Betty Hill Crowson's spiritual calling, life experiences,
educational background, and passion/gift for helping others have led her to devoting her life to being a personal coach, conductor of spiritual workshops/retreats/seminars, and inspirational speaker.
She is the author of two books: The Joy is in the Journey:
A Women's Guide Through Crisis and Change, a book
that outlines a course of action for women of all ages and stages
to successfully maneuver through the challenges and complexities
of life's crises and changes. And more recently, The Busy Person's Guide to Balance and Boundaries which outlines a proven process for recovering balance, improving relationships, and making the giant leap from human "doing" to a happier human "being."
For over thirty years, Betty has been a licensed social
worker. Her background includes work in the areas of grief counseling,
addictive disorders, and crisis intervention. A charismatic
presenter and speaker, she has developed and facilitated programs
for schools, businesses, and conferences. As a retreat director,
she has impacted the lives of hundreds of women and couples of all ages
and stages throughout the Northeast. Betty has a unique ability
to synthesize traditional and current wisdom/knowledge into
a practical, accessible form.
Betty continues to be a seeker as well
as a teacher and role model by living a balanced, holistic,
and spiritual personal and professional life. She presently spends her time between Shelter Island in New York and the mountains of Western Maine.
The following is Betty Crowson's personal story as it appears
in the beginning of her book The Joy is in the Journey:
A Woman's Guide Through Crisis and Change.
There is a Chinese story of an old farmer who had an old
horse for tilling his fields. One day the horse escaped
into the hills and when all the farmer's neighbors sympathized
with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?" A week later the horse
returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills and
this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his
good luck. His reply was, "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?"
Then, when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one
of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his
leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer,
whose only reaction was, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?" Some weeks later the army marched into the village and
conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there.
When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg they
let him off. Now was that good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?
Everything that seems on the surface to be evil (negative)
may be a good in disguise. And everything that seems good
(positive) on the surface may really be an evil. So we
are wise when we leave it to God to decide what is good
luck and what bad, and thank him/her that all things turn
out for good with those who love God.
(From Sadhana: A Way to God - by Anthony DeMello)
One Woman's Journey into Wholeness
I was born feet first -- and much of my life was lived the
same way, with my feet either jumping in or dragging me through
all kinds of situations, relationships, and transitions, long
before the rest of me had a prayer of catching up. I never went
looking for change. It contained too much of the unknown to
suit me. Yet, despite my efforts at avoidance, crisis and change
have had a habit of lurking in the shadows, waiting for me around
every bend in the road. Good luck? Bad luck? Who knew?
Raised on a Maine dairy farm, my early memories are dim ones,
more like faded snapshots of cows, chickens, crops, kids, and
chaos. My parents were extraordinary people, who were extraordinarily
busy most of the time. As a child, I hardly knew them. My mother's
time and energy were consumed with the physical demands created
by several children, (seven of us in all), while my father was
a handsome, shadowy stranger who moved quietly between the barn
According to the stories told, I was an inquisitive and energetic
child, extremely attached to my younger brother Bobby with whom
I shared the same age for one week each year. We were inseparable
from the beginning, much like twins. In fact, they affectionately
referred to us as "double trouble". For a few short years, life
felt safe and predictable. "Good luck" for a little girl.
There was absolutely no way any of us could have been prepared
for the tragic drowning death of this wonderful little boy on
a hot summer's day. In an instant, life as we knew it ceased
to be. We became a family in crisis, a family who knew only
one way to cope with this devastating loss: try and put it behind
us, by acting as if it had not happened at all.
When we don't know what to do, we tend to do what we know.
My busy parents got even busier. And Bobby's life, as well as
his death, became a subject which we kids knew not to mention.
Instead, feelings were buried beneath layers of busyness, the
clothes were packed away, and the memories tucked within. The
place in our family previously occupied by Bobby was now filled
with a huge, oppressive presence. Grief moved in with us on
that hot August afternoon - and everyone tiptoed around it,
unable to acknowledge it or call it by name.
At eight years old, I instantly lost all previous sense of
security and predictability. The silence surrounding this crisis
only added to my confusion and apprehension. I became consumed
with feelings for which I had no knowledge or experience, and,
hence, no solution. So I did what I thought I was supposed to
-- I pretended they weren't there. Little did I know the damaging
effect that unresolved and unexpressed feelings have on a little
girl's inner sense of self and security. By pushing them underground,
they proceeded to cast a dark shadow across my self-confidence
and self-esteem, distorting my every perception and emotion.
