Who’s Pushing Your Buttons?

I have a confession. When I was working through my life coach training, there was on teacher who kind of irritated me. When I saw her name on the roster, I rolled my eyes and sighed and figured it was going to be a waste of my time. I still attended those classes, but it was with a sense of duty and obligation, rather than curiosity or joy. I listened with maybe 60% of myself and got through it. I checked the box. Why did I react that way to her?

I think there were a few reasons, so I’ll give you the surface ones first. First of all, I just wasn’t ready for the part of the course she was teaching. I was still working on some things that made it hard to hear what she had to say. Secondly, the material she was teaching was stuff I didn’t feel as naturally drawn to – had already decided it was not my strong suit, so I probably wouldn’t enjoy it or benefit from it. Now with just those two surface reasons, there’s plenty of room to talk about how I was limiting myself and how I got in the way of my own experience. Yes, yes, yes, all true, but I think the bigger issue for me with this amazing master coach and teacher was that the way she presented and held herself in the world was immediately off-putting to me. You say: “Wait, that’s not the surface reason?”

Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. And I’m saying that because my reaction to her and the way she walks through the world had zip zero to do with her and EVERYTHING to do with me. What you may not know is that I’ve changed. For a long time, I was keeping an awful lot to myself. It was easier to just go unnoticed than to jump into the fray and risk failing or looking stupid, or just having some kind of negative attention come my way. It felt safer to just muddle through, get done what I needed to get done. I was okay after all, and that’s good enough, right? Right? right? right…

Slide1Not for that coach it wasn’t. Just okay was definitely not good enough. She was so out front with herself that she was like a bullhorn for strength, power, and joy. I didn’t realize the bullhorn she was toting (metaphorically, she’s not THAT out there) had a message just for me. And that message said: “Where ARE you? Why are you hiding? Why are you playing small? What happened? Where’d you go? You didn’t always do this. What’s changed? Won’t you come out and play? Won’t you come out and BE YOU?” So, I ignored her. Yep, I did. I admit it. Just decided she wasn’t my cup of tea, played myself some soothing music, made sure I was calm and moved forward with my day.

Yes, it’s true, I have from time to time ignored messages that I would benefit from, but I wasn’t ready. I just wasn’t ready. And that’s okay. The thing is, I began to change anyway. I began taking risks. I began being more assertive with my opinions (rather than forgoing or taking a passive aggressive stance – “Why don’t you guess what I’m thinking?”) I began moving forward on silly domestic projects that had been stalled for weeks, months, some even for years. I began sharing more of the hard stuff. I began asking for help when I needed it. And as I did these things, a whole lot of other stuff changed too.

I found myself craving new music. The well-known soothing soundtrack that I’d arranged around me for years grew tiresome. As I reconnected with myself I felt moved to reconnect with music that inspired action, that expressed anger, frustration, and motion. I reconnected with dreams and desires I’d long put out to pasture as unrealistic and therefore not worthy. I got out in front. I even put myself first (whoa!) and decided not to apologize about that (double whoa!). I established my practice to help other women start to do the same, to reconnect with their core, to wake up to their own capacity, and to get out in front.

Slide2And then one day, a little video showed up in my Facebook feed. It was her, that coach and teacher who I’d written off before. I clicked on the video and was delighted to find she was speaking to me, and I was hearing it. I no longer found her anything but helpful, inspiring, quite amazing really. All that lukewarm negativity I’d felt before (but kept to myself, BTW) had nothing to do with her. It had EVERYTHING to do with me and the part of myself I saw in her, the fear I felt at the idea of being more like her, the lengths I’d gone to to stuff my own amazing because I’d tried and failed, or I was too tired, or I couldn’t possibly do all that, or “that doesn’t work for people like me.”  So much of what I thought was a reaction to her was just an old, tired conversation I’d been having with myself for far too long. Seeing her, and knowing she was fabulous whether I admitted it or not, pushed my little light-hiding buttons. But I don’t need those buttons anymore. I imagine I’ve sewed on some new ones, but THOSE buttons are gone. Game on.

