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How to Embrace the Past to Move Forward

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Remember that time your heart broke that left you feeling like loving another is not safe? Or that moment you made choices you continue to lose sleep over.  Perhaps it was an illness you feel you could have prevented or the accident you didn’t see coming. Or maybe it was that person who left you, or lied or deceived you in some way that made you debate if anyone or anything can be trusted.  It was that loss of a loved one that made your heart pull back and question if it’s worth it. That experience that rocked you to your core creating a pain you didn’t know existed.

It’s easy to look at the past and get stuck there when pain leaves an unforgettable imprint. It’s even easier to obsess over an experience and search for ways to protect yourself from having it happen again. When you are experiencing this, the advice is often to “let the past go,” so you can move forward. 

However, if you dig a little deeper, it’s not about letting go of the past, but of letting go of the fear of moving forward. We often use our past painful experiences as proof that moving forward is not safe. It may be the belief that if you let go of the pain, you put yourself at risk of getting hurt again. You may fear if you let go of the memory, you will not learn from it. If you take down your guard, you will be vulnerable to your heart being hurt and you don’t want to re-experience the pains of yesterday. 

Yet if you turn around and retell the stories of the past from the perspective of growth, you will see that pain and confusion is not the only thing you learned. The past gives you knowledge of how you respond to controversy or strife and whether those responses work for you or not. It gives you clear examples of how you want to be treated as well as how you don’t want to be treated. It tells you stories of triumph over hardship and gifts that come from loss. It reminds you of your strength when you didn’t think you had it. It boasts of the people who showed up in your life when you needed them most. It recounts limitless opportunities to open your heart to love, joy and personal success, when you have the courage to let them in. 

If you let go of the past, you also let go of the well earned lessons that have made you into the person you are today. The one that still wants to experience joy, love and purpose, and is looking for the best way to do so. 

It’s not so much letting go of the past as reshaping it in a way that works for you. Shifting your perspective from seeing how life hurt you to recognizing how life helped you is incredibly powerful. Not only does it reduce the pain, it fills you with more hope that what happens next is not something to fear, but something to embrace. Use your past as proof that your experiences are here to help you grow and learn even more about yourself and what you want. Allow the knowledge of your past to bring the power back to your present and purpose for your future. 

Read original post on Learn, Evolve, Thrive…

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Why Parenting Is Not About You

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Why Parenting Is Not About You

When I was a child I dreamt of becoming a powerful attorney living in a high rise apartment in New York City. I wanted to use my relentless arguing skills and my strong sense of protection for the greater good. I did not see marriage in my future, nor could I possibly imagine having children. No interest.

When I did choose to get married, I wondered if I would ever follow the typical path of starting a family. It was hard to see giving up my independence and passion to do so. It wasn’t until I held a premature baby in my hands that I had the flash of desire to care for something so small and seemingly helpless. That was the moment everything changed.

When I became pregnant with my first child my friends had a hard time imagining me as a mom. I felt the same. Two weeks before I gave birth to my daughter, I cried to a friend that I might have made a mistake and wasn’t sure I could do it. Having tragically lost my own mother while a teenager scarred me deeply and I felt like my ability to mother may have died with her. My confidence in my abilities was non existent.

This is the part of the story where I want to tell you that the first time I looked in her eyes, I knew she was what I was waiting for. But that is not even close to true. I felt even more frightened when I met her and even more concerned I had no idea what I was doing. The fact that she was relying on me to pretend like I did was even more scary. I suddenly felt the weight of responsibility that terrified me.

What if I screwed it up? What if I hurt her with my lack of knowledge? What if she didn’t like me or worse, what if I didn’t like her? A lifetime of attachment fears fed my mind and I felt trapped. It intensified when I realized there was no turning back.

Despite my fear, I took the job seriously. I read as many books as I could on how to feed properly, what temperature to not scald the child in a bath, natural remedies for common ailments and what an irresponsible mom I was for letting my child with sleep me so I too, could sleep.

I listened to advice. I took it all in and practiced patience, openness, techniques to get my kid to listen, techniques to get my kid to talk. How to get her to use a toilet and how to get her to clean up after herself. I wanted desperately to do everything right. No one told me that having a child was the equivalent of taking my heart out of my body and holding it out for the all the world to potentially hurt it. The risks felt so huge and the fear so big.

The only thing I could not seem to learn from a book was how to fully love my child—courageously. That, it turned out, was all on me and has been the biggest challenge of all.

After 16 years now of watching my daughter grow and 13 years of watching my son, as well as a lifetime career of working with kids, parents and friends, I’ve learned a few things worth sharing.

1- It’s not about Me.

As egocentric humans we tend think EVERYTHING is about us. The choices our kids make. The paths they venture down. Their successes and failures. None of it is about us. None.

My job as a parent is to guide, to inspire, to create an environment I hope they will thrive in, and then, let them live in it.

The more I make it about me, the more I teach them to lose their confidence, independence and ability to trust themselves.

Does this mean I don’t make it about me? Not a chance. I often make it about me because that’s what we do. It’s what we’ve been taught and its a tough one to unlearn.

On the days they thrive, I pat myself on the back. But on the days I am challenged, I have to again check in with myself to see it’s my insecurities and fears that make it about me even when it’s not.

2- I am not in control.

I never have been. The illusion of control I have held is strong. On my most insecure days I am certain I am in control of their minds, their choices, and their guilt. Nope.

They always make the choice how they will respond. They will either buy into my tactics or they won’t. I have absolutely no control over either despite my best efforts.

They began making their own choices the minute they ventured from the womb. Whether to eat or not eat, to sleep or not sleep, to listen or to ignore. It’s all been their choice.

I control their environment, their belongings in my home, and their comfort in it. I control my words and my expressions. My behaviors and what I model for them.

I control how often I tell them I love and accept them as much as I control my eye rolls. After that, I’ve got nothing.

When I let go of my need to control them, I am rewarded with their trust in me, trust in myself and faith in the process of life. It is the flavor of true freedom.

3- We all came here to love and be loved. All of us.

Our biggest “lesson” in life is to experience love at its fullest capacity. We have the innate desire to be loved and to give it.

That means we have to feel fear if we want to feel faith. We have to feel anger if we want to feel compassion. We have to feel hate if we want to feel love. The extremes are how we experience the full gamut of what life has to offer.

My role is not to shield my kids from this reality, but to use my own experience and wisdom to support them through their own it. They came here to live. My job is to mentor them through it, not to do it for them.

Of course I want to shield them from pain. I want to put them in a bubble and solve all of their problems. And if I did, it would be the biggest disservice to them to not let them truly feel what will make them stronger, wiser, braver and genuinely more compassionate human beings. The same as all of my pains and hardships have done for me.

Protecting them from challenge does not make them happier. It makes them more vulnerable to deeper pains, insecurities and ignorances I can’t protect them from at all.

Loving them courageously means letting them learn to do the same.

Checking in with these truths for myself is what helps me to fully love my children (and my role as their mom) to the best of my ability. And so far, it’s working for us.

Parenting is the most amazing and brave experience I’ve signed up for thus far. The most challenging, the most scary and occasionally- the most rewarding. The attorney in the high rise I dreamt of would likely not have had the courage to work in this gig. I’m forever grateful she changed her mind.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms who bravely signed up for the same. :)



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How to Love Yourself First

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My 15-year-old daughter sat next to me in the passenger seat as I drove, curiously opening the pile of notes before her wondering what each one would reveal. We had just been given a box of memorabilia from when I was a young child.

“Dear Mom, I love you and you are the most loveable person in the world and wonderful. I love you very, very much. xoxoxoxoxoxo Love, Lynnie

“Day by Day, I Love You. Night by Night, I say, “No matter what will ever happen, I’ll always Love you anyway. Love, Lynn”

“To Mommy, Just want to say I LOVE YOU. Love, Lynn.”

