Tag Archives: emotions

Letters to My Son

A little over three years ago my teenage son and I had a blow-up. It wasn’t even about anything very important, but it was the culmination of a lot of anger on both our parts that had built up over several years. He was living with his father and visiting me at the time we had the fight. I told him to leave, which he did gladly, and I have not heard from him since.

At the time, I had no way of knowing that fight would turn into the estrangement that it has. Over the years I have made multiple attempts to start down the path of reconciliation, but have not received any response from him.

Today I had an a-ha that brought together and integrated different realizations that I have had over the time we have been apart.

In thinking about the fact that I haven’t missed him very much during this time, I realized that was because the relationship that we had was superficial. I long to have a close relationship with him, yet as he was growing up I was unable to be authentic and vulnerable with him. That authenticity and vulnerability is the very basis for an intimate relationship. Not surprisingly, he was not authentic and vulnerable with me, either.

So, I haven’t missed him because there was nothing much there to miss. And, I’d like that to be different.

Of course, I realize that there are two people in a relationship, and I can only do my part. But I also realize that if I’m not willing to go first and put myself out there, he probably never will. And, even if we never reconcile, even if I never hear from him again, I want him to know me. I want him to know who I am on the inside, which I have hidden from him most of his life.

To that end, I decided that I would start sending him stories from my life. I’m removing the mask of perfection and detachment from being emotional that I’ve worn with him.

I’ll let him see times I was hurting or scared. I’ll let him see times I did something I regret. I’ll let him see times things didn’t turn out the way I wanted.

And, I’ll also let him see the joy and love that has been in my life.

I will be sharing these stories on this blog as well because its purpose when I began it nearly five years ago was for me to show up authentically. There may be stories related to my son that I choose not to share because it would violate his privacy. But beyond that, my intention is to be an open book.

I remember when I first began blogging how terrified I was to be seen. The feedback I received here was a huge support in me being able to continue being more authentic and more vulnerable.

Today I find it almost amusing how scared I was to “expose myself” in the beginning. Today I am mostly comfortable letting people see me with all my foibles and imperfections, yet there are still times I hold back from being fully seen. Here is my opportunity to change that.

Thank you again for your continuing support!

Follow Your Heart – It Knows the Way

I have been in New England for about a week, exploring and deciding where I want to move. I knew that part of the draw was that many of my ancestors came from England and Scotland and settled in this area in the 17 and 18th centuries. I also realized before beginning the trip, that beyond discovering what felt like home to me, there was work to be done in healing myself and ancestors, and releasing shared grief. I didn’t know exactly the cause of this grief, or the form the healing would take, but was open to what showed up.

Two days ago, I started out in a lovely frame of mind. I had spent the night near Portsmouth, NH and was exploring that area. I had discovered the day before that I really want to be near the ocean, so I decided I would explore down the coast between Portsmouth and Boston. I wasn’t feeling great physically because I had a bit of a headache, but I was in a great mood. Until…

After lunch in Gloucester, MA, I decided to see what Salem was like. Whoa!

As I got closer to Salem I began to feel nauseous, to the point where I felt I might throw up. I am very sensitive to the energy of those around me, and the energy of this place was making me physically ill. Given the history, this is not surprising. And, it is sad that nearly 400 years later that energy of grief and guilt and shame has not yet dissipated.

Needless to say, I didn’t stop, but chose to drive on to Boston.

I reached Boston, where I would be staying at the apartment of a friend who is out of town. I struggled a bit finding a place to park, but ultimately it all worked out, although I was left feeling pretty grumpy.

I had begun to feel a bit confused about where I wanted to settle. I had brought along my pendulum to help me sort out how I really felt. Using a pendulum is a way of doing muscle testing. Our bodies have wisdom that it is sometimes difficult to access through our minds and thinking.

So, later that evening I got out my pendulum with the intent of asking about some of the places I had visited, and were they the right place for me. I immediately felt overwhelmed with grief and loneliness. I cried for a while – a hard cry that led to rapid breathing and yawning and an urge to vomit. Yawning for me is a physical sign of energy being released. Intellectually I realized that this grief was not mine, but that of my ancestors, and this process still was difficult to go through.

