Tag Archives: breaking up

The Difference Between

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In the history of all days, today is one of the most beautiful.  The sky is clear & blue, it’s literally 72 degrees, and there’s a slight breeze.

Perfect.

I have a friend who is sad today.  I mean, life changing, devastatingly sad.  He is “between seasons”, as our friend Pastor Rob Bell would say.  Or, more specifically, he is exhausted from white knuckle hanging on to something that’s already gone.

I’ve been there, haven’t you?

As I pulled out of Mom’s driveway this morning headed back toward my house, I thought about the beauty of this day.  And I thought about all the days just like this that I was so entwined in wanting things to be different that I could not see what already is.

I get caught there sometimes, in the gap between what I have and what I want.

I legitimately thought for years that I would feel content and happy if I could just have the right job, the right house, the right friends, the right relationship, the right family.

There was a picture in my head and heart of this beautiful home, filled with happy people, and peace.

I changed cars, I changed jobs, I changed houses, I changed furniture, I changed my yard, I changed my kitchen, I changed my weight, I changed my education level.  I changed everything.  Still, not happy.  Not content.

In fact, things just kept getting worse.

What I didn’t know.  What I couldn’t have known, is that contentment can only grow in the pot of ME.  It can’t grow in a house, or a car, or a marriage, or a child, or a job, or an MBA.  It just can’t.

There are some completely confusing statements about contentment out there, too.  #1 on my list is:

“Learn to be content with what you have”

This statement, dear reader, is complete bullshit.

The idea is good – contentment doesn’t come from exterior things.  But the advice is no good.  What if the things in our life are awful?  Or (even more confusing) mediocre and barely, occasionally, meeting our basic needs? And, most certainly they are because if we haven’t yet done the work to heal what hurts, we have hired people and situations to hurt us in a way we know best.

Someone important left us?  We hire people and situations guaranteed to abandon us.

Someone important hit us?  We hire people and situations guaranteed to devalue us.

Someone important verbally/emotionally abused us? We hire people and situations guaranteed to continue the tradition.

The “why” of this is another post (note to self).

Anyway, we do these things.  And we are just not going to beat ourselves up about it.  What we ARE going to do is try to understand how to feel better.

One of the first things we must do for ourselves – our very first gift – is to begin to name our feelings.

I started this process 20 years ago and it was surprising to me that I really could not tell what it was I was feeling.  I just knew I felt bad.  My heart hurt.  My head hurt.  My body ached.  I felt tired all the time.

“Our emotions are our body telling us the truth” – Pastor Rob Bell, Seasons

I began to try to say how I felt out loud and found I had no words.  Like, literally no words.  I had never before said “I don’t like that”.  It was surprising to me to learn I didn’t know what I did and didn’t like!  How do I like my eggs?  What do I like on my pizza?  What is going ON with me?! I had no idea.  I just felt numb and icky.

So, whenever I felt icky, I would stand in front of the mirror and practice saying my feelings.  I was trying to name them.  It was like being color blind all my life and slowly gaining sight.  I would pause and get still, sometimes close my eyes, put my hand on my belly, and this is what would come:

I feel angry.

hmmm… my heart aches.  I must feel hurt.

Why do I feel hurt?  Because I feel disappointed.

Why do I feel disappointed?  Because things didn’t turn out the way I hoped they would.

OK! Listen, the first time I landed on “disappointed” it was like I could jump over the Empire State Building.  I had no idea that those finer emotions even existed in me!  I had rarely (if ever) acknowledged them or felt safe to express them.

Fast forward 20 years, and this helped me work on boundaries after my divorce. (Read:  Never, Ever Get Hurt Again. Ever.)

Study after study has confirmed that when we can NAME something, it loses it’s power over us.  We stop running.  We learn to sit with uncertainty and keep breathing in & out.  We get up and take a few steps, or maybe we just get up and stand.

Whatever it is, wherever we are, it’s just ok.

