#11 Ask For Help

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.

#11

Ask For Help

Far too often I find myself talking with people who are overwhelmed because their life has turned temporarily chaotic and they do not stop to ask for help. Frequently, it’s because they think they ‘should’ be able to handle it and asking for help feel like a weakness. Other times it is because they don’t want to ‘bother’ people.

A Village

The phrase “It takes a village” is an African proverb speaking to the concept that an entire village is involved in the rearing of its children. I think this phrase is appropriate for life as a whole… sometimes, just getting through major life stressors – takes a village. When a catastrophe happens, it takes a village. When an illness strikes, it takes a village. When a move is imminent, it takes a village.

And yet, we tend to deny ourselves the village support by not asking for help.

Major Disturbance

If you are in the middle of a major challenge and someone says “let me know if you need anything” – let them know! If they were just being polite they can assume responsibility for setting their own boundaries. I find that generally, people mean it when they offer help and are happy to provide assistance. When life takes a disastrous turn, it’s hard enough to maintain the simple elements of our daily routine and personal composure, let alone managing the major responsibilities of daily living.

Minor Disturbance

Sometimes, life’s challenges are minor and mostly a nuisance. Your furnace goes out on a day when you have an important meeting… You get stuck in a traffic jam and can’t get home in time for the school bus… You have a family emergency in the middle of the night… All of these experiences are unpredictable and mostly out of our control. In those moments, it’s imperative that we reach out to those people in our village to fill in the gap.

The Village

In an era where people are much more transient that ever before in history, it’s important to recognize that many of us don’t have family down the street or around the corner. Our ‘village’ takes on a different identity than we may have imagined. It becomes our neighbors, our children’s friends parents, our co-workers, or our church family. Remember too… it takes being a friend to have a friend who steps up when you need a hand although, it may not be the ‘same’ friend. Karma doesn’t travel in a liner line.

Remember, it’s not just about building the village – it’s about USING the village and making sure that when you need to, you…

Ask for help.

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

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

#15 Eliminate These Words from Your Vocabulary

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.

#15

Eliminate These Words from Your Vocabulary

After years of working with couples in crisis and helping families communicate better, I’ve noticed a pattern of vernacular that is a part of most dysfunctional relationships. Our language matters; the words we use are important and paying close attention to your vocabulary will help you communicate better… improving your relationships and your overall sense of happiness. Here are the primary culprits:

“Should”

I wrote a post early in this project about eliminating the ‘should’s in your life and that was mostly from the perspective of identifying the internal expectations that guide you. However, they often interfere in our relationships as well because we think others “should” do something. When we impose our own ‘should’s on others, we are really attempting to convey an expectation and it’s better expressed that way. Instead of “you should take a day off so we can spend time together” you might eliminate the word should and offer this: “It would be great if you could take a day off so we can spend time together”. Simply replacing the word ‘should’ with the word ‘could’ – makes all the difference.

“Right & Wrong”

“Do it the right way”, “If you did it right the first time”, “No, you’re wrong”… all of those phrases are likely to incite a defensive reaction almost as soon as they are spoken. When someone is defensive – they probably aren’t listening and so the conversation is broken at that point. When we understanding that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are generally spoken about perspective and values and that they are different for different people we can shift the way we speak about them. Try to adopt the ideology that there is no right or wrong – only differences.

Instead of the phrases above, try these: “I was thinking it could be done this way”, “Generally, I do it like this”, “I’d like it done this way”, “that’s an interesting perspective” or “I don’t see it that way”… notice that in each of these statements – you are using the “I” voice and describing YOUR thoughts/perspective. That’s the key.

“Make”

In the English language, we often use the word ‘make’ to mean ‘cause’ which, is one of the secondary definitions and yet when it is in reference to feelings or behavior – it creates a problem of responsibility. Under the assumption that we – each of us as individuals – is personally responsible for our behavior – no one can force us to behave in a particular way. Literally speaking – WE are the cause of our behavior. Thinking anything different is deflecting responsibility and handing away our personal power. Each time we utter the phrase “you make me…” or “you made me…” etc., we are inferring that the responsibility for OUR behavior is on another. That is simply untrue. While it is true that we may react to another person’s behavior – it is still OUR choice on if, when, and how we react.

