A Transgender Woman’s Journey Toward Loving Her Body

May 21, 2015

This is a guest post written by the amazing Pace Smith, The Pathfinding Coach. I am so grateful to her for reaching out and sharing her story with us today. 

Hi there! I’m Pace. I live in Portland, Oregon and I love it here. I’ve been married to an amazing woman named Kyeli for nine years, and we recently made it legal thanks to Oregon allowing same-sex marriage! I’m a Pathfinding coach, I love to play Dance Dance Revolution, and my favorite genre of music is chiptune dubstep.

I love my body, but I used to hate my body. And before that, I hated my body for an entirely different reason.

This is my story.

I was assigned male at birth.

That means that when the doctors looked at me when I was born, they said, “It’s a boy!” They assigned me the gender of male; I didn’t choose it for myself.

I lived a fairly normal life – as a boy – until I was 26 years old.

This is atypical. Most transgender folks feel some kind of gender-related discomfort at a young age. Me? I was oblivious. I played video games (mostly Tetris), dated (mostly girls), had sex (mostly with girls), ran a two-node online bulletin board (mostly for the conversations), and went to college (mostly computer science) – all the while identifying as male.

I wasn’t into stereotypical boy stuff, like sports, but I chalked that up to being a geek, and never gave it a second thought.

I knew about transsexuality in the abstract. I even had a couple of transgender friends. But it never even crossed my mind that any of it might apply to me.


I dated a woman who was in the process of transitioning from male to female.

Seeing, feeling, and experiencing her journey flipped a switch in my head. Instead of “this transgender stuff is a fascinating topic to learn about,” it flipped to “this is something I could actually do.

And once that switch flipped, I dived in headfirst.

I researched how to know whether I was transgender. I introspected so hard I almost imploded. I took an online “Are you transgender” test, scored “sorta kinda maybe”, then told my friends I had scored “probably totally definitely”. What was that about?

I began to identify less as male and more as female. It didn’t happen all at once. I experimented with presenting as female, online at first because it was so much easier, and it felt so right to be treated as female that I wanted it more and more.

Presenting as female didn’t feel like wearing a mask to me. On the contrary, it felt like I had been wearing the “male gender role” mask all my life, and I was finally taking it off.

But as my internal gender identity shifted, my male body started feeling… wrong.

I started experiencing an uncomfortable feeling toward my own body, a feeling I had never experienced before. It felt like something between discomfort and disgust. The technical term is body dysphoria, and it’s not limited to transgender folks. It’s the feeling that your body is not the way it is supposed to be.

My first thought was, This is horrible!

My second thought was, I’m so lucky! Other trans folks have been feeling dysphoria since they were very young, and I was oblivious until now, when I have the independence, the means, and the support to do something about it.

So I did something about it – I changed my body to look female, so that it would feel right to me and so that others would treat me as female, which would also feel right to me.

I had my facial hair zapped by lasers to make it go away. Under the guidance of a legit gender therapist and a rogue endocrinologist, I began taking estrogen, which sent messages to my body saying, “Smooth out that skin! Grow those breasts! Change that neurochemistry!” and many other tiny, beautiful things, like floating instead of sinking when I went swimming, because my body fat ratio had changed.

It was my second puberty.

And just like the first one, it was hell. I cried at the drop of a hat. I had to relearn how to think and how to feel. My sexual response changed from a lightning bolt to a rolling, cloud-to-cloud lightning rumble. I became even more sensitive, emotionally and physically.

Imagine a puberty-themed montage to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger”, and we’ll fast forward past the fascinating, painful, and tender details of my transition, and skip to the end.

After a year and a half, I was free from body dysphoria. I loved my beautiful new female body.

But it didn’t last.

Estrogen had also altered my metabolism; I was eating the same things and the same amounts I always had, and I gained 100 pounds in two years.

The voice of my inner critic piped up with, You went through all that so you could have a beautiful female body, and then you ruin it?

Being raised as a young boy instead of a young girl, I dodged a lot of the “you must look like a supermodel” beauty standards. It’s one of the rare cases where a woman can have male privilege. But I didn’t dodge all of them. I wanted to feel beautiful, and I had been cursed with a very specific idea of what it meant to be beautiful – namely thin.

