One of my favorite authors as a child was Shel Silverstein. One of his famous quotes that provided a light for me was this:
There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I know that this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you, just listen to, the voice that speaks inside.
As a child, I was born into a cycle, we all were. I had no idea, of course, of the chaos I was to endure….the chaos that was laid long before I arrived, the imprint I was to follow. I had no understanding of the job I was being given. I came into this world, as we all do, innocent, a clean slate, a sponge.
We are all the recipients of either a positive familial cycle or a negative one. This forms who we are, who we will become. It’s luck really, or predestined depending on your beliefs, as we don’t get to choose who will guide the first twenty something years of our lives. We just go along for the ride. We are in for a childhood of respect, guidance, love and honor or we are in for disrespect, little guidance, resentment, anger and the imprints of a cycle that started long before us.
For most of us, our childhoods are a mixture of all of these things. The difference lies in how much of each quality or behavior was in our particular family recipe. Our unique recipe, creates who we will become. If we have children, our recipe becomes their recipe.
As a psychotherapist, I lend compassion. I lend belief in more. I lend hope. I lend my voice, for when you have trouble hearing your own. My goal is always to help your inner voice become louder. As it is in that voice, that we find our true selves and are able to change cycles.
My inner voice is what helped me endure my childhood. In my darkest hours, my voice saved me. She said……
You are going to be somebody.
You are somebody already.
It’s NOT all your fault.
You don’t deserve this.
They are troubled, you are not.
You WILL get through this.
You will parent differently.
You are not responsible for their anger and resentments.
And I am, and it wasn’t, I didn’t, I did, and I do.
My inner voice knew something that my childish conscience did not. She knew that we are who we say we are, not what others label us. She knew there was love, it was just cloaked in anger. She knew I had someone great inside of me, and she helped to nurture me, there in that dark room as I cried from pain. Pain from the blows, pain from the words, and pain from the cycle.
She knew I deserved the best, not the scraps.
She knew I was born to help others, so she helped me.
She knew that the cycle I was in was to polish me so that I could see others with loving eyes.
She knew that everything I needed was inside of me at that very moment, it just needed nurturing, slowly, carefully, non-judgmentally.
She stood in as my loving parent, when my own parent’s troubles got so big that they spilled onto me.
She was there in my darkest hours, and my most brightly lit moments.
She was there, and she is there now, still.
She guides us you see. Having trouble hearing her?
Sit in silence, she is there.
Get into nature, she is there.
Notice your thoughts, she is there.
Breathe deeply, she is there.
Look at your children, she is there.
Write in your journal, she is there.
Give away compassion and kindness, she is there.
You MUST find her, you see? She loves you, she guides you, she sees you, she IS you!
At some point in our lives, if we come from dysfunction, we must become our own loving parent. We must stand in for ourselves. We must stand up for ourselves.
Our inner voice is our guide, without hearing her, how can we know which way to go? How can we know how our lives will unfold? How can we hold onto hope that things will get better?
I remember distinctly, at 17 years of age, with tears streaming down my face, writing a letter saying goodbye to those I loved. I wrote in detail why I couldn’t go on anymore. I apologized that I wasn’t strong enough to endure what I had been handed.
Then she spoke to me, and I listened.
She said, oh no you will not.
She said, you are needed.
She said, it gets better, I promise.
She said, this is not how it ends.
And I listened. I listened as she loved me, in the exact way I needed to be loved. And I am thankful for her, every single day of this beautiful life I have created through belief in the voice that lies within.
When I am struggling in life, my end of the line often goes dead. I do my best struggling alone. I sob, I cycle through the poor me, why me, and when me. I view myself as alone, always, when I am at my lowest. Then, when I am ready, I pick up…..and I move forward. For me, it’s really when I do my best work, in regards to self-awareness, accountability, and empathy.
The problem with this form of struggle is for those who love us. Those who love us, love us when we are at our best. They love us when we are at our worst. They love us during the in between, mundane times as well. We bring them along when we are at our best, we bring them along for the boring, but the line goes dead during the struggle. Probably a bit confusing to those who process differently.
What does that say to our inner circle? What are they assuming is our motivation during this time?
This is where things can get sticky…..assuming motivations. Those who love us will either assume we are struggling and bear with us, or they will take it personally and it will create distance. It all depends on what story they bring to the table. It also depends on what story our family has created for us. Did our family provide a space for us to grieve? Did they provide a space for us to think on our own? Did they provide a space for the struggle? Do any of us know the right way to struggle? Is there a right way to struggle? How can we let others struggle in their own way, if we are not comfortable with our own struggling process?
Personally, and professionally I feel the right way to struggle is akin to the right way to experience self-care. Self-care should energize us, it should feed us spiritually and leave us feeling motivated and at peace for what comes next. Struggling is the same in my book. We all need to struggle, that is how we grow and create space for change. Struggling is an inherently personal journey. We all struggle differently. Some of us struggle out loud, and some of us struggle silently.
My best form of self-care is hiking. In the hiking world, fellow hikers build what’s called a cairn to let us know we are in the right place on our journey. A cairn is a small tower of rocks, marking the trail. When you see a cairn it reassures you, that you have been on the correct path and continue to be on the correct path. The cairn brings a warmth to my heart when I see it and reassures me that I’m okay, that I’m just on a journey and I will wind up at the place I am intended to. It soothes my anxiety about the journey, and just helps me to be present with the uncertainty of struggling.
So I thought……what if we took the cairn out of the mountains and brought it into our relationships? What if we used it as a marker, to let those we love know that we are okay…..just on a journey. The cairn could help us to bring clarity to those who process differently. The cairn could help define our motivations for those who don’t understand our different way of struggling. The cairn could be an offering of sorts, to provide a deeper understanding to those we love. That while we love them just as much, we process differently, and that is okay.
