Is Satisfactory Enough?

This morning my singing partner and I did a scary thing. We took a tough song, with cutting and horrifying lyrics, added a dissonant and haunting harmony and performed it a cappella for our congregation, twice. We had a total of 5 songs to perform, 2 others that were new for us and new to to them, but only the one had me nervous. I knew we had really pushed some boundaries on what was comfortable for people to hear, certainly on what was easy for us to learn and perform, and on what we would do with the information of executing it poorly or being poorly received.

The song fell in the middle of the service. She was shaking before that song. I started shaking after and shook so hard that my hold torso was trembling a bit. All that fear and all that adrenaline sorting itself out after nailing that song, which was still impossibly difficult to perform and to hear. We sang Strange Fruit, made famous by Billie Holliday. While a musical masterpiece, it is not pleasing to listen to in the way that most music is. The song lyrics are a metaphorical description of a lynching, written by a white Jewish man from the Bronx, after seeing a photograph in the newspaper. My partner and I decided to sing the song facing one another to maintain our concentration and keep our emotions at bay. It was haunting. It was powerful. It was profound in exactly the way that we hoped. And we shook with the effort of getting past the fear and doubt and concern that we brought to the microphone with us.

Let me be clear, we didn’t have to sing that song. We chose it, really against our better judgment in many ways. We knew it was risky. We could easily have found something else, either that we already knew or that would have served and been easy to learn. We could have satisficed. Do you know this word? I LOVE it. Satisficing is “accepting an available option as satisfactory.” Satsificing is doing what you know so it will be okay – and believe me there is a time for satisficing. My husband is preparing to leave town for two weeks, and while I single-handedly wrangle our domestic zoo, I imagine there will be plenty of satificing. Continue reading

About Those Dark Emotions You’ve Been Avoiding

I feel the need to begin by saying that I love my family of origin and can confidently say that they taught me many valuable things that have contributed to the good parts of my adult life. Having gotten that out of the way, this morning I want to talk a little about dark feelings in my childhood.

In my house of origin, rationality was held in high regard.

Sometimes only rationality was held in high regard. We would talk through problems, so long as that talk didn’t include any negative emotion.

Anger was not encouraged.

Tears were actively discouraged.

Sadness was something to take care of in your own space, by yourself.

While I was in elementary school, my mother completed the bachelor’s degree she had begun before leaving college to be come a mother of 4. When my brother graduated from high school in 1979, my mother graduated from college, with a bachelor’s in social work that came with a whole lot of new information about all of the dark feelings that were confined to the bedrooms of our home. Continue reading

The Upside of Our Outrage

slide1There’s a lot of raw emotion out there these days, at least in the United States. Social media is full of accusations, outrage, opinion, art, strident cries for justice and humanity and pleas for civility and peace. I find it difficult to wade through the level of emotion so readily available even as I find myself feeling raw and edgy lately. I tear up more easily (in anger, fear, and out of waves of love and in awe of connection).  I feel my outrage surface more frequently. I feel the walls that have been holding me back, shrinking me to an acceptable attitude, crumbling one rock at a time.

I hear the pleas for civility and peace and I share that interest, but I also rejoice at the raw anger, fear and outrage I’m seeing, not necessarily at its clumsy expression, but at the acknowledgement of its existence. I rejoice at what I can only see as more people who are actually FEELING, who are actually asking themselves and then expressing to others how they FEEL about things. Is it ugly? Yes. Is it strident and painful to listen to? Sometimes. Is it uncomfortable? Always, for everyone. Is it justified? I have no idea nor do I wish to attempt to make that judgment. What I do know for sure is that people are feeling. People who have been “adulting,” who have been trudging along, who have been making do, getting by, stuffing their outrage, and numbing their unhappiness are FEELING. Continue reading

Resilience When You Take A Surface Hit

I’m feeling so lucky. I just got to spend 3 days with my Mom and my sister. We make an annual trek to the beach for a weekend and it is always restorative and fun. In years past we went either in May or September, when it was warm, and would spend hours walking or sitting on the beach, dipping our toes in surf, looking for shells and marveling at the horizon.

