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What’s so funny?

Two guys walk into a bar

I would tell you the rest of the joke, but to be honest, I’m probably one of the world’s worst joke tellers.  I seem to remember either the punch line or the set up, but usually not both of them at the same time.  Fortunately, there are plenty of other people with the gift of doing it much better.

The irony of my flaw is that I LOVE jokes.  I love all things comedy and humorous.  I love stupid comedy like the movies Airplane and Naked Gun.  I love romantic comedies and Stand up comedians; give me a little Kathleen Madigan or John Pinnette. I love shows like Big Bang and Modern Family.  I love to laugh.  I NEED to laugh.   And I need to do it every day or something significant is missing for me. (I also feel this about chocolate but to a lesser degree). 

I watch comedy on TV.  I listen to several comedy channels on Sirius when I’m in the car.  I’ve read humorous books.  And I’m fortunate enough that my husband and my boys are pretty funny.  There is usually a lot of laughter going on in our house even though I am often the butt of the joke (good naturedly).

I keep a folder on my desktop computer with funny movie clips that I love.  Many of these are from the old Saturday Night Live cast:  Chris Farley dressed like a Gap girl and Will Ferrell as the host of Jeopardy with Sean Connery (Darrel Hammond) as one of the guests.  If you know either of these skits you are probably laughing now as well. 

And last but not least, even though I never kept a baby book for either of my boys, I have kept a file for each of them of the funny things they have said over the years.  I am SERIOUS about Funny.

Why?  Did you know that you (guys) can boost testosterone by laughing?  Stress causes cortisol levels to rise.  Cortisone is the anti-testosterone.  When you laugh you lower stress, and by decreasing cortisol, you naturally increase testosterone.

 (https://average2alpha.com/boost-testosterone/)

Laughter:

  • Lowers blood pressure. People who lower their blood pressure, even those who start at normal levels, will reduce their risk of stroke and heart attack. …
  • Reduces stress hormone levels. …
  • Works your abs. …
  • Improves cardiac health. .

https://www.gaiam.com › blogs › discover › 7-health-benefits-of-

laughter

And according to the Mayo Clinic, Laughter can:

  • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

When you laugh, the diaphragm becomes a powerful pump for your lymphatic circulation, much like your heart serves as the central pump that propels blood through your blood vessels. This assists the lymphatic vessels in carrying this fluid through your body and helps your lymph nodes to clean and filter this fluid, removing waste products, dead cells, and even unwanted microorganisms.

https://www.laughteronlineuniversity.com/laughter-immune-system/

The positive impact for your body that comes from laughter is no joke!  I try to live by a quote from Marjorie Pay Hinkley:  “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it.  You either have to laugh or cry.  I prefer to laugh.  Crying gives me a headache.  Put on something funny and have a great day!

‘Twas six weeks before Christmas…

Remember the Waltons or the family from Little House on the prairie?  Christmas for the pioneers was quiet.  Girls in the family might have received a doll or some yarn.  If the family had a prosperous year, perhaps she might get a book and an orange.  Boys often were excited to receive new underwear or maybe a ball or jacks.  Items like the book or the ball were frivolous and thus not part of the family’s normal budget, but the excitement of Christmas might bring a child a little something special.

I grew up in a family where there wasn’t a lot of money for extras.  I always loved Christmas because of the decorations and the lights.  And I could look forward to receiving a gift that I otherwise might not get at any other time of the year.  I remember as a little girl I once got a tall doll that I dragged around everywhere until she had no more hair.  And to this day, I still say the best gift I ever received was the easy bake oven my sister bought for me when I was about five.  I wanted it so badly and played with it for a long time thereafter.

Fast forward to my life as a parent.  I still love to decorate the house and also cook foods that I rarely make at other times of the year.  I love the music and to making my own Christmas cards.  I also love receiving them and hearing from people I don’t regularly talk to.  And of course, I have loved getting gifts for my children, especially when they were small.  I was more heartbroken then they were upon their discovery that Santa was actually me.

The world changed a lot between the Walton era and my childhood.  And it’s changed exponentially faster again between my childhood and that of my children.  I suspect it would take either of my boys a while to answer if asked what they remember getting for Christmas when they were small.  Christmas for them did not stand out as a time to get something more special than they might any other time of the year.  Moreover, they never got one gift, but opening multiple gifts on Christmas morning was an exciting event.

We stopped giving our boys gifts a couple of years ago.  Instead, we made some charity boxes and filled them together as a family event.  But we also told our boys that we would consider their requests for things throughout the year as there wants and needs dictated.  This has worked pretty well because it means they get an item they want rather than my having to purchase another something so the total is even on Christmas morning.  Also, because the item is purchased in a timely manner and its coming as a single item rather than among several, they are more appreciative of it.

My goal in writing this blog is not to tell you how you should or should not do Christmas, Hanukah, birthdays or any other event.  What I am suggesting is that you look at how you do them and ask if they still make as much sense to keep doing it the way we “used to do it” during a time that has very little in common with the time we are living in.  Those earlier gifts had a functionality that created meaning.  Today’s gifts are soaked in marketing and hype and are often easily discarded and quickly forgotten.

Do you buy gifts for people that you would rather not, but feel obligated to?  Do you receive gifts from people that you wish you did not?  Do you feel compelled to take a gift to a gathering “just in case?”  Do you have anxiety over how much money you spend at the holidays? Do you stress over what to get someone who already has everything or who has the means to purchase it themselves?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then I urge you to look at what the holiday spirit is really about.  Regardless of your religion, I suspect most of these holidays are rooted in hope and gratitude, not resentment and obligation. 

Since I’m on a roll, I will ask you to also look at how you commit your time during the season dedicated to joy.  I often watch couples try to play logistical twister by getting to everyone’s parents, grandparents, great grandparents, cousins and neighbors gatherings.  What I’m always intrigued by is that they may be at one of those destinations the day before the event, but it doesn’t count if they aren’t there again on the exact day.  And so while the joy of the holiday might be best appreciated by small children, these are unfortunately the ones who are dragged around, missing naps and bedtimes.  They are cranky and frustrated that they can’t go home and play with whatever gifts they may have received earlier in the day.  Does the food only taste good if it is cooked on a certain day?  Is fellowship only legitimate if it happens on a certain day?  Again, it’s worth asking yourself why you’re willing to volunteer yourself for stress.

How about experimenting with some aspect of your holiday season and see if you can find a new way to enjoy the season with a little less stress?  If you don’t like it, you can always go back to what you’re doing now.  At least you’ll have a better idea of whether or not you are doing things because you really enjoy them rather than feeling you have no control over the choices you make.

How much is enough?

How much is enough?

There once was a young monk wishing to seek enlightenment.  He went to his yogi master and asked, “if I practice my meditation one hour every day, how long will it take me to become enlightened? “  His master replied “It will take 5 years”.  Wishing to hurry the process along, the monk then asked his master, “How long will it take if I practice 2 hours every day?”  The master replied “It will take 10 years”.  Thinking he perhaps not posed his request clearly, he then asked his master “What if I practice for 3 hours every day”?  The master quickly replied “It will take you 15 years”.

Confused the student asked why it would take longer if he practiced more time.  His master explained if you practice by counting the minutes, you are working trying too hard to achieve the wrong goal.  By trying to practice “enough” you lose sight of true intention of practice, which is to quiet the mind. Only when your mind is quiet can you achieve enlightenment.

