Deborah Copaken Adrift on a Paddle Board in Greece

SHIFT HAPPENS is a Global Take on Women’s Turning Points and Pivotal Moments

In this episode, author Deborah Copaken shares how she went from worrying about the future and fretting over the past to simply being present, and how that moment has reverberated. It involves a stand-up paddle board in Greece, a fierce wind, and finding herself in the middle of the ocean…


About Our Guest

Deborah Copaken is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including Shutterbabe, The Red Book, Between Here and April, and Ladyparts, her most recent memoir of bodily destruction and resurrection during marital rupture (Random House, 2021). A contributing writer at The Atlantic, she was also a writer on the Emmy/Golden Globe-nominated Netflix hit, Emily in Paris, a performer (The Moth, etc.), and an Emmy Award–winning news producer and photojournalist. Her photographs have appeared in Time, Newsweek, and The New York Times. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times, Observer, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, Slate, O, the Oprah Magazine, Air Mail, and Paris Match, among others. Her column “When Cupid Is a Prying Journalist” was adapted for the Modern Love streaming series. She is the writer, producer, CEO, and publisher of the Substack Ladyparts.

About Your Host

Claudia Mahler is a creative activist, with more than a decade of experience curating meaningful conversations for women in business, art and education in Europe and the United States.

She designs events for women’s empowerment that emphasize organic connection and conversation to complement existing professional development training in a variety of work environments.

She has 20+ years of experience in communications and PR in Europe and the East Coast of the United States.

Episode Transcript

Adrift on a Paddle Board in Greece

Claudia: This is it: SHIFT HAPPENS.

Welcome to this new podcast. My name is Claudia Mahler, and I am curious about how women made it through turning points in their lives and how they reflect back on them.

Too often, women just get on with it. The everyday, the duties, the expectations—too often, life-altering events are being swept under the rug, as life must go on.

With SHIFT HAPPENS, I want to create a space for women to pause for a moment and to share, to listen, and to feel heard. A space where we connect and talk about life and its pivotal moments, about the highs and lows, the challenges and the joys, about what has been gained and about how enriching change can be. Some things we hear are heavy, some are funny. They all put me in awe as they are honest and raw testimonies of life. This podcast is a little window into the world.

I invited women from all walks of life and various counties, countries and continents. I am in conversation with authors, business owners, artists, life coaches and change-makers. All these women have their individual life story and much wisdom to share.

Hello and welcome to SHIFT HAPPENS.

We are talking about these moments that change lives. They’re pivotal, they’re shifting us from one state to another… and sometimes we can really go back and point at this one occasion, at this one moment in life. And sometimes the change evolves over time, it develops, it’s not lingering—but it needs its time and its journey to fully blossom, and then we get it.

Today I’m in conversation with Deborah Copaken.

Deb is a New York Times bestselling author of seven books. But Deb actually will talk to us about a very significant point in time, and it involves a stand-up paddleboard in Greece, a fierce wind, and finding herself in the middle of the ocean.

So please stay tuned and listen to what happened out there in the big blue.


So, hello, welcome to SHIFT HAPPENS.

Deb: I like the title.

Claudia: Yes, I think it’s unfortunately not the only podcast around with this title, I still like it.

Deb: Yes.

Claudia: So I took it. Anyway, Deb, no, Deborah Copaken.

Deb: You can call me Deb.

Claudia: Okay. Deb, hello. I am so happy, of course, but really honored, that you make time to share a pivotal moment, the pivotal moment, one pivotal moment with us today. And I’d like to briefly introduce you to our listeners.

Deborah Copaken is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including Shutter Babe, The Red Book, Between Here and April, and Lady Parts, her most recent memoir of bodily destruction and resurrection during marital rupture. And I have to tell you, I read your book and of course it was funny and brilliant, but at times I really had to put it down because it was just too much. Too much hardship, too much unfairness.

And then I thought, how pathetic is this? I’m sitting in my chair, health-insured, and I’m putting down the book. So I felt so bad, so I continued reading. It’s such an important, important book, I feel, and you will tell us more about the mission that you’re on, apart from all the other amazing things that you do.

Deb is a contributing writer to The Atlantic, and I saw you just published also on Airmail Weekly.

Deb: Yes, I did, yeah, that came… an editor there had contacted me… we met at a party.

