The past few weeks I’ve been spending a lot of time being brutally honest with myself about where I’m at vs. where I want to be. And truthfully, it stinks! Looking in the mirror is hard on a good day, let alone when you decide to use the magnifying mirror so that you can really see every blemish and imperfection.
But… it’s also illuminating. It’s laugh while you cry. It’s the excitement of that “aha!” moment when you finally, after all these years, connect the dots from trigger A to life long reaction B.
“If you can’t be honest with yourself, you can’t heal yourself.” Ed Latimore
As many of you know, I spent my childhood being told I wasn’t good enough. That I was unlovable. The root of all problems in my mother’s life and in my parents’ marriage. Not to mention the fact that I was adopted, so there’s a strong undercurrent of fear of rejection that has always run through my psyche, and a belief that it will happen eventually in all my relationships because if my own mother didn’t want me, who would?
I have spent years working through this. Really diving in and trying to exemplify the adage that “trauma is unintegrated resource”. I’ve been integrating! Healing, learning, meditating, getting curious- doing all the things. And it’s been brutal. Every time I think I’ve finally healed that primal wound of being undeserving, I realize nope, not quite yet… there’s one more layer.
I’ve always struggled with taking care of myself physically- specifically exercising and eating healthy food. Part of the reason why I stayed in fitness for so long was because I knew if I wasn’t required to show up to teach the class, I probably wouldn’t show up. This has proven itself to be true in the last year since COVID hit- I’ve essentially stopped exercising, and my body is paying the price because my other downfall is food. One of the few ways my Mother showed me love was with her cooking, so I am a deeply committed comfort eater. Where are the cupcakes, the pizza, the fried chicken- if I’m down, those are my go-tos.
But my husband took a picture of me with our little one a couple months ago and what a wakeup call that was- is that really me? That’s not who I want to be. Glennon Doyle was on a podcast with Brene Brown and she was talking about the importance of not just telling her children about how they should live, but modeling it- that she asks herself “Would this be the type of relationship I would want for my daughter?” and if the answer is “No”, then something needs to change- no matter how hard or messy it might be. This idea flashed through my mind as I saw that picture – “Is this the relationship with his body I want Charlie to have?” And the answer was an emphatic “NO!”. And so, something had to change. But what? and how? I’ve tried so many times to change my relationship with taking care of myself, how am I going to make it stick this time?
So I did what I always do, I dove headfirst into my Meditation practice and began listening to any podcast that struck my fancy.
I began just going for a walk every day (it’s not exercise, it’s completing the “Exercise” ring on my iWatch- for some reason, this I can do, whereas telling myself just to exercise creates major resistance).
And I began asking myself how much I was allowing myself to Feel, and how much I was choosing to tap out. How often do we numb our bodies against feeling the effects of all the things we do to challenge them, like eating poorly, not getting any exercise, and putting sleep as a low priority? How often do we choose to compartmentalize our emotions because they are uncomfortable; far easier to just put them in a box on a shelf and lie to ourselves that we will “deal with it later”?
The truth is, emotions are just energy in motion- and if we don’t allow that energy to flow, it gets stuck. The fear will come out in some other way, perhaps GI issues. The anger will come out at someone else, maybe at the person who cuts you off on the way to work, instead of the partner who barely acknowledged a milestone birthday. If we ignore our steadily gaining weight, we develop knee pain. If we pretend we don’t need sleep, the inflammation in our bodies slowly builds until all sorts of problems crop up.
One of the biggest components of finding true health is allowing ourselves to be present with every part of who we are. With our physical bodies, the energetic, the emotional, the mental, the intuitive, and the spiritual self. To that end, we need to be willing to truly confront how these different aspects feel and be honest with ourselves.
In what way do you not take care of yourself?
Here are some questions to ask:
- Do you exercise?
- Do you eat a well balanced diet?
- Do you get at least 7 hours of sleep every night?
- Do you spend time in nature?
- Do you take care of your appearance, or have you let COVID assist you into a slide of sweatpants and twice a week showers?
- Do you pay attention to what your body tells you, or do you ignore it? i.e. If you are utterly exhausted, do you force yourself to go to that high intensity aerobics class, or do you allow that maybe a walk would better serve you? Do you burn the midnight oil even when you’re dying to go to sleep, because your mind tells you the work is more important?
