I first enrolled in the Landmark Forum
in1992 but then withdrew two weeks before it began. It was in
December of '93 that I finally attended for the first time (having since
reviewed it in ‘97 and ‘99, I believe.) There were
others who had done the Landmark Forum and talked with me about it - Aunt Mickey, my friends Carol, Wayne, Lyndall, Sue Ann, among others. The instrumental person in my attending was my husband, Jack. He had been in this conversation for along time and was the final person of many who had over thirteen years attempted to enroll me in the Landmark Forum.
I was a clear and consistent "no".
In late '92 (the one I was supposed to
attend), Jack reviewed the Landmark Forum and when he returned something
happened for me. He began to live the Landmark Forum in such a way that I got
it. No longer did he just talk about it - but he began to live it
in ways that I could see were giving him power. There was a marked
difference in who he was before versus after. Though he had
been impacted by his previous Landmark Forums, I had not known him before his
first Landmark Forum to make the distinction of what was or was not the result of
his attendance at the Landmark Forum. This time it was clear that something
incredible had happened. He was "unstuck" in areas that
only weeks before had stopped him. I began to look at what was behind my
saying “no” to do the Landmark Forum.
I walked in that room with Jack's one
sentence of advice ringing in my ears: "No matter what it
feels like, remember that your Forum leader is there to contribute to
you." They were well chosen words, as I couldn't stand
my Landmark Forum Leader, and even got up to share that I thought he was rude and
abrupt with people. And like most of the people in that room, I
came to respect and love the man for his incredible commitment to make a
difference, and I left able to distinguish my "interpretation"
of people and events, from the "facts".
My list of breakthroughs is way too
long to write down here, and the breakthroughs continue to this
day. By far the biggest, and the one that has impacted every
action and relationship of my life is the discovery that I wasn't alone
in my insecurity. I had this story that I was the only one scared
and everyone else seemed so confident. Oh, the freedom that has
come with knowing we are all scared! And how simply sharing out loud
that I am scared has opened doors to a bounty of intimacy with others
who are freed up when I confess. And parallel to this was
discovering that I - this bundle of anxiety - was scary to
others! Well, I had never considered how others saw
me. My internal tendency was always to down play myself, my value,
my impact. Yet my act of confidence was so effective that others
There is freedom in not knowing.
Unlike in school, now I get an "A" when I can say: "I don't
know. Teach me, show me, tell me." My world was
transformed when I discovered it didn't mean anything negative that I
didn't know how to do everything.
My relationship with my parents, once
rocky, has become a pleasure. I won't lie and tell you it's all
roses. I'm still confronted by myself when with them. But
there is an honesty that didn't exist before, and a joy that comes from,
finally, choosing these two amazing human beings to be my parents.
After years of pushing them away, I now welcome their input. My
mother continues to be amazed when I ask her for feedback. To my
father I was able to apologize for years of being critical and
judgmental. My story was that no one told me anything in my
family. Well, why would they? I'd just knock them
down. Now, I know I am fully loved, and they in return.
Landmark Advanced Course (my favorite so
far) I discovered my joy again. I remember holding my arms wide,
outstretched, and thinking, "I haven't done this since I was
3." All my life I'd felt like a Cocker Spaniel puppy peeing
on people's feet, and they were like reserved thoroughbred
Afghans. I'd spent so much energy trying to contain my
excitement. Instead of suppressing it, I'm now channeling it in
ways that bring me the results I want.
This is what I love about the Landmark
Seminar - you walk into a room full of people who are committed to
making a difference, committed to confronting themselves, committed to
lives that they love! I have found few places in the world where I
know I can be my absolute self - no matter what that looks like at any
given moment - and still be loved. We talk of unconditional love -
at the seminars I have it for real. I continue to be deeply
touched by the commitment of the volunteers - from the leaders to other
people who assist
- that makes this special environment possible for us.
