A visit to the doctor, orthodontist, school function or anywhere really, will alert you to the fact that people don’t know how to talk to your son, if he doesn’t play sports.
Our society is programmed in a way, that a boy who doesn’t play sports is an anomaly. What can we possibly have to say to a boy, if we can’t ask him about football, basketball or soccer?
My son not only doesn’t play sports……he doesn’t watch them either. GASP!! I know, it’s a tragedy right?
My son has a deep abiding empathy for others.
My son is a critical thinker.
My son is constantly questioning the world.
My son is not a box checker.
My son has a thirst for knowledge about space that won’t quit.
But the world has no questions for him except for, “so….do you play basketball”?
REALLY? This thirteen year old boy, who could change the world has to constantly answer why he isn’t interested in sports. Can’t we do better than that?
Until age eleven, I watched my son pick grass on the baseball field. I watched him run half-heartedly down a basketball court and cheer for his teammates every single time they scored. Like a good American, we tried every single sport there was, encouraging him to get involved, and choose from the buffet our country offers.
The looks I get from other mothers when I say that I gave him the choice at age eleven whether to play sports or not…..is one of reprehension.
How dare I guide and support instead of mold him in the image that is expected for our boys.
I get it, I really do…our boys are to follow a plan set out for success right? We believe that you get them involved in sports, they play through high school, gaining popularity and acceptance along the way. This quells our fears. Society has instilled a fear in us that if our boy doesn’t play sports, than he is uninvolved. He is clearly sitting around doing nothing.
We ignore the statistics behind head trauma.
We ignore the statistics regarding how many of those boys actually play in college.
We ignore whether our children are enjoying themselves.
We ignore what their true passion might be.
We ignore that competitive sports keep them so busy, they have little time for much else.
I am not saying that sports don’t have absolute value. They do. Especially if your son or daughter loves the sport. They push themselves, they learn about themselves, they challenge themselves and meet those challenges. All really good things.
If your son or daughter doesn’t have passion for the sport, I mean real passion. Then what are we doing?
Why not look deeper? Why not look beyond societies expectations.
To what degree does your child’s involvement in sports have to do with YOU?
What if, we got to know our child? What if we asked them if they wanted to play sports or get involved in robotics, student government, forensics, or the like?
What if we said, who are you and what do you like?
What if we said, it’s okay to not like sports?
What if we said, whoever you are is enough?
What if we put our desires aside and opened the door for more?
The self-worth gained from a parent who says “you are enough” is valuable beyond measure. That parent opens the door to more. That parent learns more about their child and more about themselves than ever before.
We owe our boys more than funneling them into a system they don’t fit into. If your boy isn’t an athlete….guess what. It’s okay. They are going to be okay.
You are enough, and so are they.
Our careers help to define who we are. We lead with “so what do you do?” and everyone just magically knows what this means, and answers accordingly. Often, we go to school for years and pay inordinate amounts of money, to ensure that our answer to this question of “what do you do” sounds the way we want it to, pays what we need it to, and delivers the adequate amount of career satisfaction that we believe our time and effort affords us.
So, what happens when reality hits? What happens when the career we have worked so hard for, prepared so long for, isn’t all that it’s cut out to be?
We all happily hop on the complain train. We begin to imagine that things would be different, everything would be better, “if only”.
If only I liked my boss.
If only they treated me with more respect.
If only I got paid more.
If only they would listen to my ideas.
If only they followed through.
If only thinking keeps us in a box. It makes us the victim. If only thinking puts the power outside of ourselves and hands it to situations, to other people, and to things out of our control.
Mindfulness is a word being thrown around quite often these days. Depending on your level of research into it, you might see it as a tool to calm down, a tool to clear your mind or a tool to induce a feeling of peace.
I challenge that narrow definition of mindfulness. Let’s harness the power created through mindfulness and use it to enhance our happiness at work. Let’s use it to propel us forward and increase our motivation and productivity.
Practicing mindfulness increases your self awareness, your accountability and your empathy, towards yourself and towards others. These three benefits can re-train our brains to stop standing in our own way on the path to happiness and success.
Self Awareness: The first step in being able to harness our personal power and quiet “if only” thinking is to raise our self awareness. Self awareness is this valuable window to our own behavior. If we are lacking that window, how can we view ourselves as others view us? How can we know our own strengths and weaknesses? How can we know our own power, what we are truly capable of and in which direction we want to point that power?
