In this episode, Clare gets to be the superhero as Rachel interviews her about her origin story. We discover that from a young age, she got the message that she should be more like her older sisters. Clare had to go through a few repeating life lessons before earning her superhero cape. Luckily, she survived her eight car accidents intact and has been accident-free for 14 years. Learning about inherited family trauma has been an evolving process towards wholeness. Be sure not to miss this discussion full of heartfelt experiences, realizations, and wisdom.
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Getting Over Accidents And Trauma With Clare’s Origin Story – Part 1
We are on Season 3, Episode 2. If you’ve come back or if you’ve been reading along for these three seasons, thank you. We love that you read and that you’re still here. If this is your first time, thank you. Come on in. Let’s pop your cherry and see what it’s all about. I am Rachel. Clare, my beautiful co-host, interviewed me and got my origin story, which makes me a superhero. We’re revealing what a superhero Clare is, and I am going to interview her. Do you have your tissues ready, Clare?
She does have our tissues ready. If you’re a newbie here, Clare is a crier. We shared some notes back and forward. Clare loves a Google Doc, and I went through it. I was like, “Those were in my notes.” You were thrilled. You were like, “You get me.”
I love a friend that gets me.
I am so excited about this. You are amazing. You’re fascinating. The life that you have led so far because I know there’s a lot more to lead is awesome. You have so many stories. That’s my favorite thing about this show and about us being together. We’re at those different places in life, and you have this wisdom. I want to gobble all of your experiences. Let’s gobble up Clare’s experiences. Let’s go right back as any good therapist would do. Tell me about your childhood, Clare. Birth order is super key. You have two sisters. Tell me about where you come in.
Rachel, we’re in agreement. I believe that your birth order and what your parents bring to the table when they conceive you or when they have you and what happened before they had you impacts you. That’s nothing that you can change, but it’s part of the fabric of who you are. I will cry. I’m sorry. I freaking love my parents and everything that I was given. There were a lot of hardships, but it was pretty amazing. I’ll start with that. I am the youngest of three daughters. My mom had us one year apart. She named us with the letter C for Christine, Carol, and Clare. Clare is the youngest, but there are only two years difference between me and my oldest sister.
That is super close in age and birth order. That gap has got to be significant. You were forming yourselves as humans with each other. One didn’t grow and develop themselves, and then another baby came along. There was a disruption. You were all forming together as individuals.
My mom told us that they got married in ’57, and my sister came in ’60. My mom was ready to have babies right away. She was born a mom. She was the second oldest of ten children. Her mom was always sick. Her mom died when she was twenty years old. She was the caregiver to many of her younger siblings. She wanted to be a mom. That was a blessing for me. She wanted to be a mom. She was a great mom. She wanted to be a mom, but I also think she got a little freaked out when Christine came, Carol came, and then I came. She was like, “I could be on the path of what happened with my mom.” Her mom died at 42. She had ten kids and died.
My mom was ready. She told the doctor after me, “We’re done.” We had the three little ones. If I look at the videos, she loved being a mom. The part that also affects that one is we were raised because my parents were immigrants. They passed. They truly started and became that American Dream. This is where I’m going to cry. They started with nothing. When my parents came over, they had nothing.
I’ll go back a little bit to tell you something about that. There was trauma, and they trauma-bonded together. There was a lot of pressure on us three kids that we were going to have a good life. They both lost their parents. They both had trauma. They wanted to create this wonderful life here in Chicago, Illinois. They came here because they were in New York or New Jersey waiting in one of those camps where you wait for someone to sponsor you who was a family from Chicago that sponsored them.
That’s how we ended up in Chicago and not Detroit or California. We lived. We survived. Other family members didn’t. We are going to have a good life, and because of that, we did have a good life. There was trauma and an immense drive to make the life that they both could have not lived. They wanted to make sure we had a good life. That part was great. We went on two vacations a year.
My dad worked 80 hours a week. We barely saw him, but my mom was always there to be around us. The but is Christine internalized being the oldest and being the perfect daughter. She was that perfect daughter. What I had growing up in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade because I distinctly remember those is we would have the same teachers, and they would always tell me over and over again, “Why can’t you be more like your sisters?”
