Sometimes you just need to hear it….

I was feeling resentful and under-appreciated.  My husband went out of town and I felt stuck in the daily grind of dishes, laundry, cooking, driving and homework.  Even the holidays just looked like more chores on my to-do list.  I was busy but bored.  Normally I can coach myself out these moods, take some time to myself, go to yoga, etc.  This time I wasn’t snapping out of my bitterness.  I really needed to feel appreciated, valued and considered but I was stuck in my self-righteous anger and I didn’t like it.

I believe that no one can make you feel anything without you believing it first.  If you tell me I’m mean and selfish, it doesn’t affect me because I don’t have that belief about myself.  If I roll out of bed and drive to CVS, sick and feeling awful with my head pounding and nose running, and I see you there and you tell me how great I look, I will not believe you.  If I want to feel appreciated, I have to appreciate me first, in order to receive a compliment from anyone else.  So as dorky as I felt doing it, I wrote myself a thank you note:

Wonderful You,

needing to feel appreciatedI just want to take a minute to thank you for all you have done and continue to do to make our household run smoothly. You do such a great job of raising our children, cooking for our family, keeping them in clean clothes that fit, and maintaining a beautiful home, it’s easy to take you for granted. You manage to stay in good spirits while you juggle all the demands of our family. You encourage your children and husband to pursue their interests, joys, friendships and activities and are happy to “hold down the fort” and help facilitate, plan, drive and arrange financing to make these dreams possible. You always prioritize their needs, remembering their schedules, being on time, purchasing the right shoes, birthday presents, permission slips and all the details of life. You do this because your family’s happiness makes you so happy. Sometimes taking care of your family is a thankless job, but I want you to know that I appreciate and recognize your hard work, thoughtfulness and consistent care. You are a gem of a wife and mother and I am truly proud to walk in your shoes every day. I hope next time you look in the mirror, you recognize what a powerful force for good you truly are and how blessed your family is to have you in their lives.

With gratitude & love,

Me

It took a few drafts to get into the genuine feeling of gratitude (that self-righteous anger held on tight!).  But once I wrote it AND felt it, the rest of the day I felt only love and gratitude.  It was like I had filled up my appreciation tank and didn’t need any external validation. But what happens when you are walking around, vibrating in self-appreciation?  Other people feel it too, and about 5 hours later my husband walked in with a dozen roses AND the two items I asked him to pick up at Costco!

Don’t sit around and wait for someone to give you the feeling you want to feel.  Give it to yourself first. Write a letter telling yourself how proud you are of you, how you deserve a break for all your hard work, how caring and generous you are, how much you admire your patience and self respect.  Then watch and see how your family and your world start to respond to you differently.

How to enjoy your life

I just returned from the best vacation ever. The reason it was so fabulous is because I’ve learned to mind my own business. Five years ago, I would not have been able to enjoy it as much because I was addicted to worry:
“I hope no one misses their flight.”
“I hope no one gets sick before the trip”
“I know I’m forgetting something.”
“What if our luggage gets lost?”
“What if people don’t like the house I chose for us to rent?”
“There is no A/C, everyone is going to be hot and be mad at me.”
“I should help out with my little nephews more.”
“I didn’t do enough of the cooking/kitchen clean up. Is everyone mad at me?”
“I can’t be happy if the kids aren’t happy.”
“What if someone drowns? Get’s stung by a jelly fish? Attacked by a shark?”
“I should have planned it during better weather, I feel bad that it’s so windy/rainy/cold/hot/humid”
“Do they like the food I cooked?”
“Are my parents disgusted by my children’s lack of manners? Are my kids being annoying?
“Am I paying my fair share?”
“Are people bored? Should I make more plans? What if they don’t like the plans I made? Are they just going along to be nice but secretly they are annoyed with me?

EXHAUSTING

Worry and guilt are all-consuming distractions. They feel important and productive, responsible and thoughtful, but they are not. Worry and guilt are decoys. They steal our attention so that we don’t notice how amazing and beautiful and fortunate we are. On this vacation, my thoughts went something like this:
“Wow, this is the most gorgeous place on Earth.”
“How did I get so lucky.”
“The kids are having so much fun.”
“It’s fascinating how happy I can be even when others aren’t.”
“I love it here.”

