned to you called a Big Sister and they tell you all the rules and they show you around. And I asked my Big Sister, the first thing I asked her was, “How long do I have to be here before I can get out?” and she said, “The minimum is 8 months, but that's never happened and you're not going to do it.”
J: (Gasps) (Laughs)
C: So that day, I decided pretty much, “Screw you, I'm getting out of here in 8 months. I don't care what it's going to take.” And so it took a couple days, you know, and I was just not really talking to anybody; so I just sat by myself really, kind of in the corner and I just was looking at everything that was going around me. So there was people who were kicking walls and screaming and getting in trouble, and there was people who were doing really, really well and that they seemed to have their stuff together, and they just seemed to be having it way easier time; they got along with staff and, you know, they weren't having as many problems. So that day, I decided that I was going to try to be more like the people who weren't resisting the program because I was going to get out of here, and clearly the people who were resisting it wasn't happening for them.
C: So I wasn't going to be like them.
J: Oh my goodness, smart; super smart.
C: Yeah. So that came down to kind of my second point which is that you have to do the work. And everything that comes along with that was, you know, having self-awareness, realizing what's going on inside, not holding grudges on other people, forgiving the past; so with yourself especially too, not hating yourself for things that you've done, so forgiving past for yourself and also with other people. And then being open and honest, again, with yourself and with other people, and then never being a victim to the world around you.
C: Those were a lot of things that I learned.
J: So did you learn those things through therapy groups with a therapist, through workbooks? What kind of exercises helped you do that work?
C: So there was all sorts of things. The first thing that I did was read ‘The Four Agreements’ book, which was a huge thing for me. If people aren't familiar with that, I would really recommend reading that book, everyone…
C: … young or old. We'd write like essays about it; so really, just how it applies to your life. We did group therapy twice a week. There was individual therapy twice a week, and eventually family therapy, ‘Where will you be in 5 years?’ workbook; there's a lot of just books and workbooks and therapy, but most of it was self-reflection.
J: Mm. And are you an introvert by chance? Did you enjoy that or you saw enough people, it wouldn’t matter either way? (Laughs)
C: You know, what's really interesting is that I really was more of an introvert before this process, and now, I've become such an extrovert.
C: It's really interesting. So during the time, I loved it because I was much more of an introvert, and now, I'm much more extroverted.
C: Probably because I like sharing what I learned. (Laughs)
J: Yeah, oh yeah. And it's so awesome that you're willing to share it. So I'm sitting here thinking, “Depressed girl goes to this place, how on earth are you so happy right now, Claire? What's different?
C: Just my outlook on life really, you know, I've just realized that we have control over our emotions. And before I got sent away, I was always depressed and people would tell me, “It's just a mindset,” and I was like, “No, I need medication. I need to be… you know, this is going to fix me. I’m depressed and it's… I can't control it. Just everything happens to me and I'm just really depressed.”
C: But I would get really angry when people would tell me that I had control over it and over my feelings. And now, going through this whole process, I don't feel depressed anymore, ever. I haven't had any suicidal thoughts, it's literally night and day, and I'm not on any medication or anything. So it's really, I just realized that it's your outlook on life and you have control over how people make you feel.
J: Wow. Well, paint that picture just a tiny bit further for us. Let's say, you know, I'm sure sometimes you're tempted to go back to old thinking; we all are, we have these patterns. But let's say you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, what would you do to pick yourself back into the way you want to feel and have that control over your feelings, let's say?
C: So every day when I wake up, I've made a habit of, when my alarm goes off, I lay in bed before I get out and start getting ready and I just make a list of everything that I'm grateful for. So that really just helps you appreciate everything that you have that's good in life and it also sets your intention for the rest of the day.
C: So even if I'm like waking up late, I’ll still lay in bed for a minute; because, what's an extra minute if you're already late? (Laughs)
J: Yeah, yeah.