As I drifted into middle childhood, I became a "gray" child,
one who experiences the world as somewhat flat and colorless.
No longer curious and energetic, I felt exhausted, depressed
and scared. My emotional life mimicked a game of musical chairs.
I was constantly afraid that the music would suddenly stop,
fearful that I wouldn't be able to find a seat.
This was the state in which I entered adolescence. Although
I managed to do well scholastically during high school, emotionally,
I muddled through. My SAT marks were high enough to get into
any school I wanted. And yet, I became a waitress, while my
friends went on to college.
The next twelve years of my life were spent in making wrong
turns on what I now know as the "right road." Bad luck? Good
luck? Who knew? What I do know is that during this time, I developed
a dependent and debilitating love affair with alcohol, a relationship
which fueled every wrong decision and bad choice I made. And,
believe me, I made many. Within a decade, I married and divorced,
started and quit college, ran and failed a business, bought
and lost a couple of houses. I had car accidents, my license
revoked, and became hospitalized for a half-hearted but potentially
fatal suicide attempt. I drank to overcome my fears and anxieties,
and had greater ones in return. I drank to get rid of my discomfort,
and felt even more self-conscious. The more I drank, the more
I failed, and the more I failed, the more I drank. I became
caught in a vicious cycle which led in only one direction --
downward. During these years, I was a lost soul in every sense
of the word -- a young girl/woman who was emotionally and spiritually
I have a lot of compassion today when I think about myself
during that time. It is nothing short of miraculous that I have
lived to tell the story. But at age 26, a wonderful gift came
into my life which helped change the direction in which I was
heading. His name was Robert. He was a friend of my boss, a
kind, gentle soul whose unconditional love played a huge part
in my coming to recognize that I had a problem with alcohol,
and eventually getting into recovery for this spiritual malady.
We enjoyed a long-distance relationship for five years, before
marrying shortly after my 31st birthday. A few weeks later,
(through the Grace of God), I was to take my last drink of alcohol.
This was definitely good luck on every front! I was happily
married, and I had entered a spiritual program of recovery.
Rather than "lost," I finally felt "found." For the first time
probably ever, I had genuine hope that I would be okay.
And yet, despite my happiness, I kept having this uncanny
premonition that something awful would happen to Robert. I remember
lying awake at night, watching him sleep, terrified that he
might die from a brain tumor or something. I have no idea where
these thoughts came from. I used to think it was because I was
a negative and fearful thinker.
One of the very saddest parts of my story is that my husband
did die of a brain tumor -- one month after our first wedding
anniversary. He became ill shortly before Christmas, complaining
of a "weird" headache. I'll remember forever the moment I discovered
how seriously ill he really was. We were in a hospital room,
awaiting the results of several tests he had undergone. Robert
was sitting quietly on the examining table, the doctor left
the room for a phone call, and I picked up the chart. For one
endless moment, the world ceased to exist. There was no hospital
room, there was no sun, there was not even a breath. The words
MALIGNANT NEOPLASM were so huge that there was no room left
in the universe for anything else.
During the four months of his progressive illness, I tried
to prepare for the eventuality the best I could. But when the
end finally came, I was completely undone. Standing there beside
his bed in the room on the 8th floor, all I could think was,
"Please God, don't let me jump out of the window." Life had
presented a crisis for which I felt totally unequipped to cope.
As if the grief wasn't bad enough, my many phobias and fears
became heightened during this time of insecurity and trauma,
making themselves known in a multitude of situations. Driving,
shopping, being in crowded spaces, even standing in a grocery
line, could put me into a cold sweat or bring about an anxiety
attack. It was the most difficult period in my life.
And yet, looking back, I can see how in many ways, Robert's
death was a major catalyst in my becoming an "earnest" spiritual
seeker. I wanted answers. I couldn't understand why my husband
had to die at a time when I was just beginning to get my act
together, and just embarking on a relationship with a Higher
Power. At first I was baffled, confused, and angry. It didn't
make sense. I will be forever grateful to my best friend, Kathy,
who reassured me with four of the most important words I have
ever heard. "Betty", she would say, "God cries with you."
Over time, I have come to believe this. I have also come to
believe that God called me into relationship knowing that this
crisis was going to occur in my life. I shudder to think what
my future might have been, had alcohol remained my Higher Power,
rather than God.
