To know and be known

Reflecting on my week, there is a natural pause, a quiet honoring of the stories I heard and the people I sat with. The aches, pains and longings, the hurt, confusion and loss… The joys, the celebrations, the gratitude, the tears. There are moments I am overcome with my own emotions and questions around how to be present in a way that encompasses compassion, respect, and gratitude that I am privy to these stories and wisdom that would allow me to provide insight.

There are honest and raw moments of grief. As my heart aches on others behalf, and honestly, how could it not? The human experience is one of struggle. There is beauty of course, amidst the chaos and rubble, there is sheer joy and moments of happiness… yet alongside that, there is often a counterpart of fear, worry, sadness, anger, doubt- and at times, we can become weighed down, weary and even frozen.

As I walk into and alongside more and more stories, I become more fully aware of our connectedness as human beings. How powerfully similar we all are in our need for connection, to be known, to know, to share our story with another person who cares- unconditionally and without judgement. We are so desperate for it, we lose our mind without it. We spiral into anxiety, worry, fear. We plummet into doubt, even despair. We seek fillers, sometimes in desperation we are willing to fill that gaping hole with literally anything.

We grapple. We are uncertain of many things and constantly seek insight, validation, confirmation, signs that we are not alone, that someone else feels like this too, and that someone else gets it. I believe that we really come to know ourselves in the presence of others. We see ourselves, we explore who we are in our multi-faceted parts, in the company of others who are doing the same. Sometimes we like what we see, other times we do not and are forced to dig deep and explore our own strengths and weaknesses. There is inherent need for time to ones self, to pause, to be still, to reflect, to check in, to listen to our own voice and not get caught up in all the other voices. However that does not change the reality that we grow, and learn and explore and even heal in community. But we really struggle to accept this.

We both love and hate the need to connect with someone else. When we feel a deep sense of connection and things are going well in relationships, we crave them, we rest in them, we believe in their significance. However when a connection has been broken, lost, destroyed, we become aggressively defensive of our own self and our desire to be alone and not allow anyone else in or near. It is primal to protect ones self. It is how we survive. However I also believe that is can be how we die. We can isolate so well, insulating ourselves from hurt and others, that we can suffocate in silence.

We grieve. Individually. Collectively. Sometimes alone and sometimes in pairs or families or even communities. And eventually it passes, the acute grief that is. But there is residual grief and questions and longings… that we do not know what to do with, so we set aside, and we move on. We keep getting up, going to work, doing our thing, all the while, there is a nagging sense of desire. A desire to share our journey with someone who cares enough to listen, to notice and hold a space for us, to love us.

Over the past couple of weeks I made it a point to slow down, to notice the people around me, to make eye contact and not be so hurried and focused on my task or my multi-tasks, that I don’t see others. It has been a powerful experiment for me, as I look into the eyes of gas attendants, waitresses and waiters, baristas, receptionists, even those I walk past. I have seen people who are hungry for interaction, for connection. I have exchanged more smiles, more conversations and a more genuine sense of presence for the world around me, and I have been amazed.  I have seen peoples faces light up with surprise. I have heard a snippet of their day or their job duties and gotten a sense of their world, and I have had respect for them. What I have seen is people who long to be seen and who shine when they are.

We are so distracted, busy, hurried and absent minded so much of the time, we are missing out! We are missing out on seeing people around us and realizing we’re not alone. We are missing out on opportunities to share in our journeys. We are missing out on brightening someones day by looking into their eyes, by seeing them! We are missing out on a chance to show another person value, by validating their presence next to us or right in front of us. And we are missing out on giving ourselves the gift of being present where we are. Which is a powerful gift, in a world where we are often pulled in multiple directions by multiple needs/responsibilities and are often overstimulated with noise and to dos… We need to pause, slow down, see and be seen. Its not really optional. We need each other.

 

 

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Be Patient while you Relax

A dear friend of mine shared this thought with me earlier this week “Be patient with yourself while you relax.” It was almost as though my left-brain did not know what to do with such an instruction. It took some deliberate pausing on my part, to let it sink in. I felt that this recommendation was challenging on multiple fronts. The first being the concept of patience in general, as it would appear to be a long lost skill within our culture at large. The second being the concept of patience with one’s self. Perhaps there are many of you far more developed than I, however in my honest disclosure, patience with myself is a not a strong suit. Lastly, the concept of relaxing is one which awakens my curiosity while simultaneously invoking shock and awe.

