Our garage is linked to the main entry to our house through a small stairway with doors on each side. A few weeks ago, my daughter, who is 4, decided that she wanted to climb the stairs “in the night,” as she likes to call it. Both doors are closed with no light penetrating in, and she climbs up in the pitch black holding onto the handrail. It has now become a habit, and my 2 year old son has followed suit.
Many children would think this is scary. Many children would be afraid of the dark, and wouldn’t want to do what my daughter is doing.
As I have watched her do this day after day, week after week, I have held my tongue. At the beginning I wanted to ask her if she was scared, but I didn’t. Throughout, I have wanted to praise her courage for not being scared, but I haven’t.
Do you want to know why?
Because I have recently awakened to the idea that our feelings don’t actually become real until we name them. Nothing is scary, until we say it is scary. Nothing is worrisome, until we say we are worried. Nothing is anxiety-inducing, until we say we are anxious. Nothing is stressful, until we say we are stressed.
Which means, that if I were to tell my daughter I was proud of her for doing something scary, she would then be scared.
Yesterday, I was at the park with my children and I heard a dad say to his sons, “Don’t be scared of the big kids!” In that moment, I asked myself, “Were they scared? And if not, are they scared now?”
A couple of hours later, back at home, my daughter and I walked into the hallway together and she turned on the light “because it is scary.” I turner to her and said, “An hour ago, you walked in the stairs in the dark and it wasn’t scary, but this is scary. What’s the difference?” She couldn’t give me an answer, but I have my own--I gave her the word and the context.
The stairs between the garage and the main house aren’t scary because I never alluded to her that they were. Yet the stairs from the first floor to the second floor are scary, because at some point I told her they were. It’s the same reason she likes the hall light to be on when she sleeps--because I told her about being scared of the dark.
I think that many of her fears have come from me. My words of “be careful”, and references to “being afraid,” and my questioning, “Are you sure? It might be scary.”
Which begs the question, if there were no name for the emotion, is that emotion actually happening? The body sensations may be happening, but is the emotion?
I often tell clients and non-clients alike, that the body doesn’t know the difference between excitement and anxiety, so why not choose the word that empowers you the most. Why not trick yourself?
I am slowly incorporating that same teaching into how I talk to my children, and how I talk to myself.
I am not worried, I am planning.
I am not busy, I am energized.
I am not tired, I am contemplative.
I am not stressed, I am enthusiastic.
I am not scared, I am excited.
I invite you to do the same.
Courage. Compassion. Connection
Have you ever heard of a KENSHO moment?
I hadn’t either until about a week ago. The term comes from Zen Buddhism and refers to the growth or enlightenment that one can gain in the wake of a painful experience. It is often spoken of next to the word SATORI, which also refers to “seeing” in a new way.
If you are anything like me, you have probably endured your share of painful moments in your life, ones where you may have characterized yourself has having failed or been a failure.
A failed relationship.
A failed career.
A failed business.
A failed conversation.
A failed health outcome.
A failed effort of any sort.
Yet, inside each of these supposed “failures” resides a potential KENSHO moment. A moment when you can learn and grow. Unfortunately, not all of us choose to turn our pain into KENSHO. Not all of us choose to see the power inside our powerlessness.
Two of big KENSHO moments came by my own choice.
July 7, 2007 was a date that many girls dreams of--her wedding day. Yet that wedding day never came for me. Five months prior, I made the decision to call off my own engagement. To tell a man that I loved, that despite that love, I didn’t want to be with him. It was one of the toughest decisions that I have ever made, and despite it being my decision it was still extremely painful.
In the spring of 2012, I made another difficult decision--to resign from the career of my dreams. One that I had devoted years of schooling, training, and money to create. Again, it was my decision, but it didn’t make it any easier.
Both of these moments left me feeling powerless.
I won’t lie to you and say that my KENSHO moment was immediate, as I did my share of wallowing in self-pity and asking “Why Me?” over and over again. Yet, at some point, I made a decision. I decided that enough was enough, and it was time to rise out of my pain, and into my power. I created the KENSHO.
It wasn’t a failed relationship. It was a successful one because it helped me to realize what it takes to sustain a long-term relationship, and it led to my meeting my current husband just 8 days after my non-existent wedding.
It wasn’t a failed career. It was a successful one because I turned toward a coach and other personal development opportunities that have all led me to a new, inspiring career as a coach myself.
To find your KENSHO moments, you don’t need to change your past, you simply need to look at it from a different perspective.