During the months I spent in the hospital with my husband,
I experienced first-hand the lack of emotional support for the
terminally ill and their patients. At that time, the Hospice
Movement was still in it's infancy, and holistic doctors like
Bernie Siegel were still looked upon with skepticism. Seeing
a definite need, I felt consumed with the desire to work with
people facing life-threatening diseases. This propelled me to
start and finish college, eventually to become a licensed social
My college years were a learning experience in every sense
of the word. They provided me with more opportunities than I
would have liked to face my fears and phobias, to learn to put
one foot in front of other, to act "as if" regardless of how
I felt, and to suit up and show up, even when I thought I couldn't.
I graduated Summa Cum Laude.
As the years went by, I eventually remarried, moved, and, after
a brief heart-wrenching period of working with the terminally
ill, took a job in the field of addictive behaviors. I took
up running, became involved in holistic health, and got very
busy with my life. I can see in hindsight that much of my activity
was an attempt to outrun my inner feelings. Because during this
time, even though everything on the outside looked good, I carried
within me an inner sense of a sad little girl. Mornings would
find me overwhelmed, exhausted rather than enthusiastic, much
as I had felt in adolescence. "What is wrong with me?", I wondered.
Driven by desperation, I finally got into therapy with a woman
who immediately recognized that I was in delayed mourning. With
her help and guidance, I began the long-postponed process of
grieving the loss of my husband Robert, as well as the loss
of my brother Bobby so many years before. But I didn't stay
in therapy long. After all, with my history of "moving on,"
it seemed too self-centered to focus for any length of time
on my own "problems."
At age 40, I had the "good luck" of becoming pregnant. I was
delighted at the prospect of being a mom. Due to my age, the
doctor recommended amniocentesis during the fourth month in
order to rule out Down's Syndrome or detect any potential abnormalities.
Eager to see my baby on the ultrasound screen, I was in no way
prepared when the doctor told me that the baby had no heartbeat.
It was a girl, and she had died, probably a week earlier. I
With more "bad luck," my next pregnancy ended in miscarriage.
Finally, gratefully, even though I was now over forty, I became
pregnant once again, When I found out it was going to be a boy,
I knew immediately that I wanted to name him Robert, after my
brother and my late husband. As the pregnancy progressed, however,
I began to have misgivings about this name. After all, would
this be a jinx? Would this be the third Robert that I would
lose? I mentioned this, once again, to my good friend, Kathy.
Her reply was immediate. "Betty", she said. "That's superstition.
And you're a woman of faith."
I brought my son Robert home from the hospital on August 5th
-- my fifth wedding anniversary, and, coincidentally, the same
day my brother had drowned. Aside from gifts I couldn't begin
to list, Robert's birth also reinforced my belief that we have
choices in life. We can let our tragedies make us or break us.
My son is living proof on a daily basis that life and love can
go on, provided we allow them to.
During this little boy's early years, there was much stress
in our home. When he was only a year old, it became obvious
that, after years of fighting a pre-cancerous condition, I needed
a hysterectomy. While I was recovering from this, my husband
developed a heart problem, which required angioplasty. While
in the critical care unit, his kidneys shut down due to a bad
reaction to the dye. He finally recovered from both of these,
only to have a huge schism occur in the parish in which he was
an Episcopal priest. Stress was piled upon stress.
In my attempts to hold it all together, once again, I fell asleep
to myself. As I busily tried to be all things to all people,
my personal sense of balance and self-care were put on the back
burner. I began giving from my core rather than from any surplus.
This doesn't work well for anyone.
As the months went by, I intuitively sensed that something was
physically wrong with me. I voiced these concerns to my internist,
who ran blood tests and took x-rays. Everything looked okay.
But the fact that I "knew," caused me to begin renewing my efforts
at self-care. I planned a week-end get-away with girlfriends,
became more involved in my women's groups, began exercising
more often, and started doing a daily healing meditation.
Months later, a routine mammogram was to reveal the unthinkable
-- I had breast cancer. As shocked as I was, I was not surprised.
And even when the doctor told me, "This doesn't look good",
I somehow believed that the breast cancer had not spread because
of the healing meditation I had been doing for six months. Fortunately,
this was the case. Following surgery, I "only" needed radiation
treatments. They began the same day my little boy started preschool.
As terrified as I was to have cancer, I remember saying to a
close friend at the time, "There must be a gift in here somewhere."
I'm happy to say that there were gifts galore. One of the biggest
ones was the fact that "coincidentally," just one month prior
to my diagnosis, I had entered into therapy with a Jungian therapist,
Dr. Eckles. I believe that this wise and wonderful man was put
in my path deliberately. For three years, we met on a regular
basis. He helped me as I worked through my feelings of being
betrayed by my body. We spoke about the cancer and its treatment,
about the many challenges of my marriage, about my fears of
raising a child. Typical of Jungian therapy, we discussed my
dreams in depth, as we addressed my unresolved pain of the past.
