Friday, July 31, 2015

Can worry be good?

Did you know that there are two kinds of worry? Worries can be productive, or they can be unproductive.

Most of us engage in far too much worry—of the unproductive type. Our minds fill with negative thoughts, thinking this bad thing might happen and that bad thing is most likely coming our way. Perhaps we worry that we really aren't competent enough to start this business we've dreamed of opening. We worry that no one would want what we offer anyway. And we worry that we're going to be broke and lose our house and everything else.  We don't tend to do anything about these worries; and for the most part, they're baseless anyway. They're just vague, unmanageable worries. This kind of worry sucks away our energy. Big time!

Then there's productive worry. This kind of worry can be good—if it's reality based and can lead to an action plan. Perhaps you see a small pool of water around the base of your water heater. You worry that you'll come home one day, and your rooms could be flooded with water. You've heard of this happening to others. It's a genuine concern; this is what can happen when water heaters die. The worry leads you to immediately go shopping for a new water heater, however. So you can take action and eliminate the worry. See the difference?

It can be good to examine our worry habits—and be sure that our worries are the productive type and that we do take action on them. Those vague worries that can't and don't lead to any action are causing you too much stress and sucking away your energy. Make a plan for eliminating such worries. Let go of them. See them floating away. Commit to worrying only about things that can lead to action plans—and then those worries can be let go. Save your energy for better things!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Aim for realism, not blind fear

Anxiety and fear can be good things in our lives. They can alert us to real dangers. Your boss has become increasingly critical of things you're doing—and anxiety tells you this could have a bad outcome. You worry that you are about to lose your job, so you freshen up your resume and put out feelers for something else.

You're about to cross the street; and from the corner of your eye, you see a blur of color—a car running the red light. Fear grips you and you stop in your tracks so you won't be hit.

Sometimes we need fear and anxiety as warning signals, don't we?

However, at times we get carried away in our assessment of the danger ahead. The doctor says she sees something that's not clear during our mammogram, and immediately we jump ahead thinking we have breast cancer—and sometimes even play it out in our minds until we see ourselves on our death bed. This is what's called "awfulizing." We don't wait to learn what's really going on. We immediately take the situation to an extreme in our minds and feel the anxiety of its being true.

Rather than try talk ourselves completely out of anxiety or fear, perhaps a starting place is to try to more accurately assess risky situations. What is the likelihood of an awful outcome, really? And even if the worst happens, will you have options? Assess the situation—and try to let go of predicting the outcome. Once you have some answers, you can make a plan and take charge of the situation. And always remember, there is nothing wrong with asking for support and help from others when bad things do happen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Refuse to let Fear drive you

We all experience fear. No one is immune. Some of us experience it more often than others. We each have different things we fear, and we each have different ways of dealing with it.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia—also made into a movie) does this: She has a conversation with Fear, actually calling it by name. That takes some of the power from whatever fear she's feeling. She decides what she'll do despite her fear—and she tells Fear what she's about to do. Then she invites Fear along on the journey, knowing that it will come along anyway! But Gilbert sets down the rules: Fear isn't going to make the rules and isn't allowed to drive the journey. She says that by doing this, she's making an arrangement with Fear that allows her to acknowledge it and still move forward.

Perhaps that sounds a little "woo-woo" to some of you. But Gilbert's point is well-taken. Fear must be acknowledged. If we ignore the elephant in the room, it will always seem way too large to handle—and will, in fact, drive us rather than the other way around.

What fears are you facing in your life right now? Can you find your own voice and your own power to face it down, set your own agenda and move forward? If not, do you have a friend who can help you do that? If you would like some coaching around this issue, please contact me and let's help you move forward.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Look around—be grateful

Living in gratitude takes awareness. And it's difficult to stay aware of blessings every minute of every day. However, it's a worthy goal to look around at our blessings as often as possible—and say "Thank you."