We learn to give ourselves grace and hold space for whatever it is we may be feeling. Sometimes it won’t be pretty.  It will often be something that brings a feeling of deep shame.  It’s ok.  Many, many, travelers have stood where you stand.  Keep going.

When you feel like the waters of your heart and mind are muddy, find a quiet space, put your hand on your belly, close your eyes, take some steadying breaths, and say “what am I feeling?”.

You’ll know when you hit truth.  You’ll feel it in your bones.

xo

Michele

Want the Truth? Clean Yo Fridge.

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Full fridges are a thing.  A glorious thing.  My mom always has a full fridge of food in various stages of fresh/cooked/leftovery goodness.  Need to feed the guy fixing your outside light? No problem.  Need to feed the pastor and his wife? Come on over.  Dinner for six in 90 minutes?  Delightful!

I subscribed to this level of fridge stocking until 2 years ago when I realized I just kept throwing away unopened food that I meant to cook. Or thought I might need.

A full fridge made me feel good.

This past weekend, I cleaned out my fridge and noticed we hadn’t eaten some leftovers AND the brand new package of fresh corn on the cob.  I started to Google “does corn go bad?” and then saw it had expired like 3 weeks ago.

Yeah…..

No.

It makes me feel like a good mommy to cook.  I put the groceries in my cart, I think of how delicious the recipe picture looked and how happy it’s going to make me to put that meal on the table for my babies.

Then, life happens.  Fostering happens.  Work happens.  School happens.  My exhaustion happens. And, the food grows hair.

As I was chunking stuff in the trash can this weekend, I literally had the thought “BUT IF I CLEAN THE FRIDGE WE WILL HAVE NO FOOD!”

And it occurred to me:

A full fridge of hairy food

is not a fridge full of good food. 

It’s a fridge full of rotten food.

As I stood there enjoying the cool air and wiping out the shelves, I thought about that illusion and how it plays out in life like that, too.

IF I CLEAN OUT MY RELATIONSHIPS, I WILL HAVE NO RELATIONSHIPS.

I WILL DIE ALONE BEING LICKED BY MY 57 CATS.

The truth is that if we clean out our relationships, we will not be alone.

We can know that with our heads, but it doesn’t feel that way in our hearts.

It feels jittery.  Panicky.  Like the earth has lost it’s gravity.

What if we are already alone?

Maybe the relationships we keep because we want our life to seem full are past their expiration date.

Maybe we just keep pushing them to the back and changing the baking soda container hoping no one will notice the smell.

Maybe we are keeping them around because they make our life feel full.

It’s possible.

If they are making our life feel full, then why do we feel like a duck paddling for all it’s worth trying to force the feeling that all is well?

Maybe our lives ARE full.  It’s just….

Maybe they are full of things that are structured around the jumbled up history of choices that led us here.

Maybe they are NOT structured around the part of us that is the most true.

Maybe that’s a good indicator as to whether or not we are walking in the light of our authentic self – our best self.  If our life fridge is full, but we feel that gnawing empty feeling, maybe what we’re holding on to is gently asking us that it’s time to let it go.

And make room for the good stuff 🙂

Onward….

Me

 

 

 

 

We Already Know

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Dear sister, we see you struggling to keep your chin above water.

We see you posting happy things on Facebook.

We see the frantic look in your eyes.  The jerkiness of your movements.  The extra alertness needed to keep all the plates spinning.

To keep all the illusions intact.

Especially the illusion of “happy”.

We can see you’re not happy.

We can see he’s not happy.

The question for you, dearest sister, is:

Why is it important to pretend?

What would happen if you stopped?

How would your life change, really?

If there is love to lose, it has already been lost.

If there is change to be faced, it has already happened.

We love you.

We see you.

We see this.

There is grace here.

The only one

and really, truly, the only one

who has not accepted

what has already happened

is you.