I thought back to when that switch flipped, when I first decided that “female” fit me better than “male”. I asked myself, Why did I go through all this?

And the answer was:

I went through all this so I could be more me.

I immediately stood up and yelled, “I didn’t work this hard just so I could trade one set of shitty gender stereotypes for the other set of shitty gender stereotypes!”

And more quietly, “I didn’t work this hard to love my body just so I could find a different reason to hate my body.”

The love felt like a warm, yellow-orange glow centered around my heart, then spreading out to encompass my entire body and a little bit more. The love came that day, and it’s never left since. (I occasionally forget it, but then I always remember.)

I gave my high heels to Goodwill. I stopped wearing makeup.

And, at long last, I started being myself.

About Pace

pace-headshot-2014-200pxPace Smith (The Pathfinding Coach) helps sensitive spiritual nonconformists live wild crazy meaningful lives. She’s also a teacher, a speaker, a writer, a Sufi dervish, a bi poly trans gamer geek, an open-source Reiki healer, and a tournament-level Dance Dance Revolution player. Download her free eBook, Find Your Path Now, to STOP living on autopilot and START living the wholehearted, unconventional life you were meant to live.

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Restoration in Laughter, Tears & Sweat

May 14, 2015

A recipe for the restoration of the spirit.

I find restoration in the strangest places.

Tucked between the seats while I detail my car. Between honest laughter and bright tears. Relaxing along the floor of the incoming tide while my body surfs the waves like I did when I was small. At the back of the cupboard after I arrange all of the mugs. In each grain of sand between my toes.

With every well placed utterance of the word no.

In every joyful, open-hearted yes.

In this world, restoration isn’t just a horizontal activity. 

Though there is room for sleep, also. 

In this world, restoration is an approach. It the naturalness that I allow myself as I navigate the world. It is in the quiet pause and open field of wondering how I might accomplish everything that I want to without sacrificing myself to do it.

permission to restIt is the both/and. The greyzone. The place where naps and drafts of my first book are born.

It is the place where my ambition dances with my humanity.

Where dreams are born and dehydration is acknowledged.

Too often, we tell ourselves that we will never get anywhere without pushing. 

But, how does that pushing make you feel?

Are your feelings an important metric of success?

In this world, I want to feel really good. That is my primary metric of success. It is more important to me that money or my word count or a program filled to the brim with amazing women. Those things allow me to feel good, but they don’t equal good in and of themselves.

The goodness is found in the luxury of a slow morning.

In coffee with coconut milk.

In reading vampire books for pleasure, even when a stack of educational materials calls for my attention.

In getting outside, every day.

The goodness is found in salt water – tears and sweat. 

It is found in the permission to stop living my life in accordance with other people’s values. Other people’s rules. Other people’s metrics.

It is found in the refusal to be busy, when the unspoken agreement is that “busy = good.”

I am good and I am not busy and so are you. Because our goodness is intrinsic. It cannot be earned.

It is found in permission. 

Your restoration is the other half of the equation. It IS the life balance that you’re always talking about. It is the natural give and take of pouring your energy into your life and pausing to refill the reservoir. And, repeat. Your restoration is cyclical, like the tide.

In not taking yourself too seriously.

Yet, also carving out time to rest on purpose, because it is your job to take your needs seriously.

The restoration here is in the approach. 

It is the three minutes that you allow yourself to brush your teeth without multi-tasking. In the deep breath before you respond. In the extra moment between the sheets. In a cool sip of water.

In allowing yourself to be a person that is not a productivity machine, but a living, breathing being. A being with requirements for continued participation.

Because, our actions are only as good as our restoration. This is the cycle of our energy, and we must pause to restore ourselves so that we can keep showing up, claiming what we want, asking (out loud and in the presence of another), and loving ourselves through the process.

The question is: How will you pause to restore yourself today?

Take a moment to survey your own energy. How do you feel? What do you need? What would allow today to work for you…. even better?

Do that. Prioritize that.

Begin there.

Or join us here…

The Deep Exhale

The Deep Exhale

May 18 – June 16

Are you ready rewrite what it means to receive your own care and adoration?

