#14 Practice Self Discipline

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#14

Practice Self Discipline

One of the most important elements of maturity, emotional intelligence, and good health is developing self discipline and engaging in it more often – than not. Self discipline is the thing that allows you to control your impulses and stay focused. It will help you to helps us establish habits that allow us to obtain the goals we set in life.

Acknowledge Your Weaknesses

Self discipline is most difficult where our weaknesses are concerned. It’s important to understand our weak points so that we can develop strategies that will work. It’s not hard to get up at 6 am if you are a morning person but if you are a night owl, you will need to acknowledge that mornings aren’t your thing before you can effectively manage discipline in that area.

Learned Behavior

Self discipline is a learned behavior. It’s the practice of doing the same thing with purpose over and over. It’s the practice of denying yourself the thing that prevents you from reaching your goal. Because of this – learn self discipline the way you learn anything else… start at the beginning, take small steps, and build up to the harder chunks.

Mental Attitude

Research has demonstrated that our belief about our ability to practice self discipline will ultimately determine how successful we are. Imagine that you are building your personal capacity for discipline as you move forward; giving yourself the opportunity to expand your belief.

Reward Yourself

Almost a century of research indicates that we are likely to perform better if we are rewarded. B.F. Skinner demonstrated the theory of Operant Conditioning where learning occurs most efficiently when there is a positive reinforcement. Building your capacity for self discipline can be accomplished in this same manner.

If there’s a goal you’ve been working toward and haven’t been able to quite get there, consider redirecting your focus and make the effort to …

Practice self discipline.

TTAH

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#19 Realign Yourself

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#19

Realign Yourself

This post is NOT about your spine although I could definitely do a post about visiting a Chiropractor… this post is about realigning your behavior with your value system. You see, as the driver of our lives, we do many of the same things we do when we drive our cars… we hits bumps in the road; we go too far without routine maintenance; and we can spin our wheels so long that we get worn out along the edge. When that happens on our vehicle, we take it in for an alignment and this post is suggesting that we do the same for our mind/spirit/body connection.

Off the Straight Line

You know when a car needs an alignment because the steering is a little wobbly and it won’t go in a straight line when you take your hands off the wheel. It takes more effort to steer. The same is true for life. When you despise going to work every day – or home… when your stomach turns each time the phone rings or mail gets delivered… when you run into someone you know or when you get invited to a party – any negativity that arises may be indicating that your action(s) may not be consistent with your value system.

Physiological Evidence

Our bodies are great barometers for when our actions are out of alignment with who we want to be. We feel bad, guilty, or ashamed. We get defensive, argue, and raise our voices. We may get headaches, have stomach trouble, or back pain. We may even break out with zits, pimples, or hives.

Real Examples

Let’s say you made a decision to value honesty but you – out of habit – told a series of ‘white’ lies in an effort to avoid confrontation…  or you go to work everyday to a department that has historically reported jacked up results to look good… or you volunteer with someone who helps themselves to product when ‘on duty’ – all examples of dishonesty. The migraines you began having last year soon after you committed to being a more honest person may be indicative of the discord between your value and the dishonest environment in which you find yourself.

Or perhaps you’ve made a commitment to have a closer relationship with God by living the doctrine of your faith more passionately. Now, you find that every time someone uses the Lord’s name in vain or curses up a storm – the hairs on your neck tingle. Or perhaps those are habits that you are finding difficult to break. The angst you feel getting up each morning may be your body reminding you to pay close attention today – to the commitment you made.

Values Change

As we grow, mature, and experience life as too do the values that we hold dear. As a young twenty-something, I valued parties and social variety much more than I do today where sharing a bottle of wine with one or two friends in a quiet, relaxed environment is my idea of meaningful engagement. Were I to step out and try to ‘party’ every weekend, it would be inconsistent with my current ‘value’ and I may find that I am ‘off’. If I keep doing it… If I keep dishonoring the value that I’ve adopted, being ‘off’ turns into something more obvious and I am left with the need to figure out why I have developed insomnia or a bad attitude.

