Monthly Archives: April 2012

I’m Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea, And That’s Okay

I’ve been dealing with some situations over the past several days where others have been angry or upset with me. I get a visceral reaction to others being upset with me: my heart races, I feel like I want to throw up, and my mind immediately goes to what I did wrong and how I am to blame, and of course how I can fix it.

I feel threatened, as if my life depends upon appeasing whoever is upset with me and making sure they know I didn’t mean them harm. Given this strong reaction, it’s no wonder that I feel a sense of urgency to set things right immediately.

As I was pondering (i.e. obsessing about) the latest instance of someone being angry with me, it occurred to me that at the core of my reaction is a belief that how others view me is the correct view, the way it really is. If I have acted in a way that seems fine to me, but someone else is upset by it, then I must have acted incorrectly.

Intellectually I know that this is not true, that it is a matter of perception and of our own filters and preferences. But in my gut it feels as if it is absolutely true. And not only do I believe that I have acted incorrectly when someone else is upset by my behavior, but I also believe this bad behavior on my part says something about my character, about who I am as a person. It says that I am bad, or uncaring, or mean.

With this understanding also came the understanding at a deep level that just because someone does not agree with how I acted, or something that I did, doesn’t make them right and me wrong, just as it does not make them wrong and me right. This is where “agree to disagree” comes from. Again, I have understood this concept for a long time, but somehow I suddenly got it at a different level.

In disagreements I always feel attacked, and this feels like an attack not on my behavior, but on my character, on the core of who I am. In these situations I have vacillated between feeling like the worst person on the planet and feeling outraged that the other person was blaming and attacking me.

Now I see that there is another way. I can agree to disagree. I can feel and express compassion for the other person’s viewpoint without becoming defensive and without acquiescing.

Of course there will be times when the other person has a valid point and I should apologize or I should make a change in my behavior. Doing this also becomes easier when I believe that making a mistake does not mean that I am a vile and worthless human being.

Another realization I had is that the times when I am most upset and feel the most threatened, is when the other person’s demand for my apology or admission of wrong-doing goes against my authenticity. Seeing this at play in the most recent situation is what led to this revelation.

How can I apologize for something I don’t believe is wrong, and still be authentic? Obviously I can’t. But I can tell the other person that I’m sorry that they are upset, because as soon as I stop feeling like I need to defend myself that is true and authentic.

So, to summarize, the key for me is first of all to check in and see if I think the other person has a valid point. If I believe they do, then I can sincerely apologize and correct my behavior. Whether or not they accept the apology is beyond my control, but I am at least acting from a place of authenticity.

If I decide that I don’t agree with their assessment then I can still express to them that I feel badly that they are upset without saying that I did anything wrong. My experience is that frequently this will not be enough and they will demand that I agree with their viewpoint. If this happens I can again express compassion for how they are feeling while firmly maintaining my own perspective.

In the end what it comes down to is that I won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that doesn’t mean anything about me as a person. We are all different; we all have preferences and filters. The best I can do is to be as authentic as possible and to act from a place of compassion and caring. If they don’t like me, they don’t like me. And I’m still a good person.

Others Provide a Mirror for My Own Issues

A couple of days ago I met with the intuitive healer I’ve been working with. Most of the session revolved around my family of origin including my sister, my father and my mother. My mother and I are leaving in a few days to take a trip together for two weeks. I was told that my mother wants us to be closer, and that this trip was an opportunity to become closer to my mother, and for me to really see her for who she is.

I have extremely mixed feelings about becoming closer to my mother. On the one hand, it’s something that I have yearned for all of my life. My dearest dream is for my mother to see me for who I really am, and for her to love the real me.

On the other hand, being close to my mother has not been safe in the past. I grew up very enmeshed with my mother and have spent a lot of time and effort in my adult life to separate from her. I’m currently in a place of keeping her at arm’s length. The idea of being close to my mother feels threatening. I worry that I may disappear once again into her vision of who I am, or who I should be.

Additionally, I still harbor some anger and resentment about how she parented me as a child. I struggle with knowing how I really feel about her. My need to protect myself from her and the knee-jerk reactions I often have when I interact with her keep me from being authentic with her. I realize that without being authentic, I really can’t know what I feel for her.

Putting all of this together, you may understand that hearing this news about my “mission” for this trip with my mother was pretty uncomfortable for me.

Enter my mirror.

The next day I was co-leading a gathering with my friend who is also the intuitive healer that I work with. We have recently started a Meetup to share information with others and do group coaching to help the members move toward changes and results that they want for their lives.

At this meeting there was a woman who had not attended before. Initially she mentioned that she was there because she wanted to overcome her stage fright. However, as the meeting progressed she brought up an issue where she was not as close to her adult daughter as she wanted to be.

