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Finding a new hope

Jen May
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Jen May was a police officer. Little did she know when she started her career in law enforcement would end and she’d find herself working in a completely different customer service capacity. Today, she’s stronger than ever and holding on.

TAMAR: Hi, everybody, it is Tamar. And I am here today on the Common Scents podcast with Jen May. And Jen, thank you so much for joining.

00:28

JEN MAY: Yeah, thanks Tamar. Really great to have the time to talk with you.

00:32

TAMAR: Yeah, awesome. So please introduce yourself to everybody else out there.

00:38

JEN MAY: So, there’s a lot of me to get to know. So, we will be kind of getting into a lot of those things coming up. But briefly, I’m Jen May, I live in the Chicago  land area. I am a former police officer that has had to change my life around in significant ways in order to get into a new career. And I know, several times on your podcasts, you’ve come to people that have kind of chosen new paths. Oh, I had to come  like, my path was blocked. So, I actually had to come to a new path all on my own and find out what else I was going to do in life. So, a little bit of a flip of the story there. And basically, how did I fall out and policing? And then how did I have to reinvent myself in order to provide for my family and be a single mom and just take care of things? So yeah, I’m 43 and have two kids. One is a sophomore in college, and one is 12 years old, and he has autism. So, I have a lot of different challenges in my life that I’ve been faced with, but I still feel like I’ve come through so much. And I’m almost at the mountain top, if you would say so.

01:56

TAMAR: Cool. Wow. Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know which direction to go. But I think you talked about how you were a police officer, and then you basically had to find your new path. So, let’s start with that.

02:09

JEN MAY: Yeah. So, I got into policing post 9/11. I really wanted to try to help more in the community, and trying to heal the world, in a really big way, I kind of had dreams of going to the UN and like China heal the world, make the world a better place. I didn’t notice I didn’t have any contacts at the UN. So, I thought maybe, trying to impact people on a micro level. When you’re policing, you’re really helping people who are in the deepest trauma, right or they can’t afford a light bulb to fix their tail light, and we pull them over to write him a ticket. How can you heal the world when you’re really trying to almost police it and get people in trouble also. So, my job as a police officer, I take very seriously on that, like, the community policing side, how can we not write tickets and actually do intervention at that crisis point, how can we help you get a baby car seat into your car instead of writing you a ticket for not having one. So that was kind of where I was going with the policing thing. And I ended up working at a college. I was a fully certified state police officer, but I worked at a local regional College in Illinois, and there was actually a campus shooting there on February 14 of 2008. So that is just a really huge impact to the community. There were five students that were killed in class. And while I wasn’t on duty at the time, it really impacted my mental health, just being exposed to crime scene, being exposed to the community response, the terror, that fear that’s the absolute devastation of losing students. And I was dealing with some of my own personal traumas, I actually was in an abusive marriage at the time, and just kind of everything came crashing down for me. So, I ended up through various different pathways. I ended up having a mental health crisis. I, with my child who is autistic, and he was in his very early toddler years, wasn’t sleeping. And I was trying to do night shift as a police officer, while also taking care of a two-year old who screamed all the time because he couldn’t communicate and I just didn’t get enough sleep. So, I ended up with sleep deprivation and psychosis. I ended up in a mental health crisis facility and the laws in my state, if you are receiving mental health care, that you can’t possess or carry a weapon. So, this crashed my career that I had to go seek mental help. So just want to pause there because that’s a lot to digest and see if you have any questions for me.

04:59

TAMAR: Yeah, So, well, I know that you’ve made a career trajectory change. But, I assume in your current state, and we’ll talk about that in a second, your career trajectory change. But in your current state, could you potentially return to the police force?

05:19

JEN MAY: No, I wouldn’t be able to because I take medicine ongoing. I think it’s really important to be upfront and honest about a mental health challenge that you’re facing. There’s so much stigma out there, that you’re broken, you’re bad, your life is devastated if you have a mental health crisis, or if you have an ongoing mental health condition. So, I think part of that stigma is written into the law here in our state, that I think it would be much better if we got officers help upfront. And then it wasn’t illegal for them to continue work. But I’m one person, and I really just decided that maybe he was taking on too much anyway. And that, if I could reinvent myself in a different way, I could have continued to have a successful career and help my family as well. So, I dusted off my resume. And I got out into the corporate world, and I started working customer service. If you really think about what I was trying to do as an officer, it really came down to customer service. How do you be polite when you’re arresting somebody? How do you tell somebody bad news and provide the best experience in a hard time? So, I got into customer service, and now I work as an account manager for a software company.