Even when “bad” things happened, I didn’t take on responsibility for things that weren’t mine. My Mom fainted on a hike after I pushed her to keep going, even though she wanted to go back down. The old me would have felt horribly guilty the rest of the week, the new me says, “Oops, sorry Mom, guess I should have listened to you, next time, I’ll know better.”

We scraped the rental car, we got lost driving at night, kids got hurt and sunburned, we wasted money, we left a bag on the airplane, THINGS HAPPENED.
But life becomes wonderful when you stay in your own business.

The weather, sharks, jellyfish, drownings, faintings, plane crashes, lost luggage, car accidents, I file all these under “God’s business”

Are my family members hot, cold, annoyed, pleased, happy, sad, frustrated, hungry, bored? I file these under “Their business.”

“My business” is how I feel, what I think, and the actions I take. When I feel worry and guilt rising up, I ask myself, “What here is my business?” and “What action can I take?” I apologize, contribute more, turn on a ceiling fan, put on more sunscreen and then let everything else go. If there is no clear action to take, the worry is unproductive, wasteful, and I blow it off.
I use worry as a springboard to gratitude. I allow in the goodness. I accept the awesome and appreciate the beauty. I feel the joy.

And it’s amazing how good, good can be.

Do you dread the holidays?

Whether it’s the divorce, the strained relationships, the passive aggressive agendas or the drunken political commentaries, holiday gatherings can bring out the worse in us. Here are the top 5 reasons why you dread this time of year and how to make it better.

1. You believe you HAVE TO participate. Believing you HAVE TO, is like building a prison around yourself and throwing away the key. Nobody likes feeling powerless. Recognize that you are CHOOSING to participate in this awkward family gathering, because you prefer it over the alternatives. If you opt out, your wife may divorce you, your Dad will write you out of his will, or everyone will talk bad about you while your gone. As concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl once said, “there are two ways to go to the gas chamber, free or not free”. If he can walk to the gas chamber with freedom, surely you can choose to visit your in-laws. Or not. Stay home, go to the neighbors, pass out food to the homeless. Celebrate your freedom of choice with pride, not guilt or blame.

2. You are pointing your finger the wrong way. Although it’s easier to blame our family, what we really don’t like is who WE become when we are around them. Terri turns into a wimpy doormat when she’s around her Mom. Kevin’s own inadequacies get triggered when his brother brags about his accomplishments. Julie gets embarrassed by her children’s poor behavior and becomes “Mean Mommy”, embarrassing herself even more. Realizing it’s YOU and YOUR BEHAVIOR that bugs you, gives you the power to change it. Ask yourself, “How can I be true to myself, even while surrounded by family?” Focus on what you value and ignore the rest. Every time Terri felt overshadowed by her Mom, she focused on the beautiful things around her. Kevin doesn’t value being reminded of his shortcomings, but he does value cheering on his favorite football team. Julie made sure she used HER best manners by focusing her attention on the lovely food and interesting company. Commit to being a person YOU like and experiencing the things YOU value.

3. The holidays bring up unprocessed emotions from the past. We aren’t meant to live perfect & easy lives. We are meant to learn and grow and the holidays can be a time of great teaching, if we let it. What genuine emotion are you trying NOT to feel that the holidays stir up in you? Sadness? Anger? Embarrassment? Fear? Find a quiet place where you can lock the door and allow yourself to feel whatever feeling wants to come up. Ask yourself, “Where in my body do I feel this feeling?” “What does it feel like?” “What color is it?” “Does it have a shape?” “Does it have a sound?” If you can OBSERVE and ALLOW this feeling to be in your body, it will move through you in about 90 seconds. If you avoid, suppress, or fight feeling this feeling, it can stay with you for a lifetime of holidays. Sink into your emotions like you sink into a bathtub. Soak for a while in whatever shows up. When the water gets cold, stand up knowing your emotions don’t have power over you.

