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Episode 13: From Swiss Cheese to Whole — Finding Inner Light with Survivor and Artist Angie Shireman



Angie Shireman, a jewelry artisan, small business owner, certified yoga instructor, wife, mom, and artist, has seemingly lived a carefree life. But her smiling personality belies her real story. During this episode, our hosts have Angie recount these dark moments in her life and how she dug deep to find her way to the light and become the shiny person she is today.

“It was easy to feel let down by life, repeatedly. I had to forgive all of the people that hurt me, the people that left, the people that took parts of me. They took bits and pieces of me. I allowed bits and pieces of me to go. And then I was going to be like this swiss cheese person, I guess. So in some strange way, I knew I would always land on my feet. And to do that we all have to do these little forgivenesses, every single day.”

Host Erik Weihenmayer has a new film about his pursuit of kayaking the Grand Canyon that is making the rounds on the film festival circuit: Weight of Water. The film was started in 2014 by director Michael Brown and now is winning awards left and right. At the time of this episode, it had just taken home the Grand Prize at Banff Mountain Film Festival.

Dave points out that the movie highlights the internal struggles of those folks in Erik’s life and how we are all carrying some sort of mental or emotional burden at any given time.

Angie has had her fair share of burdens.

She starts with an overview of her childhood, growing up in Buffalo, NY, as one of 5 children in an Irish Catholic family. Her mom raised Angie without her biological dad present and as a young child, Angie was very aware of his absence. As the years went on, Angie’s mom dated other men and ultimately her home was unstable and lacking a feeling of safety.

Her rocky childhood and lack of familial support had Angie seeking a means to escape; whether in her mind by creating an alternate reality for herself or physically escaping and running away as a young teen.

After years of rebellion and denial of her feelings, Angie discusses how important it was to seek forgiveness for the people who had harmed her and to forgive herself.

“This is not going to be the thing that gets me down, I am not going to end my life this way… I would not have the depth of character or the ability to love so freely without these experiences.”

 

During Angie’s experience climbing Kilimanjaro (Jeff was a guide on her expedition), she used her time on the mountain to continue to rid herself of the burdens she carried. Beyond her childhood, Angie faced health barriers as an adult. She got a voluntary double mastectomy after finding a lump. Her decision was to take action and ensure if it was cancer, it wouldn’t spread. Despite being at peace with her decision, Angie discusses how hard it was post surgery and the unexpected ways she felt.

“I felt invisible, like a fraud, like another thing you don’t know about me is this.”

 

Once again, Angie reverted to feeling like she was holding on to even more emotional burdens. And even then her struggles weren’t done. After some odd neurological symptoms popped up, Angie was diagnosed with a rare brain disorder that required not one, but two deep brain surgeries. Between the first and second surgeries, Angie was in a dark place with fear and uncertainty creeping in.

“I think it was the fear of not having lived the life that I knew that I wanted. If I don’t wake up from this, what was my biggest accomplishment?”

To get past those feelings, Angie discusses how she recovered and overcame these feelings by discovering what she calls her “spirit.” Understanding that her physical self and the experiences that have happened to her are not what ultimately make her.

“It’s a thirst and a knowledge that I can do this. I can make it. Even if I slip or fall, my real life is in my ability to choose to try.”

She believes everyone has this capability but not everyone has learned to access it.

“You gotta lean into the parts that are scary and terrifying to truly see who you are.”

Now, Angie has recovered physically and devotes her time to her art and helping others. Using her art to channel her voice, Angie continues to face her demons and express herself.

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Episode Transcript

Angie: It’s just this tiny, itty, bitty little fraction of faith, and one ounce of hope and belief in myself. If I know that one little drip is in there, then there has to be a source that that drop came from. I can’t see it, but I know that I am of it, and I know that we are all of it.

Erik: It’s easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn’t talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I’ve gotten a chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It’s been a struggle to live what I call a no barriers life, to define it, to push the parameters of what it means.

Erik: Part of the equation is diving into the learning process, and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. In that unexplored terrain between those dark places, we find ourselves in the summit, exists a map. That map, that way forward is what we call no barriers.

