Well, I can’t say that I was thrilled about the election results. Quite the opposite. I was disappointed. Hugely. But, almost immediately after I finished licking my wounds and consoling my sobbing 8-year old, my mindset shifted. I was going to effect change. Continue reading
If you know me, you know the role that running plays in my life. It’s not just a hobby or a social activity, although it is certainly both of those things. For me, running is the deepest form of meditation and reflection. Running is contemplation in action. Continue reading
Bond is a funny word. The first definition is ‘something shared between people, that connects them.’ Like a marriage bond. The second definition is ‘a chain that is used to prevent someone from acting freely.’ Like a marriage bond.
What I mean is that in marriage, you are emotionally, financially, and physically connected to someone else. Of course you can’t act freely. Marriage isn’t all about you. It’s all about TWO of you and the partnership you’ve created.
I’ve been in my second marriage for 14 years. Having screwed up my first marriage beyond repair, I like to think that I am a bit more invested in making this new one work. (Oh, the generous thoughts I have). I want to believe that I am actively forging the marriage bond I’ve made, doing my part to stay connected.
But, let’s face it. It’s easy to get complacent in a marriage. Sometimes, when you have a job and a child and/or a long list of obligations and responsibilities, you neglect your marriage. That’s just life. Working on your relationship becomes less of a priority when you have a deadline to meet, a child to take to a lesson, bills to pay, laundry to do, etc. You take for granted that the marriage will coast by with minimal effort, that it can sustain neglect.
Then reality slaps you in the face. You come to your senses and realize that this line of thinking is totally false. Neglect never sustains anything. If you stop watering a plant, it dies. If you stop exercising, you gain weight. If you stop attending to your marriage, it suffers. It’s that simple.
This realization happened to me recently. I discovered my marriage on the back burner, where I had let it languish for a few months. I got busy with life then noticed that I was saying and doing things, and not saying and not doing things, that were self-serving and not relationship-serving.
Both my actions – an unkind word here, a negative tone there – and my inactions – thoughtlessness, carelessness, inattention – were creating break points in my marriage bond. As a result, I wasn’t forging the marriage bond. I was chiseling away at it.
Like anything worth anything, marriage is work. It’s hard work, committed work, life long (or as long as you want the marriage to last) work. You have to constantly shape it and work at it to forge a sustainable marriage bond and stay connected. Otherwise, the bond gets stressed and breaks.
Life lesson #3127. Invest in the relationship you’ve chosen. Take your marriage off the back burner. Stop letting the relationship coast. Work it. Pay attention. Stay connected. Forge the marriage bond you want.
Get comfortable with what’s uncomfortable. That’s what the Universe is trying to get through my thick skull these days. Feel stressed? Embrace it. Feel overwhelmed? Accept it. Feel like your head is going to explode? Make the best of it.
Ommmmmmm. I’m trying to get comfortable what’s uncomfortable in my life. Which is everything.
You’d think I’d be jumping up and down with excitement as the reality of moving back to the States approaches. And I am, believe me. I’ve wanted to go back for at least the last 3 years. In my (irrational) mind, being here and not there is part of the reason why I’ve been so unhappy for so long. So, I’m ecstatic to go home. In theory.
In reality, the day-to-day orchestrating of an international move is making me crazier than I already was to begin with. I am under enormous stress. We still don’t know where we’ll end up. We have lots of furniture to sell. We have foreign contracts to break and accounts to close. On top of this, I’m still working 30 hours a week on my main job and on my new side gig (blogging for HealthyPlace.com). Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I slept through an entire night, because I wake up every night. Every. Single. Night. I wake up anxious about everything that has to happen, everything that hasn’t happened, everything that might happen.
Does my anxiety make anything better? Hell no. In fact, it makes me suffer. It makes my relationships suffer. It makes everything ten times worse.
So I have to learn to get comfortable with what’s uncomfortable. And this means letting go of my need to control the outcome. It means being okay with uncertainty, and it means trusting that everything will work out. Maybe not exactly how I want, maybe not on my time line, but it will work out.