The thing I’ve learned about all of these great lessons is that they are not things we usually learn and then incorporate forever.  They are things that we must be reminded of again and again.  The world and our lives creep up on us in ways that often distract us from what we know is best for us, but fail to maintain or protect.

This past year I’ve done a lot of art journaling.  At the start of the year I made a bullet page of the books I had read (audio/listen) in 1998.  As I had never kept count prior to that I was surprised to learn I had read 43 books.  I love books and so I set a goal for myself to read 50 in 2019.  The goal seemed innocent enough at the time.  By the end of the first quarter I realized I was effortlessly trending higher than a goal of 50.  So my competitive nature took over and I moved the goal to 75. 

By the mid-point in the year I could see that at the pace I was keeping, 100 could happen if I stayed on track and stepped it up just a little bit.  I accepted my own challenge and forged onward.  And for a while it was going well.

But then I started to notice things.  People would tell me about a pod cast and I had to ignore it because I had no more time to squeeze in anything else.  I watched less TV with my husband because I needed the evenings to listen.  I called my sister less often while driving because I had a book going that I needed to finish.

Then I stumbled upon a couple of books that were just awful.  But once I was an hour or two into them, I couldn’t afford to stop them and start over if I wanted to make my goal.  So I trudged through them resentfully.  There were also several books that were absolutely delightful, and some where I learned new and interesting things. 

But even with a book I really enjoyed reading, I found I was often checking to see how much longer it would take, and planning out the schedule of my next book.  I set aside a couple of longer reads for next year.  And so, like the young monk, I was no longer focused on the enjoyment of reading, but rather the pursuit of a goal to have an arbitrary number of books read.

I began to ask myself why?  Because I could?  So what?  So I could say “I read 100 books this year!”  and then all of the people would love me and think I was the best book reader of all time.  It would make me smarter, taller, faster, the most interesting guest at the party.  Of course not and even if it did, I could care less.  The only thing that would be achieved in reaching my goal this way is that I got through a lot of material by making it my primary focus.  In exchange, I gave up the enjoyment by not being able to take my time, savor the stories and read only what I really wanted to read when I felt like reading.  And to be honest; that sounds kind of dumb and completely unnecessary. 

But look at how innocently it happened.  I gave birth to the idea out of a healthy minded activity.  And then I let my humanness take over.  Rather than looking at my 43 books as a wonderful and satisfying achievement, my brain went to “You can do better”.  Isn’t that the same thing that happens when someone keeps raising the bar of what their income has to be, or the weight goal to achieve or the winnings at the table? 

I feel a little like Forest Gump who after running hundreds of miles just stopped one day.  I’m not going to get to 100 books this year.  There are still seven full weeks left and I have 13 books to go.  But I don’t care.  I’m done.  I’m not done reading.  There are a couple of books I still very much want to read.  But I want to enjoy them and so I’m going to do just that.  They may take me a while to get through because I also have some television to watch, some podcasts to listen to and a sister who would at least occasionally like to hear from me. 

Are you racing around trying to reach a goal while ignoring the lessons and the gifts of the process along the way?  Are you trying to reach goals that used to make sense but don’t any longer?  Are you trading in too high of a price to meet those goals?

Dressing for Success

Imagine this scene if you will.  You wake up in the morning feeling pretty good.  As you go through your closet deciding what to wear, you decide to put in a little extra effort in pulling yourself together.  You pick out one of your nicer ensembles.  When you look at yourself in the mirror, you think “Hmmm, not bad!” giving yourself a modest little compliment.  You add some finishing touches to your hair and face and proceed out into the world with a little bounce in your step.

Walking down the street you notice what appears to be a homeless person coming towards you.  That individual is obviously not dressed so nicely.  Their clothes are tattered and dirty.  As they get closer to you the contrast is very stark between your look and theirs.  Would you willingly trade clothes with that person and take on their look?

Hopefully, you find this proposition ridiculous.  But hold up, this is not a chastisement in favor of altruism or humility.  While most of us would not willingly swap out our “look” for that of another less desirable, isn’t that pretty much what we do when we quickly exchange our good mood and outlook because we interact with someone else that might be pretty grumpy or even downright ugly?

Think about it.

 You’re in a good mood and then someone else who is having a bad day is critical towards you. 

You feel perfectly fine and then you interact with someone who is generally always negative.

You are part of a team or a class and someone with bad manners begins to take over the situation.

These are just a couple of examples to show the way we can so quickly be prompted to toss our good or even neutral mood overboard in exchange for someone else’s less sunny disposition.  Instead of taking the offense as an opportunity to rise by comparison, we often instead sink into the pit of unattractiveness right along with them.

Outward look is easy to spot while feelings/moods are a little bit trickier.  You have to be conscious that in that moment, you have a choice to make.  No one else can do this for or to you.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission”.  I would extend that to say no one can make you feel ANYTHING without your permission.  Or at the least, no one can make you take on a feeling and give it credence without your permission. That is yours alone to choose.

Beyond the few who may be enlightened (of which I’m not one) it’s natural to have our first reaction be a change of feeling when confronted with a situation like I described above.  But what happens next is certainly within our own realm of choice.  We can “take on” the other person’s demeanor or recognize that those clothes fit them better than it does us and move forward wearing what we started out with.  On the other hand, if you find yourself crabby and you see someone else with a more positive outlook in life, feel free to ask them to exchange or at very least, give you tips on where they shop.

Drop and run

My old supervisor Margean Kastner gave me this metaphor:  She said that in childhood we put on a suit of armor to protect ourselves and it does.  But as we get older, that suit of armor does not grow with us and actually begins to impinge upon us.  That was a valuable piece of information that I often still use today.

Like our protective suit of armor we have a tendency to use many tools we have outgrown or are outdated, but we continue to use them nonetheless.  Some like telling our kids how music was better in our day only annoys them.  Other outdated tools can be harmful to us and or others. 

In the recent best seller book Range, David Epstein offers two important examples that I found compelling.  The first was in the circumstances surrounding the Space Shuttle Challenger.  NASA promoted the statement “In God we trust, all others bring data”.  Although some of the engineers on the project had concerns about the heat shield gasket which had failed on previous tests, they did not have any consistent data from which to form an argument.  Thus, no one was willing to take their concerns up the chain of command without data to support their arguments according to Epstein’s reporting.

A second example relates to the Mann Gulch fire of 1949 in Helena Montana.   This tragedy, which left 13 firefighters dead, is responsible for changing the way fires are fought today.  Mann Gulch at its beginning was believed to be manageable.  The Smoke jumpers began expecting to put it out somewhat quickly and carried in all of their gear as they always had.  However, once the fire jumped across the gulch and began chasing the fire fighters at 11 feet per second.  The crew foreman yelled to his men instructing them to drop their tools and run.  Only two responded immediately and were able to run to safety.  Ultimately those two men and the foreman were the only 3 who escaped death.  In the aftermath, some bodies were seen still wearing their back packs and or holding their tools in hand.  Men were trained to use their tools and letting them go seemed counter intuitive.  Today’s fire crews understand that the tools they use to stop a fire may well be the thing that stops them from getting out of the fire. 

As a parent currently in the stage of preparing to empty nest, I am learning that the tools of hovering over my children, keeping them safe, knowing their whereabouts and anticipating their needs are becoming obsolete.  Moreover, they at times get in the way of developing a new relationship with my sons as they move towards adulthood. Fortunately they are pretty vocal teachers so I get the lesson.