Raising this issue came from something that had been brought up by another member of the Meetup regarding his mother and how her lack of support and criticism of him in childhood continued to affect him now. We were discussing how with each generation we try to do better than our own parents did, and I shared how I had compassion and understanding for why my mother was the way she is and that I consciously chose to do things differently with my own child.

This woman joined in the conversation which eventually led to her sharing her sadness and frustration at not being closer to her own daughter. As more was said it became clear that she had very specific expectations of what her daughter, now 40 years old, should be doing and how she should be expressing her caring and involvement in the family. The daughter’s reaction has been to remain distant and angry with her mother.

My co-leader and I suggested ways in which she could be different in her interactions with her daughter, which in turn might lead to her daughter reacting differently. I had become aware during my meditation earlier in the day that one of my objections to the way my mother approaches me is that her requests are in the form of a demand or an expectation, and that I don’t feel that they are requests or invitations at all. I know that if my mother approached me differently I would react differently.

I could see that this woman was approaching her daughter in the same way as my mother approaches me. The woman believed that she was issuing invitations to her daughter, but they really were expectations and demands. I used my relationship with my mother and this insight I had about it as an example for this woman.

Unfortunately she could not accept this idea, saying “I don’t believe you” about the idea that if she was different her daughter would be different as well. She wants to hold on to her desires and expectations and even stated that she had a right to have expectations. Well, I don’t dispute that she has the right to have expectations. My point was just that they were not getting her what she said she wanted.

The woman got angry with me and with my co-leader. I realized later that she was treating us like she treats her daughter. She had expectations of what the Meetup would be like and expectations of how we would interact with her. When we did not meet her expectations she became angry and blaming, just as she is with her daughter.

The biggest learning for me that came out of this situation, though, is that this woman is my mother. Hearing her desires for her relationship with her daughter, witnessing the pain she feels, and seeing that at this moment she does not have the capacity to make changes that would create the relationship she wants gave me greater insight into my own mother.

I also realized that the suggestions I was making to her about changing how she interacted with her daughter can also be applied to me changing how I interact with my mother. If I take the first step in interacting differently I can open the door for my mother following my lead.

I have kept my mother at arm’s length because I am afraid of being overtaken by her (there’s that boundary thing again). As I am consciously striving to be more authentic in every area of my life I have to trust that I will be able to keep myself safe even as I reveal who I really am – not only to my mother, but to everyone in my life.

I have not shared the real me with my mother. It has felt too dangerous. After meeting this woman yesterday, I see that if I give me mother what she longs for – being close to me (the authentic me) – that she can stop demanding and expecting. She will have what she wants. Right now my mother is striving for that closeness in the only way she knows, by demanding and expecting. She doesn’t know the path that will create the relationship she wants with me.

But I do.

So, with a deep breath and not too little trepidation, I decide that this trip with my mother will be the opportunity to create the relationship we both want.

And I thank this woman who came to the Meetup yesterday for providing the mirror that allowed me to see things from my mother’s perspective.

Maintaining Appropriate Boundaries Requires Contemplation and Trust

Yesterday I had an opportunity to decide where to set my boundaries and how to react to a situation where they were crossed. This situation involved my ex-husband. He and I have not had an easy relationship since our divorce many years ago, but have to maintain some sort of contact because we have a teenage son together.

My son has been living with his dad this school year, and is with me every other weekend. On my weekends I pick him up at his dad’s house on Friday afternoon. Yesterday I was ready to leave the house about half an hour early, so I texted my son to see if he wanted me to pick him up early and got no response. I was irritated, but decided that no response was equivalent to an answer of “no, don’t pick me up early.”

When I arrived at my ex-husband’s house at the appointed time, I texted my son to let him know I was there. When he didn’t acknowledge my text or come out of the house I called him and got a message that his phone was disconnected, so I went to the door and rang the doorbell.

As it turns out, my son had done something that my ex-husband had told him not to, and as punishment his dad had taken his phone away.  I was really irritated with my ex-husband for not telling me about this. My primary way of communicating with my son when he is at his dad’s is by text, like it is for most teenagers.

In addition, my son told me that my ex-husband and his current wife had gone away for the weekend. So if something had come up around me picking up my son that afternoon I couldn’t even get hold of my son by calling his dad.

Here’s where the contemplation comes in: should I say something to his dad or not? My immediate reaction was to send his dad an email (and cc my attorney) raking him over the coals for taking away my mode of access to my son and not providing another one. Legally he is required to allow me access to talk with my son.  The righteous me wanted to jump right on that train and ride it to the final destination of rubbing my ex-husband’s nose in this legal error.

