In this episode of the Forty Drinks Podcast Karel Chan discusses her journey to find peace and happiness. Karel shares her search for love and longing to become a mother, and how these desires shaped her relationships and decision-making. She discusses her formative adult years, the challenges she faced in relationships, and the inner child healing work she undertook to find self-acceptance and self-love. Karel also reflects on her decision to prioritize her own happiness and let go of the idea of having a traditional family, and how this ultimately led her to find a balanced and fulfilling relationship with her partner. This episode explores themes of self-discovery, healing, and finding peace in unexpected places.
Karel Chan is a happiness and mindfulness coach. She guides soulful women in connecting with mind, body, and spirit to discover their highest selves and purpose, so that they can live a happy and soul-driven life. She has healed multiple mental and emotional wounds and afflictions using mindfulness, authentic self-love, and unwavering self-compassion and it is her mission to help others do the same.
Turning 40 and Making Peace with Your Path
In this episode of the Forty Drinks Podcast, host Stephanie interviews Karel Chan about her journey to finding peace and happiness in her life. Karel shares her experiences of searching for love and longing to become a mother, and how these desires shaped her relationships and decision-making. She discusses her formative adult years, the challenges she faced in relationships, and the inner child healing work she undertook to find self-acceptance and self-love. Karel also reflects on her decision to prioritize her own happiness and let go of the idea of having a traditional family, and how this ultimately led her to find a balanced and fulfilling relationship with her partner, Derek. This episode explores themes of self-discovery, healing, and finding peace in unexpected places.
Highlights from the episode:
Karel’s search for love and longing to become a mother in her twenties and thirties
The challenges she faced in relationships and her pattern of trying to “fix” broken partners
The importance of inner child healing and learning to love and accept oneself
The realization that her deep desire for motherhood was connected to her own journey of embodying pure love
The decision to prioritize her own happiness and let go of societal expectations
Finding a balanced and fulfilling relationship with her partner, Derek, after doing the inner work
I hope listeners will be inspired by Karel’s story of overcoming challenges, healing past wounds, and making peace with her path. Tune in to hear Karel’s powerful insights and reflections on love, motherhood, and the importance of honoring oneself. Don’t forget to rate, follow, and review the Forty Drinks Podcast if you enjoyed this episode.
What does a woman’s desire to have a baby feel like?
The desire to be a mother comes in as many flavors as there are grains of sand at the beach. The Forty Drinks Podcast has shared a variety of stories about motherhood, including Tara’s desire to become a mother on her own at age 40 and Carey’s decision to become a mother despite her predisposition to mental health challenges.
Karel’s Gift to You: Love Your Self Well – A self-love and self-compassion intensive
Do you have the Midlife Ick?
Download Stephanie’s guide to the Ick to diagnose whether you or someone you love is suffering from this insidious midlife malaise. www.fortydrinks.com/ick
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The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications
Stephanie: Hi Carol. Thanks for joining me today.
Karel: Hi Stephanie. I'm so happy to be here.
Stephanie: It's my pleasure to have you. I love that when you and I first connected, I don't know why I needed you to be on the East Coast near me, but I interpreted you to have a 5 0 8 area code, which is in the state next door in Massachusetts, but you're not, you're across the country.
Karel: Yeah, yeah. I'm in Portland area, so 5 0 3, but I'm from the East Coast, so there is some spirit there.
Stephanie: All right. All right. Fair enough. And you said you did have a very long ago tangential connection to New Hampshire, so I'll take that.
Stephanie: All right. So let's start our conversation today by, why don't you give me a little bit of background on what your format ive adult years were like, sort of what were you in your twenties and thirties that brings us to where our story begins today.
Karel: Yeah, it's so interesting to be asked about my life because the older I get, the more life there is to tell,
Stephanie: I know that's a great point. Yes.
Karel: My twenties were, uh, full of confusion, but also like idealism, which I appreciate. So in my early twenties, I was living in New York City and just trying to like establish a life, and jumped through a couple jobs, but really what I was looking for was love. My high school friends had all met their now husbands in high school or college, and then there was me just like bopping around and just kind of feeling like I had missed the boat, you know, which is really funny now, like at 22 thinking I missed the boat.
Karel: But, so I dated a lot and was constantly kind of looking for that, that love, you know? And when I found that from a boy in New Hampshire, and we ended up moving out to Portland together.