The cairn could tell them…
I love you…and I am in my thinking space.
I love you, and I am processing.
I love you, and am where I am supposed to be.
I love you and I need a little more silence, but I will get there.
I love you and please accept this as a bridge of understanding between us.
I love you and please don’t punish me for silence.
I love you and need you in my life, please hang on with me.
We could send a picture of a cairn by text, as that is our most often used form of communication these days. Sending it by text would continue to support our silent struggle for those of us who need it, but it would also support those we love, who struggle differently. It would be a smoke signal, of sorts, that would break the silence, while continuing to support our struggle space. The cairn honors all forms of struggling, all forms of motivation and bridges a gap of understanding that could create discord with the ones we love the most.
Those of us who struggle silently owe it to the ones we love to send a cairn, to calm their worries and respect their love for us. Those who love someone who struggles silently, owe it to them, to accept the cairn, and allow the space needed to move forward. It’s a love pledge of sorts, that while we may not struggle the same, we love each other just as hard and just as continuous. No explanation needed, no misunderstandings….just space for love.
Isn’t it amazing, how programmed we are in life? Over and over again, we let our anxiety get us worked up, knowing for damn sure that worry changes nothing. NOTHING. Our bodies are programmed to react with fight or flight. Our cortisol shoots up, our bodies tighten, and our brains are on fire, with worry.
Yesterday, I had a medical procedure done that made my body shudder with fear. Just the name of the procedure, sent shock waves through my entire being. I was scared, no doubt about it. However, my brain knew that rationally I would be fine. Rationally, the pain would be momentary. Rationally, I would get a couple days of rest and relaxation after, and we all want that right?!
It didn’t matter what my brain was telling me, my body knew better. For weeks, I dreaded this procedure. For weeks, my body messed with my brain. I noticed my stomach being tight…. for no reason. My throat constricting….for no reason. My heart racing…..for no reason.
You might be saying to yourself, but you practice Mindfulness, why are you experiencing these reactions still? Because I am human. Mindfulness helps me on a day to day basis, with lessening my reactions to everyday stress. However, we are still human. We still have fear built into us. We still fight to be mindful, when our fear is at its worst, especially if we don’t set a plan for keeping mindfulness on track.
Yesterday was a fight.
The fight reminded me, I am still on a journey.
The fight reminded me, I will still have fear.
The fight reminded me, I am only human.
The fight reminded me, I fear death.
The fight reminded me, I love life.
What a beautiful message to land on. I love life. With all of its adversity, fear, negativity, and hardships……I love life.
While I laid on the table with doctors over me, Mindfulness brought me to the place of loving life.
I breathed in gratitude, love, and acceptance. I breathed out through my area of pain. Releasing, fear, anguish, worry, and the fight.
Instant relaxation. You see, while Mindfulness has reprogrammed my brain over the last few years, I hadn’t set any intentions for how I would deal with worry over my health. So my body reverted to old stories, old reactions and old habits. I was a worrier. I feared death, so I worried. My body remembered this, and reacted accordingly, telling my brain to worry. Going forward my intentions are different than how I dealt with this instance of fear.
I will take in information about my health, knowing that it is just more knowledge than what I had before.
I will recognize that knowledge is power.
I will use that knowledge, not to fuel my fear, but to fuel my resolve.
I will use that resolve to calm my body.
I will utilize a calm body to coach my brain.
I will employ my brain, to remind me I LOVE LIFE.
Even these parts of life…..the worry parts, the hard parts, the scary parts. Because, they are going to come friends.
A beautiful life includes rain……a beautiful life includes rain. Lean in to this. As it can guide your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
I finally reached that mindful place, right there on the hospital table. I felt my brain relax, and lean into the pain. I felt my body release its programming, and I felt my heart swell with a deep, abiding love for my life, for the people in it, and for the future.
I beat fear yesterday, and I realize my peace could have come sooner, had I prepared appropriately. Had I set my intentions, and been mindful of following those intentions, I could have saved myself from days of fighting fear leading up to this.
Intentions are a plan, a plan to succeed. In life, in fear, in adversity. Intentions lay the foundation for a love of life.
My hope for you, is that you are able to use your love of life in all situations of fear.
Meet fear with love. Let love inform your body. Let love inform your brain. Let love lead your fight. Don’t beat yourself up for having fear…..invite the fear in, and meet it with love.
I have always been called blunt. “She certainly isn’t afraid to say what she’s thinking” women would say in describing me. If they are friends with me, that means that’s why they love me. If they aren’t friends with me……that IS why. It can definitely err on the side of foot in mouth disease, but these days I do my best to keep it aimed in the right direction. I think my best work as a therapist comes when I’m at my most raw and honest with my clients. When I let them know how they are perceived or exactly why I believe, they are experiencing the difficulties they are struggling with, is when I see the most growth. Because, if we are able to stand on the outside of ourselves on a regular basis, we are allowed this wonderful window to watch our behavior.
It ain’t always pretty, of course.
We are either impressed by this behavior, and decide we are happy with our choices. Or……we pinpoint the things we don’t like, own them and only then can we move towards the person we are supposed to be right now.
I reject the idea that you are who you are for 90 years?!
I invite the idea that we have many chapters.
In the interest of raising our self-awareness, having empathy for ourselves and others, and looking through that all important window of behavior, let’s set some intentions for this place they call mid-life. While we’re at it, let talk about this word crisis! How about a mid-life chapter? Mid-life is but a chapter in our book! It doesn’t have to be a crisis! We are in charge of this and WE prefer to view it as a chapter that includes growth, introspection, self-care and awakening. We will show those who come after us how to do this thing called mid-life….in a way that supports mid-life issues, nurtures us as humans, and provides a light for what is to come in the future. What follows are 5 ways I believe we can provide that much needed window for ourselves. The window to see ourselves as others see us. The window that provides a launching pad for growth and change. The window that creates empathy for ourselves and others, in order to build a soft place for us all to fall. Here are my tips for a mid-life chapter we can be proud of.