We are currently in the midst of revising the parenting plan for the change of custody that occurred eight months ago. As everything seems to be with my ex-husband, something that should have been simple and easy has not been. It was very tempting to use this situation as leverage in the legal issues we are dealing with.

Additionally, this situation triggered a fear that I have always had when dealing with my ex-husband: that he will deny me access to my son. We have been divorced for 11 years now, since my son was 4. For the first several years we had joint custody with an every other week schedule. During the weeks when our son was with the other parent we called every night to talk with him. When my son was seven or eight my ex suddenly stopped answering the phone when I would call in the evening, denying me the ability to talk to my son.

This feeling of helplessness and powerlessness was overwhelming for me. Although it was 7 or 8 years ago when this was happening, that fear of being denied my child has never left me. So as I was contemplating whether or not to say anything to my ex-husband – or what to say if I did say something – this fear also played into the equation.

If I didn’t say anything, was I setting a precedent that would lead to greater infractions? Realistically, what was the worst that might happen? As it is, I rarely talk to my son during the time he’s at his dad’s anyway. Had there ever been a situation when I was supposed to pick my son up and couldn’t get there and needed to notify someone? Not that I could think of.

My ex-husband has been manipulative, secretive and underhanded in our dealings during and since our divorce. He is not trustworthy. And at the same time I don’t want to live my life constantly looking for the presence of a threat from him. Where is the balance between doing what is right for myself and my son (setting a boundary for the right reasons) and me acting from a place of unreasonable fear and/or revenge (setting a boundary for the wrong reasons)? This is a lot to think about.

I find this particular situation to be an example of broader issues that I have with setting and enforcing boundaries. Whenever a boundary is crossed, or there is the threat of it being crossed, I overreact. I become very rigid about the boundary, and angry at the person who has crossed it. I had a work situation earlier this week where this became very clear to me.

I realize that this automatic overreaction is based in fear, just as my immediate reaction to my ex-husband’s boundary violation. Having lived much of my life feeling that my boundaries were not honored, I have become hyper-vigilant about enforcing them. I would like to move into a softer space where I can maintain a boundary that I have set, but also consider the circumstances and be more flexible.

Being more flexible and less reactive requires trust. Trust that I will not allow myself to be overtaken by others. Trust that I can keep myself safe. Trust that when it is time to set a rigid boundary I will know that.

I am grateful for these two opportunities that presented themselves for my learning over the past two days. Having them come one right after the other highlighted that this is an area of growth for me.

Setting boundaries is good. Enforcing boundaries with compassion is good. Contemplation and trust is the key.

Who Am I When I’m Part of a Group?

I recently attended a weekend goddess retreat with about 35 other women.  I was really excited to go to this retreat because I have been struggling to find or create a group of like-minded women where I could develop some strong relationships. This was an ideal opportunity to meet some other women who are similar to me, and perhaps some new friendships would come of the weekend.

Just before I left home for the retreat on Friday afternoon I got some news that led to me feeling anxious. All the way to the retreat center, which was about an hour away, I was obsessing about this situation that I had allowed myself to become upset over. This is not the way I had wanted to arrive at the retreat.

I arrived about 20 minutes before the retreat was scheduled to officially begin, and there were several other women there already. Aside from one of the leaders who was registering people, I didn’t yet know anyone else. I knew a few of the people in the overall group very slightly, and didn’t know anyone well.  I tend to be rather shy when in a group of people that I don’t know, and my anxiety increased as I entered this environment.

The retreat began by each of us placing an item on the altar and explaining its significance to us, then having dinner together.  After dinner we did an exercise of setting an intention for the weekend. During this exercise we broke into small groups of 5 or 6 people.  I was designated as my small group’s leader because I was doing a presentation later in the weekend.

When it was time to reassemble in the larger group I got up from the table where we were sitting and crossed the room to my place in the larger group.  As I walked across the room I noticed that the rest of my small group was still sitting at the table talking with each other.  I felt a stab to my heart as I felt left out and excluded.  I returned to join my small group, but felt an outsider. This was a very familiar feeling for me, going all the way back to childhood.

I had been trying to fulfill my designated leader role by following the rules and rejoining the large group when we were told to. I was being the good girl and doing what I was supposed to do. By doing so I alienated myself from the smaller group.

As the evening progressed and we did another exercise that was less structured I felt more and more isolated.  Although I was sitting with other women working on a collage, I did not feel part of them.  When we gathered again in the large group to share our collages I began to feel another familiar feeling.  I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to run away.  Just leave.