C: I’ll just, you know, make that list of things that I'm grateful for and then I really also set the intention for the day that I'm going to pause, notice, and choose; which means that, everything that happens that day, I'm going to pause and step back, I'm going to notice how I'm feeling and how I want to react, and then I'm going to choose how I'm going to react to that situation,
J: Ooh, good.
C: And that's for the better, you know, that's what most the time (Laughs)… sometimes, you know, it takes some practice, but for the most part, those are the steps that I do daily.
J: Mm-hmm. Wow, that's amazing. And so you were sharing your points you said, you have to make a choice for your better life you have to do the work, what was the third one? I think… let's go to that third point you were going to make.
C: The third point is that, you're never done growing and that there's always more work to do.
C: So every single day, you know, you need to make the conscious effort that, you're not going to be perfect and you still have some things to work through, and even if you mess up or backtrack a little bit, that that's okay because there's always more work to do.
J: Mm, yeah.
C: And, for example, for me, like I said before, the biggest thing that I'm constantly doing is being conscious of who I surround myself with. Like I said before, in Chicago, you know, I was hanging out with all these terrible people… I guess, nobody's terrible, they just need some work. (Laughs)
J: Yeah, yeah.
C: But I was not hanging out with people who are going to benefit me. So now, you know, every day, I'm trying to make that conscious decision who I'm surrounding myself with; I'm going to try to be around people who want me to succeed and want me to do well and get excited with me and that we can help push each other. And it's easy to just hang out with friends who are fun and, you know, party and go do fun activities, but it's really just, for me now, it's just making that conscious decision daily of who I'm spending my most time with.
J: So are you able to do the fun and partying scene at all or do you just avoid it?
C: Oh yeah, totally, I still do it.
C: I think the biggest thing I learned is balance, you know, it's totally fine to still go out and have fun and have a couple of drinks once in a while, but it's just having that balance and knowing yourself and being aware of how that affects you. So if… now, I'm able to go have fun and still live, you know, a happy life; it's not taking over and controlling my life.
C: And I'm not surrounding myself with people who do that daily, you know?
J: Right. Wow, you are amazing, Claire; I love this. And I can just imagine all of these teens and young adults listening and being so inspired by you. So let's go back to you, Elizabeth, and share what you learned through the Hoffman Process and how that might have helped you be a better parent; although I imagine you were already an amazing parent. (Laughs)
E: No, no, no, no, no, I don't know I think that's probably debatable. Really, in the Hoffman Process, I learned to look at what's right and what's good, because we get more of what we focus on. And I alluded to this earlier, but I… I really understand now that I was always honing in on what was wrong and how to fix it; and that really shifted. And I really needed to look and see the light and myself too because I think I was always criticizing myself and I was always secretly critical of Claire through her behavior. And once I started really looking at all the beauty in her and all the strengths that she had and how sweet and kind and what a beautiful soul she is and I could see that, it really turned things around when that's right focus… started focusing my attention.
J: So do you just make the decision and again and again and does it get better and better? Do you find yourself being negative less and less or is there a method?
E: It's automatic for me now.
E: But it really transforms through this process that Claire mentioned, this pause, notice, and choose idea.
E: But it's really about being conscious in the moment. Because I think it's really easy for us to focus either on the past or on the future and to miss what's happening right now in the here and now. And that's what this pause, notice, choose helps me do because I just practiced it a lot, and now, it's more automatic where I’ll just freely stop just throughout my day and just tune in and notice, “What am I feeling? What am I noticing?” and I look around and I actually see a lot of beauty in the world and I see beauty and other people; particularly in my daughter.
C: Aww. (Laughs)
E: I mean that's really all I see is the beauty in her. And I realize I don't have to fix anything.
E: And I may not always agree with another person's choice, but that's their path; and so I can love her, no matter what she's choosing.
J: So, Claire, do you feel like your mom's love for you now and that positivity was a critical piece or do you feel like you learned that kind of thing on your own as well in the therapeutic boarding school?
