Friday, November 30, 2018

Try some quiet & cozy time

Have you ever heard of the Danish/Norwegian term "hygge"? Pronounced "hue-gah," it's a concept that can't be directly translated into English but embraces such things as feelings of cozy contentment and well-being through simplicity. Reading a book on a rainy day. A cup of hot cocoa or a coffee latte on a snowy day. Nights in front of the fireplace listening to music or reading a book. Think simple. Think serenity.

You may have noticed through the years that Denmark always is at the top of the list of "happiest countries," and this may well be the reason for that. The word itself is derived from a Norwegian word that means "well-being."

The concept is beginning to trend in other places around the world. Perhaps we Americans, who seem to glorify the word "busy," might benefit from some hygge in our lives?!

One of my YaYa friends introduced the concept to us recently and invited us to reflect on it, and sometime in the new year we'll discuss what we think about it and how we're embracing the idea in our lives. Since I've been feeling completely stressed and on the edge for a while now, I decided already a couple nights ago to start. I decorated my Christmas tree and then spent the evening just quietly looking at the lights, listening to some of my favorite Christmas carols while sipping a glass of Bailey's Irish Cream. It was just perfect, and I slept better that night than I have for a while!

I invite you, in this crazy-busy season, to add a little hygge to your life too. Perhaps you'll want to build it in permanently. That's what I'm hoping to do!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Goodwill toward all

Already I see more smiles on people's faces when I shop. Or is it my imagination? What is it about Christmas and the entire holiday season? Granted, there are still surly customers that salespeople and cashiers need to service. But it seems as though more people exhibit extra patience, tolerance and goodwill already.

For so long, Americans collectively have seemed to be on the edge. Ready to snap at the least little thing. Calling each other names and yelling across a great divide. Some families were unable to be together at the Thanksgiving table because of differing views on politics and what's happening in our country. That's sad. Extremely sad.

So let's hope and pray that this season can connect us all with our better angels and that we might be able to carry forward into the new year this compassion, kindness and patience with and for one another.

It will take each of us doing our part. Are you ready? (And don't forget to show that same compassion and kindness to yourself!)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Gifts that keep on giving

In this frenzied season of "shop until you drop" for holiday gift-buying, remember that it's not all about the things we buy in stores or online.

I remember when our children were young, our family gave several gifts of time. We didn't have a lot of money at the time, so we gave the gift of time along with some things purchased in local stores. For example, my sons might give their father certificates good for a number of shoe-polishings or I might give the boys certificates they could turn in for a pie or cookies of their choice. You get the idea. We would each make a little book of tickets or certificates with a variety of items and give to each other.

Perhaps it's time for me to revive some of those ideas. I also know some grandparents who buy tickets to a play, one for themselves and one for the grandchild. Time spent together is such a beautiful gift and one that will give lasting memories as well—the gift that keeps on giving!

What's on your gift-giving list this year?

Friday, November 23, 2018

Love, not hate

On social media and in societal and social interactions, I see two competing forces at work. I see attempts and real efforts to access our better angels. For example, I heard about a girls' volleyball team from a fire-ravaged Paradise, California, school that decided to go ahead and play its game with a team in Auburn, California, despite not having its equipment and uniforms. When the girls arrived in Auburn, they were met with brand new uniforms, knee pads and socks for every player in addition to truckloads of donated clothes, a $300 gift card for each player and a dinner for the players and their families. What a beautiful story of support!

Then on the other hand, we see far too many news stories and social media posts displaying hate and anger. And as communications and public affairs strategist Steve Schmidt (who worked on Republican political campaigns such as for George W. Bush and Arizona Senator John McCain but who just this year renounced that party as "fully the party of Trump") said recently, "We have a billion-dollar anger industry in this country." He was speaking of the incitement to violence and "the assault on objective truth" that has been stoked lately.

All of this is a reminder to each of us to take a chill pill and not get hooked by all the hatred and anger we see all around us. Let's follow the example of the Auburn, California, girls' volleyball team and that community—and access our better angels! Let's be inspired by them and live in our integrity.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Give thanks

So tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. For some, that means huge gatherings of family and friends around a table loaded down with platters and bowls of rich and fabulous foods. For others, it may mean a small gathering or it might even be a day to go out to eat with a small cadre of family or friends. For still others, it could be a day all alone, perhaps feeling depressed because "everyone else is with someone they love." And for far too many, it's just one more day of homelessness and wondering where their next meal will come from. All of this in our one land of plenty!

If you have what you need tomorrow, please don't forget what the day is all about: giving thanks. Most of us have so much for which to be grateful. I am certainly not wealthy, but I could fill pages and pages with all the blessings I do enjoy. I'm sure you could as well. Take time to reflect on at least a small portion of those blessings. Don't let Thanksgiving Day be only about all the food!