On Saturday morning I woke up with a sore neck and a dull headache. I get migraines on occasion and this is how they usually start. I began fantasizing about getting a migraine and having an excuse to leave the retreat. How quickly I had gone from the dream of this retreat as a way to become part of a community of women to dreaming about once again isolating myself because I was feeling uncomfortable.

During the morning we did Kundalini yoga. I had never done it before, but my understanding is that it accesses and processes emotions.  After about an hour the leader asked if any of us wanted to share anything. Several people shared and I was feeling like I wanted to talk about how the previous evening I felt like running away, but I ended up not saying anything.

As we went into the next round of yoga I was beating myself up about not saying what was true for me. My intention when I decided to attend the retreat was to show up as myself and allow whatever happened to happen.  Not speaking what I was experiencing was not showing up. In fact, I noticed that I had even physically put myself in a place where a number of the other women could not see me during yoga.

I realized that what I was struggling with was that I did not know how to be part of a group when I was not the leader. I felt uncomfortable when I was not in charge and I didn’t know what my role was.

Ah…my role. I guess what this says is I didn’t know how to be me in a group; I only knew how to be a role. When I was the designated leader it was clear how to interact with the group. When I was only me, I struggled.

The roots of this go very deep for me. When I was growing up it was very important to follow the rules. It was important to do things the right way. These were messages I received from an extremely early age. My mother once told me that when I was two years old a friend of hers told her she was being too hard on me and making me a nervous wreck. Two years old. Very deep roots.

As much as I have become attuned recently to being myself authentically and speaking my truth, it has frequently been in a leadership role: as a counselor and coach, as a teacher and speaker. I see now that my real practice is in being myself in a group where there are no defined roles, there are no rules about who I’m supposed to be, there is no right way to show up. Where the only right way is to be me.

I Never Met a Self-Improvement Program I Didn’t Like

A couple of years ago I was telling my therapist at the time about some book I was reading or an online program I was doing to improve my life.  I don’t remember specifically what it was or how it was supposed to make my life better, just that I was excited about it.  He responded by saying, “You never met a program you didn’t like.”

I was a little taken aback at first.  Then I realized that what he was saying was that I didn’t trust my own instincts about how to move forward and become who I wanted to be; that I believed that others knew the answer to this better than I did.  My therapist’s belief was that I already knew how to get where I wanted to be if I just tuned into my authenticity.

Intellectually I got what he was saying, but I still felt like I needed a roadmap laid out by an expert to reach any major destination in my life.  It was comforting to me to know that if I did step A through Z I would arrive safely where I wanted to be. This is a very black and white way of thinking and doesn’t take into account that we all have our own path, and what resonates for one person may not resonate for another.

Using this program approach was sometimes helpful for me and got me to the destination I wanted. Other times I ended up feeling frustrated because the program just didn’t fit for me.  In those cases I would end up blaming myself for not doing it “right” instead of acknowledging that this particular program was just not a good fit for me.

You can see that I valued the experience and opinions of others over my own.  I did not yet trust that I am the one who knows me best, and that with guidance from my higher self I know how and when to act.

I think we all would like to know the magic formula that will transport us to being the person we want to be, or being in the relationship we dream of, or having the success we want for our lives. I’ve come to realize that the magic formula is not outside of me in a book or a teleseminar led by an expert. It’s already in me, and I’m the expert.

This is not to say that there is no value in the experience and expertise of others; there is. I still read books on personal growth topics that interest me. I recently did a teleseminar series on connecting with my soul mate that I found to be very enlightening. Learning new tips, tools and techniques keeps me from having to reinvent the wheel.

However, I have become much more discriminating about which of these I choose to take up. I often come back to what my therapist said to me that day and ask myself if I am just looking for the next new, great thing to save me.

I’ve also gotten pretty good at knowing quickly when something does not fit for me and just moving on.  In the past if something wasn’t resonating I would have questioned myself because, after all, this was an expert telling me that this is the way it is.  Now I know that I am the expert on me, and that if something doesn’t feel right for me then it isn’t. This doesn’t mean that the expert is wrong, just that what works for them does not work for me.

I find that the programs that resonate for me all have one thing in common: they are focused on how I co-create what I experience in the world. This idea resonates for me and connects with how I live my life, which really is about me getting clearer on who I am authentically and what I want to create in my life and in the world.

I can still sometimes get sucked into wanting someone else to tell me how to get where I want to go. When I see this happening I know that fear (ego) is in control and I’m not trusting in my authentic self and the Universe to guide me.

There is great freedom in being in this place of knowing what’s right for me, and trusting my own path.

For Best Results, Quit Trying So Hard

I am an expert at making things happen.  All my life I have been really good at deciding what I want, figuring out the steps to get there, and then doing it.  Over the past several years I have become aware that there are things in life – frequently the most important things – that cannot be forced, but have to be allowed, to happen.

