emotions

Support for When Things Suck

 

“Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need. Watch for the guru.”

Let’s call a spade a spade, here. Sometimes, life just sucks. Sometimes pain takes over and ruins everything. Sometimes shitty things happen. Sometimes watching for the guru feels impossible. Sometimes, screw the guru.

In the middle of our muck, our dark nights of the soul, when our lives are falling apart at the seams, when we’ve lost the very people or things we trusted most, whether we have infections, diseases, chronic pain, migraines, nosebleeds, bug bites, lay-offs, miscarriages, death, break-ups, any of these crappy things, finding the light, finding the good, claiming “everything happens for a reason” in the middle of some very sucky everythings… is just not humanly possible.

There it is: humanly possible.

And guess what we are? Souls walking around as human manifestations. What if we accepted that during certain times, it’s okay to wallow? It’s okay to surrender to the suck.

“Look for the bright side?” Eff you.

But what we can trust is the other side. There is always movement.

We are always moving toward the other side.

Sometimes it happens on its own, microscopic and minute, like the blooming of a bud, unseen with the human eye. Sometimes we work hard at it, like a construction crew with a deadline and a strip mall to build.

Sometime the only thing required to move out of the muck and the suck is to surrender and trust in the natural unfolding and healing salve of time.

In the meantime, if you need to whine, whine. Find your support team that will love you through.

If you need to scratch the rash, scratch it. Do what you need to do that will give you even fleeting seconds of relief.

If you need to cry, let the tears flow.

If you need to curl in a ball, retreat from the world, stop showering for a few days, go on, curl. You’ll save money on hot water.

If you need to destroy property, well, you might want to rethink that one… but you get my point.

Feel your broken heart. Grieve. Gripe. Groan. Give in to what needs to be felt and experienced.

So much of our pain comes when we are resisting our pain. When we are thinking that as spiritual people, we should always find the gifts in our pain, after all, we chose our pain, we created it, as some spiritual teachers will have us believe. And maybe sometimes we do. It’s quite the mind-numbing paradox.

But sometimes, suck just happens.

Over the last few years, one of my gurus has been a chronic nerve pain condition in my hip, back and leg that has sometimes debilitated me, sometimes turned me to a crying sack of gloom, has slowed me down, has pissed me off, has enraged me, has cost me lots of money, has shut down my life and kept me from the things I love to do… how the hell am I supposed to bless this guru? As a human being, how can I love this pain?

Yes, I am human, AND within me resides the infinite power of the universe. So sometimes I can access that, and use the Big Love when mine falls short. But, mostly, it’s when the pain subsides. It’s when a flare-up flares down.

It’s only when I’m on the other side, I have said, wow… I learned so much. I slowed down, I practiced exquisite self-care. I re-prioritized. I rested. I learned to count on friends. I practiced asking for help, receiving. I grew. Thanks, Guru, Chronic Pain.

But until then, when I am in the suck… it sucks, okay? Let’s stop trying to fool ourselves about that.

Be with your pain. Be with your suffering, be with your suck. Allow yourself to feel every ugly or pitiful feeling you need to feel. Wallow if you need to, cry, scream, whine, fully occupy your humanness and all of the messy, crappy, sticky, stinky, painful things that come with that.

Trust the other side. You’re always moving toward it.

Are you a “Ho-ho-ho”, a “Ho-hum”, or a “Bah-Humbug”?