06:34

TAMAR: Wow. That’s interesting. It’s  also pretty interesting that people with any type of medication or mental health issues cannot even come back to work. I feel that and maybe it’s just me, but I’m around a lot of different types of people. And I think all of us, really everybody, are all dealing with our crap, I guess. And I think that a lot of us are probably depressed on some level, and we don’t even recognize it. For myself, personally, I had suffered depression for nine years, not realizing that I was in that state, until I had a trauma that hit me so badly, that all of a sudden, I use that to bring myself up. And then looking back on the last previous nine years, I realized that I hadn’t been happy. And I don’t think people realize that. Not that you would need to change anything, because I think you’re in a good position where you are, but I just feel like there’s got to be, especially when you’re in a position like that, and you really have to be hardened, if you will to exert power in that way. And that’s got to be something that emotionally is no one to say that all police officers are artists, or the president, there’s got to be some element of happiness in the job of course, it’s very rewarding, but there’s also like sadness in the job. And you carry though every single day.

08:15

JEN MAY: Every day. Yeah, we do. And as a campus police officer, I didn’t come across some of the really, really difficult stuff that regular officers have to deal with. We didn’t have many car accidents on campus, we didn’t have a senior population where you might have to come on scene and rescue someone who’s broken their hip, be called into a domestic family where there’s maybe a garden in the house, we dealt mostly with students and occasionally with parents, as we called them in to help deal with the student crisis. But most of our population was 18 to 24. And we were really focused on things like alcohol use, just maintaining decorum and not letting the alcohol use get out of control, some substance abuse issues, and then all of the things that a student is going through at that age 18 to 24 is when a lot of mental illness will arise in someone’s life. So how do we help the students that were depressed themselves or maybe going through psychosis themselves? Or just dealing with the trauma to be separated from your family, right? You’ve known your family your whole life, and now you’re off to college and alone, and dealing with roommate issues and stuff like that is so funny. You’re kind of a counselor of all kinds when you’re a police officer. But yeah, the regular load of an officer for like a city or municipality is much greater than our load at the campus. And I honestly don’t know how our officers walk, work, like walk around and do their jobs on a daily basis without cracking up.

09:58

TAMAR: Right. Yeah, and I guess just hearing it from you, I don’t usually get in this perspective that I think most of us don’t get when we’re like watching the movies and watching TV shows, where the only time they have to consult with the psychiatrist or therapist is after their firearm went off, whether it’s their fault or not. And hey, I think it’s a job that you kind of need to be able to communicate with somebody on a regular basis, not just when something like that happens.

10:26

JEN MAY: Yeah, and t here’s so much stigma, like, there’s something wrong with you if you need to go talk to someone. And I think we hold that now as a society. And I think it’s magnified in the policing world, right? If you’re going to see a therapist, you’re not as tough as everybody else. And being a female, you already face that stigma. So that’s a definite real thing, is a fraternity of police officers. And while we are breaking down those boundaries and things, and I think my department in particular was really trying to work on that, it doesn’t mean it didn’t exist, you have to recognize that all of that was still under the surface. So, when I started having trouble, what we do is just stuff it down, right, you continue to stuff it, you continue to do your daily life, you try to get through each minute as you can, the next minute. And eventually, if you go through in enough minutes, enough hours enough days, just kind of stuffing all your feelings down, something is going to break. Whether you have a bad incident on the street or a bad incident in your house, or you end up cracking up like I did and end up in the hospital. So, one way or another, something’s going to pop. And I think that’s the real tragedy, why can’t we address things sooner with officers that are in need?

11:51

TAMAR: Yeah, you just gave me an idea for my podcast that I just got to start focusing on the police force. But I think though, in reality, a lot of why even though the podcast has three different angles, the rising above the ashes, the self-care side and the career trajectory side, I think that in general, we need to not hide away from the fact that we all as a human race suffer. And like I said earlier, everybody has their own crap that they’re dealing with, some of which they internalize a lot worse than others and becomes  something that could potentially be an impetus for a breakdown but it’s not so unusual for that to happen. And I think that just like you were saying, in the police force, there’s a stigma against that. And I think that we need to normalize it, we need to understand that we’re all there and I have to say somebody who has also kind of felt similarly not comfortable in sharing some of these things I’m happy to see that mental health is becoming more in the forefront and that people are able to openly share their stories like especially you Jen, I appreciate your coming out here, and exposing your vulnerabilities to me and to listeners.