Dave: Today, we’ll meet Angie Shireman. Angie is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. Two years after undergoing a preventative double mastectomy and several reconstructive surgeries, she was diagnosed with a very rare brain disorder. In 2014, she underwent two brain surgeries to correct it. Recovering from years of uncertainty and numerous surgeries had threatened her free spirit, depression began to set into her life.

Dave: Years later, Angie is now a jewelry artisan, a small business owner, a certified yoga instructor, wife, mum, and a lover of adventure. Angie’s businesses include Good Vibe Tribe Jewelry. It’s where she focuses her artistic energy and creates jewelry to inspire, elevate and celebrate.

Dave: Welcome to No Barriers Podcast. We’re excited to have you here with us today. I have an incredible guest, Angie Shireman joining us in just a minute here. Before we bring on our guest though, we got some exciting news. Erik, you were just featured in an incredible film called The Weight of Water. Tell us a little bit about that.

Erik: Well, way back in 2014, my No Barriers pledge was to kayak the Grand Canyon, and we were able to do that with another blind kayaker named Lonnie Bedwell, amazing guy. Michael Brown finally after three years finished the film, great director. He’s at it for like …

Dave: Finally.

Erik: … three years trying to finish this Grand Canyon film. It wasn’t like a big budget film or anything like that, so it was really cool to see him just persist. I mean, my No Barriers pledge was the Grand Canyon, his was to finish this film. He said at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, he was like, “I don’t even know if I like this film.

Erik: I have to watch it in front of an audience.” And really fortunate that we won the grand prize at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, beat out almost a hundred films. It was really special. It’s a great confirmation to Michael to keep going and keep striving ’cause it’s a beautiful film.

Dave: I think it’s just a great confirmation that even though a bunch of old guys are still doing stuff, you’re still doing it a high level. I mean, you doing the whole Grand Canyon thing, that’s something good. Here’s Michael, all these years later and he’s still putting out award-winning documentaries too, at a very high level. I was confused ’cause I went and looked at it on Google and I found this movie, it was about this woman who falls in love with a lizard. I wasn’t sure if I was seeing right.

Erik: That’s the Shape of Water now.

Dave: Okay, [inaudible 00:04:09].

Erik: And then there’s also another Weight of Water like back in 2000 with Sean Penn. So somebody walked into the theater and thought they were going to see a Sean Penn remake. We had to disappoint them. It’s really fun watching the film with an audience, or listening to it, I should say because like about to go into a rapid, and the lady sitting right behind me, and I hear her go, “Oh, no.” And it’s just so great, the verbal is fun for a blind guy listening to it.

Jeff: Good job, man.

Dave: I loved the message of the Weight of Water, which is really around this idea that we are all carrying a lot on our shoulders, and this comes across in the film too, it’s not just a film about your incredible feat, but it’s about the other people around who are themselves struggling with some really big things in their lives. I think that speaks a bit to this podcast and our guest today, Angie Shireman.

Jeff: Good segway.

Dave: Thank you. Angie’s been a member of our No Barriers community for quite a while now, and she has many talents, but one of those is her jewelry making. She has a beautiful line of jewelry, including some No Barriers custom-made jewelry that’s for sale now on our website. Angie’s story is a powerful one. I think if you’re listening now, you might want to get ready with a box tissues, and be prepared ’cause we’re going to try and really delve into Angie’s story, and get a sense of how she’s gotten through some tough times in her life.

Jeff: We’re emotionally available, so you can just like …

Angie: Thank goodness, thank goodness, because we all know that I need my emotionally available friends here. What an honor. Thank you all so much for having me here. I can’t even, so thank you.

Jeff: We’re glad here, we’re really glad you’re here.

Dave: And Angie, you’ve been through the gamut, you’ve lived a full life. Breast cancer and brain disorder and some challenges with depression. You fought through a lot in your life, so where do you even start with that journey?

Angie: Wow, it is a journey, but I’ll start with one quick thing is that I did not have breast cancer. I had a tumor and I opted to have a preventative or a, what are they sometimes called, a prophylactic double mastectomy, before I knew whether it was cancerous or not. We can touch on that later, but I always like to make sure I clarify that, because I’ve never been in a room with a doctor telling me that I have cancer, and so I don’t take that very lightly.

Jeff: Okay.