- Are you able to describe what different emotions actually feel like in your body? If someone asked you to explain to an Alien what Joy, Fear, Anger, Sadness, Disgust *feels* like- could you do it?
- Do you analyze everything?
- Are you constantly making lists, and then beating yourself up when you don’t get everything done?
- Do you second guess yourself or have a hard time making decisions?
- Do you tend to ignore gut feelings, and go more with your head?
These are just a few questions to get you started. The fact is, we all have coping mechanisms. Some of us run to the mind to help us sort through difficult times, and do everything possible to ignore the related emotions. Some of us pour ourselves into work in order to avoid taking care of our bodies (and can give you very logical reasons why this is the right thing to do). And so often we put the hard and scary work of putting ourselves under the spotlight, really scrutinizing just how well we are showing up for OURSELVES, on the back burner. Too many other things to do, people to take care of, work that needs to be addressed. But if we can’t learn to be honest with ourselves, learn to spot all the ways we are ignoring what our bodies, our minds, and our hearts are trying to tell us, we risk it all. We risk disease. We risk being so easily triggered we hurt the relationships we care about. We risk not showing up as the professional we wish to be because we’re exhausted. So please, take the time to honestly look yourself in the mirror and figure out what you’ve decided you don’t deserve- whether it’s sleep, nice clothes, or taking 20 minutes a day to meditate. And then do the *real* work and figure out why you aren’t giving yourself the life you deserve. I promise you, if you can do those two things, your world will change.
Love & Light,
So- who has that person in their life they honestly can’t stand? You know who I’m talking about- the one who triggers you every time you interact. Who bothers you on a deep level. Who says things you can’t believe just came out of their mouth. Who you joke (or are super serious) about making sure there’s wine to be had if you have to spend time in their presence.
Sometimes we are lucky in that we can cut ties with these people. We can simply stop having them in our lives- just walk away and never look back. But what about the people we are “stuck” with? Maybe it’s a boss or a co-worker who is the single downside to a job you love. Or a family member.
I have one of these people in my life right now and I have to say, it’s been one of biggest relational challenges I have come up against in a very long time. I’m trying so very hard to overlook how malcontent, vicious, and childish this person is, because I understand that she’s coming from a place of insecurity and fear. I’m trying to rise above, to do and say the “right” things. But she’s making it SO HARD. And what feels even worse is that she’s got me so wrong- no matter what I do or how I say things, she seems hell bent on misinterpreting them to the worst scenario. Sound familiar? I speak from the bottom of my heart when I say I feel for all of you who have one of these people in their life. So what do we do?
Step One: Vent. Seriously. We are human. Don’t try to pretend it doesn’t bother you. Call a friend who will agree with you that this person is heinous and ask you where the body should be buried. Let it ALL OUT. Every bit of frustration and anger and disappointment and hurt that you are feeling. Don’t bottle it- what we resist, persists. So get it out of your system. Side note: make sure this is someone who is 100% yours. Don’t pick a mutual acquaintance, or someone who is going to get stuck in the middle. That can make everything far worse- you don’t want your confidante running back to the object of your frustration trying to make things better or mediate. This is about getting all the energy of your emotion OUT with zero chance of consequences. If there is no one in your life who fits that bill- write it out. Write them a letter saying absolutely everything you wish you could say in real life. Get. It. Out. Second side note: DO NOT SEND THIS LETTER. Burn it, throw it out, but do not send it.
Step Two: Shake it off. The point of the venting is not to whip yourself into a frenzy… it’s to truly let the anger/frustration/negative energy out so that it can dissipate and you can come back to a more rational place. So take time to now to meditate or calm yourself in some way. Of course, I think meditation is always the best answer, but maybe it’s going for a long walk, or taking a bath, or hitting up a BodyCombat class. Watching some bad TV. Retail therapy. What do you do when you need to de-stress? Do that, until you are able to say this person’s name without seeing red or feeling your blood pressure rise.
Step Three: Honestly assess what, if anything, you can do to change the situation.
- If this is a miscommunication issue, step back and see how you can be more clear. Good time to reference Non Violent Communication skills. Keep in mind that there’s a good chance no matter how clear you are, this person might not be able to hear you…but that’s a topic for another newsletter.
