Monthly Archives: June 2014

Buckthorn is a metaphor for my life. Et tu?

My friends from Minnesota know about buckthorn.  It’s a very green, always healthy looking, non-native plant/tree/shrub that grows like crazy and crowds out any healthy, native plant it can find.  It’s unpleasant and toxic to your garden.

To remove buckthorn, you’ve got to get down to the base of the tree, to the roots and actually pull them out (this is a non-chemical removal method).  It’s hard work, takes lots of hours of physical strength and sometimes takes multiple attempts to remove.

I’ve had buckthorn in my yard and I’ve had in my life.  The stuff in the yard, I had to hire someone to come and remove it.  The tree went past my roof and I just could not get rid of it.

I’ve also hired people (therapists!) to help me remove the buckthorn from my life.  I’m talking about those people or situations that at first seem beautiful, exciting and healthy — but eventually turn out to be toxic.  And you?  Know what I’m talking about?

Why is it that we don’t hesitate to remove the buckthorn from our yard, or toxins from our food or from areas our children play, but we hesitate to remove toxic situations from our lives?  For me the reason is obvious — I don’t like conflict and I don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings.

There’s a lot of information out there about toxins and their lasting effects on our physical health. We all know about the detrimental effects of artificial preservatives, additives, pesticides, etc. We also know that buckthorn will crowd out everything in its path.  But what about the negative effect toxic situations have on our physical, mental, and emotional health?

Look, life is about choices. Sometimes we make a choice that seems like it’ll be ok, but it turns out not to be.  We bring people into our world, or take a new job, thinking it will bring a positive element to the picture, but we eventually realize that we made a wrong choice and that eradication is necessary, albeit time-consuming and painful.

I sometimes welcome the hard work.  Just as I enjoy the physical labor of working in my yard, pulling weeds and essentially cleaning house, I also appreciate the hard work that comes with moving away from a negative situation or person.

As painful as it is, as hard a job as it can be — I always learn something and become physically and emotionally stronger.  Plus, I can look back and feel thankful that I had the drive to make the change … to clean up my yard so-to-speak.

So, if you’ve got buckthorn in your yard — take care of it (don’t call me … been there done that!).  If you’ve got it in your life, do the same thing.  Remember, the story of your life is yours.  Your choice.  Make it count.

Have a great start to your week!

 

What I learned from my food poisoning experience.

It’s been an interesting few days, since my infamous lunch.  A lunch I enjoyed at one of my favorite (former) restaurants.  A lunch which decided it did not like me.  But all that aside (and forgetting the many hours I spent on the bathroom floor) I have learned quite a bit from this experience (gotta try to learn from everything, right?):

1. My bathroom floor is not as clean as it should be.  First, I’d rather not have to lay on any floor but certainly not a bathroom floor.  My bathroom floor is no exception.  And just in case someone friend or acquaintance has to spend time on my bathroom floor, I’ve got to keep it cleaner.

2. I need new ice cream buckets.  I spent too much time holding a bucket and I’d prefer they not have broken sides or handles. I’m going to go buy a few new gallons of ice cream … when I’m feeling better.

3. When I can’t run, I really must be sick. More so than laying on a couch or on the bathroom floor, my kids are most concerned when I don’t go for a run — and rightly so.  It’s my favorite stress-reliever.  I’ve been out for two days — unheard of!

Here’s something else I learned in the last few days: Taking down time is very important and actually enjoyable.

Despite the fact that I was not feeling well, there was something nice about hanging with my guys, watching a movie and relaxing.  Why don’t I do that more often?  Because I don’t feel like I have the time.  Because I have the distorted belief that everything must be done.  It’s not true.

Actually, the truth is that the time to relax is when you don’t have time for it!

So, this weekend, find an hour of that time you don’t have.  Just sit.  Chat with your kids, your spouse, your friends.  Open a bottle of wine.  Make an iced tea.  And, enjoy the sun.  You totally deserve it!

Have a great weekend!

He’s Angry: The Ups and Downs of Divorce (and life and partners and kids … )

In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes about enlightenment and its natural enemy, the mind. He discusses how he believes that we create and maintain problems because they give us a sense of identity. Maybe this explains why we often hold onto our anger far beyond its ability to serve us.  In fact, if you are like me – you replay mistakes and situations over and over again, allowing shame and regret to cloud your thinking.