During The Deep Exhale we will be devoting ourselves to rest, sustenance, community, PLAY, and the deeply sacred practice of being a human on your own terms.

Uncommonly tender and ferociously true, The Deep Exhale is about filling yourself up.

Know this: the more that you fill yourself up… the less room you’ll have for fear and doubt. 


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Praying At The Altar of Busy

May 04, 2015

I could have build my home here, on the precipice of frenetic action, riding the wave of my own utter exhaustion and the meager urge of stress hormones coursing through my veins.

I could have build my home here. It was comfortable, believing that everything is an emergency. Believing, deeply, that my goodness hung in the balance of completing my ever-lengthening to do list.

how to restI could have build my home here. I could have rushed past you in the line at the post office – Hi, how are you doing? Ugh. You know… BUSY. Yeah, I know. Ugh. It seemed that my muscles were built for piling it all on. My inner working hardwired for winding myself up to watch myself plow magnificently through the tasks at hand.

I could have build my home there. It was comfortable. It was safe. But, I didn’t. I couldn’t.

Because when, bleary eyed and wild-hearted, I poured myself another cup of caffeine, I stopped being able to realize where I ended and the task began. I was in graduate school and I felt could feel the fear brimming beneath the surface all of the time. I could feel myself believing that I had to hold myself to an unholdable standard. I told myself the lie that it all mattered more than I did, buying into the very American concept that I would rest when I retired.

But I was starting to get really, really tired. And I was only 27.

At the time, I told myself that I was stronger for it, better for it. That I could base my pride saying yes even when I should have said no, even when others said no.

I realized that I was building a life to answer the question: Hi, what do you do?

But, while I was building, I forgot how to answer other questions.

Who are you?

What do you love?

What are you delighting in right now?

I forgot because slowing down meant doing a Bad Job. And doing a Bad Job meant not being good enough.

We build our homes here, at the altar of busy. 

We genuflect on our way to the office, stimulant in hand. When we tell ourselves that our worth is based on what we are able to accomplish. On how much money we have in the bank. On the car that we drive. We follow the path without questioning it, not even pausing to realize the truth that our hearts are no longer in it.

We work our fingers to the bone and we tell ourselves that it will be ok to put our needs on the back burner. We liken ourselves to machines, honing ourselves to improve our efficiency. I remember feeling cozy and at home there, in that energy, finding my place in the swinging pendulum of work to play. All or nothing. Black or white.

It was the same way that I wrote. The same way that I ate. The same way that I exercised. The same way that I did everything.

Zero to ninety. All or nothing. Rushing around until I became so overwhelmed that I truly had no idea who I was and suddenly couldn’t deny my needs any longer.

But what, I asked myself,  of the slow pleasure of consistency? Could I learn how to disentangle my home on the jagged cliffs of taking pride in being busy and reassemble it on even ground? Could I learn how to know myself in glasses of water between cups of coffee? Was it possible to unfurl in the tender mercy of slowly plodding along?

The truth is, I’m a slow mover. I require legendary germination time. I need a lot of sleep.

However, when I am able to slow myself down enough to begin meeting my many needs, I am consistently surprised by how much I am able to get done.

IMG_9601I am humbled by the reality of how much time I waste in my exhaustion. 

Scrolling through my Facebook feed. Feeling self-conscious in my sleepy delirium. Second guessing myself. Scrolling again. Wondering what everyone else was doing.

When I prayed at the altar of busy, I was busy, but I wasn’t getting anything done. 

When I held myself to an insurmountable standard of perfection, I got lost in the fear and exhilaration of wanting to be seen as good enough. I got lost and, instead of doing the work of shining my light in the world, I scrambled around to sign myself up to learn how to become everyone else.

The truth is, rest doesn’t come easily to me. It is something that I have taught myself, healing my burnout and overwhelm by consciously holding the container day in and day out. I (still) have to resist the urge to pile it all one. To believe that I need to earn my keep. To feel like my dreams are lining up and demanding my attention and I can’t spare even three minutes to brush my teeth.

I rest on purpose. I rest deliberately.

I rest because I choose to believe that I am worthy of a good life and, to me, a good life is more than the stress and fear and to do lists.