For example, last Sunday John and I went for a 19-mile bike ride. At first, I focused on the thought that this was great exercise, needed by both of us, and how good we'd feel afterward. Well, that's true; and I'm grateful for that. But I began to realize how much more I could be grateful for that day. First, the sun came out early, promising a hot and humid day just like the previous day. But as we unloaded our bikes to hit the trail, the sun went under the clouds—and it stayed there during our entire ride. Thank you. Then I realized how much John and I love to bike together, so this was special time for us. Thank you. In addition, we were biking with two friends—the couple that introduced us six and one-half years ago. Thank you, thank you.

As we rode, I noticed the lovely trees under which the trail ran, the river alongside the trail, birds singing, a red cardinal sitting on a tree branch, beauty all around. Thank you. I thought about how wonderful it is to have the ability to ride a bike—legs that have supported me for years, and arms that can maneuver a bike, cook a meal or give hugs. Thank you. We stopped mid-ride for a lovely brunch at one of our favorite eateries, enjoying good food and great conversation—and lots of cold water to rehydrate. Thank you. And there was so much more. What I realized, though, is that once I focus my awareness on what's around me, I can find so much for which to be grateful.

What are you noticing today? For what are you grateful right now?

f you notice that your inner dialogue is hurling insults that you wouldn’t lob at your worst enemy, fear has probably taken over.
To combat this nasty naysayer, best-selling author and creativity expert Elizabeth Gilbert shares that before she starts any big project, whether it’s a writing endeavor or an important dinner party, she has a conversation with her fear—literally. She sits Fear down, addresses Fear by its proper name, announces the journey, and actually invites it to come along for the ride (it always does, anyway). She then tells Fear that while it can join her on this journey, it is not allowed to make any decisions—and definitely not allowed to drive. What she’s doing is making an arrangement with Fear that allows her to move forward and puts Fear in a place they can both live with—which is never the driver’s seat.
- See more at:
f you notice that your inner dialogue is hurling insults that you wouldn’t lob at your worst enemy, fear has probably taken over.
To combat this nasty naysayer, best-selling author and creativity expert Elizabeth Gilbert shares that before she starts any big project, whether it’s a writing endeavor or an important dinner party, she has a conversation with her fear—literally. She sits Fear down, addresses Fear by its proper name, announces the journey, and actually invites it to come along for the ride (it always does, anyway). She then tells Fear that while it can join her on this journey, it is not allowed to make any decisions—and definitely not allowed to drive. What she’s doing is making an arrangement with Fear that allows her to move forward and puts Fear in a place they can both live with—which is never the driver’s seat.
- See more at:
f you notice that your inner dialogue is hurling insults that you wouldn’t lob at your worst enemy, fear has probably taken over.
To combat this nasty naysayer, best-selling author and creativity expert Elizabeth Gilbert shares that before she starts any big project, whether it’s a writing endeavor or an important dinner party, she has a conversation with her fear—literally. She sits Fear down, addresses Fear by its proper name, announces the journey, and actually invites it to come along for the ride (it always does, anyway). She then tells Fear that while it can join her on this journey, it is not allowed to make any decisions—and definitely not allowed to drive. What she’s doing is making an arrangement with Fear that allows her to move forward and puts Fear in a place they can both live with—which is never the driver’s seat.
- See more at:
f you notice that your inner dialogue is hurling insults that you wouldn’t lob at your worst enemy, fear has probably taken over.
To combat this nasty naysayer, best-selling author and creativity expert Elizabeth Gilbert shares that before she starts any big project, whether it’s a writing endeavor or an important dinner party, she has a conversation with her fear—literally. She sits Fear down, addresses Fear by its proper name, announces the journey, and actually invites it to come along for the ride (it always does, anyway). She then tells Fear that while it can join her on this journey, it is not allowed to make any decisions—and definitely not allowed to drive. What she’s doing is making an arrangement with Fear that allows her to move forward and puts Fear in a place they can both live with—which is never the driver’s seat.
- See more at:

Monday, July 27, 2015

The art of 'Thank you'

Last Friday we talked about flexing our gratitude muscles. Feeling and showing gratitude sounds so simple. But it really has more facets than we might imagine. And it takes constant awareness. It's so easy to fall into negativity—especially when so much of the news that surrounds us is dire or sad and when so many around us complain constantly.

