Monday, January 30, 2017

We have more in common

Last Friday we talked about the deep divide now in our country and the importance of building bridges, not walls.

Is it possible that we can be more intentional about our communication? Might we think of questions to ask those with whom we disagree, questions that open doors and open dialogue rather than shut it down? Perhaps we can ask people what they need in their lives right now. We might ask what they value and how they see those values playing out in our society, in our communities. We can do a lot more listening.

I suspect we have more in common than we think. Most of us simply want to live well and care for our families and loved ones. We want to have access to those things required to make that happen. And most of us really do wish good things for others as well.

I have my own strong feelings about what's going on around us, but I want to keep hope alive. I want to be about relationship, not about shutting people down or out. I want to build bridges, not walls. To do that, I need to get in touch with my own shadow side, too. For we are all both light and shadow. What we dislike in others often is there inside us as well. So it's important to be honest and real about our own "stuff" as we walk this journey and as we think about repairing the divide.

What is helping you get through these days? How are you keeping hope alive? How are you building bridges? I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Bridges, not walls

Divisiveness is nothing new in our society or in our world. Lately, however, it just seems to me the voices are getting louder and the chasm is deepening. Two days ago I read in Jan Phillips' book No Ordinary Time (written in 2011 but so apt right now):

"Fear is in the air now because each side is building a formidable case for its rightness, and the energy that might be spent on solving the problems is going into proving the other side wrong. The butterfly will never get off the ground if the right wing is at war with the left wing.

"The answers that we are seeking lie between the right and left and the only way to access them is to move toward the other, to re-pair the opposites. But one look at our culture—from our religions to our media to our politics—reveals a history of opposition, a 'divide and conquer' disposition."

What a good reminder. As someone said at the Chicago women's march last Saturday, "If you take a wall and lay it down on its side, it becomes a bridge."

Yes, we need to build bridges, not walls—as tempting as it is to keep yelling at each other from the other side of the chasm. We need to somehow listen to each other and move toward "the other" rather than away from. We're all in this boat together.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Kudos to the truth-tellers

Are you one of those women who has found her voice in the last half of life? It happens for so many women who, raised to be "nice" and to not "rock the boat," don't feel free to speak up until a certain age—say, perhaps 50 or older.

If you're one of those, don't worry about lost time. And don't worry about offending. Sometimes the emperor simply has to be told that he has no clothes!

Truth-telling is important work, and it can be done respectfully. "Speak the truth in love." We have heard those words many times. There is a way to do it—and still say the hard words that need to be spoken. Speak from your most authentic place.

We know truth-telling isn't easy, but it's crucial. It often comes with a price tag. When you engage in such work, it's really important to surround yourself with a strong support system. You'll likely face ridicule, criticism and worse when you tell the truth—particularly so if you speak to someone with more power than you have. And it's important to engage in good self-care.

If you have words that are important to speak out, go ahead. Find your voice. Use your voice. Do it with integrity. And take your place alongside huge numbers of women going all the way back in history.

Monday, January 23, 2017

How wonderful is this thing called aging!

Large numbers of women are trying to reclaim the word "crone," which in ancient times was a respected female elder in a community. Since then it has gathered up negative connotations and spurred images of a witch with warts stirring a pot and concocting some type of potion. In reality, it means a woman comfortable in her own skin who has found her voice and uses it. She's a wise, older woman.

Much is written about crones as a positive force today. So when I read in Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman's Body & Soul by Marion Woodman and Jill Mellick these words, I really resonated: "To the Crone, detachment is not indifference. It means she has lived and suffered, and, having suffered, can draw back and see with her heart."

After I read that for the first time, I added these additional words on the page: "...and seeing with her heart, she can speak her truth no matter who doesn't want to hear it."

Isn't it wonderful to reach the age and stage of life where you feel comfortable in your skin, where you like who you are, where you have found your voice and now dare to speak out and use it? We have suffered much and have many scars, inside and out, to prove it. But now we can see with our hearts. And we can detach and let go—something very different from being indifferent.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Soar & sing your unique song

Do you feel stuck in a place in your life that doesn't feel authentically you? Are you still living your life to please others? Living according to old tapes and messages you heard either while growing up or even in early adulthood? Is it time to break free and discover who you were meant to be? To explore what you really want to do?