13:09

JEN MAY: We can only change if we talk about it, right? Like me. It’s so easy to just not tell people I take medicine to help me and my moods, is so easy to walk around. And my doctor really told me ongoing care for mental health is just as important as if you were a diabetic or a long term cancer survivor. You need to take your medicine just as regularly as someone that has a condition of a different part of their body. And we tend to treat mental illness like it’s, again a flaw, and it’s not a flaw. It’s actually chemicals in your brain that cause distorted thinking or distorted reactions. So yeah, it’s definitely something that I wish more people would be open about, but I can honestly understand why people aren’t because  when you tell someone you’ve gone to the hospital for mental health care, they kind of get this look in there like fear, you think of things like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or some other media image of people having mental health care in a hospital. And even myself, I was scared to get help because of those things that are put in the media. But a hospital is a place where you go to get better. And I think this is a really great segue into what I learned when I was there.

14:28

TAMAR: Before you make your segue, I just want to call attention to a really important quote that I think is super important,  I heard it in a TED talk. It’s by a guy named Guy Winch. And he has a fascinating TED talk; I highly recommend it. It’s called Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid. And this quote really stuck with me the first time I heard it several years ago and again, when I heard it more recently. I saved it, hence the reason I’m able to pull this up right in the middle of the podcast. He said, “Oh, you’re feeling depressed. Just take it off. It’s on your head.” Can you imagine saying that to someone with a broken leg? Oh, just walk it off. It’s on your leg.

15:09

JEN MAY: Wow, that’s really powerful.

TAMAR: Yeah.

15:14

JEN MAY: You need to cast a tie in recovery. That’s incredible.

TAMAR: Yeah.

JEN MAY: So, while I was in the hospital, you go through actual class sessions on recalibrating your life. Like, okay, now you’ve had a hard time with your mental health. So how do you heal? How do you get better? And so, we had classes on what I call the basics. So, this is kind of how I came out of it. So obviously, because I had sleep deprivation, practicing and protecting my sleep is the number one self-care that I need to do. Followed by nutrition, because if you’re eating junk, you’re not going to feel good, right? We all know about like sugar highs and lows and things like that, exercise, and then an area I’ll call soulfulness, which I have a whole bunch of stuff to talk about. But I have also tomorrow, we kind of met, and I’ve also been listening to your other podcasts and almost every one of them has talked about running as self-care. And that’s absolutely part of my self-care routine. Whenever I’m having something stressful, I need to go for a run to kind of get the thoughts out of my head and just continue to meet my daily life after my run, right? I just need to get that out and the stress out of me. So, running is a huge self-care moment for me, just like your other guests have said.

16:50

TAMAR: Right? So, talk to me about the sleep training, retraining if you will, like how’s that? What exactly do they educate you on when you’re going through a regimen like that?

17:06

JEN MAY: Yeah, that’s actually a really good point. So, my sleep deprivation is twofold. It was literally not sleeping enough hours, and also insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, which include high anxiety and oftentimes huge amounts of nightmares. So, I had the nightmares and I was not sleeping, , which is another part of the sleep deprivation. So, when I went in there and talk to the doctors about those nightmares, they prescribed me a low dose anti-anxiety medicine that helps me sleep through the night without encountering those nightmares. I don’t have nightmares anymore. So, it’s incredible, because I thought I was doomed to live with these things repeating in my brain for life. And that’s just not the case. Another thing that I do for sleep is, when you’re lying there in bed, and you’re all you can think about is the to do list, and you just sit there and cycle through or maybe you’ve been cycled through like things you didn’t do well that day and kind of beat yourself up with it. I don’t do that anymore. I actually have an app that I put on and it tells me bedtime stories. So, I’m off like a kid, like we all need a mental break. So, I literally turn on my app and it puts you to sleep. The stories are designed to bring you to a low resting heart rate and they sort of low the speech down and make it quiet and let you drift off. And it’s really great.

18:39

TAMAR: Wow, cool. So, what app is it, just out of curiosity.

18:43

JEN MAY: So that’s the Calm app, but there’s also apps like Headspace and meditation apps are really great. And some of them will play you nature sounds, soft music, that kind of thing. Whatever works, but I find this stories distract me and they have both nonfiction and fiction. So, you can go on a traveling journey that’s a nonfiction piece and learn all about some foreign place you’ve never been to or you can go into the fiction world and they’ve got some really great stories there too.

