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{Resilient Daughter/Empowered Woman Project} Edyn O.

{When the idea for The Resilient Daughter/Empowered Woman Project came to me, Edyn – who chose to remain anonymous – is the first person I wanted to interview. Hers was probably the greatest influence in me choosing to want to develop my own resilience.}

Edyn is truthful and genuine.

She also spent many of the early years of her life lying.

[I had to be a child who had no problems. And so I lied to my mother all the time in order to keep her happy and to please her.]

She lives the both/and concept of “strong back/soft front.” This concept is described by Buddhist Roshi Joan Halifax as the relationship between equanimity and compassion. “Strong back” is equanimity and the capacity to uphold yourself. “Soft front” is the ability to be open to things as they are.

And yet, she used to believe that her relationship with her mother was an either/or: either complete enmeshment or total abandonment.

[She neglected me when I was a child because she was depressed, but when I became an adult, she became needy and clingy and wanted to be part of everything I did. She wanted to be involved in every facet of my life.]

Edyn knows the power of a better story.

[I am not responsible for how she feels. Healthy boundaries serve both of us and our relationship.]

Yet, for years she told herself a story that robbed her of her integrity because she was lying and pretending.

[I told myself that I needed to be good, to please her, that I need to lie to her so she could maintain a facade and be happy. I told myself that I was responsible for how she felt, and that I needed to make sure she felt good. I told myself I was a bad daughter if I wasn’t complying with everything she wanted.]

Edyn is full of authentic joy. Each and every time I speak with her, I hear lightness and effervescence in her voice.

And yet, she knows resentment intimately.

[I was filled with resentment because she wasn’t there when I needed her as a child, and now here she was, suffocating me. I hated it and wanted it all at the same time. I still blame her for my resentment a lot of the time…not in a general way, but I give her credit for it, like she’s causing me to be bad a bad daughter.]

Edyn understands that a truly meaningful life includes feeling (literally feeling…not just the idea of feeling…emotions that are not comfortable.

[I still struggle with the idea that I want a close relationship with her but I don’t always understand how to do that in a way without falling back into old patterns of believing I have to please her and make her happy. But I do my work and I keep myself in a space where I know that I am responsible for how I feel and she’s responsible for how she feels. That has been tremendously helpful for me.]

She’s compassionate. She can also be loud, boisterous, and a bit sarcastic. And she loves all of that about herself.

Edyn knows that her mother was the perfect mother for her.

[Because she was my mother, I became strong and independent. I worked hard and did very well. I am bright and capable. I love that about myself now…and because she was my mother (not in spite of) but because, that helped me become who I am.]

Her mother taught her two important lessons:

[The lesson she taught me on purpose is that I could be whatever I wanted to be and that I should never be dependent on anyone else. The lesson that she taught me, NOT on purpose is that no matter what happens to us, we can create the lives we want. We are not victims.]

Edyn is also a champion at setting boundaries.

[The first major boundary I set with my mother is when I told her, “I want you to know that my relationship with my family has to be separate from my relationship with you, and there are lots of events that we won’t invite you to, but we will let you know when you are welcome.”]

And setting boundaries continues to be her biggest challenge.

[Biggest challenge now? Setting boundaries, resetting boundaries, and enforcing boundaries. And when I don’t set boundaries she ends up feeling angry and frustrated with me…and sometimes I still take on “I’m not a good daughter.” And then I remind myself, “If she’s upset at me, it’s not a reflection of me.”]

She is just like her mother.

[I am often controlling like she is…she tries to control the universe and so do I. We like the same things. We like nice meals, hiking, going to movies. We like to be in charge of everything. We’re both interested in having things be well done, classy, and proper.]

She is also very different. 

[I am independent, strong, and self motivated. She’s not. She never worked and had little ambition. She is afraid of a lot of things while I am risk taker.]

And there are ways in which she is not like her mother, but wishes she was!

[She’s detail oriented…the way she prepares meals, the way she wraps the present, the way she makes the bed. I admire that and I am not that way. She’s thoughtful. I am casual and lackadaisical.]

What Edyn most wants her mother to know:

[I spent my whole life trying to please her (lying) and now when I don’t, it has nothing to do with how much I love her or not, it’s just about me taking care of myself.

