Its Soooooo Hard -

I’m not proud of it but I find it very hard to admit that I’m wrong or that I don’t always have the “right” answers for people. Its something I’m forever working on and know that I will battle this particular monster till my last breath.

The history of it sadly comes from growing up in a family that treated every disagreement like it was a fight for “the truth”. When we are kids and feel like we are “fighting” for our egos with our opinions and beliefs - its hard to step back and feel like I’m still ok if I believe in different things than the people around me.

As we go into the holiday seasons with families coming together with their different opinions and thoughts I’d like to share the following piece and hope that its helpful in staying focused on whats really important.

BE HUMBLE - Matt Huston, Pscyology Today, Nov/Dec 2018, page 12

Not only is humility a virtue. It might bode well for your relationship. Duke University psychologist Mark Leary answered the question: What have you learned about intellectual humility-the willingness to admit that you might be wrong?

“You can be intellectually humble or arrogant about even trivial things, like the correct way to put toilet paper on the roll. When we measured people’s beliefs on a topic and presented opposing arguments, people lower in intellectual humility were more likely to denigrate those who didn’t agree with them. Intellectually humble people, are somehow able to separate the message from the messenger. They were also more attuned to the quality of evidence. In a not-yet-published study, we found that less humble men had less satisfying relationships. They and their partners said they were less likely to try to understand the partner’s position and more likely to storm out of the room.”

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Vote - November 6, 2018

Today, November 6th is election day - go vote!!!!

The following piece written by James Hovey is a reflection on the importance of civic duty - I trust you enjoy and grow from his blog:

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from new generations.”

So wrote Nobel Prize-winning Russian novelist Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn in his monumental The Gulag Archipelago, detailing the history and horrors of the Soviet labor camps, published 43 years ago this week. The book was met with instant international acclaim;  one review in the New York Times called its subject “the other great holocaust of our century.” In the wake of its publication Solzhenitsyn became something of a pop-culture cold war hero in the U.S., where interest in militarism and interventionist policies had been fading in the aftermath of Vietnam. Solzenitsyn’s belief that Russia should turn away from international military involvement and embrace the Church and its own rich cultural history was favorably received by conservatives, as was his view that the U.S. had capitulated too quickly in Vietnam. Liberals embraced him as a dissident and rebel, though he was criticized for his insistence that Lenin was as culpable as Stalin for the monstrous atrocities of Soviet totalitarianism, and that the political state is often its own end regardless of its founding ideology.

Solzhenitsyn’s unstinting criticism of Western materialism often made him a difficult figure. He spent nearly two decades in the U.S., yet never stopped railing against what he saw as its moral complacency and spiritual emptiness. In 1978 he shocked many with his commencement address at Harvard University, where he was given an honorary doctorate in literature. In it, he urged his audience to look beyond the material satisfactions of U.S. culture:

“If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President’s performance be reduced to the question how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.” 

Critics often shrugged off Solzhenitsyn’s social commentary while acknowledging the truth of the horrors he wrote about; one anecdote in his New York Times obituary recounts Susan Sontag’s conversation with Russian poet Joseph Brodsky:

“We were laughing and agreeing about how we thought Solzhenitsyn’s views on the United States, his criticism of the press, and all the rest were deeply wrong, and on and on,” she said. “And then Joseph said: But you know, Susan, everything Solzhenitsyn says about the Soviet Union is true. Really, all those numbers—60 million victims—it’s all true.”

Also included in the Times obituary is the story of how Solzhenitsyn managed to smuggle out writing under the harshest conditions of Soviet internment. Banished under Stalin to Ekibastuz, a camp where writing was routinely confiscated and which would become the source of his novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, Solzhenistyn used a special rosary fashioned for him by Lithuanian Catholic prisoners to commit 12,000 lines of prose to memory, using one bead for each passage.

Such conditions are almost impossible to fathom for Americans living today in a world of relative material comforts and freedom of the press. Yet his critique of our shallow moral standards and sense of entitlement is at least as relevant now as it was in 1978. Should we elect political leaders based on our satisfaction or dissatisfaction with our salaries, or the price of gas? Or should we also have a higher purpose in mind, a vision of somehow making the world a better place?

Solzhenitsyn was prescient about the effect materialism would have on the political landscape, seeming to forecast the yearning for what Ronald Reagan would articulate a couple years later as “morning in America,” the vision that rejected the economic and political uncertainty of the Carter years in favor of a nation characterized by plentiful goods, free enterprise, and military might. Now it appears we are in another 1978 moment, a moment characterized much as it was then, by economic fear, fear of international terrorism, and lack of faith in political leadership. In The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey Beyond the White House, Douglas Brinkley describes the moment of Carter’s loss as one that seems on the surface very unlike our own, yet at bottom contains the same underlying fear and malaise. Carter’s era culminated in “inflation in the double digits, oil prices triple what they had been, unemployment above 7 percent, interest rates topping 20 percent, fifty-two American hostages still held captive in Iran, and unsettling memories of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.” 

In contrast, the U.S. economy this October, just before the 2016 election, saw the biggest economic growth in two years, increased exports, and a shrinking unemployment rate, yet the economic insecurity of 2008 continues to linger eight years later, much as the effects of recession lingered throughout the 1970s. U.S. growth in October of this year was historically slow compared to historic measures, and our “gig economy,” where people drive their own cars for companies like Uber and Lyft, means that millions of workers are filling temp jobs because they can’t find stable, well-paying work. 