At one point, when the crying had slowed down, I thought again to use the pendulum, which had been in my hand the entire time. I had been walking around the apartment as I was releasing all this grief, and I was in the bedroom. I stopped walking and took out the pendulum and attempted to calibrate it by using standard statements like “My name is Laura” (true) and “My name is Sam” (untrue), but the pendulum did not move at all. So I tried the straight-forward use of the words yes (true) and no (untrue). But still the pendulum did not move at all.

I was upset and frustrated, and even a little pissed off. At that moment I looked up and noticed a wooden block with a saying imprinted on it: “Follow Your Heart ~ It Knows the Way.” Ah… I didn’t need the pendulum, all I needed was to feel what my heart told me.

The day before I had been at Cape Elizabeth, Maine, right on the Atlantic Ocean and my heart held a warmth that I had not experienced anywhere else on my journey. I noticed it at the time, and paid attention to it. I didn’t need the pendulum.

I don’t know for sure that this means I will settle in Cape Elizabeth – although I have had a couple of people, one of whom I didn’t even know until a couple of days ago, offer to talk with me about that area.

What it does mean, for sure, though, is that I can trust my heart. I got this message loud and clear, with actual written words!

So, I will follow my heart.

Mother’s Day Part 1 – Lessons My Mother Taught Me

Mother’s Day is always good for bringing up stuff for me. It began when I was at the store the other day looking for a card for my mother. We’ve had a rough go of it – at least from my perspective. I don’t think she is conscious of how difficult I have found our relationship, even as I have tried to address some of the issues with her over the years. And of course that is part of the problem.

Looking for a Mother’s Day card is always interesting. Most of them are all about what a wonderful mother the person in question has been. How loving, how supportive, how… fill in the blank. The problem is that I don’t feel that my mother was a good mother for me. Yes, we always had food, clothing and shelter. My sister and I were not physically abused. My mother was not an alcoholic or a drug addict. She was the epitome of a good, responsible citizen.

Unfortunately, that was not enough. I didn’t get what I needed most: unconditional love.

Yes, I know she did her best. Yes, I know she was the product of her own upbringing and environment. And, as I have told my counseling clients many times, just because you can understand and have compassion for why someone acted a certain way, does not make it okay that they acted that way.

I do have compassion for my mother. And I still did not get what I needed as a child.

This morning I was looking at all the tributes to mothers on Facebook, and it was in my face again. I couldn’t honestly say that I felt the same way about my own mother.

In thinking about this more, I realized that, in fact, I got exactly what I needed from my mother. My relationship with my mother has been my greatest source of personal and spiritual growth.

Here are the lessons my mother taught me.

  1. Perfectionism. In my mother’s world you must do something perfectly, or you fail. An A- is not good enough. 2nd place is not good enough.

The real lesson:  I am already perfect. As a soul I am whole and perfect. It is the human part of me that needs to work on becoming perfectly myself. Because I’m already perfect.

  1. You have to earn love. This is a corollary to #1. The reason you need to be perfect is so that people will love you. Otherwise, you will be abandoned and alone.

The real lesson:  As a spiritual being, I am love. I don’t have to seek love from others, because that is who I am – and who they are – at the core. I have the love of Spirit, no matter what. No matter what I do or don’t do.

  1. What others think of you is more important than what you think of you. Starting to see a pattern here? Yup, once again about earning the approval / love of others. This time by being what they want you to be, which may not be who you really are.

The real lesson: Be true to myself. People come and people go. Some like me, some don’t. In the end, I’m the one who has to like me.

  1. Rules are made to be followed. If you break a rule / law, you will get in trouble. People will find out. They won’t like you anymore. Boy, was I good at following the rules! (I still struggle a bit with this and judgement of others when they break rules. But I’m working on it!)

The real lesson: Rules and laws are useful to keep society in check. And I do what feels right to me. If what I’m doing harms no one else (for me this is the litmus test), then so what if it’s against the rules?

  1. Right and wrong are opposites and clear cut. My mother has a strong sense of right and wrong – and difficulty seeing a situation from anything other than her own perspective. My sister and I used to say, “There’s our mother’s way to do something and the wrong way.”

The real lesson: I know what’s right for me. I don’t necessarily know what’s right for you. And there’s a whole lot of grey between those opposites of black and white.