I want her to know that, sure, it would be easier for me to lie to her and pretend, but I would be risking my integrity. We might not be as “close” as a result, but I am smart enough to know that I can’t blame her. It’s a choice I am making versus something that is not available to me.]

How she consciously chooses to parent:

[I am available, I talk to my children about everything, I want to know their struggle and pain, and they know they don’t have to pretend with me.

But you know what? I do relate to how she must have felt when I was a kid, because I desperately want them to be doing well. I want them to do well in school, have friends, and be happy for my own benefit. I really see that.

I am more engaged with my kids not because of the way my mother was but because of the child I was.]

Edyn chooses to mother herself this way:

[I give myself space and understanding and unconditional love and approval.]

She is most proud of the fact that…

[The legacy of victimization and pain in women in my family will stop with me…and that was very hard-earned.]

Edyn is a resilient daughter and an empowered woman.

[Resilience is the willingness to continue working on the relationship. It’s so exhausting to do it, and it would be so easy NOT to do it. To say, “Forget it, I’m not going to do it” and what that may look like is going back to lying and people pleasing, or completely shutting your mother out of your life.

Resilience is the willingness to go at it again, to try it again, to keep trying even though it’s so exhausting and exasperating.

Is the pain of not doing it worse than the pain of doing it? Yes because the pain of not doing it doesn’t allow for the growth that is necessary for evolving.]

Edyn’s advice for Resilient Daughters:

[Start taking responsibility for your part/role in the relationship. Your relationship with your mother is not just about your mother – it’s about YOU and how you are in relationship to her. That is something you have complete control and power over. It’s easy to understand intellectually but you really live that and understand it in a way that you can apply it… and it is worth every ounce of effort.

It’s not necessary for you to remove her from your life in order to have peace with her…it’s not necessary for her to pass away, it’s not necessary that you be on non-speaking terms with her for you to be at peace.

The reason most women don’t do the work is because they’re afraid, they’re resentful, and they’re exhausted. I’m not saying that in some cases, that there aren’t mothers who shouldn’t be in their daughter’s lives because certainly there are situations where that is true. But that’s a whole different scenario than cutting your mother out of your life because you’re tired and afraid.]

She’s All That

Edyn is a highly successful entrepreneur.

She is a published author.

Her favorite job (other than what she does now) was giving horseback riding lessons and leading trail rides.

She is married and says that getting married helped her see what a healthy relationship is all about…what a marriage can be and should be.

She actively practices shame resiliency.

She laughs often and freely. Her laugh is infectious.

Learn more about The Resilient Daughter/Empowered Woman Project.

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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 current life, and as she moves forward. 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.

 

 

{Resilient Daughter/Empowered Woman Project} Dianne Daniels

She is tall, poised, striking. She is an image consultant and speaker. She has a confidence that comes from a deep place within her…there’s no shallow facade.

This is my consistent experience of Dianne, whom I have known for at least 10 years.

And if you know her today, you’d never guess that at a young age, Dianne experienced incest at the hands of her father and older brother (both of whom are deceased).

[It didn’t hurt and I wasn’t scared. I’ve heard so many survivor stories filled with violence and shame and other awful things, but none of that was true for me. I didn’t make it mean anything about me.]

After her father died when she was nine, Dianne’s relationship with her mother was one of contrasts and contradictions.

[My mother was both my best friend and my harshest critic. I worshipped the ground she walked on. She could do no wrong. And then I found out she was human and that she didn’t have all the answers…it was partly over time that I realized this, but I think it started when I understood that if I had told her about what happened to me, I am not sure if she would or could have done anything to stop it.

As I grew up, I learned that I better not disagree or say certain things…because if my mother didn’t like you, you were done. She was a yeller and her tongue was so sharp it could cut you to ribbons. She was famous for saying, “It’s my house, my rules. If you don’t like it, let the doorknob hit you where the good Lord split you. Goodbye.” I didn’t want to risk it.]

I felt like I never quite measured up and at the same time, especially later in life, she was proud of me for achieving what she herself hadn’t been able to.]

Dianne used to take a lot of what her mother said personally.