4. You don’t like your reality. There’s nothing like a family reunion to remind us that we are still unemployed, still single, still broke, still fat, still addicted, still inadequate and unworthy. But when my clients look at what they say to themselves, they are WAY harder on themselves than any family member. Mom- “How’s that diet going that you started last year?” Your self talk- “Oh God, here we go again, my mom knows I’m fat and lazy and it’s nobody’s fault but mine and I suck. I’m an undisciplined loser.” Mom’s self talk- “I care about her and wish I knew how to help her.”  Make peace with your reality so no one has the power to trigger you. I weigh 50 lbs. more than I’d like to and that’s ok. I am $19,000. in debt and that’s ok. My car is 15 years old and that’s ok. My kid has anxiety and that’s ok. Be sure to speak only facts, not opinions. You are not stupid, poor, fat, or a bad parent. People will always judge you, but you get to decide how you judge yourself and there is great freedom in making peace with the circumstances of your life.

5. You take family too seriously! Stop “shoulding” all over your family and put the FUN back in dysFUNctional. Your family should not be perfect, nice or welcoming. They are who they are and like it or not, they are yours. Pretend like your holiday gathering is a movie, would it be a comedy or a drama? Study the characters, their mannerisms, voice tone, and words, so you can act them out later. Write a script before hand and see how close you get to reality. Watch the movie play out and re-write the ending to make it funnier. Get together with a friend after and see whose family is craziest.

This is your life, your family and your holiday. Make sure the best of you shows up for it. Use it as a time to grow personally and become aware of areas you still need to make peace with. If you are tired of letting the holidays bring you down, schedule a life coaching session with me and we’ll make this your best year yet.

Everything does NOT happen for a reason

This was not in my plans

My house was bustling with excitement. I’m getting ready for my first, big product launch and planning a fun, life coaching group for Moms.  We are enjoying our out of town guests and planning our end of summer party.So much fun stuff happening…… and then, disaster hit.I went to bed and the kitchen, family room, and all my plans for the next two months went under water.Water gushed from the dishwasher and soaked the heart of my home.

My plans are derailed. Our house guests left early, hungry, because I couldn’t feed them. Our kitchen, unusable. My living room, no longer available for group meetings. My launch, postponed. My brain, filled with the sound of 10 fans and a dehumidifier blasting 24 hours a day. I feel like I’m trapped in a hot, dusty, airplane hangar with whirring helicopters that won’t stop. I feel helpless and lost.

As I sit in the backyard, washing my dishes with a hose, trying to regain some sense of control, a thought comes to my mind, “Everything happens for a reason”.

Bull Shit.I’ve heard that throughout my life and it’s a stupid lie.How do I know?Because it feels like crap when I think it.

Our bodies tell us what is true and what is a lie. The girls in my summer camp are always surprised how easy it is to know when you are lying to yourself.The lie feels heavy, icky and tense.The Truth, on the other hand, shall set you free.The truth isn’t always pretty, or happy, or easy, but it ALWAYS tastes of FREEDOM.

LIE – My friend should not have moved away.

TRUTH – I miss my friend. I wish she still lived nearby.

LIE – There is too much bullying going on in schools today.

TRUTH – Kids today could benefit from social development skills.

LIE – Bad things keep happening to me.

TRUTH – Things happen and I keep labeling them as bad.

You might find comfort in the thought, “Everything happens for a reason”. If this thought brings you peace and freedom, then it is TRUE for YOU. For me, it feels heavy & helpless so I know it’s a lie. I MUCH prefer to believe, “I decide what I make things mean.”

Client: I lost my job.

Me: What do you make that mean about you?

Client: That I’m a loser and will never get ahead. (lie)

You can decide that “Life sucks and then you die.” Or you can believe that, “Unexpected things happen and that’s ok.”

Client: I’m bored with my life.

Me: What are you making that mean about you?

Client: That I’m a horrible person! I should be grateful for all the good things. (lie)

Are you really horrible or is boredom just a sign that you are ready for more?  Here are some of my favorite thoughts clients found to be true for them:

1. There is something here for me to learn, that I couldn’t learn any other way.

 

2. This is happening FOR me, not TO me.

3. It was always meant to happen this way.

4. Love is always an option.

5. Love values struggle as much as it values ease.

I don’t know why my kitchen flooded when it did. I haven’t decided what I want to make it mean yet. But I know I will choose something that feels amazing and powerful and truthful because that’s how I roll.