Claudia: Fabulous, that’s great. And you’ve been also a writer on the Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated Netflix hit Emily in Paris (of course, I loved it.) And also you are a photographer and have appeared in Time, Newsweek, and The New York Times. And your writing is luckily everywhere—The New Yorker, the New York Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times, Observer, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and Oprah Magazine.

And your column, “When Cupid is a Prying Journalist,” was adopted to the Modern Love streaming series. Anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s a must-see.

And now we can continue also reading you on your Substack, Lady Parts.

Deb: Yes, thank you.

Claudia: And you have three grown children, just a side note.

Deb: Two super grown children, meaning out of college, and one who’s a senior in high school, so almost grown.

Claudia: Yeah, almost, almost grown.

So before we get in, just a few quick questions. Flat or sparkling?

Deb: Oh, you know, that’s a really interesting question. I like both. And I was recently told on an osteoporosis podcast that I did that Colas are bad for you because of the carbonation. And it turns out it’s actually not just that the carbonation is bad, it’s that the dark cola is bad. So for a while there, I thought, “oh, I can’t drink sparkling water anymore.” Actually, it turns out, yes,
you can. It’s fine. So both.

Claudia: Okay, great. And we learned something, super. Dogs or cats?

Deb: Dogs. I had a dog for 13 years until he died.

Claudia: When did he die?

Deb: During COVID, of course.

Claudia: Of course. Apples or oranges?

Deb: Oh, it really is seasonal. I will eat apples all during the fall, and oranges all during the winter. So again, sorry, both.

Claudia: You will be alone on a deserted island. There’s only one thing you could take. What is it?

Deb: My Kindle. Can I buy books on it?

Claudia: Well, good question.

Deb: And then I would also need a charger.

Claudia: Exactly. Yeah, I haven’t really thought about that. Let’s pretend. Of course, I have like the Robinson Crusoe Island in mind.

Deb: Yeah. Well, let’s pretend that the Kindle could live forever and didn’t need to be charged. And get all the books that I wanted. That’s what I would have.

Claudia: Okay, great. What’s your most treasured possession?

Deb: Oh, that’s such a good question. That is such a good question. I mean, I guess my photo albums, like if there were a fire in my house, what would I save? My photo albums.

Claudia: And if you were to be reborn, who or what would you be?

Deb: I kind of would just want to come back as myself. You know, if I had the opportunity to be reborn, you know, I don’t know, after I die like I would just, I don’t know. I don’t want to be anyone else.

Claudia: That’s what I thought for me. Yeah.

So now you know you a little bit more and I would love to go straight to your pivotal moment. May I read what you sent me before? Because it’s so to-the-point and so wonderfully written.

Deb: Sure, sure.

Claudia: [Deb’s writing] The pivotal moment. The moment in 2021 after discovering treacheries on both the personal and professional front, and losing everything because of this. I went from worrying about the future and fretting over the past to simply being present—and how that moment has reverberated. It involves a stand-up paddleboard in Greece, a fierce wind, and finding myself in the middle of the ocean—both literally and figuratively.

So please, tell us.

Deb: Well, you sort of gave away the whole point… but I’ll tell…I haven’t actually told this story. I’m kind of writing about this right now, maybe, we’ll see. But I am thinking about this certainly.

What happened was this. After my twenty-three year marriage broke up, I lived with a man for four years, and I discovered in the summer of 2021 that he had been cheating on me, and lying, and gaslighting, and there were addiction issues… you know… it was just kind of the whole…

It was a terrible moment.

At the same time, I found out about a professional treachery as well, which I can’t say anything about because of NDAs. But they were simultaneous. And simultaneous with these treacheries was the publication of Lady Parts.

So I was publishing a book in the middle of COVID, because we weren’t allowed to have, you know, bookstore events at all. So it was just kind of like, I had just dropped off my daughter at med school. I had just found out about my live-in partners’ treacheries. I had just found out that I was going to have to deal with the legal ramifications of a professional treachery. And I had to drop off my daughter at med school, and then be there for her white coat ceremony five days later.

So I was alone in a house on Lake Chautauqua. And I was at flat. I mean, I was really at flat. I just didn’t see a way forward. I was depressed to put the book out into the world. It had gotten a really kind of snarky and nasty review in the New York Times. It’s just like everything was bad.

