Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Teachers everywhere

I serve as a mentor to one of the confirmation students in my congregation. Last week, when Rachel and I met, I was reminded once again of how mentoring is a two-way street. I always learn as much from the experience as the person I'm mentoring, something I've been told by those who have mentored me as well. Perhaps that's really the idea?

Since that night last week was our final formal meeting before she is confirmed in her faith, we talked a lot about what we have learned from each other, what we've learned through life and what we commit to doing in the future.

Our discussion raised a few questions for me: What if I saw every person and every experience as a potential teacher—even, and perhaps especially, from some of the difficult people in life? What if I tried to see what I might learn from them rather than flitting from one day to the next without paying attention? And what if I paused from time to time, as Rachel and I did last week, to take stock of where I have been, where I am and where I am going?

It's about being awake and aware—about really opening up to life and paying attention. Rachel is a quiet young woman, so she notices things; she pays attention. She talks about the importance of love being embodied. Yes, love isn't something to just talk about. You and I can be love; we can bring it into being.

Thank you, Rachel, for being a teacher and mentor to me, too. 

Who might be a teacher on your journey today?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Focus on happiness

Last Friday I blogged about tending relationships. Today I heard about interesting research done by Harvard University's Nicholas Christakis showing that for each "happy friend" you add to your social circle, your happiness grows by 9 percent. And for each "unhappy friend" you add, your happiness declines by 7 percent.

That said, you aren't going to drop from your friendship circle a dear friend who's experiencing depression or grief in her life. You aren't looking just to add friends who are always bubbly and enthusiastic. When you and I live our lives on a deeper level, we're all about being real and being authentic. That means not skipping right over the top of our grief and pain—but facing it and dealing with it appropriately. It also means that happiness is more than just a surface emotion such as TV ads show us with the good life we'll have if we drink Product X as our soda of choice or we buy the right car.

Still, it's worth noting that a focus on happiness and being positive is good for your well-being. It reminds me of the saying, "It's tough to soar like an eagle when you're surrounded by turkeys all day." Yes, it really is! And it's difficult to fly like the beautiful butterfly you are inside when you're crawling on the ground, living in fear of going into that cocoon to allow the transformation that awaits you. Embrace happiness at the deep level of contentment and joy.

What would it take to live in a more positive frame of mind? To be more grateful? To be a happy friend? If you're a happy and positive person, might you draw similar people to you? It's worth thinking about. Try focus on happiness today.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tend your friendships

You and I already know that a strong network of family and friends is good for our health and well-being. Jim Harter, a chief scientist at Gallup and co-author of Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, conducted research that showed America's happiest people get at least six hours a day of interaction with friends or family. That's a lot, isn't it? I don't know what that means for those of us who work out of our homes. Of course, those of you who work in an office aren't always among "friends or family" either.

Still, we get the point: Friends and family—a positive social network—these are important to our well-being. I will never forget that when I was in the throes of my divorce and all the attendant grief and fears, I isolated myself. My attention focused on my three sons and on sheer survival. I recall feeling that I just wanted to go into a hole and pull the cover over the top of me! Thankfully, I had two dear friends who would not let me do that. They kept calling, stopping by to see me, sending cards and notes. Jim and Carol were persistent. I'm eternally grateful for that ... because in time, I came out of my fog and needed people to whom I could reach out.

Now I know how absolutely essential are my family and friends. I am particularly aware of my need for strong friendships with other women. We inhabit similar bodies and often see things in the same or similar ways. I find that so helpful as I process the various experiences of my life. I have many "sisters" who are there for each other in times of joy and of sadness. Whatever would I do without that?

And I'm really blessed to have a blood sister with whom to share all the ups and downs of life, too. Cheryl and I call each other "womb mates" and often say how great it is to have someone who "knew us when" and with whom we don't need to explain things. She is both sister and friend. I don't take that for granted. Nor do I take for granted any of my friendships and family relationships. I am grateful for them all and want to tend and nurture them carefully.

How about you? What relationships need tending today?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

'What a ride!'

