Re-defining broken and imperfect

If you and I have had any kind of deep conversation in the last few months, you probably know that I have been doing lots of reading around the Enneagram. (Some of you are saying this is a massive understatement!) I became really curious about it’s instructional possibilities for cultivating unique forms of self-renewing practices – especially in the realm of mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It became a personal quest to discover if I could learn something deep and powerful for my own personal and spiritual growth that might also help others.

At this point, I’ve read, watched or listened to at least 8 books, several podcasts, countless YouTube videos, and online articles about the Enneagram. You might consider it a mild obsession. And I’m okay with that because the Enneagram is such a unique and interesting way to look at us individually and collectively. It has its roots in multiple spiritual traditions and it can be applied to anyone open and ready to learning about it.

What I love most is that the Enneagram allows us to look at the origins of our own personality development and gain insight to how and why we developed the way we did. It is for us to discover our type, not to be typed by others. And, if you’re curious, how we can overcome the cycles we tend to perpetuate in our lives and become more of who we really are, not just the mask of our personalities.

Let me share my own personal journey reading about and trying to discover my own Enneagram type these past several weeks and months.

I would say for the last 25 years or more I have been trying to find more meaning in my life and free myself from this belief: that I am broken and imperfect. Some of my loved ones have felt lost in helping me struggle with my low self-worth and lack of self-esteem. For those not in the know I kept it hidden at all costs, often from myself. Except for when I couldn’t hide anymore. I ventured through an emotional breakdown where I almost took my life, been through months of therapy, and went back on my own to stumble around. I’ve done a lot of reading, successfully found a lot of great self-renewing practices that have helped me transform many things. But what I read early this week left me feeling raw emotionally and afraid of truly seeing more of myself that has already been there this whole time.

Several months ago I took an online quiz and thought I might be a reclusive type 5. Then I read more and thought maybe I was an overly emotional type 4. More reading and quizzes journeyed me back to a type 5, then a peace giving type 9, back to 5, to 4, to 5. That sounds exhausting right? For those closest to me it was rather trying to go through these ups and downs, but to me it was exhilarating to be chasing down my type and learning more about how we tick in our deepest psyche. Now that I’ve ventured through the end of a lengthy book by Beatrice Chestnut called The Complete Enneagram I’m ready to come out to you – as a helping type 2 with a self-preservation sub-type.

Some of you may say, of course, Bill! You love helping others. That is true. But this chapter unearthed a whole lot more than that. It described the interwoven pieces of this personality type in a way that explains so much of my journey. Explicitly. In one damn chapter. Like how did she know?! My depressions, failures to maintain relationships, resentments, my addiction and then self-repulsion to hedonistic behavior, and my deep struggle with answering the questions “how do you feel?” and “what do you need?” just to name a few.

Sounds like a great read about yourself, am I right?!

This can be challenging to look at your behaviors and beliefs and why you do what you do. But it can also transform your life. In my case, it might give you more self-compassion so that you can offer more compassion to others around you.

The truth is that we all have aspects of all of the types, but to find our primary type and subtype, or instinctual variant, we can put the Enneagram to work in our lives. My own lesson this week is this: it has been incomplete to look at myself as broken and imperfect. The broader view is that those things have allowed me to demonstrate my capacity for healing and becoming more whole.

I want to pause and say that again. My experiences feeling broken and imperfect have helped me demonstrate my capacity for healing and becoming more whole.

Spiritual growth opportunities tend to be less than fun, but they offer trans-formative learning if you allow and open yourself up to them.

Not to be lost in the Enneagram is what true gifts we can and do bring to the world when we put down the mask of our personality and be who we really are. In the case of a type two, there is a tremendous capacity for empathy and in growth a new found sense of freedom and authentically demonstrating loving service and beauty. My focus is on embodying these gifts more each day.

After reading about the type 2 this week, I can say that it was inevitable that I would have had a breakdown and become depressed at some point. Constantly looking for your worth outside of yourself and in how you show up for others is not the same thing as going inward for it.

The beautiful part of the entirety of the Enneagram is that each and every type has their own fears and patterns to overcome, and more importantly their own gifts to share. How you experience your life is unique to you, but so much is also in common with others. We are in this together. Show us how it is done being an amazing version of your true authentic self. Only you can choose to do that and practice it each day.

