Charla Miller with Dr. Barb
Charla Miller is the creator of BeautyHealsYou.com. She has worked in the beauty industry in a number of capacities for over 20 years, starting in Hollywood as a makeup and hair artist. Her experience on film and television sets led her to understand that 20-hour work days were not a part of her vision for her life. She focused on what she truly loved—creating beauty—and became a licensed California esthetician. The first episode of our podcast with Charla focused on that vocational path and her resulting advice for women like us. At the same time, life offered challenges that Charla learned to navigate, launching a blog called NeverGiveUpMom.wordpress.com, and publishing a book about her experiences, her introduction to equine therapy, and what she learned along the way. At this point, Charla finds herself with balance, self care, nourishing practices, and hence, a beautiful life.
Barb: I hope you had the opportunity to hear the first half of our conversation with Charla Miller. In that segment, we talked about beauty and the role it can play in our emotional health in midlife. Charla has also published a book called Wonder and Beauty: My Journey from Heartbreak to Healing through the Wonder of Horses. We wanted to continue our conversation with a focus on that part of her life and learning. Welcome again, Charla.
Charla: Hi, Dr. Barb. How are you?
Barb: Good, thanks. Thanks for joining me. I know your career started with physical beauty, we’ll say, but life events required that you delve deeply into emotional healing and spiritual beauty as well. Can you describe the events that led to the launching of your Never Give Up, Mom blog?
Charla: Yes. I’d love to. I launched it in November of 2012. And the reason I did is because after years and hundreds of court cases for custody, my ex-husband abducted my son. I was at a point at that time in my life where the financial market had crashed. I was in real estate. I had spent every penny I had ever made on court cases, and I knew that my spirit was urging me to save myself and walk away from a joint legal custody situation with my son. He was 10 at that time.
Spirit’s voice became much louder than I could ignore. I left the court battles. I made a decision, much against everything in my being, to leave the fight and to save myself. That then led me going back to his birthplace of San Francisco, which then led me a couple of years later I started out – I’m just going to say this – with food stamps. I’ve never done that. I had been making six figures at some point in time just years before that, before the crash and all my own personal crash, and what led me to Never Give Up, Mom was for me to listen to my spiritual heart. Listen to the language of the heart. Which then, in turn, led me to reconnect with a really good friend of mine that, in fact, she created the blog. And one night in a dream I heard my son say to me – as he knew I was really, really so grief-shattered and stricken that I wanted to give up my life – and he said, “Never give up, Mom.” And I knew it was him. I knew it was his spirit speaking to me. I knew it.
So we started a blog on WordPress called Never Give Up, Mom, because that’s what he spoke to me one evening while I was sleeping. And that’s where Never Give Up, Mom started in 2012.
Barb: Wow. What a profound process and story you share. So, you found yourself at the bottom, it sounds like. How did you begin to rebuild your life, and what did that journey look like?
Charla: Well, I want to interject something that’s so profound – and I think a lot of times we think on this plane called the Earth[laughs]…. No, I believe in a lot of multi-verses; there’s a lot of different things I do believe in these days. I was at a group therapy session one night – and I believe these are all interchangeable for me: God, Spirit, Divine, Grace, Love – and I listened to a young man. This was the turning point for me to really, clearly, cement in my mind, that I had a life ahead of me. Now, did I believe that at the time? Absolutely not! But I also was told that I had a life worth living. I was in a meeting one evening, a lot of people in therapy, a lot of people came from a lot of different places, and I heard a young man who looked like my son – much like my son looks today – speak about the extreme grief that he was going through, and the trauma, because his mother committed suicide.
When I turned around and I saw this young guy, I was shocked. And I knew that I had been led there that night to that meeting, which I had never been to, for that reason. After I heard him speak, I gave a promise to myself, I promised myself that no matter what my life would look like, I would not give up in my life and in that way.
I wanted to honor her life by living mine. Because I know that when people do commit suicide, and there are those that are left in these shattered pieces, that we are here to make a decision to honor our life – honor their life – by living our life in the best way we can.
So that was really a turning point for me. I knew that God had placed me in the path of that meeting that night. I knew that I loved my son in a way that I think all mothers and fathers that do love their children can easily understand, and no matter what your life looks like right this second and right now, your spirit might be weary, but I really invite people to check in with their spirit to say, “Maybe you just need to take a break. You need to take some rest. But there is life ahead of you. There is life ahead of you worth living.”
Barb: So upon leaving that meeting, organizing what you needed to do, how did you pick up and move forward?