I was going to have to move because I couldn’t afford my apartment on my own without my partner paying half the rent, you know, all that stuff. And I was part of a seven-minute-workout group that had started during COVID that your friend Susie is in as well.
Claudia: Oh yeah, I heard of those seven minutes.

Deb: And so I logged on and what it was was just we literally just chatted for a few minutes and then we would do, you know, a seven-minute workout and then we’d say goodbye. And it was just a way of touching base.

And I logged on and I just started to weep. And I just said, this happened and this happened and this and it was just kind of like the deluge of, “oh my god, I thought my life was…” you know, nobody’s life is perfect. But I thought I was on track, you know? To live a more healthy relationship, and a more healthy life, and suddenly that was all revealed to be once again incorrect.

And so three of my friends on that seven-minute workout said, “We’re going to Greece in September you should just join us. Just leave everything behind.” And, look, I didn’t have any money to go to Greece, but the house was free, and I was supposed to go with my partner’s family on a family reunion somewhere out in the Rocky Mountains. I can’t even remember where…oh, Jackson Hole. That’s where I was supposed to go, Jackson Hole for a family reunion.

Obviously, I wasn’t going to go anymore because we were done and so my partner’s mother said, “You know I can’t take the ticket back.” She’d bought it for us because she wanted us to come to this family reunion, and she goes “I can’t take the ticket back and it’s in your name, and I’m so sorry about what my son did. Why don’t you just use it to go someplace great? Like, just take off, go somewhere?

I went online, on Expedia, and I realized that to change the ticket from Jackson Hole to Athens with a stopover in Paris was the exact same cost—down to the penny—as the trip to Jackson Hole. And I just sort of took it as a sign from the universe.

Claudia: Definitely.

Deb: You know, I have a kid who lives at home. I didn’t know what I was going to do during that time, but I got my ex-husband to agree to watch him for three weeks, and I got on the plane and I went to Greece.

And I really had just… it was so healing to be with these women. And at the same time, I was crying a lot still, you know? I was a mess. I was a mess, and I didn’t like that version of myself. I really didn’t. I just thought, you know, “yes there’s grief over loss, but just snap out of it.”

I’ve been able to snap out of it so many times in my life. And for some reason I wasn’t snapping out of it. I was just dragging this out and kind of dragging people down with me. And I just thought, “oh God, get over yourself. Get over yourself.”

And I just kept reliving the past, and reliving what had happened, and going over every moment in the relationship, and in the professional relationship. Like, “How did I not see this? How did I not see that?” Oh my God. It was all…

Claudia: Self-tormenting on top of everything, yeah.

Deb: It was all so clear in retrospect, right? All of it. All of it.

And I’d been blind because I wanted something in the future, right? I wanted this perfect thing in the future, but the thing in the present wasn’t perfect, right? And I was not paying attention to that. So, I’m ruminating on the past, and I’ve been thinking about the future, and all this kept getting me in trouble throughout my entire life.

Anyway, that’s the background. One day, I go out with a stand-up paddleboard into the Aegean. We’re in Spetses, a little island off the coast of Greece, which is across from a town called Costa. And all my friends are asleep on the shore and I take the stand-up paddleboard out.

I’m paddling out and it’s beautiful. It’s Greece. I’m really happy to be there. And then all of the sudden, the wind kicks in. I am out there, right? I am being pushed further and further out. It was immediate. It was one of those like everything was common, beautiful and then boom, wind.

And so I’m paddling back and I’m paddling back and I’m paddling back, I’m trying to paddle back. And it is like, I am trying to fight wind and as anyone who’s ever fought wind knows, you cannot fight wind, you have to go with it. You have to give into it because otherwise I was going to get exhausted. I wasn’t wearing a safety vest, a life preserver because it was Greece and it was a beach town.

It’s not America with all of our legal issues. And I just thought to myself, “what can I do in this situation?” And so I lay down on the paddleboard because I was getting so exhausted trying to get back in.

And I lay down on the paddle board and I went over the worst possible case scenario. And I just thought, okay, “what happens if I keep blowing out to sea?”

There are three things that could happen.

