Not Your Average Monday

People are generally open to trying new things.

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Most people who I interact with have either been through substantial change or are going through substantial change. I was tempted to change that sentence to read “everyone” instead of “most” however, I don’t interact with everyone in a way that allows me to be sure of the validity of the first sentence. As a licensed counselor, I like to think of myself as a change-agent. I also pride myself on being receptive and welcoming to change. That’s one of the factors that helps me to be able to successfully assist others through their change.

Adaptation. This is what sets those who do handle change apart from those who do not. Are you able to adapt to the challenges that life presents? The reality is that there will most certainly be change in your life but can you or should I say will you adapt? You can adapt and you probably, if you think long and hard, have some pretty good ideas of what to do to help yourself. Some of those ideas might sound like “I should really take a vacation” or “I should get a massage” or “I should sort through my things and donate what is unneeded” (clutter adds stress, but that’s a whole ‘nother post on its own) or “I should really talk to her about boundaries” and the list goes on and on and on. The truth is that most people really do have a good idea about what they should be doing to care for themselves.

Application. The willingness to follow through on what you know you need to do to care for yourself is the next step. That thought that keeps playing in your mind of what you should do for self-care…yea…you know what it is. Do it. Decide now that you will give yourself three days to schedule that massage or set a date to talk to that someone about some good ole’ boundaries. But if you really aren’t sure what to do for self-care ask a trusted friend or loved one. Support is crucial. Learning to or letting people care for us is not always easy but it is a part of the master plan.

What’s this master plan I speak of? Well as humans we are relational beings. We sometimes, every once in a while, ok so more often than not…we kind of stink at it but we know we need one another and we thrive off of connection. If you don’t have a sturdy someone special in your life research a good therapist (wink, wink- that would be me) and schedule some time to connect with someone who can help you to create some space in your life where you are able to adjust to change and the challenges of life.

MONDAY MANTRA: I LOVE MYSELF AND I WILL ACTIVELY CARE FOR MYSELF.

COMMITMENT: BECAUSE I LOVE MYSELF I WILL SET TIME THIS WEEK TO CARE FOR MYSELF.

*close your eyes, breathe in your nose (to the count of four) and then out your mouth (to the count of four) and say to yourself: Even though I am struggling I completely and totally accept myself. Repeat this three times.

 

self love is relational love

Relationships are complicated. Sometimes they’re easy and sometimes they are not so easy. There’s all different types of relationships: acquaintances, colleagues, friends, partners, lovers, siblings, parents, connected, disconnected, mutually respectful disrespectful….the list goes on and on and for every type of desirable relationship there’s a not so desirable opposite.

My favorite type of relationship to navigate through is the one that I have to obsessively think about in order to make sense of. Sarcasm, you hear it right?

How do we love people fully who keep us at a distance?

Distance seems like a safe place to be but it also keeps us from love. It’s healthy to use boundaries in relationships and boundaries are meant not to keep people out but to keep yourself safe. But what happens when those boundaries aren’t doing what you intend for them to do?

I read in a Facebook group recently, a post that went something like this “while we may feel threatened, the truth is that we may not actually be being threatened”. That quote really stuck out to me because so often we find offense in what another person says or does and sometimes it has to do with us and sometimes it does not. But my point being that more often than not we forget to review if the intent was offense. Sometimes people really want to love each other and they’re not sure how to do it. People love through guessing and through trial and error. People love the way they’d like to receive love and that’s sometimes not received so well.

I try to help people to learn how to care for themselves well and to do that so well that the relationships in their life must improve or at least should…maybe not must. Receptivity is required on both ends. Self love has a ripple effect and the absence of self-love does as well. When we care for ourselves we also in turn care for others, better. And the opposite is true again- when we are not in the habit of caring for ourselves well then we are less likely to be able to meet the needs of others.

