Welcome to It’s Not About The Chair. I’m Lyena Strelkoff, a storyteller, performer, speaker, and coach. I believe our stories — the ones we’ve lived, that we can’t believe we made it through, or can’t stop laughing about, or just can’t stop thinking about —  are the greatest source of healing we have, for ourselves and especially, for each other. I started telling my own stories after I was paralyzed in a fall. My hope is that this blog will be a place to laugh, learn, heal and grow together. Because, ultimately, it’s not about the chair, or any other obstacle we might face. It’s about the choices we make, the spirit we bring, and helping each other thrive. I’m so glad you’re here.

The story that turned my son away from TV

Sitting down to dinner the other day, Aidan asked if he could watch TV while he ate.

“Nope,” I said, with the casualness warranted by a question we both know he knows the answer to.


Not that I hadn’t said it before but… “Because this is a time for us to be together… to connect. You can tell me stories about your day… I can tell you my stories…”

“What stories?”


I’d hardly had a moment to register my day, what with living it at full tilt the last 11 hours.

But this wasn’t a moment to balk. One of my deepest values — and my point about dinnertime! — was on the line. I needed a story and it had to be especially good.

“Know how I found out I was pregnant with you?” I asked.


“I peed on a stick.”



“Yep. When a woman thinks she might be pregnant, there’s this special stick she can pee on to find out.”

“That’s crazy.”

“I know, right?”

Then I told him how we’d been waiting for him for more than a year; how I’d had my heart broken again and again; how I’d learned not to get too excited each month; how I’d gotten the stick because my doctor told me to, not because I thought I might actually be pregnant; how nervous I felt peeing on it; how I wanted to be pregnant but was too afraid to hope; how absolutely stunned I was when the “+” sign came up; how I just sat there, staring at it, letting it sink in; how, for just a moment, I didn’t want to tell anyone; how I wanted to let it just be mine for a bit — me, my body, and him; how I couldn’t stand to keep it a secret anymore; how I got cleaned up, got back in my chair, and rolled to the office; how soft my voice was, trying to speak to his dad; how I held out the stick and said, “I think we’re pregnant”; how we spent the next few minutes exhaling loudly, hugging, crying, staring blankly at each other, and exhaling some more; how we spent the few minutes after that scrutinizing the stick — “That is a +, right?”
“Yeah… yeah… It’s got the flat line and the other line… Yeah… It looks, really, like a +”; how our excitement was tempered by caution because we’d already miscarried once; how our doctor ordered blood tests to be sure — the stick can be wrong; how, last time, our numbers had been low and then dropped by half a few days later; how, this time, our numbers started above 500 and jumped to 5,000 a few days later…

“So that’s when we knew. You were definitely in there.”

“And I was teeny-tiny.”

“And growing.”

For all his love of LEGO and Star Wars and books and TV, none of them rate against hearing stories about himself and the people he loves. Stories that let him see deeper into the world he lives in.

And one more dinnertime brought the connection I always hope it will.

There’s still room in this Saturday’s free, virtual, mini writing workshop. Why don’t you join us? You can mine some stories to share with your kids.

I know you’ll both be glad you did.

RSVP here to get connection details (or, if you’re reading this in your Inbox, click here to RSVP online).

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Sheroes Write — a free, virtual writing retreat

Last week, I talked about the alchemy that takes place when we tell our stories… How we become bolder and braver, more present to who we actually are, instead of quietly obsessed with who we’re afraid we might be.

And I said I wanted to create more opportunity for all of us to experience that power… Together, in community… and for free.

So here is. Our first opportunity:

Introducing Sheroes Write — A virtual, mini writing retreat.

Saturday, May 21

10am – 12pm PDT

It’s for you, me, and a few other Sheroes who want to step away from our mile-a-minute lives and sink into the delicious deep of our stories — for breath, for laughter, for healing and community.

And just for plain ol’ fun!

No writing experience or proficiency required. Just a desire to put pen to paper and see what comes out.

And yes, you can wear your jammies!!

