Revamping Life

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Hi.

I’ve half-written about a dozen posts about how long it’s been since I’ve written and why.  I’m just not even going to go there, I decided.  I’m all about moving on these days.

But I want to tell you that it’s all changed.  Everything has changed.  I know I’m a constantly evolving being, and all that.  But the last few months have been so much more than that.  I’ve taken every area of my life and completely reinvented.  I started my own business, after being painfully ejected from my job.  I’ve connected with family that I haven’t seen in ages, and set down anger that I carried around for half my lifetime.  I’ve discovered and explored my creativity, my spirituality, myself.  Yeah, big stuff.  And naturally my blog had to be reinvented to go with it.

Like a lot of the other areas of my life right now, I don’t know where this will lead.  I’m going to sit back and see where everything goes.  I’m on a journey, you’re on a journey- let’s travel together, side by side for a bit?

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The Buzz

I can’t believe how long it’s been since the last time I sat down and just wrote.  I can’t deny that this is one of my top three happy places.  There’s something about letting my thoughts flow freely while I click away at the keyboard that’s calming to me.  There’s something about putting those thoughts out there to share with the world that’s humbling and empowering at the same time.

Come to think of it, I haven’t visited the other places in my top three much lately, either.  For the first time in as long as I can remember, I don’t have a book on my nightstand- all dog eared and inviting.  I also haven’t rolled out the yoga mat in my living room to stretch all the tension out of my body.  I let it happen again.

I let myself get caught up in the buzz and mess of my life.  I like to keep that buzz on the peripheral, so I can focus on the important stuff.  As soon as I stop taking care of myself the buzz gets louder.  Then it snowballs and becomes this cloud of noise that follows me everywhere.  I get cranky and overwhelmed, I get snippy with the people I love.  If I let it continue (I’ve learned from experience), I start to feel unhappy.  I feel like I’m constantly choking on this dense cloud of buzz that’s become a deafening roar.  I forget how to control the volume.

I think the worst part is when I can’t hear, and I can’t see I’ve completely lost sight of my happy places, and I’ve lost sight of myself.  The two go hand in hand.  I end up making decisions that I wouldn’t otherwise make.  I start agreeing to things that I wouldn’t otherwise agree to.  I allow myself to be treated in ways I wouldn’t normally allow.  I stop treating myself with love and care, even.

I’ll never get over how silly it seems that I make a living off of warning others about the buzz, but I still let it get me sometimes, too.  I, too, forget that I’m actually really happy.  That life is so beautiful if you can see it, and hear it through the buzz.

*sigh* So here’s to all the strugglers, like myself.  I love ya.  XOXO

It’s so hard…

I don’t think enough people talk about how hard it is to be a parent.  There’s really nothing glamorous or graceful about it.  You throw together an entire youth filled with misconception about what it mans to be a parent, a limited set of tools with which to deal with situations you never thought you’d find yourself in, and to top it off you understand that this is the single most important thing you will ever do in your life- it’s a recipe for disaster and its a wonder any child survives.
I always thought that when I was an adult I’d really “have it together,” whatever that means.  I knew what I wanted it all to look like and I was excited about what lie ahead.  Furthermore, I thought I knew what all the adults around me were doing so badly and consequently I was going to do it ten times better- it really didn’t look that hard.
I often find myself in situations that feel surreal to me now, as an adult.  Like- how did I not realize how difficult it was going to be to keep the house clean, or the kitchen stocked? But parenting brings that to a whole new level.  I never thought about how it would feel to see my son sad, or explain adult things in a way my child will understand.  I can do it as a therapist because its not my child, not my feeling of self worth on the line.  When it comes to my own kid, I want you to know that I get it.  I feel lost and phony sometimes, too.  And getting through it takes skill I didn’t realize I was going to need.
I see parents all the time that look defeated.  They’ve somehow strayed from what they thought they’d be as a parent and its hard to accept that it’s not turning out the way you thought.  I think I’m effective in working with these parents because I’m comfortable admitting that I don’t know the answer.  I may not know the answer, but I can promise that I’ll relentlessly generate ideas along with you until we come to something that works.
I know how vulnerable it makes you feel, to love another person so much.  To be responsible for their whole world.  To question everything you do in relation to someone else. When I let myself think too much about it, I feel like a child again- too small to take on these big challenges.  Every moment of my life I’m engrossed in this job of being a parent, on display for my children who are learning from me especially when I’m not intending for them to be.
So here’s what I think you should know- I’m a fraud.  We’re all a bunch of frauds, just trying to pass for something at least remotely resembling the parent we had our hearts set on being one day.  And that’s okay.  That’s perfect, actually- because it means we care enough to put everything we have into this and give it all we’ve got.  I just think we’d get a lot further and possibly even find some peace along the way if we just accepted that we’re all just doing the best we can and could use a little help sometimes. Stop judging and start lifting each other up.  It starts with being honest and loving yourself enough to admit that sometimes being an adult sucks.  It’s really hard.