So you might be thinking something about selfless love and yes that’s a real thing- loving yourself so selflessly that you bring improvement to the relationships in your life and that those who come in contact with you leave even a smidge better. Selfless love wants nothing and that’s the point here isn’t it? To love yourself well is to want to love others just as well. Again, Receptivity is required on both ends.

Think about what feels good and what does not within your life….almost everything can be connected back to a relationship even the relationship that you have with yourself. All benefits and all problems are relational. I have recently begun to restore some of the hurts within myself and to adjust my perspective to include more room for self-love so that I can better love those whom I have the privilege of knowing. I hope you too are able to make yourself a priority.

What does your inner child need?

To be seen, to be heard and to belong. Basic (relational) needs. For most, yes. Humans are relational people, we desire more than just food, shelter and clothing. Some studies even show that physical touch is necessary or required for a baby to thrive and without physical touch that baby cannot survive. Physical touch being here an example of a relational expression. When someone reaches out and touches your arm or hand a sensation is generated and typically, if we study close enough, we can see that the sensation is linked to the feeling of belonging because the gesture was meant to indicate- “I see you”.

Physical touch can sometimes be easier than verbal recognition and sometimes it can be harder. But lets for this purpose say that verbal recognition is more often most difficult. That’s why communication is a primary relational struggle and then physical recognition is most often an extension of the verbal recognition. Or even the physical recognition “says” what’s the words cannot say. Take for example when a loved one passes, we don’t always know what to say to offer comfort but if were able to we can provide physical condolences in a hug. Or lets take the example of “make up sex”- is the sex not meant to represent that the issue has been resolved whether there has been verbal agreement of this or not?

I’m getting off track so I’ll return- the desire to be seen for most people is so strong and at times is more of a need than a want. Feeling seen is to feel valued and respected. But at what point are we placing too much emphasis on this desire to be seen. Too much validation and support being required. Too many wounds needing to be kissed by someone else. Too much responsibility for emotional management being passed to someone else. Too much authority over our own happiness being given to another human being.

I heard a statement once about how “humans make terrible gods” and included in that message was more about how we often idolize a person and place on them the responsibility to generate our happiness. I can tell you that this idea- humans are terrible gods- was life changing for my marriage. That statement changed my perspective not necessarily of my husband but of myself. I learn that what I needed was to take responsibility for my life and the energy that I put in to what I deem as a “need”. When I stopped seeing happiness as an objective of life and focused more on growth happiness came naturally and independently of my husbands behaviors.

A friend of mine is currently intrigued by the concept of “closure”. Closure is the need to be seen and heard. It’s the desire for another person to validate what either did or did not happen within a relationship. Closure in concept is a wonderful idea and would be wildly more effective if the emphasis was on the person who desire the closure conversation and less on the other person. The person purposing that closure is required, most often approaches the conversation with the expectation that the other person is to tend to their emotional needs, when this doesn’t happen, the craving for so-called “closure” increases and is coupled with frustration. Frustration due to unmet needs. Frustration as a result of unrealistic expectations.

Realistic expectations should first maintain that you are responsible for your own emotional management. Realistic expectations should maintain that the desire to be seen, heard and to belong is a basic human need and basic human needs are initiated in utero. The desire to be fully and totally understood is not the same thing as being seen, heard and belonging when a person is a full blown adult. Unmet needs in utero, infancy, childhood and then adulthood result in continued unrealistic expectations.

If you are having relational issues in adulthood, have you paused to think about the unmet needs of your childhood. Have you considered how you’re maintaining unrealistic expectations for your adult relationships? Have you begun to work towards resolving misconceptions? Humans are relational beings but we also falsely identify wants for needs and place responsibility on someone else to meet those needs. Being introspective takes a lot of work but you can adjust the time that you’re using on misplaced energy to redirect the focus to yourself. Take the time to consider what your real needs are and to be brave enough to pursue yourself.

I bet you think this song is about you- don’t you!

SO as therapist a big part of my job involves guiding people to the healthy use of boundaries. Boundaries are beneficial in pretty much every sense- from eating to relationships to jobs. In personal and professional capacities boundaries are what helps people to “save their sanity”. I happen to pride myself on the use of boundaries in my own life. This may be because I apply what I teach or it may be that I teach what works for me.