To participate, just RSVP in the form below so I know how many gals to expect. A day or two before the event, I’ll send you details to connect via phone or computer.

Sound good?

Oh, I can’t wait to slip into the alchemy with you.

(If you’re reading this in your Inbox, the form below won’t work. To RSVP for the retreat, click here instead, and fill out the form online.)

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What happens inside — The alchemy of telling our stories

Dean and I were crossing paths in the kitchen the other day and I found myself trying to explain what happens when people tell their stories.

It’s something I’m very passionate about (I bet you guessed that!) but I often find it hard to explain. In fact, just trying to write this post has been ridiculously challenging. I’ve written and rewritten paragraph after paragraph because I can’t quite fit into words what I so often experience.

I think it’s hard to explain because telling our stories is SO much more powerful than anyone expects.

Take my recent clients. I’ve spent a lot of time the last couple of weeks listening to other people’s stories thanks to the Your Shining Signature Story coaching service I offered. All of these people came to the table expecting to create a compelling story that well introduced them to their ideal clients. But what’s actually been happening is so much bigger.

Random events have come into obvious relation. Dots got connected where dots hadn’t even been perceived before. Meaning began to surface where it hadn’t been noticed lacking. And, before we knew it, each storyteller had seen herself in a new way.

But even that isn’t the whole of it.

Telling our stories actually changes us.

You know, when something happens to us – big thing, little thing, scary, funny, mundane, moving… doesn’t matter – we experience it in the moment. That’s one level of experience. We might, depending on the thing, think about it after the fact… That’s another level of experience. But when we tell the story, either by writing it or just speaking it to another human, something new happens. Our relationship with that thing changes.

I’m not talking about consciously changing our story in order to change the relationship. That’s an effective healing tool sometimes, rewriting a section of our personal herstory in order to give ourselves a different experience.

But I’m talking about simply relating what we remember, without great effort even, but with some focus and with enough room to let things reveal themselves.

It’s like magic… Or alchemy. Suddenly, the whole is new and much greater than the sum of its parts.

Power gets redistributed, away from things that have been given too much, and toward that which has been given too little.

We are bolder, braver. We feel more confident. More whole. If you imagine our bodies as empty shells, and we the beings that fill the shells… It’s like more of us is inhabiting our bodies. Where once we were a bit ephemeral, a bit waif-y, now we have more substance. And we move in the world with that substance.

It’s subtle but utterly profound.

I think the alchemy has, at least in part, something to do with empowerment.

The consummate Shero is skilled at living empowered. She chooses consciously her response to what’s happening, takes responsibility for her experience. But even so, life is still happening somewhat to and at her. There’s just so much (virtually everything, in fact) that we can’t control.

Every other person on the planet, the weather, the timing of traffic signals, even our own emotions cannot be controlled. We do our best to stay in command of our choices, intentions, and availability… but the rest is playing out as it is. And we are players in each moment, even if we choose not to participate, or feel we don’t have choices. Life is happening, and we can’t just close our eyes and magically will it away.

But when we choose to tell a story – first of all, there’s choice there; that’s already different. But in the telling, we become a witness to our lives instead of (or maybe, in addition to) a participant.

That’s true, to some extent, when we think about something that’s happened, too. But, I don’t know. The space between our ears is like a worm hole. Things get twisted and warped so fast. Never, not one time, have I seen thinking about things have the exalting effect that telling stories can have.

Telling our stories gives us a new level of ownership over our own experience.

And that command, combined with the emerging new meaning and substance, indicates one thing: Integration.

That’s probably the key to the transformation. Integration.

Everything finds its place… and we get bigger.

It is thrilling to watch.

And it happens EVERY SINGLE TIME.

We don’t have to try. We don’t have to intend. We don’t even have to know what we’re doing (though a little bit of guidance helps).

It’s just the nature of the beast.

I want to create more opportunities for us to have that. All of us, not just those of you in business.

I want to make space — offer a pot, so to speak – for the alchemy.