C: I mean, I think that's definitely a critical piece. Now, my mom is really honestly, a completely different person…
C: … than who she was; I think we both are. It's like we're living different lives; it's really crazy honestly. But, you know, I think I learned that too before, just like she was saying, when we were both really volatile and stuff at home, we always focused on the negative (I think both of us) in each other, and just always focusing on the negative in each other, “You're doing this wrong. You're doing this wrong,” both of us, it just caused so much tension. And I think through my process also, I learned to just try to be more positive, look on the bright side, realize that other people are doing things for a reason. So if somebody's acting out towards you, it's because of something that's going on inside of them, not necessarily that you're doing something wrong. So not taking that personally and just constantly checking yourself and checking in with yourself, how we were saying before, you know, pausing, noticing, and choosing, and then you come out a lot more positive. And you… especially right when I got out, it's a lot of checking in with yourself and you still will be negative and have those negative thoughts, but just checking in with yourself and trying to recognize them when they happen and try to switch that as soon as possible so it doesn't continue.
J: Yeah. And what do you guys do now if you're around negative people? Do you want to…
J: Do you want to tell them the trick of living or how do you… you know, how do you handle it?
C: It really depends on the situation. For example, in my friend group, some people might think that I can be kind of bitchy because I just cut people out of my life sometimes if they're not…
C: … you know, healthy. And a lot of times, I'll try to explain that in a nice way, but that's pretty much… I just don't surround myself with friends or people that are negative.
J: Wow, that’s amazing.
C: And if I… if I'm in a work environment or something when I can't change it, I try to really just keep checking in with myself and realize that their negativity is not because of me or don't let it wear off on me, just realize that's their own stuff that they're dealing with and that that's not how I'm choosing to live my life.
J: Well, so how long were you in the boarding school then, Claire? Did you make it out in 8 months?
C: I did! I was the first one ever.
J: Really? Yay!
C: Yeah, I made it out in exactly 8 months.
J: Oh that's amazing; oh my gosh. So, okay, Elizabeth, I know some of your ‘after the boarding school’ story, but tell us what you did with your life and where you went and how you decided to do it.
E: Oh my goodness. So at the end of Claire's program, she decided that she wanted a fresh start.
E: And she had always wanted to move to California ever since she was very small, so we just started riffing on that one day, “What if we moved to California?” And amazingly, I met someone who offered us this beautiful house overlooking the ocean for like next to nothing; so pretty. So… and so we were headed to California and that was going to be our fresh start. And one day, Claire said to me, she said, “Mom, I'm getting this intuition not to move to California,” I said, “You're kidding me.”
E: “What do you think we should do?” and she said, “Move to Boulder.”
E: “Boulder, are you kidding?” I said, “You like cities and I like water. Boulder? Who do you know in Boulder?”
“No one, I never even been to Boulder.”
J: What on earth? That's amazing.
E: But I've always trusted Claire's intuition so we went and checked out Boulder. I made some phone calls to make sure that I felt it was a safe and healthy place to be, and so I moved to Boulder and that was that.
E: So we’re still in boulder. (Laughs)
J: So, Claire, Claire, you know, your intuition, Boulder, like how did you receive that? A lot of people ask, “How do you receive intuition?” what was that like for you?
C: I honestly have no idea. So, you know, Colorado, the way I found out about the city was there's a couple girls from my boarding school who had lived in Colorado and they just said, you know, Boulder’s pretty and they talked about other cities too, just Denver, you know, one of them lived in the springs I think. But when she said Boulder, I was like, “Oh, I need to go there. I need to move there.”
C: Which is super… I have no idea why so I just shared that with my mom; which was really hard because I love California.
C: But, you know…
J: And you had that house. (Laughs)
C: … not listening to my head and trying to really follow my heart what was going to be right for me. It was easy to just choose California, but really deep down, for some reason, ending that Boulder was the right fit.
J: Okay. So tell us what's happening in Boulder now. What's life like there?