That internalized, “What’s wrong with me?” I distinctly remember as a child thinking, “I don’t think we are all supposed to be the same. Why can’t I be who I’m supposed to be?” You want to fit in. You want to be pleasing to your parents. That’s step one of losing your authenticity because you want to belong, “I’m going to be more like Christine who was in our book pretty perfect.”
The ironic thing about that is your teachers, parents, and whoever else is saying, “Why can’t you be more like Christine?” She’s probably not happy being Christine, the perfect one who had to be perfect.
There’s so much pressure.
That’s hard. That’s so tough to feel like you have to be perfect for everybody all the time. It’s so wonderful you had those holidays, and your dad worked so hard, but the trauma formed a drive, “Everything must be amazing.” That’s huge.
It’s a lot of pressure.
Have you shaken yet that pressure?
More from the last few years, Rachel, since you’ve known me in 2020. It’s crazy. It’s in my late 50s that I have to get to the point where I think, “This is crazy.” It’s resulting in too much pressure. It could be that you have a physical illness or an emotional breakdown because you can’t live that life. I love that you’re interviewing me, and it makes me think of things. I wish I could say that I could talk to Christine and say, “What was it like back then?” The tragedy is that we lost her. She was 23, I was 21, and Carol was 22. We lost her in a car accident going skiing with my dad. She fell asleep at the wheel. A lot of things fell apart at that point. I can’t ask her and say, “What was it like?”
The good news, because I’m going to jump from happy to sad, is that when I finally discovered a brief period of counseling before I started doing more coaching and then counseling, Carol and I did some counseling in 1999 when I was getting out of my marriage. It was a great suggestion by my ex-husband for us to do. I’m forever grateful to him that we did it because it made us much better parents as a divorced couple. After I had that stint of having some cool awakenings with a counselor who was amazing and noticed little facial changes, she would say, “I saw sadness there. What are you going to say?” All of a sudden, I would start crying and going, “How do you know?”
She was very observant. It was wonderful. I learned so many things. I asked my sister Carol because we had a broken relationship at that time. It’s not broken, but we weren’t close because growing up, it was Christine and Carol, and then there was Clare. The story I was saying is, “You never let me play with you.” In counseling, she said, “Christine didn’t want me to play with her either, but I wouldn’t give up. I kept going and hanging out with her. Finally, her friends were like, ‘We will let Carol come too.'” You have these stories you have for 20 to 30 years, and then you have a conversation with the person and you find out it isn’t even what you thought it was.
That’s a blessing that came out of all of this. We got close, not after Christine died because we all fell apart as a family after Christine died, but we got so much closer from the year 2000, and now we have had 23 years of being best friends. She is my teacher, and I am hers. It’s so great to compare childhood notes because we always say, “That’s not what I remember.” This is my story. I’m not going to say nonfactual things, but who knows? It’s my story. It’s how I remember things. Something feels the truth because you feel it in your body when something hits you in the right way.
Christine had a lot of pressure. I was always compared to her. I can’t compare notes now with her, but that’s another part of my drive. Not only did I learn from my parents to be that person. We are going to make the most of this life because we survived a tragedy. All of a sudden, we all in this Sente family in 1984 had lost my sister and had the tragedy. They lost their daughter. It kicked in because then, I’m living for my sister too because she didn’t get to do the rest of her life. I’m not squandering this life. You’re meeting me trying to live two lives, which is probably why it seems like a lot of frenetic energy.
Thank you for sharing that. I can’t comprehend the thought of losing either one of my sisters. It’s one of the worst things. I know that audiences will have been touched by grief of all sorts in their lives. We don’t do toxic positivity here. Quite often, we say, “It reminds you to live a better life for them and to live the fullest.” That’s more pressure. It’s more insanity. Sometimes you can just be grieving and feel a bit crap.
It’s a trauma response, “I’ll work harder. There’s another spill over here.”
“I’ll do more.”
There’s the madness there that has been part of my life to drive it. It’s so amazing to start looking back and seeing it didn’t start with me. It didn’t start with you. It didn’t start with Rachel. These are our origin stories, but we have tens of thousands of generations that came before us and there are a lot of moms who were worried about their children or their daughters in particular, teaching them to be good, to listen, and to not stand out because all of that was trauma responses to keep us safe.