Thus while we are not nearly as precarious economically as we were in 1980, we feel as precarious as we did in 1980. On the one hand, it is right to take note of economic conditions that leave too many people living in poverty, whether from the unavailability of any work or the availability of only the lowest-paying kind of work, and as a result choose to vote for better opportunities for everyone. On the other hand, faced with having too little, or thinking we have less than we should, or fearing we will lose what we have, some of us vote to have more, no matter the cost.

We find it hard to ask, whether in asking for more than we have, or more than we think we can get, if we are in fact asking for the right things. In the wake of a 2016 election defined for many by the fear of “falling behind,” of losing the material security promised by the American Dream, we need to think about how we define the contents of that dream and examine the entitlement behind the notion of “falling behind.” We now know that many more voters were galvanized this year by appeals to fear and entitlement than were moved by visions of social justice and equality. We need to address the appeal of fear and entitlement before we can go on to articulate a larger vision of a just society where there is opportunity for everyone.

Appeals to morality rarely win elections. We now know that “the unlimited availability of gasoline,” for example, while making certain economic sense, is not the best thing to ask for when electing public officials, especially given the devastating effects of carbon emissions on the global environment. Yet the virtue of self-restraint—temperance, really—called for by Solzhenitsyn in his Harvard commencement address is no more popular now than it was in 1978, when many Americans rejected it in favor of a 1950s-style domestic prosperity characterized by plenty of cheap gas and consumer goods.

President Carter, a famously moral person who spoke openly against violence and advocated daily prayer, was unable to effectively sell his vision that U.S. voters should cultivate temperate, self-transcendent characters. Solzhenitsyn’s warning in this era that human life must consist of more than “the search for the best ways to obtain material goods” vanished in a country weary of recession and fearful of international terrorism, and is similarly lost today in a nation where people fear slipping into poverty at home as a result of stagnant wages and vanishing jobs, and see only an unstable and violent world abroad. Yet Solzhenitsyn’s warning that Americans—humans—are prone to self-interest and self-indulgence is one we should still heed. His insistence that the human tendency to keep one’s head down in the presence of injustice proliferates injustice is especially urgent in our moment, when the temptation to retreat into private life can seem so seductive. In this dangerous world, getting involved is a necessary self-transcendence, “the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty,” a call to witness, and a call to action.

Written by James Hovey  is Associate Program Director for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.


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November Thanks

Enjoy these words from the calendar of inspiration & joy:

1) Turn over a new leaf

2) Uncover more layers

3) Release self judgment

4) Your soul is grand

5) Embrace your joy

6) The truth lives inside you

7) An end is always beginning

8) See yourself happy

9) Laughter is good medicine

10) Be loving inside

11) Widen your compassion

12) Honor your body

13) Fully engage in life

14) Your worth is un-quantifiable

15) Give thanks for growth

16) Continue to discover who you are

17) Let go of “what if”

18) Fully give in to pleasure

19) Listen to your feelings

20) You are funny

21) You are a manifesting machine

22) Find your center

23) Ask clear questions

24) Transcend perceived limits

25) Observe nature’s beauty

26) Happiness is up to you

27) Your life is precious

28) Rejoice in your prosperity

29) Flow like a river

30) You are so remarkable

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She Came Back ...

Don’t know if you read my blog about our sweet kitty, CG, disappearing but she did. On Oct 4th I fed her and her brother - nothing unusual and then suddenly the next morning - no CG. I went looking for her all around the neighborhood - no CG. I cried, I wrote a blog about her, I worked on accepting that she was gone and then …

On Thursday, Oct 11 she came in through the cat door as if she had never left. My husband and I were so happy to see her. She definitely looked skinnier but did not look hurt or traumatized. I could not have been happier, and then something really strange started to happen.

I found myself really worried that she would disappear again and I found myself struggling to let go of the idea that we would just loose her again and that I would be so sad all over again. My brain, George, was on overdrive with messages of worry and message of “whats the point in life” things always end badly. I actually started dipping into a bit of depression. I called in sick to work and found myself sitting on the couch trying to calm myself with ice cream.

This went on for several days, the grief of the week that she was gone truly exhausted me and I stopped some of my self-care habits: exercising, eating right, and my mindful work. I allowed my negative brain to take over and I went pretty low.

I’m wired on the negative side of life and I have to consciously work to stay positive - its effort but well worth it. There is no way to have love & joy in our lives with risking the pain of loss. It took a couple of days but I’m back on track enjoying the kitties, doing the work of letting go of thoughts that are not helpful and staying more in the here & now.

I challenge you to notice any negative thoughts you are having and any fear/worry of any pain that is to come.

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On Hold

A catalog order was placed on Oct 1st and still nothing has arrived. I’m on hold with the company. Over & over I hear that my call is important and that the wait won’t be long. The phone says its now been 24 minutes - sigh. My frustration is mounting and I’m tempted to just email the company and tell them to cancel the order.

Suddenly it occurs to me that this might be a great time to read about patience. Hope you enjoy this piece as much as I did:

The True Meaning of Patience: Let Go and Take Your Time

By Joanna Warwick

 “Patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is active; it is concentrated strength.” ~Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

Patience sucks!