E: Well, we both are constantly amazed as we look around at the scenery and feel like we're living in a movie or something because this is just so beautiful and our lives are so dramatically different than they ever would have been. I mean, I was a workaholic when I lived in Chicago and ended up walking away from all my businesses and really taking the reflective deep dive. And Claire and I are both on that path now, a much, much healthier path, and I feel like this abrupt change just really allowed us to make the about-face and continue down this path that's so much happier and so much healthier and just, we love it. I live in Boulder and Claire lives in Denver now so we're very close and we spend a lot of time together and it's… we're closer than we've ever been.
J: And your other daughter and your mom have joined you, right?
E: Yes. We brought everybody out here.
J: So fun!
E: Thanks to Claire; we all say, “Thanks to Claire.” My mom says, “Guess we're all here; thanks to Claire.”
J: Isn't that funny? I was just talking to my 15 year old the other night and he said, he hasn't regretted anything because it's brought him where he is now. And it's kind of funny, but all that hardship and struggled brought you guys where you are now; it's beautiful. And you appreciate so much more, right?
C: Yes, I would not change it for the world. Like, the things that I've learned and the quality of life now that I'm able to live, I would not change it for anything. I would go through that darkness and those feelings again just to be able to live the rest of my life how I am now. It's just… it really is incredible. I never thought it was possible.
J: Elizabeth, do you have something to add?
E: Just that I'm in total awe of Claire, how she did the work and came out on the other side and inspired me to do the work and to come out on the other side as well. It just…
C: And I think that is a big part of it is doing the work together, and that she didn't put me in the boarding school to try to just fix me and she wasn't just like, “Oh, it's all you. You're the only thing that's wrong,” and, “Fix and then come back.” So I think just working together and knowing that she was there for me the whole time, knowing that she was going to do the work also, and just really doing the work together and growing together, I think that's the biggest part of it. And that's we have such a strong relationship now.
C: Because it wasn't just one of us thinking the other one was wrong, it was recognizing that we both had work to do and that we were both going to work through it together.
J: Hmm, beautiful. And what's the name of the boarding school you went to, if you're able to say?
C: Yeah, it was Copper Canyon Academy in Rimrock, Arizona. I believe they'd changed the name of it now.
E: They may have, I think they changed the ownership, I heard, recently.
C: But, yeah, it was Copper Canyon Academy. It sounds much nicer than it was.
E: And I'll just throw in a little tidbit of advice for parents on this question of where to go; and I know you've been through it too, Jen, so you may have a different idea. But I found, having an education consultant really, really helpful; someone who knows these schools on the inside. Because sometimes, things can go badly and go really wrong if the person is not aligned with the right school. So that was really helpful for us.
J: Ah, so an educational consultant, where do you find one of those?
E: Oh, it's really hard.
E: I found one through a therapists, but since then, just through other types of connections, I've met one who's… I've been told is one of the best ones in the whole country.
E: That all the schools everywhere really feel very strongly positively about this one, because those vary greatly too. So I would say, anybody who needs that, I'd be happy to share it privately.
J: Privately, okay. And where could they reach you if they need that information?
E: Anyone is welcome to email me, I'd be happy to help anyone along this path, and I know Claire would too. And you could reach us both at my email which is elwangler@gmail; and I'll spell it, it's e l w a n g l e r @gmail.
J: Oh, so generous. Well, let's have a quick break for our sponsor and then we'll come back and talk about a few of your favorite things and a little more about life today and what you have planned for the future.
Alright, welcome back, and let's start with you, Elizabeth. Tell us, what is your favorite book, if you could narrow it down?
E: Oh, my favorite book, that's a good one.
E: My favorite book is one… it’s called ‘Oneness’ and it's a channeled book by a woman named Rasha. It's a little bit esoteric and I use that book like an Oracle, but it's something that has helped me tremendously throughout this path. And whenever I feel that I'm questioning what to do or what direction to go, I open that book at random, and it seems that whatever page it opens to is exactly what I need to hear.