Culturally, we are undergoing enormous changes that require us to make change.  Technology and robots have and continue to change at a rapid pace, the way we do things.  Clinging to our old familiar tools usually leaves us frustrated and inefficient.  People’s jobs and industries are changing.  Families often now live further apart than they once did.  Avoiding re-training or education can leave you at the end of the hiring line.  Insisting that your family members maintain family traditions despite the inconvenience or expense of navigating geography can make for unnecessary tension.

Take a moment to reflect on which tools you might be clinging to even though they are no longer useful, or at least not useful in some situations.  Are their clothes you hang on to because they remind you of an earlier you?  Are their relationships that no longer fit you and might even be preventing your growth?  Is it time to shake things up with a job change, or a move that you have been avoiding to maintain the status quo?   Sometimes it’s important to stay and develop more proficiency with a tool.  Sometimes its best to drop them and run.  I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts.

To Tell You the Truth

I recently read Malcom Gladwell’s Talk to Strangers.  It was interesting and highlighted the importance of understanding another person’s context before making assumptions that you know or understand them or their actions.  Point well taken.

One class day during my doctoral program we were given a copy of an assignment written by a young boy.  The writing was barely legible and our task was to look at what he said and attempt to make inferences base on our great intellectual knowledge (we believed we had) of who this boy was and what might be some of his issues. 

The thread that stood out most for me is that my classmates unanimously deduced the child was the first born male in his family because the boy shared the same name as his father.  I was very confused by this because my parents are first generation Americans born to immigrant Italian parents.  Thus, in keeping with their cultural ties my parents named their first son after my paternal grandfather, their second son after my maternal grandfather, and finally their third born son after our father.  Based on this, I concluded the author in our assignment would have more likely been a third born son.  So much for our great knowledge.

It is common to for us to stick firmly entrenched in what we believe to be true.  The country is split nearly 50/50 in political views.  Religion purports truth strong enough to create wars among nations.  Individual and differing recollections of the truthful transcript of a previous conversation can result in a very unpleasant evening for a married couple.

Most of us can remember the story of George Washington who could not tell a lie or of honest Abe as our elders imprinted the importance of honesty upon our developing minds.  But as we get older, it becomes more apparent that truth is a somewhat slippery concept.  Just because we believe something, doesn’t make it true.  Just because others collectively believe something doesn’t make it true.  And to make matters more confusing, just because something was true at one time, doesn’t mean it will always remain true. 

Going to the dictionary to understand truth does not yield much clarification.  According to Oxford: 1)  truths is “That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.”  So far so good, but a second definition 2) “A fact or belief that is accepted as true” only mucks the whole discussion up again.  If I accept that Aliens visited my neighborhood last night to explain why a trash can was knocked over does that make it true?  Suppose I saw a bright light and heard sounds and thought I saw something really unfamiliar to me knocking over the trash can.   Now I discuss it with my neighbor who does not believe Aliens are real.  Does my neighbor’s lack of acceptance mean that Aliens are not a truthful explanation?  Am I wrong, or untruthful?

Raising these questions is far beyond a semantic tug of war.  I am often witness to people telling me what they believe to be “the truth”.  I don’t use the word believe to suggest they are lying or even wrong in their story versions.  But as I listen, I try to remind myself that this is a person’s story that they believe to be true and that the story regardless of its thesis, most likely occurred in a context of other people who may have alternative versions of the same experience. 

So why does this matter? Let me offer some examples.  Suppose John tells me that his wife is frequently complaining about him and he can never make her happy regardless of how much he tries to please her.  But his wife may feel that the truth is that John is committed to his work and his golf game and that she gets only a left over version of him.  She does not consider that he may be working at a job that he doesn’t particularly enjoy but does so because he is trying to provide for her in a way that he hopes she will find pleasing.  He cannot understand why she is unhappy with him when he is trying to do the right thing by her.  John may not be aware that she would rather have more time with him than a fancy house to live in.

Here is another:

A woman told me today that her little boy noticed another woman while they were out walking.  The stranger was not well kept according to the mother, was large in stature, but they shared a similar hair color.  My client, unhappy with her own size was appalled that her son saw what she thought was an unattractive likeness.  She was caught between feeling that either her son was wrong or more likely that she was miscalculating her own level of attractiveness.  She felt she was forced to consider the truth about her size.

I see that her size is her size and not something that either tells truth or is measured by truth .  The scale is one measure, her clothing size is another.  The way her husband’s arms wrap around her and the way her son cuddles in to her body when he wants to snuggle are also measures.  None of these is in and of themselves complete, nor are they validations of the truth.  Even the scale will give a variety of readings within a day much less a week or more.  These are measures of what they measure at that moment in time.

I’m not trying to suggest that we give ourselves permission to lie because truth can’t be found.  I am, however, suggesting that we consider that the truth we are willing to die on the sword for is often less stable than we may have previously considered.  And lest we set out to crucify another for their belief, try to remember that the context in which they developed their truth may be very different than our own.  Perhaps it’s time to consider tolerance over proof.

Don’t go there

This past weekend I drove with my husband Ben to Kansas State University, the home of his alma mater.  The occasion was a reunion of the folks in his dorm from many moons ago.  We had a lot of fun, enjoyed some great food and met some nice people.  Several blogs ago I introduced you to one of those people as “The best friend I never met”.  Well, this past weekend, Mo and I finally met in person after 20 years of being pen pals.

As we started to get into the weekend, my husband who knows me well asked “Is there going to be a blog that comes from this?”  I answered “Probably several.”  I gleaned many observations over the weekend, not the least of which was watching how a group of people that meant so very much to each other long ago could pick up right where they left off as if time had never passed.  I did not have a traditional college experience, and so it was interesting for me to watch and learn about how they really had become a little family during those developmental years and still remembered each other’s stories even after the passing of much time.  Sadly, when they toured their own dorm this year they noticed that unlike their era, the once always open doors were now all closed.  Gone were the days of feeling free to drop in on each other and grab a piece of pizza without an invitation.  Presumably the current dorm mates are each in their own space talking via technology rather than leaving a message in full view on the dry erase board.  The times; they are a changing.

So as I said, Mo and I have been exchanging emails, text messages, an occasional voice text, letters and cards for over 20 years.  We’ve learned along the way that we have so much in common.  We each had our first child the same year, just a couple of months apart.  I went on to have my second and then a year later Mo did the same.  I have two boys, she has two girls.  Mo’s younger daughter was born with Down’s Syndrome.   This is clearly not an area that I have much training or personal experience with, but I do know that watching Mo over the years from afar has been an act of witnessing grace in action.  Sometimes I delude myself into thinking I also have a relationship with her daughter because I sometimes send her little notes or trinkets and she always delights me with a return card that she has made.  But it is a delusion, because I only see a minuscule fraction of what life must really be like both for and with her daughter “S”.

As we walked along the campus Mo made a comment to me about the anticipation of empty nesting.  Once we got to a more settled spot I decided to ask her for clarification.  As much as we have shared via our pen pal relationship, I have never felt comfortable asking some questions without first meeting her in person, and to be present when asking them.  Basically I wanted to know what she thought the longer term outlook meant for S.  Mo’s comment about looking forward to empty nesting gave me the opportunity and I plunged.

Mo was both thoughtful and candid as I’ve come to expect from her.  But she also began to get tearful.  There we were sitting in a meeting room in the architecture building with people nearby and I was making Mo cry.  How’s that for adding a happy memory to your husband’s weekend? I made a feeble attempt to give Mo an out so she could end the conversation but she declined.  And then she said the most important thing of all.  “Actually, it’s good to be able to talk about this.  Most people really don’t want to.”  She continued to share a little bit more, we exchanged some thoughts and then moved on to rejoin the rest of the group.  But it was only after that conversation took place, I finally felt as if I actually knew the actual Mo rather than the person I had developed in my mind based on our written dialogue.