Just like you do when the steering wheel starts to wobble… step back every once in awhile and take stock of your values – matching them against your actions & behavior. Pay attention and notice when it is time to …

Realign yourself.

TTAH

Listen to me on Try This at Home – a series of conversations about making life better.

You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or Feedburner

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#100 Quit a Bad Habit

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#100

Quit a bad habit

It’s not quite the New Year when many of us will jump on the idea of eliminating the bad habits that hinder our best selves which, might just make it the best time to go ahead and quit now. Bad habits are those things that we do that we know aren’t helping us; the things that nag us more than our moms.

Obvious

These malicious behaviors are quite obvious and include doing anything in excess (drinking, eating, spending, etc.), smoking, nail biting, and snacking. They are the things we ‘know’ we need to stop doing for our health and overall welfare. These habits can literally put our life in danger. They impede our self image, our confidence, and esteem.

Subconscious

Some habits have developed underneath our awareness. Some of us twirl our hair incessantly or click a pen to the extent that our co-worker want to jump across their desk just to grab it away from us. Or how about that foot that shakes or the leg wiggle that indicates nervousness? Constantly smacking gum, or slurping coffee are common habits that go unnoticed by the habitour but are obnoxious irritations for those in the vicinity.

Verbal

Some of our bad habits are verbal… Saying the word “like…” far too often and contextually inappropriately; speaking too loudly for the environment; and using the sound “um…” in more than just an occasional sentence. While not directly verbal – many of us don’t make eye contact while speaking – a habit that is considered downright rude in many cultures.

Notice

As with anything, in order for it to be changed, you must be aware. Ask friends and family members for their observations to catch the things you aren’t aware of. Make a list of the items that you may want to work on and consider which ones are priorities – don’t try to make too many changes at once.

Twenty-one Days

In order to break a bad habit – replace it with a good one. If you are trying to stop smoking – chew gum instead. If you’re trying to break the habit of nail biting – find a way to keep your hands busy; crochet, knit, play with a fidget spinner or stress ball. If you can eliminate your bad habit for at least 21 days, the odds of beating it all together is greatly improved.

Don’t wait for the New Year and a resolution that will likely be broken quickly. Make the effort today so that you will go into the next year without that annoying behavior. Take a minute to pick one and then commit to …

Quit a bad habit.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#162 Ask Friends and Family for Feedback

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#162

Ask Friends and Family for Feedback

One of the most basic tenets of self-awareness is to understand how you are perceived by people in your environment. There’s no better way to get honest feedback than to ask those who know you best. It’s one of the homework assignments that students in The Elevate Class complete and the results are always a major part of our coaching conversations.

Be Open

Being open to the constructive criticism that people share is a necessity. Your ability to hear their perspectives without feeling attacked or ‘bad’ can help you understand how you are perceived by others. Try to remember that people who love you offer a view that is shared from a place of acceptance; they love you – anyway! It’s always interesting to see things about yourself that can’t be seen from the inside out.

Changes

Not everything that is observed needs to be changed. You are who you are! If an observation suggests offensive behavior, of course you’ll want to consider how it is impacting someone you love and ask yourself if that’s what you’re goal is… It may be just something you want to stay aware of so that you can mitigate its negative impact – where applicable. Perhaps it is something that when changed, would benefit your relationship.

Seeing Ourselves

Sometimes, we look at something so long that we stop seeing it – having become so accustomed to its presence. The feedback we receive is important for a complete picture. If you’re concerned that the response may be too critical – qualify your request by asking this:

“Please offer gentle and constructive critique about my behavior/actions and how they impact our relationship: a mix of positive and negative observations would be appreciated.”

I suggest the response be written so that you can take time to consider their perspectives and your memory won’t be challenged in recalling the comments; email is fine… texting not so much.