humbug__by_xhee_heex-d6wa0dgThere are three types of us, it seems, when the holiday season rolls around… which are you?
The Ho Ho Ho – Overflowing with holiday cheer, the Ho Ho Ho loves to decorate, shop, wrap, and really revels in the joys and sensory pleasures of the holiday spirit. Finding rich meaning in the season, their love for family, giving, togetherness, peace and joy are amplified.
The Ho-Hum – Neither a lover nor a hater, the Ho-Hum is mildly annoyed by the pressures and obligations wrapped with a bow during the holiday season. They will go through the motions, and even enjoy certain parts of the season, like holiday cocktail parties and Secret Santa games, but for the most part, they could take it or leave it, and often harbor a secret guilt that they “should” be doing more, feeling more, giving more, baking more, and being jollier in general.
The Humbug –  The Humbug can’t stand the holiday season, the contrived peace and love, the forced togetherness, the pressure to spend, the commercialization, the obligation to be with people they secretly hardly like, and oftentimes have painful associations with the holidays, so in the midst of all the contrived joy, they are harboring deep pain, loss, grief, loneliness. The holidays are something they must get through, resisting and even resenting the whole shebang.
I’m definitely a borderline Ho-Hum/Humbug. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of personal inquiry around this, to explore the reasons. I’ve identified a few, and better understand my resistance. I’ve given up trying to change myself into a Ho-Ho-Ho, in preference of allowing myself to be who I am. I’ve also done some shifting and healing organically, by practicing openness, presence and intention.
There are certain holiday rituals I admit to enjoying… parties, of course. Ugly sweater ones and fancy red dress ones. And  I’m not gonna lie: I love opening presents. Here’s a holiday hypocrisy: I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. I hate the chore of sending them.
A few years back, I asked the Humbugs in my Facebook community what their reasons for being “humbug” were. I got dozens of interesting responses, but they all seemed to fall into one of two categories:
  • Pressure: The pressure from media, family, the world at large to “feel” jolly, to buy, to bake, to wrap, to send cards, to feign happiness in family situations that are less than healthy or happy. So much pressure to be, feel and do what is out of line with our personal truth.  When we feel, do or are what is out of line with our personal truth, we are out of integrity. NO WONDER Humbugs don’t like the holidays! NO WONDER Ho-Hums feel uneasy about them.
  • Pain: The saccharin-sweetness messages of peace, love and joy doesn’t fit with their personal experience when there is loss, grief, death, loneliness and other painful experiences and feelings linked to the holidays
So what should we do, those of us who find it difficult to be folded into the fluffy cream of the holiday season? Go through the motions, out of integrity, getting through til January? Ditch the whole thing, disappearing from society until it’s over? Tell our families we won’t be participating this year? (Oh, THAT’LL go over well…) Buy, when we don’t feel like buying? Smile, when we don’t feel like smiling?
Here’s what I suggest we all do, whether a Ho Ho Ho, a Ho-Hum or a Humbug…
  1. Feel your feelings as they arise. When you are feeling funky, say for example, shopping, stay in touch with yourself and your experience. When you’re feeling overjoyed with holiday spirit, notice it, bask in it. If the holidays are a time of pain for you, give yourself a designated, sacred time to feel your pain, to tend to your tender heart, to be a loving friend to yourself.
  2. Stop shoulding on yourself. Shaming yourself, feeling guilty for what you don’t feel or don’t want to do, adds an extra layer of crappiness onto the crappiness you’re already feeling. Ie, “everyone’s so happy at Thanksgiving. I should be happier than this.” We spend too much energy thinking we’re ‘supposed’ to be feeling something different than we are. Stop it!
  3. Practice presence in everything you do, holiday-related. If you “must” participate in a holiday activity that feels inauthentic to you, how can you become present to that activity? How can you open up to what might be there for you in your resistance? Can you start a holiday tradition that feels more authentic and meaningful to you, privately, or with others?
  4. Focus on the activities that bring you joy and give yourself permission to scrap the others. A few years ago, I decided not to do cards. I had to come to terms with the fact that this would mean I’d receive less cards, and I had to be okay with that. It was a fair trade-off.  On the other hand, I am one who is easily excited by pretty, sparkly things, so I love ooh-ing and ahh-ing at impressive holiday lights. I will keep doing that.
  5. Allow others to feel what they feel without the impulse to judge or change them.  No need to jump down mom’s throat about the commercialism of Christmas, if she’s really into giving gifts. Perhaps you can let go of the urge to teach the family what really went down, during colonization, while passing the the sweet potatoes. Let them have their experience, while you own yours. 
And Ho-Hums and Humbugs, take solace in the fact that it will all be over soon. But here’s the thing: when it’s over, we’ll be that much closer to the end of our ride, to the day of our death. So why not be as present as we can, no matter what we’re feeling, and savor as much as we can- out of every day, and the enjoy the extra sweetness that the holiday season offers? After all, there are more cookies!
Feel your experience, give yourself and others permission to be exactly where they are and savor every moment, as much as you can. It will all be over too soon, I’m afraid… all of it.  Now pass me a gingerbread cookie, please.

