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This + That: Examples Of Emotional Resiliency

Sad Is Okay

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“There is so much to be sad about in this world. Because it is so uncomfortable, we immediately want to turn sadness into what we imagine will hurt less: anger, hopelessness, helplessness. When the wish to help is rooted in anger, it will only create more confusion. And of course, when we feel hopeless or helpless, we take refuge in non-action, which also creates confusion. When we allow sadness, action arises from love.” ~ Susan Piver

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In praise of Those Who Remain: Remembrance and Reunion After War, by Ruth Crocker

A secret is revealed long after the battlefield death of a beloved and courageous army officer. His young widow, in an act of love, is inspired to climb to the treacherous north face of the Eiger in the Swiss Alps to find solace, only to discover years later that those who survived the war – his comrades devoted to keeping his memory alive – would bring the ultimate healing into her life. A compelling true story for those who seek to understand the sources of resilience and emotional transformation following heartbreaking loss and personal sacrifice showing the tenacious will of the human spirit to heal.”With thoughtfulness and grace, she reconstructs…the experience of grief. A moving exploration of widowhood.” ~ Kirkus Reviews

(I had the opportunity to interview Ruth for the cover story of the September 2008 issue of Grace magazine, while she was in the process of writing her memoir. Unfortunately the online archive does not go back that far.)

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More productive, less anxious (and so much more). Resiliency in a middle school classroom via Emotional Freedom Technique (aka “tapping).

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What I am bringing with me into the coming week…

Brazen = bold and without shame

brazen

 

Dear You: When You’re In A Rush, It’s A Good Time To Stop + Ask Yourself Why

Lately I’ve been in a rush to resolve some personal stuff…stuff that I thought had to be wrapped up in a neat package and tied with a pretty little bow before I could move forward with other things.

Bwahahahahahaha…

Right??

As if anything ever gets wrapped up neatly and tied with a pretty little bow (and stays that way).

Last week I finally decided to surrender…to just let it get messy and real.

I asked myself, “Self? Why are you in such a rush to resolve this?” And the answer, when I drilled waaaaaay down deep, didn’t really surprise me because it’s always the answer:

“I have to prove myself.”

And that’s when I remembered (because it really is about remembering): being empowered and resilient doesn’t mean being perfect. It doesn’t mean being calm all the time, or never reacting.

And how many times have I heard that and read that and agreed and thought, “of course” and then found myself putting a shit ton of pressure on myself to be perfect and to control a uncontrollable situation?

I bet you can relate.

Are you in a rush to resolve something? Why?

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P.S. I’m putting the finishing touches on my very first teleclass (Sweet Blessed Relief: A Six-Week Course For Adult Daughters Seeking Resilience + Empowerment!) and I am blown away by the feedback I’ve been getting. You will love this class if you’re an adult daughter who has who has struggled in her relationship with her mother (or father), has done a lot of digging around in the past trying to figure out “why am I the way I am?”, and is now ready to figure out who you want to be.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, please sign up to receive updates and registration information when it becomes available.

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Most of us believe that we have to prove that we are enough in order to believe that we are. But the truth is, all we really have to do is remember. ~ Christie Inge

We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. ~ Pema Chodron

 

This + That: Women Who Are Doing Amazing Things In The World

“I felt like a Barbie Doll on acid…” (My Naked Truth by Robin Korth)

“Why is it a compliment to be told you look younger?” (The $25,000 Hole In My Budget by Nona Jordan)

What an 86 Year Old Woman Taught Me About The Diet Roller Coaster, by Christie Inge

This woman’s art.

The #wycwyc book by Carla Birnberg + Roni Noone

A weekend dedicated to your sensuality, your pleasure, your opening (presented by Mara Glatzel + Hannah Marcotti)

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What I am bringing with me into the coming week…

The feeling I got while swinging on the swings with my love, under the light of the Super Moon, at Ocean Beach Park

swinging

 

 

 

A Really Good Reason To Lie: It’s Not What You Think

liar

 

A woman I know recently pulled me aside and apologized for lying to me a couple of years ago. When she told me what she had lied about (because I had no clue that she had), all I could feel was compassion. For her and for myself.