There are two points I think worthy of highlighting.  First, while grateful that technology has allowed us to connect these many years, it has also been a limited connection even when it has felt like more.  That is why I think the observation about the kids in their closed door dorm rooms seems significant.  All too often we can feel as if we know someone because we talk to them a LOT through technology.  We think we say all of the same things we would if we were in person.  But my experience has taught me that, there is a very big difference between hearing someone say “That makes me cry”, and watching the tears fall down their cheeks.  There is also a difference in feeling someone actually see you cry (or laugh) than simply telling them about it with an LOL or emoji.

Second, as we spend less time face to face, there are fewer opportunities for someone to ask and answer those deeper questions.  But even when we are face to face, most of us don’t want to ask “What does fine mean?”  And as a result, more of us are reluctant to answer anything except the perfunctory “Fine” to the question of how are you?

The death of a spouse, the illness of a child, the collapse of a business, a divorce and many other life altering events have an impact on us long after the funeral, positive test results, bankruptcy filing and removal of the wedding band on our finger.  But people on the outside know only when the “event” has ended.  Or perhaps we have even cried on their shoulder for “awhile” and then tell ourselves or they tell us it’s time to move on.  But just because a person has moved on, doesn’t mean they yet know how to move forward in a life re-defined from their previous plan A.  Mo wasn’t lamenting about having a child with Down’s.  She was long past that, but she is trying to figure out how having an adult child with Down’s looks like as she and her husband also get older.   The woman who’s husband passed away 3 years ago accepts his death, but still has to figure out how to pare down the house they shared on her own so she can move forward.  The mother of the ill child now recovered may be grateful, but she now has to live with a reality of fragility she may not have considered previously.  And the divorced partner may be sad or relieved by the dissolution of a marriage, but they still have to figure out a new normal that will continue to evolve over many years ahead while still carrying remnants of a past life with someone who is no longer present.  And often, so very often, all they really want and need is for someone to give them the time and space to allow them to clear their minds and set the burden down for just a little while.  For someone to go beyond “fine” and let them process their thoughts so they can continue to not to stay stuck, but rather to find their footing forward.

How many people do we interact with daily in only pretend communication because we text to avoid speaking.  How many people do we possibly encounter that we keep conversation only to that which does not make either of us uncomfortable?

What’s Love got to do with it?


My puppies are now a year old.  I wasn’t writing during the events of last year, but a week after my oldest son Alex left for the Navy, and 3 days after my youngest Andrew left for a 3 week camp we had to put our 13 year old German shorthair dog, Snickers to sleep.  It broke our hearts.
I lasted about two months before I convinced my husband that we needed another dog.  And then I came home with two.  The new girls are the same breed, as Snickers; German Shorthair Pointers.  These two are named Millie and Olive and are a handful to say the least.  They swim in the gold fish pond and have dug major trenches in the yard.  They have chewed on furniture, eaten countless phone ear pieces, electronic training collars, shoes, cash from my wallet, the comforter on the bed, and a list that goes on a lot longer.  And by the time each night rolls around, we still say to each of them “You’re a good girl and I love you so.”
Love is a funny thing.  It’s one word with many meanings.  It’s not just that it means one thing to me and another to you, although that is true, but it also means one thing to me, and then can mean something different to me depending on when I’m using it.  But so often when we think about whether or not we love someone, or don’t love them as the case may be, we tend to think it has something or everything to do with the other person.  I believe it has everything to do with our own hearts and heads and the stories we tell ourselves.
I say I loved Snickers because she was a good girl.  But I love Millie and Olive who are ridiculously mischievous  girls.  It seems their behavior actually has little to do with how I feel about them, because if it did, I would have given them away to a puppy orphanage long before now.   Instead, I seem to be able to look beyond my torn up shoe and see only the adorable puppy eyes that routinely melt my heart.
I have often said to my sons “Your dad drives me bat____ crazy.  And that is precisely how I know I love him.  Because even after he has done so, I still want to be with him at the end of the day and so I know it must be love.”   It is love which allows me to look beyond the parts of him that make me want to kill him in his sleep sometimes.   I still wake up each morning despite the fact that my snoring has kept him awake most of the night.  I suspect, he too must have loving feelings for me that are stronger than sleep deprivation can break within him.  Love is a very powerful force indeed.
Think about the example of a new baby.  (or if you prefer, stick with the puppy metaphor).  But new babies are generally speaking not that attractive, even though most of us parents don’t realize that until we look at the hospital infant photo about a year later.  That new baby doesn’t do anything except cry and fill diapers.  They bring no dowry to the relationship and in fact cost us an arm and a leg.  In short, they bring nothing to the table.  And yet, we are immediately smitten with the little creatures, full of love in our hearts and eyes.  We imagine all sorts of scenarios ahead filled with joy because of the love we have for this little “soon to be person” despite the reality that he or she has done absolutely nothing to “earn” that love except show up.  But even in the anticipation of them showing up, we start growing immense feelings for them.  So how then, can it be that love comes from the outside?
Admittedly, it is difficult some times to find the feelings of love within us when the other person behaves in certain ways.  It is hard to feel loving when you’ve asked someone to do something repeatedly and they ignore you.  It’s hard to feel loving when someone behaves inappropriately.  It’s hard to feel loving when you are expecting someone and they don’t show up for you.  That is when it’s easy to say I don’t love them because of their behavior.  But their behavior is just that:  theirs.  And our reaction to that behavior is a choice we make in accordance with our expectations.  When the person does things that fulfill our expectations, we love.  When they don’t fulfill our expectations, we choose to not love.   We don’t love or not love because of their behavior, but rather because our expectations and stories are filled or disappointed.  Thus, we don’t love or not love because of who they are, but rather because of who we are.  

Thank you to the incredibly generous responses I got for my last blog.  Apparently I’m still technologically challenged and did not have the link to the web comments page working but hope I have it fixed for now.  Also, an astute reader suggested that I request you make reviews on Google rather than health grades.  I will be greedy and ask for both.  Remember, I have a few more years to work as I have puppies to feed.

You can check out any time you like… but you can never leave (The Eagles, Hotel California)

People keep asking me if I am still writing my blog.  I tell them yes, but only in my head.  I have written some really good stuff there, but it seems that none of it has made it on to the screen.  So when I was asked again yesterday, I decided I would give it a shot and see what comes out.  Here goes:

I have a few regular sayings.  You may have heard some of them.  One of them is “Therapy is supposed to make you feel better, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen today”.  I usually pull that one out when someone is in a really tough spot and I have no great fix all answer, or I have to deliver news to them that they would rather not hear.  Yesterday was that kind of day.

I sat with a young woman whose life is breaking apart from all that is familiar to her.  It’s painful.  I told her life is painful when you do dumb stuff and screw it up and then have to face hard consequences.  But it’s harder still when you feel like you’ve played by the rules, worked hard, and done it “the right way” and it still doesn’t turn out like its “supposed” to.  It seems unfair.  It seems brutal.  It seems pointless to keep trying.  Most people have this experience at one point or another.  Some people seem to have it at a level of unbearable frequency or intensity. 

