Deborah Roth, the “Goddess” behind Spirited Living, is truly an amazing woman over 50. Deborah is a Life Design Specialist, Interfaith Minister, astrologer, wife, mom, and new grandma; she is a singer, author, and founder of 4thU Artivists, a group of dedicated artist/activists who produce two live shows each year to raise money to fight violence against women and girls.
Born in 1955 in West Virginia, Deborah grew up in Corning, New York, and has lived in Manhattan since 1977. An avid skier throughout high school and college, Deborah also has a few marathons under her belt. Although she stopped running after contracting Lyme Disease, Deborah has never stopped moving! She practices yoga daily and moves and creates on a multitude of levels.
At home in her body and heart, Deborah exudes strength and confidence. When you meet her, you know you are in the presence of a warm and giving soul—and a bright, vibrant mind! In 1998, Deborah received her MA in Psychology with a specialization in Transpersonal Psychology and Women’s Spirituality; she published her first book Circle of One: The Art of Being a Self-Centered Woman in 2010, followed by a four-volume collection called The Authentic Woman Seasonal Playbook, co-authored with two other coach-sisters. Her writing is also featured on www.YourTango.com —a relationship and lifestyle blog that has 2+ million followers on Facebook—where she serves as an Expert Contributor.
Deborah and I have known each other for over 11 years. During that time, she has given new meaning to the term “life coach,” as she has been my guide through every aspect of my personal rediscovery journey. To contact Deborah or to learn more about her work, go to www.SpiritedLiving.com. Information about her artivist events can be found at www.4thUArtivists.com
It is my honor and pleasure to present the interview I did with my dear and dynamic friend Deborah Roth this past June on Skype.
Diane: Hi Deborah! You are the very first interviewee for WomanPause, and I couldn’t have thought of a better person to be my lead. I have a bunch of things for us to talk about. I think we’ve known each other for 11 years, and you’ve been my everything coach—life, business, relationship, everything. You married Steven and me! You’ve been so instrumental in all my rediscoveries, so I thank you. I know a lot about what you do, but I’d like you to share what you do professionally, advocacy-wise, personally. What really juices you, what gets you going?
Deborah: Would it be helpful to tell you about how I got here?
Diane: Sure! This blog is primarily for women over 50 who are in the process of rediscovering themselves—a life-long process—so maybe you can start by talking about your life growing up. I know you had a lot of testosterone in the house—3 brothers and your dad—I’m curious about your mom.
“ … I think in a lot of ways, who you become as a woman can really be set in place by your relationship with your father.”
Deborah: Sure. She was a strong woman for a 50s mom. We had a good relationship, I had a good relationship with both parents—a little more contentious with my Capricornian dad. Dad used to lovingly call me “the rose amongst his thorns.” He was a strong parent, as was my mom, but I think in a lot of ways, who you become as a woman can really be set in place by your relationship with your father. Dad always, without being pushy about it, told me I could be anything, do anything. When I was in college and came home for vacation, my dad would always tell me how smart I was, how beautiful I was, and how much he loved me—I would roll my eyes and say, “Oh dad. You’re so predictable.” I realize now after talking to so many women and hearing so many stories, how instrumental that was in setting me up to having a good life, to have someone be that supportive of me. He had all these quotes. One of them was “I may not always agree with you, but I will always love you.” His messages created a great foundation to be a strong woman, and I’m very grateful for that.
Diane: Sounds like such a feeding relationship—you were well-fed.
Deborah: Yes, on every level.
Diane: Tell me more about how a woman’s relationship with her father sets up a woman for life.
“… we can screw up in so many ways, make tons of mistakes, but if we show our kids/tell our kids with sincerity, that we love them, that makes up for a lot.”
Deborah: Both parents, frankly. What I do say across the board is that we can screw up in so many ways, make tons of mistakes, but if we show our kids/tell our kids with sincerity, that we love them, that makes up for a lot. Both of my parents did that. I have a bunch of clients right now whose relationships with their moms were big trouble. In addition to having one parent—mother or father—who loves you unconditionally, I think the bonus of the father—at least if you’re heterosexual (maybe it works the same for same-sex couples), if you have a healthy relationship with your opposite-sex parent, it helps you have healthy relationships later. And obviously watching your parents’ relationship is so important. With coaching, you don’t delve too much into the past, the psycho-emotional stuff… that’s really the realm of therapy. But when you’re working with couples, you have to look at their parents’ relationships to see how those affect them in their current relationships.
