Wednesday, January 31, 2018

One step at a time

I am so stressed right now. It seems that a few people near and dear to me need major help with life issues, and I want to be there for them. In one case, it involves lots of detail work, phone calls, letters and emails—plus some huge on-site tasks, too. It means long-distance drives, arranging for doctor appointments, cleaning out a house to sell and more. Yikes.

My sister reminds me to "take one crisis at a time." She's right. That's plenty. And even at that, I've always advised people to break major crises or tasks into smaller, achievable pieces. It's that old question of how you eat an elephant—one small bite at a time!

So I'm trying to heed my sister's and my own advice. One thing at a time—and break that down into an action plan of small chunks. One step at a time, and I will be able to help those I love deal with these big things that have so affected their lives.

Meanwhile, I need to remember to breathe. And I need to engage in self-care such as my yoga class, massages and time with dear friends.

How do you handle stressful times?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Of storms and roots

"Storms make oaks take deeper roots," said Welsh-born poet and Anglican priest George Herbert. He likely knew whereof he spoke, too, since he suffered from poor health for most of his short life. He died of consumption at the age of 39.

His point is well-taken, however. I don't know about you, but it has been the painful and difficult experiences in my life that have deepened the roots of my faith, strengthened my voice and my resolve to do more about the injustices I see, and kept me grounded. I have grown and transformed far more through life's storms than through the good times. Those times have fueled my compassion, too.

All of us would no doubt rather have more sunshine, rainbows, joy and beauty in our lives—and give a pass to the storms. We don't get to check boxes for such preferences, however. Storms will come. And the good news is that we will survive them—especially with help. This is where your faith comes in and where your connections to others play a huge role.

If you're in the midst of life storms right now, take heart. Reach down deeply into your soul, reach up to whatever you name your higher power, and reach out to those people with whom you share your journey. Watch those roots deepen. Watch your wisdom and strength grow. Know you can survive this.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Moving on

Last week I learned that someone is leaving a group of which I'm part because she no longer feels comfortable, accepted and heard there. I'm really sad about that—and want to do all I can to be sure this group that I so value is open to all voices.

All of that said, however, I do also firmly believe that there are times when a person has to follow her heart and conscience and move on. I've had to do that myself on occasion. It's always a tough decision to let go of something that once was meaningful—and particularly, of the people who once felt like my tribe. I also know the new opportunities that can arise once I have let go of a situation or group and moved on.

Do you have anything in your life right now that requires a second look? Or that might lead you to let go and leave a person or a group? Don't be afraid to step out into something new. Or even to step out into the unknown temporarily.

A caterpillar can be our example: When the caterpillar enters a cocoon, it seems like dying. However, as we know, it's simply the gateway to an exciting new life form—a butterfly that soars above the flowers rather than crawling along the ground or among the leaves. Think of it!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Asking for needs to be met

Do you have some unmet needs that are pretty important to you and that you're hesitant to ask someone (spouse, children, friend) to help fulfill? If you were raised like I was, you likely didn't learn how to ask for what you need. In fact, many of us were raised to ignore our needs and tend to those of others instead—particularly if we are women.

It's great to be of service to others. What's not great is when so many of our really important needs go unmet and we end up resentful of others. The desire for those needs comes out sideways and in peculiar ways, especially to those closest to us. We may be angry or irritable and others have no idea why. Better to be direct and simply ask.

Check yourself to see whether there's something you really want someone else to do or say to you. Don't be afraid to ask. We don't always get what we ask for. But we surely won't get it if we don't ask! In fact, it can make for a good conversation if we ask a good friend or partner what that person needs and then say what we need from them. Go ahead, take that first step. This also gives permission for the other person to ask for needs to be met, so it may be a new behavior for you both to learn.

Old dogs can learn new tricks!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Don't be afraid of grief work

I just heard about a person who experienced a huge loss in her life and who can't seem to deal with the grief of that loss because she's still stuck in deep grief over a different loss some 10-15 years earlier.

This is a reminder to me of the importance of grieving each loss as it comes into our lives. That said, grief isn't a once-and-done thing either. Still, it's essential to do whatever grief work is needed in our lives—and not just for the huge life losses such as death, divorce, debilitating illness, job loss, etc. We also need to grieve for  what some see as lesser losses: losing a friend for one reason or another, losses of ability as we age (hearing, eyesight, mobility and more), and other things such as favorite places when we move from one city to another or even from one neighborhood to another.

