Tag Archives: growth

Look Both Ways Before Crossing…

23 Dec

I know you’ve heard those words of wisdom, at least in reference to crossing streets.  I’d like to put a new spin on it for you and encourage you to look both ways before crossing your partner.

Remember first that you are with them for a reason, hopefully many reasons.  One of the reasons is because they get you.  Most of choose someone who understands us, and knows us like no one else.  Sometimes they can see us when we can’t even see ourselves.

I’m the first to admit that I am stubborn and I usually start off every argument sure that I’m right and it is just a matter of proving it.  In my head it sounds like this… “Once I state my case I can go on my merry way of doing things the way I do them.   They’ll see that I was right all along.”

I have often fallen into the trap of preparing my evidence rather than listening to the other side and the perspectives of those who matter to me.  Listening can be difficult when I’m on a mission to prove myself right.  And I find the hardest thing to do is to stop talking and hear how I am being perceived by those I love.  But eventually I do it and I call that looking both ways, my way and their way. 

I know their way matters.  I respect their way of seeing things, it is one of the reasons I chose them to be in my life.  They are smart, observant and they shoot straight with me.  Yes it hurts.  The truth always does.

It’s not in my best interest to cross them and walk around being right all the time.  It’s not in yours either.  Look at the loves in your life.  How and why did you let them in?  Is it safe to be you?   When they call you out on something is it out of love and their hope for you to be accountable and be your best?  For you to grow and be more of who they learned to love in the beginning?  If so… look both ways before crossing your partner.

The more….the UNmerrier

11 Nov

I’m so glad you’re reading this. It can only mean one thing, that I had the courage to finish writing it.

It happened again. There I was in a group of people. There were all so nice and we had something in common. There was laughter and friendly chatter and I could not have felt more alone. Why does this keep happening to me?

I tried to fight it with everything I had. I answered questions, I nodded my head, and I even initiated conversations and attempted to tell funny stories. It worked pretty well for a while and then I got quiet. I recoiled back into my own world inside my head where I feel safest. At first I was applauding myself on the accomplished task of socializing. And then I saw the lady I had been talking to, turn to someone else and start a new conversation. Was it me or was there relief in her eyes that I’d stopped talking and acting awkward? I watched the two ladies talk with ease. I laughed on the side when they laughed as if I could relate, but honestly, I don’t even know what they were saying. I was lost inside my head again. Finally I just got up and went to the bathroom hoping to kill more time until we could leave.

I’ve been reflecting on the experience and wondering what why being in a group triggers feelings of loneliness inside me. I know some people that can’t stand to be alone because that is the setting where they feel the loneliest. For me, it is clearly the opposite. I prefer to be alone and it is the group experience that often unnerves me. It’s yet another way that I’m different than other people. Am I really the only one who feels this way?

I really didn’t want to keep writing about this feeling until last week. The universe always has a plan… I just happened to meet someone that said she feels this same way. She wasn’t commiserating with me. I had not shared my feelings with her. But I knew what she was going to say before the words ever came out of her mouth. She said, “There are all these people around me but it’s too much, it’s like the more people that are around me the more I feel…..lonely.” I mouthed it as she said it. I knew she would say it. It was like we were meant to meet. I also knew then I had to finish writing this blog entry for her, for all the others (there must be more), and for myself.

Knowing what I know about Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development and how our childhood experiences can greatly affect our adult life, I went digging. I dug into the childhood memories to see what came up for me and why I felt inadequate in a group of people. I landed on a birthday party of mine from my elementary years. I found myself right back in my back yard getting ready to play a game with all my friends around me when my older brothers showed up. In a matter of minutes all my friends were playing whatever game my brothers had instigated. I was standing there in front of everyone in broad daylight yet I had disappeared. Even on my special day to celebrate me, I wasn’t enough. I know in part it was this moment that changed things for me; one because I remember it so clearly, and two because my eyes well up and my heart hurts every time I recall it.

When I’m in a group of adults, the thoughts sound like this… “I won’t be interesting enough to keep them engaged, someone better is about to come along to entertain them, I’m inadequate.” So guess what I do. I disappear before I can be outshined. I may not get up and leave but I disappear inside my head where I am safe. I find lately, that people don’t sit near me when they have other choices. Actually, it’s been going on for years I’m just recently admitting it. They look my way and choose somewhere else where people are talking and perhaps looking a bit friendlier. I think I am sending off the signal that I am unavailable. In fact, I’m sure of it. I always believed in my head that I was making myself unavailable to be hurt but now I know I am making myself unavailable to connect. Human beings are hard wired to connect. In a sense I am going against nature to protect this little girl inside of me. Something has to give.