What have you learned from the Enneagram? How are you applying it to your life? I’d love to hear from you about how it is impacting your journey.

With love and light,


Friday forgiveness

11 years ago I began to learn how to better cope with and manage my feelings by attending day therapy for 3 weeks. Investing in myself for those three weeks is still one of the best gifts I have ever given myself. Our schedule was every day Monday to Friday from 9am til 3pm and if you can imagine how important but exhausting talking about and exploring your story and feelings is. One of the most powerful moments came around forgiveness.

It was during a group therapy session where we were processing what was coming up for each of us, and we’d recently covered forgiveness as a topic. A few of my fellow day therapy campers were expressing their struggles on some issues and I deduced that they could really use some self-forgiveness to move on in their lives. And then it hit me: I needed to forgive myself for some behaviors in my past. And then the floodgates of tears opened up and I was able to share about my own needs of grace towards myself. Self-forgiveness had reached me.

Guilt can teach us that we have done something that has violated our own values and that can motivate us to change our behavior or make amends. But if our standards for ourselves are not reasonable, we may struggle to find self-forgiveness. By forgiving we are no longer allowing this to have power over our lives.

One of the greatest gifts of the practice of forgiving myself has been my increased capacity to forgive others. Don’t get me wrong, this is not often easy, but it does get easier the more I practice it.

Here are a few lessons from what they taught us about forgiveness:

Forgiveness is not:

forgetting what happened
condoning what was done to you
letting them off the hook
a form of self-sacrifice
a well-defined, clear cut, one time decision

Forgiveness is:
no longer wanting to punish those who hurt us, leading to inner peace when we decide to stop
letting to of intense emotions, so that we no longer feel damaged
a byproduct of the ongoing healing process – the gift of what we receive when we no longer expect our tormentor to make it up to us in some way (or pay for it.)
a sign of positive self-esteem, proof that we are more than the sum total of our past negative experiences
when we recognize that we no longer need our grudges and resentments because they no longer are the parameters of our identity
an internal process that leads to feelings of wellness, freedom, and acceptance
accepting that everything we do to punish them is really hurting us instead
no longer hurting others as we hurt
rediscovering our strengths
moving on – recognizing that we have better things to do with our life

The 6 stages of forgiveness (which will not be in succession and may go back and forth between them) are: 1) denial, 2) self-blame, 3) victim, 4) indignation, 5) survivor, and 6) integration.

That last stage/word, integration, keeps coming to me as I learn and study. Brené Brown often shares in her work that the Latin root of integration is “integrare” which means to make whole. Forgiveness and self-forgiveness is about helping ourselves be more whole.

Pause for a moment and imagine this…What would the world look like if you and I and a few of the people that read this showed up as more compassionate and whole? Could we start to help the world around us heal of its deep wounds?

May you join me in finding more grace and humility for ourselves and others.

With love and light

Bill Heitman – Fairy Godfather of Self-Renewal

Black Love Matters

I have struggled for most of my adult life not knowing how I could make a bigger difference in the world. A world that is so full of injustices every day. Much of my background is working in various service industries and has given me the view that we are often not very kind to one another, especially those who might be working in service to us. That lack of respect for each of our presence can wear on you which is partially why I felt called to start working toward self-renewal.

In our current state of affairs there is much attention being given to how much differently and unjustly our black brothers and sisters are treated not only by police but in our communities all across the country. I am so grateful that so many are standing up to make sure those in positions of leadership can facilitate some meaningful change. But it doesn’t go far enough to just change the behaviors of others. It can’t. We must go even further…into our own hearts.

The calls for change must deepen in more of us in order to make a lasting, meaningful difference. We must build on progress. As a white man I am privileged to feel safe most every where I go, and as a gay man I also know how unsafe it can feel for just me being the person I am. It is in the lessons of the gay rights movement that I am pulling my own path forward to dealing with how I can serve better today.

