Friday, March 31, 2017

Transition times are rich

One of my dear friends has been moved to do some real clearing-out in her life. She's cleaning files and rooms in her home and rearranging things. She's clearing out things in her inner life as well. She feels she's on the verge of something new happening in her life. She's not sure just what.

I reminded her the other day that we sometimes go through a transition period between the old and the new—and to not be worried if that does happen. That period can sometimes bring with it a bit of discomfort. We aren't sure what's on the other side, but we've already left the safety of the old shore. However, that transition period can be extremely important.

Writer Suzanne Braun Levine calls this transition time "the fertile void." I really like that term. It implies what really is true about such times: They are not empty times. They are rich with possibility. They are fertile. Such times remind me of growing up on a farm: We knew that every so often, some of the land needed to lie fallow in order to recharge. You cannot keep growing crops on a piece of land forever and ever. The soil nutrients will be depleted. The soil needs to rest and replenish.

So do we. We need recharging from time to time, too. So if you're going through any kind of change in your life, try not to fear a transition time. See it as the "fertile void" that it can be. If that's uncomfortable, learn to be OK with that for a while. And then be ready for the new life that will surely emerge for you.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Miracles, gratitude and awe

So much seems crazy all around us these days—in our country and in our world. And so, as always, it's great to focus on gratitude and the wonders around us. I don't mean that we ignore and stop addressing what needs our attention. Rather, I invite you (and myself) to remember each day to look for the positives and be grateful.

That's why Monday morning when I picked up my copy of A Daybook of Gratitude: How to Live Each Day with a Thankful Heart and found this poem by Vickie M. Worsham, I read it several times. I want to share part of it with you now. It's called "Believe in Miracles."

"Every morning, wake with the awe of just being alive.
Each day, discover the magnificent, awesome beauty in the world.
Explore and embrace life in yourself and in everyone you see each day.
Reach within to find your own specialness.
Amaze yourself, and rouse those around you to the potential of each new day."

There's more, but you get the idea. Awe. Embrace life. Potential. Your own specialness. Amaze yourself. Isn't this just rich with wonderful images and thoughts?

Let this be your focus today. Perhaps even make it your focus for the week. Or more!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Be your own friend

Self-compassion. Self-love. Were you raised to think such things were selfish and ego-driven? Many of us received such messages from a variety of sources when we were younger. Perhaps it's time to shed those messages. It's time to realize that when we show ourselves compassion and love, we are far more open and loving to everyone else in our lives, too.

If your partner or a dear friend is down and discouraged, what do you do? You feel great compassion, and you reach out with loving-kindness. You encourage. You listen. You support. You walk with them through whatever tough times they're facing.

It's important to show that same kindness to yourself when you're down and discouraged. It's also okay to ask your friend or mate for compassion and support. You deserve care and loving-kindness, too.

Treat yourself as you would treat someone else. It isn't helpful to berate yourself or to withhold love, forgiveness or support from yourself. You know how those things make a huge difference to others. It can make that same difference for you, too.

You are worth it. If you've gotten messages in earlier years that say you aren't, it is time to shed those. Let go, let go, let go. Show yourself some love and kindness. Your life will be better for it!

Friday, March 24, 2017

You set the limits

We hear a lot these days about setting boundaries. These are like fences that let others know what you will and will not accept by way of behavior from them. Mind you, boundaries aren't walls that shut others out. They are more like fences—and you can have gates and openings for people to get through. But you have conditions on who's let in.

If you have trouble setting limits for others or making boundaries, you aren't alone by any means. Many people have trouble with boundaries—and many people let others walk all over them and end up angry and resentful when it happens. You can change that, however. It's your choice. You get to set limits.

Boundaries aren't punitive. They are simply straightforward. For example, you may tell those close to you that you will not accept name-calling or put-downs from them. You also let them know what you intend to do if they continue the behavior. If they persist in calling you names or putting you down, you follow through with what you said you would do. You may tell someone, "I will not allow you to call me names anymore. If you continue, I will leave the room. If you persist long-term, I will need to leave the relationship." That's pretty straightforward. The thing is: You must follow through with what you've said you will do if the behavior continues. If you do not, expect more name-calling.

Boundary-setting takes practice. But it does get easier in time. If you would like to learn more, please contact me for a complimentary, no-obligation strategy session.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Who are you really?

Authenticity. It's an extremely important part of the aging process, in my humble opinion. At long last, we become more comfortable in our own bodies. We become more confident. We know what we know, and we're okay with that. We know our gifts, and we also know our shortcomings. We're human. And we're fine with it all.

I read this in a magazine recently, "Being yourself is the prettiest thing you can be." I like that. Yes, it really is. Just be yourself. Be the best you that you can be. Be all you were created to be.