1 – Believe you’re a badass.
Because without that, you’re not going to be able to complete the next 4 steps. You may not be where you hoped you’d be in life, accept that and move forward anyway. Your partner may not be what you hoped for…stop trying to change them. Change you. Don’t threaten to do it…..do it. Your body may not look how you wanted and the changes as you age can be tricky. Move forward anyway. Believe you’re a badass! Look what you’ve been through in your life….badass! Look how far you’ve come….badass! Look at what your body is capable of….badass! Complain less, enjoy more! Challenge yourself as often as you can, just to see how badass you actually are!
It’s gonna get hard, move forward anyway.
2 – Self-Care:
What do we enjoy doing the most (assuming it is both legal and safe) and how much time do we spend doing it each week? How about each month? Self- care changes us. Self-care is any intentional action you take to care for your physical, mental and emotional health. I like to say, it should energize you and feed you spiritually as well. Try your hardest to do this daily for yourself, if that isn’t possible, then weekly. Self-care provides an opening for growth. It helps us to get to know ourselves again, in a deep way. Did we stop growing?? Did we stop learning? Do we like ourselves? Would we be friends with us?
3 – We are not always right.
I know you don’t want to hear this…..but you aren’t ALWAYS right! Feels harsh huh? Become more self-aware of not just how you are reacting, but WHY you are reacting in that way. It sounds easy, and it’s not. We are so tied into the emotions of the issue in front of us, that we don’t allow ourselves to stop, take a breath and just think! Think about what you are thinking about. Mindfulness will help you do this by creating a level of self-awareness that fosters responding, not reacting. You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to. Sometimes as a “right fighter” we forget that no one wins a prize for being right, and forcing our opinions and thoughts down someone else’s throat just creates anxiety for ourselves and the other person in the conversation. Is this how we want the people in our lives to experience us? I want to leave people happier than before. I want them to feel more confident than when I walked in the room and I want to provide a light that they want to follow. Not because I’m right, but because I’m human.
4 – Stop “shoulding and musterbating”.
Start thinking of others as humans who are seeking like we are. Seeking love, seeking reassurance, seeking affection, seeking to be SEEN….not judged. They are seeking to be given the benefit of the doubt….in life… just like we are. Don’t spend so much time in the “should” zone. In therapy, we call this “shoulding and musterbating”. Awkward, I know! We should others and ourselves based on our beliefs about the world. We must others and ourselves into guilt and pressure. It’s so easy to look at other’s lives and say what they should be doing. It provides us a reprieve from looking at our own lives. We judge, it’s human and if left unattended, it takes over. We become this person who always has the answer and is always ready with what the other should be doing, when in reality, we haven’t walked in the other persons shoes, so let’s just stick to our own lives…and cultivating empathy for ourselves in this area. The more empathy we have for ourselves, the more we have to give away to other seekers.
5 – Cultivate the positive.
Speaking of giving away empathy. At the airport returning home from a quick vacation recently, I was seated waiting to board, across from, what appeared to be a lady in her late sixties. Think Betsey Johnson or Iris Apfel. Uber fashionista with gorgeous hues of blue through her hair and toenail polish to match. I couldn’t pass up the chance to let her know how gorgeous she was. Did I want to make her feel good? Yes. But more than that, I wanted the high as well! It is so much more than quotes on an FB page. It’s so much more than a share or a tag on something positive. No my friends, this is so much harder. It is genuinely wishing the best for others, genuinely wanting them to do what makes them happy, believing in the best motivation from people. Genuinely wanting others to feel good about themselves.
Yep, we’ve lost that haven’t we?
Somewhere along the way, we just care a little less for our fellow human. I’m just suggesting we bring that back and watch it work its magic! Let’s spend time everyday growing happiness in our heart for others. This can be in the form of a mantra during meditation, prayer, or just a mindful moment.
Let’s go easy on ourselves friends. Those that came before us may have handled mid-life in a way that scares us or is at the very least a caution sign for this time in our lives. Move forward anyway. Move forward with the knowledge that you have this under control. Move forward with the excitement of a new chapter unfolding before you. Move forward with confidence that you ARE a badass, and you will turn this mid-life chapter into one you can be proud of. In the meantime, be aware that if you accomplish a beautiful mid-life chapter, you just may be changing cycles in your family…and that is badass.
As young girls, we are taught we are perfect, just the way we are……until society gets a hold of us.
As young girls, we dream big, we dream long and we dream hard…..until society tells us what they value in our gender.
As young girls, we have big ideas, we feel we know how to get this done….until society tells us we sound like a bitch.
As young girls, we are confident, in our place in the world……..until society asks “who do you think you are?”
Chip…chip….chip. Society slowly chips away at our daughters. The daughters we willingly hand them.
We buy the magazines with impossible beauty standards.
We watch the television shows that personify girls in a lesser role than boys.
We buy into the stereo types that girls are caretakers at heart, and their emotions rule their brains.
We encourage our sons not to cry, because that is okay for girls, but not boys.
We use the words “I’m not friends with women, they’re too much drama or too catty”.
We teach our daughters to cook instead of change a tire.
We talk calories and fat to girls, but protein and muscle to boys.
We view society as something we can’t change. It is stagnant, that’s just society right? We view society as something we are thrown into and, we either conform, listening to the loudest voices, or we are a bit of a trouble maker. What if we viewed society as something we create? What if we become more Mindful of our thoughts, words and actions surrounding these stereo types? What if we had the control?
Are we being Mindful of the messages we are sending our daughters? Not just what we are saying verbally. What are we buying? What are we watching? What are the messages, we say to ourselves? How do we treat the women in our lives?