At Home: Each morning, build in 15 extra minutes to practice raising your self awareness. Find a comfortable place in your home, and create your space. Sit comfortably for 15 minutes and just notice. Notice the thoughts that are ruminating in your head. Label them as just a planning thought, or an anxiety thought, perhaps an anger thought. Then imagine letting the thought go, in whatever way feels right to you. This practice begins to raise your personal awareness of what is happening in your brain. It allows you to see your thoughts as separate from yourself. You are not required to participate in every thought you have. Freedom!
At work: Pause throughout the day, and just notice if you feel any tension in your body. Notice the thoughts in your head, and label them, letting them go one by one. Remember to breathe, fully exhaling, during each pause throughout your day. Use your pause to craft a response to triggers, instead of the old stand-by reaction.
Accountability: Now lets use the window we have created, to raise our personal accountability. For example, if you notice during your sitting practice, that you have an awful lot of anxiety thoughts, or anger thoughts. What behavior can you be accountable for related to these thoughts? If my thoughts are centered around anxiety, you can bet I have bitten someone’s head off, or responded in a less than helpful, smart-ass way to a coworker. Use accountability to create the environment you want.
At Home: At the end of your morning self awareness practice, build in 5 minutes to cultivate gratitude. Begin to bring into your awareness all that you have to be grateful for in your life. Be accountable for your place in that gratitude. What good are your responsible for bringing into your world? Sit in that place and breathe through your heart, enhancing the good feelings of positive accountability. You are powerful, you are worthy and you are enough.
At Work: Instead of “if only” thinking, change it to, what can I be accountable for? Some situations are truly out of our control, however, sometimes we miss how our behavior effects the outcome. Be accountable for less than forward thinking, missing the big picture, black and white thinking, or riding the complain train. Be accountable for the energy you bring with you each morning. You set the tone for your day, no one else…..just you.
Empathy: Don’t be so hard on yourself! When we raise our self awareness, and accountability, it’s easy to beat ourselves up for what we see. Don’t waste your time in this unhealthy cycle. Our minds natural tendency is to attach to the negative. Know this, and fight it with compassion.
At Home: In your morning practice, don’t beat yourself up for ruminating thoughts, or feelings of inadequacy. Simply let them go, and try again, with the understanding that this is hard. We are re-training our brains and it isn’t easy, show yourself the compassion you would show a friend who is struggling.
At Work: When you catch yourself engaging in the complain train, or caught up in “if only” thinking, instead of beating yourself up, remind yourself of how easy it is to ride that train, and decide to choose a path of response instead of reaction. Use the empathy you have cultivated for yourself, and extend it to others. This sets them at ease and creates a path of understanding for you to work together, not against each other. Empathy creates an environment of teamwork.
What I am suggesting, isn’t easy, I know this.
I’m suggesting you take your happiness back.
I’m suggesting you take your time back.
I’m suggesting you take your mind back.
I’m suggesting you take your power back.
The real questions here are, have you had enough? Are you at your limit? Are you ready to move forward?
At age 19, I was given one of the best gifts I had ever and will ever receive. You were a shelter pup, dropped off from a farm in Indiana. Completely black with huge paws, and a resolve that challenged me. My life was never the same again. The next few years would be a series of chewed up underwear, stolen bones from the trash, ripped up flooring, and more love than I had ever experienced up to that point in my life. My life evolved as you grew. What was once just you and I, became a family. You made room for more love, you showed me how much I had inside of me. You loved my children as I loved you. For that, I am forever grateful.
You taught me many things in my youth.
You taught me you don’t give up on something just because it’s hard.
You taught me, true love is worth all the work.
You taught me there is more than one way to accomplish what you want.
You taught me well behaved doesn’t always end in success.
You taught me being needed can be beautiful.
You taught me what happiness looked like.
You taught me that life is what you make it.
You taught me love expands to exactly the size it needs to be.
In my thirties, I noticed you didn’t move so easily anymore. Your athletic build that carried your body through the journey of all day swimming trips, car rides, frisbee throwing competitions, and camping, had begun to slow down. Your back legs would give out coming up the stairs, you would get lost in the woods behind our home where you once roamed so confidently. Your resolve had weakened. Day after day, regardless of how I tried to ignore it, your body and your spirit told me you were ready.
You taught me how to let go.