Charla: You know, I picked up and moved forward by the yearnings of my soul and my spirit. And the only thing that made sense at that time in my life was to leave that area. To get myself to a safe place. I moved 500 miles away with what I had in my car – my paid-for car. And I moved back to his birthplace, which is San Francisco. That was always happier grounds for me, a happier place for me. So I went back there, and in a matter of a couple of years I re-established myself in the job market. I was working at Neiman Marcus, downtown San Francisco. I became a line manager for a small cosmetic company, and I began to pay my bills again and feed myself. And I began to just walk and breathe. I put one foot in front of the other, just like any of us have to do in a situation like that. I just kept believing. I was hurting, and I was just weary, but it just kept getting better.
I finally understood the strength of what surrender takes, and the courage of what surrendering to each step of my journey took. And, like I said, it just kept unfolding. It just kept unfolding until one day I was at the library, and I rented some movies on horses. One horse movie was Dreamer, a Disney movie, which just captivated me. Another one was Secretariat, which I’ve probably watched a hundred times. And the third one was a documentary on a natural horseman named Buck Brannaman, who was the horse whisperer for Robert Redford’s movie, The Horse Whisperer.
As Spirit would have it, I was led to Google horses and therapy and compassionate healing, and I found two words called equine therapy. I didn’t know what it was, but I followed that track and I followed that lead, which led me to Dr. Lambert in the northern California area. Though there are some and many equine therapists now – and that world is really exploding with an understanding that horses, equine partners, are so profound in healing human heart. But that whole world of equine therapy and equine coaching is just exploding and blooming.
Barb: So leading up to that, you really hadn’t had a passion for horses or a relationship with horses? It was something that you came upon?
Charla: Not completely out of the blue, but I never had a horse as a kid. It’s one thing, you know, I always wanted, like so many girls do. I sought after TV shows that had horses in them. And I would save my allowance or I’d save my money that I had earned and go down and ride the rental horses down in Los Angeles, down in the LA River. So I always loved them, and after my mother passed away, I had a belt buckle – a western belt buckle – because I just thought that was the coolest thing was all cowgirls. I just thought they were “it.”
I found in my mom’s jewelry box my western belt buckle with my name engraved on it. When she passed away I thought, “This dream isn’t over with yet.” And I had no idea what was just getting started from that.
So to answer that question, no, not any kind of formal things. They were always out of my kind of budget or my price range. But then, a Spirit always does lead us if we listen and follow the promptings. Lead us to where our greatest joy is going to lie.
Barb: And it sounds like that process was really your salvation.
Charla: Ultimately? Yeah. Yup.
Barb: So can you talk a little bit more about that? I know you’ve made the statement that horses introduced you to the language of the heart. How is it that happens? Or how did it happen for you?
Charla: Well, when I went back and I Googled equine healing and compassionate care, and I came upon the whole world of equine therapy, then I was actually able to – I set my sights single-handedly on – becoming a patient in this doctor’s care and was introduced to these herd of horses in northern California. I took this shattered, angry, hurt mother, daughter, woman, soul to this herd of horses. It makes me kind of want to cry right now…. But I was met by this 1000-pound or more mare named MayMay – and I write about her in my book – who in such a gentle and profound way opened my heart to a point where I could feel that was the direction I needed to take in order for me to heal from this trauma.
I knew that it was God’s leading – or Love’s or Spirit’s leading – to a situation where I could then begin to heal. Because I’ve been through tons of therapy, cognitive therapy, all kinds of things, and all of that was very important in my journey. It wasn’t until I met this horse named May that I really began to make profound, door-opening changes.
Barb: How long did you have a relationship with May? How long was May part of your life to lead you out of the place you had been in?
Charla: I want to say on and off about three years. I didn’t go out to the ranch every week. I did keep my cognitive therapy appointments with Dr. Lambert. I did do the work that I led myself, really in many respects, to do. I did have that support. And when I could afford to, I would go out and do this work with the horses. That led me then to eventually taking my blog posts, and not really writing a book from my blog, which was Never Give Up, Mom, but it led me into this journey of putting my story into a book form, which is Wonder and Beauty: My Journey from Heartbreak to Healing through the Wonder of Horses.
So I would say about three years, cognitive therapy, putting in yoga, stretching, walking, all my Hay House information, listening to Hay House, listening to Radio for the Soul, listening to reading books that only fed my soul.
Barb: Are you currently involved in any equine therapy?
Charla: I am. I am. I am not the patient anymore, but when I talk about equine therapy at this phase in my life, I’ve met some ranchers about ten minutes from my property, and equine therapy to me is being around horses. Just the act of being around horses is healing for me. It’s profound for me. And it’s fun. And it’s joy-filled. So I’ve started to do riding lessons again, and I like western, so just being with the horses is profoundly healing. I’ve gone out on the trail rides, but I’ve also taken one of their horses that we as humans consider lame, because you can’t ride her. She was a champion reining horse, and her name is Midge. I take her into their big round pen, and I’ve taken my sister. And now that I’m a certified trainer, I’ll be using some of those practices with non-mounted groundwork and building a practice of equine coaching.