Young eyes are watching us ladies and gentlemen. Make no mistake, they are watching. They may be dormant for a while, but they are learning.
How important am I in this society?
What is my value?
What is my role?
Mindfulness around this subject, led me to set my intentions.
- I want to be a role model of self-acceptance.
- I want to live authentically so our daughters know it is okay to be who they are.
- I want to shed the mask so our daughters will never wear one.
- I want to love and accept my body, but not be overly concerned with its size.
- I want to personify strength, in body and mind.
- I want to speak of other women in an uplifting, encouraging manner.
- I want to laugh and roll my eyes at the misogynistic magazines that line the checkout at the grocery store.
- I want to get dirty and messy…..and NOT be in a hurry to clean up.
- I want to set realistic standards, and not ever expect perfection of myself.
- I want to support women loudly and consistently, not tear them down with stereo types.
- I want to ensure my words never demean the boys in our life, as building myself up does NOT include tearing boys down.
So today, let’s say to our girls:
- You are strong….and soft, and that is exactly who you were meant to be.
- Your body was created a certain way, for many reasons. Love it, get to know it, and honor it.
- Test your limits daily….you will be blown away at what you’re capable of.
- Challenge yourself, you can’t imagine who you are at your core.
- Don’t mistake kindness for weakness. Our empathy is but one of our strengths!
- Your dreams are worthy, your dreams are unique, and your dreams are a reality only if you make them a reality!
- You can do ANYTHING you set your mind to!
- Don’t ever let society speak for you! You have something to say? You better make sure you say it. No one will come knocking to hear it.
Your Mothers, Fathers, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, Sisters, Brothers, and Friends.
Taking Sex Back: Marriage and The Mindful Woman
I am a woman in my forties, so the word SEX conjures up a variety of emotions. Somewhere between my twenties and forties, sex went from a semi-fun activity to a responsibility. I say “semi-fun” because sex was never actually fun for me. In my twenties, I didn’t have orgasms, I didn’t have a sex drive, and sex didn’t leave me feeling great about myself. It was mainly for the boy I was having sex with… and I thought it was giving me confidence. Sadly, later I would realize how false that was. Looking back, I was putting on a show. I couldn’t enjoy sex because I didn’t even know I was supposed to. In my mind, having sex was about turning my partner on. Was he having a good time? Did my body look good? What about my boobs, how do my boobs look? Seeing in his eyes how badly he wanted me was the only payoff I needed. Right?
Somewhere in my thirties after having children, sex turned into score-keeping. A quickie here and there, once a week to keep him happy. Have I fulfilled my quota? Score one for me. I can’t say that there was much emotion attached to it. My mind was on kids, to do lists, anxiety—and how long is this going to take? It’s hard to feel sexy with spit-up on your shoulder. It’s hard to feel sexy with a toddler pulling at your pant leg all day. For me, it was always just hard to feel sexy, period.
My forties have been all about self-discovery. I began practicing Mindfulness two years ago at 41. For me this means increased self-awareness, a higher level of empathy for myself and others, and better sex… waaaaaay better sex! I have yet to read, anywhere, about this particular benefit of Mindfulness. Apparently, discovering yourself and choosing to “live happy” translates to the bedroom.
As I got more in touch with my emotions, I unknowingly gave myself permission to enjoy sex for the first time in my life. This is an awakening worth writing about! The more I enjoyed sex, the more I realized that the discovery process can go on and on. I am still discovering, and I am still growing in this area. That’s exciting. My own sexual revolution—who would have thought?
Practicing Mindfulness encouraged me to set my intentions in the bedroom:
- I want to lean in when my partner touches me, not recoil.
- I want to be an invitation, NOT a denial.
- I want to build our sexuality together, not be pulled apart by head trash.
- I want to stop thinking of why I can’t have sex, and think of why I can.
- I want to feel great about my body, not cover the parts I’m unhappy with.
- I want to view sex as a physical and emotional need, not as a duty.
- I want to make my husband feel less like a predator, and more like a lover.
To make these intentions a reality required a lot of work. I had to figure out what my head trash even consisted of, to start with. It required overcoming years of society’s programming to judge other women for their level of sexual desire. What is a slut exactly and why aren’t men ever called that? Lastly, it required coming up with steps to warm myself to the idea of wanting sex…not giving in to sex, but wanting sex. I’m talking, cannot WAIT to have you inside me sex. Yes, I said it.
My tips for a more Mindful sex life:
- Spend time in front of a full length mirror naked. Yep, naked. Check out your body. The one body you were born with, and still have. I don’t care what it looks like. LOOK at it. EMBRACE it. LOVE it.
- Learn how to please yourself. I’m talking masturbation. If you don’t know how to give yourself an orgasm, how do you expect someone else to give you one? Becoming intimately familiar with your own body might even help you go from one orgasm during sex to multiple. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
- Spend time thinking about sex. This works whether you’re trying to get in the mood, or are already in the mood. Think about how good it feels to be touched. Imagine being touched. Think about your partner naked. Imagine your partner on top of you.
- During sex, feel every single movement. Go slow if you need to, feeling every touch, every nuance, every breath.
- Breathe. This is something we forget too often. Breathing in through your nose and out of your mouth slowly will heighten any feeling.
- Be self- aware. Keep track of what feels good and what doesn’t so you can communicate this later to your partner.
- Don’t be self-conscious! Don’t think about what your body looks like or your face looks like. There’s a big difference between self-awareness (which is necessary for great sex) and self-consciousness (which will ruin it). This isn’t the time for vanity. It’s the time for pleasure, and pleasure has no ego. When you’re focused on the sensations in your body, as well as pleasuring your partner, you’ll find there’s no room for self-consciousness.