Angie: With my own barriers, we can go there, so you’re right. It is kind of crazy, where do I start. For me, I think I should start closer to the very beginning of my life, because I think that’s when I, before I even knew it, really started to overcome things, and rise above my raising, as I like to say. I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, right outside of Buffalo, New York.

Angie: I’m the middle of five children. My mother is a wonderful woman who grew up in a very, very Irish-Catholic family. She got pregnant at 19, very young, with my oldest brother. My biological father was really just not a very healthy or balanced man, to say the least. He was a motorcycle guy, and I think she was really drawn to that. She fell for him, and he turned out to just be a pretty bad guy.

Angie: They got married because she was pregnant with my brother, and had my two brothers and then me, I was the third child. By the time I was born, he was long gone, and my mum was left alone to raise these three kids. I was pretty sick when I was born, I had some issues with my kidneys that weren’t figured out for, I guess, several months, so I think that was kind of tough for my mum.

Angie: But really, I kind of started thinking about my first few memories, and those were when I was around three, four or five, and all my little girl friends have daddies everywhere, and everybody’s got a dad, but I didn’t know where mine was. I just knew that I didn’t really have one. We didn’t speak of him when I was young because thankfully, my mother’s parents, my grandparents were there for us to take us in, and take care of us.

Angie: Really without them, we would have had a whole lot of different experiences than the ones I guess that we did. He ended up leaving, and my mother continued on and had another son, my baby brother Jason, and I have a sister named Kate, with another man who was my stepfather. Really, again, had his own set of troubles and unfortunately, didn’t balance himself very well, and took those out on us, to say the least.

Angie: I grew up with a lot of anger and shouting, and just not a feeling of being safe in my own home. I believe my mum did everything that she really could, what she thought she could, and eventually, I knew that I had to leave, because I didn’t feel very safe. Not only did I not feel safe, but I really felt like a very lost girl. I used to think, you’re just a lost girl because where is this father that doesn’t exist, that didn’t want me.

Angie: Who would ever want me? Do I even want me? It was really hard to just allow myself to be, because I felt like I had to fight for love, or prove my worthiness, and the truth was I didn’t even believe that I was worthy of any of it. That was rough.

Erik: Like at No Barriers, you’ve met a lot of people that are physically challenged, but you’re touching on something that’s invisible in the psyche. I know you’ve done a great job explaining that, but like go even like I thought about this more and more. Like how important it is to have that solid family structure when you’re a little girl, a little boy. Without it, like what does that do to the psyche? I bet a lot of the folks listening have struggled with similar things?

Angie: Yeah, I think a lot of people have struggled with this, and I think at least, I can speak to what it did to my psyche. I think there was a lot of day dreaming that I would sort of have to escape my reality at times. Sometimes I’d physically escape, like I would run away and I would hide behind this one certain athletic club that had blackberries in the bushes. I knew I could go and eat blackberries and keep myself together, and listen to the water.

Angie: There were times where I had to just turn inward, even when I was looking at a scene that was really scary. Because as a kid, you can’t do anything. I couldn’t stop some of the things that were going on in my house, and I know what I couldn’t stop was this nagging feeling of you’re not enough, you’re not enough. Your own father didn’t love you. You’re not really that great at school. I hadn’t found my thing yet. I don’t know, did I touch on that?

Erik: Yeah, do you think you learned sort of like I’ve heard this description of kind of like learned helplessness that you hear. Where it’s hard to feel like you can affect things.

Angie: Yeah, I think sometimes I did, but to be honest, that’s not the first thing that comes up. I do feel like there was some learned helplessness in there, because it was easy to say, “Well, life sucks, poor me.” For a while, I definitely was through that stage. That was probably when I was, you know, 12 and 13, started shaving my head in the high school bathroom.

Angie: Black clothes, black eyeliner, for the bright rainbowy thing I am right now. I was not cute at all, and it showed. I wore black on the outside because that’s really how I was feeling on the inside.

Jeff: Well, for those of us that know you, and there’s a lot of us, we know a version of Angie that is not that.

Erik: I’m picturing you’re all black, nose ring.

Jeff: Well, I’m trying to see that.

Angie: I do have a nose ring. I pierced it myself.

Erik: Eyebrow ring.

Jeff: I’m just trying to see that, but it’s hard for me to see, because …

Angie: No?

Dave: No.