So how does one find the energy, motivation, hope, courage or perhaps blind faith to pick themselves up and keep going?  Not everyone does.  Some people give up.  They end their lives.  And some people keep physically alive but they shut down to a level in which they merely exist, waiting for their time to on earth to come to an end.  Sometimes the latter is facilitated with an addiction that keeps one so numb, they are no longer aware of their original pain, but become embroiled with the pain caused by the addiction itself instead.

People in the throes of despair usually feel alone in a private hell believing that not only is their pain too great to bear, but that they are in a hole where no one else can or cares to reach for them.  They feel certain that ending or giving up is personal and won’t really matter to anyone else.  And that even if it does, another’s concern or misery will be short lived and forgotten sooner than later.

As Wally Lamb says “This much I know is true”.  I can only speak from my own experience, both my personal reactions and the stories told to me over the years.  There is a blue plaid teddy bear that sits on the bookcase in my office.  It was a gift I gave to a client many years ago.  It was returned to me a few years ago by her sister after my former client committed suicide.  In the time I had seen her she contemplated it many times and we always managed to talk it through.  When she was in despair, she always told me no one would remember her.  A few years after we finished our work, I learned she had taken her life.  I still remember her.  I don’t need the bear on my shelf to remind me but I keep it there as if to keep some part of her alive and to bear witness to her pain.  When she left, she may have ended her pain.  I hope so, but she also deprived the world of something good and strong, smart and creative, capable and wise in ways she didn’t know and didn’t live long enough to prove to herself.  And most of all, she left the potential of joys not yet known.

Last week I saw a different young woman.  I met her a couple of years ago and after only a couple of sessions with me she made a very real suicide attempt that she survived only by the grace of God.  Today that same woman is getting married soon; to a man that is her best friend.  She has a job she likes and hopes to have a family.  All of these are things she could not imagine when she was in despair.  Had her suicide attempt been successful, her best friend would be looking to a different kind of life ahead.  Her children would have no chance to be born.  Her mother would still be experiencing an unbearable grief and trying to remember how to answer the question “How many children do you have?”

Agreeing to try again provides no guarantee that you will win the prize.  It provides no promise that things will not get worse again.  Trying again only means that you fully accept being human and to fulfill the contract of being here to do whatever it is you are supposed to do, even when you aren’t sure what that is.  Just as your mind takes in a million marketing and social cues everyday unconsciously, so too does it take in interactions as small as a nod or a smile.  You may never know how you being where you are at any given moment affects another person and helps them get along more easily in the world.

So just as therapy doesn’t always make you “feel better” the moment you want it too, this blog, long awaited by some, won’t likely provide the “feel good” message they may have hoped for.  But I hope it will touch just one person who thinks trying again, doesn’t make sense.  More importantly, I hope it will touch people who are in a good place to use some of their grace by looking a little bit longer at the stranger who may be struggling and ready to give up and offer them a smile or an act of kindness.  There are so many ways to do this with so little effort on our part. 

When I drive through the McDonalds (yes I’m admitting this) in Eureka, the person who takes the money hands out a dog treat when I have my dog in the car.  She has done this for a couple of years.  I tried to give the manager some money to go towards the treat fund assuming the employee was paying for this with her own money.  The manager informed me that a gentleman who lost his own dog supplies the branch with treats and makes sure they never run out.  I’ll never meet him.  And it’s not that my dog can only get a treat if she goes to McDonalds.  But the act warms my heart and reminds me that there is goodness in the world and that we always have a choice to turn pain into something productive.

On a final note, I now have “What would Mary Say” bracelets.  Yes, for those of you who enjoy remembering some of the things I say or more realistically, they serve as a reminder to listen to yourself the way I listen to you, stop on by my office for yours.  They are silicone bands (like the Lance Armstrong livestrong).  If you are an out of towner, send me a note. 

And finally, I have a favor to request.  I am trying to be more mindful that we now live in the age of technology and that I should actually join that movement.  If you have something positive to say, I would appreciate a review at Healthgrades.com
If you have something not so favorable to say, I hope you’ll write that to me and give me the opportunity to address it first.

Life’s a Pain


I’m back in the saddle so to speak.  I still have a gimpy arm, but I’m managing pretty darn well and seem to have had the good fortune of having had a lot less pain than most people with this experience.  It’s still a process that will take a few more months to have a “normal” arm.  The rest of me will likely never get there.
In my down time I received so many beautiful notes from many of you.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart and I mean that with all humility and sincerity.  Your notes and calls lead me tot the realization that I will likely never retire.  I am so blessed to have a job I love so much.  Thank you.  Thank you.

As many of you know, I keep a write board on my waiting room wall.  The current quote on that board is “If you aren’t willing to change, don’t expect your life to”.

So often, we think about changes we want to have occur in our life but unfortunately we don’t connect the realization that we are the ones who actually have to take step by step actions in order to make those changes occur.  Even if we do get that far, many of us would like to take the action once or twice, for maybe a week, but certainly not from here on out!.  We want to diet for a day and lose 50 lbs.  Quit drinking for a month and be “over it”.  Or, we want to send out a resume and have a great job land in our lap.  We might date the same type of person over and over, and believe he or she will change “this time”.

Last week I heard myself saying to someone “The illusion of comfort you feel right now is preferable to the pain you will feel if you make a change.

Make no mistake.  Change often brings discomfort if not all out pain.  Often, our perception and anticipation of that pain is magnified in our minds and we believe we can avoid it by not embarking on that change.  We make a mental pro and con list in our head and determine that the comfort we get in this moment (pre change) is not so bad.  Heck, it might even feel good IN THIS MOMENT.  But we miss that it may be costing us a hefty price by continuing the status quo.  

 Continuing to spend what we can’t afford because obtaining an item makes us happy, doesn’t take into account the pain when the credit card comes and we can’t pay the balance.  But in the moment of putting those goods in our shopping cart, we maintain the illusion of our current comfort and don’t want to feel the pain of not going home with our goodies.
Continuing a relationship that is not good for us may feel preferable to the thought of ending and having hurt feelings to consider.  But what about the pain of missing out on a relationship that might be better for us?

I notice this within myself when I want to avoid my “painful” therapy exercises on my arm at a time that I feel completely comfortable doing something else

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.   But not doing them means my arm fails to strengthen and the process goes on longer than it needs to creating far more pain.

Pain is part of living.  The sooner we come to terms with that and stop trying to run, hide or dress it up in lies for ourselves, the sooner we become able to stay in the moment of our present lives.

Beauty and The Beast

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I had an encounter recently that was reminiscent of many I’ve had over the course of my career.  I’m going to describe it as pertaining to a woman, but there are male versions that come to mind as well.   It goes something like this.  I’m sitting with a young woman in her mid 20’s to mid 30’s.  It’s a beautiful, accomplished, smart woman with a lovely disposition.  And she is telling me about her low self confidence, esteem, unattractiveness and perhaps even a lack of merit.  The Beauty and her Beast.

Her beast is the version of herself that lives inside telling her everything that is not only not okay with her, but is the opposite version of what most of us on the outside believe we are seeing when we look at her.  We may seem kind, encouraging and may even believe we have empirical evidence when we try to contradict her Beast, but we are often no match.  The Beast has held her captive for quite some time.

What about those of us who aren’t strikingly beautiful, don’t have stellar credentials, or won’t get invited to Mensa?  How are we supposed to feel great about ourselves when the people we aspire to emulate still don’t get to feel that they are even near the finish line?  Does that mean OUR Beasts are real or justified?

