He bought me a card

Yesterday, I was in my favorite vegan cafe’, waiting for my drink and looking at cards, when the woman at the register started up a conversation. Somehow we got to talking about something sad in her life. I stopped looking at cards and turned to her. She continued to check people out as we were talking. We chatted about how difficult life transitions can be (I’m in the middle of some big ones) and she said that talking to others has helped her. She started to get teary eyed (as did I, but it doesn’t take much for me these days) and I felt like hugging her but didn’t because I’m aware that not everyone wants one of my Italian hugs!

We finished talking and as I turned back around to pick up the cards I was going to buy, a man handed me a small brown bag. “I bought you a card. Nice conversation.” I wasn’t really understanding what was happening at that moment, but instinctively I took the bag he was holding out. I looked in and pulled out the card. I recognized it as one I was going to buy for my friend. I started to thank him but saw he was already at the door. He gave me a quick glance and nod as he left.

In that one moment I felt so full of …. je ne sais quoi.

Maybe the saying on the card will help. It was a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“You are the finest, loveliest, tenderest, and most beautiful person I have ever known – and even that is an understatement.”

All I want to say today is that we need to make a point of saying these things to people. Those we know and those we don’t know. And if there are people who are not in our space, we should still think about ways to send this energy to them. Know that even when people we love are not behaving in a way that leaves a positive footprint in our personal space, we can still send them nonjudgemental light and peace. Life has a way of working itself out.

I can only describe that moment as a fullness of perfect clear light. Does that make any freaking sense?

Look, whatever it was, I’m grateful. And, I’ll take those fleeting seconds to the bank any day of the week (anything to help with those higher interest rates!).

Have a wonderful Sunday my friends and family.

XOXO

They were fighting at Starbucks

Yesterday I listened to an exchange between a husband and wife. This couple was “finishing” an argument and trying to get toward the apology. But the apologies were falling on deaf ears.

As if I had nothing else to do, I starting to wonder: what’s an apology? How do we apologize for the things we should apologize for and how do we apologize for the things that aren’t our fault but we want to acknowledge?

What’s the difference? A full apology acknowledges blame, accepts responsibility, expresses regret, and doesn’t offer excuses. Here, the person promises not to repeat the behavior, asks for forgiveness and may offer a way to make things right.

There’s another kind of apology: the rapport apology. This is an apology where you’re trying to rebuild a relationship, smooth a conflict or establish a connection. With the rapport apology one doesn’t accept responsibility for the situation, but instead they want to acknowledge the other. For example, I’m running late and I call my partner to say I’m sorry for running late. My partner says, “I’m so sorry – just drive carefully.” My partner is not taking responsibility but is just establishing a connection and understanding about what’s happening.

The big issue with apologies is which apology is occurring and whether it resonates for both parties.

Miscommunications in the apology often arise due to the differences in the apology. For example, we may assume someone is accepting blame when they’re not. We may then feel frustration when there’s no change in behavior, which is what we anticipated happening, like with a full apology.

Unfortunately, this couple didn’t understand which “apology” was occurring. Couples, friends, family members need to talk about which apology is on the table, so that miscommunications don’t occur during the repair period.

Tied to the apology is the notion of validation. Validation is the recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings/opinions are valid and worthwhile. Generally, men and women seek and give validation differently. Men tend not to seek validation because they assume they are doing something correctly unless told otherwise. Women seek validation, not because they think they’ve done something wrong, but just to understand and listen to the the other person’s point of view. Women use more nonverbal ways of validation, men often need outward information for validation. These differences mean that men seem too overly confident (when they are not) and women appear unsure, also when they are not.

What does all this mean in the case of the couple I was listening too … well they didn’t get to a good point and both stormed out of the coffee shop. Honestly, I think they both were trying … they just miscommunicated.

What does this mean for us? I have no freaking idea. 🙂 I guess it’s a good reminder to think about our own process of apologizing as well as our expectations re. someone else’s apology.

XOXO

Jessica

Holding Space

When my mom and my dad were dying, (my mom at 59 and my dad at 89), we were with them. I didn’t know anything about supporting someone in their transition out of this life into the next, but I knew I wanted to be near them and I believed they wanted to be near me.

The anniversary of my father’s death just passed and today would have been my mom’s birthday. I’ve been thinking a lot about them, their transitions, and how it affected me (and my crazy future goal of opening a hospice… for another post, I’m sure).