For the most part I am the type of person that can both think on my toes and be quite reserved or I suppose some might say… stand offish. I can make decisions in a split second, I’m fairly comfortable with confrontation and I am pretty self-aware. I can also be.. I want to say guarded but I don’t think that’s the right word because guarded implies a sense of distrust. So I’m not sure what word to use other than reserved. So I’ll say I’m reserved. Being reserved and self-aware provides me with the ability to communicate at rapid speed when needed but to also be able to suddenly and quite efficiently put in boundaries.

The mis conception with boundaries is that it can be perceived that boundaries are used to keep people out. But what if instead of making “everything” about you, you stopped and considered that sometimes people use boundaries for themselves, to keep themselves safe and to check themselves. Boundaries are a necessary part of a satisfying life really. And I suppose that applies to my last post about not YOLOing your way through life. Being able to recognize when you need to stop and say to yourself “this isn’t working” or “this doesn’t feel right” and making the necessary changes so that whatever “this” is for you, does feel right.

Being confrontational is another social thing that gets a bad rep. There is a difference between being conflict orientated and being comfortable with managing and addressing issues as needed. There is a difference between being arrogant and being opinionated. Healthy communication includes the ability for a person to be able to express themselves but then to be able to also back off when needed- that’s the use of boundaries right? And that’s a perfect example of how a boundary can be used to benefit yourself and not necessarily to keep people out but really to keep yourself out- out of your own way.

There’s this phrase that really confuses me- “I don’t like confrontation”. By not liking do you mean that you are able to solve and resolve issues without any conflict at all or by not liking do you mean that you lack the ability to solve and resolve? Also let me add that most healthy minded people don’t actually like confrontation but they are able to work through it. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times that I don’t address things that bother me. I have no problem using avoidance, in fact avoidance is another approach that I promote.

So lets talk about avoidance, yet another strategy that gets a bad rep! Avoidance can often be confused as passivity. A person applies and sticks with a boundary for their own benefit aka they avoid something that doesn’t work or doesn’t feel good to them and you confuse that as them avoiding or hiding from something. So we now see even more how these strategies are inter related and can be used cohesively. A person can be reserved and able to handle conflict. A person can use boundaries and avoidance. A person can think first about their own needs and be relationally healthy.

Self-awareness is the ability to know yourself in a way that is beneficial to your well-being. The purpose of being self-aware is so that you can apply boundaries, avoid the unnecessary, use communication skills, handle conflict- with solutions- as needed and maintain a healthy and satisfactory life.

I’m Judging you. No really, I am.

This is not a judgment free zone. And by “this” I mean life. I know that there is this big kick right now about “good vibes only” and mass acceptance of all thing all the time. You can’t go in to any store without seeing some product promoting which sort of vibes you should have or whether you should think anything about any other person ever. You can find these messages on anything from a t-shirt to a popcorn bag. We are no longer supposed to think about anything that anyone else is doing. I take that back we aren’t supposed to think about what other people are doing and we aren’t supposed to question ourselves- we are to live in the moment! YOLO, right? Cause thats what “living our best life” looks like.

This, lets call it a “movement”, has me circling over and over the idea that rational thought is healthy. We should have brains that function at such a level that includes the critiquing, assessing, evaluating and yes, the judging of society at large as well as the actions of ourselves. Higher thinking involves the ability to recognize an event or a “doing” and do evaluate it as desirable or not. We can not be all accepting of all things all the time. I mean for heavens sake…are we getting rid of all moral reasoning as well? How do we expect to be able to instill expectations and boundaries if all things all the time are acceptable, and we should always feel good about those things because “good vibes only” and YOLO apparently rules all now?

