Tag Archives: motivation

Shhh I can hear you

Shhhh I can hear you.

My mother wore hearing aids. She got them when she was about 80. Her hair didn’t turn gray until about age 50. My hair started streaking at about 28. And my hearing started to slip a couple of years ago.

I was in good company. My sister doesn’t hear well,  nor does one of my brothers. But they are older than I am. A couple of years ago one of my nieces had to have surgery on an ear that she was having trouble hearing out of. And did I mention that I had an aunt and an uncle who were born deaf? There was no blasting of the jambox. I come by hearing problems honestly.

I was becoming painfully aware over the past year that I was often asking people to people to repeat themselves. “Darn mumblers”, I would tell myself. The TV had to be up extra loud to accommodate me. “Too much noise in the house”, I would say. I started to notice people who wore hearing aids. I wondered what it was like, trying to get used to the idea for some day when I would need them. You know, when I got older.

At Easter I sat with a group of women and noticed that I was really not hearing the conversation. I kind of checked out and smiled as if I was hearing, but just didn’t think what they were saying was important enough to chime in. Perhaps it might have been, if I had heard them.

And a few weeks ago, I realized in a session that not only had I not heard something someone had said, but I had just gone on as if I had. And an alarm bell started ringing in my head. I heard that: Loud and clear.

I went for a hearing test and came home wearing hearing aids the same day. The first thing I noticed is that I could hear. I could actually hear things I didn’t even realize I had missed. I had become so used to not hearing things, that I no longer knew they were there. The squeak of my shoe against the break pedal of the car. The rustling of a wrapper coming off of a piece of gum. The sound of my own chewing. Life is not incomplete if one can’t hear their own chewing, but there are other experiences of the same sound level that are awfully nice to be able to hear and I wasn’t aware of them until I got the aids.

The second thing I noticed as that… no one seemed to notice. No one began looking at me like I was either a Martian or in need of a handicap sticker for my car. I suspect if anyone who knows me was looking at me, it was only because they noticed for the first time in a long time that I wasn’t asking them to repeat themselves.

My husband is happy about the hearing aids because he no longer has to yell to me from upstairs, when I’m one room away from the kitchen that, the oven timer has been going off for 5 minutes. My kids are a little less thrilled because I’m now asking THEM to turn their electronics down a notch or 6. My youngest son asked me if I feel like an old person now. I told him I feel “older”, but I’m not quite ready to claim the title of old person. He said old people where hearing aids and glasses. I reminded him that sometimes young people do as well.

The only negative feeling I have at this point, is the regret that I didn’t do it sooner. I’ve been missing out on a lot of sound because my vanity got in the way. And the real irony is that once I put them on, the vanity piece disappeared as quickly as the speed of sound. It just didn’t matter.

Most people know the story of the boiling frog. It’s of course, the metaphor of how we often get injured by situations gradually because we fail either to notice changes as they occur, or fail to respond to them if we do notice. The latter is what I did with my need to hear better because I tried to compensate for my decreased ability to hear.

Are there any situations in your life where the water is getting hotter, or the sound is getting lower and you are not responding with the appropriate actions?   What are you willing to lose and what holds you back from taking care of what you need?

 

 

 

 

Welcome to my dreams.

Welcome to my dreams

 

A lot of people tell me they don’t remember dreams.   Personally, I think it’s a cultivated skill. I have always found my dreams to be rather instructive throughout my life and I have had a handful of recurring ones. Today I’d like to share one of those with you.

I find myself in high school. Usually in this dream I return to a high school reminiscent of my own or the community college, but last night I was actually in my son’s high school. It feels overwhelming. The kids there are nice enough to me, but I can’t get with the schedule. I keep getting lost while trying to navigate the various buildings and I can’t remember where my locker is or which class to go to next. Finally, I look around and say “I’m not doing this anymore. I already have a Ph.D.” Specifically in last night’s dream I went to the office and spoke to the principal. She said “Sure, you can quit, but there are certain types of jobs you won’t be able to get without your high school diploma.” She described the jobs to me and none of them were things I would ever want to do, so I left and never went back.

Now in real life, I did finish high school. But I finished at the semester rather than the full year. And I had just told that story recently which, most likely prompted the activity in my sleep. At various points in life that dream has meant different things to me. But last night’s version is, I think, the result of my contemplating something for someone else. Actually, for three someone elses: 3 women I am currently seeing in my practice.

Here is a quick vignette:

D- a very successful woman in the business world. She can pretty much count on getting 90% of the jobs she interviews for. In her last position, she worked 70 hours a week, and had to replace 75% of the team she inherited in under a year. Her CEO recently joined her on a sales pitch to a customer that if awarded would have raised her team performance considerably. The day after the sales meeting, without any indication of the customer’s decision, D was unceremoniously let go. She was told “It wasn’t enough.”

S- Another superstar. For her last position, she was courted by the employer. They stole her away from a competing company by promising the moon. They didn’t even know where to put her in their organization they just knew they had to have her. She joined them. Two years later, they still didn’t know where to put her. She never had an opportunity to shine at anything, because it was never really clear what she was supposed to be doing. She often felt like she was overlapping with others in their responsibilities, and they didn’t seem all that thrilled about the intrusion. Finally, the director told her he had made a mistake and they were eliminating her position.

N- Worked in a major institution for 20 plus years. She was the darling of the team. She was thorough and reliable. Not only did N do a great job logistically, but she was deeply committed to the people she served. N was called in to human resources and terminated without warning. Their reason: they claim N did not clock out before going to lunch. N often worked long after she clocked out in the evening in order to get her job done. She would never have gone to lunch on company time.  She was never asked about the incident at the time it supposedly occurred or given a chance to prove her case.

I heard each of these stories in about a two week time span which helped link them together in my mind.

In her discussions about entering the “dark night of a spiritual journey”, Caroline Myss says that anything that stands in your way will be removed for you by the universe. I don’t know if that was the case for any of these women, but I do know that each of them had been unhappy in their jobs and was thinking of leaving, but neither was sure what their next step would be. One could argue that their unhappiness produced substandard work which prompted their terminations. I know that was not the case with any of them however, as they are all hard working women with considerable integrity.

I think my dream was my own minds processing that these stories. For me, they are examples of being in a role that isn’t really right, but doing it because you think you are supposed to fulfill someone else’s rules for you. My declaration that I had a Ph.D. to the other students was a way to say, “I’m not supposed to be here. I don’t have to do this.” And to seal it off, the principal tried to give me advice of the importance of staying, but it was advice from her framework not mine. When I identified that, I was free to leave.

These women became free to leave. I am confident that each will land on their feet, and become stronger and wiser in the process.   Are you hanging on to a role or relationship that you don’t belong in, but one that someone else thinks is a good idea for you? Are you willing to take yourself out of the position or do you have to wait to be asked to leave?