One after another expressing my love to the person who I knew needed to hear it. My mother.  A woman who suffered from Manic Depression and struggled to manage her debilitating highs and lows as she attempted to live a “normal” life. 

It appeared I needed her to know…to feel…Loved. I did my very best to shower her with proof that she was important and thought of with warm and loving thoughts.  What I couldn’t do was convince her to feel the same. I couldn’t get her to see what I saw or felt, but that didn’t stop me from trying. 

My efforts were strong, but her will won out. She committed suicide right before I turned 15 years old…the same age as my own daughter reading my love notes from childhood.

“That is just another example, ” I told my daughter,” of how people can’t receive what they don’t feel. We can love someone with every part of our being, but if they don’t feel it for themselves, they won’t be able to feel it from outside of them either. It has to start with yourself.”

I’m a professional counselor. I’ve heard myself say those words many times before, but not when describing my mother. Even as I said the words they began to sink in more.

There was nothing I could do….

Suicide brings on a complicated kind of grief. All the typical cycles are present…the denial, the anger, the sadness, the regret…on repeat. The “what iffing” that joins in is one that seems to have it’s own relentless voice. 

“What if I had…what if she had…what if he had…what if they had…?” 

Over and over again. What would have been different? Even when we’ve accepted the WHY, we still struggle to not keep asking “But what if?”

I’ve dedicated my life’s work to helping people enjoy life more. I’ve dedicated my own effort to doing the same for myself. I know crippling anxiety. I know the heaviness of depression. I know what’s it’s like to question, what the hell am I doing here? 

I also know what it’s like to want to feel loved and appreciated but put myself in positions over and over again that gave me the opposite feeling. I know what it feels like to keep trying to prove myself and not feel accepted in return. I know what it’s like to assume life is never going to actually improve, despite my desperate desire for it. 

But I also know that life has a way of giving us what we need and feeding us our worth when we open ourselves up more and let it in. And the only way to do that, is to start with how you feel about yourself.

What Happens When You Start to Love Yourself First?

If you don’t think you are good enough, then you won’t accept the compliment. If you don’t like the way you feel, you will look for the validation of your value outside of yourself over and over again, but you won’t be able to fully absorb it. It will fill you briefly, but then you will be hungry for more soon after. It won’t be enough.

And that’s because you can’t hold on to what you don’t fully believe.  If you won’t take it in then why would you ask for more of what you want? If you don’t feel confident enough, then why would let yourself be in a relationship that feeds your desire to be loved? Really loved with actions that prove it.

In order to own it, truly own the love and acceptance that is given to you, you must love yourself first. The way you view your life, your value, what you give to the world and the people in it. You’ll benefit from looking inside of your own heart and identifying the pains and the voices that keep you down. And you will really benefit from challenging them!

You want proof that you have something to offer? That you are enough? Then spend some time getting to know the you you want others to see. The scared parts, the lonely parts, the protective parts, the angry parts, as well as the loving parts, the proud parts, the compassionate parts, the optimistic parts who see hope clearly and the light of a cloudy day. Get to know those parts, all of them. And befriend them. Accept them, feel compassion for them and learn to let them really be loved and honored for who they are. 

Those parts want to be seen, heard, understood and accepted, as well acknowledged for the gift they are that makes up amazing you. 

Take out a piece of paper and list out the parts of yourself. Give them names and their dominant characteristics. Introduce them to each other. Ask them the questions you’d ask someone you were just meeting. 

When do they show up in your life? Where did they come from? 

Who do they remind you of? Who are you drawn to the most? Who irritates you the most? 

How are they protecting you? How are they harming you? Ask them why. 

Get to know them each as the parts of you who make up your amazingness as a whole. We are not looking to abolish them, but accept them. All of them. They each have a purpose. Learn what that purpose is and how you can learn to work with them, not against each other.

If you can’t understand why you don’t feel loved or why it comes so fleeting into your life, start with you. 

All of you.

You deserve the time, focus and energy it takes learning to accept and appreciate yourself and all the sustainable joy that comes with it.

The original post is on Purpose Fairy.

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Say Yes to What Excites You and Make This the Year You Really Live

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“I imagine that Yes is the only living thing.” ~E.E. Cummings

During the fall of 2017 I began openly dating, four years after my separation and divorce of a twenty-plus year relationship. It was scary. And I was clear—I didn’t want a commitment, I just wanted the experience and some fun.

My third round of online dating, I finally went out with some younger men who I assumed lined up with my non-commitment goal. It was different and fun, but also not quite what I wanted.

In December of that year, my friend, who was interested in getting to know me more and had been asking me to lunch for months, called me out on my non-commitment. I always had the perfect excuse as to why I couldn’t go. But none of them were as valid as the truth: I was scared.

What if I enjoyed my time with him? What if he liked me and I had to let him down because I wanted nothing to do with a real relationship? My biggest fear is hurting other people, so I didn’t want to even consider that option. Until he said, “Why don’t you stop avoiding and commit to lunch.”

I really dislike being called out, especially when it’s right. So I went.

And you know what happened? What I feared. I enjoyed myself—for four hours. It was filled with great conversation and great company. We closed down the restaurant with our lengthy stay. For someone who listens to people all day long as a professional counselor, I thoroughly enjoyed being listened to and heard. It was wonderful.

And from that moment, my goal for 2018 was born. The Year of Yes.

For the entire year I would commit to saying yes to opportunities that scared me. Ones that made me squirmy and uncomfortable and that promised to teach me something every step of the way.

In 2018, I created podcasts, which I had been avoiding. It scared me to put my work out there and expose myself. As I created them I discovered I loved them. They inspired me to continue doing the work I’m passionate about and still do.

I also opened myself up to doing a number of interviews that completely took me out of my comfort zone. If someone contacted me or an opportunity arose that made my heart beat fast, I said yes without thinking.

When my voice of inspiration popped up and guided me to write and post, I did. When I felt the pull to take financial risks that made me question my stability, I took them. If it felt scary but exciting, I said yes. And didn’t look back.

When the days were sunny and I had a ton of work to do, but a fun option presented itself, I chose the fun. Not an ounce of regret.

I said yes to adventure. I traveled more readily and confidently in 2018 than any other year of my life. I’m an anxious flyer and I jumped on a tiny plane up the coast and large planes across the country. I explored. I stayed open. I was scared, but I did it anyway, and loved it.

I also said yes to a new relationship—sloooowly. Very, very slowly.

In that relationship I noticed things in myself I could not have seen on my own. How quickly I want to bail if I’m uncomfortable. How hard it is for me to receive kindness and love and allow it to be a comfortable part of my life. How much I clam up when I want to run and how easy it is for me to shut down, all while teaching others how to do the complete opposite. Which meant I too, had to practice what I preached.

I learned to communicate like a champ. I shared my feelings when I would normally close them off. I let myself get close to people when I’d rather stay much, much further away.

I chose to say yes. I said yes to myself. I said yes to my life.

And I lived.

I lived in a way I’d been wanting to. I let the yeses guide me to the next step and the next place to grow and enjoy myself. I proved to myself over and over again that the rewards far outweighed the risks of what I thought it would take to be enjoying—truly enjoying—my life.

I reaffirmed what I believed to be true: When I follow my heart, my intuition, my knowing, life has a way of working itself out. Not without some level of discomfort. Not without experiences of pain. Not without changing some tough habits to shake. But all with a value that lasts and creates experiences I’ve desired all along.

I learned that my fear was also my thrill. My shaking and restlessness were also my courage. My pause was my inhale before the exhale to true joy.

We are trained to fear, to hold back and question all the things that can go wrong. We are masterful at saying no to living, to taking chances and being uncomfortable.

We want proof we will be okay. I know I do. And luckily, it already exists.

We have years of being afraid of worst-case scenarios that never played out.

We have memories of taking risks and things turning out even better than we expected.

