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Givers and Receivers

I know, you were expecting that “takers” part, but frankly I am bone weary of givers and takers conversations. I really am. I don’t find this distinction helpful, even in the moments when I can characterize myself as a “giver” in that scenario. Dividing into givers and takers just makes the “givers” angry at the “takers” and makes the “takers” confused by the accusation. My revised dichotomy is based on advice given to me about meditating. No, I’m not going to ask you to meditate, at least not right now, unless you want to in which case you should totally have at it.

Slide1The advice was to breathe deeply, relaxing more with each breath, and open to receiving. It stopped me in my tracks, or in my breaths I should say. Open to receiving. As I noticed my clenched jaw, it occurred to me that I was not even remotely open to receiving. And it seemed to me that stance was about more than relaxing by meditating. What was I prepared for? Why so clenched? Why am I glancing at the timer and hoping my jaw unclenches by the time I’m halfway through the “meditation.” I fear what I was focused on was a sort of tortured “giving.” Continue reading → Givers and Receivers

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 → Will Curiosity Bridge the Gap?

My Dog, My Mirror

IMG_3559I have a dog. More precisely, I have a big, goofy dog. My big, goofy dog and I take walks together most afternoons. My big, goofy dog is not always goofy with other dogs. My husband and I believe his hostility towards other large dogs is simply a dominance thing. I’ve noticed, however, that his occasional negative reactions to other dogs has made me far more wary when I see them approach. And when they come running across the yard towards their electric and invisible enclosure, I do tend to startle and tense up. This is all fairly predictable and not that strange.

The next part is the part that I’ve really been thinking about. When I startle and tense up, my big, goofy dog becomes far more interested in the other dog, and not in a good way. He senses my upset and works to restore stability as quickly as possible, which in dog means to eradicate the threat by being more threatening. We have been fortunate to avoid any actual physical problems as a result of this extended interaction, but it’s taken me awhile to come up with the best way to dissuade my very large friend from acting as my own personal and overly protective body guard. The change in our process had everything to do with my acknowledging that my buddy was reacting to my perceived fear. Continue reading → My Dog, My Mirror

Nobody Cares

I realize that title sounds like we’re leading into a “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me…” moment, but there is no worm eating going on over here. Bear with me because I think where we’re going is important.

IMG_4336Last week I had the serious good fortune to be in Italy. Now, there’s a lot to say about Italy, but what I want to say today was also prompted by a friend of mine who just decided, in spite of her vociferous inner demons, to buy and wear a bikini to her local pool. She was pretty freaked out and decided that her fear was her best indicator that this was exactly what she ought to do. She did it, took a picture, and posted it on Facebook.

I’m guessing that the bikini to one piece ratio at her local pool in the U.S. (East Coast if that makes a difference, which now that I’m thinking about it, it might) is VERY different from said ratio in Italy. In Italy, I was one of maybe 4 women on the beach in a one piece, and two of the other 3 were great grandmothers. The other, perhaps another American. I lay there in my one piece which seemed kind of sassy when I tried it on, and felt like a total prude. I saw every shape go by and all of them were playing, at the beach, in their bikinis. Bikinis of all description, covering varying (within a relatively small range) amounts of flesh. The rest of the flesh? Out there, sunning, swimming, building sand castles, applying sunscreen, napping. Perfectly normal. Continue reading → Nobody Cares

Choosing Now in the Noise

My refrigerator is dying.

My refrigerator is dying a long, slow, and very noisy death.

Before we go any further, let me assure you that there is an action plan underway and this situation is purely temporary, however, it is VERY LOUD and has been going on for a while.

I can hear my refrigerator from every room in the house but my bedroom.

Shall I say it again? It is VERY LOUD.

The funny thing is that the longer it goes on, the less we seem to notice it. The buzz becomes the norm. I only notice when it stops for a second. And then a wave of relief washes over me for the 30 seconds that it takes to start its chilly death knell again. It is then, in the moment that the buzz starts again, that I feel my jaw clench, that I feel other thoughts abandon me, that I steel myself against that infernal noise.

The world can be a very noisy place, and so much of that noise is out of our control. The closer we live to other humans, the more of that external noise we likely steel ourselves against every day: the traffic; construction; the folks who don’t seem to need sleep; the televisions; the radios; the chimes that let us know that we have a message, a text, dry laundry. All of this sound demanding our attention, infringing on our focus, distracting and attracting us. And that’s just the external stuff… Continue reading → Choosing Now in the Noise

The Spin

IMG_4082A minute ago my husband asked me what I was up to. I stuttered and stumbled around my words and then laughed and said: “I can’t even answer you.” Because I was mad? No. Because I didn’t know what I was doing? No. Because at that moment I was actually attempting to be engaged in 4 separate activities. Four separate and distinct activities! Cell phone to my right signaling texts from my music partner. Music book to my left featuring set list in progress and songs waiting to be arranged. Laptop on my lap waiting for writing to happen, and finally remote in hand looking for something engaging on the tube, because you know I really needed something else to attend to…

How does this happen? It’s a natural offshoot of the spin. The spin where I know I have a lot to do. The spin where everything seems to be of equal importance and then I remember I haven’t talked to a friend in a while. The spin where it seems like I move all day and nothing actually gets finished. So I stop. And breathe.

Then I think about the garden. I don’t spin in the garden. There is a never ending list of necessary tasks in the garden. Sometimes one will present itself as more necessary than the others. Sometimes not. So what do I do in the garden when there’s a ton to do and it all seems equally important? I stop. I breathe. I slowly choose one task and complete it. And if there’s time, I choose another.

Self-Care, Wait… What?

IMG_4066There’s this phrase that gets thrown around a lot… self-care.  Yeah, me neither.

I’m admittedly pretty new to thinking about what it means. I am sure that it’s an area that I need to work on. Coming to that conclusion has been neither easy nor terribly convenient.

You see, I have children (and please understand you could replace “children” with “job I am really into”, “8000 hobbies”, “a desperate need to be busy at all times”, “a major life stressor or tragedy”, or “a puppy”). I have perfect twin reasons to choose not to take care of myself at any time.

The problem with making the choice to care for everyone else and not yourself is NOT just that you don’t get cared for, but the long-term consequences of neglecting your own needs in favor of everyone else’s. There are many long term consequences. The long-term consequence I have faced as my twin tornadoes age and have more gaps between their pressing and immediate needs? I kind of forgot what I needed and wanted to do for myself. Continue reading → Self-Care, Wait… What?

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 → The Watcher

5 Steps to Beat the Blahs

FullSizeRender-11Some days I just don’t feel like it. Like today, when it’s been raining here in Mid-Maryland for what surely must be 40 days and 40 nights.

I don’t feel like doing what I need to do. I certainly don’t feel like doing what I should do, some of which is there on the table getting drenched, yet again.

I have a deeply entrenched case of the yucks.

Over time I’ve learned some really helpful steps for addressing yucks, even when the weather is relentlessly bad. Continue reading → 5 Steps to Beat the Blahs