I think not.  I think part of the human condition is that we are a constant work in progress and because of that, we never feel “ready” or complete.  There is some merit to that idea, as it is a motivator towards expanding ourselves.  But how about evaluating the incompletion simply as a stage rather than a judgement?  When I bake brownies, I know that at the half way point they are simply not done rather than flawed and incapable of reaching optimal tastiness.

One of my favorite children’s books is called “There’s a Nightmare in My Closet.  The little boy who is afraid of the nightmare in his closet discovers that his nightmare is equally afraid of him and he has to ultimately comfort the nightmare.  Perhaps our beast is really just an untamed, part of ourselves who may even have been unjustly wounded a long time ago rather than an abusive dictator to whom we must submit.  Maybe we could see our Beast as perhaps uneducated, or lost in an earlier time.  Maybe our Beast is really a product of collective voices that no longer fit in the world we now live within.  Or maybe our Beast is just a scared part of us that needs to be comforted so it will stop being a bully.

Either way, it becomes increasingly clear to me that achieving something on the outside is not what will make us feel better, ready, richer, happier.  We are who we are, and while we hopefully will continue to grow and evolve until our last breath, the state of feeling enough is ours simply for the price of deciding it is so.  Beasts need not apply.

 

 

new audio versions of old posts are now here


Hi audio listeners:

Yesterday I added audio versions to many of the previous blogs.  If you are predominantly a reader- ignore this post-

if you prefer the audio version, the grid below tells you which of all posts to date contain audio.   (you’ll need to go back to the website to hear them)   http://www.drmaryphd.com/blog

Some simply aren’t conducive to an audio format.  This grid is also a helpful tool for passing some on (hint hint)

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.

happy day!

mary

Blog title date published audio avail theme
Aint misbehavin or are they 6/8/2014 Yes what to do when you don’t like how someone else behaves
Mexican fisherman meets MBA 6/4/2014 Yes forgetting to live while you earn a living
Not all who wander pt 2 6/1/2014 no calling your thoughts back to center
Not all who wander are lost 5/28/2014 yes calling your thoughts back to center
Falling forward 5/25/2014 Yes making mistakes
Drum roll please 5/22/2014 no announcement
Can you tell me how to sleep 5/21/2014 yes following your own voice
The Golden Circle 5/18/2014 no coaching- defining your niche
Do one thing 5/14/2014 Yes motivation to get started
Response to a comment- places that scare 5/11/2014 Yes response to a comment about fear
Happy Easter 4/20/2014 no holiday greeting
Another excerpt pt 2 4/16/2014 no notes from a session
another excerpt 4/14/2014 no notes from a session
grrr 4/9/2014 Yes when the kid part of us didn’t get their way
quiet time 4/5/2014 Yes reflecting on what is good
Run to Nebraska 2/4/2014 no movie review/fathers and sons
Flying High 3/29/2014 Yes dreams, fear of success
Deep Waters 3/26/2014 yes fear
Kids vs Dogs 3/23/2014 Yes pet loss, unconditional love
If you give a kid an ipad 3/18/2014 no book announcement
Burning the boats pt 3 3/16/2014 no letting go
Looking for Dinghys 3/12/2014 Yes letting go
Burning the ships 3/9/2014 no letting go
Never Can say goodbye 3/5/2014 yes loss and aging
Everybody’s sad 3/2/2014 no mindfulness
What a difference a day 2/16/2014 Yes gratitude
excerpts from a session pt 1 2/19/2014 Yes session notes on fear
selling the drama 2/17/2014 no culture chaos
iphone apps 2/12/2014 no app recommendations
eclectic or chaotic 2/10/2014 no mindfulness
couldn’t have said it better 2/5/2014 no mindfulness
my favorite stories 2/4/2014 no website update
another one bites the dust 2/3/2014 no stars who overdose
where does the time go 1/19/2014 no quick passage of time
toilet paper up or down 4/23/2014 yes compromise in relationship
hear an angel there an angel 5/7/2014 yes reflection and mindfulness
is it always about me 5/5/2014 yes not taking things personally
crash 4/30/2014 yes mindfulness
the places that scare you 4/27/2014 yes taking risks

 

Response to a comment to an earlier post: The Places That Scare You:


for an audio version of this post,  click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may have to scroll to the end of the post and look for the sound icon

 

Someone posted the following comment to the posting “the places that scare you”

ok, I read this three times now & understand where u r coming from in this process, but it still keeps coming back to me, how does one know where this place is or even how to get there.? This one seemed a bit confusing to me. I sense that maybe because it is a real issue with me where food is concerned, as I do believe its a control issue of mind over body equals sabotage. Are fear & sabotage one in the same? While this article is real in facts, it is confusing in where to start, at the beginning or the end.

Let me try and tackle this:

How does one know where this place is or even how to get there?

—- since the commenter wrote that their issue is food, I would say when you find yourself thinking about or eating food and you aren’t hungry, you are probably contemplating a visit to one of the “places that scare you”. You have a built in radar system that says “uh oh— danger ahead” and it’s called food thoughts.

For someone without food issues, it might be drinking, working, working out, shutting down or a whole host of other behaviors.

Are fear and sabotage one in the same? Not exactly. Sabotage is a behavior, fear is the emotion that drives the behavior. Sabotage is the inner self (or child self) attempting to reach safety by shutting down what it fears will become overwhelming. The adult uses the word sabotage because the behavior seems irrational or unwanted. But the child self is in protection mode- it will use anything that works

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. It’s not as articulate as our adult self- its methods are more primitive.

Attempting to control mind over body equals sabotage. I agree—actually I would extend that to say control period- often leads to failure. This isn’t a test of will. It’s a test of willingness. Lauren Slater writes an excellent piece in her book “LYING” about the difference between will and willingness. This is one of those areas where willingness to go into those places and sit through them is required. Not willingness to avoid something or someone. It’s a paradox like many things. The more you try and control, the less you have… and once you let go (not the same as give up), the fight against you also subsides.

With regards to the order of the process. Let me try and address that by coming full circle. You start with a commitment to yourself that, you are working on willingness to not let fear stop you. Then you wait for about 3.2 seconds for the universe to hand you a situation in which your fear will be summoned forward. You’ll notice it by your desire to immediately run to familiar behaviors (in this case food)… and you do

N O T H I N G

For as long as you can. You let it ebb and flow around you and you just notice- notice what happens if you DON’T eat. Does the situation you were afraid of beat you down? Does it make you cry? Does it kill you? Probably not. Whatever happens will happen…. Whether you eat in the face of it or you don’t. Because other than hunger, food doesn’t fix a lot of other things.

I hope that clarifies it a bit…. I so appreciate this and every comment. And most of all I appreciate that you take your time to read the posts.

 

 

Another excerpt part 2


As promised, this entry includes a diagram to help illustrate the practical application of the theoretical concepts I described in the previous blog entry.

 

This diagram is by no means intended to be complete or universal, although some of the items listed actually are fairly universal.

 

Remember, our infant in the crib experiences an overwhelming sense of panic (annihilation) and screams.  Our current self can experience a reactivation of those feelings, or “wake up” or engage that infant self, by events happening in the here and now.  For example, maybe a friend doesn’t call me and I was expecting, even counting on hearing from them today.  Perhaps it activates old feelings of abandonment or shame.

Even though I can feel the emotions of my young child self or even infant self, the adult in me won’t allow me to start screaming in the room, because I know there will be consequences of behaving inappropriately.

 

So I turn to act out the frustration by using something.  In the earlier blog I used food.  It could also be alcohol, drugs, sex, overwork etc.  The symptom language can change but the concept is consistent.  My sense of self has disintegrated or fragmented here by having my multiple “parts” competing with each other.