I have to believe that while I disappeared on that day, I have had every day since then to show up in the game of life and it is now a choice for me to disappear with no one to blame except for myself. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the work ahead and that I’m not afraid to shush the voices that tell me I’m not enough, but I’m going to try. I want to feel merrier than I do right now.

Self Renovation

28 Jul

I’ve been cleaning and painting a house every day for the last week. It’s my rental house. I have dusted, scrubbed, washed, swept, wiped down and picked at things with my finger nails that I probably shouldn’t have. I’ve taped, cut in, painted and repainted every nook and cranny. I’ve changed light bulbs, put in curtains and air fresheners in every room. The place went from trash to treasure in about 10 days time. To see the change has been nothing short of moving and somewhat emotional.

I was about 5 days in when I began to see the changes really taking place and my first thought was, why haven’t I done this in my primary home? What has kept me from spending money on new lighting, paint and vanilla fragrance in the home I live in every day? It didn’t take much time to convince myself that was what I should do. Another 5 days went by and then I did what I always do, I make meaning. I find a way to relate it to my existence as a human being and learn a lesson. I strongly believe that is what we are all here to do anyway.

If you’ve ever dabbled in any dream analysis and tried to figure out why the heck you keep dreaming you’re late for class, running around naked or your legs won’t work when you’re running from the bad guys, then you may know when we dream about a house, it often represents ourselves. When we explore different rooms in the house, we are often exploring different parts of our being – perhaps our roles as a parent, a sibling, a professional, a creative being and so on. Or perhaps it’s the cynical part, the depressed part, the hurting part, the people pleaser part and the broken parts.

Now back to my task of making meaning and allowing this rental house to represent me for the sake of learning. Before I did the cleaning, the house smelled. It was instinctual to turn away and walk the other direction. Is there anybody that perceives me that way? I’m not asking if I stink, and I’m pretty sure I don’t but I am asking if people are more inclined to approach me or turn away from me at first glance and at first encounter with my energy. Am I positive or negative? Do I attract or repel? And if I did a little more upkeep on my attitude, would I draw more positive people to me? I believe what I put out there comes back to me so it is on my to-do list to refresh my attitude.

The old flooring had stains. It had weird icky gooey stuff. It had years of memories, liquid and otherwise. I picked at some of these trying to clean them up. What kinds of stains am I carrying around? I know when people unknowingly pick at one of my old wounds the feelings come gushing out at a rate that is more than called for in the present situation. In other words, they see me “over reacting.” I’ve been triggered and they don’t know it. I think instead of letting these old hurts continue to embarrass me and cause me to look overly dramatic and then just scab over, I might just try some therapy, some meditation, some healing of the soul. Rumi says the wound is where the light enters so I’ll make sure I don’t make them disappear completely (aka denial) but I’ll take better care to clean them and prevent further scarring.

The most damage and dirt in the house was upstairs. It is also in the “upstairs” of me. It’s in my eyes when I look in the mirror and in my mouth when I say those ugly things about my hair and my body. It’s in my ears when I hear only the negative. It’s in my head, in my thoughts and in the old scripts I’ve repeated over the years. I need a lobotomy. Okay, not really, but obviously it’s time to clear the dust from my eyes and see the beauty in this woman that God created. I will shut this mouth and do what my mother said; if I can’t say something nice (about myself) well then I won’t say anything at all. I don’t know what to do about the way I hear things. I guess I’ll probably encourage those that love me to repeat themselves again and again until I can hear it for what it is. They say I am beautiful, that I am kind and strong and smart. That is worth hearing so I will listen. My brain that has the old scripts is really just that little girl version of me still crying about who knows what. I believe the adult version of me is going to just have to sit her down for a come to Jesus meeting and tell it like it is. I will tell her we’re cleaning house and it feels good.

A New Twist on Old Advice

9 Jul

I heard some great advice the other day. It wasn’t new advice and it didn’t come from a stranger. It was a twist on old advice from someone I greatly respect and get advice from all the time. For whatever reason, on this day, I heard it differently. It was simple really. She said, “You’re behavior is all you’ve got. Hold on to it.” It was a twist on, “You can’t control other people, only yourself.” or even, “You can’t control situations, but you CAN control how you respond to them.” I hear this advice all the time. I give this advice all the time.

This time though, it was more about recognizing when other people’s behavior is out of control or at best, not to my liking, I always have the option to control my own behavior. I can make a conscious choice not to get caught up in their rage. I can ignore their “f” bombs rather than throw in my own. I can hear them escalate and soothe myself rather than join them in their chaotic world. If I can manage that, I might even choose to throw in a little prayer for them or at least a “Bless their heart.”

