Are You Skipping the Hard Parts?

I’ve mentioned a few times here that I have had a shaky relationship with the holidays in the past. This year, even as we approach the one year anniversary of my Dad’s death on December 23rd, has been fundamentally different.

In the past I resisted the hullabaloo of the holidays altogether – partly out of Grinchly attitudes and partly due to being a highly sensitive person in an increasingly loud and lit-up world. It turns out, now that I am reflecting on it, that my resistance to the Christmas hullaballoo (waiting to put the tree up, delaying Christmas music, holding off on the treats) was also a remnant of the Christianity of my childhood. Now, don’t get all skittish on me, this isn’t a piece about religion, so just hang in there. I’m going somewhere that applies to all of us, I promise.

In the Episcopal church of my childhood, the season of Advent was well-attended. Advent  is made up of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas and is seen as a time of preparation, of expectation. Most folks would assume that meant getting ready for Christmas, but Advent demands something deeper, as is reflected by the hymns that were saved specifically for this time of year. Advent is a time of quiet, of inward reflection, of questioning, of facing the dark (externally and internally), and of preparing for something new. This changes the whole Christmas and holiday scenario quite a bit.

Living ConsciouslyThese weeks before Christmas can be reserved by anyone of any faith tradition as an opportunity to engage in the deep inner-work of creating new life, because that’s what this holiday season is about. Christian or not, we can all appreciate the notion that there is a time for acknowledging what is past, releasing what is broken, asking ourselves what will be required of us next, and then consider the possibility for change. We can claim the time, space, and quiet to examine the life that IS and then consciously create something new.

The rush to the sparkly parts of the season push us past the dark work of the soul that can be so difficult but so transformative. The rush to the physical preparation for the season and the intensely over-scheduled calendars leave no time for examination, for contemplation, for internal preparation. It is all about the wrapping paper. Just as we rush to the celebrations of the season (and the retailers push the start date earlier and earlier), so too do we try to rush to the trappings/accessories/feelings of a better life without doing the personal and contemplative work that actually promotes the change that is available to all of us.

The Holiday Frenzy Hides an Opportunity for GrowthSometimes the need for change requires action, don’t misunderstand me. I have several digital feeds that keep me on top of political actions I should take without the benefit of deep and lasting contemplation. But the work of the soul, the work of creating an internal and external world that we want to live in, the work of recreating ourselves and our lives? THAT requires more than a cheerful song and a sugar cookie, and in our hustle bustle world, the opportunity for that kind of work must be created by individuals who desire it.

How do we create those opportunities? We say no. We say no to being totally overbooked. We say no to filling all of the space with music and decorations. We say no to filling every minute of our day with the physical preparations for the season and reserve some time for the quiet work of self-examination and the self-inquiry that creates the space to create new life.

I’ve already put my tree up, as it is perhaps my very favorite part of the holiday season. The beauty of it makes me catch my breath. And it makes an excellent companion as I sit, in the darkness of December, and turn my thoughts to what is to come.

xo,

j

BODIES In the News and in the Mirror

I’ve been thinking a lot about our relationship with our bodies. Having 10 year olds enrolled in a sexuality education class and listening to NPR a lot really leaves me no choice but to think about bodies a lot.

alienation and lonelinessOn the one hand I consistently find in my clients (and in others I just ask nosy questions of) a negligence of the experience of the body, how they feel (emotionally and physically). We can talk about how we think we feel. We talk about how we ought to feel, and supply plenty of great reasons for whatever conclusion we come to for that “should,” but we don’t spend all that much time actually feeling it. This is so true that people are often befuddled when I ask them how they actually feel, without all of the thinking around it. We are cut off from our physical experience of ourselves except when illness or injury overwhelms our ability to maintain that disconnection.

On the other hand, we are the gatekeepers of our bodies and our ability to watch and guard that gate varies with our beliefs, our self-esteem, our age, and our physical size, our strength, and it seems our capacity for earning a living. This fleshy container from which we distance ourselves apparently needs our watchful eye, our clear-headed awareness, and our protection. We are in the strange and uncomfortable position of guarding something with which we have little real connection.