Stuck? A Super Simple Shift that Can Change Everything

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“Why do I keep attracting unavailable men?”
“Why can’t I maintain healthy boundaries with my mother?”
“Why do I still hurt so much, when we broke up so long ago?”
“Why am I so afraid to ask for what I want?”
“Why do I always feel taken advantage of in my friendships?”
These are some of the questions some of my clients have asked themselves, and me, in our sessions lately.
When it comes to self-inquiry, they’re certainly provocative questions and questions like these do have their place, for understanding patterns, or identifying blind spots.
However, they can also hurt us. Questions like these (especially when we think them repetitively) beat us down with the underlying belief that there is something wrong with us. There is quite often blame in a question that starts with “why.” 
There is a presumption of defect, convinced that things should be different.
Oftentimes, wishing it was we who were different. Here’s what we’re probably really thinking…
“Why do I keep attracting unavailable men?” Because there’s something wrong with me.
“Why can’t I maintain healthy boundaries with my mother?” Because there’s something wrong with me.
“Why do I still hurt so much, when we broke up so long ago?” Because there’s something wrong with me.
“Why” questions want to point fingers and place blame, and frankly, aren’t very productive, and can only take us so far. I’ve got an alternative.
The next time you find yourself pondering your life with “why” questions, stop and convert your inquiry into a “how” question.
Where “why” places blame, “how” opens doors.
Where “why” contains resistance (things/I/he/she/they shouldn’t be this way.), “how” creates possibility.
Where “why” focuses on the problem, “how” focuses on discovery and solutions.
Here are some examples…
Instead of asking “Why do I keep attracting unavailable men?” try asking “How can I become the type of woman that attracts emotionally available men? How can I release my attachment to this old pattern?”
Instead of “Why can’t I maintain healthy boundaries with my mother?” ask “How can I create a healthy boundary with my mother this week when I see her for dinner?”
Instead of asking “Why do I still hurt so much, when we broke up so long ago?” ask “How can I be more gentle and accepting of what I’m feeling, and allow myself all the space I need to grieve?
Can you feel the difference between “how” and “why” questions? Words have energy, and energetically, the difference is palpable, even without definitive answers to the questions, in even just the asking.
The secret is catching yourself in the act and consciously converting your inquiry.
Practice with a supportive friend the next time you are griping about why things are the way they are. Take turns brainstorming “how” questions until you run out, even without answering them.
Feel the spaciousness and possibilities in this new line of questioning. Feels like throwing open the windows of a dusty, cramped room, and letting the fresh air and sunlight rush in.
I love this practice in my own life, and I’ve seen it work wonders in the lives of my clients.
Our minds are busy little bees, so why not direct the flow of the buzzing, in the direction of potential, healing, compassion, acceptance and freedom?
Try it, and let me know how it goes! In fact, why not post a “why” question you’ve been stuck on and see if you can’t convert it, right here, right now. What have you got to lose, except maybe blame, finger pointing and stuckness.
Happy pondering!

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Self-Care and its Slippery Shadow

Art by noell oszvald
Art by noell oszvald

When does the self-nurturing act of nesting and withdrawing from the world turn into debilitating isolation?

How does self-care turn into self-sabotage?

When do our once-effective practices for self-care become self-destructive?

When does the sacred pause become a stuckness, viscous and muddy, and seemingly impossible to break out of?

If only there were a clear line we could see, “Ah there it is! This retreating to my bed as soon as humanly possible is starting to feel unhealthy, I better fix this now, before it gets really hard to.” If only there was a definitive marker, a brightly colored delineation, between there and here, where we can see, and know, those practices, those choices and decisions we made in our best interest are no longer serving us.

Sometimes there is. More often, instead, I think, it’s far more subtle, inch by inch, we sink into the mud that once was fertile soil, until one day we look at the circumstances we have created and realize they’re just not working anymore. And we feel stuck in the mud we have created. We’re in the dark and we can’t find the light switch.

We are so wise, so self-protective sometimes, knowing when we need to stop. Knowing when we need to withdraw, to fold inward from the noise of the world, cancel plans, hole up, Netflix and chill for a few weekends in a row.

I’m learning to spot pending burn-out a mile away, and I get into gear to steer away from it with more ease and grace lately. (Yay, me!) I’m developing a knowing for what I need, I’m attentive to myself. My needs. To the clues and the signs.

I change course. I politely cancel plans. I hole up. I withdraw. I nurture and nest. I put on my invisibility cloak.

Yet, where I still find challenge is the knowing when I don’t need it anymore, before my inner retreat and period of rest and respite goes dark, very dark. I fumble around for the light switch. I want to take off the invisibility cloak but its laces around my neck are knotted.

A few years ago, for example, during a chronic pain meltdown, I was exhausted and frustrated and at the end of my rope. “Rest,” my body kept telling me. “Stop.” And I tuned in. I canceled my life and stayed in bed for a month.

Little did I realize, this sedentary prone position physically worked against me, causing more physical pain, causing the intense cycle of misery to last longer than it needed to. Yes, I was right in that I needed to slow down. I needed rest. But I also needed physical therapy and stretching and less bed.

More recently, I’ve done some withdrawing when I decided I would do my best to try and live a sober life nearly two years ago. My dance card hasn’t been quite as full. Parties, frankly, just weren’t as much fun. I made up the story that certain people preferred me lit up like a Christmas tree, a story that might actually be true, and that’s okay. I found out that I wasn’t as social as I thought I was, in fact, enter social anxiety, something I’d never known before. I hated feeling like I had to “fake” having a better time than I was so that people thought I was still cool… silly, I know. Then the second year, it’s gotten way easier to be in the world as a sober person. It’s not a struggle, it’s just the way it is. I’m not just “okay” with it. I love it.

I’ve been realizing it’s okay to leave the party early. It’s okay to even skip it. And I can have hella fun sober now. About a month ago, on a bar rooftop doing karaoke with a bunch of awesome ladies, I remember thinking “Remember this moment. It’s one of the very best moments of your life.” I was lit up like a Christmas tree, but it was pure joy, endorphins, connection, love.

