Your Voice Has Value w/ Sierra Melcher

Your story can empower people, but only if they encounter it. All too often, women's voices never make it through the publishing gauntlet to connect with their intended audience. But Sierra Melcher is changing all that. By creating a system to help women find their voices, support the writing process, and navigate publishing logistics, her women-only publishing house, Red Thread Publishing, is transforming women with powerful messages into published authors. Join us as Sierra reinvents publishing for a pandemic-altered and support-starved world.

Highlight Reel 1:10 The missing voices 7:00 The Pandemic Incubator 14:20 Break-down-through 18:10 Swim toward the fear 25:10 The logistics of writing and publishing 32:40 Navigating the emotional arc 41:00 The messy middle 42:50 Visualize the perfect retreat

Adrienne MacIain 0:01

Hi, everyone, welcome to the That's Aloud podcast. I'm your hostess, Dr. Adrienne MacIain. And today, once again, we have the amazing Sierra Melcher. Welcome back, Sierra, please reintroduce yourself for those who have not seen your gorgeous face before.

Sierra Melcher 0:17

Thank you. As always, I think I struggle with, not struggle with, but just pause with that introduction. Because who am I today? You know, I can tell you what the web, the internet says about me and all of that stuff. But I am an educator, through and through. I've expressed that in various ways throughout my life. Really, the core of the mission is to empower women, empower humans to know who they are, know that they can navigate any obstacles, life is full of obstacles and should be, and if you're facing an obstacle it doesn't mean you did anything wrong. You're right, where you need to be you're growing, you're learning. So congratulations.

Adrienne MacIain 1:10

Absolutely, absolutely. I just, I mean, I love the way you put things, and that's part of why I love having these conversations with you. You know, it's nothing that I wouldn't have said myself, but you say it so much more beautifully. So, thank you. Thank you. Thank you for being here. Let's just dive right in with the question of what story is the world not getting right now?

Sierra Melcher 1:39

So many. I don't, I don't think I have the the answer for that question. I have, like an umbrella for all the answers to the question. The thing that's been on my heart more, and I thought I knew what I was gonna say when I got on here, because I always do but then I never say what I thought. There should be, like, a bloopers reel for where I actually say what I thought I was gonna say. I feel so strongly that so many of us are holding back, that so many voices are self-enforcing and not sharing. Not sharing, because they don't know, because they haven't given themselves the safety to look inwards and figure out whatever they have to say. Or if they do know, not feeling safe enough that they can say what's so true for them without unbearable retribution for just being truthful. And for 15 years, I was a history teacher. And I loved it. And I thought it was really important work. And I was good at it. And the more distance I have from standardized curriculum, the more I ache for what I didn't share and how I didn't support my students. I was a damn good teacher, I know that I was great, and I supported in a lot of ways. But I still stuck close enough to the curriculum that I feel really, really badly, because it's not enough of the story. And even revisionist history, and history that, like, is trying to get the voices that have been silenced throughout the centuries a little bit represented. A day, a year doesn't make up for it. And, you know, a chapter in a textbook where there's like, 'Oh, there's other voices,' and 'Oh, you know, people of color,' is not the real story. And I see the causal effect of that, right? When we don't see ourselves in the story, then we keep our voices to ourselves. And women, you know, aren't, aren't sufficiently in the story. There's so many voices that don't fit into the tiny little sort of acceptable box. Whether it's gender, race, class, any of it, and, and that's the story that's missing - all those voices. And for years, I've been working on the emotional side, supporting women just to find themselves, because that's where it starts. But as you know, much more recently, I've really been working on the external, and the public, and the logistic side of once we've sort of navigated our emotional realm to figure out what is our story, what is our voice, what would we say when we have that voice? And all of the tangles of the fear and the doubt and the, you know, navigating the emotional part. But then where do we say it? How do we have people hear it, right? Like, and this is the, you know, the masculine, the feminine, the energetics, and the logistics, it's the dichotomies that have to go together to really change what's missing. Which is, like, the plentitude of voices, the disagreements, the contradictions, all of the truths that don't fit into one neat little tidy box, the ones that are like, 'Well, how can this and this be true?'