Because I got it. I’ve told lies too…from seemingly innocent stories to minor exaggerations to huge-ass whoppers that could have potentially ruined someone’s life.

I gave her a hug and I told her that I had done the very same thing at one point in my life. I told her about some of the lies I had told and why. In fact, I dedicated a chapter to it in my book: Oh The Stories I Have Told (click the link to read that chapter).

I can’t speak for my friend, but I know the reason I told the lies that I did is because I felt inadequate, unimpressive, and unimportant.

I’m not saying that I approve of or condone lying, or that having a reason to tell such lies excuses them.

I’m also not saying that I am proud of bad behavior.

I’m also not saying that it’s good to feel inadequate, unimpressive, and unimportant.

What I am saying is that I am compassionate for the part of me that – even though I knew better than to lie – felt so inadequate, unimpressive, and unimportant that I lied to try and make myself feel better.

That’s the “good” reason…I wasn’t aware of what was driving me to exaggerate and lie (those emotions). All I knew was that, for a moment or two, I’d feel better when whomever it was I’d lied to appeared impressed or interested.

I was raised by parents who believed there was nothing worse, in their book, than lying. And there were consequences for lying if I got caught as a child.

Here’s what I came to understand when, as an adult, I decided to share the fact that I’d been lying: the consequences were not something that anyone else, including my parents, could have “given” me. The real consequences were more icky feelings…and those consequences were a natural result of my behavior. They provided evidence for the mostly unconscious thoughts and beliefs I had about myself: that I was unworthy.

If you lie, you probably have a good reason.

And if someone has lied to you, betrayed you, or in some other way “acted out” in a way that you believe impacts you, understand this: it’s not because this person disrespects, hates, or is trying to pull one over on you. It’s because they disrespect, hate, or are trying to pull one over on themselves. And they probably don’t even have a clue about what’s really going on inside them.

And so how do you deal with someone who has lied to you?

First it’s important to ask yourself what you’re making it mean ABOUT YOU that they lied.

In my case, with the young woman, I didn’t make it mean anything about me because I didn’t even know that she had lied.

Then there was the time my stepdaughter lied to me (which I wrote about fairly recently). Holy crap, I made that mean all sorts of things about me (basically that I wasn’t worthy of her respect and honesty) and I had a meltdown to end all meltdowns.

Second, if you’re having a strong reaction, ask yourself if you’re being completely honest in your own life. There’s nothing like a little shadow work to help create clarity.

And finally: understand that when someone else lies to us, it means NOTHING about us. But you can be sure there’s a good reason for it.

Have you ever been a chronic liar/story teller/embellisher? What were your good reasons for lying?

Or, have you ever been lied to and had an over-the-top reaction? What did you make it mean, about you, that someone had lied to you?

Is It That I Don’t Have Anything To Say, Or Am I Just Afraid To Say It?

Writers block isn’t about having nothing to say, it is about being afraid to say what you really want to say.

I’m not sure who said it first, but it was my friend Christie Inge who said it to me.

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I happened to catch part of an interview with Natalie Merchant (of 10,000 Maniacs fame) and she was asked how her voice had changed over the years. Interestingly, when I first tuned in, I didn’t know who was being interviewed. All I heard was that question:

“How has your voice changed?”

And I thought about how my own voice has changed…and about the fact that I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to.

I always said that I wouldn’t write here unless I had something to say and for a long time I had a lot to say! And I (mostly) wasn’t afraid to say it.

Over the past year or so, however, it would seem that I just don’t have that much to say.

But if I am honest, it’s more about being afraid.

I’ve been afraid, ever since I decided to become a life coach, that I had to blog differently and show up here differently and…well…be someone I am not.