[She said the worst thing I could be was fat, black, and nappy-headed. I was all of those things. Food = love. Whoever got the most was loved the most. So I tried to keep up with my older brother.]

Now she tells herself a better story.

[Inside of me is a stubborn refusal to blindly accept other people’s definitions of who I am. And the world needs that.]

Although she grew up with the black-and-white “you’re either with me or against me” attitude of her mother, Dianne chooses to embrace shades of gray.

[I am more likely to accept someone’s difference of opinion with me without throwing them out of my life. For instance, I have some good friends with whom I have many political differences of opinion. That doesn’t mean they can’t be my friends, it means we have a difference of opinion, and that’s okay. My mother tended to “cut people off” if they didn’t agree with her most of the time – this included her children!]

Like many daughters who have become mothers, Dianne made a choice to parent differently than she was parented.

[I made a conscious decision that my kids could disagree with me if they wanted to.]

(Dianne’s daughter, Ariana, who sat in on the interview, verified this: “She may not always agree with me, but she always respects me.”)

She also consciously chooses to mother herself:

[I do this by being selfish in a healthy way. I grew up thinking I had to do for others before I could do for myself. Doing something just for me wasn’t in anyone’s vocabulary. Now I take classes that I enjoy, just because; I cook and eat food that is not only healthy for me, but also because I really LIKE cooking; I buy clothing that flatters my “right now” body, not the one I wish I had or the one I’m working towards. I chose my latest hairdo (dreadlocks) and I KNOW my mother would have disapproved, but that’s okay – I wanted them.

I choose to support causes and organizations that I believe in, not necessarily what my friends agree with, or my husband agrees with. I have the right to do what I want to do with MY money – and choose where it’s spent.]

Dianne’s advice for resilient daughters:

[You are not your mother! You have a different frame of reference, different experiences, and that’s okay. You do not have to be defined by your mother…or by anything that has happened to you. Also? Mothers are human. They make mistakes.]

Dianne is a resilient daughter and an empowered woman.

[Resilience is being able to define yourself as a separate and independent person while acknowledging your mother’s example and influence.]

She’s All That

dianne Dianne is The Diva Style Coach“an irrationally passionate coach, consultant, and speaker  whose heart’s desire is to help remove the stigma surrounding weight-loss surgery and     empower patients to achieve more than physical weight loss.”

She is married to Aaron, mother to Ron and Ariana, and stepmother to Christopher.

She grew up in Detroit, MI.

She serves as the Democrat Registrar of Voters in her home city of Norwich, CT, where she has lived since 1993.

She says she “came out of her shell” at the age of 12 when her mother took her to a taping of Kelly & Co. (WXYZ-TV in Detroit) and the newscaster handed her a microphone and asked her a question. “I got that microphone in my hand and I wouldn’t shut up.” The question? “How do you feel good about yourself when people talk bad about you?” Even then she was searching for answers to low self-esteem and little did she know she’d be building a business later in life around that very subject!

She loves old houses (she owns and lives in one that was built in 1850) and is known for her trademark high heels.

Learn more about The Resilient Daughter/Empowered Woman Project.

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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.

 

On Desire, Preference + How I Stopped (Am Stopping) Letting Guilt Run The Show

This is one of those blog posts that started off being about one thing and has slowly morphed into something deeper. Much, much deeper.

At first I was going to write about this this thing I do, that I don’t want to do any more, and how I overcame it.

And then, when I realized that I hadn’t really overcome it, I was like, well shit, what do I say now?

(And that’s pretty much why I haven’t blogged in a long time).

So this thing I do, that I don’t want to do anymore: I get tense and reactive (and sometimes downright panicky) when I am a passenger on my husband’s motorcycle (and sometimes when he’s driving a car, but not nearly as much).

All it takes is one little thing, like suspecting that another driver might pull out in front of us…and, at the very least I start flinching and at the very worse I become annoying and controlling.

A few years ago it became a source of tension between us. He’d be frustrated because he thought I was criticizing his skills, and I’d be frustrated because I felt that he didn’t enjoy having me as a passenger and that I was ruining all his fun.

Actually, I was hurt.

It’s not like I ever held him back from riding on his own – in fact, I encourage it.

