That's What She Said

Episode 65: Visiting with Elizabeth MacPhail of Bloomington, IL and her story, “According to the Shoulds.”

Woman in black dress holding microphone on stage

Elizabeth MacPhail of Bloomington, IL That's What She Said

                                    SSPP ep 65 ELIZABETH MacPHAIL “According to the Shoulds”

Elizabeth has to come to terms with her life choices and find her own truth in her funny, but poignant story, "According to the Shoulds." She chats with Jenette and Kerry about the experience of sharing her story on stage in Bloomington in the fall of 2022. 

ANNOUNCER 00:00 Raising women's voices. One story at a time.
Welcome to The She Said Project Podcast.

[Music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme]

JENETTE JURCZYK  00:28  ] it is always special when we get together and we get to reconnect with some of the women who have appeared on stage in That's What She Said. So if you're joining us, you're ready to hear another awesome story here on The She Said Project Podcast. I'm so excited to be here with you. Jenette Jurczyk, your host, National Director of all things She Said,
KERRY ROSSOW  00:45  and Kerry Rossow, co-host all things inappropriate.
JENETTE  00:50  You do like to bring the inappropriate to the party.
KERRY  00:52  Sorry.
JENETTE  00:54  It's your calling card. "Hi, I'm Kerry Rossow. And I'm chronically awkward."
KERRY  00:58 Can confirm. Okay, well, you know, who's not awkward is today's guest. She had a great story, but every time I think of her the first thing that comes to mind is 'Dang! Her outfit!'
JENETTE  01:09  The outfit, the hair.
KERRY  01:11  Hello!
JENETTE  01:11  She Oh, she's she's giggling already because she is on the line. We're talking about none other than Elizabeth MacPhail formerly known as Elizabeth Feathers, who was on stage in That's What She Said Bloomington-Normal, just a few months ago, who just stood there dynamite not awkward at all.  Hi, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH MacPHAIL  01:31  Hi guys. Thanks so much for having me.
JENETTE  01:34  Sorry about that awkward introduction. (We're playing with awkward today.) [laughter] The theme of today's episode,
ELIZABETH  01:40  We love it.
JENETTE  01:41  But you actually went through an awkward period in your life. So I was actually going to tie that together, see what I did there, which is actually one of the topics of your story, this time in your life where you thought everything was going according to plan. And then it wasn't, right?
ELIZABETH  01:54  Yeah, that's right. My life was really just put together in a way that I thought, 'Yes, this is exactly what I'm supposed to do.' I followed all the rules that, you know, aren't even really rules, but they're what we know as the shoulds. Like I said, you know, you should go to college and get married and find a good job with benefits -- all those things. And I did that, starting at 21. I started really young. I was in my career already. And then 10 years later, I found myself thinking, 'What on earth did I build here?' because it's a solid life that anyone would be proud of. But it didn't feel right. It didn't feel like mine. So things got a little awkward, I would say,
KERRY  02:41  I think that's a pretty good segue.
JENETTE  02:43  It's perfect. Let's share your story with our listeners. So they can be in on what really happened because I don't want to give too much away about The Event that you talk about. And then we're going to unpack that because there was a lot of self reflection and discovery that happened for you. And I think it's gonna really inspire some people today. So let's take a listen to Elizabeth's story, "According to the Shoulds," from That's What She Said Bloomington-Normal 2022. Here we go.