I still have some social anxiety that usually dissipates, and if it doesn’t, I know how to take care of myself. I leave. And in the right environments, with the right people, I’m even engaging and fun.

Having come pretty close to burning out this summer, I withdrew more. Became a homebody. Spent a lot of weekends on the couch, nestled under blankets with my love, getting my head rubbed, and it felt good. I decided it was what I needed. But when it was no longer what I needed, my downtime, my withdrawal from activities and plans and people didn’t just shift into “okay! I’m back!”

First, it needed to go sour. It turned into isolation, loneliness, restlessness, boredom, depression. I was becoming an unpleasant person to live with. Hostile and judgmental. (Poor Matt.) And lots of feeling sorry for myself and the state of my affairs I’d created. I felt like the ugly troll living under the bridge, threatening billy goats from the shadows.

Somewhere I know, there is a middle ground, a happier balance between doing and being, between weekends on the couch and engagement with the world that feeds me well, and sustains me properly, as an ambivert. For me, it can’t be all or nothing. That’s toxic and draining for me, in either direction.

“Figuring ourselves out” is the most challenging assignment, because the questions keep on changing. And so do the answers.

So what do we do? How do we know? How do we choose? It requires a self-intimacy. A self-closeness. We must stay close to the questions, always, in real-time. Because while I don’t claim to have “figured myself out”, (an arrogant claim, as “myself” is fluid, not static.) I do know that I am a rock solid ambivert. I need people. And I need alone time. I need real connection, with myself, AND with others.

And while couch is a lovely thing, too much couch dulls my spirit and diminishes my inner flame.

Today, this week, in fact, I feel the clouds lifting. Hallelujah, I found the light switch, I’ve taken off my invisibility cloak, I am re-engaging and reconnecting and it feels like I’ve been far away, on a long journey. It feels like coming home.

It is a homecoming, and while I don’t need to figure myself out, I promise to stay closer to the questions, to check in more frequently, to see what’s current, what’s needed, what’s new, what’s now.

Because I deserve that kind of attention.

Do Your Mood Swings Have a Message for You?

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I’ve been noticing something interesting lately. I’ve been starting out my days on a high vibration, fiercely grateful, mindfully approaching every task with presence, joy… All ooey-gooey and overflowing with love. And I move through my day, completing tasks. Or not. Bouncing around from one priority to another. One diversion to another.

And then, at some point, BAM. I crash. I don’t just crash. I plummet. My mood shifts dramatically. I go from “joyous bearer of light” to “bitch on wheels”. Just like that. Or so it seems.

I look at my sweet Facebook posts from the morning and roll my eyes at myself. I think bad thoughts. I make careless mistakes. I’m stressed and tired and off-kilter.

All that overflowing, ooey-gooey love has coagulated and turned into something much less appetizing, viscous and dry. I am hard and closed and cranky. I dislike. I complain. I judge. I worry. I feel overwhelmed and feral. Not fit for human interaction.

What is this shift? Why does it happen? So suddenly it seems, yet maybe if I look closely, not so sudden at all.

For a while I thought it was a sugar crash. Or a hormonal imbalance. Or demon possession.  But today, I’m realizing it’s something way more subtle and insidious. And really, quite simple…

I haven’t checked in with myself.

All tangled up in the doing, going, creating, replying, forwarding, posting, planning, I’ve wandered away from myself.

It makes perfect sense. I start my day with ritual. I make my coffee. I light candles. I journal. I read. I pray. It’s no wonder I’m full of love and light!

And then, little by little, I disconnect from myself, from Source. I forget to check in. I ignore the desire to stretch. I hold my pee for ridiculous lengths of time.

I’ve decided here and now to take up a new daily practice. A simple practice called stopping. Remember lunch hours? I used to have them in corporate America. I kinda miss those.

I will check in. Ask myself what I want, feel and need. I will tune in, jump off the grid for a few minutes. Refuel.  Start my midday the way I start my morning. Wow. What a concept. And why not?  I heard a woman say to another woman who was complaining about her back-breaking busy schedule… “Wow… Who on earth is responsible for treating you that way? Who’s the tyrant that manages your schedule?” Yes, it was sarcastic. In a loving sort of way.

“You get out of balance because you aren’t listening to your inner life, because you aren’t meeting your challenges of your life with any input from the inside. you haven’t given yourself enough time
to know what you think or feel.”

– Jennifer Louden, “Comfort Secrets for Busy Women”

I’m ready to try something new. To restore my balance midday in order to experience more joy.  And this epiphany I am gifted with when I stop to check in with myself.

What shifts or changes are you ready to make? What truth is waiting for you, if you simply check in with yourself?