Fear

The biggest pushback that I typically see to this suggestion is the fear we experience when we think that our faults are going to be highlighted. We have a deep seeded belief that if we bring attention to them, somehow people will think less of us. Interestingly enough – those traits are always exposed… just because we don’t acknowledge them, doesn’t mean they don’t show through. It’s always better to brave the exposure. Nothing changes if it stays packed away… even if no change is desired, keeping it out in front will make sure that it stays healthy.  So, give yourself an opportunity to grow and …

Ask friends and family for feedback.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

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#191 Focus on Self-Awareness

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#191

Focus on Self-Awareness

Some might think that ‘ignorance is bliss’, that ‘denial is safe’ yet living in a state of either can lead to rather dysfunctional coping and/or relating. As a psychotherapist, I find that a number of people entering my office are experiencing one or the other albeit, often unconsciously. Even though it may seem rather counter-intuitive – being ‘aware’ is the emotionally healthier option and so much of my work is to help people become “aware”.

Self Protection

If I could teach people in the world any one skill, it would be an ability to become self aware. It’s not necessarily an easy task! Sometimes, we don’t like what we see when we are able to see everything. That’s where avoidance and denial come into play – they protect us from seeing what feels bad. Who wants to feel awful about themselves?

No Judgement

The only reason we don’t’ want to ‘see’ these things is because on some level – we are judging them. Think about it. If you get a tattoo that you love but your mom hates – no problem. You like it so there’s ‘no judgment’. If you get one during a drunken stupor even though you’ve vowed never to ‘ink’ yourself, you may have a judgment about it and seek to cope with your own disappointment by creating a story that makes it ‘ok’ for you. The preferable scenario is that you simply accept both the drunken stupor and the impulse to get a tattoo without any negative feeling.

Frankly, regret is a waste of your emotional energy. For most of us, we do what we do in each moment because it makes sense based on what we know/feel – at that point in time!! And then, like Maya Angelou said “when you know better, you do better”.

Self-honesty

Even though it may be difficult, seeing yourself clearly – how you think, why you think and feel the way you do, why you engage and react in the manner that is common for you – those are important to know. Nothing changes unless you know it exists. Behavior is only dysfunctional to the extent that it impacts your ability to have the life or relationships that you desire so if it works for you… it’s ok. However, if you are missing a piece of that link then a good hard look at YOU is in order. And since we are always changing in response to our relationships and our environment… it’s an ongoing process.

If your goal is to live with authenticity, then its imperative that you develop a lifelong goal to …

Focus on self-awareness.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

When the UGLIES Escape

Being human is difficult. Becoming human is a lifelong process. To be truly human is a gift. ~ Abraham Heschel

Do you ever get grumpy? Out of sorts? Moody? Do your UGLIES escape?

Of course you do… you’re a human.

Sometimes, when reviewing basic communications skills with people who work in corporate environments, they tell me they “know all this stuff from seminars, workshops, and retreats at work” and then quickly ask the questions “why can’t I do it after I leave the office?”

I empathize with that question because I teach good communication tools… you know…

  • Use “I” statements
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Repeat what you heard
  • Validate

Yadda, yadda.

And yet, I too – am completely imperfect with using them. When we mix a big batch of emotion into the human factor – even the best intentions can go astray.

Sometimes, our frustration reaches a tipping point and we react without thinking about those skills we’ve collected in our communication toolkit. It happens when we are sick and when we are in pain. It can happen when we are afraid or worried. In those moments, our ability to stay focused and pay attention to how we could be behaving, is blurred.

In those times, we are prone to react first and think about our toolbox later…

And then communication goes south, conflict arises, sparing ensues, and feelings get hurt. The uglies come out.

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Now what?

First

I believe the most important thing we can do is apologize. We don’t have to apologize for how we were feeling… we only need to apologize for how we behaved when our feelings took over.

Listen, feelings are feelings and although they are not always rational or in context to a situation – they are still feelings and generally they just surface… we don’t ask for them.

Next

When we can collect our thoughts, step back, OUT of the emotion and pay attention to how we were feeling – the second step is to calmly, rationally, explain how we were feeling – using “I feel…” statements (remember to use ‘feeling’ words).