I hadn't been in love with my life in New York and so leaving wasn't that big of a deal, but it was moving across the country to a city I had never been to before. That was kind of a big deal. Buthe was in love with me, I was so excited. I thought, this is it, I can stop looking. I finally, you know, got on the boat, and moved out here and things just were so hard. The relationship didn't last. It was full of a lot of strife and he turned out to have a lot of mental health issues, which I really came into learning because I started grad school in counseling and started to see a lot of my own stuff and through seeing a lot of my own stuff, also seeing a lot of his stuff. And so that relationship went through a couple tumultuous ends and like kind of coming back together and finally ended. And then I was single and living with roommates, in Portland, like ready to experience my late twenties being single, at the same time, just like really wanted a relationship. And still had this sense of like what I really want is that linear path, right? I want a man who will marry me and we're gonna have a family together. That was still really what I wanted. At the same time I was in grad school, finished grad school, started my career as a therapist. All the pieces felt like they were going in some direction, but the love piece just kept crumbling. So after that relationship ended, I had another more significant relationship, it was only a year and a half, but it was very transformational for me. With him, I learned what it meant to love selflessly. With the relationship with New Hampshire boy, there was a lot of conflict, there was a lot of yelling, a lot of fighting on both ends. And through my therapy work, I actually learned how to not do that. And so that was the last relationship I ever yelled in. So with this relationship, we would have conflict, but it was very different. And I learned how to open, and probably have a little too much empathy. But, it was definitely a switch from that very tumultuous, very high conflict relationship. Um, that relationship ended and I took that so hard. I was probably 30, 31 when that relationship ended, and that's when I really started to feel this like I'm running out of time to have the family dream that I want. And that really put me into this place of despair.
Karel: And I really started to work on what does it mean to truly heal from heartbreak and choose better relationships. Because I just want one to last, you know.
Stephanie: Oh my God. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let me ask you, what was your flavor of relationships that didn't work? My life path is littered with relationships that didn't work. And most of them were, um, were just not that nice to me, um, but I thought, you know, oh, I can make this work if I'm only then I can, you know. And then others were people that I w I thought if I only loved them enough or strong enough or in the right way, that I could fix them. So there was some of the both of those.
Karel: Yeah. I mean, that sounds like me.
Stephanie: Oh, okay. So similar flavors. Okay.
Karel: I would say they did change, like every significant relationship has changed because I kept thinking, what can I do differently? But there's still a similar flavor, which is this person is broken in some way and I wanna be that like maybe savior that feels really intense, but like, I wanna be that beacon of light
Stephanie: The hero.
Stephanie: You wanna be the hero that helps them get to where you know they could be, and maybe even they even want to be.
Karel: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Like I can inspire them.
Um, and you know, that doesn't work because they're not inspired for themselves. Then they'll just drag you down.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. If anybody could try harder and make it work, it would've been me. But, uh, no, it doesn't work. It doesn't work. It sounds like on your journey, you were aware much earlier than I was that things weren't working and you had to do things differently. I didn't get to that until I was 40 and right before I met my husband. But otherwise it was just, that didn't work. And, you know, ah. But I did not have the perspective or the wherewithal or the point of view to say, what could I do differently? It was always them. They were always the ones, right. Okay, so you're in your early thirties, you had a transformational relationship and yet it didn't quite work. So what next?
Karel: So then Ikept dating, but also had started a private practice in therapy specializing in heartbreak. So, yeah.And so I was really in it. I was constantly thinking about it. Thinking about not only like how to date, but how to recover from heartbreak and how to feel really empowered in one's self, in whatever stage of the relationship, right? So whether you're dating or you're like in the will we, won't, we haven't DTR'd kind of thing, or, you know, in relationship or breaking up. And just kept getting into these like, almost relationships and then like the years would pass, right? And I'd be like, wow. I'm running out of time. And then I started to think maybe I don't, maybe being a mom isn't for me, right? I believe a lot in fate and so I'm like, oh, is it just not gonna happen for me? I'm not supposed to be a mom. And that thought was very painful so I didn't give it a ton of airtime, and at the same time, I kind of also was too afraid to really commit and say if I truly wanna be a mom in a relationship, what does that mean for me? I was kind of just like, well, I think love is more important to me than being a mom. So, kept really trying to get into these relationships and kind of like wondering what I was missing because I had all this therapy training, was supposed to understand relationships, have done all this self-work, and yet kept getting into these relationships with guys who were just like, nah, I don't really know or they had some issue they hadn't resolved, right? And I was like, okay, like I'm not gonna be your therapist, right? But if you can't resolve this, I also can't be your girlfriend. And they'd be like, well, I don't really want a girlfriend anyway. So finally, I think I was like 30, oh gosh, 32, 33, I met this man, something about him was just so captivating. And it turned out,it's just so funny thing about it now. So he was a Muslim. He was a convert, so it wasn't like obvious that he was a Muslim, but he also didn't hide it. So we would like sit down to eat and he would bless his food and then he'd be like, oh, I have to go pray. Like, oh, okay. And I was like so into him and after a while I was like, so if this is gonna be a thing, like how does Islam fit into this? What will you want from a partner? And he ultimately came back and said I'd want a partner to be Muslim in belief and practice and I'd been thinking about it cuz I had asked him and I was like, okay, let me give it a try because I so was ready for that, that whole commitment. And Islam is such a traditional religion. It's like if you're dating, you're going for it. And so I was like, okay, this is it. Like it's gonna happen. And then as soon as I started to explore Islam, he kind of freaked out and like couldn't handle this like, act of commitment that I had given. So that relationship also sadly ended. And for me, that was just so crushing because I was like, what am I doing wrong here? I am throwing my heart into these relationships and looking for that to come back to me. And, I think I'm finding like, so a guy who's pretty devoutly religious in a religion that really honors family. Like what am I doing wrong? You know? And I just continued on with Islam. Like, I was like, it's not really not about you. Yeah. And through that started to really value a lot of, um, more, um, I guess like there's the best way to say, it's like more traditional values and realizing how much I had either dismissed those or not been taught those along the way.