What if during your next mood swing, you took it as a message from your soul to check in with yourself, to step aside, stop, recalibrate, reset, turn inward?

I’m off to restore and renew now… See you on the other side of my day. Most likely, in a much better mood.

 

 

The Pretending is Killing Us

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Artwork credit: Hozier “Arsonist’s Lullaby” record art
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.”
– M. Scott Peck

There is a certain sadness in us all…

We walk around in our day to day lives, pretending it isn’t there, doing what we need to do to move through our routines and rituals, duties and motion, but it’s there. Hovering just beneath the surface, like a thin grey fog. Or a thick black cloud. A sadness that could bring us to our knees, if we let it.

There is a certain emptiness in us all…

We all walk around, trying to fill it, trying to cover it, this void, this hollow ache. We give and take from one another some temporary relief, in our smiles, and touches, in our words and hugs and presence, and orgasms and comedy and gossip and cigarettes, but it never goes away. We find other ways to fill the hollow, some so dark we don’t even talk about them. And the hollow is a vacuum, and we are always hungry there, in that spot. We are always empty, in that spot.

There is a certain devastation in us all…

The pain of what we have lost, the pain of what we never had, the pain that was inflicted upon us, leaving internal bleeding, we are permanently bleeding, the pain of what we turn our heads away from, the pain is too big, we can’t look directly at it. Like the sun in an eclipse, it will cause our eyes to singe. So we smile, we pretend, we work so hard to be okay. I’m okay. You’re okay. Okay?

There is a certain terror in us all…

Mine shows up in dreams. Last night, in my dreams, my only daughter was shot nine times by a drive-by shooter. We were all shot. We survived, but we were injured, and traumatized. I woke up terrified, I put my terror away so I could get out of bed.

Isn’t this what we all do, every single day? We put our terror away, so we can get out of bed?

We work so hard to be okay, to seem okay, to resist the ache, the sadness, the devastation, the pain, avoiding the intense sting of the burning sun of our humanity, our aching hearts.  Too bright, too intense to experience it directly, so we cover our eyes, we cover our pain, we bury. We stifle. We hide. We numb. We lie. We smile.  We do what we do to survive.

And sometimes, we are brave enough to share it. To unbutton our shirts and show our bleeding, aching, pulsing hearts, and sometimes the one we show it to then unbuttons their shirt and shows us their ache.

Sometimes we meet in the shadows and whisper “me too.”

If you tell me you don’t sometimes struggle with pain like this, if you tell me your thoughts are all so positive all the time and that’s why you’re just so successful, I will think you to be hiding. And I won’t believe you.

At the very least, I will not trust you.

Perfect people cannot be trusted.

If you tell me I am wrong for allowing the darkness to come over me, that I am wrong for sharing with my readers that, “Yeah. Me too.” because somehow it will diminish my shiny persona or murk my message with reality (oh no!) I will tell you fuck off.

We do more damage to one another by pretending.

We cause more pain to ourselves by pretending the pain isn’t there.

We’re all walking around with a certain sadness, devastated, with our wounds, our triggers, our aches. Maybe you’ve gotten really good at hiding. There are no awards here for the best actor.

Find someone to whisper your shadows to. Find a way to tell the truth. Find a way to expose your reality. Find a way to say “I’m in pain.” Find the ones who deserve to hold you in your grief. Find a way to show us your blood. Your tears. Your reality.

The pretending is killing us.

I will not pretend in order to protect the veneer. The veneer is suffocating and toxic. The veneer has been peeling for a long time anyway. I’m cracking open, I’ve peeled so much away, and I want you to see what’s real, what’s true, and I want that from you.

Don’t give me perfect. Give me real.

I commit to doing the same.

That is how we will survive this common ache, this collective pain, these private wounds, these lonely devastations.

That is how we will get through.

Make it stop: The painful truth about negative self-talk

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Last week, we sat in circle in my living room, my BodyLove Affair coaching group, our reason for gathering, the shared desire to experience more loving relationships with our bodies.

Having each spent our lives judging, loathing, struggling, battling, at odds with these bodies, we come together weekly to heal, to work, to change the story.

We sat in circle, these three brave clients and me, and I asked them to create a list of the cruel things they say to themselves, about themselves, about their bodies.

They wrote for a few minutes, scribbling furiously.

I went on to share what would happen next. It went along these lines…

You want to change this relationship? It doesn’t change until we do things differently.

We must become police, master protectors, diligent security guards, docents in our museum, stopping ourselves in our tracks when we are endangering ourselves.

Then, I threw them for a loop. “We’re going to play BodyLove Affair Theatre.”

We’d been talking for the last couple weeks about tools and tricks for stopping these thoughts in their tracks, and now we were going to practice.

I invited them to pass their lists to the woman next to them, who would play the part of her partner’s negative self-talk-voice. While armed with another list, the partner would rebut, interrupt and argue, snapping back with kinder, more loving alternate thoughts. Various snappy truths and come-backs.