Think about the things I speak to in the post It Wasn’t Me – Or Was It? and try to communicate from the position of what you recognize about yourself…. In other words, OWN IT.

Ask for what you need – specifically. Do you need advice? Validation? Help? Or do you just want someone to listen? Letting someone know what you need in advance of sharing your feelings can often be helpful.

Lastly

Be willing to listen.

Frequently, an argument is simply the tip of an iceberg and representative of other issues that are simmering below the surface. When we can own our feelings, step out of the emotion, and be prepared to listen… we are able to address those matters that affect us subliminally.

Remember, the things I talk about take practice and patience! Don’t be hard on yourself as you experience your humanness… when you are tired or sick… when you temporarily lose track of your toolbox… or when you make a mistake.

Your life – my life – everyone’s life, is a work in progress. Just keep moving forward. Today is a new day.

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It Wasn’t Me – Or Was It?

 

“The moment you accept responsibility for EVERYTHING in your life is the moment you can change ANYTHING in your life.” ~ Hal Elrod

In the last couple of posts I’ve made the comment to “own” you stuff… your thoughts, your actions, your reactions. What does it mean really to ‘own’? I find that just saying it may not be enough, I find that we often need reminded what it is to ‘own’ because we don’t necessarily live in a culture where taking personal responsibility is front and center. We easily fall into patterns of ‘blame’.

At the turn of the century, the Jamaican reggae singer ‘Shaggy’ came out with a song entitled “It wasn’t me”… he was being given advice to deny his responsibility even though he had been caught red handed. Even the music we listen to seeks to reinforce methods of circumventing personal responsibility. We watch crime shows and movies that demonstrate how to ‘Get Away with Murder’ and we see Oliva Pope ‘fix’ problems that high level officials don’t want to be associated with. While I realize that those are fictitious stories on broadcast television, they seep into our subconscious and weep on patterns of blame whenever there is a chance.

“I can’t be happy because he….”, or “if she would change, everything would be ok.”… I hear people saying these things weekly. My response is always – “what about you?” “What is YOUR role in this?” Relationships are BETWEEN people and so every soul in the interaction has some level of responsibility in the dialogue; some level of input in the collaboration. Relationships by definition, are never one sided. Consequently – even if the only contribution is a RE-action… every person is engaged.

What would it look like if we all took responsibility for only OUR own behaviors?

What would it look like if we all stopped and reflected on what ‘I’ could do better or more effectively?

First and foremost… we have to be aware of what we are bringing to the table. What is it that ‘I’ am contributing to this interplay?

  • Am I being antagonistic?
  • Am I being supportive?
  • Am I being defensive?
  • Am I listening well?
  • Am I validating?
  • Am I being clear?
  • Am I saying what I mean?
  • Am I contributing positively?
  • Am I keeping score? Playing tit for tat?
  • Do I maintain my composure? My tone? My voice?
  • Have I kept my promises or vows?

YOU must be so self-aware that you know – and can admit – your role in any interaction or collaboration.

You must be so self-aware that you can recognize when you are deflecting (changing the direction or focus) – “oh yeah? Well when you ….” Or when you are defensive… “well, I did that because….” And when you aren’t listening – by interrupting. People who interrupt are NOT listening well.

I use these examples because they are usually easier to comprehend when it comes to relationships… we can each see ourselves in an interaction with another and notice when we contribute to the exchange.

In addition, we are also responsible for our own LIVES… no – we don’t control many of the things that happen but we DO control and need to take responsibility for the way that we respond to our lives. We need to OWN the decisions we make in response to our lives. Each of our actions generates a consequence which, ultimately means that we must own part of the consequence.

Ben and Sally went out for her birthday. Ben bought Sally a bunch of ‘shots’ and Sally got drunk. Sally tells her friend – “Ben got me drunk last night”. Ummm… not really. Unless Ben poured the shots down Sally’s throat… SALLY got herself drunk.