Jeff: … we know this persona. You and I have talked about this before, about how you are this effervescent person that really just sort of leaves this trail of rainbows behind you. I’ve asked you before and I think that this is an important thing for all us to hear, is do you feel that who you are now and this sort of persona that you put out is in spite of, or direct results of these dark recesses that you lived in for a long time?

Jeff: Do you feel like, that’s the number one, and number two, do you feel like that you’re almost grateful for that to have happened to make you this bubbly person that you are?

Angie: Yes and yes, whole heartedly. I think that I can’t help but look back. Even I’ve gone back and I have forgiven my biological father. I’ve gone back and I’ve forgiven my stepfather. I’ve forgiven myself for situations that I allowed myself to be in, that I was not prepared for. I was so young yet because I was taking care of myself, I ended up in very unsafe situations, and I paid really dire prices for that.

Angie: At the same time, I whole heartedly believe that all of those things were really just doorways or gateways to this untouched part of me that no matter how unlovable I was, no matter how little money we had, no matter what, there was something within me that I could go to. I don’t even know what it was you guys, because you have to imagine that I didn’t understand my own worth, yet I understood that I had some sort of power.

Angie: Now, after years and years of sort of doing that and going back in and saying, “Wait a second, this is not going to be the thing that gets me down. I’m not going end my, my life this way.” That is what got me through. Yes, to have all of those experiences, to look back on them now, I know for certain that I would not have the depth of, at least the depth of character that I like to think I have.

Angie: Or more important than that, is the ability to love and open my heart so freely, because at some point I had to prove to myself that I was worthy of my own love, whether I was going to get it from any man, any woman, anyone in the world. Yeah, without any of that garbage, I don’t think I’d be near as shiny. I might still be wearing the black clothes.

Dave: Angie, one thing you brought up there that I want to go back to that we haven’t touched on yet in this podcast. Too much is this idea of the courage to forgive, forgiveness of self, forgiveness of others as a part of your journey to making you who you are today. Talk us through, how do you have the courage to do that? Where does it come from, and what was that process like for you?

Angie: Again, I think that started when I was young because it was easy to feel let down by life repeatedly. I didn’t go to the father-daughter dance. My dad didn’t teach me how to walk by having my feet on his shoes. I had to forgive all of the people that hurt me, the people that left, the people that took parts of me. But I also really, really had to forgive myself because if not, then all of those things were just for nothing.

Angie: They took bits and pieces of me, I allowed bits and pieces of me to go. Then I was just going to be this like Swiss cheese person, I guess. In some strange way, I just knew that I was always going to land on my feet, and that to do that, I think that we all have to do these little forgivenesses, every single day. To even just strangers on the street that don’t smile back, which can be kind of like what, I’m just saying hi.

Jeff: You had an exercise when we were on Kilimanjaro with these certain stones …

Angie: Yeah.

Jeff: … rocks. Tell everybody about that, because it seems like that was maybe in part, part of your process of forgiveness or allowing the weight of that experience to be left behind somewhere.

Angie: Yes, forgiveness sounds great because it’s this idea of it’s okay, or I forgive you, and I move on. There was a lot of work or practice in that, but somehow, I still was attached to all of the pain. I felt like I was able to let go of some of the stuff or the content of the story. But what lingered was still this ache. I think that ache was just not having the ability or the knowledge to remove these barriers, really from my back, from my story.

Angie: We went to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, I knew I was going to try. What I did was I always referred to all of these problems and this heaviness as rocks in my backpack that I’ve carried forever. Kilimanjaro, I wanted to do this sort of secret little exercise, just really for myself, so that I could try to switch the dialogue in my head. I grabbed like six or 10 really beautifully colored rocks like piece of turquoise and crystal preys and amethyst. Things that are like going to sparkle in that Kilimanjaro dirt when people are walking by.

Angie: I would just like sporadically leave one in a little spot on the trail, or off the side of the trail. When I did, I would think about what I was leaving behind, fear or the belief that I’m not enough, or the belief that I am not really here to be seen or heard. The belief that I don’t have anything to give. I went through this like walking meditation of overcoming all of the garbage that I carried by dropping these pretty little rocks, hoping that someone random would be like, wow.

