Tag Archives: what to do

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

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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Change, Freedom, and Rice.

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Change, Freedom, and Rice.

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“Before you can live a part of you has to die. You have to let go of what could have been, how you should have acted and what you wish you would have said differently.

You have to accept that you can’t change the past experiences, opinions of others at that moment in time or outcomes from their choices or yours.

When you finally recognize that truth then you will understand the true meaning of forgiveness of yourself and others.

From this point you will finally be free.”   Shannon L. Alder

My friend, Ben, is a change management expert.  His whole job is to help companies roll out change, and then help teammates adjust to it.

It’s not where the paper goes now, or what time the meetings happen now, or where our desk is now that’s the hard part.  It’s the emotional side to change that kicks us right in the seat of our pants, if we’re lucky.  If we’re not, it hits us square in the chest.  You know what I’m talking about.  It’s this horrible, free floating, nothing-is-what-I-thought-it-was feeling.

Ben says that any change greater than 10% will rock the foundation of an organization.  I don’t know how the 10% is calculated, but I do believe there’s a threshold.

Our grocery store changed recently.  They’re in the same parking lot, just a few doors down from where they were.  It’s bigger.  It’s nicer.  They have fresh sushi and STARBUCKS.  The day they opened, I think people drove from an hour away to walk through the aisles and drink the coffee.  I waited a few days for the parking lot to clear out, and walked through the crisp sliding glass doors into grocery Meca.  There were people there I’ve never seen before in my life.  I didn’t recognize one single person.

If felt like everything changed.

I didn’t know where to find anything, they carry different stuff now, and some of the stuff I normally buy isn’t available any more.  I was so upset I got a headache.  Over a GROCERY STORE.

Who knew my 10% would be whether or not they carry Uncle Ben’s Original Rice?! When the cashier asked me if I found everything ok, I said I couldn’t find the Uncle Ben’s Original Rice.  She so sweetly left her cash register line to help me look – but it simply was. not. there.  I got teary eyed.  There was a large lump in my throat. I may have said something about “people who actually cook and don’t microwave every meal are not going to be able to shop here.” I seriously went to the customer service counter and asked them to special order it for me.  In tears.

You guys, I turned into a crazy person over RICE.

Sometimes we can see change coming – I mean – I saw this grocery store being built for months.  I thought I would like it.  But then I didn’t.  Now, I do, because my mom gets me Uncle Ben’s Original Rice from the store she goes to. But that’s beside the point.

We think if we expect it, it will be ok. It will soften the blow somehow.  Does it?  Maybe.  Sudden change brings shock AND pain.  Expected change is some shock, then a season of expectation, and eventually ends in pain.

The question is NOT whether or not change will be uncomfortable.  It usually is.  The question is what is on the other SIDE of change.

Sometimes we feel like we know.  Sometimes we feel like the pain of change will be worth it in the end.  Sometimes, we just know we can’t go on like we are and we’ll just take whatever comes.  It’s gotta be better than where we are.

I’ve been through some change in the last few years.  Divorce, death of a parent, transitioning from employee to business owner,  learning how to live alone/run a business alone/sleep alone/vacation alone/parent alone.

None of it was easy.  Most of it I saw coming.  100% of it still had moments that hurt.

Here’s the thing, dear one.  When it’s time for a change, you just know.  You feel it in every cell of your body.

When it’s time go to, you just go.  When the storm hits – when you’re in the thick of it.  When you’re standing at the new grocery store in tears, when you’re holding your heart broken child crying over your divorce, when you realize there is no more time for your Dad to become the parent you wanted him to, when you’re having to start over from scratch because you finally admitted what you were doing all those years was too broken to mend, take a moment.  Take a deep breath.  Try to remember why you lifted your foot to take the first step.  Forge on.

Sometimes, the only way out is through. 

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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Stillness

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solitudeI know what a healthy (maybe) relationship looks like from the outside, but what does it feel like to be in one?  I had absolutely no idea. So, I grabbed my phone off the nightstand and Googled it.

Article after article talked about boundaries. What are boundaries? I had heard the word, many times, but what does it really mean in a person’s life? What does it look like? What does it feel like?

Boundaries, to me, always seemed like artificial walls people would erect when 1. They had been hurt and said “Never again!” and then promptly shut their heart down for all eternity. Or 2. A buzzword that women use to criticize themselves or other women. “She clearly doesn’t have any boundaries (she’s easy)” or “If I was stronger and had better boundaries, this wouldn’t have happened to me (I must be stupid)”.

Where to start? It didn’t seem right to just arbitrarily make up rules. Because then what if I wanted to change them? What if I didn’t like them?! So, I panicked and decided to just try to be aware of how things made me feel and try to do my best to honor those feelings with the same respect I would give to someone else.

Here’s what I learned: We know when a boundary has been crossed. We might not even be able to put into words what the boundary is or what we don’t like about what just happened, but we feel it. In our gut. Something hurts. Something snags. Something about what’s happening just doesn’t feel right.

Want to grow a little?  Try to stay open to your feelings as you go through your day.  When something snags, stop for a moment.  Pick that little feeling up with two gentle hands and tell it “I don’t know what just happened, but I’m going to take care of this feeling.”  As you collect and take care of those little snags, you will start to see a pattern.  For me, the first pattern I began to see was “I don’t like it when I get up the nerve to call the guy I’m seeing and he doesn’t pick up the phone.”  Even saying that I didn’t like something was empowering!  Hey, I didn’t like it.

Then we get to ask ourselves great questions.  Like:

“What does it mean that he didn’t pick up the phone?”  I’m not important

“Ok.  What does it mean if I’m not important to him?”  That he doesn’t love me.

“Ok.  What does it mean if he doesn’t love me.”  Maybe nobody can love me.

Aha.

When we can start to be aware of snags, and then take care of those little feelings, we begin on what is maybe the most talked about journey in all of mankind.  Who am I and what’s important to me?

You are so, so loved.

Onward…