One of the things that it's important to keep in mind about gratitude is that we need to move beyond thinking or feeling thankful to expressing it.

Saying "Thank you" sometimes can seem like a lost art. Open doors for people in a public place—and it's amazing how many people simply march through them as though they're entitled. No thanks expressed at all. Let a car go in front of you when traffic is backed up on the tollway. Some people wave their thanks. But many don't.

It's so simple to say "Thank you" to the many kindnesses shown to us, whether they're large or small things. And truly, it feels good both to tell others "Thank you" and to be on the receiving end, doesn't it?

Again, it takes awareness. Be aware of feeling the gratitude. Then be aware of expressing it. You see, there really is more to this gratitude thing than meets the eye. It can make such a difference in our lives, however. It's said that gratitude, when practiced regularly, can actually open up new pathways in our brain and lead to greater health. It can shift our hostility, stress and even depression—and focus us on the positive. I think that's a worthy outcome, don't you?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Flex those gratitude muscles

Gratitude includes counting our blessings and mentally (or in writing) listing those things for which we're thankful.

But it can also include a take-away exercise. Sometimes it's so easy to take people and things for granted. We don't think about how much we would miss them until they're gone. Sometimes it's things people do—even those things that we might find irritating. For example, I'll never forget when a friend of mine told me that it used to drive her crazy when her husband put dirty handprints on their back door after he'd been working in the garden or on the car. She was always cleaning off that back door, she said. And after he died a few years ago, she told me that she'd give anything to have those dirty marks on her back door again!

So here's the exercise: Imagine that something you value (or even something irritating like my friend's dirty handprints) is gone. Think of what you would feel. Then use that experience of imagining to fuel your gratitude for whatever you thought about losing. It's so true that we don't always recognize the value of something until we no longer have it. Perhaps you complain regularly about your job. So how would you feel if you lost it tomorrow? That might even help you look for the positives and reframe things a bit.

There are many ways to build up our gratitude muscles. What do you do to keep gratitude flowing?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What's in your resource tool kit to address fear?

What do you do when fears start to get a grip on your heart? Sometimes fear starts out small—and when we don't address it, it just gets bigger and bigger until it feels as though an elephant is sitting on our chest.

It's smart to have a resource tool kit that's unique to you—things that help you move past the fear and do what it is you're wanting to do. If you have such a kit, you don't have to stew and spend lots of time stuck. You can look through your tool kit and choose something that feels just right for you to do at the time.

First of all, of course, you have to be willing to look at the fear. Look it right in the eye. What does it feel like? What is it about? Break it down into small pieces. Once you know more about the specific qualities of your fear, you'll be able to choose. What might you have in your resource tool kit to address fear?

• Call a friend with whom you can talk about the fear. Sometimes another person can "talk you off the ledge" and you won't jump deeper into the fear.
• Examine the fear objectively. See whether the fear is realistic. Often it's not. Run through the scenarios, one by one, that you fear. If this particular thing occurs, what will it mean for you? Can you manage it? Survive it? That can greatly reduce or even eliminate some of the fear. Generally, when we look closely, things aren't as bad as we fear.
• List the strengths, qualities and other resources you have to face whatever you fear. You might surprise yourself!
• Focus on whatever goal you have in which fear has become an obstacle. Focusing on the goal rather than the fear often can motivate you to move beyond fear.
• Take one small step beyond the fear. For example, if you fear drowning, sign up for swimming lessons. Actually, that's more than a small step! Once you move outside your comfort zone even a bit, you'll gain confidence for doing more of that.
• Engage in some relaxation exercises or meditation to change your mindset.