So why couldn’t he just dial it back when I am passenger? Well, of course he dials it back when I am a passenger, but not to the point where I feel comfortable. It’s the only thing we’ve ever really fought about.

And let me just take a moment and say that I trust my husband more than anyone else in the world. He is a seriously skilled, confident, considerate, aware, intelligent driver/rider who understands his vehicles both mechanically and in terms of what they are capable of doing, and he takes very good care of them to ensure that they are running properly and safely.

He is not a “jerk” on the road.

But all the logic and trust in the world didn’t seem to help.

And so, over the past several years, he has done a lot of riding on his own, and that is fine with me.

Earlier this year he asked me if I’d like to go with him in early September on one of his regular rides to New Hampshire. We talked about it and he assured me that he’d ride conservatively and I assured him that I wouldn’t be tense and reactive.

He rode conservatively and I still wasn’t comfortable. I didn’t enjoy myself and neither did he.

We had several conversations about it. He wanted to know how he could make it better for me and I was starting to realized that there was probably nothing he could do.

It’s only in hindsight that I see the sadness and guilt I was feeling.

When we got back, I thought to myself, “I need to fix this. I need to change my thoughts so I can change how I feel so I can change my annoying behavior. Or maybe this is more of a fight/flight thing? How can I make it so that I actually enjoy the ride (versus just tolerating it)?”

With the help of a colleague I examined the whole thing, had some ah-ha moments, and felt a lot better.

A week or so later I suggested to my husband that we take a shorter ride up to Narragansett, RI, (about an hour from where we live) and have lunch. It was a gorgeous day and I was envisioning a nice relaxing ride and a romantic lunch.

We got about two towns away and I burst into tears…

I asked him to pull over and said, “I don’t think I can do this.” We turned around and went home.

Again, there was incredible guilt and sadness on my part.

That was over a month ago and it’s been weighing on my mind ever since.

Yes, it’s partly a control thing. It’s partly that it’s kind of boring because it’s hard to see when you’re sitting behind someone…and there’s nothing to do but sit there in one rather limited position. And it’s partly a “feeling safe” thing: the only point of contact between me and the motorcycle is my bum on the seat and my feet on the pegs. I am perched on it (whereas Tim has his hands on the handlebars, his legs around the bike…he becomes one with it).

And all of that adds up to the real reason for the sadness and guilt: I just don’t like it.

The sadness and guilt comes from not loving something my husband loves and for not wanting to do it with him, for not enjoying it…and all that I make that mean.

And so rather than just accepting and owning my preference, I was trying to control the way he was riding, I beating myself up for not being able to “manage my fear,” and for thinking that I “couldn’t” do it.

I was making myself wrong over and over and over again.

And I’ve done this to myself in myriad ways since I was a little girl.

And so I am making a vow to myself: I am giving myself permission to not like what I don’t like, to allow myself to have desires and preferences without guilt, and to honor those desires and preferences without justification and without fear of what others might think of me. Or that they might not love me.

Oh, and about the motorcycle versus car thing? Because I truly enjoy riding in his car, it’s much easier for me to manage my mind and thus my controlling back-seat-driver behavior.

Do you allow yourself to not like what you don’t like without guilt? Do you allow yourself to have desires and preferences without justification? Tell me all about it!

You Do Not Have To Take What Is Handed Down To You

If you’re anything like me you have probably wondered, “Why am I the way I am? And is the way I am set in stone? Am I destined to carry on my family’s legacies? Is that just the way it is?”

You note when you’re being just like your mother and maybe you cringe. You remember all the times that someone told you that you look just like her. You understand that, because your mother (or father) had cancer or heart disease (or addiction or mental illness or whatever), that you have a greater chance of having it too.

I know many (MANY) women who make a conscious effort to not be like their mothers because they want life to be different (better) for their children. And yet, despite all their conscious efforts, their children often seemed destined to make many of the same choices, decisions, and mistakes.

And in some cases, the mothers were just not aware of some of the patterns they were passing on.