Back in the late 1970’s, gay activists and leaders like Harvey Milk encouraged gays and lesbians across California to come out to everyone that would listen. It was at this time that he traveled around the state to publicly debate the man behind an amendment to the California constitution that would fire school teachers for being gay. At the time the amendment looked like it would pass easily. I see the public demonstrations now for Black Lives Matter being one part of a multifaceted solution. But in order to truly change hearts and actions, work must be done in sharing stories and love for one another each and every day.

Not only did that amendment fail, but I firmly believe that the reason why gay marriage is possible in my adult life is that not only was there tremendous activism, but so many in the PRIDE communities across the country shared their stories of how they love. Who they love and how they express themselves may be different, but how they love is universal to us all. Could sharing love be something missing from civil rights movement and our search for equality across all colors of skin and race? I’m not here to suggest that protests and marches aren’t done in love. What we do individually needs to come from more love.

As I reflected back on how I was showing up, it became crystal clear that for racial injustice I was rarely showing up with love. My friend Justin Patton teaches about how we lead differently in our lives when we come from one of three core emotions: fear, empathy, or love. He says that fear is in the basement, empathy in the lobby, and love in the penthouse. It is up to us to remember how to press the elevator button when we recognize we need to go up.

In my discernment about my own showing up for black lives matters, I have been mainly listening and judging from fear or empathy. I’ve been fearful for doing or saying the wrong thing. I know empathy well and always considered it to be one of my best gifts. But I have not been using one of the truest gifts we all have which is love. To my friends who are reading this and going, “DUH!”, I know. This feels ridiculous. But I think there might be others that need to hear it. We have to keep going deeper into our greatness and capacity for love.

So what does loving more look like? For me, I’m at my best when I’m present, compassionate, and vulnerable. It’s going to be focusing on every opportunity during my day to listen and connect, and show others how much I value them. It means being brave and saying hello to strangers and being transparent with what’s going on in my heart even when my truth might be uncomfortable. It’ll also mean getting even clearer and honoring my and other’s boundaries.

How do you show up at your best? It’s okay that you are still figuring out how to serve our black friends. Maybe you start with more listening and empathy and work towards love. Many will give you lots of grace because you are trying. Judge yourself and keep calling yourself to greatness. Find self-renewal when you get down so that you can rise even further. The fuller your heart, the fuller you’ll serve. Let’s aim higher together and share more love. Every damn day.

I’m choosing to hear the cries for black lives matter not just to help more people live. I want more people to feel loving and loved, and for their lives to be filled with meaning and hope. I’ve decided to call it by how I’m wanting to act: Black love matters. Black love matters because all love matters.

With love and light,


Fairy Godfather of Wellness

My First Father Figure

Fred Rogers was the first father figure I had in my life. Throughout my childhood I’d watch Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood practically every day, sometimes multiple times along with Sesame Street and Electric Company. He’d teach me interesting ideas and depth about ordinary things. He’d share ways that I could deal with difficult emotions. He’d invite me to think in new ways. And most importantly he’d remind me that he liked me just the way I am.

Forty years later, I find myself craving that kind of nourishment in my life all over again. It’s why I have focused on deepening my relationships with a few important people in my life, hired a coach and mentor, and found communities for my spirituality, health, and holistic work. I think that we could all benefit from being connected with Mr. Rogers kind of figures in our lives right now. Someone that can demonstrate kindness and the courage to feel their feelings no matter how they are feeling. A person that encourages creativity, individuality, and taking care of ourselves so that we can better take care of those around us.

It is in that spirit that I created my practice as Fairy Godfather of Wellness. I want to help you feel nourished, supported, and seen for the greatness you already carry inside of you. To challenge you to be brave in exploring your feelings, your passions, dreams, and creativity, and reclaiming your path by taking good care of yourself a little better every day.

Our physical body and our mind are the only instruments we have to serve our heart and spirit in this one short precious lifetime. We must take care of each so that we can live a meaningful, empowered, connected life. I invite you to join me in exploring the depths and expansion of yourself, your truest, most loving and creative self. You are supported and loved and whole. The world needs your light to shine now more than ever.

With love and light,


your Fairy Godfather of Wellness

My view of the AIDS quilt in 1994

Near the end of my 2nd semester away at college, a portion of the AIDS quilt came to our campus. I had recently started coming out to a few close friends and was just past my 19th birthday.