Who pushes your buttons? How much of your reaction has nothing at all to do with that person? How much of your reaction has everything to do with some story you’ve told yourself about who YOU are? What could you learn by listening to the button pusher? What could you learn by really seeing the button pusher in you?

Soul Sisters – How to Get Some

Just got back from a whirlwind training and retreat in Savannah, GA. While we were there, my new friends and I were marveling over how well we got along, how easy it seemed to open up and share, to spend time together, to accommodate each other, to spend time in common space. These are things that have not always been easy for me, and yet I came away from my 6 day trip with soul sisters. I shared things with this group of women I hadn’t told anybody before. And then I came home, and found them all online where we gather every day to greet, share, and encourage. And I stand in wonder, so tempted to think it was the way we came together. It was the power of the gathering that made the difference… but my wise self knows better. Continue reading

Let That Dissatisfaction Heal You

slide1Yesterday we held my father’s memorial service. During the service, rather than a eulogy or a homily, my three siblings and I took the opportunity to share stories and memories about Dad, who he was, who he was to US. At the reception that followed, I had many people tell me that they were moved by my remarks. Many others expressed that they found them helpful, that my story about my Dad shined a light of hope on family conflict, illuminated a path to breaking destructive patterns or to healing hurts so that relationships that are just okay can become deeply fulfilling. My Dad and I walked that path. Continue reading

Relationship Transformations

I wish that I could count the number of hours friends, well and me too, have spent trying to figure out WHY their partner does X. We speculate, we run hypotheticals. We call friends and get them to participate in speculating and running hypotheticals. All the possible variations, all the possible explanations, all the ways the past gives evidence to whatever theory we’re developing.

slide1And it’s not just the speculation. We THEN make all of those speculations and hypotheticals mean something as though they are fact. The “could be” becomes the “is” somewhere between our heads and our hearts. “If this is what’s going on in his head, he really doesn’t love me at all.” “If he doesn’t understand what I’m saying, he doesn’t care about me.” “If he can’t answer this question, we really have no future.” “If she…” okay, I admit I was going for gender neutral there, but do men do this? It’s an honest question. If they do it, they don’t include me in those conversations. Truthfully, I probably wouldn’t include me in them either. I’m not much fun to have around if what you are really looking to do is get yourself good and worked up over a hypothetical. I imagine my girlfriends will give it up soon as well.

Why? There are two reasons I’m not down with the hypothetical relationship analysis: 1) there is no point in reacting to a hypothetical as it potentially has absolutely no basis in reality and 2) engaging in all of this speculation and hypothetical meandering is entrenching yourself in the part of your relationship that is none of your business. WHAT?! Yeah, that’s right I said none of your business. Continue reading

Holiday Conversation Survival Guide

slide1TV, movies, holiday stress – it all tells us that these revered holidays aren’t always all they are cracked up to be. Sometimes it’s because of the workload associated with the whole thing. Sometimes it’s because we surrender all of our own preferences in favor of traditions that got started by people we never even knew. Sometimes it’s because when we are with our family of origin, we all revert to being about 12 years old. Truth is, holidays can be complicated, and if we’re already having a tough time in any way, holiday conversations can be tricky.

For your use, I want to throw some phrases at you that might prove helpful.

About food:

  • No, thank you. (you don’t have to explain your dietary restrictions and feel judged, just say no)
  • I’m sure it’s delicious, but I’m fine.
  • I really appreciate all of your hard work.
  • That is an amazing table.

In the case of disagreement that is brewing but not openly hostile:

  • That’s interesting. Why do you feel that way?
  • What outcome were you hoping for?
  • Wow. I see that totally differently. I’d never considered your approach.
  • Thanks for sharing that with me; can I tell you how I see it?
  • We agree on so many other things, I’m surprised we differ here.

In the case of inappropriate intrusive questions:

  • Thanks for being interested, but I’m not really ready to talk about that here/now/at all.
  • That feels like a super personal question to me. Can we talk about something else?
  • WOW. Going right for the big stuff are we? I think I’m going to need a warm-up period.
  • Committee’s still out on that one, but thanks for asking.