Adrienne MacIain 6:02


Sierra Melcher 6:04

And so I've worked, and moved into, and actually come full circle to being the teacher, again, in a more traditional sense of really supporting women to find their voice, to practice the writing exercises, to learn to navigate the publishing world, because it's not as hard as it used to be. It's still overwhelming, to the point that a lot of people don't do it. But with the emotional support, and the logistical support, we can go from... and this is what I'm trying to do is change, change the condition that there are stories that aren't being heard. And we can figure it out internally, and then we can just figure it out externally. And then you can click a button on the internet and get a book from a voice that has never been heard before. And it's too cool. So, I'm obviously a little jazzed about that.

Adrienne MacIain 6:59

Yes. And I'm so glad you are because I definitely want to talk more about that and what you're doing. But let's, let's kind of, I don't know if backtrack is the right word, but let's look back now, you know, the theme of Hindsight 2020. And so, the pandemic. The pandemic hits, how does that affect you and your message?

Sierra Melcher 7:29

My first thought is that it was such an incredibly beneficial incubator.

Adrienne MacIain 7:35


Sierra Melcher 7:36

Like, I didn't have to deal, couldn't deal with the outside world. I am a single mother, I had all of a sudden, a four, then five, and then six year old, at home, 24-7. And a lot of the things that I was doing with my time and my energy fell away so easily because they weren't priorities anymore. Or the priorities were so clearly different, that I was just like, 'Oh, I don't have to do any of that.' And I was fortunate enough to have my mother nearby, and so I carved out three hours a day. And that was my work life. And what I wanted to create in that really condensed amount of time, I think I was more productive because of the sort of the container, the imposed container, and the the realization that so much of my energy had been flitted away on stuff that wasn't essentially important to me. I thought it was. When you have, like, eight hours a day, you're like, 'Well, I gotta do something, right?' But I sort of went, like, lean on what I did. And my first solo book came out two weeks after Columbia went to full, full lockdown. So all the work had already happened. But, and I was recording my audio book on the day before and sort of the weekend in between, was when Columbia just went (crashing sound). And I was like, halfway through recording the book. And I was like, I don't know if there's gonna be another day. Am I gonna be allowed out of the house to finish this book? And I was able to. And I've shared elsewhere about how reading out loud is my greatest fear. It is a childhood struggle brought to life, and I got to torment myself for hours. But that torment, that, like, as an adult, a grown person reliving and being recorded while I'm doing this reliving, like deepest childhood fears, was so profoundly, amazingly transformative. I was like, 'Oh, I can do this.' I think it sounds terrible still. But other people listen to the audio book and they're like, 'That was so soothing. And that was so helpful. And I'm so glad you did that thing.' There's something about the collapsing of what used to be important.

Adrienne MacIain 10:19


Sierra Melcher 10:20

We don't have to, you know. There's still people who are, or that the voices are like, 'I want to go back to the way it was.' Well, that's it, that's gone. Like it's, it's forever gone. There will be something else later. But that, I hope, is actually forever gone. There were things that, are still so many things, that shouldn't be. And in this microcosm, and the sort of the deep looking that we get to see, is we're like, 'Oh, yeah,' there's some really important things that need to continue to change. We are nowhere near done, let's please never go back. And we're now in Colombia, at least we're 13 and a half months in. My daughter's went to school for seven days in that whole 13 and a half months,. We're back in a lockdown. Like, there's no school anymore. She got to go to seven days in March, in the whole month. Then we had, like, the spring-break Easter situation, and we are home, we are home. But the container really allowed me to decide what was important. It allowed me to focus on learning the things that I didn't know how to do, which was how to publish a book. How do I do this, right? I'm gonna dive in, I'm gonna roll up my sleeves, I'm gonna get dirty. And that allowed for me to publish two solo books last year, contribute to three other books. A year ago, just over a year ago, I didn't consider myself an author. And now I very much consider myself an author, and my sort of, my bar of what I think that I'm capable of is so significantly different. And yet, I know that it can keep changing, right? And the fact that the bar can move is the most exciting thing.

Adrienne MacIain 12:21

It's so amazing to me, how many parallels there are between our, you know, lives.

Sierra Melcher 12:28

That's why we're friends.

Adrienne MacIain 12:29

Yeah, exactly. It's, it's really remarkable. Like, I didn't know you at all, before a few months ago, and yet here we were, like, living parallel lives in different countries. But it's just so cool to hear, you know, that validation of my own experience, to say 'Yes,' like, that is exactly what this was for me too. That it was an opportunity to reevaluate all my priorities, and say, 'Are any of these things that I used to consider important and essential, important or essential?' Turns out most of them, no. Most of them, no.