Well that is what I used to think.

I was taught growing up that it was a virtue, but I was never taught why.

In my experience, patience had meant I would miss out on something I desired. So I became the hare in the race and would fast track myself through career choices and opportunities and even relationships for fear that I would be forgotten and miss out again.

But in the story, it is tortoise that wins the race, because he is constant and sure-footed.

With all my “hurry up” and haring around I may have seemed to the outside world to be go-getting and achieving great things that seem so valuable in our materialistic world, but because I was so busy rushing to the next big thing, I was actually missing out on my life.

I’m 36, and I was brought up in an era that has been all about get it, have it, and then throw it away. For a long time, this left me feeling empty.

What I hadn’t learned was the true meaning and purpose of patience.

So I took up the piano.

After many years of wanting to play, and making endless excuses because I was scared of the hard work and the commitment it would involve, a time came when I was ready to face up to my fears.

I told my piano teacher that if it took me until I was 70, that would be fine, as I believed it was a skill I would like later in life.

All good words; however, not how I behaved…

As soon as I sat down on the stool and started to learn my first notes, I felt a building impatience.

I would get so frustrated with my fingers and hands for not working independently. Every time I took a small step forward and improved, I would barely savor the achievement and would once again get upset at anything I saw as failure.

My brain and body worked independently. For the first time I came face to face with the realization that I don’t have full  control over my body, and that it will only move at the pace it needs to go at.

I was surprised by the dark feelings of self-punishment, criticism, fear, and anger.

Through all this my piano teacher demonstrated true patience to me, even if I had not gotten to grips with it yet.

For a year I went either weekly or fortnightly for this torture.

When I felt enthusiastic I would practice between lessons, and if I didn’t, well I would avoid it until just before the lesson or not do it at all. Of course I would then be even more cross with myself that I couldn’t do it.

As a former professional sportswoman, I knew that it took repetitive practice to get better at a skill. At that time, I thought I was good with patience.

The truth, though, was I was a natural rider with an affinity for horses and I had been riding since I was four years old, so I found it a pleasure to practice and, therefore, easy.

But this was difficult, a new skill, and over and over again I wanted to quit!

Still I wouldn’t let myself. Even if I avoided practicing, I still kept turning up and paying the money. I had made a commitment to myself and I was determined to stick it out and see what would happen.

Through all this fight with myself I came to discover patience.

Patience is not a virtue; that makes it sound easy and light.

No, patience is hard and it takes practice. Patience is really about having the inner strength to stick to your guns, face your fears, repeatedly let go of internal expectations, and have trust that it will all work out in the end.

Slowly my hands and brain learned to adjust and they began to work in harmony—well, almost!

I began to be able to read the music without looking at my hands, and use both of them at the same time independently. Even as I write this, I realize that I haven’t truly acknowledged what a hard feat that actually is.

It was like learning to walk again, but with my hands.

Gradually, as everything started to come together just a little easier through patience and practice, I began to hear the music I was creating. For perfects moments I would feel pure joy and pride; notes on a page, which could only become music, because I learned to add space and timing.

And like that, a door opened to a new understanding of life.

The music that is our lives can only be fully recognized, experienced, and played out when we allow space to move, breathe, and enjoy. We need to let go and let time play out at its own rhythm.

When we rush around, we lose patience and enjoyment of the moment, as I had. We also miss our own individual melody and all the experiences, feelings, and people which help to create it.

So I am now practicing to be a tortoise, constantly moving, sure-footed and enjoying a more natural pace—which allows me to look around and smell the roses, if you don’t mind me mixing metaphors!

After a year I could play Beethoven’s Fleur de lis, not perfectly, but well enough so that I enjoyed playing it and could hear in my soul what Beethoven was expressing when he wrote it.

I still have my goal that I will be able to play well by the time I’m 70, but I am taking the time to make small steps in mastering the skill and enjoying the journey.

The practice of patience has dispelled my fears of inadequacy and by learning to harness and contain the energy of both fear and enthusiasm; not run or hide from it, but to own it and concentrate it into a powerful force, which consistently and steadily drives me forward in my life, towards my goals now measured at a pace which makes me feel both confident and appreciative of the journey.

So perhaps patience is a virtue after all, when we find our own route to truly understand it.

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So Sad ...

3 days ago our sweet kitty disappeared. My heart is so heavy and I’m letting the tears flow. We have had her for 2 years and she filled our home with love and happiness. Its so hard to think we will never see her again.

I know that the heaviness will lift but for now I’m honoring the need to grieve and to remember that its always best to have loved and lost than to never have loved. I’ve been reviewing pictures of her as a way to help the tears come. When I’m ready I will remove her bed as a way to move along the healing process.

Its hard to believe that an 8 pound creature can cause so much pain - but the pain is big because the love & connection was deep. We will always love our little buddy and sadly we say good-bye to her.

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October " Fallings "

So many of us love the fall … the cooling weather, the glorious colors, the fun holidays ahead. It can be a magical time of year. I hope the following words from my calendar of inspiration help you (and me) to savor all the possibilities.