ELIZABETH MacPHAIL  03:07  I spent my 20s creating what you might call a perfect life. I set goals for myself that would result in a reality I knew I could be proud of -- if I did everything just right. So I started my corporate career at 21. I bought my first house at 22. I got married at 24 and had my daughter at 26. And then after nine and a half years in college, I finally graduated with the highest honors, of course, [applause] from Arizona State University when I was 28.  
Just before my 30th birthday, I finally secured The Job that I had been waiting for. I was so proud. I was tired and busy and navigating a global pandemic. But I was proud. Though, despite my very best efforts, this perfect life didn't feel quite perfect to me. It wasn't until later that I would realize that my lengthy list of goals were really defined, designed and directed by the shoulds. You know them: you should go to college, get a good job with benefits. Get married, have children buy a beautiful house in the right school district. The list goes on and on.  
So according to the shoulds I did everything right. So imagine my confusion when it didn't feel exactly right because I didn't feel like I was making the impacts that I really wanted to be making in the world at that point in my life. I didn't understand why everything that I had done so perfectly and so right still left me feeling unsure. Spoiler alert: I wasn't showing up authentically in my own life, and I didn't even know it. This eventually caught up to me in what I now call The Event: {big sigh] the catalyst for change in my life.  
After six, very hard months in The Job, I found myself struggling to feel good enough, every single day. Not just at work, but now also at home because I was missing many moments with my family. I remember watching my husband take my daughter off to bed as they passed my office door and all I could do was blow kisses and [whispers] "Good Night."  Sometimes I was silently sobbing on the other end of those work calls late into the night.  
That was until one fateful December Monday morning, I logged into work, I checked my calendar and immediately was paralyzed with fear and anxiety, and I could not move on. I could not continue anymore. In that moment, my brain decided for us, me and my brain, that we were done here. It was time for me to take an involuntary step back from everything that I had just worked so hard for. I was sure my career was over, because I was in burnout, rock bottom of burnout.  
I spent the next three months on short term disability in full time burnout, recovery, and self discovery. As I was committed to finding my authenticity. You see until that point, I thought I was showing up authentically, with my ever evolving funky style, and my color changing hair. I know you've seen the tattoos and piercings at this point -- in a corporate setting.  
But authenticity isn't just about the exterior. Shocker. Or being the weird one of the group. My personal favorite, the black sheep of the family. 
There are a few key resources that helped me find my way during that time.  
The first, a book called You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero.  
Now, I'm not an avid reader, but I could not put that book down. It's as if it were written for me in that exact moment in my life. It was perfect for what I needed in that moment. That book now sits on a shelf warped from my tears and dog eared as I pulled out quotes here in there to save as affirmations that I repeated to myself daily until I believed them.  
I also went to therapy regularly, maybe a little more than regularly, three times a week to start. Therapy offered me a safe, unbiased space where I could lay it all out. Starting with that question: 'Tell me about your childhood.' [deep exhale]  
My therapist then partnered with my primary care physician to identify my diagnoses: ADHD, predominantly hyperactive anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Together, we all work to find a combination of medication that worked for me and keeps me in tip top shape to this day.  
Thank you science. 
I know my therapist is here tonight. I'm not sure where you are. But thank you so much, Sue, for keeping me alive and bringing me here to this stage tonight. [applause] 
(aside to Sue) I'll see you on Monday. [laughing] 
After those three months, I finally built the courage to leave my safe, secure and salaried position and start doing what I love: helping people every day.  
But this story isn't actually about out my venture into entrepreneurship. Join me as we take a sharp left turn. [laugh] 
Something very unexpected came out of all of those hours of self reflection and identifying my true authenticity and who I was in the world. But despite all the work that I had done to feel comfortable in my own skin after the event, this piece still felt too big, too scary. Too much. 
I knew that if I decided to admit this truth to myself and to others, that I would hurt people that I loved and that loved me. I was terrified of disappointing them. I was even more afraid of the uphill battle that I knew I would face if, or when, I decided to. So I thought, 'Meh, I'm fine. This is fine. Everything's gonna be fine. We'll just keep going.'  
And it was fine. Until it wasn't.  
After years of discussions about our needs, and wants in our marriage, and doing our very best to make it work, one night before bed, my husband turns to me and says, "Hey, uh, do you think maybe you're actually gay?"  
Now he knew that I identified as bisexual since before we even started dating and was always very supportive of that part of me and even encouraged me to come out publicly back in 2020. (Thanks T.)  
So I turned to him and I said, "What? No, not me never never crossed my mind. Not once. Let's... Let's go to bed."  
The very next evening, though, after sitting with that question and my answer for 24 hours, I told him that evening before bed, 'I think so. But I don't know. And I desperately have to figure it out.'  
We talked and cried that evening, and ultimately decided to pursue an amicable divorce. I knew that I needed to set him free in this process, as I didn't expect him to wait for me while I figured it out. I didn't expect him to put his life on hold in any way either.  
As children of divorce ourselves, it was important to us that we move through our individual lives with mutual respect and kindness, in order to provide our daughter a life without parents that hate each other. Without ever feeling the guilt of being the reason that we had to be in the same room together -- for games or graduations or maybe someday, her wedding.  
Friendship after divorce is possible if you choose to see each other as human beings who simply did not remain eternally compatible for whatever reason, but we are still a family in our own way. We still celebrate holidays together, we go to our daughter's games and events together and he still joins my family's bi weekly dinner, and now brings his girlfriend too.  
As for me, after the separation, I moved into an apartment by myself for the very first time and quickly learned how hard it is to be a newly self employed, newly single mom, navigating the complexity of my sexuality, all at the same time!  
So I did the natural thing. I downloaded Tinder I got a cat. I started wearing flatbilled hats backwards, obviously. And holding girl's hands in public. And that felt right.  
But let's go back a little bit. I discovered my very confusing attraction to other girls when I was just eight years old. In Catholic school. This made PE locker rooms pretty uncomfortable for my school years. But only recently have I learned that not all other girls thought that the locker room was uncomfortable and not all other girls had the same interest in boobs.  
So I did my very best to pack away the gay over the years and lead a straight-presenting life because that's what I thought I should do. That's what I thought would give me the easiest path to the life that I so desperately wanted. In fact, I was so busy accomplishing all of those shoulds that I missed some glaring signs, I'll share a few of my favorite with you, like being really into The L Word, a popular TV drama series about lesbians in Hollywood, otherwise pointing out and always rooting for the queer characters in any story on TV or film, or dreaming of driving a Subaru, which I did [laughter] for a few years. Yeah, Mom. [laughs] Otherwise, I found myself being friends with primarily other queer people.
I call this time of my life being gay adjacent. I wanted it, but I didn't know why. 
For 30 years. 
It has been a wild ride to get here. But I could not be more proud to stand here in front of all of you tonight and say that I am in fact, very gay. [applause] 
Thank you. It's been 21 months now, since the event that changed the course of my life. I'm 32. I live each day with gratitude, a positive mindset and healthy boundaries. I have a successful business that allows me to do the same for other people. I have a beautiful and unique little family, including my incredible girlfriend who loves, validates, supports and cherishes me and my authenticity, every single day. [cheers and applause]
I love you, and I am so proud of you, Sydney. Plus, to top it all off, she is really, really hot. I mean, she can deadlift 370 pounds hot.  
The immeasurable happiness that I feel now is worth all of the heartache, doubt, shame and pain I felt along the way.  The journey here was not easy, but it was worth it. And it is perfect to me. 
[cheers and applause] 