Sierra Melcher 13:12

And they may have been once. Right? Like, they may have been when they originated in your story.

Adrienne MacIain 13:15


Sierra Melcher 13:20

But it can change. And I think we need these constriction opportunities to like, sort through. It's like, is this important now?

Adrienne MacIain 13:32


Sierra Melcher 13:33

And just because it's not important now, doesn't mean it wasn't vital once. But it's like, my house is full of clutter, right? Like, full of things that were treasures when they arrived. And now the treasure sort of has worn off. And doesn't mean it wasn't valuable. I can toss it with love and say, like, thank you for whatever joy you brought me once, but it's not bringing the joy anymore, and so clear some space. And maybe that's clearing space for a new thing to enter. Or just the joy of space, right? Joy of the quiet. The joy of the simplicity.

Adrienne MacIain 14:11

Duration is not a test of truth.

Sierra Melcher 14:17

This is so true in so many things. But I... we've learned, in so many ways, the opposite, right? If we don't like change, we don't like endings, and we never, we rarely pause and say like, 'How do you feel about your divorce?' Or, 'How do you feel about losing your job?' Or 'How do you feel about your house burning down?' Like, it's always just like, 'Oh, I'm so sorry.' What if that was a good thing? What if you needed that collapse? Or a pandemic? What if you needed things to get limiting, so that we could digest?

Adrienne MacIain 14:57

I actually had a great conversation this morning with a friend who's going through something right now. And I won't get into the details, because you know, she's not here to give her permission. However, I will say what I've been trying to help her through is just this idea that she, that breakdowns are bad things, right? A breakdown can lead to a breakthrough. And sometimes, when you are the catalyst for somebody else's breakdown, that can feel really awful. But in retrospect, often, those people are so, like, such treasures to us, that they came into our lives at the right time to help us transform in the way that we needed to transform.

Sierra Melcher 15:38

Because we weren't ready to do it ourselves, or we needed that uncomfortable push, or, yeah.

Adrienne MacIain 15:44

Exactly. And so often, we try to control other people's experience of us. And it is always a disaster.

Sierra Melcher 15:54

And it's limiting to them, because... so a couple of years ago, my very first public speaking event, I gave a talk called "The Break-down-through." Breakdown, breakthrough, they are not two separate things, they are two parts of one experience. That you have to break down, in order to break through. We all want to break through without the breakdown.

Adrienne MacIain 16:19

It doesn't work that way.

Sierra Melcher 16:19

But we resist the breakdown. We, like you said, we control other people's experiences of us. And by doing so we're actually preventing their growth.

Adrienne MacIain 16:26


Sierra Melcher 16:32

Trying to keep them comfortable, and we're not allowing them to fall apart, then we're preventing their inevitable arrival. They'll get there eventually, like, it's gonna happen. And if it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen. But we are delaying that natural growth. It doesn't, knowing that does not make any part of it better in that moment. It's still completely agony and uncomfortable, and you know, all the emotions. But for me, it, I say it puts parentheses around the experience. So instead of just feeling like it's gonna be that way forever and ever, it's got a shape to it. And like it does have a beginning, and it does have an end. And it's like, okay, this will make sense, or fit, or be what it needs to be somehow. And the concept of a break-down-through allows for me, and when I share this with clients and audiences, it's like, okay, where we've been holding ourselves back from the breakdown, trying to avoid the falling apart, or the breakup, or the loss. We don't want that. But the more that we pull back from that, then that breakthrough is still just further and further away. And sort of like rush towards it. If you feel it's something collapsing, congratulations. Like, go, go dig in, because just a little bit further is that thing that you've been hoping for. Don't spend too much time in the breakdown. Keep going. Don't resist it, just like swim towards whatever is the hard part, you know?

Adrienne MacIain 18:14

Yeah, yeah. You know, I think we have a tendency when we find fear to run the other way, when that is exactly the opposite of what we need to be doing. As soon as you find fear, that's actually a great indication that you're on the right track.

Sierra Melcher 18:28

On the right track. Yeah.

Adrienne MacIain 18:30

Fear is telling you, you know, if you're scared, you care. So fear means this matters to you, this is important to you, so keep going in this direction, there is treasure in this hole.