1) Give thanks for every experience

2) Taste the yumminess of live

3) You are more than enough

4) Smile at strangers

5) Express playfulness

6) Make self-love a habit

7) Embrace your creative power

8) Weave your life with love

9) Encourage success

10) Replenish the inner well

11) Love is who you are

12) Act on an inspiration

13) Embrace the contradistinctions

14) Experiment with reality

15) Blessings are everywhere

16) Transformation happens with ease

17) Foster a playful heart

18) Savor every bite

19) You create joy

20) Love fills your heart

21) Your life is irreplaceable

22) Thank your self

23) Nurture kindness

24) Dive down deep

25) Breathe easy

26) Shift happens (fun)

27) Sing your love

28) Get your groove on

29) Your life is glorious

30) Appreciate differences

31) Surrender to your imagination

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Right or Relationships?

Why Is It So Important to Be Right?

Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?.

Posted Mar 07, 2011 (Psychology Today)

One of the most prevalent - and damaging - themes in our culture is the need to be right. It's one of those essential memes that we take for granted. It is so deeply embedded in our belief system and in our collective psyche that we never even pause to consider it. It would really serve us to inquire why it is so compelling. Before we begin to look at that, let's just reflect on how it impacts our lives.

From the more personal and mundane battle over who said what in the midst of an argument to the larger issues of politics, religion, abortion, health care, gun control or climate change, being right is mandated. It quickens our pulse, causes us to shout and can sever relationships. It is the raison d'etre for most acts of hatred, violence and warfare.

Our educational system is rooted in the construct of right and wrong. We are rewarded for what are deemed to be correct answers and the ensuing higher grades, which generally lead to more successful lives. Being right affirms and inflates our sense of self-worth. As students we learn to avoid as best we can the embarrassment  of being wrong. Getting the right answer becomes the primary purpose of our education. Isn't it regrettable that this may be inconsistent with actually learning?

Can you imagine the generative and exciting learning environment that would result from a class that rewarded asking the best questions? If you think about it, the most intriguing questions are those that don't offer simple answers. Even more, they drive our thinking into greater complexity and curiosity. This would be a most wonderful learning experience. No one need be cautious about a wrong answer. And everyone would be invited to safely participate in a generative and shared inquiry. Children certainly wouldn't nod off in boredom.

This experience would look much different that the rote memorizing and spewing back of information - rooted in right or wrong answers. Raising your hand to gain the reward of getting the correct answer is pointless. It doesn't teach you anything; you already knew the answer. It simply massages your ego, but it doesn't inspire a genuine learning experience.

                                Talking Heads

Cable news shows stage the predictable impasse, particularly in the political arena, fervently pitching the argument around right and wrong. What is more stultifying than watching two talking heads assert and then refute each other? A mindless ping-pong match. No one walks away any more enlightened than the way they came in - both pundits and audience.

Have you ever heard a Republican pause and reflect back to a Democrat that they appreciated their point and were reconsidering their point of view? Or a Democrat acknowledge to a Republican that their own opinion wasn't substantiated by fact as much as belief? It would be an extraordinary moment to witness any break through in this stalemate.

        Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?

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As a marriage counselor I often ask people if they'd rather be right or they'd rather be happy. Although nearly everyone says they would prefer happiness, the battle enjoins over right or wrong. If you pause and consider it, it's really insane isn't it? The very fact that we'd mindlessly choose to win an argument at the cost of damaging our relationships points to something terribly amiss. This inclination leads to the need to win an argument, which assures that no one is actively listening. If I need to be right, and we have differing points of view, that obviously makes you wrong. Doesn't exactly sound like the stuff of friendships, let alone romantic relations. This compulsion to be right sidetracks our lives and impedes our learning and happiness.


                   Why is it so vital to be right?

It's curious how mightily our thoughts and beliefs defend their territory. Why is it so vital to be right? Well to begin with, if you're not right, then you are indeed wrong, with all the accompanying sense of humiliation and failure. But is this a given? Does it have to be this way? Could we accept being incorrect without any loss or embarrassment?

I believe this fixation is more likely wed to highly competitive cultures than traditionally-oriented cooperative societies. In the latter, issues of right or wrong don't equivalently inform one's sense of self or identity. The ego may be shaped by other influences such as being honored, respected or altruistic. In first world cultures the drive to be right advances one in the competitive race. In the desire to get ahead this is utilized as a core value. I would actually suggest that this is a highly pervasive fixation attachment that ruins our relationships, derails our mindfulness and erodes our natural instinct to learn.

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During a 2004 news conference on the Iraqi war, a reporter asked President Bush to cite an example of a decision he regretted or an admission of something he did wrong during his presidency. Bush looked completely dumbfounded as he struggled to acknowledge having been wrong about anything. As I watched him struggle, I considered that as a child the need to be right was likely a major influence in his life. This is true of so many people. Whether due to demanding expectations of parents, a humiliating moment in a classroom or being taunted by friends, most of us remain attached to the need to be correct.

Source: Sounds True

This article was excerpted in part from Mel Schwartz's new book, The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think, Live and Love

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A Life Worth Living

I’ve never heard of anybody on their death bed saying “I wish I had lived a more shallow life” — its always quite the opposite. People regret not living fuller, richer lives filled with values. And values are interesting things because they mean different things to different people and they can be hard to identify. In the October 2018 issue of Psychology Today I found an article by Dr. Steven C. Hayes that helps clarify values. Here are some highlights from the article found on page 55. I hope these highlights peak your interest and you choose to read the entire article:

From achievement and adventure to wisdom and wonder, not to mention kindness, innovation, and professionalism, values, are those things you deem important in life. Expressions of you what you care about, they profoundly inform what you pursue day to day, year to year. In so doing, they fundamentally shape the trajectory of your whole life.