I rest because, I want my life to be one that I’ve chosen and not just one that has chosen me.

I rest because I require it, and talking about that openly is not a weakness.




The Deep Exhale

May 18 – June 16

The Deep Exhale is a journey for women who are ready to rest.

Women who are exhausted physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Women who feel zapped of their innate ability to show up in their lives they way that they might want to. Women who yearning to be awake and ready for transformation. Women who want to take action and create in their lives without sacrificing their own care.

The Deep Exhale teaches you to rewrite what it means to receive your own care and adoration.

Together we will be devoting ourselves to rest, sustenance, community, PLAY, and the deeply sacred practice of being a human on your own terms.


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Teaching Myself to Ask for Help

April 16, 2015

Last September, I could feel myself shifting, growing. My business was growing, and my energy was changing. It felt as though my consciousness was being pulled out of my head and my ability to charge forward in spite of myself, and traveling down through my feet, into the ground beneath me. Traveling beneath the soil, my energy became horizontal and I could feel myself (and my femininity) lowering into a new vibration. Slower. More intentional. Readying myself for the possibility of the baby that seems to be constantly tugging at my ankles as I pad around the house.

IMG_7589All of the sudden, if I wasn’t careful, I became exhausted easily. My out-of-orbit rhythms became tattooed beneath my eyes like dark rings of discontentment. I could not longer wind myself up and set myself to a task. I could no longer drink all of the coffee and plow through my to-do list.

My work stopped being about doing and started being about feeling.

When I say work, I do mean the literal work of tending to this space – the curation of classes and group experiences, the coaching calls, the healing work. But, I also mean the work of being a human on this planet. The presence of mind as I navigate my daily life.

A couple of things become startlingly clear…

I was going to need to scale back.

I was going to need help.

I tried to wrap my head around the latter for weeks and months, as I attempted to give myself permission to receive help.

The prayer was simple: Help. Strategic camaraderie. Allowing myself to be witnessed and supported. Someone that I can trust. Someone that I can totally adore. Someone who will tend to this space as lovingly as I do.

you are worthy of loveBut the ask unraveled me. Who would I be if I didn’t do it all? Was it possible to really (truly) ask for help? Could I entrust my beloved business to someone else’s capable hands?

It took me months to realize that the boulder in my way was the truth that I had been married to the idea of earning my keep. For years, I have showed up here, overextending myself and enjoying it. I have responded to every email, accounted for every dollar, written thousands of words a week, and worked with hundreds of women, all by myself. This site, this business, was my best thing. My labor of love.

But, as things were shifting in my life, my perception of my role needed to shift as well.

I am a (recovering) control freak. I have always been an overachiever. I have prided myself on doing too much – on my ability to follow through. Truthfully, I loved these things about myself, for a time. But, if I wanted to grow – if I wanted to allow myself to grow – I needed to open myself up to the vulnerability of asking for help tending to this space.

The truth is, though I love it dearly, I am not my job.

I am not the items on my to do list.

I am not money earned or bills paid.

I am the ocean and the sand and the light-hearted feeling of divine belonging in the world around me.

I am a spirit, with tangled hair, just wanting to be acknowledged.

I am divinely feminine and deeply rooted.

My worth is inherent.

I am strengthened – not diminished – when I allow myself to ask for help.

And, I am absolutely thrilled to introduce you to Joanna, the answer to this call for help.


Meet Joanna, business support & systems wrangler

JoannaHey y’all – I’m so excited to do this work with Mara and to support her in her business. I’m also honored to have a bit of space in your life today.

A little about me: I love the color kelly green. I’m a Gemini, an empath, and an INFP. My rescue dog Tucker makes me laugh on a daily basis. I drink iced coffee all year long. Discovering Mary Oliver’s poetry changed my life. I adore Moleskine notebooks and the possibility of a blank page.

I’m having lots of fun these days on Instagram, where I share my true stories and my wonderfully imperfect life. I’d love for you to come hang out with me – @joanna_begins

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Ferocious Truth

April 06, 2015

I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere,
because where I am folded, there I am a lie.

{Rainer Maria Rilke}

My heart beats out the rhythm: tell the truth tell the truth tell the truth.