These are only a few resources. What would you add to the list?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Don't skimp on self-care

This week is an especially crazy-busy one for me. And when that happens, I'm so tempted to cut corners on the things that are good for me: my exercise time, my quiet time, taking time to prepare healthy meals.

What I've learned through the years, however, is that when my weeks are busiest, those are the times that it's even more important to do the self-care routines that are so important to my well-being. What it means is that planning is even more important. I need to put on my calendar such things as exercise, meditation time and whatever else is important to my health. If it's important to me and I value it, I'll find time for it.

Have you found a way to fit in all those self-care routines that are important to you—even on days and weeks when you're extra busy? If you have tips to share, please tell us about them in the Comment box below. We'd love to hear them.

Remember—self-care isn't selfish. It's part of staying healthy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

'The door is open'

I've heard it said that "There is no key to happiness ... the door is always open." That reminds me that I'm the key. I make choices that lead toward more joy in my life. I make a choice on how to respond to a given situation: I can be angry and upset—or I can reframe it with a more positive spin and let go of whatever negatives the situation holds.

Choice. Sometimes you and I feel as though we have no choice. But generally we do. This definitely does not mean to ignore whatever pain, sadness or hurt we feel. It's important to be authentic and real even while we still choose to see the glass more half full than half empty.

Have you found the balance? It's really not a once-and-done thing either, is it? Each new day, each new situation may require making a choice about how we respond and how we see things.

If you do nothing else, perhaps even just posting the word "choice" on your bathroom mirror as a daily reminder can be a help in staying positive.

Since there's no "key to happiness," you get to open the door and walk through anytime you wish. Go ahead, push it open. See how life feels on the other side. You're the key.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Need a new plan?

Ever have this happen? You've made a plan and are moving toward the goal, whatever that may be. But things keep going wrong.

What do you do? Keep on pushing, like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up a hill in Greek mythology?

Or do you stop, take time to reflect on everything and see whether you need a different plan? Or perhaps simply a couple of different pieces to the overall plan? Perhaps it needs some tweaking. Or you may even need a complete U-turn and have to go a different direction.

This can apply to career plans, relationship plans, even vacation plans. If things aren't falling easily into place, sometimes it's good to just stop. Stop. Take some deep breaths. Survey the situation—and do a good internal gut-check, too, to see what your intuition says.

Contrary to the road signs that tell us "No U-turn," sometimes a U-turn is just the thing we might need for a situation in our life. Don't be afraid to change your plan. Change can be just what you need.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Grieve and celebrate: Both important

I've blogged before about how our expectations can trip us up. Sometimes we have such high expectations that no reality can ever match them. Other times, our expectations might be perfectly realistic; but people and situations just don't meet those expectations for one reason or another. Either way, we can get tripped up and become discouraged, depressed or even angry about what didn't happen.

Especially with the really important and big things in our lives, it's healthy to stop and take stock of expectations. Take your career, for example. Is it—or was it—what you had hoped it would be? If it wasn't, did it have parts that met or exceeded your expectations? Or it might be a relationship for which you had high hopes.

It can be extremely helpful to take the time to feel the sadness over what didn't happen that you had hoped would happen. Grieve the loss of that expectation or those dreams. Then let go of that expectation or dream. That's an essential part of grief work—letting go.

When you let yourself feel the sadness and grief—and then let go—you open yourself up to experience more joy. You can then begin to see the good things that happened—and celebrate those parts of your expectations or dreams that did get realized.

So remember there are two parts to examining these expectations: grieve what hasn't happened and celebrate what has.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Feel the gratitude

We hear more and more these days about the part that gratitude can play in our lives. We know it opens us up to seeing even more good things in our lives, things we may not have noticed before or that we may have taken for granted.

Here's something else I'm learning: It can help to do more than just think the thoughts of gratitude. Sure, it's great to think about those things for which we're grateful, perhaps even list them in a journal. But we can take our gratitude to another level by allowing ourselves to feel the gratitude physically.

