by Stephanie Hertzenberg
Do you feel like you don’t have enough time to yourself? Do you often find yourself saying yes when you’d like to say no? Do you feel like you need to work out but you never have time to exercise?
You aren’t the only one agreeing with these questions from the Synergy Life and Wellness Coaching website’s “Overwhelm Quiz.” Those feelings of being frazzled, forever behind on important duties or just generally overwhelmed are familiar to an unfortunate number of women.
In response to those same feelings, Christina Kunkle started the Synergy Success Circle in June 2009 with the intention of creating an environment where professional women could collaborate, share best practices, cultivate friendships and stay inspired. “Being an entrepreneur is very lonely,” Christina said. “I just hadn’t clicked with any of the other networking groups that were available at the time. I was looking to create something I felt like I needed.”
She wasn’t the only one looking for something that didn’t exist. Beyond just networking and business relationships, Christina hoped Synergy would become an environment where women could be accepted unconditionally. “I wanted to create a place where they could come and get filled back up. We cannot give from an empty vessel,” Christina said.
This was exactly what Cathy Leitner found she needed. “When I first started my business I was working a lot of hours. Seven days a week, around the clock and just not taking any time for self-care,” Cathy said. Then, she saw one of Christina’s flyers at Greenberry’s while she was getting her morning coffee. “It said ‘are you stressed out, overworked’ and I remember just nodding my head and going ‘yes, yes, yes’.”
Cathy called Christina and she did some one-on-one coaching with Cathy. Cathy moved on to Synergy Success Circle and SOAR, a nine month program designed to help women manage burn-out, overcome caregiver fatigue and manage their work-life balance. “I did everything she told me to do,” Cathy said. “If she recommended it, I always did it. Always, always. And it’s always worked for me.”
Cathy is far from Synergy’s only success story. Letitia Bates, owner of At the Wheel Coaching, can vouch for Christina’s methods. “In SOAR, I really connected and really crystalized the vision of what I wanted. It introduced us to tapping, [a self-practice technique related to acupressure and acupuncture], and I was completely enamored by it.” Letitia went on to become a tapping practitioner and regularly utilizes it in her own business.
There is this idea that you have to be perfect. That … you have to present and perform as if you are perfect and that’s not real.
Similarly, entrepreneur Debbie Brown originally joined Synergy to help her promote her business, Hand to Hearts. “I felt like I didn’t have all the tools I needed to do it,” she said. She had joined several other business organizations in the area but hadn’t found a good fit, until she tried Synergy. “It was a connection. It was more intimate. It wasn’t just about business. It was about people.”
This sense of authenticity and intimacy came to create a community of extremely diverse women that now stretches across the entire Valley. Women of every age, background and ethnicity come together every month at Synergy, SOAR and Beyond SOAR meetings to encourage, inspire and push each other.
But as much as anything, Synergy is about acceptance. “There is this idea,” said Letitia Bates, “That you have to be perfect. That you have to have everything together. You have to present and perform as if you are perfect and that’s not real. And to have a place where you can be authentically who you are and grow yourself from that space is very important.”
While the diverse women in the group work to continue and preserve the tradition of unconditional support, the atmosphere of compassion started with Christina. “I remember that one of the first things she asked me,” recalls Cathy, was “‘So Cathy, what are some of the things you love about yourself?’ I couldn’t come up with anything except that I had a really good work ethic.”
What did Christina say in response? “‘That’s okay, you can borrow all the things I love about you until you find the things you love about yourself.’ It was life-changing,” Cathy said.
Regardless of when they joined, everyone involved in Synergy recognizes the incredible sense of community Christina has created. “I think back to the [Synergy] Shine event in December,” Letitia said, “and I looked across the audience and saw this huge representation of women in the community, different ethnicities, different backgrounds, different professions, all coming together in a unified way to pour into each other and receive from each other. That is a huge testament to what Synergy has brought to Harrisonburg.”
Christina herself says that Synergy and SOAR’s culture of community and collaboration is what she is most proud of. “It feels likes sisterhood among women. The energy is always positive. We don’t candy coat struggle, but we give our best energy to things that are solution-oriented.”
That sisterhood is felt keenly by those who participate. “It’s the way sisters should be, but the way real-life sisters aren’t always.” Cathy said.
Debbie Brown agreed. “We definitely have a group of connected ladies. And it’s encouraging to have someone walk beside you and push you at the same time.”
With the sense of sisterhood going strong, Christina says it has exceeded all of her expectations. “I feel like it has brought extraordinary women together. And I mean extraordinary. People who may not have otherwise crossed paths.”
And that group is constantly growing. “Come as you are,” Christina urged. “You will be welcomed no matter which group you come to. You will be welcomed with open arms and find like-minded women that you didn’t think existed.”
So next time you walk into McAlister’s Deli and find the doors to their back room closed, know the odds are good behind those doors is a group of women perhaps laughing, perhaps crying, but all willing to lay their soul bare and all trusting the rest of the group to accept them as they are. And if you are feeling burned out, fatigued or just looking for a strong sense of community, come join in. There is always room for one more in Synergy.
Stephanie Hertzenberg, a year-long intern with Valley Living, served as editor for this issue of the magazine. She also works part-time for the Shine children’s Sunday school curriculum and interns at WMRA.
Synergy Success Circle, 2nd Wednesdays from 11:30-1:00 p.m. and 2nd Thursdays from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at McAlister’s Deli 1645 Reservoir Street, Suite 185. First meeting is free.
Synergy Life and Wellness Coaching website: http://www.synergylifeandwellnesscoaching.com/
Synergy Success Circle Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/402243436638088/