Heartbreak training, and how to Woman Up.


Where did you get your heartbreak training?

Today, I’m going to tell you a story of where I got mine, and the experience that turned it all on its head (for the better). 

But before I do, I have a quick update for you: A few weeks ago, I told you to save the date for my book launch, September 20th, 2016. Well today, I am so thrilled to officially invite you to join me, live in NYC, for a legendary evening of provocative conversation, celebration, and sisterhood. 

All the details and registration info are right here. 

I expect tickets to go fast, so if you’d like to join, I encourage you to reserve your seat today. . .  And check out the special guests we’ve lined up – I’m so excited to share the stage with these powerhouse women. Click the link above, or scroll down to the end of this email for more info. 🙂

Okay, back to heartbreak training. Where did you get yours?
Friends? Movies?
Your family?

Not my family.
My family never let ‘em see us sweat.
No one had heartbreak.
Our upper lips were so stiff that we were like the most British Jews in Philadelphia.

But growing up in the suburbs, I longed to feel. Everything.
By the time my tween years were upon me, I was having a full on love affair with heartbreak.
It was such good times for this.
And I got so fueled. 

It was the late 60’s, early 70’s. The music was incredible. Janis Joplin was killing herself both onstage and off, Simon and Garfunkel were bemoaning the Sound of Silence, Jimi Hendrix was overdosing, and Streisand was singing about people who need people.  

I was basically a 40 year old in a 7th grade body – bitter, resigned and, relating way too much to the tragedy of love.

It’s no wonder, years later, when I finally let myself live enough and love enough to feel something, that I was clueless of how to proceed.

As an English and Theatre Major, I looked to Shakespeare for my answers.
This was not helpful.
Romeo and Juliet ended up ending their lives.
Hamlet either directly or indirectly killed his girlfriend, his mom, his stepfather, his beloved friends, and himself.
King Lear destroyed not only his life, but the life of the very daughter who loved him the best.

Heartbreak didn’t just trip us up. It seemed like once heartbreak hit, it was unrecoverable.
And permanent.
And above all things – not at all ‘good’.

What I didn’t realize was that the way I was taught about heartbreak was just that – a way.
A highly masculinized way.
Not the only way.

From my family, I learned to avoid the expression of my inner on the outer, in any and every way.

From the pop music culture, I learned that expressing yourself fully, takes you to the edge of out of control madness.  

From Shakespeare I learned that tragedy is tragical.

But when the woman in me started to wake up, and educate me about her truths, I learned about the life-giving gifts that arrive in whatever ‘package’ we receive from this adventure called the human experience.

I had been thigh deep in the Womanly Arts for about 8 years, when I got hit with my divorce.  

I reached immediately for my familial tools of the masculine – stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on, never let ‘em see you sweat.
I sank deeper.
I had a kid to raise, a table to put food on, a school to run.

I was never ever going to climb out of this hole using the tools of how I was raised.
It was going to take something else, something different.

I was going to have to stop the man-up game and start the woman-up game.
I knew how to woman-up when things were going well.
I knew how to reach for a hot bath with music at the end of a long day.
How to flirt my way out of a traffic ticket.
How to dance as if no one was watching.

But – dance when I was having to siphon out my kid’s savings account to make payroll?
Or flirt on my way to meet with my divorce attorney?
Not happening. Not so much.

In fact, the more heartbroken I became at my own circumstances, the more determined I felt about the absolute impossibility of using the discipline of pleasure at a time like this.
It just wasn’t fucking appropriate.
Nor practical.
And utterly unrealistic.

This is how certain I was of my point of view: 

When my pal, Sally, gave me the gift of five dance lessons with her award-winning ballroom dance teacher husband, Alex, I threw the card in the trash.  

Fortunately, I was too deep in heartbreak to empty the trash much.
And a few days later, I dug that card out of the garbage and called Alex for my first appointment.
I had come to the end of man-up rope.
It was time to practice the art of being a woman.  

I arrived at the ballroom dance studio, which bore a significant resemblance to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Not just the tatty surroundings, but the eccentricity of those that ballroom dance.

But then I saw the most delicate slight man, extend his hand, like a king, to a wonderfully robust woman, who floated towards him like the butterfly that she truly was, and I knew I was in the right place.  

Dancing was not frivolous. It was not petty. The pleasure of dance was genius. Dance was actually the great exaulter. The place where a frail human woman gets to meet her goddess, her queen. And an ordinary man gets to step into his prince, his king. 

I quickly used all of those 5 sessions and booked many more.
I would take Maggie and a coloring book and she would watch me, sometimes clumsy, sometimes elegant, locate a new center inside myself.

And from that dancing place, I could write a whole new story for myself, my daughter, my school.  

Instead of being uptight, fucked up, stiff, defensive, wrong, failed, humiliated, facing destruction and defeat, I was a kind of butterfly. A princess. A queen.

Instead of finishing me or destroying me, this rupture was part of my unfolding adventure.
It was my chance to locate an inner strength built on beauty. My beauty.
A resourcefulness created from my poetry. Not my circumstances.  

I became the woman I wanted to be – a woman that could take any situation and pirouette it to her advantage.  

It was only the depth of my despair that forced my sea of change.

If you are in heartbreak now, or when you hit it (and my prayer for you is that you hit it, and hit it hard), you don’t listen to anything that the culture or your family taught you.

Instead, reach across your anguish and pick up anything that sparkles. Glitters. Glimmers. Even and especially if it initially irritates you.

Do not forget that pleasure is always irritating. It always seems like the wrong choice. That’s how you know you are onto something.

Because that will inevitable mean you are choosing your pleasure as the highest value.
Which, of course, it is.
And that will change everything about your destiny.

It doesn’t ever matter where you came from. It only matters where you intend to go.

I’d love to hear from you today in the comments below  . . .

  • What were you taught about how to handle heartbreak?
  • What does it mean to you, to Woman Up?
  • How can you choose pleasure today?

All my love,
Mama Gena

P.S. My new book, Pussy: A Reclamation, is hitting the shelves on September 20th, and bringing forth a whole new paradigm for women. I’m hosting a legendary evening to celebrate, and you’re invited. 


Plus, I’m so excited to welcome my special guests Marie Forleo, Kris Carr, and Gabby Bernstein to blow the lid off this special event. Join us! 


Mama Gena's


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