Do you have any bad habits?

Do you have any bad habits?

Scientists estimate that roughly 40% of the actions people perform each day aren’t actual decisions, but habits. The good news is that habits can be changed if we understand how they work.

Habits are the result of neurological patterns that become “hard wired” in our brain. Once that wiring path is established, we no longer have to engage in thinking about a behavior. It comes naturally to us. Therefore, if we want to change a behavior, we have to do something to “interrupt” the existing circuit.

The circuit, if you will, consists of a couple of static variables. First is the trigger, second is the behavior and third is the reward. My husband often complains that our dog wakes him up in the morning to go outside. There is a trigger, perhaps one of us stirs or daylight breaks through the window. Snickers begins to bump our bed on Ben’s side of the bed as if it was the boat in Jaws and she is a circling shark. And then he goes into the kitchen, opens up the door, lets her outside and feeds her. And that is what we call a double reward. So it has become a habit.

The interesting observation for me in this circuit however, is that if Ben is out of town, I usually have to wake Snickers up. She will be in a deep peaceful sleep much past her usual wake up time. I often have to call her to get her to go outside, and if I don’t put down food (in the garage) she will jump back up the step to go back in the house without even having gone out to go to the bathroom. She has figured out there is no reward in that behavior, and thus ignores the trigger. My boat is safe from dangerous attack. Before you start to think my husband is just a wimpy pushover, I should confess that the kids have me much better trained to provide rewards.

I imagine if we were to look at brain scans of our dog (not something we do with any regularity), we would find a neuropathway (for those with a science background, forgive me if my grasp of this sciency stuff is childlike), that she has a circuit that gets tripped not only by the light coming in or a sound, but it must also have the information available that someone who cares (my husband) is also home and available. So, Ben being home is also a part of the trigger. She may see the same light of day, but the absence of Ben contributes to a fail in providing a strong enough trigger to motivate behavior.

What does this mean in human terms except that we can do it 7 times slower? Well, it means that if you don’t like a particular habit, you’ll need to examine both your triggers and your REWARDS. Habits don’t really go away in the sense that the brain doesn’t “lose or expunge” them, they just become more like abandoned roads. They still exist, but they become the road less traveled so to speak.

Most of us don’t like to give up our rewards. Even ones that stopped making sense to us along the way. Sometimes what started as a reward for one reason has now become a reward in the sense that it gives us a feeling of familiarity or continuity and so we continue to strive for that. So, any attempt to change a habit means to put triggers in place that will still provide a payoff for us. And, the payoff can’t be so far in the future that, its remoteness strips away our will to earn.

 

As is the case with nearly every blog I write, the key to making progress in habit change begins with mindfulness. Habits don’t change when we are rushed, unprepared, and unable to think clearly because we are depleted and or exhausted. Mindfulness means to start first with understanding what you are doing now, why you want to change, creating a plan with accountability and support and THEN implementing behavior.

Have you had any success in changing habits that you would like to share? What helped you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and More Spring Cleaning

In my last blog I talked about spring cleaning. Hopefully you had a chance to either get started, or at least think about things that you hold on to for perhaps less productive reasons than is useful. In that same vein, I’d like you to take this thought process a step further and think about the clutter more broadly. Cleaning out closets is useful in making more room, either to find stuff, or for different stuff. I’d like to propose that there are other ways that our lives can get significantly cluttered and could use attention. The two that come to mind most quickly for me (from personal and professional experience) are time wasters and unproductive relationships.

The easy bandwagon to jump on is electronic drains. Whether it’s a night lost to Facebook, Pinterest, others social networks, video games or merely web surfing, people can lose a lot of time and receive little if anything back for their time. But those are obvious. What is more subtle, yet equally if not more insidious, are the things we spend time on that, fail to add real value to our lives, and rather, suck away precious time. What makes these items harder to identify is that it usually isn’t the “task” that identifies it as a problem, but rather the way we feel about the task. For example, if I made pasta from scratch because I loved doing so, I was putting healthier options on my table, saving money, my family felt valued when I did so, or any one of these reasons, then it might be time consuming, but there is a payoff. If on the other hand, I made fresh pasta from scratch for my toddler, who was going to eat 3 bites, and my husband could care less about the quality difference, then I should question whether or not this was a good use of time and energy. I’m not sure this is the best example, but I’m pretty sure that we all engage in some pretty questionable activities, and often they have a smell of “perfectionism” to them.

The other category of relationships is something near and dear to my heart. I’ve noticed that a number of my relationships have changed over the past few years and it has largely been my own doing. I’m not feeling angry, but rather more willing to let people go then I once was. That at times, has also included some pretty terrific people. But at the end of the day I’ve had to come to terms with the reality that every day is limited by time, as is the entirety of my life. Out of that awareness, I accept the responsibility and the opportunity to make the most of what is available to me. So, terrific or not, I’m more willing to let people go in favor of spending the time with either other people or activities that are helping me to create the best experience of this thing I call my life.

Personally, I would tell you that if someone had said the paragraph above to me 10 years ago, I would have thought that person to be cold, friendless and void of the capacity to have meaningful relationships. So please, don’t think as a result of one reading, I would expect anyone to make such a radical change. It has been a work in progress and still continues for me. But that said, I find that the quality of relationships I do keep, continues to improve, because I come to them more available, more willing to honor the work of maintaining them. It’s because I know they are mutual, and with less resentment. In turn, I feel more rewarded and valued by the people in those relationships, as well.

I hope you’ll take another look at clutter in your life and see if there are mental closets that need a little combing through as well.

 

Happy New Year

Well look what the cat dragged in….. I’m back!

I took a break from blogging but I am hopefully back to stay. I’m still working on some of the behind the scene changes so please bear with me while I continue to work out some of the bugs. However,  I absolutely welcome questions, comments or observations about changes.  Thank you so much for hanging with me throughout the year, and a special welcome to my new readers.  I am truly grateful for your time.

For starter, I’m uncertain of my timing. For now, I am committing to one entry per week. There may be more, but I hope not less. With that, I’d like to plunge in.

 

Happy New Year.

Even though today is January 7 and not January 1, today is New Year’s Day, meaning, today is the start of a year that is 1 year newer than the same Jan 7 of 2014. Tomorrow will be a new year starting one year ahead of January 8, 2014 and so on. This isn’t an attempt to be silly. I’m dead serious, so let me try to explain.

New Year’s Day is associated for many with New Year’s resolutions. In reality, these are usually not resolutions, or things one is resolved about, but rather New Year’s “wishes”. They are often things we wish would happen, hope will happen, would be happy if the desired action came about. But sadly, they are actions which, more often than not, fail to mature into consistent or lasting change. Some will fail within a week or two. Others may last a couple of months. A study from the University of Scranton found that only about 8% of the 40% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, actually achieve their goals. So, if by January 7 you have given up on your goals, you are clearly not alone.