At some point, you have an awakening. You decide, “I didn’t even know I had a script. I didn’t know I was conditioned.” You have an epiphany. You have something that tells you that there’s something different. It’s nice to find other women and other men that are realizing that when you’re a child, and you’re conditioned to be a certain way, it takes you until you’re an adult to find out that you can have more empowered choices that feel more like who you are and not try to live out like the child that becomes a lawyer because their family is a family of lawyers. They realize, “I don’t want to be a lawyer. I want to do this.” We all have some awakenings.When you’re a child and conditioned to be a certain way, it takes until adulthood to find out that you have more empowered choices to feel like who you really are. Click To Tweet
You’re leading me so well to ask you about your career and being the high achiever that I know you are, but I want to be a little bit disruptive and circle back because you mentioned the car wreck. I only just discovered that. I knew that Clare had been in a car wreck. Maybe I knew that there had been two. How many times have you been in car accidents?
My brain has been a little bit discombobulated from some car accidents. Sometimes I don’t even want to look at that, but for sure between 8 and 12, somewhere in there.
That is crazy. There was a whole string of them through your formative teenage years, one after the other. What was that about?
My poor dad and mom. Carol and I got to be the Whiplash Sisters. She was driving me to school to register for school in the summer. I was fifteen, and I wasn’t driving yet. She did. We were at an intersection waiting to turn left, and a car hit us at 45 miles an hour. It didn’t see us at all. That was the first. We both have neck stuff from that at age fifteen. I did lots of damage all on my own. At sixteen, I did a left-hand turn. I didn’t see the car coming at all. The poor guy was a classmate. He was driving his dad’s cool little sports car. I totaled his car. I was driving my dad’s business associate’s car.
I remember him telling me that day, “You’re not going to college because this is probably not covered under insurance.” I have read it in Peter Levine’s book about trauma. He says, “There are some crazy synchronicities. People who have had trauma will repeat their trauma.” I had an accident at fifteen. I had an accident at sixteen. I had my big accident at seventeen when I flipped a car over on its top. I could have killed the four passengers in the car easily with what we were doing. It was stupid and reckless. I’m ashamed of it. Thank goodness none of them died, and they have all forgiven me.
I was so high on life at age seventeen. I was a young senior. I graduated from high school at 17 and went to college and turned 18 there. I was very immature in that sense. It was a variety show. I was dancing. I thought I was hot shit. I drank afterward and took a bunch of kids. I was driving too fast around a curve in a residential area. My car hit an ice patch. The car was going right toward this big boulder at the end of a driveway in the subdivision.
A second or two seconds before it was going to hit was when the tires must have hit off the ice. It jerked to the right. I was trying to make a turn to the right, but it was sliding to the left toward the big boulder. It jerked to the right. This is for Americans. There’s a thing called Dukes of Hazzard where they’re going on two wheels. We were on two wheels going across the street. I don’t know at what point because I have no memory of this. It has been blacked out. We would have gone into someone’s house if there wasn’t a tree that stopped us. I could have done so much damage.
You were on top of the world. You were immortal.
I was a seventeen-year-old. There were so many roses in our car because you get flowers after you did the variety show. They were scattered all over this white snow. It was February. It was my dad’s birthday in 1980. The police didn’t give me a ticket because they thought I was going to die. I had a huge head injury, and I was bleeding buckets of blood. I’m not making this shit up. It was a bad one. My parents had to be woken up in the middle of the night, “Your daughter is in the hospital. We’re not sure she’s going to make it.” It was bad.
What did you do in the variety show?
I realized I loved to dance when I was a teenager. I took dance classes with my girlfriend. I was so happy in senior year to have the guts to try out for the variety show. The director liked my long legs. He did this femme fatale dance. I got to wear a cool and sexy outfit and dance with this one guy who was a great dancer. That was part of it. I thought I was the shit. That was my big wake-up call. I made a deal with God, “I will clean up my act here. I will start acting and being different.”