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Learning and growing together….

I love this, so very much.  I had to share it with you.  Too many children go through the most valuable time of their lives being told what to believe, having their thoughts and ideas discarded as less important than those of their older counterparts, and hearing from adults “uh-huh” when they know that no one is really listening.  Children are smarter and more insightful than we give them credit for being.  They’re often corrected, rather than challenged.  We often expect that children adopt our own values without considering that maybe they would develop their own, different view.

We’re doing a great disservice to our children by treating them as less than adults.  We’re doing a great disservice to ourselves by ignoring the potential that exists for us to learn from our children, assuming the only way is for them to learn from us.  I believe that children experience truth because they see the world through a clear lens, without the scratching and clouding of personal experience and prejudice.  We don’t have to lose that purity and simplicity over the years and I think that by properly supporting and loving children, we can get it back for ourselves when it’s been lost.  I work with children because it grounds me in the fundamental truth of life- love, connectedness, harmony- they get it, and everyday they help remind me.

The next time your child is rambling in the car, try turning the music off and having a real conversation with them.  Ask them questions, validate their feelings and their beliefs.  When they’re wrong about something, guide them to the right answer by learning more about where the error comes from, rather than just correcting them.  Encourage them to question their beliefs, as well as yours- it’ll solidify their character and their conviction.  Most of all, open your heart to the possibility of learning something new by seeing the world through their eyes.

 

I guess it’s just a deep thought sorta day for me…

Due to the fact that this blog is mainly professional in nature and was intended to be an outlet for writing that serves a professional purpose, many of you might not even know that I’m pregnant- let alone that I’m experiencing some complications related to my pregnancy.  Unfortunately, in my line of work, too much personal disclosure is frowned upon.  Therapists constantly walk a fine line between the need to have real, human connections with their clients and keeping their personal selves out of those connections to some degree for the benefit of the client.  I tend to be quite comfortable sharing my experiences as a parent.  I do so in hopes that I might be able to connect with others as a fellow imperfect person who happens to be willing to bare my imperfections and accept yours so that we might be able to collaborate to support you in meeting your goals.

Anyway, the reason that I bring up my pregnancy complications in such a public forum is because there’s a very small chance that I might not make it through this pregnancy/childbirth.  With medicinal technology where it is today, chances are actually quite good that everything will be fine and this winter we’ll welcome a healthy baby girl into the world.  It’s human, though, to spend some time thinking about that small mortality rate.  I would also argue at this point that it’s healthy to spend some time thinking about our mortality in general.  When looking at a single digit percentage chance that I might die, it occurs to me- what are the chances that I might die of something else entirely either before or after the birth of my child?  It could happen, just as easily as I could be one of the few women with this pregnancy complication who don’t make it.

It’s uncomfortable, thinking about death.  Especially with regards to my son and the thought that he’ll outlive me (heaven forbid he doesn’t, that thought is simply too uncomfortable for me to touch).  Someday, I won’t be there for my son anymore.  As the sun sets on my life, it will wipe away the opportunity to tell him things I need to say, to teach him things I want him to know.  This will be the case whether it happens when I’m 80, or early next year- and I have no way of knowing which it’ll be.  Furthermore, I’ve always been certain that his life will be my greatest accomplishment.  He’s my opportunity to contribute to the world a person who can make a difference, even if it’s just by being a good father/husband/person himself someday.