Don’t even get me started on the “mom movement” that’s been happening that goes something like “it doesn’t matter what you do as long as it works for you”. Ok so what is “it” and is it working?? Can we talk about “it”? Is that allowed or is that too judgy? Its too judgy. It is! I knew it! OK so if there is no longer a standard for what parents do with infants then how do these same parents move in to raising adolescents with confidences and direction? If there is no standard and if the boundaries are so lost that anything goes then how the hell does anyone know where to go?

Some things do matter and what matters the most is you deciding what those things are. Good vibes only doesn’t even make any frickin sense. I know for myself that I have all kinds of vibes and some aren’t that happy. I’m ok with that though because- surprise! I’m human and I am meant to have an array of feelings. Judgment free- ok sure if you’d prefer to live in a free for all society where there are no standards of which we live by. I know I don’t want to live there but you can go for it! YOLO- ok that one has got to go! Yes, you only live once, duh, but “your best life” is a life that consists of standards, expectations, boundaries, moral reasoning and the assessment of all things all the time so that you can utilize the abilities of your high functioning brain!

The word judgment gets a bad rep! Insecurity tells people that they are being judged when in fact most often they are being thought about or considered. Judgment is something that happens, by other people, less often than you think if you’d let go of this idea that people are just sitting around talking about you with all that free time that’s been going around. I mean you got the memo, right?! (memo: more free time for all!). What happens most often is that someone says something about you and you internalize and personalize what they said. You……judge yourself! And that is what turns in to insecurity. Then you allow the insecurity to remain. You look at yourself and you choose to maintain the label that you placed on yourself.

What we need is t-shirts and popcorn bags that spread realistic messages about self-esteem! Good vibes only doesn’t do that. Judgement free zone doesn’t do that. YOLO doesn’t do that- what does that mean anyway right?! Living your best life involves recognition, intention and decisions that include assessing your life and those who impact your life.

Ok so maybe that’s part of it too- learning to truly recognize who and what impacts your life. Reserve the judgments for that which matters and let go of that which does not! How do you do that?! Stop thinking that everything everywhere is about you, recognize what vibes you’re feeling and work through them, increase your ability to engage in higher thinking- learn communication and conflict resolution skills and stop living your best life through the lens of this yolo bs!  

Be yourself, I like you like that.

What would it be like if we didn’t tell people what we did for a living, if we weren’t allowed to wear that costume? You might be thinking “what does she mean by costume”? Well I mean literally that- something you use to cover yourself up so that people only see that part of you.

I’d like to purpose that we stop using our jobs as social crutches. Stop being defined by the status that is provided to you by your job and how much you seemingly have accomplished based on that said job.

What if we valued people for more than that? What if we just stopped asking people what their job is and asked them more about who they really are? What if we asked people more about what they think or how they feel about certain societal issues? Or even what they are finding enjoyable in their life, today.

Or what if we stopped allowing people to lead conversations by telling others what they do for a living. Stopped letting people see themselves as what they do rather than who they are. Yes, for some people that is the same thing. Some people feel that their job is an extension of who they are. Or maybe it’s the reverse- they are an extension of their job- they just can’t turn it off. Or so they say.

As if some jobs hold more value than others. Really if you think about it, in society we need all the people with all the jobs. We need plumbers and doctors. We need engineers and grocery clerks. We need farmers and teachers. Status gets in the way of truth, of real value. Status causes us to think that our identity lies in what we do for a living. Some people use their careers to mask and disguise themselves, so they don’t really need to engage in meaningful relationships. And even for some people, their job becomes more important than relationships in their life. Maybe that’s the goal though…

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is very valuable to share knowledge about a specific area that you are versed in but only when its relevant to the conversation. It’s important that we share our knowledge with other people. However, when is the last time you had a real conversation with someone who had knowledge different then you and it felt like a genuine conversation? Again, it is too common for people to use their careers as a crutch or even an opportunity to boast.

A person is a collection of their experiences and from their experiences they make or don’t make certain choices. We each have the opportunity to become more or less in touch with who we really are. We each have the option to be vulnerable and self-aware or to disguise ourselves and hide.