- If this is more about perspective, see if you can see theirs. Literally try to put on their goggles, no matter how difficult or impossible it may seem. What are their most common complaints or issues with YOU? See if you can understand how they might be reaching their conclusions about you. This one isn’t fun, because it may force you to face truths about yourself you do not particularly like. But try to do it, because the greatest growth comes from confronting these shadow aspects of ourselves.
- Face facts. There might not be anything you can do. They might be set in their ways as firmly as you are set in yours. This is the hardest conclusion to reach, because you end up feeling even more stuck. You’ve done all this introspection and concluded…. that you’re in the same place you were before and feel even more certain there’s nothing you can do to change it!
Step Four: the final step. The hardest step. The one you have to come to regardless of all the steps before. In fact, some might say you could skip all those other steps and jump right to this one. Ask yourself “If I were capable of unconditional love and forgiveness, how would I treat this person?” And then start doing that.
Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? It’s not easy. Probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I’m still ping ponging between this and Step One. Multiple times a day, usually. I go from being spitting mad with venom, to stepping back into my heart and trying to lead with compassion. Some days venom wins, some days compassion. But I try to only interact with my personal nemesis when I can do so from a place of love. Because at the end of the day, would I rather know in my heart that I have done the best I could, and that I entered every interaction from a loving place… or that I sunk to her level and rolled in the dirt and slung mud pies in her face? To be honest, it’s a close call some days. I admit to fantasizing about calling her out and leveling every barb I can think of in her direction. But then I ask myself who would that hurt? Only me. Because I can promise you, it would just roll off her back and become more reason for her to lash out at me. She wouldn’t learn from it, she wouldn’t grow; it definitely wouldn’t change her behavior. And I would end up being ashamed and feeling guilty. So as much as it might feel good in the moment (like eating a whole box of Girl Scout Cookies)… I know I would pay for it in the end.
“Show respect to people even if you don’t think they deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.” Dave Willis
All that said – your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to pick one person in your life who greatly challenges you and try to make things just a little better. I’m not saying you need to be best buds with this person, by the way. That’s not realistic. But is it possible for you to change how you interact with them just enough to make it not so horrendous every time? Can you find some common ground? Can you calm yourself enough so that you are able to remain soft and stay in the heart versus lash out and take the bait? You might not want to pick your archenemy, by the way. Best to start with someone who is only of mild annoyance versus your personal nemesis. Take this month to challenge yourself to see what you can do to better your interactions…. you might be surprised how changing your attitude may influence theirs!
Light&Love…. and Good Luck!
p.s. I feel obligated to say that as much effort as you put into this… sometimes it doesn’t work. People can only meet you as far as they’ve met themselves, so there is a chance you try this and it feels like a complete failure. But I promise you, there is never any effort lost in an attempt to learn about yourself or cultivate compassion. So even if nothing in how you interact with this person has changed by month’s end… notice what has changed in yourself and celebrate *that*!
Long time, no communication! I hope this newsletter finds you all well and enjoying your summer. The baby slept through the night for the second time last night and I’m sitting here feeling like an actual human being. More importantly, I finally have the time and the headspace to connect with all of you. Believe it or not, I’ve been wanting to write this newsletter for the past month. I kept on saying to myself “today will be the day”… and then it wasn’t. And that’s actually a good segue into what I want to talk about.
“When you release expectations, you are free to enjoy things for what they are instead of what you think they should be” Mandy Hale
What happens when you do all the right things to set yourself up for getting exactly what you want… and then you don’t get it? Remember our visualization practice? And how I was visualizing the kind of birth I wanted, and I said I’d let you know how that went? Some might argue it failed miserably.
Let me describe what I visualized: Peacefully laboring at home for a time before driving to the Birth Center. I knew which room I wanted, so I saw myself there with Chuck, occasionally walking out into the peaceful courtyard with the fountain. I really liked all the midwives (except one who reminded me so much of my mother I had a hard time interacting with her), so that part didn’t matter, though I hoped it would be the first midwife we met when I started my prenatal care. I saw myself with no monitors, no IVs, no drugs, experiencing labor as women have through the ages. Overall, it was simple. And I did everything I could to give myself that vision. I ate right during my pregnancy, I rested while also staying active. I meditated and visualized daily. I prepared our bags, went to the birth class, asked a billion questions. There isn’t anything more I could have done to give myself the birth I wanted. Did I get it? That would be a definitive no.