JENETTE  17:52  That was perfect. Because by the end of the story, we know that there's a hot, beautiful woman in your life, we know that you made some big decisions. And now we can address the fact that I called you to different names, which is good. So
ELIZABETH  18:04  True. True. Being on stage, being asked to share my story and knowing exactly what it is I wanted to share was the perfect opportunity for me to address the awkward that just kind of enveloped my life there for a little bit. You know, I wasn't necessarily super public with what was happening in my personal life. And that left a lot of people with questions. So it was actually pretty great to be able to say, 'Hey, I'm on stage and sharing my story. I know you're curious about what on earth happened. So tune in. Listen, let's cover it all at one time.'
JENETTE  18:43 So you used your performance, your story to kind of catch people up on what was going on Elizabeth's life.
KERRY  18:51  'I don't want to repeat this 50 more times, everybody try to keep up!'
ELIZABETH  18:54  Exactly. I mean, honestly, I didn't want to... I didn't necessarily want to rush. I didn't want to make any public declarations when I was still just figuring it out myself. And She Said really came at a point in time where I was feeling so confident in where I was in life that it truly was the perfect marriage of opportunity and time and 'Hey, everybody, here's the latest.'
JENETTE  19:23  Yeah, I remember like the timing was just right. You had just sorted all of these things out. And you were ready. You were ready to stand in your power. You're ready to stand in who you were and your own truth at that point. And you did, you, like you shared it with the world and I thought you did it in such a beautiful way that showed us who you are. It was rich and vulnerable and authentic and real. And you found the love of your life and I would like to point out that you are no longer Elizabeth Feathers. You are now Elizabeth MacPhail and why is that?
ELIZABETH 19:53  That is right because my super hot girlfriend that I spoke about that day is now my is now super hot wife. {Kerry chuckles] So I am very excited now to share that update with you as well.
JENETTE  20:06  Congratulations, honey, we are so very happy for you.
ELIZABETH  20:09  Thank you, thank you,
JENETTE  20:10  And how is your daughter dealing with all of this?
ELIZABETH  20:13  You know, I was her age when my parents got a divorce as well. So I've been able to kind of leverage my experience and make hers or at least attempt, I guess to make hers more palatable with a lot more, I guess, flexibility and understanding in what is happening. She was five, when we separated. And that's confusing. There's no doubt about it. But she's resilient, she's done very well, we've certainly had periods of ups and downs. There have definitely been difficult experiences that we've gone through as a family and what that family looks like. But all things considered, she now has four parental figures that love her and care for her deeply. And she gets twice the fun, really, she... we just renovated her room here. And she just actually told me that they did at her dad's too. So I think she's having a fun time kind of navigating all of that and all of the new relationships that she gets to have. And I'm very grateful that everyone has been so accepting and really great with her considering the position that she is in. So really proud of her. No, no doubt, really proud of that girl.
JENETTE  21:33  And one of the things I love about you so much, Elizabeth is you found your inner peace. And now you are such an advocate for other people addressing their awkward moments, addressing what makes them feel stuck or unhappy. Like you gave a huge shout out to your therapist. And you know, you talked about the power of, you know, digging in what did what did you have to go like three times a week to dig yourself out of, you know, the hole that you were in for a while?
ELIZABETH  21:58  I did, yes. And it was pretty quickly too, which I guess kind of lends itself to the whole story that I've always been a go getter. And 'Alright, let's get it done. Let's go, let's keep moving and keep going forward'. And when I hit that rock bottom, at The Event time, I was, again, just desperate to fix it. But in a really different way this time. Obviously, there wasn't anything that I was going to be able to do on my own at that point. Understanding that what I was going through was also partly chemical imbalance and having or needing rather, an outlet to speak about it with an unbiased party. So yes, I did indeed start going three times a week for the first few weeks in my recovery period. And then kind of adjusting after that. But yes, I did get to talk to my therapist of the following Monday, that was not a joke. In my speech. I really did talk to her on Monday, I had an appointment. So very grateful for her huge shout out for therapy. Love it. I think everyone should take advantage of it. It's a great opportunity. I like to say there's no national registry, or national announcement for those that are in therapy. So if you didn't tell anybody you were in therapy, no one had to know. Yay, therapy!
KERRY  23:24  Yay, Therapy! So hey, what was the feedback you got from other people in your community, your friends, or people coming up to you?