Our decisions, our actions, our behavior – determine how we are viewed in the world… they determine how we think of ourselves and they each become a part of our history… things that stay with us, literally forever. Every action becomes a memory that is imprinted on our soul. So… no wonder we may not ‘want’ to take responsibility. No wonder that we may not want to ‘own’ something that has already happened – something that we don’t necessarily want to be there forever…

The problem is that unless we OWN our actions, reactions, and behavior – we are giving someone else our power. If I am a wife blaming my husband for his addictions or blaming the problems in our marriage on his demeanor… I am denying that I have the power for my own decisions… for my own change. I am denying that I have any control over my own life.

What do we need to take responsibility for? We need to take responsibility for our own life… for what happens in it. Did you just get fired? Why? Look at the questions I asked earlier … go through them one by one… could you have done a better job? Could you have been more communicative? Could you have put in more effort? If so… just acknowledge it. Yes –  your boss may have been a dick. The working conditions may have sucked but at the end of the day – it was more than likely the way YOU reacted to it… the way you responded that made the decision.

If my husband is unfaithful, I can blame him for not keeping a promise but I am the one who needs to take responsibility for how I RE-act. Will I be vindictive? Seek to hurt him the way that I am hurt? Will I go deep into the uglies? Some of that will – of course – simply be a human reaction but if I go there – no matter my reaction – no one is putting a gun to my head and telling me how to behave. ANY reaction is one that I will have to OWN. I will have to remember that when I look in the mirror – it will be there with me.

Be aware – constantly aware – of what you are willing to carry with you – for the rest of your life.

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Who You Are

The most common form of despair is not being who you are… ~  Søren Kierkegaard

One of the most common conversations I have in my office is the one that focuses on personal authenticity. It seems like a ‘no-brainer’ – “just be yourself” and some of us believe that we are – yet depression and anxiety live in the space between how we behave out in the world and how our hearts wish we would.

There are a couple of obvious examples that are stereotypical, commonly known – the Doctor’s child who is guided toward medical school but internally, yearns to be an artist or an accountant. Or the person who yearns for same-sex intimacy yet believes he or she is only ‘acceptable’ as a heterosexual.

I see problems with authenticity with people who believe that no matter what they do – it’s not ‘good enough’… perhaps what they are doing IS the best and authentic to them yet they are unable to recognize it as so.

We are so driven to meet standards from outside of ourselves. First – our family or teachers and then from our society or culture and then again, our partner/spouse and social circles. The struggle I faced as a kid to ‘fit in’ in terms of body shape and physical fitness was real. I grew up in the era of ‘Twiggy’ where pencil thin was in and my Victorian physic had been out for hundreds of years. Standards of education, socioeconomic class, sexuality, language skills… they exist in every realm of our lives and so we strive to meet them with little regard for the ‘truth’ or the sincerity with which we present those standards to the world.

Earlier this week a client was expressing frustration that interacting with a relative often produced a gross reaction, sending the client into throws of ugly and spiteful thoughts while she spewed derogatory remarks that came from an unknown place inside of her. “That’s not who I am”, she says. She emphasized that she didn’t like that kind of reaction and she really hated herself when it happened. “How do I make it stop?” she was pleading for relief of the ‘despair’ she experienced when she found herself tackling sarcasm and malicious sentiment, tit for tat.

While some may argue that her behavior in that moment was indeed ‘part of her’, it was notably not part of who she ‘wanted’ to be. She saw herself as a kind person, warm and considerate most all of the time. She never wanted to represent herself as someone who could be enticed into a verbal warfare of inflammatory and debasing commentary. And so, when she gravitated there – for whatever reason – she experienced a sense of ‘inauthenticity’… that particular behavior was NOT part of the person she genuinely wanted to present to the world.