Sierra Melcher 18:44

Well, so this reminds me of a quote I included in my first book, by Joseph Campbell. And it's long and it's drawn out and it's beautiful, but it's sort of condenses to that, like, the treasure you seek is in the cave you fear. I think it's actually more, like, in the cave you fear is the treasure you seek. There's, it's more poetic, but basically, that is what we've been talking about in just a couple of words. And so like, every time we want to put on the brakes, it's like, ooh, what's in there? And, and for that to be possible, we do need to have a sense of safety. Right? To be willing to explore that fear or go towards the pain, we do have to have a sense of confidence or comfort within ourselves, a safe space physically, or people that we trust. You know, there's a lot of talk about just, like, 'Face your fears.' And if you're not safe, that's a terrible idea.

Adrienne MacIain 19:50


Sierra Melcher 19:51

So but be learning to be safe so that you can get the treasure. Go into that terrifying space. Come back out with a lifeline. With something valuable. And there's lots of ways to create that safety, right? There's internal relationship ways. There's how do you build a network of people who, who've got you, who can hear you through your weepy, mucousy, gross, whatever emotional experience, and not judge you for, and not stab you in the back with it later. But who can just be like, 'Yeah, I got you. I hear you. I've been there. Let's do this.'

Adrienne MacIain 20:29

Yeah, support is absolutely essential. I always like to say, you know, people say, 'That which does not kill us makes us stronger.' And I say no, that's only true if you have the, if you have the resources to heal afterwards. Otherwise, it just weakens you and makes you more vulnerable to similar traumas in the future?

Sierra Melcher 20:51

Yeah, no, and I think that's another, a gem that's come out of the pandemic is being really intentional about who and how we spend time with each other. We are friends, because we live in different countries, right? And without the pandemic, maybe we wouldn't have all needed to connect with different people in these ways. I met someone yesterday from Finland. And we're friends now. And like, what, that would never have happened if, if I'd had enough social connection because of my coffee shop friends, and my neighbors, and my this... We needed that connection, we needed that safety, and encouragement, and that bond. And we're fortunate enough not to live in 1918, the first time something like this happened, or the recent time. We have the internet, and we can build these bonds across time and space in ways that weren't possible before.

Adrienne MacIain 21:53

So you've managed to mine some really wonderful things from the pandemic. You have discovered your author self, right, you have created an amazing network of support for yourself, you have created a business that is giving back, not just to you, but to other women who need to tell their stories, who need to find those stories and tell those stories. Tell us a little bit more about what you've done with those gifts and how you're giving back now.

Sierra Melcher 22:28

Quite honestly, I will have to own probably squandering those gifts from time to time.

Adrienne MacIain 22:34


Sierra Melcher 22:35

Every time I do, actually though, I come back a little stronger. You know, every time I get lost in my own journey. The benefit of the work that I do, and what I've taught, and now have really fully integrated is I can have a breakdownthrough that's pretty condensed. What I, it doesn't, the introspection and the self awareness doesn't avoid those obstacles, but it sort of accelerates the journey through the obstacle. So what used to take three months or three years can take less than three weeks. Sometimes I've had, like, these breakdownthroughs in, like, three hours. I felt it coming, I was like, 'Oh, I know exactly what's happening, let's do this.' Took a nap. And I was like, 'Oh, okay, next.' So not always, but certainly more often than not, accelerating personal growth, professional growth in the face of the obstacle. Like, recognizing, 'Hey, obstacle. Thank you for coming. You are here to challenge me.' Right? That. And I spent easily all of my 20s and a good part of my 30s seeing an obstacle and going the other way. And putting all of my energy to not deal with that obstacle in any of the many ways that I could. So your question exactly was how am I using the gifts?

Adrienne MacIain 24:15

Yeah, yeah.

Sierra Melcher 24:22

So my daughter's six. A lot of my analogies are six year old analogies. If our gifts from last year were toys, then I got to play with them for a while, and I had a lot of fun with my toys. And now I want to share my toys with other people. I want to let them play. I want them to let them learn and imagine all that they can, and that my joy comes from other people playing with my toys. There's probably an adult way to say that but...

Adrienne MacIain 24:59

I like it, I love it. I mean, you know me, I think play is so important for any age. And I don't think we spend enough time playing or thinking about what makes, you know, what brings us fun and joy. So I love that analogy. So let's look at what you, tell us a little bit more about how you're sharing those toys. What have you created?

Sierra Melcher 25:22

Yeah. Because even when I try not to be a teacher, I'm a teacher. My motivation was, I want to help people publish their stories, right? But immediately, I saw all the obstacles to a woman who's never had her voice acknowledged to herself, or by anybody else. Right? Like, what is preventing her from raising her hand even to let me help her? Right? And so the emotional part - your story matters. Your voice has value, you have a right to speak.