I was reminded of this yesterday when working with a client who is very similar to me in being what could be called an overachiever.  We have been working on (notice the use of the word “working”) helping her to get more in touch with who she is authentically with limited success, and she is feeling very frustrated with herself.

There are different tools and techniques that can open the door to knowing and being more of who you are, but all these tools can do is open the door, they can’t magically make you know who you are.  That part requires allowing.

It occurred to me in this session that she was trying too hard.  That everything we’re taught in our culture about how to succeed does not work in this situation. It’s hard for us to grasp this idea, let alone implement it, when it has worked so well for us in the past.  I am a perfect example of this, so I could easily relate to the difficulty my client was having.

We fear that if we quit trying so hard, quit striving so hard, that we are giving up.  In our culture giving up is not a good thing, it’s a character flaw.  We fear that if we quit trying so hard that we will lose all motivation and become a bump on a log, accomplishing nothing.

And, we fear that we will not get the outcome we want, that the only way to get what we want is to make it happen. Being able to relax and allow requires trust. Trust that we are supported by the Universe, trust that we don’t have to do it all ourselves, trust that whatever the outcome is, it is in our best interest.

Many times this urge to strive and try leads to anxiety. “Am I doing all the things I need to do to make the thing I want happen? What about all the things that are beyond my control? I must find a way to control them.”

And when we don’t get the outcome we want, or we don’t get it in the timeframe we want, we become frustrated and beat ourselves up.  “I should have done this instead of that. I don’t know how to make this happen. I didn’t do enough, I didn’t try hard enough.”  We are always blaming ourselves.

I don’t remember exactly when I became aware of the difference between forcing and allowing.  I do know that I get reminded of it frequently, and I’m given the chance to do it differently on a regular basis.

Just this weekend I was talking with a friend about the law of attraction and manifesting.  I have been very successful at manifesting money in my life without really trying.  I would write an intention and then forget it about it, and magically money would appear from sources I never even imagined.

Then I read a book that had a four step process for manifesting and put I put that into practice.  And nothing happened.  After a few weeks and some discussion with friends, I realized that I was trying too hard.  When I did what was natural for me – writing my intention and sharing it with my intention circle then forgetting about it – I saw results.  When I focused on my intention every day and had a ritual around it, I didn’t get results.  For me, the way described in the book led to trying too hard and it didn’t work for me.  I went back to my old ways and began seeing results again.

Similarly, I have discovered through many trials and errors that I cannot force myself to feel a certain way.  Being too focused on trying to create a feeling that I want – happiness comes to mind – creates the exact opposite.  The only way I can feel happy is to relax and allow.

Just like helping my client get in touch with who she is authentically, there are things I can do that increase the likelihood that I will feel happy, but they don’t make me feel happy. They open the door that allows happiness to step through.

As I mentioned, I get a chance to stop forcing and begin allowing on a regular basis.  A lifelong belief and the associated habits can take time to change.  So I’m gentle with myself.

When I start feeling anxious or frustrated I know that I’m trying too hard and it’s time to relax a bit. I look at where I still believe that I have to make things happen or where I don’t trust that whatever the outcome may be it will be the right one.

I do the things that will open the door and welcome the outcome that I want, and then I go about my business.  Whatever the outcome, I know that ultimately it will be the right one for me when I trust and allow.

When I am on the Right Path, the Universe Supports Me

In the past week I had several occasions to tell my story of making a mid-life career change.  In each telling I shared how once I paid attention to the messages I was getting about being in the wrong career, support for making the change showed up. I have been aware for some time that I get “messages from the Universe” that let me know that I’m on the right path, or that I need to make a course adjustment.

Even the name of my blog, Blue Heron Wisdom, tips my hat to those messages.  I think that acknowledging this support on a regular basis is a good way to get even more support from the Universe.  In that spirit, I want to share the ways in which the Universe has supported me in pursuing my new (now current) career.

When I first awoke to the idea that I needed to make a career change I was in a job where I wasn’t challenged and my boss was not supportive, was volatile, and was sometimes verbally abusive.  I was really unhappy and the stress was affecting my physical health. For several months I had been looking for a different job, and once I became clear on the fact that I needed not just a job change, but a career change, that next job showed up.

I had worked for many years – 26 years at that time – in software development.  I decided that I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a counselor, but of course I did not have the right education yet to make that possible.  I would need to return to school and get a master’s degree in psychology, counseling or some other related field, so I couldn’t immediately change careers.