ELIZABETH  23:30  Oh, my goodness, that was ... I just got goosebumps. Just even hearing that question.  I had a few people even at the after party approach me and explain kind of a similar situation, either from the corporate to non corporate transition, or from a hetero presenting relationship to being a gay individual, or however they identify. And knowing that even though it really was hard to accept, I guess that I was going to be, you know, declaring it now in public and on YouTube, and now on a podcast and everywhere that it is, it really did matter. And so it was nice to hear that these people heard what they needed to move forward on their own journey. Absolutely. I I love to celebrate love and whatever that looks like and love to celebrate people making choices for themselves, that allows them to be more joyful or happier or be themselves more than anything else. We only get to do this life thing, one singular time. And it is far too short, as we all know to be anything other than yourself.
JENETTE  24:47  Words to take home and live by. Oh my goodness. Like can you imagine, what if? What if you had never had The Event or you ignored The Event and you kept trying to shove yourself in the box that you didn't belong into?
KERRY  25:01 She said box. Sorry, I couldn't. [laughter, chaos ensues]
ELIZABETH  25:06  Okay, that was funny.
KERRY  25:07 Sorry, sorry Jenette! [laughing] Anyway, back to shoving yourself into her box... [laughing]
JENETTE  25:13
(serious tone) We are in an NPR station, you have to...
KERRY  25:20  [interjecting] Sweaty balls!
JENETTE  25:21  … respect it. Oh my! [trying to resist laughing]
ELIZABETH  25:25  Hilarious. It's funny to hear it now on this side thinking like, wow, how do they just keep this dialogue going for so long? [Kerry laughs] They don't!
JENETTE  25:34  I'm so proud of what you said, you want to get to do this life one time, and you really did find your, your truth, your authenticity.
ELIZABETH  25:42  I did. You know, it was really like, the universe was screaming at me. I couldn't ignore it any longer. It was something that I was at least aware of for a while and then thought, oh my gosh, could you imagine just like undoing this life that I've established already. And, you know, that seems heavy. That seems like a lot. But it was just every direction. Everything that I saw pointed to, this isn't right. And you know, it's kind of that like, you're headed down the highway, you're not paying attention to GPS, and you realize you're about to miss your exit. And so you do one of those, like, giant, 'sorry, everybody, I gotta I gotta get this exit gotta hit this one.' It was it was kind of that like, it's now or never, it's now or never, you have to go. And I just felt it and kept moving forward and Keep Going is my personal mantra. I actually have it tattooed on my ankle one foot in front of the other, you keep going. That's the only rule.
JENETTE  26:49  And now you make it your life's mission to help other people carve out time for joy.
ELIZABETH  26:55  I do. Yes, I was so inspired by... It's hard to say I was inspired by The Event. But I was. I knew then in that moment, I remember laying in my bed, the day of The Event and thinking, 'What on earth am I going to do now? What am I going to do now?' Of course, I was convinced my leadership career was over. And no one was ever going to take me seriously again, which is not true. And that one took a while for me to move from. But now I do. I help in any possible way that I can, as long as I don't need, you know, a specific license or certificate to do so on your girl. right hand man, your Girl Friday, whatever it is, I love to use my skills that I didn't even recognize as skills as we do as humans to help other people find more joy in their lives and alleviate all that life has. All the demands. I do what I can to lighten the load of life for those that are willing to delegate are willing to let me come in and say, Hey, you really don't have to do all of this on your own, I can see that you're struggling? What can I handle for you? Or what can I at least get started for you? And how can I provide an opportunity for you to feel a sense of relief, and then spend more of that time being happy or joyful or doing whatever it is that you want to do at that time? Well, I handled it.
JENETTE  28:21  And that is some badass leadership all on its own level. You're an entrepreneur, you're a business owner, you can go out and speak to the world on the journey that you've been on and inspire other people to look inward and reflect on what are the parts of your experience that might feel a little awkward or broken right now that maybe need some shaken up, right?
ELIZABETH  28:44 Yes, just a little TLC, truly, I call it teeny, tiny. And that's usually what I leave my clients with. That's What She Said he moved mountains today. Yes, we move mountains today, all I want is for you to do teeny tiny until we're ready to move mountains again. And that is just little things throughout your day or your week to make life a little bit easier for yourself. Just in super small increments. Just a teeny tiny, and we'll move mountains again.
KERRY  29:16 Your story always makes me think of a quote I heard the year that we started The She Said Project. I was almost 40 And I was you know really itching for something couldn't quite put my finger on it. I'd written a beautiful script. I was having a great time. But I knew there was something else and someone said it's never too late to rewrite your script. And it was the most freeing quote I've ever heard because I kept thinking like, wow, how selfish how entitled remind that like all the work I've done all of the things that I have that you know, I should be so lucky, but it was scary. And so it was like luckily I had someone else like let's start writing together. And now looking back thinking oh my gosh, I'm so glad we rewrote our script. There was nothing wrong with the first one but you have to know when you outgrow it.
ELIZABETH  29:59 There's nothing wrong with the first one that is, that is truly such a great point. And it's hard to... It's hard for me sometimes, honestly, talk about awkward. Let's bring it back there. [Kerry laughs]