One, I could drown. And if I drown, that is much worse for my kids than it is for me. I won’t feel it. I’ll be dead or maybe get eaten by a shark or whatever, you know, I would be, I would be taken by the water in some way.

The other thing that could have happened is I could have drifted all the way to Costa, which you can see from Spetses. You can see the town of Costa, which is not that far because a ferry goes back and forth. And I just thought, well, you know, that’s not so bad if I drift all the way to Costa. Like, I can ask somebody for a cell phone. I can ask somebody for dry clothes. I can somehow get on a ferry, get back to, you know… it didn’t seem so terrible.

The third possibility was that I would just be blown back. The wind would shift or die and I could get back. But right now, in this present moment on this board lying here, there’s nothing I can do. I’m stuck here.

So I gave in at that moment, and I just lay there and I looked up and it was a gorgeous day. It was perfect. It was 75 degrees. The sky was blue with little white puffy clouds. So, I’m looking at the clouds and I’m thinking, “Wow, I’m just alone in this ocean. We’re all alone in this ocean of life, right? I’m alone in this ocean and it’s kind of beautiful.”

Then, I could hear the sound of the water lapping up against the board. And I could sort of feel the very lullaby drift of the water. I’m just lying on this board thinking, “this is the first day of the rest of your life,” you know, channeling Ram Dass—be here now, just be here in this moment now, and see what it feels like just to breathe.

I did my breathing exercises, which is, you know, you breathe in for four, you hold for seven, and you exhale for eight, and you breathe in for four, and you hold for seven, and you exhale for eight. And when you focus on that, you can’t really get upset, because you’re just focusing on the counting, your breath, one, two, three, four, hold for seven, breathe out for eight. It’s a very calming exercise. And I did it during COVID in March of 2020 when I got sick, because I really couldn’t breathe, and it was keeping me from panicking.

I must have been out there, I mean, I don’t know, half an hour or so, right? And then suddenly, I felt the wind die down, and then it started blowing in the direction I needed to go, and I stood up on the paddleboard and I went back to shore.

My friends were still asleep when I got back there. Nothing had happened. I tried to explain this transformation that had just happened, but the best way to explain it was just to be different. And from that moment, I have looked at life always from the view of that paddleboard.

And it’s not that long ago, right? We’re talking about two years ago. But it has been a sea change in my cortisol levels, anxiety levels, ability to hold boundaries and push things away when they happen.

I’m always, instead of worrying about the future or thinking about the past and, you know, going over my mind and spiraling, spiraling, spiraling, I’m just like, what’s happening right now? Where am I right now? Is this okay? And so how does that play out in life?

A good example. After I came back, I started dating a new man. He only wanted to come over on Thursdays. I just thought, “am I happy like this?” It was fine at first, but then like, no, this is not, this is not enough for me.

With work—I had never really taken on editing work. I just thought, “that’s for other people to do.” But I am editing. I’m a pretty good editor. So a friend of mine had a book that they were writing, and needed a lot of work. I said, “Okay, I’ll do the work for you.” I charged a pretty penny for it. I was going to make some money. I wanted to see how this was going to work. And I really found the work enjoyable. It brought in cash. I felt like I was doing something good for this person, helpful for this person who had a story to tell, but didn’t have the wherewithal or the skills with which to tell it.

He ended up selling that book for $175,000 and it’s going to be published. I can’t really talk about it because I’m not allowed to talk about the book that I’m working on, but it’s okay. I’m okay being a silent partner in other people’s work.

And then, you know, with this whole Substack for Lady Parts, originally the idea was just kind of a marketing thing. And then I started writing these stories that I would have normally pitched to The Atlantic or to the New York Times, but pitching stories is so frustrating. It takes so much time to pitch. And here, I was able to have the idea, execute it, write it, edit it—

Claudia: Be your own boss.

Deb: Be the one woman band and get it out there quickly. And again, I really, really loved it. Then, a friend of mine suggested that I charge money for it. I was like, “who’s going to pay for this?”

Claudia: So, it all just came together, right? I mean, it’s such a perfect, perfect example for “one door closes, the other opens,” and then often it’s like, no, it doesn’t really. And that’s just the saying, and it’s not working… and “living in the moment.” Well, we all live in the moment. Don’t we?

Deb: No, we don’t. No, we don’t. No, we don’t.