Lately I’ve been thinking of this phrase we often use as people transition – holding space.

I think holding space for someone means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. It’s the space in our hearts, which offers unconditional support and love. We hold space as they transition from life here, and we do it while others are simply experiencing life.

Sometimes we find ourselves holding space for people while they hold space for others. For example, my friend’s father recently passed and when she told me he was getting close, I made a point of holding space in my heart for her, while she was holding space for her parents.

I’m not 100% sure, but I am betting that some of my friends hold space for me. Frankly, I think it’s impossible to be a strong space holder unless we have others who will hold space for us. Even the strongest leaders, mentors and teachers need to know that there are people with whom they can be vulnerable and weak without fear of judgement.

I do my best to hold space for other people in the same way that I know others do for me. But, I have to admit that this isn’t easy. Candidly, I have the very human tendency to want to fix people or give them advice and direction! That’s not in any way, shape or form – holding space! But, I’m learning. And, I’ve figured out that I need to create a container, of sorts, where my loved ones and friends can put their fears, dreams and emotions, without judgment – and in a safe way.

As I move along in this cool thing called life, I’m clearly still learning. But, I can respect everyone’s journey. I can honor their pain, hold their hands and wipe their tears. I can offer hugs. I can back off or lean in. I can listen. I cannot heal pain or grief. But I certainly can hold space and be present for them, as we all make our way through this thing called life (thanks Prince!).

XOXO

Jessica

Out of the horror of the world comes beauty.

I have been glued, like many of you, to the news. Watching with horror a dictator who has freaking gone off his f***ing rocker. I’ve had a million emotions about this situation. How is this happening? And, of course it’s happening.

At this same time, I’ve also watched with tears in my eyes, the beauty and compassion of the world.

Last night I took my eyes off the news to see if I could find something else to watch. I decided to watch the cold open of SNL. Powerful.

But this is the way of the world. Ugly. Painful. Beautiful. All at the same time.

I’ve thought a lot about how easy isolation, mental illness and fear can create so much horror … even in our own country.

Look, there is no excuse for he-who-does-not-deserve-a-name to behave in this horrific way – even if he has a “mental illness” (as the news keeps talking about). And, while a mental health diagnosis is no excuse for bad behavior – most people with mental health issues do not behave badly and I don’t like it when we make one big lump of the phrase “mental illness.”

I don’t know about you, but I have those in my sphere that have mental health diagnoses and I personally have not been really adept in saying the right thing or supporting them in the right way. So, while watching this horror, I started to think about things to say to my family and friends when they call me with a problem. My goal should be to listen, rather than solve (the latter is a tough trait for me)! Here’s my list. Please add as you like:

  1. Do you want to talk about it? Even when I’m not sure I know what someone is going through, I hope this sentence lets them know that I can listen without judgment and that they are not alone. Remember: one can feel alone even when they are not alone.
  2. What can I do to help? Sometimes we just don’t know what we need or what will help. When my mom died and had three very little kids. I knew I needed help but I couldn’t verbalize it. It often helped when people just helped.
  3. How are you coping? There’s nothing like validation and comfort. This sentence is like a big bear hug.
  4. I’m here for you or You are not alone. Don’t add … “if you need me.” They need you. Just say those four words. Or add, “no matter what.” These words can be incredibly relieving to hear and lets them know that they are not battling the situation on their own.

Watching the insanity in Ukraine has made me think even more clear-eyed about what I can do in my own backyard. To help, take in, care for, and love not only others, but myself.

Let’s try to bring compassion and comfort to others (and ourselves) this week.

XOXO

Jessica

“Is anyone in your household over 65?”

Yes. This is the statement I was asked at the food co-op this week. I was standing there. Masked. Sun glasses. A hat. And was loading my groceries on the conveyer. I’m sure I looked bad but I was 95% covered up! Literally, in the 4 minutes it took for him to ring my groceries, I wondered what had happened to me in the last few years … I was stunned.

As I moved over to the machine to run my credit card, I saw a sign “Discount Tuesday for 65 and older.” “Ahhh, so this is a thing today,” I asked, “I thought you were making a comment on my age.” I got a half-smile from him and a nod. Not very reassuring!

I drove home in silence. No music. WTF. I’m not even near 65!.

