Her Evolution: Marissa's Liberation

Marissa, 57, Ship Bottom, NJ - How setting boundaries for herself led to more love in her life


Walking through this world as a woman can be exhausting. In western society, women are criticized for the way they age, the way their bodies change, the priorities they choose, the way they parent, and the boundaries they set for themselves. Fortunately, connection with other women can be an antidote to these pressures; community can  fuel new perspectives and provide the energy to embrace all stages of womanhood.  Marissa found this energy through Rise Gatherings.

Marissa, 57, has worked in the insurance industry since 1987.  Her drive to work in the corporate world stems from her high school goals to be in a position to financially support herself.

“I didn't want anyone to ever tell me what I could and couldn't do, or that I would have to stay in a situation I didn't want to be in, because I didn't have financial resources,” Marissa said.

Marissa started young to achieve success in order to prove herself, and she felt the pressure to be relentlessly practical throughout adolescence.  She got her first paying job babysitting at 16 and knew that making her own money meant determining her own future.  She chose to go to college where the goal of financial independence shaped her passion for management and leadership

Out in the professional world, Marissa found herself uncomfortable with office discord.  Without considering her own needs, she devoted so much of herself to keeping her coworkers happy.  Marissa established a pattern for herself where she lacked boundaries; giving away parts of herself in order to keep everyone else satisfied and at peace.

She applied this same approach to her home life as well, where she constantly sacrificed her own needs in order to be the most loving wife and mother possible for her husband and daughter.  Before the pandemic, Marissa owned a bed and breakfast with her husband in addition to  her other job in insurance.  The B&B business closed after lock-down, and Marissa and her family moved into a much smaller house where she spent much of her time working for the benefit of her family. Marissa’s life indeed has been defined by wanting more for herself and fighting to reach her goals, yet this ideal was compromised by by her need to simultaneously support others.

As she reflects now on 2021, she sees that she had a great career, a great husband, and a great family, but true satisfaction and fulfillment eluded her.  She knew she needed a change, yet these thoughts were often silenced by a nagging voice proclaiming that she was selfish to step back from her responsibilities.

“All these things around you as a woman tell you [that] all these things come before you do,” Marissa said.  “Your child comes before you do, your husband comes before you do, your family, your work.  It just felt like, if I'm taking care of myself, who am I not taking care of?”

As this questioning of her personal and professional identity persisted, Marissa experienced another curveball to manage: menopause.

“You almost don't even know yourself anymore,” Marissa said.  “Your body's different, your mind doesn't work the same way. You get some cloudiness.”

With the layers of her identity crumbling, Marissa felt lost, unable to take care of anyone else as long as she avoided taking care of herself.  Yet making an actual change felt daunting, like a violation of the rules Marissa had followed in her life for so long.

“If you don't take care of yourself, you're not able to take care of anyone else,” Marissa said.  “I could know that intellectually, but spiritually and, I should say, emotionally, it's really hard.”

Marissa knew she needed to find help through other women who had experienced this same swallowing of self.  She began looking for retreats, yet none seemed very appealing.  Marissa did not want a retreat where she would do a few activities and then return home.  She sought something deeper.

When she discovered Rise Gatherings, Marissa loved  the choices.  Women could choose their workshops, their activities, and their lodging!  Women could choose their own adventure, assert their needs and design a weekend that would meet them right where they were.

After spending the pandemic together in one house, Marissa’s husband and daughter saw that she needed something for herself, and they encouraged her to go on the 2021 Weekend Getaway.  So, Marissa went by herself and for herself, fueled by the idea of doing something solely for her own happiness.

“I wanted to go by myself, because I wanted to be able to do or say whatever I wanted,” Marissa said.

On night one of the Weekend Getaway, Marissa met women of all different ages and backgrounds, and she felt instantly connected to everyone.

“It's like an instant community and welcoming. It just felt like everyone goes there with an open heart,” Marissa said.

She immediately made friends, and even though some people already knew each other, she was constantly invited to sit with different groups, meet new people, and join conversations.  It was these conversations that moved Marissa the most, as the women engaged in deep, meaningful topics and stories, forming bonds and sharing their commonalities.  Rise allowed Marissa to engage with fellow women in a rare way, where they could be completely honest and forthcoming with one another.

“It filled this void of having meaningful conversation and meaningful connections on a broad range of topics,” Marissa said.

Outside of Rise, Marissa lacked true emotional connection – feeling that most conversations were surface-level.  Conversations at Rise could not be more different.

“I feel like Rise just fosters that kind of engagement, where even if it's short, it's meaningful,” Marissa said.  “Even if you only talk once for 15 minutes, you're making a real emotional connection with that person just through what you're sharing together.  I think that for me, that gives me a ton of energy.”

Marissa used this energy in order to engage in self-love and reconnect with her body.  Menopause had caused her to stop thinking about sex and led to a detachment from her body’s desires.  Through one of her Rise workshops, Marissa began reconnecting with that part of herself, working with women of all ages to check in with their bodies and embrace their sexuality and pleasure.

“It really helped me to see that I am not different than anyone else, that everybody goes through all different things, finding time to think about yourself in a sexual way to finding time to be beautiful,” Marissa said.

Women are often receiving the message that self-love and body acceptance aren’t attainable without external props. But at Rise, Marissa and her workshop group took the time to check in with themselves without feeling like this was a selfish act.  Marissa learned, not only that it was okay to make herself a priority, but that it was essential.

Rise totally altered Marissa’s attitude on re-establishing boundaries.  When she returned home, she started taking 30 minutes a day to herself, where her family could not interrupt.  

“It's healthy for me to want some of my own time to do whatever I need to do,” Marissa said.

Marissa began journaling as well as baking more, taking time out of her day to do a bit of what she loves.  These activities recharged her, filling her vitality for the rest of the day.  For Marissa, self-care can be even the smallest endeavors so long as the impact fuels her soul.

“Self care really isn't always about going and getting a massage,” Marissa said.  “Of course, it's wonderful to get a massage. It's not about going and getting your nails done. It's wonderful to get your nails done. But it's working on things you love to work on. Self care is baking. Self care is writing. Self care is fueling your own joy.”

After everything Rise has taught her, Marissa has found her tribe in Rise.  She knows she can reach out to anyone in the group and they will be open to hearing what she has to say.  The connections established at the Weekend Getaway create inextricable links between the women who attend.

“It's a group of like-hearted women,” Marissa said.

Marissa continues to feel the power in being with other women and in understanding their common paths.  She now values her worth in a new way, knowing that she can ask for help and still be successful, and she can focus on her own success and happiness before helping others.

Marissa is already signed up for the 2022 Weekend Getaway, ready to focus on her needs and her self once again.

“I'm very excited. I hope that I can go every year,” Marissa said.  “I think it's probably one of the best investments I've ever made in myself.”

“I'm thankful for Rise, because it came to me at a point in my life where I really needed that,” Marissa said.  “I needed to see things from a different lens in order to grow personally. Whether that be professionally or emotionally, I feel like I've actually grown a little bit of both through this experience of listening to other women and participating in that conversation.”