Stephanie: Can you gimme an example of one?
Karel: Yeah. Yeah. So number one is promiscuity. Being raised in the sort of culture that we are, you know, being millennials, and all the tales of the sexual liberation for women, there wasn't any question that I was just gonna become sexually active as a young adult. There wasn't really a lot of like, hey, you can decide to do that, but here's what happens if you do and if you decide not to do that, like, here's how to be discerning. Like truly discerning. Not just on a physical safety level, right? Not just on an STI level, but on a heart level. Here's how to be discerning with your heart and your body, which are very connected. So that was number one. And I was like, wow, I have given myself away both in relationship and casually, right? And that's not only like time wasted. I'm doing air quotes right now. Not only time wasted, but heart wasted.
Karel: And my body feels it, you know? And so there was a real return for me. I was celibate for a year. Even like when I was trying to date, I didn't kiss a man for a year, I went on dates, barely hugged them
Karel: and really that was a moment of honoring myself and understanding what it means to really respect my heart and emphasize to lead with what I'm really looking for, which is a heart connection, which is a soul connection. The bodily connection comes later.
Karel: Then that's when I met Derek, who's my current partner. I met him kind of a year or so after that breakup. And he's very spiritual and when I told him up upfront, I was like, you know, I'm really leading with emotional connection, I don't really wanna sleep together until like this is a committed thing. And he would up the ante, he was like, okay, that's fine, then like, we shouldn't even like fool around. And I was like, what?
Stephanie: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
Karel: But you know, that said a lot to me. And so, like, ah, settled into that relationship and I told him up front, I was like, you know, I was 34. I said, I'm looking for a relationship where I'm going to be married and be a mom, is that something that you're interested in? Is that what you're looking for? And he said, you know, nothing would make me happier. Cause he had a son already from previous marriage. He was like, nothing made me happier to be married again and to have more kids, I'd love to have a little girl. And I'm like, oh, my heart melted. You know, like, okay. You know. But then like shortly after that we're on our first weekend trip away and he's like, I've really been thinking, because he hadn't been dating really, he had given up on relationships, and he was like, I realized that I don't think that my mundane physical life, but also my spiritual life, I don't think that supports having more children. And I'm feeling it right now. Like my heart sank, you know, I cried the rest of the night. We went to see a play and I cried the whole time,
Karel: like, how could I have found this wonderful man? And then you just take it all away, you know? I'm like, I can't, I can't do this again. I can't do this again. But I also knew that I had to really consider it, you know? I already knew that he wouldn't hold it against me if I was like, Nope, bye. Um, so I really marinated on it, you know, I really reflected what's more important to me right now? Is it this elusive dream, that I still haven't found and may not to find that perfect, that triumvirate of the man, the love, and then the family. Um, is that what I really want or, or do I really want what I already have found, which is this amazing spiritual, driven, ambitious, but also heartful man. So I chose him. I chose him. So then we kind of were in this relationship and it was to me, like such a wonderful, but also challenging, and super growth oriented relationship. And there were several times where I would still kind of have this panic moment of like, this is it like if I'm with you, like we're not doing this.
Stephanie: Right. It's just us. This is it. This is the family.
Karel: Right. Right. And the relationship with his son like, I was never gonna be like a mother figure to his son. His son has a mother and he was very clear on that and I respected that, but it was also like, if I choose to stay in this relationship, I'm not gonna be a mother, right? Because I commit, I commit to her life. So this is it. And there were several moments along the relationship where if we had something that was difficult to work through, I would go back to, okay, is this still what I'm choosing? And the answer was continually yes. And then four years later, he broke up with me and it's really interesting to talk about it now because, spoiler, we're back together, um, two years after the breakup. But, to talk about it now is really interesting because at the time I didn't think things were so bad, but now I see that they were, not like we were, we were both unhappy with each other and we never stopped loving each other, but things weren't working.