I once read that “There will never be a time when life is simple. There will always be time to practice accepting that. Every moment is a chance to let go and feel peaceful.”  This is my life.

I’ve really been struggling with someone’s anger lately.  And, I’ve felt bad and responsible.  And, in turn, that’s affected my family and other areas of my life.  Know what I mean?  So, after a long talk with my kids last night, I went to bed with the question: How can I learn (and show my kids) how to deal with people in our lives who are angry?

Here are my midnight thoughts:

1. Examine Your Own Response to Anger

What’s our first response to anger?  We light up like a firecracker, get defensive and allow the anger to invade us.  Yet, the best way to deal with someone’s anger is to work on our own anger.

I’ve watched myself get upset when I would get nasty emails or negative treatment from this person.  And, it has affected my world.  But you know what really bothered me the most?  That his anger was controlling me.  That seems backwards to me. If I’m going to feel angry, it should be because of something I’m doing – not because of someone else’s anger!  Buddha’s most important advice – Look at your own mind first.  You are responsible for your emotions.  So true.

2. Look at What is Driving the Other Person’s Anger

Anger is an addiction.  People who are always angry at someone or multiple things use those feelings to prop themselves up.  Sometimes, anger addicts can be nice one minute and lose it the next.  It’s a mask for their pain in life.

Generally, anger comes from fear.  Angry people have a lot of resentment and discontent in life and they need to blame others for it.  It’s how they hid their weaknesses and insecurities.   Once we can see the vulnerability beneath the anger, such as hopelessness or lack of power we can stop ourselves from taking it personally and instead find compassion.

So, while I can’t help the person whose anger is being pushed over into our space, we can use is as a learning tool to see anger for what it is and feel compassion for those whom fear and insecurities are overwhelming.

And, even if the angry people in our world never get it … all we can really do is be responsible for own little world.  Life’s one big learning curve, right?

Have a great day!

A question for you: “How was your day?”

This is a question my kids ask me when I come home each night.  Although I’m not sure they really listen to the answer (and I usually say something short, like “Great” or “Busy”).  Yet, it’s a nice feeling to know they think enough to ask.  A friend of mine is not doing well lately and every time I ask him how his day was, he tells me how brutal it is — and it is.

We ask this same question of almost everyone we know.  And, we usually get a standard answer.

But, are we asking ourselves that same question?   What kinds of questions are we asking ourselves?  Are we asking questions that will just breed negativity (or negative results) or ones that bring about positive change?

For example, some people ask questions like, “Why do these things always happen to me?”  “Why am I always being hit by so many life challenges.”  Answers to these questions can only be negative. They are backward-looking.  On the other hand, we could ask ourselves, “What can I learn in this experience?”  “What can I do differently going forward?” and “What am I thankful for?”  The answers to these questions are going to be empowering and forward-looking.

As you can tell from my posts, I’m on a self-exploration journey.  I’ve become a big fan of self-examination  (honesty) and introspection.  I’m listening more than I’m talking (I hope!), which results in me seeing and understanding more.

And, as a result, here are the questions we should be asking ourselves:

  1. Who am I?  Or, am I who I want to be?
  2. What am I passionate about?
  3. What about what I did today, am I proud of?
  4. What (and who) do I want in my life?
  5. Do my values match what I am doing?
  6. Do I love myself?  If not, why not?
  7. Am I operating at my highest self?  Or, am I at least transparent with myself?
  8. If I had no more time left, would I have any regrets about how I’ve lived my life?  If the answer is “yes,” then do something about it!
  9. What demons am I still holding on to?  How can I let them go?
  10. Does my life have meaningful work?  It doesn’t have to be all the time but am I doing something meaningful on a daily or weekly basis?
  11. What can I do for others?
  12. How can I let others do for me?

Sometimes the answers come right away and sometimes they come over time, in not-so-obvious ways!  Allow either one.

These questions force me to step out of my neatly organized cave and into the light.  They make me think about whether my days really are going the direction I want them to.  And here’s the not so big mystery …. sometimes my days are headed the right direction … and sometimes they’re not!  I guess that’s the coolness of it all!