But, as I pulled into the driveway, I remembered my mom’s motto, “The age you feel means more than your actual birthdate.” She used to tell me that she pretended she didn’t have a birth certificate and she woudl judge herself by how she felt, not what was on the certificate.

Doesn’t that just make you smile?!

There’s no question that when I was raising my kids, working, etc., I was feeling older than I actually was. I was, frankly, exhausted.

Now, it’s the opposite. There’s a lightness in knowing that at this time of my life. I have more energy and passion. I have better focus and relationships. I am not as distracted from ….. life!

I was wrong to be so taken aback when he asked me that question at the co-op. Getting older gives us the opportunity to enjoy ourselves more. To be more at peace. We can stop worrying about s*** all the time (well, maybe not…I’m Italian/Jewish… I think it’s mandated that I worry).

Let’s look forward to our birthdays! Let’s enjoy ourselves more and be at peace with who we are. I believe we have more empathy (more pure empathy) as we get older. We are better able to deal with negative aspects of life and the negativity in our lives. Our relationships are just so that much more powerful.

As we move out of this COVID world, I hope we can celebrate more, and that includes getting older. I’m going to do it tonight with an aged bottle of my favorite wine!

XOXO

The energy of women.

A woman alone has power; collectively they have impact. 

There is just something about the energy of women together, having wine and just plain being there for one another. There is nothing in the world like it.

I was lucky enough to be in the company of a group of the most amazing women, from many different life spaces. Every time I’m with these women I grow and learn something new.

So, here’s what I learned last night:

  1. Women don’t see kindness and compassion as weaknesses, they see them as opportunities to connect with others.
  2. Women show unconditional love and support because it’s a win/win. By lifting up others, we’re more likely to reach our own goals and succeed.
  3. When you give out happy, kind, wise and strong vibes, others feel it. Not only will they look up to you, they’ll want to know how they can feel that way, too. 
  4. Women know that strength has a ripple effect, yet they don’t lecture or beg people to change. Instead, they just use the energy created by being the strongest version of themselves, which then inspires others to follow their lead.
  5. Women are not afraid to share their energy. They know that they have enough energy for themselves and to give to others.

It makes sense, right, that the studies show having a “pack” keeps us young and healthy. There is an uncomplicated acceptance of one another when you are with them. Honestly, I never feel capable myself, but with my friends, I’m capable of anything. We may have a million differences but we are also all the same.

I love being a woman. The sense of security that there are others like me. That care as I care. That cry as I cry. That love as I love.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Whether I was with you last night or not. You know who you are in my pack and I’m forever grateful.

XOXO

Have an awesome day, everyone!

Where I’ve been.

I used to do a meditation where I would close my eyes and have my arms in a big circle. I would envision my kids, my dad and anyone who needed love and support in that circle. Then, about four years ago I could not envision that any longer. I didn’t know what was wrong. I stopped meditating. I just figured I was in a new place. And I was. I was in a place preparing me for this year. The biggest year of my life, so far.

Two months ago, I tried to start meditating again. While I was all over the place in my mind, the dog sat at my feet. But, I just didn’t feel my feet on the ground. I could feel something coming in my world. I was agitated mentally and just wondered what was happening.

So, finally today, I meditated. I saw that my arms were no longer in a big circle. They were in that shape, but there was a wide opening. My hands didn’t touch and I was letting people into the circle and gently blowing them back out to the wind with my energy and also my love, but keeping my own energy and love.

There is a saying, we are born on a date and we die on a date. In between is a dash. That dash represents what happens between those dates. What are you going to do with your dash? How are you going to give light and love and energy and keep some for yourself? What journeys will be a part of your dash and with whom? Who are your teachers? How will you open yourself up to the universe for you, not just for those that you “take care of?” Because really, the key to filling that dash is, as my friend so wisely tells me, to bless and release. That’s our life. Seeing the blessings, giving the blessings to others and then releasing them and their energy out to the universe so they can find their open circle of blessing and releasing.

My lovely friends, we hang on. We can’t help it. It’s our fear. But, we need to let go of our past. Be willing to put it behind us. We don’t lose anything by letting it go. It’s not a denial of the past. The past serves a purpose, for sure. But, once it has served its purpose it is time to let it go. To bless and release it. Send the energy out into the universe.

Yes, this is going to be a year, for sure. I’m looking forward to my journey and watching the journeys of those I love (and maybe even those I don’t know) that come into and out of my open circle.

Have an amazing day.

XOXO

Jessica

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