Easier- is it easier to maintain superficial, surface level relationships? Does that make life easier? I wonder what clutter you could get rid of if you chose to engage only in meaningful conversations, you know- talking about stuff that matters, stuff of substance and took the time to value people for who they are, aside from what they “do”.

So, sort of related, bear with me- shortly after we had our third baby I was talking about postpartum stuff with a friend- if you know me then you know that’s an interest of mine- birth and postpartum and child raising. Anywho… we were talking about how minimized and dismissed postpartum mental health issues are or really just the general needs of a woman/family who just had a baby. She said to me that most people don’t ask the mom how she is doing because they wouldn’t know what to do to help anyway. But is that true? Do we not know how to help each other, or do we not want to? It is easier to say, “I didn’t know what to do”?

Ill apply this because it seems to be the conclusion that surface topics like someone’s career are easier. People like easy. But because of this there are too many disconnected and confused individuals. People who need connection and belonging but hide behind their careers or hide behind the idea that they don’t know what to do to help another person. We need to be brave. We need to be willing to say, “I see you”. And we also need to be brave enough to allow ourselves to be seen.

In today’s society we are exposing ourselves through social media outlets. Social media has gotten a bad rep. Texting gets a bad rep too. For some reason there’s this idea out there that people don’t know how to communicate anymore. But the truth is that people have always struggled to communicate. Social media isn’t making it worse, just different. Texting isn’t (always) blocking people from engaging. For some people it provides the opportunity to say things that wouldn’t otherwise be said. To initiate conversations that would be avoided.

People struggle relationally. Blaming texting and social media is just another way to dodge responsibility for engaging with others. Its just another way to claim that people can’t communicate rather then using it to your benefit and communicating through what’s available to you. You have the option to engage and you have the option to avoid relationship. To mask yourself behind social media or to expose yourself, to be vulnerable, to share your thoughts and ideas. To use the formats available to you to bridge the gaps in relationships.

Be brave, be courageous and most of all be kind and loving, with yourself.

Who decides how it’s gonna be?

I’ve been a mom for almost seven years :: seven years and nine months or so if you count gestation. I’ve been a wife for almost eight. I’ve been a female for almost thirty-three years :: thirty-three years and nine or so months, if you count gestation. I wonder at what point in my life I started to think about being a mother. At what point did I start to think about what that meant for me? My primary identities now reside in being a wife and mother. These are fairly new identities considering the span of my life. However, these identities are so powerful that its difficult for me to remember what I was like before I was a wife and a mother. To some degree not much else matters anyway. I of course have other aspects of my life that greatly contribute to who I am but those are not so much of relevance here.

As you can gather, being a wife and a mother are very important roles to me. As I have grown in these roles so has my perspective of who I am because of and within the roles. I am in a place now in which I am very aware of how mothering has changed me, all for the good but some of those changes being quite painful, physically, mentally and emotionally.

I have decided quite recently that I am ready to transition to a place where motherhood consists primarily of gratitude, praise, adoration and love. It is possible that the trails and strains that I had been so aware of have brought me to this place. It is also possible and likely that it was from the subtle messages of loved ones that my mind was attuned to and have helped the most. Funny how things happen that way.

I was at a family event recently, my brother’s wedding to be specific, someone mentioned how my middle child seemed to be so “laid back”. I was quick to dispute that. Stating how my experience with him is not that and described him as difficult. A response to my dispute was further description of my child’s behaviors as being primarily enjoyable, mostly appropriate and overall very well behaved. It was right then that I decided that my perspective of him needed an adjustment. I was spending too much time thinking about how difficult he can be and not enough time focusing on his strengths, which far outweigh his difficulties. Don’t get me wrong, he is three and naturally engages in typical behavior for a three-year-old, he can be stubborn and down right rude. But he is good and he is deserving of my adoration and praise.