Up close each colorful panel of the quilt told a story of someone whose life had ended because of the AIDS crisis. The pieces that were shown in our gymnasium covered most of the floor with some room to walk around and through the exhibit. I did NOT have the skills or knowledge of the more mature and experienced man I am today 25 years later.

Seeing memorials of dozens of victims from this terrible crisis was both touching and demoralizing to my 19 year old self. Chances were good that I would have my life ended by the disease and I would never get to grow old. I remember viewing from a second floor perch and thinking to myself…this is how I am going to die. I wonder what my quilt will look like. I wonder if my family would even make one for me?

It is not difficult to see how I have had an easy time viewing things from the worst case scenarios. Yet those things just have not come true. Quite the opposite. These days I am grateful for my health and the lessons of HIV and self-care have brought to my life. Looking at life from a positive, yes HIV-positive, lens has allowed me to get closer to the mortal truth that our physical bodies perish at some point.

I am thankful to have learned that we can in fact bring hope everyday to a sometimes scary and dark world. It is up to us to choose and cultivate our outlook. We can indeed change our beliefs and challenge the stories we tell ourselves.

I am indebted for the stories shared of the millions who passed before me and for the countless numbers of advocates, fundraisers, and organizers who fought so hard to make the care I have available today. Through the wonders of modern medicine, I can take a daily prescription that keeps this virus at bay. It also keeps future partners with me safe from contracting it either. Much like insulin for a type I diabetic, it is a necessary part of my daily self-care if I want to live a healthy and thriving future. So I do my best to nourish myself with good food, exercise, family and friends, and a passion to serving others in a way that transforms the story I once told my 19 year old self.

To my younger, still healing self: You are worthy of health, love, and belonging. You have the opportunity to live to an old age and to live out many dreams and passion. You can find healing from your past and still keep your heart full for the future. Live every day to your best. Learn. Play. Create. Connect. Move. Nourish. Renew. Repeat.

With love and light


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Tuesday August 13, 2019

Could one conversation change your life? Back in 2013 I was working at a German restaurant as a server and bartender to make my way through physical therapy assistant school. We headed into our busiest weekend of the year, St. Patty’s day, which would fill the entire restaurant, bar, ballroom, and biergarten at some points, yet we were never sure when those moments would spring. On a quieter afternoon a handful of us bartenders were huddled up outside waiting for the action to start and spent out time chatting away and passing big cups of candy around. Everyone but Natalie that is.

I had no idea how she was doing it, or why at first, but Natalie kept politely declining the Reese’s cups, licorice, and whatever else was being devoured during our boredom. I was a celebrated member of the staff because I would regularly bring homemade chocolate chip cookies and candy to share during our shifts. We all love sugar so why not be friendly to the tummy’s of the crew?!

On this day Natalie kept saying no. She said that she was making really good progress with eating healthier and working out since the beginning of the year. Part of me was actually feeling offended by her insistence not to indulge. What is wrong with my candy and me that she doesn’t like were some of the thoughts going through my head. I had no idea what was coming, but I could not get this behavior out of my head so I started asking her more questions. She was let off early because we were slow and suggested I reach out to her on Facebook if I wanted to chat more.

Something inside me had to know how her behavior was possible. People here just don’t behave like that, I certainly couldn’t, yet there she was. Doing something that seemed impossible. Being in control of her eating. So a day or so later I reached out to ask her some more questions and get more info about what she was doing. Martial arts inspired workouts on DVD at home, following a healthy meal plan, a Facebook group accountability plan and these shakes were what she was proposing I take on as her plan. Really expensive “nutritional” shakes. I don’t really do diet shakes. That sounds unhealthy. And yes I understand the irony of a man shoveling candy in his mouth calling anything unhealthy. A couple of days later, after some convincing from a friend, I ordered my DVDs, meal plan, and healthy shakes and said yes to a 60 day challenge that would change my life.

A few days later my order arrived. I went into planner/organizer mode and made shopping lists, tracking sheets, and schedules to check off for the coming weeks. My first shake was not very good, but I could at least drink it down. Natalie started up a small Facebook group for 4 of us to get started. It was the week before my 38th birthday when we were to start and because of my schedule I started a few days ahead.