See the success instead of the failure.
See the power inside of the pain.
See the gift wrapped in the sandpaper.
P.S. I recently invited someone to make a list of all their failures. Then to re-write the entire list with the word success instead. (Like I did above.) I invite you to try it out as well. Create your own KENSHO moments.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
At the age of 21, with my college diploma in hand, a plane ticket to Europe, and $10,000 of my hard-earned savings, I set off to travel the world. First stop--Europe.
A few weeks into my trip, I was in Berlin with a friend from high school who had been studying in Barcelona. I was thoroughly enjoying my trip and my freedom. Yet, this particular night was different.
I was flirting, laughing, telling travel stories, and LOVING the attention it brought me from the guys. There was one particular guy who seemed to appreciate me more than others, and at some point I ended up sitting on his lap. It was all in good fun, and as the fun dwindled we said our good-nights and made our way to our respective beds in the shared room of the youth hostel.
At some point in the night, I awakened to see that same guy now sitting on the edge of my bed staring at me. The bed was shaking. I knew what was happening, yet I pretended I didn’t and rolled over.
The next morning I woke up covered in his dried semen.
He was gone.
As I washed away the filth and disgust, I kept saying to myself, “At least it’s only ON me, and not IN me.” I kept wondering if it was my fault. Had I flirted too much? Had I led him on? Had I done something wrong?
Over time the memory faded and I decided it was “no big deal.”
In the wake of the #metoo movement, and the recent testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, I realize that it is a BIG DEAL. I much BIGGER DEAL than I could have imagined at the age of 21.
I truly believe that there is a gift wrapped in even the roughest sandpaper, and this sandpaper is indeed rough. Voice after voice after voice of women, men, girls, and boys have come to the forefront showing how big of a deal it really is. That to me, is a gift.
Because this isn’t simply a sex problem.
Nor is it a political problem.
Nor is it an economic problem.
Nor is it a race problem.
Nor is it a religious problem.
IT’S A HUMANITARIAN PROBLEM--A COLLECTIVE ONE.
One that goes back centuries. One in which people fail to treat other people as people, and instead use or abuse them for their own pleasure or gain--whether it be sexual, economic, or otherwise. We can see it throughout history, and we continue to see it today, around the world, and behind closed doors.
My fear, though, is that the continued finger-pointing, blaming, and shaming, will only prolong the problem because the more divided we become, the more difficult it will be to create a different future.
As far as I am concerned, we are all responsible and we all have a responsibility.
This isn’t an us/them situation. This is a WE SITUATION, and the sooner we can see each other as ONE, rather than divergent individuals, with divergent interests, the sooner we can put an end to this disgusting habit of treating people like they don’t matter.
If you have no idea how you could possibly be responsible, when you didn’t do anything, here are some ideas:
>> You are responsible for your WORDS including the ones you may never speak.
>> You are responsible for your INTENTION and the WHY behind your actions.
>> You are responsible for your INTEGRITY and the values you choose to live by.
>> You are responsible for your JUDGMENTS and the disconnections they create.
>> You are responsible for your LISTENING and whether you seek to truly understand.
>> You are responsible for your HEART and any love or hate that spurns from it.
>> You are responsible for your COURAGE and whether you choose comfort instead.
Twenty years ago, I didn't do anything. I lay in a hostel bed, wide awake, and silent while some crude young man masturbated all over me. I have no idea if he went on to do it again to other women in other youth hostels, or whether he chose to take it a step further. I may never know.
What I do know is that I am ready to take responsibility for my part in this collective mess.
Will you join me?
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
You may not be as entrenched in the world of personal growth and personal development as I am, but there are three key words that come up A LOT, when it comes to discussing the root cause of many people’s life challenges--WORTH, ENOUGHNESS, VALUE.
They are words that I use quite a lot myself, when I talk about my own struggles (worthiness issues), or when I speak with clients about theirs (also worthiness issues.) Look to the right. Do you see a category WORTHINESS?
Yet, now, I am on the search for a new set of words. Want to know why?
WORTH, ENOUGH, and VALUE are words that describe a measurement of some kind, which in turn brings with it a comparison of one thing to another. It’s not the vernacular of PEOPLE! It’s the vernacular of money and measurement.
Yet, it seems like every coach, or spiritual guru, or healer out there uses these words to illustrate their own struggles, and the struggles of other people, and we wonder why we live in such a competitive and judgemental world. Why we live in a world where so many people feel shitty about themselves and their circumstances.