19:16

TAMAR: Yeah, I have to say that Calm had been around for years. So, they had a lifetime subscription for one time only cost and I went ahead with it. I haven’t quite gotten around the meditation stuff. I just cannot do it. But I am also a fan of Calm. I do like the apps, I do like the sleep stories I’ve never listened to just because sometimes I meditate and if I do it late at night, I do see the sleep stories and I always bypass that because I’m trying to still go through the program and trying to get around it. But there’s a Sam Smith sleep door, it’s a sleep sounds or whatever, it is sleep music, and I don’t listen to it for that. I haven’t actually used it to put myself to sleep but at the same time I use it for reading. So, it’s like a welcome noise versus either the silence of nothingness which sometimes is fine. But sometimes that could be a distraction for me. So, it’s another way to redirect my focus on the book in front of me. And I found that a lot of that stuff there is very calming, you don’t necessarily have to use it to go to sleep. You don’t have to use it for meditation, you can use it to, I guess, effectively relax, just like the name says Calm and I’ve used Headspace as well.  So I went with Calm, right. But yeah, that’s a great app. And I’m glad you recommended that because I was about to say, if you name something else, I would have said, Yeah, you should check out the Calm app.

20:44

JEN MAY: Yeah, I’ve read some articles and I don’t know the statistics. But as Americans, we are incredibly under served in our sleep, we are chronically walking around sleep deprived. And not, we don’t talk about it, we don’t even know that we are. And it’s so important.

21:02

TAMAR: Yeah. Just looking at my husband, he goes to bed after me. And he wakes up before me, and I just don’t understand what he’s doing. But it is what it is. And I feel back. But that’s what he wants to do. He wants to relax in his own way, before bedtime, watching something and I’m just like, yeah, I’m not doing that. So, it definitely causes deprivation. And I think as a society, we definitely need to reevaluate in some way. And if not, then just do something for your brain so that your brain shuts off or not so much shuts off because it can’t, but give that some space and the ability to relax which is the process of meditation. I understand the importance of it. I just can’t quite get there yet.

21:53

JEN MAY: Well, absolutely. And sometimes it’s not your thing. So, before I learned to use the app, I would literally if I was finding myself cycling or having these thoughts like, what do I need to do tomorrow, I need to do this, this and this, I’d actually get up and write it down and just brain dump. And then I could stop doing that cycling because I had a place where I knew it was saved. And I would remember it in the morning. So that really helps.

TAMAR: Right. Yeah, I have, even though they say don’t take your phone to your bed. I do that just for the same purpose. I don’t write it down, because it just makes me feel better knowing that it’s on the to do list that I’ll be referring to the next day. So, I use to do list app for that.  Yeah.

22:35

JEN MAY: Absolutely.

22:37

TAMAR: Whatever works for whatever people. Yep.

JEN MAY:  Absolutely.

TAMAR: Yeah. So, tell me about, you talked about running. And I know I do revisit this topic on regular basis, because full disclosure for everybody else out there, there was recruitment for some of my podcast guests in a running group. I have never quite said that yet. I know, many have listened to the fact that I come from an area where I don’t feel like I’m part of the running community yet. But I’m trying to be a runner. And my goal is that people listen, they don’t necessarily have to say they’re ever going to be a runner, but maybe there’s some sort of inspiration they can take from the conversations here to potentially start doing something like this. There’s a whole exercise out of depression movement. And I guess I want to hear from you how active you’ve been in the running space, how you got started and what you’re doing now?

23:35

JEN MAY: Absolutely. So, I always had a little bit of interest in exercise, because you know, you have to pass the physical achievement levels in order to be an officer. But I never had any intentions on ever running. It’s not ever been my thing. I’m five foot two. So, it’s always been a challenge because I have short legs, and I’m always slower than everybody else. But how I came to running is I started at a gym, inside, I started where I couldn’t even do five minutes on the elliptical and I started working my way up, I got to an hour-and-a-half on the elliptical and I was so bored. And then it was unchallenging. And I wasn’t even breaking a sweat anymore. And I was like, okay, I need something different now. So, I  heard about Couch to 5K apps. And so, I downloaded one of those and I went over to the treadmill side of the gym. And I started the  Couch to 5K  and then I signed up for a 5K actual foot race because I wanted to make sure I challenged myself to actually finish the app right so there had to be kind of a graduation on my end to finish a 5K in real life. And after I did that I’m like oh wow, I can do this. If I do this. The next step is a Couch to 10K, so I did that. And then I did all on the treadmill except for the races because I kind of had a little bit of that fear of running by myself outside. And so, I started after the Couch to 10 K, you’re now running for, I don’t know, for me, it was more than an hour, right?