And that brings me to the third hand (yes, I know but wouldn’t it be useful?). In the absence of a perpetrator doing violence to these bodies, we will weaponize ourselves against them. We need not be concerned with how these bodies feel but we darned well better be concerned about how they look. We had better heed the call to shrink, to get smaller and more meek, to sit down, to be quiet, to discipline ourselves into a secondary stature, to scold ourselves into submission through the deeply wounding power of hostility toward that which is our first and most personal property (because this is the language we all understand, property), our bodies.

This treatment of the female form, this obsessive self-disciplining based on either disconnection or self-loathing, is oppression embodied. The refusal of how we feel is submission. The shrinking for the purpose of pleasing and matching the model is obedience. The setting of impossible standards and punishing ourselves for failing to meet them is collaboration.

A radical act for the new year? Learning to be embodied love – not for our partners and children, not for parents and cousins, not for community and congregation but for ourselves. Imagine each single body a physical manifestation of pure love that radiates from a foundation of self-cherishing (not just acceptance) and proceeds with self care that is deep and multi-dimensional. THAT is healing. Healing for you. And healing for you WILL BE healing for your family (especially your daughters), for your community, for all of us. As our capacity to love and care for ourselves grows, so too do our demands to be treated with dignity and respect, so too does our fervor to participate in ways that ensure a safe and supportive community for all.

diets don't workSome say that our bodies are temples, but in my estimation this lacks life and dynamism, growth and gloriousness. I say your body is a testimony, a living proof of the power of individual strength, perseverance, and cosmic and biological miracles. I say your body is a demonstration of all that is possible, and often of the nearly impossible. I say your body is a compass, a guide, a healer, and a knower. I say your body holds the treasures of the universe for you while you are making other plans.

What would your body whisper to you if you stopped and listened? What could it tell you if you left a pause in the conversation and the self-abuse? What does your body need? What does your body want? What feels like love for your body? What could you do today to take one small step in that direction? What’s stopping you?

 

The Self-Help Swiss Army Knife

I’ve been thinking about getting Swiss Army knives for my kids for Christmas, and I confess that this is likely a result of some ridiculously romantic notion of them cheerfully whittling on the back porch without cutting their fingers off and in lieu of some other pursuit that I find idiotic, but I’ve been thinking about it nonetheless. I have always been in awe of the massive amount of utility packed in such a relatively small container that is the Swiss Army Knife.

What tools will make me feel betterAnd then I got to thinking about that idea – a group of tools all hooked together and easily accessed, thus the idea of a Self-Help Swiss Army Knife was born. I began to seriously consider what tools in my toolbox I would recommend that people take on an adventure where outcomes are uncertain and pragmatism can be invaluable. And so, as a holiday gift to you all, I’ve come up with my Self-Help Swiss Army Knife (SHSAK) – although as I am a writer and coach and not a bookseller, it is sort of a DIY version (something I think I’d recommend against when it comes to an actual Swiss Army Knife – my Youtube search yielded lots of DIY to do WITH these knives and one actual “melee” weapon made of Legos).

So the Self-Help Swiss Army Knife needs to provide both the basic daily functionality of a plain old pocket knife and the extra bells and whistles (ok, corkscrews and toothpicks) of the real deal. Everybody with me?

Tool #1: A stillness practice. It can be meditation, but that word makes a lot of people anxiously flee (which they could prevent with meditation, but that’s not a helpful observation). The idea of and the procedures of meditation turn a lot of folks off, but there are many ways to develop a stillness practice – here’s one example, for more Google “sit spot”. What’s the point? The point is just like the one for the main blade of that knife. A stillness practice will cut away the crap. It gets you closer to what you actually want and need and gives you a break from the excess EVERYTHING. Sounds pretty good, right?

Tool #2: A body practice. What? Develop rituals, exercise, habits that put you in touch with your body. We spend so much time in our heads that we rarely give these amazing containers the attention that they deserve, and much of the attention we do give them is negative (a list of things we don’t like about them or recognition only when there is ailment). Paying attention to how your body feels and cultivating better physical feeling is both deeply rewarding and revealing about what is going on with you emotionally while you’re thinking about your holiday gift buying list. A body practice, like that nail trimmer on the knife, gets us focused on necessary self-care in a way that can only promote wellness over time.