And I want to do it for FREE.

So that’s what I’m gonna do.

Watch your Inbox next week. I’ll have more details on how you can spend some quality time with your stories, me, and other Sheroes on the journey.

Your power is calling. Let’s make some magic!

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The oatmeal is always greener

I’m serving clients this week, receiving and crafting their stories, so my mind is a little preoccupied when it comes to writing my own. So…

I pulled this one from the archive of my first blog… The one I shared with only six people.

You might think I’m exaggerating but I’m not. For three years I blogged for the benefit of six people. I guess you could say, I’ve come a long way. 😉

Anyway, I wrote this when Aidan was only a few months old. Still feels poignant.

I hope you enjoy…


It’s amazing how early it starts.

The other day, Aidan was sitting with me on the couch. He had access to three of his favorite toys; a clear, plastic cup; all the other toys inside his toy bag; the toy bag itself; two favorite books; a frozen teether; and a dish towel… All treasured play objects.

So what did he do?

Over and over and over, he tried to clamber past me to get to a bowl of oatmeal on the table next to me. A bowl of oatmeal I wouldn’t let him have.

Isn’t that just so typical?

I don’t mean of babies. I mean of humans! With a couch full of wonderful things we love, and can have, we choose instead to clamber for the thing we can’t.

What is that about?

You know what I’m talking about…

The really great guy/girl we’re ignoring because we want the one who doesn’t know we’re alive. The good job that barely registers because it isn’t what we thought we’d be doing. The satisfying life that goes unappreciated because so-and-so has such-and-such and we don’t, or because something isn’t what or how we imagine it should be.

The grass is always greener, right?

I remember being up in the tree in Charmlee Park, minutes before I fell, having climbed to a spot that looked really appealing, only to spy another spot, a bit below me that looked even better somehow. I clambered down (must have that spot), got myself situated, discovered that I felt no different than I had in the previous spot, and then the branch broke.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to better ourselves and our lives. I’m all for self-improvement and conscious evolution. It just seems like, sometimes, we waste a lot of good chasing what might be better.

It reminds me a little of the first years I was injured.

I was pretty focused on recovery, trying all different kinds of therapies, trying to get my head in the right place. And it wasn’t a useless effort, even if it didn’t lead to walking. But if I had kept it up, I might have missed out on a really wonderful life, the one that was readily available just waiting for me to live it.

Now, that might have been a different story if I LOVED the recovery effort, if that was the path of my joy. But it wasn’t. I was chasing what I used to have, how I thought it should be.

I don’t fault myself for doing that, of course. And I’ll be mighty happy if what I’ve lost ever comes back. But there was SO MUCH goodness right where I was, right where I am. And once I stopped chasing, I was able not only to appreciate what I already had, but to dive in and relish it, to feed it and make the most of it.

One of the smartest things I’ve ever done.

I tried to tell Aidan, every time I scooped him up mid-clamber and re-deposited him on the other side of the couch, that he’d be a lot happier if he learned to enjoy the things around him instead of coveting what he can’t have. Didn’t work. And I don’t expect it will for awhile. What’s the toddlers’ motto? MINE!

But someday, I hope he’ll get it. I hope he’ll learn to take a look around and see what’s already there for what it’s really worth… and treasure it.

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I’m doing what scares me most… For Prince

Yesterday, like about a million other people, I was stunned to hear that Prince had died, and it’s hitting me pretty powerfully.

It’s not really about fandom. I do love a great deal of his music, but I never went to a Prince concert. I don’t own every album.

No, the loss I feel is bigger than that.

I don’t necessarily mean deeper, and certainly not “more” in the generic sense… Just wider.

In fact, it’s almost unnameable. I don’t have a word that can get around what feels lost, no container that alone can fit it all in… Like Prince, himself, it cannot be contained.

As best as I can sum it up, it’s the gargantuan talent + the equally large personality + the ferocious commitment to living his own life, by his own rules, to hell with what others will say (and do say, very loudly)… It’s the willingness to put it all out there, fail occasionally, sometimes in grand fashion, and get… backup. To put it out there yet again, believe again, risk again, commit again… And in so doing, become an ever expanding, ever brightening talent/star/beacon/light/human/soul/gift.

