Friday, September 29, 2017

THINK before speaking

Have you ever found yourself in conversation with friends and heard words coming from your mouth that horrified you? Perhaps you said something snarky about another person, passed on a bit of gossip or said something unkind and hurtful to your conversation partner. I think we all have had that experience. It's not something we like to admit. But it is something we can think about and try to avoid.

Here's a helpful acronym that might be worth posting on a mirror—or perhaps even several places around the house. It was given to me by a friend a couple days ago and has really caught my attention:

Before you speak, THINK:
• Is it True?
• Is it Helpful?
• Is it Inspiring?
• Is it Necessary?
• Is it Kind?

THINK. True. Helpful. Inspiring. Necessary. Kind.

Enough said....

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Stress & self-care

I'm rediscovering how easy it is to neglect self-care when our plates are loaded and overflowing with tasks and stressors.

I often blog about the importance of self-care because I do feel it's important. And yet here I am, still knee-deep in a more-than-full plate of tasks and feeling depleted and totally stressed out. And what things are falling off my daily routine? Yup, the good things that could feed me.

Yesterday my massage therapist reminded me about self-care. Oh, yes, there's that. I know better. And yet it's so easy to just keep on pushing, tackling the next item on the to-do list and then the next one—or worse yet, multitasking so I can get even more done at once (something I've heard really isn't efficient after all!).

Whew, deep breaths, Sonia. Take time for a walk. Do some journaling. More deep breaths. Chill for a while with some beautiful classical music. Remember to do my bone exercises and my yoga stretches. Call my beloved sister or another dear friend. There are so many options. And somehow the work always gets done anyway. In fact, it may get done more quickly and better if I actually take better care of myself.

How about you? Are you taking good care of yourself even in the crazy times?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Self-esteem and control

We women especially often grow up with lots of issues around self-esteem and confidence. Sometimes it takes us many years before we feel a strong sense of self and develop the confidence we need. It's been said that women apologize far too often—for things we haven't even caused or that need no apology. Further, we are so hard on ourselves—judging ourselves harshly for things we'd never judge in our dear friends.

And whether it's a spouse, a parent, a friend or a boss, we can often succumb to efforts at controlling us in one way or another. That's why the words of my friend Gail Kittleson in her book Catching Up with Daylight: A Journey to Wholeness spoke to me:

"In the process, we can become beneficent to ourselves. It's a long road from harsh self-judgment to merciful kindness. Many of us consistently show kindness to others and refrain from judging, but when it comes to our own attitudes and actions, rude condemnation reigns. Cutting ourselves some slack takes time and practice. Unfortunately, each encounter with a controller reinforces the tendency to discount and dishonor our own autonomy.

"Manipulation and abuse have a cumulative effect. Controllers know how to angle us off-center a bit more with each confrontation. With enough time, we feel helpless and can't even put into words why we feel confused or upset. Of course, this looks like evidence that the controller is right about us, but we can learn to recognize that off-kilter sensation as a warning sign, our body telling us that something is wrong."

If this resonates with you, please talk with someone about it. You're welcome to contact me if you wish. And if you have a friend who is controlled by someone, don't be afraid to gently broach the subject. We all need and deserve self-love and self-care. We all are capable of agency and making our own choices.

Friday, September 22, 2017

'No feeling is final'

Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke said the following:

"Let everything happen to you
"Beauty and terror
"Just keep going
"No feeling is final."

Rilke penned many thoughtful poems, the lines of which provide us a good deal of inspiration and food for thought. This particular part of his work reminds me of things I have read that encourage us to enter into life, its play and its work, with all our heart and soul—and at the same time, to do so without any attachment to the outcome.

I hear Rilke saying to simply ride the waves of what comes to us in life and just keep going. Whatever we experience now will not last forever. Don't get hung up on what's happened today. Some days it's beauty. Some days, terror. Keep a balance.

His words make so much sense to me. However, that doesn't mean it's easy. I get as hung up on things as the next person. I get attached to outcomes. I forget to ride the waves and simply say, "It is what it is."

I would like to live that way more often, though. So Rilke's reminder is a good one for me. How about you?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Let go of judgmentalism

We all want to see ourselves in the very best light possible. And we definitely hope that others see us in that light, too. We'd prefer that others not even know we have a shadow side or any flaws. Sometimes we're even extremely good at ignoring those things ourselves.