Angie: Then they’re going to find this rock, and it’s like pretty and beautiful, and they’re going to say, “What the heck? How did this get here? What in the world.” I’ll be that little random fairy princess that …

Jeff: Yes, so suddenly you just transform like you’re burdened into like this little happy, shiny thing.

Angie: Yeah, yes.

Erik: Like a gift.

Angie: Yes, yes, yes.

Jeff: That’s pretty cool.

Angie: Like an offering. For me and for them, and for all of us really.

Erik: Do you feel whole now, or is this Swiss cheese effect? I mean, it’s not as simple as snap your fingers, and suddenly you’re whole?

Angie: No, it’s like feeling like a gladiator. It’s going to that arena where you have to steer down the sharp point teeth of the tigers that are in there, to chew you apart. For me, many of those things were really just taking an inventory of who is it that I actually believe that I am. I am not worthy of being left behind. I know that, I know that I’m worthy of love, because I know that I can give love. That’s what I want to do.

Angie: Am I whole? Absolutely. What it took was really getting over myself, getting over my story. At some point I had to dis-identify Angie from a childhood of fear, and not fitting in, being afraid and not enough. I had to dis-identify with that bit of my story. Now, I’ve dis-identified with being sick and in bed for all of those years. I kind of had to get over myself.

Erik: That was from the brain challenges that you have.

Angie: Yes, yes, so yeah, back in 2011, I had to discover, I guess, 2010, I discovered a lump in my left breast and I kind of kept it quiet for a long time. I was really scared, I was going through a lot. My boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor, so I was not going to even think about my issues. I needed to get him past his, and what will we do, we’ll figure it out then. Once he woke up form surgery, I kind of had to come clean and told him I had been hiding this tumor for a few months.

Jeff: Welcome back from your brain surgery.

Erik: Yeah.

Jeff: By the way …

Erik: Sorry.

Jeff: … I’ve got a lump.

Angie: These are gone, yeah, sorry. We got him back on his feet, and then it was my turn. I found myself in my OBGYN’s office and she said, “Okay, based on your family history, you need to go have an MRI, a, a, a brain,” no, not a brain scan, it’s a different, I don’t remember what it was yeah. An MRI, I had to go see the oncologist, another surgeon, and then a plastic surgeon, and then we’ll hurdle back up and decide what we do. I’m like, “Wait a second, what?”

Angie: We thought, we talked, we cried like we were sinking on the Titanic. At the end of the day, I decided that I was just going to get rid of these breasts. I was going to cut them off because I did not want to go through several years of wondering and little bits and pieces of maybe, and the truth is, I didn’t know if that was cancer or not at the time. I knew they had to get it out and I didn’t want to wait to find out what it was. I wanted to get rid of.

Angie: That’s kind of the way that I’ve approached my whole life, maybe a little bit to my detriment, get it done. I had them removed, and then built back. In that, there were some there crazy stuff. Because no one really tells you that when you look in the mirror, your new body, you’re going to not know who you are, you’re going to doubt yourself.

Angie: I wondered if I was still even really a woman. I was so thankful. I was beyond thankful that I was cancer free. I woke up, there was no cancer, it was okay, everything was great. So really it was just a series of surgeries to get over from that point.

Erik: But does that stuff re-trigger you a little bit? Like you have this childhood stuff going on, and then you have this physical thing that happens, and you’re on the road to feeling whole again. Does that set you back? What does that do emotionally?

Angie: Totally sets me, it did set me back. It set me back emotionally by a long shot I think, because then, I started to feel again, not whole, not enough. Kind of like a fraud, a bit of another like invisible thing. What you don’t know about me is this, and I certainly, at that time, wasn’t quite ready to claim that body as my own yet, ’cause it was still being built. It still hurt. It was in this metamorphosis until it was done. Yeah, there was a lot of therapy. There were a lot of really dark nights of the soul, for sure.

Erik: But it’s not over yet, right, there’s more?

Angie: No, it’s so not over yet, and like that’s the crazy part.

Erik: There’s behind door number two, there’s more.

Angie: Yes, no wonder Vena White did not, like where was the car? Yeah, door number two. Well, that was the crazy part because it took a couple of years for them to rebuild my breasts and, I was now going to just be happy and whole and healthy and go of and have a great life. I had every intention of doing that. Then I started to have really strange neurological symptoms in my face.