In looking back over these, they really are all closely related. They’re all about judging and being judged in order to give or earn love. I guess that’s the crux of my issues with my mother and her way of being: I constantly felt judged and was constantly trying to earn her love.

These days my mother and I have the best relationship of our lives, in my opinion. I accept her for who she is, but I don’t buy into her stuff. That’s about her, not about me. I rarely feel guilty that I’m not being her vision of a “good daughter.” Once I gave up the guilt and the feeling of obligation that caused it, it was a lot easier to want to spend time with her.

I don’t have any illusions that my mother will ever become the mother I wish I’d had. But I do feel compassion for her and her own struggles, and I recognize the ways in which she tries to show me that she loves me. I’ve let go of feeling that every good deed from her comes with a price tag attached (that’s one I forgot to mention – if I do something nice for you, you owe me), and instead just express my gratitude for whatever the favor is.

Finally, I am grateful for the lessons I learned through having her as my mother. I believe that we pick our life lessons and who will play them out with us before we come for another lifetime, so obviously I set this all up for my own benefit. I guess I can’t be mad at anyone about that, but myself!

Feeling Grumpy and Out of Sorts

I woke up feeling grumpy and out of sorts the other day. I know that writing helps me process what’s going on when I feel this way, but I didn’t have the right tools, or so my ego (small self) told me. I needed a new journal, a bigger size than any of the many blank journals I currently have.

Yeah, right.

But, that’s where I was. Listening to that ego chatter telling me that I couldn’t do what I knew was in my best interest.

So instead, I decided to do a 3 card spread with my Tarot cards. This is a practice I did faithfully every day for a full year a couple of years ago, until it felt like it no longer served me. Recently I’ve gotten back into using the cards to help me access guidance from Spirit (my higher self).

Of course the cards I drew were perfect.

Tarot Spread 2016-05-02

So perfect that I felt the emotion well up in me and began to cry. I felt so supported and so validated, and knowing that I was on my right path helped, even though right now it doesn’t feel exactly right to me.

I realized a couple of things, all lessons that continue to show up for me over the past few years.

  • Trust and Faith: I want to let go of doubt and trust that Spirit has my back. Whatever is happening is in my best interest, even (sometimes especially) when I feel out of sorts. The cards I drew were so absolutely perfect, that there is no doubt that Spirit is guiding me. Trust and faith.
  • Surrender: When I feel grumpy and out of sorts, I’m usually in a growth spurt. I know this well, have identified this in myself over the past several years. It makes perfect sense that as I shift into a new way of being that it feels uncomfortable. That’s normal and I can accept that as my reality in this moment, just as I accept – and trust – that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be and how I’m supposed to be feeling. I don’t need to change a thing.
  • Let Go of Attachment to Outcome: I don’t know what’s going to happen next, and I don’t need to know. Of course I have preferences about how my path will unfold, but experience has taught me that I (the small I – ego) don’t have any idea of what is possible. So I can put out there what I would like, and then let go of making it happen. Let go of managing the situation. I don’t need to know how to make it happen. I don’t even need to know what the end result will look like. I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other on my path.

 

I Give Myself Permission To Not Know

Yesterday I had a session with my BodyTalk practitioner. She talks to my body silently and uses muscle testing to get answers. A few minutes into the session she asked me, “What would you like to give yourself permission for?”

Immediately I knew that I wanted to give myself permission to not know. I’ve recently (and off and on for the past 18 months) been in a place of not knowing where I’m going. It creates a lot of stress. I wanted to be okay with not knowing.

I also have realized through a situation with my teenage son several months ago, that my need to know is tied to control; the idea that I take responsibility for everything and have to fix that which is “broken.”

At that time my “not knowing” what was going on for my son was very stressful for me, and I realized it was because if I didn’t know what was happening I couldn’t fix it. And…I came to the understanding that it wasn’t my job to fix it.  Whatever it may be.

“Needing to know” has been my way to keep myself safe. If I am ever vigilant about what’s going on around me, I can protect myself and those I love. But that is just an illusion. I cannot control what happens. At best I can mitigate circumstances.

