A conversation with filmmaker Tricia Brouk and thought-leader Jenn Lederer on the eve of the premiere of their documentary about women empowering other women to accomplish their dreams.
Jenn (left) and Tricia (right) say they aren’t sure what’s possible and sometimes, if they give it over, then the “what’s possible” becomes possible.
Photo Courtesy of Grace Loretta
Tricia: Talk to me about that moment that you agreed to let me shoot a doc about you.
Jenn: The moment ... It's funny. The moment I agreed for you to shoot a doc happened once I walked out of the bar. After we had spent the time together, and I really learned what it felt like to be held by you, to be inside of your space, even though it was super casual, and we were at a bar, and it was like two girlfriends hanging out, talking about a possibility. I really felt your leadership. When I left the bar and started walking back to the subway, I felt so much excitement and so much fear. I knew that if I was going to do this, I would need to hand the reins over to you.
Tricia: And what gave you permission to even consider doing that?
Jenn: Well, I think the fact that you and I had collaborated in little, kind of bite-sized collaborations, up to that point. I had seen you in motion but, what really allowed me to trust you was that feeling I had when we were sitting there together and I said, "This woman gets it." Beyond me, there was already a sense of, "I think there's something bigger here that maybe she is tuned into and I'm not." But, it's almost like I relinquished it over from myself, and I don't know if it was even given to you. It was just given up from me, which felt really good to finally be in a space where someone, without saying it, told me, "You know, you can put this down. You could not carry this on your own. What might that feel like?"
Tricia: Do you think it's important, as entrepreneurs, as leaders, as women who are generally in charge of everything, do you think it's important to acknowledge that sometimes it's important to give over, or to let go, or to put it down and let somebody else carry it?
Jenn: It is non-negotiable. We aren't the be all end all of what we can create in this world because no matter how big our thoughts are, no matter how big my vision is, I don't have access to what is truly possible.
The only way I get access to what is truly possible is when I admit I can't do this alone.
Tricia: Let me take you back to September 26. You sent me an email, and this is when you wanted to share a song that inspired you that day, “The Weight of it All” by Kaleigh Baker, a song we ended up using in Just Enough. And your email says, "It came blaring through my speakers as I was writing my morning pages and exploring what's possible."
We aren't sure what's possible and sometimes, if we give it over, then the “what's possible” becomes possible.
Jenn: And it becomes a collaboration with that intangible source that we all come in contact with from time to time, and sometimes we say, "Oh that was a coincidence. Oh, that was a one-time thing. Oh, that's not really who I am. That's not the norm." But the truth is, every time I give up my control and get curious about that question, what is possible here?, I'm blown away. Sometimes, being blown away, starts with stripping away. That's when it gets really scary because, in order for the new, big, and huge possibilities to come in, somethings got to give. That's where you, Tricia, and your safety, and how much I trusted you, helped me to let go.
Tricia: Yeah. It's difficult to acknowledge all the different ways of being. I think that when you can become comfortable with all the versions of yourself, and trust that that makes you up as a whole, then I think you can drop in and ground into the who you are, and into the what's possible.
Let’s jump ahead a little bit to September 30th.
You had a lot of fear around the project and you were trying to talk yourself out of it while talking yourself into it. So, what was it for you Jenn, that turned from excitement into panic and fear, and almost paralysis?
Jenn: The thing that brought me to the excitement is the same exact thing that brought me to the paralysis, which is the “What is possible?”, question. The truth is when I let, my imagination grab hold of something that isn't complete yet, I'm really good at bracing myself for the worst case scenario. We'll get only so close to what you want. Then, it will implode
Every cell of my body was saying “Yes! Do this!” but, my mind, the proof of past experiences, started to poison all of the excitement of the possibility and flipped it on it’s ear, and said, "But, look at all this stuff that could happen.
Look at how people might judge you. Look at how the story might be told differently than what you want. Look at how ... What are you going to look like on camera, Jenn? Are you in shape the way you want to be? What's your skin going to be like that week? All of the things that started to convince me, "Maybe not right now. You know what? Maybe we should just keep talking about this and really hammer it out." And, that is normally when I back out of big, exciting projects like this one.
Tricia: So, what changed your mind?
Jenn: When I sat with it I couldn't deny the truth. I've gotten very good at filtering through my fears and finding the nugget of truth. The truth was, it was time. The truth was, all of the other fears and, misconceptions, and past experiences were the lies. So, in that response to you when I declared “Yes!”, it was not so much me declaring yes to the project, as it was me declaring yes to a new way of moving toward my dream. Where the fears and the old way, the old way of thinking was no longer going to be mine.
"The truth was, it was time. The truth was, all of the other fears and, misconceptions, and past experiences were the lies." Photo Courtesy of Grace Loretta
"When you get clear about the bigger why, and it’s the exact sensation I talked about when I realized it was a yes for you and I, of tapping into this is bigger than me." Photo Courtesy of Grace Loretta
Tricia: How do we own our power and walk through the world fully lit up?
Jenn: Yeah. Well, the first step is always permission and curiosity. Permission to admit that you do have power, permission to know that it's already inside of you. Then, get comfortable with the practice of seeking people, places, and experiences that mirror that permission back to you. Where you walk in and they say, "We see you. We see your power. You are powerful and, come in here and practice being that power."