We spoke about God, about love, about soulfulness, and faith.
During this period of re-covering myself, God also put other
people in my life, friends who were loving, supportive, and
accepting of me and my process. Over time, with much effort
and the help of many, my inner pain and grief finally began
to dissolve. And when they did, a strange thing happened --
my heart, mind and spirit caught up to my feet. After years
of running and feeling fragmented, I began to feel centered,
whole and integrated.
This was not a fast nor an easy process. Hours were spent in
which I struggled to make sense out of that which didn't make
sense. For days on end, I would attempt to find some means of
putting my life into a framework where I could understand it,
and therefore have some control over it. And always, just as
I would think I had arrived at the magical answer, Dr. Deckles
would lean towards me and calmly say, "Well, it remains to be
It has now been several years since I last saw Dr. Eckles. Yet,
the time I spent in his office continues to benefit and support
me as my life evolves in ways I never could have imagined.
To begin with, even though I had told my husband on numerous
occasions that I could never move and leave my friends and family,
one day I read about a church on a little island in New York
which was looking for a new priest. I had never even heard of
the place, and yet strangely enough, I felt "called." The next
day, I asked my husband to consider applying for the position.
I immediately began preparing for the move, months before they
even replied to my husband's application. Needless to say, he
did get the job.
At this time, I also decided to make some major changes in the
sort of work I did. For many years, I had been attending holistic
and spiritual workshops and retreats which focused on the relationship
between mind/body and spirit. The more I learned, the more my
growing dissatisfaction with conventional "social work" increased.
Over and over again, I would see living proof of the futility
of attempting to treat one part of a problem, without addressing
the "whole" person -- mentally, behaviorally, physically, and
spiritually . So, when I moved, I made a conscious choice to
do work which reflected a commitment for living in the solution,
rather than focusing on the problem.
Once again, God put key people and opportunities in my life.
I met a wonderful spiritual woman, a Sister of Saint Joseph,
with whom I began leading bereavement groups. We went on to
offer week-end retreats for women in 12-step recovery programs.
This ministry has expanded and grown in ways I never could have
imagined, and is now available for all women.
At the same time, I began developing other programs and workshops
which were practical, spiritual and holistic, addressing such
universal themes as healing, letting go, making right choices,
getting unstuck, and finding God in the ordinary as well as
the extraordinary. I have taken these programs into schools,
businesses, and also become a guest preacher at various area
churches. It has been quite an evolution from the barroom to
the pulpit. You can't tell me there's not a God.
Looking back, I see clearly how my Higher Power has been with
me throughout my life, calling me, and placing the right people
in my path at precisely the right time, despite outer appearances.
Without a doubt, it was God who gave me my husband Robert, and
then called me into recovery from my addiction. It was God who
gave me the perseverance which finally culminated in my giving
birth to my wonderful son. It was God who called me to this
nurturing island home, and who gives me the grace, the humor
and the compassion to work with women who need help.
I also believe that God has called me to write this book. The
call came following a week-end retreat in 1998 in which women
of all ages, beliefs, and disbeliefs obviously benefited. Feeling
an overwhelming sense of frustration that the presented material
wasn't able to reach a larger population of women who could
use it, I wondered, "How can I get this material to women who
need it?" The answer was loud and clear. "Write a book."
The Joy is in the Journey is my response to that message. And
I believe that it was God who gave me the commitment and the
daily discipline to suit up and show up to the page, even on
the days when I would rather have done anything else.
There are no short cuts to living life on it's own terms, that
is for sure. However, there are certain tools and suggestions
which can make it easier to transition through life's changes.
And while it certainly helps to have some practical tips on
how to survive through our crises and changes, there is only
one way we can truly thrive -- by being willing to grow along
It has been this willingness which has given me a completely
new perspective on life. Rather than feel like a victim because
of life circumstances, I have come to consider myself a student,
with my every need becoming an opportunity for deeper spiritual
growth. In fact, I am convinced that it is not in spite of my
crises and changes, but because of them, that I am who I am
today -- a woman of dignity and honor; a woman of self-knowledge,
self-respect, and self-acceptance; a woman who has journeyed
through the dark night of the soul to finally become usefully
whole; a woman who has come to believe from experience, that
the many "coincidences" in her life have all been part of a
Good luck? Bad luck?
Well, as Dr. Eckles always
said, "It remains to be seen."