Stop a moment and really pay attention. Call to mind two or three things for which you're grateful right now. Picture them, one at a time, in your mind. What do you feel as you do that? Say you're picturing your loved ones. Do you find the very image of them brings a smile to your face. Does your heart feel more open? Do you just feel lighter—as though you'll have more bounce in your step?

Sometimes it's good to just stop and allow ourselves to feel the gratitude. It's definitely an excellent way to start the day. But it can add to your health and happiness no matter when you do this during the day!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Reminders to let go

Yesterday I had quite an unpleasant exchange with a person in a retail establishment. I tried to explain something to her, and she wasn't listening—she just continued being fairly rude and judgmental about the situation. I left with a bad taste in my mouth. And I'm not proud to admit, I spent too much time afterward stewing over the exchange. I should have simply dropped it from my mind. There was no point wasting my time nor my energy when I had plenty of other things to do (including to write this and my other blogs for the week!).

The woman in the store needed to take a chill pill. She also needed to give a care to customer relations. But I also needed to heed my own words, words I know I've written several times in these blogs: Let go, let go, let go. I couldn't change what had happened. Stewing about it did absolutely no good. In fact, it stole some joy from what was otherwise a beautiful day. The weather was lovely. I'd been out with friends. The work I had to do once I arrived home was all work I love doing. So why did I even give another thought to a retail employee's attitude?

I'm going to take this situation as another reminder to me: Let go of the small stuff. If I can't change it, accept it and move on. Let it go. Don't let a small situation loom so large in my mind. Let go, Sonia. Move on.

Ever have that happen? Let it go!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

About friendships

Friendship is such a gift, isn't it? If you have a handful of true friends, you are rich and blessed indeed.

There are so many wonderful quotes about friendship. Muhammad Ali said, "Friendship ... is not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything." And Henry Van Dyke said, "A friend is what the heart needs all the time."

"One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood," said Lucius Annaeus Seneca. And Helen Keller left us with this thought, "Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."

No doubt you have gone through difficult times when you found out who your true friends were. I surely have. Sometimes you get surprised by who stays and who leaves. As Walter Winchell said, "A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." And it was Euripides who said, "Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness." Marlene Dietrich wisely added her own words, "It's the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter." Yes, indeed.

If you were to leave the world with just one quote about friendship, what would you say?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Say 'No' to perfectionism

As a recovering perfectionist, I really love this saying: "Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing." This quote is from now-dead Harriet Braiker, clinical psychologist and self-help author who wrote the book, The Type E Woman: How to Overcome the Stress of Being Everything to Everybody, which described the stresses of balancing family and career.

Even that book title says a lot, doesn't it? Those of us who grew up striving for perfection know all too well the stresses of trying to do it all—or trying to be everything to everybody. It's exhausting. It's guaranteed disappointment and unhappiness. It leads to resentment. And it's absolutely impossible. And the more you show that you can do, the more others expect from you. So it doesn't end ... until you decide to stop it yourself.

Letting go of perfectionism means learning to say "No," and it means learning how to set boundaries.

If you have issues with perfectionism and want to let go, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary strategy session. You do not have to continue down that difficult and no-win road. Think of how freeing it will be to let go of that heavy weight.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Appreciate what you have

Remember the song lyrics about "looking for love in all the wrong places"? It occurs to me that we're sort of like that in chasing after happiness, too. We look in lots of places trying to find happiness—many of them the wrong places. But that really doesn't work, does it? Like a beautiful butterfly, happiness tends to light on our shoulders when we're not looking. It doesn't respond well to attempts to capture it.

Much better to simply enjoy and appreciate what we already have. What's available and accessible right around you? What's there now that you haven't even noticed? Cultivate happiness by noticing—and appreciating—those things.