When we're young, we try on different personas, not yet knowing who we really are and wanting to receive approval from some of the adults in our lives. Soon enough, we live a life that takes into account what others think we should be and do—and we don't realize that it could take us far from who we really were meant to be. We may never think about what we want to do.

It's not too late. Think about what you most long for at your very deepest levels. Think about those times when you feel most you. And think about your passions, your gifts. Keep moving in the direction of those things—in the direction that feels most life-giving to you. Go for authenticity.

If you'd like to discuss this, I invite you to contact me for a no-obligation, complimentary strategy session.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Come out and play

One of my dear friends and I were talking about how serious we become through the years. Of course, it isn't surprising. We have heavy responsibilities that are serious and call forth our practical, intense selves. That's as it should be if we are to be responsible adults—parents, employees, citizens.

But does it have to be either/or? Do we have to be so responsible that we forget how to play? I don't believe it.

Play can unleash our creativity. It can open our hearts to our more generous and loving selves. It just may erupt in joy and delight. Just watch little children at play for a while. You will notice all the joy and delight. You will also see how creative they become as they engage wholeheartedly in play.

Perhaps we could try to recapture some of that as we mature. There's nothing wrong with getting in touch with wonder and delight once again!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Going in circles

I like the idea of a circle. One of my early memories is going with Mom to her church women's circle. The ladies' group in our church was broken into several smaller groups called circles. Each took the name of a biblical woman. They did Bible studies, worked on service projects, made quilts for the needy and so much more. And now that I'm older and look back on those gatherings, I realize these women supported and cared for one another. Those circles were places where they could tell their stories, where they could feel safe and be with others whose lives were similar and who understood. They "got it." Surely these circles were a precursor to the various ways women still gather today to support each other.

Women meet for lunch. They gather after work for wine and a sharing of lives. They form book clubs that are part book discussion and part support group.  Women have dozens of ways to gather, share and support.

I've been part of women's spirituality groups and today am part of three different "circles" of women in addition to my weekly Bible study group. The women in these groups inspire me to be my best. They support me when I'm not. We hear each other's stories, learn, care, laugh, cry and support each other ... and more.

Circles speak of connection, wholeness, equality, infinity. Circles are so different from triangles, where someone is at the top as an expert. With circles, everyone is assumed to have a piece of the wisdom. And that is definitely true. No one has all the wisdom. When we put our pieces together, we have so much more than we would have alone.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Conflict: Not a dirty word

I have a different view of conflict today than I had years ago. Mind you, I don't like big blow-out arguments and fights. But conflict? Sometimes that can be healthy.

Sometimes we need to ask tough questions. We need to speak truth to power—and speak the truth in love. Sometimes we need to challenge the status quo. We need to encourage change. And that requires a risk. It can mean stepping on the toes of others. Hurting feelings. It takes courage.

We can develop the discipline of being a non-anxious presence, of listening to the other person even when we aren't backing away from a differing point of view. Doing so requires that we have self-compassion, which then leads to compassion for others. When we come from that kind of place, conflict can look very different.

If you have a situation that you fear could lead to conflict, try approach it with compassion—both for yourself and the other(s). Try approach it without fear. See what a difference that might make.

I'd love to hear your experiences with such an approach.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Life & loss

"It's what we lose that teaches us to suck all the juices out of every other moment in life," Joan Chittister wrote in her book Living Well.

As I look back on my own life, I can see the truth of that. It's in the losses that I've learned the most: losing my marriage, losing the opportunity to break another glass ceiling when I was highly qualified and expected by others to get the position, losing my job, losing loved ones in death and losing friendships, to name a few.

Those experiences have taught me to make the most of what I do have, to cherish those who are in my life and to "suck all the juices" out of each day. I want to savor each moment.

Do I remember that every minute of every day? Oh, how I wish! But as I often tell myself: It's not about perfection; it's about doing the best I can.

Think about your own life. What have you lost that has taught you to "suck all the juices" out of each moment?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Loving yourself

No doubt all of us know someone who is extremely good at accepting blame and pointing out their flaws but who cannot accept praise or list any of their gifts or accomplishments. Maybe it's even you.

I certainly have experienced that in my life, too. When I was a younger woman, I recall being stymied when in workshops, I'd be asked to list 5 to 10 good things about myself. Are you kidding me? I would think. Ask me to list that same number of negatives, however, and I'd have that list done in record time.

Through the years, however, I've worked hard to recognize and appreciate the positive attributes I have—and the accomplishments. Many of us have to get past some of the early messages we received about being humble. "Pride goeth before a fall." If I heard that once, not just at home but in church and in the broader society, I heard it a thousand times. I began to see the way such messages set me up, and I set out to change my inner dialogue.

Having a good self-image isn't about undue pride. A solid base of self-esteem is a healthy stance. If you do have a good self-image, that's wonderful. If you don't, however, and would like to work on that, please contact me.