I do not relax easily nor do I relax often. Let alone have the ability to be patient with myself while I relax. The concept feels all together foreign that one could be patient while simultaneously experiencing relaxation.

Relaxing is one of those luxuries that I have not been able to afford, or so I have believed for the majority of my life. I am a goal oriented, focus driven, and type A woman. These are some of my greatest strengths and coinciding weakest points of character.

I love to read. I wish that I had more time to read and I guilt myself often. I judge for my lack of discipline in many areas of my life, noting how much time I waste on the internet, browsing articles, facebook, pinterest, craiglist, TED talks, NPR updates and the weather. The irony is that I am always reading something, start a new book multiple times a month and attend professional seminars and lectures and go after certifications quarterly. I am voracious in my search for knowledge. Some have even said that I do not have an off button.

I am a multi-tasker at heart. On a day off I often listen to a podcast while doing the dishes. I start a load of laundry, vacuum my floors, then write a paragraph for a blog post or email, then change the sheets on my daughters bed, then close the windows to avoid afternoon heat. Sometimes I step outside to water a couple plants only to return inside and transfer a load of laundry and start another, then mop my floors and eventually sit down to read half a chapter in a book I’m really interested in. It is very natural for me to be in motion.

If you could watch a video of my buzzing around my house like a bee pollinating all the plants in a yard, you would think “wow, she’s so busy,” and indeed I am. I get a lot done and I am continuously striving for something. Professionally and personally I know how to apply my foot to the gas. The problem is that I struggle with utilizing my brake. It appears that I easily get into my routine and start moving and the momentum carries itself and I simply don’t stop until I collapse at the end of the day, too exhausted to do even one more item on the to do list. Then wake to do it all over again the next day.

“Be patient with yourself while you relax.” It echoes through my mind, it resonates in my soul. What could the practice of patience give me? How could a daily dose of acceptance and practicing patience change my way of living? If I were to make the conscious choice to pause, to insert moments of stillness into my days, into my weeks, into my months, how would it change me? Could I become someone who was patient? Could I become someone content with what is, and what is not? Could I become a softer, more relaxed me, and still maintain the courage and drive and endurance I want? These questions, these ponderings, are what fill my quietest moments.

My moments of quiet are few and far between. I have a 2.3 year old daughter. I am told that she is “busy.” She just started Montessori school this past week and already I am hearing comments of “she’s so well adapted, talkative, engaging and such a busy little girl.” I smile at them. She is my daughter. They may not know me, But I know enough to know that she comes by these traits pretty honestly. Those who know her better and feel comfortable sharing will say “she is very strong willed” or “wow, she has a lot of personality” and “that girl is a force to be reckoned with.” Again, I smile. I nod in agreement. This girl has been blessed and cursed with a passion for living life to its fullest, never missing a beat and going about it with a strong sense of self. I have already begun to prepare myself for pre-teens. Visions of lengthy and emotion filled conversations dance in my head… “a force to be reckoned with…” A beautiful, unique, intelligent, vivacious, full of life vessel, just waiting for guidance and acceptance as she grows.

Words cannot adequately express how imperative it is to me that I discover a way to be patient with myself while I relax. In the rare moments where I am able to be still and sink into my own skin, my own thoughts, and feel a sense of peace about it all, I am awe struck and immediately begin to craft in my mind how to create more of this in my life. This is a gift that I will seek to not only exemplify for my daughter, but also seek to instill as a need and ultimately a survival skill, not a frivolous luxury.

I will seek peace. I will seek stillness. I will create space for relaxing. I will practice patience. I will cultivate this life giving, life sustaining practice. It will be my lifeline. And I will be patient with myself in this process.

I like me

My daughter has a book about baby bugs and on each page holds some little rhyming phrases about the bug and what it has or what it does and how it perseveres in some way. It’s simple, yet profound on each and every page.

This morning when my precious little one woke up at an ungodly hour in, she wanted me to read her this story while she went potty. We have read this story hundreds of times and I can quote the pages by memory, and today I noticed she was reading along with me by memory as well. The very first page opens up to a baby mantis “I’m a baby mantis, to some I may seem strange, but that’s ok, I like me and that’s not going to change!” As I said earlier, simple yet profound. We moved onto the next few pages.

“I’m a baby ladybug, I like to chew on leaves, and because I am a lady I say thanks and please.”

“I’m a baby bee, some say I shouldn’t fly, I just say the heck with them, you never know if you don’t try.”

“I’m a baby beetle, I’m small and kind of slow but when I’m big these racing stripes will really help me grow.”