There are two points I’d like to elaborate my thoughts on with regards to this topic.

First, If we drop the ball on January 7, or even February 7, why do we have to wait until January 1 of the following year to start again? As my opening paragraph suggests, every day is the start of a new year for us. We can choose to start fresh from where we are at any given moment. There is nothing more magical about 8:00 a.m. January 1 then there is about 8:00 a.m. on March 10th. The time to start is right now.   Start at the moment that you recognize you have the desire for a change in your life. Delaying until another time marking significance, is arbitrary and only means you are willing to live with the unwanted behavior a lot longer than you need to.

And that leads me to the second point.

There is a difference between resolutions and desires, wishes, hopes. A resolution to lose weight doesn’t mean starting a diet. A resolution to improve your relationships doesn’t mean scheduling a date night. A resolution to find a job you like is more than simply dusting off the old resume.

 

Here are some definitions for the word resolve:

Verb: to find a solution, to determine a course of action

Noun: Firm determination to do something.

 

If you want to achieve the goals above, chances are you have tried some of the solutions I listed above before New Year’s Day. Most likely, they weren’t met with lasting success, which is why they resurface year to year as a resolution for the next year ahead.

 

To make goals more than just a wish or desire, they require resolve. Resolve involves figuring out how you will get to the gym when you haven’t gone before. Resolve means finding ways to anticipate your pitfalls and have a “firm determination to do something” by having reliable support, structures and accountabilities in place to help you stay focused on your goals. Resolve means to search your heart and answer yourself truthfully about what has immobilized your efforts in the past towards these goals.

 

Resolutions are about what are you WILLING to make happen in your life. What are you willing to change, to give up, to work harder towards? Who or what are you willing to let go of in your life? What are you willing to stand up for, to be aware of and mostly to be vigilant about?

 

A posture of resolve takes thought and planning. It also takes dedication and perseverance. So, if you can’t get it all done by January 1, the good news is there are 364 other days in the year that you get to try again.

 

As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback! Until next time… take good care!

Click

For an audio version of today’s post click on the link below:

In recent blogs I’ve introduced you to people achieving some amazing results through their perseverance. My hope is that their stories are inspiring. I realize however,  that sometimes people will see a story, such as these, and conclude, “But I can’t do anything that monumental.” They actually become less inspired, rather than more.

That’s incredibly unfortunate, because there is often something amazing in just showing up to a “regular” life every day. It takes work. It takes commitment.  And an uninspired conclusion comes from what I call “snapshot” thinking. It means to look at what you see in a single image and think that image, is the whole story.

When we look at a snapshot of a model it’s easy to conclude that the woman (or man) is beautiful and we can’t possibly compete. But what we fail to consider in snapshot thinking is that the person photographed, doesn’t actually look like the photograph either. The photo has probably been airbrushed to remove any imperfections. It has also been staged, and in our normal everyday lives, most of us don’t have stage hands.

The people I introduced you to in my blogs don’t have airbrushed lives.   It was their effort, and mostly their attitudes that made them so incredible. But what I presented to you was the snapshot version. It is the end result. I didn’t describe to you in detail, how many times they curled up in a ball and cried, got overwhelmed with fear or just plain failed in their quests. Maybe those moments lasted minutes or days at a time. But they kept at it. They got knocked down along the way, but they kept getting up (at least eventually).

Sometimes it’s harder than others to get up. It’s harder to keep going when the finish line appears so far in the distance.  Now I’d like to introduce you to a video that I find very inspiring as a source of motivation to help you get up when it seems too hard. It contains clips from movies, The Pursuit of Happiness and Rocky as well as a number of other historical events. This video is a great investment of six minutes that will hopefully, help you think realistically about the work you stage to get to success. Success defined by you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Climbing and Use Your Toes if You Have to.

For an audio version of this post, click on the link below:

 

In my last post I shared the story of an amazing woman in history, Irena Sendler. Today I’d like to tell you about two more people; Jessica Cox and Sean Swarner, both are tremendous, but for very different reasons. Personally, I find stories that champion the human spirit of tenacity, to be incredibly inspirational, and hope you will as well.

Jessica Cox putting in her contact lenses

 

I’m including both a photo and a video of Jessica Cox, because you have to see her in action to appreciate the sense of what she has mastered. Born without arms, Jessica is the first armless person in aviation history to earn a pilot’s license. She lives a normal life, drives a car, plays a piano, puts on her own makeup, texts on her phone among many other day to day tasks. She even types on the keyboard of her computer at a rate of 25 words per minute.

 

Cox believes the way we think has a greater impact on our lives than does our physical constraints. Now 31 years old, Jessica has earned a degree in psychology at the University of Arizona and does public inspirational speaking around the globe, on what she calls, “thinking outside the shoe”. She credits her parents with teaching her from the start not to see herself as a victim, but rather as someone, who when confronted with an obstacle, uses determination to overcome what faces her.

Sean Swarner is my next source of inspiration. Several people have achieved the once thought impossible task of climbing Mt. Everest and Sean Swarner is among them. However, Swarner is not only the first cancer survivor to accomplish the feat, but he did so with only one fully functioning lung. He holds another record as the only known person in the world to have been diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease and Askins Sarcoma, both deadly, yet seemingly unrelated cancers.

At age 13, Swarner was diagnosed with Hodgkin. His diagnosed occurred only because of a knee injury he suffered while playing sports. He underwent successful, yet brutal treatment which included, among other things, throwing up for 36 hours straight, gaining 60 lbs. and losing all of the hair on his body. Twenty months into remission, at a routine checkup, doctors discovered the presence of Askins Sarcoma. An even more aggressive cancer than Hodgkins, Askins presented, in the form of a golf ball size tumor in 16 year old Swarner’s lung.

Treatment for Askins ravished his body through 3 months of radiation, followed by 10 months of chemotherapy that left him emaciated with atrophied muscles. It was so toxic, that his doctors placed into a medically-induced coma during each of the five-day cycles. At one point, he was expected to live only days and was given his last rights. He attributes his remarkable feat of recovery to the love and prayers of his family, humor and modern medicine all working together. With regards to his own attitude he says:

“During both the day and night, I focused on feeling better and not letting any negative thoughts into my head. It’s amazing how mental being physical can be.”
After his recovery, Swarner said he felt an obligation to give other cancer patients hope for survival and uses his story as an example of what is possible. Because he believes nothing is impossible, he prepared for Everest, by first climbing Colorado elevations, filling his backpack with 100 pounds of rocks. His motto is “Keep climbing. Never give up.”