One of the biggest ah-ha moments for me was the realization that sex is for us too, not just for men. Once I decided to be mindful about it, I found out it’s a stress reliever, a calorie burner, an intimacy builder with the right partner, and just plain feels amazing. Wherever you are right now with your sexuality, bringing mindfulness into it is virtually guaranteed to make it better.
No, I won’t be coming to your girls night out. Why I am not a friend for everyone and am finally okay with it.
She said, “no”, and it set me free. She said, “I’ll take my own car” and it set me free. She said, “ I don’t feel like it tonight” and my heart sang. My best friends will always be the ones that are not available.
From an early age, as women, we are taught to be kind. We are taught to be sensitive to others feelings, and sometimes that includes doing things you don’t want to do. Going places you don’t want to go and spending less time doing exactly what you would like to be doing. Our Mother’s either showed us by modeling the behavior, or by reminding us of our manners, when the time came.
I was very clear, by the time I reached my twenties, what a good friend “looks like” and with this came awareness of the guilt when I wasn’t being a “good friend”. In my head, I should be available every time you need me. I should go out to the club, even if I’d rather stay home and watch Beverly Hills 90210….and I should never, ever use complete honesty and say “because I would rather lay on the couch with a bag of Cheetos, then go to the movies.” That would just be rude, and definitely NOT a good friend.
I minded my manners, even with the conflicting messages in my head. I did this, until I met my first “adult” friend. The first woman I had met that just said “No.”
- She said no, and didn’t wait to see how it made me feel.
- She said no, and continued on with what she was doing.
- She said no and it didn’t have an excuse that followed.
She didn’t want to do what I was asking…..and that was perfectly just fine by me. I will admit, at first I was a bit taken aback. “Ummmm….okay?????” I felt a bit, I don’t know……offended maybe? This behavior continued…….we had plans to go out that night…..and she would rather drive separately. When questioned, she responded, “Because when I want to leave, I want to be able to leave without having to wait if you aren’t ready.” My heart sang. YES!!! Of course, THIS!
Now in my mid-forties, women paint pottery together. They organize “girl’s night out” or go shopping together. In my inbox, I get invitations for Scentsy parties and craft nights. Ugh. I say “ugh” not because I’m a bitch (although it’s been known to happen), but because I don’t enjoy getting together with “the girls”. There, I said it. I would rather lay on my couch and watch Real Housewives scream at each other. Actually, I would rather sit in my living room and hear my kids scream at each other. Is this because I don’t like you? Probably not, it’s me…..not you.
So…..this begs the question, am I a bad friend?
To answer this question, I needed to clearly define my intentions around friendship in my forties. I talk a lot about intentions. I set my intentions for my day. I set my intentions for my career, parenting, marriage, and in all other areas of life. Clearly, I needed to set my intentions for friendship in my forties, and that looks very different than it did in my twenties.
- I want to be supported, and support you, with clear boundaries.
- I want to enjoy each others company, and then go our separate ways. Not linger uncomfortably.
- I want to put my family first, and not have to deal with your hurt feelings about it.
- I want to say No, and not offer an excuse. Not feel pressured to make something up.
- I want to hear what I could do…..and not what I should do.
- I want to talk about my kids accomplishments, without being judged.
- I want to talk about my kids failures without being judged.
- I want to talk, really talk and not leave our conversation with doubts.
- I want to skip the small talk and talk about the real issues in our lives.
- I want to take the mask off, and to see you mask free as well.
- I want to be able to drop an F-bomb without feeling creepy (don’t judge, it’s important).
- I want to exchange ideas about the bigger issues in life, not spend our time talking about other peoples lives.
- I want to dream together, play together, build together and motivate each other.
By setting my intentions, it helped me to clear the cob webs in my head surrounding adult friendships. It helped me to take a more precise look at myself. Am I offering these things as well? Instead of sitting back and complaining about women and their idiosyncrasies, setting my intentions, forced me to get a feel for the particular kind of energy I was putting out there. Was I being honest about who I was? Was I being honest about what I was offering? It took me years to figure out what kind of friend I am , and what kind of friends I truly want.
With my forties came many realizations, and one of them is this…..I am not the girls night out friend and that’s okay. I am the forever friend. I am the friend who comes over in her pajamas and watches trash TV with you. I am the friend that always forgives and never places guilt on you for being who you are. I am the friend you can say No to and not give an excuse. I am also the friend that will hear you, not just listen to you. I know what I have to offer in a friendship, and I know what I lack as a friend.
You are my friend if you are confident enough to deal with the fact that I don’t need you. I say that with projection….utter and total projection! Wouldn’t you rather be wanted than needed? I would.
I am a refined taste, sort of like a good beer. I am not for everyone, but I am for the strong women! I am for the women who are just fine on their own, but enjoy a good belly laugh from time to time I am for the woman who cusses, or the woman who doesn’t, but also doesn’t shrink when she hears the word Fuck from me on occasion. I am for the woman who can talk about sex, openly, loudly and without apology. I am for the woman who doesn’t need in a group setting, but in our darkest hours we lean on each other and NEED with all of our energy, crying until there are no tears left. Make no mistake, I am there if you need me, but I am not there for the parties, not there for the girls nights and not there if my heart isn’t in it. I won’t be planning your next craft night with you and I won’t be discussing which shirt you should buy at the mall.
So, that girl I met in my twenties, taught me to accept who I am as a person, without apology. We are now best friends twenty years later, and I am there for her and she is there for me, without question. We both know this, we both accept each other’s lack of need. This has created a forever friendship.
This has also created a bar by which I measure new friendships against. I am creating my girls…….but make no mistake, you will not find us at a girls night out. You will not find us politely engaging in conversation or sitting back with hurt feelings. You will find us on a mountain top with blood running down our legs from hiking, applauding the battle scar we have created. You will find us spending time with our own families, because THAT is our priority. You will find us speaking our minds, having educated opinions and yes, sometimes hurting your feelings with our honesty. You will find us communicating in the form of texting (because phones are too much of a commitment) self- deprecating, sometimes rude, but hilarious things to each other and never apologizing for who we are…….or who we aren’t.
