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On Belonging (Again): A Tribute To My Father-In-Law

I have been given many opportunities to belong. 

I have been given many signs that I belong.

When my father-in-law, Reverend E. Earl Anderson, died earlier this month, I immediately remembered one of those signs.

letters I’ll never forget the overwhelming feeling of belonging I had when, upon announcing our engagement in 1997 after dating for two years, Tim received one of the many (MANY) family letters his father sent to his kids over the years, and the salutation read: “Kris & Dan, Tim & Karen, Kirk & Dawn.”

Prior to that, the salutation read: “Kris & Dan, Tim, Kirk & Dawn.”

I haven’t always understood my part – my responsibility – in belonging. There were many times when I believed and acted like I didn’t belong….because I didn’t know how.

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When I first met Tim and found out his father was a Lutheran minister, I was a little intimidated and fearful. At that point I considered myself an atheist. I laughingly (and defensively) referred to myself as a heathen.

Now, Tim isn’t a church-goer, either, and over the years he has expressed guilt over this. He’s an engineer with a scientific bent, although he certainly embraces the idea that science and spirituality are just different sides of the same coin.

But here’s the thing: while they are certainly different, Tim and his Dad had a lot in common, including healthy skepticism, practicality, the ability to question and challenge, and mutual, deep respect and admiration.

In the days after his death, as we, his family, received visitors at the funeral home and at his service, I got to see and know Earl through the eyes of others (MANY others).

The things I knew about him – that he was an encourager, a joker, a gentleman, a gentle man, a storyteller, and someone who knew how to encourage belonging – were related over and over again.

There was one thing none of us knew. Back in 1969 he almost left the ministry…his faith had been shaken. During that time he wrote a personal Psalm* that was kept private from his family until the day before he died.

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The sermon at his funeral service was given by Pastor Steve Bond (of Hope Lutheran Church in Homer City, PA) whom Earl had known and mentored for nearly 10 years.

Pastor Bond captured the essence of Earl perfectly. He started by saying that they’d only ever had one conversation: “…we had one long, winding, paused-and-started-and-paused-and-started-again, conversation—one that has taken now the better part of a decade to unfold.”

You could feel everyone in the congregation nodding in recognition.

“When I say I only ever had one conversation with Earl, I mean to say that, in the years we all knew him … and in all the places where conversation happened, from the kitchen table at Georgetown, or parsonage dinner tables, to the council meeting rooms and social halls of congregations near and far, and even across the wheeled tray table at St. Andrew’s [the nursing home where he died], that blessed man invited us into a conversation that was already in progress, a conversation that you had picked up with sometime before, and which you would pick up again the next time…and that fist-pumping gesture he made when he was happy for you, or proud of you, or when you had just said something that made him smile his closed-eye satisfied smile, and he just wanted to savor the words like he was rolling around a sip of wine in his mouth.”

That was exactly my experience too.

Later, Pastor Bond went on to say (in regards to that time in 1969):

“Here is a man who is … so clearly at ease with his Creator that he can be honest about the heartbreak as well as the happy endings. Here is a man who is still teaching us that prayer is not a rote recitation of rhymed couplets to check off your list of proper rituals, but the unending, ever-deepening conversation when a person pours out their soul to the God who loves us enough to let us be honest.

Earl showed us living and vibrant faith that looked like an ongoing and unending living conversation with God.

That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? …his presence was not intimidating—because he was real. And he could be real before God. He showed us what it looked like to be real before God and everybody else, and to let all pretense and pomp and pageantry be set aside.”

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Because of all this, I see now how I fit in…that I belong because he was showing me by example.

I was able to be exactly who I am in his presence…to be loved and accepted unconditionally because he was showing me by example.

He never tried to preach to me or convert me. And he certainly never judged me, which is what, 20 years ago when I found out that my then boyfriend’s father was a minister, I had feared most.

A couple of years ago when I was in the midst of a painful issue with which he was familiar, I told him what I had hoped to do, and the outcome I expected.

He gave me a real response, not the Sunday School answer I’d expected.

With a twinkle in his eye, he said quietly, “Good luck with that.” 

I laughed out loud. He wasn’t being flip, he was being honest because he understood me and the subtleties involved.

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I have, slowly, come – not only to believe in God – but to understand God. Not in a traditional, religious sense, but in my own way.

Just like I sense Earl did.

Godspeed Earl. I am grateful to you for many things: for the way you raised your son (who is the perfect husband for me), for your gentle humor, for your consistency and ability to maintain relationships, and most of all for your example.