Have a great start to your week!

I’d like to say it’s been one of those days.

It don’t think I’ve ever missed a day blogging when I had set in my mind that I was going to blog that day.  But here I am, at 11:15 p.m. (when I have to get on a flight at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning) writing my blog — just under the wire. Go figure.

Today was one of those days.

I recall about two months back talking with a friend (actually I was complaining) and she said, “Why do you always seem happy?”  I was shocked.  I rarely feel happy I don’t see myself that way and I said, “I’m not always happy.  Look at me!  Maybe it seems that way because I don’t have any major crisis in my life right now – but I’m not always happy!”

Yup – that was the statement of future disaster.  Since that day, it’s been one big thing after another.  And today, I was wondering why the f*** did I jinx myself by making that stupid comment to my friend?

I called that friend tonight just to prove to her that I wasn’t happy.  After my bitch session she said, “Jessica, tell me the secret to feeling happy?  Even when you are bitchy, I can hear the joy of life in your voice.”  Hmmm … was that a compliment?

So, I spontaneously came up with my list of things I do to encourage happiness in me and my children.  I’m hoping I remember them all:

1. Appreciate Life.  I am thankful every morning that I can get up, take a shower and feed my children.  I never take things/people for granted.

2. Crossword Puzzles.  It’s not the puzzles that encourage my happiness, but it’s trying to learn new words and how to use them.  Continuous learning is one of the keys to being happy … life never gets stale.

3. Be Kind.  Accept people for who they are and where they are in life.  Help but don’t make them feel that you are trying to change anyone.

4. Do What You Love or Love what you do.  Studies have shown that up to 80% of all people dislike their job.  No wonder we have so many unhappy people – because that’s where we spend the majority of our time!

5. See Life’s Beauty.  There is beauty all around you.  Can you see it?

6. Laugh.  Try not to take words  or the world too seriously. Laughter solves problems.

7. Forgive.  There is so much energy used in anger.  Anger at others and anger with ourselves.  Use that energy elsewhere.

8. Gratitude.  I love the saying, “Have the attitude of gratitude.”  This is like appreciating life!

9.  Half-full.  Find the positive side of any given situation. It’s there – even though it may be hard to find.

10. Be Proactive.  Don’t wait for change – effectuate it!

11. Love Unconditionally.  Accept others for who they are. Accept you for who you are.  Even though you may not always like the actions of your loved ones – (or yourself) you continue to love them.  It’s likely when they need it the most.

Have a great day!

 

We could take some life lessons from these kids.

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”  This infamous quote, often attributed to Vince Lombardi, actually originated with college football coach Red Saunders, though Lombardi did say it as well.

Is it true?  Most people, including those in elite sports, often agree with this sentiment.  However, I have a hunch that most people don’t believe that this statement is true – and those that do, should change their minds.

I learned some life lessons spending the weekend in CA with my daughter.  Her 4+ was rowing at the US Junior National Championships.  It was really cool!  And I saw things that I don’t see at other competitions – working together, even with other clubs – especially when a competitor needed help, no negative cheering and even competing teams talking with one another.

Look, there is no question, that everyone wants to win.  I saw that this weekend.  These were all the top kids in the country and they wanted to win.  They came to win.  Their parents wanted them to win.  Their coaches were paid to bring home winners.

And, don’t get me wrong – I love competition.  But, there are ways to be competitive where we are not doing it to the detriment of others.  Where we keep our moral compass focused on “right” rather than “win.”  This is true on all areas of our life, work, friends, family and home.

Here are my “lessons” from the kids this weekend:

Be Professional: Always treat everyone with respect.  Whether on your team or not.  Love the game, not the win – that’s extra.

Be a Teacher: My daughter’s teammates are teaching her about what’s to come with college rowing and she, in turn, will teach others.  Let’s do that in life too and not worry about someone getting better than us.

Be an Example:  Let’s model behaviors we want our kids to learn – let’s not scream negativity when our kids are on the field.  Let’s give our kids the life tools of – perseverance, mental toughness, discipline, accountability, confidence and selflessness – by showing restraint ourselves.

Be Part of the Team:  Create a climate at home, at work and on the field that encourages working together.  Life is about being a part of something bigger than ourselves.  That’s also true on the field as well.