I remember taking family photographs the fall before Hubby and I were first separated. We met with a photographer, wore similar outfits, and snapped photos all over a local Civil War battlefield on a cool Fall day. By the time we got the proofs back, our relationship was feeling more strain and the pretending I was actively engaged in was becoming tiring. I looked at those photos and thought about how disingenuous I was in almost every one of them. There was a smile on my face and we posed well together, but Hubby and I were definitely NOT authentic. I didn’t feel the happiness that was represented in the picture – I knew it was a lie.

Sometimes we don’t notice or understand – there is no conscious awareness that we are living inauthentically. Several years ago, my family deserted me for a weekend, doing their own things – scouts, golf, etc… I found myself in the house alone for a whole weekend. It was just before Thanksgiving and so I began my Christmas crafting – making a disastrous mess out of the kitchen and dining area but loving the fact that I could leave my stuff out – and all over – without impacting anyone else. I never even noticed that time was passing. I was content, satisfied, at peace.

By the end of that weekend, I realized that I was ‘fed’ by utilizing my creative energy. I knew that about myself and yet, over time, I had allowed the opportunities for artistic expression to become unimportant, or at least very low on my list of priorities. I noticed how charged and full of enthusiasm I felt by Sunday evening; I was glad to see everyone when they came home. I had utilized my energy in one of the most AUTHENTIC ways possible and my psyche understood. I’ve never allowed myself to forget that experience and I always have something in the works. In reality, I had to open an Etsy shop in order to have an outlet from where to part with all of the ‘creations’ that I had generated. They are simple, imperfect things but they are made from a Zen place… at least that’s where my mind is when I am in creative mode.

Today, I am using that energy to write (and maybe fitting in a craft or two).

I believe that the most important part of being authentic is accepting ALL of you – the parts you don’t like, the parts you want to change, the parts that will never change, and the parts that you think the world will reject along with all the wonderful, amazing, and talented aspects of yourself. My life completely turned around when I understood that the whole of my person wasn’t all great – and accepted it. When I can see my imperfections and LOVE MYSELF ANYWAY, my ability to be in the world authentically is greatly enhanced.

I can’t tell you how many times in a session when I ask a client to say “I love you” to themselves – there is an emotional block or a strong emotional reaction. When we accept ourselves AS WE ARE and strive to present ourselves to the world bearing the values and qualities that WE aspire, we are living authentically and then… despair cannot exist. Learn to love everything about yourself – even the things you want to change. You don’t have to like them – only accept that they are there. Then – change begins and you can be WHO you are.

Finally Free

Continued from Escape Route

“Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

Our aunt returned to Granddad’s house after mom’s funeral to find him in disarray. It appeared that he had had a stroke while everyone was away as his language was garbled and he was looping his thoughts. He refused to go to a doctor, though. She was going to stay with him for a week or so and stay in touch. So many things happening all at once in one family. He lost his wife of 66 years and a daughter within a week of one another and now, he was disoriented and unable to be understood.

I had been appointed his executrix, much to the chagrin of one of my Aunts who had taken my appointment as a slight to her position as the oldest child. As it turned out, it was a blessing. Who would have thought there would be so much grief all at once? A family can only take so much. He lived three hours away from me and as a single mom – for all intents and purposes – it wasn’t an easy feat to get a whole day free from immediate responsibility but my amazing support system was cooperating fully and so, I took the time.

It was heartbreaking to see this person who had been a strong, virile, Marlboro’esque man trying to communicate in loopy garble. He became extremely frustrated when we didn’t understand him and I’m sure he realized that he wasn’t making sense. He did allow me to help him pay bills and go through the mail, managing to communicate to me where things were and that it would fall into my hands soon enough. I drove up there every other week and each time, he was a bit worse but still refused medical care.

On June 1st, Mom’s birthday, we five siblings again gathered to honor her by committing her remains forever in Arlington National Cemetery. As a Veteran, she qualified for burial there and so we went to Washington, D.C. and for another segment of time, managed to act as if we were collectively united in our grief. I don’t specifically recall making eye contact with Abee but I remember not wanting to. It was specifically my love and respect for mom that kept me there in the presence of a sister who was emotionally dead to me.