There may also have been times when things didn’t work out better than expected, or even close. But when we didn’t get what we wanted, we usually got what we needed—we learned, we grew, and we opened ourselves up to new connections and possibilities.

From all our assorted adventures, there were pains that helped us grow stronger and triumphs that helped us feel braver.

We have proof that when we follow what feels right, we’re always on the right path for us.

We have a life that lovingly and courageously wants to be lived.

What would happen if you started saying yes? What would your life look like if you let yourself live? If you pushed through your fears and excuses and let your curiosity and excitement lead the way?

You have all the reasons you can’t. But you also have the reasons you can.

What will you choose?

Original Post on Tiny Buddha



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A Simple Way to Practice Trusting the Process of Life

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As the new year began I committed to myself that I would practice what I preach and really learn to Live Serendipitously- in the flow of life. This meant I would practice to letting go and see how life is truly happening for me and build evidence to prove this.

I believe this concept wholeheartedly, but I also am human and don’t like getting slammed with unexpected life stressors as much as the next person. I welcome growth and change, but experiencing pain and disappointment is not favorite way to get there.

So you know what January offered me? Pain. And frustration. And impatience. And heartache. 

Not the devastating kind, but just enough confusion, hurt and stress to take me out of my flow and have me question what I was doing- a lot. I was cranky and irritable. I felt lost and confused. I cried nearly every day to relieve the stress build up and gave myself the space to feel my feelings. 

I experienced strong waves of anger and resentment and let myself feel every ugly part of it. I did not appreciate it at all, but it helped. I chose to not repress and found myself venting angrily to get it out. It was incredibly unpleasant as anger is my least favorite emotion. It generally makes me feel powerless and stuck. I let myself experience it, but I refuse to live there.

Despite my uneasiness with the process, I let myself be in the flow of what was happening and ride the waves of discomfort knowing they would eventually end.  

Thankfully, on New Year’s Day I also began tracking the good things which occurred each day. I purposefully noticed the unexpected joys and opportunities I didn’t see coming which found their way into my life. I use a Gratitude App on my phone that allows me to add pictures and list the things that made me feel good each day.

I began the practice of recording that which lifted me up, made me smile or brought me hope. Whether they were compliments or experiences or simple surprises like small gifts through words or actions from others, I wrote them down. I noted what I saw or created or even committed to doing or giving to myself. 

Every single day had a gift. And I tracked it. 

This practice allows me see that even in my dark moments, there is a glimpse of light, of hope, of joy, no matter how small. I did not know the month would bring so much challenge. I had no way to predict it. But I also did not know that so many wonderful things would happen or what they would be. 

Tracking my daily joys allows me to increase my faith that no matter what happens next, something will help balance it out. It may be a moment that feels good and lets me know it’s not always going to be hard and challenging. It may be a promise of hope or a reminder of being loved and seen. These moments give me proof that in some way I am supported, even in the smallest of ways. And the small moments and surprises adds up.

Some days I tracked unexpected joys right after they happened and others I would add in at the end of the day or early the next morning. Each time I wrote them I re-lived the joy and the feeling of gratitude and awe that came with them. This is a gift in itself! 

As I reflect on the past month, I’m intrigued with how much my challenge changed and then dissipated, as well as the amount I learned about myself and my reactions to life. What I have deemed a very hard month was also one filled with wonderful events, opportunities, interactions and enormous gifts of joy. Had I not tracked them or taken the time to reflect, I would have said the month was a disappointment and stressful all throughout. 

Tracking my joys shifts my perspective and also firms up my faith and proof that life is truly happening for me even when I can’t see it in the moment, but I know the gifts will find their way. It allows me to truly Live Serendipitously with more trust and evidence that life is happening for me. 

My cousin Andrew says that life seems to be something of a project. The unpredictable ups and downs give us something to discover and learn as we go. I couldn’t agree more. And I for one, plan to make the most of this project and take in all the joy I can along the way. Ready to join me?

Article also posted and shared on Biz Catalyst 360.



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Maybe It's Time to Make the Unknown a Known

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Ending unhealthy patterns and changing the dynamics in relationships is haarrrd. Especially the relationship you have with yourself.

Often you can not see your own repeat behavior in a relationship because the emotional ties and attachments make it much harder to see.

This is why we have an intuitive voice. An inner knowing that whispers and eventually screams “Knock it off and change it up!”

But change  can also feel haarrrd. And if the change you want is accompanied by risks and fears (and most are) it will slow down you actually following through with what feels best. 

So how do you know you are moving in the right direction for you? Because your choice may feel scary, but it also feels like freedom. Being on the other side FEELS like freedom.

And because you have an arsenal of proof that when you do hard things and follow through with tough decisions, the details work themselves out.

The emotions balance themselves out. The fear dissipates when you see that this change you’ve been putting off is EXACTLY what you needed and will progress you forward to even more freedom and love of life. 

If you’re not there yet, the hints and clues will keep coming and the voice will get louder. The discomfort will grow. And it’s your call.  What will you choose?

Fear or trust in yourself, your abilities and knowledge that Life supports you when you support yourself. 

Maybe it’s time to make the unknown a known.

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Living with the Learning Curves

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I’ve been interviewed 4 times in the past week on my views and my passions on living and with serendipity. Each time I’m interviewed it feels like pressure…my own pressure with a strong need and desire to share what I know is life enhancing. 

I have so much information to share. I’m still learning how to do this and the learning curve is big and wide and scary and so very, very cool.

Sometimes I ramble. On and on…. And sometimes I’m clear and succinct. But all times, I am honored to be in a place in my life where I can share my voice and my knowledge and offer support in a world that so clearly could use a hand.

When I left my secure job over 4 years ago I had no idea where I would end up. I didn’t know how I would make a living, or even if I could. I didn’t know I’d write a book. I didn’t know I’d connect with people all over the world asking for help. I most certainly didn’t know they would be the most courageous years of growth in my lifetime.

And I’m glad I didn’t know. It would have easily scared me to the point of not taking the risk. I could have said…”I can’t do that..Im not qualified…I don’t know enough…I don’t have enough information.” And meant it to my core.

But I did know. I was ready. We are never given what we are not prepared for.

I’ve been listening to myself talk- a lot- the past week and I hear so much passion and excitement and trust in a concept that is not new to me. It’s been developing the entirety of my life.

When I talk about trusting the process of life I know I am an expert at this. It does not come easy to me, which is exactly what makes me good at it. I have to work at it. And the more I work, the easier it becomes and the more I am able to clearly show what I know and have learned.

I have felt your fear just as I have felt my own. I know desperation, heartache, loneliness, isolation and the pains of hopelessness. I can’t live there. I choose not to.

Hence why my life’s work will be to continue to find ways to teach that life IS meant to be enjoyed, not just endured.

I began this work for me,  but the joy and gratitude I feel being able to share it to you, is like nothing else. Serendipitous.

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Why Living is Always Worth It

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My 12 year old son came home from school recently and mentioned he wrote a poem for class that had two of his teachers in tears. I asked what it was about and he said, “After your mother’s death.” 

My mother, who had committed suicide.

“Really?” I asked, “what about it?”

“Oh nothing,” he squirmed and then no longer wanted to talk about it.

That always drives me nuts. Reel me in to push me out. Frustrating.

But what I’ve learned is that IS him letting me in. He is only willing or able to so in small doses for heavier subjects and the only thing I can do is wait until he is ready to share.

With that said, I keep asking. Also in small doses. But to let him know I’m paying attention. A couple days later, he brought home his poem….and quite frankly, it blew me away.

“Did she have to go?

Could she have stayed?

What would it be like on this day?

Did she think she wouldn’t be missed?

After all that is what she thought?

Some have overcome this death,

When others mourn in thought.

Some have never met her.

And never will.

So maybe just maybe she could have stayed.

Did she have to take her life?