Okay, huge. And then the how - how do I write something? How? I don't know how to write. Like, how do we, how do we coax our own story out of ourselves? And so I've participated in a lot of different publishing situations, and the thing that was missing from them was the how to write if I don't already know how, and the community, the community that holds that container safe as you navigate the emotional part of what if I, you know, the doubt, and I've never said this to anyone. And yet, I'm like putting it on paper. And it feels too real sometimes for even me to acknowledge that this is my truth. But when one person does that, in a group, and everybody says, 'I'm so glad you said that, because it's true for me too.' And that person says, 'I thought I was the only one. But like, my bravery and my willingness to admit this raw hole inside of me just empowered, this whole group of people.' Like, for me, it's like an atomic impact of rawness, but growth, and then, and then we create that sense of permission.

Adrienne MacIain 27:40


Sierra Melcher 27:40

So ticking the logistics of writing. You know, some actual tools to help people. And there's so many blocks, right, writer's block. So like, how do we, what's the antidote to this block? And what's the antidote to that block, logistically? But then the emotional container too, so that we're doing both together. So I've crafted a 29 day writing process, especially for women.

Adrienne MacIain 28:10


Sierra Melcher 28:11

A lot of, a lot of what's published, and a lot of what's taught about writing and publishing is for men, and from men, and masculine; write 3000 words a day, and you'll reach this goal, and a certain thing and... and women are more fluid and sometimes want to write for 18 hours, and then for three or four days don't want to write at all. And there's nothing wrong with that. But if the story is 'you didn't write for three days, there's something wrong with you,' you're not going to write for three to 10 more days, because you're dealing with 'There's something wrong with you.' But what if there's nothing wrong with you, and you're supposed to rest? And that's part of the process, right? So really loving, creating a creative container that is just much more feminine. And it gives us permission for all the stuff. And then what people at the end of that, what people choose to do, I can't even tell them what it is, and they won't know because they're not there yet. But when they get there, then it's like, well, what is this? How do I want to share it? And so the publishing side, there's a self-publishing school, so that a woman is teaching other women how to navigate, like which button to click, and here are all the choices you need to make, and here's how to make that right choice for you in this circumstance, as well as multi-author books, like publish, write a short piece, and collaborate together. And together, we're all going to market this book. And because we're all marketing this book, then it's reaching so many people, and you shared your story, and she shared her story, and now there's a community of voices. It's a chorus, right? It's not just one voice. So there's some other projects, there's like a Writer's Workshop, a writer's retreat. And yeah, there's lots of little things brewing, but the core of it is find your voice, knowing that you have the right and the value to offer. You and I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago about, you know, transforming one's experience into a story. And you need to, you need to sort of wrestle and dig and excavate and experience to find what are the lessons, what are the gems. A lot of experience, you know, we write the morning pages, a lot of it's just junk. Right? Nobody wants to read someone else's diary, right? I don't care what you need to buy at the grocery store tomorrow, like, nobody cares. But if you can condense and massage an experience into a story, which is totally different, then it has value and meaning that you've crafted.

And then you hand it to someone, and then they take it, and read it, and interpret it, and integrate it to who they are. Even if their interpretation is different than your interpretation. It takes on a life of its own, but can speak forever. I was just reflecting, I think in the middle of the night, last night, a book, a physical book. I have some books I have some books that I've had that were printed in the 60s, that I read in the 80s, that I'm now reading to my daughter in the whatever decade period anymore. It's a cool book, it's old, some of the pages are falling out, the spines are cracked. But the story was crafted, and shared, and still is as potent and has all the same gems to share as it did the day it was published. And while I love live storytelling and conversation and connection, there's something really enduring about something once it's published that will last longer than the the woman who crafted it in the first place. And, and can reach so many more people. It's like the amplification of a soul.