Tricia: I think also when you understand that you've got power and intelligence and success, and strength, and all these things that many people, many women, are afraid to own, it's also important to own mistakes, fuck-ups, things that aren't going perfectly. It's about not worrying whether somebody is going to judge you, not worrying about whether or not you're going to fail. Because yes, everyone else in the world is going to judge you. I say this all the time, stop judging yourself, let everybody else do it.
"It’s difficult to acknowledge all the different ways of being. I think that when you can become comfortable with all the versions of yourself, and trust that that makes you up as a whole, then I think you can drop in and ground into the who you are, and into the what’s possible." Photo Courtesy of John DeMato
Jenn: When you get clear about the bigger why, and it's the exact sensation I talked about when I realized it was a yes for you and I, of tapping into this is bigger than me. This message chose my voice, my timing, my experience, to come through.
So, if we can realize that it's not as personal as our ego wants to make it out to be, that can give you permission to relax and trust. Knowing that bigger purpose and knowing that you are a part of something bigger takes the pressure off of your shoulders and you're no longer proving it. You are a part of it.
Tricia: What do you think being just enough has to do with transformation?
Jenn: It has everything to do with transformation because being just enough is, to me, knowing that there is no finish line. You never actually get there. You never actually get to the point where you say, "Aha! I've done it. I have no more transformation to be had. No more lessons to learn." As long as I am on this earth, the concept of being just enough means that, in the same breath, I can be a hot mess and the world's biggest inspiration.
Tricia: I feel like we are in the business of helping other people transform. If Just Enough, the doc, can give people the permission the integrate, then we've done our job.
Jenn: Yeah. And from what I've seen, that's what it's doing.
Let me share with you a female doctor and CEO's life hack: if you are not trying to 'make' a baby, you do NOT have to bleed every month. As doctors, we have seared into women's minds: you must have a period every month (if you are not on any medications). However, we now have the technology to safely and effectively "turn off" periods.
The idea of #PeriodsOptional first came to me when I was trying to get pregnant with my first child. Each month the uterus builds a rich blood filled lining to accept an embryo. But without an embryo, that lining gets shed, and the whole process starts over again. Basically, the only reason that we (those with uteri) bleed each month is because we didn't get pregnant. An average woman will begin her period at 12 years old, have two children in her lifetime, and remain fertile until the age of 50. That's approximately 35 years of incessant menstruation for no good reason.
Each time you build up that lining (endometrium) and slough it, you risk endometrial cancer. And each time you pop out an egg for that lining, you risk ovarian cancer. The only way to prevent ovarian cancer that we currently know of (short of taking out your ovaries) is to turn off the monthly egg-popping using birth control. Women who used birth control pills for 5 or more years have about a 50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer compared to women who never used oral contraceptives.
Dr. Beverly Strassman, who studied the Dogon tribe in Mali, found that it might be "more natural" to have fewer periods. In the old days, we had about 100 periods in our lifetimes. Now, we have 350-400. Historically, we'd start periods at 16 (we now start at 12 years old), we'd have eight babies (we now have two on average), and we'd breastfeed for 20 months (we now do zero to six months at best).
Since the creation of the birth control pill, doctors have known that the one week withdrawal bleed (aka "period") is optional. Dr. John Rock, one of three co-founders of the birth control pill, was the one that pushed for a bleed one week out of four. It was to see if he could get the method through the Catholic Church. He said it was just to make the periods regular and thus Catholics could better utilize the rhythm method. He also thought that women would be more likely to accept the method if it was consistent with what they were used to. Thus since the beginning the birth control pill, women have been forced to bleed one week out of four. Needless to say, if I were one of the co-founders, I would have pushed for #NoPeriods or #PeriodsOptional.
Let's explore other benefits of skipping your monthly bleed:
- You save money – we use 12,000 feminine hygiene products in our lives.
- You save the planet from landfill.
- You decrease your risk of certain medical conditions – ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, and anemia
- Certain diseases do better on stable hormonal levels – acne, PCOS, diabetes, seizure disorder, depression/psychological conditions.
- Increased productivity – the number one cause of missed work/school in a woman under the age of 25? Her periods.
Using birth control to skip periods:
- You can use the hormonal IUD, the implant, the shot, the ring, the patch and the pill. Note: You cannot use the patch for longer than 12 weeks in a row, because too much estrogen will build up in the blood.
- You do not have to use "special pills" that come in 84 or 91 days packs. You can use any pill and just skip the last week (if it is a four week pack) or go straight into the next pack (if it is a three week pack). Though if you are paying cash, those are sometimes cheaper.
- If you get breakthrough bleeding and have taken at least three weeks of active pills in a row, then you can stop the active pills for five days, have a bleed during that time, then restart on day six whether or not you are bleeding. This "cleans out the uterus" and allows you to start fresh.
- There are 40 different formulations of the birth control pill. So if one doesn't work for you, there are at least six other progestins and two levels of estrogen to play with.
- To skip the bleed on the pill, you want a progestin with higher progestational activity. Go to this chart that I created to review the options.
As the only female founded/led reproductive health company in the birth control delivery space, Pandia Health set out to make women's lives easier by sharing cutting edge, evidence-based women's healthcare. We commissioned a study of 1000 women ages 20-35 in the US to see what they knew about the topic. We found that:
- 66% of women had never been informed by a doctor that they could skip their periods safely.
- 46% have missed school because of periods.
- 58% would turn of their periods if they knew it could be done safely.
So make your uterus a happy uterus. A happy uterus is one that is not "crying" unnecessary bloody tears.