I was proud not only of our own girls, but also the kids I met, watched and cheered for.  I want life to be more like that – more about the whole rather than the individual.  I’ll try to start it on my end!  🙂

Have a great start to the week.

 

Holding him accountable was the final straw.

I have a lot of not-so-great traits. One of them is not holding people, in my personal life, accountable for their responsibilities and actions. I’m a caretaker and it just has seemed easier to take care of things or just forgive (really ignore) rather than to make others responsible for their actions.  Clearly, I’ve chosen people in my life who have been willing to take no (or limited) responsibility for their actions.  Karma.

So, about a year ago (in keeping with my year of 50), I decided it was time to encourage people in my life to be more responsible – and for this person, to be accountable for that which he should be responsible for.  It was really hard for me to do and I backed off over and over again.  I hate conflict and I knew this would cause conflict.  Plus, I could see that someone was really fueling his new lack of responsibility and I knew I would be going up against two, not one.  But, I also knew that I wanted to my kids to learn that when they have commitments, they must follow through and I needed them to understand (and watch) that even when life is difficult, they still need to move forward.

Fast forward a year and its gotten really bad.  He’s angry, resentful and those feelings are ruining the relationship we once had.  At first I was heartbroken – still am to a certain extent. But, I also realize that our relationship was built on me taking care of everything to keep the peace  … I think that’s a diagnosable condition for therapy – no labels please! 🙂

In some ways it’s freeing to let go of being accountable for every part of this situation and putting it back where it belongs – in his lap.   In some ways, I continue to feel responsible for his anger.  That, however, is something that I must let go of.

We’ve all been there.  We’ve all taken care of partners, children, friends, and their “stuff” because it’s “easier” to just do it ourselves and we want to avoid conflict.  But, my friends – the conflict is inevitable – no matter how long we caretake – and we are not doing them any favors by taking care of their sh**.  This is how we teach our kids to be adults – and we need to do it with the adults in our lives too.

So, watch me grow.  Watch me say – enough.  Try it yourself.  Look around you and oh-so-gently (or maybe by ripping off the bandaid) let people in your life be responsible for their actions or inactions.  It’s freeing, important and scary … but I believe that in the long run, it will be healthy all around.

Have a wonderful day!

 

Nothing’s happening.

Yesterday I started to think about today’s post.  What the h*** was I going to write about?  Nothing’s happening to me?  Lately, my life is the same thing over and over again.  Work, food for kids, kids, driving kids, work, food for kids … dishes.  I thought to myself, what’s a girl to write about?

So, I hopped on the internet to see what was new in the world: another shooting, someone loses the election, stars getting divorced, getting pregnant, etc.  Nothing.

Then I called my sister.  She’s going to be 50 this year and I told her that my 50’s have been fantastic so far!  She hesitated and said to me, “”I want to figure out what my passion is. What I’m passionate about.”

Yes!  Great idea!  Which then got me thinking …

They (?) say that almost 75% of the population do not know what their true passion is.   That people are not doing what they think they were meant to do.

Is that why there is so much unhappiness in our world?

Some people seem to find their passion rather easily.  For others, we need help, a guide, some direction.

So, for my sister, maybe you want to start with these questions:

What puts a smile on your face?
What feels good and makes you smile.  I believe that happiness and passion require one another – go hand in hand.  Think about something that you do that brings peace to you when you do it.  Peace is happiness and happiness is passion.

What sparks you?
Think about something in your life where whenever you do it, you feel engaged and happy.

What would you do for free?
Many people are driven by the almighty dollar.  But think of something that you would do for free.  Most people who have had successes financially started out doing what they were passionate about.  Think about something that you look forward to – something that you could do all the time.

What makes you unafraid of failure?
When we do what we are passionate about, we have total confidence in our abilities.  Think of what you love – when you love something you don’t see failure, you see success.

What do you miss when you are not doing it?
We all have dreams but life pushes us in other directions and we get far away from those dreams.  If you were at the end of your life, what would you regret not having done? What will you remember doing as really making you feel good?

There is nothing worse than arriving at the end of the journey and having regret.  I really strive to avoid that feeling and word  … “regret.”  This is exactly why finding your passion, and following it is so important.