Tool #3: Some method of journaling – this need not be written. If verbal expression isn’t your thing, maybe art OR maybe you hate to write, but love to talk. Find a way to express what’s going on in there in a stream of consciousness sort of way – no rules, no judgments, no grammar, no erasing, just get it all out there. Journaling is the can opener of the SHSAK. Let’s open it up and see what’s inside.

Tool #4: Now that we’re taking a look. Let’s magnify that vision a bit. For this, I heartily recommend Byron Katie’s The Work, a process of inquiry that she describes in her book Loving What Is. The author teaches us how to ask questions of our beliefs and our assumptions so that we can stop being hampered, tortured, made anxious and unhappy by things that aren’t necessarily true. It is a great tool for taking a closer look at what we think and believe and how it is impacting us.

Tool #5: Brooke Castillo’s The Model as described in Self-Coaching 101. This book is amazing. In it the author basically describes how to identify and change thought patterns that keep us stuck, prevent growth, and cause misery. Does she promise a totally happy life? No, but she promises a conscious one, where you get to make decisions about how you think and feel. This is the wire cutter and wire crimper of the SHSAK. It can also take care of small annoyances like the toothpick. Now THAT’s a useful tool.

Tool #6: Once you rearrange your assumptions, you may feel a little adrift. Any time you’re feeling adrift Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star makes an excellent compass for finding your way home – or to a new home. Okay, most Swiss Army Knives don’t have a compass, but I think we can all agree that they should, so the SHSAK definitely has one and this book is it.

Tool #7: The Fear Chair exercise as described by Liz Gilbert in Big Magic. The author talks about the power of fear to stop us in our tracks, regardless of how excited we might be about our endeavor. The answer? To put fear in its place. It can be here. It can exist. But it cannot drive. It cannot make decisions. It cannot run the show. This exercise is a great screwdriver. Pull it together, make it functional and go.

Growing and changingTool #8: Recognition and celebration. Growth and change are hard – that’s why so many of us avoid it at all costs. Notice your progress. Notice your accomplishments. Notice the way your life changes as you become more yourself. Break out a corkscrew and celebrate with a glass of champagne, or curl up with your favorite blanket and a book at a time you wouldn’t normally allow yourself such a treat. Give yourself a pat on the back and a big hug.

There you have it; a toolkit for self-transformation. If only I could fit them all into my pocket or yours.

 

On This Thanksgiving Eve

So here we are on the eve of Thanksgiving in the U.S.

Many people are traveling. Some have already traveled and some will wake up early to travel with less crowd in the morning.

Some are cooking. Some are buying.

Some are telling old (and largely mythical) stories about Pilgrims.

Others are using the day to honor the Native Americans displaced and killed by the European advance.

Some will be working while other visit and dine.

No matter what you choose to do, when you choose to do it, or who you spend your time with, I hope that you will allow yourself a few minutes of holiday, holy day, sabbath.

I don’t really mean that in the religious sense of the word, although if that works for you and is what you need right now, by all means, get to it.

You have to choose to rest.I mean sabbath, an old idea that seems particularly helpful in this season of rush and scurry. Sabbath, the practice of choosing a time to rest, to avoid creating anything, to be.

Years ago I was having some counseling after a life-threatening miscarriage. I was in graduate school at the time and the recovery from my surgery combined with my singular focus on my studies had me all tied up in knots. I was not able to work to my usual standard, and my heart was not up to the hard-driving scholarship schedule I had been accustomed to keeping. I saw a therapist and after our time ended she referred me to a pastoral counselor.

I had a lot of spiritual questions about what I had experienced, and I had a lot of hurt and anger. I just kept pushing in spite of all of that. I kept working hard. I kept exercising hard. I kept hosting events. I kept doing all of the things. And Holly looked at me, took one hand in hers, and said: “What would it take for you to allow yourself to stop?” It was not the first nor the last time I would hear a version of that question. Sometimes we need to hear things a few times before they really sink in.

She recommended a book (understanding intuitively that this was likely the best way to reach me – give me an assignment). It was called Sabbath. I have since misplaced the book, but it planted a seed. The tree that grew there is the one that now allows me to remember to allow myself to stop.