We frequently hear inspirational quotes encouraging us to live each day as if it were our last.  I’ve often taken just a moment to absorb these in agreement, then quickly discarded the thought.  I’ve opted instead to pretend as if I’m immortal.  Granted, we shouldn’t spend too much time dwelling on this for fear of letting our lives slip away while we worry about our death- but we should pay attention to those reminders to take the time to tell others how we feel and settle our lives as much as we can so that we can leave with pride someday.

So here’s a few thoughts for you, now that I’ve depressed you a bit (sorry).

How would your child remember your life/relationship if it were to end right now?  What can you do to make that more closely resemble what you’d like it to be?

What things haven’t you said?  What wisdom haven’t you passed on to others?

I know it’s uncomfortable, but if you can- spend a little bit of time with that discomfort.  To feel is to be human, to be alive- even when the feelings aren’t pleasurable.  There’s much to be learned from all emotion- the good, the bad, the ugly included.

In the interest of practicing what I preach and saying what I feel needs to be said, I want you to know that you are a capable, valuable and wonderful person.  Whatever connection you and I may have, I can tell you that I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to touch your life and that you’ve touched mine (even if it’s just while you take the time to read this post and nothing more).  Whether I leave this world early next year, or not for another 70 years, I’m glad to have taken the opportunity to share these thoughts with you.  I hope you have a deliberately lovely day today.

Self Care

 

Well, it was bound to come up at some point, so why not go there now?  I talk to nearly every one of the parents that I work with about self- care.  I tell them how important it is for their child to see them taking care of themselves and how important self- care is in approaching situations with their children in a productive, calm manner.  I give a pretty good talk, actually.  It’s convincing.  And, I’m somewhat full of crap when I give it.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe these things to be true wholeheartedly- I just really suck at practicing them myself.  I’ve even been guilty of telling my child that I have to go about my day even though I should be taking care of myself when sick, because who else will do the laundry (or whatever other chore needs to be done)?  Wow- let’s think about the messages I’m conveying to my child when I haven’t been centered enough to be deliberate in my interactions with my child.

I can’t stop to take care of myself because who else will take care of all this stuff, if not me?

Here’s the messages:

–          No one else in my home is able to do what I do.  That’s not true or kind.  My husband and my son are both able to switch a load of laundry for me, and it’s not nice to imply that they’re not capable human beings.

–          The laundry is more important than taking care of myself.  Is that how I want my son to feel about life?  That the chores are more important than our own well- being?  Nope.  It’s not.

I want my child to take care of himself with confidence when he’s older, no guilt.  Even now, I would love it if he’d say “I’m feeling sleepy, so I think I’ll go lie down early.” (Wouldn’t that be amazing?)  How could I expect that he would take that initiative if he’s never seen me do it?

The first step is getting yourself, and your child, to be able to identify your needs.  It may be a bit easier to start with times that you’re feeling ill- we all know we need rest, hydration, nourishment, etc.  Practice there, and then move on to other times; when you’re feeling cranky, or not very patient.  Tell your child- “I’m feeling crabby and need to take a few minutes of quiet time.”  And then go do what you need to do to center yourself again.  The benefit here is twofold:

  1. Your child will see you taking care of yourself and will gain these skills through their powerful ability to observe and apply.
  2. When you come back from a break, you’ll feel more centered and able to deal with parenting purposefully.

Then, to help your child apply this to their own lives- try offering them supportive suggestions when there’s something you think they need, rather than insisting on it.  They’ll feel empowered to actively seek out what they need on their own, and that’s an awesome thing.

We all want to teach our children to live life to the fullest, but we can’t do that if our children never see us enjoying and caring for our own lives.  I’m going to make it a point to work on practicing these skills more consistently- then maybe someday we can move on to asking for help when we need it.  Who’s with me?

Are those ears working?

Sometimes when my son doesn’t listen to direction I’ve given, when he completely ignores what I’ve just said- my voice gets louder.  The other day my son even said to me “mom, you’re not using your inside voice…”  Yes, I’ve been guilty of yelling at my child just like anyone else.  Especially when I find myself pulled in a few different directions, feeling stressed, and my son takes that moment to ignore my direction.