Just throw everything away?

What about the people to come?

Her family that was so big,

Did she not know we would love her anyway?

So why throw it all away?

The one action, the one thought,

That changed so many lives to this day.

Only if one thought changed, one thought shifted,

But it didn’t and it took her life away.”

He expected tears from me and they came. They always come. Even easier now as I see the gift of their arrival rather than the shame of being so sensitive.

“That was amazing. Your perspective is inspiring to me. It reminds me why I do what I do. Thank you for sharing.” I said to him.

Still squirmy, he was unsure if I’d be upset. He was looking for reassurance that his words, his voice, had value. At that moment, I could only give him half of my own thoughts. I had to sit with the feeling that came with them.

Being the child of a parent who committed suicide is not really a category I live in. I wear no badge of ongoing pain, or talk about the experience of how damaged I am because of it.

Although, in truth, I am. Damaged is not a fair statement, but touched…changed…strong because of it. 

For me, I made a decision long ago that I would use the experience to enhance my life, not ruin it and use it as an excuse to keep screwing up and saying that life owes me because I’ve been hurt…by the will of someone else.

The victim mentality makes me edgy. And feel powerless. Its not a place I’ll let myself live.

Instead, I’ve used my scars as motivation to prevent someone else, like me or my mother, sensitive and imperfect beings, from feeling stuck in misery and worry. The kind that allows fear and frustration to rule the days.

I used to. I had to try it on first. But even during that time period, I knew it would not last for me. I couldn’t live like that. Being miserable bores me. I become impatient with my woes. I get lost in my symptoms of depression and anxiety and I am dedicated to finding my way out of the maze to make it easier for the next time I enter.

And I will. Its part of my human experience. I’m not immune.

I’m filled with dysfunctional patterns of protection I’ve had to unravel and re-wire in my brain and in my choices. Those come with the experience. My inner optimist wants to ignore them, but the realist in me says, you’ve still got shit to work on. And I do.

But I also won’t be held back.

My little boy’s beautifully expressed thoughts reminded me that life does go on. That we continue to grow and thrive after great loss, but we don’t forget and we don’t move on unchanged.

He never met my mother, his grandmother, but he has seen the way her life and death changed mine and in turn his.  Had I not been so motivated to change, he would have a very different mother. Had I not been so vulnerable to face my demons, he would be experiencing them by default.

I knew when I had children I would have to teach myself to mother them. I knew I had to dig into myself and find the courage to learn to love without limits and not protect myself from the fear of loss or pain by holding them too close.

When you lose someone you are attached to suddenly, it has a lasting impact on your ability to trust. And yet…I’ve chosen a life where my purpose is not only to learn to trust more, but to teach and inspire others to do the same.

I have been surrounded by suicide for the majority of life. Mostly the loved ones left in the wake. From friends to close connections to clients, I’m well versed in the feelings and understanding of what it’s like to experience the guilt and sorrow and anger and confusion, after someone ends what we find to be so precious.

I know what its like to be lost while trying to make sense of it all.

As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I’ve also worked with many who let the obsession of not wanting to be here take over their lives. Those who have attempted to die and those who just wish it would happen so they could move out of their internal hell hole.

My question of the why’s have been answered. I can see how and why people get to the brink of wanting to end the pain. Its heavy and its real.

But I’ve also seen and felt what its like when the corner turns. When the one thought changes to a new one of hope. Of opportunity. Of light in a very, very dark tunnel.

Anything is possible. I don’t just believe this, I live it.

I laid down with my son that night before he went to sleep and told him, again, how much his poem had touched me. 

I told him how I could hear his own “what if’s” in his words and feel the questioning that life often brings…and that I will always walk with him to help him find the answers he seeks. Its what we do for those we love.

I reminded him that Hope is the driving force behind my life’s work and Trust has changed me. And that Support is available to all of us. We just have to ask. 

He hugged me close and said, “I love you, Mom.”

And once again, I knew, its always worth it. Life, the work that comes with Living…always, always worth it. 

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Getting Comfortable With Discomfort- Your Own and Others

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The look on my teenager’s face was one of complete distraught. She was angry and hurt and confused and fearful of what I would do next.  I was fearful too. I knew the decision I had to make and it was not the one she wanted. I was going to have to dig down and let go of my fear of her feeling the pain to make the decision that was best for her…in my opinion. This parenting gig can be so damn hard.

And I did. I made the call I knew she’d resent me for and she looked at me like there was no one on the planet that could hurt her more than I just did.  She composed herself respectfully until we got into the car and she let me have it.

Anger and tears and “how could you’s?!” spit out of her on repeat.  Seething disgust that I had taken control away from her and made decisions for her. I am raising her to be independent and make her own decisions, so for the life of her, she couldn’t grasp why I would take it away.

I know that feeling. The one where you can’t accept that someone has some level of control over your life. I don’t do well with it either. And I knew it was going to hurt and it did. Both of us…deeply. But I also knew that underneath my fear (of exactly that moment) it was going to get better. I just wanted it better now.

The part of me that doesn’t want to see another in pain wanted so badly to make it go away. To find the quick fix and dissolve it.  But I wasn’t given an answer or an idea that would do that. So we were stuck with sitting with the discomfort and feeling the pain.

After a few hours of separation and her ability to fiercely hold on to her anger and hurt, I felt stuck again when I saw her. The next decision was the hardest.

I wanted to distract her from her sorrow. I wanted to take the pressure off myself. I wanted her to stop being angry at me… but I KNEW that’s not what my job was. It was to be near her, to respect her pain, and to respect mine in the process. It was to give us both space to feel the discomfort and let it be what it is. Uncomfortable.

So I sat with her while she cried and told me how wrong I was. And then I held her…because I knew she was ready. Not a moment before.  And she let me. That’s when I knew it was going to be okay….because it always is.

As a professional counselor, I know the hardest part of my job is when the BEST thing I can do with another person is to sit with them through their pain. To let them wade through the muck and feel the choking sensations of sorrow and offer my hand so they don’t feel alone walking through it.

It is, by far, the most emotionally draining part. It rubs up against the part of the me that does not like to feel helpless, despite knowing that giving them room to feel and know they are not alone IS Helping.  To be their guide in darkness until they see their own light.

I find this much easier when it’s a client I’m working with where the relationships has its established boundaries. When it comes to people I have a close connection with, it’s much harder. It’s uncomfortable to feel other people’s pain as is, but throw in being emotionally attached to the outcome. It’s HARD.  And yet, the practice is the same.

Sit with the discomfort and know, sometimes, that’s exactly what we need.

We live in a quick fix, pill popping, make the pain go away fast kind of society. Why? Because we are uncomfortable with feeling the challenging emotions.  And when we are uncomfortable with our own, we certainly are not going to be comfortable with being around someone else’s. 

We have this desire to avoid and distract and it turns out, that doesn’t actually make the underlying concerns go away. They will continue to return until they are responded to in a way that pleases them.  And usually what pleases them is what makes us curse and complain and question why the same issues keep popping up. Super annoying.

So how can we practice this? How can we get comfortable being in the space with those who are uncomfortable and hurting? By allowing ourselves to feel without attempting to make it go away as quickly as possible.

And that starts with us. 

Get comfortable with you.

When you feel an emotion that is unsettling, lean into it. If its anger, let yourself heat up and get tight and feel the sensations that come with it. Allow them to be what they are.  Listen to the voices that come with them. Who are you really mad at? Who do you feel has your power? And how can you take it back?  Sit with it a little longer, then release it through screaming in a pillow or in a place you are by yourself, or do some physical activity to let it out. Even jumping jacks or shaking out your body in the moment.

If its sadness, let it rise to the top. If there are tears, let them roll out. If you feel like you are being swallowed up, breathe through that sensation. Let it be what it is. The more you let it come up and be felt, the sooner it will resolve itself.