Stephanie: Like what?
Karel: There was a kind of separation between the goals that we had, not only for our own lives, but for how each other were gonna fit into our lives. And it was confusing to me because marriage was not really on the table, for mostly spiritual reasons, and I mostly understood that, but I was still kind of reckoning with that. But that I was kind of on my own path and kind of stubbornly independent in a lot of ways, but also stubbornly dependent in an emotional way. And he felt that I believed he had nothing to offer me, and for a man, there's nothing like more deflating than that.
Karel: And the truth is that he has a ton to offer me, but I wasn't really behaving as if I believed that. I wasn't really receiving it. And not only that, but that would show up as conflict. And so, I, again, never yelled in any other relationships, but there's more ways to have conflict than yelling. So there was just always this oppositional kind of attitude that I had and and then this like resentment that I would feel.
Stephanie: Did the resentment go back to the marriage and the children thing, do you think? Or was it just life day-to-day stuff like he didn't fill the dishwasher,
Karel: it probably subconsciously went back to like, Hey, I gave this thing up for you.
Karel: so why aren't you perfect?
Stephanie: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Mm-hmm. Okay. I got that.
Karel: But it would manifest in little things. Like he would like make a joke and I didn't like it, and I just like wouldn't let it go.
Stephanie: How very human Karel.
Karel: Looking back, the ways that I wouldn't let it go, the ways that I couldn't have, this wasn't conscious, but I couldn't have peace in the relationship.
Karel: And, he would try all these ways to sooth, to placate to give me what I wanted and I would still come back dissatisfied. It got to the point where he just was like, I don't think I can make you happy, so what are we doing? So I was 38 when he ended the relationship and I almost couldn't believe it. And I'm, at that point, like been a therapist for a long time, pretty familiar with denial and acceptance, you know? And still was like, I am not accepting reality right now. Like, I can't, I can't. The day it finally happened, I went over there to finally close a relationship and I just ended up crying in his arms forever. I didn't wanna leave,
Karel: and went home and like, truly felt that I didn't have anything left to live for.
Karel: Because he, it's not just, I mean, it was him, but it's also the relationship that it felt like this is such a beautiful thing. This There is a feeling of home here, and that this, this is the path that I chose, and now it's gone and I still don't even understand why, at the time, and how do I come back from this? All of my heartbreak knowledge, all of my learning how to be single again knowledge, I realized it didn't include how to reckon with the fact that I gave up something so important that I don't think I can get back. You can't get time back, right. You can't get your body functions back. And the idea of starting to build another relationship that would support what I knew you needed to create a family just felt like, one, like I didn't have enough time, just like bodily, but also that I didn't know if I had time spiritually,
Karel: because it's such a shift in your life, and it should be, right. This is all like my like kind of training in Islam. When you become a mother, your life is supposed to change and there was no compromise for me, like if I was gonna be a mom, like I was gonna change my whole life.
Karel: But then I was like, I don't know if I'm ready to change my whole life because I've already been alive for so long and I've already built a life that supports not having children. So it was this really painful ambivalence of like, I want this thing so much. Even though I had given it up, right, even though I had put it off, turns out, I wanted it so much, my body ached for it. When I thought about the rest of my life without being a mother, I just, I wanted to give up.
Stephanie: Oh my goodness. Did you ever consider doing it on your own?
Karel: I did consider it, and it didn't feel right to me. And I think a lot of this is, it's always been baked in, and all of the times I had decided to wait, or all the times I had chosen relationships over being a mother, were out of fear, were out of anxious attachment and fear of abandonment. But the idea of being a mother to me is not simply being a mother, but it's creating family with a man that I love.
Karel: And so in thinking about doing it on my own, it never felt complete.
Karel: I didn't wanna have a child whose life would feel incomplete either. I'm hedging a little bit because I know that other people make that choice and I don't want them to feel like their children's lives are incomplete. But I have also come to understand that the journey of motherhood is incredibly personal to every woman, and that, I don't think we get anywhere good putting heavy handed judgements on how women approach it. Right.
Karel: So my deep kind of heart calling was, I want my child to have a mother and a father who are in harmony, and who are both equally committed to raising a child. That's what I wanted and ultimately if I couldn't have that, then I wasn't going to try to have it in any other way.