This is a funny part of it. My head is wrapped up. I have to sit upright to drain a lot of stuff. I had this big white bandage. I was in the hospital for at least a week. I can’t remember this stuff because I have blanked out on a lot of months that came after that car accident with the head injury, but when I did go back to school, which I believe was a few weeks later, this plastic surgeon that was called in was on-call that night because I scalped myself. He came in, and he did not shave my whole head.
He was a plastic surgeon. He said, “Your scar resembles a baseball.” If you ever look at a baseball, it’s got a not-a-straight thing. He goes, “That’s how your scar goes around your head.” There was hair in the front. I had no hair in the middle, and then I had hair in the back. If I put on a headband, I didn’t look like anything happened to me. I went back to school, and kids were like, “She’s lying. She didn’t have a car accident. She had a boob job.” I’m thinking, “What is that even?” We didn’t have that back in 1980. No one had boob jobs.
That’s where I also learned that rumors spread like wildfire. They are nothing compared to the truth. What I heard is, “She flipped a car five times.” It was wild. The sad part is I lost some scholarships at that point because I was drinking and driving. It could have ended so poorly for everyone involved. I cleaned up my act after that and was grateful for it, but it followed me. I lost some financial scholarships because no one wanted to give $3,000 to someone smart and clever in school, “She had a big car accident. She was drinking.”
You did clean up your act. I’ve hinted at it before, the overachieving Clare cleaned up her act not like a normal human cleans up her act but like somebody who is escaping trauma cleans up their act.
“Clorox Bleach. Let’s get rid of any evidence.”
I love hearing about this because you flew you. You’re seventeen. You’re immortal. You’re wearing a sexy outfit. You’re in the variety show. You’ve been given roses, but you had that feeling again a couple of decades later. You were flying high. You were immortal. You had everything that you wanted. Tell me about that point in your life.
I repeated that one. We’re skipping through a lot. I was divorced. I had landed a great job. I don’t even know how I landed it. I was like, “I’m a dietician. Who’s finding me as a headhunter in London? Someone wants me to work for them. They want to double my current $75,000 salary and give me $150,000.” It was like someone gave me a lottery ticket. As a single mom, I was so excited about that. I had this period of time from 2005 to 2006. Life was great before that too. I bought my house. I had a new car.
I wish someone would have told me the market was crashing in a couple of years and to save my money, but no one told me that. I was living high on the hog and thinking life was good. I wrote a book about it because I was like, “I finally figured this shit out. I got divorced in 2000, but I spent a lot of time figuring myself out and trying to clean up even more of my act.” It’s a trauma response. I wrote it in 2007 with a friend. I asked him to write this book with me.
I wanted to take the steps that I learned. I was working with women also at that time through nutrition, but then I started doing more coaching and female empowerment. It was called Finding My Marbles. Here, I was like, “I wrote a book. I own my house. I’ve got a six-figure salary.” We called it the housing market bubble. The house that I owned that I had sunk a bunch of money in, $100,000, was now worth less than what I paid for it. I ended up walking away from it.
My daughter repeated my trauma. She was sixteen. We were driving on the highway. She was practicing cruise control. She said I yelled at her. I believe her. I probably said, “Don’t turn now. Turn left here.” She quickly jerked the wheel. At 70 miles an hour, we spun off the highway and did similar things to what I did when I was seventeen. We ended up not upside down but in similar circumstances. The head injury for me was not as bad. It was more trauma that was repeating itself. That it repeats itself until you’re ready to look at it.
Remind me not to get in the car with you again.
It’s true. I had a long stretch after that where it was good. It was Natalie. I was the passenger. Knock on wood. I shouldn’t even say I haven’t had a car accident in twenty-something years or a ticket in that long too. The driving has been cleaned up. It was bad because I lost my house. Wellness was my field when the market was bad. People didn’t want to do wellness programs. I did corporate wellness programs because they couldn’t even stay afloat or pay their employees. I had to switch careers.
The nice thing that came out of that is that in 2009 when she did that car accident, I had some therapy on my neck because that head injury came back. I found out how wonderful the physical therapist was to take away so much pain because I had never experienced that much pain before. I had a pretty healthy pain-free life in terms of physical pain. That’s what made me switch when I felt better from 2009 to 2010 with this physical therapist.