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Saying No to “Almost Amazing”

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Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia       July 2015

 “There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.
But sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life. That is the sort of bravery I must have now.” ― Veronica Roth, Allegiant    

 It is so incredibly easy to slip into a life we don’t love.  Even when we just spend every last ounce of our strength to crawl out of the valley – it can feel exhausting and isolated when we have to tell wonderful, beautiful, valuable people ….. no.

I hate saying no.  I hate saying it to my kids, to friends, customers, strangers, even.  I just don’t like saying it.  I especially hate saying no when it’s something that I want.
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I have learned the oh-so-hard way that we can want something that would feel amazing today, and hurt later.  It’s not so much a choice between good and bad, but between how we want to feel in our lives, and how we don’t want to feel.
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The hardest hardest thing is when we have to say no to something that is so almost the exact right thing we can taste it.
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Like our dream job that won’t quite pay the bills.
Like the private school that requires your child to practice a different religion.
Like the free vacation we don’t have the ability to take.
Like the relationship with the perfect guy who won’t commit.
Like the best friend who sometimes talks behind your back.
Like the employee who you love but your customers don’t.
Like the family member who only comes around when they want something.
Like the spouse who still sleeps in your house, but is not in love with you any more.
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These are the days we put on our grown folk pants.  These are the days we either are ready to lay the pieces out on the kitchen table and sort through them a little more, or we aren’t.
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One thing is for sure.  You can’t be ready until you’re ready.   You just can’t.
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We have a tribal rule here – we are not allowed to beat ourselves up.  So if you’re not ready, dear one, you’re just not ready.
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I know you want to do something.  You want to make progress.
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Today, just practice.  Practice being aware of your own self.  Practice taking a moment when you feel something and giving your own heart the attention you would someone you love so dearly.  With tender eyes, a warm voice, and a soft heart, ask yourself “what is it you’re feeling right now?”   Naming what we feel is perhaps one of the most powerful stepping stones to awareness we have.  It creates ownership and a sense of strength.
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And I know you need to feel stronger right now.
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Try this today and let me know how it goes.
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You are so brave. And you are so, so loved.
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To Women Who’ve Been Abandoned

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To Women Who’ve Been Abandoned

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It’s taken me 38 years, a bunch of the wrong guys, two waffles, this Kelly Clarkson song, and a strong cup of coffee to talk about it.   I’d like to talk about my Dad leaving me.  And your Dad leaving you.

Sometimes Dads leave one big time or two and then we never see them again. Sometimes they hang around and leave us over, and over, and over again.   Emotionally, physically, one thing is for certain – they. just. leave.

Just saying it makes me feel nauseous.

However it happened, when the one guy who’s supposed to have our back and nurture our heart takes a good look at us and says “nah”, it feels like a huge, gaping hole in our chest. We spend a lifetime of “how the hell did I get in this mess again” moments and wonder what we did wrong.  Either way, we feel unloveable, and either way, when any good thing happens, we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Here’s the thing: we keep replaying old wounds as many times as we need, trying to get the ending we want.

It took twenty years of relationships that hurt for me to grow enough, get mindful enough, and get enough counseling to realize I was just re-playing the relationship with my Dad.

I wanted that warm kind of love where the person is there for you no matter what. You can see it in their eyes.  You can hear it in their voice.  You can feel it in the words they choose to use when they talk with you.  They just… show up for you.

Even though I wanted that, I could never seem to find it. I analyzed the guys and criticized myself.  Maybe I should be thinner.  Sweeter.  Less opinionated. Work on my bitchy resting face (which was totally not even a thing 20 years ago BUT I HAD IT, YOU GUYS).  It’s so hard to be undiagnosed.

I wish, I wish, I wish I could find the most perfect way to say this that would pierce right through to the center of your heart. I want you to get it.  I want you to stop hurting.  I want you to see this.

It was not your fault.

The things he did, the things he said, the way he absolutely could not seem to get his shit together enough to be there for you in any consistent way….

It was not your fault.