I remember in the final years of my marriage feeling like a bird in a cage, living in a way that was more about pleasing everyone else than about what felt right for me. I could see the door slowly closing on the cage. I couldn't sing my song if that happened! Somehow it felt I would be silenced forever if I didn't fly out before the door closed. This was a powerful image for me.

A few years later when I described it to a therapist, he said he had heard that very same image from any number of women. That's funny. I hadn't heard it or read about it anywhere, and I hadn't really shared the image with anyone else. Apparently, it's more universal than I knew.

If you resonate with any of this, let go of people-pleasing. Let go of old tapes. Find your unique song—and sing it! Let your beautiful self soar.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

'Move into yourself'

The symbol for my Way2Grow Coaching practice is the butterfly. I chose that because I love the idea of the transformation that happens when a caterpillar weaves itself into a cocoon from which it later emerges as a beautiful butterfly. This creature goes from crawling on the ground to soaring above the flowers and trees. Imagine that! And everything it needed to become a butterfly was really there inside.

So does the caterpillar cause these changes? Or is it simply following its nature, its design? And what does that say for our own transformational experiences? Perhaps what we need is all there inside, too.

Yesterday I read in Marion Woodman and Jill Mellick's book, Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman's Body & Soul, this interesting thought: "Do not try to transform yourself. Move into yourself. Move into your human unsuccess. Perfection rapes the soul."

As always, it's about authenticity, isn't it? It's about just being who we are—not trying to be someone else or trying to be a perfect version of anyone (including ourselves). We just need to be ourselves, with all the good and the bad of that. Let go of perfectionism. Embrace authenticity. That journey alone will provide plenty of transformation!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Self-love & friendships

Last week we talked a bit about self-love. It occurs to me that one of the ways that we engage in self-love is to surround ourselves with good friends—people who sincerely care about us and wish for our good.

A word I've heard in the last couple years is "frenemies." It combines the word "friend" with "enemy," and it's a friend who actually takes pleasure in your pain and doesn't really want good things for you. It doesn't matter why that is, whether it's jealousy or narcissism or whatever. Such people hurt you over and over. They simply aren't good for you.

It's a bit difficult if such a person is a close family member. If that is the case, perhaps the best you can do is maintain solid boundaries on what behavior you will and will not accept—and on how much time you will be in that person's presence.

If this is a friend, however, you may want to think seriously about letting the friendship go. Truly, you deserve to have friends who support your well-being. You will love and respect yourself when you do not accept behavior that hurts you over and over. Surround yourself with friends who love and support you just as you love and support them. We want our relationships to be healthy and loving. They should not tear us down. Other forces in the world do plenty of that. We don't need frenemies to help!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Self-love & bad habits

Do you have some habits that really don't serve you? That, perhaps, in fact, aren't good for you? Me, too. Yesterday I was thinking about some of those—for example, the mindless eating I sometimes do when I binge watch my favorite TV shows on Netflix. Most times, it's not that I'm hungry. So what am I really looking for? A saying from Weight Watchers comes to mind: "Feel your feelings; don't feed them."

All of this reflection caused me to think more about self-love again. We hear often that if we don't love ourselves, we can't truly love others. And we do hear a lot these days about the importance of self-love. But we don't always know just how to do that. I will confess I'm still learning that myself.

It is probably like any other habit we want to develop. It takes intention first of all. And then it takes some unlearning of old habits that get in the way, such as the mindless eating one I mentioned. Then we need to practice good self-care. We can act "as if" we're already there by caring for ourselves in every way: getting enough sleep, exercise, healthy and strong relationships, nutritious food and other important elements to keep us at our best. Setting good boundaries for ourselves is a good practice to show self-love, too. That means setting limits on people and activities that harm us. And, of course, it's essential to forgive ourselves for things we have said or done that don't really fit with our values—and let go of shame surrounding those things.

What would you add to this list? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Here's to us all learning how to love ourselves well!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Self-care isn't a dirty word

It's true that we're harder on ourselves than most anyone else in our lives would be. We just keep pushing ourselves harder and harder as though there were no limits physically, emotionally or spiritually. So sometimes we almost need permission from someone else to cut ourselves some slack, don't we?