Knowing that these negative thoughts we’d written were highly personal, I made this surrendering of our lists completely optional. If they so desired, they could pass their list to the woman next to them for some role-play.

This is where it got interesting… this is where the cringing began.

Of course, as one might expect, it felt uncomfortable to have another read and know the way we talk to ourselves. That shit is private. And ugly.

But even more interesting to me was the reaction of the role players, when handed the lists to read.

When R. bravely handed her list to S., S. took a moment to read quietly, and the look on her face was pure discomfort. She scanned down the list for one that she could say out loud to R., so that R., could practice her new thoughts. Tension seemed to be growing in the air. She became visibly uncomfortable.

“I can’t.” she finally shook her head.

The room hushed in a holy reverence, a shared knowing.

“I can’t say these things to her. They’re too mean.”

“Can you pick just a couple?” I urged. And she did, face cringing, body tightening, shoulders rising in discomfort.

It was awful to speak these things to anyone, out loud. We could feel this. We heard it with our own ears, and saw with our own eyes.

After S. bravely read some awful things out loud, R. bravely responded with new thoughts, arguments, rebuttals.

We applauded both women’s courage, and switched partners.

Again, and again, each of us, myself included, found it painfully difficult to say the things out loud that our Theatre partner had written. It was torturous. Miserable. Why?

Because we don’t talk to people this way.

Because words are powerful. And certain words hurt.

Because we are kind and loving people.

Yet…

Yet, this is the way we talk to ourselves, with language so unkind, it can barely be uttered by another. “I can’t do it.” S. had said. Eventually she did, but not without a pained expression and hating every moment of it.

I’ve heard it said a million times, and so have you, in so many different ways.

We would never talk to others the way we talk to ourselves.

Yet, that night, I saw it. I witnessed it in action, and it wasn’t just painful.

It was nearly impossible.

And so I urge you, my friend, start by watching, witnessing the way you speak to yourself.

Catch yourself. Notice. It must start with noticing.

This is not how you would speak to anyone else, ever.

It would hurt you to utter those words to another. It would hurt them. And yet, to the one who is closest in the world to you, your Self, this vicious criticism comes so naturally.

Make it stop.

For the love of the goddess you are, the holiness, the divinity that is you, for the love of the sweet friend within, make it stop.

Interrupt. Resist. Counter. Argue. Talk back. Mouth off. Change the subject. You are worth this diligence.

You don’t deserve to be spoken to that way. No one does.

Hey, Jealousy

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In my last blog, we talked about the hidden gifts of envy, and I promised to share with you my thoughts on jealousy next time. Next time is here!

Jealousy is one of my least favorite feelings. It can bring out the worst in me.  I also know it comes bearing gifts, when I remember to look for them.

Let’s clarify the difference between envy and jealousy. While both can be equally yucky, envy tells us what we want by pointing at what someone else has or is.

Jealousy is a bit different. Jealousy comes from a sense of feeling threatened, and there are usually three parties involved with jealousy. Here are some examples…

  • Husband hires new assistant. You Facebook-stalked her and she is cute. You suddenly feel uneasy and worry about them spending so much time together at work.
  • Best friend gets new guy, you hardly ever see her anymore, and when you do, he’s usually there, or she’s talking incessantly about him. You feel forgotten and unimportant in her life.
  • Again, you find out that your dad and your sister got together for lunch. You’d sure like to have been invited. It’s always been like that, you’re certain he loves her more.
  • Boyfriend has new job and he is head over heels in love with it. He eats, sleeps and breathes his work, you’ve never seen him so fired up. Except when he first fell in love with you. Would be nice if he was as passionate about you as he is about his job.

Get the idea? As you see in the last example, the three parties don’t even have to be all human. In fact, I’ve heard of (and maybe/maybe not, even personally felt) jealousy over a business, a pet, a car, sports, anything that feels like “there’s less/not enough fill-in the-blank for me.”

What is your fill-in-the-blank? What are you afraid of getting less of?

Could be time, attention, affection, validation, love…  no matter what the details, here’s what jealousy really boils down to. Under the details, stories and reasons, there’s fear.

Jealousy is fear.

Fear of what? Losing who or what you love? Being forgotten? Change? Being unsafe? Being alone? Being unloved? All of the above? You decide. Investigate your jealousy.

And if you dig a little deeper, underneath the fear, you’ll find a core belief that is so common, so prevalent, yet most of us are barely aware of its existence.

The core belief is this: I am not enough.

Here’s a step-by-step process, to put into immediate practice, the next time you feel triggered with feelings of jealousy.