Values are an inexhaustible source of motivation-inexhaustible because they are qualities intrinsic to being and doing. They are visible only through their enactments. They’re adverbs or adjective or verbs: “I did something lovingly.” Because they are chosen qualities of actions, they can never be fully achieved, only embraced and shown. Nevertheless, they give life direction, help us persist through difficulties. The nudge us invite us, and draw us forward. They provide constant soft encouragement.

Here are ten ways to know you’re focused on what’s important.

1) You feel a sense of enough, rather than a need to measure whether you have more or less than others.

2) You can readily name your heroes.

3) You can single out the sweetest moments of your life.

4) You can identify your greatest pain.

5) You don’t know the content, but you can identify the theme of the next chapter of your life narrative.

6) It’s what you would do if nobody were looking.

7) Your decisions make you feel like getting up in the morning.

8) You can, in only a few minutes, write about what matters. (And you should.)

9) You have a strong desire to communicate your interests to others.

10) You use your mind as a tool to humanize rather than objectify yourself.

Again, the above was taken from Psychology Today, page 55, October 2018 issue - the full article was written by Dr. Steven C. Hayes. We all do better when we are living value driven lives - its hard to do but well worth it!!!!!!!

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Drinking & Marketing

Thinking Outside the Box(ed Wine): Why the Stories We Tell About Drinking Matter

August 30, 2018, by Melissa Mowery

On a rare kid-free afternoon, I find myself aimlessly browsing the aisles of Target in the kind of unhurried fashion I seldom enjoy. As I thumb through the racks of graphic tanks and tees, I start to notice a pattern developing: at least half of the shirts on display make mention of alcohol in some way. Rosé All Day. All Is Fine with Pizza and Wine. Save Water, Drink Mojitos. My initial reaction is a hot flare of anger that spreads through my chest like wildfire. Here I am with seven months of sobriety to my name and yet this booze-soaked culture still manages to saturate the world around me, even here in the aisle of a department store where they can’t legally sell alcohol.

But as the indignation dissipates, a new thought surfaces: the old me would’ve loved these shirts.

Truth be told, I used to be exactly the kind of woman who found this alcohol-as-lifeline shtick hilarious and comforting. The shirt that boasts, “This mama runs on coffee, wine, and Amazon Prime.” The wine glass that reads, “Mommy’s in time out.” The bottles of Cab and Pinot cleverly named “Mommy Juice” or “Mad Housewife.” All of them made me feel like part of an exclusive club of women who understood a truth that I wasn’t yet able to articulate: alcohol was our collective reward for being female, the consolation prize for overworked, overtired, and underappreciated women everywhere.

For a long time, I belonged to this target market: women who drink to cope with the pressures and obligations of a life they’re desperately trying to hold together. I drank because I was tired. I drank because raising kids is hard. I drank because numbing the trauma of my past is much easier than tackling those feelings head on. I drank because—as the 7 million Instagram hashtags constantly remind me—self-care is an important part of womanhood and drinking seemed like an easy way to meet that need.

I want to be clear that my problem drinking was not caused by clever marketing; I don’t believe other women’s issues with alcohol are either. What I do believe is this narrative that so savvily equates drinking with surviving womanhood is exacerbating a problem many of us can’t even name. But marketers know that it exists and they’re using it against us. Quite successfully, in fact.

As someone who used to work in the marketing world, I understand the game. In order for a marketing campaign to work, it needs to draw on the emotions of the consumer. It’s not enough for the buyer to like the interior or appreciate the features of a new car; she has to be able to envision it as part of a larger narrative about who she is and how this car will make her feel about herself when she drives it. Frighteningly enough, marketers often understand the emotions that drive our purchasing decisions better than we do. The case of alcohol is no exception.

Though we look back in awe of how gullible and naive women were in the 1940s and 50s when tobacco companies used cigarettes as a symbol of liberation, sophistication, and sex appeal, we’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re not being targeted in exactly the same way. The only difference is that this time, alcoholic beverage marketers are touting brunch-time mimosas with girlfriends, oversized glasses of Merlot, and fruity date-night cocktails as a backdrop for the kind of indulgent life we deserve as women who are constantly catering to others. They’ve diagnosed the need—a reward for the hard work of womanhood—and have provided the fix: a guilt-free indulgence masquerading as self-care. The argument is only bolstered by the fact that everyone else just happens to be participating in it, too. Strength in numbers.

And those numbers are pretty startling. According to a 2017 study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, female alcohol use disorder in the United States increased by 83.7% between 2002 and 2013. Unsurprisingly, depression is also on the rise in the US—it spiked 33% between 2013-2017, according to one study—with women being twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. Additionally, research shows that one out of three women who experience depression will also suffer from some form of substance abuse or dependence. The correlation is pretty clear: women are growing increasingly more depressed and they’re turning to alcohol—a depressant—to cope. And the 223 billion dollar a year alcoholic beverage industry is waiting with open arms.