I think it’s a great goal to find your passion.  It’s one we all should have.  And, we should enjoy every moment of the process.

Have a great day!

I got a gift this weekend.

I had a great weekend:  I watched a lot of baseball, my daughter got an invitation to the US Junior National camp in Connecticut and I got to run and swim with friends.  While all gifts, that’s not the one in my title.  Actually, I got something even better and totally unexpected.

Last night a friend called.  He was in the neighborhood and wanted to stop by.   He promised it would only take 5 minutes.

When he arrived, he seemed pretty excited about something, so I made iced tea and we sat outside.  He told me that he had been reading some of my blog posts from my first site (he’s new to my blog world) and came across one last week that changed his life.

My friend is in year two of a divorce.  It’s been contentious and they are headed to trial.  They have children.  The blog he read was on forgiveness and putting the person you love first rather than your own emotions.

He told me that the blog made him think differently about his future ex-wife.  That all of a sudden he saw that the anger he’s been steeped in for the years of his marriage and now divorce are clouding his ability to have compassion.

My blog post apparently suggested that when letting go, you have to first let go of your own ego.  Let go of your own hurt and forgive the person you think is “creating” the reason for your anger.   You must remember it is your anger.  You control it (or you let it control you).

So, yesterday, he went to his wife’s house and left a letter asking her for forgiveness.  He got rid of the blame. He got rid of the anger.  And, he put himself out there in a vulnerable way.

Two hours later, she called him. This was the first time they had talked about anything other than money or the kids.  She thanked him.  Told him how hurt she was and how difficult this change was for her. Instead of getting defensive, he said he understood, asked what he could do for her and again asked for forgiveness.

Sitting there with me, he started to cry.   He said that he realized that he had to let go of his anger and hurt and find his compassion for her.  That he would always have memories with her and children.

I’m certain my blog didn’t give him this much direction, but I took it as a gift anyway. A gift that I got to experience two people finding a way to connect – despite anger and pain – through forgiveness and love.

I think it’s a lesson for all of us.  The energy used for anger is so much more than the energy used for forgiveness.  So why not find forgiveness more often.

Have a great start to your week!

 

 

 

 

What’s your story?

What is your life story?  How do you define yourself.  Just for a moment, consider all of the roles you have played so far in your life.   For me, it’s been daughter, sister, wife, student, mom, teacher, lawyer, friend.  These roles have been great, but they are not really who I am.  I’m more than just these labels which create my story.

While this is an issue for us adults (who are constantly working through our s***), I look at my kids and realize that they are often creating their story by the messages they receive from the outside world.  For example, I tell my boys that they should be leaders and to think of themselves that way.  I tell my daughter the same but I also remind her that she is “enough.”

And look at that.  While I’m targeting the message that each kid needs, look at the difference for the girl and the boys.  Why does she not feel “enough?”  Why is that not an issue for the boys?  Environment?  Society? Sad to me.

This is true for us too.  Often we identify ourselves by our current roles – our current environment, not the roles we want to have.  Why didn’t I put “writer” as one of my roles or “motivational speaker?”  I limit my story to what I’ve done thus far and what I’m sure I can do — not what I might want to do in the future — feels too risky!

We tend to limit our life stories by our roles and beliefs about ourselves. How about:  “I’m always going to have a ___ body.”  Or, I’m never going to look like _____.”   Or maybe even, “I’m never going to be successful.”  These beliefs eventually become reality.

Yet, why don’t we (and lets teach our children this) say to ourselves, “Is that belief about me really true? Or is it just a belief that limits who I am and can be?”  Can we separate out the negative stories about ourselves?  And create new, more positive ones?

Here’s a thought: You can take control of your own life story.

Although our stories are largely determined by our life circumstances and our personalities, we do have control over what we tell ourselves about our own lives. Even if we do take our stories from our environment, we are the ones putting the story together, right?

So ask yourself:  What’s my life story?  What am I trying to do here? How can I make my world a better place? How can I find positive from the not-so-positive. And, how am I going to look at my beliefs about who I am, examine and throw away the ones I don’t want, and create the life story I want others to tell about me when I’m gone?

Food for thought.

Have a fantastic weekend!