But it seems to me that the more we get in touch with our own shadow side and what we're capable of doing in our worst moments, the less judgmental we'll be of others—and the more forgiving we'll be of them when they hurt us or let us down.

Judgmentalism isn't pretty. It's not nice to be on the receiving end of it. And it's not nice to spend our lives sitting in judgment of others, either. It can ruin relationships, and it won't move us in positive directions either.

Pay attention to those times when you do, say or think things that you'd rather you hadn't done, said or thought. Be honest about those times and acknowledge it all as a part of your shadow side. Forgive yourself because you're human. Then extend that same acknowledgment and forgiveness to others. Liberate yourself and let go of judgmentalism. You'll be so glad you did!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Feed your spirit

I wish I could remember where I found this, but tucked into one of my inspirational books is a copy of some advice on escaping from things that imprison us or hold us back.

It says, "Escape from a dull and boring routine that's slowly but surely killing your spirit.

"Escape from any job, no matter how lucrative, that holds your creativity hostage and demands you pay with your physical and emotional health.

"However you must, escape from the constant needling of people who live their lives under a perpetual storm cloud. Get away for an hour or two, for a month or three. If you must, leave the marriage. Or the country."

That's a lot about which to think. But the bottom line, it seems to me, is to seek out those things that are life-giving and get as far away as possible from things that break your spirit and are death-dealing.

Do today what feeds your spirit. You know what those things are.

Friday, September 15, 2017

See that glass half-full—or perhaps full!

On Wednesday we talked about the difference gratitude can make in our lives. I don't know about you, but I seem to need frequent reminders of this. It's so easy to slip into seeing the glass half-empty, especially if you're a consumer of the daily news!

I've noticed something about myself, however, and I wonder if you find it true as well. When I let a negative attitude prevail and see the glass half-empty, I find that discouragement dogs my heels. It's way too easy to spiral down until I find myself grumbling about everything. And it's difficult to be creative and find solutions to daily problems. My focus then becomes all things negative, and I don't even see the beauty and goodness around me.

However, when I focus on the good things going on around me and see the glass half-full, opportunities abound. I see solutions more quickly. I feel creative. I access my ability for wonder and awe. And I'm far happier besides. Gratitude is my natural response at those times.

When we are in grateful mode, others want to be around us. We even like being with ourselves then! The happiness ripples just keep extending out further and further. Imagine the impact on the world around us.

Let this be your reminder today. It'll serve as mine, too!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A life of gratitude

How do you begin and end your day? Do you wake up thinking, "Oh, no, I'm not ready to get up" or "Nuts, I didn't sleep well last night"? Or do you wake up with gratitude—thankful that you did wake up, thankful that you have a bed in which to sleep and a roof over your head?

And at night, do you let yourself unwind a bit, perhaps with a good book or some restful music so you can go to sleep with pleasant thoughts filling your mind? Do you mentally run through your day and give thanks for all the good things in it just before you drop off to sleep?

Such things can make such a difference, a difference in how you live your day and a difference in how you sleep. A life of gratitude changes everything. It's all in your attitude.

I've noticed that some of the hurricane victims interviewed on TV lately have expressed their joy and thankfulness to be alive—even while they're standing in front of the remains of what once was their home. It always amazes me. So many of them have said of their homes and belongings, "It's all just stuff. It can be replaced. Our families can't be, and we're still alive."

How true. They are a reminder and an inspiration to all of us to look at what we do have, not at what we don't have ... and then live a life of gratitude.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Give up worrying

Are you a worrier? I confess that I am. I really try to do less of it as the years roll by. I know in my head that it doesn't do a thing that's positive. It's just a habit—not a good one either. I don't think it really helps me come up with solutions.

Here's what self-help author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer said about worry: "It makes no sense to worry about things you have no control over because there's nothing you can do about them. And why worry about things you do control? The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized."

Isn't that the truth? It really does make no sense, as Dyer says. That doesn't often stop us from doing things that have become habit. But Dyer's words are a good reminder to us to take steps toward a more worry-free existence!