Life can be filled with losses, large and small. It's important to stop and take the time to feel the sadness and do whatever you need to do that will allow you to move on. Because grief is a process, you may need to spend some time again later working on the sadness you feel. That's OK. Just don't skip over your feelings as though the loss didn't matter. It does. And your feelings matter.

Stay clear and cleaned out as much as possible by facing things as they occur. If this is something about which you'd like to talk, please contact me.

Friday, January 19, 2018

For those who want to be more

A book I first read when I was just in my 30s is still one of my favorites. Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus, illustrated like a children's book, is a book for adults who want to be what they were meant to be—who want the "more" of life.

I have so many favorite passages. Here's one part I especially like:

"Butterfly—that word," she thought. "Tell me, sir, what is a butterfly?

"It's what you are meant to become. It flies with beautiful wings and joins the earth to heaven. It drinks only nectar from the flowers and carries the seeds of love from one flower to another.

"Without butterflies, the world would soon have few flowers."

So here's a thought for you and me as we look out onto cold or snow-covered landscapes that are momentarily free from flowers and butterflies: How are you carrying the seeds of love? How do you see yourself searching for the "more" of life? How are you moving toward becoming all you were meant to be?

What might you need to do to soar like a butterfly and "join the earth to heaven"?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Purpose and simplicity

Have you thought about simplifying your life at all? Several people I know are talking about it. Some are downsizing. Some are cutting back on activities, creating more open space in their lives. A few are cutting back to part-time work. One friend is even reflecting on the time she spends with friends to be sure these really are the people with whom she wants to devote her precious time.

Here's an interesting quote from French writer and Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard: "Simplifying our lives does not mean sinking into idleness, but on the contrary, getting rid of the most subtle aspect of laziness: the one which makes us take on thousands of less important activities."

I just came across that quote recently, and I admit that I need to really think more about it. It's surprising, isn't it, to hear the term "laziness" used for a life that is filled with an over-abundance of activities?

And yet, a multitude of "less important activities" can keep us from the most important work in our lives—the real purpose of your life or mine. If you feel that's true for your life, what are you willing to do about it? What changes would you like to make? Do you know what your really important work is right now? What would it take to focus on that? Remember, purpose is much more than your job or your career.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Diversity and fitting in

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day—a great time to think about diversity and creating a bigger table. I love that image of a larger table and the idea of setting a place for all who show up.

I'm bothered by what seems to be a growing attitude of who's in and who's out. Unfortunately, it recalls for me the painful days of grade school when girls were so cliquish. One day, I'd be in and someone else would be out. A few days later, I might be out and that girl would be in. It was painful. That behavior occurred in high school, too. In fact, as I reflect back, there was plenty of it even in the workplace! That behavior isn't confined to children concerned about acceptance and how they fit in. Apparently, such fears follow us all the way into adulthood.

Do you still worry about your place within a group? Or within your own family, perhaps? If you do, this might be something you'd like to work on. I like the thinking of researcher and author Brené Brown, who says she doesn't negotiate her self-worth with anyone. It took her years to feel her own worth, she says, and she's not giving that up just because someone or other doesn't like her or approve of her. Yes!

Once secure in your own worth, you will be far more likely to spread the table for everyone. You'll no longer need to think in terms of who's in and who's out. Give it some thought today. If you'd like to have a conversation about it, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary coaching session around that topic.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Banish fears, one by one

There isn't a human on the planet who hasn't felt fear—and I venture to say, on a regular basis. Each one of us fears a number of things, whether that be losing connections with others, speaking in front of a group, facing illness, death or being pushed outside our comfort zone, to name just a few.

What we choose to do about our fears is quite another matter, though. Fear doesn't need to have the final say. I like what Maya Angelou said about it: "Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay."