Adrienne MacIain 32:37

I love that. I mean, you know I love that because you know, this is all so, so in line with what I'm trying to create as well. And so I'm so blessed to have met you, and to have you in my life, and to be collaborating on this is just so exciting to me too. You know, I want to talk a little bit more about, you know, you were saying that everyone has a story, everyone's story matters. I want to go into that a little bit more, because I think that is the biggest block, is just believing that your story is powerful, useful, interesting to anyone but yourself. No, yeah. Nobody wants to read your diary about like, "I had this weird dream last night, my heart hair fell out." But, here's the thing, a lot of people have had a dream where their hair fell out, and that emotional arc of that experience can actually be told in such a way that it feels universal. That even the weird specifics of your experience can resonate with somebody else who had a completely different experience, just because of the emotional echo, the emotional sort of energy around that experience for you. And so one of the things that I think is my primary job, you know, as a as a story midwife or a creation coach or whatever the heck you want to call me, is just to help people find the universal emotional arc in their personal experiences. How do you feel, like I completely understand that, yes, you need that emotional piece and you need the logistic piece. How do you help people navigate finding that emotional arc without getting caught up into that emotional arc, and then feeling stuck or trapped by the emotions that were there originally?

Sierra Melcher 34:49

I love that question. There's so many things that I want to share and I'll try to pick and choose. Until we've digested our own experience, we're not in a place to share it in the way that we want to be sharing in this context. And that's why I love morning pages, and that's why I love women's circles, and that's why I love, you know, a lot of experiences need to be cycled through multiple times. And that's why we don't publish first drafts.

Adrienne MacIain 35:31


Sierra Melcher 35:33

Even once it gets written down. Even once it gets written down, chances are it's been digested a few times, right, we run it through all of our various digestive systems, emotional and psychological. And we talk it through with a friend, and then we write it down. And then we write it down again, and then we tear it to pieces, and we put it back together. And then we revise it. And you know, my second book, I think I probably reread it, like, 27 times. Maybe I'll never read it again. But I definitely, I was, I was trying to understand my own experience. That's the process. Right. And a lot of people new to writing get stuck at the very beginning, because they're like, 'this isn't very good.' It's not supposed to be good. Yet. It is supposed to be out. Right, get it out. And, and good. We, you and I have talked about good. It's not for us to decide good. But if we can't get past, 'this isn't what I think it's supposed to be right now,' it'll ever be what it could be.

Adrienne MacIain 36:47

Can we talk about the messy middle?

Sierra Melcher 36:49

Yes, let's talk about the messy middle. But I also want to say, so, we process our, we digest our experience for ourselves on the page itself in the revision process, which is usually a really solitary experience. But what I am loving doing is bringing the woman's circle experience plus the writing experience together. So that it's not... I mean, writing can feel so lonely and isolating, and it is you processing your own experience. But how do we know the emotional arc? And how can we sort of get through the emotion, and to get to a point where we can share it freely without sort of forcing our unresolved stuff on the reader is, is to share it in a space and hear what resonates. And you get, when you hear 'Yeah, me too. Oh, my God, I thought I was the only one.' And it ripples through a group. 'Oh, my God.' Because underneath, you know, 'I thought I was the only one' is this belief that we're separate. That I'm me, and you're you, and what's happened to me couldn't relate to you, because you because of whatever. Right? But we are parts of a whole.

Adrienne MacIain 38:11

Yeah, you're just helping me realize so many things here. God, I mean, I really feel like this is kind of what's been been missing for me as a book midwife, is that I didn't have a group to help people work through this. It's just me giving feedback. And I'm just one person with one opinion. You know? Certain things resonate with me, other things don't. The thing that I remember feeling most was the most beneficial about graduate school was actually having classrooms full of other people listening to my writing, and telling me what pops for them and what questions they have.

Sierra Melcher 38:50

Because that's it right. You're in a room of readers.

Adrienne MacIain 38:53


Sierra Melcher 38:53

Right? And even, and this is the thing, we're trained to look to a teacher, a guide. And teachers and guides are super helpful. But there's a guide within, and when we're with a group of people, I think our differences can melt away. Right? Our commonality is what gets found when we're sharing truthfully, vulnerably. Whether it's just a women's circle, or a writing circle, when we're sharing our core, what ripples through the room is that common humanity, is that experience that everyone can relate to, no matter their age, or, you know, the divisions. Like, 'Oh, yes.' You know, maybe not that exact, but a parallel enough that, and those are the things that people hang on to. Right?

Adrienne MacIain 39:59


Sierra Melcher 39:59

'That didn't happen to me, but that is like this thing that did happen to me. And so I am connected to that story.' And yeah, the commonality that unites us is what, that's what stories are.