 

I hope you found these inspirational. Your mind is an amazing tool. Is yours working for you or against you to let you know what you can achieve?

 

 

 

Life in a Jar


 

 

For an audio version of this post, click on the link below:

 

Life in a jar

We are in the midst of the Jewish High Holidays. I’m not Jewish, but have worked with many Jewish clients over the years who have taught me so much about their religion and beliefs. And while I don’t pretend to be remotely knowledgeable despite the patience many have exerted while trying to educate me, I have come to have a great appreciation for many of their teachings. And so, part of this post, is intended as an acknowledgment of these special times for those who celebrate.

The other day however, one of my clients sent me a story about an unsung hero during the holocaust. I generally don’t take things that float around the internet at face value, so I decided to do a little more research on this one and was very glad I did. The article was titled “Thank the lady plumber” about a polish female plumber who supposedly saved many children during the holocaust.

It turns out that there were 2 inaccuracies in the article. Irena Sendler was actually not a plumber. She was a catholic social worker. Sendler had to be granted special permission to go into the Warsaw ghettos. As the article stated however, she did in fact find many creative ways to smuggle children out, from duffle bags, to coffins. At times, she even sedated infants to keep them from crying while getting them to safety. She literally had to talk parents out of their children, in hopes that they might be saved.

The other inaccuracy is debatable, which is that, Sendler was denied the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008. This can’t be categorically stated as Nobel Prize nominations, investigations and opinions are sealed for 50 years.

But pretty much everything else is dead on accurate. Sendler remained relatively unknown until a teacher in Kansas assigned his students with a year-long National History Day project. Originally two ninth graders and one 11th grader accepted the challenge. The project evolved into a play, and later a book and a movie called Life in a Jar. The three original students along with another who joined them and their teacher were fortunate enough to travel to Poland where they spent time with Irena Sendler. They also met Elzbieta Ficowska, a woman Irena had rescued at the age of 5 months and survived only because of Sendler’s heroism.

The glass jar refers to Sendler’s practice of putting information about each child she rescued in a jar, in hopes that they might later be reunited with their parents. She buried the jars in a friend’s yard and suffered physical brutalities by the Nazi’s when she refused to divulge their whereabouts. In all, the jars contained information about 2500 children. It is believed she saved an additional 500 children prior to the jars, bringing her estimated total closer to 3000 saved lives.

 

Sendler was just 29 when she began her mission. I personally can’t imagine the presence of mind she must have had, in order to muster the bravery needed, to follow through as she had. Katy Perry, Kiera Knightly, Ashley Tisdale and Scarlett Johannson are all 29. Their accomplishments and focus seem grotesquely un-relatable in comparison. And I’m not picking on these women, because frankly, when I was 29, 39 or even 49, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a fraction of the courage or tenacity to do what this woman did, nor do I still today.

Sendler died in 2008 at age 98 from pneumonia.   She didn’t seek fame for her work. In fact, she is quoted as saying “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory.”

Perhaps another of her greatest achievements is her clarity of knowing the justification of her existence, without the need for an external award of proof to her or anyone else. Do you know yours?

 

 

 

 

Nice guys and gals just finish

 

 

 

For an audio version of this post,  click on the link below:

 

f you’ve followed my blog for a while, you may remember that I had a different career prior to becoming a therapist. The job efficiency was largely measured by a matrix of conditions, all of which could be measured by percentages. Each month one of us was awarded darling of the month for coming the closest to our numbers. At the end of the year, the person with the best success was darling of the year.

I think I won one month. It probably had little to do with my effort, and more to do with good fortune that something in my department had become a high demand item that was short lived, and thus not repeated in another month. And this was often the case for most of us in the department. Some were harder workers and received a little more prestige, and others got lucky from time to time as I had. But the interesting part of this for me is the progress of my friend and co-worker, Julie.

Julie, who was smart and a very hard and conscientious worker, never won her 15 minutes of fame at the monthly meeting. She was always a runner-up, but never the queen. And so, all of us were shocked, as Julie, when the coveted Distributor of the year title was bestowed upon her. At first, all of us scratched our heads and then we realized, while she didn’t have peaks… she also didn’t have valleys and therefore, her numbers averaged out to a much higher total than did anyone else’s.   This story isn’t too far off from the tortoise and the hare.

I often think of this memory when I’m at a place in life trying to figure out my own goals and how much I should be achieving at any given moment. In my youth, I was very much the hare- rushing to get as much done as I could. I ran a perpetual race in search of affirmation for my competence and validity. But the older I get, the more I realize the need for a steady pace that is focused not on recognition, but on dependability, consistency and the value of finishing the race in a comfortable position. Comfortable enough, to not be so exhausted, that you can’t enjoy the sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes I have patients who come to therapy expecting that every session will produce an “aha moment” for them. I can appreciate their wish.   Therapy is expensive financially and emotionally. But the aha moments are not actually what therapy is about, any more than vacations are what life is about. Vacations are special because they don’t happen every day. They need everyday life around them in order to stand out. The relationship built in therapy, session to session, is the context needed in order to make an aha moment useful.

But I digress, because this post is more directed at life in general than it is therapy specific. How many people long to be the YouTube discovered star? How many people are playing the lottery? How many people are searching for the latest fashion, the biggest house. How many people stood in line to get one of the first new iphones? The cost of scurrying to be the best is dangerously lethal, yet coveted and promoted in our culture.

When is the last time you saw more than a cursory news story about a little old woman who dies with a million dollars in the bank because she saved and lived a frugal life? Or about the couple who celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary still living happily together, working as best as they can to take care of each other? Or the millions of people in middle America who go to work every day, pay their bills and tend to their responsibility? It’s not exciting news, but its still the standard that many of us could well consider ourselves lucky and fulfilled if we can achieve. It’s also doable and doesn’t require the exhaustive push of trying to be the one who stands out for 15 minutes of fame. Nor is it likely to cause the life of profound disappointment if it doesn’t result in those 15 minutes.

It’s easy though to blame society. What’s harder to remember is that we are society- you and me. We have the choice every day to let mass opinion impact us, or make decisions, one person at a time that impacts society. But be patient, because it takes longer than 15 minutes. And chances are, no one will remember to cite you with the credit.

 

 

 

Leap of Faith

 

 

For an audio version of this post click on the link below:

There is a movie from 1992 called Leap of Faith starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger. Martin plays a con man Jonas Nightengale, who poses as an evangelical preacher that goes from small town to town creating “miracles”. But what he actually does is use a crew, led by Winger to feed him information about the audience into a hidden ear piece so he can “appear” to know things about the people. Of course, everyone is impressed by his great capacity and gives him money. Then he moves on to the next town and repeats this scenario.