How do I get to that mental space where I’m comfortable with what’s uncomfortable? I create some spaciousness around the anxiety. I remind myself that this experience is bigger than me. This is not just about me and what I want and when I want it. It’s also about my husband and his job and what he wants. It’s about the laws and regulations of our host country. It’s about putting the contents of our lives into a 20-foot container to be shipped across the world (and the enormous amount of money involved in that). Oh. My. Goddess. There’s a lot of uncomfortable to get comfortable with right now.
Creating space around this chaos means gaining some perspective. When I zoom the lens out, I’m able to see that while this event is currently the focal point of my life, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not the focal point of my life at all. It’s one, brief episode in the overall arc. Several weeks in a lifetime of decades. Several weeks of challenges that will eventually end and then I’ll be in the next episode (where I’m sipping a glass of something yummy, sitting on a beach reading a book. Or maybe just working at my same job but in the US. Whatever.).
The current episode is tough, but I’m going to get through it. And, to do so I’ve got to create some space and perspective and keep it together. In other words, I’ve got to get comfortable with what’s uncomfortable.
When I was suffering in the darkest days of my depression, I was utterly hopeless. Despondent and helpless, I honestly felt that I was powerless to manifest any meaningful change in my life.
Hopelessness was my filter, the lens through which I interpreted everything that happened to me and about me. Life sucked. I sucked. And nothing was ever going to get better.
But as I move out of this darkness, I’m learning hope; it’s my new filter, the lens that is helping me become and see myself as emotionally competent.
Learning hope does not mean having blind optimism. I am not 100% confident that everything will work out the way I want. Nor do I think that I’m immune from sadness, heartache, or loss. Those emotions and experiences are simply part of living. They don’t just happen to me. They happen to everyone.
Learning hope means developing emotional flexibility, being able to bounce back from difficulty rather than allowing it to overwhelm me. It means knowing that although I’ll experience tough times, I won’t generalize about them. I won’t say things like, “This [shit] always happens to me,” when something goes awry.
Learning hope means embodying the adage that, ‘This too shall pass.’ I have to remember that the journey of life is a marathon, not a sprint. Circumstances change. Emotions change. People change. I have to be able to adjust my outlook and behavior. I have to course correct to make the long haul.
This is the essence of learning hope. It’s not an attitude. It’s a practice and a life skill.
Image courtesy of flickr user pol sifter
From the moment we are born, we are exposed. Thrust from our dark, warm, watery bubble into the bright, cold, air-filled world, our life begins with being vulnerable.
But we learn rather quickly that, in this world, being vulnerable is a sign of weakness. So, we cover up the parts of our bodies that seem less than perfect. We put up defenses to shield ourselves from feeling disappointment or heartache. We behave in ways that won’t draw attention to our vulnerabilities, our perceived weaknesses.
If there is one thing that writing this blog has taught me it’s that being vulnerable is not something to be ashamed of or hide from. Quite the opposite. Being vulnerable is being authentic, liberated, and human. It is something to aspire to.
Being Vulnerable is Being Authentic.
When being vulnerable, you honor your truth. You live your story. You don’t rewrite the story when talking to others, in order to project a certain image. You don’t edit out parts of your story to fit in. You admit your victories as well as your failures, your joys and your miseries. That is your life story. There is no shame in it.
Being Vulnerable is Being Liberated.
When being vulnerable, you liberate yourself from the constraints of others. What they think about you and how they might judge you becomes irrelevant. It’s not that you don’t care about the opinions of others. It’s that you consider your words and actions in light of your own values and not in light of how others might perceive you. You trust yourself, so you let yourself be exactly who you are.
Being Vulnerable is Being Human.
Being vulnerable means embracing your imperfections and your struggles, the very things that you may think of as limiting. In fact, they are not. They are opportunities for growth and self actualization. They are being human. As Brené Brown wrote, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.” That pretty much sums up the human experience.
Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable.
Being vulnerable is empowering. Try it out for a day, a week, or a lifetime. Honor your truth. Liberate yourself. Be human.
Weekly Musings – A summary of the week’s highs, lows, and in betweens…
I subscribe to a gazillion sites and get the associated emails, which usually leads me to unsubscribing, because of the sheer volume of mail I get. But, one site I continue to subscribe to (after a few years, including paying for the electronic magazine subscription) is tricycle.org, which sends a Daily Dharma with a quote straight to my inbox. I like these daily messages, because I can quickly scan the quote (I mean it’s 1-2 sentences) and see if I want to read more (click on the link) or not. Yes, this is a Buddhist magazine/site, but you don’t have to be Buddhist (I’m not) to enjoy the words of wisdom and reflective essays on the site.
