Here’s the thing about shame.

Shame is among the most corrosive of human emotions. It has the power to convince us that that little voice in our head is right. That voice which says “I knew you’d fail,” “You’ll never really be good enough,” and “Who would love you as yourself?” We spend a lifetime trying to avoid shame and we yet have a lifetime full of it.

It’s both an excruciating feeling and a universal one. Rich or poor, attractive or not, successful or struggling, we all experience shame, whether we admit it or not (and we usually don’t). Shame can shut us down or cause us to behave in the most destructive way to ourselves and others. From shame comes addiction, anger, depression … you name it.

I’m not a lover of Brené Brown (sorry friends who love her) but I recently read her description of shame as, “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

It’s no wonder that the last thing we want to do when we are gripped by shame is to talk about it. If we do, others may discover just how horrible we are. Which is why we say nothing.

But the less we talk about it, the more shame has power over our lives. The more it has power over us, the more we keep doing that which is shameful to us because that’s what we expect of ourselves.

The real truth is that as we name it and speak it, we can start to cut shame off at its knees.

We want people to admire us for what we can do or bring to the table. With shame, we worry about what will happen if they find out that we really have a dark background? We are certain that they will change what they think about who we are. That. Is. So. Wrong. That’s the burden that brings us down.

We must unhitch what we do from who we are.

I’ve been reading that the more we handle shame on our own, the more likely we are to let it eat us and cause us to resort to methods to mask it, like drugs, sex and lashing out at others. In a paper published in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, researcher Jessica Van Vliet found that a sense of connection helps boost our compassion for ourselves, meaning we are more likely to handle our shame rather than giving into our shame if we talk about it.

Shame is a destructive emotion because it convinces us that we’re bad, unlovable, and that we don’t deserve anything good in life. It causes us to spiral. To do more to confirm how bad we feel about ourselves. But, shame can’t live in the daylight. The more we acknowledge and share feelings of shame, the less it will control our life. 

XOXO

Jessica

I cried (yet again).

True confessions – I can cry pretty easily in my personal life. Maybe it’s because I’m the opposite in my work life. Maybe it’s because I’m just too soft. It doesn’t matter why. It just is. A commercial. A post on social media. An interaction with someone about something emotional to me … it just is.

Yesterday, during one of my 10,000 walks with Lily, I came upon a woman walking a dog the size of my foot. A tiny dog that had the shortest legs! Lily can’t help herself. She thinks every moving object is an opportunity to play. You should see her with a pile of leaves. She started jumping around so we stopped to say hi!

The woman gave us the dog’s name and the breed (standard initial conversation) at which point I mentioned that I was walking my daughter’s dog while she’s in grad school. The woman got tears in her eyes and grabbed a tissue. At first I thought she was feeling bad for me (I had mentioned my kids were gone and maybe I seemed a little sad — I was).

She told me that the little dog was her daughter’s dog. Her daughter passed away and all she had left of her daughter was this cute little dog. She talked about how grateful she was to have a piece of her daughter every day and she wondered out loud about what she might do when the dog dies too.

Deep sigh.

I told her that my daughter was taking the dog with her (likely out east) next year and that I wondered what my life would be like. The woman started crying. I started crying.

F*** COVID. We hugged each other. I thought she would never let go as her arms were around me. She thanked me for caring and we parted ways.

This interaction (all of about 5 minutes) just weighed on me all day (and even now). How is it something so beautiful, as life and being a parent, is so fragile and painful at the same time? Know what I mean?

This was a good reminder to me that every life interaction is critical to our time here on earth. It’s also a reminder to me that hugs really do make a difference.

XOXO

Jessica

“There is too much to really make a difference.”

This was a statement from someone I met recently. We were talking about making a difference in the world. Helping to be part of the change. I felt bad for her when she said this, but I also realized that we all feel this way to some extent. She felt that she really couldn’t make a difference. I disagreed.I believe we can make a difference. We can be part of the change. We can’t pretend there are no problems in in the world or say that there are just too many to fix. There have been

problems in the world my whole life and they will continue beyond my life. We can be part of the change. We should be part of the change. And, nothing is too big. 🙂

Actually, I think of my world as small. Not in a hindering way. Rather, I think about it as–what can I do with those who come into my orbit? Sure, I can reach outside my “orbit” with donations and the like. But, when we do small good things in our orbit, those in our orbit do good in their orbits and then each “good” affects someone else’s orbits. So simple. So cool.

The day before my mom died, I told her that I felt that I had not done much in the world, in the same way she had. This turned out to be our last conversation. She told me that I was making a difference in her life at that moment. And in her eyes, that was enough for an entire life time. She reminded me that Mother Teresa cared for thousands of people over the years, but she cared for them one individual at a time.