Because there is so much going on, and we tell ourselves that it is just this time, this immediate time that we’re living in. That the busyness is a temporary thing and that as soon as _________ is over, things will get easier again. As soon as soccer season is over, as soon as I get done with this class, as soon as my injury heals, as soon as this concert is done, as soon as I finish this project, as soon as that jerk has his last day at work…. the fact that I can come up with so many of these on the fly is a good indication of how non-temporary that state really is. There will always be something that will take the place of whatever “temporary” pressure we’re waiting to get past. The only way to have that level of busy stop – that swirly hamster wheel kind of busy – is to allow ourselves to stop.

Perspective on busynessNobody will do it for you because they are all on their own hamster wheels with their own list of things that need doing, fears about the future, missions to accomplish. You have to do it for yourself. You have to insist on taking a moment, or as many as you need, to breathe, to care for yourself, to rest, and to remember that you are but one glorious part of a miraculous web of life and chance. And this moment, as important as it seems to turkey preparation or family fun, is but one glorious moment in a miraculous collection of interconnected lifetimes.

You are okay. All will be well. No matter what kitchen mistakes you make. No matter what family faux-pas occur. No matter whether or not everything goes as planned. Lumpy gravy is not an indication of your personal flaws and shortcomings. And a gorgeous table won’t make you feel loved. Tend to yourself, tend to your heart, take a moment and be well.

XO,

j

P.S. If holiday gatherings mean difficult conversations, you might want to check out my Holiday Conversation Survival Guide. You don’t have to let anybody ruin your day.

Only Really Good Chocolate Please

Another Halloween has come and gone.

And, as usual, my estimates for our candy needs were wildly inaccurate.

My purchases for the last several years have been a perfect indication of what is NOT going to happen.

I started with the very large Costco bag of classic chocolate treats which I planned to pair with a bowl of glow in the dark spiders, snakes and skeletons for the non-chocolate crowd. It was a big bag (’cause Costco) but I had a moment of doubt. And so I bought a second very large bag of non-chocolate based treats, telling myself it was best for kids with allergies to have other options that were treats and what if we have as many as we had two years ago and I don’t want to run out and… blah, blah, blah.

So I bought the extra bag. We now have half a bag of each left (maybe a little more of the chocolate than the others) and we only have that little because I totally loaded the last several ghouls and goblins down with handfuls (as the rest of the neighborhood did by looking at my kids’ haul). In years past this would have been a problem. In the past I’ve always seen Halloween as the beginning of the slow slide into non-stop eating for me, starting just one Twix and KitKat at a time.

How to stop eating candyI did eat some candy last night. Little mini versions of two my former favorites and a newcomer (that my daughter gave me). I ate a Twix, still good but not amazing. I ate a 100,000 bar (less good but good), and a Hershey’s dark chocolate over caramel thing (better by far, but definitely not amazing). I discovered that there is really no danger in my having this leftover candy. There really is no danger because I’ve changed.

Over the last couple of years I’ve become a curator of what I eat. I’ve paid really close attention to what feels good in my body, what feels good in my brain, and what is worth any not good feeling that it might bring. I’ve discovered that eating lots of sweets doesn’t make me feel good. I knew this and it was a long-term step down for me (a journey my sister and I took together and explain how to accomplish here), but I hadn’t gotten over Halloween candy yet. My attention wasn’t as keenly focused. I hadn’t realized that when I eat it, it makes me hungry. It creates its own cravings and if I listen to those cravings and eat enough of it, I feel jittery and don’t sleep as well. I hadn’t realized that it is so much easier to maintain a weight that feels good to me when I don’t eat much in the way of sweets. I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t even enjoying it in the kind of orgasmic way my kids seem to. But now I’ve noticed all of these things and I just don’t want it the way I used to.

We’ll figure out something to do with this candy (maybe even save the non-chocolate bits for next year because goodness knows that crap never goes bad), but there’s no emergency here. I’ll get rid of it because I don’t feel like figuring out where to store it. I’ll get rid of it because it’s taking up space that we could use for something else. Now that I’m paying attention, I’d rather have nothing than a bag of Crunch bars. I’d certainly rather have one piece of really high quality dark chocolate with sea salt and caramel than a bag of Crunch bars.