How about you? Do you like the thought, “everything happens for a reason” or does it feel like a lie? What lie are you telling yourself that is keeping you weighed down?

Helping kids with empathy

News of the shooting in Newtown, CT. is vibrating through my body.  I can feel the weight of it: the suffering, fear, shock, desperation, anger, and grief.   It shows up in me as real, physical pain:  stomach ache, headache, tension in my neck, jaw, abdomen, crushing chest, and a feeling like boiling blood I know well as anxiety.  I live on the opposite side of the country and yet I am connected to those parents, teachers and kids at Sandy Hook Elementary in a very real way.  When I was a kid, and heard tragic news like this, I didn’t know how to handle my emotions.

Whether the scary stuff on TV was real or imaginary, as a kid, it felt the same.  I was afraid, but I didn’t know what to do with my fear.  It seemed the right thing to do was to “feel bad” for others.  My big, empathic heart couldn’t handle the guilt, grief and fear.  This wasn’t my pain or my problem, but somehow I thought that if I suffered, I could alleviate the suffering of others.  If I joined them in grief, if I carried the burden with them, I could lessen it.  I was wrong.  All this got me was decades of chronic pain, anxiety and a fear of bad things happening. I tried writing notes and donating money, but it never felt like enough.

Tragedy’s, like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, are opportunities to teach our children healthy ways to deal with their emotions.  It can be hard to notice if your child is reacting in these ways but asking them what they feel, and what they do with that feeling, is a good place to start.  Many kids (and adults) will cope by….

  1. Worrying, pulling-back from life, living small and fearfully, breathing shallowly, just in case a threat shows up.  Constantly staying in fight or flight, when there is no immediate danger, is horrible for your emotional and physical well-being and does nothing for those suffering. You can read more about my results of living this way. This adds more fearful energy to the world, which causes us to do things like horde weapons of mass destruction and maintain the right to bear arms against our neighbors and classmates.
  2. Get Mad – We can be angry at the shooter, the NRA, video games, the president, the lack of care for mentally ill, anyone.  For many people, anger is more comfortable than fear so they stay here, hoping it will lead them to productive action.   This is the “fight” response, in action.  It feels good to use it and get the energy out, but adding more of this angry/fearful/fighting energy to the world is just going to result in more violence.
  3. Get Tough- Many times, big hearted kids (and adults) will grow tough exteriors to mask the really deep feelings and negative thoughts they think about themselves.  They ignore, act cool, like they don’t care, deny their own dark side, and try to act perfectly, sometimes even self-righteous. (The emotion will be looking for a way out so don’t be surprised if they explode at a dead cat in the road or missed soccer goal).
  4. Guilt/Sadness – Somehow we get the idea that if we suffer along, it helps alleviate the burdens of others.  When I feel sad and guilty, that just adds more suffering and depression to the world.  Instead, feel the grief and guilt in your body and transform it into love.  Hug your kids, appreciate your life, but do it from a place of love, not fear.   (You’ll know the difference because love feels expansive, fear feels graspy and scarce).

In order to send love to Newtown, Connecticut, you have to feel it in yourself first.  The first step for all of us is to acknowledge and label their emotion.  When a big, scary, yucky feeling gets named, it diffuses it and makes it easier to manage.  Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” or “What am I trying NOT to feel?”  Is it anger? sadness? guilt? fear?  Then acknowledge that no one is perfect, nor were we meant to be.  We all have the potential for darkness, given the right brain chemistry and environmental circumstances.  Look for something you have done or said you feel bad about and forgive that part of you.  (Notice where you feel the guilt in your body and what color it is, then breathe into it and relax around it until you can transform it into a color that feels like love, seems weird but it works).  Once you can forgive yourself for your shortcomings, you can fill it with love.  From this place, you can then send gratitude and love out to the world, the victims, the troubled soul of the shooter, everyone.  Pet your dog, sing Christmas Carols, cook something delicious, make a list of things you love about yourself and your kids.  Do whatever you can to shift to the state of gratitude and peace.  The world doesn’t need more suffering.  The world is hungry for love.  Take this opportunity to role model for your kids how much power they have to feel and send LOVE.