*Psalm 1969

I praise You, O Lord, very much to my surprise.
For many were the weights to hold me down, the walls to crowd me in on every side.
Certain, certain was the crisis that would overwhelm me.
Yet, dry-mouthed with fear, I felt the tendrils of my heart reach out
To touch fresh springs of grace.
Yet, in all that darkness, your presence, like a faint glimmer of the will-o’-the-wisp
Haunted me.
Then broke, broke, broke, like dawn, into view.
Life’s joys returned. Its dreads drew back to their proper place.
Time again to work, and leap, and laugh again, and I praise You.
But very much to my surprise.

~ E. Earl Anderson ~

Anxiety Resilience: It’s Not About Fixing It Or Yourself

Anxiety.

 

What do you tell yourself about it, if you’re experiencing it?

What do you tell yourself about YOU?

Many women who have difficult relationships with their mothers struggle with anxiety.

Long-time readers know about my “throw up” phobia.

For years I told myself that I was silly and stupid because I “freak out” around stomach illness (in other people, as well as in myself).

I have spent lots of time (and money) trying to fix it/me.

I have also spent a lot of time beating myself up and making myself feel guilty because I made having anxiety mean that I am pathetic.

Slowly but surely I started to accept (in the true sense of the word) that I have anxiety. Rather than resisting the physical manifestation (weak knees, pounding heart, shallow breathing, feeling paralyzed) of my anxious thoughts, I started to just allow them to be there, without judgment.

And slowly but surely I have started to feel better.

I still have anxiety, but (for the most part) I don’t create extra pain for myself by worrying about it or making it mean something bad about me.

Recently I was in a situation that pushed me over the edge: my husband and I were visiting a nursing home over the course of several days, and on the second day we were told that patients were coming down with a stomach virus and that visitors were required to wear face masks.

We were going to be having a family event there later on that second day and all I could think about was the fact that, the day before, we’d been “exposed”!!

But here’s the cool part.

Yes, I was experiencing anxiety. I actually started to hyperventilate. 

But I decided to take care of myself and treat myself kindly.

(Although I did have a momentary lapse in which I felt guilty because I believed I was letting other people down).

I left the premises and sat in the car. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t apologize for it or denigrate myself by saying to the others, “I know I am being silly and stupid because I am this way,” but nor did I want to force myself to do something that felt dangerous (even though I knew it was just my mind).

Later, I was able to go back in and enjoy myself and the rest of the family.

Anxiety, for some of us, is just part of who we are. Resisting it by believing that it is wrong, bad, and something that we either need to be ashamed of or something that we need to fix only creates additional pain.

There is no shame in taking care of yourself. 
And it’s okay to be proud of yourself for small victories.

This is what it looks like to be resilient.

This is what it looks like to be empowered.

A quick how-to:

1. Make sure you know how anxiety manifests itself physically for you. For me it’s weak knees, pounding heart, shallow breathing, and feeling paralyzed.

2. Understand that those physical sensations are the result of thoughts that are running through your head. You  might not be able to fully “control” those thoughts, and that’s okay, but it’s important to acknowledge that you are creating your anxiety.

3. Ask yourself what would feel good and right to do when you’re feeling anxiety. 

4. Take care of yourself by doing what feels good and right, without apology or defensiveness.

5. Don’t heap additional pain onto yourself by telling yourself that having anxiety means something bad about you.

6. Breathe.

Do you struggle with anxiety? How do you handle it?

Continuing The Continual Continuation

As I said in my Continual Continuation post, I’ve never been one to make lists, set goals, then cross them off my list and call it done. For me, life is more of evolving series of ah-ha moments that thrill me, frustrate me, and eventually, settle into my cells as I practice and embody knowledge and wisdom.

Sure, there are some things that require a hard and fast deadline or that need to be done in a linear and orderly fashion.

And then there are other things…things like mowing the lawn.

I start by going back and forth in neat rows and after two or three, I start going around the perimeter, then do out-and-backs with me standing in the center.

I’ve always been this way…and I’ve tried many times to stop being this way. Now I choose to accept it. It’s how I roll.

I still get the job done so I’ve stopped judging myself and thinking that I need to change my basic nature.

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Things I learned in 2014:

That I can do hard things, things I’ve never done before, things I used to be afraid to do, without suffering.

That I am shame and anxiety resilient.

Things I did in 2014 of which I am proud:

Becoming a master certified life coach.

Healing (truly) my relationship with my mother ON MY OWN TERMS.

Creating a variety of cohesive programs and offerings for adult daughters who struggle in their relationships with their mothers that marries my love and talent for writing with my love and talent for coaching.

Things I am celebrating:

That I can now put my bra on the “regular” way (reaching behind my back to clasp it) because my frozen shoulder (on which I had surgery a year go) is pretty much healed and pain-free.

The women in Sweet Blessed Relief who, next week, are choosing to embark on a journey to inner peace by beginning the process of healing their relationships with their mothers (or fathers).