Breaking bad habitsAnd now that I’m think about it, this lesson seems to be playing out across the board for me. I’m paying more attention to what feels right in my life and it makes it so much easier to get rid of the things that just don’t fit anymore: the clothes, the stuff, the books, the obligations, the people pleasing… wait, what? Yes, I group them all together – the physical and the emotional – because the beginning is the same in all of those cases: being willing to pay close attention to what I am doing and whether or not it is serving me.

That awareness makes changing habits and decluttering a matter of shedding skin rather than imposing discipline. That awareness allows those changes to be an act of self-discovery rather than a vow to crack down or get serious. That awareness is an act of self-love, and if you are anything like I used to be, you could really use some more of that.

What are you eating? What are you wearing? What’s around your house and on your calendar? Why are you choosing these things? Are you paying attention? Is it serving you? Is it as good as really great chocolate or is it a Crunch bar (yes, they’re my least favorite)? What would paying really close attention change in you?

If you’d like some help in learning to pay this kind of attention so you can shed some old skin, old habits, old parts of yourself, sign up for a Discovery Call. Let’s see if we can’t get that change started for you.

When We Are Hurting

Learning Self-LoveAre you hurting today? I am. And so are so many people I know and love. Even in times of lesser tragedy and hardship, there are always people hurting. It is so easy to get lost in the analysis of it, to get paralyzed by the horror, to get stuck in the outrage. On Sunday my minister reminded us that one of our values is an ever-widening circle of compassion. Cultivating that circle may require a break from analyzing, being outraged, and being paralyzed. Nurturing our compassion is a practice.

I’m not sure where it started, but there is a bit of a mantra in the self-help world that says that we have to love ourselves in order to love others. We would have to feel compassion for ourselves in order to feel compassion for others. I get the sentiment, and agree that deeper levels of love and compassion are easier to reach when we have love and compassion for ourselves, but making those things a bar to entry to love and compassion for others? I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure any self-loathing parent will tell you that you can love your children despite how you feel about yourself. Suggesting to that parent that they must start with themselves seems like a great way to stall that growth altogether.

How to Grow Compassion and Love – Even For Yourself

What if, instead, we saw the practice of compassion as one of simply widening the circle, with the center being exactly where it already is naturally for you? Where is the focus of the compassion and love that you feel easily? Is it kids? Is it animals? Is it victims of tragedy or circumstance?

If you’re not sure, ask yourself what gets to you? What makes you well up? What makes you angry? What makes you sad? What makes you feel things even when it’s uncomfortable to do so? Are there news stories or fictional stories you find it difficult to watch, read, or listen to? These are the key to finding the center of your compassion – the place where your heart meets the world. Find that center; this is step 1.

Find Your Edges; Stretch Your Borders

After you’ve figured out where your compassion lives, feel out the edges of that group. Imagine the people on the borders. If you naturally feel compassion for kids, consider teens , mothers, and parents. If you feel compassion for animals, consider animal lovers, nature, the earth. If you feel for people struggling with physical medical problems, consider people with mental illness, consider caretakers. Find the folks on the edges of the community that you already feel compassionate about.

Step 3? Imagine those border folks. Imagine being them for a moment. Imagine part of a day for them. Imagine that they are just people with all of the insecurities, uncertainties and challenges of the group you already feel compassion for. Imagine that they are as capable of love and affection, joy and courage as those who move you. Imagine those border people in pain. Imagine them laughing. Imagine that your loving focus might, even in some small way, be helpful. Believe in the power of your own affection. In your mind’s eye, surround this growing group with light, a glow of whatever color pleases you. Breathe deeply and continue to stretch the edges of that light to include others.

Self-Compassion

Here’s where things can get tricky for a lot of folks. I hear a lot of people talk about how others don’t have compassion. That’s not what I see in my universe. I see plenty of folks who are serving up compassion for others, but who are unforgiving and unkind to themselves. Learning to serve up some compassion for yourself can be an extension of the love you already give to others.

Think about that group you’ve been growing in your mind. Find the way that you might be like them. Where in your life do you feel like a hurt child? Where in your life do you act like a wounded animal? Where in your life do you feel limited or misunderstood? Where in your life are you called on to rise to challenges you’d rather not have to face? How can you connect to the recipients of your compassion?