25:12

I was variable runner. So, you’re running for an hour on a treadmill, and it gets really dull. There’s nothing really, I don’t want to watch TV. So, I was cycling the same music over and over. And I just got bored. So, I started looking into running in the area. And I found a running shoe store that has all kinds of programs that are designed to help people in our area encourage running. So, they have a walk-to-run program where they end up doing a 5K as a group as an actual graduation. It’s 16 weeks and they do a graduation 5K. And then I joined that for a few days. And I’m just a little bit tiny, over running them. It was in a local park and they just did a loop and I was passing everybody. And I think I need a little bit more of a challenging group. So, the running store also hosts just regular runs three days a week. You start from the store, and you go anywhere on there about three miles and I started running with these groups three times a week. And then I started getting addicted to our little races. Because a lot of races give you a medal at the end.

26:23

TAMAR: I get it, I get it. The only race that had a medal at the end was one that I ran with my kids and I stole their medal because the adults didn’t get any accomplishment. (laughter) I know.

26:38

JEN MAY: So, I got addicted. I started doing little more racing a little bit. And I think we talked about this on a different podcast, but I know I’m never going to be first and fast. In fact, I’m always a back of the packer but it’s just the fact like I can celebrate that I never used to be able to even walk a block. And now I can run three miles and or 10 miles or whatever. So, I ended up doing some half marathons. And then I’m like, there’s this really nice local race. It’s hosted in our area, it’s about a thousand people for a full marathon. So, and it’s hosted by the running store that I go to. So, I decided last year that 2019 I was going to run a marathon. And I did, I ran it. The finish line had gone by the time I was back, but a very wonderful woman was standing there with a box of medals. Oh, I didn’t actually clock in at a certain time. I think it was around seven hours it took me but she made sure I got that medal, this one on my wall.

27:46

TAMAR: Wow, that’s so sad that they left. I’m upset for you.

27:53

JEN MAY: They told us all along that there was a course time limit because of the traffic, control that they needed after seven hours; you’re now running in the mid afternoon and they need to clear the area for traffic. So, I get it.

28:08

TAMAR: Yeah, but it was a marathon. It was a hard pace to do. It’s hard to run 26.2 miles.

28:17

JEN MAY: And full disclosure, when you’re a new runner, you don’t necessarily run every step of a marathon. So, I was walking but I have to by the end. And I have to say I still passed for people on the way to the end of the race. So that was my crowning moment. But then I have even a little bit more of that story. So, I met a woman from California, I ended up going out to see her and we ran across the Golden Gate Bridge together. She lives in the San Francisco area. And I’m afraid of heights. So, this past year, I’ve kind of had this mantra of if you can’t beat fear, do it scared. So, my 2019 goal also was to run across this bridge with her. And it’s 1.7 miles each direction. So that’s sustaining your fear across a long period. That’s like an hour for me to run almost four miles. I managed to accomplish that. And then she came to visit in Chicago for a trade show. So, we ended up seeing each other again, and we dared each other to enter into the Chicago Marathon race, which is one of the Masters’ races. So, it’s a big deal. There are a lot of races. I think it’s 40,000 race participants. And so, we entered the lotto for the Chicago Marathon and we both got in and that is incredibly lucky. There are some people that never make it through the lottery system. So, we intend to run the Chicago Marathon in October.

29:48

TAMAR: Nice. Yeah, actually I save all these little quotes that are inspiring and based on your do it scared comment if you can’t be feared do it scared. I have another thing that I saved, I just found this on Reddit two days ago. And I think it’s important to read out loud because I think overcoming fear is a huge thing. I think all of us are facing this all the time. I’m facing this right now. And I’m sitting here and I’m trying to reinforce the fact that I need to overcome. So, I’m just going to read this. I was 13 years old, trying to teach my six year old sister how to dive into a swimming pool from the side of the pool. It was taking quite a while as my sister was really nervous about it. We were at a big public pool and nearby, there was a woman about 75 years old, slowly swimming laps. Occasionally, she would stop and watch us finally she swims over to us just when I was really putting the pressure on trying to get my sister to try that dive. And my sister was shouting but I’m afraid, I’m so afraid. That old woman looked at my sister, raised her fist defiantly in the air and said, so be afraid and then do it anyway. That was 35 years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. It was a revelation. It’s not about being unafraid, it’s about being afraid and doing it anyway.

30:54

JEN MAY: Yes. Absolutely, yes.

30:56

TAMAR: Yes.

