Saturday, July 28, 2007

Those Moments

Today I want to write about those moments, the ones where someone says or does something and you feel blindsided, paralyzed, and unable to think of a response. You may realize immediately or it may take you a while to recognize that what’s happened resonates powerfully with something from the past.

It happened to me several times this week and involved both personal and professional situations.

Now the good thing is that none of these paralyzed me to the point that I couldn’t act. Even as the old responses washed through me I could take action and make changes so that the situations won’t recur—at least not with these people. (Mind you, one of these occasions was when it looked like my friend might have had the cancer come back so there wasn’t anything I could do—except be there for her. But at least I could be there for her.)

In a couple of the cases it was tempting to lash out. Doing so would have solved nothing. It was also tempting to try to “explain.” But trying to changing anyone else is a fool’s mission. Besides, the other person’s reality is the other person’s reality—even if it isn’t mine.

What we can do when one of those moments happens is to step back and recognize the experiences with which it’s resonating and:

---We can honor and protect our truest selves—both who we are now and who we were then.
---We can recognize that sometimes loyalty has—and should have!—limits.
---We can refuse to hand our power over to someone else to decide how we should feel about ourselves.
---We can continue to do the things that make us laugh and bring us joy.

I suspect that without the childhood I had, I’d have shrugged off easily the things that happened this week. (Except of course for my friend’s situation with surgery and cancer.)

But we are who we are and it’s important to go from where we are—rather than from where we wish we were. The good thing is that we can. No matter what our past has been like we CAN choose to find ways to be happy NOW and learn new ways to interact with others. No matter what our past has been, we can choose to reclaim NOW our power over our own lives.

Wishing for all of you a smoother week than the one I’ve had. Wishing for all of you the wisdom and resilience to keep working on creating the lives you want to have.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Reminders of What Really Matters

Sometimes something happens and it reminds us of what matters and what doesn’t. A dear friend of mine was supposed to have reconstructive surgery this week. She’s finished with chemo and radiation (for breast cancer) and this was the step that would bring her closer to feeling herself again. But...

But they found a spot on her lungs. It turns out that it’s probably just scarring from the radiation or an infection and not cancer returning but for a while there things looked very grim and scary.

It sucks to have been abused. It sucks to have to do the work of processing the experience so that we can move forward in our lives. But this week I find myself thinking not about how life screwed me but rather how lucky I am.

--I don’t have cancer.
--My friend is probably going to be okay.
--I did survive my childhood and I am creating the life I want to have and I can be happy.
--I’m able to see that the differences between me and someone who hasn’t gone through what I did are minor compared to all the ways we’re the same.
--The blessings in my life NOW far outweigh the problems and inherent in every problem or challenge is a chance to grow and perhaps even end up happier than if that problem or challenge had not occurred.

My friend is a thriver, too, having beaten both breast cancer and Hepatitis C. She lives life with laughter and determination even at the worst of times. She reminds me of what really matters.

May all those you care about be thrivers—including YOU. Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Sunday, July 22, 2007


Morris brings up a good point when he asks why I seem to object so much to pain. He makes the point that sometimes it serves him well. Let me try to answer that.

I’m not opposed to pain that gets you somewhere moving forward. And I can see how it can prove to you that you are alive and that you can survive anything.

When I think of pain, I find myself fiercely determined not to do to myself the work of my abusers—in other words, I refuse to hurt myself just to hurt myself. There are certainly times I’m pushing myself hard when I exercise—especially if I’m lifting weights. I do it because I’m determined to be strong enough to protect myself and to be in good enough physical shape to have lots of happy years (after so many unhappy ones).

I’m proud of the fact that growing up I could outride my brothers on the scariest rides at the carnival—because I knew they wanted to see me get sick and there was satisfaction in seeing them get sick instead.

If the pain is a by-product of doing something that makes us stronger and healthier it’s not a bad thing. Pain done for the sake of causing ourselves pain or pain incurred when there is another way to do something, well, that bothers me because it feels too much like accepting we have no choice except to accept pain—something we may have told ourselves while we were being abused. And I’m fiercely against accepting any hurt that isn’t necessary because we do not deserve to be hurt!

If the goal is to feel alive, there are lots of ways to do that other than through pain. If we want to stay grounded in the present, there are lots of ways to do that which can make us laugh and feel happy—it does not have to hurt.

Part of it, I suspect is a gender thing and/or cultural conditioning. Part of it is a refusal, as I said above, to do the work of my abusers for them. Part of it is refusing that cultural conditioning that says we’re supposed to suffer, we’re supposed to be unhappy. If I’m strident about it, well, it’s because I hear so few voices saying this and I know how empowering it is to realize it’s okay to feel good, it’s okay to laugh and be happy.

Wishing all of you whatever helps you grow and move forward and heal and feel strong. Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))) as well,

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Reprogramming Our Emotional Software Continued...

The biggest thing we can do to change our emotional software and to heal any past trauma is to find ways and reasons to laugh and smile. This is what helps give us resilience when something goes wrong. This is tangible proof to ourselves that it IS possible to (at least sometimes) be happy.

Case in point: Today my computer decided to have a snit fit. Looked, for a while there, as if it was DOA. I use my computer every day. It’s part of my career. I’m in the middle of teaching an online writing course. I NEEDED MY #$(@5^($^% COMPUTER!!!!!

Ahem, sorry about that. The point is that even though I wasn’t happy about what was happening, I didn’t (really) panic. I was able to take steps so that by this point in the afternoon, it’s working again. Mind you, it may not be working for long. I may have to replace either the hard drive or the computer SOON. (It is 4 ½ years old so.....)

I was able to relax and read while waiting for my computer to run through what tech support said it had to do before I could know if it would work again. And I knew that even if it didn’t, I had options and I’d already figured out what the next 3 or 5 or 8 steps were gonna be if this thing didn’t resurrect. I had faith that something WOULD work out right.