Learn to Love YourselfFind that link and then return your attention to your mind’s eye – the big glowing group. Draw the edges of your circle of loving focus out so that you are included. Let the light envelope you. Let it connect you to others. Allow yourself to bathe in the light you so willingly shine on others.

Place your hands on your heart, and say: “I hear you. I know. I love you.”

Widen your circle and make sure that eventually it includes you.

Namaste.

 

 

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Coaching Is Expensive

I am fascinated by this idea.

Why?

Slide1Because the money that I spend on my own coaching (yes, coaches get coached) is the best money I spend every month. It’s the money I’m happiest about shelling out. It’s the money I would double and still pay, not because I love spending money, but because what I get out of that experience makes it not just inexpensive, but invaluable to me.

Through coaching I have learned to actually honor my own preferences, talents, and desires. Through coaching I have learned to stop imagining what everyone else is thinking of me. Through coaching I have learned to stop beating myself up at the drop of a hat. Through coaching I have learned to love myself – all of myself: the inner brilliant spirit bits AND the physical container for all of that light and possibility. Through coaching I have learned to listen to that body and feed it, care for it, and nurture it differently. Through coaching I have learned how to create actual joy in my days rather than relying on food to do that for me. Through coaching I have learned how to both seek and find myself.

When you spend money, how do you feel about it? Do you think about what you’re getting for it? Paying bills and balancing our books can be really stressful when it just becomes a mathematical exercise that we see draining our resources. How would you feel about your money if you began imagining and acknowledging what you receive for that money with each check you write, with each button you push, or with each automatic payment notification? What if when you saw the power bill you thought about how delightful it is to have electric lights and a refrigerator? What if when you saw the mortgage or rent come due you thought about the good fortune of having a space to live in, to claim, to be you in? What if when you saw the cable bill (or the streaming services bill like I get), you marveled at living in a time when so much choice is available to us?

How would you feel about bills and money if you focused on the value you receive when you spend? How would you approach financial decisions if you considered that value? Would your buying habits change? Would you face a new calculation of the real worth of that Frappucino (just as an example, no Starbucks shade intended… not much anyway)?

I like thinking about my spending this way because it clarifies things for me so much. It allows me to make decisions about what I buy and what I pay for that I can feel really good about and, perhaps more importantly, it makes me feel good about paying for the things I really need to pay for in order to live the life I want to live. For me, that includes coaching.

Slide2I want to live in a way that allows me to stop and ask myself how I’m feeling and to actually use that information when I make decisions. I want to live in a way that challenges me to grow in ways that I never thought possible. I want to live in a way that helps me grow in my compassion, my rootedness, and my capacity to be of service to others. I want to live in a way that allows me to question the messages society gives me and check them with my heart. I want to live in a way that listens to the wisdom of my body. I want to live in a way that feels like freedom.

For me coaching is not expensive; it is invaluable.

 

Are You Hanging Out On the Sidelines?

September 5th was the first day of school for my twin 5th graders, and just like all parents on the first day of school, I had a morning full of disbelief and wonder that they are already this age, that time is going just as fast as my parents and grandparents always said it would, and that the work I needed to do this morning to help them get there was decidedly less than it has been in the past. As their needs change, I have the opportunity to notice patterns that have developed, scratch that, patterns that I have chosen over the years. I’ve seen it all summer. I have chosen on many occasions for the past 10 years, to sit on the sidelines.

I noticed when we were at the beach with old friends and the other Mom quickly volunteered to go in with all four, because in the past I have not wanted to. I noticed it at the pool with my fabulous sister-in-law when she volunteered to go play sharks and minnows with our kids because in the past I have not wanted to. I noticed it when my kids were surprised at the amusement park when I went on all but one ride with them – they had forgotten that I actually like roller coasters and expected me to sit this one out as well.

Slide1Now, to be fair, raising kids can be tiring. Raising twins (especially the early years) can be insanely tiring. Raising twins as an older Mom – you get the picture. So I think a fair amount of my sideline sitting was initially an attempt to just grab a few minutes of peace while they were available to me. Everyone is happy, occupied, and cared for. I’m going to just be for a minute. I think maybe this was the intention, but I don’t actually recall ever really doing that. I don’t actually recall ever consciously choosing to make peace in that moment.