  1. Notice and name.“What is this yucky feeling? Why did I suddenly get bitchy and want to lash out? Oh… I’m feeling jealous.” Locate the feeling in your body. Notice the sensations… “Ah there it is. It feels like a rock in my chest. My face feels hot and my ears are prickly.”
  2. Open. “I know that jealousy is informative. Okay, I’ll open myself up to experiencing something different with this feeling. What gift do you have for me, jealousy?”
  3. Listen. Your jealousy wants to tell you something. Jealousy is fear. What are you afraid of? Identify your fear(s). Then, go deeper. Under the fear, what is a core belief that this fear is rooted in?
  4. Brainstorm. “What can I do today/this week/this month that will help ME feel safer, more grounded, that will plant me in my own enoughness?”
  5. Reach out. If you need to reach out to that person, be specific, own your shit and be direct. “When I hear you talk so much about your new friend, I’m finding myself feeling jealous. I know that’s mine, it’s rooted in a fear that maybe I’m not enough for you. I’m working on that fear, will you help me by reminding me of why you choose to be with me? Sometimes, it’s just really helpful to hear it.” Being direct with our desires and needs requires vulnerability, and it’s not the “easiest” thing to do, but on the other side is deeper intimacy.
  6. Do. Jealousy is rooted in a feeling of being unsafe. You are a safe place for every feeling. What can you do to feel safe? How can you be reassuring friend to yourself? Affirmations like “I am safe. I am enough.” “I will be okay, no matter what.” are helpful and simple and cost nothing to practice daily. Meditate. Talk to a friend. Stand barefoot in the grass to ground with the earth, make a list of all the brave things you’ve accomplished, because you’re capable, smart, you’re enough. Baby yourself. Wrap yourself in a warm blanket and put on sweet music. Nurture yourself.

You are enough. You are always enough. You have no idea how enough you are.

We so often rely on the outside world, external circumstances and other people for our sense of safety, when in actuality, we alone are the safest place.

Yes, we need each other. Yet, when we understand that we, ourselves, are enough, jealousy doesn’t have much power. We know that we are the most reliable, trustworthy, solid and steady sources of safety available, and that nothing can threaten that. Fears lose their charge, because we can trust ourselves to see us through anything.

We will be okay no matter what. Jealousy can lead us home, when we turn to it with tenderness and curiosity.

It can lead us to our enoughness. And returned to our enoughness, we come home, again and again.

So, next time you feel jealousy rearing its head, think this: Jealousy is an invitation to love myself better.

Jealousy & envy come bearing gifts… No, really, they do.

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“I know I should be happy for her, but I secretly feel green with envy.”

“I really do trust him, and I know I’m not supposed to feel jealous, but I do…”

“I’m trying not to feel jealous, because she’s my friend, but I can’t help it…”

These are things I’ve heard friends and clients say, and yeah, things I’ve thought or felt myself. Until I learned how to interact with jealousy and envy in a completely new way.

Maybe you’ve had moments like this…

… You’re on the elevator on the way up to your office, having a good hair day, minding your own business, feeling pretty good about the dress you’re wearing, when the elevator stops, and in walks a perfectly beautiful, put-together, poised woman, looking dazzling, and suddenly you feel deflated. You suddenly feel frumpy and plain, and you wish you could feel as confident and look as perfect.

… Your friend’s business has taken off in big ways, she just published her book, AND she has more clients than she can handle. You smile and congratulate her over a celebratory lunch, yet secretly you find yourself thinking “Why does she get all the breaks while I still struggle, year after year?”

… You’re trying to be a good friend, but as you spin your wheels trying to lose weight, your bestie is posting her impressive before and after pics, and dropping sizes like they’re hot. You find yourself harboring some resentment, and then resenting yourself for being such a shitty person. After all, envy is a deadly sin, and she’s your bestie, better than the restie, for goodness sake.

… You’re at dinner with some friends you introduced recently, and you find out over appetizers that they recently got together for drinks, without you! While you knew, and even hoped, they’d love each other, you didn’t expect to get left in the dust of their rapidly deepening bond.

While the words “envy” and “jealousy” are often used interchangeably, there is a distinction.

Envy is defined as the feeling of wanting what someone has. Jealousy is more territorial, and requires three parties, like you, your husband and his hot new assistant, or you, your best friend and her new boyfriend that takes up all her time now, or you, your dad and your younger sister, who he always loved more.

If the feelings themselves didn’t feel crappy enough, quite often, envy and jealousy bring with them another layer of crappy feelings, our feelings about the feelings, because we are judging our feelings and making ourselves feel bad about having them.

We “shouldn’t” feel this way, so we feel guilty and wrong and ashamed. It’s messy and yucky, and yet, if we peel away these layers of emotion, we can find some really deep wisdom and sparkling information. And we can grow.

Wanna know how? Let’s talk about envy first.