Claudia: And this experience of being here, but still actually thinking—assuming we’re here—but we’re actually already projecting into the future. That is happening so often. That’s why I, for example, think it’s so important to reflect on those pivotal moments, so that we really don’t just rush off with life again, but always remember that point that was so critical for so much process in life and progression, as you described.

Deb: And I’ll give you another perfect example, which is I’m now in a really stable, loving relationship, and it’s been about a year now. But I would not have even gone on that first date—it was set up by a friend—had I been in the former mindset, which is forward thinking, backward worrying.

The man that I’m seeing has a wife, and his wife has early onset Alzheimer’s. My friend said to me, “I want you to meet my friend, and you know, maybe it’s a set up, maybe it’s not, but I think you guys would like each other, and you’re both in kind of complicated situations right now.” Past me would have been like, “no effing way, like, no, I’m not going to date somebody who’s married, like, no.”

But present day and present tense me just thought, well, all right, she wants me to go out to Montauk to meet him. I found a cheap hotel (cheapish hotel). If nothing else, I’m going to have a nice walk on the beach. And that will be good, even if it doesn’t work out.

I mean, there were moments when I was driving out there, and I was on the LIE at six in the morning, because we’re having a surfing date, he wanted me to get there by eight, that I just thought, “what am I doing?”

But again, that was past me seeping in like, “what am I doing? The sun’s coming up on the LIE, I’m driving out to meet a stranger who’s married.” But but being present and thinking, “well, look, I’m on the LIE. Look at the sunrise. It’s beautiful.” When I got to the hotel, “look at this lovely little hotel room. Oh, it’s got a nice bedspread.” You know, just things like that.

It has allowed me to kind of focus on what is, not what will be or what was, but what is— constantly. And I have to keep retraining myself. It’s not something that comes natural to me.

Claudia: I was just gonna ask, yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s such an intense experience and feeling that you probably remember from being on that paddleboard in the wind. And then again, right? It’s like the past is creeping up and it’s so difficult to overcome patterns, right? And behavioral patterns.

Especially for us women, they have been so instilled, imprinted into us.

Deb: Yeah, and even,

Claudia: It’s constant practice.

Deb: It is being a woman, but it’s also just being a human. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on attachment styles, you know, anxiously attached and comfortably attached and all. We are all the amalgamation of the experiences that we had from basically zero to three years old. How were we parented? How were we treated? And our patterns are deeply ingrained in a way that we can’t even tap into.

They just exist, you know? We can do as much therapy as we want, but I don’t know what happened between zero and three. I just don’t, you know?

Claudia: Yeah, no, me neither. And maybe that’s good.

I mean, who knows? So you said, of course, it’s tough and what do you do to consciously preserve this insight and really moving moment that brought you a new and different quality of life?

Deb: I constantly think about the paddleboard. I’ll give you another perfect example. I was in a terrible car crash this summer. June 16th, I’m driving up—

Claudia: I read about that.

Deb: —Brooklyn and a car skips a stoplight or not a stoplight, a stop sign. And there’s no way to stop. I got a video of it. There was nothing I could do. Just nothing.

Claudia: I’m so sorry.

Deb: I had 21 stitches here and my hand was broken. It was just really horrific and a trauma.

Claudia: You had 21 stitches?

Deb: Yeah, so the airbag hit me in the mouth, right here. I had a giant hematoma right here that was leaking into my mouth and there was just a huge hole.

The reason for this, I mean, this has nothing to do with presence or, you know, shift changing, but—short women. I’m five foot two, cars are not made for us. They do not use female crash test dummies. The crash test dummies when they test for car safety are five foot ten inch males. What does that mean for a five foot two inch female? It means two things.

One, airbags are bullets. They come out at 100 and 200 miles per hour. Men are sitting back, so the airbag comes out and then they softly go into it. We, who are sitting too close to the airbag, we get hit in the mouth at the same speed as a bullet. So I basically had a bullet hole in my mouth ’cause when it pops out, it’s going the speed of a bullet, right?

It was really bad. It was really, really bad. In fact, I got nine stitches at the ER. Those fell out ’cause it just wasn’t holding. And then I had to get 21 new stitches from an ENT five days later. It’s been a lot of surgeries, a lot of visits to doctors. I had my retinas, something was wrong with it.