Natalie’s first several posts made my eyes roll. “You’re changing your life!” “You’re doing amazing things!” were some of the sentiments. I could not get the chatter in my head to believe anything other than this was going to be a VERY temporary experiment. I was going back to being a couch potato and eating ice cream for dinner because that was who I am.

Only I didn’t go back to that life. Something in me loved the way I was feeling after a few weeks. I was excited and energized more than I’d been in a long, long time. I wanted these things, especially the control over my food, to last. A few weeks in I got a message from Natalie that I should consider being a coach. I could tell right away that I was more excited about cheering on others than the rest of the group. So it didn’t surprise me that I got the ask. This was no the right time though because I was about to finish a semester of school and start a clinical rotation while still working at the restaurant. There was no way I could do all of it right now. But then I said yes and became a coach anyway. I had to share how amazing I felt and how empowered I was with others. And that is how having a single conversation and saying yes became a part to changing everything in my life.

What kinds of pivotal moments leading to incredible transformation do you recall in your life?

With love and life,


Monday August 12, 2019

When it rains it pours? The true answer is sometimes. Today for instance was a delightful sprinkle. Our Midwest Summers can produce wild and unpredictable storms, but today was different. I had planned to take a brisk walk this afternoon and just a few steps in, the drizzle started. It was glorious.

Part of my fondness for this kind of spritzing rain comes from a 6-week stay I had in the Seattle/Tacoma area five years ago. I was visiting for one of my physical therapist assistant clinical rotations and staying with a family who agreed to host me. The morning after my arrival in Tacoma I set off to see a friend in Seattle for the weekend. It’s the Pacific Northwest. Of course it’s raining! I had no car so walking and public transit were my only means to get around affordably.

I packed up a weekend bag and set off on foot wearing a light jacket and a suggestion from my host family that it was in bad taste to bring an umbrella with me. I soon found out why. You don’t need to worry about getting wet when it’s barely a sprinkle! The dad of the family called to see how I was getting by and kept apologizing for the terrible weather and all the rain we were having. I could not help but chuckle at the mere slight inconvenience and the huge disparity of what the locals consider rain. This was barely a mist.

Now if you want to talk about real rain, I have to take you back a few years prior – to my 4-week stay in Costa Rica eight years ago. I was also staying with a host family, but this time studying Spanish at a small language school. I was informed by the family that they had obligations, so I decided to do some exploring since I would be on my own to take public transportation to and from school starting the next day. With detailed bus instructions and phone numbers, I set out for the afternoon. I was given the warning that it being rainy season which meant that although sunny now, there would likely be an afternoon rain.

Getting to town was easy. I found the school remembering where my host mom had showed me around in her SUV the day prior. I had a delightful experience walking around and checking what was near the school. The weather looked like it was going to turn soon, so I made my way to the bus stop. “Curridabat La Lia” was the bus I was told so the first “Curridabat” bus that came by, I got on. Soon though I realized something was wrong. We were not going anywhere I recognized. And, it was now raining. Pouring really. The kind of rain you expect in a tropical environment but until you’ve experienced it first hand, it is surprising. I decided I needed to get off this bus and go back the other way towards where I had started. And boy did I get wet. Even with an umbrella and a jacket, I was getting DRENCHED.

Three buses later and I came to the end of a bus route in an area I did not recognize. I decided to try asking for directions with my muddled Spanish. I am grateful for my Aunt Phyllis who taught me how you are never lost, you are just on an adventure. While I got some good verbal directions, I am not good at remembering more than a little bit. Thankfully I started on the right path and nearing my host family’s home. And it was raining again. I finally walked into their home soaked and worn out from the long trek back on foot. But I was safe again with a fun story to share. And a bit of gratitude that I had experienced quite the rain and circumstances did indeed pour. I had survived and learned. And eventually learned that “La Lia” was just as important a detail as “Curridabat.”

So yes. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it pours. Neither are good or bad. They are just rain. You get to choose how much they affect your happiness and enjoyment of life. The rain can be the central nemesis in your story, or a humorous obstacle you overcome in your journey. Know that it is only temporary and takes many forms. But you get to choose how you look at it.

With love and light,