However, I couldn’t wait two years or more (when I finished school) to change jobs.  My current job was just too unpleasant and stressful.  The next job I found, and ultimately my last job in software development, was the opposite.  My boss was supportive and actually liked me, the team I worked with liked and appreciated me, and upper management thought I was great.  It was wonderful to be appreciated.

But this change to a more pleasant work environment did not mean that I didn’t still need to change careers.  It just meant that now that I had woken up and realized I had been on the wrong path and was moving in the right direction (I had applied to grad school for the fall), that I no longer had to suffer.

The lovely new work environment even extended to supporting me in making my career change.  Although my boss new that once I finished school I would no longer be working there, he gave me time off to go to school and let me work part time while I did my internship.  Now that is support!  Not only from my boss and the company, but from the Universe!

Since the school I attended met for full days on weekdays every seven or eight weeks, I could not have participated in the program without that flexibility from my workplace.  Additionally, in the second year of the program I was required to do an internship 20 hours a week.  As a single parent of a child that was too young to be left home alone, there was no way I could have worked 40 hours a week while doing my internship.  I was, and am, extremely grateful for the support I received from the Universe, through my boss and workplace, during those two years.

Once I graduated I was hired into the community mental health organization where I had been interning.  My plan was to work there until I gathered enough client contact and supervision hours to be licensed, and then I would start my private practice.

I want to forewarn you that there is going to be a lot of talk about money coming up here.  I know that many people in our society believe that money is something that should be kept private.  My belief is that I need to thank the Universe and express appreciation for what I receive, so I need to be truthful about it.  Additionally, I hope that my experience will be inspirational for others, which it cannot be if I don’t tell the truth about it.

The sad truth about social services jobs is that they are extremely underpaid.  I went from making $100,000 a year in software development, to making a little over $13 an hour (that’s less than $30,000 a year) in community mental health.  I knew this would be the case when I chose to make my career change and had decided I would supplement my income with withdrawals from my 401K.

About nine months after I graduated from my master’s program I needed to start making payments on my student loan.  Even stretching the payments out for the longest possible term, this meant a $300 a month payment.  Given that I was already drawing on my 401K just to support myself, the additional payment seemed like a lot.

I had been attending an intention circle, where we practiced the Law of Attraction by writing intentions and sharing them with the group, for about year at that time.  I wrote an intention that said “My school loans are repaid easily and effortlessly without impacting my lifestyle or my savings” and forgot about it.

I had the idea that I would ask my mother to give me the money to make the first year’s worth of payments, which would be about $4000.  It was a big step for me to ask my mother for money.  There’s a lot of history I won’t go into right now, but suffice it to say it was a conscious choice for me to do something different in that relationship.  I knew that she would say yes, but I didn’t like being indebted to her.

When I called to her to ask for this favor she immediately agreed. We went on to talk about the logistics of when this money would be available to me, and in the course of that discussion I said something about how much more expensive school was now than when I had been an undergraduate thirty years earlier.  I said something like “Back then it was $282 a semester and now it was $40,000 for these two years!”  My mom replied by saying, “Well, I can give you the whole $40,000.”

Wow! This exactly fit the intention I had set a few days earlier, but was not at all what I’d had in mind when I wrote it.  The Universe works in mysterious and wonderful ways that I cannot even begin to imagine!

A couple of months later I met my mom at the bank to get a cashier’s check to fully repay the school loan.  She was cashing in a $100,000 CD that had come due in order to give me that money.  When we were having lunch later that day she said to me, “Interest rates are so low it doesn’t pay to put the rest of the money (the remaining $60,000) back in a CD, so think about how you could use that money.”  Wow again.  Thank you, mom!

I didn’t immediately clue into how I was supposed to use that money.  I could have paid off my car loan, but it wasn’t enough to pay off my mortgage which was the biggest outgoing monthly payment that I had by far.

It took another month or so for me to realize how I was intended to use this gift from my mother.  As I mentioned earlier, my idea had been to stay in community mental health until I was licensed, which was still about a year away.  However, I had begun getting messages from the Universe that it was time to move on.

These messages were sometimes subtle, such as my voice mail at work getting disconnected multiple times, but I began to notice that my patience for that work environment was wearing thing.  Finally, one day I had an epiphany that this generous gift from my mother was intended to fund the start of my private practice!

In the end, I left community mental health a year earlier than I had originally planned, and it has all worked out well.  It was the exact right choice and in the exact right time, made possible by the Universe supporting me through my mother.

Since then I have continued to see evidence of being supported by the Universe on this journey I’m on, both through the manifestation of financial means as well as emotional and spiritually.

Thank you Universe, Spirit, God – whatever name you prefer!  I am incredibly grateful!