All of a sudden, blogging had rules (self-imposed). And not only that, my focus started to change too. I just don’t feel like writing about my struggle with food/body image/weight because I (mostly) don’t struggle with those things any more.

I found myself asking, who am I without that struggle? Is struggle necessary for creation?

But getting back to Natalie…

She said her voice now is deeper and richer…and that while she still writes/sings about the same themes, she does so from a different more evolved place.

I was afraid I’d lost my voice for good. I was afraid it was just a short-lived fluke that I’d written so much.

But there’s one thing I know for sure: when I started blogging in 2009 it saved my life. I found my voice. I felt more alive than I had ever felt before! I was writing, for the very first time in my life, for me. And when I look back on what I’ve written…in my book and here on this blog (which has morphed over the years), I am frankly amazed at what came out of my brain, through these fingers, via the keyboard, and onto this virtual paper.

I want to write that way again, as freely and regularly as I used to, without the self-imposed rules and fear. And now that I trust my deeper, richer voice, I have a lot to say. So stay tuned.

Has your voice changed? How? Have you ever struggled with writer’s block? What did you do to overcome it?

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Note to self on Independence Day: freedom is something that I create for myself…it is not given to me, it is not something I find “out there.” As such, true freedom can not be taken away. I am grateful to know this. Please enjoy this painting of fireworks by Wendi Kelly. It feels like freedom to me!

fireworks

Godspeed Phenomenal Woman

When I first read Maya Angelou’s poem, Phenomenal Woman*, in 1995, I was so taken with it that I sent it via email to every woman I knew. I’m sure I wasn’t the only woman who had the idea to do that, but I do know that since then this poem has been forwarded around the world to women everywhere as a source of inspiration, empowerment, and shared sisterhood/womanhood.

Over the years I’ve devoured Maya Angelou’s books and writings. I tuned in when I knew she’d be appearing on the Oprah show. I even got the chance to hear her speak in person at Eastern Connecticut University in 2003.

When I read that she had died, I felt a wave of emotion: both grief and overwhelming gratitude. She left us so much with her body of work and words! But even more than that, I think about her energy – feminine, healing, maternal, and empowering – that she seemed to give so freely. Maybe it wasn’t that she gave it, but rather that she WAS it.

And I realized that maybe what I felt is that I’d lost a mother I’d never met.

Dear Maya Angelou: thank you, thank you, thank you…to infinity. And Godspeed on your journey.

*Click the link to hear Maya Angelou recite her poem, Phenomenal Woman

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Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size.
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

~ Maya Angelou ~

 

Dear Women Who Hate To See Themselves In Photos

I could go on and on about how beautiful you are and how you shouldn’t hate how you look in photos. But unless you want to believe it, you won’t. If you DO want to believe it, it really is as simple as making the choice to do so.

Loving the way we look – loving our physical selves – is a choice and it is a practice. Nothing has to change in order to make that choice or in order to practice.

Let me say that again: NOTHING HAS TO CHANGE.

You don’t have to lose weight.

You don’t have to wear more or less makeup. Or any makeup at all.

You don’t have to pose a certain way.

You don’t have to wear certain clothes.

You don’t need special lighting.

You don’t need airbrushing.

You just need to make the choice.

You just need to practice.

You don’t even have to love the image you see. If you can – at the very least – be neutral, you’ll be doing yourself an amazing favor.

I promise you this: if you keep at it, you will get to the point of being able to view photos of yourself with a loving eye. You will be able to see yourself without that recoil of shock or disgust (and I say this as someone who used to do that).

Here’s the photo that helped me change all that.

And when you aren’t shocked or disgusted by the way you look, you will be free. You will trust yourself and your body will love you for it. Choose to have your own back. Choose not to abandon yourself.

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You’ve been abandoned. I’ve been abandoned. It’s scarred us, of course. Made us timid to devote ourselves to our desires, perhaps more apt to believe the voice of resignation that insists, “Everybody else can have what they most desire, everybody else can be fulfilled, just not me.”