No doubt you have heard as often as I have the quote attributed to various authors and with slightly different variations: "Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, champagne in one hand, strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, 'Woo Hoo, what a ride!'"

Whether the quote includes chocolate and a martini, wine, a latte or "a cloud of smoke," you and I get the gist of it. And the quote presents quite an image, doesn't it?

The idea is there, no matter who said it and what precise language they used: Live life to the fullest. Don't be passive and let it slide by, saving yourself from experiencing life as it is—from the deepest sadness to the most explosive passion and joy.

Enter into life ready to grab on. Fasten your seat belt—because, yes, life is quite a ride! Find friends who can enjoy the journey with you. Create an environment in which your passions can be expressed, whether that's in writing, acting, helping others or designing homes or spaces inside homes. Feel your fears—and do anyway what it is you fear but what you really want to do. Avoid regret. Live in gratitude. Be the butterfly. Leave the cocoon behind!

What would it take for you to live like that? Please contact me if you are stuck and want to explore this idea more fully.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What did you learn today?

Although there's some truth in what Robert Fulghum says in his poem, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," I'm a lifelong learner so I resist the idea that I have nothing more that I need to know. I hope I'm learning new things until I take my final breath. Each new experience brings me more insights—and often the most difficult times teach me the most.

Yesterday I talked about the thrill of new life—now that spring is trying to make an appearance, at least in my part of the country. Today I'm aware of the wonder and joy I experienced as I witnessed my ninth grandchild being born just over 18 months ago. What a precious gift to participate in Ayden's arrival into the world! And just last month when I visited my youngest son, daughter-in-law, Ayden and his older sister in Arizona where they live, Ayden was learning new words by the dozens every day. I was just as enchanted watching him learn the joys of speech as I was all those years ago when I witnessed my sons doing the same.

Because Ayden is so young, he's learning life skills at a fantastic pace. Imagine if we kept up that pace throughout our lives. How much wisdom and knowledge would we have by now?

You and I don't learn new life skills at that rapid rate any more. There's no reason, however, to discount all that we have learned and are learning through the years. Take a few moments to think back on your life five or 10 years ago. Even a year ago. Aren't there nuggets of wisdom that you've picked up in that time? You don't often think about it, perhaps. And maybe it's time to do so—to be grateful for all you've learned, much of it the hard way!

MSNBC's program Morning Joe finishes with a short segment, "What Have We Learned Today?" in which the hosts and others share what they learned that morning. What if you were to ask yourself that each day? Stay awake and aware—see how much you are adding to your wisdom data base daily. Ask the question of your experiences, and, yes, of your fears, too: What can I learn from this? What more do I need to know? What can this teach me?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New life & flight

I love this time of year! Green stems are pushing up through the ground. The grass is greening up. Trees are sending out shoots and buds. Soon the colors of spring will be splashed everywhere.

New life. It's always exciting to observe, isn't it? Whether it's a new baby, a little puppy or a farm animal being born, that new life just moves me to awe and gratitude.

I remember one year when I bought a butterfly kit. I watched the entire transformation process from the tiny caterpillars sent to me that eventually wrapped themselves in cocoons and later emerged as beautiful butterflies. I invited some close friends over the day I released them, and we enjoyed a ritual of release and flight to represent the changes and transformations in our own lives. It was so wonderful watching those butterflies sit quietly on the flowers for a moment and then slowly but surely ascending skyward and disappearing—off to enjoy their all-too-brief lives.  I felt such joy seeing them in flight.

I feel the same joy when I see my clients move from a stuck place or a place of real pain into a place of new dreams, new energy, transformation and deep inner happiness. I get so jazzed by their progress. It's not at all unlike the transition from caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly. For some, that movement is a long, slow process. For others, it happens more quickly. But with time, intention, hard work and a companion along the way to encourage and hold them accountable, everyone does move ahead. I am humbled and also grateful and encouraged to be part of this transformative process. Thank you to those who allow me that privilege.