Jonas and his crew find themselves in the impoverished town of Rustwater Kansas after their travel bus breaks down. Jonas looks around and declares “A town this deep in the crapper’s got nowhere to turn but GOD!”   Among their many problems, the drought plagued town needs rain to survive. Jonas plans to run a show or two while he waits for repairs before being discovered.

Shortly into the movie however, he is intrigued by a young boy Boyd and the sister who cares for him. Boyd can walk only with crutches since an accident that killed his mother and father and left his legs dysfunctional. The sister warns Jonas to stay away from Boyd, explaining that once before a preacher tried to heal Boyd. When it failed, the preacher blamed the boy for not having enough faith. However, despite her cynicism, Boyd is mesmerized with Jonas and wants to be healed by him.

Jonas continues to prey upon the vulnerabilities of the towns people. Each time they suspect God has spoken to him on their behalf, they add money to his coffers. Boyd makes his way to the stage and seeks to be healed. Jonas tries to ignore his presence because he doesn’t want his cover blown. But Boyd actually begins to walk without his crutches and the crowd goes wild. They throw money at Jonas and shout one more miracle. They now want him to make it rain to benefit the town.

Jonas is angry, believing that Boyd was a bigger conman than even he presuming the boy faked his impediment. The next night the town gathers in a field to camp out waiting for the miracle of rain. Knowing he will be discovered as a fraud, Jonas slips off and hitches a ride on his own leaving his crew behind. Ironically, he isn’t very far out of town when the truck driver notices it has begun to rain. Jonas laughingly calls out “Thank You Jesus.

Okay, I ruined the movie for you I’m sorry. But I wanted to give you an illustration of something I think best illustrates a principle one of the classic theorists in psychology, Alfred Adler. He calls it the As IF principle.

Adler suggested that when we are trying to make a change, we need to behave as if the change has already taken place. For example, if you want to get promoted, wear the clothing of someone at the next level. If you want to improve your marriage, act as if it is already improved and treat the other person from that mindset. If you want to be more financially sound, live as if there is money around you and operate from confidence rather than fear or deprivation.

Please don’t confuse this as simple and easy. Actually, it is somewhat simple, but it isn’t necessarily easy. It requires clear goal setting, commitment to the goal, letting go of obstacles you may be holding on to (crutches), and the willingness to experience the discomfort of being in transition or even limbo between the self you have been, and the self you wish to be.

Even more than changes in behavior on the outside, acting as if, requires significant changes on the inside. It means to practice seeing yourself as successful. And, while many people have this desire, as the move suggests, it often requires a leap of faith.

While Martin is a clearly stated con man, Adler is not. However, in this exchange between Jonas and Boyd, Martin actually demonstrates in a crude way how Adler’s theory works:

 

Boyd: My sister says you’re a fake

Jonas, “Well maybe I am and maybe I’m not

If I get the job done, what’s the difference?

When we act as if, we begin projecting outward the image of us as having the capacity to live in the role where are seeking. Others, seeing us in that role begin to respond to us that way, which reinforces that confidence within us that we can handle the change. From that confidence, we continue to develop and strengthen the skills needed to make the change permanent and natural for us. Essentially what Jonas told Boyd is that whether or not it starts out as pure and legitimate, belief can make something become true.

 

Are there any areas that you could benefit from acting “as if”? How might you change if you took a leap of faith? I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to learn

 

 

For an audio version of this post, click on the link below:

A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master: “If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen.” The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.” The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then ?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it. How long then ?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that ?” Replied the Master,” When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.” — Author Unknown

 

I often think of this story when people tell me that they are working really hard at something and it doesn’t seem to be happening quickly enough for them.

A young woman wants to find a mate and none seems available.

Another is eating well and exercising but is unable to lose weight.

A man is trying for a promotion that is taking too long while others in the organization seem to be moving ahead.

I recall how badly I wanted to have a second child and found it hard to get pregnant, yet every female under 17 seemed to be turning up with child whether she wanted to be or not.

It seems so unfair when we are working so hard for something that seems logical and possible and yet, it still doesn’t happen.

Or at least it doesn’t happen in the time frame that we have deemed reasonable. The dilemma in most cases is that, it is not our unilateral decision to deem what the right time or right amount of work parameters are actually supposed to be. There is a universe around us that has to also consider the needs, wants and expectations of a gazillion other people as well. What if that perfect mate is saying he is looking for someone exactly like us, but not for another 6 months because he has some other things to finish working on first? What if the conditions for us to have the promotion and succeed are not yet all in place?

The thought process of the western mind is cultivated in an environment in which 1+1=2. There is a specific sequence to follow and you get the prize. But eastern cultures cultivate a different mind-set. For them it is 1+1=3. I’m not talking about common core here. But the Easterners acknowledge that when you put two things together something additional happens by virtue of that union. The sum is greater than the whole of its parts. When you put a match and paper together, you don’t get paper and a match- you get fire.

I think there is great value to both eastern and western thinking and that wise people use some of both.   In the examples I mentioned, western thinking teaches us the value of hard work. But eastern thinking helps us to accept that there is more to consider than only our own definition of the way things should work. And that sometimes we need to let go of working so hard and allow time to follow its own course. Some things can’t be accomplished faster, just because it’s what we want.

 

The Safe Appeal of Disorder

 

 

 

For an audio version of this post, click on the link below:

To listen on a smartphone, scroll to the sound icon and click:

To leave a comment, please return to the website:

http://www.drmaryphd.com/blog

 

Let me state clearly at the start that this blog has zero to do with a political opinion. It is merely a political event that introduced me to a thought.

In the recent news stories about the conflict in Gaza, I heard a quote that really grabbed me. It comes from former prime minister of Israel Golda Meier.

Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us. I thought it was such a powerful quote. And it got me thinking about other areas in life that it might be useful. Of course my mind naturally wondered to my work and the conflicts I see for people I work with. So I changed it to this:

Until you love yourself more than you fear imperfection, disorder will remain.

You can quote me on that.

A person with an eating disorder will abuse themselves to any length in order to achieve a body that they believe will gain them acceptance or legitimacy. The result is reliance on a chaotic system of eating and exercise that not only precludes any other area of their life, but often results in malnutrition, injury, and even self-abuse.

A person who lacks confidence in their ability at work will ignore their personal boundaries and work themselves to oblivion at the expense of their personal life or personal self in fear of having that inadequacy exposed.

A person who ignores themselves to help others in order to win status is forced to function at the mercy of everyone else’s beck and call. It is easy to get caught up in chaos and frenzy only to realize that one has little to show for all of their efforts. They may find themselves in middle life feeling empty of anything to measure their life by, especially if the people they have served have outgrown the need for them.