At the very beginning of Mark Manson’s book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k”, he talks about something called the “backwards law”, which was actually coined by Alan Watts. (though I haven’t read it directly from Alan himself….). Here is what Mark says, “The more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.”
Which means, here I am living, breathing, and working in the field of personal development, where we use terms like WORTHINESS, ENOUGHNESS, and VALUE in reference to people, while not realizing that I am, in fact, perpetuating the cycle of comparing oneself to oneself, or comparing oneself to another, and in turn, not feeling so hot.
The winning and losing, the being accepted or being rejected, the success versus failure, the worthiness and unworthiness, leave us stuck on a hamster wheel of emotions. We long to feel enough, yet in the pursuit of enoughness, we realize that we aren’t enough, which leads us back to feeling not enough AGAIN. And on and on the cycle continues.
So how the hell do we get off?
My idea: STOP TALKING ABOUT OURSELVES IN MEASUREMENTS!
I am not money, and you are not money. I am not something to be measured, nor are you.
If I couple the “backwards law” with the phrase “Words create worlds”, it’s like BINGO--I can now see the problem.
The problem isn’t about my enoughness or your enoughness, it’s the fact that we are measuring ourselves against some unknown, unseen “thing” outside of ourselves, as if it matters, and as if we have somewhere to arrive where we will finally reach the penultimate WORTH.
I am realizing it's all BS.
I am choosing to step away from the world and vocabulary of measurement.
Want to join me?
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
Have you ever wished for, or even fought hard for something, only to be disappointed in the result?
That is exactly what happened to me last week.
At the end of last school year, my daughter’s school let us know that they would be cutting a class, so instead of 5 classes there would be 4, which in turn would make the class sizes that much bigger. Upon starting school this year, my daughter found herself in a class of 31, instead of the 24 that she had the year before.
Many parents were not happy about it, and so last week there was a small demonstration to show our disapproval--not to the school, but to the government. The news was there, with cameras and microphones in tow.
Later that day we were on the news, and later still we were notified that a 5th class would be opened!! Hooray!! I did a small happy dance upon hearing the news. Unfortunately, the happy dance didn’t last long because I found out the following day that my daughter would be moved to the new class.
“What? No. She can’t be moved. She doesn’t do well with change. This class was good for her. She was with her friends.”
I was not the only parent who was unhappy. There were the parents, like me, who were unhappy that their child was being moved. There were other parents who were unhappy because their child wasn’t being moved.
Yet, just the day before, I was standing in front of the school with a mass of other parents saying that I wanted it.
You know the saying, “Be careful what you wish for?”
I can come up with countless examples of the same thing happening:
But in all of those examples, I don’t think I would have traded the original wish, despite the negative consequences that came later. I don’t think it was my wishing (and getting) that was the issue, though, it was my MINDSET about what I got.
I think many times we fail to realize that we are not the only players on the board in this game of life, and often fall into the role of the powerless victim.
When we spend all of our time thinking about the negatives of a situation, we activate what is called our INHIBITION SYSTEM, which then leads us to feeling powerless, anxious, and pessimistic. On the flip side, when we spend our timing focused on the BENEFITS of a situation (even if it feels dire), we activate our APPROACH SYSTEM which allows us to feel more powerful, positive, and optimistic.
And that is what I had to do in the aftermath of learning my daughter was being moved--focus on the BENEFITS and the OPPORTUNITIES, rather than the costs.
I invite you to do the same thing, either in the aftermath of a decision you aren’t happy with, or before you yourself make a decision. Throw out the old PRO-CON list, and simply focus on the PROS.
It’s often not the circumstances themselves that are the issue, it’s how we SEE the circumstances.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
When I started my career as a teacher my sole purpose was to contribute to the lives of my students. I wanted to be in service to others because I knew that I enjoyed it, more so than I enjoyed having a fat bank account.
After more than a decade, though, I become bored--yes BORED. I wanted a bigger challenge. I wanted MORE, so I turned to school leadership as my next step. It seemed logical to me, as I could have a greater influence, one that extended beyond the walls of my own classroom and into the school at large.
Looking back now, though, I don’t think that the move to leadership was really about wanting to be a bigger contribution--it was really about having GREATER INFLUENCE AND POWER (and money). Somewhere along the way, I moved away from playing the game of contribution, and instead started playing another game--the game of “power”, “money”, “importance”, and “better than.” All of which came from an underlying issue of my own...my false belief that I wasn’t ENOUGH.