Please contact me if you are in a stuck place and long for new life and transformation. I'm happy to offer an absolutely no-obligation, complimentary strategy session.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Grumbling & gratitude

It's already been a week since tax day. I'm sure that's not a favorite day for most of you. It's not mine either.

I have to remind myself, however, that I pay taxes because I actually have some income on which to pay them. I try to reframe the whole thing and be grateful for that fact. I also think about the things I take so for granted: schools, roads, bridges, police and fire officials and all the many things that are made possible because of those taxes.

I feel the same about housework. I really don't enjoy it at all. It seems like a boring chore to me. Besides, it's hard on my back. But here's the thing: I am most grateful to have a home—and one I really like.

I don't want to sound like a Pollyanna. But I would like to do less complaining and more thanking and savoring. I want to live with a grateful heart—not a grumbling heart. And that really starts with my attitude.

So what can you reframe today that enables you to enjoy a grateful heart?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Be here now

You have often heard that phrase: Be here now. Perhaps, like me, you have even tried to live that way. You may be more successful at it than I, in fact.

I very much embrace the idea. I want to be present to my life. I want to live life awake and aware. I love the idea of noticing, really noticing, what's happening around me—even when it's the mundane of life. I really like the thought of savoring what I'm doing. For example, when I peel an orange, I like the idea of feeling the soft roughness of the orange, soaking up the lovely citrus aroma and watching the juices run from the segments as they are released from the captivity of the peel.

I just find it a challenge to always "be here now." Reality sets in more often than not and I am in a hurry to get the orange peeled. I'm in a hurry to finish the (delightful) phone conversation with a friend because I need to be out the door in 30 minutes. I don't always take the time when I sit at my desk writing these blogs to look out the window and watch the cardinals and blue jays hop from tree to tree.

What's a woman to do?

The best I can. As with so much of life, it's not about being perfect. It's about remembering as often as I can to stop. Stop and savor. Stop and look around. Notice my surroundings. Really notice the brilliant colors in the lovely blanket my daughter-in-law chose for me when I stayed the weekend with my granddaughter so my son and daughter-in-law could enjoy a weekend getaway. Soak up the colors. Really notice the smell of the beautiful candle in my coaching space. See how the sun sends rays of color through the stained glass dragonfly on my window that spill out onto my carpet.

Much of the time, I'll likely be in my usual mode: fast or faster. But as often as I can, I want to remember: Stop. Look around. Be here now. Savor. Enjoy. How about you?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

5 steps to change

Do you have something you'd like to change? Perhaps it's a behavior with which you aren't especially happy. Or it might be something external such as your weight. Maybe you want to add something to your already-packed schedule and don't know just how to make that change.

Whatever you want to change, here are five things to keep in mind:

First, be very sure you really do want this change. That will make all the difference. I have tried to change something because close friends were doing it, and it just didn't happen because my heart really wasn't in it. It wasn't my goal. It was someone else's—and just sounded like something I should do.

Second, remember that it's important to see change as an incremental process, particularly if the change is substantial or drastic. Break it down into bite-sized chunks so it is manageable. If you don't, you might be so intimidated that you'll never begin the process. You will keep procrastinating or sabotaging your efforts. No journey is completed with that single first step.

Third, choose a first step that is attainable. You will feel more motivated to change if you are successful in your first step. And stay with that first step for a long enough time that you feel ready to move forward to another step. You don't need to rush the process. If you are adding exercise to your daily routine, for example, you might consider starting with just five or 10 minutes a day. See how that goes for a week or two and then consider how much more time you can add. You may not want to jump right into 60 minutes a day as your first step!

Fourth, build upon that first step and your success on that. What's the next logical step? Again, make it manageable. You want this process to be sustainable over time. If the change and its incremental steps are unreasonable and won't fit with your lifestyle or temperament, you may want to reconsider. Or you may want to do some tweaking.