But here’s the glowing truth: when you decide you will never abandon yourself again, you become abandon-proof.

People will leave and die and disappoint you. But you will take yourself by the hand and re-devote yourself to this life, to your life.

Feel that truth in your belly. Let it grow you tall at the same time it roots you in place. You are abandon-proof. Because you will, forever, stay by and on your side.

Hallelujah, my friend. Hallelujah.

{Jen Louden}

Bad To The Bone? I Think Not (Or, How I Am Developing Shame Resiliency)

Falling back into our old, unhappy story is part of the process of awakening. Ours is not to resist, even the times we appear to backslide, but to see the teaching value in such relapses. We learn how to use these fertile, dark times in our life as the opportunities they are meant to be for refinement and for seeing exactly what the unhappy beliefs are that take us down the old road to victim consciousness. Don’t waste time regretting your trips back to victim consciousness. Don’t beat yourself up about them. Use these “wake up” opportunities instead as steps leading to reality. ~ Lynn Forrest

Yes, another post about shame (and hopefully the last, at least for a while).

Lately I’ve been fascinated with it. In my Master Coach training we talked about what it means to experience an emotion like shame or self-loathing and, at the same time, have compassion for yourself…for the part of you that is experiencing the shame and self-loathing.

I’ve been practicing this when I find myself having uncomfortable emotions.

In fact, I wrote recently about how shame can give birth to compassion.

But apparently I wasn’t done learning this particular lesson. Last week I found myself in midst of a shame STORM.

The short version is that I engaged in an old behavior pattern that I though I was “over” and I perceived that I’d not only been caught in the act…but was also called out for my behavior.

(No, not binge eating…there’s no more shame in that, for me. This had to do with controlling and manipulating others).

I immediately started telling myself (semi-consciously) that I am bad person…bad to the freaking bone! And the more I told myself that, the more evidence I could find that it was, in fact, true. I came up with example after example.

At one point I was trying to tell my husband about it and my throat felt so thick and clogged with shame that I could barely get the words out.

Brené Brown (yes, she’s a shame guru for sure) says the best way to calm a shame storm is to tell someone you trust about it. “Shame cannot survive being spoken,” she says.

And so that’s exactly what I did. I shared with those I trust.

She also says that shame cannot survive being met with empathy. And while I received empathy from others, it was the empathy I chose to feel for myself that was the most healing.

That and embracing the fact that I am (sometimes) controlling and manipulative. That doesn’t make me a bad person. It makes me human.

Here are my four hindsight observations: 

1) The intensity of my shame increased in direct proportion to how much I was resisting that I could behave in a way that I find really ugly. 

2) When something bothers me THAT MUCH, it’s because on some level I believe that it’s both true (all the time) and bad (all the time).

3) Although I am not exactly sure when I started to feel the shame, I know that I caught myself quickly and was able to have compassion for myself almost immediately, although I continued to feel the shame for days. (If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a trillion times: it’s not about never again, it’s about catching yourself sooner).

4) I truly had my own back. As much as I wanted to abandon myself, I didn’t. I held the space for my ugly, unlovable self.

Are you able to be there for yourself when you find yourself being ugly and unlovable?

How Shame Gives Birth To Compassion

(A continuation…)

In the midst of what seemed like disproportionate grief over my husband’s ex-wife’s death, there was something else: shame.

I alluded to it previously. At one time I had not-nice thoughts about her and I told not-nice stories. As time went on, I started telling myself the story that she’d had a painful childhood, that she was a victim, and that I pitied her. Along with pity, however, I was also pissed because I still believed that she was creating pain for others.

And I believed that story right up until the end. Almost.

The experience I had with her just days before she died showed me something else about myself.

My sense of loss was connected to the contrast: I didn’t like her when she was alive, but when she was dying, she touched me in such a way that I was able to let go of all the stories I had ever told about her – and I woke up to her wholeness and her goodness. The wholeness and goodness that was always there, but which I chose not to see.