A person may remain in an unhappy or even harmful relationship with another because they do not feel deserving of happiness or peace. As a result such a person may deny their needs on any level in order to tolerate remaining in the relationship because they fear they are unjustified in the eyes of others to ask for more.

So what does it mean to love oneself? And how does that eliminate disorder?

Loving oneself means to make decisions based on self care as a priority over decisions that lead to approval or acceptance from others if the actions required for either are in mutual conflict. So, if I have to decide to eat because I’m hungry, or not eat because I feel too fat and unacceptable to others, self love means to eat- but eat well and appropriately for the highest level of self care- drowning one’s self in a container of ice cream is not self care.

It means if I have to choose between going to bed when I’m exhausted or reading email from my boss because I’m trying to get promoted, it means go to bed. Sleep well and then be prepared to work to the best of my ability tomorrow.

I’m confident that I’m not sharing any new earth shattering news with anyone here. We all know these things. But we get afraid. And then we get busy. Out of our fear we fill our lives with a million things that we think, or at least hope will make us happy and fit in. And then those things fill our time and our psyche to such extremes that we are too saturated to even think about what is good for us, much less find the time to implement those strategies. But as Meier so eloquently brought to light- we always have a choice. And until we value one thing more than another, change will not occur.

 

Thanks for stopping by- Please feel free to pass this one and suggest someone else subscribe as well.

 

 

Justin Bieber gets religion?

 

For an audio version,   please click on the link below:  On a smartphone, you may need to scroll to the end of the message and click on the sound icon.

 

I heard recently that, Justin has reportedly found God, is doing bible study and trying to use that avenue to turn his life around. The skeptic in me thinks Justin is trying to turn his plummeting stardom and likability ratings around- but who am I to judge. And frankly, I hope the skeptic is wrong. Not because of a religious conviction, but because at the end of the day I do firmly believe that the path to change always begins with the decision to do so followed by a single step in a different direction.

This morning I received a text from an old client I haven’t seen in a while. He told me he had been thinking of coming in for a while. I said I was looking forward to seeing him and we set up an appointment. He said I shouldn’t be too excited, because he wasn’t feeling very proud of himself. I don’t know what we have ahead to work on. Frankly, it doesn’t change how I’m feeling. I’m fairly confident that regardless of what he has to present, the fact that he already has an internal feeling that he knows he is behaving in ways he doesn’t feel good about, and is willing to talk about this, is justification for my optimism.

I am often asked if I think people change. My answer is yes. And it’s based on more than the PolyAnna optimism I’ve been charged with at times. While many people don’t change, I believe more often than not, people are capable of change. However, it is unlikely to happen unless there is something more compelling to go towards, or something compelling enough to motivate them to move away from. What qualifies as compelling varies from person to person.

 

From the outside looking in, we tend to view the need for someone else to change as pretty straight forward. Woman beaten by husband- leave him. Husband using alcohol with poor health- Don’t drink. Wife disappearing in emaciation- just eat. Employee losing wife due to overworking- just set boundaries.

I think the important thing to remember is that people don’t develop problematic behaviors in a vacuum because they are attractive or fun. Behavior is meaningful. It serves a purpose. The woman may tolerate the beatings because she is financially or emotionally dependent. The husband may be using alcohol to self-medicate other issues. The emaciated woman may use her body as a way to set boundaries between herself and others that she has been unsuccessful doing any other way and so on. I do not offer these as excuses, but as explanations or as a small glimpse of what might lie under the surface that we do not see in others when we judge.

That said, dysfunctional or maladaptive behavior needs to be addressed. But change in my opinion is a process that occurs over time, not an event from a short term burst of enlightenment. People can have an “aha” moment, feel the heal, and seal it by singing a little Kumbaya during a group hug. But chances are when they return to the mundane routine of their everyday world, the very factors that led to their choice of behavior will still be waiting for them. Real change involves learning how to be different internally even though the environment hasn’t changed.

Change takes work. It requires introspection, objectivity and honesty. It also requires a willingness to tolerate the uneasiness of stepping out of your comfort zone while you wait for something better to grow in its place. It also requires a willingness to fail and start again, sometimes over and over again.

I think I’ll wrap this one up with a little humor with a joke that although corny, does make the point.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one- but the light bulb has to really really want to change.

 

I hope you’ll leave a comment and pass my blog on to someone else suggesting they subscribe!  Thanks for stopping by and Take care.

 

 

Purple Cows

 

 

For an audio version of this post, click on the link below.  To listen on a smartphone, scroll to the end of the message and click on the sound icon.

I’d rather be a purple cow

I like Seth Godin. He is a quirky guy with great ideas, which are also sometimes quirky. Recently, I watched a TED talk of his and he used the example of working to find a business that is a purple cow. His point was that when we drive down the road, we see a bunch of cows, no one ever says “Hey, a cow”. But if we drove down the road and saw a purple cow, that would stand out and we might say “Hey there is a purple cow!”

I think Seth Godin is a purple cow. He is bald and wears funny glasses, and his style makes him stand out in such a way that, usually causes me to notice him even before he speaks. But his speaking as a marketing guru is worth noting as well. Through a blog, podcasts and several published books, he coaches people in business to, break outside the status quo and do something no one else had done. Smart.

But as usual, it got my mind wandering. And it wandered to the nursery rhyme you might remember:

I never saw a purple cow

I hope I never see one

But if I saw a purple cow

I’d rather see than be one.

I love nursery rhymes and children’s books, and often find them to have some of the most sage wisdom.   But I actually inaccurately remembered this one the first time around. I transposed the last line to:

I’d rather be than see one.

And I’m sticking with it.

I don’t work with people every day to help them figure out how to develop a purple cow like Godin does. But as a therapist, I do often work with people who need to realize that I believe is their innate ability to be a purple cow, a green or horse, or whatever suits their fancy.

The dilemma for most people is that they too aren’t used to seeing purple cows and instead work to keep their color under wraps in order to fit in with all of the other cows.

In a recent blog (uniquely you) I talked about the importance of authenticity. If you are really a purple cow and you’ve made yourself brown or black, it’s hard to be authentic.

What is something you secretly always wished you had done? I’m not talking about the bucket list here. I’m talking about those things that you wanted to do, but felt you might not be good enough for. Or worse still, someone else thought you weren’t good enough?

How can you produce anything different if you keep your mind in the same small box that everyone else keeps theirs in? If you only play where the other cows play, eat the same food, rest at the same time, it’s hard to stand out.

To be a purple cow, means to think about what “I want” before seeing what everyone else is about to order. It doesn’t mean to become a narcissist and disregard everyone else’s wishes. It means simply to value your own separateness in conjunction with theirs.