Trying to control is another way that my lack of trust shows up. Lack of trust in myself, others and Spirit to be able to deal with whatever. And hypocrisy in that I say I believe that the world (and Spirit) is benevolent, and that everything will always be as it should be. But by trying to control I’m really saying I don’t believe that.

So as of yesterday, I give myself permission to not know.

I’m Fat

I’m fat.

There. I said it. I’m fat.

Not overweight. Not heavy. Fat. Because I want to desensitize myself to that word.

I want to see “fat” not as a judgment, but as a description of myself.

A few days ago I saw a picture that was taken on Monday, and I was shocked. I said to myself, “I look fat.” And I didn’t like that one bit. Because I judge myself when I think of myself as fat.

Lazy. Ugly. Not worth knowing. Those are the main judgments I have around being fat. If you told yourself you were lazy, ugly and not worth knowing, you wouldn’t want to acknowledge that you were fat, either.

So I’m on a mission to de-judge the statement “I’m fat.” I want it to have the same emotional pull for me that saying “I have brown eyes” or “I have short hair” has. I know this will not be easy, because I’ve spent my whole life judging myself on how I look, as have many other women.

And fat is the number one thing that you should not be if you want to be valued and admired as a woman.

Well, I’m done with worrying about what others think of the fact that I’m fat. I can’t control that. And, it says more about them and their issues than it does about me anyway.

What I can control is what I think about the fact that I’m fat. And, I’m choosing to learn to think of it as a description, not a judgment.

I’m Always Amazed at How Everything (and Everyone) is Connected

I continue to be amazed at how connected everything (and everyone) in my life is. There is no doubt in my mind that we are all connected and that everything that happens in my life is related.

The past several weeks I’ve been feeling a lot of doubt and confusion about my career direction. It has been really difficult for me, because I’m usually quite decisive and action oriented. Although I have just spent a year not doing much externally because I was going through a lot of learning and growth and change.

But in November I had my a-ha about the direction for my business and I was really excited about it. Then I wasn’t. Over the past few weeks I’ve really questioned my direction and what I should be doing with my life. For several years I have had the strong sense that I have a mission, a specific life purpose, and I have been incredibly dedicated to fulfilling that.

Now I was having the “run away and hide” thoughts that I used to have in my previous career. I was seriously considering, and beginning to pursue getting a “real job.” But it didn’t feel right. Each step I took in that direction I was confronted with something that made me recoil. I knew that was not what I wanted to do.

And yet, I was feeling tremendous doubt about my path forward on my mission. It felt like there was a big step up to the next level and I just wasn’t up to it.

Then yesterday I had a session with my BodyTalk practitioner, Pavitra. She does some other modalities, too, like Pysch-K and Access Consciousness. I told her about my doubt and confusion, and that was what I wanted to focus on. In addition, there has been some pretty traumatic stuff going on with my teenage son (who lives with his dad), but I felt that was kind of in a holding pattern and was not where I wanted to focus.

Pavitra began the BodyTalk process, which consists of her asking silent questions of my body and using muscle testing for the responses. There is a whole protocol that leads her to subconscious beliefs I hold that are creating the issues.

Anyway, the short version of the story is that this self-doubt and confusion I had was not mine. It belongs to my son, and I have been holding it for him. This made a whole lot of sense to me. I had become aware last year that throughout his life I have felt the difficult emotions for my son (as well as a couple of other men in my life, including my father).

I have been doing some work over the past several months to release those emotions that are not mine and send them back to their rightful owner. So when Pavitra said this doubt and confusion was not mine, it really clicked for me. Given the difficulties my son has been going through recently I could completely understand that he is feeling a lot of self-doubt and confusion about his life and his next steps.

Even though I did not consciously take on those feelings for him, I think it has been such a habit for me that it just happened naturally. I have been doing some work with an energy healer, Wendy, to help me separate myself from him energetically, but I guess old habits die hard.

The positive of all of this, is that because we are connected, doing my own work and healing myself helps to heal him, too.

So even though I was very specific at the beginning of the session that I didn’t want to focus on the situation with my son, here it popped up anyway – AND it was related to the issue I did want to work on, that feeling of doubt and confusion.

Amazing!