If it’s guilt, ask it questions. What have you learned from it and how will you change your responses and behavior based on what you now know?  When you practice forgiving yourself, you take away the power of the past and bring it to the present. And the present is the only place we can actually create change.  Why not allow yourself to be there?

As you practice becoming comfortable with your own emotions, it will become easier to sit with others through theirs.  Disappointment is a part of life and you don’t want to get rid of your experiences because they make you into the beautiful and unique person you are. Allowing yourself to feel can shorten the discomfort of your clinging need for pain. Relief is always just around the corner.  Keep reading...

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5 Highly Effective Ways to Practice Trusting Yourself

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I have this really weird job where I get paid to listen and give advice reflecting back what I’m hearing…on how you can best live your life. I mean, in theory, I would really have to know what I’m talking about to be trusted with such an important task. Who am I to tell you how to live a life that feels right for you? I’m not living in it. In truth, I’m some chick that has a few pieces of paper in a closet somewhere that deems me an “expert.” Is that enough?

Nope. It’s not.

Why do I know I can be trusted? Because I trust myself.

Most of the people who show up in my office or in my inbox are at a point where they simply don’t trust themselves and the information they are getting from the outside world. They are confused and feel lost from strong emotions that have them down, anxious and angry. They struggle with understanding the events around them and their purpose and are not sure what steps to take next because the ones they are taking don’t seem to be getting them on a path they want to be.

And I, with all my own expertise in feeling lost and sad and anxious and angry, can thoroughly relate. I know what it’s like to question my every move and hope that my decisions are “good enough” or won’t steer me down a dark alleyway that will leave me feeling terrified I took a very bad turn.

Because of this, I also know the only way off of this merry go round of confusion is to TRUST. Trust that I know what I’m doing and I can’t screw it up, and trust the process of life that won’t let me even if I could. How do I know I can trust? Because I practice---every single day.

And I really mean practice. Some days it all seems obvious that I can not and will not mess it up, or it won’t get screwed up for me. Other days, I am nearly certain that I have no idea what I’m doing and I need all the support I can get to reassure me that I do. I’ll fill myself with fear and have to go through my mental checklist of why I know that is not true. It can be pretty tiresome, but on the days that I see the truth, that I really do know what I’m doing---it’s all completely worth it.

The tricks and practices I use to help me on my off days are pretty simple, and also super effective.

1. Write Out My Fears

List them all out. What are the fear voices telling me? What’s the worst case scenario?  Once I’ve identified the fears, I write down what I am in control of and what I am not in control of.  Are there things I can do to help alleviate my fears? Action steps I can take? If so, write them down and choose which ones I’ll do. And the ones I’m not in control of? Well, that leads me to practice #2.

2. Identify My Core Beliefs- What Do I Believe In?

I believe in a power that is greater than me. Sometimes I call it the Universe, sometimes I call it God, sometimes I call it Life.  One of my clients calls it the Tarantula Gods. That creeps me out and makes me laugh at the same time. It doesn’t really matter what you call it. What do you believe is its purpose and what is the impact you feel it has on your life? I believe both you and I are connected to this power intuitively.  You may even call it your Higher Self- your intuition that knows what it’s doing.

I believe that all of our experiences happen for a reason and that we are guided by this power to help us out along the way. I also believe that we are supported by this power and we are given what we need to keep us safe, comfortable and to live and thrive. So, when I am struggling to trust myself, or when I feel I am not in control of something, I go back to my core beliefs and remember that I am supported already and I will be more than okay…because I always am. Which leads me to practice #3.

3. I Use My Past as Proof

 I have spent lots of time worrying about things that never happened. I tried to mentally control them with my mind. It turns out, that never actually works. Sometimes I feared the worst until the bitter end and was proven that the worst was only in my mind. It rarely ever comes to fruition. And if it did, I learned some invaluable knowledge I wouldn’t have learned if the outcome had been different. Something positive always rises from the challenges. Whether it’s knowledge, or strength or an experience that is life altering in a powerful way- the good balances out the difficult parts. Every time. 

When I look at my past, I see that I am always supported and there is nothing I can not handle. I am always given what I need when I need it. And usually, the fears are just ideas that get replaced with the next one. They simply are thoughts ready to be acknowledged and moved on from.

4. I Listen- To Myself

I listen to my feelings. I let myself feel them and tell me where it is I want to be. This is my intuition speaking to me. I recognize the answers that feel right. I take out the fear to make them more clear. I let myself look at whatever it is and ask if I fully trusted, what would I do? This is what helps me manage the clutter in my mind. I let myself feel and I remind myself that my feelings do not steer me wrong. Because in truth, there is no wrong. Every direction takes me where I say I want to go. The road there may just look different.

5. I Ask For Perspective, Not Advice

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you feel stuck. It’s helpful to hear other perspectives. Then you can determine what feels right for you and take away what you want and leave behind what you don’t.

But, this is a big one. When we don’t trust ourselves, it’s easy to ask other people for their opinion or view.

We feel maybe they know more than we do. We trust their life experiences over our own.The danger with this is that often people give advice through their own filter which means, they may speak through their fears or experiences that left them feeling distrustful.

What’s right for them, may not be what’s right for you. The best advice is your own.

If you have someone who can reflect back what you are saying and feeling to you in a way that makes it not about them- this is awesome. And valuable.
But the key is to look at your feelings, not theirs. Only yours are designed for you.

Trust is a practice. And that is okay. Fear is a normal part of life and it has its purpose.  It’s important for us to feel all of our emotions so we can pick and choose the ones we want to focus on.  Keep Reading...

 

 

 

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Living Serendipitously

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Serendipity occurs for us even when we are not paying attention…

In my early 20’s, while trying to figure out what I was meant to do, I felt stuck. I was studying psychology in college, and it didn’t feel right. My initial passion to learn what makes people tick began to dwindle the more classes I took. The college I attended was focused on research, and the theories presented seemed to make simple processes unnecessarily complicated. I was frustrated and discouraged and unsure if I was on the right path for me.

I had a strong drive to help others but not in the way I was learning. I felt alone in my struggle and confused by the direction. The summer before going into my senior year of college, I wondered if I should change my course as I neared the end of this phase. Since I was good at keeping my fears to myself, it came as a surprise when my brother suggested I read a book that inspired him. That was the first time he recommended anything to me. I took his advice and read the book… the book I had unknowingly been waiting for.

In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, a renowned psychologist, wrote of his accounts as a prisoner in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. He shared the horrific stories of the violence he witnessed and how he survived. He also shared the theory he developed that there is a purpose to all of our experiences and we can find meaning in just about anything.

A focus on the good. The gifts in the midst of chaos. The opportunity to grow and prosper from whatever we are faced with.

This was how I saw life, and this man who had experienced so much trauma saw it too. It was this book, his experiences, and views, which reminded me I was headed in the right direction for me. It was the serendipity, the unexpected gift, the reminder I needed to keep going.

Life is serendipitous. It is filled with unexpected pleasures, gifts, and opportunities. Our experiences are meant to be. And we are supported in these experiences, even the ones that feel like they are tearing us down.

Our lives are designed for us to learn, grow and experience joy. All of us. We are given opportunities through our relationships, our jobs, our children, our playtimes, our accidents, our illnesses, our losses, our chance meetings with strangers and a whole host of other ways, to learn about ourselves and how we give and receive love.

We are given choices and hints and whispers and sometimes shouts of which direction to go next and it is up to us decide how we want to live our lives. Each decision we make creates new opportunities to learn and grow. Sometimes these opportunities feel challenging and painful, and sometimes they are so filled with ease we wonder if they are real. They are all real, and they are all for us.

How do we know this? How can we trust it? By creating the proof. By practicing awareness that hope and grace surround us. All we have to do is open ourselves up to it and receive.  