To be a purple cow means not worrying who is looking at you, judging you. And it especially means to not worry about it even before you arrive somewhere by trying to anticipate their judgment. It means to wear what makes you feel fabulous.

Being a purple cow means to have your own feelings, rather than have them dictated by the group consensus.

Being a purple cow means to stand firm in your convictions.

Most of all, being a purple cow means to invest in the art of introspection to know yourself well enough to appreciate and value you.

Thanks for reading. I always appreciate your time and hope you’ll leave me a comment. If you like what you heard, please pass it on to someone else. Until next time. Take good care

not all who wander are lost- but some of us do need directions

For an audio version of this post click here. On smart phones, you may need to scroll to the end of your email message and look for the little sound icon and click on that. I would also appreciate any comments about how well (or not) the audio option is working.

 

 

I used to be a somewhat serious student of yoga. I realize that some of you who know me may find this hard to believe, but it’s actually true. One of the things I most appreciated about yoga was a lesson I learned not about a particular posture, but about the philosophy of yoga. Rather, that yoga IS in and of itself a philosophy.

When you put your body into some contorted posture, you are purposefully (with intention) causing your body to have stress or tension. You hold that tension to increase your awareness of the tension and notice the nuances of your muscles under that stress. (which if you’re out of shape like I am these days, doesn’t take long for that awareness to become front and center in your brain).

Once you have established that the only thing you can now think about is that your are experiencing that tension, the next step is to round up all of your internal resources to try and calm the tension. THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE RELEASING THE POSTURE. At least not yet.

It means you use your focus and your breath in harmony to try and ease the tension. For example, you might try and inhale the image of a soothing light into the tension, and exhale away pain. Use whatever imagery or thoughts work for you keeping the goal of making your breath the power or the tool of your brain to ease your discomfort. Stay in the moment of what is happening in your body right now and deal with only that.

When either you’ve gone as far as you can, or you’ve had some success, release the posture. If you didn’t achieve your goal, try it again later, but try to go a little longer than you did before.

So that is what you do in Yoga on the mat.

But as a philosophy, you have to take the yoga off the mat and it works something like this:

I’m standing in a long line at the grocery store. Or let’s up the stakes a bit. I’m standing in a long line at Hobby Lobby. The tension is mounting. I’m thinking I need to get home, I have stuff to do. I fold my arms across my chest and jut my hip out to one side to indicate to all around me that I am not happy to be sitting in this line once again. My face shows frustration.

Time for yoga.

No it does not mean to drop my packages and go into a tree pose or a downward dog.

But what is happening in that moment is that I’ve left the line. I’m thinking about where I want to be next rather than where I am right now and what is happening as a result of where I am right now.

So to start yoga (philosophy) at this point, I first need to relax my body a little. Uncross the arms, stand up straight.

And then, just like above, I start using my breath to go in and heal any remaining tension. I focus on where I am right here right now.

The magic of focusing on your breath is this: You cannot think of two things simultaneously. When you are focused on the breath, you can’t think about tonight’s dinner or the clothes you left in the washer or how bad traffic is going to be. Those are “not here”. The breath is “here”.

Why is it important to be “here” over being “not here”. Because regardless of where your brain wanders, your body remains “here”. And if you don’t attend to it with the presence of your brain, you leave yourself at risk. It’s kind of like a headless man running around trying to find his way around a crowded room.

When you stay present with your mind, you keep your “head on” making it much easier to navigate which direction you are trying to go towards. You can address the obstacles that come into view in real time, rather than having to deal with the after effects caused by bumping into stuff you didn’t plan on. Think of it like this, You are walking in a room with awareness and you notice the rug is crumpled. Because of the awareness, you notice the crumple, and walk around it or bend down and straighten it out before passing. Without the awareness (because you are instead thinking about where you are ultimately going), you trip over the rug, fall and hit your head. Now you have to stop, prolonging your journey and attend to the bump on your head.

In the next blog I’ll extend this to meditation. And let me tease you by saying that I have always thought probably far worse and boring things about meditation than you might conjure up at its very mention. So try and keep an open mind and check back for Sunday’s post. I promise no caffeine will be necessary to keep you awake through it and you won’t be asked to sit on a small cushion for 3 hours chanting “om”

 

 

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle
– This blog is a little more for folks on the coaching side, although frankly I think its useful for anyone.
I’d like to introduce you to Simon Sinek. Simon is a human motivation author. His TED talk regarding the Golden Circle is one of the most watched TED talks to date. But before I go further, let me not assume everyone knows what a TED talk is.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It is a series of talks 15-30 minutes long that are available on the internet for anyone to watch. They come from diverse industries and disciplines. You can also access the free TED app on a smart phone and be notified when a new talk is posted.
So back to Simon and the Golden Circle. Simon takes you on a journey to understand the different motivations of individuals when they try to attain a goal. According to his theory, most people start with what they want to do and how they are going to do it, but can’t always articulate why. Sinek says that truly successful individuals/companies start with Why. He says people buy why you do something.  (Buying doesn’t simply mean a purchase, but also includes, getting on board with what you feel is important).

For me personally, I loved this concept because understanding WHY I am a therapist is pretty easy for me to think about. I’m curious about people and the processes we use. I love the stories and the meanings of the stories people use to navigate their lives. I believe my primary role as a therapist is to interpret those stories, sometimes to add in new context or change the timing. And ultimately to help my clients to feel like they are their own authors, have a sense of agency, rather than simply playing a role that someone else has written for them.

I’ll let Sinek convince you-  the link for that video is here: (Click on the words The golden circle).

The Golden Circle

Do One Thing

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

Do One Thing

Today I have a challenge for you. To start with, I want you to think of an area in your life that you want to make some improvement in, or a goal you have that you hope to achieve. It can be big or small. Take a minute to think about that and write it down.

Got it?

Okay, let’s pretend that the item you chose was you want to get in better shape. Yes, I went for the easy one, but it could be get another job, be a better parent, increase your flexibility, start a foundation or a million other things.

Now I’m going to tell you a story.

When I was first learning to knit, I began by making a scarf. And I made enough scarves to warm the homeless in St. Louis. Everyone I knew got a scarf. I wanted to branch out, but I didn’t know how. Actually, I did know how, because regardless of what one is knitting, there are only 2 stitches- knit and purl. What changes the end product is the way you combine those two stiches and nothing more. But I didn’t realize that at the time.

So I went to the yarn store one day and I began conversing with the shop owner while I was completing my purchase of more yarn to make more scarves. I mentioned that I wanted to make a hat, had even purchased the supplies for a hat, but had not begun the project. She asked me why. I told her it was because I didn’t know how to read a pattern. She chuckled and gave me the following advice:

“That’s not how this works. You don’t have to know how to read a whole pattern. You just have to cast on {the first stitch} and do the first thing it tells you. After that, you do the next thing and so on. And if you get stuck, we’ll help you.”