A Very Inspiring Award

As I was reading comments on yesterday’s blog I was surprised and extremely gratified to find that that I had been nominated for an Inspirational Blogger Award by Brenda.  Wow!  What a wonderful and unexpected honor.  Brenda, I am so pleased my blog speaks to you, and that we have connected here on our journey to being more of ourselves.

I began blogging less than a month ago with the intention of saying what is true for me and allowing myself to be seen for who I really am, which also requires me allowing myself to be vulnerable. Writing has become a way to sort through what’s going on for me.  The fact that my own issues, struggles and epiphanies are helpful to others is a bonus, for which I am truly grateful.

To claim this award I have to do two things:

  • Share 7 things about myself
  • Name a few of my favorite bloggers that inspire me

First here are 7 things about me:

1.  I am realizing more and more how intuitive I am and working on developing my intuition even more.

2.  I have two Pixie Bob cats.

3.  I love to feel the wind rushing through my hair; it feels exhilarating!

4.  My greatest dream (for now) is to have a weekly television show similar to Oprah’s Life Class where I would share things I have learned with the audience, but it would also include me coaching people who call in to the show.

5.  I love to get outside and walk, and yet all too frequently I resist doing so.

6.  I’ve been divorced for 11 years and I believe I’m finally ready to find my life partner.

7.  I truly love and accept myself.

Here are some blogs I enjoy.  Some of them make me think and ponder, some inspire, while others touch my senses with beautiful images.

  1. searchingforhappiness:                The search for what really makes us happy.
  2. alternateeconomy:                         Daring to live in love!
  3. goingdutch:                                       Nature photos

Thank you again, Brenda, for the recognition!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

My next door neighbors have two miniature greyhounds.  I’m sure they are very nice dogs, but they bark. Every time they go out into the backyard.  My computer is in the kitchen, which is at the back of the house, so I spend a lot of time there.  My bedroom is also at the back of the house.  You can see where I’m going with this.

A little over a month ago I finally got annoyed enough, after being woken up once again by the barking, to talk with my neighbor about this problem.  He and his wife are a nice young couple and have lived in the house for a couple of years.  I told him that the barking had become a problem, and he said they would figure something out.

The barking subsided for the most part, and after two weeks of not much barking I left a thank you card for the neighbors and dog treats for the dogs.  Goodwill.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last.  I’ve noticed over the past week that the barking is back to the level it was before we had the conversation, and twice I’ve been woken up by barking, most recently last night.

I obviously have to talk to them about it again.  I hate conflict.  Really, I do.  My pattern with conflict is usually that I avoid the discussion. I hope the problem will go away, or I try to tolerate it. I examine over and over whether my complaint or concern will be perceived as a valid one. If someone approaches me with a conflict, I usually accommodate them.

And when I just can’t stand whatever it is any longer, I explode. After all the avoiding, tolerating and accommodating, the pressure builds up and I get really angry.  Sometimes way out of proportion to whatever the issues is.  I would like to be more comfortable with approaching a conflict in the early stages before I’m ready to explode.

Last night after I was awoken by the barking for the second time this week. I laid in bed thinking about talking with my neighbor – again – about this problem.  I felt angry that I needed to talk to them again. Why couldn’t they have just kept doing whatever they had been doing for the past month?

I felt angry that they were so inconsiderate to allow their dog out at 11 o’clock at night.  It seems like common sense that when our houses are less than 10 feet apart, and the doggy door opens right next to my bedroom, that you would not let your dogs out that late.

I felt anxious about talking to them about the dogs barking again, even though I have a valid reason. I considered calling instead of going in person (kind of distancing).  I considered leaving a note (definitely distancing).  But I know that I need to speak to them in person.

It took me a while to go back to sleep.  Not because the dogs woke me up, but because I got upset about being woken up.  To begin with, I was angry that it was even an issue.  Then I slipped into worrying about talking with my neighbors about the problem.  After I went back to sleep I even had dreams about it.

This is silly!  It’s just a conversation with my neighbors, and even if they are unhappy about what I have to say the worst that could happen is that they will not make any changes in what they do with their dogs, and that they will be angry with me.

This last part, them being angry with me, is the core of my anxiety about conflict not just with the neighbors, but with anyone.  It is a very deep-seated fear for me; it feels emotionally unsafe for others to be angry at me – I will be abandoned, rejected or hurt in some other way.

I understand some of the reasons I have this fear, yet understanding why does not change those feelings.  I believe that the only thing that will change this fear is putting myself in situations where others may be angry with me, and dealing with the results.  This is part of being authentic and speaking my truth.

In many cases I will not be abandoned or rejected for approaching conflict with someone else.  In fact, they may not be angry at all.  In other cases my older experiences may be repeated where I am rejected because someone is angry at me. Intellectually I know that this does not make me wrong or bad, and I need practice and experience of detaching from others’ reactions. Truly knowing and accepting that their reaction has nothing to do with who I am as a person or whether I am a good or valuable human.