As sobering as they are, I doubt these numbers really surprise anyone. It’s no secret that in this age of Pinterest-perfect houses and Instagram-worthy selfies, we women are more anxious, stressed, and depressed than we’ve ever been. We know this about ourselves and the alcohol industry does too.  Here’s what they’ve also figured out: we—the women who spend so much of our time serving our spouses, kids, aging parents, coworkers, and communities—often require permission to do things that seem overly indulgent. And where do we get that permission? From the coffee mugs that read, “This Might Be Wine.” From the shirts that suggest chasing espresso with prosecco. From the memes that tell us the most expensive part of motherhood is all the wine we have to drink.

Maybe the saddest part of it all is that every time we wear the shirt or drink from the coffee mug or share the meme, we’re marketing their product for them—to each other. And we don’t even realize that’s what we’re doing. Oftentimes we’re simply giving our endorsement, the way women have always done, because we’re wired for community and sharing gives us a common language. But when we endorse alcohol as a way to survive womanhood we’re inadvertently weakening ourselves, telling each other—and everyone else—that being a woman is not survivable without a drink in our hands.

I do not believe this is true. And you shouldn’t either.

The alcoholic beverage industry knows our story. They see our depression, our stress, our anxiety, and they’re presenting us with an easy out. A glass of wine after the kids go to bed to dull the stress of a work fiasco. A splash of Baileys in our morning coffee to cope with a long day at the soccer field. A margarita big enough to swallow up our feelings and ensure we won’t think about them for the next couple hours. But as a woman who used alcohol to take the edge off my life for many years, I can tell you that I never actually needed it to survive. In fact, if sobriety has taught me anything, it’s that life is not something to be merely survived.

My life is difficult and stressful and sometimes feels unmanageable. I still battle depression, fear, loneliness, and anxiety. I cry. I yell. I complain. It would be insincere to pretend all of that followed the alcohol down the drain and that being sober magically erased the hard stuff. It didn’t. What it did do is allow me to clearly see the other part of my life, the part that’s positively overflowing with the kind of incredible beauty that I could not fully appreciate until I stopped numbing the good stuff, too. For a long time, I saw myself so clearly in the pictures marketers painted of life with alcohol as the backdrop—I envisioned myself freer, lighter, happier. The irony is that I wasn’t able to grasp that life with both hands until, at long last, I finally put down my drink.

Written by Melissa Mowery

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John McCain

This past week the country said goodbye to John McCain.  A man of character, values and strength.  A war hero who committed his life to the service of something bigger than himself.  As I watched the funeral service and listened to the speeches touting his virtues - I loved that people were also very honest about his human foibles - his temper and his very public "mistakes" (marital affairs, financial  corruption, and a VP choice that stood against so much of what McCain believed).  It was nice to be reminded that people can make mistakes in life and still live a life that is worth living. 

McCain was a man that had the ability to apologize, own his mistakes and make necessary changes.   THIS IS WHAT IS IMPORTANT ... not being perfect (because no one is) but creating a life that stands up to fear and other emotions that are not helpful.  

Back in the 80's I worked in politics and had the opportunity to sit and interview John McCain.   He was kind, gentle, and very committed to helping people.  His enthusiasm and strength was very apparent. 

I love the following quote from McCain and invite you to live by it as much as possible: 

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity to act despite our fears." 

                                                                                      - Senator John McCain     

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September Change

September is upon us.  The month that helps us transition from vacation back to work & school, transition from heat to cold, transition from unscheduled to scheduled.  For me its always been a very significant month because its my birth month.  So for me it truly marks the passing of time and the reminder that my time here on earth is certainly finite.  

I'm turning to my gift calendar of words that help inspire me daily and sharing these words with you in the hope that they inspire you.  

1)  Give your best today

2)  Enjoy all that you have

3)  Expand your awareness

4)  Become a catalyst for change

5)  The world is smiling for you 

6)  O lovingly release the past

7)  Transform wanting into being

8)  See the big picture

9)  Live with open hands

10)  Delight in your ody

11) Befriend your self

12)  Value your time

13)  Your life is a beautiful rainbow

14)  Welcome new experiences

15) Stretch your mind

16)  Watch the clouds

17)  Love is all there is 

18)  You are a magician of life

19)  nourish your spirit

20)  Your spirit is ageless

21)  Create new traditions (try it)

22)  Imagine life in balance

23)  Choose to relax

24)  You are radiant love

25)  Pamper your self

26)  Words can heal

27)  Speak words of peace

28)  Take loving to the next level

29)  Remind someone of their perfection

30) Explore fun (Fun!)

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Holding In The Belly

The inward battle- against our mind, our wounds, and the residues of the past-is more terrible than outward battle.  - Swami Sivananda

I saw a sea otter rolling in the bay.  It held a crab or small turtle against its belly, and on its back, it would eat a piece. then press the crab or turtle to its belly and turn over and swim some more. 

This stayed with me for days until I realized that I have been living like this otter; holding the uneaten part of my shell to my belly as I roll through the deep, and , of course, it is impossible to swim freely while holding dead shelled things so tightly. 

Indeed, trying to move on and eat the past at the same time is the cause of many ulcers. Realizing this made me stop and face the sadness of old wounds that I was holding tightly in my belly. 

It made me understand, yet again, that while we try to integrate inner and out experience, while we aspire to such a oneness, the work is often one at a time:  facing ourselves without going anywhere, not nibbling  at the ailing soul on the run.

* Still yourself and see if there is a strain between your doing and your being, a strain from tending something in your life while on the move. 