Recovery or healthier living is based largely on the concept of healing that split and having the parts work together more cohesively.  This requires that my adult part work on behalf of my child parts.  It also requires that my child parts feel safe enough to inform my adult parts accurately.

I have listed out some basic categories of self care.  These are colored orange.  What you choose to prioritize may be somewhat different and so I have created purple spots that are blank to show that more items could be added in to complete this picture.  Other suggestions might be family, pets,  spirituality or finances to name a few.

I worked through the diagram for some, but not all of the orange categories.  Had I worked through them all, I would have drawn a green and a yellow box for each as I did for the completed ones.

The green boxes indicate how the orange item is helpful to the adult part of me.  The yellow boxes signify how the same action is helpful to the child part.  They can sometimes overlap.  The key differences, however is that the adult part usually benefits from the literal result of the category, while the child self, benefits from the symbolic or relationship securing aspect of the act.  It’s more about security or safety and reassurance from our child self.

 

I hope this illustrates why someone might read a self help book- feel better for a bit and then abandon a healthy choice even though it rationally seems like a good practice.  Usually it’s because they are trying to appeal only to their adult self, while still ignoring the needs of the child part within.  So, it’s not simply the act of “doing” the types of things listed, but making a commitment to the child self about why you are committing and then applying the consistency of follow through.

“I’m choosing good relationships because I want you to see how terrific of a person you are reflected back to you.

“I’m going to try starting the day with an affirmation so that I’m in the right frame of mind to take good care of the value that is you today.

“I’m going to try and maintain this schedule of structure so you will know that I’m going to be available and not too scattered all day long to hear your needs.

 

These are only a couple of examples to illustrate this internal dialogue that needs to accompany the actions.

 

I hope this is clear and useful.

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Flying High


for an audio version of this post, click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may have to scroll to the end of the post and look for the sound icon

 

In my 20’s and 30’s I had a recurring dream that went like this:  I was riding a bicycle and enjoying myself.  Then all of the sudden the bike began to lift off of the ground.  I was marginally startled at first, but I got excited pretty quickly.  As I began to go higher I got more excited.  Then I saw that I was above the treetops.  I looked down, realized how high I was and got scared.   I wanted to figure out how to get back to the ground safely.  That’s where the dream ended every time.

I’ve been an active dreamer as far back as I can remember.  There are probably about 4 or 5 dreams that I can remember as recurring, the above description being one of them.  I often figure things out through my dreams and usually once I do, a recurring one will disappear.  That is what happened to the one I described.

The dream for me was about fear of success.  It’s easy to talk about fear of failure- duh who wants to fail?  But talk about your fear of success and people look at you like you’re some kind of drama queen or searching for a compliment.  “Oh gee poor you, you’re just so burdened with all of your success”.  But fear of success, at least not for me, or other’s I’ve counseled,  born out of some twisted sense of guilt or ego.  It’s about not knowing how to handle the responsibility that comes with success, not feeling legitimate for success and/or not knowing having the confidence to keep it going.  Sometimes fear of success is about not wanting to become a target, or even about loss of familiar patterns, people or environments.  Ask anyone who has ever had a significant reversal of fortune.  The world they knew no longer treats them the same way.  Ask a person with long term sobriety how many friends they had to walk away from, or who walked away from them

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But for me the fear of success had much more to do with my own sense of unsureness.  I am the youngest of 6 children.  No one in my family went beyond high school.  The notion that I wanted to do something more with my life gave me both hope and anxiety.  No one told me I couldn’t pursue higher education, but some told me I shouldn’t.  It’s not that anyone was attempting to be mean, they just couldn’t see the benefit of the path I wanted to move towards.  And they were right.  From where they sat, they had no knowledge of the path I was embarking upon.

So I went forward.  I took a leap.  But it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing all of the way.  It was much more like the dream.  It would start with a little smooth sailing, followed by a burst of fear that, led me to want to figure out how to get back on the ground, then waking up and starting all over again.

So when did I hit the success?  A bunch of times, not actually and I can’t really remember when.  It was a success to finish college at 28.  It was a success to finish my doctorate.  It was a success to wake up this morning with all of my limbs intact and still working reasonably well.   It’s a success when I find my car keys on the 2nd try.  What I’ve learned is that success isn’t the achievement of some event.  Success, not unlike happiness, is a state of mind.  It’s a belief that you are doing what feels right to you when it feels right to you.  And it lasts longer than a minute at a time, but not always.  Sometimes success is in the moments others might call failure, because you know in those moments that it’s just another part of the learning process for you.

Most of us (as I used to spend a lot of time doing), complete the checklist or performance and then look to our audience for their applause.  If the applause is not loud enough, we let the critics, both internally and externally begin their litany.  But an alternative that has a much better impact on our blood pressure is, to resign from the performance and see ourselves as successful because we are living our best life.  To live a life that is informed by our deepest desires, and executed with the confidence that we are capable of living our dreams.  When we stop being afraid to live the way we want to live, we are living successfully.  No one else is in our brain.  Therefore, waiting for someone, anyone else to give you the thumbs up is a short sighted exercise, because they can’t really judge what is successful for YOU accurately.

And what about the part of you that fears others will expect more of you?  It’s not up to others to decide how much you want to give.  It’s called setting limits.  And yes, you can do it.

“You must decide if you are going to rob the world or bless it with the rich, valuable, potent, untapped resources locked away within you.”
? Myles Munroe, Understanding Your Potential: Discovering the hidden you

 

“Nobody ever talks about the pyramids that weren’t built, the books that weren’t written, the songs that weren’t sung. Stop letting your fear condemn you to mediocrity. Get out of your own way. Your dreams are a poetic reflection of your soul’s wishes. Be courageous enough to follow them. There is no greater time than now to experience the full power of your potential. Make this the day you take the first step in the beautiful journey of bringing your dreams to life.”
? Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burning the ships


Burning the boats- Part 1

Today I will wet your appetite with a wonderful story teller and his version of the Cortez expedition in which Cortez burns his ships

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Selling the Drama


Okay the title comes from one of my favorite albums by Live- But the subject matter today comes from the Olympics-

I’m somewhat of a fair weather fan- but I do like to catch a little bit.  My youngest son Andrew is pretty much addicted to watching and so I spent some time with him last night watching the men’s downhill and the figure skating.  There are a lot of great stories that occur during the Olympics- defeat, triumph, perseverance, endurance and so much more.

Last night a particular story really caught my attention.  And today there has been a bit of talk about it on the news as well, thus it obviously affected a lot of people much the same way.

So Bode Miller got his 6th medal.  That’s cool.  More than any other U.S. skier.  Also he is the oldest Alpine skier to medal.  Also cool.

But the attention getter wasn’t actually Miller, but Christen Cooper, a two time Olympian and silver medalist who interviewed Miller right after winning his Bronze.  Miller was obviously in an emotional rush from having just accomplished his feats.  But his success is also impacted by the loss less than a year ago of his younger brother Chelone.  The younger Miller, also a skier was a hopeful for Sochi as well.  He died of a seizure, not his first since sustaining a head injury from a dirt-bike accident several years prior.

 

Cooper met Bode Miller on the slopes.  She asked him  how he was faring emotionally with his brother not present.  He tried to discretely move the topic to the current events.  Cooper persisted as if she had no ability to read his attempted social redirection.    Finally, she opened up the big gun  (quoted to the best of my recollection) “So when you are out there and you look up at the sky, you seem to be talking to someone- What’s going on in your mind?”