Tomorrow we go down to the ranch, and my son and his friend will do some riding. Then I’ll take Midge out and do some grooming with her, and also be using my energy, using my body energy to move her in ways that not just nourish her soul, but nourish mine.
Barb: We talked earlier in our conversation of your careers in makeup and hair artist. So how do you see that work as a complement or a counterpart to the work you do with horses?
Charla: It seems like it’s a big jump, doesn’t it? [laughs]
Barb: [laughs] It does! It does.
Charla: It’s always amazing to me that Spirit has a way, if we are patient and relaxed enough, and just chill out for a while. That Spirit will bring the loves of our lives together. So here’s how I think it complements: There’s not a women that I’ve ever done a makeover on – and once I get her to the place where she really falls in love with herself again, that that’s not a healing component to her spirit and that she’s not thrilled about say the new lip color, or her skin looking fabulous, or her hair looking fabulous. So that’s all healing in its own nature, and it’s fun.
The thing with horses – because they have such a large electromagnetic part of their body, which is their heart – the emotional component that horses bring to an equine partnership with women is huge! It allows women that I’ve seen – and I’ll speak for myself this time – to feel confident about yourself again. To feel alive. To feel loved. To feel beautiful. The fact that you can take a beauty program, or a beauty service and then take the language of the hearts and put the equine therapy component into that? It’s not just your outer beauty, but it’s also your heart beauty. So that’s how I see those two services, components, and experiences be a beautiful marriage, really.
Barb: Hearing you talk about it, it seems like a lovely way you’ve been able to just enrich what you’ve previously done.
Charla: Yes. Yes, thank you.
Barb: About your book, one review said this story could inspire other readers to undergo necessary work toward recovery. Was that your hope for the book? Is that the message?
Charla: Yeah, that’s the Kirkus Review. I read the Kirkus Review the other night. I think that recovery is a therapeutic term, and I think that it is important. But the way I look at it is that it inspires us to be well in every facet that we are. I think maybe I’m splitting hairs there, but I think that my intentions – the bottom line of me writing this book was originally, I wanted to get my side of the story which was a story of love to my son to let him know that I never left him. I may have physically left him, but I never gave up on him. And I never gave up on my love for him. That was my sole reason for writing this book initially.
Now what it’s turned into, or morphed into, or evolved into was a message – as I meet so many people, so many women – a message of hope. My story, walking through this with a ten-year gap in our separation is that it’s a story of hope and it’s also an example of love – the power, the energy, the physical energy of love – is a language that can never be forgotten. And if you love your son or your daughter or someone, that that is a tangible thing they can feel. It is really present in their being. This story is evidence of that.
Barb: I think we all can appreciate the reminder and the inspiration of what you’ve just said to enhance and enrich the relationships we’re in. It doesn’t have to be from a position of loss, or a need to recover necessarily to be able to be inspired by your words.
Charla: Thank you. Thank you so much for saying it that way. I think we are so set right now – all of us – for a paradigm shift, that recovery isn’t necessary. We might say some things like that. Recovery isn’t necessary, but inspiration is essential. And once you begin the path of inspiration, you then stop looking at the loss and you start looking at what is in the moment. You start seeing things very differently. That’s what horses, being around horses teach me every single time I’m with them. That’s one of the many things that they’ve given me.
Barb: Where can listeners find your book?
Charla: You can find my book on Amazon, and you can find it on Balboa Press by author. So probably Amazon.com is going to be your first place and I’m in Barnes and Noble – you’ll probably have to order it through that. And I’m also in many of the bookstores here. In Idaho, I’m at the Rediscover Book Shop in downtown Boise, Idaho, as well as Chapter One in Ketchum, Idaho, which is in Sun Valley.
Barb: I just want to mention again, the book is entitled Wonder and Beauty: My Journey from Heartbreak to Healing through the Wonder of Horses.
Barb: It’s a joyful message to know that you and your son have been reconnected…
Charla: Thank you. Thank you.
Barb: … and I have to imagine that that has fed your spirits in a way you couldn’t have expected. Is that accurate to state? There probably aren’t words to summarize what that means to you, but is there a final message you can share with listeners?
Charla: I’d love to. Thank you. I think my final message is never give up on yourself. Never ever discount the power of your love because it is supernatural. Make sure that you do have more fun in your life, and if you want and if you are in the midst of your reunion – whether it’s with yourself, or with your partner, or your children – that your power of love in its pure state is enough for your reunion, whether it’s on this plane or the next. But it is enough, and the power of that, and just follow love’s lead. It’s enough.
Barb: Those are lovely words. I would have nothing to add to your final statement, so thank you so much again for making yourself somewhat vulnerable and sharing your journey. I know others will be inspired by sharing your words. So thanks again, Charla.
Charla: Thank you so much for this platform, and thank you for your time.