It’s not ever the case that I actually believe that he didn’t hear me.  Yelling is not something that I think about doing.  That’s the problem, though.  It just kinda comes out sometimes.  I don’t think at all, I’m operating from the point of my frustration only and not using the logical part of my brain at all.  Most of the time when we operate from emotion alone we end up taking action that we wouldn’t normally take.  I hear about this from a lot of parents in my office and I usually recommend that we take some time alone, without their child present, to work on this a little bit.  I’ll tell you right now exactly what I say in those sessions 90% of the time and save you the copay J

We need to slow down.  We need to think before we act.  If I always took the time, prior to yelling at my child, to breathe and listen to the wise part of my mind- I would hear it telling me that no, my son is not hard of hearing; no, I do not feel that yelling at my child is an effective means of discipline and no, it doesn’t make me feel good about the parent that I am.  If I listened carefully, my wise mind would tell me that taking the few extra moments to walk over to my son, ensure that he follow my direction, and follow through with a natural and logical consequence for not listening when I know he heard me- then in the future I would have less incidents where the impulse to yell would even come up- because my son would be more likely to respond to me the first time direction is given.

We know, when we stop to think about it, that raising our children is the most important job we’ll ever encounter.  Yet because it’s a 24 hour job, we often fall into parenting on auto-pilot.  We continue doing the same thing, with the same results, without really thinking about why or to what end.  I’m not saying that you’ll be able to or even need to have every single interaction with your child include intense focus and deliberately chosen approaches.  Spontaneity is good sometimes.  I’m just saying that it’s important to recognize when you’re faced with an opportunity to support your child in gaining the core values that you hope they’ll come into adulthood with (and that you should know what those core values are, but that’s another post…).  I’m guessing that one of these values includes the ability to control emotion, since it’s so important in our daily lives as adults.  A good way to teach our children to control their emotions is to do so ourselves.

Emotional Intelligence

My son started kindergarten last week.  It’s been a major week of transitions and emotions.  After his first day of school, my son’s teacher sent home some homework for us to do together regarding how his first day went.  It went something like this: I was brought to school by_____.  The best part of my first day was _____.  Etc, Etc, Etc.  So, like a responsible mother, we sat down to complete this homework together.  I asked him to fill in the blanks as I read it to him and I recorded his answers.  When we got to the sentence that said: I felt _____ on my first day of kindergarten, he looked thoughtful for a moment.

Do you know what his answer was?  “I felt FRAGILE on my first day of kindergarten.”  Wow.  Is that a loaded sentence or what?  Now I’m not sure if he immediately understood what he had said.  So I reminded him what the word fragile means.  He decided to stick with it after I clarified and I can’t seem to get over what a perfect word he had chosen to describe his feelings on his first day of school.

This led to some great conversation around what it meant to feel fragile and I shared with my son times that I’ve felt fragile as well.  Had he used a word that was a little more general, a little more expected for a 5 year old- I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to discuss this more with him.  He could have said scared, even, and I would have validated his feelings and moved on.  But fragile- that’s a whole different thing, isn’t it?

I’ve been feeling proud, since this moment, that my son is able to articulate his feelings so well.  If not for his clarity, I may not have been able to give him the support that he needed around his feelings.  As it was, I could talk with him about how it feels now- to know that he was feeling fragile but didn’t break, to know that he was stronger than he thought he was.  And we could help him to grow from that experience. This would not have been the case had he not been clear about how he was feeling.

It’s important to teach our children to be able to speak to others about emotion.  If you’ve read my other posts, you won’t be surprised to hear me say that the best way to do this is to practice this yourself.  If your child hears you accurately describing your own emotion, they’ll likely catch on.  Here’s some other resources to help out, though:

http://www.parenting-child-development.com/emotional-intelligence.html

http://www.gottman.com/48995/Parenting.html

 

Forgiveness

I recently read a book that talked a lot about forgiveness.  Decent book, maybe a little redundant, but check it out if this is something you could use some work on.  I’ve found myself in several situations (with more to come, probably) where I’ve needed to harness the power of forgiveness and move on with my life.  It’s not a super simple thing to do, but the more I’ve practiced it, the less time I’ve spent in a state of anger before choosing to forgive.   Anyway, the book had some good insights, but I like my take on it better.  😉

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Here’s one thing that I’ve learned to understand and accept that has changed my life: 

Everyone you encounter is quite simply doing the best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt. 