My mother and her mother had a very rocky relationship and I KNOW that my mother didn’t want to be the same kind of mother her mother was. She said it out loud, and a lot more than once. And in many ways, she wasn’t. And yet…and yet…

I’ll never forget the time, when I was in my early 20s, my mother wrote her mother a letter, effectively “divorcing” her. And then there I was, 25+ years later, effectively doing the same thing, despite my mother believing that things were different between us.

After I became my grandmother’s legal guardian in 2011 and it became obvious that she’d no longer be able to live alone in her home, I moved her into a nursing home, cleaned out her house, and sold it. I found a series of letters that my mother and her mother had written to each other, from the time my mother was 18.

I treasure those letters because they give me such insight…and they mirror, almost exactly, some of the correspondence my mother and I have exchanged over the years. In some cases, just basic day-to-day observations and news, but other times they were filled with rage, hurt, accusations, and confusion.

I didn’t have kids of my own…the desire was just never there. Sometimes I congratulate myself for not passing down the dysfunctional patterns, but if I am honest, I understand that the patterns get passed on anyway, if I don’t consciously choose to change them in me. I saw the effects of those patterns in my other relationships, from my marriage, to my sister, to my stepkids.

And here’s the surprising part: I have discovered that all that stuff ISN’T set in stone. By being honest and aware of how, at first I chose to take was was handed down to me, then deciding that I didn’t want it, I released it, not just for me, but for my mother, her mother, and on and on. I don’t have a direct future generation related to me…but I can be a role model and set an example.

Mothers hand down more than just physical stuff; they hand down beliefs, DNA, mental illness, addiction, and dysfunctional patterns. Sometimes we’re aware that we’ve chosen to take them on, and other times we’re not…those beliefs and patterns are running in the background of our lives and we have no clue. We just know that we’re not as content as we’d like to be.

It’s not something to blame them (or ourselves) for, it’s something to understand, accept, and work on, knowing that we can do hard work without suffering…that it can be one of the most joyful, affirming things we ever do.

So even if you chose to take what was handed to you, you can also choose to let it go.

Doing this work heals, not just you, and not just in the present, but past generations. And it sets up a healing vibration that ripples out into the world.

World peace does indeed start inside each and every one of us (and I know how corny-beauty-pageant-contestant that sounds, but it’s true).

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Registration for Sweet Blessed Relief ends tomorrow at midnight. There are a few spots left and I’d be honored and thrilled if you joined us.

Questions? Here are some of the questions I’ve received about the class, and my answers.

Does my mother have to be alive in order for me to get something out this?

NO! To be honest, the class isn’t so much about the two of you as it is about just you and how you want to show up, not just in relation to your mother (whether she’s alive or not), but in general.

I don’t want to have to talk to/see/interact with my mother. Are you going to suggest that I should?

Absolutely not. For some women, choosing to not have their mothers in their lives is the very best choice. What I want for these women is to have made that choice from a loving, proactive, empowered place, not from a reactive, defensive place.

My mother was abusive and violent when I was a child. Am I supposed to forgive and forget?

This class isn’t about putting up with or approving of abuse whether it happened long ago or is happening now. It’s about learning how to tell the story about what happened in such a way that it doesn’t hurt you now, but rather empowers you. My job isn’t to tell you what to do; it’s to guide you in having your own back…in learning how to trust yourself implicitly when it comes to your relationship with your mother.

How many women will be in the class?

I’m keeping this relatively small and intimate…I envision 12-15 women participating.

What if I can’t attend the live calls?

If you can’t be on the line, no worries. I will be recording all of the calls and putting them up in our private forum within 24 hours. You will have plenty of time to ask questions and get individual attention from me in the forum.

Where is the forum?

We will join together for support, questions, and sharing on the Ruzuku platform, which allows participants to create their own profiles, keep track of their progress through the course, and share their writing, all on a confidential course website. I have taken several classes there myself and have found it super easy to use and intuitive.

Will you run this class again soon?

Probably, but I am not sure when. I actually have two, very cool related projects in the works, including an in-person workshop. I would recommend joining in for this round if you are feeling truly called to take part. If you have any questions about whether or not this class is for right for you, shoot me an email and we can chat…and no hard selling at all on my part. I am not here to force anyone to do anything!