Finally, remember to celebrate your successes. Pat yourself on the back. Perhaps you even want to give yourself a treat for having made this change—that new DVD you'd been wanting or that colorful scarf that would add a fresh touch to an old outfit.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

From grief to joy

This week my book club discussed Kate Braestrup's true story as she tells it in Here If You Need Me, a story about how Braestrup recovers from her young husband's death and finds her calling as a chaplain to search-and-rescue workers in Maine. The book is at once poignant, sad, funny, moving and uplifting.

We talked about how life-changing the death of someone important to us is. It reminded me of how many different types of death we experience in a lifetime. When I experienced divorce, I knew it was a death—not just the death of a marriage but of dreams as well. There were some differences, of course, such as the sense of failure and shame that accompany divorce that would not be there had my husband died—and the fact that no one brings hot dishes when you go through divorce. Nevertheless, divorce was a death. And it became a huge turning point in my life just as Braestrup's life took a different turn when her husband died and she became a single parent.

You and I experience other types of death, too. Have you ever pursued your passion only to have it come to an abrupt halt, for one reason or another? You had to bury a dream. Or perhaps you lost a job—or a friendship. When the friendships are deep and long-lasting, that's certainly death. Losing abilities as we age or body functions through illness—those also remind us that something in us has died.

Here's the deal: All those things need to be grieved. I invite you to see whether there's some grief in your life that hasn't yet been felt and faced. Unresolved grief has a way of sabotaging us and robbing us of joy and the ability to move forward. It sucks energy and joy from us. And at some point, when we feel the pain and eventually let go, our energy and joy can return. And often unimagined wisdom and grace accompany that joy.

If you are comfortable sharing your experience around this, I'd love to have you do so in the Comment box below. You will be an inspiration to others just as Braestrup's book inspired me and my sister book club readers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

'Cocoon time' and patience

I'm really not sure what to do about either of two relationship issues I face right now. Friendships are very important to me, so I don't want to rush into action. On the other hand, I'm feeling the discomfort of letting things be as they are right now. I'm not as high on the patience scale as I would like to be!

The more I reflect on this—and journal on both these knotty situations—the more convinced I am that I need to take my own advice. It's time to let things just be for a while. I need to leave some "cocoon time" for both situations and see what emerges. It's tempting to try bring some resolution. But, deep inside, I know the importance of letting things just "be" for a while. I also know what can happen when someone tries to force the butterfly from a cocoon too soon. Not a desirable outcome!

Good soups, good wine, and good friendships all need time. I need to practice patience. I need to trust that cocoon time will create what needs to be. One way or another, transformation will occur.

Cocoon time may not bring about the transformation or result I'd like to see. But it will be what's needed somehow. And then I'll need to practice the Serenity Prayer.

Have you had something recently that you wanted to move to resolution before it had a chance to simmer? If so, then you'll know my conflicted feelings in just letting the situations be what they are for the moment. Deep breaths. Let it be.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Don't be afraid to set boundaries

So many of my clients deal with boundary issues. I deal with those myself plenty of times. A lot of what we confront on a daily basis comes under the umbrella of "boundary issues."

When someone misses the deadline of when they were to have a promised assignment to me and still expects the same quick turnaround I'd promised when I thought I'd have it earlier, that's a boundary issue. If this happens time after time and I say nothing, I'm teaching that person that it's OK to disregard deadlines with me. I'm teaching that person that it's quite OK to take their own sweet time getting something to me and still expect that I'll do a quick turnaround.

When a person committed to a date and time with me and didn't show up or even let me know they wouldn't show up, that's a boundary issue for me. I need to set my boundaries of what I will accept and what I won't accept. And that's not to say there's no grace when emergencies come up. That's different!

When a friend regularly puts me down or makes fun of me and I say nothing but am deeply hurt by it, that's a boundary issue. It's up to me to speak up. 

When a colleague always insists on "my way or the highway," that's a boundary issue. It's up to me to say what I want and need. If I don't say so, I have no right to complain later or to be resentful.

And when I constantly give advice to others (when it's not sought) rather than tending to my own garden, I have a boundary issue I need to examine.