Angie: Like my eye was twitching like crazy, you ever get like an eye spasm? No one go and Google this, but when you get one like sometimes that’s really normal, and sometimes it happens around the clock, and it makes it look like you’re ready to dance, or flirt with somebody, or you want to fight, because I started to look kind of like Elvis, like I was winking and …

Dave: Elvis eye?

Angie: Yeah, the Elvis eye, a little bit of a twitchy lip and oh boy, who is this woman? My face was kind of all over the place. At that time, I was teaching yoga and I also had some issues with balance. Really, I was pretty much done with going to the doctors, so I thought I’m just going to, of course, ignore all of this. This is not real. I’m fine.

Jeff: How could lightening strike twice?

Angie: Lightening cannot strike twice, right, no way. Well, of course, it can and maybe even three times. That’s I think kind of what happened. Because after about a year or so of me pretending that I was fine, I went to get an eye test thinking maybe it’s just that I need new glasses. And it wasn’t, and I had to go up to an MRI and other crazy tests. At the end of the day, I was diagnosed with a very, very rare brain disorder, that usually happens on one side of the brain, it’s called hemifacial spasm.

Angie: I had this strange case of having it on each side of the brain, so I had what they referred to as bilateral hemifacial spasm. Over time, my arteries were just going to continue to irritate that nerve, nerve number seven, and I would be a blinky, kind of neurological mess if let untreated. The option was for three years, they could put Botox and needles in my face to try to stop these things from bouncing all over.

Angie: But I was a yogi, so I was into no tox instead of didn’t do Botox, so I said, “I’m not letting you. And what happens then, like do you cure this?” They can’t cure it, so you have a few years where they can keep it chilled, but not really. The only cure was deep brain surgery, twice. I had to saddle up for brain surgery/

Jeff: You should play the lottery, girl.

Angie: I should, where would we all go?

Jeff: I mean, I don’t even know what your number could be, but maybe it’s like the dates of your surgeries or something, and then submit, and then win, yes.

Angie: Yes, I like it.

Jeff: Well, I’m just tripping out on the fact that Erik had asked you if you were whole, because that was such a interesting word to use. ‘Cause whole, I mean, you’ve had scalpels in you that have taken a lot of you out. To be whole again is an interesting metaphor for you, especially, with so much of you that’s come out. Because you try to fill this emotional void that’s there, but there’s this physical void that’s there. You’ve had to really struggle to find that wholeness. Was that as low as it went? Was that the window of time that was as dark as a …

Angie: The darkness really came when I was laying in bed. The most of the darkness was that summer between the two surgeries, ’cause they had to give quite a gap. The first surgery was in April, and the second was in September. They couldn’t do obviously each one at the same time, so that’s when I think I was at my darkness.

Erik: Is that depression like uncertainty or, where does that stem from? Obviously, you’re like sitting there thinking, will they ever be able to fix this, so that makes total sense. But is there more?

Angie: I think for me, yes, it was uncertainty, but it was, I think it was the total and complete fear of having not finished living the life that I knew that I wanted. Like if I don’t wake up from him, what was my biggest accomplishment? If this is the end of me, what the hell was it all for?

Dave: How do you get through this? Now, we think of you as this incredibly energetic, passionate person. We’ve talked a little bit about forgiveness as one route to helping get through the first part of your early life. But in this period of your life where you’ve had a double mastectomy, you’ve had these terrible pieces of news. Like how do you go from that dark place to getting through it? It seems almost impossible?

Angie: It felt almost impossible. I think about it and at times it really did seem pretty close to impossible. I think once again, I went inward. I know at least as it related to my physical body, I had to disassociate myself, whatever myself was going to be was not going to be related to the breasts that came off, or the empty brain that was left behind. Or even all the symptoms, or the fear.

Angie: I had to dis-identify with that body so that I could get in touch with my spirit and my soul, because that is who I know I am. I am the woman or the girl that says, “All right, I’m 14 years old. I don’t feel safe here, I’m leaving.” I moved out at 15. It took the same thing that that young girl had at 15, 14 to do that as it did to say, “Okay, so, if I have to stay in this bed and my word is going to be dark, then I better fill it with anything that I can.”

Erik: Obviously, this feels very spiritual to me.

Angie: Yeah.