As I move into 2015 I am continuing to let go of:

The belief that pain in my body is inevitable.

Desperation.

Attachment to outcome.

My guiding words for 2015:

Ease + Flow

And here’s a curious thing:

The minute I claimed ease + flow, the minute I realized it would come as a result of routine, structure, and schedule…but not imposed on me by myself or anyone else.

But rather, CREATED by me FOR me.

And so I have entered into 2015 consciously choosing to create structure and routine that supports ease + flow.

mandala1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[The beautiful mandala you see in the photo was created by Michelle Radomski of One Voice Can Graphics, Books & Mandalas]

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Today, be the person of your dreams.

See life through HER eyes. 

Make decisions with HER mind. 

Let every thought, word, and action come from HER perspective, as if you had already arrived, and just watch how 2015 warps into the kind of year you talk and laugh about forever and ever and ever.

Psssst…that woman already exists, there’s nothing new to learn, just “let her out.” ~ The Universe

What are you in the midst of continuously creating in your life?

 

 

A Continual Continuation

I’ve never been one to make lists, set goals, then cross them off my list and call it done. For me, life is more of evolving series of ah-ha moments that thrill me, frustrate me, and eventually, settle into my cells as I practice and embody the knowledge, wisdom, and ultimate transformation.

Looking back…looking forward.

That’s what we do around this time on our annual trip around the sun.

Whether you’re into making resolutions (or not), setting goals (or not), choosing a word of the year (or not), creating a vision board (or not), intending to intend (or not), here is my wish for you:

That you choose to think thoughts that feel good to you…and then go from there.

You can trust yourself. You have everything you need.

If you’re still doubting…

Take a deep breath.

Close your eyes.

Unlock your shoulders.

Open your eyes and soften your gaze.

Take another deep breath…and consider these questions:

  • What did you learn this year?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What do you most want to share?
  • What did 2014 feel like?
  • What are you celebrating?
  • What are you letting go of as you move into 2015?
  • What do you desire in 2015?
  • How do you want it to feel?
  • What thoughts will support those desires and emotions?

(I will answer those questions myself and share in an upcoming blog post. In the meantime, if you want to share your answers with me below in the comments, I’d be honored.)

I am supremely grateful to have been on this journey with you and I am looking forward to the continuing continuation of our lives!

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P.S. Upcoming Class!

I’ve got 25 spots open for Sweet Blessed Relief, which starts January 20.

This is a class I wish existed five years ago when I was struggling in my relationship with my mother…and then cut ties with her, believing it was my only option, only to find myself feeling more trapped and angry.

As you make your way through six powerful lessons I will be on hand in our private online community to support you.

Also, today is the last day to get my 1:1 coaching programs at 2014 prices.

No Nonsense, No Drama, No Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…

…Choosing Unconditional Love For Someone Whom You Find It Hard To Even Like

Please help me. I know that the chronic anger, bitterness, and resentment I feel for my mother aren’t good for me, but I truly believe that these feelings protect me. I’m afraid that if I let go of my anger then she will “win” and I will end up doing whatever she wants, I’ll never disagree with her, and I’ll put up with her abusive behavior. I want to love her, but to be honest, I don’t even really like her.

At first I thought about responding with a piece on how to create good boundaries (and I will do that at some point), but given the time of year, I think I’ll riff about unconditional love instead.

(Are you rolling your eyes? Don’t give up on me yet!)

Here’s the thing about ALL emotions, from anger to unconditional love: they aren’t concepts; they are vibrations that we literally feel in our bodies.

And when we choose to feel them, we GET to feel them.

I can tell you how certain emotions feel for me:

Shame usually comes with a hot, prickly feeling around my face and neck.

Grief is an exquisite ache in my throat and heart.

Anger feels like the wind has been knocked out of me (and it’s heavy too) and I feel slightly choked.

Anxiety is a shakiness in my belly (sometimes I actually shiver).

And unconditional love? It feels like a beautiful, warm glow in my chest…a googly, melting-heart sensation. When I really practice feeling it, I can make it expand and flow throughout my whole upper body. It feels amazing.

So, why would I choose anything else? Even for someone whom I don’t think deserves it?

I’ll say it again: because when I choose to feel unconditional love…

I GET TO FEEL UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

Your mother doesn’t feel your anger, bitterness, and resentment, you do.

Consider giving yourself the gift of feeling unconditional love, instead.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Unlock those shoulders. Soften your eyes. Take another deep breath.

Step 2: Think about someone or something that you love unconditionally. Think of how much this person or thing brings to your life and how much you love it.

Step 3: Continue focusing on this person or thing until you start to feel a physical sensation. Describe it. Where in your body do you feel it? Does it have a texture? A temperature? A color?