Look at how well you keep boundaries. Need to make some changes? And be aware of things in your life that cross your boundaries. Perhaps you are doing things for others that leave you resentful and angry later. Check out what's really happening. Do you need to set some boundaries? Do you need to say what you want and need? What you will or won't accept?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Can I be soft?

I just discovered more wisdom on the subject of vulnerability and needs. This comes from poet Mark Nepo and his book, The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have. He says:

"Asking for help, whether we get it or not, breaks the hardness that builds in the world. Paradoxically, asking even for the things that no one can give, we are relieved and blessed for the asking. ... One of the most painful barriers we can experience is the sense of isolation the modern world fosters, which can only be broken by our willingness to be held, by the quiet courage to allow our vulnerabilities to be seen. For as water fills a hole and as light fills the dark, kindness wraps around what is soft, if what is soft can be seen."

That is just beautiful. Can I allow myself to be soft? To be open enough to ask for what I need? To even admit that I have needs?

I really love the image I get when I hear the words "kindness wraps around what is soft."

Now to live in this new way of being! It's one thing to read about it. It's quite another to make changes to how I lead my life!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The courage to be vulnerable

More words of wisdom from Paula D'Arcy at her retreat this past weekend: "It takes strength to help others. It takes courage to ask for help for ourselves."

For an Enneagram 8 like me, that's very true. I've admitted in my blogs before how difficult it is for me to be vulnerable. Part of the mask I wear is that of being strong all the time. Helping others is what I do, not only as a coach but also in my personal life. But asking for help for myself—that's more difficult.

You may have a completely different mask. We each have at least one mask because we don't feel safe in every setting to reveal who we really are. Some of us don't feel safe in any setting. And perhaps we don't even know for sure who we really are! That's a process of discovery in itself.

This year I am focusing on learning new behaviors when it comes to admitting vulnerability and asking for help. I hadn't connected that practice with courage, however, so I'm glad D'Arcy did that for me. Somehow it seems like a significant connection for me.

What connections are you making these days that are helpful in your transformational journey? I invite you to share with us in the comment boxes below. You can be absolutely sure that others are on a similar journey and will gain from your insights and experiences. Let's start a conversation!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pain transformed

When I first moved to the Chicago area in late 1987, I hadn't yet been divorced two years. I was still pretty raw and had built a fairly solid wall around my heart. As I look back, I wonder whether that wall didn't also have some jagged and sharp broken glass along its top? One of my work colleagues told me several years later that he could see how much pain I was in. And I thought I was hiding it!

I wonder how many people I hurt because of my own pain? I'll never know. And it doesn't pay to spend time wondering all these years later. Thinking about it makes me aware of the truth of something else Paula D'Arcy said in her retreat presentation at the Siena Center in Racine, Wis., last weekend. She credits her friend Richard Rohr, a Franciscan and also founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, with this thought: "Pain that is not transformed will be transmitted."

I know the truth of that from both sides of the coin—as one who has transmitted my pain out to others and also as one who has felt the toxicity of someone else's untransformed pain.

To have your pain transformed, you need to first acknowledge it. Face it, deal with it, ask for help in your healing process and see what lessons the pain might have for your life. Because D'Arcy faced her grief when her husband and young daughter were killed by a drunk drive, and because she received love and help from others, her pain has been transformed to the point where she is a beacon to the rest of us as we face our own hurts and pain.

Please contact me if you would like to work through an issue or heal from some pain in your life.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Open yourself to possibility

I could write at least a month's worth of blogs based on the many nuggets of wisdom and truth I heard this past weekend at the Paula D'Arcy retreat. I returned home well fed, having received insights and healing I didn't even know I needed!

One of the first things D'Arcy told the more than 70 women and one man who attended her retreat was: "There are things to support a small life and things to support a large life. You get to choose which it will be." And then she asked each of us to consider: "Is there something deeper in me? How do I get there? Do I have the courage to take the further journey?"

I'm reflecting on that these days. I know that, in D'Arcy's words again, I often "argue for my limitations," saying "I can't" or "I just know it wouldn't work" to any number of opportunities or possibilities that present themselves in my life.