Erik: You’ve talked a couple of times about turning inward and really tapping into whatever that thing is. What is that thing?

Angie: That thing, it’s hard for me to put into words, but I think it’s the same thing that I know it’s something that we all possess, because I know that if we didn’t all have it, I wouldn’t have had it. Because I had so little faith and belief in myself that whatever it is, I believe it’s intangible. I believe it’s a thirst and a knowledge of just I can do this, I can make it. Even if I am falling, even if I slip, even if anything, my real life is in that ability to choose to try. What’s the other option? I’m going to just stay home, stay like, I don’t know.

Jeff: But you’re convinced that everybody has that?

Angie: I believe that everybody has that to a certain level. I believe everybody has it, but I think that not everybody has found their way to see it within themselves. I think perhaps sometimes people look externally, ’cause I was one of them, for what is intrinsic, what is inside. That is a connection to that strength, the same thing that shines through our breath. The light that comes in through the cracks in the hospital room. That’s why. I mean, that’s what we’re all doing here, I hope.

Erik: Do you think a lot of people still see themselves as the trauma, as the mastectomy, as the brain disease? Like they are those things that happened to them, and they get stuck?

Angie: Yes, I think it’s really hard to interrupt that pattern, and I think all of us want to know how, what is it. I don’t know that there’s any one way except, I think the way that I have found, and really, with the help of my friends, my community, my husband, my family, it’s just this tiny, itty, bitty little tiny fraction of faith. One ounce of hope and belief in myself, if I know that one little drip is in there, then there has to be a source that that drop came from.

Angie: I can’t see it, but I know that I am of it and I know that we are all of it. I just, I don’t know what to call it. I just want to help everybody see it them. Like that’s why I am here. I think that’s why you’re here, I think you’re here too, all of us, to show each other like this is what we’re living for. You got to lean into the parts that are scary and terrifying if you’re going to see who you are.

Angie: Because all of us, I really believe all of us have it. Maybe not all of us have the willingness to say, I’m going to go to the place where it hurts, and I’m going to stare at you, and I’m going to let you know that I’m so much bigger than you.

Dave: Tell us after that incredible piece of wisdom for all of us to sit with, tell us how you’re channeling this energy now, ’cause you’re doing incredible things with your life. Tell us how this has … What does the current version of you look like?

Angie: Thank you. I’m knocking on wood because the current version of me feels really healthy. I feel really strong. I am finally really putting myself towards my art. I’m feeling like I’ve removed yes, barriers to use our language, but I’m working at making more jewelry, becoming closer and closer to the version of myself that I know I really am. Closer to that source, that well that is my life.

Angie: I think that the best part for me is that I have the ability to do that. I can sit in my home studio and I don’t necessarily always know what I’m going to create, and I can just kind of sit there and think about what is it that I need to work on, what is it that’s not feeling aligned right now within me. Usually, I’m creating a necklace that says, “Be here now,” or, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” Someone else’s words but …

Dave: I’m hearing that your art and your life are connected, right? This seems like an expression of Angie?

Angie: Yes, I think that my art is my voice. I think that it’s, at least the one that I allow myself to use without all the second guessing. Because although I believe that I’m whole, I still have this little naggy nag voice that says, “Are you sure you’re good enough?” I just have to keep telling her she doesn’t belong. But in that studio, I don’t have any of that doubt, even as I’m burning pieces and they’re falling apart. Like, all right, well, I guess I got to try it again. But yeah, my art is my expression.

Jeff: That’s the one thing that I’m considering when we talk about you being whole, is that by definition means you’re done, and you’re not done, right?

Angie: No.

Jeff: There’s this unfinished journey that continues to be able to finally through Buddhist, I think that way. But like when you finally reach that point, then you’re done. Really, at this point, you’re not.

Angie: No, you’re not.

Erik: You’ll never be done.

Angie: We’re never going to be down, life will always give us another sharp, pointy thing.

Jeff: That’s right. Not to say that it’s not worth striving and busting your butt to be able to try and get to that place.

Angie: Right.

Erik: Can you tell our listeners where to go if they’d like to buy some of your jewelry.