In determining who I am as a friend, I realized I have a sisterhood…..I just had to be me…exactly, me with no apologies. This is a sisterhood, an unbreakable sisterhood I am building with new friends and old friends who are beginning to understand who I am and who I am not. Some will stay the course, and some will not…..and I am just fine with that.
Recently, I wrangled my 43 year old ass onto a mountain bike, and faced a fear that I had no idea was a fear until that moment! I felt my anxiety rising, I know this because I began to bark at my husband. I am unteachable in these moments, my mind is shut and I am angry at what I can’t control. My aching rear end continued to feel each rock underneath me and my mind panicked at the large roots that rose from the ground, creating an obstacle that most mountain bikers welcome. I was determined to not let this beat me, determined that I could do this, and determined that I would not grow old quietly! Well…..it beat me that day, but I managed to find something valuable in it…..and isn’t that what it’s about anyway?
When I was 5 years old, I was playing in the front yard of our home, when our neighbors pulled up to tell my parents that my 7 year old brother had been hit by a car, while riding his bike. What followed for me, was like I was in a dream. The memory truly feels foggy. My sister and I were taken to our neighbor’s house until our Grandma and Grandpa could pick us up. We were unaware at this time, that our brother was being life lined to the Children’s Hospital….and that his life and ours would change forever.
We arrived safely at our Grandma’s house and continued to live there over the next couple months, while my mom and dad stayed at the hospital with my brother. We visited my brother a couple of times during this period, and I recall feeling strangely disconnected from reality during this time. I believe I dissociated. His little fists were balled up, his eyes closed due to severe head trauma that had rendered him in a coma. Bruised from head to to……his lifeless body lay there. Yet all I can recall with certainty that day is my sister sobbing as we walked down the long hallway to return back to our grandparents…..and I remained stoic, independent. A dreamlike state. My life remained as normal as possible. My grandpa drove me back and forth to school, while I pried him with questions that leave adults feeling helpless. “When are mom and dad coming home? Is my brother going to die?” Grandpa did his best to redirect with his always welcome sense of humor. I asked my Grandma if I should start calling her mom now? She quickly hushed me, and encouraged me to never talk about this again, lest it hurt my own mom’s feelings.
Out on the mountain, with my anger yesterday, I met my 5 year old self. My mom always lamented at how independent I was from an early age. It often hurt her feelings, and I was very aware, and am now equipped with a healthy dose of guilt and shame. The story goes, that at age 5, in the spring of the year, while walking to school….I looked at my mom and said “you no longer need to walk with me anymore, I can do it myself”. She was hurt and dejected….and I was free to walk alone, from that day forward. I said this…..after they returned from the hospital with my brother in tow. I had experienced freedom and independence and at age 5, was pretty sure that I was in this alone. The troops had rallied for my brother, and at a selfish young age, this meant I no longer had the spotlight. This would become a theme in my family….there was always a problem, much bigger than me. A problem much too loud to hear what I was saying. Hence, she becomes a writer.
It took a mountain bike and a whole lot of mindfulness for me to meet and understand this part of myself. This bitchy, irritable, impatient self. I have always been fiercely independent, I don’t like to be taught…….anything. I want to learn on my own, at my own pace, in my own style. Yes, I am a joy to behold. This has been a gift and a form of self-sabotage my whole life.
How do I take this self awareness and use it to create change in my life? I needed to reconcile in my head, which of these coping skills, I learned as a child still serve me as an adult? Do any of them? Are they working for me or against me? This required an even closer inspection of my life and my intentions with the ones I love.
- I want to be able to learn from those I love, not be a know it all.
- I want to be humble enough to realize the lessons that surround me, not be a closed book.
- I want to be independent, yet able to lean in to support when I need to.
- I want to forgive my mom for needing so much when I was a child, not carry resentment.
- I want to process trauma, not let it guide the decisions I make with my children.
- I want to parent out of wisdom, not out of reaction to how I was parented.
- I want to continually challenge myself, not isolate from risk.
I used Mindfulness to look at my irrational fears, raise my self-awareness, and instead of being angry at myself and berating myself over it, I chose to have empathy for myself. Any change I have ever created in my life, has started with empathy for myself and others, in how I came to be at this place.
This is what that looks like: My brother was almost killed on a bicycle before I even learned how to ride without training wheels. The fear that enveloped my family over this, was palpable, understandably so. But it was silent fear…..we didn’t discuss this fear. So, it wasn’t a part of my story that was logged into my consciousness. I have instilled this fear into my children around riding bikes. When I look at my story, it is obvious how I have carried this fear over! For this infraction, I must also have empathy for myself.
The second part of this lesson, is much more impactful. On my bike ride from hell yesterday, I saw myself, like a flash, asking my Grandma if I could call her mom from now on. I could almost feel the moment I disconnected. The moment I became independent at 5 years old. The moment my feelings took a back seat, and for some reason, I decided I was on my own, from then forward I would figure things out for myself…..and I did, even though it may have taken me longer sometimes. In this, is forgiveness, for my parents, for some of the things I have put on them, that I think belonged to me. But also forgiveness for being independent. When you grow up with a mom who NEEDS, you learn to feel guilty for being independent. Today, I will forgive myself for being disconnected, independent, and stubborn. Today, I will forgive my mom for needing. I am wise enough to know that my mom needs due to what she missed out on in her childhood. It’s a cycle friends, and we have to be self aware enough to recognize the cycles and break them.