The other thing that happens for women in car accidents is seat belts are not built for us either. A seat belt is built for a five foot ten inch man, and for a man with hips that are the same width as his waist. So the seat belt stays when you get thrust forward. It stays on your hip.

What happens to us with our hourglass figures? If we do have hourglass figures, it comes up. The seat belt slipped and I had a huge laceration on my stomach. Luckily, no internal injuries, but that’s often what happens with women.

I don’t know how we got on this, but oh, oh yeah. I got in a car accident, and I thought to myself, even in the moment of that trauma, “how am I going to practice that presence right now?”

It was easy. Because I’m laying on the sidewalk bleeding, and strangers are coming over, and this man is holding my head and telling me to stay awake, and this woman’s calling 911, and my partner arrives on a CityBike, and some stranger says to him, “I’ve got it. I’ll go dock this for you.” There’s so much good going on. There’s so much good going on in the moment of this trauma, and even just seeing my partner’s face and knowing that he cared, that he rushed over there, that he got there, he was two and a half miles away. He got there in six minutes flat on a CityBike. He got into the ambulance with me. He called my kids, he called my mom, he called my sisters, everything was happening around me.

I didn’t—unlike the past—have to do anything. And I was really, really appreciative in that moment for love, for care, for reciprocity, for the kindness of strangers, for the existence of ambulances, for the kindness of the doctor at the ER. There was just so much to be grateful for.

And yes, in that moment, I was in intense pain, but I was even grateful at that moment for the way that our bodies deal with intense pain, which is that we’re kind of numb to it. I mean, luckily, when we get in a traumatic car accident, there’s so many hormones and cortisol and everything flowing through us that it numbs us a little bit.

I wasn’t feeling the intensity of pain that I would feel days later and would have to take painkillers for, but I was okay. I could laugh, and my sons arrived in the hospital, and they went out and got hamburgers and they’re all eating hamburgers on the floor of the hospital, and we’re all laughing.

I’d just gotten into a car accident and my car was totaled and I no longer have a car, but like, I’m alive! I was able in that just horrific moment of trauma to feel the gratitude of the present tense.

Claudia: Of course this has magnitude what you experienced altogether and you’ve discovered how important being in the moment is.

When you think about advice for your younger and older self, what comes to mind?

Deb: Oh, advice for my younger and older self? Well, that would be defeating the whole purpose of presence. I have no advice for my younger self. She was awesome. She did as best she could with the tools she had at hand. My older self, I just hope she’ll be alive and still in love with the man that I’m with right now.

I have no advice for her other than keep living, keep staying healthy, eat the right things, exercise. But right now, I’m really, really just living for the now. And even in that moment when I was in the car crash and I thought I was going to die, I had several thoughts in my head. One, God damn it, I didn’t update my will. Two, I’m going to miss my kids. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. Three, I’ve just fallen in love. I can’t believe I don’t get to experience more of this. And then I had a counter thought to that all in like the same moment,

Claudia: Unbelievable. It’s a nano moment.

Deb: Which was, Oh God, eight, nine, months with this amazing person. I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful for them. I’m so grateful for them.

Claudia: So you’re totally in the moment. What energizes you?

Deb: What energizes me? I do love my morning walks.

They are a really good way of being in the moment. I mean, sometimes I listen to podcasts or books because, you know, I want to try to catch up on things that I’m missing. But I can be in the moment listening to a podcast or a book.

But when I don’t, when I am just by myself walking, it helps me think about what I’m going to do that day. It helps me think about my writing. It brings me down to earth. Literally, you’re just walking, walking, walking, walking. You feel your feet on the pavement. But that’s, you know, that’s kind of a daily practice. That’s a daily practice that energizes me.

What energizes me is time with people I love. And what brings me down and sucks away energy is time with people who are vampires.

I’ve really started to learn to stay away from vampiric people who have boundary issues and who take rather than give. And people who, when I walk away from them, I don’t feel good. I want to be with people and share time with people who make me feel good.

Claudia: And what calms you down?

Deb: Well, that breathing exercise, I mean, if we’re talking about if I’m in a state, you know, I will immediately put my feet on the ground like I’m doing right now and I’ll put my hands here and I’ll start thinking about my feet, my knees, my thighs. I’ll sort of run the gamut of my body, really kind of find myself in my body, do breathing exercises.