Stephanie: Yeah. I'm curious to know if you're willing to go back so much further to your, childhood or when you were a baby - I mean, do you have any idea why you were so called to this particular vision? Have you ever been able to figure that out?
Karel: No one's ever asked me that before, Stephanie. I have several guesses. Um, my first guess is so I have both parents still do, they're still married, my childhood was not, it was not terrible, but it also wasn't completely peaceful. And so I think that there was always a deep wisdom that I had that something was missing. Some emotional energy, some sense of completion was missing even though both parents were present in a lot of ways, and both parents provided in a lot of ways.
Karel: So I think maybe that's one wing of the answer. The other wing is that and I guess I skipped over this, so I moved out of Islam and into Buddhism as like kind of the guiding body of knowledge for my spiritual practice. And so I believe a lot in karma and what we bring into this life from a past life. So I apparently brought a lot of bad karma into this life. I believe that each human lifetime, maybe not even human, but each lifetime we're in, we have some karmic journey that we are tasked to move through. And we either choose to or we don't but life will keep presenting us with opportunities too. We could take it or not. Mm-hmm. And I fully believe that my karmic journey was, or is, to learn, to learn to be love, to fully embody pure love. And pure love can stand on its own. So we obviously love in relation to each other, but, pure love doesn't need a specific sounding board. Pure love is giving and it creates a harmonious kind of energy of wholeness. And when I think of motherhood like true, pure, unfettered motherhood as as a concept, right, it is pure love. A being comes from your body and then I was almost gonna say it belongs to you, but actually you belong to it.
Karel: You have a child. You belong to that child for the rest of your life. And that is love. You are attached to that child. You'll still do things for yourself, I do believe that. You still should do things for yourself, but everything you do will be flavored with knowing that there is a piece of you running around out there, whether right in front of you when they're little, or out there far away when they're, when they're older. To go back to your question, I think there's the combination of what I saw and what I experienced as a child and what I just knew in my heart was missing, in terms of what I needed to feel from, mom and dad and then this karmic journey of like your task, Soul, in the iteration of Karel is to become and embody pure love and what more direct way to do than to be a mother?
Stephanie: Oh, there's so much that I wanna poke at here.
Karel: poke away.
Stephanie: So in all this talk of pure love, I'm wondering if you can tell me five things that you love about yourself.
Karel: Oh my gosh.
Stephanie: If you're embody pure love girl, bring it. I wanna know.
Karel: Okay. five things. All right. One, uh, geez, these are some good questions. I'm usually the one asking good questions, you know. Woo. Number one, I'm very creative. I am always turning ideas around and seeing how I can open them and find new angles for things. I don't just settle at the first idea.
Karel: Um, two, I really see the beauty in things, and I know that sounds really cliched and I don't care because cliches exists for a reason, but this has been true even before I was like very consciously aware of myself that I'm always looking for something moving, like, not even like the bright side or the positive side, but something that's moving in an emotional way, and I think that's beauty, right. And so I can see that in anything. That shows up a lot in sort of like aesthetically, like stylistically, I'm very conscious of what looks good, what elicits a good feeling. Three, um, I care very deeply, about not only the people that I know and love, but about the experience of humans. And, that shows up a lot in my work, but also shows up a lot in what troubles me. I spend a lot of, I spend a lot of energy feeling very troubled at various states of human hood and how we suffer and how we get in our own way, you know? And then I always feel like, well, what can I do about it?
Karel: Okay. Four, this is something that I love that is more recent is that I can laugh at myself.
Karel: Couldn't always do that. And so there's been a levity that I've been able to settle into, which has really allowed me, I think to not only, I hope, be more pleasant to be around for other people, but also be more pleasant to be around in general for myself.
Um, and I guess that leads nicely into five is that I am very comfortable being by myself. Like physically. And I love that because I think it's such an important ability for a human person, especially an adult. Well, I should, say children really shouldn't be that comfortable being alone, they need people. Okay. Thank you for that.
Karel: Thank you.
Stephanie: I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of the inner child,
Karel: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Stephanie: and I'm wondering how much you've done and how you have gone about nurturing and healing that inner child that was wounded. Because it feels to me from way over here across the country in the cheap seats, like a lot of this is very, I don't know if reactionary is the right word, but it's sort of a cause and effect. Like you didn't get the things that you needed or wanted as a small human being. And so now as a fully formed human being, you want to create it in a very specific way, in a very specific picture,
Stephanie: and no other version of it will do. So, I'm wondering how you have gone about with your inner child.