E: And it’s as if it works by magic.
J: And how about you, Claire; favorite book?
C: Mine is definitely ‘The Four Agreements’. I think… I know I mentioned it before. I think that's just what really kind of helped me switch my mindset a little bit because it really made me look within. And then, after that, my favorite book it's more like a workbook was ‘Where Will You be in 5 Years’ and it just really helps me kind of organize my thoughts and direction of where I was going and it gave me hope and it helped me kind of lay out the next couple years of my life.
J: Okay, awesome. We will put links to all of those books and everything else we've been talking about, the boarding school and everything else on our show notes page at jenriday.com/129. And let's talk about your morning routines. What do you guys do in the morning when you start your day? How about you first, Claire?
C: So kind of, just like I said before, the very, very first thing I do when I wake up when my alarms going off… I'm not a morning person so this is very hard for me, but when my alarm goes off, when I'm awake enough, I just always make sure to stay in bed and lay there just for a minute and think about all the things that I'm grateful for and just be really appreciative of everything that I have. Because it's easy to focus on the things that are going wrong, but that really just starts your day with everything that's right. So that's how I start my morning every day; and drink a glass of water.
C: It really does make a difference; it really helps me wake up.
J: Nice, okay. And, Elizabeth?
E: I do the same; we share that.
E: Yeah, I do exactly that; the very first thing that my eye is open in the morning. And then, I follow that usually with nature connection. Nature's very, very important to me so I always step outside or, if it's just terrible weather, then I'll stand by the window and look at the trees.
E: And most of the time, I take a walk in the morning…
E: … to have that nature connection first thing.
C: It's so interesting too because this thing that we talked about, how we wake up in the morning and we're really appreciative for everything, my mom actually really started this when we were really little. Instead of telling us to count sheep or something when we weren't able to fall asleep, I just remember her always telling us, “Just make a list of things that you're grateful for.” And when I was really little, I was like, “Okay, that's kind of weird,” but it worked.
C: You know, I was like, would just make a list and then fall asleep. So it all started when we were really little, but it wasn't until after the program that I realized really how beneficial it is.
C: I meditate too, and sometimes, I do that in nature, and sometimes, even just walking is meditation. But I really try to just take a quiet time every morning and just go within, and it is about appreciation, even in that time.
J: Nice. And what are your favorite happiness tools? You know, you just listed, I'm sure, several for your morning meditation, but if you had to pick a favorite the one thing that if you dropped it, you know, you'd be way less happy, what's that?
C: Pause, notice, and choose.
C: Honestly, that really is the biggest thing. It's not… we keep saying it, but I don't know where I would be without that right now; it really just keeps me in check every single day. And I think it would have kept us out of this mess in the first place. (Laughs)
C: If we had been aware of this because, in our interactions early on, if we had really been able to do that.
J: So since that's an important tool, I want to flesh it out a tiny bit more for anyone who doesn't understand it. So let's say, Claire, your mom slipped back into some weird pattern she used to have for a moment, she… which I imagine can happen.
J: And what would it look like for you to pause, notice, and choose? What are you noticing and what are you choosing?
C: So we'll say that my mom is screaming at me.
C: She doesn’t do this anymore, but we’ll say that that’s the… that's a pretty dramatic one. So if she was yelling at me, instead of reacting right away how I used to (which just caused everything to get worse), I would just stop for a second and notice what she's saying and notice how she's feeling and why she's probably reacting this way, notice how it's making me feel and notice how I want to react and how I should react, and then just choosing, you know, the higher path and to be more positive and try to react in a better way than just automatically reacting right when she's yelling at me.
C: But just to take a second and think about what I'm going to say before I say it, so that I don't go back into my old patterns.
J: Yeah, I gotcha. So notice is noticing all the feelings happening with everyone and then choosing the best option, the highest path; okay, cool. What are your favorite easy meals?
C: Well, you know, there's the choice here that I have to make because my favorite food is hot cheetos, but often that's not the best choice.
