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Story Changers

On budgeting. In love.

January 11, 2011

I have this story I love to tell about the day I turned my money around. I was broke. Busted, disgusted, can’t be trusted, as my college roommate used to say. So much so that I wondered if I wasn’t broke, but broken.

I was also training for a marathon. Running is free, after all. I loved the daily run. It felt like an accomplishment, not ever having been a runner before. I had unlocked the secret for myself, which was that running is a technical sport. It’s not just an activity where you throw yourself at the road, run really fast and it’s over. You can time your pace, feel each muscle, call on other muscles when those are tired. You can build your stamina by way of strengthening your heart, and you can strengthen your heart with a stretch of road and a wristwatch heart monitor.

You can also let your mind unspool out there on the path. And if you have a mind like mine, you know it’s like taking the dog out to play. You have to let it run all over the place at some point if you want to have a relaxing night.

Not love

For all I loved about running, I HATED the first mile. It’s horrible. It hurts. For the first eleven minutes of every run, I negotiated, one side a chorale spectacular resounding the suck factor and saying I was stupid for even trying. The other side just shouldered the weight, like a grim old man shoveling snow. Nobody else gonna do it ain’t no sun gonna clear it but me coffee’s gonna taste good this mornin, ‘f I don’t stroke before I git there.

So one morning, when I looked up and saw I had run two miles without so much as a peep from my choir, no aching joints, no pleading psyche, I gasped. I laughed. I searched my mind for what had occupied it so intently that I couldn’t feel the vice of my nemesis first mile.

It was my budget. I was juggling it. If I give $10 a week to x and pay my gas bill a little late, then pay y $25 every other…

Not broke

I wondered at this a second. Being broke took up every waking moment. I hated it more than I hated the first mile. But…I LIKED this juggling. It was a puzzle. My mind took it to task and I got all kinds of satisfaction being clever enough to figure it out each moment. In that moment, I was a changed woman. I decided that if I loved budgeting my debt so much, why not budget my millions? Within a few months’ time, I had queued up two job interviews at investment companies.

I got the job I wanted. My broke got healed. I’m not budgeting millions, but I’m not busted anymore either. I AM still enjoying the strategies of money.

So it occurs to me this morning to apply this to love.

The Law of Three

My dad used to tell me that I brought home strays. Which may explain why, in my late 20s, I finally instituted my Law of Three:

If the romantic interest was

Addicted (to even smoking or coffee or Tic Tacs),
On medication for depression, or
Deep in debt due to irresponsible spending

I could not date them.

Having the occasion to pull out the old Law of Three in a recent conversation, I wondered if it wasn’t a little outdated. Nope, still applies, I thought. We all have our issues, but these are the ones I personally need to stay away from.

Increasing the love budget

This morning, I stopped in my mental tracks like I did the day I was running for my money. In setting my standard here, at these bottom absolutes, am I not budgeting my debt, not my millions? If it’s all the same exercise, why don’t I juggle abundance instead of poverty? Poverty of spirit, love, vision, opportunity, happiness. Abundance of the same.

Same coin. Different side.

Same game. Different pride.

My friends, it’s a brand new awareness and I don’t know how to end this post. Seems silly to say it’s a new beginning. Jesus has the corner on that market.

Existential pie chart. Of love.

Maybe borrowing from Joseph Campbell is best here. We’re born whole. We break into pieces. We spend the rest of our journey questing for the pieces and bringing them back to the whole. Peace.

I was broke. I was broken. But that run keeps reminding me, when I’m ready, of different pieces I left behind…and where to find them.

Hm. I’m listening to Pandora right now. The lyrics, “Heaven tastes like this.”

Just looked up the song. “All That Money Wants,” by The Psychedelic Furs.

Don’t you just love serendipity?


Love Poem

December 9, 2010

I wondered why the covers felt so cold.

And then I smelled the fresh paint on the walls.

You not near, night sleeps with me instead.

I open my eyes and the walls watch me back.


-Pema Teeter, ca. 1994

Been telling that story a long time, I see. That one’s changing too.

{ 1 comment }

Feeling the love…

5. At dinner with Dad, I am three, my brother is four. Somebody burps and Dad looks under plates and forks for the barking spiders.

4. Three nights after Grandpa dies, I have a dream about him. He’s waiting for me after school next to the tree in the main quad. I run to him, hug him, tell him I love him over and over. He smiles. He hugs me back. He knows.