Karel: Yeah. Yeah. My inner child healing journey has been years long. And it all started with first realizing how much of her I had been not only neglecting, but also like feeling disdain for. Which is a really painful realization because no child feels disdain for themselves,
Karel: Right. What they do is they interpret people's behavior toward them as disdain, and then they internalize it. The practice that I did was to take a picture of myself at the age that I was feeling the pain from, which is around eight, to look at a picture and start practicing seeing her with love and compassion and seeing her as precious. And I remember looking at a picture and being like, oh, you know, and I was like, oh shit. You know?
Stephanie: is something there
Karel: Like, wow, I really feel this way about me. But then like breaking through that,or I should say wrestling my way through that and understanding how much she needs it. How much, for years and years and years, she had been needing this energy that I was still resisting giving her. And the most transformative thing about inner child work is that when you do it, you are both, you in present day and you are your inner child. So you feel both. So when I had that, that revulsion, that disdain, I felt it toward me and I didn't like it, you know? And I felt pain. And when I felt that pain, part of me opened, oh, I don't, I don't want you to feel that way. That was the beginning of it and, so that phase was full of looking at pictures and really learning to love this eight year old version of me and appreciating her, even through her awkwardness and stuff. Then later on this, and this was after the breakup, when I just really needed to get right with myself, and realized they were still parts of me that were so broken that I had not shown up for this relationship that I loved so much. And so I went deeper into teenage work. Oh, teenage me. I did not like teenage me. Mm-hmm. No. And just so many judgments about her and connecting with her and connecting into her. Right. Where does she still show up for me and then meeting her there, and finally saying, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry that I haven't been here for you.
Karel: I'm so sorry that I've forgotten you and that I haven't been hearing you, and I'm finally here, and I will never leave you again. And to feel that right. Because I still remember what it was like to be a teenager, and I was overweight and very angry and just wanted love. Like, didn't get to date in high school because no boys liked me like that. And as a teenage girl, that's the worst thing, you know? I felt so unlovable as a teenager. Lonely, unlovable, ugly, and hopeless and now at adulthood, right, I'm at a healthy weight, I put a lot of effort into looking good and I honor that. And I know that I'm beautiful and I realize that it's all like in reaction to her rather than incorporating her into it and saying you are beautiful.
Karel: I see that, and you're right here with me. And I know you didn't quite ask this, but I think it kind of goes nicely into the next phase of it, which is a lot of that opened me to this kind of unbounded, nurturing energy of what it meant to truly mother myself and embody that mothering. And then getting curious about why I had to work so hard to do this and why it took so long. And realized that I didn't understand that I had this in me
Karel: Wanting to be a mom, I think it's a pull that has many layers and while that had always been an underlying desire, I had didn't fully connect with it until I was doing this latest round of inner child healing, which is a couple years ago. There's a deep feminine, there's a powerful womanhood within me that I'm finally accessing. And when I access it and I give to these younger versions of me, what I'm doing is I'm honoring her femininity. Where I'm honoring the desire, she has to feel like a girl, to feel feminine, to feel honored for her softness, for her tenderness, for her own love. And I don't remember really being honored for that when I was living those stages. And especially like in my twenties, like, you know, we started talking about,
Karel: the emphasis was on education, my career, being sexy, and being strong and independent. And not that I think women can't do those things, but that the way in which I felt I needed to do it was very aggressive, very driven, very tactical, and very concrete. And so no wonder I floundered because I don't lead with those qualities actually.
Karel: I don't feel comfortable embodying them, I will if I have to, but I don't feel at home in them. I feel at home in softness, in nurturing, in flowing, and in holding.
Stephanie: Yeah. But be 24 and out of college and in your first job and you can be soft and you can chase flow.
Stephanie: Nobody ever, well, maybe ever, that's too wide. But, we're not taught that. We're, we're not taught that that's okay. Go be those things on your own time. You here you gotta be at work and here you gotta be out at the bars with your friends, and here you gotta be doing all the things and going to grad school, whatever the thing you're striving for is. So that's interesting, you're exactly right, you were saying those words about who you were in your twenties and striving and driven and concrete and aggressive. I very aggressive in my younger days, very like, let's go get it.
Stephanie: And not that I'm not a bold personality, but, I'm not aggressive any longer. I don't feel like I need it. I like the way you said that, that, in your twenties, those things that you were driven to do, that you were culturally positioned to do, they actually separated you from the softness, from the flow. When we are in our, maybe people hear it in their thirties, I don't know, I didn't hear it until I was in my forties, this concept of flow you're in flow and, you know, all the magical things that can happen when you're in flow. And I think for most of us in our twenties, we don't talk about flow, we don't talk about magic, we don't talk about intuition. Those things are extracurriculars to the work of building an adult life.
Karel: Yeah. And isn't it interesting that building an adult life is so career oriented
Karel: where, to me now, like building an adult life, truly growing up is learning how to care for someone else
Stephanie: Or yourself.