Changing the world starts at home. It starts with you. It starts with one person at a time.

Have an amazing day!

XOXO

Jessica

Remembering

Almost everyone (of a certain age!) has lost someone special in their life. The holidays remind us of those people. When my mom died, I was worried I would forget how it felt to hold her hand, touch her face and hear her voice. I vowed that would never happen. But it has. It’s been 22 years and I don’t remember her like I used to. My father, he died just before COVID. So, the holidays are especially difficult for me right now (we had a Chinese food/movie holiday tradition).

Some of you know that I’m ac/dc as it relates to religion. I can go to church and sing all the songs and I can go to synagogue and sing all the songs. I’ve done both for most of my life. But the Jews have a really great tradition after a parent dies.

Sheloshim is the first 30 days of mourning, starting with the funeral and including the shiva period. Sheloshim is a period of transition between being completely enveloped by sadness and beginning to emerge back into the world. The outward signs of sheloshim—which include not shaving or cutting one’s hair—are reminders to others that the grieving period is not over. During this period family members typically recite the Kaddish once a day at a synagogue. If the deceased is a parent, the morning period lasts 11 months following sheloshim. That’s called Shanah.

Shanah is a way for children to express gratitude for everything their father or mother did for them as they were growing up, and to reflect on the values and beliefs imparted by their parents. One experiences each holiday and season during the full 12 months. When my dad died, I went to services every night. Thought about him and my life. I actually took the time to shut down and reflect every single day.

I was talking with a friend recently about this process and she said that although it had been 7 years, she was still so sad about the death of her father. She asked me how I got over the death of my parents.

I haven’t “gotten over” the death of my parents. Does anyone? But what I did was went to spend time with people who were suffering and dying with no one to love and care for them. When you see someone who is truly suffering and you take care of those people, it causes you to stop looking at yourself and your own suffering seems so much smaller. It’s like that old saying, “I complained with a frown on my face that I had a good pair of shoes, until I met a man with a warm smile on his face who didn’t have a pair of feet.”

Anyway, I use the holidays to remember that there are people who really need us. Our love. Our time. Our resources. Yes, I miss my parents and remember them. But rather than feeling sad, I focus on others who are in need. I guess its my new Chinese/movie tradition.

Have a wonderful weekend with family and friends!

XOXO

Jessica

We’re getting happier!

If I had a dollar (I would say the old term of “nickel” but no one uses coins anymore!) for every time someone said, “getting old is not for the faint of heart …”, I would be rich! Seriously. Screw that philosophy. I’m not going to buy into it.

I recently read a book entitled, The Changing Mind: A Neuroscientist’s Guide to Ageing Well, which confirmed my alternate thoughts on moving forward in life, and how cool it can be.

Essentially author Daniel Levitin, did a survey of more than 15,000 men and women aged 18-94 in New Zealand over the course of six years. It was published in Body Image, an international, peer-reviewed (that’s a hot word post-COVID) journal that publishes research articles on … well, body image.

The findings were just crazy simple. First, body satisfaction increases as we get older. Well actually, men’s body image remains stable (sorry guys) and women’s increased as they got older. The obvious reason for this is that we all realize that there are way more important things in life than our looks. Duh.

This book also confirmed what I actually notice in my own life, which is we actually get happier as we get older. In fact, his research was that we get increasingly happier into our 80’s, peaking in our early to mid-80’s. Just totally confirmed what I believe!

As I talked with a friend about this book, she said that getting older was really just about forgetting things and getting depressed. Hmm. Negative Nellie, for sure. And, I suppose one might consider that as an alternative reality. But, I think for most of us, the opposite is true, that we become more aware, and more in tune with life and the world as we move forward in life.

When my grandfather was dying, I asked him what was it like being in love with my grandmother … were they still close and intimate as they had been when they were younger? His response was (I remember it as if it was yesterday), “I am more in tune with your grandmother now, than ever before in our lives.” This was as he was dying and less than two months before his death.

As a teacher, I was always struck by how a young child could concentrate on something. They didn’t let their mind get distracted with the s*** of life (something I often do on a daily basis!). It’s how they beat us in chess and cards … they can concentrate and it’s not that their minds are younger … it’s that they are cleaner.

Getting older allows us to clean our minds. To go back to that hyper-focus stage and really pay attention to what matters.

I’m going to embrace all of this. I buy it and agree with it! For me, it’s yet another cool thing about moving forward in life — or in other words, getting old(er). 🙂

XOXO

Jessica

The “wild” turkeys.