Talking to Yourself Is A Sign Of Sanity, Not Insanity: Reducing Anxiety Through Power Walking

Much of my life I suffered from anxiety on a regular basis. Obviously this is not a fun (or useful) state in which to be. The good news is that I found some techniques that really helped me manage my anxiety, and they are still helpful when I do have one of those moments. One of my favorites is what I call power walking.

Have you noticed that when you feel anxious, you physically feel different? It’s not just a feeling in the sense of an emotion, but a feeling in your body. This is true of all emotions, and I would imagine that’s why they are also called feelings. For me, when I feel anxious it’s this fluttery feeling in my chest, and I feel very restless as if I couldn’t sit still if you paid me.

Since our bodies carry our emotions, it is sometimes useful to use our bodies to process those emotions. That’s part of what power walking is about. Obviously walking is using our bodies, so the first part of power walking is to start walking!

The second piece is to process your thoughts as you are walking by talking out loud. This exercise can move you through truly processing your thoughts, when sometimes just thinking your thoughts can’t.  When we speak out loud, we access a different part of our brain than when we’re just thinking, which is why this works.

This difference between thinking thoughts and speaking them is also part of why talk therapy is effective. Many times clients figure out the answers they’re looking for in the course of describing the problem to the therapist! Ooops – maybe I shouldn’t share that or I’ll be out of a job! 🙂

So, here’s how you use this very simple technique for reducing anxiety: you go outside (ideally) and start walking briskly and talking out loud. It’s that easy. If you’re worried that people will overhear you and wonder why you’re talking to yourself, use your cell phone or bluetooth as a prop. These days no one thinks anything about people talking to themselves when they see their bluetooth earpiece in place!

Your talk is a stream of consciousness. Just start with whatever thought is foremost in your mind, and see where it leads you. If it helps, you can imagine you’re talking to someone else. Describe to them what is going on for you.

You will be amazed to find that solutions to problems will come to you as you’re talking to yourself. You might find yourself considering a new perspective on something that is upsetting you. Or maybe you’ll talk yourself right into realizing that whatever you’re stressing about is really not that big of a deal.

For several years I have been taking a daily walk in the morning, and whether or not I’m feeling anxious, I talk out loud to myself. If there’s something in particular on my mind, I’ll start talking about that situation.  If I don’t have anything in particular, I’ll just start talking and see what comes out of my mouth.

In addition to reducing my anxiety this way, I have had numerous insights and inspirations while taking power walks. New ideas come to me, seemingly out of the blue. My belief is that physical activity coupled with speaking out loud gives access to a part of ourselves that isn’t always available to us when we just sit and think. I view it as an active meditation.

On the surface it may sound a little crazy to walk and talk out loud to yourself, but it is one of the things that has kept me from feeling crazy when I am anxious. Give it a try and see. I have no doubt you will be pleasantly surprised.

Say What You Need to Say: 3 Benefits of Speaking Your Truth

Walking like a one man army,
Fighting shadows in your head
Living out the same old moment
Knowing you'd be better off instead,
If you could only...

Say what you need to say

~John Mayer, "Say What You Need to Say"

I recently heard this John Mayer song, and it was so wonderful to understand – once again – that I am not the only person who has struggled with saying what I need to say. I spent most of my life constantly evaluating the response I might get if I said what I really wanted to say. Much of the time, fear of the other person’s possible reaction kept me silent.

Just this morning I was fighting this demon (fear of how I will be perceived by the other person) once again. I have been having my website redesigned and rebuilt. It has been a slow process. I am concerned – not for the first time in the process, and for valid reasons – that the delivery date will not be met.

When I raised this concern on a call with the project manager, he gave me platitudes and tried to spin the fact that the design phase was behind schedule. He also seemed frustrated with my ongoing nervousness about the delivery date, and asked me to “let them manage the internal process.”

In the moment, I reacted to him telling me that I was overstepping my bounds by retreating. But upon reflection I knew that I had a valid concern, and that it had not been adequately addressed.

I decided I would email the company founder about my concern, and ask for assurance that the final delivery date would be met. As I contemplated this email, I became more and more anxious. I tried to understand what I was afraid of,  and realized that I did not want to be perceived as demanding, and I was afraid that is what the founder would think of me.