In cultivating gratitude, I am grateful for resiliency. I am grateful for an independent spirit and now knowledgeable enough to realize no one person can do it alone….and I didn’t, and I don’t. Independence is lonely. It took a mountain bike path, and challenging myself for me to be mindful enough to recall this memory. To understand its implications and to garner the lessons I needed to learn from it. Had I resisted the challenge of getting out on that mountain, I would never have discovered this valuable piece of myself. I would never have the chance to give myself compassion, or see independent in a positive light instead of negative. These moments are valuable people. I am also grateful for parents who never left my brothers side in the hospital. Regardless of the changes it created in me, the hospital is where they belonged, and they knew it.
So, I continue to seek. I am seeking those parts of myself that are unknown to me. They are a road map to explain who I am and how I got here. Only these parts can feed the rest of my journey. I will not allow myself to walk with my eyes closed, letting life happen to me. I will face who I am…..who I really am. I will offer compassion when needed, empathy when appropriate and expect better of myself whenever I can.
What coping skills did you develop as a child and why? Are those same coping skills still relevant in the world you are living today? Are you challenging yourself enough to get in touch with those items in your subconscious that haven’t surfaced yet? Can you imagine what you might learn about yourself? Can you imagine how that might affect those in your life currently? We must have the courage to go back, and the resiliency to keep moving forward. Never get stuck my friends, always live your life as a seeker.
Happiness in Small Bites
Anxiety is a bitch. As an adult, the anxiety I always struggled with, took a new face. This face was much more deceptive….this face came when I was at my happiest point, over and over again. When I finally left my childhood home, I believed my anxiety would take a back seat. I was no longer surrounded by chaos, I was in charge of my life and in charge of my own happiness. As my adult life began to take form, I noticed an annoying voice in my head. It only visited when I was at my happiest points.
At first, she visited when I would look into my new husband’s eyes. He has a way of looking at me that lets me know I am accepted, exactly the way I am. Pure happiness. Then she would speak…….”don’t fuck this up Kerry, you know you tend to sabotage things”. Or….”Don’t be stupid Kerry, this might not last”. Sitting, watching my kids play…..I would feel an overwhelming warmth in my heart, a full, almost dizzy feeling in my head…..YES, this is happiness. Almost directly after, a voice would threaten to take it all away…..”I hope they stay healthy, or I hope we stay safe.”
I learned at an early age to not trust happiness, as it can and will be taken away. Anxiety knew this. Anxiety reminded me of this on a daily basis. Anxiety put the weight of happiness on my shoulders and threatened that if I didn’t keep control, it would be taken from me. At any moment, it can be taken from me. Terrifying.
Two years ago, I began to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is SUCH a trendy word right now, and I hate that due to the many gifts it has given me. Mindfulness has literally set me free. It has taken anxiety, and kicked her ass. Mindfulness taught me to take my happiness in small bites. A much easier way to digest happiness. When I began to feel happiness in the moment, I would just be aware of the feeling. How did my body feel? It felt heavy with worry. My stomach felt tight and sick. How did my head feel? It felt dizzy and full. What was the present thought in my head? Fear was the thought…..fear was always the thought. Catastrophizing the what if, as if to punish myself over and over again, for just being happy. By just making it a moment…..I didn’t pin any hopes and dreams to it. I didn’t have to worry about what came next, because this was just a moment. Anxiety relented for just a moment. Deep breathe in. Happiness wasn’t about control, it was just about a feeling….in a moment.
I began to be present each time I felt the feeling of happiness…..just lean in, not expecting anything and not planning for anything. I allowed my head to just be there. I told anxiety I would see her after my moment. I was sure she would be there, she always was. An interesting thing happened. As I began to feel each moment, I began to string those moments together and they resembled a happy life….a happy person. I began to crave more moments, free of anxiety….full of the ability to take a deep, full breath of happiness and let it in. I began to seek those moments out as I had become addicted to the full breath in. Now, when I look beside me, anxiety is no longer there. She is no longer threatening me if I don’t have control. My strung together moments, have become a life without anxiety. For me, this began with just a bite.
5 Ways to Create a More Mindful Facebook Feed.
We see it time and time again……the FB article that talks about the top 5 Facebook offenders. Those who drive us nuts with their always positive posts, or the posters who only use FB to complain about their lives. We pick apart those Facebooker’s that we despise. We can’t stand when you post pictures of your dinner….or…..We know you aren’t THAT happy, quit faking it! Too political, too religious, TOO anything. It amazes me how much we are willing to place our unhappiness outside of ourselves. We are so used to giving do’s and don’ts to the Facebook poster that we haven’t spent any time on the reader! If we, as the reader, are able to be Mindful in what we read, how we read it, and why we are reading it, we can be clear about our intentions and thoughts/feelings before we judge the posts we come across. Giving do’s and don’ts to the posters, gives the reader a false sense of control. The idea is to stop trying to control what we have no control over.
Facebook serves many purposes. For some it’s how we keep in touch with those we love, updating with family pictures and adventures. For some it’s a source of news each day, carefully crafted to ensure we only see the news we are interested in. For others, it’s a source of negativity, and resentment.
Have you sat down and figured out what place Facebook has in your life? What is it feeding? What isn’t it feeding? It’s a simple social website that has weaved its way into our everyday lives. It has dictated our opinions of others and given us a window into other’s lives for us to either judge them or not. Every single time we log onto Facebook, we are making a choice. Am I going to judge others for how they are living, what they are posting and what kind of image they have crafted? Or am I going to choose to be present in my life? Somehow it gets into the fiber of our day. It reaps negativity, if we aren’t happy with ourselves, and cultivates resentments about our own life and what we are missing. This is rooted in insecurity. By giving it power, in the form of thought, anger, and judgment, we have now made it our problem. Chances are if we are spending time judging people’s lives via Facebook, we are most likely doing it in real life as well. We are robbing ourselves, of a mindful life.