*  If so stop and face what is in your belly.  Make what you need to tend where you are going. 

*  Breathe deeply and let your inner and outer attention go in the same direction. 

Taken from THE BOOK OF AWAKENING by Mark Nepo,  page 273.   

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Moose

Just getting back from vacation in Alaska.  It was amazing - beautiful mountains, so green & lush,  colorful flowers in full glorious bloom.  We spent the week with family that were new to us.  They were very kind, generous and accommodating.  It truly was a nice relaxing time.  

I tend to be hypersensitive to others needs and my anxieties make me a bit controlling.  When we first arrived I found myself struggling to just sit back and let the trip unfold.  I was concerned that the 91 year old dad was doing too much and even though we were in their home I found myself wanting to rearrange things.  I noticed that I was struggling inside when the room went quiet and at first kept filling the air with the sound of my own voice.  

And then we saw our first moose, something about the quiet way these giant creatures move through the world helped remind me to just let things go and let them be.  Of course moose can move quickly and will attack & make noise if they have to - but it was so beautiful and relaxing to watch them move about in the wild (and in the city) in a quiet gentle manner.  

So for today, join me in walking about quietly, gently, peacefully and like moose ... just let things be.  

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Alaska Bound

Off for the week - headed to Alaska to discover new terrain and most importantly new relationships.  My husband, Rod, has searched for his Dad his entire life.  Through the wonder of modern technology (DNA & the computer) - Rod found his dad.  Dad has been living in Alaska even before it was a state. 

So looking forward to this trip.  I support you in taking time to relax, time to enjoy your friends and family and time to clear your head from life's daily routines!  

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Hot August Words

I hope the following words fill you with joy and inspiration as you go through the month of August: 

1.  You were born perfect

2.  Be colorful in your expression

3.  Your heart knows the answer

4.  Walk with a smaile

5.  Trust diving timing

6.  Make a new friend

7.  Share an adventure

8.  Infuse the day with love

9.  Commit to self love

10.  Give the gift of tenderness

11.  You are a wise messenger

12.  You get what you give

13.  Make yourself happy

14.  Create systems of support

15.  Let your spirit come forward

16.  Spread your wings and fly

17.  Your life is rare 

18.  Blossom into your greatness

19.  All life is sacred

20.  Thank a farmer

21.  Be fully self-expressed 

22.  Let your passion guide you 

23.  Laugh at your self

24.  Life is a wild adventure

25.  Discover hidden potential 

26.  Taste the richness of life

27.  Take your time 

28.  You are a contribution 

29.  Happiness happens

30.  Relax and just be

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Important Dates

I have a son who turns 30 on July 29th.   Lots of people have 30 year old children (and maybe some of them have their birthdays on July 29th).   The fact in and of itself is not all that important and certainly not unique.  

I happen to be one of those moms who won't be able to celebrate with her 30 year old son.   My son is not in my life.  As a matter of fact I have no idea where he is or how he is doing.  This too is not unique, there are thousands of parents who don't have their children in their lives for various reasons.  

My role in my child's life lasted a little over 9 months.  I'm a birth mom - I carried him for the very first part of his fragile life - spent 3 days in the hospital with him and then released him into the arms of adoptive parents.  I don't know what the future holds but to date that was the hardest thing I've ever did.  

He turns 30 this year and my body is really feeling the loss of him.  All of July has been a bit depressing with a very heavy feeling.  I've been trying to honor that I'm still grieving  him and that important dates (like his birthday)  activate memories and sensations that need to be attended.  

All humans struggle with loss, disappointment, sadness - none of what I'm feeling this month is unique but its been heightened by this very important milestone of his 30th birthday.   I've come to peace with the decision I made so many years ago.  But his 30th has unleashed quite a bit of sadness.  

Sadness does not mean I have to fix something - just honor it, allow my body to cry in order to release the stress and recognize that being fully present to my pain today gives me permission to be fully present to all the joy and beauty that life has to offer.  

I invite you to list the important dates and anniversaries that might trigger your body so that you can be aware of them.  Often when we are feeling irritated, antsy, or angry its a sign that our bodies need to grieve some past loss.  And often our bodies are aware of these dates even before our conscious mind.   

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Shame ...

I just got in from work feeling like I have nothing to give people ... feeling a bit burnt out and convinced that I'm a fraud.  Have you ever felt that way?  I walked in the door full of shame and pulled up the following article.  It did 3 things for me:  1)  I'm not alone, 2) Reminder that I like all others need to be seen and validated & 3)  restored my energy in that it is a loving compassionate act to help others feel heard and seen.  

Hope you enjoy the following article as much as I did. 

Three Keys to Healing Shame

Becoming a Loving Witness

Posted Sep 20, 2016  by David Bedrick, J.D.

Shame is powerful, insidious, injurious. It’s the air we breathe, the sea we swim in. It informs how we look upon others; it informs how we look at ourselves. It’s a deadly virus attacking our capacity to love each other and ourselves.

When we are shamed repeatedly, we are taught to think that our feelings are wrong and our experiences are delusive. Whether this happens as a child or as an adult, the result is the same: if there is no one compassionate and perceptive enough to acknowledge the validity of our stories on a repeat basis, then we too are challenged to see them as true. We learn to distrust ourselves; we learn to deny our own truth, even to ourselves. Transforming this mindset requires a witness with a willingness to look and listen in a most powerful way—by seeing, feeling and believing.