I remember worrying: watching the water, noticing their interactions, repositioning umbrellas, watching for sunburn, making sure the lunches were in the shade, wondering if whichever adult they were with was watching (they always were), running through the plans for the rest of the day, being mindful of pitfalls and problems that might arise, looking for lips turning blue, looking for missteps, watching for… This was one popular version of taking a break. I think another popular version involved me reviewing all of the ways I had been burdened.

I do tend to be the planner and preparer in the family, so I could bathe in some resentment about that. I could reflect on the injustice of all of the work I did to get us to that point in the day. I could reflect on the lack of worry on my husband’s part as evidence that I was STILL doing more than my share (my share of the neurotic worry pile). I’m pretty sure the times that I actually used my time sitting back, out of the fray, to REST could be counted on one hand, and that’s a 10 year period we’re talking about. I held myself back and then used that time to make myself feel terrible; sometimes I even just took the simple route and made myself feel terrible about holding myself back.

For the past several days I’ve been doing a freedom challenge. Each day I take some action that feels a little freeing, that makes me feel more free, less constrained, less confined, maybe even a little less tame, and it has made me think a lot about my time on the sidelines. Where were those choices coming from, if they weren’t really about rest and a breather? Why couldn’t I just use them as rest or a breather? What was I doing on the sidelines? Did it all just become a habit? Was my non-participation a default that then made me so uncomfortable I had to be miserable about it?

There are long answers to those questions, and considering them as I do my freedom challenge has really opened up some space for me to move, to feel, and to choose how I WANT to engage. I can still say no – as I did to the last roller coaster of the day when I felt like my head would explode if I allowed it to get rattled around again.

I’ve seen a lot of memes and posts that encourage us NEVER to sit on the sidelines. Be the Mom who’s in the water. Be the Mom who finger paints. Be the Mom playing on the floor. Be the Mom who’s in it. And I think there’s some value to that message for people who need some encouragement, but I think what really matters when we notice that we’re on the sidelines is our reason for being there and how we treat ourselves as we sit. Are you choosing it? Does it feel like freedom, like rest, like a pause rather than a default? Does it feel like a self-imposed sentence, something you “have” to do because…, something that allows you to hide?

Slide2The sidelines exist for a reason, and that’s because we all need to take a break once in a while. We all need to come off the field, hydrate, catch our breath, figure out what’s next. Some need to be there more than others. If you’re spending a lot of time on the sidelines, maybe it’s time to ask yourself if you like your reason. Maybe it’s time to get back in the game. I’d love to help.

Accessing Vacation Vibe

My family and I just returned from our annual trip to the Chautauqua Institution. It is a summer ritual that I cherish. Chautauqua is a spectacular place, and leaving is always difficult. We spend a good bit of our drive home in a repeated chat pattern. The first hour or two are usually spent thinking of ways we can spend more time there. Do we want to spend more money? When would we go? What would that look like? We usually come up with a scheme or two on that front in those two hours and then take some time introverting (which is not as hard as it sounds in a car, but takes practice and a good supply of interesting podcasts). After we’ve both recharged by pretending to be alone, we enter phase two of our annual conversation, which is how to extend what we get at Chautauqua into our every day lives.

This vacation we take is unusual in that it is not necessarily about resting and relaxing (no palm trees or umbrella drinks). On our trip we typically see live performances most nights, attend lectures and classes during the day, go to art galleries, take walks by the lake, and ride bikes everywhere. The usual summer vacation indulgences also make it in there (books, ice cream, the occasional nap), but we don’t really spend a lot of “down” time while we’re there. So when we get home, we are sort of pressed to acknowledge how we are spending our time. If we want to feel more often the way we feel at Chautauqua, we may need to change the way we’re doing things at home.

For us this means more engagement. We need to get more intellectual stimulation and banish the buffer box (the TV) more regularly. We need to see more art of all kinds, and plan to do it so we don’t have the option of bailing at the last minute. We need to be more engaged in social and political discussions; being places that are so interesting and stimulating that taking notes seems like a good idea. Perhaps more importantly, we also need to take a look at what we are thinking, because the way we feel at Chautauqua has a whole lot to do with what we think when we are there: “This is a magical place. This is a special place. There is so much here that I cherish. This place makes me feel alive. I wish there were more places like this in the world.” How could I not feel good and have a great time with those thoughts?!