30:58

JEN MAY: Yes. 100% yes.

31:02

TAMAR: Okay, cool. So, I think all of us, even though we’re talking about our physical fitness, I think in general, there’s things that you and I right now are probably thinking in our mind that we have fear about. And I think everybody here who’s listening probably should say what is holding you back right now, fears holding you back on something, let’s try to overcome it and do it anyhow.

31:27

JEN MAY: And Tamar, this is part of my self-care soulfulness piece that I wanted to talk about. So, I did not naturally have a courageous soul. I’ve been very timid in my past life. I was when I was a kid, when I was a teenager, I couldn’t even call for pizza, because I was so terrified, they would yell at me on the other end of the line. And even being through policing, I was still a little bit nervous to use that energy to confront people. And I have actually built myself a self-care program of finding courage. And I’ve done that through two different methods. One is through finding courageous music to run to, things like The champion by Carrie Underwood, or there’s another song called Be Legendary. And I just put that on three hours of positive affirmations that you are awesome and amazing, is really great for your soul.

32:23

TAMAR: It’s true. It’s true. Have you heard I’ve mentioned this in the past that I listened to Fearless Motivation. It’s a Spotify playlist. It’s also the same stuff. It’s very repetitive. Well, it’s not very repetitive. It’s very repetitive in the ideas that you’re great, you’re amazing. You have a tremendous amount of potential. I think, if you haven’t checked it out, you should let me know later how you like it.

32:46

JEN MAY: Absolutely, I will. And then my other piece of that is I built myself, this is so silly, I built myself a Pinterest board of little encouraging quotes. So, things like wake up beauty, it’s time to beast or be a warrior, not a worrier. And when I get into a moment in my software life where I have to be in charge of the meeting, and sometimes I’m in charge of the meeting, when people are not happy with us, and so sometimes I read that Pinterest board before I even go into my meeting. And they talk about power poses.

33:22

TAMAR: Yeah, I was about to say that actually.

JEN MAY: Actually, I do that. And now I’m telling everyone at work, they need to do it too. And it’s so cool to see this little rebel of courage going through my community.

TAMAR: That’s so awesome. Yeah, power posing is really like I just read how to use presence a few months ago. And there’s some stuff there that I just couldn’t wrap my head behind in the beginning. But then it just got into this whole element of you got a positive self-talk, posing a lot of power, and all of a sudden I practice it. Like there were some things, conversations that I was afraid to face. And then just doing that power posing gave me a lot of confidence in the moment. And it’s funny because you say like, there are probably people out there who are thinking, okay, this is all really weird and mumbo jumbo cheesiness, but it works. I would have been if you bet me that I would be talking about this a year ago, I’d laugh in your face. I’d be like, this is ridiculous, but it’s true. It’s so weird to say but it’s true.

34:26

JEN MAY: It absolutely is. And I agree. Like I would have been the first one. That’s just silly. But it actually does work after you read your third or fourth article on someone that says this really works for me. Why not try it out?

34:41

TAMAR: Yeah. But it’s funny because you’re just like, oh, they’re just drinking the same Kool Aid, but they’re really not because clearly there’s something here to take away from it.

34:49

JEN MAY: Absolutely.

34:51

TAMAR: Yeah.

34:51

JEN MAY: I have a piece of soulfulness that I wanted to share and this goes back to my high school days of being very introverted and quiet. And that’s what I called spiritual quiet. And it’s not quite the same as meditation. I feel you can be spiritually quiet with a cup of tea on the couch or spiritually quiet. I actually am a poet. So, I write when I want to get spiritually quiet or just shutting out the hustle and bustle, maybe this is what people would call unplugging. But that’s really something that I feel is very important to your self-care. And we talk about self-care is like bubble baths and getting your nails done. But it really is an effort to do all of those things that are the basics that are going to serve you long term and not just make you feel good for the moment.