Behavior is observable. We see it and therefore, we judge it. We decide if it’s good or bad and whether or not we like it. What I have managed to forget is that while I am busy judging, my behavior is simultaneously on display and living in the land of right or wrong for others to see. What would they say? Could I defend myself? Am I modeling appropriate behavior for younger eyes that are watching?

People that push our buttons are excellent “baiters.” They dangle the bait right in front of us and it is all we can do to no jump up and take it. We think we’ll be quick enough to grab it and fool them. Get in and get out and we win! The truth is, they catch us, every time. We are hooked and immediately on the behavioral decline right along side them. How do they do it? I’m curious about that, but I know my time is better spent figuring out how not to take the bait. I think I will tell myself that my behavior is all I have…hold onto it. I’m going to hold on for dear life. I am the only one accountable for everything I say and do. I might even bless their heart.

Change a Tire, Change a Heart

30 Mar

Isn’t the universe a funny thing? Sometimes I wonder why I even try to be in charge of my own life.

I met someone recently and over the past month we’ve been sharing with each other the ins and outs of who we are. It was just a few weeks ago when I shared something with him that I share with almost everyone I know. I hate doing “man stuff.” I was referring to the times when I am forced to deal with things that require tools and testosterone. Mostly car troubles, things in the house that need fixing, mastering the pool equipment to keep my pool clean and other things of that nature. So I said to him, “I hate doing man stuff.” As soon as I said it I felt whiney and was sure I should hand over my “equality for women” card. This made me nervous, so I did what I always do when I get nervous, I kept talking… a lot. Thank goodness I did, because I finally said something I needed to hear. It came out of my own mouth. It was my truth. This is what I said. “I hate doing man stuff. It’s so frustrating and I usually end up crying. I mean, I can do these things myself or certainly be resourceful enough to get them done. I just hate doing the “man stuff” because it is a reminder that I am alone.” (Insert Aha! Moment)

Well how about that? It turns out it wasn’t so much the “man stuff” that got me so upset after all. It was that undeniable awareness that I am alone. There is no partner around to do the “man stuff.” There is no other adult in my house to help me navigate the up and down days of my life. It is just me.

So I heard my truth come out and I have to say I was a bit surprised. I am strong. I am independent. I can do a lot of things. These are truths I speak more often. I am familiar with them. This new one was unfamiliar and I wasn’t sure I liked it.

Recently, I shared something with my children and every client I’ve seen in the last two weeks. I talked with them about courage and what it means to have courage. I told them it seems that people these days align courage with acts of heroism. I told them that I believed that courage means being able to speak from the heart, to speak your truth. I said very clearly to each of them, “The bravest and most courageous thing you can do is to ask for what you need.”

Fast forward to this morning. I woke up with a full agenda for the day and a flat tire. Crap! Man stuff! With a heavy sigh I began to problem solve. My first step was sending a text to that same person. I figured this was a good move since I’d already proclaimed my hatred for “man stuff” to him. This would not shock him and he’d be able to tell me what to do.

He replied with a text followed by a phone call. Would you believe he had the nerve to offer to drive across town just to take off the flat tire and put the spare on? I began to think…He must not know I’m strong. He must not know I’m independent and that I can do all kinds of things. Whether he sensed my hesitation or not, he suggested I think about it and said he’d call me right back. And that is when it hit me. Damn you universe! I hear you loud and clear. It’s time for me to take my own advice. It’s time for me to own a new truth that I have so adamantly tried to push on to everyone else. I really didn’t think “I need help” fell in line with “I am strong, I am independent, I can do all kinds of things.” Well it doesn’t, unless you have courage. The courageous ones know that getting your needs met doesn’t make you weak or dependent.

He called back with his offer still standing. I accepted. I also told him how extremely difficult it was for me to ask for and accept help. He said he understood and was on his way. He arrived, he changed my tire and he forever changed my heart. He was the teacher I needed in the moment I needed him. He gave help without judgment and thought no less of me. It turns out that I can do all kinds of things including having the courage to ask for what I need. Thank you universe and thank you James.

The Maturity Continuum

23 Dec

As time goes by and the break up is further behind me, the lessons are coming into focus and the clarity is mine. After a long term relationship with someone who was so dependent on me, it only seems natural that I found myself in this last relationship with someone who was very independent. I can’t stress the word “very” enough. I remember someone asking me what it was that I gave to him and it took me awhile to come up with an answer and even when I did, I was stretching the truth and feeling pretty lame. It was an odd place for me to be. I’ve been a natural born helper as long as I can remember. It feels good to be able to do for others and it often helps me in some small way. So you can imagine, I wasn’t feeling much like myself in the relationship and often questioned whether or not I was even needed. Yes, I admit, I need to be needed. I don’t admit this with shame because now I know about the Maturity Continuum.
This concept of the Maturity Continuum was offered up by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I hope you find this helpful, because it was exactly what I needed to hear. I always believed that people moved through life from a stage of dependence to independence and that was it. There was nothing to follow. It makes sense that we come into this world one hundred percent reliant on others to care for us and meet our needs. Without them, we would not survive. As the years go by, we begin to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially to a place where we are independent, self-directed and no longer need others to care of us. While independence is a wonderful and necessary achievement, it does not reign supreme.