KERRY My favorite place. 

ELIZABETH  I love my life. It's so great. I'm so happy. And I turned it around and found the love of my life and all of that. I did live a different life before that one and that one isn't any less valid or any less right? It just wasn't right fffffffor me. It worked for me in the moment, and there were plenty, plenty of very good and happy times. But the longevity wasn't there. And that is where I think a lot of people get stuck is oh my gosh, I already did this. What am I gonna do now? 
JENETTE  30:47 You outgrew it.That's a perfect line, Kerry. Yeah, it doesn't mean it's any less. You just it was time for that and 

KERRY   And it’s never too late. 

JENETTE  [singing] Never too late.
KERRY  30:57 Never.

KERRY Well, I can't wait to see what else you rewrite. We will be following along. That's code for stalking.
JENETTE  31:04 MacPhail 2.0
ELIZABETH  31:06 Yes, we're doing it. We're doing it.
JENETTE  31:09 Well. We're so happy for you and for your beautiful wife and that you found peace and joy and love and built your family to be exactly what it needs to be for you. Well, you brought us some joy today, Elizabeth MacPhail, we thank you for making the time to chat with us and I hope some of our listeners out there also found some nuggets to reflect on and to do a check in and check in on where your joy is at. Where could you activate a little teeny tiny you know shift or change and find more joy. We don't always have to wait for the event. To tear us down. We can stop right here right now and choose joy. So on that perfectly joyful note I'm going to sign off and say thank you to our listeners thank you to our sponsors and our partners in crime at Illinois Public Media. Kerry Rossow, a joy always.
KERRY  31:58 Always awkwardly joyful.
JENETTE  32:01 And thank you for spending your time with us here on The She Said Project Podcast! 

KERRY Over and out.
ELIZABETH  32:06  Thank you guys


[Music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme]

ANNOUNCER 32:11 Thank you for listening to The She Said Project Podcast in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in the podcast for the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That’s What She Said, LLC. For more information on our live shows go to [url=][/url]
This podcast was made possible with support from Carle and Health Alliance and presented by Sterling Wealth Management, empowering women to live their best lives.


Elizabeth MacPhail has to come to terms with her life choices and find her own truth in her funny, but poignant story, "According to the Shoulds." She chats with Jenette and Kerry about the experience of sharing her story on stage in Bloomington in the fall of 2022.

The She Said Project Podcast is recorded in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in this podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That's What She Said, LLC. Learn more at