3. Walking through a nondescript, gray, San Francisco neighborhood, hand in hand with my first boy-love, Christophe. We are 19. I can feel. Every centimeter. Of his grasp. Our hands fit like they were made this way. My chest is lit up. My hand is light itself. I can’t believe the wonder.

2. Sitting under the stairs chatting with Teo in his tiny temporary bedroom. We were roommates once, starting when I was 30 and he was 10, the child of my friend and housemate. Now he is maybe 16? Maybe 15? We no longer live together, so I am visiting, and gain special entrance to the hallowed alcove. I barely remember what we talk about or for how long. We just hang out together. And when I leave the house, I float across the street into the night. What is this feeling in my chest? It hurts like it’s breaking but it’s making me levitate, overflow. This must be what parents feel. I think I’m in love.

1. A party full of awesome people as background, trying to keep mellow my buoyant joy at sharing a leisurely hang with the two people I came miles to celebrate, the graduates, Adena and Teo.

What are your favorite moments of being in love?



My word for 2010 should come as no surprise, considering this love campaign I’ve launched the last two weeks. But it IS something of a surprise. To me. That two weeks of well intentioned love missives to the big broad world, and to people in my smaller world, can turn an entire year into…


That’s my word for 2010.

The year started with love upended and ugly, face down in a heap of rotted dreams. Hm, anyone detect a bruised heart, beaten ego, maybe a mote, a skosh, of duplicity, and the several seasons of dragonfire that followed?


That was love’s doing. Had I not ventured into it, and its nuclear fallout, I’d not have broken open the cauterized wounds that came before. Love, all of its hopes…and contusions…brought me to the summer, in which I fell deeply madly in love with my Lilith peeps, and to the fall, which has me levitating with joy for the Story Changers participants in my new invitation to fall in love. With the one, this time.

Yep. I’m calling in the one.

Bring it, love. I’m listening.

Which makes next year’s word: LIGHT.

If love breaks apart bad beliefs, and reeducates them, then light will keep them clear, keep me clear-headed, will remind me to BE LIGHT myself, instead of sink, heavy, into darkness of circumstance. Light will help to break apart what obstacles to love remain, and will remind that love…is light…when you give into it and let it do its job.


The stories are gonna change, one by one…starting with the itchy, raw, ouchy ones like this one below.

Excerpted from an anonymous dating advice column I wrote for a short time, wherein I solicited advice from readers rather than offered it. Full article originally published on

The conversation went super deep really fast.  He told me about his marriage, his divorce, his Match dates. He lost his father recently after a hard fight for his health, and lost his brother as a young man. I was vibing off the guy because I am no stranger to loss.

It was one of those mirror-like moments that could be construed as meant to be. If I hadn’t known from previous dating that first-hour gushing is a red flag, I would have fallen in love with him on the spot, handsome, gentle, and deeply in touch as he was.

Then he kind of stuttered. “When—how long—have you been single?”

“Several years,” I said.

“That’s hard to believe,” he said.

I smiled at his standard come on. But his face was focused. He wasn’t complimenting me.

I stuttered and stumbled, stacking thought onto thought, “He’ll think I’m emotionally stunted. Something wrong with me. Single this long.”

It occurred to me for half a second that I was firmly at choice in the matter of relationship in my life. But, that awareness got buried by the bare light bulb shining in my face—

“How many years?” He asked.

I paused. And then decided to go deep, too. “What do you really want to know?”

He kind of laughed. “I guess, I just wonder, what you have been doing all this time?”


What was I supposed to have been doing? Sleeping with someone else in particular? Getting married? Having someone else’s kids? Getting divorced to get to this point? Creating a train wreck? Like a good young woman on track for success and happiness?

It struck me that if I had been happily in love and successful at it, I wouldn’t be here on this date with him. So, here I am, already a failure. And yet, since I had not been spending my years in marital bliss and mopping up after its subsequent destruction, I was somehow an emotional pygmy who hadn’t met the relationship pre-requisites for a woman of my age.

And he aimed to know this based on the bullet points of my relationship history, related in the time it took to get from restaurant to parking lot.

“I…have moved around a lot,” I said.

I drove home. I turned off the jazz station close to the end of my drive, and heard the echo of what had been playing: “You’re nobody till somebody loves you…”

Mr. Deep, the Interrogator, didn’t want to know who I was in that moment. He focused instead on what I had missed out on while spending all those years “alone.”