Adrienne MacIain 40:17


Sierra Melcher 40:17

Right? It's teaching about humanity. And coming back to your original question, if there's not... if the stories that we're reading are not representative of the people alive on the planet, then our understanding of what it means to be human is, is a, it's an insufficient story.

Adrienne MacIain 40:38

Yeah. All right, let's transition here. I want to do something a little bit different. I want to take you into, because I know you are planning a retreat soon, and I absolutely love retreats. So I want to take you into, we're going to see and visualize the perfect retreat. Our minds perfectly imperfect, of course, right?

Sierra Melcher 41:03

That is what perfect means, yeah.

Adrienne MacIain 41:04

Exactly. Exactly. So Oh, wait very quickly! The messy middle. I wanted to just share this because this is something that I I say so often to my clients, that when it's a mess, and you feel like 'I don't see the final product in here anywhere, it just looks like a mess to me,' I remind them that when a caterpillar goes into a chrysalis, it has to turn into goo, absolutely unrecognizable goo, in order to become a butterfly. So if you're seeing just a bunch of goo, then you're on the right track.

Sierra Melcher 41:42

If you're dark, and you're scared, and you feel like you're drowning in your own soup, you are absolutely in the right space.

Adrienne MacIain 41:50

That's right. You're in the messy middle, and that's exactly where you're supposed to be right now.

Sierra Melcher 41:54

And that chrysalis, I mean, I get really geeky about plants and and bugs and stuff. The immune system of the caterpillar actually attacks its own cells that are trying to turn into a butterfly because it does not recognize itself. And if you've transformed yourself or written something, you're like, 'Oh, I feel like I'm at war with myself.' That is exactly... that doesn't mean you're doing something wrong. It means you're doing something right. Keep on doing whatever the hell you have been doing, because you are becoming something unknown to yourself. But it's, it's the right direction. I love the messy middle. I hate being in it.

Adrienne MacIain 42:40

We all hate it.

Sierra Melcher 42:42

But at least, again, it's the parentheses. It's like, I'm falling apart on purpose. Keep going.

Adrienne MacIain 42:49

Alright, so let's do this. Why don't you close your eyes? Alright, let's breathe in some beautiful colored light. Ooh, mine was all rainbow and sparkly. What was yours?

Sierra Melcher 43:02

Because I already know the location of my retreat mine was warm salt air, bouganvillea, and brightly colored. Old, old stone walls.

Adrienne MacIain 43:21

All right. So you're already there. So let's just...

Sierra Melcher 43:23

I'm so there.

Adrienne MacIain 43:24

Put your hand right there on that stone wall. Breathe in that scent. And then turn around, because there's a whole group of women standing right behind you. What are they doing right now?

Sierra Melcher 43:43

They are sweating. But they are also steeped, completely steeped, in the most tangible, magical realism that I know of on the planet, where the continuity of time no longer makes sense. Because they are in the past. Probably with Wi Fi connected cell phones, and horses are clamping down cobblestone streets. And it could be any time and no time. And history is in the air. They are seeing stories coming alive in balconies that are quite literally just dripping in bougainvillea, and the breeze through the plaza and the trees, and the smells of fresh fruit. And they are, they are connected to themselves, they are connected to one another, and they are connected to something that is so real, and yet it's real in the way that only they can bring to life.

Adrienne MacIain 45:19


Sierra Melcher 45:20

It's like they're, they're in tune with the stories that are constantly whispered on the breeze.

Adrienne MacIain 45:25

Yeah. Gorgeous. I love it! I can't wait! Ah, you are always so wonderful, and having you on here just energizes me in a way that I cannot even explain in words. But thank you so much. Thank you so much for being here. Please tell all the people listening where they can find all the wonderfulness that you are creating, and hopefully I will be creating with you.

Sierra Melcher 45:57

Yes, you will be creating. It's already in the breeze. So I'm on Facebook, Sierra Melcher. Integral Women Mentoring is my private Facebook group. And Red Thread Publishing is part of Integral Women. It is, these missions are so entwined that they couldn't help but be part of the same situation. And so Integral Women Mentoring on Instagram, and Red Thread Publishing, we all sort of exist on Instagram, but I'm not trying to make extra work for myself. But find me under those two things, hashtags, @ symbols and, you know. But Sierra Melcher, Integral Women Mentoring, or Red Thread Publishing, I'm there. I got you, baby.

Adrienne MacIain 46:47

Fantastic. Thank you.

Sierra Melcher 46:50

Thank you, my love

Transcribed by Rebecca MacIain

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