Step 4: You are now feeling unconditional love! Congratulations!

Step 5: Now think of your mother and summon up your anger until you start to feel it physically. Get to know it just like you got to know what unconditional love feels like.

Step 6: Which feels better?

Step 7: Understand that choosing to feel unconditional love is a favor you do for yourself.

Step 8: Understand that loving unconditionally does not mean putting up with her bad behavior, or even having to see or speak to her. It just means that when you think of her, you can choose to feel amazing.

Did you know? Choosing to literally feel unconditional love decreases stress and increases relaxation in our bodies. It’s GOOD for us.

Wishing you unconditional love whenever you want it.

Do you have a situation that needs a No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt response from me? Send it to karen@kclanderson.com. All questions will be kept anonymous (names changed if necessary) and answers will be published in future editions of No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…

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Sweet Blessed Relief is back!

I am offering another round of Sweet Blessed Relief: A Six-Week Class For Adult Daughters Seeking Resilience & Empowerment starting January 20, 2015!

I’ve changed the way the class will be offered, to make it much more flexible for you.

I know a lot of folks offer free webinars in order to sell these types of classes, but I prefer to offer real, connected, personal answers. If you’re wondering if Sweet Blessed Relief is for you, I’d be happy to jump on the phone and answer any questions or concerns you might have (no arm-twisting or hard sales, I promise).

Click here to schedule a chat

No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…

…Dealing With Someone Else’s Uncomfortable Feelings When You Choose To Change Your Mind

Last week’s Guide stirred up some interesting responses and in particular, I received emails from a couple of readers who told me they were feeling shame for being on the other end of the equation – because they had changed their minds about something and had chosen to say “no” to someone to whom they had initially said “yes.”

“This post hit me hard because I recently did something very similar to someone I cared about and it was me that felt the shame. I had agreed to work on a project with someone and then later changed my mind when it didn’t feel right to me.

At first I wanted to please and help this person so I shoved my gut feeling down and moved forward.

I knew that telling her how I felt, and then backing out, would hurt and anger her, and it did. She eventually forgave me, but I am still feeling a bit of shame.”

I can imagine a whole range of situations in which someone might change their mind – from having coffee with a friend on Saturday morning, to hosting a holiday dinner, to getting married.

So, since last week’s Guide was about dealing with shame, this week I will provide some no-nonsense, no-drama, no-guilt advice on how to deal with someone else’s uncomfortable emotions when you choose to change your mind.

Let’s pretend that you’ve just realized that you really don’t want to do whatever it is that you’ve said “yes” to.

You really, really don’t want to do it and you’re mad at yourself for having said, “yes” in the first place. You’re also afraid.

What will they think about me? They’re gonna be pissed!! What will they say about me?

Step 1: Take a deep breath. Unlock your shoulders (you didn’t realize they were up around your ears, did you). Soften your eyes (this is both a literal and a figurative thing). Take another deep breath.  

Step 2: Understand that when you make healthy choices for yourself (i.e., creating boundaries, saying “no,” stating your preferences, or changing your mind), you will inevitably experience some uncomfortable feelings, at least when you first start (the more you do it, the easier it becomes).

Step 3: Understand that when you begin to make healthy choices for yourself, others may also experience some uncomfortable feelings.

Step 4: Understand that it’s impossible to disappoint, hurt, anger, or let someone else down. The opposite is also true: you can’t please someone else.

Sure, the other person might say: “You let me down, you disappointed me, how could you do this to me!”

What they are saying is that they do, indeed, feel let down, disappointed, and perhaps even angry, but they’re not taking responsibility their emotions.

Step 5: Allow them to have their disappointment, hurt, and anger, but don’t take responsibility for it…don’t let them blame you for it and understand that it’s not up to you to “fix” it for them.

It’s certainly okay to apologize for having changed your mind, but it’s not okay to take responsibility for the other person’s emotions.

Here’s a script you can use and/or modify the next time you want to change your mind about something:

“I should have listened to my gut when you first asked me to be involved with your project, but I didn’t, and that’s not your fault. That said, I have decided that it’s best for me if I back out now. I apologize for not letting you know sooner.”

If the other person blasts you and/or tries to make you responsible for their emotions, follow the steps above and reply thusly:

“I understand that you’re disappointed, hurt, and angry. Again, I am sorry I didn’t let you know sooner. I am working on making better choices for myself after years of being a people-pleaser.”

My own experiences with this have shown me that when I handle it this way (honestly and vulnerably), I am practicing and modeling non-defensive communication.

And that’s where peace and freedom start!