I think if he calls me again, I’ll ask for his ex-wife’s number, in an effort to get to know him, and go out with her instead.


Brandi Carlile and band ROCK “The Story” at Lilith, July 10, 2010, Los Angeles.

That’s what we’re gonna do, ‘kay, Story Changers: Lovers? ‘Kay.

Get ready. We start on December 2.

* * * * * *

The Details

“Story Changers: Love” will follow the 7-week course in the book, Calling in the One: Seven Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life, by Katherine Woodward Thomas.

Format: Teleconference

For women only (this time around)

Cost: Free (Please consider donating to a cause important to you)

Duration: 9 weeks = One intro call, with intention setting and getting to know each other. 7 weekly calls on the course work. One closure call at the end of the group.

Dates: Dec 2, 2010 to Feb 3, 2011

Time: Call time will be on Thursday evenings, 6pm – 7pm Pacific. Start time may change if the group needs it to.

Register: Email

Get the book: Calling in the One: 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life


“Story Changers: Love” has me crying already.

I got this in my inbox this morning:

Jasmine just made a donation of $55 in your name to Safe Spaces & Loans for 2,000 Girls in Bangladesh, a project on

The card said: Pema, Here is to intimate love blossoming in our lives and in the world. Thanks for your help in creating this opportunity. Love, Jasmine

Story Changers grew out of a desire to change my life by changing the stories I tell about it. I have watched others do it. I have coached clients that tell their success stories and then live into them.

I had no idea it could change…the world.

Jasmine’s email brought home what we’re doing here. What love can do. How community can heal exponentially. How, from far flung parts of the world, we are a community, sprung solely from the desire for love.

Freely give, freely receive

STORY CHANGERS: LOVE is free. With a call to give.

When we put a stake in something, we’re likely to stay through the hard parts. We remember why we started and who we’re committed to, and keep going.

I’ll ask participants to give a donation to something that is meaningful to them–of any amount–that they believe will help keep their stake in the effort.

The Girl Effect

For instance, Tara Sophia Mohr’s #GirlEffect campaign is infiltrating the blogosphere. What if your heart goes out the girls in developing countries, and your wallet comes out to stoke nothing less than a revolution? You are changing the world a girl at a time as you are changing YOU. Each chapter you read for “Story Changers: Love,” you are causing love to come to you, and you’re offering a girl possibility, freedom, choice, life. You’re changing your story for the better. And you’re helping her changing hers.

Did you know? Less than two cents of every international aid dollar spent in the developing world is earmarked for girls. And yet when a girl has resources, she will reinvest them in her community at a much higher rate than a boy would. If the goal is health, wealth, and stability for all, a girl is the best investment.

If you’ve been looking for love, and you want to invite it into your life, give as you receive. Let yourself feel the love while you’re changing the story.

*       *        *       *       *       *

The Details

“Story Changers: Love” will follow the 7-week course in the book, Calling in the One: Seven Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life, by Katherine Woodward Thomas.

Format: Teleconference

For women only (this time around)

Cost: Free (Please consider donating to a cause important to you)

Duration: 9 weeks = One intro call, with intention setting and getting to know each other. 7 weekly calls on the course work. One closure call at the end of the group.

Dates: Dec 2, 2010 to Feb 3, 2011

Time: Call time will be on Thursday evenings, 6pm – 7pm Pacific. Start time may change if the group needs it to.

Register: Email

Get the book: Calling in the One: 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life


Announcing…Story Changers!

November 19, 2010

Join us for “Story Changers: Love”

Welcome to the first peek at my new workshop series, Story Changers. If you’re looking to attract a deep meaningful love into your life, you’ll want to spend the next 9 weeks with “Story Changers: Love.” Got a friend you want to see in a loving relationship? Pass it on.

Free love, baby.

On its inaugural run, Story Changers is free. No cost, just a whole lot of love. We will, however, be looking at what it means to you, what it’s worth to you, and to whom or what organization you may want to donate in the name of causing this love in your life. It’s totally voluntary. And it means something to your success at finding love.

“Story Changers: Love” begins December 2, 2010 and ends February 3, 2011.

Keep your eye on Story Charmer and Twitter (@pemateeter) for details and how to register.

(If you want to register now, or have questions, email