The Big BUT When It Comes To Being Chronically Angry At Your Mother

“So, tell me about your relationship with your mother?”

Classic, right? It’s what every therapist I’ve ever seen, traditional or alternative, has (eventually) asked when I sought help for various issues (from weight loss to anxiety).

And then there are all the books I’ve read…books like “Mothers Who Can’t Love: A Healing Guide For Daughters” by Dr. Susan Forward and “Will I Ever Be Good Enough: Healing The Daughters Of Narcissistic Mothers” by Dr. Karyl McBride.

While I found great comfort in telling my story to therapists, and in realizing that I am so not alone when I read those books, none of it did anything to bring me true and lasting freedom and peace.

(Of course not, because freedom and peace can only come from within.)

Now, that’s not to say that therapy and books weren’t helpful, because they most certainly were. In fact, I’d say they were key parts of the process.

As I said, it was a relief to have an explanation, but I also found myself even more validated in feeling angry, sad, bitter, disappointed, and reactive. And for a while that was rather exhilarating. But what I didn’t realize is that, as a result, I went deeper in blame mode than I ever had before.

And that’s because I had a deep-seated unconscious belief: it shouldn’t have been that way. My mother shouldn’t have been the way she was, I shouldn’t have been the way I was, and all the bad things that happened in the past shouldn’t have happened.

I don’t know about you, but I have never found freedom and peace in shoulds and shouldn’ts. I just didn’t know any other way!

So while I didn’t like feeling angry, sad, bitter, disappointed, and reactive, those emotions were validated by therapists and books (and friends and family)…I thought had a “good reason” to feel them.

Besides, there’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with feeling so-called negative emotions…it’s actually imperative that we DO feel them.

But here’s the big BUT (the one big sign that you might have unresolved mother issues): when we’re chronically angry, sad, bitter, disappointed, and reactive, we don’t perceive that we’re responsible for feeling those emotions – we believe that we either don’t have a choice or that we’re being made to feel them…by our mothers.

That’s where Sweet Blessed Relief comes in. If you’ve gone the therapy/book route and are still struggling to find peace and freedom in your relationship with your mother, I invite you to join me and the other daughters who have signed up for this six-week journey from defensive and reactive to empowered and resilient.

It’s time for true peace and freedom.

Questions, concerns, comments? Use this form to contact me!

What’s On The Other Side Of The Struggle?

I don’t remember a time that I didn’t struggle, on some level, in my relationship with my mother.

One of my earliest memories is of me sitting in my high chair crying with rage and shock because she’d dumped a bowl of cereal and milk over my head. Apparently because I was being stubborn and wouldn’t finish it.

A more recent memory: the time I smiled at her through an open window and she sneered and gave me the finger (yes that one).

Hopelessness.

Helplessness.

Anxiety.

Self-loathing.

Impotent rage.

Blame and shame. Oh the blame and the shame. Blaming myself, blaming my mother. Being ashamed for blaming.

‘Round and ’round it went.

(No, not ALL the time. My life hasn’t been a complete and total hot mess and I want you to know that as I type this, I am smiling).

Those emotions led me to do some pretty dramatic things like binge eat, look for love in all the wrong places (to put it euphemistically), spend money I didn’t have until I was significantly in debt, try to control others to the point where I nearly damaged important relationships, and, at times, lash out at people I love.

And on a more subtle, but certainly profound level, I held myself back from fully exploring, using, and sharing my gifts and talents.

Wondering who and what I could have been if only…or believing that so much of my time had been wasted “asleep at the wheel” of my life.

In an effort to NOT struggle in my relationship with my mother I finally cut her out of my life and actually found myself giving it MORE of my time, attention, and energy. 

And I can tell you right now, it didn’t feel good…not deep down inside where it matters.

I was not free. I was not at peace.

(And that’s not to say that, for some daughters, the very best, most freeing, peaceful thing to do might actually be to sever ties with their mothers.)

But I knew I needed and wanted something more for myself. It was time to heal on a deeper level (those of you who have known me for a while know that my first conscious healing journey concerned finding peace with food and my body).

Many of the same tools that served me then have served me as I do this deeper healing.

And so I did the work (and I will continue to do it)…I asked myself the hard questions, and more importantly, I answered them. And the answers have been profoundly satisfying.