If you need permission, I'm here to give you just that. Permission granted! Take a break. Pamper yourself. Carve out time for a walk. A nap. A lovely bubble bath. Or just time by the fireplace to read a book. What is it you most need? If you're at total burn-out stage, you need more than a small fix—and you may need to talk with a coach or perhaps your doctor or a counselor. But if you're just a bit out of sorts or tired, give yourself a break. Treat yourself to something that would restore your energy, restore your passion for life, make your heart happy.

Self-care isn't a dirty word. It isn't selfish. It's just good maintenance. Most often, we take better care of our cars and run regular maintenance on them. It's time now to step up and give ourselves at least as much time and attention as we give our cars!

Monday, January 9, 2017

No finger-pointing allowed!

Last week in my women's Bible study group, we talked about not judging other people. Ouch, that's a tough one, isn't it? It's always so easy to point fingers at others—to see their mistakes and flaws while overlooking our own. And, of course, when we point a finger at others, we have four pointing back at ourselves.

German poet, author and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe put it this way: "Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean."

Yup, let's pay attention to our own front stoop, not to anyone else's. If each of us tended to our own business in that way, the whole world would indeed be clean.

I want to keep this in mind as I move into this new year. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Shifting our focus

So much changes in our lives when we shift our focus. Attitudes and viewpoints make such a difference. I like what author and psychologist Daniel Goleman has to say about that:

"When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection—or compassionate action."

Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence was on The New York Times bestseller list for 1-1/2 years. In it he discusses the mastery of our own emotions and understanding the emotions of those around us. He knows that wisdom is more than mastering facts. He knows that a focus only on self makes our world smaller.

Sometimes it's easy to get overwhelmed with the events and problems in our own lives. At those times we may want to tune out everyone else and their troubles. But it's not helpful. It's not healthy. Our problems can actually seem smaller when we focus on other people.

Who around you can use some attention and time today? See if a focus on that doesn't put your own problems in better perspective.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Creating your future

This is a good time of year to reflect on what you'd like to see happen in the coming year. Is there a new direction you'd like to move? Some dream you long to pursue? Some life changes you want to make? Or even some self-care practices you'd like to add to your daily routines? What vision do you have for 2017?

There are so many ways to record such longings. You might journal about this. Or just jot down some notes. One effective—and fun—thing to do is to create a vision board that contains images of the future you long to create. Find magazines and catalogs, photos, images from the Internet or wherever you can and search for pictures that inspire you—pictures that represent how you'd like your life to look, that symbolize your feelings or experiences. This can be lots of fun. Cut out the images that you wish along with some inspirational quotes. Glue these on a piece of poster board. And voila, you have a vision board.

Keep this board in a prominent place so you can see it daily. Let is inspire you. Let the board motivate you to make whatever changes you had dreamed of making.

A small group to which I belong did this together the other night. Even though it's an individual design, it can be fun to do this in a group. After you finish, you might share your longings with the others in the group. You might even get more ideas that way. And you'll most certainly have fun!

P.S. Remember that Way2Grow blogs will appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting now in 2017. Please send topic ideas to:

Monday, January 2, 2017

Open & closed doors

So often the quotes that are oft-repeated and familiar to us are those made by famous people. But we know that many quite ordinary people pass on words of wisdom every day. Perhaps each of us recalls wisdom passed along to us from a parent, grandparent or other loved one.

I don't know how it is that this quote got passed along outside her family circles, but a quite ordinary woman, Flora Permelia Whittemore, who died in 1993 in Idaho, said these words that are so relevant for us all: "The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live."

My beloved sister and I often talk about the idea of open doors. How can we open doors for others? How can we watch for open doors that we may wish to walk through? In the same vein, the doors we close are important, too—as are the doors we close on others. Those open and closed doors make such a difference in our lives and the lives of those we affect. Truly, they do "decide the lives we live."

What doors have you opened lately? Which ones have you closed? Have you by your words or actions opened or closed doors to or for others? A raised awareness of such doors can make a huge difference in the lives we live. Start noticing today. It's a good way to start a new year.