In life, our attitude tends to match those whom we surround ourselves with. That is the case in Facebook as well! The average person spends 40 minutes per day checking their Facebook. If our Facebook feed continuously raises our blood pressure, or prompts a judgment from us….it’s time to be mindful about our Facebook feed.
Technology makes it too easy to connect, but it’s up to us to be mindful enough to filter the information with our best interests at heart. We must be mindful of what we let in each day, so that we have enough space and silence for us to hear our true selves. We must clear the pathway so that there is room for ideas, empathy, and love to come out. This begins with US! Let’s jump start this with a few suggestions for creating a Facebook feed that promotes mindfulness in our lives.
- Let’s make sure our Facebook feed is full of those who applaud our victories and grieve with us for our failures. You know what I mean. We all know the people who silently snicker when our daughter doesn’t make the volleyball team, or our husband doesn’t get that job he was hoping for. Why are we friends with them on Facebook?! If it is out of obligation, guilt, or an inability to say No……UNFRIEND them!!! We have one life. We have one family. We have one shot at this happiness thing! Do we want it? Yes?! Then let’s press unfriend, don’t wait. Let’s fill our feed with those holding us up, not waiting for us to fall.
- What about the Facebookers we keep in our lives just to watch the shit show? Come on, admit it……there are a few people we keep on our feed, simply because we can’t give up the window into their chaos. Seems harmless right? Think again. In this situation, we, are now the offender! Feeling anything but empathy for this kind of Facebook friend is not helping us in any way. This one requires a high level of self-awareness. We must be aware of our thoughts surrounding this Facebooker, in order to understand our reasons for keeping them in our feed. Does their misery make us feel better about our own situation? Are we helping their situation, or just being a voyeur? When we begin to judge others, we have abandoned cultivating empathy. Cultivating empathy is fundamental in a mindful life. When we are unable to have empathy for others, we are unable to have empathy for ourselves. Empathy for ourselves allows us to think freely. We don’t fight our thoughts, we welcome them. We don’t feel guilty for our thoughts, we simply observe them as if they don’t belong to us. We don’t judge ourselves for our thoughts, we lend empathy to ourselves instead. Why? Because life is hard, and we can’t expect perfection. Empathy for ourselves helps us to see others in a brighter light as well. If we are not able to cultivate empathy for this Facebooker, we should unfollow them. Peering into their shit show only highlights our inadequacies. Let’s fill our feed with those that talk to our positive side, not the side we’re working hard to change.
3. Birds of a feather….well you know the rest. Who do you look up to? Who are your mentors? Who drives us and inspires us? Do those people make up a large portion of your Facebook feed? If not, they should! I don’t know about you, but I crave inspiration. I need motivation, support and a looking glass into the future. If I’m going to get a healthy dose of this when I check my Facebook feed, than I better make sure I have a healthy dose in my feed. Follow their personal page, their business page, their blog and anything else they have listed on Facebook. Let’s make our Facebook like a mini networking session when we can. Regardless of our area of expertise, there are those that came before us. If we respect how they did it…..we should be following them! We all need little bursts of motivation for our day. Good information in = Good information out. Let’s fill our feed with motivational speakers, gurus, health experts, mentors, business leaders, or anyone doing their best to spread positivity. Let’s fill our feed with those who challenge us, motivate us and encourage us to be our best selves! Everyone needs a team, redefining what purpose Facebook has in our lives, can create the feeling of having our very own team.
4.News. This is a hard one for me, as I used to be a news junkie…..so I get it, I really do. Seems there is not a lot of good news out there each day, unless we’re looking for it. I don’t know about you, but all that bad news starts to really, really get to me. There’s a fine line between being socially responsible and being a news junkie. I have found, that I can still be in touch with what is going on around me, but not be bogged down emotionally because of too much information that I have zero control over. Plain and simple, if we listen to hate all day…..we can become hateful. We become fearful of “the others”. Solely listening to Fox News or MSNBC is just as detrimental to our psyche as solitary confinement. We become fearful and judgmental when all we read or see about “the others” is negative. Come on guys, these people are paid to get a rise out of us….and look at us, like sheep, just hopping on the negativity train, wondering why we feel anxiety, or depression. Let’s take control, and get off the train! Let’s do our best to find the news that emphasizes the helpers. Find the news that encourages and motivates us to help others. Find the news that doesn’t highlight our differences, but brings us together through our similarities. We don’t have to ignore reality, or choose the path of the uninformed. But we can, filter how much of it we see each day, how deep we let it in and be mindful of what we do with the information we receive. Let’s fill our feed with humanity. Let’s look for ways we can help, and not get hoodwinked by the big news outlets, striving to pull us apart.
5.Giving back on Facebook feels amazing! Who looks up to you? Who are you a mentor to? Reach out and extend your hand via Facebook. This can look many ways. It can look like an encouraging quote on their Facebook wall in the morning. It can look like an inbox message just saying we care in one way or another. Or, it can look like an offer to help them move forward in one way or another. Careful! This does not look like offering time we don’t have, or energy we can’t give up. This relationship should feed us both! Being a mentor is one of the most rewarding roles in life. It raises our self-awareness, motivates us to excel, and reminds us of how far we’ve come. Those are just the selfish benefits! It provides a light for those that come after us…it shows our children how we should treat others. Giving back benefits everyone. This doesn’t have to be in the form of a mentorship. Let’s fill our feed with volunteering pages, charities, and any other outlet that provides a way for us to be of service. I have found there is nothing more mindful than serving others.
Creating a Mindful Facebook feed is easier than we think. Let’s do this together. Think of it as setting boundaries for ourselves. What we spend our time filling our heads with is what creates our world. I know I need peace in my life. I know I need positivity in my life, and I know that this is just one step that can me reach that goal.