“I’m a baby butterfly, I like to spread my wings, I like blue skies and ponds and other pretty things.”

Apparently I get more thoughtful in my early morning haze: for as we moved on to reading in her bedroom and then into playing in her playroom the phrases were running around in my head, particularly that of the baby bee. As I sat across from her playing, singing away and talking to her stuffed animals and dollies, me reading my book, I heard her say “that’s ok, I like me and that’s not going to change”, it rolled off her tongue with ease and ownership. The irony is that I paused and thought that it was beautiful that she recalled such a impactful statement, followed by an immediate fear in me that  she would not always believe this about herself.

At some point, (and it’s not that far into life, for even my younger clients of 10 and 12 are struggling with self-worth and self-esteem), we lose our wholehearted belief that we are good enough or likeable and many of us stop liking ourselves.

I have fallen prey to this line of deception many times throughout my life. Believing that I am not educated enough, not thin enough, not organized enough, not disciplined enough, not creative enough…. The list goes on and on. I hold myself to an incredibly high standard and often let myself down, regardless of the opinion of anyone else. I judge myself according to my ability to follow through and to do something well. I compare myself to other moms and am racked with guilt. I sit in trainings with other colleagues and feel small and like I do not measure up. The one thing that is in my favor is that I am a fighter and a doer, and so I push through and I keep on, and I don’t quit.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not judging myself along each step of the way.

Something about my almost 2 year old stating “that’s ok, I like me and that’s not going to change” was a gentle slap in the face this early thursday morning. The daunting reality loomed around me. I am her example of self-acceptance and self-love and self-confidence and self-esteem. She learns by watching me and listening to me, not to the things I want her to hear but to things I actually say to myself, and about myself. She watches my demeanor. She sees me putting on makeup and fixing my hair each day. She sees me get dressed and look in the mirror. She sees me. The raw and vulnerable me.

Brene Brown beautifully and openly discusses shame and vulnerability and the importance of the journey toward self-acceptance “When we’re kind to ourselves, we create a reservoir of compassion that we can extend to others. Our children learn how to be self-compassionate by watching us, and the people around us feel free to be authentic and connected.” A powerful reminder to be kind to ourselves and mindful of our judgement.

Today I am choosing to practice compassion, and to let go of judgement and believe in grace for the gaps.

My inspiring mantra “That’s ok, I like me and that’s not going to change”. (quoted in the voice of an almost 2 year old)

 

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Confessions of a Psycho Therapist

I came home today after a long day of working with couples and individuals, mind filled with thoughts swirling around like clouds in the sky. I often find myself processing through the issues and symptoms presented throughout the day and going over how I could best benefit someone seeking insight on their struggles. The truth of the matter is that some days that is far easier than others.

I came to the realization a long time ago that I work from two places simultaneously, both from my education and from my own personal experience. It is from that place of personal experience that I was processing today, particularly after a conversation gone awry with my husband, partner and friend. So I sat down to write him a letter, as I often do, a way to express myself more openly and thoughtfully, given a little time and perspective.

As I was writing I could not help but think about my experience providing couples therapy and the impact that has on my relationships and the universality of challenges within long-term committed relationships, particularly with that of communication. So in an attempt at vulnerability and authenticity, I share my letter, in hopes to break any false belief of my own lack of relationship struggles and in a true desire to break the silence on interpersonal struggles to connect- a truly universal battle.

My love, I found myself wishing that I could say a hundred different things at the same time tonight as we talked. Such a challenge for me to dig down and share what my heart wants and not just get lost in jargon or intellectual banter… An equal challenge to be vulnerable enough to express a hurt and not simply mask it with anger.

What my heart wanted to say to you is that I want and need to know you more. That I want for you to feel comfortable being yourself around me. And by that I mean enough comfort that you can be not only who you are as you see yourself, but that you could share how you feel about that and know that I care. Sometimes I struggle to listen and really just listen, without judgment or my own assumptive interpretations of your intent, but I need you to know that I am aware of that and am seeking to make a change.

My heart needs for you to know that I want for you to be able to crave adventure and passion in your life and to invite me to join you in that… and I so desperately need for you to find stamina and strength to keep inviting me, even urging me to join you… until I give in- despite my ingrained nature to protest anything not already on my list or pre-planned or prepared for. This is not an obligation nor an intended guilt trip, but more of my pleading with you to engage me, because my heart needs to be engaged. That is not likely what you heard tonight, due to the thick top layer of frustration and anger that spoke so loudly.