Are you surrounded by colorful and lovely flowers? By lush green trees and bushes? By birds singing? Squirrels chattering and chasing one another? The smile of your child or grandchild? Hugs from loved ones and friends? Are you senses awakened by the smell of your morning coffee? Or the scent of something delicious baking in the oven or cooking on the grill?

We are surrounded by so many delights. What if, instead of chasing happiness, we awaken to those wonderful things that fill our environment? Savor and enjoy. Appreciate what you have already.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

How do you see life?

Yesterday my tear-off calendar told me, "Act happy, feel happy, be happy—without a reason in the world." Interestingly enough, while on my treadmill that morning, I'd also seen a TV segment on whether happiness was a choice and whether it could be sustained.

Well, of course, we can't be happy every minute of every day. That isn't sustainable.

What we can do is choose to see life from a glass-half-full stance rather than a glass-half-empty view, making us more open to the good that's around us.

The TV segment followed three individuals to see what difference it made in their lives over time when they tried more intentionally to choose happiness. While they agreed that they couldn't live that way every minute, they also agreed that the experiment made them stop and think more often about the good things happening in and around them. They thought several times a day about savoring what they had rather than complaining about what they did not have.

Awareness is good. Choosing to live in joy and gratitude rather than in a state of complaint and grumpiness certainly brings us more happiness—and spreads more joy out into the world. Even given those times of fear and sadness that are normal in our lives, we are helped by focusing more often on life's blessings and goodness.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

'Laugh when you can'

Here's a quote attributed to "Anonymous" that I saw online recently:

"Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can't change. Life's too short to be anything ... but happy."

I like that. Part of it reminds me of the Serenity Prayer (letting go of what we can't change). At the same time we know that while remaining positive and happy is healthier for us, we can't be happy every minute of every day. There are times when it's appropriate to be sad. Someone we dearly love has just died. We just got an awful medical diagnosis.

Still, this is good advice for those times when we really are able to choose between feeling gratitude and joy—or being sad and fearful. And there are plenty of times when we can make a choice. As we've said before in these blogs, focusing our sights on gratitude and joy helps us see the blessings that are always right around us—those we miss if we're all tied in knots of anxiety and sadness. Don't misunderstand me; I don't mean you should put on a happy face when your world is falling apart. It's important to be real and authentic, too.

And laughter? We have all heard about the positive effects of laughter in our lives. "Laugh when you can" seems like sound advice. Apologies? Yes, we want to keep our relationships clean and clear. Apologies and forgiveness are important elements toward that end.

"Anonymous" just might have given me another inspirational quote to post on my mirror.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sister-time & relationships

We've just spent several days visiting my sister and brother-in-law in the beautiful, rolling hills of Tennessee. Oh, how I love sister-time!

Family dynamics always are interesting to me. When we were small, my sister and I really played pretty well together. We have many fond memories of playing house, store, school and restaurant together. Times of playing with dolls and even of dressing up our farm cats and dogs and pretending they were children.

Then we went through the pre-teen and teen years when I, as the oldest, didn't want to hang out with a younger sister. I'm not at all proud of that now and wish I hadn't ignored her when I hung out with my friends. But at that time, I wanted so much to be cool.

In our adult years, too, we've gone through times of being close and times of being a little more distant—although never very far apart. Now at this stage of life, however, we've both agreed that life is too short to ever spend time not speaking or not working out anything that comes between us. Our relationship is extremely important to both of us ... and we'll do whatever it takes to stay closely connected. I consider myself so blessed to have a sister who's also a dear friend.

Have you discovered a natural ebb-and-flow to some of your relationships, too, whether they be family or long-time friends? And have you come to a point where you made an intentional commitment to work it out whenever there were problems?

Relationships are so essential to our well-being, particularly for us as women. Sometimes they're hard work. But the payoffs are amazing, aren't they? When you decide a relationship is one you want to keep, nurture it and tend it as you would a delicate flower garden. It's so worth it!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Open to the new

I just learned of yet another former colleague who lost her job. This may even be the third time for her. There's a lot of that going on these days, isn't there?