For the first time in my life, I know what it’s like to…

…live my life without the constant negative thoughts about my mother

…live without thinking that she should approve of my life

…show up in the world as myself and not “in reaction” to her 

…not be afraid of her

Sweet blessed relief. That’s how it feels.

I’d love to help you do the same. I invite you to join me and other daughters for a six-week journey from defensive and reactive to empowered and resilient.

Questions, concerns, comments? Use this form to contact me!

When It Comes To Your Relationship With Your Mother…

…does it often feel like an all-or-nothing, either/or proposition?

You have to either be defensive, resistant, and protective of yourself, or you have to roll over and let her do and say whatever she wants.

Or maybe it feels like you either have to keep your conversations shallow and surface-y or go right into the emotional deep end.

And then there are times when you think you either have to shut her out of your life for good or allow yourself to be enmeshed with her forever.

And none of these options feel good…in fact just thinking about it wears you out.

Having felt this way in my relationship with my own mother, and having worked with other women on this very issue, I know it’s common to feel this way…and it sucks.

At the very least it’s slightly annoying or limiting, and the very worst it’s intense and can feel as debilitating as impotent rage. And underlying all of it is sadness…maybe even grief.

I spent years in either/or land. In fact, way back when, if someone had told me that it didn’t have to be this way, I’d have said, “You don’t know my mother.” It felt like an intractable situation with no pleasant solution.

But now I know better. I know that there are infinite choices available, not just all-or-nothing decisions. And there’s immense freedom, peace, and empowerment that comes with knowing that, and with finally being able to make choices that feel good and right (and when I say that, I don’t mean making choices for your mother’s sake, or for her approval).

So when it comes to your relationship with your mother, this I know for sure: you are not as powerless as you feel, and you can make choices that feel good.

I invite you to join with me and other daughters as we explore this and other mother/daughter relationship misconceptions in Sweet Blessed Relief: A Six-Week Course For Adult Daughters Seeking Resilience + Empowerment.

Questions, concerns, comments? Use this form to me!

P.S. The deadline for registration is Friday, September 12.

This + That: Kale Salad, A Question, A Poem

Grateful to women like Lucy Hilmer.

The best kale salad I’ve ever had (I make it about twice a month)

Registration is now open for Sweet Blessed Relief: A Six-Week Course For Adult Daughters Seeking Resilience & Empowerment

Something to ask yourself…

The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly universe or a hostile universe. ~ Albert Eistein

Something to remember…

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. ~ Mary Oliver

What Picking Up Other People’s Garbage Unexpectedly Taught Me About Compassion

“Many of us think that compassion drains us, but I promise you it is something that truly enlivens us.” ~ Joan Halifax

I was taking one of my nearly daily OBP 365 walks and I came across a McDonald’s bag, either tossed by someone from a moving car or perhaps left there by someone who had pulled over to eat (it was right near the private beaches on Pequot Ave. in New London, CT, where, no matter what time of year, folks pull over to take in the view, party, read, have lunch, or just be quiet).

I walked past the bag…and then stopped. I turned around, walked back, and picked it up, along with a bunch of other trash that was lying nearby. Bottles, wrappers, cigarette butts, etc. I picked it all up and continued walking, picking up trash as I went, and dumping it into various trash receptacles along the way.

I was not disgusted or angry. I didn’t have thoughts like, “people shouldn’t litter” or “people are such slobs.” I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement. I actually took photos of some of the handfuls of garbage I collected.

garbage1

garbage2

garbage3

There’s another part of this story…one that goes back 30 years or so. Back then I would secretly eat fast food in my car and then toss the garbage out the car window as I was driving, usually in the dark and (I was hoping) with no one else around.

Back then I was angry and full of self-loathing, although I didn’t know it at the time. Sure I knew it wasn’t right, but pain of the guilt of littering didn’t outweigh the pain I had inside.

And so perhaps, in the moment that I decided to turn around and pick up that McDonald’s bag on the side of the road, I felt the pain whomever had left it there. Because I certainly wasn’t doing it out of guilt or to make up for the times when I, myself, had littered.