Now you can read this, and nod and agree with me- but unless you LIVE it, you’re not getting the point.  Start small- there are people in your life whose choices annoy you.  They continually make choices in their lives that baffle you, maybe even aggravate you and it becomes difficult to be around them.  Now hold that person in your mind for a moment.  Forget everything you think you know about their journey and open your heart to accept that this person is trying as hard as they can to succeed in a way that they feel is significant.  Furthermore, they’re using the means that they’ve learned over the years from their experience to be most effective in getting to this goal.  No one sets out to be a failure, a weight on society- and I personally don’t believe any life is a waste.  The problem, I believe, is that we place judgments on others.  On both their goals and their means.  But the only basis we have for creating these judgments is our own goals and means, which may be just as misguided depending on what lens you’re looking through.   

Now let’s kick it up a notch.  Who in your life needs to be forgiven?  What toxic anger are you carrying around?  (by the way this anger is toxic only to the one who holds it- the person you’re angry at isn’t impacted by your anger.)  Again, hold this person in your heart and look at them with love and compassion (not easy).  Do you honestly believe that this person set out to hurt you, or to make you angry?  Or were they just responding to situations in the best way that they know how?  If you’re honest enough with yourself, I think it’s likely that the person who you need to forgive was quite simply doing the best they knew how.  

My blog is about kids and parenting.  The reason I bring this topic up is because I hear so many people comment on the innocence of children in accepting everyone.  It’s almost as if it baffles people- children’s power to accept and love all.  It’s not actually baffling.  I believe that it’s because children have a firm grasp on the concept above that’s not yet clouded by their own judgments.

I believe, and will tell anyone who will listen, as many times as they’ll listen, that we can’t teach our children to be loving and compassionate adults without learning how to do it ourselves.  If we want our children to do better than we’re doing (isn’t that the point?), then we need to teach them using tools that we didn’t have.  We need to learn it and practice it ourselves first.    

What I do…

 

If you’ve checked out my “about me” section, or you know me either personally or professionally, you know that I’m a child and family therapist.  I’m amazed, though, how many people aren’t really sure what that means.  Some assume that I’m some sort of physical therapist and others guess that I work with severely emotionally disturbed children or children with disabilities.  Well, I wouldn’t know what to do with your strained back, but I do occasionally work with children with severe impairments.  That’s not the bulk of my practice, though.  Most of the people that I work with are just like you and I- trying to do their best in raising their children and running into some issues that they’re brave enough to seek some guidance on.

I’ve had people close to me judge this clientele harshly and question the need for parenting help.  If it were to be suggested to these people that their own child might benefit from therapy, they’d take great offense and assume that this reflects poorly on their own competency.  These people tend to believe that each parent should be able to take care of issues on their own, that they have a responsibility to do so, and that by seeking help they’re shrugging off that responsibility somehow.  I’d like to challenge that right now.

First, let’s take a look at childhood.  We know that a child’s brain is developing and isn’t yet equipped to handle the full weight of adulthood (in fact it won’t be fully ready until about age 25 or so).  Children find themselves in many situations which require them to interpret adult situations using their still developing minds.  Think about all the times in the last year or so that you’ve felt stress.  How many of those situations impacted your child?  I’d argue that either indirectly or directly every one of those situations impacted your child because it impacted you.  Now you may be capable of reasoning that the stress you’re experiencing is transitional, or that it’s mild relative to what could be going on in your life.  You are probably equipped to decide that some exercise or rest is just what you need to deal with the stress.  But your child probably isn’t capable of doing any of that on their own.  They need help to understand their emotions and to select constructive ways to express these emotions.

The larger problem here is that as parents, we’re often trying to teach our children the very things that we were never taught growing up.  We want them to be better people than we are.  That’s the beauty of it all.  So how can you be expected to teach your child something that you yourself struggle to master?  That’s where I come in.  When you don’t know what to do.  When you care so much that all you want is to make it better for your child, easier for them- no matter what the cost.

I know your family is important to you and that you realize the great gift you’ve been given in having the opportunity to shape a child into a contributor to our society.  I applaud you for having the courage to put your own issues aside for the greater good of providing your child with the help they need.  Everyday I work together with parents to generate solutions to help their families function better, happier, with more stability.  I take the time to learn what’s important to them and what works for them.  I help support and encourage them through the hard times and celebrate the good times with them.  This is what a therapist does.  This is why I love my job.