Diane: Interesting. Mother/daughter relationships usually get most of the attention. Great insights about the father in a girl’s life. So, back to what feeds you now. If you can look at it through the lens of rediscovery—how have you developed interests, entered in new fields—that would be great.
Deborah: I have my own business—for 20 years now. Gosh, since 1998, and it’s called Spirited Living. I’m so glad I got that domain name way back when because it really defines so perfectly what I do. I work with mostly women. I like to say that I work with overwhelmed, under-nurtured women and a few good men—to support them through career and life transitions and through relationships—finding and/or strengthening their relationships. I don’t think you can really separate work and relationships. I find the entry points to coaching can be at different places. Sometimes I call myself a whole life coach. I just had a client—the female side of a couple—email me this morning. I’ve been working with them over the past 10 years—whenever they need a tune-up—and we look at the rest of their lives too—what’s going on with work, with self-care. Self-care’s an important piece of what I do in all my coaching. I always bring a mind/body/spirit orientation into my work, regardless of what we’re working on.
“Self-care’s an important piece of what I do in all my coaching—whether I’m doing couples coaching, life/transitions coaching, I always bring a mind/body/spirit orientation into my work, regardless of what we’re working on.”
I’m also an Interfaith Minister. I became an Interfaith Minister the same time I did my coach training—mid to late 90s. I get to marry people, facilitate women’s new moon circles, full moon circles. My work is all intertwined. How did I come to that—to address your question about self-discovery. I finished college and came to New York City and worked for an insurance company for 4 years and TIAA-CREF for 7 years, and then for a small consulting firm for my last 2 years in the corporate world. That was the answer to my mantra. After my second son was born when I was still at TIAA-CREF —I had a goal and created a mantra or affirmation: to find interesting, challenging, part-time work that pays well and gives me more time with the boys.
Diane: You’d say that to yourself as you walked to the subway?
“I had a pivotal moment. I think that anyone who has gone through a rediscovery process can probably name the pivotal moment.”
Deborah: I’d walk to the subway with my briefcase, my little bowtie thing that all of us corporate women wore in the mid-80s, and a rose quartz heart because I knew that it was good for the heart and manifestation and I’d say this mantra to myself. What evolved was this perfect part-time job at an employee benefits consulting firm.
The 90s was my discovery—my repotting/rediscovery decade. My husband Peter, whom I met in 1979 running in Riverside Park, had just started a business called KidCelebration which provided personalized—back in the day—audio cassette tapes for kids. I left my part-time corporate job to work with Peter. The first two years was an adjustment period. Here I was, working part time at home with my kids—every working mother’s dream—but it was a huge life transition time. Before, I had always had transition time, time to get from work mode to mom time. This, surprisingly, was my toughest career change.
“… it was a little scary. I was always a good girl…I didn’t do weird things. I always towed the line—and here I was going way out.”
Every 6 months I had a different realization. One of them was that I needed to own something. Even though I was technically a partner with Peter in the business, it wasn’t my business. Not that I wanted to take over, but I really wanted something that was just for me. I took classes at Open Center. I knew I wanted to capitalize on my psych major but didn’t want to be a therapist. Then in 1992 I had a pivotal moment—I think that anyone who has gone through a rediscovery process can probably name the pivotal moment. Mine was in 1992 when I went with a friend to a Tarot reading, and I was blown away by what she told my friend. I ended up studying tarot and palmistry with this woman, then took my first class in astrology at the Jung Institute. So, all these things came together at the same time, and it was a little scary. I was always a good girl.
Diane: Right, right, right.
“And then I went to my first ritual—this all happened literally in a six-month period—and that blew me away. It was earth-centered, Goddess based. That’s what was what was missing for me—the feminine face of God.”