You taught me that the choice is never clear.
You taught me to listen to my intuition.
You taught me to love now.
You taught me that things change, and that’s okay.
You taught me, how to lose a friend like no other.
I said goodbye to my best friend, and I vowed to never forget how you smelled like home. I would never forget how your feet looked like giant rabbit feet, and you would snuggle up, tucking your head under my chin. I vowed to never forget, the funny space between your bottom teeth and the beautiful energy that you brought to my life, every single day.
I woke up one day in my forties, and realized, all of those things I vowed to never forget, were slipping from my memory. I cried for hours. It felt like a betrayal. I couldn’t smell your salty paws in my memory anymore. I couldn’t remember how your fur felt against my face. How could I? I immediately went to work beating myself up for all of the little things I could no longer remember about you my friend. From pain, comes growth, if you let it. You taught me this.
That day I vowed to hold on.
Hold onto the smells.
Hold onto the joy.
Hold onto the character.
Hold onto the fun times.
Hold onto the hard times.
Hold onto the little things.
I vowed to remember the idiosyncrasies of a life. A life we so often take for granted once the excitement wears off.
You sit by our side day after day. You exemplify how to live a mindful life, if we are paying attention. You bask in the day like no other being I’ve ever seen. You take each moment for what it is, not wishing it to be different.
Last year I lost a fur baby at too young of an age, and I watched another growing old gracefully. It reignited the old pain from when I lost you. It reminded me of what I will never get back. It sparked a resolve to hang on to what I can now so that tomorrow, when I need it, it will be there.
We create baby books for our children. We take photo after photo to hang onto the precious memories because our children grow too fast. We do our best to create ideas around hanging on to what we can’t lose. The energy of a unique life.
You deserve nothing less.
You are here for such a short time. I want to soak in all that you are and all that you bring. I want to hold on to each memory and the things that differentiate you from each other. When I look back on your life, I don’t want to remember a life cut short. I want to remember a funny nose, or cute teeth. I want to remember the idiosyncrasies that make each friend unique. I want something close by, so when my memory ages and is no longer as sharp as it once was, I have something tangible to remind me.
You taught me well Parker. I can never repay you. Your legacy has enriched more fur babies since you passed. Your story goes on through them and many more in the future. I live mindfully now Parker. You were right, each day is a gift and we must receive it.
I love you Lou Lou Bear,
A Way to Hold On: An idea sparked on a snowy afternoon when my teenage son had the back door open for the dogs to go outside. Our exuberant Red Heeler pup ran out the back door so fast there was no question as to her intent. Our 12 year old Irish Wolfhound/Lab mix stood ambivalently deciding whether he would exit or not. My son and I laughed about how Norman Foreman had always been ambivalent about going outside. This was one of the things that set him apart from any other dog we had ever had. I realized at that moment, that this was one of the memories I had to hold onto.
That day we created a memory jar for each fur friend. On slips of paper, we write funny, sad, frustrating or silly things that our fur friends do that we don’t want to forget. We hold on through our memories and the jar is a tangible way to do that.
When our fur friend passes, we have a celebration of life, during which we each take turns reading the slips of paper remembering a life, a soul. We laugh, we sob, we sit in silence. It’s our way of holding on I guess. It’s our way of being mindful. It’s our way of honoring these amazing souls that are just gifts to us temporarily.
An idea from our family to yours. We hope it enhances your relationship with these beautiful beings.
On a college campus, August 13,1986, an 18 year old girl slept in her messy room, with her bedroom door locked. She heard a loud sound, and when she awoke, she realized her door had been kicked in and she was being dragged by her hair to another room. This man held a knife to her throat, and forced himself inside her.
He took her violently.
He took her mentally.
He took her pride.
He took her voice.
He took her trust.
He took her dignity.
He took her peace.
He took her belief.
He took her intuition.
Intuition is fears kinder cousin. It is the voice that speaks within us, guiding us, to what it instinctively knows is right or wrong. Sometimes, it speaks to us in the moment. Sometimes it speaks to us ahead of time. It doesn’t worry, it doesn’t fear……it guides. It so resembles fear, that it is hard to know when to trust this cousin.
I was awakened by voices. I could hear my mom crying, and my dad speaking in low tones as he always did when it was serious. His cadence rhythmic. I rubbed my 14 year old eyes, and made my way to the bathroom. My sister was home! She was in the living room with my parents, and my brain began to register that she was wearing a hospital gown. The girl who was raped, was my sister.