Each day listen to your inner voice to create some of the joy you are looking for. Start to take note of the good things that are happening to you and around you. Notice when someone compliments you when you least expect it and how it feels. Notice when your children give you an extra hug and tell you they love you. Notice when you thought you couldn’t pay your bill and the money showed up at the last minute, or you were given an extension when you asked. Notice the opportunities that appear “out of the blue.”

Notice the ideas that are repetitive in your thoughts and how good it feels when you follow through and trust them. Notice that when you take care of yourself, your mood starts to shift quickly, as does your perspective.

Notice how when you felt grief over loss, your friends and family stopped what they were doing to lift you up. Notice how the disagreement that was long overdue with someone you love allowed you to start communicating more openly and honestly. Notice all the things that bring you joy and see how they multiply. Not in how often they occur, but in how often you let them into your heart with awareness.

The more you focus on the good and see the gifts in every day, no matter what is going on, you train yourself to see the temporariness of situations, especially the uncomfortable ones. You begin to recognize....Keep Reading 

 

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A Simple Way to Change the World...and actually enjoy it

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I was shaking as I sat down to put my feet over the edge of the rock cliff. I have a strong fear of heights and that vision of going over and falling to my bone shattering doom is always unsettling.  But I was determined. And scared. But apparently determination would win out that day.

I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. I wanted to push myself to the edge and just sit in the fear, let it wash over me, and not move.  It was hard. But I knew I had lived through harder things. And that fear was just a feeling. I wasn’t actually going to fly over the edge. At least I hoped not. 

Several weeks prior I had dangled my legs over that same ledge and felt the familiar sense of shaking fear. Next to me, sat my friend who seemed un-phased by the potential danger…even commenting that his fear of heights didn’t seem to bother him anymore which almost made him sad.  At that point, I felt I could feel it for the both of us. We sat there together, legs moving back and forth. Him looking at ease, me with my heart racing trying to find my calm. I never would have sat there by myself, but with him sitting next to me I felt safer. I felt protected.  He looked fearless as he encouraged me to do what made me fiercely uncomfortable.  I was inspired by his attitude and his strength. Even though I could see he was pretty unimpressed with himself.

When I returned to the ledge on my own, I knew I could do it. I had proof it was possible. I imagined sitting next to my friend and feeling safe…and even though it didn’t take the fear away, it inspired me enough to keep going. I took a picture of my shaking, dangling legs to remind myself I could be strong and brave if I let myself be. I was in the middle of facing many of my fears in life. I had to keep going.

I sent the picture to another friend who was also in the middle of facing and living through many of her own fears as well. She praised me over and over again. She told me the story of a fire tower she climbed once with a friend and was terrified of it. She felt stronger with a friend as well. She wondered if she could climb it alone.

Later in the week, she announced she was going to climb the fire tower solo. She wanted to prove to herself she could. She text me several times from the bottom of the tower saying she couldn’t do it. She wanted to but she couldn’t find the strength inside herself.  With each elevated step, the panic took over. She was disappointed, but she was glad she made the attempt.

Less than a half an hour later, she sent me a picture of herself at the top of the tower. She looked horrified! But she did it.  She took each uncomfortable step and made it to the top. She was so proud and in love with herself for her accomplishment she could barely find the words to express it. Pure bliss. Pure pride. Pure love. And pure understanding that we are the only obstacle getting in our own way.

She was overwhelmed with all that she had learned in that experience and it took her a few days to process it all. She wrote about the experience documenting the internal journey that got her there. She was excited to share it. We met that week and talked in person as she once again shared how amazing she felt and scheduled her post to go out the next day.  Still overjoyed she went home on top of the world.

The next morning her scheduled post popped up on Facebook…only hours after it had been discovered that she had died in her sleep. The timing was eerily and sadly perfect.

My friend transitioned from this life on top of the world. She loved herself with complete acceptance of who she was and what she stood for.  She lived as a gift and left with a gift that most work much of their lives hoping to attain.

I returned to the ledge the other day and realized I hadn’t been there in almost two years since she passed. I sat on a rock ledge overlooking the area…not the same one…I didn’t need to prove anything to myself that day. I remembered how inspired I was by my friend’s strength when he sat next to me on the ledge and I remembered the pride my other friend felt when she rediscovered her own. He inspired me, I inspired her, and she inspired herself to be who she already was.  Everything connects. Everyone connects. We are all in this together.

You have no idea how many people you’ve inspired or touched or encouraged just by being yourself.  You don’t know because we don’t share our stories enough. We don’t tell each other how often we appreciate each other and how meaningful we find our connections. We don’t even realize how much we need each other to enjoy this life.

We share our heartache and frustration way more than we do our joy.  And I know for sure we don’t say thank you nearly enough.  For our experiences. For the moments that tap into our strength. For the people that surround us who show us more…and who motivate us to be more.

Most of us live in cultures which support “misery loves company.” We don’t want to feel alone in our fears and our sorrows. But what if we spent more time sharing our successes and our conquered fears? What if we spoke more of our beautiful friendships and relationships, as well as and the moments we meet strangers who make us think twice about our place and our purpose? What would that be like?  Keep Reading...

 

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Facing the Fear of Change: Big Risks Can Bring Big Rewards

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“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” ~Barack Obama

If someone said to you, “Hey, you know how you are feeling the need for change and you’re not sure what to do? Well, I can’t tell you what to do, but I can guarantee that if you follow where your heart leads you, you’ll create the possibility of more joy than you’ve ever felt before. All you have to do is walk through the doors that will keep opening up for you and trust, completely, that you are on the right track. You may question it at times, but keep going. You’ll be fine no matter what.”

What would you do? Would you follow the guarantee or would you keep doing what you’re doing?

What if the caveat was added, “Oh, you should probably know that if you do this, you run the risk of losing much of what you’ve known and who you think you are now will look completely different the next time you look in the mirror.”

Ummmm… hold up. Let me think about that.

That’s basically what happens when you know it’s time to change up your life and you’re innately scared to do so.

So, what do you do?

I spend a lot of time in deep reflection and introspection. And it’s not because I want to; it’s because I am constantly trying to understand myself, to figure out where I’m headed and what’s potentially holding me back from getting there.

Most of the time, I feel completely in the dark. And while my grandmother always told me that there is nothing in the dark that can hurt you, I’m human; I question this theory. And yet I continue to trust that she’s right. She lived over eighty years and was the most inspirational woman I’ve known; she must’ve learned something pretty valuable to be expressing these bold opinions.

So I had the nudge to change myself and I went with it. No, that’s not accurate—I had the internal and external shove and I went for it.

In the matter of a few short years, I got divorced, bought a house, lived alone with my kids, completely supported myself financially and then left my job, started a business, and changed the majority of my friends. I chose to start completely over in many ways.

On paper, I looked a bit off balanced. Keep Reading...

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Tired of People Pleasing? Tips to Change It Up

“What do you want to do?” you question regularly.

“I’ll wait till everyone else has gone first.” you’ve said.

“Let me know what everyone decides and I’ll follow.” is your consistent response in the group text.

Do you have an opinion? Yes. Do you have a preference? Sometimes. But perhaps you’re so used to letting everyone else decide for you so you know they will be happy and you will suck it up like you always do.

After all, you are a master sucker upper. You could even list it as a skill on your resume.

Ahhh the life of a “people pleaser.” I know it well. As a recovering “people pleaser” I’m well versed in the signs and symptoms when I see them.

The truth is, you do have an opinion and you don’t always want to say yes when people ask you to help them out. You also don’t want go to the places that “everyone” says are a must, but you feel compelled to follow the pack in that oh so small FOMO….Fear of Missing Out…or worse…FOR…Fear of Rejection (yes, I just made it up).

But it’s true. You know it. All the people pleasers know it.

And since you say yes oh so often, you also feel that familiar pang of ongoing resentment. The one that you feel when you say yes, just to make someone else happy. You know that “yes” that you regret only moments later and resent them for even asking. Because really, don’t they know you don’t want to despite the fact that you always say yes??