Monday, November 19, 2018

So much to learn about anger

My last several blogs have dealt with some of the issues facing us in our country today, some of the issues that were and still are subjects of debate in the U.S. As we saw during the election process, these issues can heighten our emotions, most particularly the level of our anger.

This is why I was especially struck by an article on anger that I recently read by Russ Hudson, one of the authors of a book on the Enneagram that I especially like (The Wisdom of the Enneagram). In the article Hudson talks about the gifts in anger, saying it can give us courage to do things we've been afraid to do and that it can connect us with a sense of righteousness (as in our concern for justice). Further, Hudson says, "Most people are also quite surprised to discover that, when we are present with anger, it lasts only a few seconds—perhaps the duration of two or three breaths. It is our denial and suppression of anger that causes it to stay in us for much longer periods of time—ricocheting around in our nervous system until we are ready to finally feel it."

Isn't that interesting? He also adds, "For some of us, it remains as a simmering resentment and negativity; for others, it leaves us with a quick temper; for still others, it is so suppressed that it lives in our tissues, slowly poisoning our bodies with repressed, unresolved energies." And to that he adds, "The long-term effects of avoiding anger are every bit as corrosive as acting it out."

That said, he cautions us on how we express our anger. "There is a world of difference between being present with the energy of anger in our body and letting that anger provoke us to destructive behaviors," he says.

Are you surprised by his words? There is so much to learn about anger—how we can be present to it and how we express it. Perhaps another time we can talk about the gifts in anger, since most of us don't think of anything positive about our anger.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Shed that pain

My November ezine put forward the thought that when we don't work through our painful experiences to transform that pain, we end up transmitting that pain to others. When our hurts and pain are buried deeply inside us, they still manage to seep out and affect our words and behavior toward others. Sometimes the pain does more than seep—it can explode.

Poet and author Mark Nepo puts it in a different way, but it's essentially the same thing. Here's what he says in his book Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness:

"As we struggle with all we carry, we discover that what is not ex-pressed is de-pressed. It seems the more we express, that is bring out what is in, the more alive we are. The more we give voice to our pain in living, the less buildup we have and so, our inner life fits our outer life more fully."

Nepo says, too, that expressing our pain isn't limited to verbal expressions but can also be done through movement, singing, drumming, dancing or even praying silently. It's simply getting out what is inside!

So shed that pain. Let go. Express it. Let it be transformed. But above all, don't hang onto it and don't shove it down—it won't stay down. Let it out and feel the huge weight fall off your shoulders. Fly free like the beautiful butterfly!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Try self-care

I know many women who have experienced sexual assault. I also know many who were "triggered" (memories of abuse surfaced and women felt re-traumatized) by the Brent Kavanaugh hearings when he was nominated and then placed on the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was extremely painful to hear Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's quiet testimony about her experience of assault and then to watch as she was dismissed by lawmakers and others. It was just another reminder of how much work we women and all men of good will have yet to do on the subject of sexual assault. If we want to rid this country of its rape culture, we must pay attention to how we treat those who dare to come forward with their stories.

Just recently, I read a good piece on the subject of being triggered that listed 4 ways to care for yourself if that happened to you during the Kavanaugh hearings:

1) Stop, breathe and be. The article recommended turning the TV or computer off, taking deep breaths and being still.

2) Share your feelings and step away from the internet.  This recommendation is for both women and men who have been assaulted and encourages talking with people you trust and doing things that are relaxing and make you happy. Stay away from the news for a while.

3) Connect with the present. Ground yourself by noticing things you can touch, see, hear, smell and feel.

4) Don't try to numb your pain. Instead, healthy remedies are suggested, things such as yoga, exercise or sleep.

As always, self-care is so essential—whether you were triggered or whether the whole process last month upset you and offended your sense of justice.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Who's the stranger?

Lately, I've been talking about justice and about some of the issues that garnered our attention during the recent election cycle.

I'm a Christian and as such, I have concerns for how we approach immigration issues in our country. I am aware that people of other faiths have concerns for "the stranger" as well; Christians aren't alone in that desire. So who are the strangers in our world? Our lives? And what are we to do?

In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about the stranger:

"...for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'"

I certainly don't advocate a policy of letting anyone and everyone into our country with no rules and regulations governing such entry. Somewhere between that and completely closed borders, there must exist a space where we can stake our claim as Americans. With the exception of Native Americans, of course, we have all gotten here because someone in our family line entered the country through an immigration process. At one point, someone in our family was a "stranger" in this land. What's your family story?

What does that mean to you? What ideas do you have for bringing justice to this situation? 