The last couple of months had put the proverbial nail in the coffin for me. Hubby and I sat down with the girls while he told them that he was in love with their Aunt, and asked them if they would try and accept his decision. None of them reacted well, and for a time, they chose to avoid him altogether. Eventually, they established strong boundaries stating that they loved him but they weren’t willing to be tolerant of his choice in partners. They begged him to move on to Jane Doe or Mary Smith, anyone but a family member; their plea fell on deaf ears. Consequently, they stood strong on the line that said we accept a relationship with you, and you alone. It was a compromise that was exceptionally difficult for them and while I was remorseful that the kinship I had imagined between my children and their father would never exist – I was fundamentally proud of them for honoring their hearts.

Our divorce agreement was effective on that same day. While we memorialized Mom that day, Hubby was moving out of our home. I had signed all the paperwork a couple of days prior after negotiating final details that make it possible for the girls and me to stay in the house until our youngest graduated from high school; seven years into the future. It was unusual and I believe, highly opposed by Hubby’s attorney but I held out and refused to sign away my half of the company until conditions that guaranteed the girls best interest and comfort, were in writing and indisputable. I was rather unrelenting and in the end, Hubby wanted what was best for the girls to… at least in terms of their comfort and home life.

It was a bittersweet transition as I left the cemetery knowing that I was going home to the official ‘death’ of my marriage. On the way home from Washington, I stopped at the hardware store and bought new door locks. I knew that as soon as I got home, my priority would be to reprogram the garage doors and change the hardware on the front and back door. It was MY house now and Hubby wasn’t invited. It took a long, long time but I was free.

I wasn’t home long enough to unpack the bags before the phone rang to tell me that Grandad had passed away. Within three months, one-half of my mom’s family had died. Six had become three. The magnitude of their loss was overwhelming for my two Aunts and an Uncle, life is just completely unfair at times. There was still more sadness to get through and we were all – over it. We all needed a break from the deep, dark, drama that had overshadowed our lives for such a long period of time. It was simply… too much and I was surprised that none of us had ‘officially’ lost our mind.

It was the last time that I was in the same company as Abee. She came to Grandad’s funeral with Emma and they interacted some with other family members but left right after the service. I was too wrapped up in executrix duties and warding off the negative energy building among other family members to be too focused on my old baggage. We were barely tolerant of one another. I knew I just needed to move on. It was sad, though – all those years of ‘family’ down the drain. It was too easy to remember her as a little girl curled up in my lap reading, or the times I would help her with homework and school projects, the times she did the same with and for my children and then the adult relationship that we had enjoyed… twenty-five years of family – gone because she and Hubby wouldn’t deny themselves some kind of convoluted ‘love’ they claimed to have.

I’m not sure I believe that we are supposed to act upon all the feelings we have.  There are times I’m so angry that all I want to do is spit (the most disgusting and awful thing I can think of to do to someone) but that doesn’t mean I do it.  I’ve felt attracted to friend’s husbands but I would never act on that attraction. I’ve wanted to do lots of things that either weren’t socially or morally acceptable and so, I didn’t do them. Isn’t that what we teach our children?? Isn’t that what we expect from society at large? I suppose that somewhere in the principle I am describing is a line that each of us draws and it is obviously different for each of us. I clearly didn’t understand how or why people I loved drew a line in an area so obviously contrasted to where I would have drawn it… apparently, we weren’t like-minded at all.

Settling Granddad’s estate meant disposing of a herd of cows, a couple of horses, barns full of equipment and tools, as well as sixty plus years of marital accumulations. We found love letters that have the potential to be an entirely new book, utility bills from the 1960’s and photographs that were meant to be private. We were closing an era and the eccentricity of personalities that defined my mom’s siblings made it challenging from time to time but ultimately, considering they had lost exactly half of their family, it was all good. We got through it.

As a student of psychology, it was fascinating to experience, to watch. I observed extreme grief reactions inside a family dynamic that challenged everything I knew about bereavement and it formed the foundation for the rest of my academic work.