Here are some examples of Daily Dharmas:
“My practice is teaching me to embrace imperfection: to have compassion for all the ways things haven’t turned out as I’d planned, in my body and in my life; for the way things keep falling apart, and failing, and breaking down. It’s less about fixing things and more about learning to be present for exactly what is.” Anne Cushman, Living from the Inside Out
“When I walk into my fear, practice there, sit upright in the middle of it, completely open to the experience, with no expectation of the outcome, anything is possible.” Judith Randall, The Hidden Lamp
“On the spiritual path, there’s nothing to get, and everything to get rid of. . . . The first thing to let go of is trying to get love, and instead to give it. That’s the secret of the spiritual path.” Ayya Kemah, What is Love?
My life is in the midst of enormous change. Big, old, scary, in your face change both in my work life and in my personal life.
On a lark, I sent a post to HealthyPlace.com, knowing that they are a mental health website with blogs, and they pay for blog posts. Well, they liked my post and they offered me a contract to write for their Living a Blissful Life blog. As you can probably guess from its title, the blog is aligned with my own message – connecting with others to share our common experience, in my case my struggle with depression and growth out of the darkness and into the light, and grow to our fullest potential. I’m psyched to get more practice writing, I’m challenged by having a hard deadline to meet, and I’m pleased to have someone else editing my work. Of course, this job is more work on top of the rest of my crazy, full life, but it’s moving me in the direction of my dreams, becoming a paid writer, so overall it’s a great thing.
Home: We are working on leaving Munich. Yes, you read that correctly. Can you just see me doing my happy dance? It’s been 5 years of living abroad and it’s time to move back to the States. In my opinion, it’s past due. So, we’re doing what we need to do to make an international move happen. This means lots of transition (my daughter’s school, my husband’s job) and a lot of unknowns (when? where? how?), which I’m not very good at dealing with. I’m trying to learning to live with the uncertainty, with not having a plan that goes on my timeline or in my way. Letting go of my need to control those aspects is hard for me. It’s anxiety provoking, but I’m getting there, even if at infinitesimally small steps.
What I’m Reading Right Now
I just finished reading It Ain’t so Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas (disclaimer: Firoozeh is a very good friend of mine and I love her and her work). The book shares the experience of a child who immigrates from Iran to California in the late 1970s. The main character is trying to fit in and be accepted in her new homeland, which is difficult enough by itself given that she’s entering middle school, but is complicated by the Iran-US hostage crisis of 1979. Suddenly, Zomorod and her family, 7500 miles removed from Iran, are viewed through an anti-Iranian lens.
This book is classified as a children’s book, but it contains an important message for everyone. It highlights the need for kindness and tolerance. We all need to be reminded to do this. Remember my recent post about choosing to practice love? Distrusting and hating entire groups of people because they are different from us or because of the actions of a few radicals in the group is the foundation of bigotry. Kindness, people, practice it. And read this book.
Those are my musings. What about you?
What did you tell yourself this week to inspire you, motivate you, or help you on your path? What words of wisdom has someone else (through reading, a podcast, a talk) shared with you? What are you grateful for in your life? What are you struggling with? Feel free to share here.
I published my first blog post in January 2015 and shared my blog with some 50 close friends and family members. Then, last September, I announced on Facebook (sharing with my 470 something friends there) that I had a blog. Then, last month, I added the blog to my LinkedIn profile, alerting my professional contacts that I write this stuff.
Whether sharing my personal history and my musings on life is wise or something that everyone (family, friends, work colleagues, and strangers) should be able to access has been a topic of discussion at my house. Of course there could be repercussions. But, there is one big reason why I share my story. I share, because I am living from my scars.
Living from my scars means that my life has been shaped by the choices I’ve made. Even the wrong ones, especially the wrong ones. And while those past mistakes don’t define me, they do inform how I live my life now. They are lessons for course-correcting.
Living from my scars forces me to be self-compassionate. The scars remind me that I am human and imperfect, that I have fallen down many times. I remember this not to beat up myself but to love myself more, warts and all, and to continue getting up when I fall.