Perhaps you've been through that. I have. It's pretty devastating when it happens, especially if you had absolutely no idea it was coming. However, often there are opportunities embedded in this crisis, too.

Once they've experienced the grief and fear of job loss, many people—perhaps most—say that reinventing oneself is really an amazing opportunity. You learn a lot about yourself, for one thing. And you have a chance to think about what other talents and gifts you may have that weren't getting used before. You may have something you've long wanted to try. Or you may not—but even so, may fall into a job that really suits you even better. Often, people say that the new is so much better than what they had before but they would never have imagined that at the time.

What I learned through my experience was to just be open—open to letting go of the old, open to trying new things, open to replacing old dreams with new ones, open to the adventure of it all. I don't mean to diminish the financial fears that often accompany such an experience; I certainly faced that myself. But when I was in my former job, I would not have imagined the wonderful life I now have. I hope that will be true for you if you're experiencing job loss right now.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Checking in with others

Nearly a month ago I read in one of my favorite inspirational books The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo that checking in with each other helps us all stay open to life. It keeps our hearts open.

Nepo said, "... we help each other thrive when the checking in with each other comes from a list of inner kindnesses: How are you today? Do you need any affirmation? Clarity? Support? Understanding?"

I like that. What do you think?

Sometimes we just need someone to ask us how we are today—and what we need. Sometimes we're not even aware of what we need until someone asks in that way.

And surely we all know people who could use those questions asked of them. It's a way of giving—giving love and respect and just plain kindness. Think what a difference that could make in your life and the lives of others.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

You're more than your problems

Have you ever thought, when you've been in the midst of a traumatic or difficult experience, that this was your whole life? You've let yourself be defined by the moment of struggle? It's easy to think that's all there is sometimes when you're in the depths of difficulty.

Try to remember, however, that we are more than our traumas or even our roles and ambitions. We're much more than our feelings. We are complex human beings, sometimes joyful and energized about life—and other times, worried and stressed out or even in despair over something that's happened or that we fear is about to happen.

It's good to take a step back when we feel that way and see the broader picture. We are more than one day's worth of difficulties. Or even a week or month's worth.

Just as Michelangelo saw a sculpture in the uncut stone and felt his job was to trim away what wasn't necessary to the sculpture already there, so we often need to trim away or let go what isn't needed so we can see the full beauty within us. Letting go is such an essential life process, especially after several years of life and a large accumulation of experiences, feelings and possibly regrets.

Is there something that needs trimming or letting go in your life so you can see the whole of who you are? What do you need in order to see beyond today's troubles? Are you able to define yourself beyond those troubles?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Apologize or not?

Not long ago I heard an interview with a writer from The New York Times who wrote a piece about the fact that women are too quick to apologize—and should stop. She didn't mean we shouldn't apologize when it's truly warranted. She meant that we should be more clear about our apologies: Do we really need to apologize? Do we mean it, or are we saying it as a passive way of getting the other person to apologize? Do we apologize when we can simply be more direct in what we want or need?

After hearing the interview, I began thinking about the whole idea. Many times, we as women DO apologize too much. It's as though we're sorry we're taking up space; we're trying to make ourselves smaller until we nearly disappear—almost an attitude of "I'm sorry I even exist; I know I'm not worthy." It gets back to that whole self-esteem, self-image issue again.

During the interview, a video clip was shown where a woman apologized for coughing on stage as she was speaking, then apologized as she asked for water, apologizing again when someone brought her a bottle of Coke rather than water—saying she couldn't drink Coke but really wanted water. It really got almost embarrassing to watch the woman continue to apologize when all she needed to do was ask for a glass of water and clearly state that it was water she needed, not Coke.

What do you think? Do you sometimes apologize when you really don't need to do so? I'm checking myself these days to see that I'm as clear and direct in my communication as I can be while still being polite. I firmly believe in apologizing when it's called for. And I also want to continue building a strong self-esteem.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.