I had hung out at her house that particular day, showing her moves I had learned at cheer camp. You see, my sister had just recently escaped the chaos of our childhood home and was living with friends. I spent as much time as possible there, as it represented hope. Hope of more, hope of a way out of the chaos I was still living in. I begged to stay the night at her house that evening, but my Mom refused. She had always resented my sister and I being close, and I remember at every turn fighting to spend time with my only sister.
We were close in a way that you don’t see often.
We were close in a way that only kids from abusive homes can understand.
We were close in a way that nurtured my wings.
We were close in a way that I wanted to jump inside her and take her place, that very minute.
For weeks after the attack, I slept on the floor next to my sister, misguided in my feeling of protection for her. She moved back home, as quickly as she had moved out. There was much yelling that summer, as no one knew how to handle their emotions after the attack. My home was an example of how NOT to handle it. My Dad increased the amount of time he was away from us, further retreating, where his family couldn’t reach, but his underlying anger was palpable. My Mom, focused on how the attack effected her, and wondered why we weren’t all helping her through it. My brother must have remained silent in his own pain, because I barely remember his voice through this time. My sister, cried a lot, and wound up retreating with friends up to the lake for the remainder of the summer.
I was left wondering.
Wondering about safety.
Wondering about fear.
Wondering about intuition.
Wondering about healing.
Wondering about human nature.
Wondering about my sister.
As women, how do we differentiate between fear and intuition? I remember distinctly, my sister had her door locked that night for a reason. For weeks leading up to the attack, my sister mentioned several odd things happening at her house. A stolen home phone, a man standing on the sidewalk in front of her home snapping photos. In the moment things that just didn’t sit well with her. We all discounted these things, brushing them off as nothing.
I believe now, it wasn’t nothing, it was her intuition speaking to her, but she had never learned to understand it’s language. In a chaotic home, it’s hard to hear intuition. It’s hard to hear much, but anger and fear. We were all well versed in anger and fear. But intuition…..not so much.
My sister believed, that once she was free from our home, that she could do and be whatever she wanted.
She was right of course, but none of us get there scar free.
On our path to freedom, we must bear the pain of getting there. We must learn the difference between fear and intuition, because the perils of not, are too large.
If we let our story convince us that fear is the same as intuition, we lose.
We spend our lives in fear.
We operate through fear.
We are easily offended.
We are on guard.
We are waiting…..waiting for you to piss.us.off.
Fear is highly emotional. It reflects unhealed psychological wounds. Fear, when nurtured, turns into hate. Listening to our fear, turns into irrational thoughts, and dictates our behavior, towards ourselves and others.
Intuition is unemotional. It is rational, calm, kind, compassionate and soft spoken. It uses our past, and present to try and solve the situation at hand. Intuition, when nurtured, turns into love. Listening to our intuition is a form of self love.
Both are experienced as a gut feeling. It is important to understand the differences so that fear doesn’t drown intuition out.
If we operate from a place of love, a place of presence, I believe, we can better hear intuition. We create this warm and cozy space for intuition. We nurture it and speak to it, so we can understand each others language and begin a dialogue….that we can hear. When we learn to trust intuition, there is no longer a need for fear. We will continue to have rational fear, the fight or flight kind of fear, as that is biological, but no need for irrational fears.
Of course, I am not saying that we could have stopped the attack. As most of us know, rape is about power, and power is greedy, hungry, and very often, angry. I am saying, that I believe my sister’s intuition was speaking and not one of us knew how to listen. Who knows what might have been different? I don’t spend time in that place, because regret is too painful and leads to fear. Get them before they get us, so we can rectify our past. No thank you.
My sister created her own place of love. She has two beautiful children, and is engaged to a beautiful soul. She has struggled to get to this place. I have watched her edges be polished in ways I wished I could have stopped at the time. I have seen her battle, since the attack with the difference between fear and intuition. For it takes great faith to learn the language of the kinder cousin, intuition.
Make a list of all of your fears. This brings self awareness and accountability to the table.
Close your eyes imagining how you feel with each fear. Go there…where do you feel it in your body?
Make a list of times when your intuition has been on point. Close your eyes and imagine the feeling you had when your intuition was speaking to you. Go there….. where do you feel it in your body?