Isn't that wonderful? As difficult as it may be, let's choose hope as often as we can. Invite hope to stay—and then take even one small step toward whatever it is you fear. One step will lead to another and another, and soon hope really will prevail.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Each day is gift

I'm not sure whether it's my age—or whether it's the times in which we live—but each week seems to bring more news of someone facing a serious life issue. Friends dying, receiving a harsh medical diagnosis, losing jobs or having their job go sour in a big way, facing financial distress and more. Some days it gets really heavy, doesn't it?

A dear friend of mine always reminds me to not let this drag me down as I support those experiencing these issues. Instead, she says, let these things remind you to be present to the current moment. She's right. Let's not live with our eyes in the rear view mirror. And let's not live with our heads so far in the future, making plans that may or may not happen. Rather, let's be right here right now. Let's savor our moments. Tell people we love that we do love them. Listen to people with attention. Feel more compassion. Give out more smiles and hugs.

Each day is a gift. Open it with gratitude. Spend it wisely and lavishly!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Watching life unfold

We're a week into the new year already. Did you make resolutions? Or do you just step into the new year with some vague hopes about what might come? Perhaps you pulled out your Bucket List or even your Thimble List (small ways to savor life)?

Each year, I do a review of the past year to see what's happened, what I've learned and what I've noticed about the word I chose a year ago. And then I select a word or phrase that I hope will fit for my new year. I chose the word "serene" for 2018. The reason I did so was because I seemed to be pulled in too many (often negative) directions by the news I heard. I so want to be an informed and active citizen of this country and the world. At the same time, I want to keep calm and hopeful. I don't want to be dragged down by every news headline or tweet I read about.

So far, one week in, I'm doing relatively well on this. But the real test is ahead. Can I keep this up for 51 more weeks?!

How about you? What are your hopes for this new year? And how do you see things unfolding for you so far? Let's encourage each other to stay positive and hopeful as we watch life unfold and plan how we will participate in it.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Hard conversations are needed

Last year was an extremely difficult and contentious year in our country. In this brand new year, I'm hearing more conversations about finding ways to talk with one another across the great chasm that seems to divide us. We are divided by race, gender, class and political party, to name just a few. That won't change unless we learn to talk with people who may not necessarily see life through the same lenses as we do.

Doing this involves us all learning how to listen better than we typically do. It means really listening—not just hearing what the other is saying while preparing your own comeback!

I like what Brené Brown says in her latest book, Braving the Wilderness: "We're going to need to intentionally be with people who are different from us. We're going to have to sign up, join, and take a seat at the table. We're going to have to learn how to listen, have hard conversations, look for joy, share pain, and be more curious than defensive, all while seeking moments of togetherness."

Right on, Brené!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Exhale—and rest

As you begin a new year, are you starting it with a long to-do list, a list of projects and shoulds? Or have you built in some time for rest and restoration as well? Those don't necessarily have to be in opposition to one another. For example, as one man said, "My wife finds working in the garden restful. I prefer to simply rest in my chair, enjoying the fruits of her labor."

Many people think that rest is for children, old people or the sick. Perhaps you grew up, as I did, with the message that you should not sit and not relax until the work was done. And, of course, since I grew up on a farm, the work never was done!

But here's a thought from 20th century Trappist monk Thomas Merton: "To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects ... is to succumb to violence." And, as many people point out, even God rested after creation activities (see Genesis 2:2). In an Exodus version (31:17), it says, "In six days God made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day God rested and was refreshed." According to pastor, speaker and retreat leader Jane E. Vennard, the Hebrew word usually translated "refreshed" in that Exodus passage literally means "and God exhaled."

That's good for us to remember as we start a whole new year: Breathe in, breathe out. Remember to breathe. Take time to exhale!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you! No matter how you spend your New Year's Day, whether you make resolutions or not, whether you are into reflection or introspection or not, here are a couple questions that might be worth some thought.

What was last year like for you? For what are you hoping in the year ahead? Carl Jung said that "where you stumble and fall, there you find pure gold." Did you stumble at all? Did you find gold? What did you learn about yourself through those experiences? Did you encounter roadblocks or get stuck? Did you meet someone who helped you? Did you let go of any inner (or outer) "trash"—things you no longer need, believe or want to carry around? Letting go can set you on the bridge to new freedom if you let it. And don't we love new beginnings?

Here's to a serene, beautiful year for you—filled with moments that absolutely take your breath away!