Ummm…no. No they do not.

They do not because you haven’t told them. They do not because they are trusting that you will be open and honest with them regarding how you really feel. They do not because you’ve been hiding your true feelings in hopes that they will like you and accept you and think you are wonderful. And you are! You are wonderful! Even if you said no…

So how do you stop the madness? And the accompanying resentment…which is mostly towards yourself for not speaking up.

By practicing saying how you really feel. By checking in with yourself before you answer and asking if you are saying yes that you really want to. By trusting that you are worthy and good enough that people like you for who you are and not what you can offer them. By accepting that even if someone is disappointed in your decision and ability to take care of yourself, that it is not going to ruin you and leave you loveless. 

On the contrary, the more you speak how you feel, the more people will trust and respect you.

The more you share your true feelings in a respectful way, the more people will be drawn to your honesty and value what you bring to the table. They will know what to expect from you and that creates a safety people like. And the more you allow others to see the real you, the more likeable you will be. You don’t have to win anyone over to be good enough. You already are.  Keep Reading...

 

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Resentment: The Kiss of Death in Relationships...and How to Let It Go

One of my oldest friends called me a few weeks ago to get together. She mentioned it had been 2 years since we had seen each other. That seemed like an awfully long time to not connect with someone who had been such an important part of my life.

I had felt the distance between us for some time and I told myself that this was just another loss I was going to have to accept.  There seemed to be so many. As I changed, the faces of the people I spent time with did too. I know friends drift apart, but I also knew this one felt different. I knew…but I didn’t ask. I didn’t ask because I was scared. If I asked, then I’d have to deal with the discomfort. And that rarely is motivating.

We opted to go for a hike after our 2 year hiatus. The conversation was easy. We caught up a bit and shared some of our recent highlights.  And then the pause…”I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something for the past two years.”  She continued to tell me how hurt she had been when I was not as supportive towards her as I could have been at a time when she needed it. And she was right. I wasn’t. I was juggling so much at the time and what she needed from me was something I was not in a place to give. And instead of telling her that, I kept it to myself. I retreated. I said “I’m here if you need me,” and waited for the request.  But the request didn’t come.

What I didn’t know was that she didn’t want to have to ask for help. She didn’t want to ask for my support. She didn’t want to have tell me that she needed more than I gave. She wanted to “be strong” and deal with it. And that- that feeling- I know oh so well.

So instead, she held it in. She held in the hurt and the resentment and the frustration of unmet expectations. She let it sit in the compartment that keeps us from trusting the ones we love. I hurt her. Was it intentional? Of course not. But I did.

When I told her my angle, I was honest. She had believed I was a good communicator and I am. But not always with the people I’m closest to. It took some deep digging into myself to see it. The more I attach, the more I fear being left and the more I will avoid conflict.  And if I sense conflict or the risk of being rejected, I will detach.  It’s a lifelong pattern I recognize and work through.  The human thing is tough!

But I was also in a place I was not able to be what she needed me to be. Take out my faulty communication, I was still going through some really tough stuff myself. So much so that I didn’t even notice that I was a less than impressive friend. I was wrapped up in my own internal drama. And I also didn’t see it.

We say hindsight is clear and it is. I am grateful for it. Because listening to her hurt reminded me of how painful it is to hold on to resentment towards those we love, or once loved wanting them to be something they are not or can’t be. Or wanting what they are unable to give us at a time because of their own limitations.

I know this feeling. I have held on to strong expectations of others they could not meet. I have felt abandoned many, many times. I have been let down even more. I have detached from those I once loved instead of communicating how I felt. I have retreated and shut down when I could have made another choice….to speak up, to ask for what I need, to be vulnerable and to be loving while doing so. It doesn’t HAVE to be so hard and so painful. There is another way.

And my beautiful friend reminded me of this. By being brave and honest and bold.

How many times have you shut someone out instead of talking to them? How many opportunities have you ignored because they seemed too uncomfortable and you told yourself- I just don’t care. Bullshit. You do care. We all care.

You don’t have to change. I don’t have to change. But what if we did? What if we started to talk to each other regularly with compassion and honesty? What if we shared what we felt instead of shoving it down in hopes it will just go away? What if we spoke out of love instead of out of fear? What if we forgave each other for not meeting our expectations—the ones we can barely meet ourselves?

What would THAT be like?

Being open and vulnerable requires trust. Trust in yourself. Trust in the people around you. It doesn’t always come natural to expose ourselves. But the more we practice and open up, the more we may learn just how good it feels to be authentic…to be true to ourselves…and to feel confident enough to live and love as we are.

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The Story Behind the Story...The Secret to Beating the Dragon

Book Summary:

Andrew and his grandmother are best friends and spend their time together telling stories of conquering imaginary dragons (fear) by being brave (looking fear in the eye). As Gram ages and her life ends, Andrew is left to battle the dragons alone until he discovers that Gram has been with him all along.

Embrace the moments…that’s my focus lately.

My children’s book, The Secret to Beating the Dragon, was delivered to me the other day. My initial reaction was excitement…and then an immediate sense of sadness because my kids weren’t home to view it with me for the first time.  I wished they were…

But I am a firm believer in Divine timing. I do believe life is perfectly timed out for us, even when it makes no sense to us at all. So I questioned, “why must I be alone to see the book for the first time? They love it too!”

And it hit me….the night I wrote the story I was home alone for one of the first overnights my kids were with their dad after our separation.  I missed them and it gave me the opportunity to sit with myself and feel. Let’s be honest, that is not something we typically enjoy. But I wanted to embrace it and felt inspired to write.

I sat in my kitchen, notebook in hand and let the words fill the page.  Crying as I wrote, I felt the emotions of love and loss and strength and courage. And then I text the story to my cousin, Andrew, whose relationship with my grandmother inspired the story to begin with.  Along with him, I cried some more.

The story is heartwarming and I knew I wanted to share it.

The moment has come full circle.

But the day I held the book…that moment was for me. And Andrew. I text him the picture of it immediately. He is the primary reason I wanted this story to come to life. His love for his grandmother...and hers for him. Beautiful and inspiring and the kind of love that makes you remember why you love---because it feels amazing. Also, the kind that reminds you why it’s hard to let go---because it feels amazing.

The night I wrote the story, I felt their love so strongly.  I felt how he missed her and how he did everything to make their time together the best it could be. And I felt how much she appreciated it…how much she appreciated him.

She was living with Alzheimer’s disease in her home in the middle of the woods of Maine when Andrew moved in. My grandfather had died a few years prior and she had been living her life to the fullest since, but with the onset of Alzheimer’s, no one wanted her to be alone. My brother lived there for a period as well. Both he and Andrew cared for her as long as they could as they were going through their own life transitions.

Her vibrant spirit and strong independence was shifting. She was going downhill and life was hard for her. I would call her on my way home from work and tell her the same jokes each day because I knew she didn’t remember them from the day before. And she would laugh- every time. Same jokes, same response.

I just wanted to make her smile.

She would complain that she knew her memory was going and it was so frustrating. I hurt for her. It hurt me that she hurt. So I told her that she was living the dream…she was living in the moment, because that’s all she had.

But for me, it was painful.  I just wanted to take her pain away. I loved her so very much. The idea of her suffering was awful.

I was grateful Andrew was there. His humor, his personality, his dedication to our grandmother was unmatched. He would come home from his job on the ambulance and tell Gram of his adventures in the field. Having volunteered on an ambulance herself after retirement, she was eager to hear his stories.

She craved adventure as much as he did and they would share a glass of whiskey as he told his tales of the day.  And Andrew, the charismatic and funny man that he is, is an excellent story teller. No doubt she took it all in, happy to live through the bloodline she created. Appreciative to experience life through the eyes of love and admiration.