Here comes the cool part. As we continue to grow and mature, we realize the interdependence that surrounds us in nature and in our society. We come to recognize that the higher reaches of our nature have to do with our relationships with others. Essentially, human life is also interdependent. We can move from “you must do this for me” to “I can do this for myself” to ultimately arrive at “we can do greater things if we do them together.” So maybe the concept is not new. I’ve heard people say “I’m a better person because of him.” Maybe this is what they are talking about. Their interdependence on each other elevates them to higher levels of effectiveness as human beings. I’ve also heard people in the business world say they don’t know everything but they know to surround themselves with smart people. In both of these scenarios, they make a great team and together they conquer the world.

How do you move towards interdependence? Well, I will tell you now that dependent people cannot. As Covey says, “They don’t have the character to do it; they don’t own enough of themselves.” They have to work towards their own independence first and experience those private victories.
When we do move through the maturity continuum towards interdependence, we are in a place to honor the opportunities that lie before us: to share ourselves deeply, meaningfully, with others, and have access to the vast resources and potential of other human beings.

My ex, as well as many others, cannot move past their place of independence because they do not have the maturity to see how vastly different it is from interdependence. They often feel they would be retreating to a place of reliance on others. They sense that it requires vulnerability on their part and that is unthinkable for some. We see people leaving marriages, relationships and all kinds of social responsibilities so that they can become liberated and independent. Covey says it best, “Of course we may need to change our circumstances. But the dependence problem is a personal maturity issue that has little to do with circumstances. Even with better circumstances, immaturity and dependence often persist. True independence of character empowers us to act rather than to be acted upon. It frees us from our dependence on circumstances and other people and is a worthy, liberating goal. But it is not the ultimate goal in effective living.”

In a nutshell, my ex, like so many people don’t know there is a maturity continuum. They are unaware of the divine beauty of interdependent relationships. They stand proudly in their independence believing whole heartedly they have arrived at their final destination. They see open, vulnerable people who are willing to grow and connect with others as threats to their existence. Their immaturity literally stunts them and their growth towards interdependence. It’s a shame really. As for me, my journey continues. I invite all of you into my life and onto my team, where together we can conquer the world.

How Important is Emotion?

14 Sep

“It’s huge!”  That is what I’ve always said, for lack of a better explanation. I have always found it difficult to find the words to explain the important role of emotion in one’s life and furthermore how the role of emotions can be used effectively in therapy, in fact emotions are one of the greatest tools for healing.  I’ve been called overly emotional myself.  But what I know that some people don’t, is that my life is richer when I experience emotions directly and viscerally in the absence of my defense mechanisms.  In other words, in those moments where I feel safe to be me, without feelings of shame or embarrassment and I am not worried about being judged, I laugh louder, I cry freely and I feel transformed.

I am reading an amazing book right now called “The Transforming Power of Affect: A model for Accelerated Change” by Diana Fosha.  It’s not an easy read.  I’ve read most of the pages twice to make sure I understand.  One of the highlights of the book was finding the words to explain the role of emotion and it’s importance.  Here are the words I’ve been searching for…

“Emotional occasions…are extremely potent in precipitating mental rearrangements.  The sudden and explosive ways in which love, jealousy, guilt, fear, remorse, or anger can seize upon one are known to everybody.  Hope, happiness, security, resolve…can be equally explosive.  And emotions that come in this explosive way seldom leave things as they found them.” (James, 1902, p. 198)

That’s it.  That is what I’ve been trying to say.  One of the greatest contexts where this process of transformation can occur is in the romantic relationship.  Person(1988) in his work on romantic passion and the state of being in love discovered this:    

“Romantic love offers not just the excitement of the moment but the possibility for dramatic change in the self.  It is in fact an agent of change… Romantic love takes on meaning and provides a subjective sense of liberation only insofar as it creates a flexibility in personality that allows a breakthrough of internal psychological barriers and taboos… It creates a flux in personality, the possibility for change, the impetus to begin new phases of life and undertake new endeavors.  As such, it can be seen as a paradigm for any significant realignment of personality and values. (p.23)

Don’t it make you wanna fall in love?

Thanks for reading!