Deborah: I didn’t do weird things. I always towed the line—and here I was going way out. In the beginning, I was very self-effacing about it. I called the stuff I was doing as “the weird stuff.” God forbid anyone didn’t take me seriously. And then I went to my first women’s spirituality ritual and that blew me away. It was earth-centered, Goddess based. That’s what was what was missing for me—the feminine face of God. At around the same time, I walked into our Unitarian Church for the first time. I was looking for something very open minded for our kids, and the minister at the time handed me the book The Chalice and the Blade—about the Goddess. That really launched me. I started reading everything I could get my hands on. Every weekend in the summer we’d travel out of the city to visit friends, and I’d lie in the back seat—I couldn’t sit up, it made me car sick—reading anything about tarot, astrology, the Goddess, feminine psychology—all the early books—feminist psychologists. I felt like I was in my own little Master’s program.
When I decided I wanted to do this stuff—I didn’t know what it was going to look like—I was very sensitive to how people would perceive me. (Now I don’t care so much. It’s still there but not as much.) I figured I’d get a Master’s degree to legitimize what I was doing. I found a wonderful independent study Master’s program at Lesley College (now University) in Boston and did a two-year counseling training program that was taught by psychologists who were also astrologers. That’s when I started leading women’s spirituality circles and wrote papers about all of that—getting credit for all the things I loved most.
Diane: Isn’t that fabulous? That’s fabulous!
“There was a point when I asked, ‘what am I going to do with all this? I don’t even know where this was going.’”
Deborah: The whole rediscovery process was—I say this to people…I coach people through those transitions—mine wasn’t a quick one. It kept evolving. There was a point when I asked, “What am I going to do with all this? I don’t even know where this was going.” I had an image. When I’ve shared this with clients, it’s really resonated, and they’ve shared their own images/metaphors of the process, too. The image that came to me was that I was suspended in mid-air over a body of water and I could see stepping stones beneath me, leading to the far shore that was enshrouded in fog. Clearly there’s a path here. Clearly, it’s leading somewhere, but I have no idea where it’s leading. Then, unbidden, the image would come up periodically, and I’d find myself on a stepping stone or closer to the shore. Finally, when I was leading a meditation in the workshop as part of my thesis, I found myself on the far shore. It was very emotional. I could see the path continued off the shore. It was not like I’d reached Nirvana; I had to keep going, but it was clearly representative of this milestone in the discovery process.
Diane: Wow! That’s really beautiful. Really beautiful. Quite a journey!
One thing you didn’t mention that I know about you is your advocacy work.
Deborah: That came later in the game. So, I have for the last 10 years been involved with Eve Ensler’s organization V-Day. She created The Vagina Monologues. It was a huge sensation when it first came out, the fact that anyone would talk about vaginas. And out of that work and the press, she created a movement—V-Day—whose sole purpose is to raise money to support organizations all over the world who work to end violence against women and girls. Eve Ensler set up this brilliant model, where people could for free get the rights to put on The Vagina Monologues in their communities as long as they agreed to send 10% of money raised to V-Day and the rest they would contribute to one or two local organizations that support the work. I got pulled into that in serendipitous way. I went to the Women and Power conference in NYC presented by the Omega Institute, and Eve was on the panel. I was blown away and went back to our Unitarian Church. We had a lot of performers/directors/artistic creative types, so we started producing The Vagina Monologues at the church in 2009. We shifted about three years ago and now do other plays too, mostly by women playwrights. This fall we’re doing a feminist comedy review—Nov 9th and 10th—and next spring will be our 10th anniversary. We’ll be bringing back The Vagina Monologues again. To date, we’ve raised over $125,000.
Diane: Wow! I just got the chills!
Deborah: We rotate the organizations that we donate to. We’re called 4thU Artivists—which is activism through the arts.
Diane: I love that!
Deborah: Me too. Isn’t it fun? And we now do two shows a year.
Diane: That leads me to my next question: You are a woman of many interests and passions—and a new grandbaby! How do you balance it all? Balance is such a challenge for most people.
Deborah: Self-care—you know what a self-care maven I am.
Diane: I do! So, tell what you do for self-care.
Deborah: Another piece has been added—and you’ll appreciate it—given what a great writer you are. All the writing I’m doing now. It’s cut into a little bit of my self-care—I can’t flake out and watch TV at night any more. So, what I do for self-care. I like to say, Keira’s a big part of my self-care now—she’s 16 months now. She’s a time-eater—but in the best possible way! I made a commitment when she was born that I wanted to see her once a week.