That’s what feels lost. This particular, uniquely beautiful, and shining example of all that.

And that’s what I aspire to be.

Not Prince, the music, the ruffles, the purple, the controversy… Not Prince as he expressed it. But Prince as I would.

The Shero’s Way says every loss or challenge is an opportunity to become more of who we are. And it always comes down to the same question. So, I have to ask…

Who am I willing to become?

Prince wasn’t my friend; he wasn’t my loved one. He wasn’t even the center of my musical spectrum. But he doesn’t have to be any of that. He only has to be who he is. And all I have to do to activate this opportunity is let him be that. All that. Open myself to the wave I feel moving through me, the vibratory shock that has no name and let it shake me up. Not turn away or dismiss or deny or find a way to dial it down…

Who am I willing to become?

I know the question has hit home because my stomach is turning and I want to slam my computer closed. Not in grief or despair – which wouldn’t be true to who Prince is for me. But in fear. In resistance.

The truth is, I know exactly who I aspire to be, what “ever expanding, ever brightening” looks like for me. And sitting here, I know that taking the sheroic opportunity presented by Prince’s death means embracing who I aspire to be.

That’s the answer to the question. I am willing to become who I aspire to be.

The problem is, in order to do that, I have to do what absolutely scares me the most… I have to tell you about it.

“What are you thinking???” squeals the protective part of me. “Run! Hide!! For God’s sake, shut up!!!!”

But you see, that’s where that part of me has it wrong. It’s for God’s sake I’m about to open my mouth.

I didn’t ask to have certain abilities. I didn’t ask to desire certain things. I came into this life, my soul’s intentions unknown to me, and things unfolded and innate skills got honed and desire arose… And it was all a messy, largely unconscious, but maybe, ultimately, elegant process.

Where do you think that came from? Some clever ego? Believe me, I’m not that clever. And for the record, I’m asking myself far more than I am asking you:

Where do you think that came from?

From God, you silly. The place inside that is God in you. The place that speaks from your soul’s desire, your soul’s purpose.

And now this ___________ has died (still don’t have a word), and the Shero’s Way is my tao, and I can’t in good faith – in fact, I don’t want to – reject this opportunity.

So I will tell you…

I aspire to stand in front of huge audiences and reflect this gorgeous, heartbreaking world that I see, to celebrate the complicated truth of us and champion our exquisitely imperfect beauty. I aspire to stand in the Shero’s Way as it’s revealed to me, as it unfolds in me, and offer its gifts of empowerment. I aspire to lift us up. All of us. Not on my little blog, or to a couple thousand people on Facebook. I mean to everyone, the whole, wide world, to anyone who cares to hear. I mean — and this is the part that’s really, really hard to say — to millions.

I don’t think it’s pride or ego, believe me or not. I think it’s because, it’s what I’ve been given. And all I’ve ever wanted – I remember distinctly writing this in my hospital journal, newly paralyzed – is to give the gifts I was given.

So there it is. No longer tucked away in the safe quiet of my heart. Available now for stomping. 😉

And honestly, if you must, you must. It’s actually really ok.

Big names, big companies, and lots of average Joes stomped all over Prince… And look what he made. Look what he gave.

Any stomping, in the end, is just another catalyst. Another opportunity.

So, my secret is out. I want to be Prince, if he was female, paralyzed, a writer and speaker, on a mission to heal the world.

And I’m so grateful for his example.

Prince’s death is really sad to me, and the loss still feels unnameable. But now, it also feels worth something… Something really important.

That is how it should be. No loss should ever be in vain.

So whether it’s Prince or some other loss for you, recent or long ago…

Who do you aspire to be?

Who are you willing to become?


Today is the last day to say YES to Your Shining Signature Story. I’ll ask again: Who do you aspire to be? And who are you willing to become?