That’s huge because for so many years of my life, my default programming was that if something went wrong then EVERYTHING was going to go wrong and everything would be a DISASTER. Not just a minor glitch—a disaster! Now I see it as something merely annoying and I go on knowing that more of my experiences will be good than the other way around. And I know that no matter what I’ll find reasons to laugh and smile today.

Perhaps the biggest change in my emotional software was that I automatically started thinking about what good might come out of all of this—even if I did have a computer I had to replace.

In other words, reprogramming our emotional software isn’t just another chore but rather a means by which we can increase our happiness and have it become something that is automatic so that even without trying every day we will find ourselves laughing and smiling and feeling good.

Wishing that for all of you and sending blessings and safe and gentle ((((((hugs))))))),

Monday, July 16, 2007

Reprogramming Our Emotional Software

I was at a writer’s conference this past week and gave some workshops. I also did some impromptu coaching and talked with several people about my philosophy of life. I found myself using the following analogy about the power of changing just a few of our assumptions:

When we work on the computer, we can only do what the software is programmed to do. If we want to be able to do something else, we need to reprogram the software or get new software. Well, I like to think of what I talk about in my blog as ways to reprogram our emotional software. If we (for example) change one of our fundamental beliefs from: “I am a timid, incompetent, damaged soul” TO “I am brave, resourceful, and I can do lots of things well” then odds are we will find that our behavior automatically changes as well. We will begin to do things we haven’t done before.

It begins with realizing how we want to be and then looking for evidence that we already are. Example: For a long time, my default was to start by thinking: “I’m scared.” Followed by: “I’m always scared.” Followed by: "Obviously I'm a coward."

Now, if I catch myself thinking that way I remind myself: “Hey, I drove across country on my own and decided where I wanted to live!” “Hey, I had the guts to go after what I wanted and start over at 52!” “Hey, I have the guts to get up and speak in front of large (and small) groups of people all the time!” In other words, I’m not a coward after all.

The key is to change our focus from the negative images we may have had—or been told by other people we ought to have—about ourselves and replace them with reminders of all our strengths and abilities. It’s going from accepting other people’s definition of what’s important and recognizing what truly matters to us instead.

I had a great time at my conference and the satisfaction of having people tell me that what I said made a difference. All those things that went well will go into my own personal file of reasons to believe in myself. I hope that you have or are creating such a file—even if it’s only in your head!

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Back Home

Gee, what will I do now that I don’t have to sit on blankets every morning or hide phones at night? What will I do now that I can actually get some sleep at night?

I’m back home. Mind you, in just a few days I leave for a major conference where I will be presenting some writing workshops’s not like there’s that much of a break. But I’m home. There’s sunshine, a chance to catch up (a little) on my sleep, and reminders to smile everywhere I look.

This trip was a reminder of how far I’ve come. It was also bittersweet, remembering the hopes and dreams I’d once had for my marriage and for my son. It was a reminder of the importance of focus and keeping a sense of humor when things got more than a little crazy.

We can’t always choose what happens to us but we can choose how we deal with it. It’s not always easy—this trip was a reminder of that truth, as well. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to get to the point where we can ask ourselves—and get an answer!—what good could come out of the challenge.

There are times when the best we can do is simply remind ourselves that all we can do is the best we can do and that some things we cannot change and we’re not failures if that’s true. That’s one reason the list of things we have succeeded at matters. It’s a reminder, on our most difficult days, that we are not always helpless and there are things we can do.

Talk to all of you again in a week.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle ((((((hugs))))))),

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I Could....

I could call this post adventures in demented parenting. I could tell you about hiding the phone to keep my son from making calls at one in the morning. I could tell you about discovering the next day that there were 2 (not one!) phones that needed to be hid and discovering my ex-husband had forgotten to tell me about the person my son calls who has threatened to call the police if he doesn’t stop calling her. Wondering what else my ex-husband has forgotten to warn me about. I could tell you about all the other challenges this week with my son. But...

But...I’d rather talk about what’s good about my trip.

1) Seeing friends. Discovering new ways of interacting with some of them. Seeing them from a new perspective.

2) Celebrating my friend finishing up treatment for breast cancer and being told she has no markers for the cancer.

3) Being able to do some research at the library here (larger than the one back home) for a workshop I’ll be giving soon.

4) Discovering that I can let go of the fear I could never belong and knowing that I will belong wherever I go.

5) Joy at the thought of returning to the life I live NOW—in a house with lots of light and sunshine in a place that makes me smile.

6) Celebrating the news that my daughter has found an apartment to share at very reasonable rent not that far from me for when she starts graduate school in the fall in my new home town.

7) Reaffirming that even in the midst of the chaos here with my son I CAN find reasons and moments to laugh and smile EVERY DAY.

Our culture is full of sayings like: No pain, no gain. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right. It’s supposed to hurt!

My response? Nonsense!

Anything we need to do, we will do better if we find some way to make it fun and easier. Anything. I could fight with my son but my odds of success at changing some of his behavior go way up if I find ways to make the change fun and/or easy. It’s the only approach likely to actually work. I could be grim about this whole experience but all that would do is raise my blood pressure, leave me frustrated and feeling like a failure, and likely to lash out at my son. If I make jokes, find reasons to laugh, make sure that every meal has some (healthy) food I love, see friends, and remember all the good things in my life, then I am more likely to be able to think of things to try with my son and to enjoy at least some moments of the time I’m spending here with him.

If there is one thing you get from my posts, I hope it is this philosophy that finding ways to smile, reasons to laugh, and easier ways of doing things will do more to help you succeed in any area of your life and to heal than anything else you could do.

Sending laughter and blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),