What happened: There was no labor at home. My water broke at 10pm on a Monday night and we called the midwives and they told us to stay at home until I couldn’t talk through contractions. Well, the contractions never started. Chuck and I slept and walked and watched TV, all the while waiting for something to happen but it never did. I even took a castor oil cocktail to help get things going and all it did was make me throw up. Due to fear of infection, my delivery turned high risk which meant no Birth Center- I was required to go to the hospital. And who met us there? The only midwife I didn’t want- the one who triggered me. And what was I required to do? Have the belts that constantly monitored me and the baby, as well as an IV for the Pitocin. Things started moving along around 6pm Tuesday, but really kicked into high gear around 8pm. Honestly? I was excited. This wasn’t what I pictured, but “here we go, let’s do this!” was my attitude. I had a hard time holding on to that attitude as I went from wondering why people complained about labor one moment, to experiencing extreme, pain level at a 9 out of 10, back labor for 7 hours. Around 3am I was feeling intense pressure… the kind that everyone had described to me as being what you feel right before you start pushing…so the midwife decided to check how dilated I was. I’ll never forget her sitting next to the bed, looking me in the eye while holding my hand, and saying “Honey, you’re at 3cm”. I died a little inside. I glimpsed Chuck’s face turn ashen. And we decided to get an epidural, because honestly the thought of being at that level of pain for hours upon hours longer was untenable. If I had been at even 6cm I would have pulled it together and soldiered on… but 3? That’s 7 more cm to go. I just couldn’t, and sometimes epidurals help you relax enough to get things moving, so I succumbed and got even more drugs I hadn’t wanted. (That said- I’ve never felt such relief!) I fell asleep for an hour and a half and when I woke up I knew something wasn’t right. I felt like I had the flu, and sure enough, I was spiking a fever and both the baby and my heart rates were elevated. (This is the concern with prolonged breakage of waters). And so, a c-section. The last on my list of things I definitely didn’t want. Thirty three hours after my water broke, Charlie arrived, which of course made it all worth it and was the best moment of my life thus far.
Now, I could be bitter about how my labor went. I mean, I literally had the exact opposite birth experience I wanted. Everything went wrong, right? It is the polar opposite of what I had spent a month visualizing, nine months preparing for, and countless hours thinking about.
However, I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing because in retrospect, I actually got exactly what I hoped for.
Every time I thought about laboring at home, I imagined the feeling of enthusiastic anticipation. That happened- I was so excited and couldn’t believe the time had come! I just didn’t have contractions at the same time as the excitement.
Every time I thought about being at the Birth Center, I imagined what it would be like going through labor with Chuck by my side. Not just the walking or all the other logistical suggestions we had learned during our birth class, but the connection we would have while we welcomed our child into the world. I imagined feeling supported and cared for. That happened tenfold…I have never felt more loved and in such deep partnership with my husband than I did during those long hours. It just wasn’t in my location of choice.
And when I pictured the midwife I really wanted by my side, I brought in the feeling of being calmly helped and guided as I navigated this foreign territory. And the midwife I ended up with did exactly that. She was the epitome of the eye of a hurricane, and was so matter of fact and clear with what was happening, why, and what our options were, I was reassured in all the ways I needed to be.
And the thing I wanted more than anything- a natural birth- included me staying grounded and centered. Being present with the moment, without fear or regret. I was. All I can remember is feeling connected to myself, the baby, and Chuck, as we navigated each stage and challenging decision.
I share this story to say, sometimes we are so focused on the nuts and bolts of what we want to happen that we fail to see the hidden gems of the experience when things don’t go exactly as we planned. We miss the ways in which we *did* get what we wanted, or the unexpected ways something worked in our favor. Maybe you join a singles meetup group to find your next partner, but can’t stand all the guys that show up so you bitterly say it was a total waste of time- and forget that you met your new best friend who was similarly disappointed with the options. Or you apply for a job and it gets down to just you and one other person and you don’t get it…so you feel like a failure and wonder for weeks what you did wrong. But then 8 months later you apply for a different position at the same company and you are pushed straight to the top of the list because they remember you and want you on their team. You might have spent months harshly judging yourself about the rejection, to only then realize it was just a delayed happy result.