Another recent perspective changing event was through a conversation I was having with a friend. She shared with me about her pregnancy, birthing and newborn-raising experience. She told me about when she was at her first postpartum visit after the birth of her first daughter- the doctor was asking about how she was doing emotionally. The doctor asked if she was feeling sad and about symptoms of depression. Her response to him was “whatever the opposite of that is, that’s how I feel”. She shared that she was in such amazement of her newborn baby that being anything other then happy was impossible.

I was in such awe of her response and thought about how rarely women share about such beautiful associations with the period of time right after giving birth. For the most part that period of time seems to be dismissed all together and any difficulties are automatically attributed to postpartum depression issues but that’s awholenother subject for awholenother time. My friend’s association as a new mother, and again the next two times she had a baby, is nothing short of impressive.

I’ve thought about what my friend shared with me and how so many women do not have that experience. But why? I’m then reminded of another conversation I had recently during which I was asked if I thought a mom would struggle with postpartum depression even if she was supported, recovered reasonably well, had a healthy baby and few additional or no unnecessary stressors. My response then was that I was unsure but would lean towards that the mom would not struggle (very much) with postpartum issues since support and ease of recovery and/or self-care are the primary means to preventing or recuperating from postpartum depression/anxiety (as well as CBT and interpersonal psychotherapy). Then I had a conversation with a woman who shared that despite having an adequate support system, a healthy baby and a speedy recovery she developed symptoms of postpartum depression.

I’m again reminded of my friend’s words “whatever the opposite of that is, that’s how I feel” and I wonder how much her perspective influenced her ability to gracefully move through her postpartum period. Actually, I don’t wonder, I know that it made all the difference. What I do wonder is if its perspective that is so often missed. Actually, I don’t wonder that either, I know that’s what it is. We spend so much time as a society dismissing the postpartum period and then the other part of the time when we are paying attention we are attributing any fluctuation that isn’t blissful as postpartum depression (or anxiety).

I have thought a few times throughout my most recent postpartum period that I would like there to be a different rating scale for how a postpartum mom is doing. Its not just that she is either well adjusted or that she is depressed. It cannot be that she either handles the trials with ease or that she is a mess. There has to be a variation all the way from the wonderment and awe described by my friend to postpartum psychosis (yes, that’s a real thing). I felt like I experienced what I’d refer to as “postpartum shock”- realizing that its not all blissful and wondering why it isn’t. PPS is exasperated by a lack of support and ease of recovery which can (not always) evolve into postpartum depression. And that has to be ok. We have to develop into a society that embraces and supports the blissful mother as well as the mother who severely struggles daily. And that has to be ok.

I hope to be privileged enough to continue to have authentic conversations with beautiful and insightful women who knowingly and unknowingly are changing the face of postpartum and ultimately motherhood as it has been known. Being known requires connection and the desire to be seen. I desire to build and maintain my motherhood in a way that is well known as real, wonderful, vulnerable and present through the easy and the difficult. Don’t you?

Whats the big deal?

Why do I post such vulnerable messages on a professional blog? Am I seeking attention or am I trying to be relatable to clients and potential clients? Both!

To me being vulnerable means that you are able to communicate in a way that shows your “human” side. It means that you are able to put down your defenses and to stop trying to prove to others that you “have it all together”. When a person has the ability to be vulnerable they likely maintain the ability to heal their emotional wounds because they aren’t afraid to draw attention to what they feel. You can’t fix something that you don’t understand, that you don’t recognize and that you won’t pay attention to.

The benefit of vulnerability is twofold: the person being vulnerable is open and their emotions are exposed in a way that allows them to be comforted by others and to comfort themselves just through their verbal expression. Then the person receiving the message is able to relate and to recognize that the struggles they face are all too common and that maybe if I (or whoever) can be brave in the face of adversity and can share what I have experienced and receive some healing that maybe they can too.

BUT… what does it mean to receive a message, truly? When we listen with the intent to understand rather then to respond it allows us to connect with the person we are engaged with- to use healthy communication skills and it provides an opportunity to stop making everything about us! But for a minute or two actually allow ourselves to be present for and WITH another person.