Friday, November 9, 2018

A passion for justice

For nearly all of my life, I've been passionate about justice. This continues to be a strong drive within me, and it means I pay attention to what's going on in our society and in the world. I believe that as a citizen, I am called to be engaged—to stay informed, to speak out, to vote and whatever else seems important and necessary to assure that, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "the arc of history ... bends toward justice."

That said, I have decided to take the opportunity now following the election to use some of my blog space to talk about issues that are important in our life together. One of those issues is the increasing gun violence in our country.

Two of my sons and several of my grandchildren love hunting. They have all taken safety courses and follow gun safety rules judiciously. I am not against hunting and careful use of guns.

However, I am extremely concerned about the increasing rate of mass killings in our country. Clearly, it didn't bother us when our littlest ones were killed at Sandy Hook. It hasn't moved us to action when our high schoolers were killed in Columbine and in Parkland, Florida. And now we've just had another one in California. We are upset by killings in our churches, synagogues and mosques; but our concern seems to pass quickly as the news cycle moves on to other events in our national life.

I don't have answers for all of this—just deep, deep concerns. How can we protect all our citizens—and most especially the children we bring into this world? Surely it is our job to protect them and be sure they are as safe as is humanly possible. Do we have the will?

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Digging under the words

National elections were held just yesterday. It's been an especially contentious election season. So many important issues have been the focus of national debate. Debate might seem like an extremely tepid or overly polite way to describe what's been occurring. Some days, it's more like food fights in a high school cafeteria!

Some of the issues that have been tackled are health care, immigration (except for Native Americans, we all got her through the process of immigration), voter suppression and gerrymandering, the #MeToo movement and all the broad strokes that surround issues related to women, reproductive rights and so much more.

I've been listening to the rhetoric and trying to pay attention to what's underneath the strong feelings and the words that are used—words that often are hurled at each other across an ever-increasing divide. Let's just take one of the issues: reproductive rights. Many feel the terminology typically used can be misleading: pro-life and pro-choice; and those people say that nearly everyone is for life and that it's a matter of who makes the decisions. So I've been thinking a good deal about what exactly the term pro-life means to people. I suspect if I asked 10 people, I might get 10 different answers.

I'm curious: What does it mean to you? For me, pro-life covers such a broad range of things—for example, attention to such issues as hunger, poverty, homelessness, child abuse and domestic violence, education, health care, gun laws and gun violence, just to name a very few. I see what happens throughout the life of that child who's born as a matter of concern. For me, it's more than simply having a child born; it's about making sure that child is safe, loved, cared for and has the best chance at quality of life that's possible. And in this wealthy nation of ours, I believe high quality of life IS possible if we have the will to see to it.

I would love to hear what you think about this and other issues. It's so easy to repeat rhetoric—words and phrases—that we hear politicians or others say. And sometimes we don't really examine those words to see what is underneath them. It's important to do so and to be sure the words we use really are authentic to us.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Embrace your changes

We know that change is a normal part of life. Without change, we'd never grow up. Change, evolution, transformation—call it what you will. It's essential. I love to think of the butterfly, which started life as a lowly caterpillar and wound itself into a dark cocoon, where it seemed to die. And then suddenly, all those same parts that formed that caterpillar changed into a beautiful butterfly. I love that image of transformation, which is why I've chosen it as the symbol of my Way2Grow Coaching practice.

French author Arnaud Desjardins, who wrote the book The Jump Into Life: Moving Beyond Fear, once said:

"Life is expressed in a perpetual sequence of changes. The birth of the child is the death of the baby, just as the birth of the adolescent is the death of the child."

On and on it goes. Perpetual change. Why then do we so fear change? It's a normal, yes a valued and essential, part of our lives. So let's embrace it and be grateful for new life and transformation. Be grateful we learn and grow. And let yourself soar like the beautiful butterfly that emerges from the cocoon!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Deep breaths. Time to de-stress.

How are you handling your stress these days? Do you have some tried-and-true methods of either keeping it at low levels or letting it go once you feel it?

Whatever tools you have to deal with stress, now is probably the time to dig them out of your toolbox. This month is Thanksgiving, and we all know Christmas and the busy holiday season come right on the heels of that. Even when you try to limit your activities and your to-do list at this time of year, it still can easily get out of hand.

So take some deep breaths. Get back to exercising, meditation, yoga, quiet reading time or time with friends—whatever it is that helps you keep your equilibrium when life gets crazy. Try to get out ahead of all the stress. And perhaps even make a vow this year to limit some of the activities or some of the expectations you put on yourself. Take time to enjoy this special time of year. Be grateful for these special times and don't let the stress get you down!