I’m not sure what’s happening around here. This week a large buck walked right through my yard. The neighbor had a rabid raccoon “removed” from their back yard, and the wild turkeys are every freaking where.

When these large crazy birds I usually shoo them out of my yard and my dog (who is generally quite passive) likes to stalk them until they make a screaming noise and run away.

Today I saw a white pick up pull up in front of my house. I’m on a zoom call so I need to excuse myself as a guy in a camo jacket comes to my door. He says he’s from the DNR and that people have complained about the turkeys in our neighborhood. He’s wondering if he can shoo the turkeys out of my yard. I look out and sure enough, there about 6 or 7 picking some berries out of my grass. He tells me that he is going to try to get them to the park down the street and “take care of them.” Honestly, I was so tied up in what was happening on my call that I just said, “Sure. Go ahead.”

I could see him then getting the turkeys out of my yard and then I saw them run the other direction. This was about 10:30 today. After my call I started to wonder, who was that guy? What are you kidding me that the DNR is sending someone to “take care of” the turkeys? Where the hell were they when the coyotes were chasing me and Lily? When I called the DNR back then they told me that they don’t come out and kill animals but that if it got bad, they could use a drone to get the pack of coyotes to move along – away from where they were. So, the DNR is coming to “take care of” the turkeys? Right before Thanksgiving? Something seemed suspicious.

So, I did what any self-respecting complete-lack-of-trust (job fatality!) kind of person would do … I called the DNR. The person I spoke with told me about these turkeys. First, they are every f***ing where, updown, downtown, Burnsville, … everywhere. They’re also strong and fast. Turkeys can sustain a run at 25 miles an hour—outpacing Usain Bolt—and in flight, they reach speeds of 55 miles per hour. This is why our mail carrier said that they are injured more often by turkeys then dogs! WTF!?

She also told me that they don’t “take care of” wild turkeys. That she is certain they didn’t dispatch someone to our neighborhood. She also told me that turkeys are a protected game species subject to MN DNR regulations and that they City ordinance prohibits the discharge of firearms in the City, with the exception being bow and arrow used according to the City’s bowhunting ordinance. Hmm. I saw no bow and arrow. She said this guy had to be a total fake.

Of course, by 5:00 the freaking turkeys were back in my yard. I’m not sure who this dude was … faking his association with the DNR to do g-d knows what with the turkeys. Out of all the things I might fake being … it would not be someone working for the DNR … Just another head-shaking day in my world. 🙂

XOXO

Jessica

Why this person’s stone throwing did not help the thrower, but did help me.

“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is a common and popular proverb that has been used for centuries. This phrase hit me in the head after an exchange I had with someone.

Stone throwers are those who like to judge, find fault, and trash talk others. Quite often, throwers have a very high view of themselves and low view of those different than themselves. They don’t see what they don’t do. They only see what they want to see.

Stone avoiders live in fear of having anyone not like them. They sit on the sideline and resist taking any position or making any decision that may result in having someone toss a few stones their way. Sometimes a thrower really is also an avoider – as deflection.

Stone catchers are those who take action. They are the ones who see the stones being thrown and rather they just watch them plop in the water, or ignore them, they do something about them – usually about taking another stone to themselves.

I think that if someone is going to throw stones at someone else (and willing to damage the relationship with that person) then they should least throw two – one at themselves and one at their own house. Or, if you are getting a stone thrown at you, rather than lob one back, pick it up and do something different with it.

When stones are thrown at me, I pick one up (a new one!) and throw it at my own house. By throwing stones at my own house, I discover my weaker windows, places where there’s room for improvement and therefore where I need to do some home repair and remodeling.

Yesterday, when I was being pelted with stones. I just let them drop in the “water.” Then, I picked up my own stone, found a weak window, and made a phone call to fix that situation.

Look, we can’t control the absolute s*** that comes from other people. Nor can we always control the stupid s*** that we engage in. But, what we can do is check our weaknesses at the door and fix them. Because in the end, we are the only one who can really shore up our personal “house” … making us better, stronger human beings.

XOXO

Jessica

“Know your worth, then add tax.”

I’ve not heard this quote before. A man I met at a coffee shop today, (I am pretty sure this was not a pick-up line …) said this quote to me and I laughed, but also paused. (ok, it may have been pick up line, but my dog’s groomer texted me at that moment saying she was done and saving me from any further conversation with this person!)

But the quote stuck with me: Why is it that sometimes we don’t know our worth? Isn’t it the same all the time?

I was reminded of the movie The Joy Luck Club, where in one scene the mother tells her daughter a story about worth. The mother explains, “My mother not know her worth until too late; too late for her, but not for me. Now, we will see if not too late for you, hmm?” Hmm is right. How do we know our worth, and how do we know it before it’s too late?