Karel: Sure. Yeah. Well, that comes first, I guess.
Stephanie: Sure, I mean, for lots of people, they're not doing that.
Karel: Right. It's the ability to give of yourself to another being. Right? So you're right that the, the kind of intermediary step that I think is missing is that we can't do that until our own being is cared for.
Karel: What unmet needs are actually driving our behaviors, driving our decisions? My unmet needs for love, right? For that sort of safe container of love, that drove me to continually choose the circumstance relationship I was in rather than this deep calling of motherhood. I kept giving up on it, either saying like, yeah, I don't have to, I'm just not gonna think about it, or he's not ready, but he'll be ready. So I don't have to worry about it yet. Or, okay, I'm gonna consciously choose this relationship over something more complete, which is, you know, the everything.
Karel: And that all comes down to these unmet needs of feeling secure, feeling wholly valued. And if I was looking for that in a man, then I wasn't seeing the opportunity to find it in myself. And when finally, Derek broke up with me, all I had was me. And I'm not gonna go find this in another guy right now, I'm gonna find it in myself and then this opened up this sense of, wow, finding it in myself means really revealing that motherhood all along is what I had truly wanted. But also it is too late.
Stephanie: Oh, why do you say that? Why do you say it's too late?
Karel: So for me, the process of looking for that container, that relationship that supports a family, is one that is very intentional, very conscious, and that really shouldn't be bound by any other urgency, but the body knows its clock. So the way that I see it now is even at 38, and I know that 38 scientifically, technically you can still carry a child, but my body was like, no, I'm done. I've been done. And the urgency that I felt was more a sense of regret of like, oh no, I wasted all this time. Oh, you know, and the fear of grieving. I don't want this to be over. Meanwhile, when I connected with my body, all I could hear was my body saying, please let go. Please, please let go. Like this pull to just release. And when I listened to it, there was like a tightness, like I don't wanna let go. But there's a difference between the tightness that we have in our minds, in our fear mind, and then the sort of calling of our body. I also really wasn't willing to take on much more risk in order to have a child. Because any risk that I take on physically or risk in terms of the security of a relationship, it impacts a child and I didn't wanna bring a life into this world where he or she was going to, was gonna feel more difficulty than she needed to.
The other piece, and this is something I also didn't wanna realize, is that men who want children are more likely to look for younger women to bear children. I don't think this is necessarily conscious on their part, but I saw the evidence of this because I did try to date for some time and was very insistent that, on all the apps, I wasn't gonna entertain guys who said they didn't want kids. And I, for a time was only looking for guys who specifically stated they did want them. And like, I'm a pretty girl and I can make a really good profile, but those guys weren't responding to me. They just weren't even talking to me. And then a lot of the men who were very taken by me and were very interested in me, they either already had children and were done, or they didn't want children at all. And this was my pool, and I thought, this can't be a coincidence, you know? And so is it worth it for me to keep trying in this space, both in the dating space, in this energetic space where my body is like, oh, I'm tired, or is it more worthy for me to just listen to what life has given me and allow myself to grieve the decisions that I've made, to grieve the time that's passed, and to grieve the loss of realizing this dream in this way? Because either one is painful,
Karel: but one of them leads to peace. And the other one, as I looked at it with a lot of wisdom, I felt that it would lead to a lot more suffering even if ultimately it might lead to what I wanted. And at that point, I had suffered so much, not only in the relationship space, but in my own mental health space, I had suffered so much and I had overcome so much that I wasn't willing to suffer in that way anymore. I was more willing to open to grief, because grief is a natural thing. I was more willing to welcome a natural pain.
Stephanie: Wow. I'm reminded of my conversation with Jem Fuller, not that his story is similar to yours, but there's a piece of it that's in my head right now. I think he was episode like 46 and he,had actually traveled the world for like a decade and a half and then in his mid thirties, came home and settled down and got married and had kids and thatrelationship ended up not working. So he got a divorce and through a lot of his work, he was saying that he knew that he had attracted this woman to him thatwas sort of perpetuating some subconscious beliefs and so that relationship didn't work. But what he said was when he had done the work, then he drew to himself the partner who was his equal on level, and who just supported him fully. And I have gotten that advice as well in the past, certainly from a psychic, a friend, a mentor, 15, maybe more years ago. And he said, you have to be okay with yourself first and, then the thing, the person, the situation, the whatever shows up. You don't get that to make you happy, you have to find that happiness. You have to be okay. And then those things show up almost as a reward. And, and that's why I always, I always call my husband, Patrick, my reward for never settling. So I,wonder, do you feel like you have done all that work and you feel good and you're happy? I love that you had said you feel like you're comfortable spending time alone, cuz that's a big signal right there. If you can't be alone, if you can't be quiet, there's probably some stuff you gotta work on.