And I felt shame. And it’s okay.

Brené Brown says that feeling shame is what separates “normal” people from psychopaths (who apparently don’t feel shame).

In referring to the blog post I wrote about Elizabeth’s death, a friend wrote: “I’m pretty sure I could not be the woman that Karen was.”

Fact is, I couldn’t be that woman either…until Elizabeth helped me be that woman.

And just like I can now see her innate goodness, I can also see my own.

I had to sit with my shame for quite a while in order to see this. I had to accept it and choose to experience it, with all its burning discomfort.

Once it burned itself out, I felt indescribable compassion, both for her and for myself.

Rather than using my shame to hurt me, I  choose to let it transform me.

Part of being truly alive is not being afraid of the contrast. Shame and compassion are equally valuable parts of the deal.

This is what it means – to me – to be fluent with my emotions.

Do you consider yourself to be emotionally fluent? Is it something you would value?

On Belonging: A Tribute To My Stepchildren’s Mother

My husband’s ex-wife, the mother of his three children, died yesterday.

Even just a couple of months ago, and knowing she was sick, I never imagined writing those words.

What I am about to say is hard, but I need to say it.

I didn’t always have charitable thoughts about her. In fact, there were times when my thoughts were quite unkind and sometimes downright nasty. And, from what I understand, she sometimes thought the same way about me.

I guess you could say it was typical. Ex-wife/current wife…biomom/stepmom stuff.

But you know what? Over the years we did things together. And I am not even going to say “for the sake of the kids” because while they were certainly the reason we ever hung out together, we did things together because we were meant to be part of each other’s lives, at least for a while.

Some of my fondest memories in the past 20 years include her: sitting in the stands at the Little League field and the gymnastics meets. Some holidays. The time we took 12-year-old Jessica and two of her friends to see Hanson (you should have heard the screaming!). The graduations. The birth of our grandson.

She was gracious. She included me. In pictures with her kids. “You’re part of the family too…”

The thing is, I haven’t always felt part of any family.

Growing up I had two families:

One with my mother, stepfather, and adopted brother. And we’d often spend time with my stepfather’s family, but I wasn’t biologically part of that family. In fact, my mother and stepfather haven’t been married since the early 80s. They’re both remarried now.

And the other with my father, stepmother, and half sister and brother. And when I was with them, we’d often spend time with my stepmother’s family…and I wasn’t biologically part of them either. My father and stepmother eventually got divorced too.

All the divorces, all the remarriages. The steps. The halves. The once-removeds. The people who are there because they’re somehow part of the mix.

And then I married a man with kids and an ex-wife.

It seems so silly, but I am sitting here in tears because I see it so differently now…it was I who chose to feel separate and apart, for whatever reason. It wasn’t because of the circumstances. It was I who had barriers up. I am not blaming myself for it, but I see how I held back. It’s up to me to be willing to be included. To step up and own the fact that I belong…and to act like it.

I know I am rambling on here about me, when this is really about Elizabeth. But it’s all part of the point I am trying to make.

These people with whom we spend time…who love the same people we love…who teach us stuff…they’re family.

Last week, on her last somewhat lucid day, I went to see her. I had been afraid because I didn’t think I belonged there. I didn’t want to “intrude.”

I sat down next to her bed and reached for her hand. She roused herself and said, “None of this handshake shit…I want a hug.” And so I hugged her. A little while later she complained about chapped lips. Her daughter Jessica offered her some Chapstick, which she promptly waved away. She wanted something softer…there was a tiny pot of pink Vaseline lip balm by the bed and Jessica said, “Do you want me to put some of this on?” And she said no. Her son Jeremey asked if he could do it, and she said no. They both looked at me, and Jeremey said, “Do you want Karen to do it?” And she replied, with her trademark sarcasm, “Ding ding ding!” And so I put some balm on her lips.

Godspeed Elizabeth Marshall. And thank you for including me.

Jessica, Elizabeth, Bryan, Tim, Me, Jeremey