This involves not being defensive which is for sure a primary struggle for most people. Probably for a number of reasons- one of which is not having experience being validated and not believing that what they think and feel has true substance- that its worth sharing. When a person operates from a place of insecurity- as we all do at times because we all have insecurities- it blocks us from receiving and offering connection. Insecurity tells us that we need to be defensive because we might get hurt. And really that’s ok because we want to be protective of ourselves but hopefully not at the expense of cultivating a true and meaningful relationship.

So to now respond directly to the original question way back at the beginning- Am I seeking attention- YES-  I post vulnerable messages to bring attention to the fact that I am human and that I have real feelings and thoughts and that just because I am a professional counselor doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own struggles. I post vulnerable messages so that the reader recognizes that the professional counselor who they may be interested in working with is relatable and that because I am relatable I have the ability to teach them how to be vulnerable and relatable too.

So many of our personal struggles stem from relationship issues- be it our own personal complications or sorting through/with the complications that another person brings to the relationship. Either way being vulnerable takes courage and it brings you to a place where you can connect and heal and maybe even where you can offer that to another person.

– human connection is truly invaluable. If that’s something you struggle with consider asking yourself if you are able to be vulnerable in relationships and if you are open to allowing others to be vulnerable with you. If you aren’t or if it’s a challenge for you evaluate your options and figure out what you need to do to learn how to open up and connect. Maybe, just maybe it’ll include meeting with a relatable professional counselor who recognizes how important real, meaningful, substantial human connection is.

Adaptation

There have been multiple challenging periods of time in my life over the last decade or so. There have been less periods of time that have included the support and validation that I could have used. I have struggled for many many years to be ok with that and honestly I continue to struggle even today. It’s really the primary struggle in my life- accepting people for who they are, as they are and for what they have to offer. I know I’m not supposed to do that or maybe its that I’m not supposed to admit that I do that but I do and I have- I’m working on it- I think.
As I am presently in a challenging period of my life I have been drawn to thoughts that are causing me to stretch and grow. While I ask myself “what do I need and how do I get what I need” both from myself and others I am learning to sit in the discomfort and to silence my irritations and thoughts so that I can lean in a little bit further and a little bit closer to who I need to be- the person who can grow and adapt and evolve.
Sometimes we enter challenging periods of time in our lives and we get stuck. We become distracted by what we think should have been or could have been. When we do that we don’t grow. We stunt growth.
Unfortunately- if there’s a down side to growth- when we evolve we can actually grow further away from the people who are incapable of providing us with what we need. I have a tendency- ok I always think this- to think that we are in each others lives so that we can give to one another and that part of being in relationship requires us to be willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of that relationship. When we are in relationship with those who are unable or unwilling to grow, to stretch, to evolve or even just to give, we then end up growing away from them.
The question here is- is that growing (away) ok? Is it ok to have relationships that are a constant in our lives that we do not experience growth within but actually separation or maybe the word is stagnancy (thats a word right)? Is that healthy or helpful for who who you’re wanting to be. Can we be ok with an ever evolving life that includes people who are incapable of evolving with us?
I read a quote once that went something like “don’t be mad at those who are incapable of change” meaning- don’t expect someone to do something that they don’t know how to do. Because of who I am (my beliefs and views and opinions really) I then think- oh I’ll just help them/teach them/tell them what to do. That doesn’t always work. Actually it rarely works. A person who is going to grow, to stretch, to evolve- has the desire to do so within them already- I don’t need to bring them to that realization. Growers know that they want and can grow. They already want it and they are capable of it. Non-growers don’t know what theyre capable of and they dont seek to understand themselves or others- truly.

Are you are grower and are you in relationship with growers?

How do you know if you’re doing a good job?