I’m not saying we have to be immediately happy when things don’t go as we hoped. I definitely shed a few tears during my labor as one thing after another didn’t go as I had wanted. But instead of focusing on that, and swearing off visualization practices because they “don’t work”… I’m choosing to see all the ways it did. Charlie had a 14” head and was a 9.5 lb baby… I think I may have gotten the better end of the bargain by not delivering him naturally. And I will never forget the love I felt for my husband as he so perfectly loved me during the one of the most momentous occasions of our lives.
So, for the rest of August and September, I ask you to think about something in your life that has gone all wrong. Whether it is now or in the past, choose an event that didn’t turn out nearly how you hoped. Where visualization failed. See if you can find the silver lining- the ways in which it *didn’t* fail. The nuggets of good. Sometimes all you have to do is look and you may realize the worst was actually the best thing that ever happened to you. Granted, I got a perfect, adorable, wonderful baby out of my deal!
I’ve found myself fighting reality often during the past few months, and have spent a significant amount of time pondering the George Orwell quote I used to title this post. I knew life would change when I became a mother, but the magnitude of the change is something you can’t really understand until it’s happened to you.
I knew I would be taking a break from seeing private clients and running my meetup group. I knew sleep would be a distant memory. I knew I wouldn’t be able to have the same level of productivity I was used to. I knew my alone time would decrease significantly.
What I didn’t know was how extreme the change would be. What I thought would simply be a downshift turned out to be closer to going from 120mph to a standstill. What’s more- I didn’t know how much I would enjoy that standstill… but only once I accepted it.
And accepting it has been REALLY HARD. I pride myself on my effectiveness, on my productivity, on being able to hold up a list at the end of the day and say “Look at everything I got done!”. Motherhood requires a whole new list that includes things like “changed a billion diapers, got the baby down in five minutes vs. fifty, enjoyed tummy time without tears, read 3.5 children’s books.” All worthwhile, all important… but it’s a far cry from “Helped client A realize it’s her mother’s voice telling her she eats too much, taught client B how to have a non violent conversation with her father, responded to ten meditation question emails, meditated two times for 25 minutes with 10 minutes of yoga and 5 minutes of breathing before each meditation.” I haven’t skipped a day of meditation yet, but sometimes those meditation sessions only last ten minutes. Up until recently I struggled with all of this change tremendously. I vacillated between relishing my new role as Mom, to on some level resenting how dramatic a twist my life had taken- which in turn made me feel guilty because aren’t we “supposed” to love every single second with our children?? Isn’t this what I’ve been wanting for the past seven years with all my heart?
During the meditation trainings I always talk about how Love is not just about who you are in relationship with. There are many facets to the heart, and one of them is Peace, which is cultivated by Acceptance. I use the phrase “What we resists, persists” an awful lot because it is true, as is the followup-
“That which you accept, you choose to let go of.”
These are universal laws of the heart. The more you resist, the less energy you have. The more you accept, the greater the opening for new energy and new choices. It’s important to note that Resistance is natural. Accepting that resistance is a major step to transforming it and stepping out of suffering.
Charlie turned four months old last weekend and it has taken me this long to finally accept my resistance to all the change, which turned very quickly into accepting my new reality as a whole. To be ok with not always getting these newsletters out “on time”. To be ok with it taking literally the entire week to clean the kitchen. To be ok with no more hour long lazy starts to my day.
And this choice- this shift from fighting to hold on to some vestige of life before Charlie, to truly opening to all that motherhood has to offer, has led to a whole new level of peace I didn’t know I was capable of. Who knew I could be ok with having a list and *not* getting it all done? Who knew I could not only tolerate but revel in entire days spent at home with nothing to do but sleep, eat, play with my son, and repeat four times over? Who knew I could be ok with finding a different sort of balance between work and home life? This is a brand new level of happiness- my cup runneth over.
So what I propose to you for the month of November is to take note of what you are resisting in your world. Is it a job you don’t really want to be in? A relationship you wish would function a little differently? A living situation? A past decision of yours? What is it in your world that you wish wasn’t so?
And then see if you can stop resisting it. See if you can find some way to accept it. See the good that it is doing for you. Or embrace that it is a means to an end. See if you can send all that energy of resistance into a positive force- whether to change the situation entirely, or to give new energy towards accepting that which you can not change. I’m certainly not saying this is easy- it took me four months, not one! But start the process. At least take the time to investigate what you are throwing your time and energy into resisting because once you realize what a waste of resources that is, you open the door to discovering a new peace.
“Barns burnt down, now I can see the moon” ~Masahide