Do you have a situation that needs a No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt response from me? Send it to karen@kclanderson.com. All questions will be kept anonymous (names changed if necessary) and answers will be published in future editions of No Nonsense, No Drama, No Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…

You Are Good

The story goes that there’s an African tribe that has a unique way of handling those who do something hurtful or wrong. When a member of the tribe does wrong, they take him to the center of town, and the entire tribe comes and surrounds him. Then they tell him every good thing he has ever done.

Apparently this tribe believes that every human being comes into the world as GOOD, each of us desiring safety, love, peace, happiness. But sometimes in the pursuit of those things, people make mistakes. The community sees these misdeeds as a cry for help. So they band together for the sake of their fellow man,  to hold him up, to reconnect him with his true nature, to remind him of who he really is, until he fully remembers the truth from which he’d temporarily been disconnected: “I AM GOOD.”

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It may be too late for some (at least in this lifetime), but it is never too late to remind:

Yourself…

Those you love…

Those whom you may be finding it hard to love…

And those who appear to be unloveable…

Even if you do it silently.

preventratherthanavenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dedicated to the place where I grew up and in memory of the 26.

Plus those who’ve been lost since then…and all who have made a mistake no matter how great or how small…all who need to be reminded and reconnected:

YOU ARE GOOD!

No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…

Handling A Shame Storm

This week’s Resilient Daughter’s Guide comes from a recent experience that really shook, rattled, and rolled my confidence.

Someone I respect and admire emailed to tell me that she didn’t want to be involved with something I was doing. And not only that, she told me after we had spent a good amount of time talking about it and after I crafted a bit of writing that I was really proud of.

It wasn’t a nasty email by any stretch (in fact, she was very kind and apologetic), but I was, by turns, angry, disappointed…and then ashamed.

I felt stung…there was a pit in my stomach, my face was hot, and I wanted to cry.

I did cry.

It didn’t take me long to realize that it was the shame I used to feel when I was little girl and my mother would tell me that she was disappointed in me.

“She’s disappointed in me…and that means I’m a bad girl.”

Bing. Bang. Boom.

That’s what I made this woman’s words mean. In the blink of an eye.

Crazy right?

The anger and disappointment were just cover emotions for the shame.

Just like the mighty Colorado River created the Grand Canyon, the thoughts we think over and over again create deep grooves in our brains until the connection between outside stimulus and what we make it mean becomes nearly instantaneous and automatic.

But here’s the thing: what she wrote was actually neutral. Just words. It was me who made it mean something that felt like shame.

So I sat there and both felt the shame, and observed myself feeling it, at the same time.

That’s what shame resilience is: it’s not about not feeling shame, it’s about feeling it, getting to the root of it, and then asking yourself, “Is the thought I am thinking, that is creating this shame, actually true?”

Is it true that I am a bad girl?

Of course not.

I think most of us have a memory (or five) from our early childhoods, which we associate with our mothers (or fathers) and shame.

The point of this isn’t to blame our parents for having said to us, when we were little girls, that they were disappointed in us.

And it’s also not to blame ourselves for what we made it mean when they said that.

The point is to notice – with sincere curiosity and fascination – how the ego part (aka “the lizard”) of our amazing brains work, the messages they send, how those messages feel, and whether or not they are actually true.

And then…and only then…take action. Or not.

I am sure you can imagine a variety of outcomes to the situation I described.

I could have written back and told her off.

I could have written back and told her “no big deal” while inside it was still very much a big deal that I wasn’t…dealing with.

I could have not responded at all and then acted all weird next time we interacted.

I could have decided that the project wasn’t worth doing at all and given up on something I believe in and love.

In the end, what I did is tell her that while I understood and honored her position and choice, that I’d be lying if I weren’t disappointed. I offered an alternative that hadn’t been on the table previously, with the caveat that I would still respect her choice.

She still declined, very graciously and kindly. We had a couple of back-and-forths and in the end high-fived each other virtually for handling what, for both of us, was an uncomfortable situation.

Sure, I still have a bit a disappointment, but I am not derailed by shame.

Noticing our emotions, how they feel (literally) in our bodies, and what we want to do or say as a result (without harsh judgment of ourselves) is an art and a practice…and it is so worth it.

It is the cornerstone of good mental, emotional, and physical health.

Need help working through a situation involving that kind of “ancient” shame that goes back to childhood? Do you have a situation that needs a No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt response from me? Send it to karen@kclanderson.com. All questions will be kept anonymous (names changed if necessary) and answers will be published in future editions of No Nonsense, No Drama, No Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…

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This is me, feeling the opposite of shame…

 

{Resilient Daughter/Empowered Woman Project} Anna N.

[Learn more about The Resilient Daughter/Empowered Woman Project.]

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When Anna (who chooses to remain anonymous) speaks to me, what she says and how she says it is like a soothing balm with an injection of hilarity. She often sounds like she’s on the verge of giddy laughter.