I read an online piece about how to stop worrying that listed 6 tips for doing so:

•  Create a worry period. Tell yourself you won't do it now, but you'll worry about it later. Just postpone it.
• Ask yourself if the problem is solvable. If so, start brainstorming. If not, check out your feelings and embrace them. Worrying and problem-solving are very different.
• Accept uncertainty. That's huge!
• Challenge anxious thoughts. Identify those thoughts and check their veracity. Chances are good you could be jumping to unrealistic conclusions.
• Be aware of how others affect you. It's easy to "catch" moods from other people. Definitely spend less time with people who increase your anxiety.
• Practice mindfulness. Quietly observe your thoughts without judgment and stay focused on the present.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Choices of the heart

Are you at a crossroads where it's time to make some choices and decisions? Even when we don't have huge decisions to make, we often come to a point where some type of choice must be made. Some of these choices are more difficult than others, and it can be difficult to know what you really do want.

One question I often tell clients to ask is: For what does my heart really long right now? And I encourage clients to say what first comes to mind.

Then I urge them to ask it of themselves again and respond quickly. Repeat several times.

Generally, after doing this in fairly rapid succession a number of times, you will have gotten to the core of your longings. At first, it's easy to answer with things you've been thinking about most recently—and you may not even be close to what's near and dear to your heart. The real choice may be buried a bit more deeply. Chances are that it will rise to the surface, however, when you consider the question several times.

Try it sometime.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Each day is precious

Some kids have been back in school for a week or two, and most of the rest went back yesterday. When I think of my nine grandchildren, some off to college and others at various stages of middle school and high school with the very youngest one just starting kindergarten, I think of how quickly time passes. Honestly, it doesn't seem that long ago I was rocking them to sleep or playing on the floor with them.

Inevitably the thought of time's swift passage leads me to the idea of savoring each day, of telling those I love that I do, in fact, love and cherish them. You probably hear this a lot. And I know I say it a lot. But I really don't think we can have too many reminders of it. It's so easy to get caught up in life's quotidian tasks and lose sight of the precious nature of each moment and each day.

So here's just one more reminder—for me and for you both!

Monday, September 4, 2017

About Labor Day

Today is Labor Day here in the United States. Several other countries celebrate such a day in May. The first Labor Day in this country was held in 1882 and was created as a holiday for workers by the Central Labor Union. Originally, the day was filled with a street parade meant to appreciate the work of trade and labor organizations. The parade was followed by a festival of some type to entertain local workers and their families. It wasn't until 1894 that the U.S. Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September a legal holiday.

Now we can use it to remind ourselves of the social and economic achievements of Americans. But we should also be aware of how all workers are treated—and support good working conditions and wages for everyone.

A little-known piece of Labor Day history is the Pullman railway worker strike in Chicago that occurred just after Congress passed its act in 1894. Railway magnate George Pullman laid off workers and reduced wages, causing workers to strike and eventually to resort to violence, tipping over railroad cars and setting them on fire. Troops entered the scene with bayonets and bullets. Dozens of people died in Chicago and elsewhere.

This is a day for most Americans to relax and hang out with family and friends. But it's also good to think about what the day really meant through history and means today for workers.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Bound together as women

I used to wonder why women sometimes sabotage one another, turn on each other and generally treat other women in ways they'd never treat men in their lives. Then years ago I read several articles and books on the topic and learned about "horizontal violence," "the female face of patriarchy," women who are "male referented" and similar topics. I learned there are many reasons for this phenomenon. It's what I often call the "vying for a prom date" syndrome in women. It's not pretty, and it definitely feels horrible to be on the receiving end of this. I know—I've been there. And it isn't helpful to us moving forward as women in this culture or globally.

So when I re-read the words of Renita J. Weems from her book Just a Sister Away as repeated in Jan Richardson's book Sacred Journeys: A Woman's Book of Daily Prayer, they really caught my attention. Again.

"As black and white women in America, as Israeli and Lebanese women, as white South African and black South African women, as Asian and European women, as the wives of terrorists and the wives of victims of terrorists, working for righteousness in splendid isolation from one another is a luxury we cannot afford. Injustice in our lands relies upon the perpetual alienation of women from one another and upon relentless hostility between women. Indeed, our estrangement from one another continues to compromise the integrity of our witness as God-fearing women."

Wow! Yes, yes, yes. May we all learn how to care for and support each other as women—for as Heather McVoy says in a litany also found in Richardson's book, "...each woman's struggle is everywoman's burden."

Let's stand together and turn this around!