C: So even this pause, notice, choose thing that we're talking about, I try to listen to my body and what it needs or wants. So, you know, easy go-to snacks to me are like yogurt and almonds; that's not always what I want, but I listen to my… try to listen to my body and what's going to give it better nutrients and what it's like actually wanting.
J: Yeah, awesome. And, Elizabeth, what do you like to eat?
E: Salad, kale.
E: My mother always says she should have made me salad.
E: But I like it because of all the bright colors and all the different crunchy textures.
E: But I too follow pause, notice, choose, and I really try not to be really rigid and just listen to my body, and it's always happier with healthy food…
E: … when I do guide my choices. And even the shopping in the grocery store, I do the same thing; I will just notice what I respond to and choose that and then figure out what to make from it.
J: Smart. I mean, you could even use this with dating and all kinds of things. (Laughs)
E: Everything; literally, any…
J: Pause, notice, choose; not that one though.
J: So this next question is kind of fun. Do we… if each of you could share a life hack, any random thing or gadget or anything that has made your life better, thought process, and we've done a lot of those, but relationship hack, life hack, anything; I'll give you a moment to think about that one.
E: Well, I know what mine is.
E: And it's constantly keeping in mind that we create our own reality.
E: And that we created through our thoughts and through what we choose and that we're never victims of the outside world; I always have control over what's happening in my life. So it's really keeping that awareness front and center for me.
J: Okay, so let's say a tornado came to Boulder and knocked a tree on your house, how would that thought-process help you or keep you out of victim thinking?
E: Well, that's actually happened twice. (Laughs)
J: What! Seriously, I didn’t know that!
E: Tornadoes hit my house twice.
E: Well, and what's really interesting about that is that both times, I avoided the tornado by leaving my house when there was no reason for me to leave right before the tornadoes hit. (Laughs)
C: Following her intuition.
E: Yes, yes, I followed my intuition.
J: And both times, it happened right there in Boulder?
E: No. Actually, that's when I was in the Midwest (unclear) [43:30]…
E: … when I was in the Midwest. (Laughs)
J: Oh my goodness, that’s amazing.
E: Yeah, yes. So I think following intuition is really important. But to answer your question about that, it's, “Do I want to be a victim and think my life is destroyed and all my possessions and everything that may have gone wrong or do I want to choose, ‘Okay, so that happened, what's next?’ and where do I want to focus my attention? Do I want to focus it , ‘How can I help my neighbor?’ or, you know, any other myriad of choices that are positive?” So that's how we create our own reality; I can go into victim mode or it can go into positive…
E: … what I want instead mode.
J: So essentially, you're creating how you feel. Your reality is essentially your feelings and perceptions, the rest doesn't really matter, is that what you're saying?
E: Yes, exactly.
J: Yeah, I love it.
J: How about you, Claire?
C: Mine is pretty simple life hack, it's really just balance and don't forget to have fun. Because when you're doing all this work on yourself and you're trying to surround yourself with, you know, (I guess, for lack of better word) better people…
C: … it's really easy to just get stuck and not live with the life that you love; just like we said before, live the life that you love and love the life that you live. So just…
C: … always try to make time for fun things, even… it can go for anything in your life. So, for relationships, you know, set aside one night a week to do date night or set one night a week to do family dinner night, which we do a lot, you know, just… or go do activities. It's really just, “Don't forget to have fun,” it's as simple as that.
J: Yeah, that's really what balance means, isn't it? That's what…
J: People say, “I need balance,” it means they're looking for fun; I think you're right. Well, let's go to my favorite question and then have a challenge from you to our listeners and then we'll say goodbye. But that question is, what does it mean for each of you to be a vibrant happy woman? And we'll start with you, Claire.
C: I mean, really, just like I said before, living the life that you love. So, for me, that's being a hair stylist, that's what I do now in Denver, because I really enjoy it. It's not something that is going to make me a whole ton of money right now, but I'm so happy and I would not trade it for anything.
