The next woman on my list has probably been the most impactful person in my healing journey…and what I now affectionately refer to as my Journey to Joi. I met Vicki Ann Clough in October of 2009 and my life has never been the same, thankfully. She taught me the meaning and the actions behind… “You can only change yourself, but when you change yourself, you change everything!” To understand the impact she had on my life, we have to take a trip back to before our paths crossed.
But first a reminder of why I’m writing about the top 50 women who have made an impact on my life. Very soon (like 3 months) I’m going to celebrate my 50th spin around the sun on this wild and wonderful planet, so I’m taking this year and probably some of the next year to revisit and pay tribute to 50 women who have surrounded me and molded me into the woman I am today. For number eighteen, I’m choosing Vicki Ann Clough because right now at the moment I’m writing this, she is in my heart. Vicki is right now, immersed in one of her life-changing retreats up on the mountain. When this happens it is my custom to surround her and those willing souls in retreat with her, with so much love to find their Inner Child and heal those wounds that keep them feeling unsafe in this world. So my thoughts are on her. This morning, as I spent some time in quiet meditation, I found my thoughts drifting back to my own Inner Child retreat experience just over 12 years ago. I reflected on how much of my life in my present day has been impacted by the guidance of this beautiful human.
So, now I take you back to the time over a decade ago, before our paths crossed.
In 2008 the world’s financial markets crashed and imploded…. With that crash my career also imploded and I found myself unemployed after a fantastic 15 year run in the mortgage industry. The thing about losing your career and having that industry turn upside down, you can’t just run out and get a new job….. And you have to sit with yourself…. A LOT!! The busyness that used to occupy my day turned to stillness and silence and where I find solace in that space now, at this time in my life, it is where all my demons lived at that time of my life. I tried my best to hide from the ugliness in my life but everywhere I turned I had to face the fact that how I was living was not working. I had been in denial for years and years, pushing it away with various methods and unhealthy coping strategies but without a job to wake up to every day and without the means to support my family financially, the silence was filled with my personal demons….. I could tell it was time to face the ugly truth that had become my life.
My marriage was a wreck. I had found myself on my knees praying many times over the years for an answer to fix the problems but had found no answers…. In the silence of my newly unemployed status, I heard a very loud and booming voice that firmly said, “Your relationship has become toxic and neither one of you can grow from the space you are in. It is time to make a drastic change.” It would still be quite some time before I had the courage to make that change but I could not deny the voice I had heard …. Very loud and very clear!
In the winter of 2009, my sister Lexie (whom I just wrote about last week) invited me on a sisters trip to celebrate my 37th birthday. We went cross country skiing, stayed in a little cabin in the mountains and my sisters surrounded me with so much love and support I finally had the courage to do what I knew had to be done. I went back to my husband at the time and told him we could not go on like this, we would need to get separated immediately. To say the least he was not happy with this news but that is a story for another day.
We separated and I moved into a little place by myself. I reconnected with a friend who lived in Utah and found great comfort in the guidance they offered me. I soon became pretty codependent on this new friend and at the time, also felt the tragic loss and shame for the upheaval I had caused my family. I was torn between finding the empowerment in myself that my new friend spoke about and falling back into my very familiar patterns, even if they were extremely toxic. One day in October of 2009 I confessed to my friend that I had hooked back up with my estranged husband and that I was an out of control yo-yo….causing so much damage and chaos to my life and the life of those around me. My dear friend and angel, kindly but firmly told me that they would not be able to talk to me anymore until I attended an Inner Child retreat with Vicki Clough and changed the way I was doing my life. They told me that it hurt them too much to watch me ram myself into the same brick wall over and over again and they had to set a boundary for themselves (a boundary was something I knew NOTHING about) but I knew my friend was serious so I called Vicki Clough that very minute because I could not lose this friend. This friend was one of the only healthy friendships I had right now and without this little spark of light, I didn’t know if I wanted to be alive. It was a very dark time for me and my mental health struggled with the emotional chaos I created for myself. I was on a short road to self destruction.
I left a message for Vicki that I needed to be in her Inner Child retreat the following weekend. I begged her to call me back. When she returned my call I immediately launched into how desperate I was to be in the next Inner Child retreat that was happening just a few days from now. I was clearly not aware of how booked these retreats are and what it takes to make this sort of a request happen. Vicki, with so much love and grace, told me that this retreat was full and I would not be able to attend this one but that she would put me on the waiting list for November and if anything changed, I could be included in that one. I persisted in my begging but could tell it wasn’t going anywhere so I finally conceded to being put on the waiting list for the following month. I think it was about 20 minutes later my phone rang and it was Vicki again. She said that someone had just cancelled for the retreat this weekend and if I could get myself to Utah, I could take the spot. Tears sprang to my eyes and I assured her I would be there. I arrived in Utah on Wednesday and attended the Wednesday night support group meeting that Vicki held in her building each week. I was absolutely terrified!! But! I could also feel my soul jump for joy in finding a place, a space and a person who was speaking the language of healing that I yearned to know! On Thursday night, my friend and angel drove me to the parking lot where the thirteen other retreat attendees gathered. I didn’t know a single person. I had only just met Vicki the night before and my nerves were in a jangle. I was about to step into the greatest adventure of my life….. Though it just felt like I was going to throw up from outrageous anxiety at that point. As retreat attendees, we said our goodbyes to the loved ones who had dropped us off and we all quietly and sheepishly proceeded to the “retreat house”.