During your sitting practice, spend time being present with the difference in the two feelings.
- Where did you feel each in your body?
- What was the thought attached to the feeling?
- Where do you see fear present in your life?
- When do you hear intuition the loudest?
I know I’ve told you all these years, when something bad happens on television, to look for the helpers. There are always helpers, there are always people with good hearts there to reach out their hand and help a fellow human being. Looking for these people, helps our heart, it helps our minds understand the tragedy before us. It helps us to make sense of this carnage on our television screen, right? If we see helpers, it means our faith in humanity is still in tact.
Screw that. In light of this past month, and the numerous mass shootings we see everyday on television, it’s past time to look for the helpers…..you must BE a helper! You see, telling you to look for the helpers, was my way of feeling like I was doing something, feeling like I was helping you through this tragic world. But it’s not, and I’m not.
I am so sick of tiptoeing around this issue. I am so sick of pretending I’m doing something by telling you to “look for the helpers”. I’m sick of seeing it on Facebook, I’m sick of seeing blog posts about it, while we are doing NOTHING.
No, I have not lost hope in humanity. I have not lost hope in the helpers. I am mad. In fact, I am done. This is not what I hoped for you, and I am sorry I have not acted sooner. Sometimes the mindfulness I have instilled in you since you were young, creates passivity. Sometimes, those who are the most mindful, are too quiet. Sometimes our kindness is mistaken for weakness…..and we are anything but weak.
What I am going to tell you now is different my children. Instead of looking for the helpers, let’s look for something different.
Let’s look for those wishing to pray this away…..is it working?
Let’s look for those carrying guns to get the bad guy before he get’s them….is it working?
Let’s look for those complaining on Facebook…..is it working?
Let’s look for those who fear their right to guns being taken away…so much so that they will solely blame mental health for this carnage….is it working?
Let’s look for those people who assume that the bad guys usually have brown skin……is it working?
Let’s look for those willing to marginalize humans by the location they were born into…..is it working?
Let’s look for those operating through fear…..is it working? Not as a group, but individually, is it working?
Yep, even you, at your young age, can see that bigotry, racism, religion, fear and complaints won’t change a thing……not a thing.
Can we just say it out loud??? IT”S NOT WORKING!!! Let’s say it together. IT”S NOT WORKING!!!
This world isn’t going to change itself. There are people very motivated by money, by racism, by religion, and by fear that are willing to work for it. They are willing to do what it takes to create the change they want to see. The change that fit’s their agenda, and moves them further up the ladder of humanity in their minds.
We are going to change our direction now my children. Now, instead of looking for the helpers, we will be mindful of the areas WE can effect change. Look where YOU can be the helper. Let’s fine tune this and pinpoint the areas we can be of help. What are WE willing to work for?
I am going to treat you as the powerful humans you are my children. You. Have. Power. Don’t let all the rules of childhood confuse you. You are the people who will create change.
Use your power to decide where you stand on this issue, not just where Dad and I stand, but where YOU stand.
Use your power to dream about the change you will create.
Use your power to bring the other children with you.
Use your power to speak up about injustice…not tiptoe around it.
Use your power to speak out about skin color and the significance of it.
Use your power to unite the different cultures in support of collaboration not competition.
Use your power to elevate fellow humans in collaboration with each other, and for each other.
Use your power to be mindful of the feelings inside of you.
Use your power to be mindful of the change you are capable of.
Use your power to educate yourself, so that you can speak clearly, intelligently and powerfully.
Use your power to see the person behind the pain, because unless you see that, you are powerless.
Use your power to harness your feelings into something better for you and for our world.
Above all, use your power to be kind. Because, while we may disagree religiously, philosophically, and fundamentally, we are all humans.
I learn from you everyday, my children. Please continue to teach the adults about kindness, compassion, humanity and inclusion. We think we are so smart, we think we teach you about these things. We are misguided.
As your parent, I promise to be a model for change.
I promise to give you all the love, caring and guidance you can handle.
I promise to be do my best to understand other cultures, not fear them.
I promise to stop tip-toeing around real issues in fear of upsetting others.
I promise to show you how change is created, by learning what needs to be done, and doing it.
I promise to not keep my mouth shut.
I promise, no matter how hard….to keep trying.
I promise to stop telling you to look for the helpers, and to step up and be one.
I promise to create change, so that you will understand how powerful one person can be.
I promise to get started today.
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.