I feel like I am learning so much about myself right now – even at my ripe young age! On good days, when life is just moving along, I don’t take much note of my inner voice. However, when I make a mistake, I can become my own worst enemy and harshest critic. Case in point: I recently had a couple of minor “mistakes” that happened one right after another. While these were uncharacteristic of me, I quickly began making unforgiving assessments of myself, doubting my effectiveness. While the mistakes passed, the questioning of myself remained. I was left with an emotional hangover.

It took me a bit to remember that the best cure for an emotional hangover is to let go. I am the same valuable human being whether I make a mistake or not or if I say the wrong thing or not.

We tend to be much harsher on ourselves than we would be on anyone else. This is when we need to stop beating ourselves up and give ourselves grace and permission to move on.

Remember, self worth is how you value yourself. It’s not based on what others think of you or the things you have (or haven’t) accomplished—it comes from within. I think it should start today.

Be kind to yourselves—you deserve it.

XOXO

Jessica

My lawn battle yesterday.

The real truth of my competitiveness came out yesterday in my backyard, and it wasn’t pretty.

We all were trying to get our leaves up these last few days. All I heard on the news was Tuesday was going to be the last “nice”day. My lawn service had been out the day before and took up all my leaves. I was feeling grateful. Yesterday my neighbors (who have a lot of leaves) had their lawn service over. I was glad because I had been cleaning up leaves that were blowing into my yard.

I noticed, as I looked out my back window, that their lawn service people were blowing leaves near our fence, and blowing them into my yard! WTF! I ran to my garage to get my blower (mind you it’s 20 minutes before I am supposed to give a webinar) and run out with it to the fence. As “luck” would have it. The battery was dead. I run back in the house and plug it in. By this point, my crazy ass dog (thinking I’m running because we are playing) grabs my nice shoes which are inside the door and runs outside with them. OMG!

While I chase her around for my shoes (I know, I know, don’t chase!), I let the blower charge for 10 minutes. I’ve now got only 10 minutes before I have to be on the webinar. I grab the blower and a bag and run back out there. It’s the competition of my tiny little blower and their massive ones. We are both walking along the same (but opposite sides) of the fence, blowing leaves. I am trying to get mine in some semblance of a pile, which is totally not working. My dog is now running through the pile, tossing my shoes around and just generally not helping. I pray to g-d that no one was taping me.

For a moment I realize the insanity of it all (me in my dress clothes with a bag, a blower, a lot of leaves and a dog) but I can’t let it go. Eventually, I get a few up, throw them in the bag, grab my shoes and go inside. The dog, runs after me, covered with leaves, walks in the house and shakes them everywhere in my house.

I. Am. Done. I clearly need some therapy (or a bottle of wine).

XOXO

Jessica

Am I stuck or am I ok?

There are so many things that, as we get old(er), we tend to just have as routine. Like, where we keep our toothpaste, how we enjoy a particular morning regime, whether we work out before or after breakfast … this can be in relationships too – is this getting stuck or is it something else? Do I need to avoid my routines or am I ok?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. The kids are gone, I’m living with the dog and I’ve wondered, am I stuck in ways I might not even notice. Day after day, am I following the same routines and if so, does that mean I’m actually working toward something or just killing time?

First, let me say, I’m all about cutting myself slack. I have spent a lifetime being tough on myself and while I still have super high expectations (sorry kids!), I now know that there are times I need to let go (Knowing is not always doing, but that’s for another post!)

Routines, which often look like being stuck, can actually help with anxiety and be relaxing. Starting your day off the same way can be helpful to the rest of your day. Frankly, I think my morning routine (which is often interrupted by the dog) helps me save brain power for the rest of my day.

Look at the lives of famously gifted and creative people—including Freud, Beethoven, and Georgia O’Keeffe, and you’ll see that many of them optimized their daily lives to get on top of their games. Routine was their secret weapon. internationally bestselling author Haruki Murakami told The Paris Review: “When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4 a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10 kilometers or swim for 1,500 meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9 p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

This is an intense example—maybe even a bit frightening, depending on how you feel about swimming—but you get my drift. We don’t have to be afraid of routine. It doesn’t mean we are stuck. It means we are creative. It means that we have time in our lives which require zero thought, so we can free our mind for more important things!

I’m going to be ok with my routines. I’m not stuck. I’m just enjoying all aspects of life—the planned and the unplanned. Life allows for plenty of room for both. Instead of beating myself up for enjoying my life process, I’m just going to enjoy my life process (read: routine) with a sprinkle of the unknown once in awhile. It’s doesn’t make me boring … it means I’m normal (sort of!).

XOXO

Jessica