A healthy self-image is a good foundation for solid relationships and for career success. It's essential to a joy-filled life. Loving yourself makes it possible to love others. Know that it is possible to change how you see—and love—yourself. Make 2017 the year you give yourself that gift, if you don't already feel good about who you are.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Letting life unfold

Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose specialty is mindfulness-based stress reduction, has a lovely way of describing how we can simply let life unfold. Make no mistake, however, letting life simply unfold isn't simple! Most of us tend to try force things into our preconceived notions of how they should be. Often, that doesn't work out—have you noticed?

Anyway, here's what Kabat-Zinn says: "Non-doing simply means letting things be and allowing them to unfold in their own way. Enormous effort can be involved, but it is a graceful, knowledgeable, effortless effort, a doerless doing."

Got it? Hmmm, perhaps not. It really does go against the grain of our typical way of being. Perhaps you have learned how to allow things "to unfold in their own way." If so, kudos to you. I'm still trying to learn this. I know that forcing an outcome doesn't work. But just letting go and letting things be is difficult. It's a life lesson on which I'm working.

I wonder whether I shouldn't post Kabat-Zinn's words somewhere so I'll read them daily. Perhaps in time the "graceful, knowledgeable, effortless effort" way of being might sink more deeply into my consciousness. That description intrigues and invites me. How about you?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Aging & possibilities

How do you see the aging process? Retirement? Are you looking at those things through the eyes of discontinuity, of endings? Yes, they contain endings. And it's important to take stock of those, grieve if you feel the loss of those endings. And then you'll be free to see possibilities.

Yes, possibilities. So much can yet lie ahead. So many choices. What really excites you? Makes you get out of bed in the morning? Or haven't you felt that in several years? Perhaps you've had or still have a job that doesn't energize you. What would change how you feel about it? A job change? An attitude change? Or is retirement possible?

Just know you have choices. You always have a choice about things—if not about what you do, then about how you see what you do.

It's always so energizing to think of possibilities.

If you are heading into retirement—or even thinking about that—see the potential of it. You'll get to create new routines, try new activities, perhaps even find some new friends to add to your current circle, develop talents within you that never have had a chance for expression. And perhaps you'll find your way into a new comfort with life, with yourself and with others. These years can be rich and full. They truly can be the best years of your life. So much depends on what happens between your ears! Check out your attitude and see whether a change is needed.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Thank those who pave the way

Do you ever think about the women who have gone before us to pave the way? About those women who fought injustice in its different forms so we might have the freedoms and rights we enjoy today? And do you thank them?

Nearly every time I vote, for example, I remember the stories of women who marched, gave speeches, wrote papers, beseeched the U.S. Congress and the president—and who for their efforts, were excoriated, imprisoned, force fed, chased from their homes and families. I'm so grateful for those women—and for those men who stood with them.

I remember several years ago when I prepared a keynote address for a women's group, using the biblical story of Queen Esther as a guide, how surprised I was to see at the start of the book of Esther a mention of the queen who preceded her—Queen Vashti. Somehow I hadn't really heard about her. Vashti was a brave woman who may well have paved the way for Esther to do what she did to save her people. (Read Esther, chapter 1, to see how Vashti bravely just said "No" to the king and his drunken request, enduring his wrath and banishment.)

So many women who preceded us. So many brave acts. As author Renita J. Weems says in Just a Sister Away: "If the truth be told, we today are who we are—if we are anybody—because some woman, somewhere, stooped down long enough that we might climb on her back and ride piggyback into the future."

Who has stooped down for you? And for whom have you stooped down?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Hiding your true identity

I'm really saddened these days by all the news stories of damage done to Jewish cemeteries and of threats for more. When I hear this, I think of Anne Frank and Corrie ten Boom and so many more stories of the Holocaust—of Jews hiding their identity and of non-Jews with good hearts hiding Jews even at risk of their own lives.

These stories could lead us in several directions because there are so many levels to such hate crimes. One could discuss good and evil existing side by side. One could discuss the fears that lead to such crimes. We could even talk about what to do in the face of such hatred and fear.

Today, however, I simply want to ask you whether you've ever had to hide your identity. Perhaps you've never had to do so because you feared for your life as happened during World War II. But perhaps you had to hide who you really were—in a workplace, in a marriage, in a friendship—because you felt it really would not have been OK to be who you really were.

We all wear masks to present a face to the world that we think is more acceptable than who we think we are inside. That can be slightly different from actually hiding who we are because we fear rejection or retribution of some type. Have you ever thought you might not move ahead in your career if your boss or coworkers knew the authentic you? Have you worried that your spouse or partner wouldn't really love you if you showed your true self? Have you worried that you can't say what you think in your place of worship because of what others might think?

What might it feel like to reveal who you really are? To risk living in a completely authentic way? Let yourself feel how that might be. What do you need to do to live authentically? Are you ready to risk it?