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Strength and Connection

Tawnya Kristen is the executive director of Green Mountain United Way, a mom, a wife, and an athlete. She’s also a supportive, committed friend who considers herself a go-to for other women. Tawnya is a confident mentor.

I met her working on a committee that is moving forward the Working Communities Challenge in Barre. Most of the others in the group work in health and human services, so it’s a shift in focus when Tawnya opens meetings with this inquiry: What are doing for your own self-care? Which got me thinking . . .

Wouldn’t it be great to pose these questions to her as the second post in my Self-Care Series? She was up for it.

What are the healthiest things you consistently do?

Tawnya works out at Green Mountain Community Fitness five days a week. There are other things she does related to exercise, but nothing that as intense or fierce (her words). She describes this gym as a powerful place that matters as much to her emotionally as it does physically.

“The athletic community that I’m with is extremely important to me . . . just as far as getting that instant validation, feedback, and support—that community sense of belonging and sharing in something together. So it’s multi-level for me when it comes to fitness.”

Clean eating boosts her energy. To Tawnya that means taking in protein/meat-based food plus lots of veggies, lots of fruit, and very few carbs. She also takes some supplements.

When thinking things through: Better alone, or the more the merrier?

“Alone. When I’m in a group I learn a lot, but when the processing has to happen, I need to sit with the thoughts and just be with them. I can think through what I’ve gleaned from a variety of sources.” She creates space for that in her office, where she can work in solitude. She extols the benefits of working out again, which “gives her a mental clean-out.” Car drives help a lot, also, though those have been cut way back during the pandemic.

Who is on your side?

“My husband, absolutely, hands down. My daughter, for sure.” There are two or three core people Tawnya trusts without doubt to be there no matter what—a group she calls a small but mighty team. All this exists inside a larger outer circle, all of whom share mutual respect and understanding.

Do you have spiritual practices? What are they?

“Not in the traditional sense.” But she feels a connection to energy from people and from space. Her intuition is strong. “I believe that I am deeply spiritual in the way of believing that I don’t know, but there is something to know.” She remains open to possibility, checking in all along with her own moral compass. To her, this is “more a religion of self, of true self, and staying in awareness and not letting go of that secondary voice or your sense of feeling about something.”

Singing can heighten that sensitivity for her, that tapping into emotions and an elevated spirit. “Certain songs and certain music just give you that feeling of closeness to that higher power or power within oneself.”

When all else fails, I

“ . . . wait. I’ve learned to sit with things, and to sit in whatever that moment is that I feel failure, I feel lost, and to not struggle against it. Just sit, let it be, hold it, wait for it to pass. Because it will pass. Whether that’s an emotional downswing or challenge at work or personally here at home. It doesn’t mean those initial reactions don’t come into play: anger, fear, or trying to fix things, but I’m learning much more now in my later years than I ever knew before to be OK with those feelings.”

Tawnya wouldn’t call what we talked about wisdom, but chalked it up to lots of experiences, plenty of them bad. Her childhood was hard and things that followed were really challenging. As tough as things were, she sees how she gained an awareness and heightened emotional intelligence. She also believes this attracts tenacious, gritty people to her that do not bow down to past circumstance.

All this will serve well an intention Tawnya has for her fifties. “Lean into your own story. There’s no shame in what has happened.”

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Coaching can help with self-care, intention, and leaning in. Contact Susan if you’re interested!