And so when she told me, in that very same tone of voice, about her very early childhood, about how her mother would send her father to her bedroom…

[Go tuck Anna in]…

…when he was “randy” because her mother didn’t want to have to “deal with him,” well, all I could think is, this is the epitome of resilience, right here.

[She didn’t want it to be her…from a very early age I was her confidante and her protector and she put me in a parental role from the get go. So it would fall to me to deal with him, which is, as a parent, just almost incomprehensible to me to even understand that line of thinking.]

Like all resilient daughters, healing was a process, which included a recurring painful story that she told herself (unconsciously) for years:

[It kept showing up in the form of the vaguely abusive boyfriends. Sometimes not even vaguely. You know, boyfriends who were into questionable sexual practices on their own and would say “this has nothing to do with you” but it was weird and I could not understand it.

I did not understand why I kept ending up in relationships with men who were so sexually inappropriate…stuff that I just could not abide…and they just didn’t care. My need and desire for them to show up differently in the relationship meant nothing.

I was also drinking a lot of alcohol at the time, so I had very little true awareness…but rather confusion. I watched the same patterns emerge over and over and over again no matter how I chose boyfriends.]

And those same patterns showed up at work and in other areas of her life, as well.

So what was that painful story?

[I have to take responsibility for this thing that has nothing to do with me. I’m the fall guy. I have to take it. It’s my job.

I’m supposed to be able to take everything on. I’m supposed to be able to change things and do all the stuff. So why does this feel so miserable, why do I keep ending up in situations with people and relationships and men that are just so dysfunctional?]

This seems to an excellent moment to share this Anais Nin quote: “There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.” 

As we talked Anna recounted how she started to receive the truth, and to be honest, the way she describes receiving it sounds like both “instant illumination” and “fragment by fragment.”

[I was the financial reporting manager for a company that was going through a lot of change and people just kept quitting and I ended up taking on everybody else’s jobs and they just kept handing more stuff to me like, “Oh, no one else will take care of it.”

And at the same time, there had been a big earthquake and so I was having panic attacks…and then 9/11 happened.

Then I went on a business trip and a friend of mine hooked me up with a friend of hers, and we went out to dinner and he was old. He was like my dad’s age and he looked like my dad and he smelled like my dad.

And then on the way home, he took me to a deserted park and tried to have his way with me and I was trying to avoid him, trying to get away from him. “You need to take me home.” I didn’t know where I was. It was terrifying and then I have this enormous flashback of my dad. I finally got him to take me home and he verbally abused me the whole way back to the hotel: “Oh, you’re just a prick-tease” and “You’re such a vapid little girl.”

It was like a total recreation of what happened when I was growing up.

The waves of memories kept coming and I called my mom and asked her what the fuck happened. “I used to send him to your room.”

And that’s when I knew I needed help.]

And that story? The one where she was telling herself that she had to take it…that it was her job? It led to this:

[I perpetually felt like a fraud. I was constantly anxious. I never felt like I was living in any sort of integrity. I didn’t have real friends. I had drinking buddies. I felt alone because I didn’t want anybody to know how fucked up things were. I was concerned about maintaining some sort of image because of all the people I drank with, I was the only one that actually made any money (not that I had any). I was a manager at a big company and sat in board meetings. Those people helped me look good. Being around people who were kind of in the gutter, so to speak, helped me feel like I was okay.

So it was messy…very messy, very ugly, and very dark.]

She was also enraged with her mother.

[She had lied to me in so many ways. So much of our relationship was built around her lying to keep me close so nobody would ask questions. I was absolutely furious with her.]

And her father?

[I expressed my anger to him in high school, after he stopped drinking. As soon as he stopped drinking, the molestation stopped. He doesn’t remember any of it. He was drunk and thank God, he was gone six to eight months out of every year. I would stay at my grandmother’s a lot…who knows why. At that time, I just thought it’s because I like staying with my grandmother. But now I see it was self-preservation.

Years later my mother told me that one time, when I was about nine or 10, I came home to find my dad holding a gun to her head. He said he was going to shoot her and then shoot himself. I got up on the bed and I took the gun from him. And I believe her on that story because I asked my father about it and he said, “Oh, yeah, I have a vague recollection of that.

I know that he really does not remember what happened.

By the time I was 30 and in therapy, so much time had passed and he had become a completely different person.]

And so Anna grasped, with the help of her therapist, that her life was her responsibility.

[What I wanted most was resolution within myself around all of this. I didn’t want to have a conversation with my parents about it because frankly, it’s none of their fucking business. This is mine. I needed to make peace with it. It wasn’t their job anymore. I am clear about that.]