What if instead I said "Yes" to the open doors? What if I opted to live life in a larger way than what I can see with my blinders of fear on? What if I opened my eyes and heart to what's in and around me? Imagine if I didn't shoot down possibilities, ideas and dreams before even testing them!

I'd like to try it. How about you?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Open to change

I've just spent an amazing weekend in retreat with Paula D'Arcy, writer, retreat leader, speaker and president of the Red Bird Foundation, which supports the growth and spiritual development of those in need and furthers a ministry to those in prison and those living in developing or disadvantaged cultures. In 1975 D'Arcy survived a drunk driving accident that claimed the lives of her husband and 21-month-old daughter. She has used that tragedy to spur a ministry of transformation in the lives of those who have read her books and heard her speak.

In her book A New Set of Eyes, D'Arcy talks about change, saying "Creation is always moving" and "Creation is still happening, still unfolding." Then she asks the profound life questions: "Am I willing to unfold? To still happen? To change? To think past where my thoughts have ever taken me before?"

Why do we always fight change when it's such a constant in our lives and in everything around us? Even when you and I have experienced the transformation that can come when we accept change and move with new possibilities?

What would it take to be more open to unfolding? To the transformation that is possible when we "think past where my thoughts have ever taken me before"?

Think of the caterpillar who enters a cocoon and dies to what it was, only to emerge in time as a beautiful butterfly—free to soar above the flowers where before it crawled on the ground with only a limited view! Are you ready to soar?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Open doors beckon

Alexander Graham Bell once said, "When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."

I had that happen to me when I lost my job of 22 years. I was so shocked and hurt, so stressed out and fearful. I was focused on the lost job—the closed door—longer than I should have been. It took me a while to see hope and possibility again, to find and claim a new dream.

That said, it is important to grieve what you have lost when one door closes. You cannot move on in a healthy, unfettered way until you've named and grieved all that was lost by that closed door. By that I mean more than just the thing itself. In my case, I grieved a job loss—and I also grieved such things as loss of income, loss of work colleagues, loss of status (I hadn't realized the degree to which my work defined me), loss of connections with people all over the country and globe, and loss to my self-esteem, just to name a few. I needed to pay attention to that grief process and feel the pain before letting go.

But I did need to let go! And I needed to then focus on the open doors that were out there for me. More than one possibility loomed on the horizon. What dream did I want to pursue? What passion called my heart?

Have you had a door close recently? It might be a friendship, a job, a marriage, a volunteer opportunity—it can be anything that represents loss to you. Tend to that loss. Let go. And look for other doors opening around you. Trust me, they are out there.

I invite you to contact me if you'd like some help in seeing and opening new doors.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Balance: A personal choice

Life is such a balancing act, isn't it? You and I try to balance work and play, careers and family, living in the moment and planning for the future. But one person's balance is another's imbalance!

My latest issue of Outlook, the magazine of AAUW (American Association of University Women), features Melissa Harris-Perry on its cover. Harris-Perry is a Tulane University professor, scholar, author and host of the Melissa Harris-Perry TV show on MSNBC. She credits AAUW and a fellowship from that organization as key to her successful career, saying, "The support of AAUW allowed me to finish my first book and get it sent off to the academic press for review just one week before giving birth. And, as most academic women can attest, it sure got much harder to write after my daughter was born. AAUW support was the key ingredient that allowed me to balance the tenure and the birthing clocks." She knows it does take the help of others to keep all those balls in the air.

Harris-Perry, who lives in New Orleans where she teaches at Tulane, commutes to New York City for her show every weekend. She balances all that with her personal life, crediting her husband and mother as supportive family. But she says something I've not thought of before about balance: "Balance is over the long term, not the short term." As she manages marriage, motherhood and a busy career that also includes an ongoing publishing schedule, she says she has no plans to slow down. I was both exhausted and inspired as I read the article about her. I admire her drive. And yet I know that balance is such an individual thing. Seeing it as short term or long term—that's an individual choice, too. I can't tell you what's right for you. You can't tell me what balance means for me.