Living from my scars means that I practice self-acceptance. Every time I shine a spotlight on my depression I feel like I’m taking away some of the stigma associated with mental illness. Who does it benefit if I keep this struggle to myself? I mean, seriously, that’s how I got some of these scars.
For me, sharing the troubles and the triumphs is living from my scars.
And I am living (joyfully and gratefully) with and from those scars.
Instead of focusing on what’s wrong in your life, why not focus on what’s going right?
On my meditation table, I keep a variety of books. Randomly, I’ll pick up one during my meditation time and turn to a page and read. How fortuitous that I recently picked up a Thich Nhat Hahn book and read this quote of his.
“We often ask, “What’s wrong?” Doing so, we invite painful seeds of sorrow to come up and manifest. We feel suffering, anger, and depression, and produce more such seeds. We would be much happier if we tried to stay in touch with the healthy, joyful seeds in side of us and around us. We should learn to ask “What’s not wrong?” and be in touch with that.
After I read this, I found myself repeatedly thinking ‘Count your blessings’ and asking myself, ‘What’s going right in my life right now?’
Admittedly, I do have a daily practice of keeping a written gratitude list. Each morning, I jot down what’s good in my life. But, this concept of reframing a simple question and, in doing so, inviting happiness and joy rather than sorrow and suffering, really struck me.
It’s not that I think we should ignore the difficulties we experience, but, perhaps it’s more fruitful to focus on the good and not the bad, to put our attention on remembering what is working rather than what’s not working. This slight shift in your outlook can be a turning point. It can be the gentle redirection you need to center yourself on joy.
So ask yourself this question. Not once, not twice, but several times a day. What’s going right in my life?
What’s going right in my life right now? I have my physical and mental health. I have a job and financial security. I have supportive family and friends. I have 3 healthy, intelligent, and well-adjusted children.
When I think of those fundamental blessings (health, family, security), what’s going right in my life is mostly everything.
Hanh, Thich Nhat. Peace is Every Step: The Path to Mindfulness in Everyday Life. New York: Bantam Books. 1991. Print.
I am making a plea for suicide prevention.
Last week, someone I knew form high school killed herself. This is not someone I had been particularly close to or had even seen in the last 2 decades except for occasional Facebook posts. Still, I knew this person, and she was a friend of a friend.
According to a recent New York Times article titled U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High, “From 1999 to 2014, suicide rates in the United States rose among most age groups. Men and women from 45 to 64 had a sharp increase.”
This is my age bracket. This was the age bracket of the woman who killed herself.
So I am making a plea for suicide prevention.
If you know someone who is suicidal, please don’t tell that the person that his or her life is not so bad or that things will get better. These platitudes do not register to a brain that is engulfed by darkness.
Instead, ask the question, “How can I help you?” And mean to help. Make yourself available. Call this person. Go see this person. Encourage this person get out of the house and do something. You can be a resource for that person, a part of a safety plan.
Yet, while you can be resource, what you cannot be is a savior. The ability to survive, to make it through an incapacitating depressive episode, is something that only the individual who is suffering can do. Simply put, there is no external factor you can throw at the situation (even your best intentions) that is going to save someone else. That has to come from within. It is the individual alone who is ultimately responsible for weathering their personal storm.
If you are suicidal, know that many people, including myself, have these feelings and do get through it. Also know that you do not have to experience this profound and debilitating sadness alone. Reach out. Speak up. Talk to someone. Call a friend or a psychotherapist or a suicide crisis line. Call 1-800-273-TALK or text 741741. Allow someone who is trained to help do just that.
Find some coping strategies. You may not be able to consciously change your thinking but you can unconsciously change it through your actions. A number of practices — being in nature, practicing gratitude, building social relationships, meditation — have been shown by science to enhance subjective wellbeing. In other words, they actually can change how your thinking to a more positive mindset. So try to do one or more of these things every single day.
After the crisis ends, start building a mental health toolbox. Incorporate some positive rituals in your life that will enhance your emotional resilience. With this toolbox, if another crisis arises, you have strategies to help yourself already in place. You have tools to use and resources to draw on.
This is my plea for suicide prevention. Please don’t give up. Please hold on another day. Recovery from these dark feelings is possible. And I want you to recover.