Martha Michael | On Inspirations and ‘Holding Space’


On the first day of every year a special person comes to mind, in part because of the Rose Bowl. Stephanie Edwards, a former longtime co-host of the Tournament of Roses Parade, has come to Santa Clarita more than once to inspire others with her attention and share her personal story. She visited SCVi Charter School a few years ago, and she’s spoken to other local groups with rare transparency about topics from faith to cosmetic surgery.

I had the pleasure of knowing her and her husband, Murray, years ago, and she remains at the top of my list of the kindest people I’ve ever met. At the time she was at the height of her celebrity – TV host and spokesperson for Lucky stores – yet I watched her selflessly serve the other members of her church group week after week. She consistently entered a room, not with a message of “here I am!” but instead, her words and actions communicated “there you are!” Carrying a book where she had recorded personal needs shared by her friends, Stephanie followed up with people, asking about their sick mother or desperate hunt for work. You might say she was “holding space” for others before the term became part of our modern vernacular.

January 1st is the perfect time to identify areas for change, which is made easier by the presence of inspirational people in your life. While many of us join the gym, start a new diet and dig into our careers with renewed energy, perhaps we can also reflect on those individuals who impact our lives in a positive way.

It may be a parent who babysits at the speed of a bellhop or a sister who sacrifices to help you through school. But it may also be something a little less comfortable, like a friend who tells you the truth or a superior at work who incites you to expand your skills.

There are several women whose lives are examples to me, including those who endure hard times. It includes individuals who have valiantly started over after running aground during the Recession, and others who were widowed too soon, their futures drastically altered. A cancer survivor friend has helped me adopt a better attitude about the circle of life. And the artists in my life make me less afraid to tap my creative instincts, while the rational ones keep me safely tethered to reality, at the same time enabling me to fly. I value the affirmation I get from faithful companions who like what I’m doing, while entrepreneurial friends give me courage to try something new.

Most of us have women who are mothers and sisters to us, who we count on in times of need. I do, and I hope they know who they are. Perhaps this year is a good time to tell them how much I appreciate the impact they have on my life.

I don’t keep a written record of the needs of my friends and family, but I hope I can grow this year to be more like what I’ve witnessed in others – someone who holds space better than I ever have before.

Martha Michael is a contributing writer for The Signal.

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