Find your own sweet spot. What does balance mean to you? What needs to be included as you try manage all the pieces of your life? What's essential? Non-essential? These are good things to consider. Be intentional—and make your life work for you (not for someone else).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Get real about life

Virginia Satir, author and psychotherapist, said, "Life is not what it's supposed to be. It's what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference."

Is your life the way you imagined it would be? Your career? Your relationships? Mine either. In fact, I remember that being one of the difficult things to accept when I went through a divorce. I'd imagined us living "happily ever after in our vine-covered cottage with our children and grandchildren coming home to visit us regularly in our aging years." Well, perhaps not a vine-covered cottage. But, seriously, I did have a pretty romantic vision of life when I was 20-something and newly married. And, since I'm a strange combination of a romantic and a skeptic, I still have some of those tendencies.

Now I know the truth of what Satir said, however. Life is what it is. And my job is to cope with it in a healthy and positive way. My tools start with my attitude. One of my coping tools is reframing: I can see this situation through a negative or positive lens. What changes with each of those views? Which will best help me move on? News flash: For me, the positive lens works better!

Another tool is to examine my expectations. Mine often get me into trouble. As a "recovering perfectionist" I can expect too much. So I need to get realistic. That leads me to the tool of acceptance. I love the Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." I really should post it on my office wall!

What are your coping tools? I invite you to share them with us in the comment box below.

Do you need some new ones? If you'd like to talk about this, please contact me.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Forgive—and free yourself

Is forgiving and letting go difficult for you? It is for all of us, I think. But how freeing it can be to forgive and let go. And what a ball-and-chain it can be if we do not.

I recently saw a TV clip of an interview with 31-year-old Cate Edwards, daughter of former presidential candidate John Edwards and the late Elizabeth Edwards. In it Edwards was asked about her father's affair as well as about her mother's death. The young attorney, who had been beside her father at his trial, said that she loves her father and that her family has worked through it. "I think it's easier to stay angry than it is to forgive someone," she said. "Forgiveness is the tough thing. Yes, it was hard but we worked through it."

What wise words from someone who at her age has already been through so much: the loss of her mother as well as of a brother when she was age 14—and then the devastation of her father's affair and the child born from that relationship. Yes, staying angry would have been much easier.

Wise words for all of us to ponder. Whether it's forgiving someone else—or even more difficult, forgiving yourself, it's so important to your and my well-being to do so. Carrying around all that anger and resentment slowly kills us ... and infects everyone around us as well.

Letting go isn't the same as forgetting. There are some things we cannot forget. That doesn't mean you and I can't still forgive—and let go. Let go of the emotional charge and of the pain. Let go of the anger.  You'll feel so much lighter. Joy can settle into your soul once again!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spruce up your attitude

Last Tuesday I blogged about the ripple effect of good things in our lives. After I wrote that, I heard a radio show on a similar topic. The panelists were discussing the lack of good news in the media, saying people seem to want tension, conflict and mayhem in their news.

Then they discussed the effect of positive events and news in our lives, saying it can banish or at least reduce fear and pessimism. One panelist cited a small example from her Chicago neighborhood, which is still considered one of the less desirable and poorer ones in the city. One year she decided to do her part to brighten the area up, so she set out a beautiful pot filled with a lovely flowering plant. She placed it on the front steps of her porch.

Several neighbors warned her that it wouldn't last long. "Someone definitely will steal it," they told her. She didn't care. She simply wanted to introduce something of beauty, something of hope, into her neighborhood. Well, no one did steal it. It lasted the season. So she did the same thing the next year—and, to her joy, she noticed that another neighbor put out a colorful pot and a lovely plant. The year after that, several more followed suit.

This panelist talked about how things are gradually changing in her neighborhood as people spruce up yards, homes and, most of all, their attitudes! What can you do today to banish fear and pessimism and bring more hope and joy to your life and life around you?