Tell the truth of who you are, of how you are.  Tell the truth about what you need. Tell the truth of your story as a human on this planet.

Tell the truth because in your silence, you are breeding the story that you are alone struggle. That you are alone in feeling this messy. Tell the truth to remove the artificial borders that you have created for yourself, sealing you in here, with your white hot and bubbling truths.

Tell the truth to honor your desire to move forward, to grow, because there is no growth without truth.

When I avoid my truth, my growth is circuitous, winding through the darkness. I lay myself a careful trail of breadcrumbs, so that I will be able to find my way back through the mist of clues and stories. When I avoid my truth, I must be careful to remember what I’d told, to whom. My energy is diffuse with all of that elaborate record keeping.

When I avoid my truth, I become a stranger in my own life. 

In truth I am flourishing in a hot house of honest vulnerability. I am messy, open. I am wild, untethered. In truth, my many pieces are on display for you, but I am safe in belonging to myself. In truth, I know that it is not my job to manage your response to my words, my actions. In truth, my energy is reclaimed and I am whole.

When I live in the bright light of truth, I am free. 

My lies were inconspicuous. They were quiet lies, white lies. They weren’t lies as much as they were omissions of depth. They were born in the moment that followed my impulse to cover my tracks, dim my shine. They grew out of the desire to be loved and feeling unsure of whether or not I deserved it.

My lies were quiet lies. They spread beneath me as I walked, qualifying my understanding of my own goodness. Was I good with the lie? Was I good enough?

My lies were lies of contorting the truth. Doling it out to myself piece by piece, because I assumed that I wasn’t strong enough to love all of myself – just as I assumed that you might not love me, if you saw all of me.

In my heart of hearts, I want to unburden us of the need to lie to one another.

Ferocious truthThese quiet lies are eating us alive. They writhe their way into our relationship with ourselves, with others. They promise to be the answer to our deepest longing for love. They promise to light the way.

But, these lies are not our saviors. The relationships that they allow are cultivated in uneven earth. Instead of the love that they promise, they breed our loneliness. These lies stack up upon one another, building walls between us and everyone else.

These lies reinforce the ultimate lie: That there is something wrong with you. That you can’t be honest and be loved. That you are unlovable. 

It can feel risky, telling the truth. It can challenge all of our notions of belonging. It can trigger every single feeling that we might have, every memory tucked deep in our flesh about what it means to belong and what it means to be cast out.

I have been cast out. I do not want to be cast out again.

But, I will not live a lie, for your love.

I will not cut myself up into little pieces, so that I am easily palatable. I will not quiet myself in order to make you feel more comfortable. I have been doing that for far too long.

The truth is, your goodness is inherent. There is nothing here for you to prove.

Your worth is not hinged on anything you do.

But, unless you allow others to truly see you, you will never feel the warmth of that inherent goodness, the warmth of your worth reflected back at you in a look of love. Unless you allow others to see you as you are, in your truth, you will never have the opportunity to be loved as you are.

You will never have an opportunity to love yourself, as you are.

ferocious truthYes, there will be those who see you in your truth and do not like you. But, there is a perfection in that, a whittling down. An honesty. We are not for everyone. That is ok.

You must teach yourself to tolerate their reactions to you. Your job is to show up in your truth, in your messy, human vulnerability. Your job is to do the best that you can with the tools that you have on hand. Your job is not to micromanage how others react to you.

Honoring your truth about belonging to yourself. Trusting that it is safe to speak your truth no matter what is an act of belonging to yourself. When you speak your truth you are claiming sovereignty of your life. This is what occurs when you trust yourself to speak your truth and belong. When you speak to yourself honestly about who you are and what you need. When you allow others to witness you as you.

Belonging to yourself is permanent, grounding, even if your membership to others circles feels tenuous or uncertain.

But, unless you are speaking your truth, you will never belong to yourself. 

This is the essential piece, the beginning piece. This is the piece that you can practice, even if it is only in the safe space of your own mind. Start with one truth. And then another.

There is space for all of you here, if you allow it.

Want to share your ferocious truths?

I will be playing with truth through the New Moon, April 18th, on Instagram with the hashtag #ferocioustruth. Join me. 

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