35:42

TAMAR: Yeah. So, I think I’ve found something that is to me kind of like this meditation slash spiritual quiet that you’re talking about. I think that I respond better to it. I used to have a fear of driving, I used to love it. And then something happened, I got in a tiny little fender bender with a friend of mine, in a parking lot of all places. And I didn’t realize that it actually manifested a fear that ended up lasting for I would say probably about 20 years or so. And it wasn’t until recently, maybe just a little over a year ago that I started getting confidence to start driving again. And I found that if I listened to my alter rock music from the 90s, and I can harmonize to it and just sing casually and just let it be I’m letting it out. I mean, I do have people in the car with me, usually my children, taking them to school. But it gives me that peace of mind. And I’m just like, present. And another thing that kind of goes in tandem with this is Eckhart Tolle, he’s an author, he writes a bunch of these books on absoluteness of presence. The Power of Now is actually one of his really big books that came out, I don’t know, about 10,15 years ago. And I think it brings me to that element of that spiritual quiet that presence, even though it’s not the same context of which other people are kind of experiencing it. But this is my experience. And all of a sudden, I realized that time goes by but I’m feeling relaxed and calm and great. And there are ways that that this can be manifested, and that doesn’t have to conform to the way it’s been communicated to you in the past. And that I think is important that you can find your calmness and your relaxation without having to necessarily meditate or sit on the couch with coffee, or write a poem, that it could be just, I don’t know, sitting in a sauna, or I don’t want to give anybody any ideas, but there’s got to be something there that’s going to give you some freedom and peace of mind and happiness and joy.

37:50

JEN MAY: Yeah, absolutely. So, we both read books, probably quite a bit, but there’s a book that I think changed my life. I sort of came into reading this book as I was coming into, or coming out of a lot of trauma in my life.  And it’s really geared kind of towards people who are facing medical long term injury journey, kind of like, writing about maybe coming through cancer, but I think it also applied to me and I found and I was able to relate to that as coming through traumas. So, I ended up writing a whole series of poems, because of one line in that book. And it said, right from the place where you are sewn together, like the part where you’ve had to pat yourself the part where you’re cracked, and you’ve had to reseal yourself. And I put together this whole bunch of poetry and put it into a book. And I think part of that trauma was I didn’t really allow myself to have a voice. Again, I was in an abusive marriage. So, I silenced myself so much. Also with policing, you can’t really talk about domestic violence in policing world. So, I silenced myself there. I just came to work, I did my job, I went home. I didn’t talk about my life at home. And then being able to do this spiritual quietness of doing the work of healing and writing from that kind of broken place. And getting that out of me and putting it on paper. And then ultimately, I put that into a book called Battle Cry. Getting that out has been the most healing self-care ever for me. If I could say the number one thing that came out of all of that self-care journey would be the book.

39:35

TAMAR: Wow, that’s really cool. It’s amazing that you had so many ideas that kind of just stems from this area that you’ve been consistently patching. But now that I’m thinking about it, I probably have a memoir to write from those kinds of things.

JEN MAY:  You should start writing..

39:55

TAMAR: I have. I actually am in the middle of I have a tab open on my browser right now. It’s like 100 plus pages of a memoir. I’m trying to figure it out. Although it’s a lot of just little tidbits the last couple years in aggregate, most of which is not quite organized, but I’m thinking about it. I haven’t quite written the last 20, not the last 10 years of my life. I’ve only started really doing the beginning that probably, for me is the hardest part to kind of get into the more recent stuff. Probably, I will read your book someday.

JEN MAY: Tamar, I fully believe you’re going to publish that. Absolutely.

40:38

TAMAR: Yeah, well, I have written two books in the past, but that had nothing to do with me. So, getting into this context is  very, very raw, very vulnerable, I basically, I’m not withholding any information. But that could be a really, it’s a blessing or a curse. And I probably lose all my friends. I’m not sure if I should be doing this yet. I’ll think about it. Maybe I’ll send it to you beforehand to see what you think.

41:01

JEN MAY:  Well, like I said, I am a big proponent of let’s talk about the hard stuff. And that’s what my book battle cry is all about. Like this is their journey, that I think it’s really important. If you’re writing that story, at least one other human on this planet has a similar story to that story, right. So, if you have trauma, if you have a really big thing that you’re wrestling with, we have community just because we’re human. And if you can put that on paper and or say it out loud, maybe at an open mic or say it out loud, even reading it to your family, somebody is going to have empathy with you on that. And it draws us together and enable to heal us just that much more in the world. And I call that making ripples, right? We put ourselves out there, we tell about the hard stuff, like Oprah wouldn’t be Oprah if she didn’t open up the hard part of her life and inspire us with some of those hard things that she’s faced, right. And all the other people that are out there that are acknowledging that, hey, I was hurt in this way. And it really hurt. And this is how I got through it. We’re really providing roadmaps for other people that might have similar hurts that don’t know how to get through those things themselves.