When we feel something and react – that happens inside our own being and is OUR responsibility. Try these phrases: “I get really angry when you….”, “I feel really disappointed when [that] happens”,  “I have a lot of feelings about…” – notice that in each case again, the communication is about what is happening for YOU. It’s always about communicating your experience from your perspective.

When we pay close attention to the language that we use in our communication, we can significantly reduce the amount of defensiveness that is generated by…

Eliminating these words from your vocabulary.

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.

#112 Binge Watch a Show

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.

#112

Binge watch a show

‘Binging’ is not often attributed to a suggestion that might increase happiness and yet there are times when too much of a good thing ends up being even a better thing. Sometimes, taking a ‘down’ day offers our body, mind, and soul a much needed vacation from daily life and its stressors. One of the ways to escape is to binge watch television.

New Term

“Binge watching” is a relatively new term and yet it’s akin to the concept of ‘marathon’. Seemingly, one has a derogatory connotation while the other was much of a contest of sorts. When ‘reruns’ came into being, there would me weekend ‘marathons’ of Star Trek that captured the full attention of Trekkies all over the world. When the AMC channel was introduced and ran one Hallmark movie after another all day and night long, we’d hear about someone watching a ‘marathon’ of Robert Redford movies. Even movie theaters would offer marathons of Spencer Tracy movies or newsreels and you could buy a ticket and come in throughout the day – sit as long as you would choose – and leave when you were finished enjoying the experience. Today, we do it without commercials on channels like Netflix and Hulu but we call it ‘binging’.

Disconnecting

If the motivation for disconnecting from the world to watch television for hours on end is to distress and regroup – then binge watching a program is a great way to do just that. Pick an old favorite, a classic you never saw, or a series that you’ve had a hard time following (sometimes it is easier to follow if you don’t have to wait a week to reconnect to the story line). For some, there’s barely a difference between digressing into the dramatic world of television or devouring three Nora Roberts novelettes in a weekend.

Avoidance

When making the decision to ‘binge’… allow yourself an honest evaluation of the motivation. If is as describe in the paragraph above – give yourself permission to unplug and recharge. If, on the other hand, it is to AVOID something… you may want to reconsider using the binge suggestion as a reward for meeting the responsibilities at hand first. Avoidance rarely offers constructive consequences. Indeed, it is at the core of much dysfunction and the accessibility of binge watching on countless devices makes it an easy out when we are looking for excuses.

Set Limits

It may be appropriate to set limits for yourself as you enter a binge watching session. Personally, hanging out on a winter afternoon in front of the fireplace in my jammies and curled up in a blanket on my sofa watching reruns of Fixer Upper is one of the most relaxing things I can think of to do. If I were to do it every weekend, many of the things that are important to me would never get accomplished so its key to set a limit for my binging. I generally have an hour limit… once it was the entire day – 12 hours of a docu-series that I got hooked on right away. Most times it’s capped at 4 or 5 hours and I might do that a couple of times a year. I might of felt guilty that first time because there was a long list of ‘should’ playing in my mind but I’ve learned to silence them and use this suggestion as a form of ‘self care’.

Try it! You may find that it is fun to …

Binge watch a show.

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

Freaked Out By “Shoulds” – A client’s letter to her mother

This letter was written by a client as a ‘therapy’ homework assignment and I thought it was incredibly powerful. She gave me permission to reproduce it as long as I waited at least a year and omitted her name. I have done both. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen through the years that could have written the same letter addressed to either a mother or father.  Read through and see my thoughts at the end…

Dear Mama,

I’ve been asked to write a letter to you that expresses my feelings about growing up as your daughter. I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to say to you because I don’t want to hurt your feelings. In fact, I’ve always wanted to just love you. I’ve wanted you to love me and I think you did. In your own way. I have had a hard time understanding that you love me because I don’t believe that you ever accepted me. There were so. many. shoulds. I can’t get rid of them.

I know, you say that you do accept me except that you kept telling me all the things I “should” do. You told me I ‘should’ go to church, that I ‘should’ date Kevin, that I ‘should study harder, and that I ‘should’ go back to school. I tried to tell you that those things didn’t matter to me but you didn’t listen. You told me I ‘should watch what I eat” that I ‘should’ wear my hair short, and that I ‘shouldn’t’ wear short shorts. If I had done those things, I would have been a mini version of YOU – not me. Those things weren’t ‘me’. More than that, you told me I ‘should’ have kids before I got much older and when I did you went so far as to tell us how we ‘should’ parent them. Jesus mom… why ‘should’ I??