The Three Keys 

Seeing

The seeing I am referring to here is most synonymous with the word respect. The word respect has two elements: 1) spect: to see, to view, to look at; and 2) re: to do it again. To see in a way that heals shame, is to look and then look again—to see what is not seen and affirm the unseen with our physical and verbal recognition.

To see in this way is no easy task, because when people tell you something about themselves, you can’t see inside of them; the information is subjective. For example, if someone tells you they’re nervous, you can't see the feeling. Thus, we need techniques to make the feelings visible. One useful technique for “seeing” feelings is through somantic experience—having the person attempt to demonstrate the feeling with their body.

Accordingly, if a person is nervous, I might ask them where that nervousness is located in their body. They might say it’s in their solar plexus. I might say, "Feel that for a moment. Can you show me with your hand?" They might make a fluttering hand motion. I might ask, "If you kept fluttering, what would you do?" They may say, "I might fly away." That person is saying, "I want to fly away," and now I can see it! When I am seeing it in that way, that person has an experience of truly being seen even more than when I say, "Oh, you're nervous today." That type of “seeing” on my part, as the witness, creates the sense of being acknowledged and cared about, even loved, in a way. It’s so powerful that it can even combat the dominance of shame that dismisses and denies their experience!

There are times when a person’s feelings don’t show up readily in the physical realm during verbal recollection.  Another powerful technique is to listen carefully for unseen non-verbal signals. For example, I may ask them to tell me a story about their nervousness. While speaking, I might hear a quiver—a flutter in their voice—and to give the person the feeling of being seen, I might say, "Oh, I hear a little flutter in your voice. That must be some of the nervousness you're talking about." This is what we call sensory grounding; the experience of nervousness—the flutter in their voice, the hand motions—those are things I can actually bear witness to, a unique subtlety in their projection.  

To heal our shame, we need to be truly seen.

People then feel like, "Wow, this person is really paying attention. They really want to know me," and that's an amazing experience. People really want to be known and understood; they want someone to not affirm their shamed view of themselves.

Feeling

To combat shame, we also need someone to be moved by our experience. We need to not only “see,” but feel and express those feelings.  To do this I must listen inside of myself to what you’re telling me—I must pay attention to my own feelings.  

Let's say you were hurt. If I listen to my own feelings, I notice I am moved to wince or shudder in response to your story. Expressing this lets you know that I can imagine what I would feel like if your experience were mine.

To heal our shame, we need to be witnessed with compassion.

Now, in addition to a seeing quality, you know that I'm moved by your story, and you feel loved, in a sense. That combats the shame, because shame has a dismissal in it that says your feelings aren't important—that you aren’t important, that you are not worthy of care, that you are not valued.  So, when I show you that you moved me, you feel like your story really does mean something; it has power and meaningful information in it. My response is emphatic and compassionate; and it communicates to you a sense of validation. My being moved by you brings your experience to life and allows you to begin to trust its legitimacy.

Believing

Shame is a thief. It steals our belief in our experience and our belief in ourselves. To have our essential self-love restored, to combat shame’s eye, we need to be believed.

I don’t mean that every word you say must be declared the truth—it’s not that kind of belief. I mean that to heal shame, something more basic, something deeper, must be believed—a deeper truth in our story, even if there are some inaccuracies. As a counselor, I must also believe in the person—that the person I am looking at has a beauty, intelligence, a gift, and an authority worthy of my best support. I call this “radical belief.”

For example, If you tell me you’re wearing a blue shirt, and I can see that you are, I believe you. That’s not the kind of healing belief I am referring to. But if you say you got bullied at school and I ask what you did to cause it, then I'm blaming you for something; I am implying that I don't fully believe your point of view, that you have a legitimate complaint and injury. I'm meeting you with suspicion about your experience instead of responding in a supportive way, such as inviting you to tell me your story and how it made you feel. When I do that, I’m essentially saying, “I believe you. Your experience was real, and your feelings are important and justified.” I “radically believe” you.

To heal our shame, our feelings and deepest truths must be believed.

Being radically believed changes something, because when people are shamed, not only do they experience not being believed from the outside, but they also stop believing themselves. They start questioning their initial response to the experience as if it’s not okay or right to be upset. People internalize this distrust of themselves. Radically believing them and their experience in a deep way ends up combating that shame and fosters self-love.

These three qualities—seeing (wanting to know the details of a person’s experience), feeling (expressing empathy and compassion), and radical believing (instilling a profound trust in the heart and story of the person) wrap their way around the heart and soul, like a loving bandage. People come to know they’re important, valuable. They know their feelings matter, and they feel seen and understood. These three qualities can change the trajectory of a life; they can heal our shame.

When we practice being this kind of healing witness on a regular basis, it opens the door for us to not only embrace each other in a more loving way, but it also allows us the opportunity to turn that same love on ourselves, to learn to authenticate our own feelings, experiences, and truths. We begin to build a new world, one not of shame but of love.

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Source: David Bedrick, J.D.  

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A Few Words ...

Once in a while I read a statement that hits me like a 2 by 4:  

"Sadness does not mean something is broken that needs to be fixed.  It means something important to you has been lost, and you have to identify what it is."  Steven C. Hayes, PHD

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