Stephanie: But um, do you feel like you had done that work and when you and Derek came back together that it was really that matching of equals? Tell me how the relationship feels different now than it did two years ago?
Karel: Yeah. Yeah. I, I definitely feel that. the work that I did was really resolving a lot of shame that was just lingering, and coming into a place where I could really honor truly being a woman and honoring the divine feminine. And kind of tying in the inner child healing, elevating that girlhood that I'd always had, but I'd always felt like I shouldn't have, or I felt shamed for, likelike calling that up and then the girlhood of my teenage self who she just didn't feel like she was allowed to be a girl, recognizing that and then going into like, womanhood and all of like the missing pieces that had been tamped down by this pressure to succeed. And also like, having a successful self-employed career for me, like succeeding in the career space does require masculine traits
Karel: and that I had been using those, but forgetting that I can step away from them.
Karel: especially in relationship with a very masculine man. Derek is very masculine. So I can step away from those and embody more of this like flowy, like receptive more of this nurturing, this softness, and the intuitiveness, right? Can I embody that outside of work, outside of running my business even because being a therapist, being a coach, like that's the energy that I actually wanna embody. I don't wanna be aggressive, you know?
Karel: Can I do that? And, and really healing these parts of me that felt that they were wrong, that they were bad or they were diminished or weak. So coming into that, honoring that, embodying that was what then allowed spending time with Derek to work again, to make sense again. I shouldn't even say again to make sense for the first time, maybe. Right. To return to a space where we could interlock with each other rather than need to be competing with each other.
Now the relationship is very balanced in that way where we fulfill different roles in each other's lives. We are appreciative for each other and where each of us leads and where each of us um, kind of receives and there's no conflict. We're very aligned in where our individual lives are going, and we support that. And we are also aligned in how those individual lives complement each other and there's a mutual investment in that. I would say it's a little bit harder for me because they're still a part of me that's like, but romance and love and where are you going?
Karel: but the spiritual side of me knows that the level of autonomy that we have in our relationship is actually really good for our souls.
Karel: When you first connected with me, you said that, you're happy now, you've found peace and you're happy. How do you know you're happy?
Stephanie: Do you know you're not just justifying this?
Karel: Um, the first kind of thought that came to mind was because I'm not unhappy.
Stephanie: Okay that's, that's a good start.
Karel: Yeah. Yeah. Like I have stressful moments and I have moments where I'm worried about things but I never have that feeling anymore of my life is wrong, you know? And the absence of that, I think one is a cue that I'm happy. The other is that I do grieve. I have two small nieces, one is three and the other just turned one. They don't live around me, so I just get lots of pictures and video updates, and I've only spent time with them a few times. But there are times when I look at the pictures, or videos or the last time that I was down there in California, I played with them and I held my baby niece, where I have these deep moments of pain. And I can allow that pain to be there. I don't need to run away from it. I don't need to judge it. And I also don't need to proliferate it. So I had this moment over Christmas where I was holding my baby niece and she was just on the edge of falling asleep, and she fell asleep in my arms and we were at the zoo, like the zoo lights kind of event. And so there were families all around and I realized that I would never hold my baby like this, and that in another life, this could have been my baby and my event, right? I would've been here with my husband for some fun Christmas event, and I grieved that, I'm never gonna have that. This baby is connected to me, but I don't feel it, and that this baby feels a connection with another woman who's not me.
Karel: That was a difficult evening for me,
Stephanie: I'll bet.
Karel: And I allowed it. I talk about it now and I have emotions and I also know that it's not gonna ruin my day.
Karel: So there's a peace there of I'm gonna have these moments, I'm gonna watch my nieces grow up, and there'll be moments where I see a milestone and I realize that missing piece in my heart, and I can honor that, and then I can move on to the next feeling. That's peace.
Stephanie: That's lovely.
Karel: Thank you.
Stephanie: I think that's a great place for us to stop today. I feel like we could talk for hours, but I often feel that way when have conversations cuz we get into so much interesting and good and meaty stuff that I feel like we could, keep going at it and tearing it and rolling around in it. But I've poked you enough for today.
Karel: You asked very, very good questions.
Stephanie: Thank you. I just want to thank you for joining me today and for being so generous with your story. really shared some amazing stuff
Karel: Thank you so much. I've been so excited as soon as I found your podcast, I was like, I gonna be on this thing. This perfect for me.
Stephanie: and it's perfect for our listeners, so it's a great fit.
Karel: Good, good. I'm so glad.