It was this new game that eventually led to my being asked to resign from my position as a school leader.
When I finally woke up to the game that I was playing, I perceived it as too late to go back into the traditional education system, and I eventually found myself in the world of coaching. (It’s own form of education, I believe.)
And yet, that pull toward the game of competition and power still beckons me from time to time, because I believe it is a game that many people play. If I am honest with myself, I can see that all of the dips in my business have come because I lost sight of what game I was playing. I lost sight of being a contribution. This quote is a great reminder to me, “In the game of contribution, you wake each morning and bask in the notion that you are a gift to others.”
What about you? What game are you playing?
With love and gratitude,
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
Today, I went shopping with another mom to buy the end of the year present for our daughters' teacher and the teacher's assistant. We had decided that a larger group gift would be more appreciated, so the other mom had collected money to do just that.
While we were at the first store, the other mom pulled out the envelope with all the collected money and proceeded to count out not just bills but coins. Instead of standing their with a blank slate, I stood there and watched through the lens of my conditioning, and I went straight into judgment.
"Really, coins. You couldn't have given her bills? You had to give her coins that she had to lug around? Come on..."
And then I stopped myself.
I stopped myself because I noticed that I was "spreading poison" (to use the words of Don Miguel Ruiz.) That through my judgments of whoever gave the coins, I was energetically contaminating any future relationship and the world in general.
I had no idea what the story was behind the coins, nor did it matter. What I do know is that judgement is a sign that I still have work to do around my own sense of self, especially when it comes to money.
Yet, the story doesn't end there.
When I came back from the shopping trip, I hopped on a FB live within my FB group and told them the same story that I am telling you, and one of the members of the group wrote me a note saying, "I likely need to see and ponder this thought today, because I was feeling quite judgy about you being judgy! I didn’t even really catch the irony until the end, but it was so bad I found myself considering if this was the right place for me."
Have you ever done that? Judged someone for being judgmental and then wondered if you wanted to hang out with said person?
I am thrilled that she had the courage to say that to me because we ended up having a great conversation about how often we don't recognize our own judgments, yet we are quick to point them out in others, the various things that trigger us to judge, and that they are not the same for different people.
The main point, though, was the our judgments of others mean more about US than it does about the other person, and that when we look deep enough we can uncover the fear and snuff it out with LOVE.
A work in progress,
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
I used to think of my judgments as wrong because that is what everyone always told me--DON’T JUDGE or STOP BEING SO JUDGMENTAL.
Unfortunately, telling me to not judge is like telling me not to breath. I might be able to sustain it for awhile, but eventually I just can’t help it. It's how I have been conditioned, and it's how I continue to see the world operate.
Plus, I no longer want to.
I want to EMBRACE and CELEBRATE my negative judgments. (Crazy, isn’t it.)
I want to do so because they are the key to my growth.
I want to let them out (albeit alone), rather than suppress them, or should on them, or distract myself from them because I know that they are telling me something important. When I get curious about my judgments, rather than judge my judgments (quite a paradox), then I can develop a better understanding of what is going on under the surface.
Once I can go under the surface and seek to understand the origin of my negative judgments, then I can unlock what is missing inside of me which will allow me to transform my relationship with myself and my relationships with others.
And you know the super cool thing that comes next--I become LESS JUDGMENTAL.
Do you know the saying, “What you resist persists?”
That is exactly what I am talking about. When I resist my negative judgments, and try not to have them, they just keep coming back, and coming back, and coming back because I haven’t dealt with the hidden unmet need underneath.
Yet, once I embrace the judgment, explore it, find it’s root cause, and get creative for how to otherwise meet my needs, then the judgments slowly disappear.
Want to try it?
P.S. One of my mentors who teaches Non-Violent Communication went to teach a workshop to a group of monks, who all thought that they didn't need his workshop because they said, "We don't judge." At first he was a bit lost, and then he asked, "Well, why don't you judge?" And the monks response was, "Because judging is wrong." My mentor then smiled and said, "Okay. We can get started."
Courage. Compassion. Connection.
Last weekend, I went to the beach with another mom and our four combined children. While we were there, I asked the mom if she would put sunscreen on my back so that I didn’t burn.
While doing so, she made several references to how strong and muscular my back was, and jokingly said, “Are you sure you’re not a man?” TWICE.
I am actually quite proud of my muscles, and do not consider them to be overly manly, but there was a time in my life when she would have pushed a serious button, and it would have pissed me off.