In fact, it had nothing to do with you.   Like how the color of a plane will not make a person unafraid to fly.  The plane could be painted the most perfect, glittering color with the most perfect shading.  It could even have the most perfectly organized, safest flight plan to the most perfectly beautiful places on Earth.  Filled with the most perfect luxurious seats, tables, trays, beds, and staffed with the most amazing, charming, wonderful, people on Earth.  Every single person on the planet could be in agreement that this is the perfect plane to fly in. And it will still not make a person unafraid to fly.  They simply will not get on that plane.

And they will handle that decision in one of two ways: they will turn around and leave, or they will approach the door and step back over and over again unable to find the strength to stay or go.

It’s not the plane’s fault the person doesn’t want to fly.

It’s not your fault your Dad didn’t want to be a good parent.

It’s not your fault your Dad didn’t know how to find the strength to work through his own shit so he could be there for you.

It’s just not your fault.

And… PS…. you are not destined to be alone. You are destined to be loved.  And that journey, dear one, starts with the tallest mountain first: learning to love yourself.

You are so brave. And so, so loved.

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Expectations: Where Do You End, and Where Do I Begin?

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Our last discussion about expectations sparked new questions, radical brainstorming, and some heated debate.

Words like should and general gasping came up a lot.

Like this:

What are expectations anyway?

Well, they’re basically things you can predict from someone or something.

Does everyone agree on what those things are?

Ummm…. PAUSE. Obviously not.

So, what are expectations?

PAUSE

PAUSE

PAAAUUUUSSSEEEEE

gasp

holycrap

Right.

But… but…. We SHOULD be able to expect things from other people? How else do we know what to … uhhhh…      expect?! I mean, a person can’t treat us any way they want to!

Actually, a person can treat us any way they want to. And they do!

The interwebs are littered with statements like:    c3216c2d89fa7ed967b479e87915bf76

Alright… so if no expectations, are we all just flailing around out here willy nilly?  Fortunately, not.

The question then becomes “Where do you build your framework?”

We all have framework – it’s a basic need for our brain to be able to not process a million pieces of data a day. We establish assumptions, rules, and predictions based on experience.   We see a piece of metal coming toward us at a fast pace. Our brain flips through categories and quickly slips the incoming data in one – bullet (RUN!), car traveling reasonably on interstate (no reaction), spoon thrown by our 2 yr old (duck or catch it before ketchup gets on the wall).

Framework makes us feel safe. It lets us know what’s going on now and what’s probably coming next.

There are two places we can build our framework – internally (inside) or externally (outside).

  • External (outside) framework says that I must make sure everything around me is as I need and want it to be. Then, I can feel happy and safe.
  • Internal (inside) framework says that I must make sure everything inside me is as I need and want it to be. Then, I can feel happy and safe.

What do we have control over, really?

I mean…. really.

It’s a freaky thought, isn’t it?

Here is what we have control over, in a nutshell: we have choices.

Most of the time, those choices determine how we act when something happens. It does not control the “what happens” part of that sentence.

Goodness, this is just getting so good.  But I must sleep 🙂

Onward…

Next up: Internal and External Framework: Where do you build your strength?

It Will Be Ok

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Not everyone is in a perfect, happy, beautiful family today… steeped in generations of honoring the same gravy recipe and using great great grandma’s serving platter for the holiday turkey. It’s not that way for everyone, dear heart. It’s just not.

It’s also not miserable! For some, it is. But take courage, wondering one… I does not have to be that way.

Sometimes, we get thrown in the “in between” don’t we? Years of traditions are gone … just like that. Or maybe they never existed for you.

Whatever it is, it’s going to be ok. It really, really is.

The whole world is not in pairs and happy bundles. Today, your heart might be broken…but it won’t last forever. Nothing does.

Just remember…neither does happiness.

The best boat to ride the ups and downs of life is a peaceful spirit. And you can find it. I know you can!

Step 1: You’re not allowed to beat yourself up any more. Whatever happens, whatever breaks, you are going to hold those embarrassing little pieces in your hands and love them.

Because they are part of you.

And you, my dear one, get to be loved.

Courage…