With that Miller cracked.  He started to cry.  She moved towards him to give him some comfort- He turned away.  He walked away.  He dropped down on one knee trying to pull himself together.  A teammate approached him and was rebuffed by someone on the sidelines, the first person to see that Miller needed to be LEFT ALONE.  Finally, his wife arrived on the scene, embraced him and  shielded his face from the crowd.

I can’t imagine what was in the mind of Cristen Cooper to make her think this was an appropriate approach.  But at the same time, I can’t imagine why NBC chose not to edit the coverage leaving Bode’s tearful reaction to be dealt with privately.

There were plenty of things Cooper could have asked Bode Miller.  How does it feel to be the oldest guy out here? How do you continue to perform at this level?  How have the sport and the games changed over your long career?

But instead, making him cry over something that was obviously so deeply personal for him became the mission.  And the network found it appropriate and significant to make it a display and a highlight.

Miller came out afterward in defense of Cooper. He tweeted the response ” “Please be gentle w Christin Cooper, it was crazy emotional and not all her fault.”  What a classy guy.

My purpose here is neither to vilify Cooper or NBC.  Okay, well maybe a little bit, because frankly I found it revolting.  But it made me think about how “normal” it is to report and focus on the juicy stuff.   How many times did Justin Bieber get in trouble in the past couple of weeks?  How many stars go to rehab?  How many deaths occurred, houses burned down etc. etc.  Even my own blog in its infancy already contains a report about the death of a star.  Drama attracts.  Drama sells

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Okay realistically, no one wants to turn on the news to hear that “Mrs. O’Leary’s garden is producing a beautiful bunch of tulips this year.”  Or, little Nancy Turner got  her braces off and her smile looks fantastic now.  But do we really have to fill ourselves with a steady diet of other’s vulnerability and shortfalls in order to feel good, or at least “normal”?  More importantly, it is important- no  it is crucial that we are at least mindful of how much negativity we take in from our “regular trusted sources”.  How can one feel optimistic and hopeful in the world when we have spent much of the day feeding on negative messages.

And it’s not simply the news.  It’s everywhere.  Marketing often focuses on something that is a shortfall, in order to make the product a solution.  I remember one night watching late night TV and thinking by the end of the infomercial, that I might need a garden weeding machine.  It was to solve the problems of my back caused by doing it all by hand with a hoe in rocky soil.  Fortunately, just before placing the order I remembered that I didn’t have a back problem OR a garden.  Nor, was I planning to plant one any time soon.  On the other hand, I do have rocky soil, so I am still vulnerable.

Yes it’s Sunday, and that means I have more time to wander through this post.  But in attempting to pull it all together now, let me get to the main point.  If you want to feel good, you have to surround yourself with positive, hopeful, optimistic people, places and things.  If you instead, surround yourself with negative, hurtful or critical people, it’s really hard to feel anything different than what you are taking in.  And you have to be thoughtful about what you are taking in.  Even well meaning, trusted people in your life can sometimes be the source of saying the not so helpful thing.  They might be uninformed, or having a bad day of their own.

Listening to yourself is the key.  Listening to your own voice as a louder tone than the ones you hear with your ears.   And that reminds me of the movie “The Help”.  Remember the mantra that Aibelene repeated throughout the book/movie to the little girl Mae Mobley?

You is smart, you is kind, you is important.

She wanted the little girl to know that at her very core in case anyone (most likely her mother) ever said or behaved in ways that suggested otherwise.  Aibelene wanted Mae Mobley to have that message as her very core and as the voice she would rely upon.  I hope it worked.

If you know that is your core and you live with that type of awareness, then you also have permission to let go of people, places, things, and sometimes just words that don’t fit your model.  You can acknowledge, just like Bode Miller did “it wasn’t her fault”.  He obviously knew that Cooper’s poor choice in interview strategy, was in fact just that”.  He elaborated that it was an emotional time and that the emotions were his.  He didn’t give her the credit for “destroying him” or even bringing him to his knees.  He held his head high and made the drama as less dramatic as he possibly could given the circumstances, rather than adding fuel to the fire.  And for that alone-  I think he deserved the gold!

 

 

Eclectic of Chaotic?


peyote orderAs many of you know I am a self-proclaimed craft-a-holic.  Last week I took a beading class to learn something called freeform peyote.  And no, this is not a drug fest.

I taught myself how to do regular peyote awhile back.  It is a very uniform, neat little stitch and it looks like this:

One of the things I like most about beading is trying new things and stretching my abilities and so I decided to try something called freeform.  This is where you mix up the beads a bit both in color and texture by adding different size beads.  And it means you can also mix in different kinds of stitches as well.

Only when I tried it, it looked like this:

While interesting, It’s kind of gnarly and twisty and won’t lay flat if it is made into a bracelet.

chaotic

So, after a few tries and having to sort out a zillion tiny little beads each time I ripped it out and started over, I decided to get some “education” from the pros.

After a couple of hours, here is my practice piece:

peyote flatNotice how the sections lay flat.  And even though there is diversity in bead size and color, there is still a more uniform look within.  It makes sense.

 

Now what on earth does this have to do with therapy you might ask?

Well, remember, my mind works in metaphor.  And as  I was learning the technique from the instructor, I started to recall my first theory class when I got my masters.  Alongside my classmates, I was exposed to a number of theories.  Many sounded interesting and there were useful takeaways in each one.  By the end of the semester many of us where calling ourselves “eclectic”.  And as one professor said ” a little of this, and a little of that”.  At that stage of professional development, eclectic really meant we did not fully understand any one theory.  We just liked the aesthetic or superficial level and ran with it.  I suspect it looked a lot my chaotic bead example above.  It probably looked good in a few spots, but when you put it all together and try to wear it, it just won’t do what it is supposed to.

In my doctoral program, one entire class was devoted to learning how to break down a theory at its fundamental origins and to understand it from the base up.  Our final project was to compare and contrast two theories in this manor.  This exercise taught me that very often, to subscribe to one theory means to exclude another because they are actually in conflict at the origin and thus if practiced faithfully, one can’t move in two different directions simultaneously.

Why is this important?

Again, because of the richness of the metaphoric value

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In learning the bead technique, I realized that you can’t take something to the “next level” until you appreciate the importance of the solid foundation.  This is true in beading, in developing theory, and in life.  Simply throwing something together without a thorough understanding and respect for the foundation gives you chaos.  Some chaos is more attractive than others, but it is chaos nonetheless.  And depending on what elements in the environment test the chaos, it may eventually fall apart.

Learning this new technique reminded me that chaos can in away be planned for.  It doesn’t mean that one has to become rigid and in control of every step.  Rather, it means that if you follow a few basic guidelines, there is still room for creativity and individuality, but it is truly more of an eclectic blending of strategies that are genuinely understood, rather than blindly pulled out of a hat.  When you in fact, do genuinely understand those strategies, you can better anticipate where they will lead and perhaps intersect with other strategies.

Freeform peyote bracelets by people who know what they are doing are some of the most gorgeous and creative pieces.  If you want to see more, just look at google images or pinterest to see more.

When I ask people to write a life or marriage “philosophy”, I am asking them to try and get a picture of what they want the finished product to look like.  That answer should dictate the strategies rather than the other way around.  Simply sticking in things as you go along is far more likely to yield one a hodge podge that may not “fit” very comfortably.  Therapy and or coaching is a way to sort out some of those beads and try a more educated technique.