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Building Trust

This weekend I did something that was really hard for me.

I took my kids to the march on Washington.

My husband is out of town, and couldn’t be with us, but my church chartered fancy buses and when I realized I could be with a big group, I decided that we would go. The kids wanted to go. They felt strongly about it (although in retrospect they really didn’t know what that being there would look like). I wanted to support their participation and I certainly felt that it was important for myself.

pexels-photo-93490But the crowd thing. That’s a tough one for me. I’m an introvert by nature, so really groups of more than like 50 are really never on my short list of great places to be. I also am SERIOUSLY sensitive about noise, people accidentally touching me or bumping into me, and just the energy of ALL THOSE people. This is just me. I completely and totally accept all of my unique unicorn-ness.

Knowing these things about myself helps me make good decisions, AND it helps me to make difficult situations just a little bit better.

Because let’s face it, I could have just decided not to go. I could have decided that it would have been too difficult for me to provide good parenting for my kids when I would be a little energetically impaired. I could totally have decided that. OR I could have decided to just gut it up. I’m going to just do it and be miserable and push through.

Thing is, I didn’t do either of those things. I decided to go, but to make sure that I was making that just a little bit better. How did I do that?

It started with that decision to ride the chartered bus – no long drive and parking nightmare in DC, no mob scene on public transport, no traffic jams. I then made sure I was going to be on the same bus with my sister and her family. More adults who love my kids in a mob sounds like a perfect setup. We also joined forces with another family while we were there and it was so HELPFUL. Huge high five to Elaine Gleaton who co-navigated the whole getting the kids to the port-a-johns and then losing our group and finding our way back to the buses thing… tangent.

That wasn’t all I did. I made sure I wasn’t going to be cold, because I really, really hate to be cold. I also made sure my kids dressed reasonably so they would also not be cold and whiny because I am not always super compassionate in response to whining. I wore clothes that made me feel comfortable in my own skin. I wore a little jewelry that made me feel plugged into myself. Bits and bobs that had special meaning, like talismans of connection and protection. I packed a lunch so that we wouldn’t have to add to whatever else might be going on by relying on street food and whether it was easy to get to or whether or not they would have ANYTHING my daughter would actually eat. I packed water bottles and snacks, and a deck of cards because I always pack a deck of cards.

I attempted to get a good night’s sleep, but was foiled. I also took a little bit of a supplement that is calming to me as we got onto the charter bus. I did everything I could think of to make myself as comfortable as humanly possible. I took excellent care of myself and my little people.

And doing all of that made it all a little better. I discovered some more tricks that I will remember for the next major crowd scene. I do best when I face the other people I love in a crowd, so instead of facing the Jumbotron, I just listened to the speeches. Really, that was more than enough and it felt good to me to be looking at my people instead of the screen and the backs of hundreds of thousands of heads. This also allowed me and the other parents to create a bit of a circle that we put the kids inside of so that they would not be bumped into as regularly. Adults are better at holding the physical space claim than slim 11 year olds.

It sounds like a long list I’m giving you, like I’m prepping you for your own protest with kids, but that isn’t really what this is about.

blur-body-care-161608What this is really about is me making a decision and then being really honest with myself about what parts of that decision were really going to challenge me, me honoring my own tendencies and my own needs in as many ways as were humanly possible. What this was really about was both not allowing myself to miss out on something really important AND actually doing what it took to make it okay to be myself in that situation. It was okay to be an introvert and stand with nearly one million other people. It was okay to take my kids to an event like that. It was okay for the whole thing to jangle me a little bit because I can and DO take care of myself. I can and DO treat myself as one of my loved ones.

See how that works? Being honest about what the challenges would be and taking care of as many of them as possible was like a signal to my sensitive self that she is heard, she is cared for, and there really is an adult up in here who will make sure she is okay. There is someone who wants things to be just a little bit better, even when it’s not an ideal situation. That message is so calming, so soothing, and so confidence-building. I can trust myself. I can trust myself to take care of myself and my kids. I can trust myself to do what’s right and not let it kill me. I can trust myself to make good decisions small and large. I can trust myself and that scared girl who’s in there and gets rattled by events like the rally on Saturday, she sees that and takes a deep breath and says: “Thank you.”

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 others 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.

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.