“Im a mess”. That was one of the sentences spoken at the Mama Bear group I ran a couple of weeks ago. We have all said or felt some version of that in whatever phase of life we may be in. What is it that qualifies as “a mess”? For some it has to do with the state of their home, the appearance of their children, the amount of tasks that go uncompleted throughout a day or week, maybe hygiene practices or eating habits. However, for some being “a mess” has more to with a mental state; NOT feeling stable, calm, grounded or self- aware.

The conversation during the group evolved to discussing: how do you know if you’re doing a good job? This is a question that was highlighted for me by my mother a couple of weeks prior to the Mama Bear group where the discussion began. My mother had agreed to watch my son for me while I went to a doctors appointment. On my way to the appointment I received a text from her that read “you’re doing a great job”. That’s all and that’s all that was needed. It felt so good to have someone other than my husband recognize me, even in a text message.

One of my strengths as noted by my husband (he’s so good at praise) is my ability to self soothe, which I suppose could be attributed back to my mother as well. However, because I am able to do this I put out a persona that adoration, support, guidance and appreciation may not be pleasures that I hold high. This is not true, not at all. As a woman, and I know I am not speaking for all women I am generalizing, we desire human connection. Connection is often or easily found in recognition. Its another person saying, “I see you and I like what I see”. Sometimes that message is accomplished through our words and sometimes through our actions. The absence of this is also unfortunately all too often what we receive.

My mother’s text message fueled me for days, remained at the forefront of my mind for weeks and will be included in the messages I strive to provide to the woman (and men) who I counsel for years to come.

The hardest part.

Loss sucks. It’s hard and it hurts and its confusing. Most of the time.

Sometimes we aren’t phased but when we are it’s usually pretty intense. The experience of grief tends to come in waves- periods of highs (lots of pain) and lows (not as much pain). During the lows most, people are ok to handle the grief on their own. During the highs most people need support, whether they recognize it or not. When we are not supported it takes longer to process the loss.

The tricky part is that, generally speaking, people are not very good at support. They’re easily confused by emotions- their own and the emotions of others. I believe that there is something in most people that tells them that they ought to offer support and if they tried hard enough to remove their pride they’d likely be able to muster up a few caring words to offer the person in pain.

Personally, I struggle to understand how so many people are so good at making another person’s loss about them. They do this by saying things like “I didn’t know what to say” or “I just can’t relate” or “I’m not good at consoling” or even “I don’t know him/her well”. These statements take the focus off of the person in need and on to their own emotional needs.

Most often when someone is in pain they simply need to know that you aware of their loss, that you are sorry they have experienced a loss and that you are there for them if they should need you.  Of course, there is a time and a place to offer caring words and there is not always an appropriate time to do this. However, technology now-a-days makes it easy for us to offer support from the furthest distance. Which conveniently provides comfort for the person providing the support- not that its about them.

Anywho…

So, there is the death of a loved one and most often that person has lived a long life. Unless the person was close to you, you will likely be able to process this loss easier than other losses.  Unless of course you are spun into an existential crisis. Again- this is more about you and less about the loss of the person. Consoling others at a funeral is basic and even so robotic that it can be weirdly awkward.

Then there’s the death of a relationship- divorce or break-up. This loss can be harder for most people to understand in terms of grief- that most people grieve when a significant relationship ends.

There’s also the loss of a child- pre-birth and post birth. This type of loss seems to be especially difficult for people, who have not experienced the loss of a child, to understand. However, this type of loss is the loss of potential, of a life unlived and can be particularly difficult to process especially when unsupported.

There’s other losses too. The thing about loss is that we all experience it in different ways and identify loss uniquely to us. However, none of us are exempt from the experience of loss. Grief is universal as is the need to feel connected, understood and supported.

I encourage you to take a minute to think of the people in your life and if you know someone who has experienced loss, is grieving and is in need of support- reach out to that person. Let them know that you are thinking of them and that you care. That’s it. That’s all it takes. Trust me, you can do it. After all, its not about you, its about them.

May less people know the pain of isolation in addition to the pain of grief/loss. May more people be able to process their grief without also feeling uncared for.  May we all be able to know what if feels like to receive genuine support.