I said, “I don’t want to be a dietician anymore. People don’t want to come to me and learn how to eat differently because then they’re sad that they have to come to me. They’re sad that they have to tell me they broke their diet. I don’t like working with sad people or mad people.” I switched to being a Thai massage therapist. That was the bomb because people love coming to see me. People love me when they leave. It fits my personality so much better.
You heal people with your hands.
In 2011, when my father died, one thing that I wanted to tie back to is when I left to go to Indiana, all three of us went to Indiana University because we were one year apart, and I didn’t have a choice being the last one. I wanted to go to Colorado. He’s like, “We’re all going to Indiana. You’re on the family plan.” There was no family plan, “In one car, you’re all going to Indiana.” I remember saying, “Could I be a dancer?” I loved dancing when I was younger. He said, “Clare, you’re a smart girl. You can’t use your body to earn a living. Your body will give out on you eventually. You have to use your smart brain.” I said, “Can I make dance a minor?” He let me do that.
The irony is in 2011 when we were talking, I laughed with him and said, “Dad, I did what you said. I circled back around to what I wanted to do because I’m earning a living using my body again. I’m being a Thai massage therapist.” I haven’t been happier since because I like connecting with my hands and my feet to people and helping them to feel healthier and better. It’s fun. It’s fun to look back sometimes and see how your life trajectory worked.
There are those ebbs and flows that happen. You’re feeling like you’ve got it and then thinking, “I do not have this.” What does that do going forward? Both of us share a lot of personality traits.
You’re my soul sister, Rachel.
I love that stupid and goofy voice you do. It’s my favorite. What does that do for the next time you’re on top of the world? How do you feel about that?
Thank you for segueing to that because I am working through that shit now. Life is so damn good now. My business is great for me. I get to take my vacations. I have attracted the best clients. I don’t have 1,000 clients. I maybe have 25, but they’re my supporters every month. I love them and everything about what I do. Things keep getting better. Granted, I am someone who always looks at the glass half-full. We will talk about that. It’s a whole other episode.
What Clare has to work out in this lifetime is her attachment style to who she attracts as her life partner. That has to get worked out, but if we take out of the equation what Clare has worked on, I have worked on liking myself, liking spending time with myself, and not feeling lonely if I’m alone. I love having alone time. I am not lonely one bit. I have a great set of friends. When I do have a love life, it’s fantastic.
I have lots of things that I know other people would like, but I reach my glass ceiling. I have to get some help with it. There’s something in my nervous system that says, “Do you remember in 1980? Do you remember 2005, 2006, and 2007? You thought you were on top of the world. You thought you were hot shit. Look at what happened.” My heart constricts from talking about it. There’s a lot of fear that I’m going to fuck it up again.When you think you are on the top of the world, you will always get the fear of messing everything all over again. Click To Tweet
I’m prying now because it resonates with me. It’s so glibly said, “I’m going to fuck it up again,” but the voice that says, “You don’t get to have this. You are a fuck up. You will fuck this up,” is there, “This will get taken away from you.”
It will get taken away. Everything you love will be stripped away from you. You bet. There was a dark night of the soul in 2017. I distinctly remember it. I didn’t have a credit score yet because I walked away from a house. My realtor was like, “What?” I wish someone would have told me, “You don’t have to walk away from your house. The bank isn’t going to kick you out. You could live in your house for a year, and the bank wouldn’t kick you out. You will not pay your mortgage. You will redo it and add that money at the end of the twenty-year mortgage.”
I didn’t know that. I had never not paid a bill in my life. I said, “If I can’t pay these bills, then I can’t live in this house,” which is a ridiculous way of thinking because I still had to pay rent in a house I rented when I moved. I don’t know what I was thinking, but regardless, I walked away from my beautiful house in Elmhurst, and because I walked away from it, I had no credit rating.
It takes you seven years if you short-sale a house to get your credit rating back. If you declared bankruptcy, you could buy a house in another three years because they know you can’t ever bankrupt again. I didn’t know that either. I was like, “I’ll fight tooth and nail not to do bankruptcy.” Instead, in seven years, you’re almost like a leper of society because you can’t get a good interest rate. You can’t get a credit card.