Once I became clear on my fear, it was easy enough for me to realize that whether the founder (or the project manager) thinks I am too demanding or high maintenance doesn’t really matter to me.

Yes, I would prefer they think of me as cooperative and likeable, but they are there to do a job for me, and are being paid well to do so. If they decide I’m being too demanding when I hold them accountable for the contracted work, then that says more about them than it does about me.

Throughout my life I have let my fear of not being liked (which translated to being a “bad person” in my mind) keep me from saying what is true. Like the quote above, “Living with shadows in your head,” I would spend hours in my head running scenarios rather than just address the issue head-on.

Over the past year I have become clear that confronting a problem when it first arises is much better for me in the long run for the following reasons:

  1. Once the words are spoken it is over and done with. I don’t spend days, weeks, or months thinking about the situation that is bothering me. Living through the moments of fear prior to the confrontation is preferable to all the time spent not dealing with the issue.
  2. I can deal with the reality of the other person’s reaction.Much of the mental spinning that prevented me from actually saying what I needed to say, revolved around imagining how the other person would react. Of course I always imagined the worst. Now, once I say my piece, I don’t have to guess about the other person’s reaction. I am now dealing with reality rather than my imagination.
    1. Side benefit: I get evidence that people don’t always react negatively when I raise an issue. I can use this evidence in the future when I fall back into the trap of imagining a negative reaction.
  3. When I address an issue early on, I tend to be less emotional about it, which leads to communicating in a better way. When I let my resentment or worries about a particular situation fester, I tend to blow things way out of proportion. Basically, I would hold things in until I couldn’t stand it anymore, then I would explode. This obviously is not the best way to end up with a win-win solution to a conflict.

The Next Step is All You Need

Several weeks ago when I was feeling in a fog and not knowing what direction to go, I had a conversation with a friend of mine. What he told me has stuck with me since: I don’t need to know any more than what the next step is.

Frequently in the fog, we can see a few feet ahead, but not much further. When you’re driving a car and going fast, being able to only see a few feet ahead is dangerous. But if you’re on foot, being able to see a few feet ahead shows you where you will be putting your foot in your next step. It’s enough to be able to know whether or not taking the next step will be safe.

The same is true metaphorically. When I’m feeling in a fog, and can’t see my ultimate destination, I don’t want to be racing ahead as if I’m in a car. I want to move slowly and deliberately, as if I were on foot in a fog. All I really need to know is where to place my foot for that next step.

What triggered the fog for me most recently was the idea that I am meant to move away from Seattle. In fact, what came to me is that I am meant to move to Edinburgh, Scotland.

When I began contemplating this, I immediately became very anxious and worried. How would my mother and my son react to me moving to another country? Should I sell my house or rent it out? What about my car? And my cats – could I take them with me?

And on and on and on. Lots of things to worry about.

When my friend put out this idea of not needing to know more than the next step, I immediately relaxed. I knew that the next step was to visit Edinburgh for a prolonged period of time to see if I really did want to move there.

So I decided on a timeframe when I could spend a month in Edinburgh, and booked a flight and a room. That was my next step. Nothing else needed to be done in the meantime, because until I made the visit I didn’t even know for sure that Edinburgh would be my ultimate destination. There was no point in worrying about the logistics of moving there yet.

Over the next week after I booked my trip I still had thoughts popping up about the logistics of moving. But each time one of these thoughts came into my head – and I noticed when this happened because I would begin to feel anxious – I told myself that I didn’t need to know that yet.

I can’t tell you what a relief this was! I didn’t have to know that yet! I could choose to think about that sometime in the future when it was more appropriate.

What about you? Is there a situation in your life right now where you’re not really sure of the ultimate destination? Are you worrying about the fact that you don’t know where you’re going – or worrying about how to get to the destination that is not even clear to you yet?

If this is true for you, try this:

  1. Ask yourself where you’re trying to go.
  2. If you know your destination, ask yourself what is the next step that will lead you in that direction.
  3. If you aren’t clear on your destination (for example, wondering whether you should stay in your current career, or go back to school for a different career), ask yourself what is the next step that will help to bring clarity on your destination.
  4. Quit worry, ruminating, mulling over. You know what your next step is. You don’t need to know more yet.
  5. Feel the relief of not having to know all the answers right now!