Slide1The contrast with vacation, the reality of vacation letdown (boo hoo, I know) can make home seem kind of boring, but in reality I am surrounded by opportunities that I ignore on a regular basis. I get into my habits, I get into my thought patterns and I miss out on things that I enjoy, and I miss out on just feeling great right where I am.

For a lot of folks vacation means a time of exquisite self-care, a chance to rest, or a time to just play. What would your perfect vacation include? A lounge chair? A window, blanket, and book? A long hike followed by some tea? A puzzle and your kids? What is it that you’re missing that you long for during those vacation days when we allow our desires to take center stage?

Slide2The obvious question is if you are 100% sure you can’t fit some of that in to your every day life. I know, I know, you’re busy. Do us both a favor and just for a minute try on the thought: “I have time.” Just say it to yourself a few times and see what happens. Do you feel a sense of relief? Do you laugh a little and realize that you DO actually have some time, especially if you stop freaking out about being busy? Now, having done that, what part of your vacation dream can you fit in that slot? What nourishment can you sneak in when your super busy brain isn’t looking?

Slide3If you’re really wanting to go the extra mile, ask yourself how you feel on that dream vacation (close your eyes and picture it if you need to). What’s the feeling that you’re wishing you had right now? Got it? Now, ask yourself what you’d need to think to feel that way. What thought would you need to have in order to feel the way you want to feel? Is there a thought that’s getting in the way of the good feeling thought? Because here’s the thing. Those thoughts? The good one, the bad one that’s in the way, all of them… they are a choice. You can unpick them just like you picked them (at least the first time you had them). You can choose a new thought. You CAN feel more like you do on vacation; it’s totally within your power to do so. You just have to think the way you do when you are there.

If you could use a little more vacation brain, but aren’t sure where to start, I’d love to help.

How I Lost Weight

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about how I’ve lost weight. I did not have a ton of extra weight to begin with, but I guess I’ve gotten to the point where it is noticeable. I think when people ask me this question, what they are really asking is: “What diet did you try?” OR “What food did you give up?” People want to know what the magic solution is, and I totally get it, having looked for magic solutions many times in the past (grapefruit as the key, really?).

Slide1The truth is my weight loss process has been both easier and more complicated than the answer to the question that folks are asking. I could tell you how I eat, which at this point is pretty significantly different than it used to be, but that would be a woefully incomplete answer. The truth is the first part of my “weight loss journey” (I really hate that phrase), had everything to do with what was going on in my heart and my mind. Why did that have to happen first?

Because I needed to learn how to be happy with myself, no matter what my body looks like. I needed to learn how to build a full life without relying on my dinner to be the best part of my day. I needed to learn to push myself harder so I could figure out what would make me deeply happy rather than being satisfied with knowing another meal or snack was coming.

My relationship with food was complicated. I used it. I used it to cheer myself up. I used it to distract myself. I used it to excel at something while I was a stay at home Mom. I used it exercise some control on my life when things felt out of control. I used it to avoid feelings and to bring on the physical buzz of overeating. I used it to impress people. I used it to practice my writing skills. I made food such a huge part of my life and then was disappointed when the other parts were so small and unsatisfying. I used food as an escape hatch, a wubbie, a friend. Before I could really make good decisions about how to eat, I had to REALLY learn how to deal with my emotions without food making it easier or unnecessary.

Slide2AFTER I did all of that, the question of what I ought to be putting in my body becomes a series of scientific experiments. What can I eat that will fuel me and be pleasurable? It’s so much easier. When I don’t need to eat for emotional reasons, all of these questions about what I choose to eat and not choose to eat just become math and planning that I do rather than some sort of horrible self-imposed deprivation. I get to stop thinking about food all of the time and then beating myself up for it. I get to get on with all of the wonderful things there are to do with my time on this earth. I still celebrate things. I still have friends. I still enjoy myself. All of it is good. In fact, all of it is a whole lot better because I did the REAL work first.

My BARE program will help you do that real work AND it will help you discover what kind of eating works best for you, and if you show up and really give it everything you’ve got, you will blow your own mind. The new school year is coming, a perfect time to make a change. I’m ready if you are.