I tear up nearly every time I read the story. I’m sure at some point I won’t. But for now, I still feel the intensity of the love and the loss and the exquisite beauty that comes with it.

While the book was coming to life this past fall and early winter, my beloved aunt, Andrew’s mom, was dying. I’ve accepted that I cannot find words that best describe my aunt. Her pure spirit and genuine kindness frame the most giving soul I’ve ever met. She is simply- love- in its truest form.

The kind of love that makes you remember why we love---because it feels amazing. Also, the kind that reminds you why it’s hard to let go---because it feels amazing.

I can’t capture the magnitude of her loss- it runs too deep- but I can say that the timeliness of having our family together to help me critique the character images in the book was impeccable. Sharing our views as we bonded over our pain while I saw my beautiful aunt for the last time----Serendipitous.

Again, Divine timing at its finest.

The journey of bringing a vision to life is quite an adventure. And I love me some adventure. Even the sucky parts.

I’m thrilled to share the legacy of my family. One of immense respect, loyalty, love of living and an unwavering commitment to make our dreams come true.

Thanks for sharing Gram and Andrew. Love you from the deepest parts of my heart.

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Using Writing to Work Through Your Fears

There is a real push to encourage each other to think positively.

Flipping our situations and circumstances to make them work to our advantage…and that is very good advice. Personally, I do this often to reduce my own stress level and it’s what I emphasize in my work with others. Reframing challenges into opportunities for amazing growth feels awesome. However, retraining ourselves to think positively after habitually focusing on the obstacles and excuses in our way rarely comes easily.

There is a conscious practice that comes with it to strengthen our abilities to create a new habit of thinking that has us living our lives filled with freedom and awesomeness.

Most of what we struggle with comes from our fears. Fear of the unknown stemming from fears of rejection, abandonment, pain, failure, dependence, loss…and the list goes on. In order to face these fears it’s to our advantage to look at them, feel them, understand them and work with them to move through them.

Because we have so many thoughts going throughout the day, it can be hard to keep track of what it is we are really afraid of when the sinking feeling hits that stops us dead in our tracks.

An extremely helpful technique to work with our fears is to write them down.

It doesn’t matter if you write them in a journal, on the computer, in your phone, on a napkin, or the back of piece of junk mail and then burn them…the key is to get the thoughts out of your head.

You can list them situationally or in general. Write your fears and where they come from. You can rank them in priority status or by which ones are strongest. It doesn’t actually matter as long as you get them out.

After you write them out, question them further.

Is there a solution? Can you problem solve? If not, what would it be like to let it go and release the need for control? What would it feel like to trust that it will resolve itself?

Write out the worst case scenarios.

How will they change your life? Will you still have your family? Your friends? Your dignity? What could you possibly lose that you can’t gain back?

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15+ Standout Ways To Start Living An Authentic Life

Living authentically means trusting yourself.

Trusting your judgments, your visions, your ideas and knowing that no matter what you are going to be okay. We are taught how to fear early on in life by many of the influences around us and then end up spending a lot of time deciphering what feels right for us versus what doesn’t, with a dash of hesitation in between.

Anticipatory anxiety comes from fear of the future and the unknowns accompanying it. Fear of all the things that could wrong and how that it may impact us. Even if we trust our decisions, we may fear that other people’s decisions will “screw everything up,” so we want to plan for that too by worrying about it.

We may believe that by worrying enough about something, a solution will reveal itself or better yet, we can avoid the discomfort altogether by not doing or saying anything and continuing to live in limbo…hoping it all just works itself out on its own. But if that’s not working, then let’s just go back to worrying so we can see all the potential obstacles in the way.

Where does worry get us? Living in the pain we are trying to avoid.

How do you know you can trust yourself?

Turn around. Look at your past. Look at the many, many times you were scared to speak up, or take a step forward, or make a wrong turn. Did you ultimately end up okay? Eventually at the place you wanted to be, with the kind of people you wanted to be with, feeling safe and loved and more comfortable in your skin?

Perhaps not every step of the way, but did you finally arrive? Most of the time, yes.

But if you didn’t, what did you learn along the way? Where did you find your strength? How did you get through it?

You may have found great support by others you didn’t know was available to you or you may have even dug down and found your own ability to support yourself. You may have even began to see that what you thought you needed, you didn’t. You may have learned that you could rely on yourself…in turn, trusting yourself.

Most of us are talented at not trusting ourselves.

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Who Will You Be Today? The Importance of Being Yourself

I stood in the dark parking lot for several minutes before going inside the restaurant that waited for my arrival. The expectation of the night remained unknown.  I was unprepared and uncomfortable and really, I didn’t genuinely want to be there. Yet the discomfort of the invite drew me in as a means of addressing one more fear I’d long held.

It wasn’t meant to be a big deal, this networking dinner I’d been asked to attend.  My friend said “come mingle and meet people in your field”. I knew it was a good idea, meeting new mental health professionals who had long worked independently. I loved to share my views on mental health. I wasn’t new to the work, but I was just beginning my private practice so I didn’t at feel like I knew what I was doing. I was insecure in my ability to share my opinions independently, not representing anyone else other than myself.  

I heard the question in the darkness break my internal stillness….”Who am I going to be tonight?”

It was a valid question. I’d spent most of my career in a profession that required me to filter my words and opinions. I had to craft my views wisely to ensure the face I showed was acceptable to the employer I represented.  I could not have been successful if I didn’t curb my true inner thoughts and feelings…which was also the reason I was no longer there.  I longed to break free of the constraints and in that parking lot, I recognized that I was free. This was my choice, my gig, my terms, and yet I wasn’t exactly sure what that looked like.  I wanted to assist whichever part of me was going to show up to be prepared.

After a brief assessment of who was best suited for the presentation, I heard the next question…”why don’t you just be yourself?”

The exhale came fast. I was terrified. The internal fears flooded quickly. “What will they think of me if I share my non traditional views? How will they reject me once they realize I am not one of them? Will the start of my new career be the end of it?”

And then…”wait, what am I really afraid of? I have absolutely nothing to lose. Go be yourself and try her on. What’s not to like?”

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How New Age Thinking Can Ruin Your Life

"Whatever you do, don’t think negative thoughts or you will bring them to life.”
Whenever I read this or hear someone say this I want to scream. First, I stop and question if that is true because, well, I’m human and if it is true, I’m screwed. Then, I let my intuitive and logical mind unite and remind me that, if that was the case, I would have been poisoned, stabbed, suffocated, burned to ashes, drowned, publically flogged or have been locked up in a padded room by now.

And since that hasn’t happened yet, I’m pretty sure that this “fact” can be re-categorized as an urban myth. As a rational minded mental health professional who is equally committed to her spiritually based mindset, this popular belief drives me even more nuts.

When someone tells you not to think negatively, it’s like saying, don’t think of the color red. Whatever you do, don’t do it. Don’t think of the color red. Block it out of your mind. Don’t do it! Are you doing it? Are you thinking of the color red? Why are you thinking of the color red?? I told you not to. Now your whole world is going to look red. And in your effort of making yourself feel better, you instead feel like a failure, beating yourself up because for the life you, you simply can not block red from your thoughts.  Which makes the red feel even brighter and stronger in your mind.


When we experience challenging moments in life, we are going to have negative thoughts. We are going to have sad thoughts and angry thoughts and fear filled thoughts. To tell ourselves we shouldn’t feel that way is a huge disservice and setback to our healing process.


Giving ourselves permission to feel and think how we are feeling in the moment is sooo important in the process of acceptance. To deny ourselves how we really feel is the act of stuffing our emotions down and that’s the kind of stuff that actually gets us in trouble. Those feelings want to come out. In those moments, they are asking to be heard, they want to be accepted and understood. And when we tell them they are wrong because we are uncomfortable with them, they grow even stronger to keep our attention.

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