And I choose to feel compassion rather than disgust.

In her TED talk Buddhist roshi Joan Halifax says that while compassion is present in all of us, that it is an inherent human quality, it needs to be cultivated and nurtured…that the conditions for compassion to be activated are very particular.

She tells us that compassion is comprised of the capacity to see clearly into the nature of suffering, the ability to stand strong and recognize that we are not separate from suffering, the desire to transform suffering, engaging in activities that transform suffering, and, most importantly not being attached to outcome (because being attached to outcomes deeply distorts our ability to be fully present).

I didn’t know this when I was picking up the trash the other day. In fact, I only came across Joan’s TED talk last night (thank you Tonia).

She goes on to say that the conditions for compassion to be activated in a person are particular. And that the enemies of compassion are pity, moral outrage, fear.

I know a lot about pity, moral outrage, and fear. I woke up to those qualities in myself about 10 years ago and I’ve been, by turns, rejecting and embracing them. That’s why I like to write about defensiveness, anger, lying, and shame.

Joan also says that neuroscience has shown that compassion has certain qualities. A person who is cultivating compassion feels suffering more deeply than those who are not, but is also able to return to baseline sooner.

This is resilience.

Compassion also enhances neural integration (meaning that it hooks up all parts of the brain) as well as immunity.

I’ve got tears streaming down my face as I write this because I’ve often wondered about my capacity to not only feel true compassion, but to act from that feeling.

That I can is a revelation and a relief.

It’s funny what the simple act of picking up someone else’s garbage taught me.

Have you ever learned an unexpected lesson like this?

 

On Denying Ourselves Pleasure

A month ago (exactly) I wrote about how I haven’t been blogging much, that maybe I was afraid to say what I needed/wanted to say, but that I wasn’t going to let fear hold me back.

I made a promise to myself that I would blog at least once a week, and I’ve barely been making that happen. I’ve been happy to share what others are doing in my This + That posts on Sundays, but I’ve barely been able to write much more than that.

Sure, I’ve had ideas…fits and starts of writing, mostly discarded.

And then this morning I had one of my beloved ah-ha moments.

Which, of course, didn’t come from out of the blue…I’ve been cogitating on this for a while now, and noticing how I’ve been engaging in old self-punishing behaviors (namely rushing through activities that are meant to be enjoyed, eating quickly, sometimes eating food that I know feels like crap in my body, drinking more than feels good, moping, distracting, etc.).

In writing about how it felt in my journal, I said: I am holding back, feeling like I am not sure what to say or how to say it. I start to write and then think it’s stupid or too…something. For years I was able to express myself often and beautifully. It came easily and joyfully, even when I was writing about “hard” things. And, for whatever reason, I no longer feel free to be me, at least not the way I used to. And it sucks.

So I was thinking about it some more and I asked myself, “Why are you holding yourself back from something you say you love to do? Something that brings you such pleasure and joy? Something that you believe saved your life several years ago? Why would you do that to yourself?”

Why indeed.

Two reasons:

1. On some level, I don’t think I deserve to have a pleasurable life (I KNOW I’m not alone on this one…).

Sure, intellectually I don’t agree with that, but the intellectual part of my brain isn’t always running the show.

AND

2. I’m really good at punishing myself when I think I’ve done something wrong (or have taken to heart the opinion of someone else that I’ve done something wrong, and that’s exactly what I did in regards to blogging).

(And so ’round and ’round it goes).

It’s funny because there have been periods in my life when I allowed myself guilt-free pleasure, sometimes for relatively long stretches. And when I allow myself that, I am sooooo much more productive, effective, and fun to be around (even if I am by myself).

So what gives? Why now?

Because it’s what happens.

Old, deep, limiting beliefs don’t, unfortunately (but really, fortunately), just go poof.

As we grow, evolve, and transform, we revisit them with a new perspective. Years ago, I would have been pissed at myself for having not learned my damned lesson the first time.

Now, I am grateful that I get to revisit these lessons and learn something new from them.

I imagine that there will still be some fits and starts as I engage my voice again, and that’s okay. For now, I am finding pleasure in expressing this.

What are your beliefs about pleasure? Do you deny yourself pleasure? In what way? Why?