Angie: Yes, of course, well, a couple of places, you can go to goodvibetribejewelry.com, but you should go to No Barriers USA, because they have a whole brand new line of my jewelry that was made just for No Barriers. It’s really neat because it’s tactile. You can also follow me at Miss Yogi Pants on Instagram and at Good Vibe Tribe Jewelry on Instagram.

Dave: If you didn’t catch all of that, you can always check our show notes at nobarrierspodcast.com.

Angie: Yes.

Erik: Angie, you gave me a beautiful piece of jewelry for my 50th birthday party. I love it.

Jeff: The wedding ring I have on my hand right now is Angie made it.

Angie: Yay, you guys are my heroes.

Jeff: We carry you around every day.

Dave: Well, it’s been a joy to have you here, Angie, thank you so much for your time, and for just going to the heart of the matter, we appreciate it.

Angie: Thank you guys so much.

Jeff: You’re a unicorn Angie Shireman.

Angie: Yeah, I’ve always wanted that. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much.

Dave: Well, Erik, Jeff, that was pretty extraordinary. Jeff, what did you hear that stood out for you?

Jeff: Well, I think I mentioned it, is that I know the Angie back story, but there’s always just these layers that maybe you don’t know no matter how much you’ve listened, there’s always more. The thing that struck me was all the folks that we encounter in the No Barriers community have a component of, I’ll call it trauma, but that’s a pretty wide defining experience.

Jeff: But Angie really made me think about this idea of when you want to identify with something other than the trauma, to be able to turn into something else. That it’s easy to get fixated on these things, and Angie’s like, bam, bam, bam. A sequence of events, and it would be easy for her to get marred in this considering identifying as that, I am this person, I’m that person, I’m that person.

Jeff: This happened to me, that happened to me, but instead, she says those are worthy experiences. They’ve contributed to who I am, but I’m going to let them go and identify with something else. I think that that is a really, really truly universal thing that we should all try to digest, eat up.

Erik: That’s so, you said it so well and Angie said it so well. I mean, if you are the thing that happens to you, how do you turn into it? You can’t turn into the thing you are, you have to find something deeper, and then say, “Okay, I’m separate from those things that enables me to turn into it.” That’s wild.

Jeff: Yeah.

Erik: I’ve never heard that expressed quite like that.

Jeff: Yeah.

Erik: I guess I also learned that I should be bringing more Kleenex on these podcasts. I think I ruined the podcast with all my sniffling and wiping my nose.

Jeff: It’s still on your hands.

Erik: I love the fact or this metaphor, I guess of us all kind of being Swiss cheese and sort of trying to fill in those gaps of those sort of asteroids that hit us, and make us into Swiss cheese, and how do we figure out how to make ourselves whole again. Some of the rituals that Angie talked about, leaving rocks on the trail. I think those symbolic things, her art, those are channels to make yourself whole, and to express yourself. I think that’s really important.

Jeff: What about you Dave?

Dave: As Angie was talking about what is that thing inside of us, it just made me keep thinking of the profound sort of implication of the No Barriers tagline. What’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way. It’s like something we say all the time, and people resonate with it, but what is that thing within us that we go to? We believe it’s there, what is it?

Jeff: And how do you access it?

Dave: Exactly, how do you get to it in those dark moments, and how do you teach people to get to them? That’s the essence of our work at No Barriers. I think it’s profound work that we still don’t have answers to completely.

Erik: If you want it described, go back and listen to this podcast, ’cause Angie described it well.

Dave: That’s a great finish. For those of you that are listening, we appreciate your support. As always, the best way to continue to help No Barriers, if you like what you’re hearing is to like our podcast and share it with others. If you didn’t get to see our recap of the No Barriers Summit in New York City, we encourage you to go to nobarriersusa.com and join us at our next summit in Lake Tahoe, which comes up in June of 2019. Thank you so much for listening.

Erik: No Barriers.

Jeff: See you next time.

Dave: Thanks to all of you for listening to our podcast. We know that you have a lot of choices about how you can spend your time, and so we appreciate you spending it with us. If you enjoyed this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan Band for our intro song, which is called Guidance.

Dave: The production team behind this podcast includes producers Didrik Johnck and Pauline Shaffer, sound design, editing and mixing by Tyler Kottman, graphics by Sam Davis, and marketing support by Laura Baldwin and Jaime Donnelley. Thanks to all you amazing people for the great work you do.

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