Thursday evening Vicki spoke warmly to our troubled hearts to calm the nervous vibrations we were all feeling. Her voice, her soul, her heart all spoke to each of our scared little selves and assured us all that we were safe and that her intention was to bring us “home”. As we all sat in the living room in a circle, we shared what our intention for the weekend was…. Of course, all of us new to this arena were a bit timid, shy and less than vulnerable with what we shared. Most of us did not know each other and in a room full of strangers, our guards were up pretty high. Vicki asked her fabulous music coordinator, Kathy, to play a song for us. As the music started and the words began to sink in past the walls that I had constructed…. The tears began and I don’t think they stopped all weekend. The words to the song asked, “Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know?…… Do you get what you’re hoping for? When you look behind you, there’s no open doors? What are you hoping for? Do you know?” That song hit a chord for sure and from that moment forward I was choosing to step into my own healing.
Vicki facilitated a weekend that will forever be the pinnacle change in my life at this point. I didn’t come out of this weekend with the answers to the questions in that song but I came away from this weekend with the healthy tools to find the answers to those questions. I also left that weekend with a new family. The retreat attendees that weekend became my brothers and sisters. Vicki offered more retreats as well as her weekly support groups and as often as I could make the trip to Utah, I would attend retreats and groups and add to my new family.
When I attended that first weekend retreat in October of 2009, Vicki coached us to come up with a personal affirmation for ourselves, for our new life we were committing ourselves to. She told us to dig deep, to write an affirmation that maybe we didn’t even believe could be possible for us at that moment in our lives. The affirmation I wrote was…. I am Sheri Joi, I am a strong, confident, powerful Warrior of Light. I seek for the divine, the true and the beautiful. If it is to be, it is up to me…. I am a magician, watch and see.” The affirmation made me feel like a fraud…. I couldn’t see even a little bit of that in myself, I felt only loathing for myself…. but I wanted to see those amazing things in myself….. I wanted it so badly to be true that I could be strong, confident, powerful and a light for the world. I hoped with all my heart and soul that maybe even a little bit of it could be true.
Over the next couple years Vicki would re-awaken the strength inside of me by showing me her strength and courage. Vicki would redefine confidence for me as she confidently walked her talk in everything she did and so beautifully moved through this life. Vicki would also give new meaning to what it means to be a powerful woman as I watched her step into her power with grace and dynamic integrity in every situation life handed her. Vicki would teach me how to be a Warrior of Light by the love and support she offered me individually and our entire family tribe. She taught our family tribe how to connect, how to trust, how to be a safe space for each other and how to be vulnerable with one another. She taught us to be the change we wanted to see in the world and that is what she is still doing…. Right now, in this very moment…. 14 strangers are up on the mountain stepping into their next big life and with Vicki as their guide….. They are in very good hands…..
So I sit here with my candle lit, my soft “Mahogany” song on repeat both reminding me of the courage it took to attend that first retreat so many years ago. I take this courage and I send it lovingly to those 14 strangers up on the mountain, who will become a part of our family tribe this weekend. Welcome home “new kids”. WE ARE THE WORLD…. WE ARE THE CHANGE….. WE ARE ALL CONNECTED. And so it is….. Vicki gave me the ability to see the world this way and it has made all the difference.
I moved to Utah in 2013. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make but I knew it was time for me to leave Portland and find my own healing. I knew there was no better place to find this healing than in the loving circle of my new family, guided by Vicki.
And while I’ve made my home here in Salt Lake with Trent. I’m proud to tell you that I’ve become that strong, confident and powerful Warrior of light I had hoped to become so many years ago. Much of this is because of the loving, safe relationship that I have been blessed to experience with Trent…… AND……throughout these beautiful, transformative years, I have been guided, supported, loved and befriended by the most amazing Warrior Queen of Light, Vicki Ann Clough and I have been blessed to do it in her gracious presence here in Salt Lake City.
What an honor it was for me when Vicki called me last year and asked me to lead yoga at one of her retreats. What a beautiful moment to share my teachings with her and our people.
OH! And also so impactful, Vicki introduced me to so many beautiful humans that have become my dearest friends and impacted my life in a million different ways… so she just continues to ripple out all of that love she has in her heart into the world in so many ways.
Vicki has faced many opportunities for growth throughout her life but the past few years she has had to bear more grief than anyone could imagine. She has grieved the loss of many of her dearest loved ones. She has withstood her own personal health challenges. Just months ago, she suffered a loss that is unimaginable to me…. And still this beautiful human is at this very moment, up on the mountain, assisting 14 wonderful souls in releasing the traumas that no longer serve them and showing them how to trust and play life with their inner child. She is one of the greatest people I have ever encountered and I am beyond blessed to call her my friend, my mentor and one of my dearest soul sisters.
Sweet Vicki, thank you for doing your own healing and echoing all of your teachings to me…. And our family tribe. As Vicki likes to say, “I love us!” And Vicki, I love us too.
I usually say that because of you, I have been changed for good when I finish a post about the women who have impacted my life ….. And in your case, dear Vicki, your impact has changed everything for me. Thank you sweet soul sister. I honor the love, the light, the beauty, the grace, the integrity and the Divine in you. Namaste.
If you would like to know more about Vicki or her Inner Child retreats, you can visit her website: https://www.vickiclough.com/