Today, I am freaked out by all the ‘shoulds’ that I’ve never achieved. I feel like a failure. I didn’t do what you thought I ‘should’ and somehow I decided that since I wasn’t doing those things that you wouldn’t (couldn’t?) love me. I am not all the things I ‘should’ be mama and I know you are disappointed. Here’s the thing I am confused about.

Why couldn’t you just love ME. The person I am. Why do I have to be like you in order to be considered good or OK? Why do I have to like what you like? Why can’t you just be OK with the person that I am? I’m not a crack addict or a mass murderer. I’m a pretty good person but I feel like it will never be ‘good enough’.

Frankly mama, I didn’t ask to be here. You did that. And because you chose to bring me into this world, I would assume that you might just be happy with who I am but that’s not what I thought for most of the time that I was growing up.

Yes, you came to my basketball games. Yes, you bought me a prom dress. Yes, you sent me to college. I probably didn’t appreciate any of those things at the time as much as I could have. However, I never felt like I could really talk to you. I was always waiting for the next criticism to come. “Don’t eat that”, “you need to lose five pounds”, “Don’t drink, or have sex, or curse”, “go to class”, “clean your car”, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I’m in therapy now mama and I am trying to discover who I am. I realize that I was always trying to be who you wanted me to be and I never figured out what felt right to me. I am almost forty and I am just now doing that. I am not blaming you per se as the therapist tells me you probably did the best you knew how to do. I hope to accept that someday.

In the meantime, I want you to know that I am throwing all those shoulds out the window and I am asking you right here, right now to ACCEPT ME AS I AM. I think that is your role as my mother. Just love me and all the things that might be different from you. We don’t have to agree, we just need to respect that we are two different people and accept those discrepancies, not judge them.

I want you in my life IF you are willing to just take me as I am. I, in turn, will take you as you are. No blame. Just compassion and acceptance. That’s it.

As children, we make the general assumption that our parents love us – or at least we have the unconscious and simply human expectation that they do/will. We tend to develop an understanding of love’s expression via the environment, television, social cues, etc… if a father beats his child stating it is ‘because’ he loves him/her – the child develops an understanding that physical abuse is a form of ‘love’ until he/she is taught otherwise.

If a parent is ‘absent’ – for whatever reason – there is generally an assumption on the child’s part that love is also absent. Children have difficulty sometimes separating ‘fact’ from ‘perception’ – actually even adults are challenged with that from time to time and yet we may expect that our children ‘know better’ (well, of course I love you).

Parents can listen more and preach less.

Parents can accept more and judge less.

Parents can teach more and dominate less.

Parents can trust more and fix less.

Parents can guide more and dictate less.

Most parents do the best they can – based on what they know – in that moment. We really can’t expect much more than that but… when we learn more we need to make it a point to do better instead of assuming that it’s too late or that we are too old to make big changes.

The mother of the client who wrote this letter eventually came to a few sessions with my client where they discussed this letter and learned to accept and honor one another’s differences. Today, the client and the mother have a loving relationship based on compassion, tolerance, and clear expectations. It is working.

Too bad it took almost 40 years.

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The Value of Introspection

“Very early, I knew that the only object in life was to grow.”  — Margaret Fuller

Yesterday, I finished the story of my life – the memoir I wrote by posting a segment every day for 90 days. I truly didn’t start out to write the entire story all at once. I created this blog with the intent of daring to share how I became me… perhaps it was naïve to think that I could do that without telling the whole story but it just didn’t occur to me that in the course of doing this that I would end up with a book. Yup… if I delete the superfluous stuff that isn’t really a part of my personal story – there are just over 80,000 words that I can convert into a book.

Life is too funny really. This time last year my brother and his family were visiting for the holiday’s and I was just chatting with my sister-in-law. We were gabbing about goals for the upcoming year and I had a book on my mind. It definitely wasn’t THIS one… I have another idea for a motivational book but I never started it although I am inspired now! So… I didn’t do that book but I did write. To be honest, I’m pretty proud of myself for sticking with it long enough to get it written but it’s not over. Even though there are a number of people who read every day – getting a book into print is a whole other story. I’m going to set it up to publish electronically first and prepare a manuscript. I’ll need some copy editors (hint, hint – hit me up if you are interested in doing that for me). And then – the Universe has to help. I can see it – I imagine it in my hand and if I am truly honest… I can imagine myself sitting at a book signing.