C: And just, you know, for me, making other people feel good about themselves. That's also part of why I started doing hair because I really truly like to help people feel better about the way that they look or, you know, it really brings out the positivity in them. So just doing things that you love and living that vibrant happy life.
J: Yeah, awesome.
C: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
J: Okay, and Elizabeth?
E: Honestly, it's back to pause, notice, choose for me. (Laughs)
J: Really? Awesome!
E: I mean, I hate to keep repeating the same thing, but it's really about being very present in the moment and noticing, “How am I responding? What do I feel in my body when I think about going this direction or in that direction?” And fortunately, I've designed a life where I do have a lot of choice in the work I do and the assignments I take on and things like that, and it's really about tuning in. That's what makes me the happiest is, you know, even when it's coming down to doing something that I may not fully enjoy like bookkeeping or something on that day…
J: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
E: … it's still a choice and it's still noticing, “How am I feeling about this?” And I can shift the way I feel about things by having that awareness to choose my thoughts about it.
J: Yes. Well, that reminds me, I want to ask you guys, what are your plans for the future? What do you see yourselves doing and the years ahead?
C: So, for me, I'm working on writing a book right now just about the whole experience that I went through of the boarding school. I kept a journal there everyday and I wrote in it and, you know, I kept all these cards and all these things in it, so I'm working on turning that into a book. And I also want to open my own salon in a couple of years because I really enjoy hair. (Laughs)
C: So both of those things at the same time for me right now.
J: Do you cut your mom's hair; your family’s hair? (Laughs)
C: I do.
C: And color. (Laughs)
E: Yes, she does.
J: Oh, that's so good!
C: I do my sister’s, my grandma’s, my dad’s.
C: Literally, everybody’s.
J: That’s so good; that’s so good. How about you, Elizabeth?
E: Well, I am studying right now to be a nature connected life coach and I have an even bigger vision of really how to reconnect humanity with nature. Because I feel like nature is just the one home that we all share and it's the universal language that we all share and I feel that, if more people felt more connected to the natural world, that it would raise the vibration and change the world for the better.
E: So I'm in a state of deep listening around that right now and practicing my pause, notice, choose around that. (Laughs)
J: Oh, man. And I could just imagine, you both have such great things coming. Well, promise to come back on the show in 5 years, we'll see where you're at. (Laughs)
C: Yes, thank you.
J: That’d be so fun.
C: I’d love to.
J: Okay, let's have a challenge to our listeners and then we'll say goodbye.
C: So I guess it all goes back to…
C: … pause, notice, choose. No, but really, that's, you know, everyday to just try to wake up, start your day with making a list of things that you're grateful for; that really, really will help, and it's easy to do for everyone right when you wake up. And then, just try to pause, notice, and choose for every situation in life, even if it's going to be, “What are you going to have for breakfast?” you know, or as big as, you know, bigger decisions during your day, but just pause, notice, and choose what's going to be best for you and what is going to help you the most.
J: Thank you so much; that's such great advice. And you're both living really mindful conscious lives that have inspired me, so I’m sure they’ll inspire listeners as well. Thanks for being on the show.
C: Thank you.
E: Thank you, Jen.
J: You guys take care, and thanks so much.
E: Big hugs.
J: Such a good story, right? They are amazing. And this just shows that we can heal. We can heal any relationship if we're willing to do the work; and they were both willing to do the work, it is beautiful. In the show notes, I'm going to include all the episodes that relate to my struggles with my own teenagers and some updates on where we're at now. But it's true, as you put in the work, things begin to heal so much and feel so much better. So you can check those out on our show notes page at jenriday.com/129. I will be back next week, talking with the amazing and beautiful Kruti Desai, all about parents who were overly controlling and the bit critical of her and how she broke free of that and chose to love herself and choose her own life. It's a great story, I love Crudi, and I know you're going to love her too. So that will be happening next week, and until then, make it a great week. Take care.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com.