Part One: Envy

Next time you notice yourself having that twisty, prickly, uncomfortable feeling of envy, for example, your best friend just got another promotion, while you remain stuck in the same dead-end job, follow these steps…

  1. Notice and name. “What is this yucky feeling? Why did I suddenly get crabby after she shared her great news? Oh… I’m feeling envious.”
  2. Open. “I know that envy is informative and Lisa said it comes bearing gifts. Alright. I’ll open myself up to experiencing something different with this feeling. What gift do you have for me, envy?”
  3. Imagine. What do you imagine the object of your envy is feeling? “I imagine my friend feels proud, accomplished, successful with her new promotion.”
  4. Listen. Your envy wants to tell you something: Envy is wisdom, pointing you in the direction of your own unmet desired feelings. It’s not as much about what we want as it about what we want to feel. “Ahhh… yes. I want to feel proud, accomplished, successful, too.”
  5. Brainstorm. “What can I do today/this week/this month that will help ME feel proud, accomplished, successful? I can finally clean out my closet and donate a couple bags of clothes to charity. I’ll catch up on some bills. I can apply for that new position I’m lusting after at work.”
  6. DO. Do a few of those things and notice the rising feelings of pride, accomplishment and success in you. They’re yours to feel too, and they’re what you really wanted. Envy told you so.

Once you realize the feeling of envy is really just pointing back at your own unmet desire, and even more specifically, what you want to feel, your attention shifts away from your friend with the promotion, and turns toward you, your needs, your desires. Then you can choose to take some action to focus on cultivating what it is you want to feel.

That’s how envy is informative, that’s how you transform the feeling of envy, that’s how you receive its gifts.

Next week, we’ll dig into jealousy and discover what gifts it has for you.

In the meantime, let me know how you’ve used this process and what wisdom was on the other side, waiting for your discovery.

To be continued…

I Hate Vulnerability

 

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It was a crossroads moment. I was feeling hurt. A few friends were planning a special get-together, and I couldn’t make it on the night in discussion, told them so, and hoped another date would thus be chosen. It wasn’t.

There they were… those sucky feelings from way-back-when. Even though I’ve “done the work”, they still live deep within, and sometimes, when triggered, they still show up. I know on a cerebral level that they are ancient, childhood wounds, I know they don’t apply to this situation. I know my friends love me. Yet, the hurt feelings were there.

At this crossroads, I thought of just sweeping my hurt under the carpet. God knows I’d had many years of practice doing this, it’s a most effective tactic. (NOT.) But I’m “good” at it. Or at least I used to be. I could put on my Tough Girl cape and plow through my hurt feelings and no one would be the wiser. And it would certainly be easier than my other option… Telling my friends my feelings were hurt. (UGH.)

This is how I know I am changing: I chose UGH, over “easy.” Instead of doing it the old way, I chose to reveal, to be vulnerable, to express what was alive and current for me, as messy and embarrassing as it felt to do so.  I did this because my friends challenge me to be brave. They support what is real and true, even if it is not easy or sweet, even if it is messy or ugly. And since I’ve been hanging with these particular folks, I’ve been learning to do this, too. They make me braver.

With the loving nudging of a friend, I swallowed my Tough-Girl pride (my name is Lisa and I’m a recovering Tough Girl.) I stopped pretending everything was okay, and I shared my hurt feelings with them. UGH. This happened more than a week ago and I still cringe. Because here’s the truth. I HATE VULNERABILITY. Not yours, of course, I think yours is super cool and beautiful and all that.

I hate MY vulnerability.

It’s sticky. And messy. And embarrassing. And I feel so… naked.

In vulnerable moments, my armpits sweat, my hands get clammy, my chest gets tight. I want to cry. (In fact, I did, in this instance. Double UGH.) I feel like a baby. I feel embarrassed. I want to hide. Once the reveal is made, I want to rewind.

Yet, more and more, I’m choosing it.

You know why? Because vulnerability is brave. Because I am becoming braver and braver, and ironically, that means becoming softer and softer, toward myself. It means letting the people that care about me know when I am hurting. Because hiding my feelings, sweeping them under a rug is no longer the “easier” choice. It’s becoming more difficult to pull that off. And because on the other side of a vulnerable moment, with the right people, there is deeper intimacy. And intimacy cannot happen without vulnerability. And because I want intimacy.

And, of course, these friends received my vulnerability with tenderness and openness. They didn’t stop loving me, in fact, maybe they even love me a little more, because of my vulnerability. They heard me, they explained scheduling challenges they were working with, they even expressed gratitude, for being let in to what was true for me. They were grateful for my vulnerability. And so was I.

So yeah, I hate vulnerability. And I love it, too.

What about you? Where can you be more vulnerable? Where in your life can you speak the truth, even though it’s messy and uncomfortable? Where and how can you be braver today than you were yesterday?

Maybe someday, I’ll write a blog called “I Love Vulnerability.” Not yet. But today, I can say this.  I’m willing to be vulnerable.