My heart wanted to express to you that I want to grow and change to become a more refined version of myself and that I want to inspire you to want to be everything that you are capable of being- not because of a sense of obligation or guilt but because you could not imagine any other way of living. That anything else would be feel stale or stagnant, without life.

I need for it to be tolerable, even acceptable, that I want more from life. That growth and change are on my radar and a strong passion of mine. I crave inspiration and vision, and without a goal to work toward I wander aimlessly and feel empty, without cause. I need to be able to invite you to join me on a quest for creative living and continued learning and the inherent adaptation that comes with intentional living beyond survival… I need to be reaching toward something more, thriving on some level- even if I don’t ever “arrive”.

My heart wanted to share that I am forever sorry for any time that I have made you feel like you were not worthy of love or that who you are is not enough -as is- because that could not be further from my belief of you. I see so much strength and ability and stamina in you, and that is why I challenge or encourage or “nag” for more of you… but that is not an excuse for those times that what I have conveyed instead, was that you were not enough. You are enough.

I whole-heartedly believe that I was born with some set of unrealistic expectations that would forever be rising and never be met… even by myself, let alone anyone else. For this my heart wants to express regret, for how I have allowed my crazy to negatively impact you, and us, and many others if I’m honest. Sometimes the glaring reality of ones own action’s consequences is necessary for honest perspective.

My heart needs to be known more than anything. It needs validation and affirmation and it needs encouragement to keep at it… and while I desperately need solo time to recharge, fuel and connect with my own sense of purpose, I could not survive without connection to you- another human being to know and be known by. Without this I would wither and die.

Forgive me for not being better at openly expressing from my heart, more often. It is not for lack of desire. I see relationships at their darkest and bleakest moments and at times, I am blessed to sit with a couple week after week, to duke it out, to work hard, to create change, to grow and to find connection where there was loneliness… it is both humbling, perspective giving and awe inspiring. Please know that I will continue to try to be here, and present, to share my heart, and to listen whole-heartedly to yours each and every day, full well knowing that this requires effort and passionate stamina and is not for the faint of heart.

Sincerely, your wife, partner and friend~

Find your Song and Sing it

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Ever just find yourself incredibly frustrated with your own lack of follow through on something that is so unbelievably important to you, but you just repeatedly sabotage your own efforts? How is it that we can want something so badly, and yet thwart our own efforts so precisely that we often can fool ourselves into thinking that it’s not possible to accomplish the goal itself?

 At the end of a very long day of therapy sessions, I found myself spun up, impassioned and simultaneously irritated with the seemingly universal experience of the cyclical pattern of self-sabotage! I ask these questions and make this statement without judgment of self or others, but more with a very exuberant expression of “come on people, we have to figure this out, and get out of our own way”…

 I will be completely candid; It is incredibly disheartening that there is such a global experience of lacking self-acceptance… in addition to having ongoing feelings of discontentedness, and lacking the self esteem to push through and fight for something so worth fighting for! How is it that we have become such a lost and fragmented society of individuals that feel so alone and so inadequate? The world is quite literally at our fingertips and we have very little to hold us back from living life, aside from ourselves… yet so many of us are wrecked with feelings of “I’m not good enough”.

 I say this without judgment and instead with much grace and a hope for strength to push past the negative inner voice of “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t have anything to give” and instead, give like you have THE WORLD to give! Cause you quite literally do have so much to give- to yourself and to others!

 It might sound incredibly cliché, but the reality is that sometimes we have to fake it till we make it…. I don’t intend to say that we should stick our head in the sand or ignore any realities about our lives, or ourselves, but we get so caught up and stuck in our negative spirals of self-doubt and chaos that we miss out on SOOO much potential to actually live our lives!

 The way I see it, the goal should be to live as genuinely and authentically as possible. If there is something that is getting in the way of that for you today, then figure out how to get rid of it or push through it, because it is causing you to live a stunted and unfulfilled life.  A life in which you are held back, restrained and confused when you want to be able to be passionate, engaged with others and interactive in your world.

 If your inner voice is asking you to shrink, or disappear, to be quiet or to hold back, then perhaps it is time to tell that voice to shut the hell up, and show yourself just how present, loud, and alive, you are capable of being.

I have a 16-month-old daughter who just so happens to be really good at letting her presence be know, her opinions and what she would like to contribute. It’s just so natural for her, that we actually designated the song “Roar” by Katy Perry as her theme song. If you haven’t listened to the song, perhaps today is a good day to put it on and turn it up loud and dance~ But regardless of whether this is your song or not, my challenge for you this week is to Find Your Song and Sing It!