Looking ahead into the future, I
am committed to continuing a life of self-examination, to watching our
son mature and become inter-dependent with the larger world, to seeing
my stepdaughter continue to take on the world and herself in ways that
have her living a larger, freer, more joyful and self-expressed life
with a man she loves (and who is attending the Landmark Forum himself this
weekend as I write this). And, to continuing to explore unlimited bounty
in my relationship with Jack, which already far exceeds what I thought
I love my life with Jack, from its joys
to its struggles. Most of all, I love the experience of our partnership as we share them together. I
look forward to our time in just a few short years when our son finishes
high school. We are intentionally creating a future with more room
for play and time with the friends we love so dearly, for work that
honors our self-expression, with more health that fosters our vitality,
sexuality and long-term commitments to the world around us, including
our families. I am excited about my book on widows and a future which
Jack is excited about music and building houses. We're both
intrigued with the possibility of grandchildren.
I love the community of Landmark
Forum Graduates for their integrity. I love that there are people in
my life who don't tell me what I want to hear. They don't sell out
on me. These are people I can call on who will not console me, but
rather challenge me to be the person I declare myself to be. To
use my friend Polly's expression, they "stand for my
Thanks for the opportunity to put in
writing how much this work has meant to my life. From 13 years as
a consistent "no", I can speak to those who are leery. Dive
in. What's a weekend? We've all spent more time doing
less fruitful things (just look at the hours we can easily spend
watching TV in a month). We've all spent more money, too, on
things and experiences we've long since left behind. Know this -
the room in which the Landmark Forum takes place is to me the safest and
most loving space I've ever walked into.
January 20, 2002 -
Page-redesigned Feb. 2002
24, 2002: Read what happened when Pat
Handler, Michelle's step-mom read this article!
has done many great things in her life. She spent most of her twenties
doing community organizing, a profession she loved. She developed
political and social consciousness from this activity that provided a foundation from which
she operates in all aspects of her life. She and her loving husband
Jack, are both Realtors in the mountains of the Ashe County, close to
Michelle's son, Staton, lives with her. Completing the household are the family’s four dogs and
Kiki, her mouser
cat, who will say "hi" to everybody that visits.
Her passion is to read on
the Middle Ages, both fiction and non-fiction. She sews, quilts, and
stitches, reads continuously to the occasional annoyance of her husband,
indulges her delight in interior design, does her family's genealogy,
corresponds with family and friends the world over, gardens and spends
time with her friends. Doesn’t it sound she is living a life
that she loves?
Designing a Future for A Life You Love.
Grads in Action
Breakthroughs, news, and stories from graduates all over the
Our son has done the Landmark
Forum For Teens, and before that the Landmark Forum for Young
People. It was not
something he did with eagerness (really, who WANTS to sit in a chair for
three days?) but because he saw for himself that his life wasn't working
in some critical areas - his relationships with us, his parents, and his
teachers and too often with his peers. As a result of his Landmark Forum,
he cleaned up one very big lie he'd been living with and declared some
commitments around his relationship to school and to us. Living
with a younger person who willingly confronts me when I'm over-reacting,
who cleans up his emotional messes, who can apologize for his behavior,
and most joyfully, be grateful for both gifts and boundaries, has
inspired me about the future's possibilities.
I've attended a workshop no longer
offered by Landmark, called the Parent/Family Workshop.
I have never let go of one thought from that one - that no matter how it
might look or feel otherwise, our children love us. I remember
saying to my son, when he was about 10, that I wanted him to know I knew
he loved me no matter what, even when he hated me. I told him I
wanted him to have freedom to feel his emotions without guilt. I
was by then able to look back and learned that when I had felt hate or
rage towards my parents, I simultaneously battled shame and guilt.
I knew, I told him, that our love is a commitment, not just a
and is the foundation of our lives together. He has since told me
(with his friends present) what a relief there has been for him to be
allowed to have those feelings and feel secure. As the parent, I
have discovered this foundation made withholding love as a weapon useless. It
has been freeing for us both.
Forum Graduates in The Carolinas