You just never know where and when you will get the most guidance about life in general. Keeping your eyes and ears open for wisdom makes it a lot easier.

So, back to your goal.

You want to get in shape-

What is the first thing?

Is it making a plan, buying some shorts you can move in, or sneakers? Is it joining a gym? How about better defining the goal? I’d like to lose 10 lbs vs I’d like to be able to strengthen my back?

Once you have a clear idea of the goal- what is the FIRST thing you need to do? Or what is the first thing you are WILLING to do. Sometimes they aren’t the same thing.

Now that you have that first step- its time to cast on or begin.

And now for the challenge:

Commit to YOURSELF that you will do ONE THING towards that goal every day.

Knitting works like this. Rarely do you complete a project in one day. It’s a series of knitting stitches that cling together to make a row. Rows stack upon themselves to make a section. Sections add up to make a finished product.

Buying shorts, then tennis shoes, determining a route, scoping out the route, walking ¼ of the route, then ½ then ¾ and so on adds up.

You are free to do more than one thing each day. But commit to one. And when you execute that one- say it out loud. “I did _____ today. Yay me.

I’d love to know what you come up with. And I’d love to know how its going for you. You might even get a “yay you” on this blog.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao-tzu

The first step is you have to say that you can.

Will Smith

 

Deep Waters

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

Deep Waters

As a kid, my family was always around water.  We had a boat and, a dilapidated shack of sorts on the Mississippi river.  We called the place, the Clubhouse, and it’s where we spent the bigger portion of our summers.  But the intriguing part of this tale is that neither of my parents could swim.

Despite his limitation, my father had no fear of the water.  He would drive the boat faster than he should have.  I especially remember how he would make sharp turns to create a wake for those of us swimming nearby.  The turns would cause the boat to careen in such a way, so close to the water that, it was as if, anything not buckled down, including the people, could roll out like marbles in an open bag.  Although it never happened, I can still see the fear and disdain in my mother’s face as she tried to admonish him from the shoreline.

My mother was a woman of great fear.  I don’t offer that with the same harsh judgment I once did, but rather as statement of understanding what better governed many of the choices she made in her life, both for herself and for her children.  Although she too, spent many hours in the water, it was a relationship precariously balanced between her love for it, and her fear.  Fear of water is not irrational, people do drown.  But my mother’s fear was more of a philosophy than a reaction.  Sometimes she sat near, other times venturing in with her life jacket, ski belt or more commonly, an inner tube.  We had a stockpile of used car and truck inner tubes inflated as flotation devices that anyone could use to just lounge about the water.  For my mother, they were literally her life preservers.

There were times over the years that she tried to become more engaged.  She took a lesson here or there to increase her confidence.  And sometimes it worked.  But then life turns would take her away from the water for a bit too long and she would forget what she knew.  Mostly, she forgot the confidence that her body was capable of keeping her afloat with just a little effort and a smidgen of skill.

One day when my mom was about 87 years old, she joined me and my boys in the pool at our home.  My youngest son was about 5 and still trying to get comfortable with swimming into the deep end of the pool without his water wings.  I was going back and forth from end to end alongside him trying to build both his confidence and endurance.  My mom watched on from the shallow end clinging to a noodle despite a depth of only about 3 feet.  After a bit, I tried gently at first and then more forcefully to get her to venture out into the deeper water.  Annoyed, she snapped back “I’ll do it later”.  And in a harsh frustrated and sarcastic tone I retorted “Mom! You’re 87 years old, just when do you think you’ll finally get around to this?

My mother died three years later.  If my memory is accurate, and believe me, these days people should question that before assuming it is, I think that day in our pool was the last time my mom was ever in the pool.  I started to write, “went swimming”, but I realized as I wrote the preceding line, she didn’t swim that day.  She got in a pool.  She stood in water.  But she did not swim.  She was too afraid to swim.  And in a very real way she, at least partially so, knew how to swim.

I just did a google search on the word fear.  137 million entries in .29 seconds.  It’s a pretty big deal fear is.

What are you waiting to do that you are afraid of?  What are you waiting to do that you don’t even know about yet, because the fear inside won’t even let you conceive of the idea of that something?

When you think about things you want to do, what comes up? What are the stories that your head tells you that you cannot do and why?  If I tell myself I want to be a world class ballerina, a myriad of stories are going to come forward.  Stories about how I’m too short, out of shape or too old to achieve a goal that requires training I should have begun 40 years ago.  These are not fear based nor are they judgments.  They are simply assessments of reality as it currently exists.

But if I say I wouldn’t want to dance because people would laugh at me, that instead is a story based on fear.  If I more cleverly try to disguise this by telling myself, I don’t want to dance because I don’t have time, then it’s a story born out of a seed of fear that is nurtured with the soil of convenience to help it grow.  The improbability of becoming a world class ballerina does not mean I could not take a ballet class.  It doesn’t mean I could not perform in a local recital.  It doesn’t mean I couldn’t dance at home.

Fortunately for me, I have zero interest in becoming a ballerina, world class or no class.  My fears lurk in other domains.  Where do yours lie?  Are you willing to pull them out, dust them off and have a thorough look at them?  Are you willing to schedule them far enough in the future to assure they will never confront you?

Take a look backwards at your life for a moment.  Look for the themes or patterns of events that may have been opportunities to get you started towards something that is important to you, that you have perhaps ignored.  In the story of my mother’s reluctance to swim, opportunity had presented itself many times over her lifetime.  How about you?  Has opportunity invited you to join in the fun but you have allowed fear to persuade you into thinking it was calling someone else?  Did you tell yourself it wasn’t the “right time” or circumstances?   What are you putting off “’til later on”?

Are you willing to just make a list of those things for now?  You don’t have to act on them.  But even making a list of them gives the universe a little hope that, you are still interested.  It says to not cross you off the list just yet.

In the next blog, we’ll get a little more personal.  So for today I’ll end today with a couple of quotes of inspiration.

 

There comes a moment in every life when the Universe presents you with an opportunity to rise to your potential. An open door that only requires the heart to walk through, seize it and hang on.
The choice is never simple. It’s never easy. It’s not supposed to be. But those who travel this path have always looked back and realized
that the test was always about the heart. …The rest is just practice.”
? Jaime Buckley, Prelude to a Hero

 

For if the talent or individuality is there, it should be expressed. If it doesn’t find its way out into the air, it can be turned inward and gnaw like the fox at the Spartan boy’s belly.’

— Shirley McLain

 

I’m no more a wonder than anyone. And that’s what makes the world magical. Every baby’s a seed of wonder – that gets watered or it doesn’t.”
? Dean Koontz, Relentless