This is big practice for me.  But if I am truly committed to being authentic, then it is practice I must do.  I must say what is true for me and ask for what I need, even when I fear the other person’s reaction.  As long as I act with authenticity, love and compassion I can let others own and take responsibility for their own emotions.

Fear of Flooding in the Basement (aka My Subconscious)

I have an unfinished half-basement in my house.  I guess I would actually call it more of a cellar.  In Seattle a lot of the basements are what are called daylight basements where one side is actually above ground.  That isn’t the case with my basement, it is all underground.  The walls are all cement, and the top of the wall on the interior is open to the dirt crawl space beneath the rest of the house.  It’s dark and a little creepy.

In this basement there is a sump pump.  When I am in the kitchen or my bedroom, which are above the basement, I can often hear when the sump pump turns on.

A couple of years ago I became anxious that the sump pump would stop working and my basement would be flooded.  At the time I had lived in the house for 8 or 9 years, so I don’t know why out of the blue this worry should strike me, but it did.  I called a plumbing place to find out about having someone check it out and do maintenance, but they asked me if I had a reason to think there was a problem, and when I said “no” they said that I didn’t need to do anything.

I was pretty uncomfortable with the idea that I just had to wait until it failed and my basement was flooded, and that there was no preventative route to take.  I stressed and obsessed about it for a month or two, making sure that I could hear the pump going whenever it rained, and then forgot about it.  Until…

…about a month ago I had a dream about the sump pump and woke up with a start.  I realized that I hadn’t heard it going for quite a while.  In fact I couldn’t remember the last time I had heard it.  This made me pretty nervous, but it was very early in the morning and still dark outside and I was uncomfortable going down into the basement, so I decided to wait until it got light.

Later in the morning, once it was light, I ventured down the steep wooden stairs, taking care not to bump my head on the overhang.  The stairs are in the middle, with space to each side.  The sump pump is in the far right corner.

From the top I could see there was no water on the floor at the bottom of the stairs.  This was a good sign, but I couldn’t yet see the area where the sump pump was.  Once I got to the bottom I could see there was no water on the floor at all.  Whew.

I went over to where the sump pump was installed in the ground and took a look.  There was water fairly high in the “well” (for lack of a better word), partially covering the pump.  I wondered why it wasn’t pumping, but I wasn’t really sure how it worked.  There was no flooding, so I guessed it must be okay.

I have had dreams in the past that were prophetic, or at least reminded me of something I needed to do or to look in to, so I still wasn’t convinced that everything was okay.  Over the next several days I kept checking the basement, and it was always okay.  In fact the water level in the well was lower than the first time I had checked.

Since then, I’ve gone down about once a week to check, and it has always been fine.

Yesterday morning I was lying in bed awake, but not yet ready to get up.  I was semi-meditating when I had a thought come to me: this fear of flooding in the basement was a metaphor for being flooded by my subconscious fears.

I know that in hypnosis and guided imagery we use going down stairs, or going into a cave or cavern or hole in the earth, to access the subconscious.  I have been doing a lot of internal work over the past several months.  I haven’t really been fearful of what I will find for the most part, I would say I was more curious.

But I also have a history of “stuffing” emotions, and I do still have some discomfort with allowing those emotions to surface. Which I guess is pretty much the same thing as trying to keep them in the basement.

I have been actively working on feeling these disowned feelings, anger in particular.  I can see now that part of my fear has been that I will be flooded with emotions I don’t want to feel or believe I am unprepared to deal with.

I can use the idea that the sump pump in the basement keeps working even though I’m no longer hearing it do its job, to trust that my internal sump pump will be able to handle whatever emotions arise and pump them away properly.

Along these same lines, I did have flooding in my basement last fall.  My water heater sprung a leak and I ended up with water on the basement floor.  Fortunately it was discovered early enough that there was no damage done.

I feel very fortunate that it was discovered early on, because I rarely go in the basement and it literally could have been months before I discovered the leak.  I had scheduled for annual maintenance on my furnace, which is in the basement next to the water heater.  The furnace maintenance guy noticed the water on the floor and discovered the leak.

Looking at this piece metaphorically I see that I need to be checking my basement (my subconscious) on a regular basis to prevent flooding.  And this, too, makes perfect sense.  If I let these disowned emotions build up, then there will be a flood.  I need to regularly access and express these emotions.

Once I became aware of this metaphor, I actually found it to be a fun way to look at the internal work I have been doing. It perfectly expresses the consequences of not doing regular emotional maintenance.