Now that she knows better, she lives a different, and much better story. But how did that happen?

[The night I decided to quit drinking, I had a vision…I was looking out the window and I had a bunch of beer but I couldn’t get drunk. I was smoking cigarettes and I was having this existential moment. I wasn’t drunk. I was gazing out the window at the sunset and a realization dropped into my awareness…the truth of who I was, was not the way that I was living.

That awareness became my homing device. I was given an understanding that I was not all of the shit that was happening. I wasn’t the emotions. I wasn’t the circumstances. I was something much, much better than that. I was destined for more. And that really became a very powerful sort of focus for me.

During that time I cried and cried and cried and I raged and raged and raged and it felt like I was running through waist-deep mud. There was just so much that had to be dealt with…so much baggage that had come from the way I was living. I was in debt. I was in a job that I hated. And my relationships were all built on lies and fakery.

So slowly, I started making decisions by asking, “What would feel good?” to the me who’s out there in the future – the real me. I would ask, “What does the real me want?” And I started making decisions from that place. And once I stopped drinking, even though there was a lot of mess to clean up, I felt the truth of who I was more and that made it easier.]

And slowly, that old life fell away.

[A little over a year after I stopped drinking, I met my husband and we got married quickly. I knew that if it had not happened the way it did, I wouldn’t be married to him, because neither of us would have been interested each other.]

And at that point Anna decided to get back in touch with her parents, who were divorced and remarried.

[I invited them to the wedding. I wasn’t committed to having any kind of relationship with them but I thought, “Well, they’re my family. I’ll invite them to the wedding.” But my dad didn’t walk me down the aisle. My husband and I walked down the aisle together. I wanted nothing to do with that kind of nonsense.

And my mother, who had been sober on and off, was drinking again and she blacked out at the wedding and said some pretty ugly things. I did not speak to her for a while after the wedding.]

Anna describes herself as a naturally enthusiastic and optimistic person (and she says she’s a lot like her mother in that respect) and so when her mother stopped drinking again she thought it would be a good second opportunity.

And yet…

[I found that she is not that much different…she hasn’t changed. My mother still puts me in situations where I will fail, where I might hurt myself…or have someone hurt me.]

She described a recent visit an incident that showed her that…

[…there’s no evidence in her behavior that she likes me at all. It did not surprise me at all.]

But because she has healed, and with healing comes the ability to set truly loving boundaries…

[What did surprise me was realizing that it’s unusual for anybody to treat me like that now.

I sometimes find myself slipping back into that old role with her and then I remember, “This isn’t my job. This isn’t my responsibility.”

And when I do that, she responds defensively and won’t call me for a long time.]

Anna acknowledges that part of her story was, “I’m going to prove you wrong” and that it served her.

[My parents expected nothing of me. When I was high school junior I my mother told me, “If you graduate from high school without getting pregnant, I’m going to consider that a huge success.” It felt like I was being held down: “Don’t get too big for your britches, who the fuck do you think you are?” You know, the things that a lot of us who are in our 40s and 50s heard. I was constantly fighting against their low expectations. To graduate from college and become a CPA was an enormous thing for me to do.]

She no longer lives her life “in reaction” or trying to prove her parents wrong.

[As I got sober and then married my husband – who’s just this amazing supportive person and who believes in me 5000% –I could see the difference between how I grew up and how I live now. Good Lord, I’m a miracle, a walking fucking miracle! Do you know what I mean?]

Yes, Anna, I do indeed know what you mean.

[I live my life in integrity…I enjoy my life and I no longer think rotten horrible things about myself. I don’t think I would appreciate as much who I am today if it were not for my parents.]

Anna consciously chooses to mother herself this way:

[I create safety for myself. This is really a big deal. I was not safe growing up. Safety is essential to expressing myself and shining my light and doing all that good stuff. I’m committed to making sure that I feel safe. That may look like giving myself time to cry in certain circumstances or asking for something I need rather than just saying, “Oh, yeah, it’s fine. I’ve got it.” I am learning, instead, to say, “You know what, this is what I need to feel safe and to feel okay about what’s going to happen.”]

Anna’s advice for a woman who is struggling in her relationship with her mother/parents:

[Don’t be afraid to walk away. Give yourself permission to walk away if it’s not working. I don’t think there is any greater gift you can give yourself.

The biggest thing that helped me find peace was taking to heart that there is a statute of limitations. You can’t blame your family. You can’t blame your mom. You can’t blame your dad. It’s like once you’re an adult, whatever happened, whatever trauma remains, whatever hurt remains is our responsibility, and nobody else can fix it.

That to me was so powerful.

My parents can’t fix it. They’ve never been the parents I wanted them to be, but now I can do it for myself. It doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do.