Was she trying to hurt me? No
Was she trying to piss me off? No
Her comment was not said with any malice, and if anything says a lot more about HER than it does about me.
With that said, though, a couple weeks ago, my daughter asked me if I was having another baby, and that stung big time!
So how do we deal with these kinds of situations?
By not taking things personally.
Next week, within my virtual book circle, we will be starting the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The second of the four agreements is exactly what I wrote above, “DON’T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY.”
Mr. Ruiz says, “Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of them….we eat up all their garbage and then it become OUR garbage...It’s not what they are saying that is hurting you, is is the wound that they have touched that is hurting you. You are hurting yourself.”
Great words to remember, but how in world do we put it into practice?
Here are a few of my ideas, though I would love to hear some of yours:
ONE: Know our triggers or wounds. Explore those moments when we are angry, sad, frustrated, etc. What was the trigger? If we aren’t able to see them, find a friend or professional who can help. Strong and daring women ask for help.
TWO: Breathe! Our amygdala hijacks our pre-frontal context within 10 seconds, so if we breath through those ten seconds we are more able to respond without defensiveness
THREE: Remind ourselves that their words are THEIRS and have nothing to do with us. It’s their story, not ours. Practice self love, and self-care. Do our affirmations, meditations, gratitude, journaling, etc. Celebrate ourselves for who we are, no matter what others have to say.
FOUR: If we are done dealing with these comments, then plan a suitable response. Something like: When ______ says ______, I am going to say _________ and do _____.” That way we are being PRO-active rather than RE-active.
FIVE: Follow through on our responses. It’s not a boundary unless you follow through on it.
SIX: Keep practicing numbers 1-3. The more love we shed on ourselves, the less other people’s garbage (as Mr. Ruiz calls it) affects you.
Which means, next time my daughter makes a comment about my looking pregnant, I can breathe deeply, remind myself that she isn’t hurting me, and that I am hurting myself, and head to the mirror to do some mirror work. If she says it again, I can ask her not to do so, in a kind and respectful manner.
What about you? Is there anything triggering you lately? How can you respond differently and not take it personally?
A work in progress,
Today was supposed to be my first day back at work after almost two weeks of not working, yet it didn't happen.
While I was gone, my son contracted chicken pox, though it was such a light case, my husband wasn't sure if it really was chicken pox at all. When I got home on Tuesday I also had my doubts. Last Friday afternoon, I finally went to the doctor and he said, "He probably has chicken pox, though there are only a few that look like it"
So, this morning, after dropping off my daughter I swung by my son's daycare, in hopes that he could stay.
One of the co-directors of the daycare met me outside to check on him, but because he only has about 20 spots total. she also wasn't sure. In the end, though, she told me he could stay. I walked him inside to drop him off with his teacher.
When I came back outside, another mom was red-faced and screaming at the co-director that her son wasn't contagious, that he didn't have a fever, and that she couldn't keep him home. She was totally pissed off and threatened to just leave him.
The co-director was silently taking in the verbal assault and when she had a moment, she said, "I am sorry, it's the rules."
The mom continued to go on her tirade about how her son only had 3 spots on his foot and that he wasn't contagious, that she couldn't take him home, etc.
Another parent quietly intervened, and I took that opportunity to ask the co-director if she wanted me to take my son back home. She nodded her head yes, so I went back inside to get him.
So, why was I so calm about the whole thing, while the other mother was the exact opposite?
It might be because I had prepared myself ahead of time to have him come home, and had moved all my appointments this morning.
It might be because I have more experience and practice regulating my emotions and frustrations.
It might be because I have a flexible work schedule.
What it really comes down to, though, is NEEDS.
By leaving her son at daycare each day, and today specifically, this other mother is able to meet her own needs. Maybe it's the need for PEACE. Maybe it's the need for SECURITY. Maybe it's the need for WORTHINESS. Maybe it's the need for CONTINUITY. Or maybe it's all of the above, or even none of the above.
What I know for sure though, is that every pissed off woman, and every pissed off man that I encounter isn't pissed off because they are a "bad person", they are pissed off because one of their vital UNIVERSAL NEEDS is not being met. The same universal needs that you and I both share.
I could sit here and judge this other mom and criticize her for her behavior and mistreatment of the co-director, or I could find the compassion and understanding that she surely needs.
The next time you encounter a pissed off person, or even become one yourself, I invite you to do the same,
PS. If this resonated with you, I would appreciate your support in sharing this with those who you think could benefit.
Courage. Compassion. Connection.