Right now, I’m also doing EMDR, because I’ve had some trauma from the car crash. Which was interesting, because I was a war photographer and I don’t have any PTSD from being a war photographer other than sort of the occasional sound of a helicopter will set me off.

But this car crash, the image of it kept going in my brain and going in my brain, I couldn’t get it out. So I went to two sessions of EMDR therapy, and that really has calmed the visual of the crash coming into my head. So that’s useful too.

Claudia: So I know it’s all about the moment. But still, what’s ahead of you?

Deb: Well, before the writer’s strike, you know, the TV and film writer’s strike, I had a film project that was about to start. And I’m hoping that that doesn’t die after the writer’s strike. It’s very exciting. Again, can’t talk about it, but I’m very excited to write a screenplay. I’m working on a new book. I’m not sure about it. It’s in the very early stages, and I don’t like to talk about it in the early stages. But a lot of what we’ve been talking about in this podcast is sort of part of that book.

I’m going to keep doing this Substack. I’m going to keep editing other people’s works. What I’ve discovered is, I don’t want to ghost write. I don’t want somebody to come to me and say, “I have a book idea, write it for me.” No, I’m not interested. No, I’m interested in taking somebody’s piece of art that they’ve already worked on. And it’s like clay that I can whittle away at and make it better. That’s what I’m interested in doing. It’s really fulfilling. I love it. It brings in income.

And then I also have to plan a wedding. My daughter is getting married. My daughter met her fiance—I’ve never said that out loud—my daughter met her fiance in the Peace Corps in Cameroon. Oh, and my youngest has to apply to college. So I’m sure there’s gonna be lots of late nights of him stressing out about that. And yeah, you know, the normal mom stuff, right?

Claudia: I am on a mission because I believe in the power of conversations, because I feel and have experience that conversations really are such an important tool and way to feel connected.

This is why I decided to do this podcast and I’m holding my salons and I’m bringing these curated conversations into organizations. And can I ask you what you think about the meaning and necessity of conversations?

Deb: I feel the same way you do. In my Substack, if I can, I will get somebody on Zoom and talk to them about the subject at hand because I can interview that person and write in the article what they say, but I do feel that things unfold in a conversation and hesitations unfold in a conversation. It’s kind of like the pauses in the conversation are as important sometimes.

Even the mistakes in a conversation are as important as the information in them. If COVID taught us anything, it taught us that we are all connected and we were all isolated for so long and this desire for connection—you’re not the only one out there who’s just like, “I wanna talk, I want to converse.” And when we share with each other. It’s as old as the fire around which, you know, the cave people shared their stories. This is how we advance, this is how we progress, this is how we learn, and this is how we connect, and this is how we love.

Not that you and I are in love with each other, but we’re building a relationship, even though you’re wherever you are and I’m wherever I am, we’re building something here that’s meaningful, conversation is meaningful.

Claudia: Well, Deb, I thank you very much for your time.

And do we all get paddle boards now?

Deb: Oh, I really, I highly recommend to stand a paddle board for presents, even when you don’t get blown out to sea. It really is. I was just one in both.

Claudia: No, it’s such a great way to bring yourself back to balance and actually into the moment.

Deb: Literally in balance. I mean, you have to, you’re constantly making little adjustments with your body to balance it. You’re hearing the sound of the surf, right? And, you know, you are alone in the ocean. It’s kind of transcendent. Anyway…

Deb: I thank you. Thank you so much. All right, all the best.

Claudia: Bye-bye.Thank you.

Deb: Bye-bye.

Claudia: Well, this was a fabulous story about pivoting into the present moment. Seriously, Greece: I’m coming. And another learning from this delightful conversation with Deb was surely the cause of the severe wounds she suffered from a car crash, and why?

Read more about this and other important stories on her Substack, Lady Parts.

Looking forward to the next episode of SHIFT HAPPENS and I can’t wait to be with all of you again.

Shift Happens has been created and is hosted by me, Claudia Mahler. Editing, Andy Morrison, Communications and Marketing, Amy Jacobus and Jessica Pearson from Amy Jacobus Marketing.

I hope you felt connected and heard while listening to SHIFT HAPPENS.



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