Shields Down!

Welcome to #ShieldsDown!

#ShieldsDown began in January as a movement within the movement of Forever Fierce.  It is being courageous, vulnerable, and brave enough to take off your armor, let your shield down, allow yourself to be seen, to be understood, and to know you have something that someone needs to hear.  It's okay to be who you are, the one with the battle scars, and to know you are not alone.

This week we're pleased to feature Forever Fierce Community member Maria Olsen.  Maria leads writing/empowerment retreats for women, is a speaker who talks about overcoming common battles, including divorce, empty nest syndrome, work/life balance, sexual assault, feeling less than, addictions, anxiety and depression, to become our best selves.  She is the mother of two children, a lawyer, journalist and author of two adult nonfiction books (including 50 After 50--Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life) and two children's books.

You can find Maria at her websiteIGFacebook, and Twitter.

--Deb Gutierrez, Associate Editor 

Maria Olsen

If you were to give a name to your shield, what would it be?  Is there an experience in your life or moment when you decided it was time to let your shield down?  If so, what experiences unfolded for you?  

"The Malleable Mask" is what I would call my shield.  I am bi-racial and never felt Caucasian or Filipina.  I just felt other.  So, I became a chameleon, attempting to be whatever I believed the audience then required.  I did not allow myself to discover my authenticity until I turned 50.  In my 50th year, I got divorced and sober, and became an empty-nester, living alone for the first time in my life.  My 50th birthday gift to myself was to try 50 new things in my 50th year, to explore the contours of how I wanted this chapter in my life to unfold.  I became my best version, because I dropped the masks and the rock of self-judgment.  I am continuing to evolve, as we all are, and now am working on 60 new things by the end of my 60th year!

One of those 60 things is that I had a marriage ceremony to myself on the weekend my ex-husband got re-married (to a fitness instructor).  I invited my three best girlfriends to meet me at a Colorado mountain for my wedding.  Below a moonlit sky in a small stone pavilion, I told my friends how much each one of them meant to me and why, and I said my myself!  I am responsible for my own happiness and now know the difference between being alone and being lonely.

Is there something you believe will manifest this year by being more open to living with your shield down?

I believe that the universe and my HIgher Power have allowed me to learn how to use my past trauma as a force for good in the world.  By being public about my sexual abuse, rape, sobriety, divorce and experiences with racism.  I have been able to help others not feel so alone and to heal.  It is my passion to continue to do so and to make this world a better place each day because I was here.

Is there something you want to inspire or encourage others to do, see, feel, or be, to be brave enough to let their #shieldsdown?

About one in four women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.  Until I was able to allow other trusted women to bear witness to my pain from being raped and abused, I was not able to heal.  Keeping trauma secret is like holding a beach ball under water.  It takes a tremendous amount of mental energy to hold it down and, when you are depleted or not vigilant, it pops up in unexpected ways.  I have lashed out before at someone, not for something they did, but because something triggered my old, unresolved trauma.  So, fierce sisters, come forward and share your painful stories.  You may help heal another person.  And yourself.

One of my favorite quotes, by Paulo Coelho, in his book, The Alchemist

"Before a dream is realized, you have to master the lessons the world sent you... We all have a role in the heart of the world..."


Maria Olsen