In the case of full-blown hostility:

  • You seem very scared/angry/frustrated. I’m sorry you feel that way, but I don’t agree with you.
  • That really hasn’t been my experience and if we can turn it down a notch, I’d be happy to share my perspective.
  • I’m not sure you understand why that troubles me. I can explain it or we can drop this particular subject.
  • “I respectfully do not care.” This a quote from Martha Beck.

slide2Now, go forth. Do your thing, whatever that might be and if your holiday plans are NOT to your liking for whatever reason, I implore you to carve (like that turkey reference?) out some chunk of time in which you will do something you absolutely do want to do and that you will relish that time. You can be late. You can leave early. You can make your shower as long as you need to. The world will keep turning. The dinner will wait. Spend a little of that time on you – it will make the gratitude part of this whole shebang oh so much easier.



Calling Out or Calling In

outin2My super smart reverend said something that really stuck with me today. He was talking about the difference between calling people out and calling people in. He discussed this in reference to supporting minority groups and working against oppression. When we see something happening that contributes to oppression or systemic injustice, we may feel tempted to call that person out. We may feel tempted to use all of our righteous indignation to label their behavior as racist, sexist, classist or whatever else it might be. In fighting against these cultural problems, we may feel tempted to whip out our high intensity label maker and sort everyone according to their misdeeds. There’s something really satisfying in identifying the wrong in others; there’s also something divisive, hurtful, and counterproductive in shaming someone this way.

My ministerial pal encouraged us, rather than calling people out, to call people in. There is more than one way to skin a cat (why do we say this, it really is gross), and shaming someone is not the only way to address something they have said or done that is hurtful or unjust. Continue reading

Whose Business Are You In?

I was listening to a podcast today, while “watching” my son’s soccer practice. True confession here: I am not overly engaged in my children’s athletic performance. I hope they have fun. I peek up from time to time to see that THEY are engaged, because that’s all I really care about. So anyway, the point was the podcast. It was a goodie – Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons with Glennon Doyle Melton as the special guest. Yeah, that’s a party I’m attending.

I’m rolling along soaking up the fantastic conversation and Glennon Doyle Melton lays out the application of a fundamental life lesson that I’ve only come to understand in the last couple of years. She’s describing how she began blogging (Momastery – it’s fabulous) and her commitment to finishing a piece of work and letting it go. She just hit that publish button and that was it. She was done. It was not her job to babysit the art once it was created because it was none of her business if anybody liked it or not. Did you get that? It was none of her business if anybody liked it or not. Whoa. (Yes, bloggers, that means NOT checking your stats – WHAT?!) Continue reading

5 Ways to Be a Better Parent

  1. Slide1Get More Sleep
  2. Eat Healthy Foods
  3. Remember to Ask Yourself What You Need and Want
  4. Schedule Social Time with Other Adults
  5. Include Personal Quiet Time in Your Schedule

“But wait a minute, Julia, this whole list is about me. I thought you were going to tell me how to be a better parent? Everything you mentioned is about taking care of me.”

Yes, yes it is. Because I believe you are exhausted, overwhelmed and starved for time loving and taking care of you. I believe you are already a great parent. I believe you love your children and know how to care for them in almost every situation, or that you can figure it out when you need to. I believe it can all be better, and I believe when you are more you, you will be a better parent. You will be a better person. You will be a better you. Your kids need YOU. (If you need more convincing that these steps will make you a better parent, I’ve got more on that.) Continue reading

Will Curiosity Bridge the Gap?

LoveAllNowI’m not sure what’s going on in the rest of the world, but in the U.S. things are… I don’t even know what to say they are. We have been shaken by multiple tragedies and everyone’s reactions are raw, loud, blazing hot, and loud. Did I say loud?

Please understand there is nothing inherently wrong with loud. I personally have trouble with loud, but I recognize that this is my own neurological twitch, not an indicator that the content being expressed is not accurate, valid, or completely understandable.

The problem I’m having with loud right now is that everyone is loud. I’ve taught and I can assure you that when everyone is loud, NOBODY is listening. The most sure guarantee of no understanding is no listening. Listening is first, then hearing, then hopefully understanding. Scratch that. Compassion and openness are first, then listening, then hearing, then hopefully understanding. Continue reading