I’m like, “How did I go from the best credit rating in the world truly?” My one closing lawyer said it was for a house when I bought it. He goes, “I’ve never seen a credit rating this high.” Clare got on her high horse, “I do have the highest credit rating because that’s who I am.” I went from that to no credit rating. In 2017, that whole summer, I had a best friend. She had a cancer diagnosis. My mom had passed. My dad had passed. I got scared that something was going to happen to me.
I couldn’t pay my bills. I started to go down the path of, “I’m going to buy an RV. I’m going to live in this RV because if the shit hits the fan, at least I’ll have someplace to live.” I started studying all these people who lived in vans or RVs. The sad part was a lot of women who do live in their cars or vans are women who have been marginalized or are divorced in bad situations and would rather live in their car than live with someone who treated them poorly.
I remember in 2017, at one of my lowest points, I felt like I didn’t deserve any help. I didn’t deserve people to be kind to me. This is where I’m going to cry. How do we get to that feeling of being so low and feeling like we don’t deserve anything? That’s what drives me. I don’t want any woman or man to feel that way. That was the worst. No one deserves to feel that way. Why is it that it’s all about money and what you achieve?
I remember some of my best healing came from my wealthiest client. He’s this very wealthy man saying, “I wish people didn’t consider how successful they are based on their wealth.” I’m like, “This is coming from the guy that everyone wants to be like.” He’s so wise. He’s like, “Your value is here, Clare. It’s already been here. It has been proven, and just because you have this or you lost your house doesn’t mean you’re not worthwhile. You deserve happiness.” It has been very healing to be reminded of that.
Years ago, the community we started with Morgana where I got to meet you is the other thing that’s part of my healing. I want to pay it forward. We don’t evolve and grow unless we have the support of some other people on this path with us. That’s why I’m so happy that we have each other, Rachel. I want to create more of a community that gives women that so that nobody has to feel like they don’t deserve to be happy, to be loved, and to have pleasure in their life and all of these things.
That is beautiful, but there is a huge problem with this origin story, Clare. It’s not a real problem. Don’t do your worried face. The huge problem with this origin story is we have not talked about sex or relationships. Clare said this origin story. We got all the mushy and feely stuff.
I love that you’ve switched that. Maybe that’s part two. That sounds good. That’s great.
I was so ready to start asking you questions about your relationships, attachment style, and sexual awakening, but it’s a whole other episode all in its own. You’re going to have to stay tuned, audiences, if you still want to come back.
I didn’t plan that, but I do like that. I was thinking, “Isn’t someone going to get tired of hearing about me after all of this?” We will leave the little dangling carrot here of, “Let’s talk about how Clare discovered all sorts of orgasms from A to G when she grew up thinking she was going to be a virgin until she got married.” How far have I come from there?
That is a whole other origin story. I’ll be here to listen to part two for sure. We didn’t plan that, but that was pretty, to an effect. Clare, thank you so much for sharing so much of that. I hate the word authentic, but you are so authentic. You are always so genuine. It’s your heart that you share with everybody. When you speak, I know that you mean what you say and that you’re healing not just yourself but everybody. The girls at Miss America want world peace. Clare wants world peace. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Thank you so much, audiences. We love talking about our journey and what we see other women doing to be empowered and to be seen because the world won’t change unless we’re ready to not accept what we got handed at birth by most of us, “Follow the script, and everything will be fine.” That didn’t work out for us. It’s time to talk about some of the things that we want to change for our daughters, our sons, and future generations. We’re now superheroes. We both have our origin stories out in public.
Thank you so much for joining in. Please do come back next time. If you enjoyed this, we would be thrilled if you would leave us a little review. If you leave us a little review or a little comment, then that would be so much fun. It helps us to reach more people, so we can have world peace. You can email us if you have ideas. We have so many ideas, but we love hearing yours. You could email us at EnchantingPodcast@Gmail.com, and we will read your emails. You can find us on Instagram. We are @Permission_Podcast. That’s where you will find us there. Thank you for tuning in again. Thank you for sharing with us, Clare. I love you.
I love you, Rachel.