(Keira is Deborah’s first grandchild.)
Diane: I can’t believe she’s sixteen months! And congrats on the new wedding—is there a date?
Deborah: Chris will be getting married in the Bahamas—either Memorial Day or one of the first weekends in May.
(Chris is Deborah’s younger son.)
Deborah: So, ongoingly, I have a wonderful book that I’ve used since 9/11 in 2001. It’s a daily journal—the Essene Book of Days created by Danaan Parry. It has a short reading for the morning and a small place to write and an evening meditation. I always include what I’m grateful for. The readings don’t change, just the dates are updated. When I studied what makes ritual powerful, one of the things that came up was meaningful repetition. I’ve read all of these readings dozens of times, but they’re just so lyrical, that depending upon what’s going on in my life, they’ll hit me in a different way. And then I’ve got several meditations—an abundance meditation that I do and a wonderful self-hypnosis one.
Diane: You do those every day?
Deborah: Yes, these always happen. I have violet flame meditation and a few singing mantras, I don’t do every day—but I sprinkle them in throughout the week when I can. I do 5-6-7 mini things daily. I love to sing, and I sing in a woman’s chorus. I go to yoga every day—that’s huge. It doesn’t happen on my own—I go to a class. And I started going to Pilates. The yoga studio is seven minutes away, so I walk back through Riverside Park and sit by one of my trees, do some writing, a little meditation, or sit in my community garden. For me tree sitting is self-care.
Diane: I am a literal tree-hugger—you hug a tree, you get so much from that.
Deborah: I totally get that, but I like to place my back against the tree rather than the front. One of the things I loved most when I was a kid was my dad would lie behind me and cuddle me when he was putting me to sleep. Peter is a great spooner, too…that’s the same energy. I love to have my back against the tree. And I have trees all over the city.
Diane: I have a last question for you—What is your wish for the planet, for the women you work with and for your granddaughter?
“… there’s one big thing that is so powerful when talking about the rediscovery process … it’s having communities where you can share and be supported on a regular basis.”
Deborah: Oh—that’s a biggie. Before I answer that I think there’s one big thing that is so powerful when talking about the rediscovery process. It’s having communities where you can share and be supported on a regular basis. I have two groups I’ve been in for eight years. My dear friend Marsha Lehman, a coauthor with me of the Authentic Woman PlayBook is a Science of Mind minister and she does this wonderful thing called affirmative prayer—acknowledging the rightness of who you are, with gratitude. Six of us meet every other week on the phone. We’re all coaches. It just been wonderful. The other group meets once a month in person. We create meditations to support ourselves and to send out to the world. We call ourselves the Spirit Shifters. Having that kind of support on a regular basis is so important. I think that having a coach too is helpful in this rediscovery process, aging process.
“I envision a world where girls and women are safe, respected, loved unconditionally, and educated.”
I just wanted to throw that out there before I answer your great big question. So, it’s easy to say what I don’t want, given the place our world is right now. The first place I always go to, given the work that I do, is I envision a world where girls and women are safe, respected, loved unconditionally, and educated—because it is astounding that there are places in the world where girls are not deemed worthy of having an education. That’s my go-to place.
Diane: It’s a great go-to place.
Deborah: That’s a short answer for what could be a very long answer.
Diane: It’s a great answer.
Deborah: If you consider what the Dalai Lama said, that Western women in particular will change the world. Not that men aren’t terrific–and we can’t do it without them—but if the status of women is raised worldwide, I think all of the other issues—war, racism, hatred … will end
Diane: I agree. Yes. I agree. O.K. That was my last question. Now last thing. I would love people who read my blog to get in touch with you and take advantage of all the wonderful things you offer. So best thing is directing them to your website?
Deborah: I’d say so. There are jumping off points into everything from there. Spirited Musings now has my writings and links to social media; people can see all the different types of coaching that I do.
Diane: So, I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity!
Deborah: It was so much fun! Thank you for asking me—what a treat! I love talking about my journey.
Diane: It’s a beautiful journey and so many more places to go!
As always, WomanPause is about community, so please send your comments and questions!
See you Friday!