So there is a true conflict in my mind between being humble and modest about this accomplishment and being bold and inspired enough to imagine it being BIG…  Since I am such a big believer in the Law of Attraction – I am led to imagine it – to talk about it as if it is already so… to be so sure that it is – has already – become everything it can be. I am encouraged by my friends and family … the ones who read daily and compliment me. This week, someone said, “I didn’t know you could write.”

Well, me either. I knew I wanted to. I developed a strong skill while in grad school but those were academic papers. One of my professors was kind and when we eventually met – he told me how much he had wanted to meet the woman behind my papers. I thought he was just being nice. And then I started receiving compliments from people who love me. Thanks, guys. I love the way you motivate me. What I really need is someone from the publishing industry who thinks the way you all do. I am going to imagine that too. : )

 

So… I am going to keep writing – I love doing it and I’ve found that it is a wonderful way for me to relax at the end of each day. My thoughts when I first started were to focus on growth – on the way that we move through the world and why. I teach people to be introspective and I believe that everything is easier when we can understand. I believe I demonstrated that a lot in my story so here – I will continue to do it. I will use experiences from my life and from others to demonstrate how introspection leads to growth. I hope to have more ‘discussions’ in the comment section; if you can relate or if you have a question – let me know!

 

One of the things that I wanted to make sure and talk about was the final result of all the ‘health’ problems I had while still married to ex-Hubby. If you read my story, you might remember that I had Labyrinthitis and then went to the emergency room a couple of times with bizarre symptoms that included a distinct feeling that I was going to die. I wore a heart monitor and had a series of tests that produced nothing.

During grad school as I was learning about stress disorders, I was rather dumbfounded to realize that those incidents were panic attacks. I had never suffered from anxiety so I didn’t have a clue and not one of those doctors had asked me what was happening in my life. I think that if they had, they may have diagnosed anxiety; but then again I would have had to come clean about everything that was happening.  It didn’t occur to me to tell them – I had no idea it was related. The piece that makes it obvious is that after I made a decision to get a divorce – all of the symptoms DISAPPEARED. Nothing. I realized all of this in retrospect but its importance was tremendous.

That anxiety was my body sending me messages. I was spending far too much time trying to be the person that Hubby wanted me to be instead of who I really am. I was being inauthentic – disingenuous. I didn’t understand how trying to please him was moving in such juxtaposition to my spirit. Certainly, I was not aware of this discrepancy. My body knew, though.

When people with anxiety are sitting in my office, one of the first things I do is attempt to identify the life situations that might not be in accord with the clients’ heart. It’s rarely obvious and takes a willingness to investigate things that may not be acceptable in your mind. If they were, we wouldn’t be anxious about it!

Anxiety is a fear related reaction. It is born of dread, worry, and threat. We have to figure out the primal fear. I was afraid that if I wasn’t ‘who’ Hubby wanted me to be then he would cheat on me or leave me. Rational thought was overridden by the fear. The fear itself wasn’t what created the anxiety, though – it was the way that I coped with the fear. I engaged in behavior that ‘he’ wanted… I did what made ‘him’ happy – not what made me comfortable or felt right to me. The fact that I was coping with fear in a way inconsistent with my spirit is what activated the anxiety.

When we look for answers, we have to look in the right place and we have to be honest. Sometimes, I think that is the hardest part. Occasionally, if we are honest it is like opening Pandora’s box. This honesty means this… leads to that… which is impossible. Clients sometimes tell me that if they were to do what they wanted then they wouldn’t be in their marriage – or family – or job and leaving would be disastrous. Hmmm. Maybe they are doing what they want then… sometimes we only get to choose between two lessor items.

I know a lot of people who live by ‘should’s’ in their life – people who suffer from anxiety. Many of them are expectations that are not genuine to personal spirit – personal desire. Where do they come from? If they are not YOUR should’s… why do you attempt to fulfill them? It’s not an easy question to answer but it’s definitely worth asking and identifying.

I baked Christmas cookies today, not because I ‘should’ – not because it is part of the traditional expectation of people who have their shit together – not because anyone will be waiting for them -but because I ‘could’. I did it because everything else is ready and I wanted the house to smell good and I hadn’t done it in years really. No expectations… just a desire to do something that fit well into my life – and it was good.