This year, we went a little later, in October. A week before our trip the weather forecast was already letting us know that it wasn’t going to be our usual magical weekend at the shore. A huge storm system was moving up the coast… very slowly.  As our trip got closer, there was a little uncertainty. My sister feared flooding on the roads. My Mom bemoaned the forecast but remained determined. They both optimistically packed swimsuits and beach towels, but we chose the car that rode highest of the road. I packed quickly the morning of the trip, after getting the kids on the bus, and didn’t even think about a swimsuit. Something in me knew not to bother. Continue reading

Uncomfortably Numb

I was having a great conversation with a friend. This particular friend is super sensitive to the feelings of other people around her. She is tremendously affected by everyone else’s stuff. I already knew that, but while we were talking she just blurted out this sentence: “And so I’d overeat just to stop feeling all their feelings. I’d just have to stuff something in my mouth…” It was so plain, so clear, so honest. And I knew right then that she had called me out on a little something I’ve noticed lately…

Being a Mom has many, many joys, but I’d be lying if I said that there is no joy associated with the end of the child day. I saw a meme the other day that implored children to go to sleep at 7:30 for nice Mom because they didn’t want to be around for 8:00 Mom. I laughed heartily. My kids go to bed right around that time and when they re-emerge, it’s possible I’m not as nice a Mom as I was when I kissed them good night. I look forward to the quiet. I wait for it. I dream about it. But you know what I don’t do? I don’t often really sit in it.

uncomfortablynumbWhat do I do? I usually stuff something in. I eat something I didn’t want to share with the children but am not actually hungry for (yeah, I do, don’t judge). I drink something I didn’t want to drink earlier for fear of falling asleep before the house got quiet. I watch something incredibly stupid on TV. I get the quiet I’ve been seeking for some measure of the day, and then I do everything I can to avoid myself in it. I numb myself. I block out my own feelings, the feelings of others, my fears, and my loneliness. A little chocolate, a little wine, a little reality TV and there, all better. Number. Less in touch. Less sharp. Less connected. Less honest. Less me. Continue reading

Dear Overworked, Overwhelmed Human

DearHumanI love you.
They love you.
We love your overdue library books.
We love your late to lunch.
We love your last minute projects.
We love your go cup.
We love your super stacked schedule.
We love your super full bag.
We love your near breathless “Hello” on the phone.
We love your determination.
We love your hustle bustle out the door.
We love your packaged snacks.
We love your chipped nail polish.
We love your unwalked dog.
We love your carry out dinner.
We love your motion.
We love your drive.
We love your painful heels.
We love your too hot jacket.
We love your sore feet.
We love your generosity.
We love your handshake.
We love your forgotten lunch.
We love your forgotten appointment.
We love your overdue haircut.
We love your smile.
We love your song that makes you move.
We love your unread signed forms.
We love your honking horn, your curse words, and your traffic jam.
We love your drink at the end of the day.
We love your slapdash dinner.
We love your dumb TV show.
We love your book on the nightstand.
We love all the balls you catch AND the ones you drop.
We love your dear sweet overburdened self.

WeLoveYouWhat feelings and thoughts would you have room for if you set aside all the judgments?

Would you notice how awesome you were even though things didn’t go perfectly?

Would you notice how much of your day you spend doing something you hate? What would noticing that do to you?

Would you have to admit that you’re exhausted and you’re afraid it will never change?

Would you have to admit that adulting is nothing like what you expected? Would you have to admit that you have some control over that?

What would you have time to notice if you stopped noticing every chipped nail, every bumbled interchange, every moment of imperfection?

We love you. You are safe. What’s in there?

 

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And I Fell

There are times when the weight is just too heavy.

When circumstances overwhelm us.

When the call from the hospital or the child’s mistake or the wound unwittingly delivered is just too raw to proceed without acknowledgement.

In the past I fought that.

I ignored it.

I numbed it with wine or Facebook or an endless list of incompletable but incredibly business producing tasks.

I fabricated other problems to think about.

I focused on other people’s concerns.

This time is different.

When the weight grew too heavy, I fell.

I cried.

I told the right people about the weight. Gave them the details and trusted.

And they asked.

“How are you? Do you want to talk?”

And I cried more. And they comforted and coached.

And we were all softer for the moment.

 

The Watcher

Had lunch with a great friend today. She is really struggling with a great deal of change, all of it out of her control and a great deal of it impacting her partner and their relationship. She confessed that she gets frustrated, she yells, and because I know her so well, I knew the rest of the story about the guilt and self-beating that follows those exchanges. “He doesn’t deserve that.” No he doesn’t. And neither does she.

While I am always reluctant to whip a coaching session out of my pocket, there are times where a little tool, a little strategy can really help somebody. So I asked her if I could offer a strategy and then told her about The Watcher. Continue reading