How I feel and how I’ve move forward is absolutely about me and my relationship to myself.]

Anna is a resilient daughter and an empowered woman.

[In relationship to my mom, I am able to stand in one place and she does her thing. She comes, she goes, she says mean things, she doesn’t say mean things. And I hold the same stance no matter what. And to me, that feels like resilience. I don’t stop being myself no matter what she’s throwing into the mix.

I used to call her on it and at some point, I realized it was a futile conversation because she’s a chronic liar and will say whatever she thinks I want to hear. When she is available in ways that I feel are healthy and feel good to me, I’m here, and if she’s not, I’m not.]

She’s All That

Anna is a highly successful entrepreneur who defines her own success and understands that sometimes she must destroy things to create something better.

To use “coach speak,” she can “hold the space” like no one else I’ve ever known. I’m not alone in that assessment, having spoken to several of Anna’s clients. One of them said to me: “Sometimes I would spend my hour on the phone with her just sobbing hysterically and at the end, I’d feel so much better and Anna would say, ‘It’s just what you needed and I love you’.”

She has travelled extensively, embraces the lessons each location has to offer, and translates those lessons into her business. She marries the wild to the practical.

She is obviously committed to her own personal growth and is hopeful that even though her own daughter may well end up in therapy some day, that modeling personal growth is the best and most powerful way she can mother.

She is married to a man whom she surprises on a regular basis…and he’s grateful for that.

~~~~~~~~~~

This woman has reframed her past to work for her. It no longer holds her back but is a source of clarity and motivation in her present life. Would you like to release the story that holds you back and tell yourself a new, more powerful one so you can live up to your potential?  

Reframe your past, make good on your future: The Transformational Interview.

Handling Unreasonable, Irrational, Or Downright Crazy-Ass Requests ( From You Know Who)

No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To

…handling unreasonable, irrational, or downright crazy-ass requests from your mother (or anyone, really).

My nearly 50-year-old mother asked me if I’d be a surrogate mother for her and her current much-younger boyfriend, who wants a baby!!

She’s crazy! What a crazy-ass request. At the very least it’s unreasonable…and irrational! What is she thinking??

My head is about to explode. It’s so ICKY and wrong. Not to mention, I just had my first baby and am finally getting my body back. I don’t want to do this! I am so mad I could spit nails.

Now, that’s quite a request, but whether your mother is asking you to have a baby for her or simply to drive her to the store, oftentimes the reaction is the same, so my advice is the same.

Step 1: Take words like “unreasonable,” “irrational,” and “crazy-ass” out of the equation. You’re left with the request.

It’s your reaction to her request, and all the adjectives that you’re using to describe it, that is causing your anger…not the request itself.

Step 2: If you haven’t yet said “no” to her, you are, on some level, considering saying “yes” to your mother’s request. Ask yourself why.

Why would you say yes? 

If you’re thinking, “I don’t WANT to say yes…” ask yourself why you haven’t said “no.” And for every reason you give, ask yourself “why” again and again until you come to the underlying reason.

Step 3: Let yourself have your reasons for saying “no.”

Although it’s not necessary (or preferable) to attach your reasons to your response when you actually speak to your mother, it’s a good idea to write them all down anyway.

Don’t censor yourself. Just let it all out.

Step 4: Practice saying “no thank you” with someone who’s neutral and with whom you feel safe.

Neutral is important here if you’re truly serious about ending the drama. You don’t want someone who’s going to validate and/or stoke your righteous indignation. 

Have the person pretend to be your mother and make the request. Respond with a simple, “no thank you” (without any of the reasons you wrote down in Step 3.

Keep practicing saying “no thank you” until you no longer feel the urge or need to justify or explain it.

Step 5: Ask yourself how you want to feel when you finally do respond to her request.

Do you want to feel calm? Reasonable? Sane?

Align your thoughts with your desired feelings. What do you need to be thinking in order to feel calm, reasonable, and sane?

Step 6: Choose to feel compassion for yourself. 

Don’t heap additional pain onto yourself for having gotten nail-spitting angry. Forgive yourself for your painful reaction. A good way to do this is to simply place your hands over your heart and say it out loud: “I forgive myself for hurting myself with my anger.”

You’re now ready to respond your mother’s request.

If you want to, you can choose to explain why you’re saying “no” but remind yourself how you want to feel in the moment: calm, reasonable, and sane.

Let the reason you give her come from that place.

~~~~~~~~~~

P.S. Got a question that needs a No-Nonsense, No-Drama, No-Guilt response from me? Send it tokaren@kclanderson.com. All questions will be kept anonymous (names changed if necessary) and answers will be published in future editions of No Nonsense, No Drama, No Guilt: The Resilient Daughter’s Guide To…