42:16

TAMAR: Yeah, but it’s difficult. It’s definitely difficult. Like I spoke to my mother. My whole story really starts from when I was born to like today. And so, I had spoken to my mother a few weeks ago, and I just said, tell me about my birth, the circumstances surrounding my birth, just like why do you want to know, oh, writing a memoir? Don’t do that, like, she knows that I’ve been through stuff that I don’t think she would want me to share with the world. And at the same time that kind of compels me because  there are other people who probably relate to this, and in ways that they wouldn’t have otherwise thought about, and if not all of it. I mean, there’s little things here and there. But there’s going to be some stuff that will be important takeaways. I just read Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. And yeah, there’s stuff that most of it I don’t relate to, but at the same time, just to see how she’s grown and how she’s blossomed into where she is now. It’s fascinating to read to get that perspective, regardless of whether I identify with it.

43:17

JEN MAY:   Absolutely. And I have hope that when we do that hard work to kind of heal those things in ourselves and talk about them, somebody else will also feel empowered to do the same. And whatever they do with that energy, I hope that would be good energy put out into the world. I’m not going to get into religion. But I just think my whole existence of getting into that spiritual quiet is to get into a place where we can make ripples to help the world heal in whatever way that is.

43:48

TAMAR: Yeah, you’re right.

JEN MAY: Start at home, start in your heart and how are you going to heal that place?

43:54

TAMAR: Right. Yeah. Cool. All right. So, I’m going to wrap up, I’m going to wrap up with one final question for you.

JEN MAY: Okey.

TAMAR:  If you can give the younger Jen some advice, what would you tell her?

44:07

JEN MAY: Oh, that’s a really great question. I think it would be don’t silence yourself. I think we have a lot of internal rules that we follow. I had one that I would tell myself like, I’m not going to get divorced because my parents were divorced. And so, my internal rule was, I’m never getting divorced. I don’t care what he does. I don’t care what I have to face, I am never getting worse. And when you’re with an abuser, that is not healthy for you. When you have these internal rules, and then you’re also silencing yourself and not being true about who you are and your journey, then you’re not going to come out well. Things are going to continue to go downhill and it’s going to hurt and you can save yourself so much hurt if you do it even if you do it scared, find that way of living. I had a really great mentor who once told me, you can say anything to anyone, as long as you’re careful of your tone. And sometimes when I have a really hard customer service moment, or I have to be upfront with a friend that maybe I might have to disappoint them, or I have to tell my boss some uncomfortable news, or whatever it is, like if you say it with a respectful tone, and you say it and you leave it there on the table. Like, hey, I don’t really want to do this thing with you my dearest friend, but I’m just not interested in doing that particular thing. And then stop and put a period on it. You can say that one sentence, and own it. And then you’re going to be that much more courageous for having said it, instead of feeling bad that you let that sit, and then you ended up having to do that thing with your friend you really didn’t want to do. Does that make sense?

46:01

TAMAR: Oh, 100%. Actually, I recently faced my fears of approaching someone with something that if I otherwise withheld, would have eaten me alive. And it was difficult. It was definitely difficult because what I was going to say wasn’t exactly the kindest thing. It was more expressing my feelings about being slighted in a way that I wasn’t I didn’t feel was justified. And I have to say I was fearful because at least in that specific case, I thought it would ruin the relationship. And instead, I think it actually strengthened it. So, if I hadn’t done it, I would have still been sitting here thinking I didn’t act, I didn’t act and I would just be miserable. But now that I did it, the outcome was better than I expected. So, I think our anticipatory anxiety or anticipation for rejection of what we would have, if we don’t act is probably worse than when we actually do act.

47:03

JEN MAY: I agree. I agree. And not only that, you’re doing yourself a disservice because you’re not able to be up front with someone else that’s actually causing harm. And like you said, anxiety. And it’s not aligning with your core. So, you’re actually bringing yourself out of spiritual or mental comfort when you have to stick with something you don’t want and you can’t talk about it with that person. It’s just never going to turn out well for yourself. And I think we have to treat ourselves with the most loving kindness that we possibly can.

47:36

TAMAR: Cool. This has been great. And I appreciate you taking the time and sharing this with me and getting real and getting authentic and feeling, hopefully reinforces all these concepts both in your mind and mine and everyone else’s. And that there’ll be a lot of great benefit derived from what we’ve listened to and shared.

47:58

JEN MAY: Thank you so much for having me Tamar, and I can’t wait to hear the other amazing ladies you’re going to have on your podcast, and I’ve been enjoying listening to the episodes and I just really appreciate this opportunity.

48:09

TAMAR: Yeah, likewise, it’s really been an honor to have you here, Jen. So, thank you so much.

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TAMAR.